12 Witnesses

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

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?

I’ll drop you…

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Some of you know that I’ve taken up cycling as a way to exercise without the pounding running puts on the fragile, battle worn hinges I call knees.  This is not to mention the mistreatment suffered by the ankles and lower back or even the hips.

None of these parts of my body like me anymore and for good reason.  I abused them for over a decade, forcing them to labor under brutal conditions by carrying an extra hhhrrrmrmmmggghhh pounds.  Did I mention that this was for over a decade? Yes?  Just didn’t want you to miss that part.

I started with an entry level bike for several months and really took to it even after a painful wreck that further molested my left knee and introduced my right shoulder to the pattern of exploitation.  That sidelined me for about 4 months, but I got back on the bike.  Just like Lance, but slower, fatter and with a much less expensive and not nearly as cool looking bike.  Helmet.  Clothes.

Although it should be noted that, though my clothes are not as cool nor as expensive as Lance’s,  I no longer look like a badly misshapen sausage when wearing the traditional cycling lycra.  Just slightly lumpy, which is a huge improvement.

As these things go, I got better at cycling and wanted, yea, NEEDED more.

So I bought my first road bike, a Trek 1.5, which was on an awesome sale during the Tour de France, and began riding it during the weekends and turned my “old” bike into a commuter bike and ride it to the office and home every day.

Can I just tell you now… that I am good (for a beginner).  (For a novice) I am awesome.

I routinely blow by old men and most women.  Teenagers on BMX bikes stand no chance.

And you.

Unless you are a cyclist and do this regularly, I’ll drop you.  (That’s cyclist lingo for when you leave somebody and they can’t keep up.)

But, if you are a real live cyclist, I’m fodder for stories when you get home:  “Did you see that guy with the new bike rolling past those senior adults like he knew what he was doing, and then we blew him out!  What an amateur!”

That’s me.  I’m that guy.

Well, it’s going pretty well and I’m working my way up to riding a century (that’s cyclist lingo for 100 miles all in one ride).  Right now, 4 weeks after getting the road bike, I ride 35 miles at a time without collapsing, which I think is pretty awesome.

I was thinking it would be Spring before I could do my first century, but there is a big ride coming at the end of September that is – guess what? – a century.

I might try it.  I mean, the real cyclists need somebody to beat, right?  That could be me.

Besides, there might be an old man who wants to ride it and I could run away from him…

Hey, it could happen.

Or you could come out.

Then, I’ll drop you.

Until I Die…

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While preaching last Sunday I found myself in a moment of exuberance and great love for my church. Arriving at the moment with great passion, I spouted out the statement, “The Lord willing, I intend to pastor here until I die.”

I was intending to show my affection and commitment to Skelly Drive.

Later that day a church member told me I shouldn’t say that anymore because it wasn’t safe.

“Not safe?” I inquired.

Turns out she was afraid the statement might motivate someone to hire a hit man. ;)

Happy Collect Phone Call Day

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Today is the day when more collect phone calls are made than any other day of the year: Father’s Day.

We love you Dad, please pay for us to say it… ;)

Happy Father’s Day.

Your church might be Institutional if…

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…everyone starts pressing the few young couples in the church to procreate so there will be babies in the nursery.

…people want to know the plans for the new program to get the neighborhood kids “in the church.”

…when a person needs some money, you respond, “The benevolance committee isn’t here right now.”

…your evaluation of whether the pastor is doing a good job consists of driving by the church to see if his car is in the parking lot during office hours.

…you’re afraid of small groups in homes because you don’t know how to collect the offering.

Any others?

Don’t waste your… Business Card

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Wow.  Talk about the wasted life.  25 years to design a card I would throw away because it doesn’t fit anywhere I could put it?

Love the pop up graphic, too.

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.

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.

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

Would you do this?

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