Saturday, November 29, 2008

Letting go of Abby

Our daughter, Abigail, got her license a few weeks back. It was a long time in coming. She completed driver's education when we lived in Indiana, but we moved to Michigan just a few weeks before she was eligible to get her Indiana license. Initially we thought we might let her just use our old Indiana address to get her license and then just transfer it to Michigan. After rethinking it, though, we thought it would be simpler to just make one transaction after we moved.

We were wrong. She had to get her Michigan driver's permit and then undergo a second driver's ed class. Then, she had to take her driver's test. She passed with flying colors and we headed into East Lansing for the MSU vs. Purdue football game to celebrate. The following Monday she and I went to the Secretary of State and she became a full-fledged driver.

The last couple of weeks have been about us taking the training wheels off. He first trip was to the Student Leader meeting for South's youth group. She drove her brothers to school several times. Youth group trips on Sunday night were part of the process, too. The real test, however, took place today when she and her brothers headed south to Grandma and Grandpa's house in Butler, Indiana. The two hour trip took them down Interstate 69 at 70 mph.

The thought of everything that matters to Tracy and I heading down the highway at any speed faster than a Huffy made me twitch. I had them call me when they left the house, when they got on the interstate, when they crossed the state line, when they got off the interstate . . . you get the idea. They arrived safely. End of anxiety, right?


A couple hours after arriving in Butler Abby called to ask if she could go to a movie with her friend, John. Who is a boy. Who would be driving her. To the movie. And back to her grandparents. Her first official car date?

I said that this weekend's trip was about us removing the training wheels. The truth is, I think maybe it is more about me learning to let go. To be completely honest, it hurts because I know where this is all headed. Seventeen years ago my wife and I went on our first "post-baby" date and entrusted our little girl to a babysitter for the first time. Today we're racing toward Abby moving into a college dorm and, (gulp!) walking down a church aisle.

When I was about to become a father for the first time a wiser, older man told me, "Frank your children will break your heart." As he was the father of a great kid that made him proud then (and since with a great husband, career, and beautiful granddaughter), I was puzzled by his comment.

I understand now. . .

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Micki's Cats

Our church secretary, Micki, loves cats. Here are three of her feline companions. Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where are you leading?

Just finished Andy Stanley's book Next Generation Leader with our Joshua's Men group. For the past twelve months I have been leading a group of seven emergent leaders through a series of books focusing on leadership - at home, at work, and in the church. We started work on the inside focusing on spiritual formation and, as it turned out, we ended there, too.

I love what Andy Stanley wrote on page 28: "We must never forget that people who follow us are exactly where we have led them."

A sobering thought for those of us who lead others . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Common sense, the Constitution and Scripture

A friend from South sent this video clip of Michigander, Ted Nugent, expressing his opinion on a person's right to bear arms. Ted is well known for his support of the Second Amendment, and his involvement with the National Rifle Association.

As I watched the clip, I found myself agreeing. The common sense part of me says, "Yes, a person should be able to defend himself or herself." Our founding fathers thought it important that we be able to do so. It seems that, if all of us are endowed by our creator with the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," that we ought to be able to secure those rights with a firearm. Nugent is obviously passionate in this regard - more passionate than me, certainly.

On the other hand, it is difficult for me to reconcile his comments with the Apostle John's: "Beloved, let us love one another. For love comes from God and everyone that loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love." Herein lies the enigmatic tension with which I continue to struggle: the tension between living as a citizen of this nation, and as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

Take a look at the video and see if you don't find yourself conflicted, too. Then, if you're inclined, comment and see if you can't help me wrap my head around the issue of dual citizenship. WARNING: Be advised that Ted uses some strong language - stronger than you're used to reading or hearing at Frankly Speaking.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jonah - 2001

A friend in Indiana was cleaning out her computer files today and sent me this picture of our son, Jonah. Though he is now thirteen, Jonah was only six at the time and was holding one of Emma's pups. Brings back memories . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Introducing . . .

Chad Cronin, South's Youth Minister, spoke on Sunday while I was up north hunting. I've heard great things about Chad's talk. Here is the introduction that my daughter, Abby, and I filmed and Kris Bargen produced to welcome Chad to the stage for his first sermon at South.

Kudos to

Wally turned me on to these guys. Good stuff!

Daily Freebie Promo - "You Can't Say That" from Worship House Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So a preacher walks into a bar . . .

I am sitting at The Rockford, a watering hole in downtown Farwell, Michigan. They advertised "Free Wi-Fi" on the sign out front, so I stopped in to do a little online work between the morning and afternoon hunts. This is something new for me, I must admit. I've rarely gone into a bar, and I certainly never went in to have a bite to eat and answer email.

Quick quiz: A guy wearing an Indiana University sweatshirt and typing on a MacBook Pro is in a bar in Farwell, Michigan with a bunch of guys in camo and a dude setting up sound equipment for tonight's "Thirsty Tuesday Band Night." (There's a guy with a long beard - like the dude from ZZ Top, too.) Which of these does not fit? You're right, it's me.

Seems Jesus went to a lot of places where he didn't fit in either - not that I am Jesus, of course. My motives aren't nearly so altruistic. Hey, I just came for the free Wi-Fi.

I've seen tons of deer. Shot at three. Killed one, but didn't find it until the day after - and after the coyotes, I am afraid. I seem to keep missing where I am aiming. I'm beginning to think that I either stink at hunting, or I have bumped my rifle's scope. Tonight is my last chance. Nothing over 200 yards. 150 is better.

PS - They just delivered my burger. The condiments come to the table in a cardboard Miller Lite 6-pack carrier. Cool. I think.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Frankly Speaking selected for Alltop!!

Frankly Speaking was recently added to Alltop. Alltop is an online magazine rack that collects popular feeds about various topics. My blog was added to the "Modern Church" section. Browse on over and check it out!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Restricting literacy by choice. . .

When I moved to Michigan I left behind an amazing group of people who were working to bring library service to the entire county from which I moved. The place of my birth, elementary and high school years, DeKalb County, Indiana has a very special place in my heart. My family continues to live there, and when we talk about "going home," it is the place to which we are referring.

Shortly before I relocated to Lansing, I and a group of literacy advocates met with the County Commissioners in an effort to persuade them to extend library service to every township in the county. Now, for the Frankly Speaking readers that take their library cards for granted, an explanation is necessary. Indiana is one of a handful of states that does not provide taxpayer supported library services for all of it's citizens. 93% of Hoosiers have a tax-payer funded library card. 7% do not, and must purchase an annual subscription. While not a problem for some, many who live in a "unserved" area cannot afford a library card and thus are forced to do without.

At the aforementioned meeting we presented our case. The commissioners dismissed our request forthwith. Frankly, it appeared to many of us who were present that they went into the standing-room only meeting with their minds already made up. Sadly, DeKalb County - the county where I grew up, the county where I still own property and continue to pay property taxes - remains one of the relatively few underserved counties in the United States.

How did we respond? We licked our wounds and moved on. At Butler Public Library, a dedicated staff and board of directors are building a new library - with no tax dollars! The other libraries in the county continue to expand services and offer programming to all citizens regardless of their ability or inability to access materials that can be checked out and taken home.

Today I was blessed to return the Butler Public Library for a "topping off" ceremony. The last bit of structural steel is about to be placed at the new library and soon the structure will be buttoned up for winter so interior work can begin.

While there I inquired about the recent elections and how they might affect library service. I learned that County Councilman Larry Moughler had an interesting quote in The Evening Star. I respect Larry Moughler. He is a good Christian man. He has worked hard his whole life, raised four good sons, and served his country in the United States Marine Corps. His grandkids are friends with my oldest two children. What is more, as a Gideon, he promotes Bible distribution throughout the world. He is a great guy, really, that I'm sure I would agree with on most topics. But, if he is quoted correctly in this particular article, I couldn't disagree more.

When asked his position on bringing county-wide library service to DeKalb County, Larry said,
"I don't use the library service . . . I know to some people it's very important. To me, it wouldn't be worth it . . . I'm not a reader, I guess, so I wouldn't appreciate that."
For the life of me, I just cannot understand that mindset. It is akin to me saying, "I don't use centrally dispatched 911 service . . . that may be important to some people, but I don't like to talk on the phone and don't expect an emergency, so I guess I wouldn't appreciate that." These same folks say, "I don't have kids in school, so why should I pay a school tax?"

Some services, while not universally used, are necessary because they collectively raise the quality of life and intellectual tide of a community. Library service is one such service. I cannot imagine a world where a quality library of wide-ranging books, periodicals, and media from authors and artists with whom I agree and disagree are not available to anyone who wants them. I've read about such places. George Orwell wrote about one in his book, 1984.

As I was pondering my frustration with the "I'm-not-personally-using-the-library-so-I'm-not-going-to-support-it" mindset, I spoke with a ministry colleague on the phone who told me of a quote he read some time ago:
"Those that don't read are no better off than those that can't."
My fear is this: the former - those who do not read and choose to not support libraries, the very organizations that promote reading - are ensuring a greater increasing supply of the latter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Staff nicknames

The Secret Service has selected code-names for President-elect Obama and his family. They are:
President Obama: Renegade
First Lady Michelle: Renaissance
Daughter Malia: Radiance
Daughter Sasha: Rosebud.
Very cool. I wonder . . . if we were to hand super-cool monikers on each of the staff at South Lansing Christian Church, what would they be? Here are my nominations:
Senior Minister, Frank Weller: Afterburner
Associate Minister, Wally Lowman: Strings
Childrens' Minister, Betty Allen: Paczki
Church Secretary, Micki Holmes: Woodstock
Youth Minister, Chad Cronin: Pomo
Administrative Assistant, Sue Bockrath: Scrapbook
Building Manager, Chris Adleman: Available
Alright, Southies, let's hear your suggestions. Oh . . . and keep it clean.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Does Jesus weep when he sees this?

Yahoo published a piece this morning about a riot that broke out in a Jerusalem church - the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in fact. (The BBC, AP and well, I guess just about every major news outlet carried the sad tale.) Seems that Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks got into a tussle. And what was the fuss all about? Which group "owns the rights" to the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the ancient site of Jesus' burial.

My friend Maceo alerted me to the event. An observant Jew, Maceo had this to say:
Unbelievable! To make it all even more unbelievable, it's not EVEN the site of his death, burial and resurrection. HELLO!

Golgotha, the place that looks JUST like a giant skull is just outside of Damascus Gate and a few blocks away from the old walled city of Jerusalem.

AND the GARDEN TOMB is just beneath the hill that stretches over Golgotha. Practically beside it, and it is CLEARLY marked with Crusader's markings
denoting its validity as the REAL tomb of Jesus.

I'm sure the "cross" they are fighting over is nothing more than
a byzantine fake at best.

These monks are fighting over a whole lot of nothing.

And so it goes on. (SIGH)
He's right, sadly. It does go on. Christians fight over the dumbest stuff. It is no mistake, I think, that the early Christians went out of their way to not identify the places in Jesus' life where the most significant events occurred. Apparently it didn't matter enough to the early church to document where Jesus died, or where his tomb was located. Clearly they knew the locations of these events. Why no atlas appended to the New Testament, then? Because it didn't matter. It still does not.

I would love to go to the Holy Lands and walk where Jesus walked. I can only imagine how much it would inform my faith and inspire my preaching. Nevertheless, geography is nothing without theophany. And, Frankly Speaking, I can experience God wherever I go.

Sadly, it appears that some who trod the same streets where Jesus once taught "love thy neighbor," fail to experience Christ's presence in spite of their holy surroundings.

Do we?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

And then James said . . .

My buddy, James Pahl, wrote an interesting post on his blog the other day. I agree with most of what he said (even the bit about Michigan needing a Sonic). I took issue with this, though:
" . . . I don't like it when people tell others who they are voting for. I can't explain it but something about it just rubs me the wrong way. My father is a county magistrate, and must always be impartial in all hearings and duties that he performs. He thinks it is inappropriate to discuss who he is voting for because it shatters that responsibility. I've always respected him for it and agreed with it. For me personally as an aspiring youth minister I've decided to place the same responsibility on myself. As a leader I do not want to use my position to sway anyone, whether intentional or not. Perhaps I've subconsciously forced that ideal on others. I mean, what is the purpose of sharing your decision? I don't mean this to criticize anyone who has done so, I'm genuinely curious."
My response to James? I tell people who I am going to vote for (after serious deliberation and contemplation) because I think the direction in which our country goes matters. I tell people who I am going to vote for because the sanctity of life matters to me; because I believe that our country faces threats from enemies outside of our borders and moral collapse within. I tell people who I am going to vote for because I am passionate about these things and I just might persuade one other person to join me in this quest. I tell people who I am going to vote for because I want people to know who and what I endorse. I want people to know that I believe in something; I stand for something; and there are things that I stand against.

There is no written or unwritten mandate for impartiality in Scripture. The closest one comes is in regards to a good soldier becoming entangled in civilian affairs. I suppose one can make a case, based on that passage, that all Christians should remain silent concerning their civic responsibility and duty. The case is stretched in my opinion.

I agree that we should not impose some "God's will litmus test" on a specific candidate. [To suggest that God wills we vote for one candidate over another is hubris.] I believe the American people get what the American people want with all the intended and unintended consequences that accompany that choice. God, frankly, often gives us what we want, too. Sometimes He does so knowing that we're not going to like what results from our choices.

I believe we can passionately disagree during a campaign, and still unite following an election. I am not one of these "he's-not-my-President" sorts. I will pray for President-Elect Obama and those who accompany him to the White House.

When I agree with him, I will say so. When I disagree with him, I will push back.

There is a tension that comes from being a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and at the same time being a citizen of the United States. I live in that tension and, admittedly, I don't always get it right. But as long as I pay taxes and as long as I continue to think elections matter, I am going to say my piece, and then do my best to live at peace.

Oh, and James, you owe me for driving traffic to your smorgasbord.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For you, Dad and Mom . . .

Tina and Marty, were afraid you might have trouble opening the email, pop, so here is this picture for you. For those of you who don't know them . . . this is my sister, her husband, and my two nieces, Heather and Laura, outside their home in Guinea, West Africa.

The part that impressed me . . .

I thought President-Elect Obama's victory speech last night was amazing. While there were a couple of points on which I disagree - his affirmation of Roosevelt's New Deal, for example - I nevertheless thought it humble, genteel, and even inspiring. The portion of his speech that most moved me was when he said,
Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

I am convinced that our 44th President is a good man, and there is no doubt that Obama is a great orator who has the makings of the best speech giving Commander in Chief of my lifetime. For my part, I will be praying that he is more than merely a good orator but, given that governing is so much more than making fine speeches, a good President, too.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Witnessed history tonight. I agree with Bill Bennett who said he would be praying for President Obama. Bennett, he related was a great candidate who he now hoped would be a great President. Your thoughts?

Here's my story. What is yours?

Stopped by Sawdon School this morning on the way to work to cast my ballot. When I arrived, there was ample parking and no line. I made my way to precinct four. Sawdon houses four polling places and none looked overwhelmed. I showed my ID, signed a card testifying to my residence, and received my ballot. There were no people in line ahead of me. I filled out my ballot, placed it in the machine (I was the 127th person voting on that machine), got my sticker and left.

The whole effort took less than five minutes.

How about you? What is your November 4th story?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lowering my ears

Finally got a haircut tonight at Great Clips in the Meijer store next door. The hair looks good. She even trimmed my bushy eyebrows and chopped the thatch out of my ears (Fred). Too bad they couldn't do anything with the rest of my melon . . .
Columnist Conrad Black observes that our nation is on the cusp on doing something extraordinary: electing a President that is ideologically far left of the vast majority of the people who will vote for him. The reason? The financial wreckage that has been left in the wake of the worst economic tsunami in my lifetime.

My frustration is that both candidates vying to become our nation's CEO have failed to place the blame where it rightly lies. They've blamed Wall Street, fat-cat CEOs, President Bush, even their own colleagues in congress - though they've carefully in pointed out that they, themselves, were Nastradamus-like in their prophetic prognostications of impending collapse.

They missed it entirely.

Though I am voting for McCain, I would be much happier if he had looked in the camera and said, "Who is to blame for this crisis? You are, America. You bought cars you didn't really need with loans you couldn't really afford. You took out home equity loans, and when they sent you a 'credit card' that you could use to quickly access your 'home equity line of credit' you went to the mall, bought a blouse and lost your house. You're to blame, America, because you cashed out your 401K in order to pay off your wife when you divorced her. You took trips to the Caribbean with money you didn't have to see places you couldn't enjoy because all the while in the back of your mind you knew you would have to work overtime in order to pay the bill. While the Japanese were industriously saving, you and your fellow Americans created a negative savings rate (which is to say you spent more than you made). You've at fault America because you fought a war that you couldn't afford, and unlike your grandparents, you didn't make any sacrifices to pay for it. You wanted your war, delivered nightly on television, just so long as you could sit at Applebees and watch it on CNN. (Drinks complements of your company expense account, of course.)

Conventional thought says, "You can't get regular Americans to vote for you by blaming them." I disagree. I think regular Americans really do know they shoulder some responsibility. I know I do. I bought too much house in Michigan before I sold my home in Indiana. I chose wants over needs. I know my own culpability. If John McCain loses this election it will be, in part, because "The Straight Talk Express didn't make a whistle-stop in Realityville.

You see, had any candidate pointed out that we're all to blame, the golden opportunity would have been to remind us that, any mess Americans get themselves into, they can get out of.

Imagine McCain saying this: "Friends, we're all to blame. First, I and my colleagues in government are at fault. We let you down. We created a culture in which CEO fat-cats and predatory lenders caved into the pressure of their shareholders (including many of you who own Freddie and Fannie in your mutual funds). And you, friends, bought homes that cost too much even though you saved too little. You spent more than you made. You're to blame. I'm to blame. We all are responsible. But the good news is: we got in it together, and together, if we purpose to do it, we can recover together. The same country that put a man on the moon can put the economy back on track.

I would have voted for that candidate regardless of party.

Instead, I am left with voting for the guy who, I suspect, thought it but wasn't courageous enough to step away from his handlers and tell me what I really needed to hear. And I'm left to wonder if that isn't, at least partly, why I'll likely be watching Senator Obama become President Obama next January.