Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Goal of Faith

I'm just going to say it: I think that many claiming the name "Christian" are such for reasons lacking in scriptural basis. I don't say that to proclaim that I have never had the "wrong reasons" for faith (although, even thinking about that day in 1990 where I met Jesus for real, I think it was more right reasons than wrong reasons for surrendering to him), but just because in my calling, I ask the question often, "So, why do you call yourself a Christian?" I get all kinds of answers, such as:

"I dunno, I've just always gone to church."

"I don't want to go to hell."

"I'm American. Aren't we a Christian nation?"

"My life stinks and I want Jesus to make it better/fix everything/take away the bad people/_______."

"I believe in God. Isn't that enough?"

And on and on and on...

I think we often miss some of the points of faith in Christ. I don't even pretend to have it correct all the time, but as I was reading this morning, I saw something that I haven't paid much attention to. I decided to read on my own "The Peters" (1 & 2 Peter) since a sermon podcast I listen to is spending EONS in those books. Pretty quick, in the first chapter of the first book, I read this:

8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.: 1 Peter 1:8-9

The goal of faith? Salvation of your soul. That's it. Not your best life now. Not the death of your enemies. Not even just a Get Out of Hell Free Card (certainly that is part of it, and salvation IS with God in eternity as opposed to the opposite...but some folks just seem to "say a salvation prayer" to cover their bases or something...just in case...). It is the fact that our souls NEED saving at all...and that Jesus, the God-man, took care of it through his life, torture, death, and resurrection. And for our salvation, we must release ourselves to Christ. That is the goal of our faith. Oh God, help me to rejoice in that goal alone this day...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some Coasters I'd LOVE to Ride

And now, time for a few roller coasters that, for whatever reason (and that includes a few I could have-but didn't-ride) haven't had the pleasure of experiencing...

Voyage: ">

Beast and Son of Beast (two seperate coasters): ">

Millennium Force: ">

Kingda Ka: ">

Mindbender: ">

Viper: ">

Texas Tornado: ">

Loch Ness Monster: ">

Dragon Mountain: ">

Hades: ">

Ravine Flyer II: ">

Gwazi: ">

Dueling Dragons: ">

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Roller Coasters I've Been On

I LOVE roller coasters, always have. At first my allegiance was to steel rides (I admit, as a kid I was scared the wooden ones would break!), but as I've aged (and as my head spins more and more when I ride them), I have switched sides and now prefer a good, hilly, twisting, bumpy wooden coaster!

So, just because I feel like it, some videos of coasters (in no order) that I've been on...and, since most of these are "home-made", apologies if anyone on the rides said some wirty dords, etc. Not sure if they did...but if I were to watch all these I'd be here forever. If some have cursing, let me know which and I will remove them!

Big Thunder Mountain (again, this one is in EuroDisney but Identical to DisneyWorld): ">


King Cobra: ">

Manhattan Express: ">

Runaway Mine Train: ">

The Rattler: ">

Revolution: ">

Texas Cyclone: ">

Timber Wolf: ">

Titan: ">

Ultra Twister (same ride, but this is in Japan): ">

Vortex: ">

Batman The Ride (this is another version but the same layout): ">

That's all for now...may add more later...take your Dramamine!

Monday, August 31, 2009

My Life Going By...

I am addicted to almanacs. Of all kinds. Texas, World, and ESPN Sports almanacs are in high rotation in my home (and have been most of my "reading life"). As a result, the reading of almanacs "for fun" has resulted in a vast array of (mostly) useless knowledge that does little for me except allow me to win Trivial Pursuit a bunch and to attempt to prop up my ego at times (which isn't what I should do, agreed, just honest that there have been times I've probably just tried to "impress").

One fun thing I like to do with almanacs lately is to almost treat them like a time capsule of sorts. I catch myself saying things like, "Let's look back 10/15/20 years and see what was going on. I recently did that with a 2000 sports almanac, looking at the headlines, winners, and seeing which players on teams are still playing at all. It is humbling to say the least. Ten years ago does NOT seem that long ago, but the vast majority of people in that almanac are no longer playing...

This is just another example of how I am discovering (and I've said it before) that the older I get, the faster life moves. This isn't all bad, but sometimes I get nostalgic and realize, "My goodness, that was TEN YEARS AGO? What happened? That went so fast!"

But, it is a good thing (life going by quickly) in that the "waiting on the Lord" attitude I am called to have seems easier. I have many passions/goals/thoughts/dreams/ideas in my head, and it is getting easier to say things like, "I need to be patient and allow things to develop in a healthy way", instead of rushing them all into existence (and they fall flat, or don't even reach completion at all).

So, I am taking some time today to ponder where I've been, to realize how fast life goes, and to seek the balance between waiting and getting things going (because if I blink, five years will have gone by)...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The God of This AND That

So, I am trying (for the first time "non-seminary paper related") to read one of the Christian Fathers, Augustine. I received, as a gift, back in 2003 (I think) from my former Sr. Pastor a copy of The Confessions of Saint Augustine. It has mostly just sat on a book shelf to make me look more scholarly. Well, earlier this week, when I started my morning routine again, I picked up the book and said, "I am going to try and fight through this old-ish English translation of a famous collection of writings."

So, I am slowly, SLOWLY, I tell you, trudging through. But I already found a nice thing in the first section, "Childhood". It is a concept I have previously labeled as "The Annoying YES!", which involves the fact that God, despite our best efforts, cannot be limited. That God can simultaneously possess seemingly opposite characteristics, which is tough for us humans as we rarely share that ability. And thus, we tend to make God one or the other...

Well, I am going to shut up now and share what I read the other day and have been pondering...enjoy!

What art Thou then, my God? what, but the Lord God? For who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? Most highest, most good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong; most stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old; all-renewing, and bringing age upon the proud, and they know it not; ever working, ever at rest; still gathering, yet nothing lacking; supporting, filling, and overspreading; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet having all things. Thou lovest, without passion; art jealous, without anxiety; repentest, yet grievest not; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy works, Thy purpose unchanged; recievest again what Thou findest, yet didst never lose; never in need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetest, yet exacting usury.--From The Confessions of Saint Augustine, pgs. 6-7

Now I just need to go find out what "usury" means...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Missing my Bible

Helllloooooo world. I'm back. It has been a good, busy summer. I have remained silent for longer than usual, but not for some of the typical reasons (aka, "spiritually dry"). Well, some of the lull is a result of busyness, but much of it was a proactive decision to just "sit" on some things for a bit. Simply put, I didn't want to post "just because". I think in the last few months I caught myself saying, "Well, I have to post something...", and as a result just wrote things that may not have had time to peculate. Oh, nothing scandalous or bad, just..."there"...

Well, I'm back. I won't promise how much of often, but I am ready to get back into my typical "school year routine" in the morning, which usually includes some permutation of coffee/classical-jazz-ambient-celtic music to inspire (aka "autumn morning")/reading/prayer/pondering/writing. I make efforts to minimize TV watching, and to, of course, let Jackson sleep (haha).

One thing is lacking from that routine as I begin again, however. My bible. You see, I think I left it on our junior high mission trip. Oh sure, I think I can call the place I left it and retrieve it fairly easily...but I keep forgetting for some reason. I have been trying to keep up with my spiritual feeding through books, listening to sermons via podcast, etc., but I noticed one thing last year that, for some reason in all the years of me following Jesus, I neglected to appreciate as much as I should.

Spending real, honest, prayerful time in the scriptures.

I mean, sure, I read it at times, and pondered many other times (although usually as a result of conversation, or a message, etc.), but had sadly struggled in all my years to make a true conscious point to study God's word as a vital part of my life. I mean, I would often try, using all kinds of tools, assists, study aids, devotional books, and plans, but they would always start off strong, then a few weeks later become something I just "did" and would not ponder. And before you knew it (usually after a month or so), I would skip a couple days and whammo, there goes my scripture time. And honestly, I would end up rationalizing and say something like, "Oh well, I still believe it all. I get to church a lot and have many deep, spiritual conversations, so I will be ok." And generally, I was. But this last year or so, I finally felt compelled to say, "Enough!" to all the excuses. I was tired of reading get-to-know-you surveys from others that seemed to honestly list "the Bible" as one's favorite book...when I would rather read sci fi or war novels or epic stories of elves and hobbits and knights.

So, I prayed for God to grant me the desire to truly dive into his divine revelation. And, he did!

So now, as I embark on another "school year" (not for me, but for my family, as my wife works at a school and my son prepares for his last year of pre-K), I am seeking God's help in re-igniting that passion. But, as I said, my Bible of choice is AWOL. Sure, there are others around, and if all else fails, I can hit up a store and get another one, but for those who have made it a point to dive into scripture on a personal level, it is hard to leave your "trusted, beat-up, marked-up" bible... So I will call the place I left it today...(ask me to see if I did!)

Charles Spurgeon, a famous preacher from the 1800s, said, "I bible that is in shambles is usually owned by someone whose life is not" (or, something like that...forgive me if the quote is not 100%). Prayerfully, I hope that is true of me, as my AWOL Bible is pretty marked up and "not pretty". Also, while exercising the other day and listening to one of the sermons I podcast, the pastor was talking on perseverance out of 2 Peter. He said (and not in an arrogant way) that ever since he met Christ at age 19, he had never backslid. He had sinned, sure, but never once walked away from the Lord, denied Christ, anything like that. His wife, on the other hand, had a time in her life (before they met) where she felt like she did wander away. He struggled to understand how she could do that once a believer, and she likewise wondered how he could not. So, in their conversation, he asked his wife, "What was the one thing missing that assisted in you straying from God?" He answer? She wasn't in her bible.

My response? I can see that. The bible itself isn't magic, but the Holy Spirit speaks through the words. We are encouraged, challenged, convicted through God's revelation to us humans. But, if we don't spend time in it, and I mean way more than just checking-off that we "read our bible today", well, I can completely see how we open up our hearts to straying, or at least, a "meh" attitude toward the things of God...

Have I kept Jesus on my mind? Oh, sure. I am grateful that in this past couple weeks of "little/no bible", God has kept a desire in my heart to not become "meh" through the podcasts and the reading of books (I am currently re-visiting "Don't Waste Your Life" by Piper, discussing it with a college student I know, and also attempting to read one of the Christian "fathers", Augustine...). But, I miss my bible. I know that nothing I can read will compare...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thoughts on Kerrville, Summer 09

Well, I've had a few days to reflect on my family's annual summer trip to Kerrville, so as I am prone to do, here are some unfiltered, random thoughts:

*** This year's trip was about a month earlier than normal (we usually go in late July/early August) and was even a couple days shorter (parts of 5 days instead of 6 or 7), but it just felt right. I was more worn out than usual after my first mission trip, so having a break between the two was great (Missy and I may try to take a "mini-vacation" in August of a day or two, if needed). Also, while we LOVE being in Kerrville, we have realized over the years that spending a week there tends to be a day or two too long... By day 5 or so, we start getting restless, the "now what?" feeling. You don't necessarily want to rush home...but you aren't really doing anything in Kerrville, either. So, this was a good time-frame.

*** I finally got off my rear ans started reading a book many have recommended, "Same Kind of Different as Me". I am a bit more than halfway through it, and it truly is an amazing, inspirational story. I can already envision a film being made, but it deserves a true movie treatment, not (sorry folks) the "Cheesy Christian film"-treatment. While I certainly hope the message and focus on Jesus remains in any film, the story is so timeless and inspirational that a film maker may just be able to pull it off, leaving all the "Christian" stuff intact...and still inspiring those who may be quick to judge the story as "too Christian". Simply put, it is a great story. Theologically it seems ok (I have had a couple "huh?" moments, but I would need to explore them further), but I don't think that is the point of a book like this...

*** I continue to be impressed of my son's increasing bravery. One of the best days was when we went down to the Guadalupe River in downtown Kerrville (below the waterfall where it is shallow with rapids, "chutes", etc.). I figured Jax would be too scared to get in; boy was I wrong. He couldn't get enough! And while at times Jax's emerging personality make my hair turn grayer (just ask Missy...she likes to point it all out, haha), as Jax nears FIVE, he is truly such a fun boy to be around. Don't think for one moment that I get bummed when I hear someone say, "You know, that Jackson is really a cool kid," which happens often (I know, I know..."easy, dad...don't get too proud!"...I hear ya...). One gesture I remember vividly from the river was when I was praising him for being so brave, and without words, as he trudged back upriver to the start of the "chute" where Pops was stationed, he gives me a non-chalant "muscle pose"...so great!

*** Finally got to see my favorite movie of 2009 (and while there are better "films" I respect more, few movies have been as fun, to me, as this one in some time), Star Trek with my dad and Jax. Jax did surprisingly well given the NOISE of the film, and dad said he liked it, too! It was fun to go to a movie that "felt" like the ones my dad and I went to as a kid (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, some of the older Star Trek's, etc.).

*** For the most part, we were LAZY...and it was glorious. I know we had some friends that were pondering visits once we announced we would be in Kerrville...but we decided to make this as "outing-free" as possible...we just needed to chill (sorry Travis' and Austin's! We will hit ya next time...).

*** Missy and I had some great, deep conversations about life, God, future, parenting, you name it. It;s not that those don't happen at home...but sometimes the environment of being "away" just helps. I am grateful.