Wednesday, December 23, 2009

While you're drinking egg-nogg and opening that ugly sweater from Aunt Edna...

...27,000,000 people are living as slaves.

Sobering, right? There are more slaves now than in the entire 400 years of the prior slave trade.

Gregg Helvey made an award winning 19 minute documentary (up for Student Academy Award) about the life of slaves today.

Watch the trailer here, then do something to end this injustice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What to do when you are criticized

Tim Keller wrote an insightful and accurate post on responding to criticism. Lead and you'll be criticized. Have relationships and you'll have conflict. Beautiful stuff that will challenge your heart.

Here's the link.

He references a letter by John Newton (author of the song "Amazing Grace") wrote to a fellow minister called "On Controversy", it can be found here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Do you know what's wrong with where you live?

We're in the process of understanding our community.
It's hurts.
It's needs.
It's dreams.

Really, we want to understand people's hearts and motivations in order to apply some healing salve to the wounds that are always present in the human heart. Too often, American churches have been guilty of franchising. We go to super-conference at mega-church and discover they are doing 'X' and seeing 'Y' results. "Ah," we think, "if we do 'X', then we'll get 'Y' results." So we head home to implement exactly what they did.

What we often fail to consider is that 'X' came out of a long study of the needs of their community. Like good missionaries, they studied their local culture and wrapped their ministry in something their community could grasp. They incarnated the Gospel for their local culture.

We're working to do the same with North County. We're surveying the community, asking questions, building relationships...all with an eye to demonstrating and announcing God's kingdom of love and justice.

Here's a short video about some of the demographics of North County.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Don't Waste a Crisis

Gotta love this from Matt Chandler, a pastor of a church near my hometown outside Dallas.

On Thanksgiving he had a seizure which revealed a 2 inch tumor in his brain needing immediate surgery. He is my age and dad to 3 beautiful kids.

This short video is how he is seeing what is happening to his body. The emboldened question coming out of this for me as a pastor: Who is your everything? What's all-consuming enough to ride you through pain, heartache, and suffering? Is it really enough, as Tim Keller says, to fulfill you when things are going well and forgive you when you fail?

Here's the constant testimony of Scripture and people who've followed Jesus to the death: Jesus is everything.
Amen Matt Chandler, Amen.

You can follow twitter updates on Matt from his wife at

Back from a long winter's nap

The blog has taken a hit in the last few months.
  • A remodel of a house (I don't think I'll ever do that again)
  • My wife falling and breaking her hand while 33 weeks pregnant
  • A new baby
  • 2 overly energetic little boys.
Well, it all adds up. Finally pulling my head above water and excited to be back blogging.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards;
Give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out;
Give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.
Bestow on me also, O Lord my God,
Understanding to know You,
Diligence to seek You,
Wisdom to find You, and
Faithfulness that may finally embrace You,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

For the love of the Waffle House

I love the Waffle House and I love Jim Gaffigan's comedy. Combine the two and you have something truly worth 2 minutes of your time.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


A friend recently turned me on to the Moravian Daily Text. They send a daily email with three scripture readings that take you through the entire Bible in a year. I'm loving it.

Today's reading was from Psalm 117.
Praise the Lord, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,

and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!

And this jumped out at me: God's love is steadfast.
Steadfast=Unmoveable. Unshakeable. Not wavering. Not dependent on what's happening at the moment.

I like that. Mainly because I am often moved, shaken, wavered (is that a word?) and am more often than I'd like dependent on the moment for my feelings.

So I'm changing the way I think based on God's steadfast love.
When I'm down and want to quit, God's love for me is steadfast.
When I fall short of what I hoped to accomplish, God's love for me is steadfast.
When I succeed, God's love for me is steadfast.
When people speak well of me, God's love for me is steadfast.
When I fail, God's love for me is steadfast.
When I am angry, God's love for me is steadfast.
When I am sad, God's love for me is steadfast.

And since I'm made in the image of God, then God's steadfast love is making me steadfast too. Or as CS Lewis put it, he is changing me into the kind of thing that he is.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


See the black car in the background? A (pretty much) empty nest couple is taking the time to teach a recently-made-single mom (through a tragedy of unspeakable dimensions) to drive--in their car--so she can now provide for her kids.

That, my friends, is love.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What I'm Learning

A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the
public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God
Almighty, that he is and no more.

John Owen

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Where do you find life?

I stopped the other day while going into a building to watch some bees pollinating a plant. I've never really been a bee watcher (more like a bee flee-er), but this was fascinating. With precision, they moved from flower to flower, sucking the nectar and immediately moving on when they'd exhausted the supply of life they'd found. Their receptor cells were keenly tuned in to life.

Fast forward. I'm sitting in the car with my boys waiting for my wife to come out of a store when a bee/fly-like creature lands on the window right next to me. I'd usually roll down the window to shoo him off, but my memory of the bees stopped me. It was like an inside out view of bee pollination 101.

Again, amazing. With precision, his receptor cell felt (smelled? sniffed?) for food on the window. It apparently found some. I watched from inches away as it sucked some sort of nectar (soda? left over candy bar? body sweat?) from the window. He was highly tuned to where there was life and where there wasn't.

Which got me thinking. How tuned in am I to the places where life is and where life isn't? Where have mistaken routine for the places of life?

Jesus said he came to bring life in the fullest possible way. I'd like to be the bee that drinks it in.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

So which one are you?

"Let us speak to one another as plainly as possible."

-John Wesley

Try this without knowing who you are and you'll quickly run into an identity crisis. You'll cave to people's expectations and opinions of you and so avoid speaking your mind and being yourself.

Know who you are and you'll think any other way of talking is a waste of time. If you are in the former category, do it anyway. It's the only way to get to the latter.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm living into this

"If something hurts you, don't avoid it. Face it, get to the bottom of it, root it out and die to it.
Then resurrection will come."
- Rob Bell


For this simply unbelieveable piece of stop motion artistry Olympus:
shot 60,000 pictures,
developed 9,600 pictures,
reshot over 1,800 pictures,
and had no post-production.

"Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men." Proverbs 22:29

HT: Ben Arment

Why we grieve when an icon dies

The media storm over the King of Pop's death is still raging.
Who was responsible?
Was there foul play?
Where is his body?

Just watch the news. A news cycle doesn't pass without him making the news (and boosting record sales).

Some people have taken it hard. They had a personal attachment to Michael and feel a genuine sense of loss. I didn't have that connection--though I'll admit to trying to moonwalk more than once, no dice--but I've known the feeling. I felt palpable grief when Mother Theresa and Princess Diana died in the same short time frame. My connection: Mother Theresa--one my heroes, Princess Di--long before 24 hour TV, I stayed up until 3am as a 7 or 8 year old and watched her wedding.

So why do we feel this way? We don't know these people. We have no one-on-one connection with them, and still we mourn.

Here's my stab at it
When an icon dies, we mourn because that person's art/life created something in us. Their art created beauty for us, and beauty indelibly becomes part of our soul. This is, I think, how God intended it. We live and die by beauty. So when the person who brought us beauty dies, we go through a small identity crisis. Who am I without this person who gave me so much? I'm pretty sure there's a thick layer of sentiment tied to that, but generally speaking, that rings true.

So where is Michael now?
Aside from my own conspiracy theory that this is a ploy to get Michael out of the limelight and boost record sales to generate income, the question remains for many Christians: is Michael Jackson in heaven? To many, Michael is suffering the due recompense for his (according to them) wanton and flagrantly immoral life. He is burning in H-E-double hockey stick.

He was certainly insecure (why else the numerous face changes?).
He was immature--but I also don't know what forces shape the soul when you have a driven father pushing you onto an international stage from your earliest memory.

Michael is responsible for the person he became, to be sure. But God alone knows what a person must overcome to be who they were meant to be. And what's more, the Gospel means that we are all finally judged in light of Jesus, not our accomplishments and/or dysfunction.

As Dallas Willard says it (and I paraphrase):

God will let everyone into his heaven everyone who, in his considered opinion, can stand it.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Crying Like a Man

Tim Keel had a great post recently on tears that show up unannounced. It's a beautifully written piece with a lasting quote from Frederick Beuchner, whose way with words is unparalleled.

You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it,
or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it...You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I need this

Google never ceases to amaze. They have an uncanny ability to take something complex (in this case, having to manage voicemail on multiple phones) and make it incredibly simple.

I will most certainly be getting this when it's available. You can too. The video explains it.

Now if they could just do the same thing for Facebook, Twitter, email, and IM. Wait, did I just come up with an idea for a groundbreaking technology? Too bad I know nothing about programming.

Friday, July 17, 2009

God is Good

Ended our series "God is...____________" this last week with a kick-it message from Steven Furtick. The little prayer I was taught growing up: "God is great, God is good" contained some profound truths for my life. God is not only powerful, but has good intentions. If only one of those were true (and many people think only one of those is true and so serve a lopsided god), why bother?

It's been life-giving for us to be a part of this year's installment of the One Prayer movement. Craig Groeschel gets serious props for his vision to bring together over 1,000,000 believers in 1,900 churches. Together we are answering Jesus' prayer in John 17 for unity. Looking forward to it next year and will plan to use it a bit more strategically in the flow of the reality that is summer church life. (To wit, we've had a couple Sundays where there is a 100 person difference in weekend service attendance. Just crazy. I'm glad the church isn't who shows up on a given Sunday. By the way, in case you wonder, the church is God's people in relationship on God's mission for the world. They cannot be contained to an hour one time a week.)

After the message, we asked people to come forward and write the ways they have experienced God's goodness. It was moving. Then through the celebration of Eucharist/Communion/The Lord's Supper (pick your name based on how you grew up) we rehearsed God's goodness by remembering Jesus' death for us. God's presence was a tangible atmosphere in the room. I love those moments.

Here's a sampling of what people wrote (in the interest of authenticity, I kept the case and grammar the way they wrote it). Type a list like this when you know some of the stories, and I promise you won't be able to keep back the tears.

"Moved me home."
"Redeemed my life, rebuilt my relationship."
"He showed me love at this church."
"brought me here to the best people i've ever known and to him."
"He let me live when I should have died."
"invented ice cream"
"HE gave me PURPOSE!"
He gave me a new life
with my new partner
"No matter what He's never let go of my hand."
"He brought me out of sin and gave my kids back to me."
"He gave me an awesome family and strength to leave a bad

"Eric's home!"

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Everyone Runs

I learn best by teaching and doing. If I teach it or do it, I learn about it.

Our SportsCamp is a wrap. Great week of fun, frivolity and friends with over 120 kids from our community. Each night we talked about running the race of life using the advice the Apostle Paul gave to a group of Christians in the ancient city of Corinth. Corinth was home to the Isthmian Games, an Olympic styled athletic event held there every few years. They were a city of over-achievers and partiers, so they knew a bit about running.

Here's what I learned by teaching it to a bunch of kids.

Everyone runs. Everyone is in the race of life. If you don't want to run, too bad, the race has already started. The choice isn't about whether you'll run, it's about how you'll run.

One wins. Run to win. God doesn't see things the way we see things. He doesn't compare your race to someone else's race. He has given you your own race and wants you to win it. Fall down? Get back up. Distracted? Refocus. Ready to give up? Don't quit. God has given you occasions to fight that you might win. His resurrection power is in you. Don't give up any ground that's been given to you.

All good athletes train hard. If you are going to win the race God has given you, it will require your very best effort, your highest potential and your deepest devotion. You won't win it by being half-hearted, half-in, or half-way committed. Be all in.

They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. The race often has spectators who offer distractions, cheap knock-off prizes that look real, and detours to alternate destinations. Don't be fooled. Don't be tricked. Don't be deceived. Don't confuse good things for ultimate things. Have good things, but don't let them have you.

You're after one that's gold eternally. What God offers is ultimate and unending. It never spoils, rots or fades. It won't rip, tear or fall apart. It won't take up space on a shelf somewhere, mean nothing and be forgotten by everyone but you. And he gives it to you now. It's salvation; being caught up fully in the life of God.

The highlight video from Camp.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Muslim's Advice to Christian Leaders

Great article about what a Muslim teaching an interfaith course at a Christian Seminary had to say to future Christian leaders. In short, be more Christian, not less.

Here's a quote from him from the article:
Remember, the three most powerful narratives on the planet are narratives of religion, narratives of nation, and narratives of ethnicity/race. You cannot afford to forfeit that territory by talking about economics or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Don't be afraid to be Christian ministers. If you don't use the Christian narrative to define reality for your people, then someone else will define reality for them with a different narrative.

Read the whole article here.

A Tribute to My Wife

We have two boys under 5 and come October, we'll have 3 under 5. My wife is my hero. She stays home with them all. day. every. day.

They are a challenge, to say the least. Crying, screaming, diapers...and that's just me.

Call me sentimental, but this song by Darius Rucker (Hootie & the Blowfish) speaks to me. When my oldest was 6 weeks old (which seems like last week), I was sitting holding him outside a store while Andrea shopped. We were both in serious sleep deprivation mode and I was wondering how long I could take it. An older lady stopped, smiled and said words I'll never forget: "Enjoy it. He'll be in college tomorrow."

It won't be like this for long.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beauty Fades

Actress Farrah Fawcett died today. She lost a long fight against cancer. Her iconic role as one of the original Charlie's Angels 70's is what I best remember her for. I vividly remember watching it as a kid and being slacked-jawed at her beauty.
But, she is no more. Peter said it like this: all men are like grass. The grass withers and fades away. The glory of men (and women) is like a flower.
The bottom line: Beauty is fleeting. Don't put your trust in it--even when the surrounding culture prizes beauty (and youth) above everything else.

SportsCamp, days 2 + 3

Lots of good times at SportsCamp as we learn a different sport each night (thanks to all the Coaches who are faithfully serving as models and mentors this week) as we apply it to Paul's admonition to the Christians in Corinth:

Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally.

25+ workers are making the week happen for 110+ kids. We're exhausting ourselves in the heat, and here's why: So we can root kids in Christ. If we start kids with the right roots, the fruits that result in adolescence and adult-hood are entirely different. We're showing kids the right path this week. We believe in themand in the power of God to save and transform a child's life and future. If we didn't believe that, we wouldn't be doing this.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Wheels

A gracious family in our church is letting me borrow this for the week.
It's tough, but I'm putting up with it.

Sports Camp '09

So proud of our team. Lisa Busch is leading a great week for 100+ kids in our community. She had the idea to remix the traditional VBS (VBS. The kool-aid fueled, Bible-themed rampage that churches across the Midwest hold for their communities featuring little men made out of popsicle sticks, Bible stories and crazy games) into a free SportsCamp for our community.

As a church, we want to serve our community, and this is a beautiful way to do it.
It gives parents a break. (serves their parental sanity)
It's free. (serves their pocketbook).
it's full of fun and full of energy. (serves kids' innate need to move)
Tells the story of Jesus. (serves their need to know God).

Everyone is having a ball...even in the sweltering Missouri summer heat.

We close out the week with a celebration service on Sunday and are inviting all the families to be our guest at lunch.

Way to go Kid's ministry team!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Song from Around the World

This was created from musicians around the world...playing the same song.
Amazing. Worth the entire 5 minutes.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Let it begin

This week I begin training in earnest for the Chicago Marathon, my fourth (Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach and New York City were my previous).

I'm running it for Team World Vision, to make a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable children on the planet. I'll be challenged and my heart will grow.

Here's what I've found about undertakings like this: Your life--that is, the hundred little things you do every day that make up your life--can have tremendous significance or it can fade into irrelevance. Those hundred little things can all be pointed toward a greater mission, a bigger cause or they can be pointed toward nothing and everything--dissipating their effort into oblivion. So running can be a means to an end--toward seeing God's mission of redemption happen. That's why I'm running.

Donate here. All proceeds go to World Vision. Kyle is running too. You can donate via his page here. I run. You donate. Children win.

get fit + help children in poverty from World Vision on Vimeo.

Some pics from my run of the 2007 NYC marathon for Team World Vision.

Katie Holmes ran that year.(I passed her somewhere around mile 13, unbeknownst to me).

Post race with the medal to prove that I made it.

Pre-race shot of everyone waiting around for the race to start.
Took a camera with me on the run. This is one of the water stops. It wasn't raining that day.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Up, In, Out

There are three doorways to the vital relationships of life:

A doorway up to God. You enter it to be in God's presence. When you walk through it, you experience his love and grace.

A doorway in to your spiritual family. You enter it to belong. When you walk through it, you give and receive love.

A doorway out to the world. You enter it to serve and join God in his work of redeeming the broken people and places in the world. When you walk through it, you experience that it really is better to give than to receive.

If you had to say right now--going with your first gut reaction--which doorway do you most need to walk through, which would it be?

What can you do today to walk through it?
What barriers keep you from doing it?
Who can help you walk through it?

Walk through the open door. It's an invitation from God to deeper relationship.

See I have set before you an open door that no one can shut. Revelation 3:8

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Apparently, I am awesome

Or at least this video says so.

I start training next week for the Chicago Marathon that I'm running for Team World Vision. My goal is to raise $1000 for them (donate here) and the vital work they are doing to combat the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

You donate.
I run.
Children win.

Preaching is harder than hitting a baseball

John Ortberg recently wrote an article comparing the challenges of ministry with the hardest things to do in sports. Hitting a baseball tops the list, in case you wonder.

I always love his insights into life and leadership. If you lead something in church world, you'll find yourself nodding your head in agreement. He nails the task of preaching (one of my favorite things to do).

There is the challenge of trying to preach fresh, creative, substantial messages that reflect the best in increasingly complex scholarship and are integrated into the preacher's soul. And to do this when people compare it to whomever their favorite international preacher is. And to do it again next week, and the week after that, until you grow old and die.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why we sing

Christians sing.
Every week.

Christian worship is one of the few places in our culture that a group of people come together and sing songs. Seventh inning stretch, a piano bar, a concert are the only other places that regularly takes place.

People sing together because music has a unique power to stir us and move us...and there's something in the human psyche that likes to be stirred and moved. God has placed a very unique power into music that we need to flourish as human beings.
We'll be talking about that this Sunday at 10:45. Be there, invite a friend.

Try this on for size and see if you don't at least smile.

Sex and all that

I don't know of an issue that is kicking the slats out of people's lives more than sex.
Primarily because it has tremendous potential for both pleasure and deep hurt. Through sex, you open yourself up--and there's always risk involved when you do that.

Plus, I don't know an issue that the church has been more reticent to discuss.

We addressed that this last week, here's why:
Church ought to be several things:

A game where everyone gets to play. Nothing hurts this more than a firmly ensconced laity/clergy divide. Instead, we each have a part to play. Jesus has a mission to the world and wants us each fully in on it. That doesn't mean sitting in a pew one time a week and calling it all good with you and the big guy.

The environment of relationships where you don't have to wear a mask. Didn't do it right? Don't understand? Doubt? Question? Hurting? Marriage not working? Your invitation is into that kind of community and your challenge is to be a part of helping create it wherever it isn't fully present.

The community where we'll talk about what people are really facing. How else do you make progress, change the way you think and live God's way in God's world if you don't talk about the actual issues you are facing? Sex is one of those issues--and it looms large over the world we all inhabit.

My favorite part? Danny and Monica Harmon reading Song of Songs to each other. After hearing the passages they read, married men might have a new interest in palm trees.

If you read Rob Bell's outstanding book, Sex God, you can revisit a lot of what we talked about.

Sorry, our podcast is having some technical issues or the audio would be available for download.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Take Me Out to the (minor league) Ballgame

Enjoyed a good time at the River City Rascals game the other night in O'Fallon, MO.
Cheap seats + good dogs + near drubbing in the head with a foul ball = good times.

Hudson wondering what the (sort of ) Big Leagues might be like.

Future Rascal and Mascot. Kind of hoping my boys aim a bit higher, but hey, I'll be a supportive parent if that's what they choose.

Moments later, a foul ball almost crushed Corban into recent baseball memory. I bravely saved the day by covering myself and forgetting to cover him.
Dreaming of being a mascot.
A picture just for Grandpa.
I don't suppose the minor leagues are all that concerned about crazed fans rushing their dugout. You can pretty much go into the dugout if you want.

Wall are going up

Walls going up usually mean that boundaries have been crossed and people are being kept out. That's metaphorical wall building and has nothing to do with this post--I just like to dabble in metaphor, it's a sickness.

Literal wall building, on the other hand, is a good thing. And in this case it means we're making signficant progress on our kid's area.

Ken Busch and his crew have been working almost around the clock getting dry wall up, mudding and taping.

A few pics if you haven't made it upstairs to see the progress.

The new half wall that will signfiy the greeter check-in area.

The wall from another angle.

Ken taping the drywall in the expanded Children's Church area.

We're not far from painting and decorating. It will be a great space that will serve our kids and our community. Pretty excited about it!