Thursday, July 30, 2009
Last night, I was reading in bed and came across this passage.
1 Samuel 8:4-5 Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: "Look, you're an old man, and your sons aren't following in your footsteps. Here's what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else."
Well, it is late so I'll finish at another time.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
I can't believe how fast the years have passed.
One of the things that I remember about starting out on campus is Dr. Chattin (or maybe it was Dr. Shannon) telling us to look around the room because we might see our future spouse. Little did I know that there was certainly a ring of truth to that statement.
As I think back over these ten years, I also think about the people that have provided counsel and served as mentors. Some of you out there are probably thinking right now, "Yep, that's me." You know who you are and I thank you so much! Mo still likes to remind me of being "scared of my shadow" when I stepped onto campus and that she had to coach me through deciding the right calculus class to take.
Today, though, the roles changed and I found myself on the other side of the table - the one to be the listening ear, the one to offer counsel.
It is weird how the conversation started.
It was something like "remember last year when you told me about some things that you were experiencing."
Some lessons from today's exchange...
- Being open and sharing offers opportunities for people to relate.
- It is important to be ready.
- Always remember to listen.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Last week, I picked up my new pair of glasses. Honestly, I was pretty excited to get these new spectacles because they are very different from past pairs - quite a bit more bold than normal. The reaction people had to the glasses was pretty humorous, but the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. One of my friends commented, "Wear those suckers proud!"
Glasses are kind of important. Without them, people like me really can't see what is going on around them. They help our eyes to focus and turn the blurs into clear images.
God offers us a lot of other gear that we can wear. Paul shares some of this gear in the book of Ephesians (see bold below). It occurred to me today that God's gear also acts similarly to a pair of glasses. God's gear provides a different set of lenses through which to the view the world. It turns the blurs into beautiful painting. It turns fears into confidence. It vanquishes evil and lifts up the destitute.
Unfortunately, why does it seem easier to wear a new pair of glasses proud than the gear of God?
Ephesians 13-18: Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
The past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind. This weekend, Jenn and I met up with the M.O.B. (Men of Bennett) at Mississinewa State Recreational Area. However, I wanted to share one more Wisconsin post before moving on to other posts. The great thing about my week in Wisconsin was the opportunity to witness connections be created. For example, during the student retreat, we met a young man named Aaron. Aaron is the pastor's son and he just graduated from high school. However, he also moved to Wisconsin from India just over a year ago. Talk about a change in culture during the high school years. I can't imagine what this transition has been like for Aaron. He shared some thoughts about the weather and making friends. The snow was cool to see - the first time. Aaron also indicated that it has been difficult to make friends. I was really excited to see our group accept Aaron. He even ended up camping at the cabin with us and joined us on our hiking adventure. He also had the star role in the second group's final activity. The two groups took stage on the front porch of the cabin to share songs and skits that they had written about God's love.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Well, it is late already so tonight I'm going to post some pics. These have already been on Facebook and one is in an earlier post so sorry to those of you have seen them already. However, I wanted to give credit to my wonderful Aunt Jane for capturing these great moments from Jenn's blueberry pie birthday bash at the cabin (my fiancee is so beautiful!).
Jane is a special person with a very big heart. She dealt with two groups of people in the course of one week. This included breakfasts, work projects, helping with the trash, calling the mechanic, and just watching out for us.
I think she also taught some of about dreams and what it means to really take a leap of faith - both in her own life and her generosity toward us. Right now she is plunging into photography and these are some of her pics. I have enjoyed looking at them several times now and know that others have, too. These few pictures capture so much joy during a very special celebration. If you look closely, you'll see more details.
So thank you, Jane.
As always, it was very hard leaving town. I'm not sure I've ever been able to leave without fighting back tears, but this year was probably the most difficult ever.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Last Saturday afternoon, we all wentt into Crandon to get a coffee at the coffee shop before Trent and Abby headed back to Indiana. As the chamber coordinator, Trent was planning on getting back to Bremen Day at the Cove. So around probably 2:30 or so, Trent and Abby set off on their merry way in my car. The rest of the group searched for T-shirts and went to the store to buy food for dinner. We made it back to the cabin in time to meet my cousin, Heidi.
Around 3:30, my cell phone rings and Trent says something about my car dying. He says that he was driving along in cruise and then the car kind of sped up and slowed down and then finally coasted to a stop. Uh oh. This is not good. So we get on our phones and start getting ideas.
Finally, we decide that the only option is to head out on a rescue mission and get a tow truck. Jan, Jenn, and I take off in the van for the 45-mile or so drive. We find Trent and Abby, and Jan starts working on finding a tow truck. About 20 minutes later, she have the tow truck lined up to arrive within a hour and half.
So we stand for a few minutes and I say something about it being time to play some cornhole (that was conveniently stored away in the trunk of my car). So we play a few rounds and then decide it is time to play Catch Phrase (also conveniently stored away in the car). So we put out some blankets and sit down to play the game. About a hour and a half into the games, the tow truck arrives amidst our cheers. The guy loadsup the car and we follow him back to Crandon.
Meanwhile, my aunt, Jane, has called the mechanic. He says to call back when we are in Laona and he will meet us at the shop. Sure enough, a few minutes after we arrive with the car, Mark the mechanic pulls up. He proceeds to diagnose the problem - a bad fuel pump - and says that he'll fix it that night. Shocked by our good fortune, we all head back to the cabin to prepare a reunion meal of sorts.
At church the next day, we truly worship an amazing God!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The above picture was from Jenn's blueberry pie birthday bash during the second retreat weekend. I just really like this picture and wanted to share it.
Tonight, though, I'd like to rewind to Sunday, July 12. I have played piano since the first grade. I'm not very good but really enjoy playing - particularly more traditional church music and hymns. Consequently, I was really excited by the opportunity to play at two church services - Crandon and Argonne UMC. Both did not have a piano player available for that Sunday (Argonne has piano player 1 out of 4 Sundays; St. Luke's 3 out of 4) so I thought it would be a good opportunity to step out of the comfort zone a bit. The music at St. Luke's in Crandon worked out fine. However, at Argonne, I made a bit of a mistake by playing the Doxology instead of the Gloria Patri. No one seemed to mind. Actually, after the service, a lady actually asked if I could stay permanently.
Anyway, we needed marshmallows for the evening campfire, so Tim and I went into town to the grocery store. Upon leaving, we took off to locate a hiking trail that I thought was nearby. I turned down a road and drove for 2 or 3 miles and decided that it wasn't the correct road. So we turned around and headed back toward the highway. We pulled up behind a truck at boat at the stop sign and the guy driving the truck gets out and comes back toward the car. I wasn't sure what was going on so I rolled down the window.
"Aren't you the piano player from this morning?" he asked.
He goes on to say thanks for playing and that we looked lost. He said that he didn't know of a trail nearby but told us to keep driving straight for 8 miles to the National Forest-Ed's Lake. We found the trails and headed back to the cabin.
The next day, the whole group went hiking at the trails.
It was just kind of amazing because this relatively simple experience reminded me that God is at work. He puts the pieces together. He connects the dots.
He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. (1 Colossians 1:18-20)
Monday, July 20, 2009
Last summer, I went to Vermont on a retreat with a group from church. A few weeks later, Ben and I went to Wisconsin for a few days at the lake. While in Wisconsin, we went to a little church in a little town. It kind of crossed my mind that it would be great to do a retreat in Wisconsin and also do something for the little church as a sign of hope.
Fast forward to this year and the cabin hosted a retreat - two retreats in fact.
July 10-July 14
Keith and Danielle brought five students from the high school group to the cabin. Some highlights... helping Buzz and Eunice with yard work and other work around the house, leading worship at Argonne UMC, welcoming Crandonite Aaron into our group, spending time focusing on spiritual growth, singing songs at the cabin, getting lost on our hiking trip.
Jenn, Trent, Abby, Jan, Ben, and Britney made the journey up to Crandon. Some highlights... helping Buzz and Eunice with yard work and other work around the house, leading worship at Argonne UMC, road trip through the Upper Peninsula, the rescue operation (including cornhole and catchphrase on the side of the road), Jenn's birthday party (featuring gifts that we made and blueberry pie), Jan's cookies.
I hope to share a few posts on these two trips. Some truly amazing things happened. As I sat down to write this post, a passage came to mind from Colossians.
Colossians 1:9 (The Message)
9-12Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.
I can honestly say that on this trip, I saw glimpses of the ways in which God works. I'd like to share a few of these glimpses in the next few posts:
- Locating a hiking trail
- The gift of cookies
- Bringing people together
- Rescue mission
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. Luke 19:1-4 (NIV)
Two words in this passage really stand out to me: ran and climbed.
These words have to do with positioning.
Here's this guy who happens to be short. He is just going about his own business being a tax collector. Then he hears that this dude, Jesus, is passing through the town.
Curious, he does the obvious thing. He runs and climbs a tree.
Climbs a tree?!
What the heck?
But you know what, he wanted to see Jesus. To do this, he had to overcome his height deficiency - so he climbed a tree.
I've struggled for a long time with fear of failure. This has led me to make some relatively "safe" decisions at various points in my life. I think in some ways, though, this makes it difficult to see Jesus at work every day. Like Zacchaeus' height deficiency, the safe way does not really put me in the right position. I mean think of this wealthy Zacchaeus tax collector guy climbing a tree to see Jesus. That was a pretty goofy thing to do. What were his acquaintances saying about him? I can just hear them laughing as they see this guy climbing a tree. What about those disciples who dropped everything to follow this Jesus? That is some serious positioning.
So over this next long week way from B-town, I'm really looking forward to taking advantage of opportunities for positioning.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Ironically, this afternoon, I stopped by the hardware store to get a spare key to the house. This meant that I took the house key of my key chain, and, well, it never made it back on the key chain. So, tonight, I got home from watching softball and water polo, and pulled out my keys to unlock the door and no house key. I was standing outside my door with all my other keys while my two house keys rested on the kitchen table.
I called Ben and Troy to see if either had their keys and if they were nearby.
So I walked around to the front door and saw that the screen door was locked but the main door was open. Using my keen detective-like skills, I managed to get past the locked screen door and into the house through the front door... without any damage.
However, this situation led me to think about locks.
Why do we have so many locks?
What are we locking in and what are we locking out?
What if we didn't have so many locks?
Monday, July 6, 2009
Of course, with Independence Day comes thoughts about freedom.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time reading 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Initially, I wouldn't have really thought that these books have much to do with freedom. However, after reading the books and the introduction found in the Message Remix, they seem to have a great deal to say about freedom.
The Freedom of God.
Freedom that comes from hope.
Hope that comes from a sense of future.
It seems that the church at Thessalonica got this: (I'm quoting from the Message)
"They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom."
They waited expectantly.
I like this word, expectantly.
It certainly has a future connotation. But to me it also has this present connotation as well. Eager anticipation. Kind of like waking up on Christmas morning and knowing the presents are in the basement but waiting before heading downstairs to open them.
This word expectantly exudes a sense of hope, a sense of confidence.
Paul made it pretty clear that this is open to all of us:
"We weren't aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children."
This is pretty awesome.
And with this future orientation comes a conquest.
The banishment of Fear.
And with the banishment of fear comes promises and possibilities and challenges.
"We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let's not sleepwalk through life like the others."
"Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he's called you to be, pray that he'll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely."
So long story short: What does all this mean to me? Well, it says to me that with this future hope, I am free from fears and pains and don't have to wait to live out that future life of glory. There is no need to sleepwalk through life. In fact, God wants to infuse each day, each moment, with his own energy.
Now that sounds like freedom.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Trent sent a link to an interesting post that specifically deals with volunteers in the church. In the midst of scarcity, people have to make choices - choices that lead to the most utility, or satisfaction - with the resources available. So let's think about people volunteering in the church. They only have a certain amount of time available in a day. Yet, God has gifted everyone with certain talents - another resource. So what happens when people get pulled into functions that they feel obligated to do but are in contrast with their God-given talents?
Well, the only thing people are going to want to do is just enough to get by. Why? Because it does not fit them. They have strong desires to do what fits them.
The result of this mis-match according to Tim Stevens,
"...frustration, bitterness and cynicism on a church staff--which no one likes to be around."
So here's the thing. This issue is not isolated to the church. Whether in business, service, education, volunteer organizations, people only have a certain number of hours available to utilize their God-given talents. This is certainly something that we can all think about with ourselves, colleagues, employees, and friends.
Why? Because Jesus gave us this model. He loves us so much to meet us right where we are. However, he loves us even more and doesn't want us to stay right where we are.
Jesus says, "Come, follow me..." (Matthew 4:19a)
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Last week, I visited our Oswego manufacturing facility. Unfortunately, it is closing in the near future. This makes me sad because these are really great people and I've really appreciated their friendliness and hospitality with each visit over the last 7 or 8 months. One of my unexpected roles on this trip was to take some time to just listen. Several guys came up to me and just wanted to talk... and I listened.
I'm a pretty emotional guy and right now I'm even choking up thinking about hearing this guy say, "It is just starting to sink in now." This guy has worked at the company for almost his entire working career. And in a short time, the doors will close. It was pretty heart-wrenching. I could see the pain and confusion in this guy's eyes.
I'm really struggling with all of this. I have taken a few economics classes now. Sure, the curves and math show what is happening, but they they do nothing to capture the hard reality - the pain.
How can this be right?
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (1 John 4:17-18)
And of course, the conversation ended up going just fine and there was nothing to fear at all.