Total Pageviews

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Whew....busy, busy, day. Our church staff has not entirely been together for a couple of weeks. Lots to catch up on.

The weekend was wonderful. Christie and Andrew came from Michigan (with Georgia), Becky flew in from New York and George drove in from Springfield.

We didn't do a whole lot except eat (and eat and eat and eat) and kind of chill out together.

Georgia is walking now, and I can't wait until she starts talking. I could tell that the words were just about ready to come out.

I am extremely proud of all of my children. And I love them all very much.

Yesterday Sunday morning service....what can I say....powerful...God's spirit moved in a powerful way.

The subject: worship. The way we worship. Why we worship like we do. And then...we spent time around the altar enjoying God's presence.

I was so pleased that our church fmaily responded like they did - wanting to be with God, hungering for more of His Spirit.

One woman was baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to use her prayer language.

One thought from my sermon that I want to emphasize.

Jesus tells us in John 4:24, that we are to worship Him in "Spirit" and in "Truth."

We are to worship God in spirit.

I applied that to the fact that many times we experince God in a certain period or season of our lives, perhpas even in a revival.

During this season, or during this times of revival, certain tunes are sung that bring you into the presence of God.

Upon leaving that season, there can be a reliance upon the emotions that you felt while you experincing God with a certain song(s) rather than seeking God's spirit.

For instance, when a song is being played from the 1970's on the radio, it brings back certain memories and feelings. I can almost (and many times exactly) tell you where I was and who I was with when I heard the song.

When Debbie and I were dating, certain songs were labeled, "our songs," because we heard them together and they are very meaningful to us. It brings back certain emotions.

You see, if we are not careful we can begin to long for certain choruses or hymns from the past that just naturally bring about certain emotions and rely upon those emotions and think that we are in the present of God.

Not so. We must constantly seek for God's spirit (with new or with older tunes) as we sing and as we seek to be in his presence.

Don't mistake human emotions for spiritual ones, spiritual emotions brought about by a spiritual encounter with God.

Anyway, just some thoughts for a Monday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


When I was in Cuba, I got into a great discussion with some missionaries there about revival.

Huge word. Major word.

A word that carries with it lots of opinions, thoughts and emotions - most of it colored by thoughts from our past experiences rather than any kind of theological basis.

It's the kind of word that is hard to describe (like love) but once you experience it - you know that it is there.

I have been in the Assemblies of God since I was born, third generation. I grew up in an Assemblies of God church, graduated from an Assemblies of God college, received my masters degree from an Assemblies of God theological seminary and have pastored Assemblies of God churches down throughout the years.

Yet, within our circles, we often have different perspectives on the subject.

Let me clarify some of the misconceptions that I see out there:

1. That we should not ask for "more" of God.

While is it true that God has already given us everything we need when He gave us Jesus and adopted us as his children (including eternity with Him), and that our focus should be giving more of ourselves to Him, there is a basic theological misconception when it comes to this prayer - "More of God"

God is omnipresent, he is always in our midst. Christ lives in me. But it is a fundamental misunderstanding of God's glory, his shekinah glory when we say that we can't have "more" of Him.

Moses cries out in Exodus 33:18 (while in the presence of God), "Now show me your glory."

Our Pentecostal theological doctrine states that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a second experience, an "endowment of power." A filling of our lives to overflowing. What is that but asking for "more" of God's spirit?

Sometimes, God does need to "show up" in the sense of his glory, his ministering presence. And when we do experience that presence, we will be changed.

I think of Smith Wigglesworth who at one time in New Zealand was so full of God's glory that the other ministers in the room where he was praying had to leave - it was too much.

2. That the focus should not be on the physical, verbal and emotional manifestations that being in the presence of the Holy Spirit can bring.

I agree with the thought that we should not use emotional manifestations to "work up" some kind of response that smacks of manipulation or massaging a service to bring a group of people to the point of experiencing God.

However, again, there is a fundamental misconception of the sequence and order of events in experiencing manifestations.

Worship is about God. It's not about pleasing me. It's not about pleasing you - worship is about God.

However, when God's spirit touches my spirit - there will be some kind of response. A response not just for response's sake but a response that naturally flows out of being touched by God.

Dwight L. Moody, in his 1899 sermon "Revivals" said, "I am not so afraid of excitement as some people. The moment there comes a breath of interest, some people cry, "Sensationalism, Sensationalism!" But, I tell you what, I would rather have sensationalism than stagnation any time. There is nothing a seaman fears so much as fog; he does not fear a storm nearly as much. We have too much fog in the church; let us get out of it. Get any preacher befogged, and he will say, "I cannot draw the crowds, but then, thank God, I am not a sensationalist!"

Let him write a book so dry that it will almost catch fire, and no one thinks of reading it. But he thanks God he is not a sensationalist!"

Moody went on to say, "There is no excitement or sensationalism in a graveyard - a man lies where they put him; but I think there will be a stir on the resurrection morning. Where there is life, there will always be a commotion."

As in the story of David and Michal in the Old Testament - David danced before the Lord, Michal "despised him in her heart."

She said, (Her voice, dripping with sarcasm), "How the King of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"

When you are experiencing the spirit of God there will always be people who will criticize. When people criticize, it makes me uncomfortable and sad.

3. that the focus should be eternal, not temporary.

I agree with the thought that a true revival speaks of people being changed. I recall the story of one man during the Welsh revival who said that God "turned his beer into furniture," meaning that his life was so changed he no longer craved alcohol and thereby was able to spend his money on more meaningful things.

I also agree with the thought that a true indicator of a person being changed is when there lives are changed "outside the four walls of the church."

However, we do live in temporary bodies, with temporary emotions and lives. Sometimes we do need to have longer worship and extended times at the altar, not necessarily to be changed, but to simply spend time in the presence of the Lord - for relationships sake.

Sometimes I need to spend time in the presence of God, not necessarily to be "changed" "or to achieve some kind of "spiritual goal" but just to BE with God.

To use perhaps a limited analogy, I don't always spend time with my wife, Debbie, to be "changed" or to "achieve further growth in our relationship" but just to be with her.

However, once I am in her presence, I do draw closer to her.

And once I am in the presence of God I do draw closer to him - and I do change and my relationship with Him is strengthened.

To think so otherwise is to misunderstand what a relationship with God is all about. Long extended worship does not have to be a means to an end - but an end in itself in that I can spend time in God's presence.

4. That the Word of God is not longer the focus.

I agree with the thought that God's Word must always be the focus of our experience with Him corporately. And...I agree with the thought that the statement, "that church was so good today, we didn't even get to the preaching," is incorrect.

God's Word must be supreme. However, the intent of such a statement is not a degrading of God's Word but a longing of His Spirit behind the Word. We must never substitute God's Spirit for God's Word.

But there must be a balance here for as Paul writes, "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant - not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)

We must never forsake the Word of God, that's true. But let's not forsake the Spirit of God as well.

The bottom line? I find that most Pentecostal churches are trying to become more Evangelical. And...most Evangelical churches are trying to become more Pentecostal.

And...isn't it more than ironic that those of us who have grown up in the faith can be those who are philosophically leaving behind the very foundation of what brought our denomination into being?

Read Azuza Street history. Read of the revivals that have taken place around the world (including Cuba where I just was). You will read of true revival - which is a combination of God's presence and spirit (and yes, manifestations) and people being "saved" and lives being changed so that they live a more godly life.

What I am saying is this - Revival is not just "one thing" but a combination of events and results that draws us closer to him.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Open up the doors

Just having returned from Cuba, I came away with some rather strong opinions and feelings about our foreign policy toward the Cuban government and country.

For many, many years, we have denied trade with Cuba, in an effort to show that we are not in sync with Fidel Castro's dictatorial communism.

I understand that.

Yet that policy has run its course, indeed it is now a failure.

The only thing it is achieving, at this point, is the continuation of poverty and hardship in this country of 11 million people.

Villages in the countryside have sewer water running through their streets, beef is forbidden, except if you are eating a meal with a foreigner - there are all kinds of goofy policies, created and given at the whim of the Castro brothers.

Professional people are making 30 dollars a month.

What's the cure? Open up trade. Begin to allow American tourists in the country. Within a few short years, it would not only give the country an economic boost, but would dampen any kind of "enthusiasm" for the pragmatic communism that they are experiencing.

I can't tell you how many people there I met who have family in the United States.

So what's the hangup? A few Cuban leaders in Miami who control the political landscape.

Here's the sequence:

Hard line Cuban leaders in Dade County (Miami) control the political vote of over 1 million Cubans. As Dade County goes, politically, so goes the state of Florida, which is a swing state in any national election for president. order to be elected president, the one running has to pander to these Cuban leaders. While I know that his is a gross oversimplification of what is going on - I believe its time that our leaders in government, open up trade and "let our people" go into this country.

At the same time, I am grateful that God is moving in a powerful way. There are over 500,000 Pentecostal believers. Signs and wonders are taking place.

Let's all continue to pray that God's Spirit will continue to move there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

thoughts from the weekend

It was a busy, busy weekend.....

Friday evening, Debbie and I visited Tom Janel Sr. at Christ Hospital. He seemed to be doing better.

Yesterday, we received a call that he had taken a turn for the worst, and went back after the Sunday morning services to pray with the family. It turned out that he had to have emergency surgery yesterday morning.

It was life and death kind of stuff. Then, last night at around 6:00 P.M. we received a call that Tom had passed away.

Hard to believe. Sudden. Quick.

I know that you will be praying for the family. The memorial service will be here at Stone Church at 11:00 A.M. on Friday, with a lunch to follow.

We live, we die, but as Christians we know that this life is but a beginning of eternal life with God.

Sandwiched in between all of that was a great Sunday morning, with a tremendous sense of God's presence.

I had a wonderful time of ministry in Havana, Cuba last week. It was inspiration to me personally to be around Christians who are hungry for God.

I was overwhelmed as I saw Christians sitting with their Bibles open, taking notes, famished for more of God's Word.

During the Sunday morning service, and after the preliminaries, the people attending all of a sudden - stood up and lifted up their plastic chair and looked underneath. One woman found a Bible marker, lifted it up, and then went forward to receive a new Bible.

She was weeping as she did so. I was touched.

Here in America, we have all the Bibles we need (and then some), we take the Word for granted - not so in Cuba.

Bob Russell writes, "It is a rare person who, when his cup frequently runs over, can thank God instead of complaining about the limited size of his mug!"

This Thanksgiving season, let's focus in on what we do have and not on what we don't have.

We a Christian family who loves us. We have food on the table. We have our own personal family. We have God. We have life.

Carol Kent writes,"When despair tries to take me under…I choose life.

When I wonder what God could possibly be thinking…I choose trust.

When I desperately want relief from unrelenting reality…I choose perseverance.

When I feel oppressed by my disappointment and sorrow…I choose gratitude.

When I want to keep my feelings to myself…I choose vulnerability.

When nothing goes according to my plan…I choose relinquishment.

When I want to point the finger…I choose forgiveness.

When I want to give up…I choose purposeful action."

What attitude are you choosing today?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christmas in August

Don't think me a scrooge or anything, but it's becoming more and more difficult for me to get into the "spirit of Christmas".

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the meaning of Christmas, or the fact that my best friend, my savior, the forgiver of my sins, the one who gives me eternal life, the one whom I have dedicated my life to, came that day, became as one of us, Immanuel, God with us.

That I am really in sync with. seems like the "spirit of Christmas" (meaning sales, songs, and spirits to some) gets earlier and earlier every year. It seems like, more and more, our culture is "cashing in" on the season.

We end up the evening of December 25th, exhausted, tired and worn out from all of the festivities.

I told Debbie last week (tongue in cheek) that soon we'll be hearing about Christmas on my birthday in August. Christmas in August.

Today, I am driving down 159th and see Christmas signs on the light posts.

It is November 12th.

Again, a disclaimer. I do like Christmas. I like being with my family. I love giving gifts. I love the warm feelings I get as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

But, am I right that we have tagged on so much, that it is beginning to lose it's meaning and purpose for our lives?

I'm reminded of the story of a woman was doing her last-minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds. She was tired of standing in lines. She was tired of fighting her way down long aisles looking for a gift that had sold out days before.

Her arms were full of bulky packages when an elevator door opened. It was full. The occupants of the elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.

As the doors closed, she blurted out, "Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be arrested, strung up, and shot!"

A few others nodded theirs heads or grunted in agreement.

Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator, came a single voice that said: "Don't worry. They already crucified him."

Let me give you a story that might help in reestablishing the true meaning. How that plays out in your own individual life and family - I can't help you with - but perhaps this story might jump start you to jumping into the arena of a true "Christmas spirit."

"It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband, Mike, hated Christmas—oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it: overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute, the gifts given in desperation.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties…. I reached for something special just for Mike.

Our son Kevin was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. We ended up walloping them. As each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.

Mike shook his head sadly. "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." That's when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed an envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.

His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas. Each Christmas, I followed the tradition—one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year giving a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas.

It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn't end there. We lost Mike due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was so wrapped up in grief that I barely got the tree up. But on Christmas Eve I placed an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more.

Each of our children had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelopes.

Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us."

May you be blessed in the next 42 days, with the true spirit of Christmas....

With much love,


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To be thankful or not to be thankful

The good and the bad, victories and defeats, highs and lows, they come to all of us. Jesus said that it "rains on the just and the unjust," (Matthew 5:45) meaning that good times and bad times comes to those who are faithful to God and those who are not.

I've been sick for the past couple of days. I am not a good sick person. I don't like being sick, not just because I don't feel well, but because I can't keep going, keep working, keep pressing on to do what God has called me to do.

Note: I am feeling much better, and will be "good to go" for my missions trip to Cuba on Friday.

What is our response when "bad times" come?

We are to be thankful.

That's tough.

Not thankful for the "bad" that has come our way, but thankful "in the midst of" the bad things that come our way.

Again - difficult. Hard. Sometimes, almost impossible without God.

Henri Nouwen writes, "To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work.

Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say "thank you" to all that has brought us to the present moment.

As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let's not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God."

Here's my prayer:

"I am trying, Lord, to be thankful as Henri Nouwen has written. Help me Father!"

Here's a story that might encourage all of us:

"German pastor Martin Rinkart served in the walled town of Eilenburg during the horrors of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area. The fugitives suffered from epidemic and famine.

At the beginning of 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, there were four ministers in Eilenburg. But one abandoned his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return.

Pastor Rinkhart officiated at the funerals of the other two. As the only pastor left, he often conducted services for as many as 40 to 50 persons a day—some 4,480 in all.

In May of that year, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services.

Yet living in a world dominated by death, Pastor Rinkart wrote the following prayer for his children to offer to the Lord:

Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom this world rejoices.
Who, from our mother's arms,
Hath led us on our way,
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today."

May that be our prayer today.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Had a wonderful weekend with my parents. They are great people.

I don't know if I have ever been around anyone like them: committed to seeing the gospel spread - no matter what the cost.

Committed to loving their family. Showing compassion and concern on a continual basis.

Committed to their God.

Dad stands us there preaching, 73 years old, crying as if it were his first missions service, sharing his burden and calling

Hanging out with them reminds me of the story of William Borden.

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school.

As heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was already a millionaire.

For his high school graduation present, his parents gave him a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world's hurting people.

Finally, Borden wrote home to say, "I'm going to give my life to prepare for the mission field." At the same time, he wrote two words in the back of his Bible: "No reserves."

Indeed, Borden held nothing back. During his college years at Yale University, he became a pillar in the Christian community. One entry in his personal journal that defined the source of his spiritual strength simply said: "Say no to self and yes to Jesus every time."

During his first semester at Yale, Borden started a small prayer group that would transform campus life. This little group gave birth to a movement that spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshmen were meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, 1,000 of Yale's 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.

Borden also strategized with his fellow Christians to make sure every student on campus heard the gospel, and he was often seen ministering to the downtrodden in the streets of New Haven. But his real passion was missions. Once he narrowed his missionary call to the Kansu people in China, Borden never wavered.

Upon graduation from Yale, Borden wrote two more words in the back of his Bible: "No retreats."

In keeping with that commitment, Borden turned down several high-paying job offers, enrolling in seminary instead. After graduating, he immediately went to Egypt to learn Arabic because of his intent to work with Muslims in China.

While in Egypt, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.

Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words "No reserves" and "No retreats," he had written: "No regrets."

I like to work with, serve with, and hang with those kind of people.

This Friday, Dad and I go to Cuba. I would ask that you would be praying for us - and great things are happening there - revival is taking place, signs and wonders are in abundance.

I look forward to sharing with you a great report.

Be blessed this day, my friends, and may we all be committed to the faith.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dreaming daily

One of my assignments as a lead pastor (self assigned) is to constantly dream and cast vision concerning where our church should and could be headed.

We are constantly striving to go on to the next level (whatever that is - now there's a blog all in and of itself).

Here's my thought today. We should not only dream and cast vision about our work, our church, but also our own individual lives.

Albert Einstein said, "Once a day, allow yourself the freedom to dream."

Let me ask you this question today. What is your dream? And if you are dreaming, what would you dream about?

A better family life?
A closer walk with God?
A promotion at work?
A more secure financial situation?

What are your dreams?

As we dream, we give ourselves an opportunity to glance beyond what we are experiencing in the here and now. We explore the possibilities of what could happen, how things might become.

William Carey was a dreamer.

Some people thought he was a nut.

He was just a shoemaker, after all, and an average one at that.

But in the evenings, after work, he studied Greek, Hebrew, and a variety of modern languages. He devoured Captain Cook's Voyages to expand his horizons, which, because of his poverty, kept him bound to a small, forgotten English village.

Some people said his time would have been better spent getting a second job to support his growing family.

But the young man's passion wasn't a curious, self-satisfying hobby. Early in life he had become concerned about the millions of unbelievers outside of Europe, and he was trying to figure out what could be done to bring them the gospel.

With God's help, he slowly figured it out.

He had a dream.

He ended up going to India to serve as the first Protestant missionary in the modern era. His passion inspired a generation of men and women—the likes of Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, and David Livingstone (among others)—to take up the cause of missions as well.

Because one impoverished shoemaker named William Carey followed his God-given dream, his God given passion, large parts of the world that had little or no access to the gospel have large populations of people today who confess Christ as Lord.

Now your dream will not probably be that dramatic, but maybe God is giving you a dream of reaching your neighborhood, or moms in your church, or people at your work. Maybe your dream is to raise healthy children, be a godly person, or succeed at your business.

Whatever your dream is - take a big stop and allow God to help you fulfill that dream.

Jesus said in Matthew 17:20,21, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

Mustard-seed faith -- which is actually mountain moving faith -- starts with a dream, an idea of what could be.

And it starts with an impossible dream.

You see, every great miracle in the Bible began with an impossibility.

Here's what I know: You don't have to stay stuck in a rut forever.

Allow yourself to dream.

Once a day (at least once a day), take some time to get alone with God, think about your life, your ministry, your family, your health, your happiness, and allow yourself to imagine how things could be.

And let God be God.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A "miracle" and a prayer

I experienced a "miracle" today. Maybe you don't think it is one - but if you have the same commute I do - you would be in agreement with me that it was nothing short of extraordinary.

On my way to work this morning, I hit every green light from 183rd, all the way to the church. Every one. Even the one at 123rd and Ridgeland.

I guess God knew I needed something like that to kick start my day.

I am thankful for the "little things" like that - that can brighten up our day.

Now then, on the a prayer.

I am thankful that God hears our prayers no matter what.

One time in our previous church as pastor, I was teaching on the subject of worship and correct ways of conversing with our Father God.

I must have left out a key component of prayer, for a friend of mine refused to pray in front of me. She was too intimidated, saying, "I don't know if I can pray in the right way."

Let me jump in here right now and say that ultimately, the Father takes and even relishes our prayers - just as they are.

There is no "Grade A" or "Grade B" or Grade "C" in our prayers with God. Nor does God grade our prayers on a curve. In fact, He doesn't grade them at all. He accepts our conversations with Him as they are.

Timothy Jones writes in the book, "The Art Of Prayer":

"We don't like to stand speechless or stammering before God, but that doesn't mean God holds it against us when we do.

I remember a vacation with my parents in France when I was in high school. I had just completed two years of French, hardly enough to make me fluent. Still, there we were, tourists wanting to make the most of our time.

So when we needed a bathroom, when we wanted to find a café, or when I lost my eyeglasses on the steps of the L'Eglise du Sacré-Cœur, I falteringly used my butchered French. I was trying—to the politely suppressed laughter of others—to speak the language.

But I remember more than the townspeople's bemusement. I remember how they warmly received my efforts. They strained to hear past my fractured sentences. They honored me by responding.

Is God any less generous?"

I like that. I don't have to impress God or make him think that I am something I am not. I simply pray. And converse. And share. And God responds.

God hears everything that comes out of my heart and my mouth.

My regrets
My complaints
My thanksgivings
My praise

Because of his grace, and not my eloquence, I can pray.

Even if it is not impressive.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Reality shows - good or bad?

I have decided not to watch reality shows (although I must confess that I watch American Idol from time to time - but even that is getting a little bit tedious).


Not for any real spiritual reason (in other words you are not more or less of a Christian if you watch them), but because maybe, just maybe, it is part of the process of changing the fabric and make-up of our society and culture - in the negative sense.

I believe the "reality show" thing all started with the show "Survivors". Hollywood has this well known code, that if something works, copy it over and over again.

I mean, how many "Rocky" movies have been made? How many "Law and Order" spin offs? And now we are receiving "CSI" spin offs - all draining the success of something to make sure more money is made.

I found an article today from Time magazine that talks about the effect of the reality show phenomena on our culture.

Here it is - James Poniewozik writes (if you get a chance please respond - agree or disagree):

"In the lexicon of cliches to describe characters accused of a despicable act, "He was once on a reality show" is the new "Neighbors say he was quiet and kept to himself."

Today the idea of a mad loner silently avoiding attention seems like a quaint throwback. In August, a VH1 dating-show contestant was charged with the murder of his ex-wife, then committed suicide.

And on Oct. 15, America spent an afternoon being literally distracted by a shiny object, watching news choppers chase a silver balloon that we were told carried a presumably terrified 6-year-old boy.

When we learned during the coverage that Falcon Heene's family had twice appeared on ABC's Wife Swap, who didn't have the same thought?

That if Falcon's parents would open their family life for a reality show, then they might also have planned ... but they wouldn't have, right?

Would and did, says the sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado. Richard Heene, a self-styled scientist obsessed with tornadoes, aliens and getting a reality show, allegedly spun a plan to fake his son's Icarus-meets-Up ascent and become famous.

But fame bit Heene when, on Larry King Live, Falcon heard a question directed to him by his father and made the mistake of answering honestly: "You guys said that we did this for the show."

"We did this for the show": if some 21st century Betsy Ross were designing a new American flag, she could slap that baby on a ribbon in an eagle's talons and call it a day.

Whether it's conceiving octuplets and shopping a TV deal or screaming "You lie!" at the President and reaping millions of dollars in campaign contributions, the equation is the same: Act out = get paid.

Modern media did not invent greed, eccentricity or lust for attention. What they did was monetize them. There have long been odd families and obscure men pursuing bizarre theories and cobbling together flying machines in their backyards.

But only in the reality-TV era has unstable behavior become a valid career choice.

Only now are questionable parenting decisions the stuff of a lucrative family business. Say whatever you want about Jon and Kate Gosselin, their divorce proceedings entail numbers with a lot more zeroes than your typical young Pennsylvania family encounters.

Whatever the legal process uncovers, the story of Richard Heene — incessantly pitching producers across Hollywood his show about a wacky storm-chasing family, parading Falcon on morning shows though the boy was sick, twice, on air — is like an updated Mosquito Coast but with the eccentric dad dragging his family into the floodlights of reality TV instead of away from civilization.

And who can blame him, really? When the Heenes went on Wife Swap (in which two families trade mothers, who agree to live by the other family's rules) in 2008, Richard was such a belligerent jerk that, naturally, the Heenes were invited back for the show's 100th episode. America wanted more! And boy, did we get it.

Nor were TV's dysfunctional families Heene's only model. Even in professional careers, mere competence and craftsmanship is no substitute for a gimmick. You can be a brilliant chef and struggle to keep a restaurant afloat, or you can be a screaming chef — or, as on Oxygen's new reality show, a "naughty" chef — and be a media star. Real estate agents, tattoo artists, cake decorators — the only thing standing between them and fortune is the willingness to blow a gasket once a week on cable.

And science? Pfft. You might get a few minutes on Nova if you're serious and successful. But trick out your science, real or pseudo, with stunts and a catchy moniker — Legend Zappers! Storm Hunters! Ghost Blasters! — and get ready to sign. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Heene's proposed show (Jon & Kate meets MythBusters) is that it hadn't already been sold.

But as fame becomes cheaper and more common, you have to ante up more in order to stand out. Heene put up his family.

None of us can really know the dynamic of the Heenes or how eager Richard's wife and children were to serve his scientainment ambitions. The kids seemed to take to their Wife Swap appearance with foulmouthed gusto.

But that doesn't make turning their lives into TV a better idea or make exploiting them in a publicity scheme any less odious. If your kid is puking on the Today show while you keep talking to Meredith Vieira, it's a good sign you've screwed up.

With the Heenes, like the Gosselins before them, we're seeing a new kind of show-biz family, a sort of reality-era von Trapps, for whom living in public is a given and privacy negotiable. We can expect to see only more of this in the future. People have got to make a living, after all, and families pull together. They do it for one another. They do it for the show."

What do you think?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Most of the great memories of life do not come from some major event in our lives but from a series, a succession of smaller events, that when put together, bring forth warm feelings of love and gratitude.

That's what happened this weekend.

All weekend long, I experienced a wonderful sense of love and unity in our church.

None of them, in and of themselves, are worthy of historical notation, but when you put them all together - powerful stuff.

When I walked into the church Saturday evening (I was a judge at the Chili cook off) there was a genuine buzz and excitement. Kids were yelling and screaming in delight, adults were chowing down on the chili, and both children and adults were dressed in costumes in celebration of our "Harvest Festival".

I also met several new folks - that makes that type of event even more meaningful.

All of the chilies were good - some were better than others....Frank Wolf won the competition.

During the Sunday morning prayer time, our church family prayed for we as pastors.

I deeply appreciate the prayers of God's people. But I also sensed their love and appreciation as well.

It is nice (and meaningful) to be appreciated everyone in a while.

But then, the worship time after the teaching - It's hard to describe in written form. I would worship, sometimes walking, sometimes standing, sometimes on my knees, and each time I would look out into the audience, hands were raised, people were lifting their voices in song and praise...there was a desire to wait on God.


We desire the "fire of God" to fall on us and we intercede, as we "hunger and thirst" for more of Him.

May it be so, dear Father in heaven. May you so fill us with an intensity to seek after you - that we connect with you - and see unchurched people connect with you as well.

It's beginning to "rain" as the song goes. Rain, Holy Spirit, Rain!