Friday, March 31, 2006

Mom looking over my shoulder

Some things happen and it immediately brings you back to earlier time in your life. As I type this entry, my mom (my parents are visiting from California) is sitting on the couch next to me watching Jeopardy. Though I'm now 50 and a half and am typing on a Wi-Fi capable computer, it's kind of weird having your mom look over your shoulder and check your spelling and grammer. (I was just informed grammer is spelled "grammar.")

My mom use to edit my papers (she was the original spell check)when I was in middle school (back in the day it was called "Junior High) and High School. (I shouldn't have capitalized junior high or high school, should I?" Was that a complete sentence\? Can you end a question with the pronoun "I." Is "I" a pronoun?") Oh my word, I can't handle the pressure!

Back "in the day" my mom would edit and type my papers and my dad would wonder aloud "How can you have procrastinated so long to start this paper?"

It's amazing to think that now I know spend a few days a week writing a blog. (Which evidently my mom (should "mom" be capitalized, since it's my "mom?") reads every entry. Talk about potential "writer's blog block!"

We had a great day today. My folks and I went downtown to see the cherry blossoms. They were truly breath-taking. The sun was shining it was 70 degrees and the blossoms were at peak. The three of us with 40 thousand of our closest friends fought for three parking spaces and the privilege of seeing one of our country's true national treasures. If you ever get a chance to see the cherry blossoms they are definitely worth the traffic, the stress of finding a parking space and walking around a big lake with thousands of people and no guard rail. It is truly a spectacular experience.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

D.C. at an intersection

If you don't live in the D.C. area let me try to explain what it's like driving here.

Imagine that...You're in the left turn lane about 15 cars back. The arrow turns from red to green and the guy in the car at the front of the line is on his cell phone so he doesn't see it change. 14 cars in front of you start honking. The man in the lead car makes a hand gesture and turns left. As you finally make your way to the front there are three cars in front of you as the light turns yellow. The three cars in front go through on yellow, you gun it and go through on yellow turning to red. As you go through the intersection you look in your rearview mirror and see three cars follow you through on the red light.

Welcome to D.C.

People are going nuts for George Mason. It would be amazing if they won at least their first game. If they won it all, Hollywood could make a remake of Hoosiers. They could call it Poosiers (Patriots and Hoosiers) Tom Hanks could play the GMU coach.

Quick question: What are you throughts about Wednesday night church assemblies?

Monday, March 27, 2006

GEORGE MASON

Unless you were in a coma, you now know that Fairfax's own, George Mason's men's basketball team has made the Final Four. What a game. I talked with someone from church who actually got to see the game in person. They said it was "Awesome!" I'll tell you, it wasn't too bad on TV. I must admit when UConn tied it to go into overtime, I was ready to toss in the towel. Fortunately, GMU wasn't. In spite of poot free throw performance, they prevailed. It was great!
FYI my favorite Final Four name: GMU's Folarin Campbell. Final Four Folarin sounds fantastic.

But even better was yesterday morning's worship. It was a wonderful day of praise, devotion and worship. Thanks to Murray and his team for all they do for FXCC. It was a great time to be preaching on worship!

Quick tip on landscaping. It has to be watered. A lot! Pray for rain. I've almost hung myself tripping over hundreds of feet of water hose.

Have a great Monday and keep praying. And as you pray ask God to make me and our church more responsive to the needs of those who don't know Him.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Delayed Grassification

We moved into our current house 12 years ago today! For twelve years we have looked out our sliding glass door at our back yard at the middle school behind us. Six months ago, we had a fence put up and a patio put in and a pergola erected and today we're getting landscaping! We have waited 12 years for shrubs and natural screening so the middle schoolers and every kid who plays youth league T-Ball in our area on the school ball fields behind our house,will no longer be looking in our back yard. Yeah!

I'll let you know if it was worth the wait.

UCLA won last night. My team (and their uniforms) are still in the tournament.

If you come to my blog through the FXCC website next week you'll notice a disclaimer on the church website about all the ministers' blogs. It will say that each of our blogs (Murray, Chris, Mark and mine) are our own ideas, opinions and thoughts. The minister's blogs shouldn't be considered church policy. I'm glad the disclaimer is going to be there to clear up any confusion. Afterall, I don't think the church en masse is backing the UCLA Bruins in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. In fact, I may be the only one who likes their uniforms and used that to choose them to win the NCAA tournament!

I read a pretty good by John Maxwell this past week. It's titled: 25 Ways To Win With People.
(Catchy title eh?)

He and the co-author list 25 ways that John Maxwell excels with bringing the best out of people. It's actually a pretty good book. The 22nd way to win with people is called "Learn Your Mailman's Name." (Which I need to do. I think his name is "Tom.") If you struggle with remembering names here's Maxwell's Tip: use the SAVE method. Here's what you do when you first meet a person:

S- Say the name three times in the conversation
A- Ask a question about the name (for example, how it is spelled) or about the person
V- Visualize the person's prominent physical or personality feature
E- End the conversation with the person's name.

I'm going to use it and hope it helps me "SAVE" people's names in my deteriorating brain.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Help Strikes Again!

I read a great story yesterday. Two young Boy Scouts come home and tell their parents about their day. They relate how earlier in the day, they found this boy by the side of the river who wasn't breathing, but they became frustrated when they used their CPR training on him. The Boy Scouts said, "We kept trying to use CPR, but we had to quit, because every time we tried to do CPR the guy kept getting up and walking away!"

It's amazing how many times we try to help people who don't need our help and we avoid or neglect people who so obviously are in need. I'm guessing part of the reason this happens is that once we've overcome a problem or learned about it then we see it everywhere in everyone. I know for me, it is so easy for me to superimpose a methodology that has worked for me in overcoming a personal issue onto someone else going through a problem. I'm a person that likes to read and learn, so if you have a problem, then I'm pretty much going to recommend a book to read. Or I like to talk, so if you have a problem I'm going to assume you need to talk it out.

Maybe both of those approaches are of value, but they may have more to do with me, then with the person in trouble. If you look at Jesus he used a variety of methods to help a variety of people connect with God. Long before Daniel Goldman discovered Emotional Intelligence and that other guy discovered the Nine Different Types of Learning Styles Jesus understood that though God fits all people, one method doesn't fit everyone. Some people may be helped by a hug and others by a rebuke.

The point is finding the method that best applies the cure.

I think...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

92 Percent

A long time ago I read a little booklet on "worry." The one thing I remember from it this:
92 percent of the things we worry about never come to pass.

Yesterday I was fretting about something. I remembered that statistic, and I pretty much believed it, but I still was "concerned" about an upcoming event. And guess what, it didn't happen. Though I one point I was ready to jump into the deep end of worry, because I had convinced myself I knew what the worst case scenario was and that it was going to happen. It didn't!

I read somewhere that the German word for "worry" means "strangle." Boy, that's the truth. That's exactly what worry does. It strangles the life out of you while you sit and wait for the worst to happen. It cuts you off from rational and productive thought and action. And here's the worst part, 92 percent of the time what our worrying has convinced us is going to happen, doesn't!

Jesus was so right, don't worry about tomorrow, today has enough concerns. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I couldn't handle knowing what was going to happen tomorrow. I need to be content in just living life one day at a time.

Friday, March 17, 2006

That's the Ticket

I got a speeding ticket Wednesday. Yeah, I was on my way to meet someone for breakfast (for the most expensive oatmeal I've ever eaten!) and as I rounded a curve, I met Officer Smith who was standing in the middle of the road pointing at my car and telling me to pull over. I was evidently traveling a little too fast and he wanted to have a chat with me and hand me a nice piece of paper with instructions on how I can contribute to the betterment of Fairfax County.

In all seriousness, I really upset me to get the ticket (I was four blocks from my house, not paying attention and going 39 mph in a 25 mph zone.) I wasn't looking to paying the fine, but what really upset me was having it on my "permanent record" (you know with insurance and all that stuff). I was also rattled that I could drive that close to home and have no clue how fast I was going.

I felt pretty guilty all day. In fact, I kept thinking about getting the ticket and trying to scheme some way out of it, or hoping Officer Smith would contact me and tell me my guilt was absolved. I thought back over my conversation with Officer Smith and wondered if I could have handled it differently so I could have got off with a warning so I wouldn't have my "permanent driving record" stained again.

In the middle of all this mental strain, it hit all this emotion was being spent on getting a traffic ticket. And then I thought, "Maybe this is how I should feel about every sin I commit." I mean I just as guilty every other time I sin, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't impact me as severely.

What registered with me (long after I had returned my regristration to the glove box) was that if I was more in touch with personal guilt, I might feel more in touch with God's grace and forgiveness.

I'm not looking forward to paying the fine, but cost did at least come with a lesson...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Two are better than one

I was just reading an article in TIME magazine about James Patterson the prolific best selling author. In the article he explained that much of his success stems from his ability to work with co-write with other authors. In fact, eight of his best sellers have been collaborations.

I find that fascinating. Here's why, often I feel like I'm cheating if I don't think it up or do it all by myself. But here's a nationally renown author saying that his work is better and he's more productive when he collaborates with other talented people.

The article tells how Patterson's "probably outsells Toni Morrison 10 books to 1, but his success comes at a price. He will never get the respect from the literati. Most reviewers ignore him. In a culture that values high style over storytelling, pretty prose over popularity and pulse-pounding plots, he's on the wrong end of the spectrum, and he knows it...The fact is, Patterson is an affront to every Romantic myth of the artist we have. He's not tortured. He's not poor. He doesn't work alone, and he's way too unsentimental about his work."

I don't mean to make everything I read into a sermon illustration but doesn't this seem important for Christians and local churches? We're not called to be valued by worldly standards we're called to be effective in sharing Jesus with people who don't know him. We're to story-tellers of the best story there's ever been.

I don't know, it just seemed to leap out at me that we're not to go it alone and that when we work together we can be so much more effective.

You draw your own conclusions or cancel your subscription to TIME.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Marching On

We had a great day yesterday at worship. Is there anything better than getting together with lots of people who love God and all worship together?

The weather is truly spectacular today. I understand it's supposed to change drastically by week's end. I'll believe it when I put my coat on...

The teams have been selected and the brackets have been filled for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. I have no clue who to pick as the eventual winner, but that's never stopped me. I'm picking...UCLA. I like their uniforms! (Have you noticed how March Madness now ends on April 3rd?)

Thanks for all the input about phone services. I'll let you know what we decide. What I can tell you is that when your teenagers leave to go to college you quickly discover who most of the phone calls were for (and typically from boys!)

Hope you get to leave work early today!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Spring Thoughts

Wow, Spring is here and I'm ready for it. The sun is shining, temperatures are rising and I'm smiling. It's supposed to be seventy today, tomorrow and Sunday. And then drop back down to 59 degrees on Monday. I love it, love it, love it.

Speaking of Spring's arrival does anyone care about the World Baseball Classic? Actually does anyone care about Major League Baseball until the playoffs and World Series? And if the USA looses the World Baseball Classic does MLB feel obligated to change the name from "The World Series" To "The National Series?" Because it will be obvious, that the US winner is NOT the best in the world. The winner of the World Baseball Classic would be the "World Winner." (Now I realize that the all-star team now in the WBC are not the Yankees or the Braves but you get my point.) These are things I think about in warm weather...sorry.


Wedding season begins tomorrow. I perform my first ceremony for a couple who goes to our church. Currently I have pre-marital counseling scheduled with six couples. It should be a great spring and summer for wedding caterers! Whenever I'm involved in some aspect of a new marriage it reminds me of how blessed I am to have been married to Jeanette for what will soon be 29 years. I am a blessed man.


I need help from the four of you that read my blog. I'm getting killed by my home (land-line) phone provider. I'm way over paying. We're using MCI and they arecharging too much! We do have broadband high speed internet access. Any suggestions? Any experience with cheaper providers?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Complications

It's been all over the news that a book detailing Barry Bond's "alleged" steroid use has just hit the bookstores. It is based on a two year study of court documents, police reports, interviews with over 200 people closely involved with Mr. Bonds and a bunch more.

The authors (who are respected investigative reporters) lay out one contradiction after another between Mr. Bond's testimony and denials of drug use with the "facts" they "allegedly" have uncovered in their research.

So now baseball fans wonder: Should Mr. Bonds records stand? Should there be celebrations when and if he breaks Babe Ruth's record or possibly Hank Aaron's all-time homerun record? Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Should he be banished from baseball? Should he be singled out when so many other major leaguers have "allegedly" been involved in the same misconduct?

I certainly don't sit in judgment on Mr. Bonds. But this episode certainly does remind me of Solomon's words:
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12

And what Jeremiah prayed in Jeremiah 10:23-24:
"I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his own steps; Correct me, Lord, but only with justice--not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing."

Sin really complicates life.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Function and form

Just got finished with breakfast with a bunch of guys from church. It was great fun. I don't know why it works this way, but you seem to get to know guys better when you sit down and eat with them. It must be something in the bacon.

A question came up yesterday, "Does how you pray important?" From my personal study, I think God is more concerned with us talking to him than he is how we talk to him. In some private study over the past few months Jeanette and I have been reading through the Psalms. As you read them, you can't help but notice how the writers have no problem sharing with God their feelings, raw emotions and personal perspective. They share their joy, their fear, their sorrow, their frustration, their disappointment, their anger, their bewilderment and even more.

Evidently, God welcomes open and authentic conversation. These "song writers" communicated with respect and love for God, but they didn't seem to stand on formalities. What they did stand on was a conviction that God was at the center of their lives and that He welcomed being talked to, admired, consulted with and even yelled at.

When our kids were growing up I remember Jeanette telling each of them "You can say anything to us (the parental units) as long as you speak respectfully and lovingly." That's how we felt as parents. We wanted our kids to let us into their lives and talk to us about it. God is the ultimate parent. I think he's more concerned with the conversation's content and intent then he is the conversations form. He wants to hear from his kids.

That said, I must tell you that form can be a great help in our attitude to God. Lifting up your hands helps us feel as though we asking for help and it's hard to be arrogant when your down on your knees. Holding hands with other "prayer partner" sure makes it hard to be angry with that fellow petitioner.

Form can help remind us who we are and who God is. But when it comes to prayer, I think that God, like any parent, loves to listen to his children.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscars, Oatmeal and Prayer

Let's see, I picked four of the five big winners of the Oscars. I know, pride goes before destruction, yeah, yeah, yeah...

Because of our church's 40 days of prayer I've been thinking a bunch about prayer lately. I've heard that how you pray is a barometer to your spiritual life. I'm about ready to agree with that for this reason: when you love someone you want to be with them as much as you can and talk to them as often as you can.

I think that's pretty much what prayer is: wanting to be in God's presence and wanting to talk to him.

Hey if you're a guy who lives on the west end of Fairfax County or the east end of Loudoun County come join us for breakfast tomorrow morning (March 7) at 6:15 AM at Bob Evans on Route 50 (near the intersection of 50 and 28). Come share a bowl of oatmeal with a bunch of your FXCC buds. The hope of the breakfast is to provide a time for Christian guys to hang out, talk, eat and grow spiritually. We'll be talking about our 40 days of prayer.

Even if you don't attend FXCC feel free to join us in our 40 days of prayer. I'm pretty sure that God won't mind having a few more of His kids talking to him.

Have a good Monday.




Friday, March 03, 2006

Oscar Picks

Okay, I just read that the Oscar telecast is the most watched special programming year in and year out on TV. So here are my picks for the winners:

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon
Best Picture: Good Night and Good Luck

At least those are who I want to win. Okay, I really want Joquin Phoenix to win Best Actor, but I don't think he has a chance. And I know that Good Night and Good Luck doesn't have a chance, but it's the only one of the Best Picture nominees that I've seen. Jeanette and I actually saw the movie "Junebug" this summer at the artsy movie theater in Fairfax and we both liked Amy Adams who is nominated for Best Supporting Actress. She was really good. So if she won we would feel great.

That's my picks. I'd say the best movies I saw in 2006 were

The Constant Gardener; Walk the Line and Batman Begins

See you Monday or Sunday if you're at church.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Friends

I've had two conversations with old friends in the last 24 hours. It was nice. I talked to one in Texas, and one in Tennessee. It makes me glad for telephones. It also makes me wonder why I don't talk to "long distant" friends more regularly?

I really did wonder about why it's tough to keep up with friends. I came up with several possibilities:
I'm selfish and maybe not the best of friends myself and I don't make friendship the priority it needs to be.
As people leave your life, others move in. These new friends and relationships never take the place of other friends, but they require time and energy to develop.
As I grow older my circle of relationships keeps getting bigger and bigger. There are more people to tend to. For example, my extended family has grown to such a point with siblings, cousins, grandkids, etc, we first moved to drawing names and now we buy for "the kids" of the family. Though I'm not sure when a kid quits being a kid. That's just with my family.

Friends grow and change. Because someone was my buddy in third grade doesn't mean he's going to want to hang out with me for life.


I'm not sure what all this wondering means...
But here's the deal. There are certain people I want and need in my life. And it is best for me if I stay in contact with them. So whether they're on my calling plan or not, I'm going to stay in touch with them. As Solomon says, Iron sharpens iron one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) And I need all the sharpening I can get.

If you have any great ideas about how to stay connected with long distance friends, feel free to share them.