My M&M friend wanted to take a selfie. I had to help him.

Do you know what this is?

Photo credit: Dave Knickerbocker (as you could probably guess by the lack of quality)

This little guy looks pretty good for being around for so long.  He’s an M&M (duh) from the Christmas tree lights I insisted on buying. It was for our first Christmas tree after getting engaged over 17 years ago. He’s been through a lot. For the first couple years, at the end of the season I would meticulously re-insert green and the colorful friends from his light strip neighborhood into the plastic case they had come in. My hope was that they would remain in mint condition for years.

Then the kids started coming. When Jess got tall enough to be able to liberate them from their coniferous cage to live out the rest of their days with Barney and a few Disney princesses, I was forced to adjust. I reassigned the plastic candy that hadn’t been claimed by a Knickerbocker toddler to the top of our plastic tree. Also, with more kids came more decorations and more frustration packing and repacking them every year. It took several years, but eventually I resorted to winding them up like any other set of lights and tossing them in the box.

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Some choose to be a Bi-vocational pastor. I’m softening on the idea.

Photo credit: Celestine Chua / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo credit: Celestine Chua / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Who wants to go into a profession that will require you to have another job?  It means that you’ll have to be good enough in more than one area to make ends meet.  Working out vacation and other benefits is tricky too. Then, as a pastor, there’s the problem of fulfilling your obligation to your church community with half the time to do it in.

So when I heard a few years ago that some progressive pastors actually chose to be bi-vocational, it bugged me. First of all . . . what a luxury! I’m not a professional painter, successful salesman or someone else who has the capacity to earn what my family needs. Secondly, their point about how useful it would be to have pastors who work with people who don’t go to church made sense to me, and I felt a little guilty.

I’m not suggesting that every pastor should choose to be bi-vocational, but I’d like to share with you what happened last week that nudged me a bit further in this direction. Continue reading

Intricate un-faith

Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“People often have intricate and well-thought-out reasons for not believing, and we treat them with less than respect if we ignore this.”   

N.T. Wright (Outreach Magazine, Nov/Dec 2013, p. 100)

I wonder how often Christians are stopped in our evangelical tracks by an unbeliever who presents greater reasoning to reject Jesus than we do to follow him.  My guess is that it’s not that often.

It doesn’t happen much because it only takes one time experiencing that for a Christian to shy away from ever going through it again.  Instead of challenging someone else with changing their eternal course the conversation turns into us not having the answers.   Continue reading

Our new church on mission: Pre-prom for kids with Autism

I wasn’t thrilled with having to get a part-time job.  Vanda, my wife, reminded me that God uses our situations – even situations we might see as a bump in the road – to do amazing things.  And so he did.

My first assignment as a substitute teacher for Summit Academy was with the Autism Unit on the west side of Youngstown, OH.  There are always at least two teachers in a classroom, and since Kristen Dimas was on maternity leave for the first few weeks of the school year, I had a steady gig filling in for her and working with Michelle Walsh. Continue reading

Jesus was made perfect. So, he must have been less than perfect, right?

 

Photo credit: Jilles / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Jilles / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Short answer: yes.

Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest idea.  I introduced the question posed in the title of this post to the young adult Bible study at Evangel Baptist Church for one of the first studies I led for them.  The look on Brian Barth’s face – a young man who studies the word and is faithful to it – was priceless!  He didn’t know me yet and was deeply concerned that I was bringing some kook teaching into the lives of our young adults.  We can laugh about it now, right Brian (tee-hee)?

But, it’s a question that is valid.  Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Son though [Jesus] was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (NIV)”

Lest you think it’s a mistake, the Biblical author says it again in Hebrews 7:28, “For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (NIV, too)” Continue reading

Garbage Can Greeting

Garbage Can GreetingOn our way back from men’s retreat last Saturday I got a text from Vanda telling me to avoid Route 224. It’s a major road that goes through Boardman, OH.  As we approached our house we witnessed a steady stream of traffic on the little side street our house is on.  That’s unusual for our neck of the woods.

But, that wasn’t the only thing different that we saw as Dan Lewis pulled into my driveway to drop me off. Emma, my 13-year-old, had made a sign using our garbage can and some pizza boxes. It read, “Have a nice day.”

I wonder how many people saw that and smiled? Okay, there may have been a few who thought it was some sort of taunting. I mean, we all know people who get their knickers in a twist (as my wife would say) just sitting in the driver’s seat as evil powers emanate from the steering wheel. If I know my fellow Ohioans, it’s a safe bet that a majority of them appreciated her sentiment. Continue reading

Noah the movie. Yeah, I’ll watch it.

And as a Christian, I’m even looking forward to it.

As the title of this post suggests, I haven’t seen the movie that opens today. So this isn’t a critique. I’m writing my four reasons to see the movie, before I actually see it, because now is the best time to say what I have to say, which has nothing to do with my estimation movie’s quality or possible lack of Biblical integrity.

My first reason: the trailers look awesome.  Russell Crowe and the rest of the cast have been in their fair share of great movies. This one looks like it will measure up.  I really enjoy movies and stories about people having courage to stand up for what is right, especially when so much is on the line.  Yes, my first reason is that basic.

Secondly: historical fiction is a widely accepted genre.  It’s when creative people make up stories set around real historical figures and events. And if some people have a problem with this movie because it’s fiction based on holy writ, why don’t they have a problem with Christians who do just that – and whose efforts we laud – like with books by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (John’s Story, the entire Left Behind Series) and Tosca Lee (Iscariot). Continue reading

The Epic Undoing of Haley Ann Ewing

The epic undoing of haley ann ewing

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

I’m not much of a reader of fiction.  I’ve read the first 175 pages of Crime and Punishment three times.  For some reason, I just can’t make it to the end.  When I do manage to finish a novel, it usually takes me a few months.  Vanda laughs as me because she’ll read about seven books before I finish one.

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Photographer puts strangers together for photo

I’m definitely an Ohio boy.  Having lived in the New York City and Philadelphia areas, one of the things I like about being in the mid west is how much nicer people are to strangers.  Don’t get me wrong, people in New York and Philly can be very nice and mid-westerners can be rude.  But there’s so much crowding and rushing around back east that people are more short-tempered with strangers sharing in their frantic lifestyle, or at least they are less likely to be courteous to them.

That’s why this clip of Steve Hartman’s On The Road segment of CBS News was so interesting to me.  It reminds me of the WWI Christmas eve story where British and Germans who had been engaged in a treacherous trench warfare suddenly called an impromptu, temporary cease-fire. Their superiors heard about it and became indignant that the men cease the frivolities. Continue reading

I’m most like Mr. Carson on Downton Abby

Photo credit: Blind Hen ⁑ Blind Höna / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Blind Hen ⁑ Blind Höna / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I’ve admitted to you that I’m a fan of Downton Abbey, so when a personality test based on the characters of that appeared on facebook I couldn’t resist.  Strangely, I was pleased to discover that I’m like Mr. Carson, the stoic, deep-voiced Butler full of honor and a strong sense of duty to the family. But, he’s a softy when it comes down to it.  He’s a strong leader of the large staff and stubbornly protects the family and principles that give his life meaning.

Then there’s the Star Wars one where my personality best resembles Princess Leia. Sadly, this one is probably more accurate because it’s based on my Myers Briggs results (ENTJ).  But don’t worry, I’m not going to start wearing my hair like two jumbo-sized ear muffs and sing “Swing low, sweet chariot” in my Death Star prison cell (Oh wait, that last part was the princess from Spaceballs. Sorry.)

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