Sunday, July 31, 2011

Daddy, Watch This!

If you are, or have been, a parent of young children you will be able to identify with this post. My two kids are firmly entrenched in the "Daddy, watch this!" Phase. It's the stage of life in which your kid wants you to watch every little thing they do. For us, this usually takes place in the next-door neighbor's pool (yes, we have permission to swim there):

"Daddy, watch this!" Colin jumps in the pool.

"Daddy, watch this!" Hanna does the same.

"Daddy, watch this!" Colin dunks himself under water.

"Daddy, watch this!" Hanna puts her face under water and blows bubbles.

"Daddy, watch this!" Colin does an underwater somersault.

"Daddy, watch this!" Hanna practices floating on her back.

If they weren't so cute and charming, it might get tiring.

One day as we were playing our little back-and-forth game, I began to reflect on my own relationship with my Father. There are times in my life when I desperately want Him to watch what I'm doing:

"Daddy, watch this!" I get up early to read my Bible.

"Daddy, watch this!" I travel across the globe to play with orphans.

"Daddy, watch this!" My wife and I decide to adopt one such orphan.

"Daddy, watch this!" I am attentive to my kids and do things that would make my wife happy.

Sadly, though, I think those events are fewer and more far between than I'd care to admit. Instead, I find myself more frequently in the "Daddy, don't watch!" camp:

"Daddy, don't watch!" I use my time in the morning to check Facebook and Twitter.

"Daddy, don't watch!" I'm short with my wife and ignore my kids.

"Daddy, don't watch!" I allow my mind or eyes to focus on things they shouldn't.

"Daddy, don't watch!" I get frustrated by fellow drivers and don't always hide it well.

"Daddy, don't watch!" I'm selfish with my money and stuff.

It's during those times that I wish my Father weren't so darn omniscient. Can't He turn a blind eye every once in a while? He can't. But the good news is, no matter how many of those "Daddy, don't watch!" moments He witnesses, He never gets tired of loving me. He never gets frustrated. He never wishes I weren't His. He is still nuts about me and would do - and has done - anything to be with me. That's grace.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Africa - It's HUGE!!!

In about 2 1/2 weeks, I will be travelling to Swaziland with some students and adults from our church, our area, and other areas of the US to serve the orphans there. Then, later this year, I will be taking two trips to Ethiopia to make our adoption official and bring our beautiful little girl home. Having never been to Africa, it's a bit of a whirlwind, but an exciting one. I will be logging lots of frequent flyer miles and getting lots of books read on my new Kindle.

As I think about the time I will be in Africa, I can't help but remember this graphic. It shows exactly how big Africa really is. It's stupid big!

Click on the image for a bigger version.

When you consider that 33% of the people living in this enormous continent suffer from malnutrition... And only 50% of Africans have access to hospitals or doctors...And the average life expectancy of Africans is 41 years...And that one in six African children die before the age of five...When you take all of that into consideration, you can't help but come to the conclusion that the Church has a BIG job to do! How will we bring life and light and help and healing to this hurting continent?

What do you think?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Christians in the Media

I just got done watching Easy A with Emma Stone. It's about a girl who lets a little white lie about her sexual activity slip, which ultimately unravels her life. I won't give it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down because I thought it was decent movie, but had a lot of undesirable language and content in it.

So if this isn't a movie review, what it is? It's a commentary on the portrayal of Christians in movies. In this movie, there was a group of Christians led by Amanda Bynes' character. Their primary part in this movie was to be the judge, jury, and executioner of Stone's character because of her alleged promiscuity. As I watched the movie, I got angry about how the Christians were portrayed. My first thought was that we Christians need to do a better job representing who we are so that the world will see the love of Christ in us. For years I have defended the media thinking that if we did a better job as Christians, we would be portrayed in a more favorable light.

However, as I thought about it more, I do now blame the media. I think about the Christians who have been portrayed in the media: Fred Phelps (the God Hates Fags guy - sorry about the term, but that's what his website is called and what he is about), Harold Camping (the guy who predicted the end of the world in May - the world looks pretty good, having ended and all), preachers who fail, etc. And then I reflect on the scores of Christians who are doing good things in the world: TOM's Shoes, the A21 Campaign, IJM, and the teenagers I had the privilege of hanging out with for a week serving the poor of Chicago. Where is their press? Why no news stories about them? While I certainly don't think we as Christians are doing a perfect job of representing who we are, I do think we are doing a much better job than the media would like you to believe. For some reason, the media likes to give us a one-sided view of the way Christians behave. Is it because there is some big media god out there pulling the puppet strings? Or because people in the media have been hurt by Christians? Or something else altogether? I don't have the answers; I just know it bugs me to see such a biased view.

What do you think? Why are Christians portrayed in such a manner? Comment and let me know...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: Soul Print by Mark Batterson

I was really excited to get this book after having read and loved Primal, Wild Goose Chase, and In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. However, I was underwhelmed. I don't think Soul Print is a bad book; it just didn't capture me like Mark Batterson's other books.

As usual, Mark does a really good job mixing solid, Biblical scholarship with scholarship from lots of areas: science, social science, history and the like. And in this particular work, he looks in depth at the life of David and how God created Him in a specific way to do specific tasks, and with that helps us discover how we were created in a unique way for specific tasks. It was a good work, but again, it didn't capture my heart or imagination. It may have been simply a feel thing, or the fact that I head really high expectations, but this wasn't my favorite work by Batterson.

Monday, February 14, 2011

God Knows What You Need

After spending three services ripping out my heart and laying it on the altar for everyone to see, I was (understatement coming) a little emotionally spent. I came home and had lunch with my amazing family. It was after lunch that God showed up in the form I needed Him the most.

Marcy was in the bathroom with Hanna, who was going potty. I was sitting in one of our dining room chairs. My beautiful boy, Colin, came up to me and crawled up in my lap, wrapped his arms around me, and laid his head down on my shoulder. No pretense. No desire to play and be silly. He simply loved on his Daddy and held onto me as I held onto him. I could have sat there for hours, days even. It was one of the most loving experiences I have ever had, knowing what I had just gone through and how much I needed it.

Marcy called from the bathroom, "What are you doing?"


"What do you mean, 'Nothing'?"

"We're just sitting here."

"Are you talking really quietly?"

"Nope. Just sitting here."

It was beautiful. It was love. And boy, did I need it! Thank you, God, for showing up in my boy!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Unexpected Beauty

Improv Everywhere seems to be taking a turn toward the more serious, revealing beauty in unexpected places. I just watched this one with my son. At first he said, "This isn't funny." He didn't like that people were laughing at this poor guy. But it worked out well for the guy - and my son - in the end...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hope for the Future: A Book Review

As a "professional" Christian - I'm a youth pastor by trade - I read many articles with interest about the decline of American Christianity. I read how the numbers of people who claim to be Christians are in decline, how those who claim to be Christian are actually embracing theologies that are not in line with orthodox Christianity, and how the American church is largely viewed as irrelevant, or worse, condemning of the culture we find ourselves in. Needless to say, these statistics and articles are alarming. But, Gabe Lyons presents a convincing argument that there is a new wave of Christians who are working to restore our culture in his latest book, The Next Christians.

I received this book free through Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program, and am really glad I chose it. I was encouraged to read about individuals and churches who are not separating themselves from culture (think Amish or the ghetto of 'Christian' music) nor immersing themselves in it (think people who try so hard to blend in to culture that the distinctiveness of the Gospel is nowhere to be found); instead, they are restoring the culture. They see the inherent beauty in God's creation that has been hidden and marred as a result of the Fall, and are working to reclaim that beauty instead of, as some would choose to do, sitting around and waiting until God fixes it all. These individuals take many shapes: a woman who starts a entrepreneur mentorship with hardened prisoners; a man who started an organization to free people from slavery and injustice after witnessing the horrific genocide in Rwanda; a man who started a website and organization to free people from slavery to pornography and the adult film industry; a man who had been a huge influencer in the New York nightlife scene, whose heart was broken on a humanitarian trip, who now finds himself influencing people to help provide clean water to the people in the world who don't have it; and many more.

The stories in this book were enlightening, uplifting, and challenging. I found myself questioning why I do certain things in ministry. Am I doing them to restore culture, or to make me or the ministry I lead look good? I also found challenging the characteristics Lyons lists as being the cornerstones of these Next Christians (provoked, creators, called, grounded, in community, and countercultural). I know that if these are what sets them apart, I have some work to do.

If you are a Christian wondering about the future of Christianity, read this book. I think it will encourage you. And if you are not a Christian and skeptical about what Christians are all about because of something you have experienced at the hands of Christians, read this book. I think your opinion of Christians may find itself on an upswing.