I Guess There’s A Kid In All Of Us

There’s a little two-year-old guy at the Training Station that always calls me “Man.”  While all the other kids call me “Pastor Nathan” or some variation of that name (such as “Bouncy Efan,” “Master Neeson,” or “Kafran Afan”), this little guy simply calls me “Man.”  When he’s on the playground he’ll sit in one of the Jeeps or plop down in a swing, and when he sees me outside he’ll start yelling very loudly, “MAN!  MAN!  HEY MAN!!!”  I’ll push him for a few minutes and when I stop he’ll inevitably start yelling again, “Man!  Push us, Man!”

Finally one day I told him that if he kept calling me “Man,” I would start calling him “Kid.”  As I was explaining this to him, he was looking at me very intently, and I could see in his eyes that he was really thinking about this, really processing it in his two-year-old mind.

About ten minutes later he sat down in one of the swings, spotted me halfway across the playground, and shouted, “HEY!  BIG KID!”

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Published in: on February 28, 2009 at 5:02 am  Comments (2)  

Excuse Me… No, Excuse Me

I just read in TIME magazine that a couple weeks ago two European nuclear submarines collided “deep in the Atlantic Ocean.”  One was the British H.M.S. Vanguard, the other was the French Le Triomphant.

Aside from all the other questions and concerns this raises, two questions stand out:

(1) How the heck can you collide “deep in the Atlantic Ocean”?  I mean, is it really not big enough or deep enough?  I can understand two people in a narrow hallway who do the back-and-forth thing followed by the obligatory awkward laugh, but colliding in the middle of the ocean?

(2)  The article reports that the French navy believed at first that they had struck a shipping container.  Who in the world is steering these things?  Do they need a better windshield?  Can they actually see where they are going?

You just never know what you’ll hear of next.

Published in: on February 27, 2009 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Random Thoughts in Alphabetical Order: The Letter B

B is for…

  • Babies.  I still can’t believe we’re having one.  That just totally blows my mind.  Every time Carolyn walks through the door after getting home from work, it still startles me when I see her babyized belly.  (She said I should write a blog post–based on experience–about what not to say to your pregnant wife, such as, “Whoa!!!”)  I can really see the wisdom of God in having people bring in a new generation about every 25 years.  And it’s cool that at any given time, someone somewhere is adding a new person to the population.  If we didn’t have little children around us, life would become so stale.  As much as we might resist, we tend to set like cement.  Every new child is like wet cement.  They’re still shapeable, impressionable.  They have a fresh perspective on everything and still marvel at everything their senses take in.  For example, a child on a playground will see a bug and yell, “Bug!  I see a bug!”  All the other kids will run over to stare in wonder at the bug.  Meanwhile, as adults we tend to view bugs simply as something to be sprayed or stepped on.  Wow, I just totally can’t wait to hear Laura Marie’s observations on the world around her.  I’m so thrilled that I get to witness her trying to put the pieces together.
  • Bathrooms.  I’m so grateful I live in the era of indoor plumbing.  While there’s something primally pleasing about standing in the woods under a starry sky and… um… communing with nature, it sure is nice to have indoor facilities when it’s 20 degrees outside.  And being able to take a hot shower at any time?  That’s just awesome.  The only problem with bathrooms is their constant need for cleaning, which is not exactly a skill I’ve got in my toolbox.
  • Bologna.  Can we just go ahead and officially change the spelling to “baloney”?  Is there a Facebook group I can join to promote this cause?  When I was a kid I absolutely loved bologna sandwiches.  Some of my favorite memories are staying with my grandmother in Fort Worth and eating the delicious bologna sandwiches she made me.  Now I can’t even smell the stuff without feeling like I’m going to puke.  What is it about being a kid and being able to eat nasty stuff?  My repertoire also included Spam and Vienna sausages.  Does anyone even know exactly what those things are?  Doesn’t it violate some law of nature for a sausage to be able to spread?  And people wonder why I spent several years in adulthood as a vegetarian.
  • Bible.  What an amazing thing for us to have: a book written just for us by God Himself.  In this country we grow up knowing that the Bible exists, and so we take it for granted, most of us rarely if ever even reading it.  But think about it.  I mean really think about it.  The God who is truly God and can do anything and made everything that exists including us has given us about a thousand pages of His thoughts.  He’s actually given us a big ol’ book to communicate with us!  What an incredible thing for us to have.  It’s really a pity to think of all the years I wasted ignoring the Bible and not believing it.  What a shame for so many people today to have access to God’s thoughts and not even believe it!  What unbelievable riches we have in the Scriptures.  What a timeless, valuable treasure, this ancient volume!
  • Books.  I can totally relate to the little four-year-old girl I recently heard declare: “I love books!”  Books rock.  Books contain endless possibilities.  It’s cool how you can take the 26 letters of our alphabet and combine them in unique ways to tell an infinite number of stories and share a limitless amount of ideas and knowledge.  It’s especially cool when you realize that–let’s be honest–some letters like “c” and “q” really aren’t necessary.  But in the interest of fairness they’ll still get their own moment in the Random Thoughts in Alphabetical Order spotlight.
  • Bolivia & Bangladesh.  Though they’re nowhere near each other and we’ve never been to either one, Carolyn and I pray for these countries and hold them dear to our hearts.  For over a decade, through Compassion International, Carolyn has sponsored a girl named Eliana in Bolivia.  Eliana has a baby sister named after Carolyn!  I’ve sponsored a little boy named Sujan in Bangladesh for a couple years now.  (In case you’re wondering, Bolivia is in South America and Bangladesh is in Asia, near India.)
  • Baseball.  Our voracious consumerism has ruined a lot of great things in this country, and I’m afraid the great game is among them.  But it’s still the great game.
Published in: on February 27, 2009 at 5:49 am  Comments (2)  

Many Churches, One Location

One of the trends in churches the past few years has been going multi-site.  This means that one church would have several locations, usually video venues.  What normally happens is that the preacher is recorded in one location in the Saturday night worship service, then that video is played during the sermon portion of the service on Sunday morning at the other locations.  Or sometimes the preacher’s message is fed to the other locations live via satellite.  The worship music and everything else is live, and each site has a campus pastor.  One common slogan for multi-site churches is “One Church, Many Locations.”

In today’s economy, I think we’re starting to see this trend inverted.  Now we’re having Many Churches, One Location.  Even with the drop in real estate prices, it’s still beyond the reach of many new or small churches to buy or even lease a building.  One solution?  For churches with buildings to share their building with other congregations.

This is actually a lot simpler and a lot more obvious than it might first appear.  While Sunday morning at 11:00 has for many decades been known as the “traditional church hour,” churches today meet for worship at a variety of times and even days.  This makes it easier for churches to share their buildings.

One local example I know of is SonRise Church in Berlin.  They lease the local high school for their two Sunday morning worship services.  Meanwhile, the building that they own and use for office space is offered–free of charge–to two different churches for worship on Sundays.  One church is an Hispanic church plant where their services are held in Spanish.  The other is a “historically black” (their term to describe themselves) church that was booted out of their previous worship space.  What a beautiful example of a church taking seriously the mission of Jesus Christ and leveraging their resources to build the kingdom of God!

Many church buildings sit empty for most of the week.  Strangely, at the same time, there are other churches who are struggling to find a place to meet for worship.  It reminds me of two guys I saw standing next to each other one time outside of an Orioles game.  One of them was yelling, “Tickets for sale!  Tickets for sale!”  The other guy, right next to him, was yelling, “Anyone got tickets for sale?  Anyone got tickets for sale?”

One common objection is that the other churches should just join with the church that has the building.  There are several problems with this: First, as the SonRise example shows, there are differences in language, style, and culture that are best served in separate congregations.  Second, if the building is not being used–why not let another group of God’s people use it?!?  Third, let’s be realistic: if these other people wanted to join our church instead of their own, they already would have.  Fourth, God likes to do new things.  It wouldn’t make sense for a young man with a call to plant a church that reaches a particular demographic to join with a church that is not reaching that demographic.  The list goes on and on.

Bottom line: We really have a problem as a church if we begin to think that our building is our building.  It’s God’s building–we’re just the managers.  Our job is to pay attention and see how God wants us to use it.

One church, many locations… or many churches, one location?  We don’t have to decide between them.  God will lead different churches different directions.  But rather than trying to hold on to what’s ours, we need to be open-handed and faithfully follow wherever He leads.

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 11:48 am  Comments (9)  

Laura Marie’s Email Signature

Our creative friend Katie designed this email signature using some of our ultrasound photos.  Is it cool or what?!?  Thanks so much, Katie!

Published in: on February 25, 2009 at 5:16 am  Comments (2)  

Random Thoughts in Alphabetical Order: The Letter A

Recently I heard a comedian sharing some random thoughts in alphabetical order.  What a clever idea for a comedian–it eliminates the need for those forced, awkward transitions!  It’s also a great idea for the random world of blogging.  So I thought I’d set out on a journey to share some random thoughts in alphabetical order.  It will take however long it takes.  Today we begin, of course, with the letter A.

  • A is for apples.  They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  I can’t think of anything more untrue than this.  Since Carolyn has been pregnant, she’s eaten at least one apple every day, and during this same span of time she’s been to the doctor more frequently than ever in her life.
  • A is for ADD.  I’m about as un-ADD as you can get, but I’ve discovered a new phenomenon: PADD (Preaching Attention Deficit Disorder).  For some reason when I’m preaching I often struggle to filter out stupid or irrelevant thoughts.  Sometimes they pop into my mind and go right out my mouth before I can ascertain their appropriateness.
  • A is for age.  Right now I’m the same age that Jesus was when He was crucified.  But today I was feeling much, much older when I was outside on the playground with three- and four-year-olds and I got totally winded before they did.  When Troy Aikman was my age, he retired from a Hall of Fame career as an NFL quarterback.  In baseball, Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr retired from his Hall of Fame career at the age of 33.
  • A is for appetite.  And call it a sympathy symptom or whatever you want, but it has been insatiable the past 25 weeks.
  • A is for Anabaptist.  And I’m glad to be one.  If you want to learn more about who Anabaptists are, check out the Third Way Cafe.
Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 5:24 am  Comments (2)  

Living in God’s Will

At CrossWay yesterday I preached a message called “Living in God’s Will.”  It was actually from the Real Life series we did last fall, but I missed sharing it then because I was sick.

Whenever we’re faced with a tough decision, we often seek God’s will.  We want to know what it is He wants us to do.  But the Bible tells us several things we can do that we already know are God’s will for us.  One such passage is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

We can be joyful, pray, and give thanks: always, continually, and in all circumstances.  That’s because these three things are all beyond the reach of circumstances since they rest on who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us.

The podcast will be up as soon as GoDaddy starts working right.

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Most Important Appointment

Sunday evening I got a phone call from my little friend Mandi.  She’s a six-year-old first-grader at Seaside Christian School.  At first I wasn’t sure why she was calling, so I asked her a few questions and we just kind of chatted for a couple minutes.  Then, during a pause, she said, “Pastor Nathan, will you be my pastor at my school for Pastor Appreciation Day?”  (Seaside has a day once a year when kids invite their pastors to school and they have lunch and visit the classrooms.)

You can imagine my response.  I cancelled my appointments with pope and president to make sure I’d be there.  After we finished talking and she said, “Bye!” we both started to hang up, but not before I heard her announcing to her parents very matter-of-factly: “He said okay.”

I was just thinking that her dad, my good friend Daryl, had put her up to it.  But before I could even finish thinking that, Daryl called back and said, “Dude, I did not put her up to that!”  The day before, she’d mentioned wanting to call me, and on Sunday, she insisted on having her dad’s phone to call me.  Isn’t that precious?!?

Tell ya what, I don’t care what else happens between now and the end of February–that totally made my month!

See you Friday, Mandi!

Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Looking from Eternity

On Sunday at CrossWay Church we wrapped up the six-week series “Life On Loan” with a message called “Looking to Eternity.”  The Big Idea was that our lives can have eternal significance when we invest in things that last forever.

Rather than going into all the details here, let me just point you to the podcast which should be up by tomorrow afternoon.

This Sunday we’re having a stand-alone message, then doing a two-week series about worship called “Fanatic.”

Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Laura Marie’s First Baseball Shirt

Laura Marie got her first piece of Nationals gear yesterday.  It was a pretty exciting moment for me, and I’m sure for her as well.

Her mom wasn’t so sure.  Last summer we went to a Nationals game at their new stadium, and the fans were almost as bad as the team… and that’s saying a lot.  At one point the booing got so bad that the fans booed a 12-year-old ballgirl when she booted a foul ball.  When I told Carolyn that Laura Marie could wear her Nats tee to a game this summer, she said, “You can’t take a three-month-old baby to a baseball game!  Besides, they’d probably boo her.”

Maybe I should raise her to be Phillies fan.  (Of course, you talk about mean and rowdy fans!  No offense Christi–you’re the rare exception.)  That would be strange since I’ve never been a Phillies guy myself, but Philly is as close as Baltimore or D.C., so the baby should have her pick.

Anyway, here’s the shirt:

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 1:13 pm  Comments (2)