Saturday, December 30, 2006
As I reflect on Christmas '06, I realize I haven't put out a new edition of WHADJA GIT? . So here is a rundown of some of the cool stuff I got from Santa this year (and before you write me, yes, I know the truth about Santa (sigh--don't dump cold water on my fun!)) :
*Socks (standard requirement)
*Black leather jacket (my wife really likes it)
*New coffee maker (with pause and serve, programmable timer, and built-in clock)
*A subscription to a theological journal (I looked at the table of contents--yippee skippee, it's got big words! wiping away a tear of joy).
*DVD's: Cars and X-Men 3 (told you I had diverse tastes)
*Chocolate covered peanut brittle
*Mug and coffee pack from Hawaii (thanks you, sis-in-law)
*2 Tom Clancey-authorized novels
*Why the Manger? by the Thoenes
*Cordless drill from Black and Decker (no more excuses)
I also got assorted goodies in my stocking, as well as various candies and chocolates from kids at our DayCare. And at our employee dinner gift exchange, I got a t-shirt with a picture of the comic book Avengers from the early 60's (looks like about issue 2 or maybe 3).
Of course, the best gift was having my family together...my wife, mother-in-law, and all three kids. I even got to talk to my sister in Colorado the night before....she was bragging about not having gotten much snow in what has been termed the "Blizzard of '06". Little did she know that "Blizzard 2: the Revenge" was set to premiere. Don't know how much snow she's gotten lately, but I don't think they escaped this time.
Okay, I told you what I got. Now I want to hear what you got. Until then, have a happy New Year everyone!
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
But our God is the God of the five percent! Our Children's Ministries secretary shared this humorous insight from a movie. One of the characters asks a girl if there was any chance they could get together. She dismisses him by saying, "one in a million." The character gets a bright look on his face and exults, "So you're saying there's a chance!"
One in a million is still a chance.
Five loaves and two fishes are still enough.
A little mud for the eye is still effective.
Even if "silver and gold have you none, such as you have you can still give."
And five percent.....wow...it's more than enough for God to work.
Zeb was released from the hospital and arrived home before Christmas Eve. He is doing incredibly well in managing his pain. The doctors and nurses were amazed at how rapidly he healed. What an amazing Christmas blessing.
Keep Zeb and his family in your prayers. The little guy still has some recovery ahead. His family faces some extra financial burdens from all this. But our awesome God is still the God of the five percent! Merry Christmas ( a day late).
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Dashing through the malls
With a maxed out credit card
Oe'er the sales we go
Breathing really hard
Or something like that. On this, the next-to-last Saturday before Christmas, my wife and I decided to do some last minute Christmas shopping. Actually, before you think this was a joint decision based on careful discussion, let me set the record straight. I like to go to the mall in December. I don't like to go the last couple of days before Christmas, but before then it's not too bad. I love the decorations, the music, the energy, and the excitment. My wife doesn't quite share my fascination with the mall in December, but she comes with me and ends up enjoying herself after all.
So why do I have this near compulsion to brave the traffic and the crowds during this season of dollars off sales and holiday savings galore? Well, it goes back to my birthdays growing up. I was a new year's eve baby, but I rarely had a full-blown birthday party. My parents would do their best to get me a cake and a present or two, but I never had the classic birthday bash (I was amazed to discover later that we were actually poor--all those years growing up, I had no idea!). Well, anyway, when people would ask me later if I had a birthday party, I would grin and say that a lot of folks had parties...there were parties all over the country on my birthday!
Of course, none of the revelers around the nation on New Year's Eve knew me. They didn't know I had been born and that I was alive. They were celebrating, but they didn't know who or what they were celebrating.
I'm joking, of course, but consider this: stores, malls, shopping centers, and retail establishments pull out the decorations, the lights, the pageantry, the celebratory frills, and the fun every year. It's as if they are in full scale party mode. Folks around the neighborhood decorate their homes in festive colors and twinkling lights, as if they were throwing a big birthday party. The only problem is, they don't know Whose party it is! They don't know Who they are celebrating.
The apostle Paul visited a pagan culture and commented on all their idols, then used their statue to the "Unknown God" as an opportunity to tell them about the one true God. In that spirit, I just want to stand on the balcony of the mall and shout (like the little girl in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) "HEY, UNTO YOU A CHILD IS BORN!!!"
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I'm not naive. I am keenly aware that we live in a fallen universe. I know that bad things happen to people. Given that, I have a very sharp sensitivity to kids getting hurt. Eons ago, I briefly worked with a county social service department as part of a grant. Given the choice to work in the adult unit or the child protective division, I quickly chose the adult unit. Why? Because either breaking down and weeping uncontrollably at the plight of an abused child or pummeling the abuser to within an inch of his life are both considered bad form in the social service biz. Even fictional shows that have realistic depictions of kids in danger upset me.
But God has also brought people and situations into my life to temper my emotion with the only effective cure for such emotions: casting all my cares upon Him, for He cares for me! I think of a lovely young lady in our church that I've known since she was a little girl. I learned from her mom that, when she was an infant, she had open heart surgery! Open heart surgery! Since that time, the family celebrates two birthdays for this girl. She is part of our Krew of teen helpers in our Sunday morning program.
Not that every situation is a happy one. Earlier this year, I attended two memorial services for a boy whose family was active in our church at one time. We had lost contact with the family after they moved to a nearby city. The boy was a victim of the murder-suicide of his dad. These things aren't supposed to happen. Not too far from here, a California man perished in the mountains while trying to find help for his stranded family. I think of the kids and their thoughts this December. I grieve, but I also learn.
Which brings me to the little guy in the snowmobile accident. For those who have wondered, his name is Zeb. He has the kind of smile that brings sunshine to a cloudy room. His injuries were critical and the initial assesements were not good. These things are not supposed to happen. But they do. And as trite as it sometimes must sound to some on the outside, all we could do was pray. So we prayed. In fact, a lot of people prayed. A lot.
The breathing tubes have been removed from Zeb. He is communicating. He may possibly be out of ICU by the weekend. One of the doctors remarked that someone bigger than him was watching over Zeb in surgery! Indeed! On the patient web site, there is a pic of Zeb, flashing a thumbs up and smiling that incredible smile.
There's a long way to go yet. I would ask that you continue to pray for Zeb and his parents, not only for the continued physical healing of Zeb's body, but for the parents whose stress levels are no doubt at an all time high, and for the more temporal matters of added medical expenses and just trying to find a way to have some semblance of a Christmas.
No, I'm not naive. But it's nice to have a genuine Christmas miracle ever so often!
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Tonight's final installment: "Angels, Why This Jam-boree?"
Tonight was the annual Children's Ministries Christmas Program. Actually, in theory, it takes in all of the Christian Education departments (teens, adults, and children). When the teens participate, we can usually count on something rousing and unsusual. Tonight was no exception. Coming on the stage to "We Like to Move It" from the movie Madagascar, the combined Middle School (6th-8th grade) and High School youth groups moved swiftly to an air-guitar rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas" by Reliant K. This was followed by Feliz Navidad from the "Veggie Tales Christmas" CD.
The adults didn't have a portion, so we recruited 9 of them from the audience to hold the letters in "CHRISTMAS" while we read what each letter stood for (got that one from Kidology!).
And then came the moment we've been waiting for: the Christmas Pageant! Let me say at the outset that I love kids acting out the Nativity story. I love the bathtowels on the shepherds heads and the stilted dialogue and the missed cues. There's a charm to an old fashioned children's Christmas pageant that cannot be equaled by any sophisticated production. Besides, any problems or difficulties we faced could easily have been solved if we had started rehearsals just a little earlier.
All began well. But somehow, someway, our angels didn't want to leave the stage after appearing to the shepherds. They stood there smiling in their beautiful silver and white splendor and didn't leave, in spite of the frantic waves and stage whispers of me and the other teachers. The narrator, not aware that the action on the stage had come to a complete halt, kept reading the passage. The shepherds, who had to go with haste to see the Baby, got caught in an angelic traffic jam.
Eventually, everyone got to where they were supposed to be. And the moms and dads loved every minute. So did I. After the program, I turned to one of our other leaders. He and I shared a shell-shocked look for a second, then burst into laughter!
I wouldn't want a "Week" every season. But aside from some self-evaluation, it's good to know that there are no more programs to produce, costumes to try on, or parts to cast. It's time to relax and celebrate Christmas!
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Our event on Saturday night is a very special one for our church and community. It is the "Live Nativity Procession," and it has the distinction of being a church presentation presented on behalf of a secular, civic organization. The Community Association is a citizen committee that works to promote the image and well-being of the city. During the 4th of July, the Association runs the parade and fireworks display. They organize many patriotic events.
And in December, they run a series of events collectively known as "Christmas Around Town." There are downtown carol sings, where the giant pine tree is lit up. There's a house decorating contest and the obligatory visit from Santa on a fire truck. And then there is the Live Nativity. At its most basic, the Community Association asks the city's church's to recreate the Nativity. Usually, one church takes the lead, with other churches participating (although the reality is that one church generally takes on most of the program). For the past four years, our church has been asked to stage and host the program.
The action begins at the little park on Main Street with the angelic announcement to Mary, then Joseph. The couple (along with a live donkey) then proceeds up the street, where the audience then sees the dramatic appearance of the angel to the shepherds. Across the covered bridge and to the Grange building, the spectators can see King Herod send the Wise Men on their way.
And then, in the front parking lot, the manger scene is recreated. No, the costumes are not Hollywood issue. And is that an angel on a.....ladder? But it's special...almost like a living Christmas card (we even have lowing cattle!)
Tonight (Saturday) was great! After days and nights of bitterly cold temperatures, an approaching front brought the temps up to a comfortable 55. There was a 60 percent chance of rain, but it didn't arrive until an hour or two after the procession! We had plenty of cast, plenty of helpers, better sound (no more strained vocal chords for the narrator). Live Nativity 06 was such an incredible blessing. Once again, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as I saw Mary and Joseph. My week has been full of personal crises that have tended to distract from the events of "The Week" (and one day, when I feel peace about sharing, I'll let you in on what's been going on. In the meantime, I covet your prayers). But as I saw Mary and Joseph, the Baby, the Shepherds and Wise Men, and the Angels, I once again felt the familiar catch in my throat as we quietly sang "Silent Night."
Two events down, one to go. Join us next entry for "The Week", episode III.
Like most mid-size churches, a great deal of work is done by a small number of volunteers. When it comes to Christmas time, there is always extra to do in the form of special programs and events. So in an inspired piece of insanity, we decided that, rather than string out our special programs throughout December (thus, always having them in front of us!), we would schedule everthing for more or less the same week.
Okay, our hearts are in the right place. And it really does help to get all the prep, all the stress, and all the special costuming done at the front part of the month. But wow.....every year this happens, we find ourselves asking the timeless question that has plagued philosophers for centuries: "What? Are you nuts?"
Assuming that the answer to the above question is not neccesarily a deal breaker and you will continue reading, we present episode 1 of "The Week" with a little number I like to call "Do You See What I E-P-C-B-C-D-C?"
3's and 4's play for the Lord while proclaiming Jesus' love.
For the past eleven years, our church has operated a Christian child care center and preschool. A few of our KidServants (Children's Ministry volunteers) also are employed at the DayCare, including yours truly. I teach a 4 year old class part time. And every year, we put on a Christmas program for the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, etc. There is always last minute prep. I usually prepare a devotion and a video retrospect (using tried and true amateur technology: two vcrs and my camera!), plus emcee the event. The rest of the teachers get the kids into full program mode worthy of a Marine drill instructor.
Thursday was the big day. It reminds me a lot of the show Trading Spaces, where the designers and carpenters are frantically trying to put the finishing touches on before the deadlines. In our case, it was ears, tales, angel wings, and so on. But in the end, the show went on...and the kids were great...and the gospel was proclaimed...and the Lord was glorified!
Note to all program directors: you absolutely cannot go wrong with the nursery department dressed up like angels!
The after school kids performed The Mouse's Tale.
One event down. Two more to come....one on Saturday, one on Sunday. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Oh yeah...necessity is the mother of invention, laziness is the father! The last time we designed our stage, we played up our ministry theme of "Building His Kingdom, Reaching His Kids." One of our KidServants (who also happens to be an elder) works for a local contractor. I asked for street and road construction signs. He came through. Before long, we had the stage decked out:
It was good, it was colorful, it was fun. But since our children's ministry takes place in our fellowship hall, everything has to be moved whenever there is a special event. Thus it came to pass in the fullness of time (usually on Friday afternoons), that I had to "strike set"...a process that took over an hour. And then, on Saturday night, the stage had to be reassembled. I was glad to do it, but I kept thinking, "when we get to the point when we want to refurbish the stage, let's go for simple."
Well, the time came. Our ministry theme is the same, but we opted for a less cluttered appearance. One of our first tasks was to clear out everything...a task that made the stage even more cluttered.
Before finishing the stage, we wanted to do a couple of things in the room itself. We don't have a picture of it, but we moved a set of red, blue, and yellow blocks (previously props on the stage) to the floor as reading benches near our bookrack. We set up a table on the floor to put one of our games--after covering it with a colorful table cloth purchased from the dollar store.
We wanted some smaller, kid-sized tables. Our contractor brother came through again with three black cable spools. On the church work day, we put some teens to work with spray paint:
Then our friend glued a clear solid plastic sheet over one end to make the surface flat. The result: three cool looking kid station tables:
During the church work day, the men were going to toss out a table that had been used as a counter in our day care center. It had a beautiful top and it seemed like a shame to throw it out. So I claimed it. A fresh coat of paint, a foam board sign with cardboard letters purchased from a school supply store, and ta-daaa: our new check-in table:
As for the stage, we got rid of most everything. One of our former high school students, who happened to be active in set design, made some lightweight, portable backdrops that we can move, paint, re-paint, turn-around, whatever we have need of. Our plans called for dark curtains on either side of the stage (front to back). A very talented seamstress in our church made the curtains at a fraction of what it would cost us to special order them. The transformation was startling:
No, we're not really done. As long as good people have ideas, we will keep adjusting and changing and upgrading. We're wanting to integrate our sound system and computer system. There's talk of getting a projector system and mounting a screen.
But in the end, these kids and their friends is what its about...building His kingdom, reaching His kids!
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Whiskey Springs has no whiskey. Apparently, the old miners enjoyed naming the various streams in the area after alchoholic beverages.
What Whiskey Springs does have is a very pleasant 1 mile trail that loops around the campground and back.
Interpretive signs explain some of the sights
This picture does not do justice to the gorgeous fall colors of the trees and bushes. Nor can it capture the sound of the brooks and streams that crisscross along the trail. Since it was October, there weren't a lot of campers and picnickers, so it was relatively quiet.
The other neat thing about Whiskey Springs is its natural habitat for beavers. An observation deck along the trail overlooks the beaver pond. Since beavers are nocturnal animals, there's not a lot to see in the middle of the day. But I've been camping at Whiskey Springs in years past and have ventured forth on a cool, foggy dawn and saw the little critters swimming around and diving under what looks like debris (but what is, in actuality, their home).
Overall, a very nice day.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I refer, of course, to the Snickers candy bar.
I cannot imagine the incredible insight and veritable fount of wisdom that produced such a perfect blend of peanuts, caramel, and chocolate. Sure it was named after a horse some 75 years ago. But from such humble beginnings, Snickers has become one of the best selling candy bars in the world.
Now as a general rule, I'm not really into sweet snacks. I'm more of a "salty, crunchy" kind of guy. Yes, I'll have a donut once in a great while. And I have eaten my share of candy bars and treats other than Snickers. So no, I am not "addicted" to Snickers.
But, oh my.....
Snickers and a cup of hot coffee will pick me up in the mid-afternoon. On days when I know I'll be skipping lunch, a Snickers bar provides a great substitute. And nutrition? Okay...okay...it's a candy bar, so nutrition is not the issue. But it's got peanuts for protein and skim milk. Hey...protein and skim milk are not bad, right? And in the midst of a busy afternoon of studying, lesson prep, and research, it's nice to lean back in the chair or take a leisurely walk outside and unwrap a Snickers bar, feeling the familiar sweet tingle of the chocolate and caramel and the light resistance of the firmly embedded peanuts as my teeth clamp down upon them. Ahhhhhhh....
Snickers has a new ad campaign with a strumming singer extolling the virtues of Snickers. It practically sums up the experience. To see it, and to learn more information about Snickers, you can visit www.snickers.com. Meanwhile, enjoy.
(next snack food installment (if there is a next one) will be about Cornnuts!)
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
As I was reflecting on Steve Irwin's impact, I remembered that I had often used the "Crocodile Hunter" as an illustration of qualities we look for in children's ministers. See if these thing aren't at least a little true.
1. The "Crocodile Hunter" was passionate about his mission. Wherever he went, he threw his own self into teaching and begging and persuading folks to care about all animals. As a children's worker, I need to be passionate about what I do...with every fiber of my being.
2. The "Crocodile Hunter" was realistic about the dangers, but dove in anyway! Many times, Mr. Irwin would talk about how a particular snake was the deadliest of them all, with twelve inch fangs that could pierce a concrete block and a body that could crush a sumo wrestler. Getting near this snake was full of danger...danger...danger. And then, with an impish grin, he said, "I can hardly wait!"
Let's face it, children's ministry is not that dangerous. But there are challenges that many sophisticated adults don't want to undertake. Kids can be loud, messy, uncouth, and uninhibited. So let's jump in, shall we?
3. The "Crocodile Hunter" immersed himself in the environment of the animals. He got down on his belly. He climbed up in the tree. He moved like an animal. He could have commented on the animal world like an outside expert. Instead, he got in there and related to the creatures he dealt with.
As a children's worker, I can't afford to stand off disconected to the kids I work with. I need to relate to them. I need to listen to their music and understand their tv shows and immerse myself in their culture.
4. The "Crocodile Hunter" was in control and had an aim. Although it seemed at times that Steve Irwin had a careless disregard for his own safety, he was always keenly aware that he was the human with the strategy to rescue the animal in question. Every movement, every action was a result of planning and experience.
As much as I immerse myself in the culture of the children, I need to always be aware that I am the grownup. The love of Christ compels me to reach these kids with the gospel. So what I do "kid wise", I do with the aim of eternity.
5. The "Crocodile Hunter" had a support network. While we most often saw his wife Terri, other programs revealed a group of co-workers who shared Steve's passion and enthusiasm and who were ready to jump in at a moment's notice to help carry out the mission.
There is no underestimating the importance of a network of support. Obviously, one's family is on the front lines. But co-laborers, fellow servants who can help bear burdens and step in as needed, are invaluable.
6. The "Crocodile Hunter" had enthusiastic fun. There was no question that Steve Irwin enjoyed what he did. It wasn't a chore, he didn't get stuck with it.
Am I serving because its my turn? Am I counting the minutes before the final illustration, hoping the senior pastor doesn't go over time? Or am I having a blast, with as much fun and enthusiasm as the kids?
There are probably more comparisons, but I think you get the point. Children's ministry is perhaps the highest calling a servant can have. It's full of joy, but it's not for the timid. Let's make an effort by God's grace to have some "Crocodile Hunter" qualities.
I can hardly wait!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Yup...summers in Colorado, trekking each year at the urging of a friend or two to come to Vacation Bible School at a church or two or three. I vaguely remember refreshments. I remember breaks to play games. I remember singing simple songs with the piano. It was fun and simple. I got saved at one of these VBS...I spent all week reading and re-reading the gospel tracts they sent home with us, until Wednesday or Thursday night I got down on my knees in front of my closet and trusted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
Things didn't change much when, as a high school student, our children's director asked me to take the 5th grade boys group for VBS. I don't remember much, but I do remember the simplicity of it all. It was also my first taste of children's ministry.
If I had instantaneously "quantum leaped" into the future, surely my reaction would have been "wow!" Of course, I would have missed the intervening years of cultural changes. I would have not been aware of the growing movement to relate to children as children. I would not have known how seriously publishing companies and children's resource networks were taking the business of capturing the culture, engaging the kids, and adopting the methodology of now without changing the timeless message.
But there were intervening years and I did get to see the changes. Those who insist on doing children's ministries using the same methods of 50 years ago have (in my humble opinion) underestimated what has been happening in our society. The needs of the children are the same, but their backgrounds, environments, and priorities have been radically altered. The kids I hung out with as a boy would have been "shell-shocked" by the VBS our church just finished. But even the most loyal, church going kids of today would be bored silly with the VBS of my childhood.
But now, as then, children's ministries has an impact. Kids are still getting saved in VBS, just as I was. And our teens jumped right in to help this year, perhaps planting a seed in their lives to enter future ministry. God bless VBS.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
(If you want a detailed description of Independence Day in our small town, you can read my comments from last year . )
I guess the best part of the 4th of July is the parade and vendors. Main Street is blocked off early in the morning for the annual "Fun Run". Floats, bands, and other parade entries line up in the high school parking lot for judging. Vendor booths line both sides of the street, with clubs, civic organizations, churches, and businesses selling everything from artwork to hot dogs.
The old and the new come together with vintage fire trucks and more modern equipment
Monday, May 29, 2006
Our church holds a family camp on the Oregon coast during Memorial weekend. About 60 to 80 percent of the congregation is gone on Memorial Sunday. And it is on that day that I once again pull out my "preacher hat" and bring the message.
Of course, our praise and worship team is also gone. And our sound and video technicians are gone. The entire "flavor" of the service changes on Memorial Sunday. Instead of the wonderful blend of contemporary and traditional music, we pull out our hymn books and sing the so-called "old hymns" (a phrase I don't like, since these songs are just as relevant and moving today). Instead of the fantastically talented praise team and their guitars, drums, electric keyboards, and perfectly blended voices, we have the pianist and organist. And instead of a well planned, cohesive, theme-related structure, we have our handful of congregants and first time visitors yell out the number of their favorite hymns. It's all very casual, very simple, and very blessed. It's a reminder of a time when we didn't have power point song lyrics, electronic music, and wireless microphone headsets.
Before he left for the coast, our music director reminded me of the song, "The Heart of Worship." He was trying to encourage me that all the "stuff" isn't what worship is about. It's really all about Jesus!
I knew that...at least on an intellectual level.
If there were any awkward moments, it was in trying to plug in the little portable tape recorder. At first, I had to move the pulpit to the side of the stage closest to the plug in. But there was no power. Then somebody pointed out that there was a free extension cord plugged into the power strip behind where the praise band usually stands. I hopped up on the stage, grabbed the cord, plugged the tape player in, and....no power! It was then that somebody said they thought they had re-wired the stage so that the power was now centrally controlled from the sound closet (the keys of which were with the sound tech...on the Oregon coast!). Somebody then suggested another plug in on the other side of the stage. I hopped back on the stage, unplugged the extension cord, went to the other side (almost tangling my legs in the cord...now wouldn't that have been a fun picture to have me crashing into the front pew!). I plugged it in and....success! Power flowed to the tape recorder and I was set for the message: an exposition of 2 Timothy 3:13-17, including an analysis and refutation of The DaVinci Code. And just as quickly as it began, it was over.
As I put the portable tape recorder back in the media center and made sure all the doors were locked, I thought back again to the heart of worship. We didn't have the "stuff", but everyone had a Bible. We didn't have a full praise band, but we had musical instruments and our voices. We didn't have power point graphics, but I had printed outline for everyone. And afterwards, a couple of folks asked for copies of the tape to share with unbelieving spouses and skeptical co-workers.
Next week, I'm back with the kids of Celebration. Everything will be back to whatever passes for "normal" here. And I will speak with the song leader about what I learned about the "heart of worship."
And next time, can I have an extension cord and live power source?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Not boring, but...well, routine. While there are challenges aplenty throughout the whole day, my morning is pretty much scheduled until lunch.
So imagine my surprise when I arrived in the back parking lot at 6:15 a.m. to find this:
The back lawn of our church borders another property with a lawn, creating an area we refer to as the "park". There are massive, old growth trees in the park. Last night, one of the massive branches decided it had had enough and came crashing down on the fence by the parking lot!As the above pic and the next show, the branch is about the size of a tree itself. During the summer, cars have been known to park against the fence to take advantage of the shade. Good thing this happened in the middle of the night!
Well, we've always wanted to branch out and mend fences with our neighbors. This was the perfect opportunity.
By days' end, the branch had been removed from the tree, leaving behind a bent fence as silent testimony of the awesome power of nature in its full, unrestrained....oh, never mind...it was a cool start to another routine day!
Friday, April 21, 2006
Meet the famous Rozie the Riveter!
Each choir member must dress in period costume plus design and decorate a table.
The Rozie the Riveter table (notice the factory as the "centerpiece").
The sillouette in front of the choir (a little to the left) is Terri Steinhorst. Combining a love of music, love of students, technical precision, and the work ethic of a Marine drill instructor, Mrs. Steinhorst never fails to amaze us with her work in the school.
It's always a joy to share the evening with friends from our church.
Ken and Jean are KidServants who work in our church's Bible Story Time ministry. They also attend the adult class I teach as well as maintain a devoted and active prayer ministry.
Lorna and Tracy, who serve the Lord in Awana and Bible Story Time, as well as other avenues of our congregation (Tracy is also one of our deacons). Their son was also in the choir...dressed as a 30's gangster!
One of our elders, Dan, also came tonight. And sitting next to us (or behind us, depending on your point-of-view) was Paul & Lynette and family.
So there you have it....Dinner Theater 2006. If you are a local, I hear there are still a few tickets available for the matinee on Sunday afternoon...get 'em while their available. And thank you to the high school choir for a wonderful evening.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
My oldest daughter just called...she's safe and sound after driving back to school following a whirlwind weekend at home for the holiday. She's got finals and then home for the summer. This just topped off a very pleasant day. Easter....a time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus! Our church holds two indentical worship services on Easter (no Sunday School hour), so I had the privilege of doing our Large Group Celebration (aka Children's Church) twice. Let me tell you...no one celebrates like kids!
Some adults however....
I love apologetics...the systematic defense of the Christian faith. I love study and theology and all of that. And I love a good debate! I guess that's why I'm in the position of getting to teach children one moment and adults the next. But there are days in which I get tired of hearing the doctrinal "axes" that some people have. It's almost as if I'm all prepared to rejoice and have fun and get excited about the fact that Jesus is alive, and some pseudo-intellectual wants to rain on my proverbial parade.
I won't let them!
Yes, I know that Easter was originally a pagan holiday. So was Christmas. But through the centuries, Christians have turned them around so that we are celebrating something good, something true. So what....are we supposed to abandon the observance of something right because pagans once used it to practice wrong? That doesn't make sense to me.
In the last month, I've had no less than three articles come to my attention about whether Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday or a Friday. I will not bore you with my own insightful analysis or conclusions about this issue. All I will say at this point is that two of the articles make this a condition for saving faith and go as far as to say that if you do not believe in a Wednesday crucifixtion, then you are calling God a liar, have denied the faith, and are worse than an infidel.
Please....PLEASE repeat after me:
HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
I didn't intend to blog about this particular subject tonight. But on the television right now as I type are four experts on religion trying to demonstrate that the Jesus of the Bible is a myth and that there was no resurrection. Line them up...I'm ready! But to the brethren, the ones who believe that Jesus came alive after being killed and buried in a tomb, I say, Let's take a moment, set aside our charts, and celebrate the resurrection together! We can dialogue on the rest later. For now...
HE IS RISEN...ALLELUIA!
Monday, April 03, 2006
Our church, however, had an already full schedule in December. So we sat out the motion picture premiere and patiently waited for the DVD release. Well, Tuesday brings the long-awaited video to homes and so we did a little Narnia decorating on Sunday for the kids. Our environment was not a special-effects wonder, but it had heart and it got the kids talking.
This is Dan, one of our faithful KidServants (and an elder at our church). He and I spent the better part of Saturday night getting set up. He built the "wardrobe" in the hallway to the fellowship hall (where we have our Sunday Morning Celebration).
The lamp was funny. At first I tried a black trash bucket with a yellow flame thingy on the side. Stick it up on the pole and viola! We had what looked like a black trash bucket on a pole. Then I tried to make a box out of black construction paper, complete with a panel cut out for the "flame." But it was too flimsy to sit up on the pole straight. So I decided the easiest, most effective route was a simple cut out. The result looked far better than my previous efforts (and before you ask: no, we did not try to get a volunteer to donate a real Victorian lamp).
When Sunday morning came, we welcomed the kids to Narnia! There was quite a buzz from the children and their parents about the decorations.
When the kids walked through the "wardrobe", we could hear them say, "wow...this is just like Narnia!"
Last week at Celebration, we began our "Countdown to Easter". Part of the countdown is a special four part "Playtime Parable" (for an explanation of this toy and video teaching tool, see my post here.). The series is called "Dorothy's Fantastic Voyages". Part one was last week and hooked up the characters from the Wizard of Oz with a wise man who showed them that wisdom, power, and love come from God. In the end, Dorothy returns home and decides to play hide and seek...in the big wardrobe in her room (I think you see what's happening here!). Part two, which was Sunday, was Dorothy in Narnia (yes, it fits, but don't ask for a detailed explanation right now). Parts three and four will fall on Palm Sunday and Easter and promise more surprises.
I love children's ministries!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
I happen to live in a pretty neat community in southern Oregon. You can visit Eagle Point online at www.cityofeaglepoint.com.
But my other "home" is in the state of Colorado. I was born in Pueblo (for those who don't know, this is where the Consumer Information Catalog is located (www.pueblo.gsa.gov). The Colorado State Fair is located in Pueblo (this was actually a Jeopardy question!). I had the opportunity to pastor a small church in the city for a short time. All three of my children were born in Pueblo, so it's a sentimental location.
But the place I really consider home is Florence, Colorado. This is where I spent my formative years. This is where I graduated. This is where I returned for a time in the mid-80's. Florence has never been a big city. People ask me where I am from and I tell them "Florence" and they look at me with blank stares, followed by "is that anywhere near Denver?" (nope).
Or at least they used to have that response. A few years ago, the newest, most technologically advanced maximum security federal prison was built on the outskirts of Florence. Some of the most notorious ne'er-do-wells in the United States end up at "Super Max." Of course, it took a little while for the national media to find it. At first it was like, "Lex Luthor will be housed at Super Max Prison, located 150 miles south of Denver." Then they got a little closer: "Otto Octavious will serve his sentence at the Super Max Facility west of Pueblo" (about 30 miles west!). Well, now the media actually uses the word "Florence", making it sound as if Super Max is its only claim to fame. Not so, oh blog reader!
Over the years, Florence has gone through a re-birth of sorts, becoming a center for arts, antiques, and sidewalk cafes. I have missed many of the changes, simply because I have not lived there for so long. In fact, my last visit was ten years ago (due to illnesses, I was not able to return for the funerals of my parents, who died a few weeks apart a couple of years ago. That was a tough time...if there was ever a time to return home...but anyway.....). So periodically, I would scan the web for some info on Florence. I found a neat photo business directory (www.downtownflorence.com), which shows outsides and insides of the eateries and shops in town, most of which didn't exist when I lived there (the local burger joint/hangout is now an oriental resteraunt). But I couldn't find anything that really captured the heart and soul of my home town....
...until yesterday, when I discovered sister websites: www.florencecitizen.com and www.florencecolorado.net. These websites are like a letter from home. And for more government/community development stuff, check out www.florenceco.govoffice2.com. After a ten year drought, it's suddenly raining web sites!
And speaking of home: if you would like some downhome wisdom and touching, sentimental devotionals, check out www.geocities.com/parsondonsgarden. I have known the website's author Don Brown for decades. Brief story: when I was a kid in Florence, I had a best friend named Rod. One day, Rod's mom came to pick up Rod from my house. My mom answered the door. Surprise! They had gone to high school together! Anyway, I always enjoyed hanging out at the Brown household. I lost touch for a while, but later, Don (Rod's dad) began publishing his thoughts and insights via email and, most recently, created the above website.
One last item, in the interest of full disclosure: although I call Florence, Colorado my home, my family actually resided most of the time in the small community of Williamsburg, Colorado, just outside the Florence city limits. And if you thought the location of "Florence" got me blank stares, just try to describe the whereabouts of Williamsburg! But my adventures in Williamsburg (and the greater Fremont County area) will have to wait for a future blog. Until next time....
Monday, March 20, 2006
First of all, obviously, I'm back to the blogs. It wasn't my intention to be away this long, but I've been busy doing different things. Now that things have settled down a little, I'll probably be able to do updates a little better.
I'm also back in my "other" career. I am a children's ministry director at our church, but it is, technically speaking, a volunteer gig. One of my paid jobs is on the church staff, assisting the pastor in assorted tasks from screening phone calls to filling the pulpit. My other job is as a preschool teacher for 4 year olds. It is a job I have not been able to do for nearly three months!
I won't belabor the details, but due to an error on the part of the government folks who check out backgrounds, my wife and I got "flagged." This was the most incredible, amazing, and potentially embarrassing development in our lives. After years of working with children (and raising three kids of our own), we were told that we could not report to the daycare. We had to go back and document and demonstrate why this government agency goofed (and we all know that the government never ever makes mistakes!).
It took three months. In the meantime, my class had substitute teachers and the assistant director took up the slack left by my wife (the director). But as we heard of difficulties, it was heart-wrenching knowing that we could not charge in to the rescue. It was frustrating to deal with the speculation of curious parents who kept wondering why we got "canned" by the government.
And suddenly, it was over! No apologies. No niceties. Click...we're back in. A simple change of code and all of a sudden, we're daycare teachers again (when people ask me why I was gone, I tell them I had a bad code(cold)!).
So I have returned to hugs and smiles from kids and parents alike. It is nice. There's no place like home ..... or daycare.....or any venue that fulfills our purpose.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
However, once in a while, I get to step out of the role of "Children's Ministries Director" and step into the pulpit to deliver the message in the main service. I used to be a senior pastor in Colorado, so preaching to a congregation comes naturally. Usually, I am in the pulpit if the pastor is away at a camp or retreat or a well-earned vacation.But unfortunately, the pastor's absence this weekend was unplanned. He was hospitalized Friday night. So the elder board moderator called me and said, "you're up on Sunday!"
One of the questions people ask is, "do you always have a sermon ready just in case?" I guess that in 22 years of ministry, I've had a few messages I've reserved for the proverbial rainy day. But since I very rarely repeat a message once I've given it, I usually run out of the "just-in-case file." But in this case, I was ready. During my substitute times, I have been preaching expositionally through 2 Thessalonians. The neat thing about expositional preaching is that I always know where I will be next time. I'm always studying ahead and thinking about how to present it ahead of time. When the pastor gives me a date, I simply intensity the studies and concentrate on assembling all the data and application into a message. So when I got the Friday phone call, I already knew what I was going to preach on. The only difference was not having as much time to refine and fine tune as usual.
But God is awesome! The Word went forth and once again, I was reminded of two very important lessons. First of all, I'm just a channel. Any blessing or challenge that anybody gets from the message is not due to me, but to the Holy Spirit. This is true regardless of whether I'm working with adults or hanging out with the kids.
The second lesson? Our team of KidServants can handle a last minute change of plans very easily, thank you very much! What a neat group of men, women, and teens (if they're reading this, I just want to say, "WELL DONE this morning!")
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Sunday, January 22, 2006
After all my sentimental recollections of Super Bowls past with my favorite team, the Denver Broncos, I was anticipating today's AFC championship with, well, uh...much anticipation! By the time I got home from church, the Steelers were on top, 3-0. But ever the optimist, I knew that Denver would not remain on the low end...that they would acheive, they would score, they would emerge victorious.
So the 05-06 season is over and the Super Bowl is in two weeks. As of this writing, I do not know who the Steelers will face, but I will probably watch with detached interest, knowing it is only a game
The week has not been a total loss however. We actually had a weather event on Friday! Understand that Oregon has been perpetually rained on for, well, I lost track. We've put up with flooding and high creeks, mud puddles and mold. It's wet and soggy. Oh, sure, the higher elevations get snow, but so far, little if any of the white stuff has landed on the valley floor.
The above pictures were taken in our backyard during a two hour snow storm that literally blanketed the city in a layer of white. As I looked out the door from the church office, it appeared like a major blizzard had hit. No, it wasn't a foot of snow, but it was a significant amount.
But the change of weather was not to last. The snow subsided, the temps went up slightly and the subsequent rain washed away our winter wonderland in about fifteen minutes!
Today, we actually got sunshine and partly cloudy skies. This is good...as it offsets the dark rain cloud over my head after the Bronco game today
Remember....God is on the throne and His faithfulness transcends funny weather and football games!
Friday, January 20, 2006
So January is in the air and the Denver Broncos are in the playoffs. It doesn't get much better than this. Those who know me best know that I am a loyal and long-standing Denver Broncos fan. The seeds of this loyalty were laid when I was in high school, when Denver advanced to the Super Bowl for the very first time in their existence. It was Super Bowl XII and it was as if the entire state of Colorado was painted blue and orange! I remember the electricity in the air among the students and faculty, almost like if we were to muster enough mental energy and good feelings, it would drive the Broncos to victory. The official song (which the loudspeakers played over and over again) was "Make Those Miracles Happen."
Well, as the old saying goes, "if wishing made it so...." Denver was defeated by the Dallas Cowboys 27-10.
Since then, I have seen the Broncos snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on many occaisions. And I confess, for a while, I lost track of my favorite team. But something very special happened in the late 80's. I was pastoring my first church and my wife was pregant with our first child. And as we kept visiting the doctor's office, I overheard the nurses talking about how Denver was going to advance to the playoffs! I grabbed a newspaper and got caught up on the information. My wife gave birth to a little girl, and, a little less than two weeks later, my newborn daughter and I watched Super Bowl XXI together. My daughter learned that daddy can indeed act in ways that belied his pastoral background. Denver lost to the Giants 39-20.
The following year, it happened again! Denver was heading to another Super Bowl. Oh, yeah, my wife was pregnant again too (don't write me nasty notes...I'm only kidding...my children are the most wonderful thing that happened to me). Another January birth and then, a couple of weeks later, my newborn son joined my 1 year old daughter and I as we watched the Broncos fall under the Redskins 42-10. I can imagine the looks exchanged by my children, almost as if my daughter's gurgling said, "don't worry...daddy gets like that about this time of year."
We had no more children for awhile, which is just as well, since Denver lost Super Bowl XXIV a couple of years later and I didn't think my kids should grow up with that legacy. Another daughter was born in May, '91, so there was no Super Bowl to think about. We had moved to Oregon and I became involved in a new church as a support staff person.
But finally, it happened! January 25, 1998. Super Bowl XXXII against the Green Bay Packers. I heard it was a great game. I heard it had drama and excitement. And most of all, I rejoiced at the final score: Denver Broncos had won their first Super Bowl 31-24. And I missed it! I missed it! Lest you think I am a total fanatic when it comes to Denver Broncos, I would have you know that I was teaching the evening worship service at the time. After the final prayer and amen, the teen we used for child care came up and told me the good news (he had been watching the game with the kids in back).
The following year, the Broncos defeated the Falcons for Super Bowl XXXIII, 34-19. What a nice thing to happen to a great team. I got to watch this one! My three children just shook their heads in wonder at their father's behavior during the game.
So anyway...as I write this, the AFC championship is coming up and once again, the Broncos may advance to another Super Bowl. I can't think of any great milestones (or mile high stones) in my life at the moment that would help me look back on these days with fondness, except for the fact that I get to work with children at the church and watch their excitement and enthusiasm for a lot more significant things than football. And I'll watch and remember and rejoice, but it's all in perspective.
Just don't call me on Super Bowl Sunday....I may not be quite in my right mind.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Overall, I believe our area dodged the worst of it. But on the other side of the proverbial coin, the main strength of the storm headed south, so our friends in northern California got hit far worse. Our prayers continue to be with them.
My children's ministries secretary was out and about the same evening I posted my last message. She was kind enough to share some of her pics. Keep in mind, this is a few hours after I took my pictures, so it shows just how fast the water situation escalated (interestingly enough, on the drive to church Sunday morning, much of the pavement had dried out. Of course, by the time services were over, it started to rain again.).
This was taken near the new visitor's center (which is under construction). Notice the bench!
The parking lot of the city hall...indistinguishable from the street!
That's a lot of water!