Last night, I couldn't get to sleep. My mind was racing. Finally, I drifted off, but not before I ran through a dozen different subjects. I've been told by friends that I have adult ADD. Maybe so. It would explain a lot. Normally, I write essays for this blog because it is really rewarding for me to lock in on one topic and explore it and I use it as a teaching platform for my church. Today, I'll take you on a random tour of what I'm thinking about in classic, stream-of-consciousness form. Each of these thoughts could be a blogpost all their own and they have been building up in my head. So, I think I'll clean out my brain a little so that I can think more clearly and start over.
I'm going back to India at the end of next month. Around midnight last night, I called Thom Wolf in India and talked with him for awhile. It was almost noon there. He was my professor and intellectual mentor in school back when I lived in San Francisco and he lives in New Delhi. We will go north to the Himalayas and do our normal thing with the ministries there, and then possibly travel with him for a couple of days to the south of India to meet some people doing very interesting things.
I am working through Paul's letter to the Philippians right now in my Bible study and my preaching. I am also writing essays to go along with each topic. Philippians is a great letter to address the "God as a means to an end" syndrome that plagues contemporary Christianity. I am thinking of releasing the essays after I am through with this. It has been really interesting. Today, I am working on one called "Chains" about how Paul volunteered to put himself in less than ideal situations so that the gospel would be spread to others through his life and suffering. Check out Philippians 1:7-14. Am I willing to do the same?
"According to some estimates, Christians in developed Western countries now represent only 37 percent of believers worldwide. As I travel and also read chruch history, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God 'moving' geographically from place to place: from the Middle East to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where He's wanted." ~ Philip Yancey, Finding God in Unexpected Places.
I ran across a fascinating article today on urban development in post-Katrina New Orleans on Newgeography.com by Andres Duany. Duany, of Cuban descent, says that "New Orleans is not among the most haphazard, poorest or misgoverned American cities, but rather the most organized, wealthiest, cleanest, and competently governed of the Caribbean cities." He says that New Orleans is not really an American city at all. Rather, it is a Caribbean city. Jimmy Buffett, after Katrina hit, said that the northern Gulf of Mexico is actually the northern part of the Caribbean, not the Southern part of the U.S. I agree. Being from there, it is different that the rest of the country, and I love it. Totally different way of thinking, worldview, and lifestyle. Maybe this is why Baptists have had so much trouble reaching the Gulf Coast? Hmmm.
My two favorite songs on my ipod right now are "Rocket Man" by Angie Aparo and "A Change is Gonna Come" by Ben Sollee. They are both cover songs, but the music and vocals are really intriguing. If you haven't heard either of these guys, check them out. Here's a live version of "Rocket Man." I think about this when I am travelling too much.
And, Ben Sollee on the cello. Yes, the cello. This is amazing.
This week marks the 3 year anniversary of us finding a lump on Caelan's chest that was a cancerous tumor. It has been a hard three years, but I praise God everyday for His faithfulness. Last night, Erika told me that the little 3 year old girl that my family has been praying for since we saw her at Caelan's last scans died last week. Her name was Cassie. My heart was broken over that. Maybe that is why I keep singing "A Change is Gonna Come." Ben Sollee, covering Sam Cooke, says he doesn't know what's beyond the sky. I do, and more and more each day I pray that God's Kingdom come.
"As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans that you don't need Jesus to have better families, finances, health, or even morality. Coming to the cross means repentance – not adding Jesus as a supporting character for an otherwise decent script but throwing away the script in order to be written into God's drama. It is death and resurrection, not coaching and makovers." Michael Horton, Christless Christianity.
Baseball season is about to start. I really don't like baseball. Too slow for my taste. During the dead of summer, it is almost like there are no sports going on. I'm just waiting for football. Although, our church has formed THREE softball teams with about 50 players and they'll be playing mostly on Monday nights, so I am glad for the fact that a lot of people from our church will be hanging out together and building relationships. Being blind in my right eye caused me to never play baseball because I have no depth perception, so maybe that is why I don't like it. I do plan to play summer league basketball, though.
The groundbreaking for our church's new building is April 5, right before we have a huge neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt. We've been reaching a lot of teenagers in our community lately, and God really moved in their lives at a youth retreat that we had this past weekend. Several came to Christ and many more opened their hearts to Jesus. We have also started tutoring, GED classes, and are helping with job placement. God is doing some amazing things. The building is just a tool to help us with this, and it should be finished by October. I'll be very happy.
I keep watching Jon & Kate plus Eight. I don't know why. Erika keeps asking why I stop there when we are watching TV and I have the remote and I told her that I really can't believe how mean Kate is to Jon and I can't fathom how they manage eight kids like that. Wow. It's like a car wreck. I have four kids of my own. Do I really need to watch someone else's stress? Strangely, I'm drawn to it. That, and Clean House, which is about people who live in an unfathomable mess. I guess that it is cathartic to see other people's stress and mess instead of my own. Normally, these shows come on right after we put the kids to bed. Hmmm.
I turned in my taxes yesterday and I'm trying to get some insurance stuff taken care of. It's a pain and seems to be taking forever. Car tags have to be paid on Monday and I'm doing a TV interview tomorrow for a local religious broadcasting station about our work in India. I lump all of that together because it all feels about the same to me – stuff I have to do that I don't like doing. I'm not just trying to be humble about the TV thing either. I HATE stuff like that. Communication should be two-way and interactive with feedback, not captured on a television for people to pick over and misinterpret as they wish. Maybe I'm just insecure.
Books I'm reading right now (they happen to all be "Christian" books, which is not good – I need to vary things up a bit and learn from some other disciplines):
- Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey – picked it up in the airport last week. Yancey writes essays about where he sees God working in the world. Excellent.
- Christless Christianity by Michael Horton – states that the American church has given itself over to an alternative gospel that he calls, therapuetic moralistic deism.
- No Place for Truth – Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology by David Wells. This came out about 15 years ago, but it was recommended to me by a friend of mine. It is pretty dense, but a good read. Makes some of the same claims as Horton, but from a historical perspective.
- People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States by Michael O. Emerson. Just picked this one up.
My church is always heavy on my mind and my heart. I graduated from seminary over 9 years ago. I've been the lead pastor of our church for 3 1/2 years. I'm realizing more and more each day that I am not smart enough, talented enough, entertaining enough, or gifted enough to do what needs to be done, no matter how many books I read. God has to work through me. I need Him. I carry the weight of people's struggles pretty intensely. I greatly desire for people to walk with the Lord and to glorify Him and I want our church to hunger after Christ with their whole lives and to reach people who do not know Jesus. But, I am really having to pray about this and release it to the Lord. I can't make anyone do anything. I am completely powerless to make anything happen. God has to do it. I have always known that intellectually. I am learning that emotionally and spiritually and it isn't easy, believe it or not.
Ashtyn has started soccer.
I have great kids and an amazing wife who listens to me go on and on about everything that I am thinking about. She is really patient and she always gives me great feedback. I do not deserve her, and I'm not just saying that because it is what I am expected to say. She's really something. She texted me two days ago and said that we should go on the mission trip with the youth group this summer. I told her that I agreed. Not many mother's of four kids would do that.
My city, Montgomery, just elected a new mayor in a special election a couple of weeks ago. In his election night interview, he said that he hoped that he would "rule" well. Rule #1 in American politics: Never tell the people that you plan to "rule" them. It doesn't sit well in a democracy. Then, he said that he was pushing the inauguration back a week because he was taking his family to the beach. Rule #2: When we are in a severe recession, don't tell the people that just elected you that you would begin to rule, er, serve them, but first, you have to go to the beach. Go to the beach in a few months AFTER you have worked for them for a little while. Wow.
Look, a BUTTERFLY!!!! Sorry, had to get that out. Does anyone ever feel that way? Random as can be.
I've lost 10 pounds in the past two weeks and I don't know how. I guess that I haven't been eating as much. Duh. Stress? Busyness? I don't know, but I'll take it. I could stand to lose a lot more.
Well, that's about it. Not really, but I figure that no one is still reading at this point, so I might as well stop. Believe it or not, engaging in an exercise in complete randomness actually made me feel better. So, I leave you with a picture of my kids that I really love.
God is good, by the way. And, He's always working in every thing. Big, little, important, mundane. God is always at work.