Saturday, July 31, 2010

Amy Carmichael -- Hast Thou No Scar?

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

— Amy Carmichael —

One of my all time favorite poems.

Profound C. S. Lewis

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, . . . I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you - the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both . . .

These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited . . .

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, a sermon preached at Oxford, June 8, 1941

Word Fun

The Washington Post published its yearly contest in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for various words.

And the winners are...

1. Coffee (n.), a person who is coughed upon.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absent-mindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), an olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you.

13. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions.

14. Pokemon (n), A Jamaican proctologist.

15. Circumvent (n.), the opening in the front of boxer shorts.

Just for laughs -- don't feel the need to comment -- unless you'd like to vote for your favorite word. No pressure.

28 Days to Strengthening Your Walk with God

by Glenn H. Teal

1 What are 2 or 3 areas of weakness that consistently show up in your life?

2 What steps could you take on Defense – to minimize these temptations?

3 What steps could you take on Offense – to maximize the positive opposite to your areas of frequent temptation?

4 What general defensive steps could you take to guard against recurring sins?

5 What general positive steps could you take to build up your spiritual strength?

6 Taking the most important Defensive and Positive Steps above – outline a 28 day Spiritual Strengthening Program



7 Now work it diligently for the next 28 days and see what God does.

This is good for me once or twice a year.

Lessons from Schindler

Schindler's List Redux!

In a recent message I recounted the scene near the end of Schindler's List, where Oscar Schindler is given a ring made from the gold fillings of the Jews he saved. As he tries it on he realizes that with more money and risk-taking he might have saved more. "This car -- 10 more lives -- this gold pin 3 more lives."

What a powerful reminder of the value of one life.

I am convinced that
Randy Pope, Senior Pastor of Perimeter Church in Atlanta is right when he says that most Christians do not really believe that all of heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents and that if the story of the Prodigal Son was retold in another form most church folks would doubt it was from the Bible.

Randy also says that in light of Luke 15 -- the stories of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son -- followers of Jesus ought to be so passionate about reaching lost people that we would leave a church if it wasn't effectively doing just that. Instead hundreds of professing Christians leave local churches each week because they resent the fact that they are not "deep enough" to feed them. Few if any people these days leave a church over lack of outreach.

I think both Randy and Oscar are right!

Cowboy Wisdom

COWBOY LOGIC -- Used at CrossRoads for Country Sunday

Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day.
There's two theories to arguin' with a woman. Neither one works.
If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop diggin'.
Never smack a man who's chewin' tobacco.
It doesn't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
Never ask a barber if he thinks you need a haircut.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be suprised if they learn their lesson.
When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back.
Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.
The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.
Never miss a good chance to shut up.

There is wisdom in these here words!

Spiritual Awakening


"Andrei Bitov, a Russian novelist, grew up under an atheistic Communist regime. But God got his attention one dreary day. He recalls, "In my twenty-seventh year, while riding the metro in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) I was overcome with a despair so great that life seemed to stop at once, preempting the future entirely, let alone any meaning. Suddenly, all by itself, a phrase appeared: Without God life makes no sense. Repeating it in astonishment, I rode the phrase up like a moving staircase, got out of the metro and walked into God’s light."

You may have felt in the dark about your purpose in life. Congratulations, you’re about to walk into the light.

I like that -- a lot!

Visit to the Abbey

The Abbey of Gethsemani posts this quotation on their website:

Alone in God
my soul waits, silent.
My help is from Him.

Alone in God
rest, my soul, in silence.
My hope is from Him.
He alone is my rock, my safety;
I shall not be shaken.

Don't be afraid to be alone with God -- because you are not! I loved my visit to the Abbey.

Lexio Divina -- Bible Study

Lectio Divina is an ancient monastic method of reading the Scriptures.

Latin for 'Divine Reading' or 'Praying the Scriptures', Lectio Divina is a quiet and contemplative way of coming to Gods Word in which the participant allows the rhythm of Scripture to wash over them as they meditate upon the passage.

There is no one way to do it - I'm sure there as are many versions as their are people using it - but I'll post here the way I've written it up for my community to use. We've done it from time to time as individuals, in small groups and even a few times in groups of up to 200! (although it obviously has to be adapted) I've written it up as follows - feel free to take it or leave it...

The method (NB ? there is no one way of doing this - you may wish to put on some quiet music, use some images of Christ or other art/photos, or get out in creation and work through the following steps.)

1 - Stop/Relax/Connect with God. - Calm your body. Concentrate on some slow breathing - try to clear your mind of the busyness of life and your day. Simply call out to God - ask for him to touch you as you pray.

2 - Scripture Reading 1 - read the passage you've chosen twice. Read the Scripture slowly. Allow its words to wash over and sink into your consciousness as you become familiar with the passage. Don't try to interpret it or understand it. Picture and even enter the scene, watch and interact with the characters. Listen for words that catch your attention, when they do, savor them, toss them around in your mind. In the silence that follows the reading meditate upon what you have heard, let the verses begin to stir up memories, thoughts or ideas as they come. If a word/s or phrase/s from the passage strikes you say it out loud or write it down - don't embellish or explain it.

3 - Scripture Reading 2 - read twice more. As you read the Scripture again, continue to allow it to wash over you. Let its rhythm and repetition flow. In the silence that follows continue to enter into and engage with the scene and the authors words. What theme/s emerge for you? How do you and your experience connect with what is being read? What is Christ speaking to you at this time? Write in a sentence the theme that you feel God is speaking to you through the text.

4 - Scripture Reading 3 - read twice more slowly. Continue to interact with and meditate upon the Scripture as previously. What action might God be calling you to through these verses? Let your meditation lead you to silent prayer, thanksgiving, petition, confession etc. Interact with God on what you are thinking, communicate with your thoughts and ideas. Journal your thoughts and prayers if this is helpful. Write to God as if writing to a friend. Go with the flow, let your mind be taken in whatever direction you find it goes.

Make note of any action that you feel God is leading you to.

When you feel comfortable ending your time, thank God for interacting with you and pray about any other issues that you may have on your heart.

Good stuff. Try it!

Christians Grieve Too

Christians grieve, just like all other human beings. But the major and all-important difference is that Christians grieve in hope. They live in hope of the resurrection of the dead, made a surety in their experience by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. They live in hope of His redemption, His return, His glory. They grieve knowing the truth of Paul's words to the Corinthians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Available to the Christian is the very comfort of God Himself. The One who gave His own Son on our behalf, who certainly knows, then, the depths of love in that self-sacrificial love of the Cross, promises to comfort us in our pain and sorrow. That is why the Christian grieves, but in hope.

As we briefly discuss the grieving process, we will often find that the believer and unbeliever alike share the same experiences. But when it comes to the point of how one moves through the process and how one views grief, the issue of hope will be seen over and over again.

This has been real in my life this past six months.

Quotes on Grief Work

Our grief work is not really complete until we have found some meaning in our grief. It is true that our emotions need healing, but so does our belief system or theology.
H. Norman Wright, Recovering from the Losses of Life

To regard grief as somehow unworthy of a Christian who believes in the resurrection is to forget the example of Christ who was so often "moved with compassion," who wept at his loss of Lazarus and prayed the longer in his agony. We cannot short-circuit human processes; we have to give the experience time to come home to us before it can become a motive for hope and a promise of fuller life . …Grief is only unchristian if it is wholly self-centered or if we never emerge from it.

Maria Boulding, Prayer: Our Journey Home

It is impossible for one to live without tears who considers things exactly as they are.
Gregory of Nyssa, De Beatitudine

The principle is simple: when words are most empty, tears are most apt.
Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior

And who's to say which is more incredible—a man who raises the dead … or a God who weeps?
Ken Gire on Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Incredible Moments with the Savior

Grieving -- The Spiral

One more in a series of old blog posts recently I recovered. Several friends who have been in significant grief commented on how some of my past postings were helpful to them. I hope this is one of them:

The grieving process is not a line, neither is it a circle. Instead, we might best describe it as a spiral. From one viewpoint, a spiral looks like a circle, but from another you can see that progress is being made in one direction or another. That spiral can be headed "up" or "down." In either case, a person traveling along that spiral may visit one "stage" of grief more than once, but, if progress is being made, one will have learned from that stage before, and, if healing is taking place, one will not stay in that stage as "long" as before. Each time we meet those feelings, we are a little better able to handle them, a little better able to go on with our lives.

I should note at this point that not everyone experiences all of the "phases" of grief. Not everyone, for example, struggles with anger. These categories are based upon the general experience of those who have lost a loved one. Every situation, as we have said, is unique, and therefore "exceptions to the rule" are to be expected.

The "spiral of grief" can either lead us upward and, eventually, out of the process, or, if we refuse to face our grief, and engage in self-destructive behavior that denies the reality of what has taken place in our lives, it can lead ever downward into despair, loneliness, and bitterness. I have, sadly, met more than one person who was still in the process many, many years after a loss. They were bitter, unhappy, and unable to function in a normal way, all due to their unwillingness to face the necessity of working through grief. We will talk more about the danger of this kind of situation later on. For now, we might see the two spirals of grief like this:

The Upward Spiral:


On the other hand, note the small, but important differences in the opposite:

The Downward Spiral:


Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted -- Jesus

I'm so glad God is close to the brokenhearted aren't you?

More Celtic Prayers

Open our eyes to Your presence
Open our minds to Your grace
Open our lips to Your praises.

May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow.
May the soft winds freshen your spirit.
May the sunshine brighten your heart.
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you.
And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.
- Old Irish Wish

As the rain hides the stars,
As the Autumn mist hides the hills,
As the clouds veil the blue of the sky,
so the dark happenings of my lot
hide the shining of Thy face from me.
Yet if I may hold Thy hand in the darkness
It is enough….

Since I know that though I may stumble in my going,
Thou dost not fall.

I love these ancient prayers don't you?

Celtic Prayer

May there always be work for your hands to do
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.

Amen to that!

Reflections on the Existence of God

The Beginning Point
From Calming the Restless Spirit: A Journey Toward God by Ben Campbell Johnson

I have encouraged you to wonder about your life -- your longings, your questions, your unexplained experiences. In all this wondering you have probably begun to consider the presence of God, a God whom you have experienced from time to time without naming it.

And now, I invite you to believe that this God who has been "messing around" in your life knows you, loves you, and wants to help you find the meaning of your life. This daring risk of faith may sound strange to you but go ahead and take the leap.

As a beginning point for your quest, adopt the notion of God as a loving companion. Try this affirmation on for size: "There is a God who has been seeking my attention and affection." I want to help you test the truthfulness of this affirmation in our own experience.

I believe God has so made us that we can't find fulfillment in anything other than God. The hunger you feel and the longings you experience may be nothing less than a disguised hunger or longing for God. ... All of us have an inborn desire for God. ...

Just imagine that God . . .
through your hungers has been trying to lead you to a full table,

through your deeper questions has been hinting at the lasting answer,

in your own experience has been appearing in disguise, and

offers to help you find yourself and God.

Every earthly substitute for God suffers the same fate in the end. You and I were made for something more than earth can offer. Use the things God has made, appreciate them. But don't make a god of them. Peace comes to us through finding in God the answers to our deepest questions and the fulfillment of our persistent yearnings. Nothing else can provide the contentment we seek.

This is the kind of article I really enjoy. I hope you do too!

Christianity in China

Nestorian Christians first entered China in 635 AD along the Silk Route via northwest China. The church they established was largely among foreign groups, not the Chinese.

Thereafter Christian influence waxed and waned, often absent for centuries before fresh initiatives were taken. Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest, obtained permission to reside in China in 1583. Despite planting a church, he still did not make Christianity a Chinese religion.

Protestant missions were latecomers to China, travelling on the same boats that brought Western trade and imperialism. Missions established themselves along the east coast in the mid-18th century. James Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (now OMF) in 1865, saw the needs of the inland provinces and he and others moved away from the coast establishing churches and hospitals. Work among the minority peoples in west China, like the Lisu, also began.

By 1949 there were about 6,000 missionaries in China and there were some 20,000 Protestant churches with over 1 million members. Christianity was established, though not accepted as an indigenous faith.

During the next 30 years the Chinese church was isolated and forced underground as the missionaries left, church buildings were closed and pastors and congregations were imprisoned and persecuted. To the outside world it was difficult to imagine how the church would survive this oppression.

As China emerged after Mao’s death, evidence of a thriving church was revealed, sustained by God’s grace through the faithfulness of the Chinese Christians, the prayers of Christians abroad and radio broadcasts.

In 1979 Deng Xiaoping allowed churches to re-open under the control of the Three Self Patriotic Movement. The church then had about a million members.

The TSPM has seen a growth in membership across China through the last 20 years; official reports admit to over 10 million Christians in China. Over 20 million copies of the Bible have been printed in China.

Many Chinese Christians will not align themselves with the official church, seeing it as too much under the authority of a Communist government and serving the Party first and God second. These meet in house churches; some isolated, others part of well-organized groups numbering several hundreds of thousands.

Although figures vary, a realistic estimate for the total number of Protestant Christians in China would be 70 million.

The house-church movement is also at present under great pressure to register with government authorities. Reports over the last five years reveal that incidents of persecution are common. Pastors are imprisoned, materials are confiscated and meetings closed down.

The struggle to establish Christianity in China is by no means over. Support and prayer for the Church is as important as they ever were.

I love what God is up to in China.

How to Pray for China


For peaceful, stable and honest government as China reforms its economic and social structures.

For Christian professionals to offer their skills for work and witness among Chinese intellectuals, the business community, and in both urban and rural areas.

For good Bible based teaching in the churches.

For the training of godly pastors. These men and women are often poorly paid and sacrifice much to lead their churches. As China develops rapidly, young people see the attractiveness of secular work and lifestyle. Pray that more young people will respond to the needs of the church.

For an end to persecution of house churches who refuse to register with the TSPM, and for the witness of those in prison.

For Hong Kong Christians to have a sensitive and significant influence in churches in southern China.

For witness among Christian minority peoples. Some groups such as the Lisu have large numbers of Christians; most have no viable church or no known Christians.

Radio broadcasts into China provide a valuable means of training leaders and evangelizing non-believers.

Give thanks for the great growth of the church.


Meeting Pat Boone - 2004


So I get to the Detroit Metro Airport to check in for my flight China. This is the airport alternately known as Metro and Wayne County which I usually refer to as DTW. As we go through security I notice this older guy. He looks familiar. About 70ish -- wearing California Country Club casuals, And on his feet there are these spiffy off-white shoes. I think to myself -- "It can't be".

So I chickened out and didn't say anything.

Then he got on the escalator next to me and his bags slipped out of his hand and I can tell it startled him so that he almost lost his balance. Deja Vue for me since I did a similar thing in Seattle a while back and got pretty badly hurt.

So I say something about how tricky it can be on escalator with baggage and he chats back. Then I recognize the voice.

Are you --- Pat Boone?

"I am" he said -- and off we went down the concourse.

Pat says that three of his four daughters went to Christian colleges (as mine was then doing) and the fourth did OK without going to college -- Debbie that is.

I told him my wife would be thrilled to know I met Pat Boone but truth be told I was pretty happy about it myself!

Back to Jerusalem


What is the Back to Jerusalem movement?

The name unfortunately leads a lot of people to believe that it's about evangelizing Jerusalem or Israel. That's not the case at all. When the Chinese say "Back to Jerusalem," they're talking first of all about a geographical advance of the gospel throughout history. The gospel started in Jerusalem and then spread in a generally westward direction into North Africa and Europe. Throughout history it has continued to spread westward around the globe, with China as its farthest advance. With a Chinese mindset, they see that to fulfill the Great Commission is to encircle the whole globe with the gospel, until it goes back even to where it began. Their aim is not Jerusalem or Israel, but all the countries and unreached people groups between China and Jerusalem. Along the old Silk Road, which once brought trade from the Middle East to China, you find approximately 5,200 unreached people groups and tribes.

How did it start?

The vision goes back to the late 1920s, when a group called the Jesus Family had formed in China. They lived like the church in Acts 2, sharing all their possessions in a common pool, and preaching the gospel as they walked from one village to another. They faced tremendous opposition. Often the "scum" of society would believe in Christ, so it would be the cripples, the blind, and the beggars. Whole villages would come out and throw rocks and rotten fruit and vegetables at them.

It was that group, or a derivative of that group, that first believed that God was telling them to walk on foot all the way back to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel and establishing churches in every town and ethnic group on the way. But they never got to see their vision come to fruition. A small group of Chinese missionaries got right to the border. But then the vision died for a long time. It went into the ground from the early '50s to the late '80s.

When did it reemerge?

One of the great catalysts was a man named Simon Zhao. He was one of the leaders of the Back to Jerusalem movement in the late '40s and early '50s, and was arrested along with all the other leaders when the Communists took over that part of China. He was given a 40-year prison sentence. It's a very touching story. His wife was pregnant—they had only been married a short time. She was also arrested and suffered a miscarriage in prison. She died a few years later, and he never saw his wife again. Simon Zhao said that many nights in the prison labor camps he would face toward the west, toward Jerusalem, and he would say, "God, the vision that you've given us has perished, but I pray you'll raise up a new generation of Chinese believers to fulfill this vision."

Simon Zhao got out of prison in 1983 and had no money, no family. He didn't know any Christians anymore. People had forgotten that he existed. He began to live right outside the prison labor camp, just under a piece of canvas, because he had nowhere to go and no money and nothing to do. Once the believers heard about his story, they brought him back and had him share his vision. God used his ministry to raise up this new generation. He died recently. . .

The Free Methodist Bible School in Kaifung China also felt strongly led to send young missionaries "Back to Jerusalem" in the late 1940s. The descendants of this group most of whom now worship in Three Self and in Unofficial Churches in Henan Province are still pursuing this goal of reaching the unreached peoples along the Silk Road...

God is still at work!

Jesus in the Bible


Genesis – Christ is the Creator
Exodus – Christ is the Deliverer
Leviticus – Christ is the Law-giver – revealing the righteousness of God
Numbers – Christ is the Passover Lamb -- the blood sacrifice to satisfy God’s justice
Deuteronomy – Christ is the Covenant keeper – the faithful one when we are not faithful

Joshua and Judges – Jesus is our Strong Deliverer protects and guides
Ruth – Jesus is our kind Relative
Samuel/Kings/Chronicles – Jesus is the ultimate King
Ezra & Nehemiah (one long story) – Jesus is the Great Rebuilder who puts things back together.
Esther -- Jesus is the Perfect Protector

Job – Christ is the ever-living Redeemer
Psalms – Christ is the Good Shepherd
Proverbs & Ecclesiastes – Christ is the Wisdom of the ages
Song of Songs – Jesus is the Lover of my Soul
Isaiah – Jesus is the Suffering Servant
Jeremiah – Christ is the Perfect Potter shaping and reshaping his people
Lamentatians – Christ is the One who hears our cry
Ezekiel – Christ is He who puts flesh on dry bones
Daniel – Christ shuts the Lion’s mouth
Hosea and Joel and Amos – Christ is the Perfectly Straight Line who shows us how crooked we are at times.
Obadiah and Jonah and Micah and Nahum – Christ is the God who always prefers repentance over revenge.
Habbakkuk & Zephaniah and Haggai– Christ is God who is mighty to save
Zechariah and Malachi – Christ is King of Zion – Ruler over all

Matthew -- we see Jesus as the King of Kings – Messiah of the Jews
Mark -- we see Jesus as the Great I am – God in the Flesh
Luke -- Jesus is the Son of Man – Friend of sinners
John -- Jesus is the Light of the World – The Word made Flesh
Acts -- Jesus is the Ascended Son of God – Empowerer of the Church

Romans – Jesus is the Righteousness of God
1 & 2 Corinthians – Jesus is Pure Love – the most excellent way
Galatians – Jesus is Source of Freedom – sets us truly free
Ephesians – Jesus is the Life Giver – makes us alive in God
Philippians – Jesus is the Joy-giver – rejoice in all circumstances
Colossians – Jesus is the Exact Image of the Invisible God
1 & 2 Thessalonians – Jesus is the Coming one – surprise us when he comes
1 & 2 Timothy -- Jesus is the Well-trained Athlete – who helps us fight to the very end
Titus & Philemon – Jesus is the Head of the Church – who keeps us together makes sure we win!
Hebrews – Jesus is the Great High Priest – who paid the perfect price for his people
In James – Jesus is our Practical Older Bother – who keeps it real
In 1 & 2 Peter – Jesus is the Holy One of God
In 1,2 & 3 John and Jude – Jesus is the Living Word
In Revelation -- Jesus is the Alpha and Omega – first and last – The Author and the Finisher of our Faith

This is a section from my teaching notes on the importance of the Bible. The list is a little rough but back when I first shared it so many people asked for it I decided to just post it the way it appeared. I hope it helps. I adapted this list from others I have heard across the years and one I found online. I should guess that about half of the material is original -- in that I didn't copy it from another source. But I am sure none of it is totally original - after all it is God's Word.


Jack Bauer -- gone but not forgotten

24 -- Jack Bauerisms

If you wake up in the morning, it's because Jack Bauer spared your life.

Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.

Osama bin Laden's recent proposal for truce is a direct result of him finding out that Jack Bauer is, in fact, still alive.

Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.

Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.

Jack Bauer played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.

Lets get one thing straight, the only reason you are conscious right now is because Jack Bauer does not feel like carrying you.

Jack Bauer was never addicted to heroin. Heroin was addicted to Jack Bauer.

1.6 billion Chinese are angry with Jack Bauer. Sounds like a fair fight.

Jack Bauer can get McDonald's breakfast after 10:30.

The Breastplate Prayer

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.


More Cow Bell!

A few years ago now at CrossRoads we did Classic Rock Sunday which included a live impromptu request from the audience segment. Our band is truly amazing and pulled it off with panache. Riffs from Freebird, TNT and Stairway to Heaven were amazingly performed with little or no pre-planning. Then we set up the classic SNL Skit -- "More Cowbell" by asking for Blue Oyster Cult's (Don't Fear) The Reaper.

I stopped the band twice, mid chorus to insist, a la Christopher Walken, that they use more cowbell. Most people got it and had a blast.

Great times

Fight Fair!

Over the years I have been privileged to speak about healthy ways for families to hand conflict. I learned a huge amount on this topic 20 years ago from Chuck Swindoll's classic book: Strike the Original Match. His list of rules for fair family fights based on Ephesians Chapter 4 is one big reason my wife Nancy and I are still married.

Here's the list:

1 Keep it Honest -- don't play games or pretend
2 Keep it Under Control -- avoid 'deadly' words like never and always
3 Keep it Timed Right -- make appointments to work out disagreements
4 Keep it Positive -- try to inject something positive
5 Keep it Tactful -- watch your words and guard your tone
6 Keep it Private -- don't go public with family fights
7 Keep it Cleaned up -- when it's over let it go

Very good advice!

You look a lot like the guy on my coffee jar...

LOS ANGELES — Russell Christoff was standing in line at a Home Depot in 2002 when a woman said, "You look like the guy on my coffee jar." . . .But Christoff never had appeared on a coffee jar — or so he thought until weeks later.

Christoff then remembered: In 1986, he had posed for a photographer on assignment for Nestle. He was paid a modest amount and assumed nothing came of the shoot.

How wrong he was. A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury last week ordered Nestle USA to pay Christoff — now a 58-year-old kindergarten teacher in Antioch — $15.6 million for using his likeness without his permission and profiting from it. . .

Read More HERE

Friday, July 30, 2010

Jigsaw Puzzles and Life!

Love this Christianity Today piece by Gordon MacDonald

A few days ago I found a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in the back of a closet. It's probably been there for 30 years. When our family was young, assembling the pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle was a summer tradition. A card table with all the puzzle pieces (face-up) sat off in a corner of our home and became the go-to place when there was a rainy spell or an overabundance of mosquitoes outside.

The picture on the box in the closet was of superstars Larry Byrd and Magic Johnson leaping high in the air reaching for a basketball.

As we neared the completion of a jigsaw puzzle, late in August, our collective family excitement would rise. Occasionally, one of us would be found alone at the card table trying to sneak a few pieces into place in an effort to finish the puzzle. But this was discouraged. Jigsaw puzzles were considered a group effort.

I remember the Byrd/Johnson puzzle because, when we reached the end, we were short four pieces. Four exactly! This meant four gaping, impossible-to-ignore holes. Until those missing pieces were found, the puzzle remained merely a puzzle, not the picture promised on the face of the box.

Let me restate my point. 996 pieces do not make a picture when you need 1,000...

... That Byrd/Johnson puzzle? There came a moment when one of us—not to be named—confessed to secreting one of the missing pieces so that they could be the one to finish the puzzle. There followed two others who sheepishly admitted to the same intention. This left one missing piece …which was in my pocket.

You must never tell anyone I told you this.

The ending was a surprise I didn't see coming. But I thought it was terrific.

twitch and alex best hip hop ever

Jesus and Joni Mitchell

I recently found a challenging blog on Christian Spirituality called The Higher Calling. I especially enjoyed the article on Jesus, Joni Mitchell and Me. Joni Mitchell is originally from Saskatoon Saskatchewan and she was visiting a local restaurant one day when I was fortunate enough to get to say hello and my friend Garnet got her autograph. So she is kind of special to me... Read on:

I have changed so much since college that I didn’t know where to begin. But I didn’t want Madge to think that I had abandoned my faith, either. Because I haven’t. It’s just, well, different than when I was nineteen. So I responded with the only thing I could think of.

“Well, Madge, a lot has happened since college. But I can safely say that the two constants in my life since 1981 have been Jesus and Joni Mitchell.”

This made perfect sense to me, and I thought it would be somehow reassuring to Midge since she was also a big Joni fan then, and obviously a huge Jesus fan now. MORE...

I found the author's thoughts about how our faith in Jesus changes over the years to be interesting and challenging.

Get Real

What is REAL? asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?

Real isn't how you are made, said the Skin Horse. It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.

Does it hurt? asked the Rabbit.

Sometimes, said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.

Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, he asked, or bit by bit?

It doesn't happen all at once, said the Skin Horse. You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. (The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams).

This speaks to me every time I read it.

Resurrection Sunday Dance, Budapest, Hungary

Check this amazing Easter Video out... Love it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Robert Semrau Sentencing Sept 9

Rob Semrau - will be sentenced in early September according to the Toronto Star online . Here's hoping the delay will work in his favor

The military judge has been urged to choose between sentencing Semrau to two years less a day in military prison plus release from the armed forces and simply reducing his rank along with a severe reprimand.

Semrau’s defence lawyer argued earlier Tuesday rather than jailing him for shooting the Taliban combatant it would be more appropriate to demote the 36-year-old captain a rank or two plus have a severe reprimand put on his file.

Speaking to his client’s court martial sentencing hearing, Maj. Steve Turner said Semrau is far too good a soldier to go to jail and be drummed out of the service as recommended by the prosecution.

Please keep praying with us for Rob to receive a minimal sentence!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Amazing week at Arlington Beach

Nancy and I just completed the most amazing week at Arlington Beach Camp in Saskatchewan Canada. The list of reasons why it was so great is a long one. We reconnected with many of my Alexander clan relatives. That really was special. We also reconnected with great friends from both the Estevan church we served in the early '80s and the Lakeview Saskatoon congregation we served from the mid '80s to the mid '90s. I know if meant a lot to both of us to feel genuinely loved and accepted, despite our 15 year absence.

Then there was the ministry the Lord blessed us with. It seemed like the evening VBS: Grown Up Edition messages were particularly well suited to the moment. Who knew that a quite a few people with significant family issues would be so ministered to by the message about Joseph's Dreamcoat? Apparently God did. And it was very gratifying to sense the deep heartfelt response to my final message about Mephibosheth too. The response to the morning devotional time based on the Beatitudes was even better - if that's possible.

On top of all that was the very warm bond we felt between our own family members. We all missed Alex and his family tremendously, but God gave us several profound family moments with Jared and Angela. Of course it was also a rich blessing to see how much everyone at camp loved the ministry Angela added in music and Jared contributed playing bass, running sound and providing expert tech support. Like most parents...we love it when people love our kids.

Like I said, our trip was amazing!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Queen Esther at Arlington Beach

Queen Esther was a woman of great courage who accepted her assignment to save the Jewish people. She was made Queen for such a time as this...

Truth is we all have those moments in a lifetime that are critical -- signficant even pivotal. The key is to be inwardly ready when those moments come and even more importanly - step out in faith. And we never know exactly when they will come.

Tonight at Arlington Beach Camp at least two people are going to step out and be baptized as an expression of their faith.

I like that -- step one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Support Captain Rob Semrau- online

Please consider joining the FB group --
Support the Freedom of Capt Robert Semrau. Just google that phrase and follow the links. I joined today.

Robert is a wonderful Christian man who has been charged with murder as a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan. He was acquitted of the murder charge and found guilty of a lesser charge. He case is currently under appeal.

This family could use your support too!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Semrau family letter

Dear Friends,

Naturally, we are disappointed with the verdict today. Our family has always believed that Rob did nothing wrong.

We put our faith in the military’s justice system and we would like to see that system also recognize Robert did nothing wrong.
We would like to thank Rob's military legal defense team, especially Lt. Col. Dugas and Major Turner, who worked so hard, and continue to work hard, for Rob.

And we would especially like to thank the thousands of people who have expressed their support for Rob and our family. Your calls, e-mails and postings on Rob's Facebook site were a tremendous comfort to us.

Rob's Court Martial won't be complete until sentencing next week, so we would like to ask for your continued support.

In time, our family will try to suitably express our gratitude to all of Rob's supporters, but we're afraid you may never know just how much your thoughts and prayers meant to us all.

Thank you,

The Semrau Family

Canadian Soldier Robert Semrau

When I was pastor of the Lakeview Free Methodist Church in Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada there was a young man who moved to the city and got involved helping to lead the youth ministry as a volunteer. His name was Rob Semau. My then teenage son Alex thought Rob was both hilariously funny and spiritually challenging.

Imagine my shock to read yesterday's headlines from the Toronto Star online: Capt. Robert Semrau found not guilty of murder - But military panel finds him guilty of disgraceful conduct in shooting of wounded, unarmed Taliban fighter.

I will admit that I have absolutely no objectivity when it comes to Rob's case. From what I have read the evidence at trial included: no body -- conflicting testimony -- virtually no hard evidence of any crime. How in the world did this case ever come to trial? I have no clue.

But if Robert shot a fatally wounded enemy soldier as an act of mercy -- as it appears he might have -- I'm still not sure how that's a crime. If he just shot him to kill him straight up -- he might have gotten a medal instead of a prison sentence.

So all we can do, all I will do, at this point is pray for him. First for his lawyers and the appeals process and whoever decides the final disposition of the case. May justice and common sense prevail. And I will pray mostly for Robert and his wonderful family -- that they will find grace and strength from the Lord no matter what. For now Rob is in the lion's den. In time, no matter what happens, the Lord can bring Rob out the other side stronger and more like the Master. May it be so!

Please pray for Captain Semrau and his family today -- I know I will.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Different Strokes

God's voice speaks to us each uniquely. What I think is going to connect powerfully for you because it was so profound for me -- may not. Like my last blog post quoting the recent Transforming Center article by Ruth Hayley Barton.

I figured it would ROCK your world. That the comments would blow up with deeply thankful responses. That the whole article would go viral on the internet - since I also posted the most salient section of it on Facebook.

But no.

So I just wanted to say -- it's OK that it didn't ROCK your world. But it sure ROCKED mine!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bungee Jumping for the Soul -- Letting Go

Ruth Hayley Barton sends out an online devotional from The Transforming Center every now and then. Her latest includes these thoughts:

And what is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?"

Thomas Merton

According to Merton, many of us are not really praying because we are praying with a back-up plan—some humanly-constructed idea of what we will do if God doesn’t come through. We have no intention of letting go of our visible supports because, truth be told, it is those visible supports that we really trust—this job, this salary and benefit package, this church or denominational system, this relationship, this set of accomplishments.

Many of us want a “spiritual” journey because that sounds pretty cool but we don’t want a faithjourney—a journey that requires us to risk anything or to move beyond the (mostly) comfortable existence we have carved out for ourselves. Even when we have a sense that something is not quite right—that there is something we are holding back or holding on to that is not God—and we sense God calling us to some new level of faith, we are not willing to let go of those visible supports that have become our life. We have not yet given in to the authority of an invisible God in the places that matter most.

Bungee-Jumping for the Soul
The truth is there is no real spiritual journey that does not at some point require some sort of bungee-jumping of the soul, some sort of radical letting go of what we are holding onto. This might be letting go of something very visible and tangible like a job, a house or geographical location, a title that we identify with strongly, some bit of prestige or notoriety we have achieved, a relationship we have come to rely on for our sense of purpose and well-being.

But it might also be the letting go of a deeply-held emotional or psychological pattern that we rely on to keep us feeling secure, or at least somewhat in control of our world. Such patterns might include denial, avoidance, leaving when the going gets tough, a need to be in control, hiding or withholding ourselves from others, using anger to intimidate or “power up” on people, perfectionism, cynicism, or performance-oriented driven-ness. If the journey requires us to let go of such deeply entrenched patterns and to change in some fundamental way well, then…thanks, but no thanks.

Feel-Good Journey or Faith Journey?
It is possible to embrace the “feel-good” aspects of the spiritual journey but subtly resist the aspects of the journey that require real faith. Sometimes we even surround ourselves with people who help us feel good about staying where we are rather than challenging us to take the risky step of “letting go of visible supports” in order to take that next step of faith. Then we all collude together in keeping ourselves convinced that it is the better part of wisdom to hang on to what we know and make sure we always have a back up plan. We might even call this kind of collusion community. MORE...

Reading Ruth's thoughtful analysis of this reminded me of two things. First how radical it is to follow Jesus and how little most 21st Century westernized Christians believe it. Most sit comfortably in their pew week after week expecting to be educated or inspired but seldom deeply challenged to live a life of sacrifice. Second it reminded me of the pain involved with leaving a very large church to serve in a middle-sized one. For me personally it involved a great deal of letting go of a "bit of prestige or notoriety we have achieved (that) we have come to rely on for our sense of purpose and well-being."

Never easy. Often right.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Missoula Marathon: Mission Possible

Nancy and I went with Jared and Angela our son-in-law and daughter to Missoula Montana over the weekend. They ran in the Missoula Marathon. Which by the way has a nice website where you can plug in their names to a video link and watch them cross the finish line. They also ran with their good friend Daniel Liljenberg.

For me it was a pretty big deal because for one of the very first times in my life I took a Sunday off preaching at Timberview, the church I serve, so that I could support my kids in their personal endeavors. Of course most of the time we found ways to be supportive at times other than Sunday AM. After all teaching is for most people, the most visible part of what I do as a pastor. But when this came up and Angela and Jared trained so hard and so long -- and then asked if we would be their support team for the race -- we just couldn't say 'no'.

So not only did we all drive together to the "Best Overall Marathon" in the country. But I chauffeured them to the shuttle bus at 4:30AM so they could make the starting time of 6:00AM. Nancy and I got to show up along the 26.2 mile course, at three different places to cheer them both on. Then we got drive the worn our marathoners back to the hotel to recuperate when they were both feeling mucho pain.

So all in all, I'm convinced it was worth it. I still have a few guilt pangs about missing church yesterday -- but not enough to make me regret our decision to lovingly support our kids.

I guess the old saying is true: live and learn.

The Puzzle that is Me!

Gordon MacDonald has written many profound things -- like this excerpt from a recent Christianity Today article on sin and spiritual formation:

Perhaps the Christian journey could be said to break into three parts. One, the moment I acknowledge that I am more a puzzle than a picture, lacking many necessary pieces. Two, the process of remaking wherein many of the pieces are recovered and pressed into place. Call this the pursuit of godliness. And three, that great "day of Christ," when the puzzle is completed. Of that grand moment Paul writes: "We eagerly await a Savior … the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

I almost always learn and grow through reading Gordon's stuff. I did again -- when I read his puzzle analogy. Of course it was all brought home by his last two lines of the story.

Nailed it!

Finding Grace When Visiting Another Church

We pastors are notoriously critical of other churches whenever we pay the occasional visit. Typically it is during the summer season when things are not always functioning at their best. But being a professional worship service organizer and leader makes it hard to get past the occasional missteps and enter in to the service fully.

I like the way Gordon Atkinson expresses how he faced this challenge in his recent blog post -- Finding Grace:
... The beauty and the careful execution of their formal worship, along with the gorgeous language of the Book of Common Prayer, broke my heart open with joy. I wept through much of the service. It was the most meaningful worship I have experienced in years. We went to church that Sunday hoping to find grace. We did, but first I had to find it in my own heart.