Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No Idols Before Me

It's finally over. From the never-ending clips of hopeful auditionees to the last note of the fifth American Idol winner, this season has been one of the best ever. I truly believe this season had some of the best talent ever.

Tonight's episode was one not to be missed. All 12 finalists were back, along with so many guest artists...they just kept coming and coming!! I loved the musical montage segments as well as the individual solos. I had forgotten much about those who had left the show earlier, but it wasn't hard to recognize that they needed to go. There was a HUGE disparity of talent from those who were voted off earlier and the last few finalists. It was very evident tonight.

It was also very evident that Chris Daughtry was by far one of the best vocalists, and as many I have talked to agree, he probably should have won. But that simply wasn't the case. In the end, the bubbly, entertaining, fun-loving and "just-can't-help-but-like-him" Taylor Hicks stole the show. I can't think of a better role model for young and old alike.

So that wraps up another year of Idol. Even though the Bible tells us to have "no other idols," this year's "idols" captured my attention, if even for a short time. Now that this season is over, it's time to get back to the real "idol." Hmmm...I wonder what Simon Cowell would have to say about my "idol?"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bailing Water

Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.
Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.

You find yourself in a boat in the middle of a lake. The only thing with you is a metal pail. The small hole in the bottom of your boat continues to let water rush in. Not at a pace that will cause your boat to least not yet.

Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.

Your pail moves in and out of the boat. "I've got to keep going. No time to stop now. If I can only get through this pail of water," you exclaim. Time passes. You're still bailing water.

Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.
Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.

Sometime life feels like you're in a boat bailing water. Your boat might be your job, or your family, or your house, or a relationship, or even a combination of things. But you keep bailing water. You bail water to keep your boat afloat. There's no time to look outside the boat because that might distract you from the task at hand.

Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.

You've got some choices. You can keep bailing water, hoping the leak in your boat will miraculously stop. Or you might possibly decide to give up and let the water consume you; sinking down into the depths of the lake. Or perhaps there is another option.

Peter and several disciples find themselves in a boat and Jesus tells Peter to do something that is against human conditioning. Matthew 14:28-31, "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.

Life can sometimes feel like you're in a boat. There is another way. Jesus tells us that we must get out of the boat and follow Him. But we're too consumed with fear. We have to keep bailing water.

Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.

"You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" The human response is to doubt isn't it? You can only focus on the "tasks" at hand. If you look up you'll be distracted. But Jesus clearly tells us that we must step out of the boat. The only way to shore is by trusting Him and walking on the water.

Dip. Slosh. Fill. Lift. Empty.

But you keep going. Your boat keeps floating. You keep bailing. Life keeps on passing you by. Before long, you're too old to bail the water any longer and your boat begins to sink. But there's another choice. You can still step out of the boat.

Dip. Slosh...

Silence. For the first time, longer than you can remember, the peaceful sound of silence enters your ears. You can smell it. You sense it. You feel it. Faith. John 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." Sometimes you have to abandon what you know and trust in what you do not know. As God promises us in Jeremiah 29:11, "I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for."

What boat is keeping you captive today? Will you continue to focus on the "tasks" at hand, or look to a new life that God has promised, a future to hope for? If you step out of your boat, Jesus will stretch out his hand. It's time to walk on water. Faith is here. Faith is now. Faith is forever.

Thanks to my buddy Mac for the inspiration for this post.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Twister Part II

Have you ever walked into your house only to discover that Twister Part II had landed directly in the middle of your living room? (by the way, I love the movie Twister!) I don't know how it gets this way, because it certainly isn't me :) but those of you with kids will empathize. You can pick up the house, but in a few short hours it looks like a WWE Brawlfest - stuff exploding everywhere. The kitchen might even be worse, but we won't go there.

Okay. I have to admit it - I do laundry. I actually kind of enjoy doing laundry for some reason, but there are certain things about laundry that puzzle me:

* Why can't I ever find a match to each and every sock?
* Why does every pair of my wife's pants have one leg in and one leg out?
* Why do my daughters have twice as much laundry as everyone else?

...and perhaps the most challenging:

* How in the world do you fold a "nightgown?" I fold and I fold and I fold, but that thing never gets any smaller and it certainly doesn't fold up into a nice and tidy little bundle. Who invented those things anyway? Maybe I'll start "accidentally" misplacing them. But that's another story.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Coffee Cartel Meets Jesus

I know I have already given my take on the Da Vinci Code book by Dan Brown, but I read an interesting quote today by one of my favorite authors, Brian McLaren. Here's what he has to say about the upcoming movie:

We need to ask ourselves why the vision of Jesus hinted at in Dan Brown's book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to these people than the standard vision of Jesus they hear about in church. Why would so many people be disappointed to find that Brown's version of Jesus has been largely discredited as fanciful and inaccurate, leaving only the church's conventional version? Is it possible that, even though Brown's fictional version misleads in many ways, it at least serves to open up the possibility that the church's conventional version of Jesus may not do him justice?

While I don't necessarily agree with McLaren on many points, his thoughts on the general perception of Jesus may be right on target. I would hazard a guess that if you asked most people their thoughts on Jesus, most would talk about a guy who had long hair, wore a nice robe, and was a general all-around pretty swell guy. Conventional wisdom? You bet, if you accept those terms of wisdom.

I was in the Central West End in St. Louis the other night, and it was getting late, so I opted to drive a few blocks to a local and very popular coffee house known as the "Coffee Cartel." It was nearing 11pm, so I expected to find a handful of people at this 24 hour coffee capital. What I found however, was a beehive of activity numbering near 50! So many people sitting around tables conversing, surfing the wi-fi network, studying, or like me, waiting in line for their cup-o-joe.

So there I was, standing in this never-ending line, when a thought occured to me. What if Jesus were to come to the Coffee Cartel? I mean, wouldn't this be the perfect place for Him? In this small consortium of 50 or so were people from all walks of life: the student, the senior couple, the two gay lovers, the husband and wife. I could just imagine Jesus walking from table to table striking up a conversation, interjecting some thoughts, maybe teaching a quick lesson, or perhaps even taking a moment to share a story (insert your favorite parable here).

I don't know if you'll agree or not, but this certainly doesn't sound like a "conventional" picture of Jesus. And quite frankly, I don't think I would follow Him if it were any other way. The Jesus I know is a dangerous, authentic and most importantly, a loving God. If following Jesus means to radically throw out conventional wisdom, then just call me the fool.

I love what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:7, "God's wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don't find it lying around on the surface." (Msg) As we start a new series on the Da Vinci Code this weekend, I pray that many will begin to "scratch" the surface and begin a conversation. The mystery of Jesus is a wonderful journey just waiting to be uncovered. Coffee anyone?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Multi-Site Day 2

Day 2 is a wrap. An excellent day of information, affirmation and confirmation. I heard some very good stuff today that will put me in contact with some folks who can help us with some ideas and brainstorming. The music was much better today as well, but still some Powerpoint issues. The band was solid, and the vocalists were really phenom, especially the last girl that led - she had an awesome voice.

It was also a day of affirmation that we are on the right track with our visions and dreams. And finally it was a day of confirmation that God has given the green light on some upcoming projects. It will not be an easy stretch by any means, but I feel very confident that we have been chosen to carry out God's plans...even if we don't know exactly what that might look like yet. I love what Dave Ferguson had to say today (although he said it a few too many times!!). He said that "God Speaks. We step." Today we took that first step on God's journey for Meadow Heights. I can't help but think of Robert Frost and "The Road Not Taken." The road may not have been traveled yet, but our steps can begin to uncover the path towards the next junction in the road. Remember that life is not just a destination, but a journey to be enjoyed and experienced.

It's time for a bit of dinner, dessert, and maybe some discussion and downtime. Tomorrow our flights back into St. Louis, and I hope this time things are much smoother!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Multi-Site Conference Day 1

The first day of the multi-site conference is in the books. The day began at 2pm with the main session - a little music up front (the band was decent...a good lead singer, but the presentation was not great - especially the PPT operator!), then a panel of leaders in the multi-site field. An attempt at some "late night" humor fell quite short, but overall the main session was enjoyable.

Then on to the breakout sessions. Each of us went to a different session. Mine was on starting a campus in a distant location and was actually very interesting. Not a lot of new info, but a lot of specifics (especially monetary figures) that I had not had opportunity to gather.

So, Day 1 was a good day, but mostly global information. I hope tomorrow brings some additional info and some new insights as to where God is leading us in the very near future. Another update tomorrow!

Oh yeah. We ate dinner at a "smokehouse," and while the atmosphere was pretty cool, the food was just average. After our meal, we were craving a bit of the sweet stuff (that's not quite like me now is it? :), so we walked part of the historic downtown area to a dessert and coffee shop. First of all, historic Charleston is a very cool place to visit. It reminds me a great deal of New Orleans - older architecture, down south hospitality, and of course, great food. I had a latte and piece of "Tollhouse Cookie Pie." I am still reeling in the effects of so much food after many weeks of being "good" on a healthy diet. So much for keeping it safe on this trip!!

For now, a bit of the ole' "shut eye" as we prepare for Day 2 of the Multi-Site Revolution!

A Different Flight Plan

WOW!! What a day of traveling!! We've finally arrived here in South Carolina at the Seacost Multi-Site practicum - BUT...only after much discussion and praying. We arrived at the airport early, or so we thought. As I tried to check in, I was told every so kindly by the attendant that our flight had stopped boarding and we would not be able to go down to the gate. It turns out that they had changed our flight time from 7am to 6am!! Our travel agent had not updated us, and I had not called to double check the flight. Does anyone really confirm times??

We were able to get "standby" passes to a later flight and waited our turn to see if any seats would open up on an already "overbooked" flight. Once everyone had boarded, the attendant informed us that two out of the four of us could go on the flight. After some quick discussion, Bryan and Mac jumped on the flight while Jeremiah and I waited behind. It was the only flight that would get us to our connecting flight in time.

As Jeremiah and I were talking about how we could possibly find another flight, the plane got ready to depart. The stewardess called Jeremiah and I over to the table, and much to my suprise asked if we wanted to "squeeze in" to this flight. As we began to go through the door, I heard the attendant talking to a fellow who had just walked up. He said they finally made it and that his two buddies were right behind him. The attendant said a few words and then I heard her ask him if he was getting on the plane because she was closing the doors. His buddies were not quite to the gate yet, so he said he couldn't board without them. She then told him it was too late and shut the door on him just as our backsides were heading down the ramp. Talk about God intervening and saving the day!!

Not only did we hop on a flight at the last minute, but we arrived to our connecting flight 30 minutes early, and have finally arrived at our conference in plenty of time to register and enjoy the day. I'll update more later as the day progresses!!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Embrace Beauty - Live Life to the Fullest

I heard a podcast today that referenced the passing of pastor Kyle Lake who was tragically killed in an accident less than a year ago. The podcast talked about the last message he was writing and then they read part of it. I didn't just hear those words...I listened. I searched and found his message and thought I would share it. May these words echo in your soul.

"Live. And Live Well. BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now. On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.

If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE. Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.

If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash, then crash well.

Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed. If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.

If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well. At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Even Spiders Lose Their Way

Addiction. One word with huge implications.

Addiction. Life out of balance; beyond equilibrium.

Addiction. Control without controls.

I have always been what I have termed a "life-long learner." And therein lies the challenge. How to create the balance, the equilibrium, the control without sacrificing the value. It's amazing how much information is so readily available today. The internet has made gathering this information so easy. The challenge is not in gathering the information, but in discerning what is truth and what is not. Knowledge and discernment really go hand in hand - truth cannot be established without the presence of both.

And thus the challenge. I love learning. I love knowledge. I love the internet. Where else can an information "addict" get a fix worthy of the greatest Kings? I now have DSL in my home and for the past few days, I have not been able to think about much else. I don't want to cast the wrong idea - I use the internet in postive and constructive ways. It's just that once you find a certain piece of information, there are dozens of additional pieces available the moment you discover the first.

Some commonly refer to the internet as the world wide "web." Think about that for a moment. A web can be a networking opportunity that reaches far beyond one's own capacity. Or, a web can be a snare, an entrapment just waiting for its next victim. The internet fits both roles so perfectly. The never-ending quest for all information. With Web 2.0 now debuting, this quest will continue to spread in ways we have yet to imagine.

Can you imagine a world that is always connected? It's here, and it's now. Forget Chaos theory. The internet has provided a means for instantaneous connectivity. Any thing, any time, any where.

I wonder if God is like the internet. Always connected, always knowing. God is just one click away at all times. I like that thought. I mean, so many people are searching for the truth, when it's been right there the whole time. One click away.

So I close this post knowing that there is still information out there that I haven't discovered. And I'm okay with that. Balance. Equilibrium. God. Who needs more information when you already have the Truth?