Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mid-Michigan High Schoolers For Haiti

When the Student Leaders from our High School Youth Group, Modified, decided to challenge one another to a little peanut butter competition, I’ll bet they didn’t expect this to happen.

Their original plan: for Grand Ledge High School to challenge Everett High School to see which school could collect the most peanut butter to send to Haiti. Our students talked to their respective administrators and student councils and began collecting Jif and Peter Pan.

Then one student decided to call 97.5 Now-FM to see if they would be willing to donate a prize to the winning school. 97.5 called back and asked, "If two schools can do this, why can’t all 28 high schools in the Tri-County area do it?" An idea was sparked and soon Mid-Michigan High Schoolers For Haiti was born.

Here is how it will work. Beginning tomorrow morning, Citadel Broadcasting will begin talking about Mid-Michigan HS4Haiti on their flagship station, 97.5, as well as their other five affiliate stations. They are issuing a two-fold challenge – to give money to the American Red Cross, and to give "hard goods," from the list that we have printed on our church’s website.

Here’s the thing: all of the hard goods that are donated by the 22,000 high school students AND Citadel Broadcasting's 400,000 weekly listeners will come through our doors before being sent to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. Yes, you read that correctly.

It is entirely possible that we will be looking at over 100,000 jars of peanut butter and Tylenol and anti-biotic ointment and . . . well the list is pretty long actually.

In other words, this is going to be huge.

97.5 will run the contest for the entire month of February, and they are making a substantial contribution to seeing that it succeeds. The winning schools (there are three categories based on enrollment) will each receive a cash grant that they can use to bless a not-for-profit in their own community. In addition, the winning school will play host to an exclusive live concert in their own gym or auditorium hosted by 97.5 morning deejay Josh Strickland and an up-and-coming regional band.

They are also planning to visit school assemblies, and have live broadcast remotes planned throughout Mid-Michigan to promote this event.

This is going to be huge – did I mention that already?

What can we do? Soon we’re going to be buried under an avalanche of Haiti supplies. We’re going to need a massive turnout of people on short notice to count, sort and repackage these items to ship to Haiti.

This Sunday we will give you specific instructions for how you can help with this effort.

Until then, please pray. God is already doing "immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine," with this project. (Let me just add that I am so proud of our Student Leaders and our Youth Minister, Chad Cronin. Their out-of-the-box thinking is going to save lives in Haiti!)

That’s all for now. Just get the word out. Listen to 97.5 tomorrow morning from 6 AM - 10 AM to get the early word on what is happening. Facebook this information. Find the links on the 97.5 webpage and put them on your Twitter and your blogs. Get the word out, and then watch what God does.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

There is a woman sitting behind my wife and me as we pull into the driveway of our home. She has a job, her own car. Is headed off to college in the fall. Just the other day she sat in our mini-van munching on a Happy Meal and dumping her Hi-C on the floor.

Not anymore. She's a woman now.

I pause at the garage door and switch the headlights off. I press the opener, and the door rises like a curtain on opening night. When my wife, Tracy, asks, "What are we waiting for?" I tell her, "Just look at that garage. Have you ever seen a nicer garage?"

"Um, sure. No. Whatever. What are you talking about?"

"I swept the floor and mopped yesterday."

From the back seat my daughter deadpans, "Nice. Can we pull inside the nice clean garage now?"

We do. Like every other day, our hands are full. Book bags, grocery sacks, mail and dinner - McDonald's again - are balanced carefully as we labor to get in the house. Abby sets her drink - no longer a 12 ounce Hi-C, but a 32 ounce Dr. Pepper - on the frost covered roof of the car and reaches in to retrieve the suit she just bought for the scholarship banquet she'll be attending next week.

The soda slides, slowly at first, then picking up steam it careens off the car and explodes on my clean floor. Mother and daughter glance at one another, and then at me. I smirk; they giggle. Soon we're belly laughing at my obsessive need to keep a garage floor clean and the obvisous silliness of it all.

And yet, hidden in my laughter is a tear, knowing that my daughter has nearly completed her journey from Abby to Abigail.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Relief

The unprecedented events of the past week have challenged everyone that has watched the events unfolding in Haiti. None more than the brothers and sisters at South Lansing Christian Church that have prayed for, supported financially and served alongside ministries in Haiti.

Nearly two years ago our church collected 9,000 jars of peanut butter to send to Haiti. It was distributed within about six weeks. Imagine how desperate their need for food is now, with transportation and distribution crippled by the devastating earthquake of earlier this week.

How can we respond as a church? Let me detail some of what is already taking place:

First, our church has been designated a Regional Collection Location by Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, one of our partner ministries. Next week NWHCM will be placing a 40 foot shipping container in our church parking lot. Together, with Christian Churches from all over Michigan, we intend to fill that container with high protein food and medical supplies. For a complete list of details on the items we are accepting click here.

On Sunday we are going to be asking you to sign up for a shift to help load the container. In the meantime, begin to get the word out that South is collecting items for Haiti. We need to work fast. Talk to your friends and co-workers. Connect with Christians in other cities. Let them know that time is of the essence. We need to fill the container in seven days.

South will also be doing what we can to make a financial commitment to our partner ministries in Haiti. In addition to NWHCM, GO Ministries , a ministry in the Dominican Republic, is crossing the border into Haiti to minister in the Capitol City, and Waves of Mercy, is planning to bring 50 children that lost their parents in the earthquake from Port au Prince to their campus in Port-de-Paix.

In addition, Jeff Badgero, the father of South’s own Brenda Glinke, is traveling to Haiti on January 26th. A veteran Haiti missionary, Jeff is fluent in Creole, and will be working directly in rescue and recovery efforts. The best way we can help Jeff help Haitians, is to make sure he goes to Haiti with his pockets full of dollars.

Sunday night, at 8 PM, I will be moderating a meeting of our elders, deacons, missions, and finance teams. Our first order of business: to pray for Haiti. After that, we are going to put our heads together to figure out how we can best help our partner ministries help Haitians.

You are invited to this prayer meeting too.You are invited to this prayer meeting too.

I believe God is calling us to do more than just write a check. That’s too easy. Earlier this week, Tracy and I started listing items on eBay. We believe that we can use those dollars for Kingdom purposes. What would happen if we all began sacrificing our "want items"? Something amazing, I believe.

All we really need to know is this: Haitians are hurting. We can help.

Pray, friend, and come prepared to do something this Sunday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trading Stuff for Ministry Money

We've been studying the Bible book of Acts at South Lansing Christian Church. The deeper I go, the more I think it has the potential to ruin my life. Last week I challenged the congregation to have the same attitude that the early church had - that the return of Jesus Christ was imminent. Following his ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem and, while they waited for the promised Holy Spirit to arrive, they contemplated Jesus' return. They expected it, even.

You cannot read the rest of Acts without recognizing that the first Christ followers anticipated Jesus return. That is why their priorities were so radically altered. That is how they were able to rid themselves of material baggage the sale of which could do good for others in the here and now, but that would be useless once Jesus returned.

Sell your land and put the money in the offering plate? No big deal. Jesus is coming back. Loan you the stuff that belongs to me? No big deal. It all belongs to Jesus anyway. Shed myself of possessions and use the money for ministry? "I can do that." was the reply of the first believers.

I went home Sunday afternoon after preaching Acts 1:1-11 and my wife and I began listing stuff on eBay and Craig's list. One of the items I listed was my collection of The West Wing DVDs - you know, the television series with Martin Sheen. I love that show, but the fact is I haven't viewed the discs in months. They just sit there on the shelf. I thought, "If they're still sitting there when Jesus returns and I could have sold them and used the money for ministry, how will I explain that to Jesus?"

So tonight, in about 45 minutes I'm going to hand them over to some guy and take his 50 bucks and do some good with it. . . .

UPDATE: Just left the grocery store parking lot where I exchanged my DVDs for $50. Felt like we were doing a drug deal. Got home and walked in to find out that Haiti just had an earthquake. The quake is the most severe in the country's history. The damage is significant. One of the missionaries our church supports, Jose Castillo, is in Port au Prince and cannot be located at the present time.

That $50 will make a difference invested in ministry. The DVDs would not.

What else can I sell?

If I get serious about being an Acts 1 Christian, it might ruin my carefully thought out and scripted life. But then, maybe that is what God wants to happen. Maybe his plan is better off.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Should I sell my DVDs?

I read this interesting article on Yahoo tonight: 10 Things Not to Buy in 2010. My personal experience validates what this article reports.

Tops on the list: DVDs. Mrs. Frankly and I had a conversation just the other night about the futility of buying more of them. We probably own about a hundred, including all seven seasons of The West Wing and the first four seasons of The Office. I considered asking for season five this Christmas. But why, when I can watch it on Netflix. For many, opting for online delivery or delivery by mail rather than purchasing DVDs is a matter of convenience.

As a follower of Jesus it ought to be more than that for me.

It ought to be a matter of stewardship.

Why do I need to own a movie when I can rent it or borrow it from the library. I can only watch one flick at a time, after all. For the same price I expected to pay to round out my Office collection, I was able to buy nearly four months of Netflix. (Of course, there is another question entirely of whether or not movies are good stewardship of my time and mind.)

I am surrounded, it turns out, by stuff. Collectibles. Books. Tools. My son said just tonight, "Dad, you really have a flashlight fetish." And he's right.

I plan to preach this week from Acts 1 about how the early church anticipated - no, expected - the imminent return of Jesus Christ. This expectation affected their entire lives. I somehow doubt, for example, that the first Christians would have collected every episode chronicling the Josiah Bartlett administration on Digital Video Disc.

Rather, they pared down their possessions. And why wouldn't they? Why collect stuff if Jesus was due back any moment?

The history of the early church records:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:32-35, NIV)
Author and preacher Ed Dobson told in his book, The Year of Living Like Jesus about giving away his clothes. He took John the Baptist's suggestion, quite literally, to give away half of his clothing. He gave away more than half of his suits to young men at a nearby seminary. Dobson is living like the early church lived.

Will I?

I'm not sure I can really preach that sermon without having a conversation with my family about our attachment to possessions. About our willingness to let go of some things. But if our church is going to become the church God intended, if I am going to be the man God intended, there will probably be many more uncomfortable talks.

And also a few changes.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Dick Clark, if you only knew . . .

Dick Clark was there tonight. I assumed he would be. New Year's Eve wouldn't be New Years without Dick Clark.

The Grahams were there. Jeff sat on the end of the sectional beside Beth. Becca was sprawled on the floor and Megan was in the recliner hammering away on her brand-new Blackberry. Caleb was somewhere playing X-Box. He showed up just in time to see the ball drop. Jonah was there, too.

The only one missing was Abby. Having worked yesterday, and needing to be at work tomorrow, she had to stay home.

For the first time in eighteen years our family was not together for New Year's Eve.

I was listening to The Forest Gump Suite on my iPod when that reality hit me.

There are a lot of reasons to look forward to 2010. I have such hope for this year - heightened, I think, by being able to close the book on a brutally difficult chapter in my life. And yet, 2010 will be a year of mixed emotions, I think.

As the ball dropped, I couldn't escape the milestones our family will realize in 2010.

10 . . . my 25th high school reunion. Are you kidding me? 25 years?!

9 . . . Abigail graduates from Grand Ledge High School. She just learned to walk and talk and.

8 . . . In two weeks, I teach my first college class. I am a little terrified, to be honest.

7 . . . My son, Caleb, becomes a high school Senior. By this time next year, Tracy and I will be looking at a second graduation open house and a nest with only one "egg."

6 . . . Our baby becomes a high school Freshman. And joins the "real" Grand Ledge football program.

5 . . . Twenty-three years of marriage to Mrs. Weller. Wow!

4 . . . My daughter moves out of our home and becomes a college Freshman. Un-be-lievable.

3 . . . One last family vacation together? Maybe.

2 . . . A final marching band season with my son on the drum line.

1 . . . Caleb's last Christmas (and we just went through this).

I know. Nobody's dying. I imagine they're all going to be there next year even though they are not "in our home" so to speak. Somehow, though, I imagine it just isn't going to be the same.

By the time the ball came to rest on its sparkling "2010" and the last strains of The Forest Gump Suite had faded I was pretty melancholy. I still am.

And though I expect to smile a lot this year, I suspect that, in 2010, I'll weep more than a handful of tears.