Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Site Test

I am testing a new site to continue the growth of this little venture.  Point your clicker here to view the site as it is being built:

Be patient with design... the content is as poorly written as ever....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The aged wood is beginning to reveal its weaknesses against the power of the weather; cracks and chips follow its sinewy grain.  The door hangs at a slight angle, giving way to the rise and fall and movement in the frame of the house itself; floating slightly with the spring rains, sinking again with the cooler weather and contracting concrete slab.

The door has translucent panels of yellow glass that sets off the dark brown stain.  Hardware is more than 30 years old, original with the house and the heavy door placed in its protective, yet friendly station in the mid-'70's.

Yesterday, we lost the doorknob.

For weeks, it had showed signs of weakness.  We thought it was simply cold, and would recover with warmer weather this week.  We were wrong, and yesterday, the knob- the heart of the front door- died.

From inside the house, I removed the knob and its coverplate, revealing its internal organs and mechanical apparattus that allowed the knob to function so well for so long.  I could not find any reason for failure, and I decided that the knob must be replaced.  With only the strike bolt in place, we prepared to say farewell to the old knob and to begin the search for its replacement.

But the striker bolt refused to budge.  I tapped it lightly with a scredriver handle.  I struck it forcefully with a hammer and chisel.  As little pieces of metal were flying off in all directions, I assumed that we would soon have a replacement knob in place, and we could actually use the door again.

Sadly, I was mistaken.

Today, I removed the hinge pins in an effort to remove the door from the back side of the frame.  I would not be denied use of the front door of my own home!  Pushing; pulling; lifting; prying.  Again, the door refused to budge.  The heavy, weather-worn wooden door that had served as our protector from the outside for so long, has turned against us.  It is now our captor.

We are now on day two without the use of our front door.  The deadbolt locked; the hinge pins replaced; and the outer half of the knob in place so the neighbors wouldn't see a towel sticking through the gaping hole to block the cold weather.

And tonight I will dream of the day when the difficult and obstinate old striker bolt gives way, and we can replace the door knob for good.  Soon.... someday soon.

Middle of the Road Churches

William C. Taylor writes in his new book, Practically Radical:

        "Imagine any and every field possible. There are so many brands, so many choices, so many claims, so much clutter, that the central challenge is for an organization or an individual is to rise above the fray. It’s not good enough anymore to be “pretty good” at everything. You have to be the most of something: the most elegant, the most colorful, the most responsive, the most accessible.
        For decades, organizations and their leaders were comfortable with strategies and practices that kept them in the middle of the road—that’s where the customers were, so that’s what felt safe and secure.
Today, with so much change and uncertainty, so much pressure and new ways to do things, the middle of the road is the road to nowhere.
        As Jim Hightower, the colorful Texas populist, is fond of saying, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”
        We might add: companies and their leaders struggling to stand out from the crowd, as they play by the same old rules in a crowded marketplace.
        Are you the most of anything?"

        In these paragraphs, you can replace the words "field", "organizations", and "companies" with the word "church".  Query: Are we content with a church that looks, acts, worships, and reaches (or doesn't reach) people the same as every other church in our market?  
I believe it is time to get the church out of the middle of the road.  Stretch!  Squeeze!  Move!  Change!  Reach!  Focus!  Simplify!  Prioritize!  Be the Most!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Cost of Discipleship

I stand (sit at my desk, actually) convicted by these words, written ages ago by Deitrich Bonhoffer:

“He wants to follow, but feels obliged to insist on his own terms. Discipleship to him is a possibility which can only be realized with certain conditions have been fulfilled. This is to reduce discipleship to the level of the human understanding. First you must do this and then you must do that. There is a right time for everything. The disciple places himself at the Master’s disposal, but at the same time retains the right to dictate his own terms. But then discipleship is no longer discipleship, but a programme of our own. . . .”

When God calls, go. Do not try to see how it fits into yours or anyone else's plans. Do not dictate your terms. God has plans. When you find them, though you may not understand them, you will find they fit.

Life is Good!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hoops Season is Here!

Today is the day!

It's snowing on our little hillside in Oklahoma this morning. Morning temp around 0 to 1 degrees is seemingly squeezing the moisture out of the air and packing it into little snowflakes that dust the roads and fills in where the Christmas Eve blizzard has melted in the yard. Beautiful.

It is a beautiful backdrop for the best of winter sports, basketball! My daughter's team will meet in a few short hours to play the first game of the season. It will be a challenge, but they are ready!

Let's go get 'em!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Roll...... SEC!

The University of Alabama has just defeated the Unversity of Texas in the national championship game in college football. Pasadena and the Rose Bowl (sponsored by CITI) played host to the big game, and was a gracious host city. The hype, the pre-game buzz, the months of trash-talking has come to an exciting end. And I wish I could say I couldn't be happier.

Truth is, I could be happier.

Let me say this now: I don't hate Texas. I am neutral towards Texas and all Big 12 schools and teams. I live in a Big 12 state, yet I feel nothing.

But I do hate The University of Alabama.

Let me elaborate.

As a child who grew up in TENNESSEE, there was never an option to like alabama. As kids, when we played a pick-up game of football, one team was always TENNESSEE and the other was always alabama. And even if the team called "alabama" was winning, the team knew it was inevitable that the team called "TENNESSEE" was going to come from behind for a big win. Even if the team called "alabama" had to purposefully fumble, throw an interception, or miss a tackle or two. There was no way "alabama" was gonna win. They could not stand the peer pressure, the beatings, the broken friendships if they did win. So, it's sort of a socially genetic condition that prevents me from pulling for the team from Tuscaloosa.

Which is odd, knowing that my mom grew up in Alabama. That we have precious family who still live in Alabama. I have experienced some of my favorite memories while visiting my family in Alabama. I have high-school friends whose children attend that school over there. Birmingham and Sand Mountain are two of my favorite places to visit.

Yet here I sit, thrilled that Texas made a game of it, but still with just a little bitterness in my heart when I think that for the next year, I will time and time again hear the 5 worst words imaginable in college football- "Alabama- The Defending National Champions".

So, I will default to my optimistic, 'my glass is always half full' attitude, and celebrate a BCS record 6 wins for the Southeastern Conference this season in the Bowl Championship Series. And as I recall, the last 4 BCS National Champions are from my beloved SEC.

I can rest, knowing that the University of Alabama has added to the storied history of the SEC. And I can persevere through the next season, hearing those five dreaded words.

Sadly, next season, the five words will probably turn to seven: "Alabama- The Two-Time Defending National Champions".

Roll.... SEC!

Weather Update...

It's a balmy 18 degrees.

No snow.

Beautifully sunny day.

No vacation day for me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Get a Grip, People....

It's official. It's winter here in Oklahoma.

We have had snow on the ground for about two weeks, and supposedly more is on the way. Bitter, frigid temperatures hovering below the -0- mark are in store for us over the next few days. And maybe, just maybe, and inch of snow.

And so, all schools are closed tomorrow, some for Friday as well.

There is no milk or bread at Wal-Mart.

Church attendance tonight was so low that we didn't take an offering.

And the internets are abuzz with criticisms of all kinds- critical of having classes in this horrible weather; critical of not having classes just because it might get cold; critical of those being critical...

Get a grip, people. Decisions have been made. Don't waste a minute of your lives griping about a decision that was not yours to make. Not only is the decision not yours to make, the responsibility for that decision is not yours to carry.

Me? I'm gonna enjoy a day at home with my girls who are out of school.

But I'd better go find a store that has some bread and milk..... the weather is awful!

Life is good!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Relativity of Sacrifice

One of our friends at The Springs donated a jacket for the homeless.

Not an unusual story, until you hear the backstory behind the donation.

Anne (not her real name) has had a hard life. A single parent of three boys (one living in Alaska), working two jobs while living in a housing complex for single and abused mothers and their kids, Anne has enough on her plate to keep her busy. Rent, gas, school supplies, all constant worries.

But God has done something in Anne's heart.

Anne needed a stove in her apartment to be able to keep living there. And God provided her a stove through some connections with our downtown campus.

Moved that someone would offer help for her family without knowing or judging her, Anne was determined to pass the blessing along. However, with her current life situation, extra funds were just not possible. Then the weather turned very cold, and God gave her an idea.

One of the cherished items from her past is an authentic leather Dale Earnhardt Jr. racing jacket. A holdover from better times, Anne decided that someone else might make better use of the jacket rather than it living in a closet as a collector's item.

So, Anne donated a jacket to the homeless.

Worth more than $250, this jacket, once sold, will purchase winter coats for 8 or 10 homeless people in Tulsa. And oh, what Anne could use that money for....

It is Anne's desire to help someone else. Anne chose to give sacrificially.

How long has it been since we have actually sacrificed something valuable to us for someone else? Maybe it's time....

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Worst of the Worst

As the self-confessed worst blogger in all history, I thought I'd break out my 2010 New Year's resolution article today, on January 2, 2010.

If this were a serious attempt to mend my broken ways and become more committed to sharing simple stories from my simple life, I would have written yesterday, January 1. But this is the best I can do for now, and it feels good to have a new article in the January 2010 list on my front page.

The holiday season is technically past, unless you count Martin Luther King's Birthday (January 18th) or the combination of Valentine's Day and President's Day as one holiday (February 14th and 15th, successively). I don't count them because I have to work all those days, so they are just another day for me. We've invested time in putting away all the decorations in their closets where they live the other 11 months of the year; finding places for the new toys, gadgets, and gee-gaws that were received for Christmas. By the way, I vote for sainthood for whomever invented re-gifting! We struggle to find new ways to serve leftover turkey and ham and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. We dread the closet because we know our clothes will be uncomfortably tight, and that's where we hid the sweater vest we received from Uncle Carl. That sweater should never again see the light of day.

One thing, however, that will remain unpacked and storage-free is how this season of celebration changed me. I have been reminded of the love my family has for me; the power of words; and the brevity of our time here in this life. I have seen how little it takes to make someone happy; and how often we neglect to make those little gestures. Of how hard it is to take care of ourselves and to allow others to care for us as well.

I remember that the journey the Magi took, following the star in the East, took years. The Baby was no longer a baby when they showed up with all their gifts. In our church, He would be in the Toddler 2 department....

My journey has taken, is taking, and will continue to take years of following Christ, of reading and taking to heart His words in the Bible, and shedding all the stuff in me that doesn't look like Him. While I have no precious jewels, or fragrances, or gold to offer, He doesn't ask for those things.

I do have what He asks for- my life; every part of it. I also am learning that that is a good thing- to let the Lord be the Shepherd and for me to be the sheep. His rod and His staff will protect and save me, and He will provide for me. He promises that as His sheep, with Him as Shepherd, that I shall not want.

There is a better translation than want- because I still want stuff (let's see, a new Tahoe, an AR, membership at the gun range, a 56"plasma HDTV.....); the better translation is that He will provide everything I need to do what He asks me to do.

So how hard can that be?

Harder than it seems.

So, we'll pack away the things that don't matter much, and hold on to the things that do.


Hopefully my next article, will be much more timely than this. I don't want to always be known as the worst blogger of the bad bloggers. If I can achieve the level of the best of the worst... I could live with that.

Life is Good!