Wednesday, December 31, 2008
This Christmas, I received two very special gifts. I've learned that I'm kind of an emotional guy and both of these resulted in some seriously watery eyes. The first came in the form of a totally unexpected Christmas card. In this modern era of instant communication, Christmas cards almost seem to be a ritual of the past. Yet, I still send them - and receive them. This year, an unexpected card ended up in my mailbox and included some words that were so encouraging that I was truly awestruck. The second gift came in the form of a tin of cookies. On Tuesday, I sat down at my desk and right in front of me was this tin of cookies with a card on top. My first thought was, "How the heck did someone get into my office and leave a tin of cookies?" However, I read the accompanying card and, again, just sat their awestruck.
Too often, I find it easy to slip down that dangerous slope of sadness and woefulness - to question what the heck is going on - to wonder if this thing called kingdom-building really is possible - to struggle with a sense of purpose. These two gifts provided a huge reality check that there is a larger purpose - that other things are going on that most of the time I don't even see.
Happy New Year!!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Send your rain, oh Lord
Send your rain, oh Lord
Send your rain, oh Lord
to your people
May your kingdom come
and your will be done
on Earth as it is in Heaven
This is basically the song and their is repetition of the verses.
Yet, in the midst of what sometimes has been a chaotic holiday season, this song proved to be a powerful reminder... of Jesus and his kingdom.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Rewind to Christmas Eve night. One of the traditions that we have at Grandpa and Grandma Wise's house is the tablecloth. Each Christmas Eve dinner, every guest must add a drawing, phrase, etc, to the tablecloth. We have years and years worth of drawings and have expanded to two tablecloths. Well, I went to Grandpa and Grandma's house and then left to come back to Bremen for church at Horizon. After church, I headed back to Grandpa and Grandma's house. While driving, I thought about what I would draw. Jim has talked several times about two spheres, Heaven and Earth, that he saw in Europe. So I decided to draw two circles slightly overlapping to represent this connection between Heaven and Earth with the birth of Jesus. To clarify the drawing, I wrote "Heaven" and "Earth" in the circles.
Later that night while with the fam at the Grace Christmas Eve service, I thought more about these simple circles and was startled by something else. In my mind, I rotated the combined circles 90 degrees and peered at the overlap region. I traced the overlap and smiled (I know that I was smiling because one of the singers from the praise team came up to me after the service and said that it was nice to see a big smile in the congregation).
Situated neatly between Heaven and Earth is this symbol, the Ichthus. In some circles, this "fish" is a symbol for Jesus. I really like this drawing of Heaven, Earth, and Jesus. I tried to visual the drawing in 3D and all of the sudden the Ichthus is like this small portal (like a wardrobe, painting, or garden door in the Chronicles of Narnia) between Heaven and Earth.
So I'm sure that this is probably not a new drawing, but it is pretty crazy that even a tablecloth can be a remember of Jesus.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Well, today is Christmas Eve. That means tomorrow is Christmas - the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. I like to think of this as God in the Bod - God entering into this world in an entirely new way. God entered this world as a man - Jesus - who experienced pain, suffering, love, friendship, anger, abandonment, betrayal, compassion. Jesus - God - entered this world in a new, personal, relational way.
In Jesus, we get a new look at God.
In Jesus, we get a new look.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
So last night, I had this idea. I'm not sure if any of you have noticed, but the ground is covered in ice. That means that the sledding hills are covered in ice, too. I started thinking down the list of people who might be interested in sledding. This afternoon, I called Tim. He sounded a little hesitant and then remembered that he had stats at the basketball game tonight. However, the game ended up being cancelled and we headed out to locate sleds in B-town.
Family Dollar - NO
Dollar General - NO
A bit despondent, we looked and beheld a sign hanging outside Koontz Hardware.
After getting some warm clothes, we headed over to Sunnyside park. Sure enough, the hill is covered in ice. It was awesome. We could sled all the way across the soccer field to the parking lot. (Actually, my red racer made it 3/4 away across the parking lot.) Because of the sleet, we stopped by my house for safety glasses and goggles. This is definitely a benefit of working with chemicals! Off to Shadyside park for more sledding and a bit of a snowball fight. I asked Tim why he sounded a bit hesitant when I first asked him about going sledding.
He said that it just seemed a bit spontaneous.
I like the sound of that.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
7:30 PM: Return company car
7:45 PM: Arrive at Christmas Vacation move night. Great movie. Great times.
At the end of the movie: Roll over on side. Crash.
~11:15 PM - Wake up. Watch some TV. Laugh.
~11:45 PM - Get back home. Crash again.
Sunday 6:37 AM: Awaken to phone call. "Toddahito," says the voice on the other end of the line. I learn that the power is out in much of Bremen. This means that garage doors don't open. However, Clella needs to get out on a plane from South Bend to Detroit to Portland, Maine. I wait to hear back if the flights are still ago.
7:17 AM: Power goes out at my house.
7:18 AM: Receive confirmation that Clella's flight is a go.
7:19 AM: Call Clella. "Let's go."
7:20 AM: Stumble over shoes. Put them on. Find spare key to car because can't find regular key ring.
7:25 AM: Leave house. Drive through dark streets of Bremen. No lights on anywhere including stoplights.
7:30 AM: Pick up Clella. Start journey up 331. Treacherous.
8:19 AM: Arrive at airport.
8:45 AM: Get to counter. Ticket agent looks up. Oh no. "The Portland leg is cancelled," says the agent. Get on phone.
8:50 AM: Decide that Clella can continue on revised flight plan.
9:10 AM: Depart from airport. Use change from floor of car to pay $2 parking fee because no cash in wallet.
9:20 AM: Receive call from JDM. Turn around to go back and get Clella. Portland, Maine is supposed to get 2 more feet of snow.
9:30 AM: Meet Clella at Northwest line. Wait in line.
9:40 AM: Waiting in line. Waiting in line. Waiting in line.
10:30 AM: Get to counter. Full refund!
10:43 AM: Out of airport and on the way back to Bremen.
11:30 AM: Arrive at Steve and Amy's. The power is still out in Bremen but they have a generator and gas heat. Hang out with Steve, Amy, Jim, JDM, Clella, Charlotte. Good times!
3:00 PM: Taco soup time. Beans. Oh yeah!
4:45 PM: Arrive home. Take much needed shower.
6:00 PM: Arrive at farm. Enjoy a few hours with fam.
9:00 PM: Arrive home again.
10:00 PM: Reflect.
Wow, the last few days have been pretty amazing - honestly, in a good way. In recounting everything tonight with my mom, she inquired how I managed to stay calm out in New York. Actually, I just pretty much felt at peace with the entire situation. I was kind of taken aback by this sense of calmness.
Tonight, it dawned on me about what a blessing it was to spend time with folks today. It is kind of weird that adverse weather conditions bring people together in a special way. Helping Clella get to the airport and back home, maintaining steady contact with JDM to work on the travel situation, spending the afternoon with a group of people just having fun and staying warm, hanging out with the family. I can't imagine a world devoid this richness of relationships. I can't imagine a world without this huge opportunity to do this thing called living with these people.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Friday ~ 4:30 AM: Alarm goes off. Quickly get ready. Put on remaining clean shirt. Check out.
5:30 AM: Return rental car. Head to United line. The line is long. I mean long. Those cool little Kiosks aren't working and the line is long.
6:00 AM: First flight to Chicago leaves on time but presumably mostly empty because the 6:00 AM people are still standing in line due to the aforementioned technical difficulties.
7:00 AM: Second flight to Chicago leaves on time. This time it is full because the ticket agents call the 7:00 AM passengers to the front of the line (novel concept). The 6:00 AM passengers are still waiting to be re-booked.
7:30 AM: Finally, I get to the ticket agent - a bit smugly, of course. I mean who would have thought that it was necessary to get to the airport 4 hours in advance? (Me, of course.) The agent is looking at his screen and says, "Oh no. Here we go again. 6752 is cancelled." (Yes, that's right. 6752 is the third flight, my flight to Chicago.) Keeping my composure, I wait for the possibilities. The only remaining possibility for today is 5:30 PM in Rochester, NY. Okay, I'll take it.
7:45 AM: Go to rental car counter. I need a car to go back to work and then to Rochester for a 5:30 flight. The agent looks up. "That's not a good idea. There is a winter storm warning until 10:00 PM. You won't get out." I call my boss (one of them anyway) for advice. He says to find something for Saturday and head back to work.
8:00 AM: Proceed back to United line. It is not moving. Call travel agent. She says 5:30 PM Saturday is earliest on United. Call travel agent again. What about another airline? American has a flight at 12:45 PM. Call boss to see if okay to purchase another ticket. Call travel agent and get ticket on American because United line hasn't moved.
8:45 AM: Go back to rental car counter and rent a car. Previous car is Pontiac G5. Can't get this one back. End up with Ford Focus.
9:00 AM: On the way back to Oswego. Starving. Stop for McDonald's break.
9:45 AM: Arrive at Oswego plant. Change clothes. Replace "clean shirt" with outer shirt from Wednesday as under shirt and outer shirt from Thursday as outer shirt again. Head out to plant. Pass break room and notice box of chocolates. Eat a piece. Eat another. Eat another. Eat another. Amazing. Head out to plant. Work.
12:30 PM: Chinese carry-in. Delicious. Enjoyed company of Oswego folks.
Afternoon: Work on floor plans. Check dimensions. Continue studying platers.
5:00 PM: Pack box of dirty wire mill clothes and wet gym clothes. Nasty. Ask to have sent back on a truck. No rush.
5:30 PM: Depart for Rochester. Stop at Big Lots for clean underwear, socks, and t-shirt
8:15 PM: Arrive in Rochester. (Note: 78 miles)
8:30 PM: Head to restaurant. Monterrey chicken sandwich (includes avocado!) and a beverage.
9:30 PM: Gym
10:15 PM: Shower
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
So here it is in the NIV.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2, NIV)
Despite the fact that this verse is hanging in my dining room, if I would have referenced this verse in any way shape or form, I would have thought that "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" was the verse in its entirety.
It is almost like I just totally ignored the other part of the same sentence - the part in blue.
Check it out in the Message.
This is shocking!
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:2 MSG)
I have more to write but am pooped and tomorrow is going to be a long day.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Keep up the good work, bro!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Psalm 1 (MSG)
How well God must like you—
you don't hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don't slink along Dead-End Road,
you don't go to Smart-Mouth College.
Instead you thrill to God's Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You're a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.
You're not at all like the wicked,
who are mere windblown dust—
Without defense in court,
unfit company for innocent people.
God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.
Two phrases from this Psalm really stood out in my mind.
The first, "You're a tree replanted in Eden."
Reading this, I was reminded of post by Trent about this tree named, Rudy. If you click on the link, you'll see that Rudy is getting pretty big. Eventually, he'll need a new home. What would it be like if that new home were Eden and Rudy had the opportunity to drink of never ending streams of living water? What if Rudy could breathe in air free of pollution? What if Rudy could take root in rich soil filled with nutrients? What if Rudy could bask in the radiance of the sun and simply praise God and produce bountiful crops of "whirly-birds"?
The second, "who are mere windblown dust."
An image came to mind that is in stark contrast to the above image. One winter, I was on the way to Rensselear to a basketball game. Needing to release a 24 oz coffee, I stopped at gas station. Upon getting out, I was taken aback by my surroundings. This area is particularly flat and wide open. For miles around me, all I could see was snow covered with this dirty brown film. The winds had turned up dust from the farm fields and covered the clean white snow with grime. In fact, while dashing up to the gas station, my face was pelleted by these grains of sand.
Psalm 1 clearly delineates between the righteous and the wicked. I'm thankful for this God who offers an alternative to the barren wasteland.
(Stay tuned for some crazy pictures.)
For anyone interested in faith and learning, take a minute to read and reflect on these beautiful words.
Praise the Source of Faith and Learning
Praise the source of faith and learning
Who has sparked and stoked the mind
With a passion for discerning
How the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing
From the wonders we survey
Keep our faith forever growing
And renew our need to pray:
God of wisdom, we acknowledge
That our science and our art
And the breadth of human knowledge
Only partial truth impart.
Far beyond our calculation
Lies a depth we cannot sound
Where your purpose for creation
And the pulse of life are found.
May our faith redeem the blunder
Of believing that our thought
Has displaced the grounds for wonder
Which the ancient prophets taught.
May our learning curb the error
Which unthinking faith can breed
Lest we justify some terror
With an antiquated creed.
As two currents in a river
Fight each others’ undertow
‘Til converging they deliver
One coherent steady flow.
Blend, O God, our faith and learning
‘Til they carve a single course
While they join as one returning
Praise and thanks to you their source.
---Thomas H. Troeger (born 1945)
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I know some people who are extremely organized. Some people have a place for everything. One of my friends even has his garage completely organized. This amazes me.
I am not one of these people.
The strange thing is that I know how to organize things and have done this for various projects at work - dies, cabinets, even tools for operators. However, I have absolutely no interest in maintaining the organizational scheme once it is set up.
Since purchasing the house, I have been on a purging mission. However, trips to New York and school interrupted this mission. This afternoon, I hit it hard again for a few hours - organizing files and cleaning in one of the closets. While working in the closet, I was just baffled by the randomness. I really don't know what is going through my head or how things end up where they end up. Above you will see some pictures to demonstrate the point.
The first picture is of various items that were piled together on a top shelf.
A blue sweater vest
The third picture is the contents of a second bag stashed on the shelf. Items in this second bag:
Okay, now I'm actually laughing out loud at this random compilation.
This really leaves me with the question: Is this deficiency in organization a curse... or a blessing?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
1 Peter 7-11, MSG: Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
As I opened the door of the car, the sharp air took my breath away. I started on my way. Soon, I turned the corner and looked up. Before me, through the flurries and amidst the sounds of the carillon, stood the Golden Dome. To its left stood the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. My pace quickened in anticipation of the the warmth inside. I climbed the steps and opened the door to find a church filled with people. A few seats remained in the left section of pews. I sat down, and a moment later, the organ filled the cavernous structure. Voices sang out, "Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear." The procession rounded the corner in front of me and soon the pungent odor of incense filled the air.
The Feast of Lessons and Carols was a beautifully solemn experience anticipating the coming of our Lord. This year, more than ever, has proven, thus far, to be difficult to find a few moments to contemplate the coming of Christ. Tonight, however, provided an opportunity, amidst the hustle and bustle and uncertain times, to think about Jesus. As the incense permeated the air, I thought about Jesus permeating our lives offering this amazing connection, this link, between Earth and Heaven.
Justin shared this link to Advent Conspiracy. Check it out.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Holy Walk is this great event in Bremen that has been around for 28 years. In fact, my parents were involved in organizing the original Holy Walk and it was at our farm. It is a journey to Bethlehem and includes encounters with Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels, the innkeeper at the inn, the merchants in the village, Jesus in the manger, and the wise men.
With some reluctance, I donned the angel garb and headed out in the cold with my trumpet and halo. The amazing thing is that it was so worth it. The "heavenly hosts" had a riotous time telling stories, laughing, eating. Several groups had passed by and then this special group came up to visit the shepherds.
Upon observing the signal, I did the little trumpet fanfare and exclaimed:
"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12, ESV)
As I said, "Fear not," every person, EVERY PERSON, kneeled. Now typically, the shepherds will kneel and maybe a few kids, but in this group, every person kneeled.
Then, the rest of the angels sang,
"Glory to God in the Highest,
Peace on Earth,
Seeing those folks kneeling, hearing the angels singing, I thought about worship, about Heaven and Earth touching, about praising God.
Glory to God in the Highest!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday morning, I headed into the weight room just like any other Monday morning. After lifting for awhile, I started cardio on the stationary bike. Usually, I just stay on one machine, but for some reason, the treadmill looked enticing. (I had some negative vibes to sweat out and the bike just wasn't getting it done.) So I cranked that thing up to 9.5-10 mph and got in a quick mile and then was ready to head to the stepper. I backed the speed down and then pressed "stop." The machine continued to slow down and I thought it was slow enough to step off.
Uh, yeah, about that.
The floor felt kind of hard after flying off the machine.
In the past, I would have been pretty mortified by this little situation. However, I just got up and head over to the stepper. It was kind of comical really.
Fast forward to Monday night after class. I was heading south from campus and it was sleeting. I was droving slow because of the slippery road. However, despite the caution, the headlights from the car behind me were not reflecting in the rearview mirror. No, they were shining right into my eyes. In an instant, my car had rotated 180 degrees and was still in the correct lane. So I checked the other lane, turned the car around, and headed on my merry shook up way.
These two events were pretty powerful reminders to me. I needed these events. They reminded me that some things are beyond our control, that life is fragile, that sometimes it is necessary to just get up and get going again, that sometimes it can feel like things are going in completely the wrong direction. However, the enemy - whether it be embarrassment, guilt, shame, even death - has been defeated.
We sang this great song from Hillsong last night...
The enemy has been defeated
And death couldn't hold You down
We're gonna lift our voice in victory
We're gonna make Your praises loud
Monday, December 1, 2008
I think that there is much more to this experience. The parallels to both life and church seem quite striking. Do any of you ever feel that your life is somehow trying to be scripted by our culture? I do. There is the right type of haircut, the right job, the right car, the right clothes. However, what happens when we are free to create the music and not let the sheet music create us?
I think this is similar to the church, too. So much of contemporary Christianity seems scripted, religious, just going through the motions. Honestly, that is what it seems like for me right now. Yet, last night I was reading about this amazing Jesus - the Revolutionary. The Jesus who deliberately healed on the Sabbath, who defied traditions, who ate food with unwashed hands, who healed with spittle and clay - in direct defiance of Jewish law. (see Pagan Christianity) To continue on with the analogy, Jesus created his own music - a song filled with freedom, spontaneity, and joy.
What would it be like to be a part of this music - to be at the "center of the beating heart of God?"
Right now, I don't know.
However, I long for this.