Thursday, January 31, 2008

Come cruise with us!

Back in high school I learned the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Also known as the law of entropy, this principle teaches us that matter, left unto itself, goes from a state of order to a state of chaos. Put more simply, "stuff rusts." If I don't change the oil in may car, the motor will sieze. If I don't clean the gutters on my house, my basement is more likely to flood.

Over the years I've taught dozens of couples the First Law of Marriage Dynamics. In other words, if I don't put energy and effort into my marriage, it will break down.

That's why Tracy and I are headed to the Caribbean in October for a marriage enrichment cruise. We would love for you, faithful Frankly reader, to come and join us. In addition to the great weather, and the incredible ports of call, on two of the three days we're at sea I'll be speaking on God's Plan for Marriage, and authors Chris and Rachel McClusky, will be teaching on intimacy in marriage. The price for this cruise is exceptionally affordable. There are inside staterooms for just over $400 per person, ocean view rooms for for just over $500 per person, and balcony rooms for $743 per person.

You can check out Centermark Coaching's marriage enrichment blog to get all the details, or you can check the "Come Cruise With Me" link on the right of this page.

Email me today if you're interested in cruising with the Wellers!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Changing lanes . . .

As I was driving the kids to youth group tonight on I-96, I was surprised to share the roadway with the Butler, Indiana American Legion bus. I pulled alongside and rolled down my window, hollering like a paparazzi in search of a Lindsay Lohan photo. Ted Miller was driving the bus. Ted is Butler's city manager, a veteran, and an officer at Post 202. Ted peered into our car thinking, or so I imagined, that some crazy left-wing Michigan psycho was harassing a perfectly innocent group of senior citizens returning from the casino in Mt. Pleasant (at least that's my guess.) When he saw it was me and not Al-queda he grinned and waved. I guess the folks will have a guess-who-I-saw story to tell when they get back home.

What's the likelihood that we would meet on that road at that time? We departed from different places and were headed for different destinations. Yet, for just a few moments we were able to share the common experience of tooling down I-96 together in the evening twilight.

Come to think of it, that is pretty much a metaphor of my experience in Butler, Indiana. For ten great years, my journey merged with those of a bunch of wonderful people. Together we shared victories like Eastside's boys' basketball sectional victory. We endured defeats - so many losses to Jimtown and John Glenn. We worked together building a church, a playground, a library, and new schools. We laughed together at the Eat'n Haus, in Towne Hardware, at Kaiser's and in dozens of other places. On 9/11 we cried together and we prayed.

Our church saw babies born and said goodbye to saints. We raised a crop of kids and sent them out into the world to make a difference. We served nearly 50,000 meals at the county fair in the time our paths were conjoined. We forged friendships - some of which I expect will remain until the day we walk a gold paved path.

My journey tonight took me straight on I-96 while the Butler bus made a southward arc and headed down I-69 toward home. The path we traveled together was ever so brief. It seems like the ten years we spent in Butler . . . fleeting.

Earlier today the Butler Church of Christ voted to call a new pastor and his wife, Dan and Sandy Wagner. He comes, ironically, from Lincoln Christian Seminary in Lincoln, Illinois. Ironic because Lincoln Christian Church got their new preacher from South Lansing. South went to Butler, Indiana. And now, Butler has completed a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction circle in calling Dan. Dan will do amazing work in Butler, because Butler Church of Christ is filled with amazing people who serve and amazing God.

I miss traveling the Butler path. I miss Mike and Shelly and Scott and Jenny and Nora and Stan and Bob and Julie and Kim and Diana and Jeff and Pam and Scott and Jessica and Sam and Brie and Kevin and Misty, and, and, and . . . .

I take comfort in two truths. First, our paths have diverged only for the time being. We'll travel the road together again - if not in this world, then in the next. Second, I find great comfort in the new companions with whom I have been called to journey - the wonderful people here at South.

I've often heard it said that preachers have it rough. They grow to love a group of people and then God calls them away to some other place. In truth, it has been hard. And yet, I've not considered myself singularly cursed, but rather doubly, no triply, blessed to have forged eternal bonds with people in Kokomo, Butler, and now Lansing.

Someday, in that great gettin' up morning, we all need to get together for a long walk. Until then, although our paths may cross far too seldom, we'll nevertheless be headed in the same direction, parallel lines leading to the throne of God. Better put it in your planner. I'll be looking for you on the Heavenly highway.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Small Group

Galatians, Guns and Grace. Ah yes, that's my kind of small group!

Mrs. Frankly and I had our first small group meeting tonight and we enjoyed it thoroughly. We hung out in Galatians 1 learning about Paul's apostleship. Seems Paul thought his bona fides came from God and not men. He might not have attended Jerusalem Tech to earn his degree in legalism (or maybe he did, actually), but he did spend three years earning his PhG (piled high with grace) degree with Jesus in the wilderness.

It was really good to connect with a group of people that I have no responsibility to teach. It was good to hear my children laughing with the other kids in the group; to hear my daughter belch from the living room half a house away. It was good to find out people were going to be praying for me and to assure them I would be praying for them. It was good to talk about orthotics with Paul and semi-automatics with Joe.

The Franklies will make this a regular visit, I am sure.

There is something affirming and organically healthy about connecting with a smaller group of people at a heart level. It reminds me that I need them. And it helps me to know that maybe they need me too.

I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Putting butts in the pews

I've heard that more than one church is promoting a sermon series with the provocative title, "Pure Sex."  Now, a Florida television station is reporting that some Florida drivers are finding the billboard promoting the series is distracting to some motorists.  Here is the billboard.  What say you, Frankly readers?  How far is too far in trying to reach pagans with what the Bible teaches?  Where is the line between "in the world," and "of the world?"

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A pain in the . . . toe

My friend, Julia, was spotting her fiance, Rob, during his workout yesterday when he dropped a dumbell on her toe. Dr. Terrie checked it out and drilled a hole in the toenail to relieve the pressure. (Keep in mind I'm getting all this second-hand, so I could have the facts wrong - not that I would ever let a little thing like the facts get in the way of a good story.) I hear tell there was plenty of blood and, a couple of x-rays later, Julia walked out of the medical center wearing a stylish new shoe which she was sporting at church this morning.

It sort of reminded me of an event from my college days. Thad Beard and I were playing ping-pong in the administration building. It was late at night, and I was supposed to be making rounds as a student security guard. The thing we usually did, though, was play ping-pong, eat pop tarts from the cafeteria, and read the Civ and Lit books from the library's reserve shelf. Thad and I were involved in a hotly contested match when he cracked off a big smelly one. I yelled "doorknob!" and commenced to chasing him. In college, yelling "doorknob" meant that a person had complete license to pummel the "flatulant" until he was able to locate and touch a doorknob. This provided a reasonable means of keeping dorm rooms odor free, but proved particularly difficult on long road trips.

On this particular night, Thad raced from the ping-pong table to the nearest door with me on his tail. Just before Thad reached the door I lunged at him. With all my weight going forward, my descending foot caught Thad's ascending heel. Something popped and a pain shot up my leg that dropped me like third period French. A trip to St. Lawrence Hospital revealed that I dislocated my big toe. It hurt like a son-of-a-gun.

As I told Julia earlier today, it is amazing how much pain such a small a part of the body can cause.

I think that is true in the body of Christ, too. Over the years I've learned that one person can cause considerable pain in the church. Occasionally that person has been me.

As I lay in the ER at St. Larry's, I would have been happy for the doc to tell me he was going to cut off my big toe if it would have stopped the pain. That's how we often handle the "extra grace required" Christians in our churches. Someone causes too much irritation and we chop 'em off. Sometimes its necessary. Bob Russell says that there are three reasons to remove a person from the Body: heresy, sexual immorality, and divisiveness. I agree with him. It's better to cut off the toe than to allow gangrene to infect the whole body. I wonder, though, if there are times when we chop off the "appendage" out of convenience rather than necessity. Shouldn't we be more graceful?

Looking back, I'm glad the doc reduced my dislocated toe rather than removing it. Maybe I can learn to do the same with folks who cause the rest of us pain from time to time. And if a blockhead like me can learn, maybe you can, too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Here's your sign

According to the Associated Press, a guy from Berlin was nearly incinerated when he nearly drank gasoline from a flask. The good news: he spit it out. The bad news: he spit it on his cigarette. Which was lit. With fire. Ich bin ein moron.

Here's the story.
BERLIN -- A German man in the northeastern town of Gross Godems was being treated for serious burns Monday after accidentally setting his apartment ablaze when he mixed up a bottle of gasoline with alcohol, police said.

The 56-year-old apparently grabbed the wrong bottle and took a swig from the gasoline flask, then spat it out when he realized his mistake.

The gas hit a lit cigarette, sparking the fire, police said.

The man's name was not released.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thank you!

I've heard from a couple of Frankly Speaking readers concerning my post last Tuesday, January 8. Thank you! If you've not yet read the exciting news, please check it out and join me in praying for the upcoming trips.

Church of the ATM . . .

My friend, Brian, sent me these two photos from a new church that is locating in a former Lansing Area Federal Credit Union. I am preaching a series on God's plan for our personal finances right now. Maybe a church with a built in ATM isn't such a bad idea . . .

Friday, January 11, 2008

Buckets are for more than just popcorn

Mrs. Frankly and the three "little" Franklies accompanied me to Celebration Cinema tonight to view the new Jack Nickolson / Morgan Freeman film, The Bucket List.

It was an exceptionally good film. In fact, it was a great film (that superlative is for my friend, Ben). I won't give away any of the plot. I won't spoil the end. I laughed. I cried (a little), and when the credits rolled I was reminded that, in a world with too much sex and violence committed to celluloid, humanity is still capable of producing a good movie now and again.

Don't wait for the DVD. Go see this movie.

PS - I'm already planning a "Bucket List" sermon series.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Promise Keepers

My dad used to say that a man who didn't keep his promise to his wife couldn't be trusted to keep his promises to anyone else. What does that say about the Republican Presidential candidates? I don't presume to know why so many in the field are divorced - who's at fault, what happened. Rather, I merely observe that there are three candidates who are married to their first brides:
Mike and Janet Huckabee, Ron and Carol Paul, Mitt and Ann Romney.

Does it matter that the others are divorced? Is fidelity in marriage a requirement for the Presidency? When a man stands before the preacher and promises, "til death do we part," and then goes back on his word, why should I believe him when he raises his right hand and intones, "I do solemnly swear to uphold the constitution of the United States of America"?

Or am I just too old-fashioned?

Huck-a-boom, Huck-a-boom, dontcha just love him

I'm thinking of voting for Mike Huckabee. Zig agrees with me.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Globe trotting Wellers to go on mission trips

Regular readers of Frankly Speaking will recall that Mrs. Frankly and I went on a mission trip to Haiti last spring with the good folks from Butler Church of Christ. It was a moving experience as the surgical team we were with brought health to scores of Haitians and as the rest of the team painted and furnished an infant orphanage at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. (Two of the little girls we worked with are pictured above.)

In 2008 Mrs. Frankly and Frankly-ette (Abigail) will be headed back to NWHCM. They will be there over Easter, and will once again be assisting in the clinic and surgery center. Son number one, Caleb, and I will be headed to Mexico over the summer. We'll be working near the Belize border to assist a group of Christians that lost their church building during last year's hurricane season. With a grant from International Disaster Emergency Services, Christ's Mission in the Yucatan is building a permanent block building that will serve, not only as a church, but also as a hurricane shelter for the community. We'll be helping with the construction.

This will be Caleb's first mission experience outside the United States, and it will be the first time Abby has seen poverty on this scale.

I am excited about their trips because I believe they will help to form them, spiritually. 70% of all missionaries began their careers as short-term missionaries. (My sister and brother-in-law are two who did so.) Caleb has already expressed interest in becoming a minister, and Abby wants to work with children. This will be a great opportunity for them to see if God might be leading them to become missionaries.

All told, the Wellers will be spending about $5000 for these four trips. Tracy and Abby will spend about $1300 each while my and Caleb's trip will run closer to $1200. I've never used Frankly Speaking to solicit anything from my readers, but I thought I would make a special request of the 100 + readers who drop by each week: would you be willing to help sponsor our trip(s)?

There are a couple ways you can help. First, Abby and Caleb both need passports. These will cost about $90 each. Second, you can help pick up the cost of our airfare with a donation of any size.

If you are willing to pay for the kids' passports, just send a check made out to either Abby or Caleb with "Passport" in the memo line. Unfortunately, these are not tax deductible gifts.

If you'd like to help with our airfare, just drop a check in the mail made out to South Lansing Christian Church. Put "Weller mission trips" in the memo line. We'll make sure you get a receipt from the church so you can claim the gift on your taxes. You can mail either gift to:
Frank Weller
South Lansing Christian Church
6300 Aurelius Rd.
Lansing, MI 48911

Keep checking back this spring for pictures from Haiti and, later on, from Mexico. Caleb and Abby (and Tracy and I) are working and saving for this trip, but as you can imagine it is a lot of money to come up with. That's why your partnership in this effort means a lot to me. Thanks, friends!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Not as Much as Noah

There's a flood watch here in East Lansing. That's what happens in springtime, I guess. Except that it's not springtime. They used to say in Indiana that, if you didn't like the weather, you could stick around five minutes because it was sure to change. Well, that axiom seems to hold true for Michigan, too. Come to think of it, I'll bet they say the same thing in every state north of the Ohio River.

As it happens, I am reading about Noah and the great flood that he endured so long ago. The critters all entered into the ark - including the two-legged ones with Noah's last name - and found safety in the midst of the storm.

Is that the church?

Certainly not the building. I've seen plenty of church buildings succumb to fire and hail and rain and wind. The living church, though, the people who make up the body of Christ, what about us? Are we an ark for people when they're hurting or scared? When they're facing a cataclysm that threatens their existence?

I sure hope so.

I guess the church, to stretch the marine analogy a bit more, is either a pleasure cruise or a lifeboat. I, for one, hope we're the latter; I don't want to waste my time on the former.

Oh . . . enjoy the sixty degree weather while you can. It's supposed to be below freezing again this weekend . . . right after the thunderstorm and tornado watches.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Winter Wonderland

The view from my office window is spectacular today!

Think about this on election day

Uncle Jay provides some useful insights heading into the upcoming primary elections.

Last year's reading

I'm often asked what I'm reading. A few years back I began keeping a list of the books I read. Here is 2007's list. Some are new, some are old.

The Hope by Herman Wouk
The Last Jihad by Joel Rosenberg
Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybles
Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger
Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides
Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell
The Last Days by Joel Rosenberg
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
The Copper Scroll by Joel Rosenberg
The Ezekiel Option by Joel Rosenberg
Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg
Six Days of War by Michael B. Oren
Night by Elie Wiesel
Be a People Person by John Maxwell
A Theological Miscellany by T.J. McTavish
Visioneering by Andy Stanley
The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
The Fight for Jerusalem by Dore Gold
Point Man by Steve Farrar
From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman
Safely Home by Randy Alcorn
The Externally Focused church by Rick Rusaw
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Breakout Churches by Thom Rainer
Clearing the Bases by Mike Schmidt
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Reveal: Where Are You? by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson
Made to Stick by Chip heath and Dan Heath
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
A Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy
The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson

I try to read a variety of books. Looking over the 31 titles that make up the list, I find 7 works of fiction and 24 non-fiction. Three are biographies. Eleven are either personal spiritual formation texts or somehow related to helping me "do church better." In 2007 I devoted a considerable amount of reading to books with a Middle Eastern theme. The best of these, by far, was Friedman's book, From Beirut to Jerusalem.

Without question, the best book I read in 2007 was Atkinson's follow-up to his Pulitzer winning book, An Army at Dawn (a 2006 read). His latest installment in the Liberation Trilogy has me panting for the final volume in that series. What a massive and fulfilling read.

What did you read in 2007? What are you looking forward to reading in 2008?