Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Listen


Last week, I went to a conference and the unexpected happened. Most of the speakers were very predictable. If you have been to a ministry conference, you often know what to expect. Conference speakers have their own jargon, they have "sugar stick" moments in their talks, and they look and dress the part. This particular conference happened to be for student ministers, so the testosterone was heavy, the facial hair was manicured, and the hair cuts were spiky and hawked up. My friend Joe calls this "Sexy Church." It was.

But just when I thought all hope for something different was gone, the unlikely happened. The Word of God spoke and all that were there heard.

As the last session began, the speaker came out, and in a tone of humility began to talk of how the Word of God used to move people. Its words were read out and people fell on their faces and repented. No music, no candles, no mood setting. Just the word of God spoken over the people.

He then said, to understand Romans 9:1-5, you must understand Romans 1-8.

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." -Romans 9:1-5

He spoke briefly about the urgency of the Gospel. He talked about being willing to throw yourself into Hell so that others may hear the Word. He then set his bible down on the pulpit, and began to speak...

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God..." and he proceeded to recite Romans chapters 1-8. Eight chapters of the Scriptures, memorized. Beautiful.

He did this with a posture of humility, and yet his words were passionate. It read like a sermon, and felt like the Spirit was washing over us. I followed in my bible for a few lines, but then sat back closed my eyes, and let the Holy Word of God wash over me like the tide. I not only heard, but I listened.

I have never been a part of anything like this before. You might think that this might be a boring thing to listen to, but to hear the passion in his voice, and to truly listen to the Word was incredible. A few months back, my friends Josh and JD and I were at the Abbey of Gethsemani and JD talked to us about the power of memorizing and reciting Scripture. To hear His Holy Word spoken by the mouths of His people must please our Father. Even more so to have it written on our hearts and for our lives to reflect it.

My friends and I are working to commit Matthew 5-7 to memory. This has been a difficult task, but my experience last week has given me a new strength, and I have seen the power of God's Word spoken through and to His people. I have begun to read it aloud, and I even have it on CD and listen to it in the car on the way to work. I am trying in every way to memorize the Sermon on the Mount, but more than that, I am trying to listen.

"Incline your ear and come to me. Listen, that you may live..." -Is. 55:3

Monday, September 15, 2008

Alison's Article


Some of you may know that my wife, Alison, writes. She writes very well.

She has been writing for a webizine called UNGRIND for a couple of months now.

Check out her latest article here and check out her blog in my blog links.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Suffering and the Cross



A couple of weeks ago, I read two books back to back: My Name is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev, both by Chaim Potok. Potok was a Jewish writer and literary genius who often wrote of the Jewish cloister life in New York City.

Asher Lev, the protagonist in the stories is a prodigy child artist that paints things that makes his Hassidic community quite uncomfortable. He draws pictures everywhere. On the walls, in the margins of the Torah, everywhere. He brings much grief and embarrassment to his family, and he is pressured to stop drawing and painting.

When he is about 18, Lev is painting artwork for his first show and attempting to depict suffering in a painting and cannot think of a Jewish depiction of suffering that is strong enough to communicate his pain, so he draws from Christian imagery; the Cross. Lev paints a crucifixion. He comes under such criticism that he is forced to leave his community, because good Jewish boys never paint, and if they do, they most certainly never dabble in the goyish art world.

This story, for me, reminded me of the cross and what it represents. We can commercialize the cross into wrought iron renditions and paint them and decorate them, adding gems and rhinestones to them. You know what I am talking about. You might even own one. I do. But the cross, in its pure form, embodies humility, suffering, and love.

For the Christian, to embrace Christ is to also embrace the cross. It is to be “crucified with Christ,” and it is meant to be the death of us. But it is also the source of our life. Asher Lev searches the art world to find suffering in artistic forms and eventually comes to recognize that the crucified Christ is the best representation of suffering. But he misses the “why” of the cross. It is God's love for His people that leads Christ on this path of suffering.

The second photo is White Crucifixion, by Marc Chagall, 1938. He was a Jewish artist who actually painted the Crucified Lord.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What do you call your grandparents?


Click on the photo to read the license plate.

I grew up with some pretty simple names for my grandparents, how about you? I had a "Grandma" and "Grandpa," and I had a "Papa," and a "Nanny." Maybe those last ones are sort of funny sounding, but when you hear adults refer to a grandparent as "Mee-maw" or "Po-Po," this is comical to me. I'm sorry.

I took this pic with my phone yesterday because I have seen this woman around town a number of times. Oddly enough, I have never actually seen her with any children. But apparently her name is "Nana. Or "Bad Nana" to be precise.

My daughter has a "Nana," which is my wife's mother. Alison's dad wants to be "Grandfather," or "Grandpa" (quick with the -pa), but the way Ava says it, it comes out Gay-Gay. He is an English professor and wants his name to sound distinguished. My dad and step-mom are "Pops" and "Gi-Gi," and my mom and step-dad and "Grammy(maybe changing to Dixie)" and "Papa."

All this to say, I have a difficult time keeping up with all the names.

I had a friend in high school that called her grandmother "Bat."

My father-in-law has a colleague whose grandchildren call him "Bob." His name is really Andy.

I have an uncle whose grandchildren call him "Kahuna," as in the Big Kahuna.

My mom worked with a woman whose children had a "Skinny Granny" and a "Fat Granny." (I would love to see "Fat Granny" on a license plate.)

Is it a more endearing notion to have cutesy name for a grandparent?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Are You?


"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." -Galatians 2:20

The verse and theme for our Beach Retreat trip this summer is printed here on this T-shirt. We spent three glorious days on a Florida beach last month, and we spent time going though this and asking the question, "Are you...?"

This verse has been with me for a few months now. A couple of friends and I spent a day at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky back in May. This verse was spoken aloud several times that day, and I began to let it wash over me and it began to seep in. That afternoon, while observing the hours with the monks, the scripture reader read out this verse, the verse we had been marinating in all day. Isn't it amazing when the Father does things like this. I never seem to expect it, even though it happens this way all the time.

So, I have committed this verse to memory, saying it out and asking myself the question, "are you...crucified with Christ? Is is He who lives in you? Is the life you live in the body lived by faith in the Son. who loves you and gave himself for you?"

This concept of Christ in me is a difficult one. I have always approached life as Christ with me. But that day, riding in the car, my friend JD began to talk about how it changes everything to live with Christ inside you. So much more seems possible this way. It seems to strengthen a person from within.

So, Are You?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Oye Como Va


Oye Como Va, or in its English translation, "Hear how it goes," my story that is. Or should I say Alison and Ava's story?

So last Friday, Alison and Ava opted to spend the morning at the mall while I stayed home to work on my sermon. As I was spending my rare quite moments studying and writing, Alison called me to tell me that she just saw someone that she thinks was Carlos Santana. WHAT?

She arrived at the mall before the shops open, but the main entrance is open for early morning walkers and such. So as my girls made their way around to the main entrance, they saw two men approaching them down some stairs. Ava was in her stroller and Alison noticed one of the men looking and smiling at Ava. She said hi to him and he responded by looking at Ava and saying, "Congratulations." I guess congrats is always in order when your kid is as good looking as ours, but a funny response, I think nonetheless. The other guy, Alison said, looked big like a football player. The Santana look-alike was wearing a black suit with a bright purple shirt, a hat and aviator shades. A little odd for 9:30 in the morning. So she calls me and says that she thinks it was Santana, but it could have been someone else, so I look up his tour schedule and he was playing here in Birmingham that night, probably staying at the Wynfrey Hotel at our Galleria. We assume the big guy was his bodyguard.

I began to wish I had not stayed home that morning, but I was so proud that my daughter's first celebrity encounter was a rock and roll legend like Carlos Santana. Very proud moment, and I wanted to share it.

It appears that my last several blogs have been music related. I may need to break the mold on the next one. We shall see.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Proud Moment

I called my wife as I began my commute home yesterday. She informed me that I would have been proud of my daughter for something she had done today. So here is what happened:

A few months ago, I was playing with Ava in her room, and we were listening to music. I had popped a Ben Harper CD into the pink floral patterned stereo in her room and we danced and played. There is one particular song that Ava and I sing together, or at least I like to think she sings along with me called Everything. Here are some of the lyrics:

Behind all of your tears
There's a smile
There's a smile
Behind all of the rain
There's a sunshine
For miles and miles

Oh- Everything
Everything
You mean everything
You mean everything
Everything to me
Everything to me


We sing this during bath time, to help her fall asleep, or just for fun. Well yesterday, Alison found the CD in the stereo and started to play it...and Ava danced. She loved it. Alison brought Ava back into the living room after a while and turned around and saw that Ava was headed back to her room. She had returned to listen to Mr. Harper's music and to dance for a while longer. I know there will be a day soon where the Wiggles and the Doodlebops descend upon our lives in full force, so this is my moment in the sun where I celebrate my daughter and I sharing the love for good music. I accept that there may come a day when we may not listen to the same music; That Willie Nelson, The Stones, Johnny Cash, and the wonderful Mr. Ben Harper may not be enjoyed by everyone in the house. But for a time, we are in agreement that Ben Harper makes you want to dance.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Evening with the David Crowder Band*


Last Thursday evening, I took a group from our church to see David Crowder in concert here in Birmingham. I can't remember the last time I saw them play live, but I think it was when I was still living in Waco. Seeing them play many times in college, attending UBC as a student at Baylor, listening to their music over the years, and getting to know some of the band members, it felt like going to see old friends in many ways. I think that some of my group felt the same way, even though this was their first time to even hear them.

If you look closely, you can see that David Crowder is hold a Guitar Hero guitar. His drummer converted it into a working instrument, and he played a song with it. All the junior high (along with all the 30 year old) "HEROs" went wild over this. It was one of those evenings that to call it a concert or to call it a worship gathering alone wouldn't quite capture what was happening. We had a lot of fun, and we sang out songs in praise for our Savior.

At one point in the concert, they sang the song Everything Glorious from the album Remedy. The lyrics have remained with me and I have been clinging to them the last few days. I have heard this song many times, but reading them, and singing them with people I knew and didn't know seemed to trace them into my heart. Here are a few lines from the song:

The day is brighter here with You
The night is lighter than its hue
Would lead me to believe
Which leads me to believe

(chorus)
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours
What does that make me?


I am preaching in a few weeks on Confirmation Sunday. I think that this will be my message:

He makes everything glorious; Well, what does that make us.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Beautiful



So this billboard is directly across the street from our church. I took this from the front lawn. I don't know if there are words that can capture the beauty of this, so I will say nothing. I have questions, but no answers.

Monday, March 17, 2008

First Year



We made it! Ava celebrated her 1st birthday last week with our friends and family in Texas. It was like most first birthdays: way too many gifts, a few tears from the birthday girl, and Ava's first encounter with that much sugar at once.

Before the birthday festivities began, Alison and I took the opportunity with friends and family present, to have a time of dedicating Ava to the Lord. We felt it would be a timely way of doing things, considering that many were meeting Ava for the first time. We were celebrating her first year in this world, as well as committing to bring her up in a fashion that says this world cannot tell you who you are, only Jesus.

Thanks for checking back in. Maybe I will post again before the end of the year.