Thursday, August 30, 2007

James' fears confirmed

Our youth minister, James Pahl, sent me a clip of South Carolina Miss Teen. She proves, he says, that our culture does indeed value looks over brains. Really? I didn't realize that. Then again, James might just have fallen in love? Here she is . . .

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jonah's Game-O-Rama

Saturday morning Jonah participated in Grand Ledge's version of a sixth grade football jamboree, the Game-O-Rama. They played four mini games against Dewitt and Waverly. The first two games were uneventful for Jonah. During the third game though, while on defense, Jonah woke up and turned into a one-man wrecking crew.

The carnage began when the quarterback dropped three steps to hand the ball off on the left side to the half-back. Only the half-back wasn't there. In a panic, the QB spun around to the right and met Jonah head on. It was the hardest hit I've ever seen him make. All the dads went "whoa!!!" All the moms sucked air.

After that Jonah went on a run of five straight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including the sack you see here. The opponents finally decided to double team him. One play saw J get hammered - it was pretty cool, really. That didn't stop him, though, and by the time the game was over, Jonah chalked up about a dozen solo tackles. The J-man is a sledge hammer!

Press the play button below for highlights . . .

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Wally sauntered into the office today and informed us we had trapped a skunk. If you’ve looked out back behind the church building, you’ve noticed the construction of a pole barn. Lloyd and his crew have been working hard to create a place for storage. One of their first tasks was to dig several holes on which the building’s posts will rest.

A lonely skunk found one of the holes. I wonder what happened. Did he fall in? Was he . . . pushed? According to Wikipedia, “Although [skunks] have excellent senses of smell and hearing — vital attributes in a nocturnal omnivore — they have poor vision. They cannot see objects more than about 3 metres away with any clarity, which makes them very vulnerable to road traffic.” Apparently also to holes.

On hearing the skunk’s plight, James and I grabbed the digital camera and ran out to the hole giggling like schoolgirls. The plank that Wally tossed in it so the skunk could climb out made it easy to locate. Naturally the little fellow was too nearsighted to see the board. As he clawed away at the side of the hole I stood above snapping pictures of his (or was it her) furry, striped little body. Eventually the critter turned a tail to us, and we turned a tail to it, scurrying off to the safety of the church building before suffering the consequences of crossing the fine line between spectator and participant.

Sitting here now, I wonder how often I am like that skunk. Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. All jokes about baked beans and clumsiness aside, I’m afraid I am like him more often than I would like to admit.

Believe it or not, this preacher sometimes falls into holes. Morally. Emotionally. Spiritually. I cruise through life, merrily on my way. Suddenly the bottom drops out, gravity takes over, and I plunge downward. A billboard with an immodestly dressed woman catches my eye and, rather than averting my eyes, I linger. Someone criticizes me or I feel taken for granted and my self image plummets. Or, I get so busy doing ministry that I neglect the God for whom I minister. Before long I find myself at the bottom of some chasm staring up at a sky that seems all but unreachable.

Lying there, as I am, at the bottom of my self-made self-pity abyss, what do I do? Too often I dig around, scratching and clawing, looking for some way out, when all along God has placed the means of my escape right there beside me. Or worse – when God peers down to see if I’ll get a clue and crawl out of the pit – I become frightened, turn tail, and stink things up.

Like me skunky friend, my response is completely irrational. I mean, holes happen. Aside from learning to dig less holes on my own, there is little I can do about it. Even if I could stop my own excavations (unlikely as that is) I’ll still stumble into pits dug by other people or even just uncontrollable circumstances. Holes happen. And when they do, I need to learn to stop trying to dig my own way out, look up, and let a far greater being than I can possibly fathom reach down and pull me out from the miry clay of my humanity. And, frankly speaking, maybe you do, too.


Jeremy Brummel posted this bit on his blog.

Qantas' Pilot Gripe Sheet

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet," which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas'

Pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.

S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.

S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.

S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.

S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.

S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.

S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.

S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.

S: That's what they're for.

P: IFF inoperative.

S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.

S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.

S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.

S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.

S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.

S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last..................

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.

S: Took hammer away from midget

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Meet Winnie Langley. She just turned 100 years old. She celebrated by firing up her 170,000 cigarette. Marlboro man my . . . patootie.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My friend Scott sent me this poem that was attributed to Maya Angelou. Actually, Angelou never wrote it. Rather, someone named Carol Wimmer penned it. The newer anonymously edited version is better, I think, that the original. Here it is:

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say.. "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
And need Christ to be my guide.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Spider pig, spider pig . . .

Son number two and I stopped by Celebration Cinema tonight to take in The Simpson's Movie. I'll admit, I've never been a big fan of Bart and company. Fact is, I don't think I've ever seen an episode on television. Obviously I would never see so impious a movie were I not interested in better understanding the postmodern cultural phenomena. My take on the flick?

In short, it was hilarious.

There are plenty of folks who will, no doubt, decry a preacher seeing the movie. They're probably right in some respects. Still, I was surprised by several aspects of the film.

First, Ned Flanders, the stereotypical Simpson's Christian, was not so stereotypical. In fact, the writers portray him as a good father, and an admirable friend to Bart and his family. I wish all Hollywood were so kind to Christians in the cinema. Flanders is such a good dad that Bart . . . well, I don't want to spoil it for you.

There was also one scene that confirmed to me that these folks know human (and dare I say it, Christian) nature. As doomsday approaches, the church folks and the patrons of the adjacent bar all run out into the street and look up at their impending ruin. As if on cue, the bar folks run into the church to pray while the church folks run into the bar to play. That is so 21st-century-western church it is scary.

Ultimately, the movie is a story of a man who rises above his incompetence and sacrifices himself for the good of others - not exactly The Passion of the Christ, and yet a story of redemption nonetheless.

I give the movie two and a half donuts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What's in a name?

MSN is reporting that a Catholic Bishop from Amsterdam is suggesting that, in order to ease tensions between Muslims and Christians, we all begin calling God "Allah."

A better idea, I think is to rename God "Frank."

And why not? I've often felt quite a bit of tension with the name Frank. Think about all the television buffoons you know. They're named Frank. Consider Frank Burns, the inept, bumbling surgeon of MASH fame. Although he wasn't hated by his peers, he was incessantly made fun of and mercilessly picked on. Then there is Ray's dad Frank from Everybody Loves Raymond. What a bonehead.

There might be better understanding between Christians and people named Frank, if we renamed God "Frank." Anybody agree?

Then again, we could just stick to calling God "Yahweh." Or "I AM." Now there's an idea. Call God by his own name. Hmmmmmm. That might just work.

Whatever we call God, I suspect the best we can do is to honor His name by the way we live. In Malachi 2:2 God said,
Listen to me and take it to heart. Honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, "or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning seriously.
Someone needs to tell our Dutch Catholic brother that he is out of line - way out of line. But while we're excoriating him for his sacrilege, we'd better make sure we're not profaning God's name by our sin.

Which is worse, after all: to get God's name wrong, or to wrong God's name?


Am I the only one who is creeped out by Chris Angel? His television show, Chris Angel, Mindfreek is amazing. His illusions, floating from one building to another, for example, are . . . unbelievable.

According to wikipedia, Angel claims to not have paranormal abilities, and even says he does not believe anyone has supernatural ability. Nevertheless, he carefully cultivates his image as a mysterious sorcerer.

As I said, creeeeeepy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm a bad dad

Last night my friend Deputy Sheriff Johnny Lopez stopped by the house. He works the late shift for Eaton County, Michigan. Johnny and I became acquainted this year at church camp. What a great guy. As we stood in the garage chatting while waiting for my son and daughter to come home from the youth group movie outing, his police cruiser was parked in front of the house. I expected them to arrive at about 11:30. Abby's friend Chelsea, whose father is a Lansing Police Department Inspector, was driving them home.

I thought to myself, "lets have a little fun with the kids!" "Hey Johnny," I said, "When the kids pull up, lead me out of the garage with my hands behind my back like I'm being arrested."

That's exactly what we did. When Chelsea and the gang drove up I walked out of the garage. My head was down to keep them from seeing the smirk on my face. Jonah came flying out of the car yelling, "Dad, dad, dad." Abby went hysterical. It took me a good five minutes to calm her down, even after she recognized Johnny and pretty much slapped me silly.

Some things seem funny in the garage, but they lose their humor by the time you get to the end of the driveway.

Baptism? Ya' sure . . . we teach dat

At last week's Northmen men and boy's rally, one of the speakers (from the righter wing of The Restoration Movement) made a veiled reference to "Bible colleges that don't teach baptism." I am so glad that he wasn't talking about my Alma mater, Great Lakes Christian College.

From time to time folks question whether or not GLCC teaches immersion as essential for salvation. I decided I would ask James Pahl, our church's youth minister, what he learned at GLCC. I was surprised to learn that James didn't come from a Christian Church background. He grew up Free Methodist and was unimmersed when he came to GLCC as a freshman. Through the teaching of his professors in Life of Christ and in Acts, (more specifically the scripture to which they drew his attention) James came to the understand that he needed to be baptized to be saved.

That is what James now teaches at South Lansing Christian Church.

Whenever a school, such as GLCC, admits students from other faith traditions, they open themselves to the accusation "your students don't believe in baptism." Even though the professors teach immersion as an integral part of the salvation experience, there will be students who will leave the classroom disagreeing.

But, as in the case of James, there will be others who, like Apollos, learn the gospel "more adequately." Because of GLCC, James Pahl is entrusting the gospel to reliable students who will also be qualified to teach others. And that, friends, is good news!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nope . . . not here

Drove past The Family Motorcycle club today on South Washington. The sign above the draw about made me wreck my car.

"If you're not sure you're welcome," it read, "you're not!"

I'm gonna drive back around tomorrow just to see if I read it right and maybe snap a picture for the blog.

I wonder - do we communicate that in our churches?

If we're not intentional and diligent in welcoming people to our assemblies, aren't we communicating to them in some implicit way, "you're not welcome"?

South Lansing has a fantastic team of greeters on Sunday mornings. Jerry Rountree and his crew do a great job of helping South become "A Place for You." Every church needs a handful of Jerrys Otherwise, we communicate "This is a place for us."

Ahhhh, porcelain!

My sons and I returned early this morning from The Northmen. It was a great week filled with good friends, good food and some good preaching.

To be completely honest, I didn't agree with everything I heard from the pulpit. I found some of the men's sermons to be offensive, even. That is always the case for me and the Northmen. There are some pretty far-right preachers who come there. But even those guys, when I've sifted through the chaff, give me plenty to think about and several grains of truth.

Here are a few kernels:

Referencing Isaiah 6, Kerry Allen preached, "Sometimes worship isn't a warm, fuzzy; sometimes worship is a painful experience that results in reformation." He also said, "Kingdom people, sometimes, never hear the voice of the King, and that is tragic."

From Greg Dill: "We don't have a right to change the message; our job is to deliver the message."

Fred Rodkey, Preaching Pastor of Chapel Rock Christian Church preached "You look like Jesus when you're searching for the lost, more than any other time in your life."

Ron Otto, the former minister at South Lansing gave, in my opinion, the best sermon of the week. He told us that 1 out of every 1000 doors we knock on results in a conversion to Christ. 1 of every 9 people we invite to church becomes a Christian, but 1 of every 3 people we invite into our home will make Christ their Lord.

Dick Chambers preached, "Salvation is free, but discipleship costs you everything you've got."

On Thursday morning, Harry "Bud" Yoder told us, "You can teach people how, but until you teach them why, they'll never be disciples.

J. Allen Cook delivered one of the best sermons I've ever heard on the parable of the prodigal son. he told us, "Your church reflects either one of two spirits. It reflects the prodigals willingness to celebrate and come home, or it reflects the older brother's spirit of judgment." He also said, "Prodigal sons sin gregariously; older brothers sin tastefully. They both sin. Prodigals are just on the accelerated plan." He concluded by preaching, "Older brothers, don't forget you have a past; prodigals, don't forget you have a future."

Of course, Mike Kjergaard preached a dandy. Speaking on the parable of the unmerciful servant, he said, "As a forgiven people, we need to be a forgiving people."

The week was rounded out by Lee Mason. I don't always agree with what Lee writes, but I've yet to hear him preach a clunker. He did not disappoint last night, either. He preached, "A man's life does not consist of what he possesses, but of who possesses him." He also told us a Spanish proverb that puts material possessions in the right light: "There are no pockets in a shroud."

All in all it was a great week, and I look forward to returning to the North woods on August 5-7, 2008.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Houghton Lake Heaven

It's 1:30 AM and I am sitting in the living room of my buddy Mike Harrison's Houghton lake cottage. Tomorrow morning (or later this morning, actually) my sons and I are headed to The Northmen men and boy's rally out in the woods of northern Michigan. My friend Mike Kjergaard and Ron Otto, the former preacher from South Lansing Christian Church, are both scheduled to preach. It should be a great week.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Receiving the baton

This morning Larry Carter and George Brown passed South Lansing's baton of ministry to me. It was a humbling experience, coming from the two men for whom I have such immense respect.

When I read names like Lee Doty and Bob Palmer and Ron Otto on the baton, I am reminded of the heritage which I inherit and the responsibility that comes with so sober a charge. I hope I am worthy of that with which I have been trusted.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Tomorrow is my first sermon as South Lansing's Senior Minister. I am more than a little excited. Tonight came over to the church and helped the youth group set up chairs for tomorrow. With each chair I laid down I said a quick prayer for the person that would be worshiping there tomorrow.

Still, my enthusiasm is tempered a bit. Last Sunday during worship I glanced over at Mrs. Frankly and tears were trickling down her cheeks. I mouthed the words, "what's wrong?" She reached over and wrote in my journal "Butler." She misses folks, and I do, too.

Yet the turning of this page in our life has been made so clear by the Lord. God has opened this door, and that makes it alright to walk through it. In fact, it is better than merely alright, it is awesome.

What will God accomplish in the coming years? I can't wait to find out.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


With last night's victory over the Phillies, the Cubs are tied for first place!!! Go Cubs!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Politically correct baseball . . . what's next?!

New England television station WBZ TV carried an interesting story about a minor league baseball team that played a "politically correct" baseball game recently in an effort to boost attendance.

While the Lowell Spinners and Brooklyn Cyclones played the game, the announcers struggled with terms like "first baseperson," and "vertically-challenged stop." All in all, a pretty hilarious evening.

What would happen if political correctness came to church, I wonder?

Oh yeah, the TNIV.

Sorry, Wally. I just couldn't resist.

A great blessing

I love this blessing, found in Psalm 144:

May our sons flourish in their youth
like well-nurtured plants.
May our daughters be like graceful pillars,
carved to beautify a palace.
May our barns be filled
with crops of every kind.
May the flocks in our fields multiply by the thousands,
even tens of thousands,
and may our oxen be loaded down with produce.
May there be no enemy breaking through our walls,
no going into captivity,
no cries of alarm in our town squares.
Yes, joyful are those who live like this!
Joyful indeed are those whose God is the Lord.