Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

We have all been sick to some varying degree this week. Gloria had an allergic reaction to her antibiotics last night that kept her and us up almost half of the night. She had an itchy rash and hives. The boys have had sneezing, coughing, congestion, and fevers. We are fortunate that it has been nothing serious, but it makes it difficult to get anything done. Nicholas & I made it to church this morning, but none of us made it tonight. We weren't alone. It looked like about half of the church membership was missing. Half of those who came were coughing, sneezing, and the like.

Definitely not the most exciting New Year's Eve that we've ever spent, but it is actually pretty close to average. We usually ring in the "New Year" by falling asleep around 11 and waking up in the new year. I can't remember the last year that we "celebrated". I am not complaining. We had planned to spend either New Year's Eve or New Year's Day with a family that we have become friends with over the course of this year, but they got sick and had to cancel even before we did.

Alas, we will "snore" in the New Year, yet again.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

The message to our youth today was a "dual message". First, don't confuse Santa with Jesus. Second, let God guide you.

Most families that I know tell their children to believe in Santa, the Toothfairy, and Jesus. The strange thing is that it is easiest for them to believe in Santa and the Toothfairy, because they see gifts from them and evidence of them all around. The whole world spends the month of December reinforcing a child's belief in Santa. The local weather man usually tracks Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. You can find a Santa in every mall and department store in most towns. To tell someone else's small child that there is not such thing as Santa is enough to get you punched, in many communities. I would argue that Jesus doesn't have that body of supporters that Santa has. You have to believe in him, based upon faith; no tree, no video games, no bicycle, no pictures. It is just faith.

The real problem comes when a child learns that there is really no Santa and that some impostor or "anti-Clause" is responsible for their gifts. They go from being told that Santa & Jesus are both real to being told that Santa is not real, they've been lied to the entire time, but that the "Jesus stuff" was the truth. Do you see some loss of credibility there, in the children's eyes? That person that they believed so much in, that person who brought them gifts, was a lie. He was made up, the reindeer were made up, Mrs. Clause and the elves were all big lies. Oh yeah, but Jesus is real. I remember being seven years old and the feeling that I was "played the fool" by my folks. They didn't know any better.

Now, some argue that Christmas without Santa would hurt the "spirit" of Christmas. Do you think so? I would say that, if you take Santa out of Christmas and the "spirit" is hurt, you are celebrating Santa and NOT the birth of Christ.

If you take the presents and the tree away, would it still be Christmas at your house? If not, you should recognize that you are celebrating Santa and not the Savior.

The second part of our lesson was to let God guide you.

We talked about how God sent angels and the star of Bethlehem, when Christ was born. He wasn't ambiguous. He was not vague. He didn't scratch a riddle into the ground for the shepherds to solve, so that they might learn of the birth. He didn't give Mary a sign in her tea. There were no "fortune tellers" reading the palms of those wise men. God has a plan and, fortunately, he is not ambiguous about it. We may not completely understand the details of His plan, but we know which direction is toward Him and which is away. I believe that each of us who are children of God can navigate according to His will in our lives, if we'll just follow the signs that we are given.

Finally, I read Luke chapter 2 to them and found myself unusually moved by these verses:
Luk 2:9
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. Luk 2:10
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. Luk 2:11
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

In You

This is a song that sums up my most recent post....

In You - Mercyme

I put my hope in You
I lay my life in palm of your hand
For I'm constantly drawn to You Lord
In ways I cannot comprehend

It's the Creator calling the created
The Maker beckoning the made
The bride finds what she's always waited for
When we find ourselves that day

[CHORUS:]
In You
Where the hungry feast at the table
The blind frozen by colors in view
The lame will dance, They'll dance for they are able
And the weary find rest
Oh the weary find rest in You

It's no secret that we don't belong here
Those set apart by the grace of You
And we look for the day when we go to a place
Where the old becomes brand new

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Do you have a seat at the table?

Today, I worked at the "Empower Me Day Camp Christmas Camp" in Lebanon, TN. This is a camp for special needs children that two of my sisters have worked at for several years. I didn't quite know what I'd be in for, when I agreed to volunteer. It was, as you might expect, a rewarding and emotional experience. The children have a wide variety of disabilities. They ranged from a young boy with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (as a result of unspeakable acts of abuse by his birth parents) to a child with Cerebral Palsy. We worked with the kids in small groups, making Christmas ornaments, making presents for family members, playing games, and picking presents for themselves. The only break in the non-stop action was for an all too short thirty minute lunch.

They gathered around the table; wheelchairs, eyes blind, swaying, smiling, yelling, pinching, kissing, biting, hugging, hitting, and "high fives".

During that small island of silence, I had time to look around and survey the scene. I thought to myself, "I look forward to seeing them at the marriage supper of The Lamb." I wondered if I would recognize them immediately or if kids like "Ben" would have to remind me of the time we met; he in his wheelchair and unable to speak. I imagined "Scotty" with an ability to communicate with Shakespearean eloquence, instead of mumbles or howls. I spent quite a while dancing and singing with one young girl. She was known to bite, but she was very sweet to me. I imagined her dancing with elegance and singing with the voice of an angel.

What they have never known in this world, they will possess in the Father's house.

I feel certain that they will have a seat at that table, because they aren't distracted by the trappings of this world. Will you have a seat at that table?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Don't Blow Your Fuse





Our Saturday began with a blown fuse for the water pump in our RV. It was probably the result of the pump freezing, during the night. Temperatures plunged into the single digits. No big deal, right? We made a trip to the automotives store for a replacement fuse.

We made it home with plenty of time to spare before we'd have to leave for our youth Christmas party. Little did we know that the fuse did not solve our problem. Yes, the pump ran, but it would not stop. I noticed a stream of water coming from the refrigerator access panel on the side of the RV. It seems the solenoid for the ice maker had frozen and burst. Fortunately, there was a "shut off" valve on the supply hose leading to the fridge. That solved one problem, but it didn't fix the ever-running pump of doom.

I glanced down at the clock on my phone and noticed that it was nearing the time when we'd have to leave for church. It was very difficult for me to just ignore the pump problem, but we did have responsibilities that were more important. I had to really do a motivation job on myself to keep from being just plain grumpy.

We got everyone loaded into their seats, readied the RV for travel, and were preparing to take off when I heard an annoying "beep". It was the sound warning me that our leveling jacks were still down. That couldn't be. I had raised all of the jacks. I got out to inspect. It was a good thing that I had. One jack was stuck 6" in the ground. Ooooppps… I lowered and raised the jacks several times, until finally that last stubborn jack escaped the grave in which it had been buried.

With that one last trial, we were on the road.

I thought to myself that the night had great potential, given the amount of difficulty the morning had. It was as if forces were working against us to keep us home.

When we arrived at church, I realized that I had forgotten wood for the camp fire. Fortunately, there was a good supply in the woods behind the church. Several youth had arrived early and helped gather the fuel.

The evening's festivities included: a campfire, hot dogs, chili, 'smores, "midget soccer", "toilet paper mummy making", music (courtesy me & Dan), and a sermon (courtesy Dan). We went way over schedule, but it just didn't seem right to interrupt Dan's message to the youth. Four young people recognized that they were lost in sin and that they needed Christ. Two of them were visitors who had not been in the church before. They were confronted with the gospel and made the decision to follow Christ. That is such a hard thing to do, given the culture of today's teens.

I was glad that we didn't let mechanical problems get in the way of God's plans for the evening.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Who's Got the Ball?

I have this system that I use with the youth at church. Only the person with "the ball" can talk. This helps to reduce the total number of conversations going on, at any given time. The ball is technically a racquetball. It is also great fun to zing at those who refuse or forget to follow the "ball gets to talk" rule.

We are working on a lesson where the students become the teachers. The plan is to use multi-media to create presentations on the subject of their choosing. Eventually, the presentations will be compiled into what we hope will be one cohesive DVD. They will learn and then teach what the "world" has to say about the subject, what they know or think they know about the subject, and what God's word has to say about the subject.

Naive as I am, I let them vote to pick their first subject. I can't believe that I forgot (or maybe blocked out) what is first and foremost on the minds of most youths ages 13 to 18. Alas, I asked for it and the subject is one that needs to be addressed. I also can't believe what I've learned about their views and opinions. I recall what would have been considered "acceptable" or common when I was in high school (early 90's for those keeping track) and it seems quite tame compared to the atmosphere in which these young people are living in.

For example, I asked all of them to complete a personal profile that asked questions like, "What is your favorite song?" The majority of them listed a song called "Smack That". I had never heard of "Smack That", so I "Googled" it. Wow! I would never have told anyone, especially at church, if that had been my favorite song. It is extremely lewd and extremely inappropriate. They are very desensitized to the most graphic of content. I tried to explain to them how, once that stuff gets into their heads, it does not come out. I don't think one could be a child of God and "drink in" that crap without being conflicted.

This Saturday is our youth Christmas party. We have prize(s) to award to whoever brings the most guests. I have 40+ rolls of toilet paper for making toilet paper mummies. We are planning to cook hot dogs and chilli. There will be a camp fire for roasting marshmallows. Dan & I plan to play a few songs. There will be various other games and entertainment at the party. The family and I will "fire up" the RV and drive to the church relatively early tomorrow to "set up" for the party.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Convicted?

One thing about selling our stuff and moving into an RV is that some people, when they hear about what we've decided to do, become defensive of their own lifestyle. I don't quite understand why our decisions make other people feel condemned. I don't believe that we are all called or convicted about the same things. If you were to tell me that you are called by God to adopt children, I'd be glad for you. That doesn't mean that I'd feel the need to defend why I don't feel called to adopt children.

The choice to "home school" is another example. When some parents of public school children learn that we home school, they immediately launch into examples of how their children excel in the public schools. Good for them! I never said that they didn't or that no child could. We "home school" for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the freedom that it gives us to teach what we deem most important. I suspect that this artificial sense of condemnation among people may actually be the result of them having ignored their own convictions.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Wednesday Night Alive....

Wednesday was the first real night we had with the youth. I think it went well. They are a pretty diverse group. Several of the children belong to families from the church, but most of them attend through the church bus ministry. We have attended several churches, but we have appreciated most those that have a bus ministry. Their reward is great, but their cost is high. They are not an easy ministry to operate and they typically don't bring any financial resources from the people that they serve. Geneva wanted to ride one of the church buses that went through her neighborhood, when she was young. She was not allowed to do so. Maybe this is part of the reason that we do have such a heart for the youth.

During our first evening, we wanted to get to know the kids. We took pictures of everyone. We made questionnaires for the kids to complete. Things were a little loud and there was a little bit of "testing the water", as far as our ability to maintain discipline went. So, we took half of the night to let the kids come up with their own rules, rules for leaders, and consequences for breaking rules. That went over well. I don't think they had ever been involved in "making their own rules". We got good participation and I believe that we will have better compliance, because of their involvement.

We plan to teach lessons through some unusual means. We are going to attempt to guide the youth to produce their own lessons. We plan to use digital video, music, etc. I've always heard that the best way to learn something is to have to teach it. I suspect that they will have a variety of beliefs (or unbeliefs) about our "topics" when they begin their production research. I think that through careful examination of the issues in a logical and biblically based manner, they will develop strong personal beliefs that they can defend readily.