Tuesday, April 28, 2009

St. Peter's Back, and He's Gonna Get in Trouble

Hey now, hey now- St. Peter's back.

Read this morning in Acts 4.  There Peter and John stand before the same crowd that executed Jesus and boldly declare the Gospel of Christ.  Listen to some of the facts Peter declares.

- Jesus healed the lame beggar
- You killed Jesus
- God raised Jesus from the dead
- Jesus is the only way of salvation
- You rejected Jesus

What boldness!  Just a two months before Peter coward beside a courtyard fire and cursed to show he knew nothing of Jesus Christ.  Now he speaks with such boldness that all in the room realize he had indeed been with the Savior.  

Yes, Peter evidenced change when Jesus thrice said, "Feed my sheep."

Yes, Peter took the reins of the followers and lead with characteristic zeal.

Yes, Peter's sermon led 3,000 to Christ.  

However, I think here is the crucial moment of change.  He's not turning.  He takes a bold stand for Christ.  

He almost reminds me of a talented baseball player who steps into the majors only to be sent back to the minors.  He corrects his faults and is called back up to the majors.  Then, oops, sent back down to the minors again.  With this stand before the Sadducees, Peter forever is called back into the majors.  

As I read through the passage I felt like cheering for the poor, type-A personality fisherman who got it right just as much as he got it wrong, but finally stepped out from the crowd, stood up for Christ, and began a phenomenal ministry for the Lord.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Little Children

Last week when I judged the speech competition in the center of the state two contestants grabbed my attention.  

The first boy's name said it all.  

Bishop Elder.  

What a name!  I'm not even joking.  Then my mind raced ahead.  What if this kid becomes a pastor?  

Pastor Bishop Elder.

In his name he's wrapped up authority at its highest levels in at least three denominations!  

The first girl who performed also caught my attention.  I noticed she was a seventh grade girl who was performing her own original work of poetry.  Warning bells sounded in my head.  Over the next two minutes she committed every faux pas I ask my own speech students to avoid.  

She began by telling her name, hometown, grade, and poem title.  Of course, she paused to inform the judges that she had written this poem herself.  Then with a nervous smile she bowed her head.  

Slowly her head lifted and across her young face passed a sense of transcendence.  

"It was our God who made the sea and the sky."

She announced these words with huge, specific actions tied to each one.  

For "our" she swept her hands outward before allowing them to swoop back in toward herself.

"God:" Her hands moved from her heart straight upward as her head bowed toward the ground.  I couldn't help but think of a praying football referee signaling a touchdown.  

"Who made the sea:" The last two are obvious.  She represented sea by bringing both hands horizontal in front of her and rippling her fingers up and down. 

"And sky:"  Yes.  It was the classic sweep of hands and arms up, around, and down to capture a brief moment the span of the sky.  

As I watched the display I didn't know whether to laugh or shudder.  In the end I just faked a huge smile.  

All joking aside the poem wasn't half bad.  For a seventh grader, the kid had talent.  She just needed a little more direction.  If a girl like that is willing to get up, memorize and quote a poem, and throw herself into it; then by the time she's 20 she may be doing some phenomenal work.  Although I laugh as I think back on it, I get excited as I look forward to what she might do in the future.  

The final boy made me laugh yesterday.  

I sat down with him at a potluck lunch yesterday when I noticed the kid sitting by himself.  His name was Noah.  I'd love to write more about him, but most of the time he spoke his mouth was full of pasta.  

He said, "I dowww knowww abooow nubbbbun."

The one thing he did say that I understood was when a young teenage girl walked past our table.  

He made a mean face at her then turned to me.  

"That's my sister.  She's evil!"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Photos - Kurt and Rachel

This morning I woke early to a unseasonably warm Western Pennsylvanian sunrise.  

Ah!  Spring is in the air.  

After throwing on a polo and pair of shorts I dashed out the door to meet Kurt and Rachel, a young couple from our school who asked me to shoot their engagement pictures.  

Kurt graduated in our school's first senior class, but before he left he just happened to join a college trip to Northland that Rachel was also attending.  The two hit it off!  They sat together at all the restaurants, flirted with one another in the van, and haven't been separated in the three years since.  

Of course I'm happy to see them getting married, but even more I'm thrilled to watch them live their lives to honor God.  

Ps.  I've been told, "It's sad when your students start getting married before you do!" 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dazed and Confused

This morning one of my seventh grade boys was singing a nursery rhyme.  It's one we all know. Here's what he sang.  

Eeni, meeni, myhni, moe, 
Catch a tiger by the toe,
Hippie hollered, 
"Let him go!"
Eeni, meeni, myhni, moe.

Did you catch that?

I thought the third and fourth line read:
If he hollers,
Let him go.

I like the new line better though.  It kinda caught my funny bone.  In my mind's eye I imagined some poor seventh grade student clutching a tiger by its toe while in the background a much-offended PETA person calls for his freedom.

The long haired, tye-died t-shirt wearing beatnik calls out, "Dude!  Let the little kitty go!"  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Friday Night Lights

This weekend I traveled to the far side of the state to judge speech at Talents for Christ.  Since I was hoping to avoid paying for a hotel, I asked the Howells if I could stay at their house for the evening.  We had a blast!  

Heidi, Ben, and I took off after dinner to snap some pictures of the setting sun.  We didn’t quite get the pictures we were looking for, but here’s a few of the ones we grabbed.  

Friday, April 17, 2009

Smattering of Thoughts

Yesterday I took a few minutes to swing by my brother-in-law's blog.  It is SO not fair.  The guy's a genius.  He takes opportunity to share a couple of the many thoughts floating around in his mind, and it strikes me that many of his flitting thoughts are deeper than any focused meditation I've ever done.  

I did like the style of his blog.  He didn't dash off 2,000 words on any one subject; rather he summarized the thought and moved on.  Perhaps I can do the same.  

  • Windows Commercials:  Ok, so maybe I’m biased, but I can’t stand the new Windows commercials.  First, they seem so contrived; which, of course, they are.  Everybody knows Apples cost more.  Duhh!  That’s like being surprised that a Lexus costs more than a Chevy.  No one’s shocked by that.  Just like no one is surprised that a Lexus is a better car than a Chevy.  Do they both get you from Point A to Point B?  Certainly.  I hate the assumption that just because a Windows PC costs less it’s a better choice.  I’ve suffered through my share of Windows computers.  NO MORE!  Are Macs for everyone?  No.  Get a Windows computer.  I don’t care, but don’t tell me it’s a better option simply because it’s cheap.  There’s a reason it’s cheap.  

  • Somali Pirates:  Go America!  Let me clear: I don’t rejoice at the death of any teen, whether Somali or American.  I do rejoice at justice.  I do rejoice at Captain Philips freedom.  I do rejoice that the President allowed the use of force.  It’s just nice to see some Americans still won’t be pushed around by evil-doers.  

  • Krispy Kreme:  I mentioned earlier this week that Dunkin Donuts has come to Butler, and all good people said, “Amen!”  A word must be mentioned here about the competition, Krispy Kreme.  “Yuck.”  That’s the word.  Or you could say, “Gross.”  Or, “Bleh!” Though I’m not really sure if “Bleh” counts as a word.  So, yes, if given no other option I could probably down about three dozen Krispy Kreme glazed donuts, but if I was given the option I’d choose D+D every time.  Dunkin Donuts has taste, weight, and mass (as do most the people who eat there).  Krispy Kreme is more like some fake light little French cake pretending to be a donut. Or you could say, Dunkin Donuts is like the steak.  Krispy Kreme is like the metrosexual vegan burger.  

  • One other thing for now . . . Lord willing . . . I’m traveling to Mexico this summer.  It’s a Mission Trip.  Please don’t write to remind me how dangerous it is.  We’ll be in Mexico City far from the madly-drugged crowd.  The missionaries there (ABWE) asked me to come for a week of photography.  More about that later, but I’d appreciate your prayers!  

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Comforts and Commands of Christ

Calvary Baptist Church in Linesville, PA asked me to speak at their church for Easter.  I looked forward to that.  Then they asked me to speak in three services, each one with a different message.  I sorta looked forward to that.  Then they informed me that the first service began at 8:00 am.  With the hour and half drive to get to the church, I had to leave Butler by 6:15 am.  I did not look forward to that.  

In my study for the messages I noticed a trend after Christ’s resurrection.  Almost everything our Savior spoke falls into one of two categories.  His words either came as comfort or command.  

Jesus says things like, “Peace be unto you,” or “Everything’s going to be Ok.”

He calls Mary by name as if to say to her, “I know your hurt, your fear.  What concerns you concerns me.”

Jesus goes on to tell Mary, “I’m go to ascend to my Father.” We know that means He goes to rule and reign over all affairs from the glories of heaven.  We have nothing to fear as He controls all things.  

Yet Jesus also shares some commands in his final days on earth.  

He tells his disciples, “As the father sent me, so I send you.”  

He calls Peter to “Feed his sheep.”  

As many know Jesus finally tells his followers to take the message of the Scripture all throughout the world.  What a command!  Could there be a more difficult calling?  Even in that though, Jesus cushions that final command with comfort.  He says, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.”  

Comforts and commands.  

So many in Christianity want one or the other.  The comfort sure sounds nice.  We like the thought of a cushy, warm-hearted God who just loves us so much and wants to do for us everything He can.  We perceive him as a congenial grandfather-type who always smiles, hugs us a lot, and looks the other way when we do something He disapproves of.  On his worst day this God may toss our sin a stern look for a moment, then simply smile and ask us not to do that again.  

Others in Christianity prefer the command side.  We like the thought of a serious God who will only open the gates of heaven for a small select few.  Of course we and our close friends are a part of those blessed few.  And the rest of the world . . .  well, to bad . . . they should have tried a little harder.  We grin at the thought that all our wonderful, hard-fought obedience earned us the gratitude of a strict heavenly Father.  

Both views are wrong.  Both swing the pendulum to far.  God is loving.  God is also just.  God is heavenly father.  God is also a strong king.  Jesus gives comfort.  He also gives commands.  

Let’s seek to walk the narrow center of the Scripture and not stray far to the right or the left.  

Number 17

This morning marked the most momentous event to hit Butler, PA since Super Walmart.  

  • The Grand Opening of Dunkin Donuts - 

Since New Years rumors have flown back and forth about the stores entering our new outdoor mall complex.  Only Ross, Verizon, and McDonalds posted signage early in the year, while the other half dozen store names remained a mystery.  At the beginning of March our greatest hopes rose with the confirmation that America’s best donut maker was coming.  

I have a pretty strong emotional connection with Dunkin Donuts.  When I was little my father and I stopped by the place at least once a week.  He’d grab a coffee and some donuts.  I’d drink a milk (chocolate, if I could get away with it) and eat my favorite donut: - The best donut of all time

  • The only reason to eat donuts
  • The purpose for which dough was created
  • The greatest tribute to Boston.


Yes, there are other donuts worth eating, but none shall ever surpass the glory of the Boston Creme.  It’s a perfect combination of chocolate, custard, and dough.  With a swig of cold milk or coffee, I doubt there’s a better breakfast taste in all America.  

This morning I rolled off my couch at 4:30.  Ouch.  Why was I doing this?  After all I woke not much later than this yesterday to travel and preach three Easter services.  This was for the donuts, for the history, for the privilege of saying, “I was there!” when the doors of the store open.  

And, yes, I was there.  I wasn’t the first though.  Nor did I think I would be.  In front of me stood a group of high school guys.  One had a video camera and filmed the young lady flipping on the “Open” sign at the front of the store.  The first kid in line said he’d been sitting there since midnight.  The two guys in front of me were late comers having shown up relatively late:  3:30 am.  

I walked into the store and placed the 17th order in the history of the establishment.  A ham, egg, and cheese croissant and iced carmel swirl latte topped off with a dozen donuts (not for me, for friends) inaugurated my new experience.  

I’ve got to say I am disappointed they don’t have any comfy chairs.  Perhaps I was hoping to much for a Starbucks-esque feng-shui.  I’m still looking for a place in town I can hit early in the morning.