Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A New Approach to Church Fundraising

Copyright 2002 Thom Tapp and Christianity Today International. Used with permission.

Spiritually Deaf

"Jonah" "Jonah?" "Jonah!"

They say things come in threes. It seems to be the case in our home. After Abigail's knee injury and Caleb's appendicitis, we sort of expected that something would happen to Jonah. We never expected him to go deaf, though. He mentioned to his teacher that he couldn't hear another student giving her book report. Mrs. Diehl sent him to see the school nurse where he subsequently flunked his hearing test.

The good news is the condition is only temporary. Our family physician looked him over and said "His ears are full of fluid. It makes his eardrums really tight, so he can't hear." Apparently when our ears are full, it renders us deaf.

I've been spiritually deaf before.

My ears have been so full of noise that I couldn't hear God. Sometimes it is the praise of people that keeps me from hearing the God who refuses to shout over my pride. Sometimes my own self-pity drowns out God's soothing sound. Other times it is the din of sin. Still others it is Wall Street-esque busyness that pushes God aside so I can't hear Him. I even call this busyness "ministry" at times to justify the cacophony, but it is godless nonetheless.

Sometimes the louder-than-God voice I hear in my ears is my own. Barbara Brown Taylor writes,
Sometimes I think we do all the talking because we are afraid God won't. Or, conversely, that God will. Either way, staying preoccupied with our own world seems a safer bet than opening ourselves up either to God's silence or God's speech, both of which have the power to undo us.
The solution is to get rid of the noise. For Jonah, that requires a round of antibiotics. The drugs, it is hoped, will kill whatever is causing the inflammation and drainage. If that doesn't work, he may have to have a "myringotomy." That's where small "tubes" are placed in his ears to depressurize them.

I wonder if there is a spiritual equivalent to a myringotomy? Something to clear the clutter from my soul. I suspect there is. I fear it is called "silence."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Learning from Claire

By now you would think that I would have learned that you can't paint with such a broad brush. I mean, I have frequently cautioned my children against succumbing to the stereotypical mish-mash that seems to be the norm. The truth, however, is that I find myself far too vulnerable to generalizations in people.

That is why I am so grateful for Claire. Claire is the French exchange student who has put her feet under our dinner table and otherwise shared our lives for the past several weeks. She is, in every way, a delight.

Before Claire, I admit that I often bought into the anti-French sentiment that I have been fed my the media (conservative and liberal), our government, and the red-neck horde who advocate renaming French fries "freedom fries." While not exactly vocal about it, I nevertheless held some pretty patronizing views where our transatlantic brethren are concerned.

Claire changed all that. She is one of the finest young people I've had the pleasure to meet. She is down to earth, kind, and considerate in every way. She likes to sleep late, eat chocolate, watch movies, and complains about school being boring. She loves our dogs, teases our youngest son, and shares clothes with our daughter. When I pass gas, she says in her lilting French accent, "You're disgusting! You are a pig!" In short, she is one of us, or more accurately put, one of our own.

I realized how thoroughly she has captured my heart when she came home from school the other day and mentioned that her "history" teacher suggested that she should be grateful that "we," meaning the United States, "bailed your butt out" during World War II. I bristled as she recounted what happened.

I suggested to Claire that the next time Mr. Moron makes such a remark she might want to remind him that there wouldn't be a United States had not the French come to our aid during our War of Independence. Perhaps she might ask this golf coach they hired to teach history why he thinks we have a city in our own state named Lafayette? Maybe he could explain to her from his vast knowledge of Americana the contribution that General Rochambeau and his 60,000 French troops made at the deciding Battle of Yorktown. While he's at it, he might want to show her a photo of the French-gifted, majestic, green-hued lady that welcomes the "tired, poor, huddled masses" to New York harbor. Then, after he's done all of that, he can talk about our contributions to the French cause, indeed the world-wide cause, that Lady Liberty symbolizes.

But listen to me go on. Six months ago, I wouldn't have given a second thought to such an insensitive remark. Why the change? Claire.

She reminded me that good people are everywhere, if I slow down long enough to look for them. She has wound her way into our world. And, she has given me hope that maybe our two nations and indeed all the world can get past our pigeonhole prejudices if we care enough to confront them one Claire at a time. Frankly speaking, if France is turning out kids like Claire, then our Gallic cousins must be doing something right.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Trade Peyton Manning?!

My buddy Sam suggested on his blog that the Colts deal Peyton Manning. Check it out by clicking here.

Filing Long Form???

Living Roadmaps

Becky phoned last night to ask if I could drive her school bus route this morning. Seems the flu bug caught up with her. I left the house at 6:00 AM and headed out to pick up her students. Since it was still dark (as you would expect at "oh-dark-thirty" in the morning), I had trouble reading the map she left me. I struggled for about two stops, trying to turn the overhead light on while I inched my way down County Road 68. But then I picked up Jessica.

Seeing I was having a tough time, Jessica volunteered to help. I put down the map and began following the instructions of this five-foot-nothing "living roadmap." She did a great job and soon we were at school.

A guide is always better than a guidebook, don't you think?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Davis Out at IU

ESPN reported Mike Davis' resignation at a Thursday afternoon news conference. You've got to feel bad for the guy. He had impossibly large shoes to fill. And, in spite of a predisposition to whining, Davis is a pretty classy guy, a devoted family man, and a strong Christian. He'll bounce back. Hopefully, so will IU.

Between Seasons

We come now to the most depressing time of the year: the annual post-Superbowl, pre-baseball season sports drought. Oh, IU basketball used to hold some excitement for me. Even if you didn’t like Bob Knight (I did, mostly), it was still fun to turn on the telly and see if he was going to blow a jugular and fling a chair at the ref. The current Hoosier’s coach doesn’t yell. He whines. Say what you want about Bobby, but The General does more winning than whining, and I’d rather see him explode beside the court than watch the cream and crimson implode on the court - something they do far too frequently these days.

I suppose I could watch hockey. I’ve tried, really I have. As a hockey nut, my buddy Fred avoids this "seasonal slump." So freakish is his devotion that his picture was in The Detroit News kissing the Stanley Cup - a trophy that he claims is the most beautiful in all of sport. He even named his daughter, Yzabella, after the Detroit Red Wings team captain. Hockey fanatics (the abbreviation "fan" doesn’t suffice) are scary. They chuck octopusses on the floor - I mean ice - when their team wins, and they throw beer-soaked, sweat-stained hats at anyone who scores three goals; two practices that lack a certain . . . civility. And this coming from a football fan. The only reason I ever watched hockey was for the fights, and the networks started cutting away during the brawls. Where’s the fun in that.

This year, we have the Winter Olympics. I could get into that, especially if they brought back Tonya Harding and her billy-club wielding no-necked boyfriend. But, I’m guessing she couldn’t afford the flight to Torino. "Neck-car" revved up last week, but I refuse to define as "sport" something that the rest of us can do while talking on our cell phone, or eating a taco, or putting on our make-up - albeit more slowly.

All of this means that I am stuck between seasons, living life in the dull alphabet-soup sports world between the NFL and MLB.

It’s not just sports that are affected by the doldrums. Spiritually speaking, I’ve been there, too. The doldrums are what ancient mariners named the sea near the equator where the winds are calm and the heat stifling. Spiritually, the doldrums are "a spell of listlessness or despondency, a state of inactivity, stagnation, or slump." And, as I’ve said, I’ve been there. I’m betting you’ve been, too.

Your schedule gets crazy, and you miss your daily "connecting time" with God. Just a day here and there at first, then two days in a row, then three, then a week. Welcome to the doldrums. You make a habit of staying out late on Saturday night and arrive at church exhausted - so exhausted that you just go through the motions. No fresh wind. No fresh fire. Spiritually dead.

Have you been there? Are you there now?

When the old salts of the 18th and 19th century encountered the doldrums, they let down their rowboats and, with long ropes, towed their limp-sailed ships across the placid water in search of a breeze. It was work, but eventually, their sails billowed once more. When you and I are spiritually trapped in a silent, deadly calm, what can we do? We can return to the disciplines that previously made our sails swell - prayer, Bible reading, meditation, worship.

And then we wait.

For just as certainly as the return of pitchers and catchers to training camp heralds the coming of Major League Baseball and spring, fresh spiritual vitality awaits all who are disciplined enough to pursue it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

$2.39 Per Gallon Buys More than Gasoline!

You've got to love the United Arab Emirates, one of the wealthiest nations, per capita, in the world. They used their oil money (our gas money) to build a snow resort in the middle of the desert. Check out these photos of their indoor snow run below. Nice. Very nice.

Under construction
Completed exterior (notice the palm trees swaying in the 103 degree heat)

Indoor view

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Good News is . . .We Met our Co-Pay

This has been quite a week at the Weller home. On Monday, Abigail twisted her knee in a basketball game. The clock was ticking down under a minute, and she was wrestling for a rebound when the opposing player threw her to the ground. Her face twisted in pain as tears cascaded down her cheeks. A trip to the ER, the doctor, and the ortho surgeon later we're still waiting word on her condition. They're pretty sure she doesn't have a torn ACL, but next week's MRI will tell the tale.

Then there is Caleb. He came home from school early on Monday complaining of tummy pain. I gave him my sternnest no-Playstation-lay-on-the-couch-and-stay-there speech. Sixty minutes later he was upchucking, an unfortunate pattern that continued throughout the rest of the day. By yesterday morning, the pain had intensified and he couldn't stand up straight. We took him to the doctor who sent him to the ER (two trips in one week - a record for our family). A blood test revealed an elevated white blood cell count. Dr. Justice's trained hands diagnosed appendicitis. So Bubba lost his appendix about five-fifteen last night. He's doing well though.

Some thoughts. First, people are good. The folks at Fremont Middle School went out of their way to help Abby. They got her a wheelchair and made arrangements to pick it up so we wouldn't have to backtrack. The physicians and nurses at both emergency rooms (Cameron Memorial and Dupont Hospital) were caring and professional. Sherri stopped on her way home from work in Angola to pick up the X-rays to save us a trip. The orthopedic surgeon at ONE and the wall full of pictures of athletes he has treated gave us confidence in his ability. Our youth minister, Scott and his wife Jenny have been a blessing. Scott was here with us most of day yesterday. When Jenny got off work, she brought dinner for us. The Thorps, Sprungers and Steeres watched our other children for us so Tracy and I could stay overnight at the hospital.

Dr. Justice is the best. He is a fine surgeon and a good Christian man. It was reassuring to know that Caleb was in God's hands, and in the hands of a surgeon who is in God's hands. Dupont hospital is unlike any healthcare facility I've ever experienced. The rooms are comfortable. The staff is gracious. They have room service on call (Caleb just ate some french fries, in fact). Most impressive for me, though, is the free wireless internet. It is how I am able to blog sitting at Caleb's side watching him and my exhausted wife slumber. It is also how I was able to email my sermon to our staff and IM with them concerning Caleb's condition.

Yes, this experience has reaffirmed to me the goodness of God's children. People are good. And, Frankly Speaking, that is good news in a world that is in desperate need of good people.

PS - If you don't see much of Jonah in the next few days, I'm guessing he is hiding out in the house, refusing to venture forth in fear that he might be next!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A New Heaven and a New Earth

CNN is reporting a recently discovered pristine rainforest on the Island of Papua New Guinea. Researchers from the United States identified 20 new species of frog, four new species of butterfly and five new species of palms. They also spotted the first new species of bird on the island in sixty years, "a new type of honeyeater bird with a bright orange patch on its face."

The Rhode Island sized forest is unexplored, and scientists have only scratched the surface with the two small trails they cut into the wilderness. In describing the jungle, Bruce Beehler, co-leader of the expedition, said, "It's as close to the Garden of Eden as you're going to find on earth." What is more, researchers revealed that the animals they encountered had no fear of humans, having never seen them before. Sounds a little like the "new heaven and new earth" that God promised the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, and the "lion lying down with the lamb" that God revealed to Isaiah.

The Bible says "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him." Considering the amazing Papuan paradise just now being explored, imagine the incomparable beauty of the new Heaven and new Earth that God is preparing for those who love Him!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Waiting . . . still!

As I write this there are about 100 students outside my door. They're jumping around on one of those huge inflatable deals you rent for your kid's birthday party. Killing time before the Superbowl, they're watching Michael W. Smith videos, playing foosball, talking to each other and pointing to the girls (or the guys) and whispering - pretty much exactly what you would expect them to be doing.

There is one kid who is not here.

My son, Jonah, is not yet old enough to attend the annual 'Bowl Bash. Oh, he pleaded with me and Mrs. Pastor. He begged. He implored. None of it worked. We've heard it all before from his older brother and sister. For years they too asked to come in spite of being "too young." This event is reserved for Jr. High and Sr. High students, and so each of them had to wait their turn. Abby and Caleb did it, and so Jonah is experiencing the same thing they did: the pain of waiting.

Of course, the waiting makes the actual event that much more sweet. Two years from now, when Jonah is finally able to watch "the game" (with the Colts winning, hopefully) it will be for him a sweet reward.

I sometimes think that is why we have to wait on Heaven. Earth's toil makes the reality of eternal bliss much more sweet.

Until then, I'll wait. Sometimes impatiently, but waiting nevertheless, in the knowledge that at the end of that wait is a sweet reunion with Jesus and those who've "graduated" this earth and are waiting for me in the next.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Lawn Care Lessons

About this time every year, I begin to think about the lawn. After all, it is only 47 days until spring. Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks. Summer isn’t far behind, so I’m thinking green. Now, Mrs. Weller will tell you that I am a bit obsessed with my turf. I constantly remind the children that sidewalks are for walking and grass . . . well . . . grass isn’t. Tracy wanted to have a yard sale last year, but I told her she couldn’t use the yard.

As much as crab grass and lawn litter lawn bother me, there is something that irks me more: people cutting the corner of our lot. For some reason, there are drivers who fail to recognize that the road ends where the turf begins. They cut across the corner of our yard. Last spring this happened so often that a sizeable mud hole developed. It got so big that we found a small child and his dirt bike inside. I filled the hole, seeded the new soil and put four metal posts in the ground to discourage people from cutting the corner.

I share all of this with you to help you understand how pleased I was recently when my oldest son stormed into the house in a huff. Someone had cut the corner and ran over our posts. "They don’t they have any respect for a man’s yard," he hollered. "It’s just wrong!"

I beamed! Soon he’ll be lingering in the lawn care section and having internal conversations about the comparative merits of drop spreaders verses liquid application. ‘At’s my boy!
It’s exciting for every mom and dad when their child begins to care about the same things they care about.

Make no mistake, your children will care about the things that are important to you. Are making money and acquiring possessions your highest priorities? Don’t be surprised when Junior begins focusing on material things. Are you concerned with popularity - being seen with the glamour set? Expect Missy to adjust her behavior in school to accommodate the crowd, too.

On the other hand, if spiritual things are important to you, then they’ll likely be important to your children. Is living out your faith on Monday through Saturday a priority for you? Your children will see that example and develop more than a Sunday-only faith themselves. Do you devote time and energy to a ministry in the church? Soon your sons and daughters will want to serve alongside you. What is important to you will become important to them. And when it does, you will experience joy!

Just like the joy your Heavenly Father feels when you begin to care about the things He cares about.

As you grow in your faith, you’ll become more like your Father in Heaven so that what brings Him joy will make you joyful. What causes Him to weep will break your heart, too. You’ll experience Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:18 - ". . . our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. . ."

And that, my friend, will bring joy both to your Father and to you.