New life on the 3rd day…

Yesterday son # 3 celebrated his 18th birthday.  An incredible milestone in any young man’s life, but for our family it was another beautiful reminder of the grace and mercy of God.  You see, he drowned in a pool when he was 3 and shouldn’t be here today.

It was a Sunday evening and we were at a friend’s house having dinner.  We had dinner out on the patio by the pool, and after dinner the boys all went for a swim.  Josiah had enough of the pool and we had changed him into some warm clothes and he was lying in a hammock some distance from the pool.  I went in to help fix a computer issue, and my wife was clearing dishes while our two older sons (elementary age at the time) were in the shallow end playing with our friend’s teenage son.

In the few minutes that the dishes were being brought in, Josiah saw a ball in the deep end that he wanted.  He climbed out of the hammock and went reaching for that ball, and fell in.  The boys in the shallow end were splashing around and didn’t see or hear him fall in.  Tracy came back out carrying our youngest, just 8 months old at the time.  Josiah wasn’t in the hammock.  She asked the older boys where he was, they didn’t know.  She started calling his name and looking for him, and that’s when she noticed what looked like a towel at the bottom of the pool.  She told the teen boy to dive down and check that out.  Seconds later he surfaced with Josiah’s lifeless body.

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Go West Young Man

Grand Canyon PostcardIf you’ve been following me for a while, or just read through some of my blogs, you’ll remember that I have this long long love-affair with the “Wild West”.  Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved cowboy movies and for some time now have wanted to go on one of those cattle drives featured in the movie “City Slickers”.  I even had a great aunt who got me a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine, because I just loved to look at the pictures of the Grand Canyon and the un-tamed scenery that filled the pages.

I’ve lived a few states away (Iowa), flown over it on the way to California (still upset that the attendants had everyone pull their shades down so people could watch TV reruns – and caused me to miss the aerial views of the Grand Canyon!), and experienced some of it on a couple of trips through Texas.  But Arizona was what I’ve been wanting to see for more than 35 years and it’s always eluded me.  That was, until a couple of weeks ago.

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Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
– from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
 
The words of this poem ran through my mind this morning as I looked out our back windows at the Bay.  All you can see is the sun glistening off all of this water – people in boats fishing, sea birds diving for fish and sunning themselves on the docks, the bobbing of crab trap markers.  But the water out there isn’t the problem – its the lack of water in here that is! 
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I’ve changed my address, don’t forward the mail!

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” – Dorothy, from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

There is nothing quite like a fresh start.

A new job, a new grade, a new relationship. Doesn’t matter what it is, there is such potential there for it to be something good. It’s like going to bed at the end of a horrible day only to wake fresh the next morning. Sometimes like with Dorothy and her tornado, a fresh start comes in a whirlwind of destruction. Other times it just comes with the sun slipping quietly up over the horizon.

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.” – John Wayne

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The start of a new Revolution

As someone who has worked with young people for more than 20 years now, I’ve had the opportunity to see the world through many sets of eyes.  I’ve seen what excites them, what stirs their emotion, and what can cause them to sit back and simply be amazed.  The one constant emotion that I have seen pop up over the years is anger.  Anger at the people and situations that bring suffering to others in the world.  But what do they do with that anger?  What can they do when the problem seems bigger than them, and an impossible one to take on?  Unfortunately, many times nothing happens and they let the motivation fizzle out before great change has taken place.

Then there is this generation that has been emerging for the last few years.  They’ve heard the mantra of change, but have seen very little of it come from the people in power.  Just like a young David from the story in 1 Samuel 17, they have arrived on the scene at a time of inactivity and stalemate caused by the fear of giants – things like political correctness, greed, and fear of offending have immobilized the generation that has gone before them.  But these that are coming in, they can not sit idly by letting their courage become atrophied like that of those who are there but do nothing, for they know that there is STILL a battle to fight.

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Glimpses of the Cross

My wife and I pastored our own church for 6 years.  It was a wonderful experience, full of many unforgettable memories – many of which surrounded holidays or special services we held.  One of my favorite times was an Easter service we did one year at the local movie theater.  I didn’t like just doing the “normal” things churches do for holidays and wanted to reach out to people who might never come to the church itself, not even at Easter.  This was when the movie “The Passion” had just come out, so we rented the largest theater at our local AMC Theater and on Easter Sunday morning opened it up for free to whomever wanted to come. Our worship team brought all their instruments and we sang before the movie started. After the movie I summed up the Gospel message and invited people to respond.  Many lives were touched that morning, and I’m so glad we decided to step out of the norm.

One of the simpler things we did for Easter which became something our church really loved, is what I am about to share with you.  We didn’t have the congregation size, building, or finances to put on some elaborate production… so I pulled together a telling of the Easter story from Peter’s perspective, using readings from Max Lucado and Dawson McAllister along with a mixture of video clips and live songs our worship team sung.  It was simple, but powerful… and it had just as strong an impact as seeing “The Passion” did on the big screen.  I’ve updated it a bit since then.  Enjoy. Continue reading

Seeing God in “The Hunger Games”

I think that the first I’d heard of The Hunger Games was in a FaceBook conversation between a high school teacher I know and some of her students.  I love to read and have a heart for teens, so when I heard an outline of the story I knew I had to read it for myself.  Of course, then I found out it isn’t just one book but three, and I was thrilled.  There is nothing like a continuing story to wet the appetite of an avid reader.  I remember years ago discovering a paperback book series about the Oregon Trail that numbered into 30 or 40 books… I think I bought the whole set at a used book store in town and I devoured a book every couple of days.  Needless to say, if The Hunger Games story went on beyond the three books, I’d be one happy camper. So, when I found out that the books were being turned into movies as well, I got about as excited as any other fan of the series.

If you’re not familiar with the book, here is the story in a nutshell.  It is written from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen who lives in one of the 13 “districts” in the country of Panem, which is what is left of North America after some future war.  Everything is run by the Capitol, a highly advanced city that seems to hold complete power over the rest of the nation.  The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18 are selected through a lottery system from each of the districts  to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.  The citizens of the Capitol find the most perverse pleasure in following what happens to the contestants from the comfort of their over-indulgent lives, and seem to love hearing the Gamekeeper’s creepy mantra, “Happy Hunger Games!  And may the odds ever be in your favor.”  Think of it as “The Truman Show” meets “Survivor” meets “Lord of the Flies” – or the extreme end result of our cultural fascination with reality television.  The story has families ripped apart, sacrifices being made, a disgust for the disconnected masses of the cultural elite, and a love story or two woven in between. Continue reading