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S'boro 1st Jr-hi Retreat

It seems like I was in town just long enough to recover from last weekend and wash some clothes, and now I’m gone again. I’m traveling to Awanita Valley with Statesboro First’s jr-hi youth to speak for their retreat this weekend. I’m looking forward to it; I just hope it’s not as cold as my last trip!

I’ll be back Sunday, but need some rest-time, so I’m taking Monday off. Catch you next Tues!

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Ski Trip '06 (part ii)

I had a wonderful, exhausting, exciting trip to West Virginia last weekend. I enjoyed spending time with students from Eastman, Dublin, and Wrightsville UMChurches. It snowed Friday night and while we skiied Saturday. I was so tired by the time we got home Monday, and was down on Tuesday with a bit of a fever. Much better today, and back into the swing of things. Here are a few pictures from the weekend.

A short fun story:
It snowed Friday night after we had gone to sleep, so we woke to a bit of a surprise Saturday morning finding a white blanket covering everything around us. I had two middle school boys in my room; neither had seen snow. One jumped up, rushed to the window, and shouted with excitement: "It's snowing! Oh my gosh, it's snowing! Look, look!" The two boys danced around the room together with their "it's snowing" chant. I laid in bed enjoying their excitment, amused at two middle school boys dancing with one another.

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Ski Trip '06

I’m leaving today to take a bunch of teenagers skiing at WinterPlace, WV. We’re all excited and looking forward to the time together. The weather is going to be super cold for this guy. Weather Channel says highs of 27 and 28 Saturday and Sunday with snow showers on Saturday. Yeah!

Should be good for us. Back Monday! (w/ pictures!)

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What's your dream?

I’m trying viciously to finish McLaren’s book, but the good people at Amazon just sent another package to my house and I had to start one of the new books I received. Engaging God’s World, by Cornelius Plantinga Jr., addresses establishing an understanding of God’s world and how we are to live in it. He leads the book through the broad strokes of longing and hope, creation, fall, and redemption.

I’ve been digging into the story of the life of Joseph, looking mostly at the early part of his life. Joseph was a boy who had a dream. He was willing to follow God, despite circumstances that came his way, toward the fulfillment of the dream God had planted in him.

Plantinga writes in the first chapter of his book about the longings we have, the need to search for something that is missing, to fill that empty space within. He quotes a prayer from St. Augustine: “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

But, a God-given longing doesn’t just remain as a personal desire, but must evolve into a hope that fulfills that longing for everybody. That personal need must become something bigger than for ourselves.

I also listened to, for the first time, the audio of MLK’s “I have a dream…” speech. (Yes, I’ve heard and read excerpts from the speech, but had never heard the whole thing… and, no, I don’t live under a rock.) That address so clearly paints a picture of the deep longing and hope that Rev. King had for justice and freedom.
So, think for a bit about the dream God has planted in you. Can you listen closely enough to hear the whispering voice calling you to fulfill some part of God’s desires for you? God called Joseph to save Egypt and Israel from famine. God called MLK to stand for justice and freedom for all. What is God calling you to do? to be? And that’s not ‘just for you.’ How can that be bigger and for others?

What’s your dream?

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Three-In-One; How’s that work?

So, this past Wednesday night I’m working with about ten kids at the church, trying to pull them through a worth-while lesson about Jesus helping others and how he came to help us and wants us to help others. As we were transitioning from one activity to another, two of the kids jump into this exchange:

[girl] But God and Jesus are different!
[boy] No they’re not! They’re the same!
[girl] But Jesus came to earth, and God was in heaven.
[boy] Geez! Jesus was God.

Somehow, this managed to get everyone’s attention and, for the first time that night, ten kids were not only silent, but interested in the same thing. Recognizing a spontaneous sort of teachable moment, we pushed the other activities aside and ran with the debate. (I knew we were tossing nine year olds into the deep end of the pool pretty quickly, but, hey, you’ve gotta learn to swim sometime, huh?)

Wanting them to talk about what they were each trying to say, but knowing neither wanted to end up being wrong, I told them I would go ahead and tell them the answer: “You’re both right!”

They each took turns in explaining how it worked, both sure of their explanation, but also knowing the other person sure did make a lot of sense. Other children were soon to jump in with ideas and explanations.

Someone suggested that maybe God created the world, one day decided to go to earth and became Jesus, and then, when he was done being Jesus, decided to be the Holy Spirit (a different-person-at-different-times kind of thing).

Another child knew there was something about, “In the beginning was Jesus and Jesus was God and was with God…”, so Jesus must have always been there. One of the girls told the group about Jesus’ baptism; ‘Jesus was there in the river with John and the sky opened up and God said from heaven ‘this is my son and I’m proud of him’ and then the Holy Spirit came down like a bird.’ This threw a wrench in the different-person-at-different-times theory.

I let them explore for a little while, and then tried to bring it together for them with an analogy. We talked about water from the faucet being liquid like you drink. If you put that in the freezer, it turns into hard ice. And if mom puts it in a pot on the stove and heats it up, that water becomes steam or water vapor. So it was all different, but all the same water. We all agreed that helped, but didn’t answer all the questions (which answering their questions wasn’t what I wanted to do anyway).

I was excited by the whole conversation. They were curious and inquisitive. They didn’t want to just leave it with a simple explanation. There was a lot of thought put into their own explanations, and they seemed to really listen to everybody else’s guesses. And at the end we all still didn’t quite get it! But now they’re wondering…

I know people still wrestle with a theology of the Trinity. It’s difficult to say there’s three persons in one God. This is an issue that has caused much debate over Christianity be a monotheistic religion or a polytheism. Not to mention, I’m sure there are people who would shoot holes all in the ice-water-steam analogy; the Trinity being three distinct persons, while ice-water-steam are simply different phases of the matter.

But where do you take a nine year old with that question?

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Are you 'Green'?

While my recent pace has ranged from ‘hectic’ to ‘crazy’, I think I’m coming through good times for me. It’s been a time, though, that’s been rough on my reading schedule. (but getting better…)

I’ve been reading Brian McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy and have been fascinated with much of what he writes. A lot of it touches on some things I’ve felt and thought, but haven’t quite had words to wrap around the ideas. Some of what he writes about, I’ve never really considered, and it’s opened my eyes to some pretty keen understandings of God’s church.

This morning I was reading his chapter “Why I Am Green” (which lets you know I’m almost through the book). Here are a few highlights:

“But as so many species slide closer to extinction, the rare species known variously as Christianus environmentalis or Disciplos verde is making a comeback.”

“For much of Western Christianity, the doctrine of creation (a biblical term) has been eaten alive by the doctrine of the fall (not a biblical term). In other words, creation’s downfall resulting from human sin has eclipsed its original glow as God’s handiwork, radiant with God’s glory. Make no mistake: Human sin is awful and reprehensible beyond words, and the whole earthly creation suffers because of it. But if, due to an exaggerated doctrine of the fall, God’s creation loses its sacredness as God’s beloved artwork, we have magnified human sin beyond sane bounds – and in fact added to its sad effects.”

“God sent Jesus into the world with a saving love, and Jesus sends us with a similar saving love – love for the fatherless and widows, the poor and forgotten to be sure, but also for all God’s little creatures who suffer from the same selfish greed and arrogance that oppress vulnerable humans. The same forces that hurt widows and orphans, minorities and women, children and the elderly, also hurt the songbirds and trout, the ferns and old-growth forests: greed, impatience, selfishness, arrogance, hurry, anger, competition, irreverence – plus a theology that cares for souls but neglects bodies, that focuses on eternity in heaven but abandons history on earth.”

“We see everything as God’s … For us, whatever we ‘own’ is really entrusted to us by God, borrowed and reverently used by us for a time, after which we must let go one way or another – either through giving and sharing or through dying and releasing our former possessions to others. Even the molecules that make up our bodies are on loan to us. One day we will give them all back, rendering an account of how we have used them through time – time also being a precious gift of which we have been made stewards.”

In this chapter, McLaren also touches on issues of God’s kingdom, here and now, as well as a transitioning from a local/national mind-set to a global/local one. It is transforming for someone to begin to see themselves as a part of God’s creation, a creature made by the Creator.

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Did you watch the Super Bowl?

In case you didn't hear, Super Bowl XL was last night and the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to beat the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10. We had a fun little shin-dig to watch the game with some friends. I'm not a Steelers fan, but I was pulling for them to win; the Jerome Bettis storyline and all. (And just for the record, Brian and Cole asked me just before half-time who would win the MVP. I told them Hines would get it if he kept playing like he had been. He did. Yeah, me.)

Couple of other interesting notes:
There's a story brewing about former MVPs and money. My two cents: IF IT'S TRUE... and it really did come down to a money thing, dang, that's poor no matter how rich they are. (or maybe it's their choice, and shouldn't be obligated to show?)

And, I thought Tony Myles had some interesting things to say about the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game."

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I'm back, baby!

-a la Mr. Costanza-

Well, I'm finally back after a brief blogging hiatus. I know I've probably lost all of my regular readers, so I wish the two of them would come back. Anyhow, I've been swamped by a number of things lately. Busy. The Christmas holidays were a killer on my reading and blogging. We've moved back into our house after the house fire last August (no, I haven't posted much - er...anything - about it, but I will), so that's been time consuming. Let's just call it the epitome of procrastination and say I waited until February to make my 'be more consistant' resolution. Everyone else can do that stuff in January if they want.

I've also been cooking up the new look. I really wanted a three-column layout, so I played around with some stuff and came up with this. What do you think? I'm still working out a few kinks with the right column jumping down and tagging posts (and I'm not sure how it looks across different browsers - right now I'm on IE6), but hopefully it'll function well and look nice.

We should do some catching up together. Soon.