Happy All-Saints Day Eve

Dress up in a costume.
Collect candy.
Consume candy.
Regret eating candy and, sometimes, costume.
Yup… it’s Halloween. 
This year our plan is simple — use costumes that are already lying around the house.  Lexi is going as a pumpkin — all it takes is an orange sweatsuit and a green knit cap.  Simple, yet elegant.  Mac is going as a hunter, a sign of his cultural relevance in Jackson County. He’ll don pre-existing camouflage and carry a bag with a bear in it so that he can boldly proclaim “I bagged a bear”.  He may bag a pumpkin, too — but only if things get out of hand.
 Our church is hosting Trunk ‘or’ Treat tonight from 6-8pm. It’s supposed to rain, but who can really predict the future? Okay, well… besides meteorologists?

Pastor Appreciation Month

It’s great to serve on the pastoral staff at SAFMC. We’ve been blessed with many things from many people in our church — gift certificates, home-made cookies, water softener salt, and many notes of thanks. Just about every day we walk into our offices to find a note, a surprise, an encouragement. It is an honor to do the Lord’s work here with such wonderful people.

And creative people they are. After all, how practical is water softener salt? Answer: very. Someone had it delivered to our house. It’s the good stuff, too. Our water has never been softer. I didn’t realize how sharp it was. Growing up in the city, you don’t have an appreciation for this whole thing at first, but now — I am full of thanks. And soft water.

One that made me laugh, simply because it is what it is, was in today’s surprise bag. The theme for us this month was, I’m guessing “The Fruit of the Spirit”. We’ve recieved exhortations to love, joy, peace, etc… and today we hit “Self Control”. So we got a bag with things to remind us to have self control. One of my favorite is pictured below:
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I love that picutre. Officer Chuck goes to our church. I will hang this from my rear view mirror and let it remind me to 1)Laugh and 2)Not speed.

Getting Ready for Sunday

Sunday is a pretty big day.  Not only is it the day that we celebrate the Rez and have a little Easter, but for ministry this is the day where the life of the church moves forward another week. This is where we gather together to do something we’ve been doing alone all week. It is a family reunion, gathered at the table where Christ is the head. We sit at this table, but only for a while. This is a table of transformation and sending, where we are adjusted for the week to come. Equipped to love God, love others, serve the world.We use scripture, prayer, music, readings and the like. We sit near each other. We mingle, enjoy the presence of one another all while having the intention of stepping into the Presence together. We are the church at worship.Biblical Worship happens when God is present (always) and we are present — not just there but actually connected spiritually to the moment — and we respond to His loving Grace, justice and calling to continually take off sin and put on Christ.This is important, because with a new week comes new opportunities for the opposite to happen. Our entire world pushes back on the concept of Worshipping God, a steady din that seeks to send our Worship elsewhere — anywhere else, actually — because anything else will do. Glory To God? Glory away from God? These are our only options.  We need this time together to encourage one another to realign our allegiance and be thankful for new life.  We’re getting ready for Sunday.

Malachi’s New Fear / Lexi’s New Skill

It seems that both skill and fear are sometimes acquired without intention.

Malachi is afraid of fire. He doesn’t know what fire is, but he’s afraid of it. Let me confuse what I mean: last night, one of the interconnected smoke detectors was letting out it’s low-battery cheerful chirp, as if to say “everything’s fine, but if you must know, my battery is getting low. But still, everything is fine. Really. Chirp.”

While I was replacing the battery in the smoke detector downstairs, Malachi was in his crib, trying again to establish a certain method of escape. While he usually tries to get the crib rail to come down, this time it was messing with the cable jack that he could barely reach from his crib. I imagine he was just touching it when BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP filled the house (no, I’m not censoring — that’s the sound the smoke alarm makes when Daddy hits the “test” button” downstairs). Beep beep indeed. It scared the bowel movements out of him.

He’s crying and shaking. Mom says “it’s just the fire alarm, honey — nothing to worry about”. Classic last words, I know, but the intention was to tell this 2 year old what it is and that it’s a test. Only a test. Of course, he latches on to pieces and remembers the word “fire” with BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. Now, every time we put him in his crib he points to the cable jack and says “fire?” No, no fire. In fact, there never was. No spark, no fuel, no flame. No fire.

And yet he’s afraid of fire. Or at least the word “fire”. I’d rather him learn to be afraid from an alarm than from actual fire. Will he make the connection? Eventually. None the less, he’s learned to be afraid of something, albeit by accident.

Lexi, on the other hand, knows how to get past even the strongest of barricades. I was cooking in the kitchen (good place for it, I know) and had to make a “wall” out of kitchen chairs. Curious Kids + Hot Stove = social services file. Anyway, I’ve banished them to the living room while I cook and they’re both trying to figure out how to crack this code of chairs, brother and sister working together and creating toddler synergy. Mac is trying to get in by squeezing under and in-between, but with no luck. Lexi, deciding to sit down because this is getting tough, ends up getting her weight on the chair in such a way that it tips backwards, landing on the floor with a BAM and giving her a nice, safe landing.

Hull breached!

They’re in the kitchen now. And now that they know how to get through what was once impenetrable, I need to either devise a new barricade. Or just stop cooking.

Besides, when I cook, it sets off the smoke alarms.

Navigators’ Topical Memory System

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I just picked up The Navigators’ Scripture Memory Course from the Seeds Resource Center at SAFMC. How convenient — hundreds of books available for purchase are only a few steps away.

Wait.

How dangerous.

Anyway, I’m really pleased that they’ve included the ESV (English Standard Version) in this collection of scripture memory cards. Interestingly enough they also contain the MSG (I’m allergic), NRSV, NLT, as well as the regular host of NIV, NASB, NKJV, KJV. I dig the ESV and the reason I never went for the cards before is because it wasn’t an available translation.

Seems like a good thing to have knockin’ around in your mind — scripture, that is.

We’ll see how it all goes. Check out a similar version here

* Not to be confused with Tropical Memory System

Crunch vs. Soft — the debate continues

A couple of days ago I mentioned on the air that I’m 80/20 in terms of Crunch tacos vs. Soft tacos. It all began when Taco Bell announced that it would offer free tacos for a stolen base in the World Series. While I don’t know the details of Taco Bell’s offer, I do know that I would choose a crunch taco over a soft taco 80% of the time. I love the fact that I’m eating “chips” while I eat the contents of a taco — something you don’t get with the soft taco. But it seems that this has sparked debate among a few people as to which is better. Younger people tend to like soft tacos (which surprises me, since you’d think that seniors would love the chewability) while older, balding folks like myself dig the crunchy (or “hard”) shell tacos.

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In fact, the more I think about the attributes of a crunchy taco, the more I feel myself trending toward a 90/10 ratio or (could it be?) a 99/1 ratio. I need to go find a math major to help me figure this out. While I do that, ask yourself: what would I get at the Bell? Crunchy or Soft? Consider pros and cons of each. Sure, you can say “I’d get both” — but how much of both? I want commitment to ratio, here.

Al Einstein Quote of the Day

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

I’ve been re-reading Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. Excellent book for those who feel like ministry / discipleship is getting clunky instead of bringing clarity. Einstein reminded me in the Al Einstein Quote of the Day (TM)

Church Orchestra

Trumpets, Trombones, and Tubas.
Flutes, French Horns and Flugelhorns.
Violins, Violas and Variable Percussion Instruments.

We’re building an Orchestra at SAFMC and it’s going OK. Not great if you’re counting by the numbers (we fluxuate from 2 to over 10) but OK in terms of what it means over the long haul. You have to start somewhere. Most churches abolished (or at least marginalized) orchestras in the 80’s and 90’s. I’m not saying that they’re making a nationwide comeback but I do see the ministry potential of an orch at SAFMC, and I’m committed to nurturing it as needed. We hear good things that match our intention, namely, that the work of the people (liturgy) is enhanced. I too feel the benefit of having an orchestra, as it brings instrumental dimension to the music of every hymn. It is valuable, and it’s even biblical — we see multitudes of different instruments showing up in the Psalms. But alas, no lyre players. Yet.

I haven’t found many churches “out there” who are ressurecting instrumentation like this — but I know they’re out there. We’re one of ‘em. We’re trying to figure out how SAFMC worships in 2007. What does that sound like? What does it look like? What’s at stake?

I was in a meeting with someone and we were talking about secular music in a worship setting. The question was asked as to whether or not it was appropriate. I’m not sure, but I guess it depends on your philosophy/theology. Secular music for the sake of secular music isn’t a very compelling argument, just like eating candy bars for breakfast is good because one likes candy bars more than eggs or cereal. Secular music that speaks a truth — a Truth — or an expression that can be exegeted by someone before or after, has great value in liturgy and teaching. We have all heard of the great pastor/teacher that holds a newspaper/website in one hand and the bible in the other. How do we interpret culture? Interpritation is not the same as ignoring. In fact, by ignoring it, we interpret it as useless, foul, evil. Sure, some of it is. But we’re all part of culture. We use electricity and drive cars. We watch TV and use the internet. So if we’ve codified all culture as evil, then we must examine why our actions don’t match our ideals. A truth explained in a song by Big & Rich has far more value than even some “christian” songs, depending on the context.

It all comes back to a philosophy. What is it that makes you move? Why worship? Why gathering? Why music? Why Sunday morning?

For us, we came to the conclusion that for both corporate gatherings, we wanted to define a worship environment. We love Jesus, we love people — and these people need to be in the presence of the Lord. That’s our philosophy. And so everything we do comes out of that — which means that if we come across a song that is even secular but teaches a truth, we’d use it. Take, for example, U2. “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” is a good 20% of the Psalms. Sure, U2 is a very safe example, but you get the point. Let Rascal Flatts talk about God blessing broken roads. Let Keane talk about how we bend & break. These are True and can be “redeemed” for corporate Worship. Doing Blink 182 just because it’s hip suggests a pretty shoddy philosophy and an even weaker Theology.  (By the way, I love Blink 182).

All that to say that what we do in corporate worship comes out of a philosophy/theology that says “here’s what we’re all about, and here’s how it will play out on Sunday”. This is basic organizational theory but I’m amazed at how often it eludes churches — and even me. Please note, however, that it’s more than a mission statement. May the Lord rescue us from Mission statements that add to what is already a great mission, strongly suggested by Jesus in Matthew 28. This is a philosophy: a way of thinking that has very little to do with goals besides the overarching goal of simply being what we were created to be.

Mac’s 2nd Birthday

Malachi scored big time for his 2nd birthday. Besides the cake and candles (which were extinguished before he ate) he got a Thomas the Tank Engine (TM) knockoff (TM-K) as well as Baby’s First Medical Kit with Hypodermic Needle from Fisher Price. Even better is how he tells complete strangers “I’m TWO!” and asks his sister to pick him up because, after all, it is his boofday. It’s been like a 90’s ABC sitcom around our house lately, but without Uncle Jessie (thankfully).

Kids need parents to be interested in them. And we are, but the need is sometimes more intense than we realize. He’s getting to the age where I can’t play with him while I check e-mail. He’s on to me, and that’s probably a good thing. So I try to do all of my internetting when I’m not home. Disconnection is a frightening place for a guy like me who gets nervous after 24 hours of no broadband connection. It’s like my hair (what’s left) can pick up wi-fi signals or something. My kids need a dad who is disconnected from something — I don’t want that something to be them.