Thursday, August 22, 2013

Go For Launch

My son's newest favorite joke: "When do astronauts eat? Launch time!" (Just don't let him know you've heard the punch line if he comes up and asks, "do you want to do jokes?")

The countdown to launch is an exciting time. Thanks to the Internet you can listen in when launches are broadcast by NASA television or streamed by Spaceflight Now. You can hear the launch director ask each person responsible for a part of the launch, or a function of the launch vehicle, if they are a "go/no-go" to go ahead with the launch.

"Weather" "Go"
"Flight software" "Go"
"Fuel" "Go"

And my favorite from The Simpsons: "Make rocket go now!"

(For an idea of how intense and involved this is, check out the countdown for a Space Shuttle launch. And that list is only a summary; a lot more goes on behind the scenes.) The countdown may be exciting to those watching or listening in. It is exciting for the lay-person. But I guarantee you it is stressful for those involved. Months, if not years, of preparation have come to fruition. And even the best preparation does not completely eliminate the risk of the entire thing blowing up.

I mentioned before that I'm working on small group curriculum for my church. Well my countdown is now at t-minus two weeks and counting. Am I ready? Are you kidding? There is so much to do between now and "launch" that it is hard for me to picture how we're ever going to get there. Thankfully, I have a group of great people who have been working very hard to make sure the details all fall into place.

If you have a small group campaign or a curriculum launch, please pray for those preparing it. They need to seek the best way to launch the small groups, make sure they cover the essentials, take the proper steps, and prayerfully figure out the secret to being successful. (and as helpful as all these links are, I'm not really doing any of these- at least not in any traditional sense)

So to say the least, I'll be pretty tied up the next couple of weeks. Not to mention it's my "busy season" at work which means I haven't had the down-time I usually have during the day to work on this like I would normally. And I still have a lot of irons in the fire.

In the meantime, here are a couple important announcements. First, the Antelope Valley Christian Writers' Conference has been cancelled. While that takes some burden off my shoulders it is bittersweet. I am friends with the person who organizes this and I know how much hard work he's put into it. Second, I haven't been as active in social media as I would like. One reason is the busyness of work, but the main reason is that I haven't updated my phone in pretty much forever so none of my mobile Twitter clients work. What also doesn't help with respect to this blog, is that StumbledUpon no longer supports link-shrinking with, so I've been using HootSuite. I like that platform a lot, but I don't like its interface on my phone. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers. Regardless, this post needs updating when I'm finally back up and running fully.

Given all that, you won't see any posts here for a while and you might not see me around on social media (but I'll still be posting links on my Facebook page!). Please pray for my "launch" and I'll be back in the swing of things before you know it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Will People Remember?

I remember as a kid debating his "worth" with a friend. We were trading baseball cards and I needed his to complete my All Stars. But he wouldn't give it up. "He's the best hitter in the game, and one of the best all-time." I didn't believe it. I'm a National League guy myself, so the best hitter in the game was obviously Tony Gwynn. And as far as all-time? At that age, my knowledge began and ended with Ted Williams. So of course I figured fair value was one of my "doubles" like Jerry Hairston Sr. (respect the specs!)

But the numbers don't lie. One of only four players to have hit 300 home runs, 3000 hits and hit for .300 average (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Stan Musial being the others). He's a Hall-of-Famer. He is the only player to have won batting titles (for best average) in three decades, and his best season is the closest anyone has come to .400 since Williams did it in 1941.

With that last one, if you're a baseball fan you've figured out who I'm talking about- George Brett.

For the die-hard baseball fan, stats mean everything. They offer comparisons across generations and eras (no, I won't get into steroids here) which means you can say George Brett and Ted Williams in the same sentence. (Or even George Brett and Hank Aaron, but that feels weird)

But ask a casual baseball fan about the legacy of George Brett and they are likely to remember this:

This happened 30 years ago; an outburst memorialized with an anniversary. I don't even have to play the video. I've seen it so many times I know exactly how Brett looks as he storms out of the dugout. I know, because I see that face in the mirror sometimes. And sometimes I see it in my son.

I showed this video to my son not long ago after one of his epic temper tantrums. I told him, "here is one of the best players to ever play baseball, but all most people remember is this." I continued with the fatherly pep-talk of he can be anything he wants to be in life, do anything he wants to do, but if he can't control himself none of that will matter. All anyone will remember about him are his outbursts.

I think he took the lesson well. Of course, I don't set a good example. My temper is probably my greatest vice.

There's a story about a boy who struggles with his temper. His dad tells him to go pound a nail in the fence every time he gets angry, to take out his frustrations there. Over time the son grew tired of pounding nails into the stubborn old wood so one day he approached his father and handed him the hammer. "I'm done," he told him. "Good, now go out and take out all the nails," the father replied. "But dad, the fence will be filled with holes!" His father then explained how that's what anger does. And no matter how much you try to fix it, it does damage that can not be so easily repaired. Anger leaves holes.

Yes, this lesson was for my son. But it was just as much for me.

"In your anger do not sin." (Ephesians 4:26)

Monday, August 12, 2013

When We Love the Least of These

A little over a year ago I was part of a book club reading Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis, which documents her time in Uganda eventually adopting many of the kids she went to care for. I was reminded of her when I first heard the story behind the award-winning Documentary Blood Brother. Similarly, this documentary tells the story of Rocky Braat who went to an orphanage in India for a "short term" missions trip to find himself and found much more instead.

This story is compelling enough but Braat's friend, filmmaker Steve Hoover didn't stop there and has made a new documentary, Gennadiy about a priest in the Ukraine who "rescues" homeless kids from the streets. I put rescued in quotes because his methods are unorthodox to say the least. Hoover is currently running a Kickstarter campaign that concludes tomorrow.
So this is supposed to be a "music Monday" post, so I added the video for Audio Adrenaline's song, Kings and Queens. As a parent, seeing children suffer tears at my heart but as a Christian, seeing people like Katie Davis, Rocky Braat, Fr Gennadiy, and the Hands and Feet Project from Audio Adrenaline encourage me that there is hope out there.

Without further ado, here are some videos. Grab a tissue.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Daily Worship

As some of you know, I've been busily writing small group curriculum for my church with a group of very talented people. Besides the usual lesson + discussion material, we are also adding daily devotional and weekly accountability topics. During our last meeting this raised an intriguing question- what is the difference between a devotional, "quiet time", and personal study. The worry was people committing to the daily material if they are already dedicated to a personal study.

So what do you think, what is the difference between these three acts of personal worship?

We concluded that you can tell a lot by the name. A quiet time is just that- a time to withdraw to a quiet place (Luke 5:16) dedicating that time to God. There is no script, no manual for what this looks like. I know some people who write poems during this time. Some will hide away in a prayer closet to be free from distractions. Others will sing praises to God. The goal here is a quiet, secluded recharge of your soul. In physical terms, think of rest. (My newest blogger-buddy, Rick Dawson has a great series on this very thing that is worth checking out)

A devotional likewise is self-explanatory. This is not necessarily a time, but rather a topic this is "devoted" to the Lord. Devotionals are short and simple by nature. You can buy daily or weekly devotionals at any Christian bookstore. You can even get daily Bible verse/deep thought calendars. The goal of the devotional to feed your soul; water the soil, if you will.

Which brings us to personal study. There is not a one-size-fits-all description. Some prefer depth, others breadth. Some people will do a word-study on a particular issue of need (purity, boldness, the promises of God). Still others will dig into the original Greek or Hebrew of a specific passage. This is not necessarily daily, but it can be. But it requires more significant time and focus than the other two. This is like eating a full meal, versus drinking milk. Or rather than just watering the soil, this is applying fertilizer.

It is important to note these distinctions. When I was a "baby Christian" I was taught how to have a catch-all quiet time: spend x number of minutes in Bible study (a chapter a day in the Gospels was always recommended as a good place to start) plus y number of minutes in prayer, usually following the "ACTS" outline.

And that was it.

More depth of study (referencing the nobility of the Bereans) and instructions on prayer (considering Jesus' own personal instruction to his disciples) were talked about and implicitly encouraged, but we were expected to figure these things out and mature on our own.

This hurt me spiritually. I soon outgrew the basics of the quiet time and started delving more into personal study. But in doing so, I lost out in my devotional and prayer life. While I've recovered to some degree the discipline of devotion (thank you daily devotionals from YouVersion!) I still struggle with growing in my prayer life as I mentioned in my sermon last week.

But I now see that just like I can't eat the same thing every day for lunch (even though I do), I cannot feed myself spiritually the same way all the time and still walk away satisfied. My meal plan needs diversification and it needs a balanced diet.

What about you? What method of personal worship do you prefer or trend to most? Is there one area you particularly struggle in?