Sunday, December 31, 2006

Getting Established

2 Chronicles 12:1 ESV
(1) When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.

I read this today and it hit me right between the eyes. Lately I feel my heart wandering away from the sure foundation of Christ. I've found myself sorely tempted by the internet. I've found myself nibbling on more food than usual. I know that much of this is because of the stress of Amanda being brought down by this pregnancy. I can't imagine how I would do if she were on bed rest!

Yesterday I felt my heart shift. I feel a much deeper peace now than I have in a long time. I've had this come and go before, so I want to make sure that this lasts. I just know that if I keep trying to do so much on my own strength I am bound to fall back into sin. God has shown me glimpses of it all year. In fact, I would say that 2006 was my worst year for purity since I came to Setting Captives Free. I suspect that starting seminary has much to do with it. I also think that overextending myself has something to do with it as well.

As I look at my schedule for today, I see the following things that need to get done:
  1. Do my review of Philippians since I memorized it
  2. Review my memorization of James, Ephesians, and both Peters
  3. Review my Greek vocabulary
  4. Do the weekly bank download into MS Money
  5. Read at least 150 pages of a book in preparation for my class that starts Wednesday
I realize that these things are not that big of a deal, but they add up. More and more I see the need for some whitespace. I wonder if my lack of it is part of the problem I have in my life.

I'm not a big one for New Year's Resolutions, but December 31 certainly is a natural time for introspection. What I see is a need for a little more space in my life. Ironic that I come to this realization just before embarking on an incredibly busy time with this upcoming class. If seminary is something I should do (I think it is) then it is also something that I need to make space for. I'm not sure what will give, but it's something that I think requires some prayer. I'd appreciate any petitions you can bring before God for me.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Perils of Being Skinny

I did a little inventory today with the weight tracker I must use weekly. At this time in 2002 I weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 192 pounds. This morning I weighed 166 and that is up from 164.5 last week. Part of the gain has to be from recovering from my stomach bug and part has to be from having a little too much at Christmas. Nevertheless, I consider myself freed from the bondage I once had to food and laziness. It feels good.

But not today in my office. Why not? It's freezing in here. I have a coworker who has less body fat than me and he too is very cold. We think we might have discovered the thermostat for our area in an adjoining conference room. If that thermostat does indeed control the temperature in our area then we are going to be in trouble any time there is a meeting with very many people. This is especially true since so many of our associates struggle with maintaining a healthy weight.

Being cold almost makes me miss my fat. But not quite.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

From Poser to Player

I spent the last few weeks practicing some Christmas carols for the guitar. I didn't get too fancy, but I did practice playing arpeggiated chords for "What Child is This?" and "Silent Night". I also could strum "The First Noel" and "Angels We Have Heard on High". I played these on Christmas Eve and it went pretty well, though I did stumble a bit with the fingerstyle pieces. I got really ambitious and brought the 6-string over to Bill and Tiffany's house on Christmas Day and we sang carols there too. At the request of the family we also did "O Little Town of Bethlehem".

It was fun actually playing for people. While it wasn't perfect, my playing was good enough to keep everything together and I enjoyed it. I also learned that playing for people gets the heart racing just a little bit. I wasn't exactly nervous, but I realized that I couldn't just stop in the middle and recollect myself if I had to. I had to just keep on going. It's one of those performance things where you realize that you can't take it back as you're doing it. But it was a lot of fun.

I felt good carrying my guitar back in from the car. In the past I would take my guitar somewhere, but I felt like it was kind of a joke. While I don't think that I'm going to have any professional musicians breaking down my door, I do feel like I can play well enough to strum and sing some carols or maybe some hymns around the campfire. It feels like I've accomplished something in the 3 years I've spent fooling around with the thing. And that feels good.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I apologize for not blogging more lately. I've been quite busy with school, ministry, family, and work. I've got a bunch of things to write about, but this is something that's been on my mind lately:

We want holiness, but we don't want to give anything up.

We want to lose weight, but we don't want to eat less or exercise more.

We want purity, but we don't want to change what we watch or how we look at women.

We want to have more money, but we don't want to save more and spend less.

We want to spend more time with our families, but we don't want to give up our hobbies or time spent at work.

We want to be good parents, but we don't want to be lesser employees as a result.

We want to be good witnesses for the gospel, but we don't want to take the time to serve and connect with others.

Just about all of these have described me or currently describe me. It goes with being human, I guess. I keep looking in Scripture for the promise that life will be easy. I know that the yoke is easy and the burden is light, but it's still a hard row to hoe.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Like a Snow Day

Our phone rang shortly before 4:00 AM today. Now this is pretty disquieting for just about anyone. Our parents are all around 60 now and are of varying degrees of healthiness, so you wonder if you're going to hear about some medical calamity. Or, as is normally the case, it could be my company's 24 hour command center trying to reach me for something.

You know you're in trouble when the call starts with "I know you're not on call, but..." They were very apologetic about calling me and were clearly desperate because the normal people were not responsive. Since I claim that James 4:17 is an important verse to me (So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him this is sin) I figured I'd better do the right thing and see what was going on. It was a bit confusing, as usual, and it ended up that we were trying to get a file from someone that doesn't have after-hours support. There was nothing for me to do.

So here I was wide-awake at 4:20 AM. My alarm normally goes off at 4:45 AM, so I figured that I'd just stay up. I took care of some emails so that I would give the appearance of working hard. I feel like that gives me a mental start to my day, even if I don't work continuously from that point on (I am blogging now, after all). I made sure Amanda was not stirred by the alarm and then went about my normal morning business.

The cool thing is that, although my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM, I rarely get up right then. I usually spend 5-15 minutes contemplating my sleepiness and the comparative warmth of the bed against the chill of the room. But this time I was up and at 'em. I had worked out and showered by 7:00 AM. I got Lily up and we had breakfast. I then made some eggs for Amanda. My rhythm was then officially off.

This all reminds me a little bit of snow days. I can remember the bliss of getting up early and then learning that we didn't have to go to school that day. Amanda tells me that she used to go back to bed. I have a vivid memory of a high school snow day where I was playing video games at around 7:30 AM. I guess this is my personality as a morning person. I like to get that early jump on the day.

It seems that the power is out in our building...again. We had a brief outage this week and today they had maintenance planned to fix whatever got damaged in the previous outage. It was supposed to be just a brief blip. I guess that blip is getting bigger.

Remember the game "Blip" that was like a small desktop Pong/air hockey? You had three keys and had to hit the appropriate button as the light came to your side. Failure to stop it would be a goal for your opponent. Cool stuff with LEDs.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Last Friday we finished an office reorg. I now have a cube that is in direct sight of the main hallway, so I've started calling my cube "the fishbowl". I had to orient it in an unorthodox way so that my monitor could not be seen from the hall. Everything is much more open now and it feels like things are louder.

To counteract this and some of my coworker's more annoying mannerisms I've started bringing my new iPod shuffle to work. I sit and listen to John Williams and Piotr Tomasziewski tickle nylon strings. I may have to resort to the music I used in college when my bedroom was right next to the living room and I had to study while my roommates watched sports. Either way, I find that I like having the audio distraction of the music.

What's strange is that I'm starting to become what I've always disliked in some of my other music-listening coworkers. I found myself using our instant messaging system to try to reach a coworker in the next cube. I did this because I didn't want to go to the trouble of hitting the pause button on my iPod and taking the earbud headphones out. Now I'm using my old traditional headphones so I don't have the earbud excuse, but I find that I'm still loathe to stop in the middle of a piece if I don't have to.

I know many others have written about this, but I really am starting to see just how isolated technology makes us. I don't hear as much of what's going on around me, but that's OK. But now it's changing the way I connect with people. That's something I supposedly want to do so I can fulfill the Great Commission. And, as someone who wants to go into ministry, I should want to make those kinds of connections with people.

It gives me pause, even if my iPod doesn't.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Great Service

I spent my birthday yesterday running errands. One that I kind of dreaded was going to the post office for our annual shipment of gifts to various parts of the country. I've found that any trip to the post office in December is bound to take a long time. I went to the one that allows you to do self-service parcel shipment in the hopes that my boxes would fit in the slot (they did) and that I could get the holiday snowflake stamps in the vending machine (I could). Imagine my surprise when I found a woman in a cheery red holiday Post Office sweatshirt assisting postal patrons in their parcel posting. She helpfully marked out the barcodes on my recycled boxes and helped me place the postage stamp in the right place. I was just blown away by this. In fact, I need to send a nice note to our Postmaster about this because I was so happily surprised. It was also nice that they had a desk going in the lobby for some simple tasks like buying stamps. This helped with the line a little bit.

I also received outstanding service at my local ACE Hardware, but that's no surprise. Every time I go to ACE for something like a washer or a nut I wonder why I ever bother with Lowe's. Lowe's may only be 3 minutes from my house, but the service at ACE makes it worth driving 4 times farther.

Finally, I got some great service from the Firehouse Subs corporate offices. I'm a member of their ecrew and am supposed to receive a free sub every year for my birthday. In fact, I planned my meals around that free sub. I didn't get the email at first, so I called and inquired about it. They took care of me.

I can't help but wonder if there is some connection to the fact that I did go to the Post Office to start with. I did it sort of begrudgingly because I really wanted to sit in the basement and play a couple of games of NCAA Football '07 (I almost typed '97--that dates my video gaming days). Amanda was going to let me off the hook after I whined a little bit about it. But I just had to take pity on her because she feels so consistently wretched with this pregnancy.

I think this all goes to show that we need to listen to that "still small voice" that speaks to Christians. And I am again reminded of what I think may be my life verse for marriage in James 4:17 - So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Troy Smith

As I got up this morning I remembered that I still wasn't absolutely sure about who won the Heisman Trophy. As expected, Troy Smith won in a landslide. In fact, he had a larger percentage of first place votes than anyone in history and only OJ Simpson won by a larger margin.

The incredible thing about this is that Troy Smith came to OSU as a pretty angry teen. His position was listed simply as "athlete". I read a bio about his pre-OSU days and it wasn't pretty. He and his sister got taken away from his mom when he was 9 and he was raised by foster parents for 4 years. His foster dad helped him quite a bit. His mom got her act together and there was reunification, but it took some time for them to gel as a family.

Skip ahead to 2004 when Smith showed potential (first time beating Michigan, for example), but then got caught taking money from a booster. He sat out the Alamo Bowl and the first game of the 2005 season. He beat Michigan again, shredded the Notre Dame defense in the Fiesta Bowl, and has won every game this year. He capped his season with a 4 TD performance against Michigan's highly-touted defense.

While I don't want to write a ton about OSU football, the amazing thing was his speech. He first gave all the credit to God. He didn't go so far as to mention Jesus, but it's hard to imagine how anyone could be that close to Jim Tressel and not have a saving faith in Christ. When he plays and when he gives interviews you can clearly see the "peace that surpasses all understanding".

This is the kind of thing that makes me want to go into full-time ministry. It's not to prove the validity of the 5 points of Calvinism. It's not to argue for or against the continuation of spiritual gifts. It's not to have a solid understanding of what the Kenosis is all about. All these things are good to know and someone in vocational ministry should probably have opinions about them, but it's ultimately got to be about watching the gospel transform lives. To see a young man go from troubled teen with no position on the team (basically a piece of athletic meat) to the best quarterback and player in the nation is very striking. Yes, people do get it together in other ways. But I suspect Troy Smith's transformation is one that will last. And that's what it's all about.

Soli Deio Gloria

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Working for Treats

I got to go to a seminar at Microsoft in RTP today. I planned on it being a total boondoggle. I knew that I'd get breakfast and lunch. I also knew that I was getting a free iPod for it, though just a 512 MB shuffle. Still, that's better than the crappy one I have now and it means that I can return the one I got for Christmas and get something else.

The strange thing is that the seminar was somewhat riveting. I normally am pretty passive when it comes to the technology that we use. I just sit back and do what I'm told. But I've spent so much time working with a competitive product that I actually have an opinion about this one. I liked what I saw, but I doubt that we'll spend all the money it will take to change. That's too bad. The good news is that I plan to enjoy my iPod.

The other cool thing is that I got to meet local basketball sort-of-hero Serge Zwicker. He played on the UNC championship team that beat Michigan. I had to shake his enormous hand in gratitude for him beating Michigan. It's also pretty wild to stand next to someone who is 7' 2". It's kind of cool that he's in the IT world now. I suspect that if people remember Alvin Battle for winning the 1983 championship with State as a 7th or 8th man they will remember this guy who actually spent some time in the NBA. Must get tiresome to answer questions about playing all the time though.

As I type this I have Lily playing next to me in the basement. She's got some running dialog going with Pooh Bear and a little people horse. She didn't want to nap, so she's with me while Amanda does nap. It's pretty fun to see.

Overall, it's been a good day thus far.

Cross Purposes

Tuesday's battles in cyberspace were interesting for me. It's one of the few times that I participated in discussions at blogs of people I don't know. It really opened up my eyes to what is going on out there. I guess it shouldn't be any big surprise at how much pain is out there in the world. After all, that's what Jesus came for. John 4 makes it clear that the woman at the well was chasing something that she found when she met Jesus.

But what is my proper response to some of this pain? I read a blog about someone who associates Christmas with being trapped in a burning apartment and spending the holidays in the burn unit of a hospital. First, I just want to hug this person and tell her that things can be OK. I guess it's good that she likes her therapist and that the anxiety meds are helping. But they're just band-aids on the deeper problem. How bold should I be in sharing the gospel? I'm afraid that it will come off as saying, "It's great that you feel better, but it's all a sham."

I just don't know where the line is between graciousness and boldly sharing the truth, so I wimp out. As I write this it makes me even sadder. This is something I'm going to have to spend some time ruminating upon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Office Calamities

I can't help but share this email that I just got:

Due to a coffee-making mishap, this coffee station is out of commission until building maintenance can properly clean up the area. Please watch your step near the vending machines as well, floor may be slippery. Thanks and sorry for the inconvenience. I'll let you know when it's back up and running.

Sorry for all the posts today, but this looks like something straight out of a Douglas Adams book. I have images of boiling hot coffee spewing out of the top of the filter. Or perhaps a full pot of coffee spontaneously exploded. Maybe it turned into a pot of petunias on the way down to the floor.

Fighting in Cyberspace

I've just spent the last 30 minutes or so reading a big battle in the blogosphere about homosexuality and Christ. I'm not going to link to it because it is so disturbing. On one hand you have a woman who is open about living in a homosexual lifestyle and calls herself a Christian. On the other you have a woman who was delivered from the homosexual lifestyle, but then is proud of her husband for "ripping Deb to shreds" in his radio show.

This debate represents everything that is wrong about both sides of this issue. One side cherry picks the Bible and reads it very liberally. It figures that Christ loved sinners, so it's OK if we sin. And after all, isn't the command against lust? And since I'm in a monogamous relationship it's OK. The other side comes across like the "God hates fags" crowd. This just sickens me too.

When I read the Bible I see a message of love and acceptance for all sinners. But I also see a message of repentance. Both sides seem to miss half of the equation. I can handle the side that reads Scripture very liberally as I know how darkened my understanding was when I lived in habitual sin. But the side that focuses just on wrath is much worse because they should know better. To me, neither side is "getting it".

Now are they saved? That's not for me to say. But my instinct would be to say no on both sides. Given the rhetoric, it looks like they either both are or they both aren't.

Ephesians 4:1-7 ESV
(1) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
(2) with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
(3) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(4) There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--
(5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
(6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(7) But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Paying my Dues

"Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts." -- Gerald O'Hara in Gone With the Wind

I just finished paying my property taxes. There are a few things I don't understand about this process. The first is why the tax bill is due in September, but I get more than a 3 month grace period before the country starts collecting interest on it. I take advantage of that by waiting until December to pay. I could pay just before the deadline in January, but in 2000 I started paying my property taxes the year before so that I could get a tax break when I file my federal taxes. Now if I were to wait I'd have to pay more federal taxes in 2007, but I suppose I could pay less in 2008.

The other thing is something a friend pointed out to me a few years ago. I don't really own my land. I think that the O'Haras did own Tara. The Wilkes owned Twelve Oaks. But I don't really own the property here at 116 E. Skyhawk Dr. in Cary. Wake County will come and seize this property if I don't pay my taxes, so how can I really say that I own it?

Mind you, I am not fundamentally against property taxes. It does provide a way to tax the more fortunate more heavily than the less. I'm all for supporting schools (though I wish that this latest bond measure hadn't passed as I don't think it will be effective), libraries, etc. But I think it's kind of a secret scam the government pulled on us by effectively abusing eminent domain.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Missing the Sunshine

This is the first time in 8 years that I miss living in Florida. That includes the time we had the bad ice storm here in Raleigh. The reason is because for the first time in history my alma mater will play against the University of Florida. After listening to Gator fans for 3 years I would love to be there for this as I've got to think that OSU will roll over them. But, people thought the same thing about Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

I suppose it must be just as hard for people who move to Ohio, and central Ohio in particular. OSU fans can be extremely obnoxious. What we call "rich tradition" others may call obsessive behavior. What we call "passion" others may call obnoxious. But I guess that's what sports can be all about. It seems like something you don't want to do halfway.

Again, I am reminded of how much worship goes into sports. Where's the face painting for church on Sundays? Where are the tailgate parties? Where is the passion to talk about it with others?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Where is the Passion?

I had a problem coming up with suitable birthday and Christmas gifts this year. It's easy to ask for video games, but I realize that I don't have much time for them and when I do make the time for them I feel like playing them wasted my time. That is of course, unless I have Lily interested in the game in which case we're actually bonding. At any rate, because of my dearth of options I decided that it would be fun to get an electric guitar.

I've played guitar in various forms and ability for almost 3 years now. In fact, this birthday will mark the third anniversary of the receipt of my steel string. I've got to the point when I can strum some chords, change them smoothly, and sing along (though it hasn't helped my singing). I can pluck out a couple of pieces on my classical and continue working on that. Through this all I've kind of kept my eyes on getting an electric, but knew that the cost was prohibitive to the point where it had to be a gift.

Unlike some guitarists, I really am not that into guitars. Maybe it's just been a matter of time, but I'm just now to the point where I can hear a difference between a good guitar and my cheap guitars. I do know that my classical is very cheap because the nut pinches when I tune it. So I've come to the conclusion that if I'm going to get an electric perhaps I should get a better one than my classical.

I have a couple of coworkers who play guitar and to whom I go for advice. One is a guy named Al who owns about 7 guitars and, I'm told, can really shred. I've had some long conversations with him and he has given me some great insights. I now know some things to look for in a guitar so that I can test them more intelligently than just strumming an open G and hearing how it sounds. I've found that he will happily speak at great length about the qualities of a good guitar. I can also see the excitement that he has for someone who is getting deeper into the hobby he loves so much.

It makes me wonder about how much passion we self-proclaimed Christians really have for Jesus. Do we get excited when spiritual topics come up in conversation? Will we drop everything to have a discussion with someone about spiritual things? Do we spend time reading what people have to say about various topics regarding Jesus (i.e. different teachings, apologetic methods, etc)? Just how passionate are we?

I feel like I do pretty well with this, but I would hope that my passion for sharing about my Lord and Savior would surpass anyone's passion for sharing about a musical instrument. I'm all for hobbies and have spent much time talking about sports and other things. But I do hope that Jesus has a primary place in my passion.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gracious Edginess

I really enjoyed this blog over at the Resurgence. It's funny how the tables are turning. Like the author, I wonder what comes next?

Visiting Family

We survived another trip to northeast Ohio and we're still hanging in there. Amanda is officially in the family way and is having the normal first trimester stomach problems. It was really bad on Friday when she got dehydrated, but things seem to be better now.

I keep thinking and writing in an effort to put my finger on what it's like to visit family. I got to see my stepbrothers which was great. I also got to meet my twin nieces, which was also great. Visiting my stepbrothers and their families feels more like spending time with friends that have a common bond than the kind of obligation you feel with family.

Visiting my mom is not quite as easy. On the way home I asked Amanda which set of parents she thought lived in a way that is most different than ours. It's something we can't quite put our fingers on because they are all different. My mom's house has a very chaotic feel because she is in nearly constant motion and can't sit still. She has more books on spirituality and self-help than I could count. Some of them are good and some of them are likely not so good. But what's frustrating is that she doesn't seem to embrace anything except what seems good to her.

To her credit she has certainly grown over the years. I guess I find it frustrating because she seems to circle the Truth, yet never quite lands on it. She and my stepfather tried to get us to do some impromptu marriage counseling with them. We managed to avoid it, but it shows that there are some problems there.

At any rate, it was good to go up there. We disappointed mom in July when Amanda and Lily didn't come with me. I'm glad that Lily got to see her grandparents and that they enjoyed her. She certainly was a big hit, as she usually is. The sad thing is that there will always be at least some spiritual distance between my mom and I until some things get worked out. And that means that there will always be an extra tension.

I'm trying to be a good son. It's just not always easy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Going to Cleveland

We're taking the big trip up to Cleveland tomorrow in anticipation of spending Thanksgiving with my mom. The trip itself never a lot of fun, but it will be good to visit with my mom and Ernie. It will also be good to see our new nieces as well as my stepbrothers and their wives.

I find that my mind has to do a lot of switching around when I see both sides of the family too close to each other. Spending a couple of days with my mom leads to a certain way of living and behaving, while spending time with my stepbrothers leads to a different way. Neither is right or wrong, but they are different. Things certainly feel a lot calmer with my stepbrothers.

What's bizarre is that the weather in Cleveland is supposed to be better than it will be here. It's supposed to be in the 50s and sunny. I'll take that every time.

I just hope that Amanda and I have good attitudes through all of this. It's so easy not to sometimes...

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Large Distraction

My alma mater just played in a very large football game on Saturday. They managed to last against the hated rivals to the north. I spent the better part of last week counting down the hours to kickoff. I read all I could about the game. I learned about the young man from Hudson, OH who got to dot the "i" in Script Ohio. I learned about how Lloyd Carr showed the movie Cinderella Man to his team. I was ready for the game.

Then the game happened. It was pretty unnerving as usual. OSU made some mistakes and UM kept coming. But in the end OSU prevailed. They established themselves as the best team in the nation. Yippee.

I've spent a fair amount of time today discussing the game with some UM fam coworkers. It's been fun to gloat a little bit. But as the luster from the victory fades I realize just how distracting the whole thing was. I used roughly 5 perfectly good hours in going to a friend's house to watch the game and watch it. Note, I did not waste that time as it was good to hang out with a friend. It was fun to watch the game.

But overall I just wonder about this misplaced worship. I really want to avoid that, but it's so easy to do. In fact, a part of me feels badly for Chad Henne now that he's lost to OSU in 3 out of 3 tries. But not so badly that I want to see UM win next year.

Don't get me wrong, I fully intend to watch the National Championship Game. I hope that OSU will establish itself as the best team in the country with a resounding victory. But in the end I realize that it matters so little compared to all the other things in life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Worst and Best Day

I had a brutal day on Sunday. It started with staying up late for work and waking up in the middle of the night for work. I expected the middle of the night one, but the staying up late was not part of the plan. I turned off my alarm and expected to feel a little rough in the morning as I normally do when deprived of sleep. I wasn't disappointed.

Lily and I had some toast. My stomach felt a little funny and I thought maybe that sleeping in messed up my normal routine, so I should have some peanut butter & butter toast with some coffee to get the works moving. That didn't really do a whole lot. As the morning wore on I felt worse and worse. It started becoming clear that this went beyond regular sleep deprivation. I had to do some work at around 10:30 and I nearly passed out while doing it. I couldn't hold my head up long enough to work. I did a lot of sleeping that day. I can't remember ever feeling that sick and weak before.

The problem is that Lily and I were alone for the weekend while Amanda was at a retreat for the women's ministry leaders. The reason the day was really cool is that Lily pretty much took care of herself. She could tell that I wasn't feeling well, so she spent a lot of time playing by herself in her room. She also took a nap with me. I had to fight through making her a sandwich for lunch, but she ate it on her own. She even got herself dressed, though she mixed a polka dotted top with striped pants. We watched some videos, though I mostly slept.

It was just really fun having my 3 year-old daughter take care of me. In retrospect I should have called on some family or friends to help me out, but I just didn't have the strength even to call. That sounds absurd in retrospect, but it was a bad day.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Midterm Thoughts

I'm not quite sure how to handle the results of the midterm elections. I guess part of me is upset to see the GOP just get trounced throughout the country. But another part of me hopes that it gets the party's attention. I read someone said that the GOP has to focus on what put it in power in the first place. All the corruption and scandals have not helped.

This again speaks to how Jesus cannot possibly be a Republican or a Democrat. I tend to feel like voting for the Republican party is really choosing the lesser of two evils. I'm interested to see how the Democrats push their new bi-partisan agenda that will bring unity and peace to the country and the world. After all, the President and the other Republicans are the problem, right?

Lord Jesus, come quickly!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Being a Flaky Friend

I had to blow off a friend for a planned activity tomorrow. He is going to the Airborne & Special Forces Museum in Fayetteville tomorrow. If I do go my day would be pretty busy with grocery shopping, some chores I want to accomplish, and then roughly 2 1/2 hours in a car with a museum visit tucked in. Amanda and I are going to a small group leaders appreciation dinner tomorrow night at 6:30. That means that I'd be on the go all day once again.

What occurs to me is that Amanda and Lily are going to a birthday party at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. I'll have a quiet house to myself for a couple of hours! That seems like an opportunity too good to pass up. Maybe I'll play my guitar. Maybe I'll play some video games and make progress on Ace Combat 5. Maybe I'll read something besides my textbooks for a change. The house will be my oyster for at least a couple of hours!

I think this museum would be a good place to go with my dad the next time he visits. We'll do that and some wineries, I think.

On a side note, I wonder if composing a blog entry gives the impression to my coworkers that I'm working on something. They certainly hear plenty of typing. I wonder if doing student emails gives the same impression.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Slacking-Driven Life

I've come to realize that slacking is a fundamental problem for me when working from home. If I have specific things to accomplish I can stay pretty focused. But if I have something I don't really want to do and it's not particularly time-critical I have a way of just drifting off. For example, I read this great blog article about Jack Bauer and how he is a type of Christ. It's good stuff, but it has little to do with work.

The problem is that a lot of my slacking has little to do with anything. I guess that's why it's called slacking. What I realize is that if I'm going to slack I need to do it with some intent. I'm going to practice my guitar, study my Greek vocabulary, or maybe even write a few sections of my paper. But I'm not going to just drift off as much as I once did. Besides, that's usually when I start walking on the edge of looking at what I oughtn't.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Reformation Day (one day late)

I got this from an article we discussed last night in Greek class:

Since it becomes Christians then to make good use of the Holy Scriptures as their one and only book and it is a sin and a shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God, it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor--yes, almost without any labor at all--can acquire the whole loaf! O how their effort puts our indolence to shame! Yes, how sternly God will judge our lethargy and ingratitutde!

What's incredible is that this quote is from Martin Luther. Keep in mind that he lived in the 15th and 16th centuries. And he considered his access to the Scriptures to be fairly easy! I don't think he could have quite imagined a source like the Bible gateway. Could he have imagined the vast quantity of study Bibles available at Amazon? How about a Greek textbook like the one we use? Could he imagine the helps available to those of us who want to read the original language?

Just off the top of my head, I can think of 3 good study Bibles I have at home in NIV, NASB, and ESV. I have extensive commentaries avaialble through e-sword. I can get Scripture emailed to me daily from a plethora of sources. Most Christians own more than one Bible.

But do we read them? I'm reminded of a story I heard from a friend. He knew a girl who got pulled over for speeding. The police officer noticed her Bible in the passenger seat. He asked her if she read it and if she believed it. Basically, he turned it into a warning for her.

God must have been pretty serious about Scripture to preserve it for thousands of years. Let's take that seriously.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Surprise Meal

Despite yesterday's feast, I don't feel like yesterday was my greatest in terms of walking in step with the Lord. I didn't have any headlong falls into sin, but I did spend some time looking at stuff that I probably shouldn't. It served as a good wakeup call, as it always does.

This morning I had some work to do, so I knew that my feasting would be somewhat interrupted. Then my Bible reading took me to 1 Chronicles 1-2. This is not the most exciting passage of Scripture as it deals with the genealogy of David, starting with Adam. I got to thinking about these long stretches of genealogies. I tend to kind of glide through them because I know that all the names won't really hit home. Of course, each time through the Bible they do have a bit more punch as I start to remember more and more of them from reading their stories. But it doesn't have the same punch as some of the Psalms that give me a profound sense of God's grandeur.

Charles Spurgeon didn't really do it for me today, so I thought that I'd try out the Bob Hoekstra "Day by Day Grace". It discussed the men of faith in Hebrews 11 and how Jacob lived by faith, despite what he did to trick Isaac into blessing him. It was interesting to see how Jacob ended up switching the traditional blessing on Joseph's sons.

The point to all of this is that God is in charge and His hand guides everything. If we see the way He guided the genealogies of the men of the Bible, why would we ever think that He doesn't have His hand on our lives?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

An Early Morning Meal

I got this in my email from my A.W. Tozer daily devotional called "Insight for Leaders":

October 28

Failure and Success: The Things That Matter

..that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be
sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with
the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory
and praise of God.
--Philippians 1:10-11

In life there will be found certain great fundamentals, like pillars
bearing up the weight of some mighty building....

The wise man will simplify his life by going to the center of it. He
will look well to the foundations and, having done that, he will not
worry about the rest.

Life as we know it in our painfully intricate civilization can be
deadly unless we learn to distinguish the things that matter from
those that do not. It is never the major things that destroy us, but
invariably the multitude of trifling things which are mistakenly
thought to be of major importance. These are so many that, unless we
get out from under them, they will crush us body and soul....

Every believer as well as every minister of Christ must decide
whether he will put his emphasis upon the majors or the minors. He
must decide whether he will stay by the sober truths which
constitute the beating heart of the Scriptures or turn his attention
to those marginal doctrines which always bring division and which,
at their best, could not help us much on our way to the Celestial
City. The Next Chapter After the Last, 11,14.

"Oh God, we are so inundated with distracting things and clamorous
voices. Deliver me today from the trifling things and help me to
spend every minute of the day on 'the things that matter.' Amen."

Then as I was doing my daily reading I came across wonderful nuggets like this:

Psa 16:11
(11) You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


Psa 19:7-14
(7) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
(8) the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
(9) the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
(10) More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
(11) Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
(12) Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
(13) Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
(14) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Reading these Psalms makes me wonder how I ever manage to read God's Word without feasting. But I know that it's easy enough to do. I'm so glad that God refocuses me so clearly when I call to Him.

Today is one full of potential. I actually woke up before my alarm. I got my run in, though it wasn't spectacular. Amanda and Lily are going to be away for at least 5 hours this afternoon and I can get some serious work done on my paper in that time. Lily and I are going grocery shopping this morning after breakfast. All in all, I'm looking at a great day. I need to prayerfully maintain my focus through it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Another Nail Hit Squarely on the Head

Mark Driscoll posted this great blog post. Some of you may remember when I was all excited about my new Todd Agnew CD. This very much reminds me of the lines in the song "My Jesus":

'Cause my Jesus would never be accepted at my church,
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet.
And He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud,
And I think He'd prefer Beale St to the stained glass crowd,
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud,
Wanna be like my Jesus...

I know that there have been many songs written about churches and how to dress. My friend Cliff shared one with me about how a singer heard them singing sweetly at a church, so he thought he'd go in. But then he got looks because of his dress, despite the fact that he recognized some of the women there as being particularly rowdy at his show the night before.

I agree that we should have a certain reverence when it comes to God. The man who provided half my chromosomes is my Dad. The One who gives me life is My Father. I do believe I have a certain reverence toward Him and hold His Word in high esteem. But I'm not going to dress up just to meet some outward standard. I am the church, not the building where we meet. I take good care of my temple and, thanks to my wife, I even clothe it fairly presentably now. I'm going to stick to shorts or jeans for church, I think.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Word of Encouragement

Psa 130:1-8
(1) A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
(2) O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
(3) If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
(4) But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
(5) I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
(6) my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
(7) O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
(8) And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

This pretty much represents my life. Out of the depths I cried out to the LORD. He was attentive to my cries. I know that if He counted all my sins I could not stand against Him, but He forgives me. (WOW!) I do hope in the Word of the LORD. My study Bible had a great note on verse 6 that points out that this indicates certain hope. Watchmen look forward to the morning and they are sure that it will come eventually. I see His sustaining grace and my part in verses 7 and 8.

I've been looking for deeper spiritual "meals" lately. I think that this counts. I'm not sure why it struck me so powerfully today, but I'll take it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Strange Testing

I've gone through my first set of midterms as a MDiv student and came through very well. I got a 97 on my Greek exam and a 118 on my Systematic Theology exam. In case you're wondering, the 118 is out of a possible 100. I think there was a total of about 50 bonus points possible, so somehow I managed to get more than 100 on the exam. I'll probably kick myself for some of the things I missed too. I know I did with Greek because I missed two vocabulary words and I hate missing those. I confused the word for father with amen and I mistakenly translated "blessed" as "beautiful". Ah well. I can't get too upset about a 97.

The strange thing is that Theology exam. It doesn't quite feel like grad school if I can get more than 100 on an exam. Plus, he has the semester set up so that everyone can get 110 points. Basically, our exams are just extra credit next to the two papers and the exams. I'm not sure if I like this or not. But then again, maybe it just shows that I'm keeping up well.

My theology professor did a really cool thing on our first quiz and I've meant to write about it since then. We had a vocabulary test from our reading. I think there were 31 possible points and I got 29 or maybe 27. Before the test he declared one student to be Adam and another to be Moses. After the test we found out what Adam got. He got a 27. The professor then announced that he would give everyone a 27 because of Adam. He could tell that we were squirming about this, so he asked if anyone got a perfect score. One guy did, so that guy became Jesus. We all ended up with perfect scores based on that one guy's perfect score. It was a great object lesson in the gospel.

Today makes me feel like I can do this whole seminary thing. I'm definitely learning lots of stuff. The tests have been very gracious so far. Should they be tougher? I haven't decided yet. I'm glad for my 4.0 that I have after one class and I think I should be able to get an A in each of these if I keep doing what I'm doing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Little Things

The little things seem to make or break the day sometimes. This morning as I came into work I thought I might have one of those rare times when I don't have to break stride to get into the office. Unfortunately, I missed the sweet spot on the card reader and had to go back to scan it again. That wasn't a big deal.

But what was a big deal was when I discovered that the cleaning crew threw my yogurt out, despite my compliance to the instructions for what must be done to ensure this doesn't happen. I spoke to one of our facilities managers about it and he said that they're instructed to throw everything out, whether we have it labeled or not. I suggested that he let everyone know that the stickers on the fridge are meaningless, but he didn't seem too interested in doing that. So I had to spend $2 this morning on breakfast. I wasn't happy about that.

Obvously $2 is not that big of a deal. But it's frustrating when something like that changes. If I came in one morning with a different PC I could deal with that because it's the Bank's property, not mine. But it's annoying when they throw out my yogurt. Now I need a new plan for how I'm going to do breakfast.

Not a good start to the week. I'm glad that my theology test went pretty well. More on that later.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Saving Those Pennies

Our frugality is something of legend at my office. My coworkers laugh about how I agonize over the decision to spend $5 on lunch. Yesterday I ended up spending almost $13 on a very good sushi lunch. It tasted great, but I'm not quite sure if it was worth it. After all, that was over 20% of my monthly allowance in one meal. The good news is that the month is 2/3 over.

Amanda and I were just talking about our heating and cooling bills. Right now is one of the ideal weather times in North Carolina. The past two days the highs got up to around 80, but it's been fairly mild at night. Today it's only supposed to get up to 74 and it might get as low as 41 at night tonight. This is idyllic weather in my book. Therefore, we keep the windows open so that we can enjoy some fresh (albeit mold and fungus ridden) air and not pay for any heating or cooling. Our electric bill was only $75 last month instead of > $100 as it was for most of the intense summer months.

We do this by keeping our thermostat on what many consider ridiculous settings. In the summer I keep it at 78 during the day and 74 at night. In the winter we keep it at 64 during the day and 58 at night. Back in January Amanda and I were blessed to attend the Chris Tomlin concert. It was a particularly cold night for Raleigh where the temperature dipped into the low 20s. We got home around 11:30 and found our babysitters wearing their overcoats in our living room. I asked somewhat sheepishly, "I'm sorry, were you cold?" to which Vince replied, "No, we decided to play dress-up." Kind of funny coming from someone who was 62 at the time.

I think our friends and our guests think that we're nuts for these extremes. But I know that there are payoffs in our heating and cooling bills. As we get ready to pledge financial commitments to K-LOVE Radio and to our church, we see the need to save money wherever we can. It's kind of a step out in faith, but I'm sure that God will provide for us.

Mar 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Our trip up to Pennsylvania went really well. The funeral was a great celebration of a godly man's life. The cemetary was maybe a tenth of a mile from the church, but it involved walking up a hill. One of Amanda's cousins made the point that grandpa would have walked, so we braved the hike and the wind to do it. I'm glad that we did.

I'm having a hard time getting focused on my studies or my work today. Basically I find myself doing just about anything but that. I still have to do more review before my Greek midterm this evening. I have some code to work on and documentation to write. I also have a book to read for work. And here I am posting a blog entry.

I am amazed at our capacity to avoid what we need to do. I watched my wife's family avoid what needed to happen to keep her grandpa alive for some extra time. They detected his prostate cancer fairly early, but wouldn't deal with it. He may have lived a bit longer if they had, but who knows? The point is that it's easy for me to look down on them for avoiding that, but here I am writing a blog entry instead of studying or working.

In other words, I'm no better or worse, just a different kind of avoider.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Eternal Peace

It's been an interesting week. Amanda's grandfather passed away on Monday night/Tuesday morning. We travel up for the funeral tomorrow and will return on Sunday. I'm not really looking forward to the drive, but it will be good to see the family. The nice thing is that we're confident that Earl is with Jesus now and there's nothing to be sad about that. We'll miss him. I think that the whole family will get a little teary on Christmas Eve when they think of his annual rendition of "O Holy Night" sung a cappella. It's a Christmas tradition at the East Smithfield Federated Church.

The fascinating thing this week has been the substory about Natalie and Eric. Eric was originally not going to come to the wedding because he is new with his company and has some training. I wrote him an encouragement to come and support his wife. I don't know if that made a difference, but he's going now. This is a good thing. I wish I had someone give me some pointers 8 years ago when I made such an awful hash of things.

I remember the first time we celebrated Amanda's birthday as a married couple. I really didn't make a very big deal of it and she was very hurt. We've found a middle ground with this now, but it was a tough lesson to learn. The thing I do know is that we need to ask for what we want. Neither one of us reads minds very well.

It should be interesting to see the whole family in "funeral mode". I suspect things are going to be a little crazy at casa de Pierce, but we'll survive. We're talking about taking a road trip to Ithaca on Saturday to kind of get away from it all for a day. I sure hope that we make it as doing nothing there makes for a long day.

I'm trying to look on the bright side of things. I'll have some time to study in the car. I should have some time at the house too. I shouldn't have to miss any classes as a result of this trip, though I may be a little late on Sunday. It will be good to see the family again. I actually feel myself drawing a little closer to Jack and Melaine. I feel more compassion than annoyance these days. This is a good thing too. It's got to be God doing this work.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Teeming with Teamwork

Here in Raleigh we've enjoyed some spectacular weather this week. Every day has been in the low to mid 80s and it gets down to the 50's at night. We've had the house open for days and it's felt pretty good, though a bit warm at night for sleeping. Unfortunately, it's supposed to start raining late tonight and continue through tomorrow.

We have our team picnic planned for this Saturday. However, it's only supposed to be 62 on Saturday, which means it will only be high 50s when the picnic begins at 11:00 AM. We're counting on a big grassy area as the focal point of the fun activities for both grown-ups and kids. We've decided to postpone the picnic because of the weather.

What's funny is that we all seemed just a little too eager to postpone. At least, maybe I was a little too eager. I think it's something that we all thought was a good idea, but maybe we don't have our hearts into it. I'm sure Lily would have fun with it, but I suspect we can do something else that will be fun.

Maybe I'm just projecting, but it's the vibe I get. I suspect that this isn't the first office picnic that was scrapped like this...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Organization Effectiveness

I got ruined a month or two ago. More specifically, my attitude toward my manager got ruined. A colleague whom I very much respect asked me what I thought of her. I was honest and said that I didn't think much about it, but that I basically liked her. He was surprised because he had heard that others in my team didn't think much of her because she is so disorganized. I started paying attention after that.

I did a system upgrade Monday night that I thought went quite well. It turns out that it generated a lot of tickets because there were a lot of broken web links. I think that the application architecture changed and then changed the way the URLs are formed. I was frustrated because we did everything right with the change control process, but several groups still got caught flat-footed. I ranted to my manager about this a little bit with the hope that she could get some things changed.

She was very sympathetic and agreeable. There is a standing meeting at 8:30 where all the technology managers gather to discuss upcoming changes, tickets, etc. My manager thought that she should bring this issue up at the 8:30 meeting. Then she said, "You get in early, right?"

"Yes," I replied, "though I'm working from home tomorrow. Why do you ask?"

"Could you send me an email tomorrow morning before the 8:30 meeting to remind me to talk about this?"

This is the person who set up the Franklin Planner training for all of us. She carries one around. However, she uses her "own system". I kind of wonder about how effective that all is.

Isn't this our nature? How many people reject core biblical truth because it is just too inconvenient to change? Who wants to be told that they need to change?

I wonder sometimes what it is about my personality that makes me embrace change when it is something I deem worthwhile. I'm pretty good about starting new Bible reading plans, for example. I let the Franklin Planner stuff change my life. I like to think that I'm open to new ways of going about my classes, etc. As my wife would point out, I tend to be quite rigid with things that seem like they're not broken though.

So maybe that's it. We need to see how broken we are before we'll change. This of course very much corresponds to the nature of true repentance. How can we ever approach a holy God and His unsearchable ways unless we first see just how broken we are?

How We See the World

I used to work for a woman who loved for us to play the "Diversity Game". Everyone got dealt a certain number of cards. They had characteristics on them like "serious", "spritiual", "funny", "attention to detail", etc. We'd trade with other people in the meeting to get cards that we thought better described us. Basically there were processes that got us down to 3 or 5 cards that we felt described us fairly well. They had various colors on them and that meant certain things. The idea was to demonstrate how diversity in a team is a good thing.

I had a support call with a salesperson about her Blackberry. She called before wiping out her device with too many bad password attempts, so that was good. She just received the device yesterday and wrote down the password wrong. Now here's the interesting part. We set the password to be the first six characters of a row on the keyboard and then tacked a number at the end. She wrote down the last letter wrong.

This was initially frustrating. But then I realized that everyone sees the world a little bit differently. Some of us are visual and good at patterns. I told a coworker about this and he said that he remembers phone numbers based on their shape on the keypad. This woman clearly does not think that way.

I think of Paul's exhortation to respect the various members of the body.

1 Corinthians 12:14-20 --

14For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

We all have a part to play. Sometimes it's easier to think that I want everyone to be like me. What an awful world that would be!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fear of the Known

We had our third Systematic Theology class last night. This class had me a little bit scared based on the syllabus and the manner of the professor. But after 3 classes I'm starting to believe that I can get through this. I'll feel much better when I collect some books for my paper.

My class has "that guy" in it. He's probably in his late 40s or so. He likes to see each class as a chance to have a personal conversation with our professor. And our professor is such a nice guy that he doesn't cut him off. Consequently, I can't imagine how we'll end any classes early. *sigh*

I apologize to my readers for the boringness of the blog of late. We had Lily's birthday party on Saturday and it turned out well. Ohio State managed to find a way to beat Penn State. Amanda thinks she's pregnant, but we won't know for a couple of weeks. Work is work. I have a change control that starts at 5 and hoepfully I'll be home by 7. We shall see.

It's just kind of a depressing day for some reason. I think part of it may be because Amanda has been down since the party. I took a walk around the building today and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Life is fundamentally good and I would do well to remember that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Greek Geek

I had my third Greek class last night. We're to the point now where learning this next batch of vocabulary words will put me at over 51% of the New Testament. In other words, I should recognize about half of the words in the Greek New Testament after I learn about 20 more words. That's pretty exciting.

This class has certainly become a great learning experience, and I mean that beyond just learning the basics of basic Greek. I'm learning what it's like to be a student pursuing excellence. I don't think I ever really pursued excellence as an undergrad. I wanted to do well, but that was because I wanted to get a degree so I could get a job. I had to do well enough to keep my scholarship, which meant maintaining at least a 3.2 GPA. I graduated with a 3.37 in Chem E, which certainly wasn't bad, but I sure hope to do a lot better as a grad student.

I'm learning that perfection isn't very realistic. However, it is a good goal. I only missed one thing on my quiz last night and that encourages me. I went from being in a total fog to understanding the material all in the course of a week. These things encourage me. But I also see the need to maintain my dilligence lest I fall hard.

It seems that there is a great parallel here between this and my life as a Christian. I know that holiness is never quite attainable, but I must keep up the pursuit. We're using a great book called The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges that also covers this. It really pins down what I try to express to students at Setting Captives Free. We all have our daily stumbles, but we grow in maturity as we no longer live with besetting sin. If anyone reading this wants a free copy of this book I can hook you up. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Now on a more practical, day-to-day living note, I need to get on top of my Systematic Theology stuff for class this Sunday. And I need to get ready for Lily's party on Saturday too. Much to do, and work just keeps getting in the way.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's Not my Fault!

I just read this article on a local news site. This very much speaks to how the world views the problems that we have in life.

Speaking of problems, I think I need to have the sun hold still in the sky some of these days. My Systematic Theology class is starting to scare me. Hopefully I can stay on top of Greek.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Going Faster

We've hit the nice time of the year for weather in Raleigh. It was around 60 degrees this morning as I went out to run, which is almost ideal. I prefer it in the low 50s, but after the oppressive heat and humidity of July and August I'm glad for what I can get.

I did my normal greenway run today, which normally takes me about 27:30 if I go at a comfortable pace. I call the run 3.3 miles, so this puts me around 8:20/mile. I'm happy with that pace as a rule, but it's always fun to run faster. Ever since New Jersey I've been going faster and faster on my normal runs. I think that my speed work on the boardwalk helped.

Today I finally broke the 8 minute mile barrier. I realize that I'm not going to represent the US in the Olympics or anything, but it felt good to break this barrier after 3 years of running. Will I ever break 7 minutes? Not sure. I just know that I'm happy for what's happening right now as it's very encouraging. What's particularly encouraging is that I didn't feel like I was pushing to my limit.

Greek went well last night. My head is spinning less. Now I just need to spend the time learning my vocabulary and the articles. I think this will not be such a tough language once I know the "codes". I did some research and found a Greek New Testament that I might ask for my birthday or Christmas. If nothing else it would be cool to have it to read. I just don't want it to be something I use to show off...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Spinning Head

I had a tough realization last night. I did well in making time for daily Greek review Friday - Monday. But what I forgot was to spend some time reading the chapters for today's lecture. I did that last night and today at lunch. Now my head is spinning with cases for nouns. Nominative, accusative (I think that's right), genitive, dative...what is all this stuff? There are these charts called "paradigms" that we can memorize to make parsing an translation easier. I'm glad that I have a professor who will hopefully make all this clear tonight. I just wish that I had started this earlier in the week so that I could listen to the lectures on the CD.

Life just seems so full right now. But it's all with good stuff, so I can't be too uptight about it. I found myself at a Gamestop yesterday and I seriously considered buying a used copy of Star Wars Battlefront II. It looks like a lot of fun, but I just don't know when I'd play it since I think it would be "too scary" for Lily. She probably doesn't need to see that much violence at 3 years old.

If you read this I would appreciate prayers for perseverance. Oh, and prayers that I'll understand what declension is all about too.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Feeling the Joy

How much joy do you feel every day? I know that I don't have nearly as much as I should. I highly recommend this blog entry for a great treatment of what it means to be redeemed.

Sometimes I think maybe I get too much exposure to praise and worship music. Some of it I really like. Most I think is OK. Some I have a hard time listening to. But I think that, as with anything, we can grow somewhat calloused to old experiences. And this is one of the dangers of always being busy. It's easy to learn and not live.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Frenzy

We survived the weekend frenzy. We had Jack & Melanie staying with us Saturday and Sunday nights. We had Nat's birthday gala on Sunday night. And I got a draft of my paper written yesterday. We got through it all, but I still feel a sense of disquiet. I think that having my first class tonight will help.

Last week I had an email conversation about my service at our church. I tried to point something out about how I perceive this guy, but apparently I didn't communicate it very well. What I got from the response is that I need to toughen up and that I have much to learn about people and small groups. I'm trying to take this with humility and see what it is that he has to say. I don't disagree with him, but it's never fun to contemplate the areas where we need to change. I've made some progress with people skills, but I probably need a lot more progress before I start serving in full-time ministry.

I still have this sort of "buzzing" feeling. It's like I'm not quite settled. I think that I need more peace and confidence about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. If I'm not doing these things right I need to see that and change it. I also am starting to think that I may need to do less with Setting Captives Free, but I hate to do that. I love my involvement there and hate to cut anything out. Perhaps I need to be less active with my small group since that may not be my most effective place.

I am excited to have lunch plans with a friend from church. It turns out that he works in technology at a rival local bank. It will be fun to swap some war stories about the craziness that goes with the banking industry. His wife was the one that Amanda helped out a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully we can become friends with them. We've been a little bit lazy about making connections with other couples because of our own schedules and because we have family in the area. Frankly, we don't spend a lot of time with Amanda's family anymore. We used to see a lot of Nat before she and Eric became more serious. They will live 5 minutes away, but we likely won't see much of them.

As I write this I think about how I could use more whitespace in my day. My days have very little slack in them. I try to get some things done at work that I can't otherwise get done during the normal day. If I couldn't do email from work I would have some major problems. What concerns me is that we are so busy serving that we don't make many solid connections. I'm going to talk to Amanda about this. That is if we can slow down enough to talk when we both have energy...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lost in New Jersey

I've decided that New Jersey may have some of the worst signage in the country. I was warned about the "jug handles" method of making left turns. But I wasn't warned about how poorly marked all the roads are. Fortunately I spent some time studying my map and was ready for this on the road. I wasn't ready for this at the airport when I couldn't find the rental car counters. I asked two different workers at the airport and eventually learned that I had to take the air tran to get to the rental car place.

Overall this has been a good trip, except that we got here today instead of last night. Weather in Raleigh was a problem for us and our flight got cancelled. It was nice to have one more night in bed with Amanda instead of sleeping here.

Our training has been pretty simple. We'll probably be done by lunchtime, but our flight isn't until after 8:00 PM. Hopefully we can get an earlier flight. If not, hopefully we can spend some time in NYC. At least it's better than hanging out in the Newark Airport.

I guess my attitude toward NYC is softening a bit. I suppose it will only take a few encounters with some New Yorkers for me to change my mind, but so far just about everyone has been very pleasant. However, I did notice a strange thing about the civility here in that it doesn't seem very genuine or deep. For example, the woman who met us by the front desk smiled and welcomed us, but she never told us her name. Very strange to me.

So now the question is -- seafood tonight or NYC? It all depends on whether we can get that earlier flight. If not, we'll do The City tonight. If so, seafood at the beach. Got to maximize road trips...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Eye of the Whirlwind

I mentioned this in my last post, but now things are starting to feel somewhat overwhelming. I can't believe that I'll be in New Jersey at this time tomorrow, Lord willing. The more I look ahead to this trip the less excited I am. The good news is that I think the training class is only from 9 - 4, so I might not have to be up quite as crazy early as usual.

Part of me dreads going with a female coworker. I'm not really that concerned, but I don't intend to be buddy-buddy with her either. It's just not a good idea, as far as I'm concerned.

It felt good to be more or less in the routine today. Lily was her usual difficult self at dinnertime, so she didn't get any treats tonight. I took her out shopping and gave her frequent reminders of why she didn't get any treats and why she didn't get to ride in a car shopping cart at all either. Hopefully it will sink in eventually.

Amanda and I are just exhausted today. I hope that it gets better as we readjust to Eastern Time.

Forgive how this post was all over the place. I feel like I've been remiss in not posting more lately. Hopefully I can post after my trip to the Garden State.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Back from the Land of Beef

I can't believe that I haven't updated my blog in over a week. But I hope you will forgive me when you learn that I spent the last 5 days in Kansas City visiting my dad and stepmom. It was a great visit and we had many laughs. We also enjoyed many great meals together. The best thing was that they got to get much of the Lily experience. Dealing with Lily is not for the faint of heart, but she still impressed them with her great vocabulary. It's a little spooky to see how well she communicates for a not-quite 3 year old.

Still, the visit was not all about beef and frozen custard. I got to spend some great time with my dad. He and I have not been very close over the years, but it's getting much better. Although neither one of us is very expressive, there is a real sense of a bond of love there.

It's also incredible to think about how tough things used to be with Susan. She and I didn't get along so well 16 or 17 years ago (wow!) But things are much better now. I don't walk on eggshells around her anymore. And we can joke around and laugh about things. For example, she is rather compulsive when it comes to ironing clothes. She irons bedsheets, for example. She also irons my dad's underwear. So when she talked about the days of her sons' youth and how she washed cloth diapers every other day for 2 years, I had to ask if she ironed them too. She seemed to get a kick out of it.

I know that there are things about our lives that they disapprove of. They would prefer that we care more about maintaining our house, for example. I'd like to see them more passionate about Jesus (as I'd like to see everyone more passionate about Him) But none of these things got in the way of a good visit there.

Now I'm home for two nights and am flying out to Newark, NJ on Wednesday night for some training. Then I get home well past my bedtime on Friday. I'm looking forward to some rest at some point. I keep thinking that, but it never seems to happen...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Boiling Bacteria

Amanda and I have been homeowners for about 2 1/2 years now. We finally experienced something new this weekend. Our town detected E. Coli in the water at some house on Friday. We're supposed to boil all our water for at least 3 minutes before it touches our lips. Based on what I read, I'm not too concerned about our water and have actually drank several glasses of it over the weekend. I'm pretty sure I'd feel the effects of it if I had the little bugs in my belly.

But what's weird is how irrational this whole thing has made us. I boiled a pot of water to use when cleaning Lily's milk cups. Amanda drank bottled water today, but she brushed her teeth with regular water. I had a salad for lunch with leftovers from a salad we made on Friday, but I wasn't going to wash any veggies to make more salad. So are we afraid of the bacteria or aren't we?

I think about how we live this way in so many areas of our lives. As we learned in church today, we're all hypocrites. There are things that we feel like we should obey, but we just don't. Why not? When we get down to it, we decide that it's not really that important. Frankly, that's the only explanation that makes sense, right?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Doing Things Right

Today got off to an interesting start. The phone rang at around midnight and, since I'm on call, I was sure that it was the Command Center calling me instead of paging me. Or I thought maybe they paged me, but I messed something up and didn't hear it as I've done that before. But as I made my way downstairs I saw an unexpected number. I called it back and got a tired-sounding female voice asking me if I was calling from Amanda's house. Amanda has a pregnant friend from church who was not due until September, but Amanda volunteered to help out in case of labor while her husband was away. Turns out she needed the help, so Amanda drove over there around midnight to sit with her daughter while she went to the hospital.

I slept in until 6:00 this morning and discovered that Amanda had to spend the night at her friend's house. Turns out that she was in real labor and got admitted. All this time her husband was in Pinehurst taking care of his elderly mom and her broken foot. Amanda's sister Tiffany was supposed to come over today anyway, so I called her and asked her to come over a little earlier (OK, much earlier) so she could watch Lily. Once she got here I took our car with the carseat over to Amanda so she could take the little girl to the hospital to see mommy and her little brother. Fortunately, this woman's sister showed up to help out so Amanda was freed from this burden after doing one taxi trip to the hospital.

It felt good to help out with this. It didn't even occur to me to get upset about any of it, which I consider to be encouraging. Now we're going to have Bill and Tiffany over for dinner tonight and I look forward to searing some beef on the grill and quaffing a few Great Lakes Beers with Bill.

Meanwhile, I got a really nice surprise in the mail today. Setting Captives Free sent me a check for $500. I don't serve for money. I don't expect it. But I certainly do appreciate it. Now I'll have to talk to Amanda about what we should do with it.

I also received our rebate check for our dishwasher installation. It's nice to get that quickly too.

I guess what inspired this post is that things just feel sort of right today. I even got some work done, though not tons. It just feels good to be a part of helping someone out. And I do consider it a blessing that the Bank gives me a little flexibility to help out with this kind of thing. Overall, life seems good right now.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Class News

My professor emailed me to let me know that I got a 100% on my final exam. I guess I'm not so impressed with my score because I know that he graded pretty easy. It makes me feel better about my papers as well as the reading questions that I submitted.

I'm excited to turn in my paper today and look forward to getting started on my next one. It should be interesting to do real research. The first one was a good way to get my feet wet, but my bibliography only has one book in it. Now we'll see how I do when I have to do real research.

Practical Tips

I just read this excellent post over on Mark Driscoll's blog. I highly recommend it.


I just read this today in my daily reading:

Exodus 32:

1When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." 2So Aaron said to them, "Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 3So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden[a] calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD." 6And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

Later on we see:

21And Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?" 22And Aaron said, "Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23For they said to me, 'Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 24So I said to them, 'Let any who have gold take it off.' So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf."

I think this may be the greatest cop-out in history. And yet God was gracious enough to establish the priesthood through Aaron.

I also am reminded of how much I can be like Aaron. It's so much easier to deny responsibility for something even though it is clear that we are the ones to blame. Our society fosters this too. For example, the Florida teacher who had sex with one of her students is blaming her bipolar disorder instead of accepting responsibility for it. Psychology in general tries to help us see what thing in our past shapes us so that we don't have to take responsibility for our actions. Does that mean I can start holding up liquor stores because my mom was drunk a lot when I was growing up?

As I consider this whole issue I realize just how difficult it is to accept responsibility for what I do. We all mess up from time to time. And I love the promise in James where we're told that "He gives more grace". I just know that I need plenty from those around me as well.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Problem of Pain

We had a good discussion in my apologetics course last night. We've spent the better part of the week discussing the problem of pain. After all, the atheist says, how can a good God and evil coexist? Wouldn't the world be better without pain?

My professor posed this scenario for us to ask the atheist:

Suppose you had a child, but every time that child did something wrong you rewarded him with more. Yes, you were disobedient, so I'm going to raise your allowance. You did something wrong, so I'm going to give you more freedom and less responsibility. What kind of person would you end up with?

Someone shouted, "A Kennedy!"

I'm still chuckling about that as I write this.

Missing the Pain

Last night was the end of new material for my apologetics class. As I pulled into the driveway yesterday I felt a twinge of sadness over this. Even though it is extremely grueling to have class every night, I will miss it. I've grown quite fond of my class, my professor, and my classmates. It's almost like a small group. Our discussion has helped me see what makes some of the men and women tick. The biggest thing is that I will miss the energy that comes from being in a room full of people who love Christ passionately and want to share that love with the world in an effective way.

I really do appreciate our professor. He is taking tonight to do a review and then tomorrow will just be the final exam. This means that we have two very short nights in a row. And, frankly, Tuesday was a short night too as I only ended up with three pages of notes.

A part of me wonders if there should be more. But I realize that I am now much better equipped to deal with some of the objections and criticisms raised by unbelievers. And what's really cool was to hear a story last night from Chris, the country guy. He's got a very affable personality and part of that is his country twang. He spent about 4 hours on Tuesday evening talking with someone at a restaurant about God. And this person is an astrophysicist or aeronautical engineer. In other words, this is the target for things like the kalam cosmological argument (more on that later).

The funniest bit was Chris saying that the man called him "educated". And in his distinctively country way he replied, "Well, no one's ever accused me of that before". He was ready for this conversation because of this class. God is certainly good. And funny too!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Classy Characters

I feel like I have a pretty good sense for my class after seven lectures. I thought it might be fun to write about some of the characters in it.

I already wrote about the guy who feels like he has something to add to every discussion. To be fair, he often does say something useful. But after a while it gets kind of old.

Way in the back we have a guy who is a couple of years younger than me. He is working on his pastoral ministry degree and is ready to start preaching. He asks some great, penetrating questions. For example, he had a hard time understanding how apologetics is pre-evangelism. His struggle was that he couldn't see how you can draw a line between the two. He made a good point and it's a question of semantics.

We have another guy that I call the preacher. He actually is a preacher, and, from what I've heard, is likely an excellent one. What's interesting about the preacher is that he always wants to share something out of the Bible for everything we discuss. This is naturally a good thing.

But the overall tone of the class is what confuses me. Our professor is outstanding. He does a good job of keeping the discussions reined in. We spent some time this week discussing the problem of evil. As our professor brings up common atheistic questions the class keeps offering unsolicited answers. The professor keeps smiling and saying, "Yes, we'll get to that".

Maybe I misunderstand the point. My take is that I don't have the answers and don't want to pretend that I do. The sooner I get the answers from him the better, as far as I'm concerned.

I also realize that I sometimes cannot resist the temptation to offer my own little bits here and there. I try to ask what I hope are good questions that aren't just for me. I don't want to be a blowhard either.

There's a woman in the class who is an ENT doctor. When she speaks it's usually worth hearing. I sat next to hear last night and noticed that she would work on the reading questions due Friday whenever the discussion started to go down rabbit trails. I guess that's the advantage of using a laptop.

The important thing is that everyone in that room seems to have a genuine heart for Jesus. I think we're all going to get on each other's nerves from time to time. As always, I've got to work on extending that grace...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Feeling Frenetic

I have this sense of not resting at all. I feel like I constantly sit here in front of my computer. I'm either working on schoolwork, work work, or ministry work. My breaks involve meals where I sit and read other stuff (though I didn't read anything at dinner tonight), work on my 2 Peter memorization (finish tomorrow, Lord willing), or practice my rendition of Malaguena on my classical guitar.

I now see why Jesus made rest such a high priority. He didn't do a lot of it, but we do know:

Mark 1:35 ESV
(35) And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

I'm good at that rising up very early in the morning while it was still dark part. And I'm good at giving God 10 minutes in prayer. But I feel like I need more. I guess part of why I'm writing this is to ask for prayers for endurance from those who read this and are of the praying type.

As for now, I'm going to bed. Maybe tomorrow I can write about the interesting challenges of writing a paper that is only supposed to be 6-10 pages, is double-spaced in 12 point font with 1 inch margins, and covers a treatment of 5 apologetic methodologies as well as my opinion about one of them. I'm using some big words and concise sentences!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Feeling Small

My apologetics class is going well. I've chatted up the professor a couple of times. He seems sincere and extremely knowledgable. I really appreciate his passion for this very important topic. I feel excited to go and start having discussions with unbelievers, which I think is part of the point of the class.

Being in the room with all these godly men and women with so much knowledge really humbles me. I don't feel like I know the Bible well enough. When I was asked to pray at the start of class yesterday I don't feel like I'm eloquent enough. As I enroll in my fall classes I wonder how I'm going to write a 12-14 page paper on some topic for my Systematic Theology course. I wonder how I'm going to know Greek well enough for a test.

I think a couple of things are happening. One is that this is going from being a hobby to something that I am spending $450/class to get tested on. This means that I have more reason to take it seriously. Of course, we should want to know more about God's Word just for the sake of knowing it. But this adds an extra element to it.

Another thing is that I think I am getting that smaller fish in a big pond feeling I got when I went to Ohio State. This is a good thing for me, I think. I remember thinking I was pretty smart when I left high school. Then I started meeting some of the men and women in my major and realized that, although I'm fairly bright, I'm not nearly as bright as many.

This is one of those side benefits of higher education that I think God knows is going to happen, but I didn't sign up for. I'm trying to keep looking at this in a good light :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Graduate Pedantics

This whole graduate school business is kind of interesting. I very much enjoy my professor. He clearly has a heart of equipping us to reach out to the lost. It's vitally important that we be ready to have a reason for the hope that we have within us.

The class, however, is also very interesting. There is a guy in there that is what I think I could easily become. We had a discussion Tuesday night about the noetic effects of sin. In other words, just how much does sin affect the unbeliever? Almost rhetorically the professor asked if an unbeliever can do something "good". This guy actually argued about that. In his mind, nothing can be good unless it is done for the purpose of glorifying God. Therefore, to him, only believers can do something good.

I understand where he's coming from, but I think he's being pedantic. We asked about Mother Teresa. He said that he read some stuff that makes him think that she was saved and, therefore, capable of doing something good. While we were on the subject of India I asked about Ghandi. He told us that Ghandi did nothing good. After class I asked him about our nation's constitution. Is there anything good about that?

It's so easy to get on a roll like that. I think I've done it before and I'll likely do it again. I just know that I don't want to be "that guy" that you have in graduate school who takes the discussion off into his own personal tangents. The good news is that we're all supposed to be Christ-followers and therefore capable of extending grace. I know that I need to do that.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Who are the Good Guys?

I remember learning about wars as a kid. Like most boys, I tended to think in terms of good guys and bad guys. The World Wars were easy. Actually, just about every war we've been involved in has been easy if you consider America part of the good guys.

But what about conflicts where we don't have direct involvement? For example, what do we do about the conflicts in the Middle East? John Piper wrote this excellent article two years ago to help put some Biblical truth around this conflict.

It comes down to a matter of how we view the nation of Israel in the light of Biblical truth. It seems clear that they have a special place in God's plan. But to assume that this secular nation should enjoy the same protection as King David's seems absurd. There really are no good guys here. It would sure be a lot easier if Israel would recognize the Messiah that came from them...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ready to Start?

I start my first class tomorrow. It's my class on apologetics. I've got to admit that I'm a bit anxious, but it's not so much about the material. Will I be on time? How will it be not seeing much of Amanda and Lily every day? What will the classroom be like? Will I stay awake? Will I be able to get my papers done? How about the reading questions?

I realize that much of this is outside my control. I've read the books. I have my stuff ready for taking notes, etc. I think I'm as prepared as I can be. Yet there is always that little bit of fear of the unknown until I go to the first class.

I understand that my professor has a passion for apologetics. This is good news as it means that he will likely pour himself into teaching. I just hope that I can keep up.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Balancing Act

There is a great discussion going on over at Jeff's blog about the recent profits posted by the large oil companies in America. It is clear that they are taking advantage of the situation in the Middle East and America's desperate thirst for gasoline by keeping prices high.

One poster over there works for Elizabeth Dole and presents the cool Capitalistic voice of reason. I tend to think that we got ourselves into this mess and now we want the government to bail us out of it. We decided that it was a good idea to drive these enormous vehicles that get terrible mileage. We decided that we need to have the air in our cars highly refrigerated. We drive everywhere because we live in the 'burbs and things are too far apart for walking or bicycling. Public transportation is tedious at best, even in cities like San Francisco.

So what to do? I really believe that we can stick it to the man if we all work on how much gas we use. Yes, there are some people who are forced to use it. But many of us can cut out trips if we really want. We can drive more efficient vehicles. We can not use the AC in our cars so much.

But it's sure a lot easier to shake our collective fists at the "fatcats in Washington" who let all this happen.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Getting Things Done

I write this sitting at a computer at the check-in station for my church's nursery. I'm participating in what we call "Summer Serve" where we give the regular workers a break. Doing this tends to make me feel a bit guilty for not doing more during the year since I probably could. This might get easier when we move to three services, so I wouldn't be coming home at 1:00 PM every Sunday. But this isn't the point.

As I sit here I can watch one of the TVs and listen to our pastor deliver his message. I heard it earlier today and it was quite good. But as I watch this I also take in all that's happening here at the church.

Behind me there is a nursery full of tiny children with people generously dealing with screams, poopy diapers, and the bordeom that sets in while watching other people's kids. There's another room with people dealing with kids who are in the early stages of walking. Yes, they can be fun, but anyone who ever had kids knows just how hard it can be as well. It's especially tough when you tend to discipline your kids into good behavior and others don't.

Much farther behind me are rooms with people who are doing their best to teach preschool and elementary kids about Jesus in a meaningful way. This takes no small amount of energy.

Around the corner is a kitchen where people are preparing lunch for those who want to purchase it. Two of our older church members were going around with a cart and bringing coffee and bakery to the various workers. It's always strange to see people with grey hair around here. They are great guys.

Up in a room I can't see are a bunch of people who are running the multimedia for the service. Someone directs what camera shots show up on the TV. Someone clicks on the song lyrics that are displayed during each song and, when the worship leader stays on track, the lyrics line up with the songs.

Outside there are drivers in buses waiting to take people too and from the satellite parking lots. They hang out and just ferry people back and forth, being as friendly about it as anyone can be.

So as I see the Pastor preach I'm reminded of a message that I've heard so many times. There are a lot of ways to serve. You don't have to be a funny, dynamic, charismatic speaker to be a servant of God. If you can smile and chat with people you can greet people at the door and show them around this somewhat intimidating place. If you are comfortable with computers you can help to check people in or work in the multimedia booth. If you like kids you can serve in a myriad of ways.

All of this happens so that people can come and hear the life-changing message of Christ. I'm actually tearing up as I write this. It's such an honor to be able to serve at all. It makes me wonder if I can do more.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hardcore Discipleship

I always appreciate talking to other Christians about how they go about their personal discipleship. For example, I've memorized a few books of the Bible, but I know that I need to do more. I read through Scripture systematically. I pray daily. I listen to sermons while I work out. I listen to praise & worship music. Basically, I do what I can to immerse myself in the things of God.

I thought I did pretty well when I stepped up my Bible reading plan to get on a pace to read all of Scripture in 4 months. I met someone last weekend who reads the Bible every month. He told me that he spends about 90 minutes/day reading the Bible.

This really hit home and it's a challenge I'd like to try. I think that you would get a much greater sense of continuity of Scripture in doing that. But I also know that I would have a hard time making the time for this right now. I have too many other things that I want to do. I always fear starting something that I can't finish.

But it's inspiring anyway. I contrast that with people who can't seem to make time even to read a Psalm every day. How hungry are we to spend time with Jesus? Hopefully very.