Saturday, December 30, 2006

Best of '06 - Movies

It was a rough year for good movies...

Little Miss Sunshine

I love Toni Collette and adore every movie I've seen her in. Then you add Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Greg Kinnear? This tiny little independant movie was the most enjoyable thing I saw from the silver screen all year.When all the critics starting raving I was skeptical - because I always am. But this time I agree with them. This movie was an absolute delight from beginning to end, and if I don't see it showered with awards I will be bitter. It has the one of the more unique story lines in independant film that actually reflects real life without being dull or pretentious. You know how hard that is to come across? It is for this reason, I call Little Miss Sunshine the stand-out movie of the year.

Others worth mentioning (or not):

Comedy: Talladega Nights

Best Title: Kinky Boots

Best Animated: Cars

Biggest Surprise: Click

Who the Hell Thought That Would Ever Make a Good Movie?: Snakes on a Plane

Wondering What All the Hype Was About: Mission Impossible III (This is probably a direct result of my hatred of Tom Cruise)

Best Story with the Worst Production Value: End of the Spear

Dying to See but I have to Wait Because I Live in the Sticks:

Aurora Borealis
The Departed
Little Children
Notes from a Scandel

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Once Again...

...I'm so proud of my state.

Flatulence Allegedly Sparks Jail Fight

It doesn't get much worse than this.

Dang, it's good to be a Nebraskan.

Best of '06 - on the Pop Culture Realm


Best Ad Campaign: Apple Computers. (Like I would say anything else.)

Best New TV Show: Heroes, without a doubt. I also really love The Nine.

Best Season Finale: Grey's Anatomy. The Office runs a fairly close second, but only because I discovered the show late.

TV Series I'm Glad to See Go: Charmed

TV Series I'm Most Sorry to See Go: Alias, but only in the Season 1 & 2 state, not present state at the time of the finale.

Annoying "News" Item of the Year: Tom and Katie

Best Reality Show Personality that Keeps Getting Better: Tim Gunn


Funniest Idea that Emerged: Recutting classic movie trailers into creepy horror movies and vice versa on YouTube. (The Shining is my favorite so far.)

Guiltiest Pleasure: So You Think You Can Dance

Funniest Political Moment that Shouldn't Have Been Funny: Cheney shooting his hunting "buddy".

Most Shocking Death: Coretta Scott King

Really Going to Miss Them: Robert Altman and Paul Gleason


Best Worship Album:
Paul Baloche's A Greater Song

Best Worship Song: Desperation Band's Treasure (From Live-At the Rooftops)

Best Christian Album of the Year: This is tough, but I have to say Derek Webb's Mockingbird. But Mute Math and Jar of Clay's Good Monsters are right behind them

Best Mainstream Song: Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol

Best Mainstream Album: Amos Lee's Supply and Demand

Best Rearrangement of a Hymn: Kristen Standfill's Jesus Paid it All. (But I must mention Chris Tomlin's Amazing Grace My Chains are Gone. It's also very good.)

Most Fun Christian Song: MercyMe's One Trick Pony

Best Crossover: Mat Kearney, followed very closely by The Fray

Best Use of Strings: Skillet's Rebirthing

Best Return to the Scene: Plumb

Song that Captured the Year Best for Me: Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What a Difference a Rain Makes

These branches are littering my backyard.

Poor little tree.

Still no snow. It's December 21st and still no snow. This irritates me. A lot.

Better rain...

 the kind at a husker game in September. Only the die hard fans stay... especially when your friend Angie (pictured here) has never been and loves the Huskers as much as you.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Domesticated steph

The week of Christmas fell swiftly upon us and without much fanfare. I have several family celebrations to attend this weekend, which means I am in the kitchen this week. A lot.

My dad's side of the family doesn't have any cooks, which is a little scary. I actually have one aunt and uncle who do not own an oven. (Luckily this is not the aunt hosting our Saturday get-together) My mother has two celebrations at her house so I am baking and cooking what I can to help her out. Tonight I found myself elbow deep in powered sugar.

It's become a tradition for me to bake a classic French dessert, the Bûche de Noël each year. It started with my brother taking French in high school... and I followed in his footsteps. I don't remember the specifics, but most likely our French teacher brought the dessert during a Christmas party. My brother ohhhed and ahhhed over it so much, that I made a point to get the recipe while I was taking classes from the same teacher. Tonight I remembered why I only make this thing once a year. It's not hard, it's just messy. I have powered sugar in parts of my kitchen I didn't know I had. Which is incredibly handy, because my kitchen is huge. I'm planning to find said sugar until Easter.

I also baked my "famous" praline chex mix tonight- and now I have a few smashed pieces of cereal on my floor.

Also on my list... pumpkin cheesecake, chicken tortilla soup, a relish tray, a fruit and chocolate fondue dip... and to top it all off, my grandmother's sweet potatoes.

Somehow I ended up with all the messy food. Hmm. I wonder if my mother planned it that way.

What I'm listening to: Relient K's Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand
What I'm reading: Mike Yaconelli's Messy Spirituality

Change: What is it Good For?

Ever have one of those days where you promise yourself it will be different than the last, only to fall back into your normal routine and fail at that fail miserably (and let's face it, somewhat deliberately)?

Case in point: I've had a book on my shelf for...well, I'm actually a little afraid to admit how many years, entitled I Really Want to Change - So Help Me God by James MacDonald. I remember being so excited about the book when I first purchased it, but here it is years later and I haven't so much as attempted the first chapter.

The biggest change I've been part of the last few years is the change in worship style at my church. Which, admittedly, is a big deal, but it seemed to take forever and once it happened, it didn't really feel like much had changed. Probably due to my gradual introduction of new songs and other instruments accompanying those songs. But is change best when it's gradual? Or is it best to go the whole way, to the fullest extent, immediately?

This is not a fully-processed thought, but perhaps posting something about it will remind me to revisit this later. (Perhaps slowly, at a gradual pace.)

*Slinks away from the keyboard...tongue in cheek*

What I'm listening to: Happy Christmas Vol. 4

Sunday, December 17, 2006

You've Got to be Kidding Me

Open your iTunes and listen to Relevant Magazine's podcast from 12/15/06. You won't regret it. Besides having a great live mini-show from Andrew Peterson, Jill Phillips, Sandra McCraken and Derek Webb, there is a great story in Slices about the Orlando Magic's mascot boxing a live kanagaroo for the half-time show last week.

You've got to be kidding me.

Discovering a Little Christmas Spirit

It's rare for me to have a Sunday off. I actually looked back to count and I only missed leading worship three Sundays this last year - and one was due to illness. But today was the Sunday School Christmas program and the children's music program is not something I've had time to be involved with at the church for 4 years now. So I took the oppourtunity to not drive the 30 miles to church and instead finish up my Christmas shopping, do laundry ... and watch two Christmas movies. I feel do decadent.

The reason I find Will Ferrell so funny is because of this movie. Maybe Bob Newhart makes him funny (because Bob Newhart rocks), maybe it the way he claps at the excitement of seeing Santa, maybe it's because he's gets the crap kicked out of him by a little person...I don't know. But it's freakin' funny. Even Roger Ebert liked it. He said, and I quote, "This is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece."

Not as good of a movie, but still a Christmas standard for me in the last few years is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I enjoy the movie because of Cindy LooHoo and one moment in the movie. Cindy: "You're the-the-the..." Grinch "The-The-The. THE GRINCH." Kills me everytime.

I'd never paid attention to the lyrics of the main song in the show, but here's a taste:

Where are you Christmas?
Why can't I find you?
Why have you gone away?
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me?
Why can't I hear music play?

My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Where are you Christmas?
Do you remember
The one you used to know?
I'm not the same one
See what the time's done
Is that why you have let me go?

That's fairly profound for a cheesy pop song and interesting in light of what I've been through this year.

Now all I have to do it find time to watch
It's a Wonderful Life and National Lampoon Christmas Vacation (just to take the edge off all the cheese. I'ts just not Christmas until I see a cat get electrocuted by some Christmas lights) and I'm all set.

Audrey: Do you sleep with your brother? Do you know how sick and twisted that is?
Ellen: Well, I'm sleeping with your father. Don't be so dramatic.

Hee. I love that quote.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Perfect Christian

When a high-profile evangelical Christain leader has a high-profile failure, we all respond differently.

I've been reading about Jay Bakker, son of the Jim and Tammy Faye, who's the pastor of a church called Revolution. It's a small church that holds a casual service in a Brooklyn bar. He started filming a reality show called One Punk Under God airing on the Sundance Channel. His show and his views are another post... but as I read a little about his father's problems back in the 80s, I was reminded of other famous scandels in the evangelical community. Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts... and more recently Ted Haggard and Paul Barnes, these are leaders of large organizations and churches who in one way or another, were exposed for fraud, cheating, etc. And don't even get me started on Falwell or Robertson.

The list goes on... leaders in the evangelical community fall. So do I. So do you.

But this post isn't about those leaders. It's not really even about me. Here's the question I've been bothered by today: Why does the world hold Christians up to a perfect moral standard? (I know both the self-righteous and biblical answer most would say, but I want to go a little deeper.)

Why aren't we allowed to screw up in the face of society?

For years the so-called "leaders" that represent us have threatened hell-fire and brimstone to those that do not obey. The actions of presidents, actors, authors, radio hosts and the like are judged, condemned by these mouth-pieces. So in turn we are being condemned by a society that remembers that condemnation. And they happily throw our failure back in our faces. Then we throw it right back.

It's not working.

Whatever happened to grace? Whatever happened to dropping our rock?

There've been precious few times in my life when I came to a friend with a confession or an apology, and as I've cowered in the corner, arms up over my heard, eyes slammed shut, preparing myself for the collision, all I felt was the dull thud of the rocks dropping from their hands.

I felt grace.

God extends grace to all of us. We simply must reach out and take it. But grasping that grace in no way makes me superior to those who haven't reached out to take it yet, because God extends this grace to all. The violent death Christ faced wasn't just for a couple of smart, good people who live in the Bible Belt. It was for every sad-sack full of sin. And that's all of us.

It has to start somewhere. It should start with us. We will continue to fall in big and small ways. And when someone else does, I don't even want a rock to be in sight, much less in my hand. It starts with us. If we extends grace to the world perhaps we'll get it back.

Do you have the nerve to say, “Let me wash your face for you,” when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. -Matthew 7: 4-5, The Message Remix

What I'm listening to: Happy Christmas Vol. 2

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Many, many people wax philosophical about the anonymity of the internet. Is it bad or good? Helpful or hurtful? Does it make us more bold than we ought to be? Does it force us inside our home offices, destined to spend our lives in front of a computer, instead of going out and experiencing the world?

That's a debate I'm not at all interested in starting here. But this blogsite is one that makes me ask these questions.

Submit a postcard size image - with a secret. A regret, a sadness, fear, desire... anything, as long as you've never told anyone before.

This is a way the "anonymity" of the internet doesn't draw us further into that anonymity. No. For me it's a reminder that each of us have real and honest emotions we are afraid to share with those around us. We may be strangers, but we are all still connected simply by being human.

PostSecret is really a beautiful thing.

A Late Discovery

Love it. I want to take Hiro home and keep him as my pet.

Monday, December 11, 2006

True Christmas Spirit

Want a true worship experience this Christmas? Sufjan Stevens' 42-song collection of chrimstas songs old and new, mixed with some classic hymns like Amazing Grace and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing had me in tears and truly worshipping.

And, come on, how could I not like a artist who's record label is called Asthmatic Kitty?

Friday, December 08, 2006

One of the posts I've been avoiding

My brother had the distinct pleasure of attending the Big 12 championship game at the lovely Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. And he was kind enough to email me pictures of his experience.

He sucks.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Guess the Song Title

Some say the face is unforgettable
I'm sure I've seen it many times
Ah, but you know me, I forget so easily

I thought I saw you in a Sunday crowd
But then I lost you, in blur of color, watercolor clouds
Like deja vu
Was that you?

They say someday I won't need to seek you out
But for now won't you come and wrap me up inside your presence?
We can celebrate if you stay

I know you make your home in many given lots
Your vision is so clear you don't see what is not
When I find you will I catch the cure you've got?

Surely you're not in some distant land?
Maybe down the block
Even 'cross the street
Have you always been near to me?

An obscure artist... and even more obscure song. The lyrics really only make sense once you know the title of the song. Hint: It is related to Advent, in a roundabout way.

Any guesses?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Are You Waiting For?

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1: 22-23)

It’s Christmas time… a season we equate with so many “things”. Lights, trees, the colors of red and green, family gatherings, Santa, gifts, just to name a few. I love Christmas. The air turns brisk and cold, I wait in anticipation for snow to blanket the earth, and hope fills my heart like it does no other time of year. Why do our hearts hope at Christmas? Because we know what is to come.

The season of Advent is about that hope for what is to come. In a way, we celebrate the art of waiting for Christ’s return. O Come O Come Emmanuel is a classic 9th century Latin hymn that beautifully illustrates this season of anticipation. The song is a plea to release Israel from the longing they feel for the Messiah to arrive.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

These are words from the first verse - but it was originally intended to be the last verse - the climax of the song - where the culmination of all the other verses ended. This climax poetically offers the feeling of hope that enters our hearts more fully during the season of Advent.

What are you waiting for this Christmas? It’s a profound question, one not easy to answer. We spend our lives waiting for things… some good, some bad. Some are just things. But the waiting needs to have a reverence to it, for it’s more than just the waiting - it’s recognizing that God is in the moment. We are to live in this moment for him, while eagerly looking forward to His return.

Waiting equals hope. If there wasn’t the hope of fulfillment at the end of the wait, we wouldn’t wait. We would simply sit back and watch it all unfold. But Christ’s return deserves more than just watching. It deserves the excitement of our hearts, the longing for His peace, the anticipation for His return; for we are not whole without him. That is why we eagerly wait for Him to come.

O Come O Come Emmanuel… Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to us O Israel.

He will come, and we will rejoice.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Joy of Celebration

It's quite cold here in the central part of the state. The wind is biting and chilling us to the bones. I've finally dug out my winter coat and searched in vain for my hat this morning. It's just as well... my hair looked too good to cover up anyway. Hee. It's now the first day of December and we still haven't had snow.

This time of the year usually offers a different kind of reflection for me. Part of it's the season of Christmas, and another is the wintery weather. But the biggest part of it, I think, is the busyness. We equate this time of year with rushing... through stores, to work, back home, at rehearsals, to church, to get-togethers and parties, to bible study... It is a busy time of year - but why is it busy? The most obvious answer is because we make it that way. Our choice lead to busyness. But for me, it's more than that. My reason for busyness is a little bit of a paradox.

The most hectic part of my life this Christmas season is my work at the church. Aside from my regular responsibilities, I'm directing a musical with a cast of 40 - small potatoes compared to what most directors are dealing with this time of year. But what is my reason for this extra "busyness" during an already busy time of year?

The celebration.

I don't direct a musical each Christmas because I'm expected to, or because I like to boss people around, or even because I enjoy the process. I do it because I want to celebrate Christmas.

The show we are doing this year is centered around the theme of hope. It's takes place in 1941, the year of Pearl Harbor, and we watch a woman who's husband is in the Air Force, watch, wonder and wait for him to come home for the holidays. By the end of the show she's realized that dreams don't always work out the way we want them to - sometimes so God can make a bigger dream. Maybe even so God can suprise us. It's hard to accept sometimes, but it's joyful to know that God has something for us, even if it's not what we want.

It's reminders like these why I choose busyness. I need them. As always, God teaches me something through the process. (That's another celebration for me, by the way.) But I must be careful to never allow the busyness to overcome the occasion, as I refuse to become like my grandmother, who always let the preparations of family gathering overtake the joy that came from seeing everyone. The celebration of Christ's birth? Is why I love Christmas. It's why I celebrate.

May your hectic Christmas season be one of celebration, joy and peace.

Now I'm going to have a cup of coffee.

What I'm listening to: City on a Hill's It's Christmas Time
What I'm reading: Robert Whitlow's The Sacrifice

Monday, November 27, 2006

Laughter at the Office

I got laughed at today. Hard.

It's not really embarrassing. A co-worker laughed at me. To the point where he nearly fell off his chair.

I love Jay. He's a 40 yr. old man in a 24 yr. old's body. (The little brother I never had, I tell him). He's the picture of professionalism, very good at his job, yet usually isn't afraid to have fun. Today he had fun because he laughed at me. I don't remember all the details (it wasn't that interesting) but I do remember that he said something to me that made me think of a sarcastic and mean comment. I bit my tongue and said nothing. He could tell I wanted to say something, so he called me on it. I told him I wasn't going to say what I was thinking because I was simply working on being a nicer person. So he thoughtfully and sincerely asked "What brought this about?" to which I replied. "I hate people."

This is where the laughter began. Incessent, non-stop laughter. For a looooooong time. So long that I started laughing because... well, it was funny.

Am I a nice person? I really don't know. It's possible I have my moments. It's also possible the moments are just about sucking up. It's also possible I'm just being too hard on myself. Either way, my co-worker didn't disagree with me. (Nor did he agree.) He just laughed.

I wonder if I would be happier than I am now if I was a nice person. Are the two connected? No one in my life is particularly mean to me, so either I have really thick skin or I'm too selfish to notice when someone's being mean back. (The latter of which is the more likely scenario.)

There really is no point to this story. I just kind of enjoyed the fact that someone had a good laugh at my expense today.

I don't know why, but I find this test hysterically funny. Probably because I'm not nice. Are they serious with some of those questions? It's amazing what Google can find.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

25 Things Most People Don't Know About Me

1.) I’m addicted to Orbit’s Sweet Mint gum.

2.) I am the most like my dad, but I fear I am turning into my mother.

3.) The crock pot is my favorite invention (next to the DVD player).

4.) I think The Office is one of the funniest shows on the planet.

5.) I have an aversion to the name “Robby” for an inexplicable reason.

6.) My favorite place to go is the beach - or anywhere near the ocean.

7.) Last year, for my dad’s birthday present, I surprised him by playing a guitar solo for the first time during a communion service. I played his favorite song Amazing Grace and he cried. I won’t ever play that song for anyone else.

8.) I hate Wal-Mart (for all the reasons you’d think).

9.) I hate K-Mart (but not for the reasons you’d think).

10.) I loathe JJ Abrahms. And Alias was one of my favorite shows (until Season 3).

11.) The cars I’ve owned are red, white and blue. (Not all at the same time and not on purpose.)

12.) I have an embarrassing weakness for Chick Lit.

13.) I hate the smell of vanilla, coconut, magnolias or cinnamon.

14.) I cannot make Jello.

15.) I hate to sew, even though my mom and my grandmother have made it one of the biggest parts of their lives.

16.) I was devastated (okay, not really) when I hate to cut my nails to learn how to play guitar.

17.) I am a terrible typist. (Although you can really tell that just by reading one of my posts).

18.) My favorite classic TV show is The Cosby Show.

19.) I have no desire to have kids. Not even a little.

20.) I’d rather be behind the scenes than on stage (preferably as director so I can tell people what to do)

21.) I am in touch with no one from high school. This is very intentional, and I couldn’t care less.

22.) I adore lime flavored tic tacs. All the other flavors are gross.

23.) I also adore Skeet Ulrich. But not for the reason you’d think.

24.) Hallmark commercials make me cry. (And this is related the #23).

25.) I think Will Ferrell is really, really, really funny. And I never thought I’d ever type that sentence.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Huskers and OJ

The Colorado/Nebraska game is this Friday. I cannot even remember a time when we didn't play this team the day after Thanksgiving, nor can I remember a time when they were acually a team I enjoyed watching play the Huskers.(Be gone, oranges on the field!)

One of the benefits of reading some Nebraska blogs is they often link to other blogs, one I hadn't crossed before. Read this joke to enjoy a good poke at the Buffs. Warning: offensive language. The joke is funny enough for me to still link to it, though.

That being said, please don't read anything else on the blog. It makes us Nebraskans look...well.. ignorant.

On the pop culture side - what the heck is OJ thinking? What an idiot.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Focusing on Christ

I had a professor in college who once said, "Jesus will never ask us to do something he hasn't done himself."

The process of restoration that I began nearly a year ago is still with me, if only in small pieces. I can happily say that God restored my heart this last year. Maybe not completely, for I am not sure that could ever happen on this earth, but it is restored enough so the sin that broke it down is no longer controlling it, but allowing me to move on. My heart is the epitome of Galatians 6:1. I was restored gently.

A by-product of this process is that I often find myself focusing on me, me and then me again. I fear my own selfishness is simply compounded by my joy that I am set free from the junk that's kept me bound for so long. To focus on what's happened to me instead of who's happened to me places me in where I shouldn't be - at the center.

Who is Jesus? His character is one of huge mystery to me. There are so many things he said that I don't understand, that I'm dying to ask him about. He's also equally not a mystery. He lived a simple life as a carpenter's son, who above all else taught us it all comes down to loving God with all we have and loving others... as what? as much as we love ourselves.

There is nothing more lovely and simple than that. But sometimes, there isn't anything that feels more impossible.

I'm not a people person. I don't like dealing with other people. It bugs me. It annoys me. That makes me selfish, this I know. But I can't bring myself to care. I know I should, and sometimes I feel guilty for it. Sometimes I don't. Most of the time I justify why I feel that way instead of asking God to help me change that part of myself. Why don't I? I'm stubborn. I don't want to change. To do so is to bend to something, and I don't like to bend to anything.

But I know this isn't about what I want. It's about what God wants for me, and who God wants me to be. And I know that I can only get there through focusing on Christ, not me. By knowing the person and character of the son of God who died for my sins.

It's All About Me

Watch the video at the above link and you'll never see worship music the same.

What I'm listening to: Relevent's podcast from 11/10/06
What I'm reading: Nothing, actually. I'm in a very serious dry (reading) spell.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Songs to Do Next

One of the overwhelming things about being a worship leader is deciding what new songs to tackle next. There's a lot of great stuff out there, but there is also just as much junk. The basic stuff I look for when choosing new songs are 1.)Does it honor God? 2.) Is it theologically correct? 3.) It is singable by most non-musicians?

Once a song passes that test, the hard work for me begins. I have a keyboardist who won't just play chords; she needs sheet music. So my next hurdle is finding written-out piano music for her. If I overcome that hurdle, the next is finding it in a key that most everyone can sing it in. This is the part of my job makes me tear my hair out each time.

A message to all the male, tenor worship leaders out there writing all that great music: If you are going to write it in such a high key, please make it available to us in a normal key.

There are a lot of great websites that allows you to transpose the sheet music down, but I often find myself struggling to find the music that's more obscure available at these sights. And that's tough when it's a song I really had my heart set on, and I get stuck at this point.

On a related topic, here is a great resource for worship leaders that I bet most of you don't know about. Download the October 29, 2006 video. It's a great time of worship, and the second song they do is very U2-esque which makes me go SQUEEEEE.

These are the songs I'm hoping to do next:
You are God Alone (Billy and Cindy Foote)
Offering (Paul Baloche)
You Never Let Go (Matt Redman)
Everything Glorious (David Crowder)
You Are Holy (MWS recorded it, no idea who wrote it. Request from the senior pastor)
All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises (Paul Baloche)
O Praise Him (David Crowder)
Friend of God (Michael Gungor and Israel Houghton)
My Hope (Darlene Zschech)
Treasure (Desperation Band)
Still the Cross (FFH)
Rock of Ages (Rita Baloche)
Psalm 125 (Waterdeep) Which I believe will only happen in my dreams...

Does anyone else have the trouble I do with the sheet music thing? I long for the day when I don't have to deal with it.

So what new songs are on your "To-Do" list?

What I'm listening to: Brian Doerkson's Live in Europe

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I guess I'm... surprised?

Haggard Resigns from New Life Church

I am surprised. But at the same time I'm not. Nothing much surprises me anymore. We live in a world where anything and everythings happens to anyone and everyone. I think I would be more shocked if Donald Rumsfeld did something like this... okay, maybe not.

Timing is everything, isn't it? Should it make me question the escort's motivation with election day 3 days away with a ban on gay marriage on the Colorado State ballot? It does, a little. But at the same time, I see his point. If Haggard was outspoken in his support of the ban and if Haggard did what the escort claims, it would make me want to come forward too.

I've been to New Life Church. It was one of the first churches I tried out when I moved to Colorado Springs. Strangely, I remember liking the church, but not liking Haggard and his preaching style. The church is huge - and I really felt out of place and overwhelmed. So I kept looking for a church. I might feel different about this development had I stayed.

This may sound strange to some of you reading this, but I feel for Haggard. There is no excuse for his hypocrisy, but he clearly needs help. Anyone who tries to live a double life does. God will forgive Haggard, and I pray that he is lead into restoration. I pray that he does not fall off the radar of those in his life that he needs most to support him through this. I pray he finds grace from others. I know that's what I'd want.

Related links of interest:

Inside the World of Evangelicals
An Accuser's Story
Richard Dawkins Interviews Ted Haggard
Why the Haggard Scandel Could Hurt Evangelical Turnout
When A Leader Falls

FYI - the worship band at New Life? They write some of the more unique new worship songs out there right now. Go out and buy Desperation's
From the Rooftops. Go. Now.

What I'm listening to: Derek Webb's
Mockingbird. LOVE.

Oh, and by the way, the Huskers won today and I was at Memorial Stadium to see it. What an incredible game!

Friday, November 03, 2006

My Fight for High-Ability Learning

Back in high school, I suppose I was what most people would call a "nerd". Not because I was ridiculously smart - I'm not - but because of other gifts I had. Attending public school in a town of less than 400 residents, there weren't many options for advanced placement or "gifted student" classes. But my educational service unit offered something incredibly unique: a two week program in the summer with the chance to study with a renowned scholar in fields such as art, computer science, logic, statistics, social science, medical science, and the like.

I had the pleasure of attending this program for four years. The competition was stiff - only the top ten students were accepted based on test scores or portfolios. With a little over 100 students accepted, around 400 applied. I think what these numbers say about the program, is not only that it's popular, but that public school just isn't enough, especially for gifted students.

For several years in a row now, the funds allocated by the state to successfully run this program have been cut. As a result, an alumni association was created to aid in that effort. But as always, money is tight. High Ability Learning (HAL) funds wer placed on a list of possible programs to cut in the next fiscal year, if budget cuts are necessary. Today was step one in an eight-month process to remove the funds from the "in-danger" list.

So I drove to our state capitol this morning, to testify and show support for a program that means a great deal to me. The State Board of Education was meeting and on the agenda was to discuss the budget prioritization. Today I saw a lot of courageous people testify.

Over 40 supporters showed up - some who left as early as 5:30am to be at that meeting. I watched in awe as student after student came forward to share how much high ability learning meant to them. A few cried, some were shy and not always sure of what to say, but we all took a stand for something that needed to be fought for. One girl, a sophomore I know from performing together in an Easter Passion Play, made note of all those in attendance that no longer have a stake in the program. Those of us past those years in our life, but were blessed so much by the program that we came to fight.

After 30 minutes of testimony, the State Board Members proceeded to discuss the motion to remove the funds from the cut list. A few minutes into the discussion, it was clear we really made an impression on the Board Members. Jim Scheer made a statement that the we made the best presentation to the State Board he has ever seen. The roll call vote was finally asked for and the vote began. When the voting was complete, the motion had passed. Six voted for, 1 against (Joe Higgins) and one abstained (Patricia Timm).

After the vote, another 5 minute break was asked for by Robert Evnen. Robert came out into the hall immediately and said to the group, "The only reason that this motion passed was because of the students from the Summer Honors Program and how well they presented the information." Before the vote, Robert was sure there were not enough votes to pass his motion, and he was surprised and impressed the motion had passed. Robert says he still wants to increase funds by working with the Legislature.

Today the Summer Honors Program students, faculty and alumni took on the Nebraska Commissioner of Education and won. I am proud of what I witnessed today.

Not a day goes by in my work week where I do not remember the words of the teachers I had while attending the Summer Honors Program. Their wisdom, breadth of knowledge and unique teaching approach has stayed with me for years. Not only did I have that chance to study with such prestigious scholars, but I had the chance to meet other students who lived over an hour away and never would've met who had the same passion for learning as I did. I've carried that with me and held it close to my heart.

A significant percentage of former Summer Honors students chose to stay and settle down in Nebraska. There was much talk today of "investing in the future of Nebraska" and I realized - I became that future.

It feels good to give back a little of what was once given to me.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lego Thriller

Happy Halloween...

I have no idea how they got them to dance like that. But it's hilarous.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Little Reminders

Every guitar player has their favorite pick. Not one actual "pick" but the one brand, texture, and thickness you found that fits you. I am no different.

When I first began to play, I sought the advice of professionals at one of our local music stores. He directed me to a blue one (which I love, my favorite color) that was fairly thick. I can't recall the exact measurement of thickness, but it's a lot thicker than what I use now. The logo and words on it rubbed off after a few months or so, and once I'd moved past finger-picking to chords (which is completely backwords for worship leading, if you think about. But I never do anything the normal way) I needed something thinner. So I just grabbed different kinds and tested them. I eventually landed on the perfect pick for me. The only problem? It's pink.

I don't do pink.

Why am I writing about very uninteresting part of my life? Well, the other day I was searching through my purse and as I was digging at the very bottom I noticed one of my pink picks. And then a few days later I was getting change from my wallet and there was another pick.

So I started to notice my picks everywhere around me. The floor of living room, the bookshelf in my bedroom, on top of the CD player in the spare bedroom, in a drawer of my desk, a couple on my night stand, the back seat of my car, on a music stand at church, on the senior pastor's desk... they were everywhere. I even found one in my jewelry box.

And I realized after catching sight of that one pick at the bottom of my purse, that pick was a reminder of who I was: a guitar player. Something two years ago I wouldn't have guessed I would become. Then I thought to myself, "Why can't I have something like these picks that remind me of who I am in Christ? That reminds me of who I belong to? That reminds me who my Savior is?

The world has tried with tacky gold crosses to hang around our necks and from our ears. WWJD? bracelets, jesusfishes on the backs of cars. You can even buy little mints with bible verses on them, (what's that about? Testa-mint? Come on.) But none of that stuff really works. Because a symbol - when you think about it - means nothing. It's just a thing that represents something, but it's not actually anything at all.

So why do I feel like it would help me? Because when I see a pink guitar pick, I remember this part of my life I've been allowed to explore because of God's provision. Maybe it's sentimental, maybe it's because everything else in the world has a symbol or logo and I'm just used to it. But maybe if I had some little thing like a guitar pick I could sprinkle around my life that would remind me of God's love, it wouldn't be so hard to remember when I needed it the most.

"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:5-9

What I'm listening to: Billy Foote & Cindy Foote's Not A God

Friday, October 13, 2006

In Honor of Friday the 13th

I decided to watch one of my all-time favorite freaky movies - The Village. I will not spend the whole post waxing philosophical about the greatness that is M. Night Shyamalan. I'll let my friend Rocky do that for me here, here and here.

For me, pop culture is like dessert. I so look forward to it before it happens and after when I'm done I feel both satisfied and sick from the sugar. With certain entertainment venues, I pick apart the annoying unbelievably issues, continuity errors and character assassinations over and over. (Perhaps that's why so little of what's on TV right now interests me. Perhaps I'm secretly afraid I'll get an ulcer.) But with movies, I tend to simply let them wash over with with joy (unless they suck, that is.) The Village is no different. (not with the sucking, of course, but with the joy...)

So my desire to simply let movies wash over me is probably why I had no idea the surprise that appeared was once Ivy climbed over the wall. Call me gullible, but I really didn't know. I will admit I wasn't that surprised (enough hints were dropped that something was not right in Whoville) - but shocked? Abso-freakin-lutely.

But the plot twist really wasn't what I loved about this movie. What I loved was what it said about human nature - which is why I believe that M. Night is a genius. The idealistic and arrogant idea that we could begin again and have the environment be so controlled that violence would never be considered is so thoroughly, well, American. The premise that we could create a "perfect" world and still be fallen simply reinforces the free will God gave us. Being born into sin but raised without it does not assure utopia. It's sad, but precisely why Christ had to come.

That all said, I love the cinematography ; it manages to stay interesting and even pretty in a fairly plain location. The characters, some too underdeveloped, are still complicated and fascinating to me. The build-up of suspense is nearly pitch-perfect and I could care less that it’s so manufactured. (I have a dear old friend who despises that in movies while I simply relish in it.) And one moment in particular scared me more than I ever had been (but it’s pretty easy to scare me). And the piece de la resistance: Joaquin Phoenix.

Enough said. (Although I did fall asleep during Gladiator and I don’t think the guy I was with appreciated it. What? We’d been at a Husker game with very cold wind all day, and we’d just had hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps at Laslo‘s. I earned that nap.) But I digress…

Not my favorite M. Night movie. This one is. But it’s a solid second.

What I'm listening to: Don Chaffer's You Were at the Time for Love
What I'm reading: David Crowder's Praise Habit
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The rest of my trip

My aunt and I spoke for quite a while more - an opportunity I'd been praying for since we decided to go on this trip together. Thankfully it was given to me: the chance to share with her God's never-ending love no matter the sin. The love that spurs me to gratefulness - away from sin not towards it. I shared with her from Galatians 3 "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." I even told her about Martin Luther, the 95 Theses, the birth of the reformation and told her that reading Romans might help make sense of it all.

Most of the specifics are a blur, probably because I felt the Holy Spirit say the things God wanted her to hear.

The next morning I took a campus tour with a student at Covenant. She grew up in Nebraska (Ogallala to be exact), attended UNL then ended up there. After the tour, we went to Chapel, which was a really great service. The worship was Spirit-let, simply. The message was excellent, and the service even included a "testimony" of sorts from a Covenant graduate who shared about his experience in ministry since he finished his degree. Then on we went to a class on what else? "Communicating the Gospel".

The next hour I spent listening to a very gifted professor share about the importance of communicating God's love and grace, not just the good works mentioned in Scripture. For the next hour we looked through many passages of Scripture that list all the characteristics we are to strive for like this one, and this one, and this one (this last passage you may remember from this post). And these passages have a provision just before them: the provision of God's love.

He then shared a story about his daughter. She was taking a liquid medicine that was bright orange. He would give her Sprite after she took the medicine. On one particular day, he gave her the medicine, turned away from her to get the Sprite, watched her drink it and then sent her on h er way. He glanced down at the glass and saw that it was bright orange. She had clearly spit our her medicine in the glass.

He called her back into the kitchen and asked her if she drank her medicine. "Yes," she replied. "Then how did the glass get orange?" he asked. "I don't know," she said. "Alicia, " he said to her. "You are my daughter and I love you. But you cannot lie to me. What've you've done deserve a spanking." And the tears would come and he would repeat that over and over again.

He went on to share how when their children disobey or sin, both he and his wife always preface the statement of punishment with an "I love you." Many time, they kids just roll their eyes and shake their heads, for they've heard it all before. But have we? Have we really heard that despite our behavior God loves us anyway? My aunt didn't. So when my aunt asked me what the class was like, I was able to share with, yet again, there God loves us anyway. And that will never change. (Plus it made me feel little better knowing I had the words of a professor backing me up just in case she thought I was crazy or even stupid the previous night.)

I don't know if St. Paul or Covenant are either of the places for me. I do know that I’m not sure, so I will simply look a little harder at Liberty University in Virginia and Bethel in Minneapolis. We'll see.

What I'm listening to: Josh Radin's We Were Here

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Last week I traveled to Kansas City and then on to St. Louis to visit two very interesting and two very different seminaries.

Why seminary? Well, it happened sometime after this. I remember glancing through church job descriptions in order to make sense of this "thing" that was burning inside me, and I realized that every job that looked really great required a master's degree. So thus began the research.

St. Paul School of Theology intrigued me for two reasons: the urban setting and the diversity of the student body. Both were confirmed after my visit. The school itself is very nice - the campus is lovely and well-keep (and quite small), the buildings are beautiful, they have the very latest in technological equipment in each class room, yadda, yadda. That is all very nice. But what I really loved was the dynamic range of ethnicity, age and background of the students on campus.

I had lunch with two really great people - Laura and Joel. Current students both extremely involved on campus and in an active ministry setting. They were sweet, honest, wonderful people who asked me the right questions to help me figure all this out. I really appreciated their insight. Never once did I feel like I was being sold the product of a seminary education. Both these students seemed honestly interested in finding out who I was, what I wanted and whether St. Paul was the right place for me.

Two things I didn't expect? Being told my graphic design experience would be a huge help in ministry and finding out that a good chunk of their students commute from Nebraska, and stay on campus M-Th and remain in ministry at their home churches.

Down to St. Louis. Man, is everyone nice down there. Must be a little of that southern hospitality I hear so much about, because seriously, sweetness all around. The lady at the hotel desk was adorable, our waitress at Bristol's Seafood Grill... just, everyone. So sweet.

I attended a class on Job Thursday night with a student in her first year of the Master's of Counseling program. We'd spoken several times on the phone and I was looking forward to meeting her. The class was excellent - about 60 other students absolutely full of experience with suffering.

Thankfully, this class lead to the best part of my trip - the conversation I had with my aunt at Starbuck's afterwards. (Yeah, yeah, I know, Starbuck's...just go with it.)

We began talking about her son, whom she recently discovered didn't believe in God. J.D is a 27 yr. old civil engineer in Lincoln, and just like his siblings, did not grow up in the church. Why? I can really only speculate on this. (Even when asked directly, my aunt and uncle talk around the issue.) My best attempt at connecting the dots is that when my aunt and uncle divorced after one child and a few years of marriage, my uncle lost his faith. For what reason, I don't know. My mother thinks it's somehow related to the divorce combined with his time in the military.

They reunited after a year or so apart, remarried and had three more children. Both my aunt and uncle grew up Luthern, but never attended church regularly as adults and subsequently did not raise their kids in the church. (The children, however, were all baptized as babies. What can I say? They were Lutheren.)

With all this background to consider, I was very curious to hear what my aunt had to say on the topic of Job and suffering. It's universal to everyone, whether you are spiritual or not. So the class I attended combined with her recent knowledge of her son's lack of a belief in God made for an interesting night.

I was able to share the gospel with my aunt for the first time. The real gospel. Not the one she heard as a child - the one that made her believe that unless she was a good person, God would punish her. The "gospel" that made her scared to mess up, the "gospel" that held her in chains for years. I shared with her the gospel of grace and forgiveness.

At one point, she asked me after I spoke of Jesus' perfect sacrifice in place of the old covenant sacrifice, "What is there to keep me from going on sinning, then?" And I was able to joyously declare "Nothing!"

What is wrong with the teaching the church that my aunt, who for nearly 60 years believed she was a Christian because she believe in God and tried to be a good person? Not that I'm surprised, I just hate having to hear this story from so many over and over again.

This doesn't even begin to cover all that happened over the next 24 hours - or even the rest of the conversation. Alas, I am beginning to fade. I will share more later.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I think it might be...

...a step in the right direction.

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to cast aside the concept of limbo..

Maybe those old Catholics can change after all. :)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me

Today, I am offically one year old on

I look back over the last year and I feel as though I've come full circle. Let me explain...

A few months ago a young girl from my congregation approached me and asked me to mentor her. She is 19 and chose not to go to college after she graduated. She is currently teaching dance at a local studio and trying so hard to figure out how to be happy. She and I are reading Captivating by Staci and John Eldridge and today I was typing up the question on the chapter 6 "Healing the Wound", remembering what I went through about a year ago on the subject of restoration. I am now realizing just how much healing God gave me in the last twelve months.

I am not brand new. I am mended. And I think that's much better. Never thought I'd say that, but I am. I am mended - tattered and torn. But like the velveteen rabbit, I was made real by love. Not perfect, but real nonetheless.

How could I ask for more?

A list of my favorite posts coming up (and reflections on my trips to two seminaries)... but for now I'm all verklempt.

What I'm Reading: The Leadership Baton by Rowland Forman,Jeff Jones, & Bruce Miller

What I'm listening to: Kate Havnevik's Melankton

Monday, October 02, 2006

Has Blogger gone Mac only?

My page looks like crap from a PC. The type is too large and for some reason the bottom half shows all the text being centered.

Per usual, it looks fine on a Mac.

I've seen some other blogger pages and they also seems to be acting weird.

Has blogger gone Mac only? Please say it's true.

Monday, September 25, 2006

My New Favorite Podcast


Yes, I'm a pop culture junkie. I make no apologies.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I haven't had much to say this month. I've spent more time reading blogs than posting my own stuff. I am leaving Tuesday and will be gone for the rest of the week. (Hoping that one or both of the seminaries I am visting will give me some perspective. Maybe that's why I don't have anything to say...)

These blogs I enjoy reading on a semi-regular basis. (And they all pretty regular in their posting, which is nice.) Hope you enjoy as well:

On Worship:
Worship Matters
Eric Coomer
Common Saints

On the Emerging Church Movement:
The Oooze

Other Good Stuff on the Church:
Growing Edge Buzz
Every Thought Captive
The Merge
the church and postmodern culture: conversation

Heavenly Heartburn
An Eye for Redemption

In other random thoughts: why are most bloggers men? I have yet to finda great blog by a woman. Weird.

...Although I do sometimes find
this one amusing.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I'm a Dead Poet...okay, not really

You are Arthur Rimbaud - a vital, cannon-changing poet with a flare for tantrums. You tend to write in a fever, and have a liking for the disordered mind. Do't expect people to understand you, for you are ahead of your time.
Take this quiz!

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Monday, September 18, 2006


America is the culture of overchoice. When faced with what should be a simple decision, the amount of time we spending weighing the pros and cons of each option is rarely worth the ulcer we got in the meantime.

Tall or grande? Non-fat or low fat? Quality or quantity? Chicken or fish? DSL or Wireless? Mac or PC? (don't even think of saying PC) Digital cable or satellite? Destktop or laptop?

Having so many choice to make in our everyday lives can make us feel entitled to having just as many choices with the major decisions in our life. I guess there is nothing wrong with having so many choices in those major decisions, but for me it often serves nothing more as an excuse to put the decision off.

I am looking at five different schools right now. I'll be visiting two next week - one in KC and the other in St. Louis. Neither I'm that excited about, because the other two have the better degrees I want. But they are far, far way from home. So I have a choice: What will make me happier? Being only four hours away from my friends and family while I go to seminary or move to Virginia to go to school that has a great degree and comes highly recommended by someone I admire the most in this world?

Overchoice. It's not a bad thing. But is it really a good thing?

Ten years ago (almost to the day) I read this passage in 2 Peter:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (v. 5-8)

From that point on, I knew that God's will for my life wasn't always going to be something specific and concrete. I understood that God's will for my life was to add to my faith goodness, to goodness, knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness and to that kindness, love.

These attributes will help me make the big and small choices in my life, but more importantly, they will help me enjoy the journey that I'm on right now.

I am blessed to have these choices. Not many do. So why am I whining? Because I have the option to. Sad, really.

What I'm listening to: Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars

Sunday, September 17, 2006

God determines who walks into your's up to you to decide who you let walk away, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let go.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wish You Were Here

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change? And did you exchange
a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl,
year after year,
running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears,
wish you were here.

I'm sad.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

EFCA Statement of Faith

My denomination is going through the process of revising the Statement of Faith. As with anything in the church, it's been a long and complicated process, with everyone putting their two cents in about the first and second drafts changes they've made thus far. Click here if you'd like to see more of this discussion happening online.

#1 Statement in the current SOF:

We Believe:
The Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God, without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men and the Divine and final authority for Christian faith and life.


Here is the proposed revision:

We Believe:

1. God's gospel originate in and demonstrates the holy love of the eternal, triune God -

We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three uqually divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This one God, all-knowing and all-powerful, has, in love and grace, purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to restore His fallen creation for His own glory.


Aside from the ridicules amount of appositives in that statement, I am very happy to see the first point of our SOF is now about God, not just the scriptures.

The term "Evangelical" means "based on the scriptures". We are a denomination that belive the Bible is the perfect Word of God and we teach as such. Obviously it's a very important part of who we are.

I attended a District meeting a while back after the second revision was released. It was a open forum for discussion for the changes... so I knew what I was potentially get myself into. It just so happens I sat next to a very angry, passionate and high-spirited pastor who had no problems communicating how much he hated the switch. "With God's Word we are nothing." to which I replied, "Without God, we are nothing."

For me, placing our statement about the triune God first was a logical and smart move on behalf of the committee. But for some reason, there were men in the room who felt moving it made our belief in the Word less than should be. Huh? If we took it out, sure. If the wording was altered to mean as such, absolutely. But just changing it from #1 to #2? I don't get this man's arguement.

But this whole SOF discussion doesn't even get really interesting until we discuss the changes to #11.

We believe - In the personal and premillennial and imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and that this "Blessed Hope" has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer. Yeah, I know.

But that's a post for another time.

What I'm listening to:
Jake Coco. Mmmm...

5 Things

The 5-things-in-various-places survey

5 Items in my Fridge:
1. Diet Dr. Pepper
2. Cream Cheese
4. Lettuce
5. 2 eye gel masks

5 Items in my Closet:
1. A dresser
2. My laundry basket
3. Empty shoe boxes
4. Shoes (duh)
5. Hangers (duh)

5 Items in my Car:
1. Cds, Cds, Cds
2. Lotion
3. A cute little red flashlight
4. Headset for my cell phone
5. Music books

5 Items in my Purse:
1. Wallet, checkbook combo
2. 2 Tubes of chapstick, 1 lipgloss and two tubes of lipstick. (I know...)
3. Cell phone
4. Pens
5. Keys

5 Items on my Desk:
1. Lamp
2. Pencil cup holder
3. Papers, bills, etc
4. Computer
5. Assorted Cds

5 Items in my Bathroom Vanity:
1. "Creative Genuis" hair gel
2. "Lucky" perfume
3. Lemon flavored toothpaste
4. Home-made soap my friend Dixie's mother made
5. Nailpolish

Monday, September 04, 2006

Boundaries - Part 2

A little over a week ago I made brief mention of Saddleback Church's new rules for maintaining moral integrity. Part 1.

Perhaps the 15 rules set by Saddleback really is about removing temptation from the staff, and if so, you got to do what you got to do. If it's needed for their church, I'm glad something's being done. My main concern is that this list is somehow about what people's perception may be about the interactions mentioned in this list.

Perception. It sometimes becomes synonymous with the word gossip.

A while back a Sunday school teacher I knew was asked to step down from her position. (No, it wasn't the famous one). She was asked to step down because some people in the community saw her playing golf with a man who was not her husband. She and her husband are separated (and were at the time all this happened) and a rumor began that she was cheating on him. The only foundation for the rumor was the golfing incident.

This Sunday school teach had a right to be hurt. She did not broadcast her marriage problems to everyone - only her close friends knew what she was going through and it was this: her husband left her. On three separate occasions previous to this. This Sunday school teacher has a strong personality - and I felt it was the reason the target was placed on her back instead of her husband's. She spoke her mind, she had an opinion about things, she was wild as a teenager and she never kept that a secret. In fact, is was a joy for her to share how God redeemed her from the out-of-control drinking and disrespect she showed her parents, along with several other things.

I will not go into any more details about what the church leadership did what and how things are for her at the church. But I will say this again: perception often turns to gossip.

People look for the sin in others to make them feel better about themselves (I know I do sometimes). But perception is not always truth, and to pass it off as such is wrong.

It feels good, doesn't it? To tell another a juicy piece of gossip about someone else that makes your own sin seem tiny in comparison Well, yeah, I sinned. But look what she did. It was so much worse! Gossip about others makes us feel better, plain and simple. That's why it's done so often.

We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way. We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself...Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! -James 3:2-6, 9-10

Boundaries exist for a reason. Without them, lives are ruined - whether by perception of an sinful act or the actual sin. If we would only seek approval from God and not others, perhaps our perception would shift from others to the truth. Maybe we'd work more on fixing ourselves rather than judging others. I believe God would be honored by that.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Autumn is Coming

I can smell it. Cool, fresh, tingly, wheaty. Fall is coming. Chasing after the warm sun on the horizon as each day is shoter and shorter as the year approaches a close. I smell the silage being cut, the ground staying moist, the pollen shedding, the impending harvest of corn. The blessing of rain in the last few weeks served to make my sense more aware. Fall is coming.

As the earth dies I am not only reminded of the beauty thats found in death, but of the promise of life given in the spring. The brillent reds, yellows, oranges, browns explode across the landscape in my vision and once again I am reminded of God's creativity. Of his love for the land, for us. For what other reason would he want to show us those colors, that beauty? To remind us that with every death there can be new life. And we must find the beauty in both.
When I'm cold and alone
All I want is my freedom and a sudden gust of gravity
I stop wailing and kickingJust to let this water cover me, cover me
Only if I rest my arms, rest my mind,
You'll overcome me and swell up around me.
With my fighting so vain,With my vanity so fought, I'm rolling over
'Cause in just the same way
That the stream becomes swollen,
Swollen with cold up over the ground,
When my heart draws close to the close of Autumn

What I'm listening to: Caedmon's Call -
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Victor Wooten "Amazing Grace"

Victor Wooten

If you aren't in tears by the end of this video, be afraid... you might not have a soul. *sniffle*

Of Selfishness and Wine-Tasting

I spent the evening with two co-workers tonight. We brought wine, talked and watched a stupid movie (I won't embarrass myself by saying what it was. I've already embarrassed myself enough today.) And for some reason, when I arrived home I started to think about selfishness.

The wine we had wasn't very good. Shame. I had high hopes, but I'm such a wine-snob that at times it's hard to please me. Am I that way in the rest of my life? Probably.

My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.

-Psalm 38:11

Am I so wounded that people stay away? Is it selfish of me to ask them to stay?

Whenever I asked myself these questions, I try to ask myself if I had a friend who acted like I do, would I stay?
Fight or flight? Would it be worth it? (That alone is a selfish question.)

It is hard to please me. And the selfishness in me simply asks, "So? Why is that so bad?" I hold myself to a high standard, why is it so bad to do the same for others? If I taste too much oak in a wine, I put the glass down and make a mental note to not buy it again. I guess I can't exactly do that with people, can I? I think some people do - they weigh the pros and cons to see if the benefits of the relationship will outweigh the work it takes to put into it. Is that okay to do? It doesn't feel like it. But can we live purely selfless lives? I believe
she did. Is it something innate in us - like a moral sense of right and wrong can be? Is it something to be cultivated and, after years and years of pruning, can only then be achieved?

In my journey to restoration, selflessness hasn't reached me yet. In fact, when others behave with disregard to those around them, I self-righteously say "How can they be that selfish?" That sin continues to punch holes through my spirit and I fear I may never be made whole. Because, as always, "Be perfect, therefore as I am perfect..." will forever be my Everest. (Thanks to a conversation I had in the restroom of the Estes Park Community Church the summer of 1995. Yes, I mean you, Angela.)

What I'm listening to: Grant Lee Phillips' Virginia Creeper

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Double Hee

I'm slightly amused that I actually get this pop culture reference. It makes me feel really, really old. If memory serves this line is from a TV show that takes me back to my high school days and the episode somehow involved brightly-colored spandex body suits.

Tiffany Amber-Theisen, eat your heart out. I bet none of your lines ended up on a T-Shirt I just paid $22 for.

This is just all kinds of embarrassing.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Boundaries - Part 1

In an effort to curb sexual temptation among the staff at Saddleback and other churches, Rick Warren established 15 rules for Saddleback staff standards in order to maintain moral integrity:

- Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex.*

- Thou shalt not have the opposite sex pick you up or drive you places when it is just the two of you.*

- Thou shalt not kiss any attender of the opposite sex or show affection that could be questioned.*

- Thou shalt not visit the opposite sex alone at home.

- Thou shalt not counsel the opposite sex alone at the office, and thou shalt not counsel the opposite sex more than once without that person’s mate. Refer them.

- Thou shalt not discuss detailed sexual problems with the opposite sex in counseling. Refer them.

- Thou shalt not discuss your marriage problems with an attender of the opposite sex.

- Thou shalt be careful in answering emails, instant messages, chatrooms, cards, or letters from the opposite sex.

- Thou shalt make your secretary your protective ally.

- Thou shalt pray for the integrity of other staff members.

* The first three do not apply to unmarried staff

You can read the rest of the article here.

My first reaction was just to shake my head and ask myself, "Isn't this a little extreme? Creating man-made rules that could possibly interfere with a fruitful ministry to one another?"

I recently went to visit a church that has a Saturday night service - an old friend from high school leads worship there and I'd heard good things about the pastor. So I went with a friend of mine and during the service, a couple pledged membership to the church. They took vows, much like an oath of office, actually, and one oath very pointedly said that they vowed to remain free of lust.

My friend turned at that moment and had a look of disbelief and almost shock on her face. I will admit that among all the other oaths, it did seem slightly out of place. After all, there wasn't an oath about not murdering people and the like. But while my friend thought it was completely inappropriate, I didn't really have a problem with it. I asked myself, What's wrong with holding yourself up to a high moral standard?

Perhaps the 15 rules set by Saddleback really is about removing temptation from the staff, and if so, you got to do what you got to do. If it's needed for their church, I'm glad something's being done. My main concern is that this list is somehow about what people's perception may be about the interactions mentioned in this list. (More on this will be addressed in an upcoming post.)

I've sat in my pastor's office after rehearsal many times. Sometimes we talk about ministry, sometimes we talk about worship, sometimes we talk about the state of the church, sometimes we tell each other stories, many times we pray together and for each other. I love and appreciate those times. They are a building blocks for the good working relationship a worship leader and a senior pastor need to have. But I have no doubt these times might stop if anyone mentioned they saw us there late at night when no one else was around. To be frank: that sucks.

But many great women and men stumble without intending to fall. Boundaries are good for our fallen state of being. I'd rather have a boundary - like the electric fence my dad put up around the cornfield in our backyard that kept me from going to the other side just so I could pet the cows. I needed that to stop me. Maybe we all do.