Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

A day late, but hey, I'm busy. Spent the weekend in Tulsa with a bunch of my family. Always a good time. Pretty wild to see the damage the ice storm did up there.

Among other things, I gave my family members their Christmas present -- the new Stefano Elliott Band CD 'Right Here', natch.

Also had an interesting conversation with one of my younger brothers about presidential candidates. I should really do more research into what these folks really stand for. Subsequently I heard about a quick online survey that will help you identify how closely aligned each candidate is with you on a number of issues. Check that out at http://kdfw.4wmt.com/cmm/

Gotta run. Hope Santa was particularly nice to you yesterday!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Right Here

After several months of trips to a recording studio in Dallas, the Stefano Elliott Band has just released our first CD, entitled 'Right Here'.

If you'd like to check out the music, you can hear it at www.myspace.com/stefanoelliottband

Also, see our web site at http://www.seband.com/

FYI - a portion of the proceeds from the CD will go to Central Dallas Ministries, an inner city ministry working to feed the hungry, heal the sick, house the homeless and renew hope in the lives of those who struggle with poverty in inner city Dallas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween...

...from your friendly neighborhood care bears and puppies. And from Piper and Christian too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hot Water, and Inside My Head Part 2

I saw this article today and am very seriously stunned. Apparently if a certain frequency of radio waves is directed at salt water, the elements in the water loosen so that the hydrogen will burn. Salt water is, of course, the most abundant resource on earth. So, initial questions:
  • If it is possible to burn water, could we eventually replace gas stations with water stations to run our cars?
  • If so, I wonder if this will affect the cost of bottled water ...
  • New terrorist attack: set the oceans on fire?
  • Does this mean another potential fuel would be saltwater taffy?
Of course, we can't win with this. It's only a matter of time before someone pops up with a reason why the use of ocean water as a fuel would damage the environment and should not be pursued. And unfortunately, I'm not kidding. Well, maybe a little.

****

Back in class last night. Made a few more notes. I probably won't do this every time, but ... :-)

6:10 I arrived early, picked a chair that is NOT broken, still near the front where I can hear the soft-spoken Prof. People are reading the text books quietly. I will too.
6:15 Have you ever sat near someone reading, and they moan lightly as they read? Me either. Until now.
6:20 Seriously, what’s up with Moaning Myrtle?
6:35 Class begins. Right on time…?
6:40 I ask a question about the syllabus, and the instructor answers, but his answer didn’t fit what's in the syllabus.
6:42 Further discussion and clarification from other classmates, and now the Prof stops and reads through his own syllabus. It's like he hasn't seen his own syllabus. But I’m pretty sure he wrote it. I think this is the definition of ‘Absent Minded Professor’.
6:48 He is still trying to explain his syllabus. He’s really struggling with it. I'd feel for him, but HE WROTE IT.
6:49 He’s looking back at the syllabus, confused about something he just said. A neighbor turned around and gave me a very knowing look, then said quietly, “He don’t know.”
6:52 I had trouble keeping a straight face when the Prof looked at me again, trying to wrap up answering my original question. Sometimes having funny neighbors can be bad.
7:37 As absent minded as he is, the Prof has hoardes of experience, and he really likes to talk about minute details of the business he manages. Do the details relate to the course material? Sometimes.
7:40 Interesting thing about graduate level classes. People ask a lot of questions, some of them helpful ... many not so much.
7:41 Another question from a classmate. This just in: contrary to what you've heard, it turns out there IS such a thing as a dumb question.
7:42 Not that the Prof can refrain from answering it.
7:48 Still answering the question. I'm waiting to see how it relates to the course.
7:50 Ok, I see a connection. I think.
7:51 No, I was wrong. Prof just admitted that the issue won't help us with the course. Not at all. Glad we spent 10 minutes on it, though.
8:30 Prof is doing good. No, seriously! He got Powerpoint running and is actually talking to the slides that go with the textbook. Very helpful. ... Why are you smiling? I'm serious!
8:41 A student on the front row asked whether a particular company uses a particular methodology. Let's move along, people.
8:42 The instructor started to answer, but then another student disagreed with front-row-joe. Is this really important?
8:43 *Sigh* Now the two students are arguing about it. Prof is listening. The truth is, they’re both right. And it still doesn’t matter.
8:44 Now others are taking sides. Work with me, people.
8:45 This is like watching Ultimate Fighting Championship. Only boring.
8:49 And… we’re back.
9:06 Prof is praising the virtues and effort required to do analysis. People apparently don't value it as much as they should. And yet, apparently, analysis is the single most important thing you can do. Or that's what I'm hearing.
9:08 Have you ever heard someone praise and rave about the virtue of a particular skill or approach, only to realize that they're really praising themselves? Just curious. I don't ask for any particular reason.

That's it for now. Cheers!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

BOO-YAH!!!! and Playing God

Tonight, my brother Kyle scored his first Major League Soccer goal, in the Real Salt Lake game against the Houston Dynamo. In the end, Dynamo won 4-3, but that didn't lessen my excitement much. It didn't hurt that I saw him score in high def.

HUGE congrats to Kyle!

****

So we're sitting down to lunch today and I wondered whether there were any rain in the weather forecast. A minute later, my daughter says, "I'll be God and you be Noah, Daddy. 'Go build an ark Noah.'" For just a sec I blinked and wondered at the sound of my daughter using the phrase 'I'll be God'. Seriously weird. Then we role played for a couple of minutes -- she knows the story well -- and eventually we went back to our sandwiches.

Later, we're playing hide and seek (yep, all 4 of us, inside), and we end up in a bit of a chase around the house. Piper and I go down the hall, Christian high-tails it through the kitchen, and Celeste is hot on our tails. Then a sound, like a cross between a slap and a SLIZZAP!! All by himself, Christian managed to face-plant on the tile floor in the kitchen. We held him, soothed him, he cried awhile, but soon seemed ok. He commented a little later that his head hurt, but that can mean a lot of things, and we didn't see anything visibly wrong -- vague red spot on his forehead, but no blood or anything. Eventually we go to the neighborhood pool, and only then did we see the bruise and goose-egg forming on his forehead. He's fine. But yikes!

One more on Piper. She brought a book to me this afternoon, and said "Daddy, read me Alphabet Rescue". I checked, and that was the name of the book. Celeste picked it up at the library. The thing is, we hadn't read her the book yet, and Celeste said she hadn't told her what it was called. So I asked Piper, how did you know it was called that? And she answered, "I read it, Daddy." Now, I assure you she can't read yet, not really. She just turned 4 on August 4th. But it seems possible that she managed to figure out those two words. And I say, wow.

Christian's header notwithstanding, it's been a good day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Inside My Head

In case you might wonder what its like inside my head as I go back to school to get my MBA, here are some notes I made Monday night, during my first class.

6:28 Arrived in the classroom. Again, I'm only 33, but I feel like I'm surrounded by children.
6:29 Matter of fact, I think I'm the only bald guy in here…
6:30 Professor starts talking.
6:32 Long room, 71 students, soft-spoken Prof, no microphone … I’ll move to a closer seat.
6:37 So I moved closer to the front. The good news is, I won’t fall asleep in this chair. The bad news is, that’s because the chair is broken and seems to lean waaayyy forward, and I have to hold myself up not to fall out. However, I’ve already moved once since the instructor started talking, so I guess I’d better settle in for the evening.
6:39 Apparently its required that we take roll. I don’t remember doing that in my undergrad courses. 71 students… this could take awhile.
6:44 Yep, definitely taking awhile.
6:45 Still taking roll. Instructor: “Nah-shee-own?” Student: “Actually, its Nation. (Like its spelled.)” Oops. Better be nice to the Prof, though, dude.
6:50 Prof is from Pittsburgh, and his accent confirms that. His accent reminds me of my dad’s family up there. I think I like him.
7:05 Wow, old school. He just got out an overhead projector. I haven’t seen a working one of those in years.
7:06 I think he just used the word 'mimeograph'.
7:20 In a stunning display of anachronism, prof just pulled out a laser pointer to refer to the overhead projection. Must've been a gift from a friend.
7:28 Oops, I’m not the only bald guy afer all. Bald guy #2, sitting in the back of the room, just asked a rather philosophical question. The prof says he plans to cover that subject later, but he's still talking... Question is, will the prof follow the rabbit hole, or stick with his outline…?
7:30 Looks like he’s into rabbits.
7:35 Loves rabbits, actually.
7:37 And … we’re back. It's all good.
8;00 Breaktime. Headed to the coke machine. Want anything?
8:19 And so we continue.
8:20 Hmmm. The instructor just confused me for the other bald guy, pointing at me and commenting that he’s now going to more thoroughly answer the philosophical question “I” asked previously. I gently set him straight, with help from bald guy #2. I guess all bald guys look alike? :-)
8:21 Prof tells us he assisted in collection of forensic information at the nuke plant following the 3-Mile-Island disaster. Fascinating. He doesn’t seem to glow in the dark or anything, though.
8:26 At this point, prof pulls up a Powerpoint presentation that based on the textbook. He says he's never used ppt before. I wouldn't have guessed...
9:15 Next time will apparently be less lecture, more classroom discussion. Should be interesting.

Later!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dazed and Confused

So I am at UNT in Denton, for an MBA program orientation. I begin classes next week.

I don't think I've been on UNT's campus since I graduated from UNT with my BBA in 1998. I must say it is STRANGE to be here. A few random thoughts as I kill time waiting for orientation to start:
  • The campus is similar, but new buildings have sprouted up here and there, where I'm not expecting them to be. I should probably walk around campus at some point and get the new lay of the land.
  • I had to laugh when I walked by a computer lab before coming into the room where the orientation will be held. I can remember sitting in that lab or another lab on campus, working on projects with small groups, and perhaps more importantly, playing text-based games with Casey (and sometimes others). A particular memory comes to mind, involving Casey and me, and maniacal laughter, and synchronized keystrokes as we chased another player in the game ... and then the realization that the whole lab has stopped to look over at us, eyebrows reaching new altitudes. Back to the present, though, its weird to see a bunch of flat-screen displays, and they are inset into the tops of the desks; I guess so you can see over them in case an instructor is instructing?
  • On a related note, now that I can get to the internet from my laptop over a wireless connection, I wonder if I can still get to any of the MUD's...
  • Everyone looks like a teenager around here. I joke to Celeste that I'm getting old, but around here I'm pretty sure its true. Especially since a girl approached me in the hallway, a freshman considering the deer-in-the-headlights look she had, and asked if I could help her figure out how to get to a particular classroom; apparently my age and appearance have attained 'professor' status. I was chagrined at first, but the more I think about it, it really doesn't bother me.

One last thing. I swear its hotter on campus than in Keller or in west Fort Worth. And I think the bookstore forgot to turn on their A/C altogether -- everyone was sweating (not just me for once). Perhaps I'll start giving to UNT's alumni association, if they'll assure me that the money will go to improving A/C on campus.

That's probably enough for now. Party on Wayne.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

8/15/1999


Eight years ago today I married Michelle Celeste Robertson, the love of my life.

We met at a singles' retreat in October of 1998. I fell for her first -- she laughed at all my jokes! We were married the following August.

We tied the knot at Southlake Church. It was a Sunday afternoon. At the time Southlake Church had Saturday services and therefore could not squeeze in Saturday weddings; and besides, August 15 was and is Celeste's parents anniversary, so we decided Sunday was better for us.

I'm happy to say it was one of the shortest wedding ceremonies I've ever been to in a church. We had music picked out for the various family who would walk in, and for each of us, of course, and the music lasted much longer than the ceremony.

Celeste walked in to 'Don't Wanna Close My Eyes' by Aerosmith. Yes, you read that right; our first kiss was during the closing credits of the movie Armageddon. Do I know how to sweep a girl off her feet, or what?

She was stunning coming down the aisle. Made me lightheaded.

Celeste's Dad, a church elder in Kansas, married us. I think I was expecting a little sermonette or something. But Celeste's dad is a (now retired) judge, and the ceremony was quick and painless.

The funniest part to me was when Celeste's Dad asked, very formally, if there was any reason we shouldn't be married. I think I've only ever heard that question asked in ceremonies on TV shows -- followed by someone standing up to declare why the couple shouldn't be married. Celeste and I were facing the crowd, and in the wedding video Celeste and I both seem to consider this question carefully before agreeing that there wasn't a reason we shouldn't be married. Unplanned. Funny though.

Now, I had given Celeste the impression, without ever really saying it, that I was going to have a band show up at the wedding reception, and that I'd sing to her. But I treated it like a poorly kept secret, so on her wedding day she sent her maid of honor to sneak back to the classroom where the reception would be and see if a band was set up. But Kira returned moments later to tell Celeste that there wasn't a band. And that, my friends, is because -- in a totally unexpected move -- I had arranged to sing in a barbershop quartet instead. Colin Yarborough, Ken Irvin, and Scott Weiss were my baritone, tenor and bass. She never even saw it coming.

Hopefully I didn't disappoint her, not having a band. Just in case, though, Tom Wood videod our wedding, and he was kind enough to append a bonus feature at the end of the video -- its me singing the Proclaimers '500 Miles' to Celeste at a karaoke place, with my brother Justin singing the harmony vocals. (Yes, I'll let you borrow the video, so long as someone else doesn't have it checked out.)

For our honeymoon, we spent a week at a resort south of Cancun, Mexico. It was hot, but gorgeous -- from parasailing to exploring the ruins of Tulum to just lounging on the beach reading a book. And we spent the following week settling into our new apartment together -- no responsibilities, just hanging pictures, arranging furniture ... and going to the movies or Barnes & Noble at the drop of a hat. Among other things.

In the 8 years since then, God has blessed us with 2 beautiful children, many new friends, and a fantastic life together. Celeste is even more beautiful now than she was then.

But, between you and me ... I think my favorite thing is still that she laughs at my jokes.

Love you Celeste!

Monday, August 06, 2007

reach out and touch Someone

I'm in one of those dry times, when my relationship with God feels more like work than joy. Not that there aren't joyful times -- even now I feel very close to God when I'm singing my head off, and even when I'm just playing the bass and not singing; and anytime I feel close to God, there is tangible peace and joy in that.

But most of the time ... lately I feel like I'm kind of on my own. I know this isn't Truth. Its just how it feels to be in a dry time, I think.

But I think God is actively reaching out to me (as usual!). I've been inundated with thoughts, scriptures, blogs, comments, etc -- all about prayer. One that struck a disonant chord with me was Jeremiah 33:2-3, which showed up as a verse of the day over the weekend in my Google Reader:

“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

This is an uncomfortable verse for me, because this has not really been my experience. At one point in my life, I really thought I was hearing from God as I read scripture and prayed. But if the messages I thought I heard were directing my actions or prophesying things to come, the latter have not occurred, and the former, on close inspection, are suspiciously close to what I might have chosen to do anyway. In other words, I'm not sure I was really hearing God at all -- very likely I was just hearing what I wanted to hear.

I choose not to let this diminish my faith. The God of the universe doesn't make mistakes, but I sure do. So I will chalk my confusion up to a misunderstanding on my part. I'll keep trying to live in the way Jesus clearly called his followers to live.

But that still leaves me in a position to seriously question anything I think I hear from God ... to the point that I wonder if I'm turning into Thomas. You know, the one who said he wouldn't believe Christ had been resurrected unless he could personally touch the nail-holes in Jesus' hands and feet?

Winding back around, though, it sounds like God is suggesting that I pray. That certainly is consistent with what he would ask of any of his kids. And it isn't asking very much.

So I'll pray. And I'll even listen. But if I hear a voice ... I'm not sure what I'll be able to do with that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Interpreting the Spirit

Celeste is in surgery right now, and I'm passing the time in a waiting room. (Wi Fi -- yay!) She's having what I believe would be called an elective procedure, although it is very necessary. It is also pretty routine, or so I'm told. But it's not routine for us, of course. I should get to take her home today, and she'll be fine I'm sure. Still, prayers for her and her quick recovery are appreciated. (Let me know if you are unclear on the details; it's not a secret, but not necessarily something I'll bother to post on the internet.)

********

I'm still picking my way through Acts, and I am struck (not for the first time) about the way that the Spirit seems to speak so much to the people. But I think I'm more struck by the fact that the people seem to sometimes misinterpret what the Spirit is saying, even in critical ways.

I'm looking specifically at the way the Spirit spoke to Paul and to other believers about Paul's return to Jerusalem in Acts 21. Clearly, Paul is led to return to Jerusalem, knowing that he must somehow later go to Rome. And meanwhile, the Spirit is speaking to other believers about Paul's journey.

Apparently the other believers are hearing -- correctly -- that Paul's trip to Jerusalem will not be fun for Paul. However, they interpret that message to mean that Paul should not go to Jerusalem.

That is a major misinterpretation! And not by just one person, but seemingly by many people. Apparently a group of believers in Tyre, and subsequently Agabus and others in Caesarea urged Paul not to go.

I think what surprises me most is that the Scripture seems pretty clear that the Spirit was speaking to the other believers, and some/many/perhaps all of them hear the Spirit perfectly well ... but miss the point. Fortunately, Paul gets the point, and he is not talked out of his own interpretation. He is obedient to his calling.

But I find myself wondering about all of this. After all, God can be crystal clear when He wants to be; His arm is not too short, and I do not believe His voice is too timid. So why not communicate in a clearer way, so that Paul receives confirmation from the body rather than a conflicting interpretation of the Spirit?

I'm not suggesting that we should ignore the body, become free agents, or anything like that. I'm just wondering how often the body, en masse, gets it ... wrong.

May God have mercy on us. May we hear His Spirit, and correctly understand what we're called to do.

And may we be merciful as we encounter others, whose interpretation of the Spirit is not the same as ours.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Secret Identity

While eating lunch today I read a post on Patrick Mead’s blog, where he wrote about an ancient family name, kept secret, apparently for a LONG time. Hence the ‘ancient’ in ‘ancient family name’, right?

Honestly, this sent my imagination on a little trip. What would cause a family to keep their real name secret? Particularly over such an extended period of time? (One of these days I will write a novel; thoughts like this make my head percolate with ideas.)

But this also reminded me of a part of Eldgridge’s book, Wild at Heart, where Eldridge encourages readers to ask God to tell us our name. To tell us what He thinks of us. This idea that God has a name for us, a name that identifies who we really are.

Now, I’m known as Brian, Daddy, and once in a while ‘Mr. McKean’ (although at 33, I’m still young enough to look over my shoulder for my pop if you call me that). A few people might even call me Max.

Can I take a moment and tell that story? I went to a rather large high school – about 2000 juniors and seniors – and on picture day, a friend of mine signed me in. For fun he wrote my name as Max McKean. When those pictures came, my mom wasn’t thrilled with how they turned out, so she told me to sign up for retakes – and when those were taken, I signed in as Brian.

When the yearbook came out, both my pictures made it in – one identified as Brian McKean, and the other as Max McKean, with different shirts, slightly different expressions on my face. If you’re wondering, yes, I had hair in both pictures. And for a while, a few friends called me Max, just for fun. Epilogue: Shortly thereafter, at my high school job, the manager called me into his office and asked pointedly if I had a twin brother. Someone had brought him a copy of the yearbook, and shown him the pictures -- and he thought that perhaps I’d kept my 'twin' a secret because ‘we’ were both working under my name in order to split the work hours at this one job!

But I digress. The only point I was intending to make in the mess above is the need we all have to get a grip on our identity. Who am I? And whether you have an ancient name, as Mr. Mead does (and that is wicked cool, btw), or whether you have a new name pending from God, as Eldridge asserts, you absolutely have an identity in Christ, a persona whom He intends for you to become.

Some of that becoming won’t happen until we reach God’s side – the new body we’ll receive, the identity we’ll have there is hard to see (i.e. through a glass darkly). But part of that becoming is supposed to be happening right now. If we’ll just engage with God. Today.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Luke 4:24-30

Finished Luke, and jumped right into Acts. In chapter 4, there is a prayer said by Peter and John -- or possibly by one or more others among the believers.


"Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
" 'Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord and against his Anointed One.'
27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."


Reading this prayer, several thoughts came to mind:

  • I love that they prayed scripture back to God (v25 and 26). I expect to take a Saturday in the next couple of weeks and go to a park and really try to spend some quality time with God, and I must confess that I've wondered what the heck I'll talk about if I spend more than 20 or 30 minutes in prayer. I'll file this thought away for that day.
  • Fascinating to think that (as in v28) its possible for us to do so terrible a thing as torture and kill Christ, only to find that God's power and will had decided this should happen. This certainly doesn't mean that any bad thing we do must have been God's will, but it could mean that some of the challenges we face were probably in the works for us, and just like Jesus, our role is to face these challenges as God leads us.
  • Do you notice that the requests made of God come at the end, and even then the first request of God is that he would empower the believers to take action? I mean, my first thought on reading that part of the text was to pray the very last part, that God would stretch out his hand to heal and perform miraculous signs ... but they only asked for that after they asked for empowerment from God to speak his word themselves.
  • And how would they know his word? From the teaching, from time spent reading his word, and from prayer. Which brings me back to the first bullet above. I need to step up in these areas.

Just thought I'd share today's study time with whoever might be listening.

B

Friday, May 04, 2007

Buckle Up

I'm very excited to see what God has in store for Southlake this summer. Having just hired a preacher after a 2 year search, the elders and staff are coordinating a major undertaking for the summer. Sunday mornings will have a very different feel in several ways, and the small groups will be strongly encouraged to get out of the building and find a way to serve the community. There is a feeling of momentum like I haven't felt in a long time, and an eagerness about what will happen next.

One of the changes in Sunday mornings this summer will be an intentional move to make time for testimonies from the body, on a regular basis, about what God is doing. My understanding is that they will intentionally look for things God is doing now, and not a year ago, or 3 years, etc. In other words, the desire is not to dwell on what God used to do, or what he did, but on what he is doing ... right now.

One of the ways I think I see God moving -- and where I hope to have some testimonies of God's hand at work -- is with the band at Southlake. We may have an opportunity to lead a worship gathering at a prison this summer -- how cool is that? What's more, we've talked for several years about recording a few songs on CD, to give away to visitors, etc -- and there is real movement afoot now to make that happen. (Does talking about it out loud have the potential to jinx it? I hope not. :-)

Seriously, I think there is probably a reason why we have not recorded anything before now -- I think the timing is God's.

Don't believe me? Get this: I taught myself to play bass literally 4 months before the band played together the first time -- and without knowing that there would be a need for me to play. Nino was new to the guitar when he came. Kyle Conway had to have Nino teach him the songs (and some of the chords!) the NIGHT BEFORE the band played together the first time. And yet we've gotten positive feedback (praise God!) pretty much every time we've played together. God's hand was all over the timing in these things -- we were ready, just when he needed us to be. Just in time.

Want another example? Stephen Lemmons was our primary (read, 'only') keyboard player for quite some time. (He's amazing -- totally self-taught, if I'm not mistaken.) But one day he was asked to be a shepherd at SBC, and there's really no way he could have continued to be our one-and-only, or even our primary keys guy, and shepherd at the same time. Well -- wouldn't you know it? -- a few weeks earlier, Mikey Cunningham had shown up for the first time at SBC. (If you don't know Mikey, he's our primary keys guy for the past year or something; I think he was born playing piano, and he picked up a stack of other instruments along the way.) God brought Mikey (and his wife Janet, too!), just in time.

So what's coming? I don't know. If you know me, you know I've felt like I'm waiting for something to happen for some time now. I don't know what that is, or what it means. It might just be something I ate. (No, seriously. I should really eat healthier.) But maybe, just maybe, God has some exciting things in store.

And with the momentum seeming to pick up at Southlake ... I'm buckling up.

Monday, April 23, 2007

How is YOUR day going?

When was the last time you really snapped at someone who you perceived was doing a poor job? There's nothing quite like the 'righteous anger' we feel, when we don't believe people are doing all they can, or when they don't seem to be carrying their weight.

As part of a project at work, I had helped send information to an individual in security who was to review the information and (hopefully) send back a formal approval. We were told that in a few weeks we should get the response back. But two months passed without much response, other than that the security folks were simply overwhelmed with work.

Over the water cooler (so to speak), I spoke with people around the office about how ridiculous this was. I didn't necessarily believe that the security person was doing a poor job -- I know they are severely understaffed -- but even so, it was frustrating to have to wait so long for something that should really only take a few days worth of effort.

So today I noticed that the security person was online in our instant messenger system. I dropped her an IM, asking if she had received my email of a couple weeks ago, and asking whether she could give me an idea as to how much longer it would take.

Her response: 'I have a son at Virginia Tech ... I was out all last week'

I read her response, and all the blood drained from my face.

Over the next few minutes, I asked a few questions, and she told me (still via IM) how her son is a civil engineering major, and that she was unable to reach her son that day, and she went to Blacksburg to search for him. She said those were some of the worst hours of her life. (Honestly, I cannot even imagine.) They finally found him, safe, but he was acquainted with some of those who were killed, and he was originally scheduled to be in one of the classes that sustained so many fatalities, but had to change his schedule due to a missing prerequisite.

Do I have to tell you how quickly my little annoyance about the security review disappeared? I mean, I still hope that gets wrapped up soon, but sometimes I have to be reminded that the world doesn't revolve around me.

So the next time you are get poor service somewhere, or a rude response from someone, consider for a moment that maybe that person is having a worse day -- or week, or month -- than you.

May God be with the Virginia Tech students and their families.

*********

On a side note, what an amazing weekend I just had. The men's retreat was excellent -- if you haven't heard Patrick Mead speak, then you're missing out. And Michael Bridges led a couple of great worship times. Both Mead and Bridges have a way of adding humor to time with God -- I suspect that God laughed with us all weekend long!

And to have finally hired a preacher at Southlake, how cool is that? I have a sense that we are ready to see what God has in store next for Southlake.

And I have to mention the group of us who went to see FC Dallas play the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon. Great fun.

In such a dark world, these have been very, very good days.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Planting Trees

Read this from Luke 17:7-10 ...

7"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
This is an unusual passage, is it not? I mean, I'm so very accustomed to hearing about how God has called me 'friend' -- and He has certainly done that. So in reading this today I found myself thinking how opposite this is from much of what we hear today. It is as if this text were implying that we aren't God's friends after all, that we are mere servents, and we'll do what we're told.

But that's an oversimplification of this text, I think, and interpreting it this way does not seem to line up with other parts of scripture.

So I looked at it again, and looked at the context a little closer. Check out the previous two verses (Luke 17: 5-6):

5The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
Jesus has just told His followers that they don't need much faith in order to do fairly amazing things. It is in the follow-up to this comment, then, that He points out that we shouldn't get a big head about using God's power. We have to be aware of the position we're in. Specifically, that God calls us to obey him, to serve him.

Of course, along the way He may call us to do some amazing things; to command a few trees to move, as it were. However, we shouldn't get confused into thinking we could ever serve him enough that He would somehow owe us a favor, or that He would let us use this amazing faith power to do things that serve ourselves, or that bring glory to ourselves.

See, God has called us friends, and He has blessed and served us in amazing ways, most notably through Jesus. But Jesus isn't speaking here of God's relationship to us. He's speaking of our relationship to God. No matter how good, how righteous we live our lives, we cannot be good enough to earn anything from God. In the end, we are unworthy servants. And if we've been obedient to God, it is because there is no other way to respond to what He has done for us.

Perhaps that's why we don't see even our most faithful brothers and sisters throwing out their gardening gloves, shovels, etc, relying instead on verbal commands to their garden plants as to where to be and grow. Jesus wasn't suggesting that God was going to give us a magic wand to serve ourselves. He was simply saying that it takes very little faith to do amazing things -- but the amazing things will be God's things, not ours, at His discretion, in His timing.

But I must confess, when I was planting a little tree in my back yard this past week, I'd sure like to have been able to just tell the tree to get in the ground.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ready Freddie

Later the Master selected seventy and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he intended to go. He gave them this charge: “What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands.” -- Luke 10:1-2
Something struck me odd about these two verses.

Jesus had his pick of some number of people – for the sake of argument, let’s say he had 150 too choose from. But he only chose 70. And then he says to the 70, ‘I wish there were more of you!’

But … if he wanted more than 70, why not just choose more people? I mean, why not pick 120 people to send? Or just send all the people he had to ‘select’ from, instead of selecting some of them and leaving the rest out?

I think the reason is probably very simple. He chose all the ones who were ready.

Ready to take on the assignment. Ready to be obedient, whether we feel like it or not. By ‘ready’ I do not mean ‘perfect’ – no one is perfect except Christ. But while we won’t be perfect until we’re made perfect in heaven, I do believe there are stages to our development, and I believe that God will typically assign tasks to us based on our readiness and ability to complete the tasks.

Paul might have used a different word than ‘ready’; I think he might have said ‘worthy’. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is writing to believers, and at one point (2 Thessalonians 1:11) Paul actually prays that the believers would be ‘worthy’ of God’s calling, and that they would accomplish every act that is prompted by their faith. I think Paul was praying that they would be ready – actively practicing obedience in order to be in the groove when they are prompted by their faith to particular actions.

You know. Ready.

So. Are you ready?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Facing Demons

I'm currently studying in Luke, and I just got to the end of the story in Luke 8 where Jesus heals a demon-possessed man.

It strikes me sometimes how normative demon possession seems in the Bible, as compared to today. I don't think for a minute that this is because demons are no longer active, nor do I believe that they don't possess people today. I just think that, as predators are prone to do, demons have developed camoflauge.

In our culture, something as supernatural as demon possession would stand out like the sun at midnight. It would serve as 'proof' of the supernatural, which of course would be a problem for demons, as they are quite happy for us to believe that there is no being greater than ourselves, no event in the universe that we can't (eventually) explain with science. Particularly demons that seem to have super strength, as this one did.

So when demons possess people today, in our western culture, I think they find more subtle ways to go about their activities, leaving us none the wiser.

Its also interesting to note that the society tried everything they could think of to restrain this evil. They chained the guy, even put him under guard, but he managed to escape every time. Eventually they let him run wild, and the man was apparently left alone so long as he stayed out of sight. Not that its a secret -- things like this can't remain secret for long.

Don't we do this too? Say a guy struggles with lust. Perhaps he tries everything he knows to do, on his own, but the lust keeps overpowering his restraint. So eventually the guy lets it run wild -- but most of the time he keeps it out of sight, hoping that he is not found out. At first he may keep it secret, but if he doesn't deal with the problem, it won't remain secret for long.

So how does Jesus deal with the demon? At first he commands it to come out, but apparently that doesn't work (!), and Jesus' next step is to ask the demon its name. To rephrase, Jesus clearly defines the problem. And once the source of the trouble is clearly defined, it's the beginning of the end of the problem. I'll come back to this in a sec.

Now, I wish I understood the whole thing with the pigs. Why would Jesus NOT throw the demons into the 'Abyss', whatever exactly that is; and why would he ALLOW the demons to go and kill a herd of pigs? Seems like Jesus could have handled this a lot of ways, and yet this way seems like a bad deal, for the pigs, for the pigs' owners, etc. I got nothin'.

Skipping that, then, the townspeople come out, and they see Jesus beside the unibomber (so to speak), but the unibomber is suddenly all cleaned up. I'd be scared. They were. And they ask Jesus to take a hike. Jesus ends up telling the healed man to go and tell people what God has done for him.

So the overarching theme? When you face your demons -- and you will; they are absolutely attacking this world -- when you do, start with Jesus. After your best efforts with Jesus, if they are still hanging around, make sure you've clearly defined them. Are you dealing with a symptom of the problem, and there is a deeper root that you have yet to address?

And once you've faced your demons, even as you're facing them, talk about it. Bring your demons out of the dark and into the light. You'll find that you are encouraged in this, and you will encourage others whose demons are as yet a secret.

B