12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Fall Block Party 2011

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“This is our gift to our community,” I said as our neighbors looked around at all that our church was offering.  The list of possibilities was long:

Free food that included hot dogs, brats, grilled corn on a stick, BBQ sandwiches, popcorn, cotton candy, lemonade, mini-muffins in ice cream cones and, to top it all off, funnel cake.

Along with the food outside, there were a row of inflatables that ranged from obstacle courses, jousting, basketball long shots and a giant slide in the shape of the shoe home in the nursery rhyme.

Inside there were games all over the gym and two more inflatables, including one that was two stories, stretching toward the roof.  All of these games paid off with candy, whether you win or lose.

And all of it was free to our guests.

A few years ago, we charged money for the food (which was much smaller) and the Fall Family Fun Festival (as it had come to be known) was a big event for us.  It became the biggest single emphasis in our church when we decided to expand the food and make it all free.  After that, the inflatables, games and everything else grew as well.

Attendance blew up with all that we were offering, coupled with our relationship with the community through our partnership with Skelly Elementary nearby.

And it all happens because we determined to give and not trade.  We give to Skelly Elementary, and now to Skelly Primary.  After several years, we have begun to receive trust and dependence.  When they have a need, they call us and we have the honor of helping the families of our community at our local school.

We give to the neighborhood, free food, games and a safe place for a family.  In return, we get trust, appreciation and an open door to share the Gospel.

This year our follow up will be a packet of information about our church sent to everyone that registered followed by a phone call from one of our church members making sure they got the information and welcoming any questions.

What do you do?

See all 160 images by clicking here.

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The Camel in the Christmas Musical

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A lot of churches will host Christmas events this time of year.  Skelly Drive (where I pastor) used to have a Living Nativity that was somewhat groundbreaking in its day and is still remembered fondly by everyone that I’ve ever met that either put it on or attended.

Invariably, these productions, be they musicals or whatever, will begin to journey into the untested waters of live animal participants.  Usually, this works well until they bring in the camel.

Camels are some of the most ill tempered animals you can ever be around.  I saw one in a musical with a muzzle on to keep him from biting passersby.  They stomp on you, lay down when you want them to stand, stand when you want them to lay down and are generally naughty in every way they think will aggravate you.

And they spit.  Nasty stinky spit that you might be able to use as masonry compound in a pinch.

Not to mention that they smell horrible.  You can’t bathe these guys often, it’s winter and the water is cold.  But even if you can, they’ll be curling the nose hairs of your attendees within a few hours.  It’s just their nature.

And pray they don’t pass gas during your event, especially if you are insane enough to bring them indoors.  They can have your whole cast on the ground before the first wave hits the audience.

So, a little advice to you Christmas event planners out there.  If the donkey, the cow and the occasional goose have worked out all right so far, stick with them.  There really is no need to “up the ante” here.

Just because there are camels in the Middle East, doesn’t mean you have to have one in your church to make your event “authentic.”

But if you are stubborn and won’t heed my advice, pray this doesn’t happen to you:

I didn’t even notice it the first couple of times I watched it, but did you observe there was some poor woman, serving God the best way she knew how, coaxed up on top of the camel?

You see her bare feet and then, moments later, her head pops up.  She looks a little disconcerted, don’t you think?

Phriday foto: 11-12-10 The Rogers Family

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A few pictures I took of my family about a month ago.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge.

If you like these, you might like to browse my flickr or photoblog.  (Same pics, different layout)

Phriday Foto 10-29-10 :: XC

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Little Photography for ya today.  My son’s Cross Country team.

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If you like these, my flickr account is here and my photoblog is here.  (Same pics at both places.)

Standard Riverwalk/Creek Trail 12.4 Mile Ride

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This is the overview of my daily ride.

Click on the picture to go to the interactive map at LiveStrong.com.

12.4 mile loop

My best time was 53:30 until I started knocking it down this week.  I took two minutes off of that on Monday morning to lower it to 51:30 and then another 15 seconds Tuesday afternoon to lower it to 51:15.

I really think I could have even done a lot better, too, but there was so much congestion on the trail in the afternoon that I was slowed several times.  I also look forward to riding this with a real road bike.  Right now I am riding the low end hybrid from Trek – the 7000 – which is a good and affordable bike, but it is basically a mountain bike with road wheels and a little better gear set.

Still, I love it and I’m grateful for it.  I will train on it until I can make the move to something better and then I will probably use it to commute to work.

In the meantime, I’ve lost about 50 lbs. and a lot of that is due to the exercise I’m getting on the bike.  It’s no impact cardio – until you wreck and then it’s high impact.  I wrecked in the spring and was out for about 4 mos. recovering and gaining back about 10 lbs.  I was able to shed that in the two weeks back on the bike.  It’s that dramatic a difference.

Oh, by the way…  I came up on this guy the other day:

hard core cyclist

As Jason Kearney is fond of saying, “You’re excuse for not riding a bike is now officially lame.”

Let me just add that this guy was moving. I can not even imagine what he would have been capable of with two human legs.

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry Sketch

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Love British humor.

Apparently, BBC doesn’t want their stuff embedded on blogs, so they disabled it.  You can catch it on youtube.

Got a “Snooze Button Addict” in your house?

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I may need to get this for Jimmy, but I don’t think I could take the alarm going off until he got up and put the rotor back in.

Vietnam 2009: Favorite Things

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I’m sitting in a taxi, in rush hour Hanoi traffic on Wednesday afternoon heading home from Bonnie’s first day of teaching at the University.  The windows are down and we are in a tangle of traffic heading in every conceivable direction.  Most of them are scooters.  Some of them are cars, probably taxis.  A few of them are busses.  All of them are honking.  None of them are moving.

I love it.

At home, this drives me nuts, but here I relish it.  It reminds me that I am where I am and why I am here.

So, as I relished that moment, it occurred to me to share with you a few of my favorite things from this trip and from Vietnam.

“I wish they understood me better.  They would love me.” – said by my wife in regards to the language barrier as she taught at the University.

Walking down a side street in Hanoi with 13 year old Casey Strong and discussing how he was experiencing something that none of his friends had ever come close to, and probably would never get to do.

Learning the complex intricacies of engagement from the Forefront Church team and being awed by their servant nature.  Being grateful for brothers and sisters whose service had opened doors for us so that we reaped the fruits of their labor.

Being reminded of the material blessings I enjoy in comparison to those in real need.  Realizing that those material blessings can be a curse in a million different ways.

Taking a team half full of teenagers – our young leaders – to a completely new place and experience.  Helping them to experience service and, hopefully, learn to be a new person.

Forming new relationships and learning from my Vietnamese friends.

Making a real difference in the lives of children in a remote part of the world.

Being generous to college students who are hungry for more than just western food: We  gave them pizza, conversation, friendship, education, respect and more.

Sacrificing for the privilege of serving.  It conforms my wicked heart into the shape of my Lord.

Let’s be honest.  Foot massages.  I’m completely addicted.  I won’t pay $35 at home for the exact same thing, but while here I will readily give up $6 for an hour of relaxing physical manipulation.  I’ve corrupted my wife and Casey Strong, but Jimmy and Denna Strong resist with a convincing resolve.

Using chopsticks.  My friends say I’m a natural, but I need more practice.

Living the Gospel. Having my heart broken.  Being uncomfortable.  Serving God across the world with my wife. Speaking eternal truth without the driving need to count the person opposite.  Watching God at work.  Being awed that He would use a completely flawed person like myself.

Just a couple of pics of Hanoi scooter traffic from the back of my taxi.  You can see more of them at flickr or my photoblog.

Click on a thumbnail for a bigger picture.

Vietnam 2009: Lao Cai City and the Night Train

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Getting ready for the night train back to Hanoi, we went early to Lao Cai City so that we could be at the train station in plenty of time.  We went to the China border, ate a little food, took a couple of pictures of a HUGE cobra fermenting on a bar and got on the train.

Yeah, they sell the liquor from the decaying cobra as “Snake Wine” and it’s expensive.  No, there is now way in…  you know.  I didn’t even think of trying it.

Here are my pics.  You can see more of them at flickr or my photoblog.

Click on a thumbnail for a bigger picture.

Youth Pastors learn vital fighting skills

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After 19 years in Youth Ministry, I wish that I had learned to defend my Youth Group by putting my elbows on my head and waving my elbows around like THIS VIDEO SHOWS.

HT… Total Rip Off:  Brant Hansen

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