Tuesday, December 25, 2007

God is good, all the time...

What a great Christmas. In some ways, it may be one of the most moving, proof-of-God Christmas seasons we've had lately. A few awesome things:
  • Missy got a job!!! If you read some old posts, you can see my occasional concern/frustration/lack-of-faith (and, at times, Missy's faith shining through) regarding my wife's unsuccessful job search over the past year-and-a-half or so. Well...search over! She has been a long-term sub at a local elementary school most of the Fall 2007 semester, and it looked like she would "at best" maybbe get hired next fall...maybe...and whammo, the principal last friday tells Missy he'd like to hire her now...WOOHOO!!!!
  • The Castle's (my in-laws) Joined us for Christmas!!! Out of respect, I won't go into too many details...but despite the fact it was the Castles' turn to do Christmas with us, due to some family issues, it looked as if we would not be spending Christmas with Jax's Oma and Opa. Well, the same day we found about about Missy's job, Oma calls and says they are kidnapping Jax for the weekend, and will bring him back later and spend Christmas Eve AND Christmas with us! WOOHOO!!!
  • Jax starting to "get it". First, and most important in the grand scheme of things, when asked, "What is Christmas about?", or, "Whose birthday is it?", Jax replies, JESUS! I know he is only 3, but I want him to always know the true meaning of Christmas. Second, on the, "not true meaning of Christmas" (but still kinda fun) aspect, "Santa" left him a very cool work bench with toy tools and a car he can work on. I was able to sneakily watch him as he woke up before all others, slowly approached the bench, examined it, and says (too himself), "Santa brought me this!" I know some don't like Santa at all, but dang that made me smile...

Well, a merry "rest of holidays" too all. We are off to Kerrville (and thus, no internet access) until Jan 1 or 2.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

in case i don't get around to it...

...I want to wish everyone a merry Christmas.

We will be spending Christmas morning here in Weatherford, then head to Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country for some fun with family and friends (complete with the annual trip to San Antone to see the Austin's...and possibly a visit from the Travis's?) until Jan 1 or so. Mmmmm....porch time...cookies...hiking...yesyesyes...

Some thoughts for us ALL to ponder:
  • Please check out these passages for a reminder of the true purpose of these times: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%201:1-5;&version=31; http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=49&chapter=2&version=31; http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%201-2%20;&version=31; please take some time to "mix" these accounts of Jesus' arrival on the earthly scene... It is too easy to just give this Truth a "polite glance" during Christmas and do all the other stuff/stressfulness, but we are greatly amiss to not spend some real time with the wonder that is God himself choosing to live among us...revolutionary!
  • In fact, now I feel like posting my Sunday lesson notes from a couple weeks ago on the birth of God's Son (just realize they are my "notes/guide", not really a manuscript):
    ***Jesus was God as “one of us”
    ***As we get closer to Christmas, let's look at some attributes of Jesus that prove he can relate to us as people, as sometimes it is easy to view Jesus simply as the deity, not also as a “someone” who walked on earth.
    ***Emmanuel (or Immanuel): “God with us”.
    · Isaiah 7:14: 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
    *****Isaiah 8:8: 8 and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel !"
    · Matthew 1:23: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
    ***This is huge…first off, that hundreds of years before Jesus was born as a human, Isaiah talked about it. Also, just ponder the ramifications of a God that walks among us…showing us how to live. But as the book of Hebrews talks about (too many examples to list), Jesus can relate to us (and vice versa) since he went through everything we did.
    ***So let’s start at the beginning (aka birth) and look at examples of Jesus’ humanity and try to see where it can help us strengthen our faith.
    ***Birth: The Christmas Story…angels, mangers, virgins (oh my!). But lost in that is the fact that God was BORN. From a mom. Just like us. God was born from a woman who had her water break, went through labor, the works. In a stable! Not some sanitized hospital with doctors. We’re talking hay, dirt, maybe animals nearby, no epidurals. Screams of pain. This isn’t some savior just “poof” appearing one day. This is full-on. Think about it: Jesus emerged a bloody mess. Had an umbilical cord. Went potty in his “diaper” or whatever babies wore back then. Breastfed.
    ***Amazing, huh? Other religions may have prophets or “guides” that were human, but not God himself. So in breakout time, let’s discuss how God coming into the world as a baby is simply groundbreaking faith-wise.

    Some Questions to Ponder:
    ***Any initial thoughts come about when you think of our savior being born from a woman?
    ***Does God “putting skin on” and emerging on the scene this way strengthen your faith, or just confuse you?
    ***What are some ways you may be able to focus better on Jesus’ birth (and what it means for all of us) this Christmas season?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

my personality inventory/multiple intelligences test results

Click to view my Personality Profile page

(check out http://www.mypersonality.info/ for your own stuff!)--free login required

Here is what it says about my "ENFP"-type:

ENFP - The "Advocate"
Myers-Briggs Personality Types (Free Test)
ENFPs are introspective, values-oriented, inspiring, social and extremely expressive. They actively send their thoughts and ideas out into the world as a way to bring attention to what they feel to be important, which often has to do with ethics and current events. ENFPs are natural advocates, attracting people to themselves and their cause with excellent people skills, warmth, energy and positivity. ENFPs are described as creative, resourceful, assertive, spontaneous, life-loving, charismatic, passionate and experimental.

My take? I generally agree, although depending on the day and depth of a test like this, my "percentages" (and even in one thorough case, which I sometimes agree with, a "letter") can change some. One time I actually scored INFP-barely being an "I" (51%). There are times I would agree with that. Unlike many "E"s, I truly enjoy getting "lost" in my thoughts, sitting alone, reading, etc. In that case, I tend to say, "I'm an introvert who does like being around folks". Yet, this test says "E". I guess I am feeling social more thses days, who knows (although 74% still seems a bit high).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Funky Weather

So, while it may not be snowy/freezing precip. like the weatherman predicted, I must admit that the weather today has still been interesting. It was COLD and wet (but not rainy) yesterday, but then the cold front became "warm" overnight and backed up. So it was in the 50s this morning. Weather man said highs near 70 as a result, but rainy at times. Well, it did get to the lower 60s, but I went outside about 30 min. ago and thought, "Dang, it got cold again!" So I checked my Weather Bug and sure enough, the front got bored and changed its' mind again...so it has moved back through as a cold front and it is in the 40s and dropping.


40s where we are, 60s and 70s in D/FW (30-60 min east).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Welcome to any New Readers from Yesterday's Unintentional Plug in our Sunday Service

So our children's director, while using a post from this blog (the one about me being bummed it isn't snowing...um, today: http://haphazardangus.blogspot.com/2007/12/such-dork.html) in the children's sermon, gave this blog some "pub", and now, several are curious about it. So, if you are a reader that has shown up due to Cyndi's comments, welcome! I hope that my random (aka, "haphazard") musings bless, entertain, and maybe even challenge you!

Ramblings and Rants About Myself (not a pity party...just some stuff I need to get off my chest)

(forgive the stream-of-conscienceness style of what follows...)

Man, I don't do well with "growing up" sometimes. Honestly, and I have told a few people this humbling theory I have about me, I truly think I am 5-8 years behind where I should be developmentally. Not sure what exactly is to blame, either. Is it because I stayed (essentially) a full-time student until I was 26, and thus wasn't truly "on my own" until after I graduated from seminary? That's a strong possibilty. I see many of my friends who were forced into the "real world" right after college at age 22-23, with houses, wives, etc., and thus seemed to grow up faster. I mean, I certainly have grown up. I can look back even 4 or 5 years and list all kinds of growth, increased maturity, etc., and much of that is due to sharing life with someone (and all the ups-and-downs), being a father, owning a home, and things like that. But there are still plenty of areas where I just can't seem to get it. Areas where irresponsibility, ineptitude, etc., are still running rampant. And it is really starting to bug me. Is it upbringing? (Mom and Dad, I love you!) I'm sure, and my folks would probably admit some of this, that upbringing has something to do with it. And as a parent, I can see how one's best intentions and efforts to simply guide, love, and teach your children can come back to bite at times. For example, I STINK when dealing with money. When I try to balance a checkbook, I just get confused. I may even think I am "doing well", but I'll put off accounting for a few receipts in my wallet, etc., and before you know it, they are forgotten, and as a result, never accounted for. I'm not that great at doing the "not fun stuff" a husband and house-leader need to do. Calling people to set them straight (like builders, etc.). Dealing with banks and credit cards. Getting things done without having to be asked, oh, like five times to do them. Actually, just doing some things without being asked at all! Even plain common sense just doesn't always come easy to me. And it's really starting to bug me!!! But what might upbringing have to do with it? I mean, my dad, while having a similar personality and interests to me, seems to have generally had stuff together. But he was forced to really grow up quicker when his own dad died while my father was in college. He was in charge at an early age. My mom, while always having such great faith and positive outlook on things, did have to learn to "survive" a bit as a child do to some interesting family dynamics. So as a result, they seem to be able to do all the hard stuff. But why did I never seem to learn? Were they too nice to me? Was I protected too much? Where is the line of "letting/forcing your kid learn hard lessons for future growth" and "protecting them, doing things for them, so they can 'be kids'"? I worry often about discovering that line myself in parenting Jax. Will I be too nice, and he ends up not learning lessons he needs to? Will I be too harsh, and he resents me, thought I was too hard on him? I realize there is a middle ground, but I am increasingly discovering that I struggle in finding that place. I tend to be either-or (I either want to just let everything slide, or let nothing slide in an almost tyrant-rule), and I think it boils down to selfishness and laziness on my part. I just don't know if I've been willing to really put the amount of energy needed to seek that middle-ground place where I can still be "me" and be things like a strong, trustworthy leader of our home, or a parent that has kids knowing a) that they are loved beyond belief, b) are able to be kids and have fun but c) know I'm boss and d) grow (spiritually and "life-skills"-ish).

Now, I know some of this struggle is due to my natural temperament/personality, but it doesn't change my God-ordained responsibilities. To blame it all on personality (and thus do nothing about it) is a cop-out and excuse. I may never be a "10" in certain areas, but with God's help I can still improve. And for others, specifically my wife and son, seeing effort will certainly go a long way, even if not "perfect".

I also know that at the core of all this is selfishness. I just don't want to have to worry about so much of this. I want to be able to do what I want. I want... That's the problem. That's the real lesson here, for myself and others reading this. I would rather read Sports Illustrated than really listen to my wife's request, and as a result, I only "sort-of" hear her, and thus do a request wrong, or not in a timely manner, or even worse, not at all. Or sometimes Jax is trying to get my attention, and I may not answer fast. "But, I want to focus on my SI!" I want...

Maybe I just need a season (a good personal focus for Advent/Christmas?) where I drop everything (maybe even writing this!) and serve. To truly look at what goals need to be accomplished for the family on a given day.

I have seen improvement in areas (notably ministry-related stuff), so I know it can happen in my most important job: husband and father. And I know that while my personality can lend to struggles in many areas, it also has many positives. I truly give a rip about people, and I've been told that others really see and appreciate it. I am one who tends to be positive, fun, etc., and that is sorely lacking in many. Maybe most important of all (and I can see it in this post even), I am willing to look inside and ask the hard questions, and thus, I tend to lovingly challenge others to do the same. It is hard (as this post has been at times for me), but if we are to truly release ourselves to the Lord and surrender all, it must be done. It MUST be done...

Finally, I know that there is a place for those like me, just as there is an equal place for those who are more "together" in certain areas. See 1 Corinthians 12 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2012;&version=31;). The challenge will be for me to find my place, work on my weaknesses, seek help in those areas where needed, and maybe toughest of all, to truly accept as valid others with polar-opposite gifts, personality types, etc. We all have a part. But, we all need to be willing to not use our "type" as an excuse to not make efforts to improve in areas that may be difficult for us...

Father God, please help me to yield to you. REALLY yield, not just lip-service. Help me see where improvement is needed, and help me to completely rely on YOUR STRENGTH in areas where I don't think I can do it! Amen...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Such a Dork...

Let's just say I'm bummed now that it may not be as cold Monday and Tuesday as they said last night on the weather...and thus the chances of precipitation being the "freezing" variety are slipping...

I know, I know, "Freezing rain/sleet/snow can be hazardous!".

Yeah, but fun for guys like me that didn't grow up with hardly ANY of it!


Saturday, December 1, 2007

One Year Ago This Month...

...I started this blog. I am so glad I did. I have never been a great "private journaler", and I bet some of that is because, well, it's just hard for me to be closed off about my life. I would be lying if there was nothing I keep close to the vest...but 99% of "me" is basically out there for all to see, warts and all. What can I say, I don't like playing games. Example: if you ask me, "how are you", and I'm really not fine, get ready for me to say, "Well...kinda bummed", for example. I may not unpack on you all my demons...but I really want to challenge our culture's obsession for just saying "fine" or "good" when in fact, you are hurting inside...

But sharing my thoughts for (potentially) all to see? It has been good for me. My version of a "journal". I has been a blessing for me to post thoughts, rants, joys, and some stuff out of left-field. I also think it's great that some of you have expressed that of my posts have made you think. Thanks to all of you (and I know of Mom, Dad, Missy, Aufu, Granny, Marja, Aaron, Jamie, Wede, Mark, Charley from IBC, Cyndi, Marty, Sherry, some folks reading a post I made on http://www.relevantmagazine.com/, etc.) for wading through all of this with me. I'm excited to see where God will lead in 2008!

<>< Ben Angus Davis

Thursday, November 29, 2007

some fun, thought-provoking cartoons


I could look at these for hours. We even built a teen Growth Group one night around these cartoons. Clever. Thought-provoking. "Biting". Challenging. Sometimes even confusing, or able to make you go, "Hey, now wait a dang minute!"...but I think that's the point.

Enjoy, if you dare!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not Safe...but Good

I love the creativity of CS Lewis. The Screwtape Letters are brilliant. The Chronicles of Narnia equally so. And one of my favorie quotes of ALL TIME is found in the Narnia book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In it, Mr. Beaver is teaching the humans about Aslan, prophecies, etc. He is asked something like (forgive me if these aren't direct quotes), "Is Aslan safe?" "No! He's not safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you," is Mr. Beaver's response.

Aslan=Jesus, by the way, if you aren't familiar with the allegory.

We often don't like to think of Jesus as "unsafe". I mean, we want a savior who calms things down, right? One who makes things nice and neat. One who gives us all we want. One who places us on a path with no bumps, uncertainty, etc.

But that's not reality. And I think we are often afraid, when we realize this truth, to truly share that with others, as who wants to accept a savior who may allow (or even ordain, depending on your theology) life to be uncertain at times, difficult at times? But there's more to the story...

We just, as humans, desire for things to "make sense". We want everything to fit into neat criteria. And a God who sacrifices himself just doesn't make sense. If he is all powerful, we wonder, how come he didn't just say, "Just kidding", and come off the cross and use his power to make things right? How does creation work? Was it 6 literal 24 hour days? Was it 6 "days", but God used processes we can't explain (and since God is not limited by the boundaries of time, possibly took a long time to do it?). I could go on and on, but they are all issues that make non-believers, or those believers that still struggle with mystery, experience great doubt and questions.

The knowledge that Jesus, while Good (capital G), still is not "safe", is one of these things. Here are some scriptures we often gloss over (or ignore altogether) that, if we take seriously, really mess things up:

52From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2012:52-53;&version=31;

33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=47&chapter=10&verse=33&end_verse=35&version=31&context=context

43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205:43-48;&version=31;

13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%207%20:13-14;&version=31;

There are plenty more examples, but the above are just some of those sayings of Jesus that, taken seriously, surely would mess up what "makes sense" to us and thus, mess up our life.

Not safe...but Good.

We need to be encouraged by God's sovereignty in the midst of uncertainty. We need to feel good about the fact that despite the mystery and occasional struggles of following Jesus, that God works all things to His good and purpose (a BIV-Ben International Version- interpretation of Romans 8:28 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=52&chapter=8&verse=28&version=31&context=verse). We may very well be called to do something that goes against our family's wishes (and possibly losing their support along the way), but if it is truly of God, it is what we must do. We are called to love and pray for our enemies, and despite that being hard from the standpoint of us often feeling "entitled" to hate those who have done us "wrong", we must do so. Loving an enemy may even cause you to be ridiculed by others as a result. We may even be sensing God's call into a season of uncertainty, simply a call to trust His leading even if all the "criteria" aren't perfectly laid out for us.

We need to trust in the Good. We may be in a period of confusion, but it is Good. We may be feeling led to love and forgive someone who, according to everyone else, deserves to be shunned and hated, but it is Good. We may be called to head in a direction that may make no sense to your family (even if they are believers!), risking ridicule or worse, but it is Good.

And I want what is Good, forsaking what is "safe". Why?

Because he's the King, I tell you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Well, finally back in the swing of things. It was a fairly eventful holiday. When asked, "How was it?", I tend to respond, "A little bit of everything." Fun. Rest. Joy. Drama. Boredom. Confusion. Frustration. Excitement. Curiosity. You name it. It was good to get away, to see folks (the Austin's, Marja, as well as the "typicals"). We always have fun with Scott and Shannon, as it's good to spend time with real friends we "connect with". We do have friends in Weatherford, but we just haven't really clicked with many folks beyond a surface/"respect" level, so being with the Austin's, Travis's, etc., always is rewarding. It was fun to see Marja, my "NoCal cousin" as well. We didn't hang a ton, but it's just fun being around her. She is just one of those folks that has a "cool" air about them. Plus, Jax really had fun with her. Maybe someday we will save up and try for a NoCal trip, seeing Marja in Santa Rosa and the Fowler's (Rena and Chris) in Oakland.

Overall, a worthwhile time (I won't get into the drama right now...not sure if this is the place for that...).

I almost forgot! I also got to re-discover Legos...built Jax a starfighter and had MUCH fun doing it! :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yay it's almost holiday time!!!!!

For some reason, I am way excited for Thanksgiving this year. Maybe I just need a small change of scenery. Maybe it's because it will actually be cool in Houston (and even colder up here in Wford when we return). Whatever the reason, I'm excited.

Some things to look forward to:
  • Cool weather
  • My dad's "grilled turkey"
  • Good football on Thursday (Cowboys are fun to watch, plus for once the Detroit/Green Bay game is a biggie)
  • Dinner somewhere "special" with Scott and Shannon Austin tomorrow
  • Marja!!!!
  • Missy is getting her hair CHOPPED so she can donate it to "Locks of Love". I think she will look cute (and I tend to like long hair). I do know it will be a struggle for her, as she is a bit scared of having short hair, and that the whole process was started long ago (before her grandma Candy died) as a tribute to Candy. So, it may be an emotional haircut
  • Guitar Hero 3 supplied by Jill
  • Getting to see Jill's big baby belly
  • And the typical "love watching Jax have a BALL with everyone" emotions...

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


And now, immediately after that last post...a thankful list...

I'm thankful for (in no particular order):
  • Being blessed with a family like ours
  • Having a wife that loves me and challenges me to be the man I should be
  • The honor of being Jackson's daddy. If God loves us, as a father, 1,000,000 more than we can fathom...he must love us to infinity and beyond as I love my boy like no other...
  • God loving us so much that He did/does WHATEVER IT TAKES to make us one with Him...now, forgive me for not always approaching life like I realize it...
  • Good pizza
  • Good Mexican food
  • Another year with Granny
  • Labor Day weekend in Kerrville with both sets of grandparents
  • Cool weather
  • Zion Hill Church in Pineville, LA, with the Sr. Hi CTCYM gang this summer (REMEMBER WEDNESDAY!)
  • Gary and Carol Turner for being pastors and friends when we needed it
  • The RedHouse Youth gang for making my heart smile so much as you continue to grow in your faith
  • Learning "Rain Down" with ParadigmShift last week (my goodness that song rocked)
  • Letting me have some painful experiences that teach me more about life, humility, and dependence upon God
  • Jason Howeth for making my day and visiting Sunday School (and showing me Facebook so I could reconnect with old friends)
  • and on and on and on....

When We Just Don't Get It

I am a naturally half-glass-full person.

I am one who tends to see the good things in life and people.

And for some reason right now, I am just "done". And I really don't get it.

I mean, I can list off various reasons and excuses, but when I step back, it is all just whining and selfishness.

So it got me to thinking about all the things we take for granted, and as a result, neglect to thank God for all he does to care for us.

So forgive me Lord for:
  • Being quick to get frustrated when things aren't going "my" way
  • Just going through the motions lately
  • Placing my self-worth (and wanting to be "praised") at the forefront, and letting it affect whether I have a good attitude or not
  • For saying or encouraging some aspect of God's Truth, or an attitude, etc., to those I serve in my family or at church, then turning around and "forgetting it" in my own life
  • Not looking for Your hand in subtle things (as opposed to just the big things)
  • Worrying too much about what others think
  • Among other things I'm sure...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

i've decided i really, REALLY like foo fighters

It's been awhile since I got truly excited about a musical artist. I mean, occasionally I'll hear a cd or song that's fun for awhile, but there are few artists that truly "stir me up". One is U2. Another is the David Crowder* Band. And now, Foo Fighters...

Not that they are new, either in reality or to my ears. I remember back in '94 or so when I heard that Dave Grohl, the drummer from Nirvana, was in a new band where he was singing and playing guitar. While I was impressed he was diverse in his musical talent...I had no idea he was so gifted he could actually play EVERY instrument on the album (at least the first one; later albums used different musicians). I enjoyed most of what I heard form them for 13 years or so while never really "being into them". They were just a decent band, better than most out there at any given time, but for some reason I never allowed my imagination to be gripped by them.

Well, I ended up with several songs of theirs on my ipod, including a few that were rockin' enough to be added to my "ExcerRock" playlist. This is my "running/cycling" playlist of songs that just rock, make you want to pump your fist in the air, etc. Keeps me moving. But usually, lyrics don't matter. After listening to a few Foo Fighters songs on that playlist (and thus others due to my being so impressed), they are now in my eyes a rare band that a) rocks and b) lyrically rocks and seems to sing with purpose. A perfect example (my favorite song right now?) is "No Way Back" from their CD In Your Honor that came out in 2004 (I think). I'll post lyrics and comment on them in a moment, but first, a small diatribe...

***I am not one of these folks who think the only stuff worth pondering is overtly "Christian" stuff. Music, books, art, etc. While I am not one who thinks "anything goes" either, I do believe God can speak to us using things out of left field. Things that, at first glance, might not be "Christian". What I am about to share may be one of those times where something not overtly Christian has had a profound effect on my faith...and inspires me...

No Way Back
by Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters

Lately, I've been
Livin' in my head
The rest of me is dead,
I'm dying for truth.

Make me, believe,
No more left and right,
Come on take my side,
I'm fightin' for you,
Fightin' for you.

Pleased to meet you take my hand,
There is no way back from here,
Pleased to meet you say your prayers,
There is no way back from here,
But I don't care,
No way back from here.

Wake me, I'm ready,
Somethin' don't seem right,
I was dreamin',
I was talkin' to you,

Memory, mend me,
Know I've seen my share,
Things I can't repair,
I'm breakin' to you,
I'm breakin' to you.

Pleased to meet you take my hand,
There is no way back from here,
Pleased to meet you say your prayers,
There is no way back from here,
But I don't care,No way back from, here.

Pleased to meet you say your prayers,
There is no way back from here,
Pleased to meet you say your prayers,
There is no way back from here,
But I don't care,
No way back from, here.

I have no idea what Grohl's personal spiritual bent is. But for some reason...I see God in this. I see someone screaming their heart out for Him. I see reckless abandon. I see risk. And it fires me up inside. "No way back, and I don't care." New creation, anyone? "Old is gone, new has come" anyone? Take up your cross and follow? Drop your nets? I see all of that in this song. A cry for truth, to follow in faith, to be broken and put back together by God. I ran to this song yesterday, and was the most encouraged and fired up to follow Jesus as I've been in a long time (and things haven't been necessarily "dry" lately). It was awesome.

So amazing how the Lord speaks to us...even out of left field. Even with the Fighters of Foo.

Friday, November 2, 2007

a "couple days late" halloween report

Halloween 2007 has come and gone. This week has been eventful, mostly due to each family member having some variety of sickness...ranging from just "sniffles" (Jax) to fever and, um, "digestive problems" (me) to simply feeling like poo in general (Missy). But, we made time for a second annual visit to Lee St. on Halloween with the Bezner's. Jax was an astronaut (thanks to Oma and Opa!), his costume quite popular with others, and he was such a joy to watch! From saying "Trick or Treat" with enthusiasm to "Happy Halloween!" to as many as he could to "Thank you" when recieving candy (which got many positive comments), it was too fun.

One thing that impressed me as well was Jax's sensitivity to things on the more "scary/evil" side. Not that he got scared (he didn't), but, for example, when looking at a bunch of "glowskulls" lined up in a yard, he simply pointed and said something like, "Look at the angry faces", with a perplexed, almost "disappointed" look. I'm glad he saw them and was unimpressed. Missy and I, while refusing to let the increased 'evil' present in Halloween beat us (we'd personally rather set an example of fun and safety as opposed to boycott it altogether...this holiday wasn't meant to be all evil and scary...it has just been allowed to become that...and to boycott it as a result seems like "admitting defeat"...we have freinds we love and respect who do not support Halloween, and that's fine...but we want to try and be good examples in the midst of bad ones...ok, diatribe over), have set some rules like encouraging costumes that aren't so much 'scary' (like vampires, ghosts, etc.) and instead going for fun characters, random items, etc. We'd rather dress up as, say, astronauts, tacos, or Yoda... Anywho, it was a great night, not cold like last year (although I am ready for another cold snap), and fun to be with friends.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

great song with challenging lyrics

I Repent
by Derek Webb, on the album "I See Things Upside Down"

I repent, I repent of my pursuit of America’s dream
I repent, I repent of living like I deserve anything
Of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
In our suburb where we’re safe and white
I am wrong and of these things I repent

I repent, I repent of parading my liberty
I repent, I repent of paying for what I get for free
And for the way I believe that I am living right
By trading sins for others that are easier to hide
I am wrong and of these things I repent

[Bridge]I repent of judging by a law that even I can’t keep
Of wearing righteousness like a disguise
To see through the planks of my own eyes

I repent, I repent of trading truth for false unity
I repent, I repent of confusing peace and idolatry
By caring more of what they think than what I know of what we need
By domesticating you until you look just like me
I am wrong and of these thingsI am wrong and of these things
Oh I am wrong and of these things I repent

Words and Music: Derek Webb©2004 Derek Webb Music (admin by Music Services) / ASCAP

Just some good stuff to ponder there...I certainly know I need to repent of many attitudes mentioned...

And I'm sure that even at first glance, some of the things Derek says he repents from would make some blood boil...but I think that's the point. We do live like we are entitled, like we deserve all we have, etc. We should instead be grateful for what we have, be willing to share it...and be content in the Lord alone should it all be taken away...and that is difficult for most Western Christians to grasp (including me more than I like to admit).

Friday, October 19, 2007

A good, and challenging, take on the lack of male spiritual leadership these days

I'm about to post a blog entry link from a good friend of mine, David Westerfield. I hate to say it, but I agree with what he is saying. In fact, I have had a few discussions lately on this very subject. I'll share a few thoughts, but I'll let Dave do most of the "talking" here as it is a thorough, heart-felt post. I will also admit two things right from the start that Dave also shares as a preface: a) I also struggle mightily with being "too passive", not proactive enough in spiritual leadership. Sure, I'm "paid to do it" with teens (and with varying levels of success), but it is harder with folks not in my ministry realm, especially when they are several years older than me, or have stronger, more Type-A personalities, etc. But God is working on me, and I am much more confident now at 33 than even a couple years back... b) Please don't read Dave's (or my) posts as, "Ben and Dave don't like women in ministry". Quite the contrary. But, as you'll discover, it just seems the guys are increasingly dropping the ball...

Here is the link. Feel free to read it first, then my additions below: http://www.davidwesterfield.net/index.php?entry=entry071015-133756

As someone working in the church as my proffession, I see this ALL THE TIME. Sure, there are the occasional men and male teens who are truly seeking to be godly leaders, but they are increasingly fewer and farther between. For example, when looking for volunteer leaders for the youth ministry, who signs up almost three times as much? Ladies. And getting men to volunteer is like pulling teeth. Like Dave wrote, you almost have to give a sales presentation to "hook" them, and often when they sign up, they still seem so nervous, reserved, almost "afraid" to open up, etc. I know some is simply how men and women are wired differently, but come on, this is getting absurd. Just look at who is sitting in church. You will see plenty of moms with all their kids, and less often, dad is with them (and usually looking quite disinterested). Is this the example we want to set for the future???? That dads just don't really care? That they'll nurture their souls (and only passively) as long as it doesn't conflict with the opening of deer season? Or dove season? Or (insert animal that can be legally killed here) season? (maybe that's just the Weatherford crew...lots of hunters here...not against hunting, but dang it seems to rule some guys' world...) I think the problem here is that we got lazy in the past generation, and while in the past male leaders were more plentiful, they just assumed it would carry on by osmosis and little training was needed. Bad decision. As a result, we have passive dads and male adults, and thus, passive teen guys. I mean, I've had a few with signs of promise (and with guidance, some have really stepped it up), but it is still a struggle. They have been modeled to just, "Believe in God, 'respect' Jesus, try to generally be nice (unless someone crosses you), work hard to be 'comfortable', and if something more enjoyable presents itself, then certainly give all your attention to that!" Forget seeking opportunities to mentor your kids in God's ways, or others around you... Even many of the males I know in leadership positions within a church (on committees, boards, etc.) are quite passive. I'm not talking about needing more "heavy-handed" tyrants either, but well-balanced men of faith who are actively seeking to follow Jesus as priority one, and thus spreading their wisdom to those around them...

Sorry if this seems like a rant, and there certainly are some great examples of godly men still out there. I've just seen too much passivity among my gender and have talked with too many frustrated moms about how they wish their husbands gave a rip about being the spiritual leader in their families, church, LIFE.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pigs are Surely Orbiting My House...

So my wife's favorite food in the world is sushi.

That above statement usually gets polarizing statements, from either, "Sushi is AWESOME!", to, "Raw fish (among other random sea monsters)? ARE YOU KIDDING???"

To this point, all I've ever been able to stomach (and it was only one bite, and it was "cooked" sushi) was some sort of eel sushi. Not any more...

Saturday was our 6th wedding anniversary, so like any good husband, I let the wifey pick our destination (ha). She chose Mikado in downtown Ft. Worth. I do like a good teriyaki beef or chicken with rice and miso soup, so I was game. As we were both digging in...I agreed to try some sort-of spicy tuna roll. Raw, ground tuna wrapped in seaweed, surrounded by rice, "garnished" by little orange fish eggs...

So here is my thought: It qualified as "interesting". You know, not the worst thing on earth, CERTAINLY an acquired taste, but I'm probably not going to beat down the door of our local sushi bar any time soon. Somewhat spicy (which helped), but cold and fishy... Yet, I ended up eating 3 of them, mostly because Missy ordered too much and kept saying, "Eat some, please. It's too expensive to leave." So I had two more... It wasn't awful, but let's just say I wish I had left at least one bite of my beef for the very end because I proceeded to burp "raw tuna" ALL NIGHT LONG haha!

But, somewhere pigs are taking flight, and I'm actually kind of impressed that I tried sushi...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Things I've Learned from My ipod This Past Year, Part 2

I recently realized another lesson since I got my ipod a year ago. As before, I need to explain some events leading to the realization...

If you know little about ipods, you first have to install a program on your computer called "itunes" to essentially manage the songs, playlists, etc., for your ipod (you generally don't use your actual ipod for those tasks), as well as buy songs, convert songs from CD to mp3, etc. Also, your ipod (which has an "indentity"; mine is named "The Angus", surprise surprise...) can only be recognized on a specific edition of itunes. Mine has always been synched to my work laptop.

Well, two Thursdays ago, my itunes stopped "recognizing" my personal ipod. Now, that doesn't mean songs on my ipod were gone, or I couldn't recharge the battery (by plugging it into my computer), but instead I could not add songs, make playlists, or do any other ipod management. Apparently (after I had researched some "help message boards"), I can save my preferences, etc., in other locales, but you have to be proactive, which in this case, I was not.

So I had two choices: either decide to keep my ipod "as is", with 7000+ songs, 20ish playlists, etc., or click "synch The Angus" to the empty version of itunes now on my computer. The kicker with choice two is that it completely erases your ipod of songs, playlists, etc., since the itunes on my computer was now a blank version.

I also realized there were two "attitude" choices I needed to make. Either be bitter, possesive of "my ipod" (like what I experienced in Part 1 of this series), or try to find the lessons and opportunities present.

I chose option B. I started realizing that of the 7000+ songs I had, easily 1/3 had never once been played in the past year. Over 2000 songs essentially "taking up wasted space"! I had tons of songs put on there "just in case", when in reality, they were never touched. Also, of my over 20 playlists, only 7 or so were ever listened to... Add to those facts the increasing anxiety over my ipod "only" having around 2 GB left (out of an original 30 GB), wondering when I would run out of room and have to start purging certain files.

So, with excitement (believe it or not), I decided to have a "do-over" with my ipod. I clicked "synch The Angus with this version of itunes"...and erased my ipod. Now thankfully I had every song on file in a folder in an external hard drive, so no song was truly gone; just gone from my ipod. Yet, I knew I had alot of work to do to "re-do" my ipod...

But it was exciting! I went back over a two-week period and made only the 7-or-so playlists I really listened too. As a result, I now have "only" around 4000 songs, but over 11 GB of free space. I basically got rid of 9 GB of "wasted space" and have lots of room.

How does this compare with our lives? As followers of Jesus, we get "do-overs" as well: forgiveness and repentance. When Jesus died and resurrected, he atoned for all our sin once-and-for all, and we who trust in that have forgiveness. Our lives are viewed as clean and worthy before God. Yet we still struggle with "stuff" that holds us back, much like wasted songs on an ipod quickly filling up room. At some point, my ipod would be full and I'd have a painful taks of picking and choosing what to "cut". We are the same way. We have "stuff" (like struggles that we choose to cultivate, forgiveness we need to accept, forgiveness we need to give, attitudes that kill our souls, etc.) that continue to fill us up, and it hinders us from being the people God intends for us to be. Where I parked in this realization was the realm of forgiveness. First, we need to realize as believers we are already forgiven. Too often we act like we have to "get forgiveness" over and over again, almost like we lose forgiveness. I don't buy that, or see it in scripture (see John 10:28-29, where it looks like those who God has brought to himself can't be taken away, and that inclues his forgiveness: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%2010:28-29&version=31). Instead, we need to remember we are already forgiven and rely on God to help us truly repent (or, "turn the other direction") from our sinful behavior and attitudes. But forgiveness has a facet we too often gloss over: we may be forgiven by God, but our hearts toward others hold us back:

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. *** Matthew 6:14-15, NIV.

It does appear we can "lose forgiveness" (or at least not recieve it) there, but I think it more accurately means that when we don't truly forgive others, we aren't able to truly "grasp", accept, and "live in realization of" the fullness of God forgiving us. Essentially, we allow all the wasted songs/stuff/people we need to forgive to take up space in our lives, and we have less room to live as redeemed people. One of my faborite quotes is from G.K. Chesterton: “And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” *** from "Orthodoxy"

When we forgive others, and truly live like people who grasp the fact that we have been forgiven, it allows us to free up "dead space" in our hearts...and let the, "good things run wild". Too often we look at God's plans for us, his guidelines for behavior and attitude (including forgiving others...even when we don't think they deserve it), and feel like it holds us back. Not true! Instead, it frees up dead, wasted space...and allows for good things to run wild and amok in our lives. THAT is what I want! Just like my new-and-improved, freed up, more efficient ipod...

Friday, October 5, 2007


I recently realized that, according to tradition, I am now the age Jesus was when he was crucified, etc.


Amazing to think that the son of God accomplished everything by this age.

I feel like I am just "puttering along" so much of the time! When we think of leaders demanding allegiance, we usually think of folks with gray hair, maybe a beard, etc. But a 33 year old? Wow. The King of Kings was my age...surreal...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Things I've Learned from My ipod This Past Year, Part 1

About a year ago for my 32nd birthday, I received a gift from my parents: an ipod. A couple of things you need to know about the significance here: First, I LOVE music. If I had to choose between blindness or deafness, I'd probably choose blindness. I certainly appreciate the gift that is seeing beautiful things, but my "image memory" seems to be clearer than my "hearing memory", so it's likely that the images would remain clearer to me than sounds should it ever happen. I'd miss "seeing" my lovely wife and child, watching sports, seeing mountains and sunsets...but would probably miss the joy that music gives more (at least I could still imagine what was being described to me, converse with others freely, etc.). Second, is that an ipod was the first gift in many years that I actually requested for a birthday or Christmas. As I've gotten older, I just don't seem to truly desire so many specific things like I did as a child. A great example of this was two years ago when I didn't have any personal gift requests, so I decided to ask for a "family gift": a fence for our back yard (you know you are old when you start asking for fences, haha!).

Well last year, when the "what do you want for your birthday"-requests started going out, my wife figured I was still in "I don't really care"-mode and suggested we go for another family gift like flooring the attic. Well, I said, "you know, I actually want an ipod". So I got one...

You need to know now that I almost pride myself in being laid-back as far as "love for material possesions" go, with the key dangerous word there being pride... You see, here is where one great personal lesson from my ownership of an ipod comes in...

A few months ago, I "lost" my ipod. Actually, I think Jackson got a hold of it and at some point it was lost under a couch or cabinet or something (doesn't matter). At first, I was just sort of amused, but as the day went on (and it was lost for three days), I got increasingly worried. I was never mad at my son, you must know, but some strange emotions started coming about. Frantic-ness. Worry. "Missing" my ipod (almost like you'd miss a person...yeah, sad...). Even wondering what my folks (givers of the gift) would say knowing I even allowed a 2-y/o to have access to such an expensive and small item. Finally, the most interesting thought I had were along the lines of, "Ben, this is YOU! You don't get this way! You aren't controlled by material things!" But, you see, I was exposed. And humbled. I was (am) just as guilty as anyone else.

1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
6"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. **
Matthew 7:1-6, NIV
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%207:1-6;&version=31; (and a good commentary of verse 6 can be found here if you are bored: http://jtsexton.blogspot.com/2007/09/pearls-and-swine.html)

Thus, I learned an important lesson: Yes, I do tend to not struggle with loving material things, but I am just as guilty as anyone. I have at times even judged others that seem to struggle so mightily with being ruled by possesions, or feel "entitled" to only the best things in life, etc., but I am not so different. I often look at what friends of mine can "do" and get jealous, for example. That is not fruitful. I need to always seek to be grateful for all the Lord has blessed me with...even if it seems meager at times when I allow myself to compare with others, etc. I also need to acknowledge that things I "love", like my ipod, are destined for places where "moth and dust destroy" and should be considered a true gift of God while I have been entrusted with them.

10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. ** Philippians 4: 10-12 (NIV) http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=57&chapter=4&verse=10&end_verse=12&version=31&context=context

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why Fall (aka Autumn) is My Favorite Time of Year

Recently I was asked what my favorite season is. Below are some "haphazard, off-the-cuff" reasons the time from late-September thru late-December is my choice (in no order):

  • Two words: football (especially when some of the northern games start having snow)
  • I love leaves changing colors...where I grew up (Houston) this doesn't happen as much, but in N. Texas it at least happens a bit more, and it's great. So beautiful.
  • My favorite "weather day" is partly cloudy (maybe even a bit overcast at times, but still "bright"), breezy, 40s in the morning and upper 50s and 60s in the day. Clear, cool nights where a fire can be burned.
  • I love how the weekly cool/cold fronts start coming down late-Sept., and how the first "real one" knocks high temps into the 70s...and how everyone acts like it's freezing suddenly (sweatshirts, etc.). Ironic thing is within two months, 70s are "hot".
  • My favorite month in general is in the fall: November. Weather is all over the place: sometimes still warm (but not hot), occasional storms, leaves blowing, and even the shot of the true "cold blast", with wintry precip a chance. Nov. also has my fave holiday: Thanksgiving. In addition to the best average weather guarantee of any holiday (to me at least), I love the food, being with family, the football games all weekend, and I also get to usually see my old friends from home. Oh, and as long as Aaron (best childhood friend) is in town, PUNTBALL (I'll explain that sport we created soon). And best of all about Thanksgiving to me? The stress of "Christmas time" doesn't seem to exist (I love Christmas, too, but for some reason that is often a stressful time...lots of travel, making sure everyone is "seen", parties to plan, etc.). Turkey Day still retains at least some "laid-backness", even though tons of folks are around.
  • Baseball Playoffs. I do enjoy baseball, but I love the playoffs. I enjoy few things more than getting home on a cool night, letting the breezes flow through our house (windows open, of course), eating dinner, and watching postseason, INTENSE baseball. I don't even care who the teams are.
  • I love going to the Castles' (my in-laws) house in the fall. Jeannetta decorates a ton, it has a GREAT yard (trees, etc.). I love raking big piles of leaves (due to the trees) and letting Jax go crazy in them. Also, one of my fave things to do with Dennis is go in the garage while he's "tinkering around" (and the door is always open), wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, and watching/talking college football (there is a TV out there).
  • I get to wear "my uniform" in comfort: jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt. If it's cool enough, I can even wear one of my beanies...
  • Daylight Savings Time Ends. For some strange reason, I like it being dark at dinner time...
  • I get to start watching the Charlie Brown Specials (either on TV or DVD), with no reprocussions. I just love those...and so does Jax. Something about the song "Linus and Lucy" makes my heart smile...reminds me of the innocence of childhood. In fact, if nailed down to truly find the song to represent "me", it would be "Linus and Lucy" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.
  • Halloween is fun again since I have a child now. Plus, one of the great things about Weatherford is a GREAT trick-or-treating street called Lee that is wide, on a slope, with old homes and big porches that get all decorated...HUNDREDS of families out in a safe environment. Whenever we decide to leave Weatherford, that night and street may be one thing I will truly miss.
  • Fall colors/decorations. Pumpkins. red/brown/orange/yellows everywhere (I love earthy colors). Candles that smell great (one of my favorite smells is "spice", like pumpkin spice).
  • You get to start some of the "Christmas Stuff" before the season gets too crazy. Lights, trees, other great smells (another favorite is "pine/christmas tree"). And I LOVE going to places like Garden Ridge Pottery and just walking around the Christmas section (or other stores with huge holiday sections).
  • MLS Cup in November (hopefully either FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, or BOTH are in it this year!)

That's all I can think of for now...but I am READY for fall! It's just too warm still...so cold fronts: COME ON DOWN!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Generation Hope Seminar Report

This saturday we hosted Mark Matlock of WisdomWorks Ministries (www.wisdomworks.com) for the Generation Hope parent seminar. It was such a valuable thing. There were plenty of parents from our church who missed out, but still a decent group was present.

In a nutshell, Mark challenged parents to honestly look at themselves to see if their attitudes and "parenting style" are either fostering or hindering the spiritual growth of our kids. He offered many practical tips, ideas, and I'm sure that several of us there (I know Missy and I will, at least) certainly left feeling renewed to answer God's call to be the primary spiritual example and guides for our kids.

I highly recommend looking into attending a Generation Hope seminar near you!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Forget MySpace...Facebook is Better! (and a fun story from Sunday)


Yeah, I got a Facebook account. You can blame Jason Howeth, a guy who was in the Chapelwood youth ministry while I was there, for convincing me to join up. It's kinda fun, although thankfully the "traffic" is starting to slow (for about a day I seemed to get an email every 5 min from some old friend or youth that I had lost touch with...but found out I was now on Facebook). It's been fun, but for awhile not much "work" was done...

That brings up my fun story from Sunday: So we're in Sunday School, and I've just begun the actual lesson (after announcements, etc.), and this tall guy walks in. I catch him out of the corner of my eye, assuming it's a visitor and I prepare to welcome him. He just stops and stares at me...and I realize, it's Jason Howeth. Now, you need to know that Jason was "that kid" my first two years at Chapelwood UMC: you know, the one you wanted to "punt" about every five minutes. I was able to see him grow in his faith, though, and when I left, even though he wasn't in the jr. high ministry I was overseeing, you could see the positive changes, the growing up, etc. In fact, I've often used Howeth as an example to my current gang of teens I shepherd as proof that God can work on "that kid"...and all ends up well! Jason spent much of Sunday catching up with Missy and I, getting to know Jax, etc. good times.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What is "Family Ministry"?

This is something I have been working on (and still developing) that I thought I'd share... I realize some of these thoughts exist in an earlier post, but this is more "hashed out".

What is “Family Ministry”?

This is a question that is perplexing many in the Christian world these days.

Often, it is really just traditional “children’s ministry”, with activities for young children, mother’s day-out programs, and occasional family outings. In fact, in viewing many church websites, their children’s ministry is actually labeled as “family ministry”. But I don’t think that is the answer to my question. That isn’t family ministry, but just an aspect of it.

Many times, parents who label themselves as Christian have not truly made proactive decisions to truly live their family lives in a holistic, Jesus-following manner. They have compartmentalized their lives (i.e., different “rules” of living based upon areas of life, like work, sports, certain friends, etc.) and any attempts to integrate faith into the family dynamic seem to be weak attempts at best (such as dropping children off at “church activities”, and assuming that’s enough). In the past, that may have been “enough” as far as parents’ attitudes were concerned, but I think that time is at an end. Increasingly, both in research I’ve seen and informal conversations with parents of my generation (born in the 1970s and later), the desire is present to integrate faith into one’s whole being, not just church things. This carries over into one’s marriage and raising of children as well. And now is the time to truly seek God’s wisdom on how to make the most of this desire, and not squander it.

What might true family ministry look like? There is certainly no formula, but some aspects could include:

· Embracing the entire family organism, not just children, youth, or adult specific. Any family ministry should seek to encourage parents to truly embrace their God-ordained role as the primary spiritual guides within the family.
· Working with other ministries (all life stages involving the family unit) to encourage opportunities that strengthen the family dynamic, not tear it apart further. Essentially, evaluate existing programs to see if any cause undue stress on the family (financially, temporally, relationally, spiritually) and make suggestions where necessary.

· Provide arenas for parents to discover, encourage, and strengthen:
· Ways to disciple each other and their children
· Marriage enrichment;
· Education about current and future trends that may be embraced (or warned about);
· The importance of living a holistic life of faith.
· Offer counseling (or have reputable referral contacts available).
· Schedule regular retreats, workshops, conferences, etc., to assist in achieving goals.
· Have parent-specific small groups where parents can gather to become stronger disciples, discuss issues, share ideas, thoughts, and encouragement, and to foster accountability
· Parent mentoring made available, possibly in connection with small groups (mentioned above).

Many challenges form the holy scriptures exist, but two that could be used as both encouragements and goals can be found in Colossians 3:19-21 (19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged
.---NIV) and Ephesians 6:1-3 (1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2"Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”).
If we can truly embrace these godly challenges, the change would be amazing. Our greatest witness is our lives, and we need to do all we can to encourage families to be the standard bearers. Healthy, Spirit-led families who are proactive in their lives of faith would certainly be used by God to show his power, might, and love to all around us.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

NCAA Div. 1-A FB Dice Game, Week 2 Rankings

Some changes this week...I made sure to get results done before games started.

2007 NCAA Division 1-A DG Football Poll (Wk 2)

Rank Team (PR) Record Last Wk
1. USC (6) 1-0 1
2. Texas (6) 2-0 2
3. Wisconsin (6) 2-0 4
4. West Virginia (6) 2-0 5
5. Florida (6) 2-0 6
6. Oklahoma (6) 2-0 7
7. Michigan (6) 2-0 8
8. Virginia Tech (6) 2-0 9
9. Rutgers (6) 2-0 10
10. California (6) 2-0 11
11. Ohio State (6) 2-0 12
12. Louisville (6) 2-0 13
13. Penn State (6) 2-0 16
14. Nebraska (6) 2-0 17
15. Hawaii (6) 2-0 18
16. LSU (6) 1-1 3
17. UCLA (6) 1-1 14
18. Georgia (6) 1-1 15
19. Georgia Tech (6) 1-1 19
20. Auburn (5) 2-0 20
21. Oregon State (5) 2-0 21
22. Texas A&M (5) 2-0 22
23. Boston College (5) 2-0 25
24. Missouri (5) 2-0 NR
25. Alabama (5) 2-0 NR

Others Receiving Votes: Iowa (5) 2-0, Arkansas (5) 1-0, Boise State (5) 2-0, BYU (5) 2-0, South Carolina (5) 2-0, Miami (FL) (5) 1-1, TCU (5) 1-1, South Florida (5) 1-1, Notre Dame (5) 1-1, Tennessee (5) 1-1, Florida State (5) 1-1, Oklahoma State (5) 1-1, Clemson (4) 2-0, Maryland (4) 2-0, Virginia (4) 2-0), Kentucky (4) 2-0, Purdue (4) 2-0, Pittsburgh (4) 2-0, Central Michigan (4) 2-0

Upsets: Western Michigan over Indiana, Colorado over Arizona St., BYU over UCLA, South Carolina over Georgia, Cal Poly over Idaho

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

NCAA Div. 1-A Dice Game, Week One Rankings

2007 NCAA Division 1-A DG Football Poll (Wk 1)

Rank Team (PR) Record Last Wk (Pre-Season)
1. USC (6) 1-0 1
2. Texas (6) 1-0 2
3. LSU (6) 1-0 3
4. Wisconsin (6) 1-0 4
5. West Virginia (6) 1-0 5
6. Florida (6) 1-0 6
7. Oklahoma (6) 1-0 7
8. Michigan (6) 1-0 8
9. Virginia Tech (6) 1-0 9
10. Rutgers (6) 1-0 10
11. California (6) 1-0 11
12. Ohio State (6) 1-0 12
13. Louisville (6) 1-0 13
14. UCLA (6) 1-0 15
15. Georgia (6) 1-0 16
16. Penn State (6) 1-0 17
17. Nebraska (6) 1-0 18
18. Hawaii (6) 1-0 19
19. Georgia Tech (6) 0-1 14
20. Auburn (5) 1-0 21
21. Oregon State (5) 1-0 22
22. Texas A&M (5) 1-0 23
23. Miami (FL) (5) 1-0 24
24. TCU (5) 1-0 25
25. Boston College (5) 1-0 NR

Others Receiving Votes: Missouri (5) 1-0, Alabama (5) 1-0, South Florida (5) 1-0, Iowa (5) 1-0, Arkansas (5) 1-0, Boise State (5) 1-0, BYU (5) 1-0, Notre Dame (5) 1-0, South Carolina (5) 1-0, Tennessee (5) 0-1, Florida State (5) 0-1, Oklahoma State (5) 0-1, Wake Forest (5) 0-1, Arizona (5) 0-1


Well, I forgot to publish my first week of "NCAA Div. 1-A Dice Game Results" prior to games actually happening...i'll try to get them out today.

Also, Went to Kerrville for the long weekend (even took Sunday off...those are rare!). Nice and relaxing. Read a good book. Smiled alot watching Jax interact with BOTH sets of grandparents...

Friday, August 24, 2007

An Exploration of "Family Ministry"

For about a year-and-a-half now, I've been in a bit of a "holding pattern" as far as seeking things that stir my heart up ministry-wise. I have still been in the arena of youth ministry, and there are absolutely still areas of teen-specific ministry give me great joy (especially seeing "light bulbs" going off, watching kids be more-and-more willing to step out of their comfort zone for God, etc.). But as far as "where to go from here"-goes, newer aspects, etc., it has been a blur.

Could it be starting to change?

Could my ministry focus, even in the world of youth ministry, be shifting a bit?

It might be. Increasingly, I am sensing a greater need to focus on true "family ministry"--not what most consider as family ministry (basically, "children's ministry", if you look at most churches), but a true ministry focusing on the entire family dynamic: both kids AND parents. Most churches have, for various reasons, basically seperated the family. It's not that they meant to break it up so much; I think they just thought about how teens, younger kids, and adults were "different". And they are! But as a result, the family got split up, and maybe more importantly, parents went into an "adult ministry" world that seemed to stray from directing parents to be the God-ordained primary spiritual teachers, leaders, and example for their family. Instead, the focus was more "self" (not all bad; we certainly, CERTAINLY need to work on our own relationship with God), focusing on personal needs, instead of intentially raising up Godly parents. Instead, "raising children to be disciples of Jesus" became about dropping your kids off at some youth ministry. And we youth ministers were (and are) glad to oblige.

I just think we've been missing something.

In a very un-scientific study made by me (basically, watching families over my past 10 or so years of youth-specific ministry), I have noticed a couple things:

1) Many (note NOT ALL) parents who are, say, 10-15+ years older than I (so, 40s and up), while increasingly are "wishing" they saw their role as parents to be a truly God-ordained call to "show their family the Way" through intentional instruction, by living their own lives as examples their kids and spouse could observe, and seek a holistic life of faith, for the most part they did not start off that way. Back in the 80s and much of the 90s, new adults were thrown into a society that was so "me" focused, material-gain focused, etc., and the lingering effects are being seen today. Oh sure, those issues still exist, but they were cultivated during that era with alarming effect. So, as a result, many true Jesus-followers born out of that era never really grasped their role as primary faith-leader in their families when their marriages started, children were born, etc. And churches didn't seem to put real energy into changing anything beyond "lip-service". So, parents would maybe pray some at meals, attend church when they flet like it-- like when it didn't fall during "deer season" (or some other animal to shoot), or if your favorite pro football team wasn't on TV at noon-- and drop their kids at the "Godly babysitting service" that is children/youth ministry, and pat themselves on their backs for doing a good job spiritually raising their families.

2) I have noticed that at increaing rates, parents who are in their 20s and 30s with young children that identify themselves as Christ-followers are not satisfied with that model. I see increasing numbers of families truly seeking (or at least "wanting to know 'how'") to make their families a place where Jesus is followed, proclaimed, and sought after in all areas of life, and thus their children at least are encouraged in that direction proactively. Slowly, churches are starting to notice, and some (usually the ones big enough to afford it) are even hiring "family pastors" whose main role is to encourage families to truly be God-focused.

Both, I realize, are vast generalizations (certainly there are plenty of older parents whose families are bathed in an environment where Jesus is King, as well as plenty of young families who don't give a rip) as far as Christian families go. But I do see it as a trend.

"What do I have to do with it"? Well, future-wise, still not sure, but in my current role, I think something new needs to begin. And I'm talking to myself as well, as one who desires to answer God's call to be the "Davis Family Minister" so my wife and kid are in an enviroment where God is the focus of all our life, decision making, how we treat others, etc.

Well, after listening to God for the past few months and working to see this through, the youth ministry is bringing in a gifted writer and communicator, Mark Matlock (http://www.wisdomworks.org/), to share his Generation Hope parent conference to our community (http://www.fumcweatherford.org/genhope.aspx). I am very excited, although I am already fighting the naysayers (both personal and "others") that would tell me that it's a "nice idea", but probably won't generate much interest. Regardless, I see this as answering God's call, and pray it will be a catalyst to something bigger: parents in our community truly grasping their God-given role to raise their families with Him permeating everything. So, whether our Family Life Center is full on Sept. 22nd, or if its a gathering of just a few, my hope is that God will start a revolution among our families...I know the Davis' want to be a part of it, at least. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Proud of My Wife

I'm so proud of my wife, Missy.

No, that doesn't mean she got a teaching job (yet).

She hasn't recieved some award.

She has simply impressed me mightily with her proactive trust in God lately.

It certainly hasn't been easy. Far from it. You see, Missy and I are wired quite differently in many ways. It sometimes can make things a bit "interesting" (haha), but ultimately, I believe our differences are quite complimentary, and in the end show that God knew what he was doing when he threw us together (via my car breaking down) back in 2000. No, she doesn't "complete me" (a false hope and expectation that can doom marriages from the start...future post?); only God can complete. Anyways, you see, I am naturally positive, glass-half-full, seem to be singing the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" (cue whistling). Faith that God will provide, in his plan for us, etc., is generally (if not all the time) easier for me to have. Not so with Missy. She herself would tell you (and thus I feel ok saying) that she is often naturally glass-half-empty, can dwell on "what's going wrong", and even easily goes into what we call the "downward spiral": things not going our way, and so other "little" things that are normally no big deal increasingly are seen in a negative light, etc.

So what has amazed and encouraged me so much lately is how she has trusted God in our "troubles" lately. She has worked so hard to get her teaching certificate, to find a job, etc., and yet still nothing... But she soldiers on. I truly am inspired by her proactive seeking and trust of God during this time. You see, this doesn't come naturally for her. She did not "grow up in the faith" like so many of my friends did, and thus "God stuff" often permeates our thoughts, language, and paradigms. She has to release her natural tendencies to God and allow his peace and comfort to take over.

And I am so proud of her for doing that lately. As I've experinced recently, it's been my faith and attitude that has often struggled, not hers. God is using her to encourage me in my faith.

Thanks Missy...I love you!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Option C

Shane Hipps (www.shanehipps.blogspot.com), if you are reading this, I promise I am not trying to steal your thunder if something like this becomes, say, a future book by you... But our discussion a few weeks back has my wheels turning...

As I've indicated in past posts, I often feel like I don't truly "fit" in the various labels we have created in the Christian world. It seems like (especially in America) if you call yourself a Christian, you are very "either-or"... Something like this (warning, generalizations follow, but please read it all before you decide I'm some freak...which may still happen ha!):

Option A: Very black-and-white on moral issues (at least when it comes to arguing about them. Living them? Sometimes another issue altogether...), loyal to a certain political party almost "blindly", seem to try and figure out which individuals are "in" and "out" (aka exclusivistic), very opinionated about biblical insipration and authority, Jesus-as-the-ONLY-way, strong in evangelism, taking stands for Truth, etc.

Option B: More "anything goes" as far as core beliefs, salvation, etc., not big on taking stands on theological issues, yet seem to live "sermon on the mount"-principles better, loving and respecting God's creation and children, etc.

I just wish there was more room for Option C, which might be something like this:

Option C: Affirming scriptural Truth, inspiration, and authority, affirming that Jesus is truly "way, truth, and life" (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=50&chapter=14&verse=6&version=31&context=verse), striving to reach others for the sake of the Kingdom, not wishy-washy about core beliefs, etc., BUT still striving to be "sermon on the mount"-people, not worried about political parties, seeking peace (not revenge), not elitist, serving those in need (with NO STINGS ATTACHED), etc.

Does Option C exist? Some would say that the "emerging church" is trying, but I have even seen examples where that line of thought (in certain churches) is straying far into Option B-land (I may comment on my emerging church thoughts later, but a good blog by a friend on the issue can be found here: http://churchremix.com/?p=22). Can Option C co-exist with either of the other options? Possibly in certain locales...but it certainly would be groundbreaking (and met with some resistance due to a breaking of certain paradigms, comfort zones, traditions...). I know that option A-ers would argue that any "letting up" of stances would produce a slippery slope into bad theology, behavior, and attitudes (I think C would retain theology, etc., but just look for more relevant and "real" ways to practice it in today's society), while option B-ers would likely say C is still too "excluding" (since it would still be claiming Christ's deity, our sin nature, and total reliance on the Cross for salvation and eternal presence with God).

Not sure really where else to go with this post today, but the wheels are turning. I'd love to hear any of your thoughts and comments on this issue. Are you happy with the options? Are you feeling, like myself and others, that something about A and B options just aren't really "doing it"? Am I completely messed up in the head?

Bring it...

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Dice Game Cometh (hopefully)

So, for years I have had a hobby called "the dice game". Basically, I create sports leagues (real or fake) and play out the season. In the past, I used only two dice to roll, assigning teams a "power rank" of 1-to-6, 6 being the strongest team. You roll, and depending on the discrepancy between teams, it is harder for weaker teams to win (much harder, say, for a 1 to beat a 5 instead of a 1 vs. 3). I early on noticed the math inadequacies if I wanted a "true" game (I won't bore you with details...but the math geeks will quickly figure it out), yet for years kept the same methods due to it's ease.

Last year, I changed it up completely, producing a truly unbiased method: teams are still ranked 1-6, but the ranking determines how many dice are rolled. For example, if a 6 plays a 4, each team rolls their proper amount of dice, and you simply add up the totals for a head-to-head victor. In some sports, the great distance between a 1 (6 possible points) and a 6 (36 possible points) is probably too unrealistic, especially in pro sports...

...but in, say, Division 1-A college football, it is PERFECT, since, come on, Duke will almost NEVER beat USC...but if Duke rolls a 6, and USC rolls six "ones", forcing overtime (which is a one die vs one die "roll off"), it could happen...but HIGHLY unlikely...

So, I will give periodic updates (weekly) on some results of the 2007 NCAA Div. 1-A "dice game". I am using the "helmet schedule" that was also made last year (http://digg.com/football/2007_College_Football_Helmet_Schedules), which is simply fun to have in general! If I can figure out how to post the actual document, I will, if not, I will post weekly "Top 25s" (according to my results, not "real"), some big game results, upsets, etc...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Me no likey my negativity

I took some time to read a bunch of my "recent" (as in, the last few posts, although they stretch back a few months) and noticed a disturbing trend: my negativity. I realize it is good to be honest with my emotions, but "negative" is not one that usually is mentioned about my general attitude. If folks are asked, "What is Ben like?", usually words like fun, joyful, goofy, unique, etc. are brought up. Lately I have felt less and less "those words", and it bothers me. I have let the troubles of life (and if I really look honestly at them, they are NOTHING compared to what most folks deal with) get to me, worry me, frustrate me...and I feel like I have allowed all that to creep in.

So right now, 8:24 am (CST) on Aug. 7, 2007, sitting on our living room couch with Jax in the "thinking chair" next to me about to watch "Go Diego Go!", I am pledging (and making this my prayer) to get back to being "me". God created me with a certain "life attitude" that I hope to get back to, and soon. I have always had a natural "bent" toward positivity, faith that God will provide, and a general joie de vive-attitude. And it has always been easy (aka natural, not "forced" or fake) for me to be that way; God created me that way, and my upbringing helped encourage that as well. I have been blessed with a family that is positive, fun-loving, upbeat, and "young at heart"; as a result, I have found myself to be the same way.

Therefore, I need to get back to that. Maybe I've forgotten to see all the good God Stuff around me everywhere. My wife, my son, food on the table, a roof over my head, clothes, and people who care about me. I need to really start living Matthew 6:25-34: 25: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%206:25-34;&version=31;)

So, there it is. It is a passage I have held onto in the past, and I will hold to it now.

Friday, August 3, 2007

I'm Ba-ack...

(Hey Wede, I'm posting again!)

Accountants have their busy tax season...athletes have the season...my music ministry friends have Holy Week...

...and I (and most youth ministers) have summer...

There is a reason I've been absent (good? not really...this blog has become a source of spiritual refreshment, really...funny thing what sharing words can do for one's own walk with God...). As my blogging goes, so often my closeness to God goes, and judging by my lack of posts ALL SUMMER, one can figure out that busy-ness has taken it's usual toll.

Summer (so far) has had it's hight points. Both mission trips were examples of God's might. Jackson turned THREE and is growing in amazing (not just physical) ways. I also re-connected with my old college roomies from Kent St. @ TCU. That may have been one of the most joyful times I have had with folks, other than family, in a long time...I laughed harder than I have in years sharing stories. I can't believe it's been TEN YEARS since we were all in college... Life really is moving fast. There are things that happened over a year ago that still seem recent...and I suppose that is how things will be as I get older.

There have been struggles. Each summer seems to wear me out more than the last, not only physically, but emotionally... I love ministry, working with young people, etc., but I wonder how long I can keep up the "pace" needed to do youth ministry sometimes. I know people think all youth ministers do is play all day, but that is not true (in fact, the "play" stuff is one of my least favorite parts of my job!). In addition to all the planning, prepping, and implementing of events, activities, and lessons, working with teens in their turbulent lives (being a buffer between their insecurities, families, pressures, and even their relationship with God as so many of them really are confused where God fits into all this) is stressful. You try to keep them "engaged", but in today's world that often means "entertained" and if you are boring...they tell you. You try to get parents involved...and you risk getting them upset at you since sometimes they need to hear hard truths about their "baby" (and I am fully aware that my time will come on the recieving end with Jackson). Often you feel like you can't win...

Also frustrating has been Missy's continuing quest to find employment as a teacher. We have faith in God's plan and timing, but no one said it was easy. She has been taking classes for a month, and it is hard on the family. Part of me knows a bit what it is like for me to be gone on mission trips, for example. She does come home late-afternoons, but by then she is so tired she basically decompresses form most of the evening (can't blame her), and often has homework or does more job hunting. So, either Jax is witha sitter all day while I work, or I have him essentially all day (not entirely true, but at times it can feel that way). She is not at fault, as I owe her this chance to get ready for a teaching career. I'm just ready for her to be done, have a job, and move forward.

Above all, I need a true "Break". Notice the capital "B". It was done on purpose. Not just a day off (had one of those, but it was spent watching Jax, doing yardwork, etc.), but a true "getaway". I need to disappear, spend some time (if not all) alone in silence, in God's creation, etc. Maybe later this month or early September... I know I need it because a) It's obvious I'm not ready to be "back" with the teens, as on Wednesday all I felt was stress (and even frustration/indifference) while with them, b) I find it increasingly difficult to wake in the morning (not a usual trait), and c) my closeness with God is sufferiing. I can probably count on one hand the times this summer I have felt a direct connection with the Lord, and even a few of those times were short-lived. I need to come back to my Source...

So, in all that, I will seek to trust again (click here for all the places some form of "trust" is used in the NIV version of scripture: http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=trust&version1=31&searchtype=all). God is good, all the time...all the time God is good... I know this...I just need to live in that reality again! If you are a praying person who is reading this, pray that you, too, will live in this realiztion!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mike Yaconelli Tribute Video


Mike Yaconelli was used by God to absolutely transform how I viewed my life...faith...calling. His death in a car wreck a few years back was untimely (but not to God!), and Youth Specialties put together this montage of him to remember...and inspire. I am inspired all over again!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Become What You Believe

These are the notes for a sermon I am sharing at church tomorrow. They are in "bullet point" form, but it's basically a narrative text...I pray it speaks to you!

Become What You Believe
27-28As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, "Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!" When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, "Do you really believe I can do this?" They said, "Why, yes, Master!"
29-31He touched their eyes and said, "Become what you believe." It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. "Don't let a soul know how this happened." But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met.

· I think all of the miracles Jesus performed have various purposes. Sure, one purpose is to heal, or feed, or just do something amazing, proving to those around that Jesus truly was the Son of God. Often another purpose is to cleanse someone’s soul, forgive them, etc. But I think there is more to these accounts. This one has stuck out to me for some time now, especially since I first read this translation of it a couple years ago. I think that sometimes we miss what these have to say about our life as believers…
· In this account, we have two blind guys begging Jesus for mercy. Notice they aren’t saying, “Hey Jesus, make us see again”. Now, I realize that “have mercy” may have implied that they wanted to see… Jesus asks if they believe he can have mercy (and heal) them, and they say, “yes”. As he touches their eyes, he says the phrase that both speaks to me, as well as haunts me a bit: “Become what you believe”.
· Are we doing this? Becoming what we believe? Do we truly believe that each of us are in need of mercy? I’m not sure all the time… Some of us are, as although we realize we are human and fail often, our focus is increasingly on Jesus and allowing God to mold us accordingly. For others, we may have “started strong” in the faith but need some wake-up calls, need to re-visit our faith story and be reminded of what beliefs drive us. For others, though, and more often than most of us would like to admit, we hear that phrase, “Become what you believe”, and say, “Oh, ok…wait, what do I believe, exactly?” Too often, I fear this is where most folks calling themselves “Christians” park. Sometimes this may happen to folks who honestly have had a real experience with Jesus at some point and even have placed faith in him, but for whatever reason, have never taken the time to really grow in the knowledge of God, of faith, theology, whatever. The danger there is it allows for some not-good things to easily creep in as there is no “filter” in place. For example: I was just at my parents’ home last weekend in the Houston area. Both my parents are believers, and my mom is a big reader, as evidenced by the library she has set up (my favorite room to hang out in, by the way). Since it is known by her friends that she spends much time reading, sometimes she gets books as gifts. Well, while sitting in the library last weekend perusing the books, one caught my eye that immediately sent the red flags up. Many of you may have heard of it, but since I don’t think the point of today’s message is to stir the philosophy of this book up, I’ll just leave the title out of it. I asked my mom, “Um…why is THAT book in your library? Are you just trying to keep informed of the various worldviews out there in case you need to defend your faith against them (which is a good idea, by the way)?” She informed me that it was given to her by a fellow church member, who gushed and gushed over its’ “power”. Thankfully, my mom and I agreed that the book’s goals are misguided at best, anti-Christian at worst…
· The point? My guess is that this lady (whom I think I know) likely has neglected “becoming” what she believes by not spending time actively cultivating her faith, and as a result, has fallen prey to other philosophies that aren’t God.
· Become what you believe…
· Some folks don’t even get as far as the lady above…in short, they don’t really ponder anything “faith based”, or even “philosophy-based” for themselves. They just plug along, doing their own thing. Even folks who sit in churches each week. I’m surprised often, in fact, how many folks (of all ages) when asked questions like, “Why are you a Christian?”, “Why do you believe in Jesus?”, etc., either answer in ways that are confusing at best, or, “I don’t know” at worst. This is something that should be a concern for us, both folks who do have a strong sense of faith and those of us who can’t answer “why” at all.
· I think an example of how most of us are can be found in my brief and turbulent college intramural basketball career. I am an AWFUL basketball player. Can I shoot baskets, play horse, and other fun “basketball-based” games? Sure, but the actual game, not really. Somewhere around my junior year, a bunch of friends in the fraternity (a Christian one, so I think there motives were true) invited me to be on their team. I thanked them, but proceeded to tell them how utterly clueless I was at basketball and let them know I really didn’t feel like getting embarrassed (or embarrassing them) night after night, probably costing them victories. “Nah, we’re just out to have some fun. It will be cool. Don’t worry about it; we just like you around.” To which I replied something like, “No, you don’t understand. I STINK. You will probably wish I wasn’t on the team.” “Ben, were just out there having fun. No biggie.” So, reluctantly, I joined the team…since I think they genuinely wanted me to “join them in the game”.
· The first game, right from the start, I knew I was in trouble. The captain huddled us up, and began spouting off some sort of code (it seemed) that everyone but me got the memo on. “Alright, we’re gonna run a 2-3 defensive zone. Davis, you take top left.” Now to some of you, that’s perfectly clear English, and I may even be butchering the translation even now (I’m not much better in basketballese, even 11 or so years later). Well to me, I was too embarrassed to raise my hand and ask something like, “uh, guys, what is a 2-3 zone?” So, the game started. The other team won the tip, so we are on defense. I have no idea what to do, so I just pick a guy and try my best to “defend” him, no matter where he was on the court. Since everyone else was doing a zone defense, I was quickly running into my own teammates, and the guy scored easily. No one said anything…yet…
· Now we were on offense. You also need to know that all I know about offense in basketball is that you have to dribble, you can’t travel, it’s a good idea to pass the ball around, and the goal is to get the ball in the hoop. But running plays? “Pick-and-roll”? When to pass and when to shoot? Uh-uh. So whenever I got the ball, I basically did my best “mental coin flip” and either just shot the ball (usually a miss or a block clear across the court) or passed (which often resulted in a steal because I “telescoped” the pass: it was too obvious where I was passing so defenders could easily intercept). So, not much better results on offense, either.
· About 2 or 3 possessions into that first game, captain calls time out. You could tell the team was rapidly questioning the wisdom of inviting me to join them. I was reminded of our defensive scheme, and I replied, “I told you: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING! You need to explain it to me.” So, they informed my that I had an area I was in charge of on defense, and if the ball handler left my area, another of my teammates would pick him up, etc. I knew it couldn’t be that simple (this was later confirmed, but even this amount of explanation helped some). So, while I was still quite confused, I at least had some clue. None of this helped the fact that I simply was not a skilled basketball player fundamentally, but I wasn’t completely worthless. I did have endurance, some speed, and I hustled a lot, so that made up for some of the deficiencies. In short, I tried real hard. I’m still sure my teammates cringed though, when they were short players and knew the only option for a 5th player on the court was me…but I warned them!
· The purpose of this story? Because a lot of us play similar roles in the life of faith.
· Some of us want SO BADLY for those around us to “get it” like we do. Whether we wish folks prayed more, or studied scripture more, or share their faith, or catch on to some “vision”…many of us are like my friends that wanted so badly for their buddy to join them…and did not realize that I had no clue. The danger here is lack of patience and frustration. The apostle Paul challenges us here: Ephesians 4:2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
1 Thessalonians 5:14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
· This is hard for those already running this “faith race” diligently in some way, as we often do a good job of “holding it against” folks who don’t seem to get “it”. I often catch myself in this place with the youth, or parents, or friends, where I want them to seek the Lord so much, and often you just see tired eyes staring back…and I can be the one on the other side, too, frustrating those when I don’t seem to get it…but we need to seek and pray for patience, and like the 1 Thes. passage says, “warn, encourage, help…” This is where those of us who get easily frustrated with others’ spiritual “stuck-ness”, apathy, or confusion need to come alongside, to train (not just “teach”…I think there is a difference). This is an area where God is speaking loudly to me right now, even when it comes to youth ministry…how much has been just “teaching”? Where can we start living faith better?
· For those who related to my “comic relief basketball career” as my character, the one who jumps in, has no clue, is afraid to ask, speak up, etc., hopefully some questions are stirring in your heart. Be willing to ponder those questions… “What do I believe?” “Where do I start?” I know that many already do have faith, but something has us “stuck”, and the reasons and excuses may have some validity here and there. But we have to seek God. Scripture is teeming with this challenge, to simply “seek”. And no formulas are given, which is hard in our society as we want the “to do list”. If this character in the story is you, my encouragement is to ask the hard question. We say creeds every week that are supposed to be reminders and claims to what we believe. Do we really believe Jesus biological father was not earthly? We say it every week. Do we really believe that his death on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, which each of us have, no matter how “good” you feel compared to others “worse” than you (we are WAY TOO GOOD at making that comparison, by the way…since it is an attempt to validate, give excuse for, our reluctance to fall truly at Jesus’ feet and make him King of our lives…)? Do we really believe Easter happened the way scripture tells us? We say it every week. This is a good place to start. Find a creed (Apostles, Nicene, etc.), and really go search the claims…
· I think often we get stuck here because we hope God speaks to us through “osmosis”: we just expect God to smack us over the head all the time, with no effort, seeking, or desire on our part. Can He do that? Absolutely! But does He usually seem to want us to respond to the love He gives, the sacrifice He made for us, and have a desire to be with Him? I think so. It has to be more than just coming here each week, singing songs, hoping to here something “good”, etc. It has to be looking for God’s fingerprints everywhere. And maybe you do want to respond to the desire to follow Him in your heart, but have no idea how to get things rolling, or don’t see where you can join in. If that is you, let those you consider “leaders” (staff or otherwise) know, not in a complaining way, but in a, “We really need to be trained…and I want to be a part of it”-way. Maybe it’s basic theology. Maybe denominational distinctives. Spiritual discipline methods (like ways to study scripture, pray, listen, journal, etc.). Sharing our faith. Serving folks out of simple love for them, beyond just “duty”. Figuring out ways to live together in our various giftings. Heck, figuring out what our gifts are!
· Finally, I know there are lots of folks out there when asked, “Are you a Christian?”, either flat out say “no”, or say “yes”, but then can’t give a good answer why. They might talk about attending church their whole life, or they figure this is just the “right” place to be, etc. but there is no sense of a “story” as to why and how they came to faith. Some can even spout off scriptures, etc., to share gospel truths, which are true, but still cannot tell their own story of how they realized their own sinfulness (and how it takes them away from God, even the “small, innocent stuff”; see the scripture Romans 3:23 that Glenn referenced a couple weeks back), how the Holy Spirit (aka God’s voice) spoke to them, exposed their true selves, and they realized that Jesus is who he says he is (full God-full man), and through his death and resurrection, raises us up into His Kingdom, which while it is a “later” thing (like Heaven or Hell), it is also a NOW thing. Too many of us have no sense of that story within ourselves. If that is you, I challenge you to spend time with God on this, with scriptures, with friends that seem to have a sense of that truth in their own stories.
· Become what you believe. If we believe Jesus and scripture, we too need to cry out for mercy. And we need to believe that Jesus offers it to us. And if we believe it, we need to BECOME it…so let’s do this. Graduates, you are entering adulthood. Your faith is now your own, not mom and dad’s. Become what you believe. Confirmands, you are entering the crazy world to the teen. You will have questions, struggles, desires, etc., that you have never had before. You need to NOW, ask God to help you become what you believe. For all of us, this is Jesus’ challenge. True discipleship. Discovering what we believe, and becoming it, joining Him in his huge plan, and changing the world…