Archive for July, 2007

Still Painting

Posted: July 30, 2007 in Uncategorized

Today we are painting the trim work on the house.  My in-laws are leaving in a little bit (yes, there is a tear streaking down my cheek even as I type that) … I still have a lot of painting left to do…and we have already done a lot of painting!  I’m exhausted.  Two careers I don’t think I want…roofingand painting.  I can’t wait to go back to work!

The rain didn’t cooperate and we had to end our painting of the house exterior early today.  I got a coat of primer up.  Tomorrow morning we begin with the actual paint.  I was hoping to do primer and one coat today.  Oh well.

Dub and Fran, my in-laws, are helping.  They are both pushing 70 years old (I hope they don’t mind that I just blogged that to the world), but they have the work ethic and energy of 25 year olds!  It is very impressive.  I’m not sure what I would do if they weren’t here.  On Monday night our sewer line out to the main city sewer backed up (tree roots) and our downstairs bathroom overflowed.  And NOT like overflowed with clean toilet water (if there is such a thing) but some pretty nasty sewage!!!  I FREAKED (OCD kicking in big time) running around the house like a panic-stricken dog in a thunder storm!  The plumbers came out at 11:30 p.m. and didn’t leave until 1:30 a.m.  And then, my mother-in-law cleaned the mess!!!  Can you believe that?!?  I told everyone at our staff meeting on Tuesday that I bet at night my in-laws get in bed and say to each other, “Our daughter really could have done s0 MUCH better!!”

I’m sitting at Martin’s Supermarket (thanks to the rain) working on a new message series that will begin the Sunday after Labor Day weekend (September 9th).  It is titled, “Inked:  Leaving Your Permanent Mark.”  We are taking the TLC show, Miami Ink, and using it for Miami St. Inked (our church is right off Miami Street).  We are going to talk about the kind of permanent mark or legacy we are leaving behind for our children, our families, our friends, and the world.  I have to say that I am MORE excited about this series than any series I have preached in the ten years I have been at the Living Stones Church!!!  You’ll hear a lot more about this in the near future!!!  Very fun!!

P.S.  Miranda Mayes went home today!!  Hallelujah!

Today, Jennae Gee & Chuck Strantz sandblasted and painted our new sign out front.  It looks really good.  Here is Jennae trying to be polite to me all the while really wanting to say, “Get that *#$!@ camera out of my face dude!!”  What she doesn’t know is if she would have just said the above, I would have given her a big raise!  Anyhow, the old banners finally got to come down!  We still have to attach the five-stoned logo on the sign as well as some landscape work around it, but it is finally coming around.  Muchos Gracias to Chuck and Jennae for the day they invested in some serious work!

 Had a great time in worship yesterday.  It was great to see some new families from our Avalanche Ranch VBS and there is always more energy and excitement after such a great week.

My in-laws are here this week to help with a major home project.  I have to paint the house.  Who knows when the last time the exterior was painted (at least not in the six years that I’ve lived here).  So, we spent the day power washing, scrapping, and prep work for primer and paint.  I don’t like this work.  But I’m very blessed that my in-laws are here to help.  HUGE HELP!!!

Contagious Laughter

Posted: July 20, 2007 in Uncategorized

Don’t you hate when you really shouldn’t be laughing…but you just have too.  And the fact that you shouldn’t be laughing only makes it that much worse.  Check out these news-anchors who can’t stop laughing.

Had a good conversation last Sunday afternoon in our Galatians growth group about the “good news” of Jesus and how churches can take the “good news” and, whether they mean to our not, end up presenting it as “bad news.”  Specifically, we talked about what it means to “join” a church; or become a “member” of a church; or just the whole process of getting to be “a part” of a church thingy. 

Let me say up front that I really struggle with this issue.  I do not have the answer and I don’t even particularly like what we presently do at the Living Stones Church.  We tend to be very informal, but we still have categories of “member” and “non-member” although none of us are really sure what happens when someone who has been coming for awhile decides to become a “member.”  They don’t get a special card; learn a new handshake; or get to use the “member-only” bathroom.  So…I’m not sure what really changes.  Even the language of “member” seems weird.  I’m a member of a gym.  I can be a member of a neighborhood association.  I’m a member of the zoological association (I like the lions!).  But being a “member” of a church as if it is another institution in which one joins seems weird.

O.K. back to my issue.  How does someone get to be a part of the church?  I’m talking philosophically for a second.  It seems for most churches (and this is a discussion lots of churches are having) it usually means the following order:

  1. You believe certain things.
  2. You behave certain ways.
  3. Then you can belong.

So, in this respect it goes believe, behave, and then belong.  For most of my ministerial career I’ve followed this pattern.  But it hasn’t worked all that well.  Whether I like it or not, it comes across as very exclusionary and thus…not “good news” or “gospel” to people who are trying to find Jesus.  What they are thinking, whether I intend them to or not is this, “So if I believe these 12 points…all of which I’m still trying to figure out, and then stop behaving in these four ways (and why is it all about sex?), then I can belong to your church?”  In the end…it is all about what “they do.” (seems to rub againt a little with Paul’s understanding of grace in Galatians).

Yet, when I see Jesus’ ministry (which I assume to be an important pattern!), it seems like he reverses the order.  When he calls his disciples he gives them immediate community and belonging.  And IN THE CONTEXT of belonging, they begin to believe differently, and then behave differently.  It doesn’t seem Jesus asks Peter, “Do you agree with these twelve propositions (including whether Peter believes Jesus to be the Messiah which it seems he didn’t even ask his position on this matter until halfway through his ministry); will you quit behaving in these ways…then you can come follow me.”  He says to Peter, “Follow me!”  And as Peter follows Jesus he comes to believe different things.  And then he behaves differently.  I wonder if Jesus would have begun with the believing and behaving if Peter would have ever followed in the first place.

I know some of my greatest ministerial regrets are moves of exclusion.  They were well intentioned (at least I keep telling myself that), but they were exclusionary.  Let me give you one such example that I shared at our growth group.  Years ago we had a woman who started coming to our church that was living with her boyfriend (who she had been with for years and had two kids), had overcome an addiction, was putting her life together by undergoing state licensing to open a day care and came to me one day to ask if she could work in the nursery (you know…like hold the little babies).  My answer…”no.”  Why?  Because of the whole believe, behave, then belong thinking.  Now, if I was worried about the safety of the childre that would be one thing and that is non-negotiable…period!  But I wasn’t.  I’m not sure what I was worried about other than she didn’t fit into the whole church “believe” and “behave” policies.  So, after I told her she couldn’t work in the nursery do you know what she did?  She left our church never to return!!  That’s what people do when they hear you say (no matter what language you choose)…you don’t belong.  She just wanted to help mothers by rocking their babies for goodness sake!!

I know the Scriptures give us standards for those with spiritual authority such as pastors/elders/deacons, etc.  I’m not saying you abandon those principles for some enthusiastic moment of inclusion and tolerance.  And I don’t think you have to throw out discernment and allow anyone to do anything (e.g., if you have been convicted of embezzlement, we’ll love you, forgive, etc. but you probably won’t be our church treasurer).  What I’m asking is the whole nature of what it means to belong

What if this woman that I said “no” to would have truly felt like she belonged among us?  What if she just knew that she fully belonged in our community that was journeying together in God’s Kingdom?  That she was among the rest of us that are “in process” of having our lives changed.  If she would have felt a part of this community of faith taking another step closer to Jesus she may have from that context very well changed in beliefs and behavior.  But who knows because she never felt like she “belonged” and thus left! 

And it seems that is when the church, rather than demonstrating the “good news” of Jesus undermines it with the “bad news” of “you’re not welcome in our church (or at least not really) until you believe these things and do these things.”

I’m still confused as to what is the thing to do.  I like the idea of people saying, “this is my church.”  It helps shepherds to know who’s in the flock.  I think some sort of acknowledgement or moment of commitment like “this is where I’m working and worshipping” is a good thing.  But somehow in that process we must grant people belonging.  True Jesus-like belonging.  Because it seems beliefs and behavior are best changed within that context.  At least it was for Jesus.  So far, I have never had anyone come to me and say,

  •  “A few years ago I wanted to help in your church but you wouldn’t let me because I had some sin in my life and that really helped me a lot and I just wanted to say thank you.

But I have had people say:

  • I love this church.  I love it because I came here and my life was a wreck and you loved me and accepted me just as I was and now, because of Jesus, I’m a totally different person.”

Belonging…believing…behaving.  Maybe that is the order.

Can I tell you that I LOVE MY JOB!!?  Right now I am sitting in some green lounge chairs on the front porch of our church enjoying what might be the most beautiful day of the summer!!  I have my computer, books, Bible, etc. spread out on three different chairs and I’m getting to work in this “office.”  Life is good…really good.

Today is the LAST DAY of our Avalanche Ranch VBS.  It has been a blast!  Last night was the biggest night yet in terms of kids and I anticipate that we will end today with an even larger number.  I notice that the energy level goes up a bit at the end.  On Wednesday, everyone is usually exhausted…kids and volunteers…except for Gary Dolezal who I’m telling you is fantastic with kids and summons up energy from some storehouse unavailable to the rest of us!  On Thursday you start to get a little burst of energy and then on Friday for the last night, it’s on!! 

Meeting a lot of wonderful children; some great connections with families; and some fantastic inquiries into the Living Stones Church.  Just watching the children worship…I’m telling you it’s priceless.  If I have these feelings in my heart watching them…imagine what feelings God must have in his heart watching them!

Two stories…I had one mother share with me last night that her child was loving the VBS and that she, as a mother, was grateful that her daughter was coming.  She said the first night her daughter came home and said with great excitement and conviction, “Mom, God REALLY is real!!”  Isn’t that great?!  On Wednesday night one of the fathers came to pick up his three children (right on Perez family).  He walked in at the end during our worship time and he just stopped and worshipped!  I mean he was doing the hand motions and everything…not like he was trying to  encourage the kids…but all for God.  He had his eyes closed…looking up to heaven…and singing!  It was beautiful!!

And can I talk about the VBS snacks!?  In my day it was a sugar cookie and kool-aid (which I loved).  Last night we had ice cream sundaes with crushed oreos and a cherry on top!!  “In my day….”

It has been a busy busy week.  Sorry for the inconsistency on the blog.  Last week was church camp and this week is VBS.

One more thing from an earlier post about Miranda Mayes (by the way – Miranda’s husband, Jason, took these photos from our VBS…he has a sweet camera!).  She is doing great (piece of cake)!  I mean seriously…I have never seen anyone go through the chemotherapy treatment she is going through with such flying colors.  Note to cancer:  Don’t mess with th’m Texans!  Doctor hinted that it is quite possible she could go home next week!!!!  You can hear all about it yourself from her myspace page.

Here are a few pictures of our Vacation Bible School – Avalanche Ranch going on this week.  The first is of my wife leading the songs.  The kids love to sing.

I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of the volunteers here at Living Stones.  These folks work hard all day at their jobs, jet over from their job (most trying to make it through a drive-thru if even that) and then spend nearly three hours each night ALL WEEK interacting with all of the kids!  Theyare what makes the VBS successful.

It is always encouraging to see so many little kids from our neighborhoods hanging out with us for a week! 

The other amazing thing is how our worship space is easily transformed to so many other things.  Right now we have a barn and stall in our worship space!!  It is pretty cool.

We start this evening one of the highlights of my year!!  VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL!! 

Where:  Living Stones Church (718 E. Donmoyer Ave. South Bend, IN 46614)

Time:  6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Who: 4 year olds to 5th graders

Cost:  FREE – plus a free t-shirt (which is awesome)

Kelly, my wife, who leads the kids in all of the songs was practicing Saturday night.  I looked over at her and she was crying.  I asked what was wrong.  She said she was just picturing all of those little faces singing these songs.  It is the most precious thing in the world…heart-melting!  We’re in for a great week!

You can register to come to the VBS by clicking on the logo above.

I’m back!!  My first week of church camp in at least a decade!!  I loved it!!  I seriously had a blast!  I went with my oldest son, Isaac, hoping to help usher him into a church camp experience.  I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  5th & 6th graders are awesome.  They are old enough to have serious conversations and interact well but not old enough to be overly concerned with being “cool.”   

I have taken the Myers-Briggs Personality test indicator several times (ESTJin case anyone is curious).  One of the questions on the test is the one that asks whether being with a lot of people gives you energy or if it consumes energy from you.  With few exceptions I always get energy from groups, but I have found the ultimate demographic for me in regards to energy and excitement….5th & 6th graders.  I’m sure every camper and faculty member thought I needed a good dose of hyper-activity drugs.  Gordie Fox and his “Dean Team” – Jen & Aaron Johnson, Scott McNeely, and the entire faculty was awesome.  I miss those kids already.  Great week!  I plan on returning next year! 

Church Camp

Posted: July 8, 2007 in Uncategorized

Well…I’m on my way to church camp with several 5th & 6th graders.  It should be fun!!!  I haven’t been to church camp in years!  Got to get the bug spray…