Sunday, September 14, 2008

Corn, Kevin Costner, and the Beginning of a Dream

Personally, I am amazed at how God takes the little we have and does what he does best...multiply it! There really is no limit. Yeah, we have limits, but God...nah, he just does what he does. So, I'm sitting at one of my two jobs and a thought runs through my head, "plant a church." Seriously, for whatever reason God just gives me this wierd thought. I know, it's kind of like that Kevin Costner film where this voice says, "if you build it, they will come." Well, the only thing in common with that is he was surrounded by corn (yep, that happened), and lived in the state of Iowa (that's me too). Other than that it's just two outdated guys trying to listen to a voice coming from the air sounding like James Earl Jones.

So, here I am responding to this dream I have had for over two years. Planting a church and expecting God to do something with it. Here's what's really cool. I'm surrounded by a great team. People with the same dream and vision. I'm not sure if they heard voices coming from the corn or not, but hey, at this point - it doesn't matter. Our hearts are united and the our leader said, go for it. Get ready Oskaloosa...a little boy is showing up with five loaves and two fish...and looking for a miracle!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My "Picture-carrying Jesus" Class

If there was a way to know God completely I wonder if I would go crazy just trying to figure it out. God doesn’t reveal himself completely. He won’t. He’s a mystery, one that Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew wouldn’t even come close to unraveling. And yet that one verse intrigues me. You know the one – “…and my sheep know me.” (John 10:14)

I think when I’m dead someday, and my spirit connects with Jesus somewhere out there, I will know him completely. The lines in his face will all make sense, his height, his weight, all that stuff will help me understand why I’ve limited God to just someone I met one day. I know this doesn’t make sense, but I’m tired of trying to picture the Jesus I love and serve. You know, frame him in; put the matting around the borders.

If it was only that easy.

I could put him in my pocket. Carry him around with me. Pulling him out to meet my need or when I see one. That would be easy, wouldn’t it?

And yet I have this irresistible passion to know him…to understand him…to touch him. But all I have is this picture in my pocket. And I do my best with it. I really do. God gave me an A- the other day in my “Picture-carrying Jesus” class.

I could probably move my grade to an A+ if I could figure out a way to straighten out the rough edges that have been forming around my picture. But I’m tired. So I think I’ll just be happy with the grade I got. It’s okay. It’s my picture.

Actually I’m not okay. That picture I have is not enough. I need more than that. What if I lose it? What if someone steals it? The other day I entered a small town restaurant and immediately people were looking at me. Probably wondering who I was, maybe I would be someone they knew. I thought since I had their attention I would show them my picture, but I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t there.

I panicked.

They went back to eating. I found a table and sat down. Frustrated that no one would be able to see the picture I had…well, at least I thought I had it. The club sandwich hit the spot. Nice place to eat. I asked the waitress if she was from the area. She said, yes. I went to pull out my picture to show her. It wasn’t there. She left. I finished my diet Pepsi, paid and left.

I got a D that day in my “Picture-carrying Jesus” class.

I’m beginning to wonder if there is something wrong with the picture. It should be everything I need. Hope, faith, love is all found in that picture. It’s all there! Come on.

In my pursuit of knowing God completely, I keep coming up short. I’ve been walking around the last few months showing everybody my picture. Letting them take a good look at the One who can meet every need they have or could even dream of having.

Check out this picture Mall.
Check out this picture Church.
Check out this picture City.
Check out this picture Friend.
Check out this picture Enemy.
Check it out. Isn’t it cool? It’s incredible, isn’t it?

The heck with the picture, I’ve decided to rip it up. It’s not cool; it’s a picture.

It can’t talk.
It can’t smell.
It can’t feel.
It can’t see.
It can’t hear.

I know it can’t hear, because I yelled at it the other day. I pulled it out of my pocket on my way home from that small town restaurant, and I yelled at it. Where were YOU? Why couldn’t I find YOU?

I ripped it up. It’s gone. I no longer have a picture in my pocket.

And then it happened. Are you ready? This is weird. When I ripped up the picture I was taking a huge step of faith. Huge. Big. Grandiose. And I didn’t even know it. That picture was my everything, everything I needed to live my life. Without it I’m nothing. I’m unworthy, unclean…

…and yet I can see God better than ever. Wow, how did you get so big, God? Were you always so big? He said, “Yes! Always. And I’ve been waiting for you to know me the way that I Am.” “Sweetness,” was about the best word I could think of at the moment. I remembered the time I was five, and I was sneaking a peak out of my living room window as my mom took one of our chickens and chopped its head off. The chicken danced for a while, as if it was free from something, as if the party was only beginning…and then it stopped. Lifeless. The party was over. It lay dead. I cried. My mom killed the family chicken!

We all ate chicken that night.

There is something about the death of a chicken and the death of a picture that leaves a feeling of vulnerability. And in our vulnerability God shows up. The real God, the One who isn’t printed on a picture somewhere. And he looks so much different than my ripped up picture.

He always did.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Staring at Jesus

I'm curious about something. When Peter, after denying Jesus three times, looked up and met the eyes of Jesus staring back at him what did he think about? Did he even think? Or did Peter just stare back at him. When I was a kid I remember going to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio. I would walk through the gate with my parents and just stare. The roller coasters seemed bigger than life. Or the time when I went to a Carmen concert and had a hard time believing that the person I listened to on my tape player (yes, that's not a typo) three hours a day was actually a real person and he was standing in front of me. Or when I stepped out into Cleveland Municipal Stadium to watch my first ever major league baseball game.

It's called when dreams become reality. Are dreams suppose to turn out that way? Aren't they just suppose to stay, you know, dreams?

So Peter is left staring at this man, who was God, and who had told him earlier that he would deny Jesus three times. This wasn't suppose to happen this way, was it? I think Peter dreamed of staying faithful to Jesus. His dreams were passionate, probably killing hundreds of soldiers as they attempted to take Jesus away. He dreamed of walking on lakes and rivers with Jesus just talking and never once beginning to sink. He dreamed of healing his own blind man, and feeding his own 5000.

And then he'd dream every once in a while of Jesus' prediction...the betrayal. It was frightening. It seemed too real.

Until one night in a courtyard...his dream became reality. And all he could do was stare. I've done it, betrayed Jesus. Sometimes I can muster up an "I'm sorry." Sometimes all I can do is stare. Staring is like being speechless, only with the eyes. And sometimes being speechless can mean a lot more than saying something.

It's as if Jesus just stared back at him as if to say, "Don't say anything...don't even think." Just learn from the moment. And Peter did.

And so did I as I stared at the roller coaster, Carmen and the Cleveland Indians. Sometimes dreams become reality - good or bad. And if you find yourself staring back just consider it part of the journey...and learn something from it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Flying Monkeys and Evil Munchkins

Why is it we always have to follow the rules? Do you ever wonder if there is someone who sits in an office in some tall building and spends all day just writing all the rules to everything? His name is probably Himey and he's probably single. He has no life other than to mess with ours. Jesus says we have to love people like that. I say, "You've got to be kidding me!" Jesus doesn't really kid much, but he does let me be me, and I say, "you've got to be kidding me."

I don't see a lot of places in the Bible that Jesus went around writing rules down for people to follow. He pretty much just lived a perfect life. He was the rule. You wanna follow the rules...follow Jesus. Not an easy task, but following the rules never is.

I remember when I was nine and I was suppose to be home by dark. Well, to make a very good story (with lots of action and suspense) short. I didn't start for home until after dark. That was stupid for two reasons: First, my mom and dad would be ticked, and so I might as well figure out which dictionary I would put in the seat of my pants to soften the blow. And second, it was dark, and I was alone, and I had to walk down this alley lined with tall trees that were pretty much there to swallow me up. Unfortunately, I must have just watched The Wizard of Oz, because I could of sworn I saw flying monkeys and evil munchkins (of course, they weren't actually evil in the movie).

Needless to say I ran home as fast as I could, all the while dodging flying monkeys, and hurdling the evil munchkins. I made it home and guess what was waiting for me? The rulemaster himself, my dad. After trying to argue the fact that it wasn't yet dark in every part of the world. I realized I needed to find the hard-covered dictionary...and fast! The rest as the say - is history (don't always believe the people who tell you that history lessons are a lot of fun).

Rules. Made to break? Some say yes, I say it's not worth your time. Most are for your own good, or for the good of the country or something like that. If you're a follower of Jesus, and you are trying to follow the rules; then just follow him. Let's quit griping about the rules and just put all that energy into following the Rulemaster...Jesus. He will always protect you from the flying monkeys and evil munchkins!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

What the...

Life is weird, don't ya think? Sometimes the minutes go by fast and other times it's like you're in slo mo'. My relationship with God is exactly like that. At times it's moving like Lightning McQueen and other times it's as slow as a dump truck. Maybe that's normal. Too be honest with you I don't know. I wish God would just drive at a steady speed so that I can always figure out where he's going.

Lately, I've been like the kid in the back seat yelling, "Are we there yet?" You see God has been up to something in my personal life, good stuff; healthy stuff. But I just can't get a handle on the destination yet, and so most of my prayers are spent asking God for details. Some people ask God for good health, or money, or to be a good person. Me? I just ask him for details. Yeah, give me some idea what the arrival point looks like.

I have been dreaming about a ministry in Rock County, Wisconsin for a couple of months now and I am beginning to head towards somewhere. It's definitely a God thing. It involves a lot of trusting, faith and obedience. My report card looks like this:
Trusting - B
Faith - A-
Obedience - B-

I'll keep ya posted...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


A little boy went walking through the woods one day and ran across an uprooted tree. His curiosity led him to fully investigate the situation. He noticed the roots had separated revealing a tunnel. He looked around wondering if he should do what his imagination was telling him. He did. He crawled into the tunnel and found himself inside this big, dark cave. He was probably one of the bravest boys in his fourth grade class, which is obviously why he continued down the long, black cavern.

After about five hours of crawling (really about three minutes), he started to see a little light. He crept closer and closer as the light grew brighter and brighter. “Ouch!” he yelled. He had hit his head on something metal. It was like a metal waffle with light pushing through the grid. He pushed on it. Finally it broke loose and was pushed to the side. Out popped his head and his eyes quickly grew wide.

“Are you ready for dinner, Jeff? Get up here and sit down,” yelled his mother from above the table. He couldn’t believe it! He was in his dining room at home! He brushed himself off and sat down next to his three brothers.

“Where have you been?” said his father.
“Oh, nowhere really,” the son said. He smiled to himself as he thought about the next time he would go walking through the woods.

My mom use to tell me stories like this before bedtime. Then I grew up. That’s really too bad, because as I become more “grown-up” I forget that God really gave me a vivid imagination. So, I’ve been challenging myself to start using it again, you know, before I get set in my ways. Sometimes God uses our imagination to challenge us to explore our faith, to try something new and exciting. That’s what my plan is for today, what’s yours?