Wednesday, November 28, 2007

For you ministry/youth ministry buffs out there, this is a great article that was sent to me by one of our students here at Olivet, and I think is a great lesson for any age.

Boomer Sooner
Closing the gap.

Technology is amazing. In my home, we are discovering a new way to use technology; the web camera.

Just getting back from Killeen, I was pained with the realization that I won't get to see Brayden, er, and Kristin and Luke, until our spring break in March. As much as Brayden has changed in the five weeks between our previous visits, I can't imagine how much he will change over the next 3 1/2 months. Sooo, we decided to do something about it, and invest in web cameras for our computers. That was our Christmas gift to Luke and Kristin. I'm sure they knew there was no ulterior motive on our part, at all!

I can't begin to tell you how much fun it is to see and hear Brayden via the internet (Kristin and Luke too); thank you to MAC, Microsoft, Dell, and Al Gore, for bringing this new age to us. It will create some incredible moments for us as we sit and talk with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, helping to close the distance a little between Bourbonnais and Ft. Hood, Texas.

I love technology; most times.

Looking at the title of this blog caused me to reflect on the fact that again, that is what advent is about; God closing the gap. I use a web camera, but His way was much more sacrificial and meaningful; it's times like this I'm frustrated by the limitation of language in trying to express something so profound.

I recognize today that it was by his initiation, that he took the risk to send his son, with no guarantee of our response, yet did it anyway. God coming to where we are.

Going to Texas is one thing, it could even be called a gift. But man, what a greater gift we have been given. I don't want to ever take it for granted.

P.S. Fred, and all others concerned about my XM radio battles; I lost the battle on the way down, but listened to football all the way home. So we'll consider this one a draw.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Be Ready

One of the books that has helped shape me over the years during Advent is a little book called God Came Near. It's one of Max Lucado's earliest writings, and to me, still one of his best. I share an excerpt from a section in chapter one. It probably won't be the only time I quote from this book over the next month, either.

"Christianity, in its purest form, is nothing
more than seeing Jesus.
Christian service, in its purest form, is nothing

more than imitating him who we see.
To see His Majesty and to imitate him,
that is the sum of Christianity."

He then begins by telling the story of a 52-year-old man who had been born blind, but because of a new technology, was able to have his sight restored. He was able to see for the first time.

He talked about how Bob was utterly speechless with colors, like yellow and red. How caught off guard he was the first time he watched a jet flying through the air with it's vapor trail. And he talked about how fascinated he was by what he was able to see for the first time, and then over and over again; like sunrises and sunsets, he never grew tired of those.

He was at the same time amazed how dull his friends had come with the same things. Bob would stop to gaze at the color of a flower in the spring, and his friends would walk right by them. All that he was seeing right now, was there all the time, but he had missed it. So close, but his lack of vision kept him from being able to see what to everyone else was obvious.

(begin quote) "But Bob Edens isn't the only one who has spent a lifetime near something without seeing it. Few are the people who don't suffer from some form of blindness. Amazing, isn't it? We can live next to something for lifetime, but unless we take time to focus on it, it doesn't become part of our life. Unless we somehow have our blindness lifted, our world is but a black cave.

Think about it. Just because one has witnessed a thousand rainbows doesn't mean he's seen the grandeur of one. One can live near a garden and fail to focus on the splendor of the flower. A man can spend a lifetime with a woman and never pause to look into her soul.

And a person can be all that goodness calls him to be and still never see the Author of life. . .

Have you seen Him?

This is no run-of-the-mill messiah. His story was extradordinary. He called himself divine, yet allowed a minimum-wage Roman soldier to drive a nail into his wrist. He demanded purity, yet stood for the rights of a repentant whore. He called men to march, yet refused to allow them to call him King. He sent men into all the world, yet equipped them with only bended knees and memories of a resurrected carpenter." (end of quote)

Being so close, without seeing what's there all along. Sounds like our world, doesn't it. To be honest, sometimes it sounds like me.

Lord, help us to not just see the obvious, but to also begin to notice the beauty in the mundane during the season of Advent.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Go Sooners!

The First Week of Advent

Advent, "the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the coming of the Christ". (Wikipedia)

It is a already and not yet reality for us, isn't it? He has come, yet we are awaiting his coming again. In the mean time, His kingdom has a present reality through the church; enabling Christ to come in a variety of ways.

This is a plaque that is in the Regina Mundi church in Soweto, South Africa, where students gathered for meetings during the riots in 1976-77. It was a place of refuge and violence at the same time. Many were killed in spite of where they gathered. The church itself still bears the scars from the conflict; yet great was their hope.

I'm reading the biography of Nelson Mandela, which is no small read by the way, and I'm amazed at his perseverance for the sake of his people and country. How long they waited, how dark it was, yet their persistence and belief changed the face of a nation.

That's the story of hope we live in this month, is it not. Their story, the students of the 70s in South Africa, is a living parable of the light that shown in this lost, dark world of ours; and yet, the darkness did not understand what the light was about.

The present reality of the kingdom seeks to bring hope into the dark places of this world, living with a perspective that sees what is to come, and lives with that as our reality. We don't see like the world sees. We look through a different set of lenses. This "seeing" is happening all over the world all the time, the work of kingdom folk.

Here is my prayer for us as we enter this advent season; that we don't miss it. That our religion doesn't get in the way of our kingdom business. That we not miss the real purpose of his coming; that we get to be hopeful people, bringing the light of hope to the dark places in our world. Pray with me that we see beyond the lights, the glitter, the sales, and realize that Jesus came so, "all that received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God".

The darkness is great, but the light has broken through. Lord help us to live in that light.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving in Texas

We've had an absolute blast in Texas for Thanksgiving. We are leaving today, driving to Joplin, and should be home tomorrow by dinner. It's a long way, but well worth it.

This video was taken the same time as the picture, with Gigi and Brayden playing after his

This should give you a little taste of what we got to experience this time with Brayden. He's changed so much since we last saw him in October at his dedication. He laughs, giggles, coos, grunts, and is teething, so he is doing the best to try and swallow his fist.

When his dad reads to him, it's interactive. As Luke reads, he grunts, and talks back at the book, you have to see it to get the true experience. He really loves his daddy. And his eyes really light when his mama walks into the room. They are very happy, which makes it easier to leave, and have them so far away. We know it's not forever, so for now, we make due.

Well, hope your thanksgiving has been as good as ours. As I write this, everyone else is watching Elf, which makes this holiday trip complete; we've watched a holiday movie.

Hope your Advent is filled with as much joy and expectation as ours.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Today, we head for Texas to spend Thanksgiving with Brayden, Luke and Kristin, and yes, it is in that order (sorry kids). We will leave this afternoon after my classes, hoping to arrive in southern Illinois at a fairly decent hour, getting about six hours of sleep, and motoring on to get there by dinner.

Terry's new car has 3 free months of XM radio, so that will be great for the drive, although there is a distinct possibility of breaking into a fight over whether we listen to ESPN radio or XM7 on the way (XM7 is the station for 70s music). Could be worse, I guess, but ESPN all the way will be great, plus with the stations that carry college football, even though I won't be able to watch it all this weekend, I will be able to listen to any I can't see.

So, let the holiday's begin. This week kicks off the Advent season, which makes for a very difficult time to keep students focused, er, and the profs. Pray for us, will you?

Will keep you informed as to how our next month goes, and hope many of you do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Life can now get back to normal, and be about the things that really matter; family. This week begins a month of celebrating family, revolving around the greatest gift we have all received; no, not a grandson, the gift of our savior.

Here's hoping that you all have a great week with family, friends, and football. Eat lots of turkey, be safe on the roads, and love the ones you are with. We'll be in Texas this weekend spending time with Luke, Kristin, and Brayden. We so look forward to seeing our kids. Hope your week is as special as ours.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ohio State 14

Michigan 3

Nuff said!

I woke up this morning, wide awake, at 6:30, dreaming of an LSU loss. Anyone who's been following the college football scene knows what that would do to the Ohio State/Michigan game today. I'm getting ready to watch last year's replay on ESPNU.

Today is about one thing, the Ohio State vs. Michigan game. If you aren't a fan, I'm sorry. I feel bad for the SEC fans who just don't get it. Illinois fans, you get your props this year, you got your one in every 15 year win, but you still don't get it. When that game ended, it became Michigan week. There is nothing like it, and no game more important than this one. It can redeem or ruin a season in one three-hour period; for us today, it would be ruin.

It's bragging rights for a year; it's not about who has the best record. It's about who's flag gets to fly; until the third Saturday in November, 2008.

When the game ends today, I become a Big 10 fan. It's us against them. Until then, it's the best game of the year. Enjoy, I know I will!

O - H

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why is this rivalry so great? Check this out.

On Nov. 13, HBO Sports will premiere its documentary on the greatest rivalry in college football. "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry" will take a close-up look at this storied rivalry through the eyes of the athletes, alumni, and fans who’ve made this game great. Prior to the release of the documentary, Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports, participated in an e-mail Q&A session with Ohio State Alumni Magazine.

Greenburg: The Ohio State-Michigan game has been a classic rivalry, and when you have the history surrounding the “10 Year War,” the story takes on mythic proportions. It is a subject matter that fits the mold of our very best HBO Sports documentaries.

Greenburg: We think this rivalry stands alone as the college football game each year with the most national interest. Many people in Texas, Oklahoma, and California won't be happy to hear this, but the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry has no peer. This is the first time HBO Sports has produced a documentary on a college football rivalry. Why do you think we picked this one?

Greenburg: The supreme hate that develops between the Ohio State and Michigan fans is an amazing phenomenon. I knew this was a rivalry. I never realized there was so much deep-seated anger toward the opposition.

Greenburg: Yes. They definitely have an equal amount of hatred for each other, but their reasons are distinct. Ohio State fans feel the Michigan fans are pompous, and the Michigan fans feel the Ohio State fans are not worthy.

Greenburg: There is a clash of culture. Michigan thinks of itself as a Midwest Ivy League institution and Ohio State is a proud state university that represents all of Ohio.

Greenburg: Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.

Greenburg: None whatsoever, but the participants feel a lot more pressure and would personally suffer more of the disappointment after a loss. Of course, they would also feel even more euphoric after a victory. Their memories will last a lifetime.

Greenburg: Life and death. It is everything that is right with college football.

Greenburg: The energy in the stadium each year on the third Saturday in November. As the bands play the fight song and the teams charge out onto the field, a classic rivalry is renewed; and there is always next year if you lose.

Greenburg: There must be nothing worse than the 364 days after a loss.

Greenburg: The rarity of No. 1 playing No. 2, and the extraordinary game that unfolded may never be duplicated through the rivalry’s long, rich history. It took on even a grander scale when Bo passed away the day before the game. We shot all week in Ann Arbor and Columbus and recorded our interview with Bo in Ann Arbor Stadium the day before he died. It was one of the great football games in collegiate history, and the rivalry made it even more memorable.

China - Thousands turn to Christ every day in China but persecution is rampant. Pray for continued church growth in the midst of oppression and suffering. Ask God to provide Bibles and raise up more Christian pastors and evangelists to meet the enormous demand created by nationwide spiritual hunger. Pray that the network of 1,100 reform-through-labor prison camps where many Christians suffer for their faith will be fully exposed, condemned and relegated to history.

The Game!
20 hours, 42 minutes, but who's counting?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Middle East - "I was a devout Muslim, and all I was taught was to hate", says Abdul. "But in a vulnerable tie of my life, two families reached out to me and showed a love I had never experienced before."

Pray that Christians living in the Middle East will continue to show the love of Christ to hurting unbelievers despite persecution. Pray that God will touch the hearts of many unbelievers there, that they might come to know Christ as Savior.


Jesus is a Buckeye!

Michigan leads the all-time series with Ohio State by a 57-40-6 count. Michigan leads 30-18-4 in games played in Ann Arbor.

Since 1951, the Buckeyes hold a 28-26-2 lead, including victories in five of the six games during the Jim Tressel era. Ohio State has won the last three meetings with Michigan.

The two teams first met in 1897 and the rivalry has been continuous since 1918. Since 1935, the game has been the traditional conference finale between the two schools.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Egypt - Over 85% of people living in Egypt are Muslims. In Egypt, Christians are persecuted by radical Islamic groups and local police. Nearly all elected officials are Muslim. Egyptian citizens must list their religion on their identity cards, presented whenever they apply for employment. Christians are often turned away from employment because of their beliefs.

Pray that God will encourage Christians in Egypt to remain strong in the face of persecution.

74 hours and counting.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

95 hours, 20 minutes, and counting.


• Ohio State is 10-1 and 6-1 in the Big Ten; Michigan is 8-3 and 6-1 in the Big Ten
• Ohio State has won 29 of its last 31 games
• Eight OSU players are in the hunt for national postseason awards
• The Buckeyes lead the nation in scoring defense (11.4); OSU is second in pass defense and total defense
• The Buckeyes have scored at least one touchdown in their last 137 games
• Ohio State has scored on its opening drive in nine games this season, the last seven in a row
Brian Robiskie has caught a pass in 23 consecutive games
• Coach Jim Tressel is 72-15 in seven years at Ohio State; 207-72-2 in 22 years overall
• Linebacker James Laurinaitis is a finalist for the Lombardi, Butkus and Lott awards
• Ohio State is the two-time defending Big Ten champion

Go Bucks!

"When I was 15, I heard about Jesus Christ for the first time," explains Rahmet, a Muslim background believer. "I started to weep when I saw how Jesus suffered for my sins. That's when I accepted Christ as my Savior. But my family was enraged when they found out. My father said I had to leave the house. I was only 15 and I had nowhere to go."

Pray for Christians who have been rejected by family and friends, that God would surround them with new Christian "family" who loves and supports them.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I would be remiss today if I didn't thank Chadwick Anderson for the invite to share with the Illinois Free Methodist conference in Greenville, IL. It was fun being with you, sharing from my heart about how we can work together to shape the heart of this generation of students. Thanks for the invite, the food, and the gracious gift.

Also, special thanks to the 17 or so of you from Greenville that "stuck it out" with me, up until the last minute to go cheer on your beloved Comets in the state quarterfinal football game. I told you several times during the day, I would have been strangely absent, tailgating with the rest of the town, and basking in what, for my money, can't be reproduced anywhere; the atmosphere created by a high school playoff game, in any sport.

I had a blast; hope we see each other again this side of heaven. My life is richer because I was able to spend time with you.
Today I mourn, again.

This was a tough weekend if you are an Ohio football fan; first with Ohio State going down, and then with my Brownies losing a heart-breaker at Pittsburgh. I'm not mourning that, though.

My church tries to keep before us the needs of the global church, and yesterday was another
one of those days when we were reminded of what the church faces, and to pray for the suffering, persecuted church all over the world. I will share those stories with you this week, in the hopes you will join me in prayer for them.

"North Korea is the top persecutor of Christians in the world. Between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are currently suffering in prison camps. The North Korean government considers Christianity to be a threat to stability, and hunts Christians all over the country. Many are arrested, tortured, and even killed. Pray that Korean Christians will remain strong in their faith and that God will change the hearts of government officials."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Today, I Mourn

Illinois 28
Ohio State 21

I personally don't care if we ever play a team again sporting the colors of Orange and Blue. Did they say "Juice" is only a sophomore? That's sick!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Today, I laugh.

I almost removed yesterday's blog before anyone could read it. I decided to leave it, because it represents what is happening. It's only as we own up to who we are, that we can live lives of confession with each other.

Today, I needed a good laugh, maybe you do too. I turned to the trusty Far Side comics, and because of copyright issues, I couldn't post a picture, so imagine this:

There are two medevil soldiers descending from a guard tower in a castle. They are carrying another wounded soldier on a stretcher, walking down the stairs. The wounded soldier is propping himself on one arm, with his pants pulled down to his ankles, exposing his wounded area, that happens to have 3-4 arrows sticking out of it. He is explaining his wound to the other two by saying:

"So I says to Simon, 'You know, we may be completely surrounded by the Saxons, but someone should at least give them a good mooning.'" (Thanks Gary Larsen)

Maybe a good mooning every now and again would do us all some good.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

For What?

I've not had the best of weeks. I have a friend that was released from his youth position in South Carolina, with two of the reasons being that he didn't turn in his receipts on time, and his board reports were late twice this year. This just happened last week, on one day, with no warning, not allowing him to say good-bye to the youth group or the youth staff, and he isn't allowed to worship there either. I'm sure there is more to this than that, but he's a good guy, and this is ridiculous.

I have another friend that is going into a meeting Saturday, to try and repair a severed relationship. It's dealing with some misunderstandings, questioning of not only his leadership, but his personal integrity, from those in leadership positions in the church. I'm praying for my friend this week. What is going on?

It's caused me to ask some questions about what the church is doing to itself. These attacks aren't coming from outside the church, they are coming from inside the church. Man, I feel like Rodney King in the 80's, when speaking of racial reconciliation said, "Can't we all just get along?" Well, can't we?

I teach a class of 150 freshman and sophomore students here, called Christian Formation. During one of the sessions, we talk about the church, and the statement of the early Fathers calling it, the "One Holy catholic church". We make a joke about whether that should read "many un-Holy divided churches". We joke, but I'm not. It isn't funny what's happening in the church today, and for what?

We don't argue much about theology, instead we argue about worship styles.

We don't argue much about sacramental rights, instead we argue about color of carpets.

We don't argue much about the wholistic salvation of all humanity, we just want out of here.

We don't argue much about social responsibility, we just aren't.

We don't argue much about . . . .Instead, we spend our energy tearing each other apart. We don't need enemies outside the church, we have enough inside the church to keep us busy, thank you very much.

In the mean time, children die, nations kill, creation groans, people smirk, the church suffers, yada, yada, yada. And for what?

My prayer for the church is that the church will be the church again; whatever that means, right?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Today I rest

May the Lord bless and keep you

The Lord make his face to shine upon you
And give you peace
The Lord lift his countenance upon you
And be gracious unto you
The Lord be gracious, gracious unto you.
(Aaronic Benediction)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

OSU 38

Wisconsin 17

10 and 0 with two to go!

I love this man! One more week, and then we can finally talk about "that team from north of the border", to quote Woody. Have we played anyone good yet?

Go Bucks!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Today, I rant.

Okay, today, I rant. Hope that's okay, but I'm tired of some things.

I'm tired of those who in the name of corporate holiness and fighting systemic evil, forget the other spheres they live in; those being of personal and social holiness. Where is the ethic in that?

I'm tired of those who, in the name of identifying with the poor, in their vow of so-called poverty, forget the chaste life that we are also called to and take on some of the same vices that the poor are victimized by. When we no longer live lives different than those we are trying to identify with, in order to understand them, what is left to call them to? (Not trying to sound legalistic, because I don't think I am, just trying to find somewhere to stand.)

I'm tired of those who have no perspective on life, criticizing what they don't understand. What does a 22-year-old know, really?

I'm tired, and running out of patience, with young "ministers" who while trying to instill change in the church, compromise their own integrity in the same church that they are called to serve. Licensing and ordination are not rights, they are privileges. Until we decide collectively to change, isn't it a compromise to your personal integrity if you choose to participate in what the church says not to? Is there no authority in the church anymore?

What does lie within us? What is our make-up? Who are we, anyway? Help me, because sometimes, I just don't know!

"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." (1 Cor. 4:2)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Alive or dead?

This is a picture of some of the spruce pines that are literally dying from the ground up on my brother-in-law's property "up north". There is no light that can get to the lower part of the trees, so the life is disappearing from the lower parts of his pine grove.

I was talking yesterday to some of my friends here at Olivet, about the hard work we do to maintain a level of community here with students. Living in community is not easy, because it calls for accountability, discipline, and balancing justice, mercy, and grace. The work of people of light. It's difficult, especially when you are holding students accountable. It's hard work. But it's good work.

I wonder what it would be like if the church did the same work the university did in trying to hold us accountable to the calling we have all received. There are corrective words that come from the pulpit, but what about from each other? How would the hard, yet corrective and loving word be received? How would discipline be accepted? Discipline and accountability are the hard work of the church, but work that seems to be rarely done anymore, and less accepted.

This work brings light, according to scripture. And to extend the metaphor, light brings life. Light exposes; but makes life possible at the same time.

Are we open to the corrective work of not just the Spirit, but hearing that come from a loving brother or sister? Maybe the reason our students struggle with discipline and correction here, is because it's the first time either of these have been offered. It is the work of true community.

If you look from the sky, the pines in this picture look alive and well, but underneath, as the picture shows, they are dying from a lack of light. The only way to fix it, is to clear-cut and prune. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?