A textbook display of redemption, and not by Christians

My sister-in-law, Sam, posted this a couple of days ago, and I’ve watched it a few times. It’s one of those things that I’ll add to my I-don’t-lose-my-man-card-for-tearing-up-at-this list (Yes, I actually have one of those). The fact that it’s a commercial tempers my reaction only slightly.

The people in this video went out of their way to make better an unjust situation for one neighbor.  Breaking down barriers is presented as the primary motivation.  They used their own time and effort to make a member of their community live like he would be able to live if a difficult thing – the loss of his hearing – hadn’t happened.  There is only so much he could do for himself.  The rest has to be done for him by someone else, and they did it knowing they wouldn’t receive compensation.

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Thanks, Humans of Youngstown

This fine young man goes to the school I sub at

This fine young man goes to the school where I sub

Youngstown has been a place with a bad reputation for many years. So it was great to learn about this group on facebook called Humans of Youngstown. The point of their page is to feature pictures of people who have been stopped on the streets of downtown Youngstown, OH, and who’ve been asked questions not about things like politics or the economy, but about themselves.

The reason I first looked was because I recognized this mug as a student – and friend – who I work with where I substitute teach in Youngstown. We were working on his snare drum skills just yesterday! Continue reading

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

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

How to wash feet with your hair

Photo credit: Princes Milady / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Princes Milady / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Okay, the guys in this picture haven’t figured out how.  Have you ever washed someone’s feet?  How about spending a year’s salary on the perfume and using your hair as a cloth?

Steve Lewis is a good friend of mine who had the courage to lead the Bible Study at our house last week.  He did great research on John 12:1-8, the story of when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, washed Jesus feet. He pointed out that Mary washed Jesus’ feet and the Lord responded by saying her act would be remembered for all time. If it pleased God that much, we should do the same. So our group discussed how we might be able to have the courage to wash Jesus’ feet with our hair.

Since we can’t do what Mary did literally, we needed to get at the essence of what she did so that we could replicate that. Steve challenged us to view this scene from Mary’s perspective. With facts provided by Steve to lead the way, our group came up with these steps:

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Not sure I agree with Oswald Chambers on this one

Basketball ouchie

My Basketball Ouchie

By far, the most injuries I’ve had in my life revolve around sports.  I’ve had two root canals because of an accident during a High School baseball game. I’ve torn ligaments in both ankles numerous times playing basketball in my younger years. One of my teeth that had participated in the aforementioned baseball accident was knocked out playing football a few years later at camp, and I just kept playing.

That beauty you see in the picture above is the result of a basketball encounter from Monday night. When it happened I had a feeling there’d be a mark. Kept playing.  It wasn’t that I felt pressure to look like a man in front of the other guys.  Okay, there was some of that.  But, my major motivation was simply that I didn’t want to stop playing.

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Invisible Car Crash Prank

Cruel.  Just cruel. But fun to watch!

There were basically two kinds of reactions in this clip: those who looked first and those who ran and then looked.  The woman with the white jacket at the beginning stood still and looked for the accident as four people around her dove for cover.  But some people jumped for cover even when they didn’t know where the danger was coming from.  My favorite is the older gentlemen towards the end who keeps right on going, gently hurdling minor obstacles as he made his way a safe distance from the perceived disaster.

It’s an interesting example of how people react to danger that isn’t real, and I think it has New Year’s implications.

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A new twist on giving back packs

Out back pack packing crew for 2013

Out back pack packing crew for 2013

Last year, our church – Evangel Baptist – had a goal for our inaugural year of our new ministry of giving 20 back packs to needy families in our community.  We ended up giving 120!  Focusing on the two closest elementary schools to our church, we purchased back packs and filled them with supplies based on the schools’ supply lists for their grades.  The guidance counselors at the schools distributed them to the children on opening day 2012.

This year we tried doing it differently.  We had a back pack bash – a party celebrating the new school year!  It took a lot more work to do it this way.  Before our guests arrived I had a brief chat with our volunteers for the party.  I told them we were doing it this way because it was more practical and Biblical.

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About 100 people came to the Back Pack Bash.

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It’s time to leave the Shire

“. . . I was entirely respectable, and nothing unexpected ever happened.”

Am I the only one who recalls the 19th Century American hymn This is My Father’s World when the theme music for the Shire plays in the Lord of the Rings movies?  Listen to the first few seconds of the clips below and see if you get where I’m coming from.

Maybe that was the intention of the movie makers.  The hymn was written by a pastor in upstate NY who loved nature walks.  It’s about how God’s creation reminds us that he is in control.  You’d be hard pressed to find a more tranquil tune.  If it was intentional, it was a brilliant move because it enhances the description of the Shire.

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How to speak the international language

A dozen children raced to the fence to greet us before our van stopped in front of the children’s home in Tijuana. It was Friday, the final day of our missions trip to Mexico. There were no houses to build or garbage to walk through to minister in the name of Jesus Christ.  This time we brought pizza to about 25 children who had been either orphaned or abandoned.  It was in many ways the easiest day of the trip. In another way it was the hardest.

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