Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Seeking and saving the lost

"Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of
Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was
lost."
--Luke 19:9-10 (NASB)
This is the proclamation with which Jesus answered the crowd’s bewilderment at His acceptance of Zaccheus. We have long taken this story as the great example of a short man giving up his ways of sin and giving his life to Christ. Zaccheus was lost (in sin as a tax collector) and Jesus called him and saved him.

But is this what really happened, or have we missed the deeper meaning of Jesus’ mission? If we read the previous verse (v. 8) in various translations, we get a muddy picture of Zaccheus life: was he pledging to begin giving half his possessions to the poor and paying back fourfold any ill-gotten gains, or was Zaccheus avowing what his current practice was? If you look at the Greek, I believe, the latter is the better translation (I’m no Greek scholar, so I rely on others). Zaccheus was a pious man, despite his despised profession; if Jesus came to seek him, he who was “lost” but not in the sin we supposed, then what did Jesus mean by calling Zaccheus lost?

the ElderlyThere is more to being lost than not being able to find your own way. You can be lost because you have been discarded. Discarded and rejected as Zaccheus was, not because of sin but because of who he associated with, what his job was, and the presupposition of unrighteous acts. How many people do we each know like Zaccheus, thrown away by the world and the church alike rather than embraced? I think of a guy I knew in college, who would come to sing and visit at a nursing home with me and a few others every week. He had a nice bass voice, but preferred to sing tenor horribly off-key. He did not have the greatest personality. He was run off by others who did not accept that there was more to his presence there than his voice, that he came to serve.

the orphanedI also think about several friends that Erin and I have made over the years. To the best of my knowledge, we are their only church friends; this is due at least in part to the fact that no one else has made an effort to embrace them. Erin, especially, is good at this reaching the lost – her heart is phenomenally soft and caring. But why has no one else reached out to them? And then, I see some of the non-church friends Erin has made – as worldly and sinful as you can imagine, and yet they care more for people and welcome those new to them or different from them so readily.

It is an enigma to me that I often see the world doing a better job of embracing the lost than do the arms of the body of Christ. I have read in several blogs lately of people desiring to stand up and seek the lost. People who are starting to visit nursing homes, visit orphanages, etc. How have we all been doing on the talk we made? Are we acting on our words, on the call of Jehovah? For Erin and I, we are working on becoming sponsors for a child at a children’s home in South Texas, near the Mexican border. We want to monetarily support this child; but we also wish to be a physical and emotional boon to this child, taking him or her into our home occasionally to give a chance at a life away from the cottages and other children. I’d love to hear how others have been brought to serve Christ by touching others.

And I thank God that he brought Erin to me to teach me something of how to care for others.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

New baby pictures

New Baby Euphrony at 12-1/2 weeksWhat proud daddy doesn't want to show off new pictures of his baby. Okay, so the new baby is still two trimesters away from leaving mommy, and he or she (still cannot tell yet) is only around 4-inches long. I'm still proud and we have a picture. The picture to the left is of the expected baby of Mr. and Mrs. Euphrony, at just short of 13-weeks into the pregnancy.

Of course, at this stage, a picture of the baby's face strongly resembles an alien. But, it is a cute alien, don't you think. New baby euphrony looks a lot like big sister Tabitha (pictured on the right). For those unfamiliar with ultrasound images, this is how it comes out looking in the picture. Tabitha is no more alien than is mommy or daddy. I think.


Baby Tabitha at 20 weeksThe great thing about this is that the ultrasound was totally free. As in no cost to me or the insurance company. How, you may ask, is this possible? Well, it is so simple that you wonder more people are not clued in to this fact. You see, all ultrasound techs - and doctors who need to interpret the data - need to be trained in using the ultrasound. And when they are being trained, they need good examples to view under ultrasound. Thus, for someone needing to learn how to view and analyze a child in utero, the best example is a pregnant woman. So, we find out about this, go down there with an appointment, and get an ultrasound. First, the instructor checks out the baby, and then we donate a little time for a few others to see what they can see. And so, ladies and gentlemen, the free ultrasound. No harm done (after all, they say, its just some sound waves) and we get a beautiful picture and reassurance that our baby is doing just fine.

I like it.

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Listen to this


We had a great lesson this past Sunday from our pulpit minister, Ross Thompson. He really opened his heart and took a risk of getting an earful from a few people, but he had some really good words to say. He is preaching a series on church identity - who we are, as the church. He was addressing the identity crisis that the church is in; how we struggle to find a definition of ourselves as traditional, progressive, relevant, whatever. It is about 40 minutes, but is well worth listening to. You can listen via
iTunes podcast or by Windows Media file. If you take the time to listen, even to just a piece, tell me what you think.

(Shaun Groves has been working on a 4+ part series on "HOW RELEVANT IS RELEVANT?" that is also well worth reading. If you have not yet, check it out.)

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

(Manly) Household cleaning tips

not my childLet me preface this by informing everyone that there are two women and one cat in my household. This should be interpreted as "Houston, we have a shedding problem".

So, when you live in a shed-hair filled house, what do you do? This question has plagued men for ages. I present a few of my own personal tips for coping.

  1. Hair will naturally accumulate like snow drifts or sand dunes. Over time, you will find that will add up to a large volume of hair. Do not throw this small treasure away. Instead, you can be creative and sort the hair to make a fine thread (useful for knitting shirts and sweaters) or you could keep it in bulk to make your own comfortable stuffed pillows and mattresses.
  2. What hair that does not build up into drifts will collect on the end of you broom when you sweep. Most people will pull this off, in disgust, and throw it away. I would suggest that, instead, you allow as much hair to build up as possible on the brushes. Once you have finished sweeping, you will find that your broom has been converted into a mop - just wet the "mop" and your good to go. This will save in expenses by allowing you to not buy separate, unnecessary cleaning tools.
  3. not my wifeOne thing that people dread the most is the "wet hair tangled in the shower drain" problem. This, too, can be used to your advantage. This hair is not only wet, but infused with shampoos, gels, and soaps that make it a soggy and sticky mess. This also makes it a near-perfect caulking material. Admittedly, over time the hair will dry and need to be replaced, but it is an abundant and renewable resource. Use it to seal off cracks in mortar and bricks, leaks in your shower and other plumbing fixtures, or to fill cracks in your dry wall (you will want to apply some paint to touch-up the wall repair).
not my catWe live in an age of recycling; let's not allow this vital resource to go to waste and crowd our landfills. What other ideas would you suggest? Remember, hair today gone tomorrow!



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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Humility

After my minor embarrassment of goofing up my own blog, I was reminded again of a couple of things: first, that I am an arrogant, prideful man (that simple mistake really bugged me) and second, that God wants me humble, not self-confident but confident in Him. This is a constant struggle for me, but I was also reminded of something I decided a few years ago. I decided that I would no longer pray for God to humble me.

Now, rather than praying for Jehovah to humble me, I ask that He teach me humility – it seems like a semantics issue, but there is a profound difference in the two. God is more than willing to teach us humility and show us where we need to learn to submit in our lives, but if we wait for Him to humble us, then we will receive humility at great cost. Nebuchadnezzar, in the Book of Daniel, waited for Jehovah to humble him, despite prophetic warnings from God; his humbling came through seven years of insanity, living in the fields and eating grass, before he bent knee and acknowledged Jehovah as the Most High God. In contrast, consider the men and women of the Bible who chose to learn humility:

Moses was the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3). Could he have done what he did had he not chosen to bow before the will and word of Jehovah and discard his own agenda? Not a chance!
David, in humility, constantly sought the guidance of Jehovah and His forgiveness – and is remembered as a man after God’s own heart.
Abigail humbled herself before Jehovah and before David, and her humility resulted in her own salvation and that of her entire household, save Nabal who was the one who had sinned.
Hezekiah and Josiah, both latter kings of Judah, humbled themselves before Jehovah. Because of their willingness to humble themselves and pray, confessing sin and seeking mercy, both they and Judah were spared (for a time) the coming judgment of God.
Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s humility before God lead to a revival among the remnant of Judah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego humbled themselves before God and were raised to high positions in exile under Nebuchadnezzar. There righteous behavior and humility played no small part in bringing Nebuchadnezzar to recognize the authority of Jehovah.
Isaiah humbled himself before the presence of Jehovah, declaring himself unclean – and he was cleansed!
The apostles humbled themselves before Jesus, leaving all they had and following Him, even to a life of pain, suffering, and death – receiving salvation.
Zaccheus humbled himself before Jesus, and was rewarded with a personal audience with the Messiah.
A woman came to Jesus at the home of Simon the leaper, humbling herself and anointing His feet, and her act was called good by Christ and her act of humility is remembered to this day (Matthew 26:13).
Christ himself, the Messiah, the Son of Man to whom has been given authority, laid that authority aside and humbled Himself to His Father’s will, taking shame upon shame, feeling an immense separation and distance from Jehovah as He bore the weight of our sins, dieing on the cross when He deserved so much more. Because Jesus humbled Himself, He has been placed above all things, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow (Philippians 2:6-11).

The one theme that is constant in each and every one of these lives is that they chose humility; they chose to learn and be humble before Jehovah and received magnificent gain for their initiative both for themselves and for those around them. I believe that when we simply ask God to humble us we tell Him that we are standing our ground, continuing in the life of sinful pride and selfishness that we have always lived in, and that we are waiting for Him to come and humble us.

Despite my resolution to seek to learn humility, God still steps in and humbles me in small and large things when I again become arrogant. But, it is good to be reminded in small ways - to be drawn back to God gently - rather than waiting for humility to come like it did for King Neb. (Have you ever eaten grass and hay? Not appetizing!)

Sorry for the long post, but I felt it worth sharing.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

I am so smart, s-m-r-t


There is a clip from The Simpson's that I love to hear occasionally. Homer is going around, rather proud of himself, singing "I am so smart, I am so smart, s-m-r-t, I mean s-m-a-r-t". That is me, today. I am a reasonably intelligent man, and rather tech-savvy. So why did it take me three months of blogging to figure out that I was moderating comments and had no clue I was doing it!?!? I believe the only thing I can say is "arrgh!" and "doh!". I sit here writing with some difficulty, because there is egg on my face and the yolks are interfering with my vision of the computer screen.

From this day forward, moderation is officially turned off, and the couple of back comments have been approved and published (dating back two months to late June, arrgh!).

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Go read Erin-Lo today

I you want to read a series of touching stories in the journey of one couple to adopt a little girl, go to Erin-Lo's blog. Erin and Jeff are currently in Vietnam, where they just received their new daughter, Selah. They've had pictures of her for the last five or so months, but now they can actually hold her. It's amazing to follow the progression of her posts over the last week as they traveled from the U.S. to Vietnam and then to the village where Selah waited for them. Lots of people are very happy for them, right now.

If you can, take a minute to pray for them, though, as an potential problem with the INS in Vietnam has materialized and may delay their return home. They long to come home and introduce Selah to her two big brothers.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Titillated to Boredom


Every day, as I commute between home and work (about 12 miles), I drive by three (count 'em, three) strip clubs. After you make the drive a few thousand times, you start to notice a few things, even about the places you try to avoid. For example, one of the clubs always posts on their sign what the lunch and dinner buffets are. Another one has taken to advertising their big screen TV’s as a great place to watch various sporting events.

It struck me today just how odd this is. I mean, I would have assumed that anyone entering one of these three places would be rather distracted by the club’s primary business, but it would seem not. Apparently, the titillating is now so mainstream, so commonplace, that it has become boring. This spoke volumes to me when I though about it. We, as a society, have so over-indulged our desires that we have become blasé to things that should affront us.

The point is this - I am going to start looking at my own life to see where apathy may be taking hold and convincing me that my sin is little more than a foible. What do you think: where have we as a society, and we as the church, become accustomed to our own actions and lost the will of God?

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How can I compete with that?

I was reading over on Shlog today. Shaun Groves was giving a little confessional (in part) about his own youthfull hubris and the importance of "relevance" in today's church. I also read today's "Kudzu" comic strip and thought the two went together quite well.



Check out Shaun's post
here. He promisses to finish his thoughts tomorrow.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

What a weekend

I need a break. We had a very full weekend, but definitely a good one. It all started on Friday afternoon. We dropped off Tabitha with some friends and Erin and I, to celebrate our 10th anniversary, went downtown and had The Lion Kingdinner at a fabulous restaurant (for those who live in Houston, check out Mia Bella Trattoria at Main and Preston, great food and our favorite restaurant). After dinner, we headed over to the Hobby center to see the touring production of The Lion King, which was fabulous. By the time we got out of the show, picked up Tabitha, and got home it was around 12:30. A late night for our family.

So, what do we do to recover from a late Friday night - on Saturday we get up early and drive up to College Station for a reunion of a bunch of college friends. We had 14 adults and, get this,

16 kids (and one couple doesn't have kids yet). Have you ever felt seriously outnumbered? That was Saturday. It was good to see everyone; most of these folks we only get to see once a year at this reunion. You try to keep the kid's names straight, thought; I'm not up to the task. After a full day of water play, hot dogs, smoked pork and brisket, and no dairy anywhere (one child has a severe dairy allergy) we were exhausted. Tabitha showed this by throwing a fit at bed time (part tired, part I'm hungry because I didn't eat my dinner). Oh, yeah, she also woke me up several times during the night to tell me to stop snoring! The picture above was taken Saturday afternoon in the Flag Room of the Memorial Student Center, where we used to hang out in between classes.

On Sunday, we all got up and went to the church we attended during college then went to one couples house for lunch. Erin, Tabitha, and I had to head back to Houston pretty quick, because Erin is working on a play that will perform over Labor Day weekend. It is being put on by BIRTH, an organization that seeks to better inform women about the birth process and choices they have. The play is a collection of interwoven monologues giving the perspective of seven women's birth stories. Erin is playing one of the of women, as well as assistant directing. So, we get home and Erin heads off for rehearsal.

Busy weekend, but it's over now. Time to relax with my "easy" work week. Maybe I'll get luck and slip into a delusional state where work gets done, but I get relaxed and rested. Maybe. Maybe not.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Prayer focus

Please take a moment to notice the top prayer item I have on the left, for several friends in deep marital troubles. Erin and I have two couples close to us whose marriages are in dire straights. One couple, the husband has been living separately for a few weeks. The other couple, the husband moved out this week and signed a one-year lease on an apartment. Both are families dedicated to the Lord, but seemingly have forgotten the blessings God gave when He joined them to their spouses. I won't go into any detail except to ask you to pray that their hearts are softened to each other and that the distractions of this world which pull them apart are muted or removed. Both families have young children who are confused by what is going on, so please pray for the kids as well as the parents.

Too amusing to pass up

What happens when you have diet coke, mentos, a buddy, and way, way, way too much time on your hands? Apparently, you get this symphony.



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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The secret origin of euphrony

It finally happened. I knew this day was coming, when my past would catch up with me, but I dreaded it. Like a fish that flops out of the water and smacks you in the face, I was hit with the question: what does euphrony mean? It was Kat who asked, brave and foolish, and I gave her a part of the answer, brushing the surface of this shallow pond that is euphrony. But the time has come for the true, secret origin of the man you know as euphrony to be revealed.

Kat can now tell you the basics. From Greek, euphrony means literally "good mind" or "true mind" (i.e. well thought or fully thought). From literature, Euphrony is also the name of a William Faulkner character in Sartoris and Flags in the Dust (actually, the Faulkner character is a woman, but Euphrony is rather gender-neutral). As to why I use this name, it has little to do with either literature or Greek origins, and is another story. A story whose time has come.

Back in the old college days, a good buddy of mine (Scott over at
TheForce.net) drew a comic strip for a weekly newsletter he and I and a few others put out for our college group (the Aggies for Christ). The main character was the aptly named Jim Shorts, along with girlfriend Ella Funt and sidekick Euphroni (note the spelling). Euphroni was a go-getter, always doing and never slowing even when going 90 down the wrong side of the freeway during rush hour traffic. Euphroni died an untimely death (as did the whole comic strip) when Scott lost time and interest; but from the ashes of this memory a calling stirred in me - the internet anonymity. I did not want all this information seeking scam artists (harder to filter out in the early days) knowing who I really was and I needed a secret identity to insulate me from the prying eyes of the world. Euphroni was calling to be reborn in the form of a pseudonym, but one obstacle remained: that -i had to go. To avoid complex legal proceedings in assuming this name from Scott's character, I made him my own with a -y.

And now you know the truth. Now you can say "I know the truth". Guard this secret, for it is the secret which keeps me safe. At least I didn't feel the pull of "bat boy".

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sara Groves Just Showed Up


Okay, here's a shameless plug for my favorite artist. Sara Groves has just released a
documentary DVD. It's part music, part back-stage pass, part chronicle of her ministry efforts post-Katrina and in Rwanda. Looks like good stuff. Let's all check it out; shall we?

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Friday, August 04, 2006

The Word of God

I have been considering of late what it is that we (servants of Jehovah) are. We call ourselves Christians, literally "of Christ", as He spoke of us in John 6:56. We are children of God. We are the body of Christ. We are the Word of God to man.

You may wonder a bit at this last description, as it is how John described Jesus; but I believe it to be accurate of us as well. Consider that we are in Christ and He in us (John 6), in the same way that Jesus is in the Father and the Father in Him (
John 10:28). We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and we have the Spirit to guide us and "inspire" us. If Christ is the Word of God to man, made flesh, then does not the Word fill us? When we speak, do we not speak the Word of God? When we act, do we not act out the Word that is written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, 2 Corinthians 3:3)? This is what we too often forget: our lives are not separated into religious and secular times, actions, and events but all is entwined as we continuously speak and live out the Word.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV)
We are His ambassadors to the world, a full time calling, even as we work and live in the professions to which God has also called us. There are those who use the blessings of God to bless others, both spiritually and physically. I recently came across a recent story (here) about the daughter of an old family friend, Ellen Little. Ellen is a perfect example of using her blessings to bless; led by God to become a doctor, she also heard His call to spread the gospel. She lives in Uganda, providing medical and spiritual aid to all who need. The story I read about her relates how she helped a 1-year old Sudanese girl travel to the U.S.A. to receive multiple heart operations, which saved her life. In this, the girl's family also saw the wonder of Jehovah at work.

What Ellen does is what Sara Groves has called "adding to the beauty". Her latest album, Add to the Beauty, revolves around this theme and a quote from Mother Theresa - "You can do no great things, just small things with great love." This theme of living as beautiful before God has been resonating in my heart, even before I heard Sara Groves' album. In the title song from the album, she proclaims "This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful." We readily seek grace, but are we responding to that grace, adding to the beauty that God works around us?

Are we being His ambassadors, as Paul wrote? Are we living as the Word made flesh, or have we made this worship of Jehovah a part-time job? These questions fill me as I struggle to answer them honestly in my own life.


What about you - where do you find your answer to this struggle?

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My Favorite Song

I was drawn into a post on Five Cent Stand today, talking about the despondency of those in nursing homes. This is a special subject to me because of the years I spent visiting a nursing home every week when I was in college, singing with the people there. Following my own bunny trail, I soon found myself thinking about the songs we sang there, which lead me to think about the songs we sang every week, and the one song that we sang without fail – sometimes more than once a night – because they always asked for it. The song I came to dread because I wanted something different. The song I would not sing of my own volition. The song that now is my favorite song. It isn’t very popular nowadays. It’s downbeat; we want peppy. It’s mournful; we want cheery. It’s slow; we want toe-tapping. It’s old; we look for new things. It’s also magnificent in the promise it conveys, and the promise I make in singing these words is taxing and life-changing. I can hardly sing this song, because of the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I think of the beauty of the song and the beauty of the people who asked to hear it so many times. It shames me as I remember how I resisted singing this song with the people who cherished it, and it draws me close to my God and Savior. My favorite song:

THE OLD RUGGED CROSS
On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff'ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
Where his glory forever I'll share.

So I'll cherish the rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down'
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

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