Monday, December 24, 2007

practicing love in the bitter cold

Yesterday, the whole family (me, my wife Janice, and sons Richard and Philip) spent the evening as volunteers at His Glory Belvidere Outreach Mission, helping with their annual Joy of Christ toy giveaway.

There were hundreds of people who waited in a long line to get Christmas gifts for their children. There were dozens of volunteers there also. Everyone braved temperatures in the teens and brisk winds to be there.

I know that I got cold...in my expensive double-insulated winter coat, gloves and hat. But I saw many people standing in line wearing fall jackets with no hat or gloves. Some of the volunteers were handing out blankets for people to use while the waited in line. Others were handing out coats, gloves, and hats for people to keep. Among the volunteers were some ambulance workers from OSF Saint Francis hospital in Rockford.

This was the first year that I participated in the event, and the scale was larger than I had imagined. Police closed off an entire block of Belvidere's State Street, the major road through downtown Belvidere. There were several police cars and ambulances there. Outdoor volunteers included those handing out blankets, coats, hats and gloves; others handing out cookies and hot chocolate; singing carols; reenacting the nativity scene (no animals were involved); and helping people carry bags full of gifts back to their cars or homes (I spent most of my time doing this). I never made it inside the mission building, but I know there were many more volunteers working there.

This was a great way to spend Christmas Eve eve.

The local paper, the Rockford Register Star, has a news article and a small photo gallery on the event. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

a new blog, from adam hamilton

Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection has started a blog called Seeing Gray. Hamilton is the author of several books, and Church of the Resurrection hosts the annual Leadership Institute.

The blog's title is related to an upcoming sermon series and a new book due to be released in April 2008. I don't know if Adam is planning to continue the blog beyond the sermon series--but I hope he does. I've attended the past two Leader Institutes, and have always come back inspired and better equipped for ministry. Adam is frequently insightful and does not hesitate to address controversial issues.

I predict that he will be a great asset to the Christian blogosphere.

[Update] I forgot in my original post...thanks to Jeff of E-merging in Indiana for the lead.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

dr. cheese video explains the gospel

With wisdom and good ...cheer, Dr. Cheese and the Spoonsonvill Eggbeaters Cheerleaders teach us about the Good News of Jesus Christ.



How can you miss with catchy lines like these?
God made us so he could love us like our daddy.
His love is worth more than a gold-plated caddy.

how to be a good samaritan

What does it take to become a good Samaritan? Perhaps simply noticing:

video

Friday, November 30, 2007

remembering, participating, anticipating

This year, I’m going to keep three words in mind during Advent and Christmas: remembering, participating, and anticipating. Here’s why:

Remembering
I’m going to set aside some time to remember Christmas seasons from my own past, and also set aside time to share those memories with my family. Even if my sons consider it cruel and unusual punishment. It’s important to remind each generation about the history that they are a part of. And I’ll encourage Janice, Richard, and Philip to share some of their memories of Christmas. Sharing memories is a good way to make them lasting memories.

Participating
I’m going to try to make sure that everyone in the family is able to truly participate in the Christmas season. Participating is more than just doing things. In fact, it will probably mean doing fewer things. If you try to do too many things, they all become a blur and you end up participating in very little. Participating means being here and now, without worrying about what’s next—without going on to the next thing before you’re able to appreciate what you’ve just done.

Anticipating
I’m going to try to structure the family schedule so that anticipation becomes possible. I remember when the kids where young, they would almost drive Janice and I crazy with their agony of waiting. But learning how to wait is an important part of growing up, and being able to wait is an important part of being a healthy adult. And we live in a society where waiting is almost considered evil. So I’m going to try to get those presents under the tree early (this will mean I’ll have to do some shopping before Christmas Eve this year). And I’m going to let a little bit of my inner child escape as I scrutinize any presents addressed to me under the tree. After all, that’s one of my best childhood memories of Christmas—spending time trying to figure out what was in those brightly wrapped presents, and anticipating the moment when I could rip the paper to shreds to reveal the contents.

Putting Christ back into Christmas
These ideas of remembering, participating, and anticipating are also important to a Christian understanding of the Christmas season. At Christmas we remember that there was a time in history when God had never walked and lived on this earth, that there was an actual point in history when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We remember that we are all a part of that history.

At Christmas we participate in the Kingdom of God that was made possible by the birth of a tiny baby 2000 years ago. The One who was born then remains with us here and now. What we celebrate is the birthday of the One. If we cannot participate in that celebration, all the other celebrations become less than meaningless.

And at Christmas we anticipate the promised time when Jesus will return and bring about God’s Kingdom in its fullness. We anticipate that day when Christ comes and “rips to shreds” all our pain and suffering, all the world’s misery and discord, and we get to live in a reality that far surpasses our imaginings.

Remembering. Participating. Anticipating. Make them a part of our Christmas season this year. And may your Christmas be blessed and joyful.

Monday, November 5, 2007

what not to do

Combine unrestrained and untempered enthusiasm for the Lord with web-building skills, and you might just get an unbearably bad website, like this one. Warning: viewing the linked page for extended periods may cause eye damage, constipation, or burnt toast!

You can see other eye-bendingly bad websites at this BlogStorm article. Thanks to DailyBlogTips for the link.

Friday, November 2, 2007

new lightbulbs explained

Last week, as part of the ongoing Butterfly Effect worship series, Pastor Lisa and I talked about CFL's, or Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. In conversations after worship and in the days that followed, I've found that many people are already using CFL's around their home. For some others, there are questions remaining.

I found a great video that explains CFL's in plain English. Enjoy!



By the way, I still have a bunch of VHS tapes that I watch from time to time!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

online bibles

There is nothing quite like a comfortable, familiar Bible--one that you've used for a long time, with notes in the margins, underlines, dog-ears, and maybe even coffee stains. A good Bible can almost become like a good friend. As much as I am into the Internet, I'll always have a favorite "old-fashioned" Bible of ink and paper.

But there are times when an online Bible can be incredibly useful. So here are some links to online Bibles of various translations:
  • Oremus Bible Browser - Includes New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Anglicized NRSV, and the King James Version (KJV). Allows you to create a page with multiple passages.
  • StudyLight.org - Many translations, including: New American Standard (NAS), New International Version (NIV), Contemporary English Version (CEV), Good News Translation, The Message, King James Version, New King James Version (NKJV), and the Easy-to-Read Version. Also has commentaries linked to each verse. Allows side-by-side comparison of two translations.
  • BibleGateway - Many, many translations. A bit more friendly than StudyLight, but StudyLight has more commentaries, and they're linked in with each verse. Allows you to compare several translations side-by-side.

Monday, October 22, 2007

monday morning musings

It's Monday morning. Time for a few thoughts coming off the weekend.

Watching CNN this morning, I notice that the corner logo for CNN is green. A Google search on "CNN logo color" turned up this Digg for a site called TVNewser. Turns out the logo changed color on Friday. Now I'm trying to figure out if I went all weekend without watching CNN, or if I just didn't notice it until this now...

_____

One of my regular reads, Jay Voorhees' blog Only Wonder Understands first brought to my attention the "outing" of Albus Dumbledore, the well-loved major character from the Harry Potter series. Jay's headline, "I never saw this one coming...", captures my initial reaction.

I'm a pretty big Harry Potter fan, and I have to admit that my second response to Rowling's announcement was a bit of dismay. There are already too many well-meaning Christians who condemn the series based solely on the fact that it's about "witchcraft". Now undoubtedly there will be cries of "I told you so" from those who want to justify their condemnation.

Yup. Here's one early example, from an ABC News report:
One major anti-Potter crusader is Laura Mallory, a mother of four from Georgia, who made headlines earlier this month when she told the Gwinnett County Board of Education that the series was trying to indoctrinate children into the Wicca religion. In response to Dumbledore's outing, Mallory told ABC News that the Potter series has "an anti-Christian agenda," and, "this only further supports that."
I don't agree with Mallory. The Potter series does not have an anti-Christian agenda. Just the opposite, in fact.

What I can't understand is why Dumbledore's sexuality matters. I've read the entire series (more than once, excepting the final book), and it never occurred to me to even wonder about Dumbledore's sex life. I really never saw this one coming.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

advent conspiracy

Via an email from The Work of the People, I found out about Advent Conspiracy, a campaign to restore "the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption." Their aim is to help people to avoid "being consumed by consumerism" this Christmas, by a fourfold commitment:
  • worship more
  • spend less
  • give more
  • love all
They also ask that participating churches give at least 25% of their Christmas offering to clean water projects. (What a "coincidence": my sermon last Sunday was largely about lack of drinking water and its effects of children world-wide.)

Check out their website for more information!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

blog hopping

I've always been fascinated with maps. So I'm grateful to Coudal Partners Fresh Signals for pointing me to this 90-second animated map of the history of religion.

This one map is interesting enough. But there's a whole bunch more where that came from!

Monday, October 15, 2007

somewhere

You've got to start somewhere, so that's where I'm starting...

A few weeks ago, I traveled to the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection for the 2007 Leadership Institute, along with Pastor Lisa, Linda Geishert, and Danice Loveridge. Also with us was Rev. John Wesley Lee, pastor of Faith UMC in Freeport, Illinois. It's about an 8 hour drive, and with the 5 of us packed into Danice's minivan, we each got a turn at riding in the third row of seats. If you've ever been in the "way back" seat of a minivan, you know that communicating with those in the front can be challenging. Although I did try to keep up with the flow of the conversation, I took some time to begin reading a book called The Blogging Church. This has helped to inspire me to do what I have wanted to do for a while: begin a blog.

This will be a personal blog, with occasional posts on many topics: my musings, current events, scripture, religion, and the events of my life, family, and ministry. Because I'm a United Methodist pastor, currently appointed as Associate Pastor to Poplar Grove, Blaine, and Hunter United Methodist Churches, there will be much about those churches here. I'm hoping that many people will visit: church members, family, friends and strangers. I look forward to hearing from you all.