Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Wow! The tornado that touched down in Suffolk, Virginia ... just minutes from our old house. Ady used to drive right on this road to her job. Scary! Thank God for His protection!
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
It was definitely a documentary; so don't go to the theater thinking you're going to see a "movie." Nevertheless, the content was fantastic. He compared what is happening in America to what happened in Nazi Germany, and that in and of itself was eye-opening and challenging. If nothing else, definitely get it when it comes out on DVD. I think it would be great to take an evening to watch and discuss the movie in a small group setting.
Visit the movie's website for a detailed description of the movie, the questions and issues it raises, and resources for taking the movie and it's message to a deeper level: http://www.expelledthemovie.com/
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
My heart as a father was breaking. Working with teenagers, I know all too well the world of cliques, and in my studies I have discovered that there is quite a consensus that 4th grade is the crucial grade during which so many kids lock into their identities and affinity groups. My daughter is in fourth grade, and even before this year began I told my wife that this was going to be a critical year for us to be watching for signs and listening very closely to the things our daughter was picking up and being exposed to.
I won't go into all of the details, but these girls who had been such good friends, now, in the second half of the school year are beginning to demonstrate the thing that I hate with a passion ... cliques. Cliques are defined by their exclusivity. Hardly a week goes by at youth group that I do not bring up the importance of inclusiveness and that exclusivity has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. Cliques are fellowship (something beautiful that God created and desires for us) gone bad.
What blessed me so much is that this value which I not only try to talk about, but live out in my own life and model for my family, is being embraced by my children. Last night at the end of our talk, I invited my daughter to pray for her friends and to ask God for the courage and wisdom to do the right thing to bring an end to this thing before these girls get it so ingrained in their character that I have to deal with it for years to come when they are teenagers. Her prayer was absolutely beautiful and mature beyond her years. I was so blessed when she said, "Jesus, please help us to be inclusive and not break up into groups and be mean to one another. Help us show Jesus to one another."
It was a holy moment, and one that I will never forget as a father. I am so proud of my daughter and the beautiful young woman of God that she is and is becoming.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
The Go-Giver written as a story about a young man who is seeking to discover the secret of success, is a quick and easy read. I took about an hour yesterday and read through it. In the story, the young man meets up with a successful man who offers to mentor him for a period of days. Each day the man arranges for him to meet others who demonstrate what he calls the five laws of stratospheric success.
Although not in business per se, I enjoyed the read and was challenged because the principles set forth were all servant-leadership oriented, and that is applicable in any field. Pick this book up if you are going on a 2-hour flight or so and would like a good little book to read. When I finished it, I had my secretary type up my underlines, and I am passing it on to one of my volunteer youth leaders who is a business man.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
It's the Little Things: Everyday Interactions That Anger, Annoy, and Divide the Races by Lena Williams
I started this book in the fall of 2001, and for some reason I put it down about half way through reading it. I am the kind of guy who is consistently reading 3 or 4 books at any given time, but I recently made a commitment that I wouldn't start any new books until I finished the ones I have started and left hanging. I also made a deal with my wife that whenever i purchase new books, i have to get rid of some other ones in my library. For those of you who have never seen it, I have a very large library, although it is shrinking constantly because I am trying to get rid of books that I have read or will never read so that others can take advantage of them.
To the book. I have always been intrigued, fascinated, and enjoyed the diversity of God's people. I am so thankful for my parents who did not allow me to be tainted by prejudice or racism.
My best friend since I was eleven years old and to this day is black, and my parents never once mentioned that there would be anything even remotely foreign about such a concept.
My first girlfriend was black, and when I informed my parents, once again not one negative thing came out of their mouths to me about it. The first time I ever heard any notion that something was remotely strange (not to me, but to others in out society) was when I, as a 13 year old kid, made mention that we were going to get married some day (Ahh! Puppy Love!), and someone told me that if I married a black girl they would not come to my wedding.
I was crushed because this was someone I really looked up to. I was totally confused. I couldn't understand where that kind of statement had come from. That was the first time my parents sat me dawn and explained that unfortunately some people had a way of thinking that people who were different should not be associated in any kind of romantic way. They reaffirmed that that was snot their stance, and that it should not be mine either - that God had created all people equally.
So, when I saw this book seven years ago, I thought the title was quite intriguing and picked it up. As I read, I kept noticing that the majority of the experiences in the book were focused on blacks, not whites. The author notes that, unfortunately, this is true. She says, "I had hoped to get white Americans to open up and bear their souls about race and race relations in America" but that finding them was more difficult than she anticipated. She quotes Dr. Alvin Poussaint who says, "Whites do not have the vast experiences with race that many blacks have, so it is difficult for them to talk about racial prejudice without appearing naive and uninformed" (p. 274).
Perhaps the thing that I was most looking forward to, after hearing story after story after story about racial prejudices and injustices, were possible solutions or ideas to begin working toward reconciliation and authentic healing. To this query, Williams says, "Believe me, if I had the answers, I'd go tell it on the mountain, over the hills, and everywhere. But I don't" (p. 274). She confesses that she wrote the book ti get people to react, not to respond with indifference. "What I aspired to do in writing the book was to get people talking among themselves, families, coworkers, and friends about the things we do and say behind closed doors, about the reasons why these century-old stereotypes still exist, and about what we as individuals can do about race beyond blaming institutions" (p. 275).
I read this book in my own private reading time. Had I read it with a group, perhaps more dialogue would have been fostered, but I would welcome some comments and discussions here on the blog. Let me know what you think.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
by Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins
OK, so like these two guys are like totally my favorite youth ministry guru guys, so like it's gonna be like really hard to be like objective. But I'll like try my best I guess.
I picked up the book about 6 months ago at the Youth Specialties conference in Atlanta. I think it was the only resource Simply Youth Ministry had that I did not own. Honestly, as attractive as the cover was (and the price!) I have read so many books on preaching and communication that I was tempted to pass it up. But when my two favorite youth ministry mentors write a book together I figure I really ought to contribute to the feeding of their wives and children, and in Duffy's case his great-great grandchildren. Plus, there is not a lot of food in Jerry's fridge these days George!
Last week I finally pulled the book off the shelf and read it. I must say that reading it was like listening in on a live conversation with Doug and Duffy. If you have ever heard them talk, both of them love to use a lot of humor, but behind the humor is tremendous, practical substance. There were many times when I would be reading through a list or a chart or a paragraph, just cruising along, when suddenly there was a line or a sentence that caught me off guard and had me rolling in laughter - which hurt because I was reading the book while recovering from back surgery. Their self effacing humor is so funny.
Beyond the humor, however, the subtitle of the book accurately describes what you will find inside: How to think about, create, and deliver effective messages. They rehash some classic, time-tested study and delivery methods, but they also go much further and present some of their own fresh and rejuvenating ideas that will give your message prep and delivery a great boost.
Just last year I read Andy Stanley's book Communicating for a Change, and at one point in this book I was noticing some similarities. Obviously, God is doing something to help us adjust the way we communicate in this generation to be more effective in reaching people with the hope of the gospel. What was cool is that they made mention of the similarities between the two books in the book. On page 178 Doug lets us in on an e-mail dialogue he had with Duffy after reading Andy's book while writing this one. He expressed that he was almost ready to give up because, as I fully agree, Andy's book is an amazing book on speaking. However, Duffy pointed out that Andy's book really only focused on one chapter of their book, so they pressed on.
What is a blessing about this book is that it is written for those who communicate or want to communicate with teenagers specifically. Duffy and Doug understand teenagers, they understand youth leaders, and they put together a book that helps youth leaders cross the bridge to minister to this specific audience. They have a passion for the declaration of God's Word from generation to generation. I would highly recommend reading it, and you would do well to read it in conjunction with Andy Stanley's book. What a 1-2 communication punch!
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Before I went in for surgery I made sure all my ducks were in a row and all my bases were covered. Nevertheless, life doesn't usually play by our rules. Stuff happens. Two days ago, one of my student's mother's died after a fast 3-month battle with cancer. I was faced with a decision. Just plow ahead with the plan I had in place, or be sensitive to this tragedy and adjust to meet the needs of my students. As sore as I am, and as inconvenient as it was, I chose the latter.
I called up the guy who was so excited about coming and sharing his testimony about how Jesus saved him from life as a drug dealer and gang banger who even did time in prison, and I informed him that due to this tragedy I was going to have to shift gears and move in a different direction. I told him that even if he went on tonight, the kids would have a huge, and in many cases, insurmountable hurdle to get over in order to hear his message. I just felt, through no fault of his own, it would not be well received. I did, however, give him another date in just a couple of weeks.
Next I called my friend who is one of the core leaders at our high school who functions in many ways as a pastor to the students who attend, and I asked him if he could shepherd the students through this in my absence. He was more than willing to help out.
I also had my wife pull the reigns on the worship team who was fully engaged in preparations. I told them we had to really scale things back for the night. Just the piano and one vocal. I want the night to be worshipful and reflective.
A night like this means many things. It means inconvenience. It means that people have to walk in humility. It means sacrifice. It means being sensitive to the needs of the flock. It means being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. My thanks to all who have been such great team players. I am proud of you!
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Last week my wife Adriana and I went to visit a woman in our church who was up and running around, full of life, and working at our school just three months ago. We went to visit her because three months ago she was diagnosed with cancer. The reason we found ourselves visiting Sharon last week was because we had received word that she had been moved to hospice which is where they take people when medicine can do no more so that they can die with dignity and some degree of comfort.
When we arrived to Sharon's room, several folks from the church were there as well as some family members. After some greetings we turned to see Sharon, but she was literally unrecognizable. I had never seen anything it in my life. The affects of the chemo, etc. had caused her to deteriorate beyond recognition. She had been sleeping for two days straight when we arrived, only awakening sporadically. When we talked and prayed with her she was unresponsive. The first time I saw her respond was when her mother came in and kissed her forehead and told her mommy was here. She moaned trying to say something, and raised her right arm to try and touch her, but then she fell back to sleep. It was very precious.
After some dialogue with the others in the room, we went to Sharon to say our goodbye's and when my wife told her that she had taken her daughter (one of our students) out that morning and spent some time with her, and that she was going to continue to care for her, Sharon again tried many times to speak and raise her hand. Interestingly the two things that elicited a response from her were the voice of her mother and the voice of someone assuring her that her daughter was being cared for.
As my wife and I walked to the car, Adriana broke down. She cried almost the entire ride home. It had been a truly holy moment. We felt the weight and the privilege of being pastors during this difficult time.
Last night Sharon went to be with Jesus.
Thank you Lord for answering our prayer that Sharon's suffering would be ended. Thank you for the opportunity to know her. Thank you also for allowing us the privilege of saying good bye and being able to give Sharon some peace so she could let go and go home to be with you.
Please pray for us as we shepherd Sharon's daughter and the rest of our youth through this difficult time. Also pray for her husband, her son, and their extended family. I know that there is no formula for dealing with the difficulty of grief and loss, but here are a few reminders that I often think of and remind students of during these difficult times:
- Death is a Reality we all face (Job 1:21; Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)
- It's OK to Grieve (Even Jesus grieved (John 11:35))
- Grieving is Not a Lack of Faith ("we don not grieve AS those who have no hope" (I Thessalonians 4:13) but we DO grieve!)
- Go to God (Psalm 23:4) (His Rod & Staff = His comfort, direction, and protection)
- Receive from God (Let Who He is minister to you where you are at) (Isaiah 53:3; Hebrews 2:18; John 14:26; John 15:26)
- Trust in God (Isaiah 55:9; Proverbs 3:5)
- We All Die, so the Question is: How do We Live? "It is appointed for men to die once" (Hebrews 9:27) "Now is the time of God's favor; today is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2)
Monday, April 7, 2008
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Hi everyone! It's 3am and I am up to my old tricks again. As many of you know I am quite the night owl. It is not uncommon for me to be seen (or more often than not - not seen) jogging the streets of Smithtown in the wee hours of the morning. Well, at 2:30am I got up to, as we instruct our dogs, "do my business" when suddenly the urge to exercise hit me. So, I unplugged my machine and began running sprints around our suite. I turned in a 4.0. OK, maybe that's going a little far. I looked more like an old man - but I was exercising. I feel like I am getting stronger by the hour, so let's pray that they'll let me out of here soon.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
But I'm not talking about my back. I am talking about the fact the North Carolina Tarheels just went down to the Kansas Jayhawks. This makes me want to drink my bag of morphine. Just Kidding! I was doing so well on my bracket, but now I am out. I had UNC and UCLA in the final, but now it's Memphis and Kansas. So close! Oh well.
Hey everyone! Sorry I didn't blog yesterday afternoon. After a tremendous start to my recovery, yesterday I went for a walk around the suite with my physical therapist. It was quite romantic. Me with my pretty gown on, and him with his handsome white robe. Very special. lol When I returned I felt good and sat in a chair for the first time. Just after I got situated, Adriana and her sister came to visit bearing a Starbucks Caramel Machiatto. I was very excited. After chatting for a while, I decided I was no longer comfortable in the chair and went to get in the bed. As soon as I moved, however, I felt what I can only describe as a tear at the top of my incision. The pain was sharp and incredibly intense. Then I saw them ... stars and spots. I started sweating, and I told Ady I was going bye bye, and sure enough, the next thing I knew, I was on a beach in Hawaii. There were children laughing, my mother was riding a tricycle, and there were ducks running around my hammock. An emergency call went out, and the next thing I knew about 20 people were on top of me hooking me up to wires and tubes. I was awake, but then I started experiencing intense back spasms. I received some medicines which after about a half an hour kicked in and the spasms subsided. A couple of hours later, I walked to the bathroom and back, and sure enough ... 2 hours straight of spasms. That's the bad news. The good new is that they increased my doses, and i slept quite well last night with the exception of one spasmatic episode. I also spent almost the entire day sleeping today. I have been able to stand to go to the bathroom, and I did go for another walk around the suite ... this time with a beautiful Mexican woman. Don't tell Adriana. No, wait, it was Adriana. lol Hoping and praying to be home in the next day or two. Thanks for the prayers.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Hi Friends! It is 11:30pm and I am blogging from my hospital bed. So cool! I went into surgery today at about 1:30. It was a 3 hour procedure which I remember nothing about. The first thing I heard when I woke up was my surgeon telling me that everything went great. As soon as I came to I instantly noticed a remarkable change in my body. Not only did my lower back feel better, but also my legs, my shoulders, and even my neck pain is gone! Thank You Lord! Amazing how one pinched nerve can cause so much pain throughout the body.
I'm sore where the incision was, and the muscles are sore, but it's tolerable. The meds have worn off quite a bit now, but I have not hit the morphine drip yet at all. The nurse is surprised that I haven't. Here's the best way I can describe it: The pain that was once inside of my lower back is now on the outside.
Ady and the girls were there when I woke up. As you can imagine, the girls were nervous and concerned seeing me with wires and tubes all over me and in me. I made some jokes to try and put them at ease, but my oldest daughter (as mentioned in my blog the other day), is very caring and sensitive, and she teared up a few times. After moving me to my room I again assured her that I was OK and asked her why she was crying. She said, "I don't want you to die." How sweet and innocent! I called her over to myself, told her I had something to tell her, then I keeled over and pretended I was dead. No, just kidding! I didn't do that! I'm sick, but I'm not that sick! April Fools! Ha Ha! Please continue to pray for my healing, and for my family as they walk through this with me.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Thursday I am going in for back surgery. It's a fairly common and routine surgery - a disk fusion, but my daughter is dreading the thought that someone is going to cut me open. For her, that's the most aweful pain imaginable. I've explained to her that I need to go through this pain to end a much more significant pain that I have been experiencing for years. Sometimes things have to get worse to get better. That's why I am going through with the surgery. I am actually, on some sick and morbid level, looking forward to the surgery. I am tired of being tired and in pain, so for me this temporary pain is actually freeing in the long run.
Pray for me as I undergo this surgery. But pray also for my wife and daughters - the oldest daughter especially.