Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Poll: Calling 911

Have you ever had to call 911 for any reason? I'll group this into three categories:

  1. No, never for any reason;
  2. Yes, for a minor accident (e.g. fender-bender); and
  3. Yes, for a serious/dangerous/life-threatening situation.
Driving in Houston, I see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles all the time. I was just wondering this morning how often normal people are actually involved in such actions. I've been in a few accidents over the years, and 911 has been called to get a police/ambulance response, but most of those have been minor and precautionary. There have been two serious incidents where I had to call 911 over a potentially life-threatening situation (interestingly, both occurred while living in College Station and not in Houston).

The first time was a few months after our marriage; we were living in what turned out to be not the nicest apartments and one of our neighbors, while generally a nice lady, got into some big arguments with her ex. One night, around 1 or 2 a.m., we heard them outside arguing with such ferocity and vehemence that we decided police involvement was needed to calm this domestic dispute (from talking with a cousin who is a cop, these are usually the worst kinds of situations).

The second time we called 911 was a few months before we left College Station. We were living in a decent rent house in a decent neighborhood. Our house backed up to a creek, so there was a little separation between us and the houses behind us. One night, I think it was around midnight, we noticed a glow coming in from our bedroom sliding glass door which led to the back porch. When I got up to investigate, I saw that the warm orange glow was emanating from a tree in the backyard just across the creek from ours, quickly becoming engulfed in flames. No idea how it started, but I didn't want to see it grow.

What stories do you have?

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Monday, October 30, 2006

taerT-ro-kcirT

Tonight, our small group from church (mostly young families) met at a local nursing home to do some reverse trick-or-treating. We get all the kids dressed up in their costumes and walked through the halls of the nursing home just after dinner, passing out candy (mostly sugar-free) to the residents. I'm sure they enjoy the candy, those who can still eat it. But, what they just about go ape over is seeing these little children, reminding them of earlier days and of their own families. Reminding them that there is more than the four walls, the nurses, meals and TV and the same people over and over again. There is an innate joy in kids - the smiles on their faces, the shyness, the hesitation that you know they have but overcome anyway to give you some candy and say "Happy Halloween!"

The picture above is the group of kids when we first arrived at the nursing home. The picture to the right is the children in action. There were a handful of people who wanted nothing to do with anything Halloween, but most greeted the kids with that same smile you see on this woman's face. The third picture is that of two of the children, only one month different in age and living around the corner from each other.

In case you were wondering, I am the father of the bride. And I've got my eye on Spiderman there. I guess I don't worry so much about him, mainly because Little Euphrony has been grooming at least half a dozen of these boys for her future selection (without them having a clue, of course).

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Spooky Food

I'm sure just about every one who has a work cafeteria will be looking at the menu for tomorrow, Halloween, and see some bizarre food listed. Here is our menu for tomorrow; what's lined up for you? For those of you who stay at home or do not have a work cafeteria, what are you planning on serving your kids or what are some of the unusual menu items you've seen for Halloween?

Euphrony's Work Menu for Halloween 2006:

Fired Bat Wings with fries

Dem Bones or Black Widow Cod with your choice of
Crow Brains
Fried Eyeballs
Frog Eggs
Squish Squash

Graveyard Goulash
Trick or Treat Chili (they could have done better on that one)

Greek Salad with Grilled Witch Fingers

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

No tiers in heaven?

Our church small groups have lately been studying from a workbook called Blueprint for Life by Michael Kendrick and Ben Ortlip. It takes you through the process of understanding that God created you to do "good works" and that the things you do should be with an eye toward heaven rather than earth. To help in this, they take you through the process of creating a blueprint that describes oneself, how you were made, how you are called to live, the things you are called to do.

They bring up a question in chapter two for discussion, citing
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and Matthew 16:27, and asking "will all Christians receive the same rewards in Heaven?" The language they use, both in the reading of the chapter and in the questions would seem to indicate that they think the answer is "yes".

What do you have to say? Are there levels in heaven? I have a pretty confident answer from my own thoughts on the matter, but I want to get a flavor of what other people out there are thinking. If you look at the verses referenced above, following the link provided, you can read each in multiple translations including the original Greek (for you nerds out there like me).

Tags:
Christian Living, Heaven, Blueprint, Bible, Rewards

Monday, October 23, 2006

Songs for a little girl

When we were expecting our first child, one of the things we did was play music for the her in the womb. We have a little speaker that can be strapped around the waist, positioned over the child, and any form of media player attached though the headphone jack. (Trust me, it works considerably better that just putting headphones on the belly.) It limits play time in one sessions to around 8 minutes (to ensure that the baby is not over-exposed to sound waves), but is a wonderful way to begin exposing a child to music. We played all kinds of music for Little Euphrony before she was ever born, letting her hear all styles of music to establish her "ear".

To accompany this, being a very musically inclined person, I put together a CD of music especially selected for her listening pleasure. They were songs that meant (and still mean) a great deal to me from various genres that I wanted to share with my child. Even after she was born, I would play this for her, often singing along, as I rocked her to calm her when she was upset or in the car to continue to give her music that with which she had become familiar. I bring this up because I am reworking this CD for our new baby, due in four months, to give him the same exposure and share with him, as well, my deep love of music.

Here are the songs on the original CD for Little Euphrony, along with some of my thoughts on why they were included. When Baby Euphrony's CD is compiled, I will add that final list. My only basic limitation in musical selection was and is the aforementioned eight-minute listening time limit. Oh, yeah, I don't want anything on the CD that I would not listen to. Or anything that would make the baby do flips and wonder if the world was ending (so, it tends to be a bit more easy-listening music).


  1. Aaron Copland - "Fanfare for the Common Man"
    I dare you to name a composer who better captures the heart of Americans than Copland. Go ahead, try. "Fanfare", in its grandiose movement, pulls the strings in our hearts that have been attuned over the centuries to believe that we are meaningful, that we can accomplish things seemingly impossible, that we are more than a simple collection of cells but are of value. Listening to this, you sit up a little straighter, puff your chest out a bit, and in general just feel pretty good.

  2. Rich Mullins - "Awesome God"
    The most important thing Mrs. Euphrony and I want to share with our children is our faith. "Awesome God" came out around the time I really started listening to CCM music, and hearing it affected me. It still affects me, as it seems to affect so many others. We have evidenced before us - in nature, in scripture, and in one another - the work of El Shaddai, God Almighty, and of Yahweh tsaba, the LORD of the hosts of armies. It is good to remember this.

  3. Benny Goodman - "Sing Sing Sing"
    Okay, so I've got a little swing in my heart. This is a toe-tapping song that even people who are not fans of Big Band music know and like. I remember the first time I ever heard it, on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, sometime in the early '80s. Doc Severinsen and the band were given one of their rare chances to fill time with a number of their own, and they played this. The number was interrupted by breaking news of a major earthquake, so I didn't hear the whole song at that time; but, the pounding of the drums, blaring horns, and amazing clarinet have to this day never left my head.

  4. Steve Camp - "He Covers Me"
    For me, this song is a confessional. All to frequent are the times when I know of God but do not know God. Steve Camp, never one to soft-peddle the gospel, sings in this song one verse after another; he defines what is it to find strength in our weakness, to rest in the hand of Jehovah, to have hope (an upcoming blog topic) and to endure. If there is something I want my children to know, everyone to know, it is the comfort of shelter in our Lord.

  5. Mark Knopfler - "Once Upon a Time . . .Storybook Love"
    "Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam... And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva... So tweasure your wuv." I love The Princess Bride, and the music from it is so engaging. Mark Knopfler scored this movie on the condition that the hat Rob Reiner wore in This is Spinal Tap appear in the movie at some point. For those of you who do not recognize the name of Mark Knopfler, you will surely recognize his voice as he leads Dire Straits singing such classics as "Money for Nothing (I Want My MTV)" and "Sultans of Swing". He has a great mastery of music in many styles, and the theme "Storybook Love" showcases some of this. By the way, if you like the movie, read the book by William Goldman sometime - its even better.

  6. Rich Mullins - "Sometimes by Step"
    Only three artists made double hits on this CD, and Rich Mullins is one of those. "Sometimes by Step" is another one of his iconic pieces, now a ubiquitous piece of modern worship music. But for me, the best memory is hearing my little girl, still trying to master basic speech, singing "Oh God . . . are God . . . I . . . praise you" as this song played. One of my best memories ever.

  7. Glen Miller - "Moonlight Serenade"
    Again, I love big band music, and Glen Miller helped define what is Big Band. A soothing song to hear, "Moonlight Serenade" is one of my favorites from Glen Miller, and it fit the mood perfectly to go at Number 7 on this CD.

  8. Glad - "And Can It Be"
    Glad released there first of many a capella projects in 1988, and on it they performed versions of several classic hymns. "And Can It Be" (or "Amazing Love") was one of those that struck me from the moment I first heard their singing. Glad is a talented group, both with instruments and without, and their five- and six-part harmonies are gorgeous. Beautiful sounds and lyrics, all together, cannot be passed by.

  9. Wayne Watson - "Friend of a Wounded Heart"
    This is one of those songs that has such a deep history with me that words can barely describe how it has spoken to me and moved me over the years. Wayne Watson has fallen out of the CCM spotlight in recent years, but he did and does make powerful music. In hearing this song, I wanted my daughter to know that faith is a journey. I wanted her to know that this journey has a destination; though the road be hard, there is rest and redemption. There is healing. There is a high priest "who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin."

  10. Enya - "A Day Without Rain"
    The album of which this song is the title track became very popular in the USA after Septebmer 11th. There is a good reason for that. Enya's music is, for the most part, calming. It conveys peace; peace that we seek so earnestly but never seem to grab hold of when it is found. This song is one that lets you sit back, close your eyes, and picture that perfect, cloudless day.

  11. The King's Singers - "The Oak and the Ash"
    Not very well known in the States, The King's Singers are one of the worlds best vocal groups. Their membership includes, I believe, three or four people with perfect pitch and one man who is a countertenor (basically, a man naturally born with a vocal range more similar to a soprano). Being a country boy who at times wishes he could leave city life forever and retreat to the star-filled night sky of the country, this song speaks to me. It tells of the longing of one who had "strayed" to London but longed to return to the north country.

  12. David Meece - "My Father's Chair"
    A few years ago KSBJ, here in Houston, had their 20th anniversary concert. It featured a large number of artists, most of whom were given time for only two songs and a hasty retreat from the stage. David Meece was one of these artists. Rather than singing two songs, he spent the first half of his time telling about his relationship with his father. His father, the drunkard. His father, the abusive man. His father, absent for much of his life. His Father, who teaches him where his earthly father failed. His Father, who comforts and calls him. He then sang this song. I had loved the song for years before this event, but I was able to see the impact it had on those there. In the song, David Meece spends one verse talking about the his father's chair "covered with sheets and gloom", one verse talking about his own chair as a father, which he hopes his children will remember as sitting "in a loving room", and one verse about his Father's chair which "holds glory beyond the tomb". As a parent, I have always aspired to have a chair not like the first verse but like that in the second.

  13. Newsong - "Arise, My Love"
    Newsong was another of those artists that was one of the first I discovered when I first was listening to CCM. Their song "Light Your World" was almost in this place, one of the first songs to encourage me to do something with this religion of love I professed. But instead, I ended up selecting "Arise, My Love" for its storytelling and the hope it builds in my heart (I return to this topic of hope). The chorus is rather anthemic, you find you cannot help but join in singing God's call to His Son to arise, break the binding of the grave, and bring life.

  14. Enya - "Pilgrim"
    The second of the artists to find multiple purchase on this compilation, Enya is among my long-time favorite New Age artists. This song, also off the album A Day Without Rain, fits what I like most about music, movies, stories, whatever. It tells the story of a journey, as a pilgrim, seeking answers that may never be known but finding out that it is what is lived in the journey that makes answers the questions. I want my children to ask questions, I want them to be inquisitive not just in their youth but as they grow older. Most especially, I want them to question God; but as pilgrims, I want them to question God while listening for His answers.

  15. Michael W. Smith - "The Throne"
    Part of his earlier music, "The Throne" is a depiction of, well, God on His throne. Not very complex, but emphasizing honoring God and the hope we find in that glorious day we gather round His seat in heaven.

  16. David Meece - "We Are the Reason"
    The final artist to be doubly-chosen on this CD was David Meece. As I implied with "My Father's Chair", he writes powerful music. This one, often pigeon-holed as a Christmas song, speaks another lesson I want my children to know in their bones, and one I need to be reminded of regularly. It is the "milk" of the gospel, and though we need "meat" to grow we also need to continue taking the "milk" as our foundation. Jesus died for us, so that we might live. Our sins, our unrighteous acts, our rebellion is why He came and why He died. The gift was not in His coming, but in His death and His return.

  17. Hans Zimmer & Stephen Schwartz - "When you Believe"
    From The Prince Of Egypt soundtrack, this song is my favorite. As I write these descriptions, I find myself to be running low on words; but, in short, it is the hope that is espoused in the lyrics, that when you believe and peservere in God, your hopes will be met. "Though hope is frail, its hard to kill . . ." I believe this, and cling to a hope I try to instill in my family and my friends.

  18. Take 6 - "Let the Words"
    I was looking for a closer for the CD, and was running very short on space (so it had to be a short song or none at all). It occurred to me that Take 6 had already provided a wonderful closer, and it was a short song. "Let the Words" simply says that that which overflows from my heart be in accordance with God's will. Let my words bring Him praise. Enough said.


What do you think? What are some songs you might use? I know that several of these songs will not stick around for Baby Euphrony's CD, as I have found other songs that have impacted me greatly in the four years since I made this one, but many of them will remain.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

116 Days

Mrs. Euphrony has, for the last few years, directed our church's annual VBS musical. It occurs the last week in June and this year the theme was "Daniel: God's Mane Man" (Please refrain from throwing rotten tomatoes at your computers as you read the use of "mane" in the title. Remember, its for the kids.) A big part of the story in the musical was, of course, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego and the fiery furnace. From the time our Little Euphrony saw the musical, she has insisted that her bedtime story be one thing and one thing only. "I want to read Rack, Shack, and Benny!" "But I said I want to read Rack, Shack, and Benny!!!" (she also loves the VeggieTales version.)

This lovely streak ended last night at 116 days. After a Wednesday night Bible class that focused on Jesus entry into Jerusalem, she wanted to read that story.

New fads never last, though. Tonight we were back to Rack, Shack, and Benny. She may actually learn something about Jesus, in spite of herself.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Portland

Let me preface this by noting that while in Portland, Maine the temperature averaged a high of 60oF with a breeze and crystal clear, blue skies. As I write this, back in Houston, it is pouring down rain hard enough to crack concrete and in enough quantity to make me begin constructing an ark. I'm glad I'm home, but I want last week's Portland weather back.

I'd never been to New England before this trip. It was a great trip. The conference went very well, and my head didn't even explode from information overload. After a two-day short course, 240 papers presented (of which I attended about 40) and around 70 posters perused, I was worn out. Mrs. Euphrony made it up the night before the conference ended (in spite of having her connecting flight canceled at the last minute and completely
Portland Head Light from seachanging her schedule). Our first full day together (Friday) we slept very late (okay, I was up before 8, ate breakfast and lazed around while I let my exhausted wife sleep till 11). That afternoon we got out and went to see the Portland Head Light (pictured in my last blog), which is the second-oldest lighthouse in the USA and, by what I was told, the most photographed lighthouse in the world. Here is another picture of the lighthouse from sea that shows the strong surf that strikes the area. After walking the park where the lighthouse is for a while and looking at the coastline and the foliage, we decided to go in and do a little shopping at The Maine Mall and we went to see The Guardian with Kevin Costner at a local theater. A good day, lots of relaxation, no set timeline for things to get done; just be there and do whatever.

foliage from the baySaturday was a little more planned than was Friday. We got up and went over to Portland Harbor (only about half a mile from the hotel) and took a 90-minute harbor cruise (where the above picture of the lighthouse was taken). We got to see several other lighthouses in the area, along with some of the islands in Casco Bay and the Civil War forts that remain in the bay. The picture on the left is of some foliage on one of these small islands. It was positively freezing while on the water, but the sights were great. foliage from the bayAfter the harbor tour, and trading in our rental car (flat tire, and I wasn't going out driving on a doughnut), we meandered up the coast to the north of Portland for a while. The picture on the right was taken during our drive. We stopped in Freeport, where they have a large, open-air market with lots of outlet shops, including the original L.L. Bean store. We ate dinner there and headed back to the hotel.

foliage from the bayOn Sunday, we decided to be adventurous and drive down to Boston - only about a two-hour jaunt. We stopped in Salem for lunch, and went over to Gloucester, in Cape Ann, to catch a whale-watching tour. It took us out about twenty miles off the coast and we saw five humpbacks. On the ride back in, I took this picture of Boston from the harbor at sunset. After the whale watching, we finished the drive in to Boston and ate dinner on the wharf. The cost of parking was exorbitant, but the food was great.

After dinner, we headed back to Portland, got up Monday morning and headed to the airport. (If we had planned, we would have stayed in Boston Sunday night and flew out from there.) The short flight from Portland to Newark was easy. The flight from Newark to Houston was delayed for 2-1/2 hours due to bad weather in Houston (we spent more than an hour sitting in the plane on the runway in Newark). We finally got home and were greeted by a very giggly three year old girl. After all the problems getting home, it was good to see that smiling face.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Euphrony and Elvis

Portland Head LightSeth demanded a blog, and so here it is. I'll be brief this time but, in the next day or two, will talk more about the Portland trip and other things. (The picture on the right is one I took of the Portland Head Light; it is the second oldest lighthouse in the United States of America, behind the Boston Light. It was commissioned by George Washington and built in 1791.)

I noticed something while in Portland about myself. I am a nice Southern boy, raised to have manners, say "please" and "thank you". I will sometimes even extend that to a "thank you very much". When I do that, I find that I tend to speak a little faster.

Cue the Elvis impersonation: "Thank you, thank you very much" (picture for yourself the curled lip).

Do I make all Southerners sound like a stereotypical Elvis? The funny thing is that, while in Portland, I was actually told that I do not have much of a Texas accent, so the whole Elvis thing seems to contradict that.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Whither Euphrony?

SOR logoSome of you may have noticed that I have been mostly absent from the blogging scene the last few days. Okay, maybe one person noticed? Well, there has been a reason for this. In recent weeks, I have been rather busy at work, with a few projects at major junctures and trying to prepare a paper to present of the Society of Rheology Annual Conference. (What-ology? "rheology noun: a science dealing with the deformation and flow of matter" We answer the question of why silly putty will bounce when you drop it but flow into a puddle when you leave it on the table for a few minutes.) So, last Friday I flew up to Portland, Maine for the start of a long week of learning.

I actually started the conference off with a short course (all day Saturday and Sunday) and the formal conference runs from 8-6 Monday through Thursday, with events every evening. I presented my paper Tuesday afternoon, so it's all downhill from there. You can equate this experience to cramming a full course load of advanced graduate classes for one semester into one fast-paced week. My head is swollen (not from ego) and may explode at any time now.

John FordPortland, itself, is very nice. The weather is about what we get in the dead of winter in Houston (high of 60, low of 40) with the exception that every day has been clear and sunny (so far). You might be interested to know that Portland is the home of Rear Admiral John Martin Feeney, who served in World War II. But, he is much better know for his career after the Navy, where he took the name John Ford and won six little statuettes called "Oscars". The picture to the left is a statue erected in his honor in Portland.

The conference is over tomorrow, and Mrs. Euphrony is (trying) to fly up tonight to meet me here. After several last-minute flight changes, she should get here around 11 pm and we will have a four-day weekend here in lovely Maine to enjoy the leaves, the apples, the chowder, the lobster, and Little Euphrony being with the grandparents.


Sometime soon, I'll be a regular blogger again. No hurry, though.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Cos on childbirth

Mrs. Euphrony, this is for you. I know you've seen it before, but while I'm not home we can joke about our plans and Baby Euohrony. Laugh it up - you've been there before. Kat, Mrs. Brody, and all the others out there wanting kids, who've had kids, or are pregnant - watch, laugh, and learn.


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Friday, October 06, 2006

Lighter still . . .

Well, Mrs Euphrony was only somewhat amused by yesterday's offerings. Then I left town on her, to Maine on business. To try to cheer her up, I offer this from Bill Cosby. A man making breakfast for his kids. Feel free to do the same while I'm gone, honey!


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Thursday, October 05, 2006

On the lighter side . . .

Mrs. Euphrony has informed me that I have been way too serious in my blogging the last few days. So, I had a long series to put out. But, now that I have finished the fourth and final installment, time allows for a little goofing off.

Also, in honor of my 50th posting, it would seem appropriate to both revisit an old favorite and include a new one. Below are two videos from YouTube (if you want something funny, go to YouTube). First we will revisit the great Mentos and Diet Coke experiment. Frankly, I could watch this guy take it in the face all day.


Next, we'll look up an old friend from the 80's. This is Tom Wilson, but you know him better as Biff, tormentor of Marty McFly in the Back to the Future series of movies. He works stand-up comedy (as he did before the BttF movies) and this is a video of answers to anything you might want to ask Biff if you met him on the street. I saw him on Carson once, doing his routine, only then he was using a tuba in his act. He did a bit about taking the tuba when he goes to the beach, and starts playing the Jaws theme - hillarious.


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"I" and "We" - Conclusion

(read Parts 1, 2, and 3)

John Donne wrote:
John Donne

PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume;
. . . .
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it.


from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII (
read the whole meditation here, or download a text file of the whole of Devotions here)

We have all heard this quote from John Donne (poet and preacher), but do we know its biblical basis? Donne, in this meditation, emphasizes the interconnectedness of all man. As he writes, we do not take on the grief and toils and joys and hopes of others; they are ours to begin with, as surely as we are bound together as creation, as children of the Lord and brothers and sisters of the Christ. Jehovah never intended for a man to seek Him alone, but in the company of fellow worshipers. He called Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply”; He made Abraham into a nation; He called to Himself 12 men, to touch their lives and fellowship with them; He sent the disciples out in twos; Paul never journeyed alone, but in the company of Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Luke, and others.

We, today, are under the same calling. We do not seek merely our own salvation, but that of the world (Matthew 28:19). So then, why do we act as individuals? Why do we neglect our brothers; not simply those who are in another land on another continent, but those next to us? We neglect them when we say "be well fed" but offer no food. We neglect them when we hear their plea but offer no prayer on their behalf. We fail them when we are so caught up in our own lives that we do not see the sin they sink into. We fail them when we do not step out of ourselves to actually look into their lives, past the facade we all erect and into the hurt and pain and sin and despair they hide. As Donne writes, if my brother is torn asunder by the Enemy, am I not torn as surely as he?

We are called to be accountable to each other, fighting for each other’s salvation and encouraging one another to live in holiness. Nehemiah placed the people rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem together in families, telling them to fight for each other (Nehemiah 4:11-14). Christ tells us that we should love as He loves, giving our lives for our brother (John 15:12-13). He also tells us that we should first seek reconciliation with our brothers before continuing in our worship of God (Matthew 5:23-24). "We" are entwined as one creation, under one Creator, one body with one Head. "We" are created to bring glory to Jehovah, not in isolated worship but in community.

Consider the story of Achan (read Joshua 7-8). Recall that after the battle of Jericho, Achan sinned by taking what had been devoted to God for himself. When Israel then attacked Ai, they were routed because of his sin; for God had stated that the whole camp of Israel would be liable if one person broke this command (Joshua 6:18). The reaction of Joshua to defeat by Ai is immediate; he falls on his face before the ark, pleading with God and asking why God had abandoned Israel now that they were in the Promised Land – disgracing them before the Canaanites and embarrassing the name of the Lord (Joshua 7:6-9). God’s reaction, though, is not what you might think at first. Instead of comforting Joshua, renewing His promise to uphold Israel, he basically tells Joshua to quit whining – if you want to blame someone, blame yourselves, for the sin is with unfaithful Israel turning against the faithful Lord. Jehovah does not single out Achan for his sin, but instead proclaims that it is all of Israel that has sinned!

Why was all of Israel punished for Achan’s sin? Why were his sons and daughters stoned along with him, and why was the army of Israel routed by Ai? We are told explicitly in Ezekiel that God does not visit the sins of the father on the children, if the children are faithful to the Lord (Ezekiel 18:1-4, 14-18), so why is the nation punished? Is it possible that it is because no one in the camp of Israel upheld God’s command by helping their brother avoid sin! This was not explicit in God’s command, but they knew that if one failed, they would all suffer and so should have been looking out to help each other. Did no one see Achan take and keep the devoted items? Possibly. Did none of his family see him with the devoted items, or see him bury them in his tent? Maybe. But the fact is that God was trying to teach them early on that we are not in this alone. We can lift up our associates; encourage them, pray for them, and help them in their fight, working to bring us all to glory. Or we can let our associates go it alone spiritually, and suffer from the times they and we stumble; relying on our own strength and not in the strength of the unified body of Christ that comes from God.


As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.
1 Samuel 12:23 (NIV)



Author's Note:
I have been writing this series on "I" and "We" because it has been on my heart lately, more so than usual. Some of it is taken from things I wrote previously, in my personal journal or to friends, and some is crafted just for this series. I get so sick of the faces we wear as Christians, painting on the outward perfection we feel we must wear to fit into the body of Christ; like whitewashed tombs. I'm sick to death of hearing too late of a marriage that is failing when, for all the world, you would have sworn their love would last forever. I'm saddened by the brothers and sisters who wrestle with temptation in silence when there are a dozen people around them who have been their and, through grace and strength in Christ, found victory. We are not alone in this: as we have a high priest who can understand us because He, too, wore this frail flesh, we also have a community that has suffered and endured and overcome. Neither should we place the blame on those who hide their struggles, as we should be seeking the lost and not waiting for them to come to us. John Donne's words strike me every time I read them; how can I consider myself on a personal journey toward salvation when faced with way God has made us as a people, a body of parts, and not as mere individuals. I hope they have challenged and encouraged you.


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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"I" and "We" - Part 3

Here is an example of the power of "we" from my own experience. (Read Part 1 and Part 2)

A group of friends and I had been meeting for a while weekly at a local coffee shop to share a time of confession, prayer, and encouragement. This has been, in some ways, our retreat from the battle that rages with the Enemy to the shelter and healing of our Lord. However, just because this time is dedicated to encouragement and building up of the body does not mean that the battle is not enjoined with the world around us. Consider this series of events that occurred over a period of a few months; look at the circle of blessings that is realized by making our retreat from the battle a time of focus on Jehovah and on His childern (our brothers and sisters) rather than a retreat from all things spiritual.

  • One night, as we stood "circled-up" at about 11:00 p.m. closing our time together in prayer, a man drove up to us, got out, and told us the he recognized we were praying. He told us that he needed prayer and that his life was a shambles and he recognized his need for God. A few months later, he gave his life to Christ and was baptized. This was the culmination of one journey that began when Jehovah showed him where he needed to be in order to grow and heal and the beginning of a new journey of wonder and amazement in living a life for God alone.

  • A week after this happened, another man who had been joining us with his son was also baptized and gave his life to Christ. This was the result of a calling from Jehovah through his son, then through a few other men, and finally in seeing the joy and blessing of the first man’s commitment a few days before.

  • The very next night, as we confess and pray, one of our faithful, long-time Christians, is moved by God through the struggles of his brothers to finally release the hold he has on his own live and give it over to Jehovah, seeking His will and His work and asking that God bless him as he fights for a better relationship with his Father.

  • The first friend I mentioned asked a coworker to come out with him one night, not long after his own baptism. Logistically, this was a bad night: a transformer just outside the coffee shop had blown, leaving us with (gasp!) no coffee and no light but the stars and moon. Spiritually, it was a powerful night. This coworker was moved by what he witnessed. Even though various things prevented him from returning for the next three months, he began on his own to immerse himself in God’s word. When he returned, that very night he chose to commit to Jehovah and was baptized.
These events are by no means coincidental! It is so apparent how God works in our lives, using one brother and his struggles and triumphs to lift up another. "I" cannot do this. "I" is left by himself. "We" are working for good. "We" are looking out for one another. "We" are lifting our brothers and sisters up. This is Jehovah’s intended plan. Are we not told:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 (NIV)
This is not just a personal healing but a healing of everyone involved – both the confessor and those to whom he confesses. All are blessed when one humbles himself before God and man, seeking to build up the body. One may start it, but that one is never an "I", only a part of the "We". And, oddly enough, the one person knows this.

Consider the example of Ezra. When Ezra comes out of captivity to the newly rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, he soon discovers that the returned exiles have been sinning by intermarrying with the other peoples in the land – the same sin that contributed to their straying from Jehovah in the first place. What does he do? Does he rail against them, condemning them of their sin? Does he preach an eloquent lesson describing how small steps in the wrong direction will eventually lead to being completely lost? No! He tears his clothes, pulls hair from his head and beard, weeps, fasts, and prays for forgiveness for our sins (not their sins, ours) of turning away from Jehovah. To this action by Ezra, the people respond with this commitment:

1Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly,. 2Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. 4"Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act."
Ezra 10:1-4 (NASB)
Ezra’s obvious sorrow, repentance for his own sin, as well as that of the people – basically his good example, not lived in secret but there for all to see without question – lead the entire remnant of Israel to not only repent of their sin but to remove that sin from their lives. The price that they paid for their sin was high - sending away the women and children of mixed marriages must have been painful indeed - but the pain of separation form Jehovah is infinitely greater. They recognized that their sin had its consequence and the example of Ezra helped convince them that a relationship with the God of Creation is worth any price, and so they were blessed with a revival in the land.

(Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to the "I" and "WE" series. Coming soon!)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4


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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"I" and "We" - Part 2

Here is an example of a song from the early days of the Jesus movement, like what Matthew Ward was talking about in the excerpt in Part 1. This is Asleep in the Light, by Keith Green.

Do you see, do you see, all the people sinking down,
Don't you care, don't you care, are you gonna let them drown,
How can you be so numb, not to care if they come,
You close your eyes and pretend the job's done.

Oh Bless me Lord, bless me Lord, you know it's all I ever hear,
No one aches, no one hurts, no one even sheds one tear,
But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds, and He cares for your needs,
And you just lay back and keep soaking it in, oh, can't you see it's such sin?

Cause He brings people to your door,
And you turn them away, as you smile and say,
God bless you, be at peace, and all Heaven just weeps,
Cause Jesus came to your door, you've left Him out on the streets.

Open up, open up, and give yourself away,
You've seen the need, you hear the cry, so how can you delay,
God's calling and you're the one, but like Jonah you run,
He's told you to speak, but you keep holding it in,
Oh, can't you see it's such sin?

The world is sleeping in the dark,
That the church can't fight, cause it's asleep in the light,
How can you be so dead, when you've been so well fed,
Jesus rose from the grave, and you, you can't even get out of bed,
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead, come on, get out of your bed.

How can you be so numb, not to care if they come,
You close your eyes and pretend the job's done,
You close your eyes and pretend the job's done,
Don't close your eyes, don't pretend the job's done.
Come away, come away, come away with Me, My love,
Come away, from this mess, come away with Me, My love.

Keith GreenI read that, when Keith wrote this, he had friends and his wife advising him to tone down the lyrics; it was too harsh, too hard on believers they said. Keith refused to budge, insisting that the frustration he felt with the comfortable Christians be addressed. Honestly, this song hits me like a slap in the face; one that I desperately need to bring me out of the reverie I too often find myself in. What I guess saddens me is that, some 28 years after Keith Green released this song, it seems little has really changed. Are we "looking out for Number One" in the world's sense, or in the sense that Wayne Watson sang about? Do we care for our brothers and sisters, evidenced by our actions and not our lips?

(Amusing anecdote: I have a very distinct memory associated with this song. I was hitting the snooze alarm repeatedly on a Sunday morning, being lazy and trying not to get up and get ready to go to worship. The alarm went off one more time, with Asleep in the Light playing. It happened to be at the lines where Keith Green is crying out "How can you be so dead, when you've been so well fed, Jesus rose from the grave, and you, you can't even get out of bed." I literally jumped out of bed, adrenaline pumping, my mind racing thinking "I'm awake! I'm awake!". I made it to worship on time, and have not had problems waking up on Sunday's ever since.)

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4


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Monday, October 02, 2006

"I" and "We"

What are your thoughts on this?

The business of worship music has become such a huge moneymaker that we've even had worship songs that address the issue of what worship has become for some of the writers: "I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it, when it's all about You." [from Matt Redman's "The Heart of Worship"]

Though it's is a good song, I have a difficult time singing it in church. To me, it sounds less like a congregational worship tune than a personal confession. I've never made worship anything other than what it is, so I have a hard time saying that I have.
. . . . .
In almost every case, the songs that touch me the deepest, whether they are old hymns or newer songs, were written by someone who had suffered great loss or who had been through a spiritual or emotional trauma. I sense the heart of the writer when songs come from that perspective. But I sense this kind of authenticity all too rarely in the worship music of today.
. . . . .
One morning as we sat around our table, a guy from Australia by the name of John Smith and I got into a discussion about modern worship music. John said, "As much as I love your country, I think you're really missing it when it comes to worship music."

At first I couldn't decide whether I should be offended or not, so I said, "Go on."

John continued, "Look at the early Jesus-movement years. The songs back then were largely written with the idea of 'we' instead of 'I.' They were much more focused on the collective community aspects of worship and not so focused on making it an individual endeavor."

John was onto something. Back in the Jesus-movement period, we had a strong sense that we were in this Christian thing together, brothers and sisters. We worshiped and learned together. The songs of that time reflected the community quality of our faith. Was this something we were losing?

That night, at the evening session, I took note of what types of worship songs we sang. Several groups from different parts of Europe led worship, singing their songs in their native tongues, with English translations projected on a screen. The vast majority of the songs European Christians had written were "we" and "us" songs. But the groups also threw in some songs from the United States—and I was surprised to discover that the majority contained lyrics centered on "I" or "me."

Maybe the prominent use of "I" in American worship songs is nothing more than an attempt on the songwriters' part to make people feel a personal connection with worship and with God. Still, I couldn't help reflecting on the many times that worship has exposed things I'm doing wrong, not just in my personal relationship with God, but with other people. The Christian life in general and worship, particularly, is for the most part a group activity for the family of Christ. If worship is all about me and God, then I've got blinders on.
. . . . .
As churches grow and become centers for what some would call huge clubs, the tendency is for us to allow ourselves to view worship as a sort of spectator sport. We gather on Sunday morning and find ourselves caught up in a slick, professional kind of experience. We look on as the band and singers present a version of worship songs that is most enjoyable and acceptable. We appreciate the level of professionalism while allowing ourselves the liberty not to become involved personally in the worship experience. In essence, we go along for the ride.

I'm not just criticizing others. I have been guilty of the same thing myself. Over the years, I've found that as a worship band is doing its thing, one of two problems can occur for me: either the band is so good that I sit and listen without entering into worship (my producer brain takes over), or the band is so horrible that I'm distracted from worship. But I have found something that can cut through every issue of musical performance, and that is the attitude of the people who are leading worship

Taken from Matthew Ward's new book, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story. Read more of an excerpt here.

P.S. There is more to come on this topic.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Let's let Russia have it!



A few weeks ago, Eastern European Missions held a nation-wide fund raising event, Million Dollar Sunday, to raise funds to place the Bible in public schools in Russia. They have had Bible programs, sponsored and invited by the government, in three regions of Russia, teaching 1,000,000 children the Bible. With this campaign, which actually raised $1.5 Million and counting, they will be placing the Bible in another region, to an additional 400,000 students. That will be nearly 7,000 schools in Russia that have requested and are being provided materials to teach the Bible to children.

Amazing.

The video above begins with an interview with the former Minister of Education of Russia, encouraging this. The same thing is going on in Ukraine, where EEM is working with the government to draw up a Bible curriculum for all public schools in Ukraine. It's amazing to see what these people are beginning to realize they need; in fact, what they crave. One librarian tells of how, several years ago, when the first box of children's Bibles arrived for their library there was a group of children waiting to check them out. These Bibles, she shares, have never hit the shelf because their has been a long waiting list of people wanting to check them out. When a person in Siberia recently tried to create a public uproar against the work EEM is doing, he was silenced by parents and teachers whose told of how the teaching of the Bible in schools had made their children more respectful, more kind and gentle: nothing but good had come of it and they wanted more.

Check out
EEM and the work they are doing. Pray for them, that God continues to impact the world through them.

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