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First Word: Joy December 31, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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In my last post, I wished pain for you. I wished it for you because it might be what saves your life. Pain is the message to change. At the same time, the capacity for pain is packaged together with a capacity for joy and pleasure. That within you that can feel pain and also feel pleasure.

C. S. Lewis shared this truth with us in his writings.

When I talked about no pain is deadly, I also meant that no joy is deadly as well. The same little nerve endings bring us both sensations, and therefore damage to them prevents both of them as well. The same sensitivity of the heart and soul bring it to us in our emotions and in our spirits.

So when I say that I want you to have the capacity for pain it is because I want you to know when you are hurt, but I also want you to know much pleasure.

May 2006 be a year of great joy.

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Last Word: Pain December 31, 2005

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Now, PAIN is probably not the last word you want to hear for 2005. It has, in fact, been a painful year for many. At the same time, pain is underrated by many as well.

Here is what I mean. In Soul Survivor, Phillip Yancey tells about Dr. Paul Brand’s work with lepers. He says that if he could give a leper one thing, it would be pain. Why? He talks about it in his book called The Gift of Pain. The reason is that leprosy kills nerve endings and thus feeling. So, with no pain comes no attention to the wound, cut, shoe tightness, and so on. An infection can set in under the radar because it is not felt.

People who experience huge pain are certainly not to be envied, but people who experience no pain are in much worse shape in the long run. Most people, Americans especially, want a pain free life. Yet, the very thing longed for is what is going to kill us all. Do we really want no physical, emotional, spiritual pain?

Ignatius of Loyola writes about Spiritual Exercises and how to combat the times of desolation – spiritual pain. St. John of the Cross writes about the Dark Night of the Soul – spiritual pain – meaning something good is about to happen. No one wants the Dark Night of the Soul, but it might be a good thing when it hapens – if it does not kill you of course.

So, my hope for you is that you feel pain – not so you can suffer, but so you can live.
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Speaking of pain, 40 Days of Fat is on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Blog is here.
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More Pilgrim of Worship series to come. Start here if you want to read the series.

BlogCoCs & 40 Days of Fat December 29, 2005

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Nomination for the 2005 BlogCoCs (Church of Christ Blog series and topics of the year) are rolling in. Make sure you make your nomination – click here to nominate. Place your nomination in the comment section of the post or e-mail me here. Nomination open until January 6th.

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40 Days of Fat is launching January 1, 2006. We are exercising, losing weight and raising moeny for World Vision. I would love your participation!!!!!!!!!!!

The current BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is to buy a farm to serve 10 families. Please join in any way you can. It begins Jan 1. You can begin today. Click here to see the 40 Days of Fat Blog.

2005 Church of Christ Blog topic or series of the year nominations December 27, 2005

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Please make a nomination for the blog topic or series of the year for Church of Christ bloggers in 2005.

For example:

“Church of Christ bloggers help remove Anne Coulter from Harding University Speakers Seris”

or

An Emerging Church of Christ” by Wade Hodges

I’ll be taking nominations for the next several days and then I will open up the voting. I need to figure out how to do the voting. Keith Brenton or any other genius is welcome to give me a pointer on this one.

So, let the nominations begin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bacon December 27, 2005

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Is there anything better than the smell of bacon in the air while lounging during a day off from work and the sound of children (my kids and their cousins) enjoying a day off from school?

Oh yes, this is Christmas vacation. How nice.

God, you are generous and kind. What a treat to get to indulgde in the aroma and sounds of freedom. This must be a little glimpse into the Great Reality that I spend most of my life avoiding. The kingdom is here, in my presence. This little taste is nice. I want to live in this kingdom you speak of, I want to live there on a regular basis.

Teach me to bring this to people who never get a whiff of it. Teach me to be the sounds of joy for someone who hears so much clanging and banging. You didn’t keep this joy to yourself, and neither should I.

What I want is for generosity to be natural for me, so that I don’t have to try anymore.

Thank-you for your patience.

Karen the Homeschool mom, come on down… December 26, 2005

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I have been giving away a free copy of my book, homefront, every 10,000 hits I get on my homefront blog. My other blogs here, here, and here make no such offers. Nope, this is the place to get the free stuff.

At #30,000 I hit a snag and couldn’t figure out who #30,000 really was. Donna at Chit Chat, expressed interest in the book, but then Karen said something like, “Hey no way lady, the book is mine,” (I can’t remeber the exact wording)and challenged Donna to a mean game of Paper, Scissors, Rock, which also happens to be the name of my favorite posts.

Anyway, who knows what really happened offline, but Donna ended up deferring to Karen. Karen gets the book. If Karen e-mails me her address I will send it on.

If you want to know our winner a little better, check out 100 things about Karen. Her blog is named, Life with 4 Kids and a Dog (and there is a husband I understand, but that would make the title a little bulky). She’s been blogging (on blogger) since November 2004 after giving Xanga “the adios” because Xanga is weird. Her bloginality is ESFJ, which means that she likes to make peoaple feel good. That is unless there is a person between here and free book I guess (ha ha).

Go ahead and check out Life with fours kids and a dog. I think you’ll like it.

Christmas Past, Present, & Future December 24, 2005

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Christmas past is a collection of contrasts. Opening presents at gramma’s house was far and away the highlight. It was always the 90 minutes trip from Apple Valley to ALbert Lea (Minnesota towns). It felt like a millions miles for all the anticipation. “Are we there yet?” “No, we still haven’tgottne gas yet.””Grrrrrr – Are we there yet?”

However, the trip could never begin until my fahter had gotten done delivering the newspapers. He delivered the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in his working days. Well, weather was a major factor in the amount of time needed to accomplish news paper delivery. He had the farm routes – miles between houses, dirt roads, deep ditches, late coming snow plows.

Although beautiful, a white Christmas meant a delayed Christmas. A white Christmas also meant a mad dad Christmas. Some of you have never had a mad dad Christmas. For those of you who have never had the experience, please understand what a great joy it is to have a happy dad Christmas. You don’t want to have a mad dad Christmas, not with 90 minutes of driving ahead of you.

Sometimes we would sleep over at Gramma’s house. I can’t remeber why, but that was a real treat. We’d ask to stay the night.

Right now I am at my in-laws (who just got internet access – hooray!) and my kids are experiencing Christmas at gramma’s. I am so glad thatI have not given them a mad dad Christmas. I video taped them opening presents and being excited. What a joy.

I am just enjoying the day. Ahhhhhhh.

I want to be a better present giver. I suck bad at gift giving. I want to create something for the people I love. I want to bring them joy. I get this mentla block and get busy right before Thanks giving and it doesn’t end until after the Christmas season. Maybe next year will be my year. I want to deposit something more into the memories of the people I love.

Pilgrim of Worship 5: Honesty (or Ugly Worship) December 23, 2005

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When worship changes from the thing you’re supposed to do to the thing you can’t do without, something honest has happened.

I graduted from Harding after 11 semesters of academic cluelessness, wondered around in Milwaukee for 5 months unable to find my butt with both hands (thanks dad for that one) until my good friend, Brian Mashburn, saved me. He hooked me up with a youth ministry job at a nearby chruch of Christ in Houston,Tx. (Important side note: Never, under any circumstance, swear on your soul that you won’t do something. My rash vow cost me six years in Texas.)

I quickly found a way to get fired from that position (nothing scandalous I assure you) and began to wander again. I got a girlfriend, but then she dumped me. My lime green Noah’s ark sized gas guzzling beast of a car died on me. I had no car, no insurance, no income, no girlfriend, no job, no cash, and bascially no life.

The problem was that I had committed honesty in prayer and worship to God. I asked God (prompted by Dennis Jerniganworship music) to ask God to “show me everyway I don’t love you.” He was faithful.

After God took everything away from me, I took one of my jogs into the steamy Houston night. I found myself depressed, unable to sleep, losing weight (not on purpose), angry, hopeless, and a lot of other things. I was a wreck and my life, what was left of it, was falling apart completely. I stopped my jog in the middle of a field, far from people, and “had a little talk with Jesus.” This, however, was not the sweet little talk the old hymn speaks of. I’ll spare you all of the details, but just know that the conversation ended with me telling Jesus to “F*** off!”

I couldn’t sleep that night, which was about par for the course those days. However, that night I felt something so raw and open inside me. “What have I done?” It felt like murder, like a crime of passion, one that had gone way too far. I didn’t know what I was doing. Did I really tell Jesus to “F*** off?” Would he honor this request as well?

I came back to Him weeping and pleading and begging and hoping that I had not just sealed my fate with those foolish words.

“Oh my God, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Please don’t leave me. Please don’t hide from me? I need you. I know I asked for it. I know I asked for you to show me how I didn’t love you. It’s my fault. Please forgive me. I know I am nothing – I have nothing. I got nothing to give you but me and that isn’t much, but it is all I have and I want you to have it. What else am I supposed to do? There is no one to turn to, no one who can keep a promise. Without you I am going to die.”

And the gasping, crying, sniffling, broken, prayer went on through much of the night. And he held me.

Now, I would not make “F*** off” my first choice for the Sunday evening “request night” at my old church. Something about it seems a little off key. No, that is another one of those private tunes meant to be sung only once. However, I had the courage to speak to God without any pretense. There was something deeper than the profanity that was real, and real was something I needed to be more than any other thing right then. Pretending to be happy with losing everything would have only been perpetuating my idolatry. I needed to get to the other side of my anger – through it was the only way.

And I leanred that God can handle anything I can dish out. I was a four year old throwing a major hissy fit and he loved me.

Wineskins giving away the store December 22, 2005

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I just got an e-mail from New Wineskins, an excellent online magazine covering Christianity and spirituality, saying that they are (for a limited time) allowing everyone access to the entire site. New Wineskins is an excellent resource with smart articles and relevant features.

If you are not a subscriber (like me), then check it out. I am sure you will be convinced that it is well worth $20 a year for full acces all the time.

If you are a subscriber and have money you don’t know what to do with, then send along a donation as your Christmas gift to New Wineskins.

Pilgrim of Worship 4: Awesome God December 21, 2005

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When I realized that Awesome God was not a “camp song,” but a worship song, one that could be sung not only by teenagers, but college students, I was stoked. Again, Peak of the Week at Harding was transformational. By my sophomore year at Harding, Peak of the Week had outgrown it’s location on campus and required the Benson Auditorium just to fit all 2000 of us.

Wednesday nights were electric. Each Wednesday evening there was an expectancy that built starting at about 4PM and climaxed when the praise team belted out the first song – not a hymn, but a song. Sometimes “special” songs and sometimes worship songs. I didn’t know what to do with these new songs but sing them like I was at camp.

Ah yes, I learned about praise teams at Harding. My home church back in Minnesota had never heard about praise teams and therefore I had never heard that they should be condemned until it was far, far too late.

Later, drama was added to Peak of the Week along side the praise team. Oh man, I was hooked. I tolerated Sunday morning high church, but I longed for those Wednesday evening times. Mike Cope would bring it week after week. Relevant preaching. Who knew?

It was about this time that Free Indeed hooked up with Jerome Williams and launched the Sing a New Song series of praise and worship songs. “Hail Jesus You’re My King.” Couldn’t get enough of it. Acappella and AVB were just launching into their newer and hip (less like the Oak Ridge Boys) format. (Believe it or not, Keith Lancaster’s newest CD is titled none other than Awesome God.)

I think it was my sophomore year when my non-Church of Christ friend, Mike Foster, told me that the song Awesome God was written by a guy named Rich Mullins, and he wasn’t from the Church of Christ. Not only that, but there was more to the song, the best part in fact. And when the song is sung with instruments, like it was originally meant to be sung, it is so much better.

Disillusionment dogged me badly. How could someone bound for Hell write such a great song? It was like he knew a truth about God, but was lost at the same time. I wondered what this “one song wonder”, Rich Mullins was all about. I figured he got lucky.

By the end of my senior year, uhm, my first senior year, I was heavily questioning the mandatory prohibition on the use of instruments in worship. Eddie Veddar had just unleashed Pearl Jam on us and someone handed me a bootleg cassette with Christian music on it – instrumental Christian music. And wouldn’t you know that it was Rich Mullins Awesome God.

It was the summer of 1991 when I switched sides. I went from acappella only to instrumental is OK. Oh, and I kept reading that one verse over and over, the one about how evil instruments are and realized that it really didn’t say it. In fact, I came out of the fog and realized that every single reference to instruments (except I cor 13 clanging cymbal) in the Bible was affirmative.

What a loving and patient and Awesome God that gently released me from a ridiculous bondage. Oh, if I had only known how many layers of bandage there were. More to come.