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Watch these video instructions that played at the Christmas Eve service this past year and tell me how long you think it took to shoot it?
Well, if you guessed roughly 3 hours – then you are dead on
Also by watching this video it looks like my two oldest children are complete pros – they ARE great but remember. . . this took 3 hours – lol!
Here’s the deal. My kids (6 and 5 at the time) are fantastic, and they did a great job, but this was no cake-walk. dsBen Sanders (the AMAZING videographer) and I had to have a different perspective than what I see from many parents today.
1. Making an experience memorable may not mean the whole experience is fun, though we did have some fun too!
2. In parenting, we need to have the perspective of what will actually be remembered – in this case, the finished product.
3. There is no way to teach that hard-work pays off. . . . unless you actually have to work hard for something.
4. Stretching me as a parent into more patience IS one way that God makes me more like Jesus.
Being a parent is not all about what you get out of it you know. . . in fact, most of it isn’t – because you almost never realize what exactly you are getting out it, until “it” is over. So, do what it takes to give your children memorable experiences, it will benefit everyone in the long run!
The other side of the world
A time zone that is Ten and a half hours different from here is literally on the other side of the world. . . what an adventure. This past Christmas break I helped lead a team of volunteers from my church to a small little village in the Southeast state of Tamil Nadu, India. This was actually my second trip over there, but the first time to this particular village of Untouchables. In Indian Hindu culture, there are over 4,000 different castes, which separate classes of individuals from one another. People from lower castes are generally unable to marry outside of their caste, and much of their social interactions and opportunities are based on what caste you are born into. There is no way to earn your way up the caste system. You simply try to be as faithful as possible in this life so that the gods will move you up in caste when you are reborn in your next life. The Untouchables or Irula caste of people are the lowest of the low. If their shadow even crosses the shadow of someone of high caste then the high caste person has now become unclean (which leads to many actions to be “clean” again) and extremely upset. Literally, these people are never touched except by their own people, and usually their only employment is snake and rat catchers for local farmers. They are commonly called the backward caste (or b.c. for short) as well as the people of darkness.
Our church has been working with this particular colony for nearly 3 years, and things have come a long way. Our efforts to establish clean water, education, micro-enterprise, health, and housing are led by indigenous pastors that have been trained extensively. Our church simply provides complimentary services and knowledge in their efforts. In this way, we nullify any movement towards imperialism by our support. My team was heading over to do some construction projects in the village (i.e., 2 homes, handwashing stations, home repair seminar, plant two gardens, distribute greenLockers supplies, etc…) while a second team went to provide health and wellness needs (i.e., blood pressure and diabetes checks and physicals as well as seminars on germs, disease, marriage, and nutrition). The video below walks you through our trip from start to finish, and please email me if you have any questions at all about certain pictures. Obviously, there is no way to encapsulate all that occurred during our time there, but I wanted to share a few things that really stood out.
Apostle Thomas – We went to St. Thomas Mount for the first half-day that we were there in Chennai. You will see pictures in the video of the chapel that was erected on the spot where the apostle Thomas was martyred, the cave where he hid from his enemies, a spring that burst forth with water from a rock when he was needing water (and has flowed ever since, though it is on a mountain!), and the cathedral that houses his actual tomb and remains. Thomas is only one of three apostles that we know where they are buried, and it was so humbling to know that I walked on the ground of one who walked with Jesus!
Homes – The first home that we built was for a homeless woman (Malika )who had 6 children, and had just lost her husband in an accident last year. She worked tirelessly with us the entire week working with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. On the night of the house dedication, one of our team members who is an M.D., found her flat on her back on the ground next to her new house – unable to move. His examination revealed that she had a badly herniated disk in her back, and she admitted to feeling the pain for weeks. . . . wow! She was so tough all week – not a single complaint. The next day we discovered that she did not sleep much that night, not because of her back, but because she simply could not believe that we loved her that much to build her a home! Her parents had abandoned her long ago, and with her husband gone, she was nearly hopeless, but now. . . everything has changed she said!
- As a follow-up - we just found out 3 days ago that she has since come to accept Jesus Christ as her LORD and savior, and she will be baptized when the next team goes over in March.
The old man and his new home – We ended up contracting a team of builders (4 men, and then 3 or 4 of our team members) to build a 3-5 year temporary home for a man whose home had collapsed during the rainy season. Raj said this would only cost around $80, and so we moved forward with it. It is one of my favorite memories because the man just watched the build not knowing whose house they were building – whether it was for him or the person who actually owned the land (i.e., he was simply squatting on it). He was so thankful when he received the home saying “I was an orphan, years ago, my wife left me, no one has ever wanted me. . . but today I feel cared for” – later on that night, I was walking past his new home on the way to the village celebration, and he had a single candle lit in the home, and you could hear him quietly singing to himself. . . just beautiful!
The mindset of poverty – Much of India’s population is either vegetarian of nearly so. This is a result of a multiple factors including cows being holy (i.e., no one eats beef), pigs being unclean, as well as the shear expense of meat for most people. Thus, vegetable gardens would be a great idea for a year-round sustainable food source; however, we had met great resistance to this idea in the village previously. We soon found out that since they have the poverty mindset of simply making it through the day or living to the end of the week that waiting a month for plants to grow and produce food was close to impossible to even comprehend. We built two gardens and planted them full of plants in hopes of their examples would be proof to the villagers of their value
- As a follow-up - we just got some pictures the other day of the gardens full of vegetables, and a local pastor said that many more families now want gardens!!!!
Little girl left under tree – One of the most heart-wrenching stories of the trip was the day that I noticed a little girl laying on some blankets under a big tree in the village. I saw her there for several hours, and so I inquired “where is her mother?” A villager explained that her mother had left to go to the main village for work, as she does every day. I soon found out that this less than a year old baby is left under that tree every day, and now no longer cries because she has learned that no one will be there to answer her . . . no one is ever there to pick her up.
greenLockers – I run a non-profit organization called greenLockers (www.greenlockers.org) that partners with a student organization in local schools to collect new and slightly used school supplies, clothes, and books during their end of the year locker clean-out days. These supplies are sorted and then distributed to local charities for free. On this trip, we had the distinct honor of distributing some of these supplies to a school near the Irula village. I cannot tell you how that filled my soul – to be used by God to love children in this way, and to see them celebrate. . . just priceless!
Joy and contentment – As many of you may know from being in poverty stricken areas in your own travels, there are simply no words that can describe the joy and contentment in many of their eyes, though they had nothing.
Break-through of honesty –After 3 years of working in the village we had a moment of true authentic relationship this year that reminds me much of the revival that just took place on Bethel’s campus this past week. The villagers put their overly hospitable, cultural masks down, and shared their frustrations and lack of knowledge with us like never before. This was truly a watershed moment of forming trust! For example, we built a latrine for the village 2 years ago, but they have not been using it. This means that women (who are not allowed to go to the bathroom during the day) must walk out into the field either at night or early in the morning – risking stepping on cobras and scorpions – to go to the bathroom. They have told us reasons for not using them for two years, but every time we addressed those reasons, they simply would come up with something else andnot use the latrines. This time, with tears in her eyes, a woman came up to us and simply said, “we don’t know how to use them, no one has ever told us how.” Soon others were confessing to other instances of vulnerability like needing to have a sign on the doors to know which are the men’s and which are the women’s, certain things about the clothes and shoes that we have been bringing over, and multiple other things. . . I cannot express to you how this was all such a breakthrough – just amazing!!!
Germ game and the basics – the medical team came up with a brilliant game to teach the children about germs. We have been trying for several years to get them to wash their hands because of all the sickness that has resulted from not doing so. There are even stories of people just falling to sleep right after eating (they eat with their hands) without washing their hands and then rats come in their huts at night and gnaw away the ends of their fingers, resulting in disease, infection, and death. So, this game involved several tennis balls that were covered with a white powder. The children passed around the balls until everyone had powder on their hands. The instructors then told them to rub their hands together until they no longer saw any of the powder. In essence, the children then saw their hands as “clean”; however, the powder was black light activated, and so when a black light was passed around the children, they clearly saw the white residue glowing on their hands. In this way, they understood that even though you cannot see certain things, they can still exist. For the first time, they understood the concept of germs – just fantastic!!!
Connection so deep, so fast – One thing you find out fairly quickly in this beautiful culture is that they assume that you are telling the truth. This is of course, very different from U.S. culture where the average person assumes some level of skeptism during a new conversation. For example, in the village in India, if I complimented someone’s outfit or smile, they would respond with a grateful “thank you” and feel very blessed. If the same conversation happened here between two strangers the one being complimented might automatically think thoughts like these, “why did he say that?”, “what does he want from me?”, or “he doesn’t really mean that, he is just being nice.” I cannot tell you how much faster relationships can form with this one simple difference. Truly I tell you that I am closer to some Indians that I knew for only 1 week than some friends I have known for years.
Focus – One of the most refreshing things for me on this trip was that my only responsibility was to wake up each day and then work as hard as I could on the projects, knowing that I was making an impact in these people’s lives. I did not have to worry about the next day, week, or month. I simply had to focus on what God wanted me to do that day and then do it – nothing was hanging over my head. Of course, when I returned home, there were not only tons of emails to respond to, but I immediately needed to start preparing for events and classes weeks and months in advance. This was a difficult transition at first, but then God graciously convicted me in one of my quiet times with Him. He told me “Ted, I have not changed, why have you?” In essence, His expectations are the same for me here as they were in India. I need to wake up each day and ask Him what He wants me to do, and then do it. Of course, some of those daily assignments will deal with the future, but that future is not my burden to carry, it is God’s, and He carries it effortlessly!
Baptism stories – We had the unbelievable honor of baptizing a handful of people at a one of the local churches in a nearby city. I am always amazed at their commitment to Christ in doing this public display of faith, regardless of the consequences. There are five questions that I had to ask each person before baptizing them:
******* Don’t waste time – Finally, there is always a strange juxtaposition of death and life when I travel to India. In 2008, my aunt and uncle, who were missionaries and pastors fully alive and on mission for Christ, were tragically killed in a car accident the day before I left to go to India. That day was supposed to be a huge family reunion celebrating each other, instead we wept and grieved all day. This year, my friend Scott Johnson, who I had taught Block with for 5 years went to be with the LORD while I was over in India. Those of you who have been through someone dying know that there is nothing easy about it. At this point, however, I do know what I have learned from those two experiences. Namely, I don’t want to waste time, not a single moment!” I discovered through all of this that somewhere deep inside me, I did believe that my actions in life could have some control on how long I was here. . . clearly that is ignorance – I am on assignment here by my King, and He is in complete control. This commitment does not mean that I become more busy, in contrast, it means that I am fully present wherever I am, whether that is on vacation, with my family, or in front of my students. I know now that only with intentional, daily steps of disciplined actions can I ever become that man that I was created to be. I will never drift to the shores of integrity, strength, and character – no,. . . drifting only washes you back onto the shore you left from, a shore that is named lukewarm, and I don’t plan on ever seeing that dock again!
Here is a video recap of the entire trip
Here is the link to the blog that walks you through the trip step by step!
Peace be with you all
So, in case you were wondering. . . yes, I am keeping up with my reading of the gospels; however, I am a bit behind on the blogging – though I do have notes . Anyways, I thought that I would let you in on what Ang and I were doing most of the weekend, and just how thankful I am to have a wife who listens to God.
So, a couple of months ago Ang tells me “when it is time to change the nursery into a big boy room, I think I know what God wants us to do” – to which I said “go on. . . .” – -She said that it should be a big blue sky with some small white clouds all around, and all the names of God found in scripture should be written on the walls.
SWEET!! . . .fast forward a couple of months - and here are some pictures (even though it is still not completely done! It needs a few touch-ups around the clouds and a few more names)
It was amazing to think about how fast the past 7.5 years have gone! I have spent many an hour/day/night in that nursery with little babies. . . they are growing up, which is both sad and exciting. Heavenly Father, I trust you to guide our family into the future, and I trust that you will not let me forget the wonderful hours of the past.
I was really looking forward to getting to my reading today. . . that’s really nice because honestly, I have not felt genuinely excited about reading my Bible lately.
Matthew 3:4 – John the Baptist was out there . . . . bold, brave, loud and lived a very “weird” lifestyle – locusts and honey while wearing camel hair. . . if we haven’t gotten it yet, yes. . . . God can use everyone!
3:17 – God the Father says “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” – not a lot of direct quotes in the Bible – Father to Son, but those words resonate with this Dad. . . I can almost hear it because I have said it many times myself.
Luke 3:5 – valleys being filled and mountains leveled. . . Jesus is the great equalizer – He puts everyone on the same level.
3:10-13 – people are freaking out because John is going OFF on the religious leaders, and the people ask “what shall we do” – here are John’s responses:
– to the people – give to the poor, and feed the hungry
– to the tax collector – don’t take extra money – i.e., live with honesty and integrity
– to the soldier – don’t lie, don’t take extra money, and be content - i.e., embrace truth, integrity, and be content.
You know, I do believe that though there are standards that we should all live by, I do think that those of us with authority and power have MORE responsibilities to bring glory to God. . . things like - living with integrity, not abusing our power, not being money-hungry, and living with gratefulness/contentment.
3:19,20 – John could not help but proclaim truth, even though it got him thrown in jail. . . and eventually his death later on.
John 3:17 – my favorite verse! It is a constant reminder to me that if Jesus did not come into the world to judge it, why would I ever DARE to? Someday there will be a judgement day, but it is very clear that my job (and the job of Christ Followers) is to love people and show them Jesus – not judge them.
3:27-end – John’s disciples are a little upset that Jesus is hogging more of the baptisms. . . I think they lost site of the big picture – we’re all on the same team. My question though is why was John still baptizing people? He clearly understood that Jesus was greater than he, and that Jesus was baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and so why did John just not refer everyone to Jesus, and likewise, why did Jesus not tell John to stop?? I am not sure of the answer, but I am thinking that God knows we all are at different stages of our faith journey, some Jews might have only been “ready” for water from John, while others were fully committed, and wanted to be with Jesus. I know that God is a God of choices. . . this might have been one of the first choices He gave to people after Jesus’ started His ministry.
—- I love reading about John the Baptist because here’s a guy who grew up knowing Jesus (they were relatives), and yet did not doubt God’s anointing of Jesus when the time came (unlike the rest of the people who previously knew Jesus, including much of his own town, and family). I love his boldness in the face of religious leaders, and his humble acknowledgement of not being worthy to even carry Jesus’ sandals. What would it be like to have your entire purpose in life to come to fruition in one day, and in that fulfillment you would began to lose your own fame, popularity, and power. I respect John – he followed through with his assignment. I know there are some doubts that come later, but he really came through on “game day” – he prepared the way of the LORD and then. . . . got out of the way – that is a true servant showing true commitment and humility.
Mathew 2: 1-12 – we do not know (but presumably not) whether or not these wise men were Jews, and yet God used them in a tremendous way to encourage Mary and Joseph and bring glory to Jesus and the Father. God also personally spoke with them. . . let us never underestimate God’s ability to use people outside of our beliefs – He is not limited in any way. Let us also never underestimate God’s desire to bring ALL people to Him. . . shepherds and wise men were summoned long before any of the “faithful” came.
2:16 – satan has no limits to his destruction as Herod, with a word, kills all boys in Bethelemham 2 years and younger.
2:22-23 – It seems as though Joseph had little knowledge of the “prophets” since he did not know where to go back to in the land of Israel – though it had been fortold that the Messiah would be a Nazarene (i.e., from Nazareth). . . God can use you regardless of the level of your knowledge.
Luke 2:8 – have you ever wondered who these shepherds were?? They were no ordinary shepherds because the particular sheep that they protected were no ordinary sheep – read below:
excerpt from bible.org
Now admittedly, the sheep around Bethlehem were the exception, not the rule. But these were no ordinary sheep. They were sacrificial lambs. In the early spring they would be slaughtered at the Passover.
And God first revealed the Messiah’s birth to these shepherds–shepherds who protected harmless lambs which would soon die on behalf of sinful men. Whey they saw the baby, could they have known? Might they have whispered in their hearts what John the Baptist later thundered, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
2:15 – it is no coincidence that the honor of to be the first visitors of Jesus were outsiders (wise men) and nobodies (shepherds). Furthermore, it was no coincidence that both groups were called to leave their comfort zone, their stability, their job/home to find Jesus. . . . He is still waiting for us, just outside of our comfort zones.
2:19 - but Mary kept all these things in her hear and thought about them often – what a relevant comment to any parent. There are many days or moments that I need to remind myself about all the wonderful things about my children and the great things to come. . . why? . . . because in those moments – they’re not being that great! I am sure that Jesus still had poopy diapers at inapportune times, fussed when he was teething, didn’t like certain foods, and all the other “normal” things that are not sins, but not appreciated either in the moment. Mary could always think to herself. . . yeah, but he is the savior of the world, and remember those angels, shepherds and wise men. . . - which probably helped in those moments!
2:25-40 – Story of Simeon and Anna - a couple things stand out. First, God loves the elderly just as much as everyone else. . . I wish our culture did the same. Second, in verses 34 and 35 – the clear declaration of opposition to Jesus and also that a sword will peirce your [Mary's] very soul. . . . that had to be tough to hear (only 8 days after giving birth).
2:48 – doesn’t get any more real than this – Mary and Joseph have been panicking for 3 days looking for Jesus, and they phrase their comments in aggravation towards their child (like many of us parents do) – assuming he has done this on purpose (another assumption we as parents often make): “Son”, his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your Father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
2:52 – Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people - my daily prayer for my children.
John 2:3 – ok. .. seriously, Mary had to have seen Jesus do some crazy stuff in the past for her to simply tell him “they have no more wine” and Jesus to read that comment as asking Him to do something about it. .. . I love it! It’s like an inside joke between mom and son . . . and then even though Jesus says no, Mary still tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do – lol, ha! I love it. . . . this is not her first rodeo – she’s seen stuff before. . . I can’t wait to hear the stories someday
2:6 – ok, 180 more gallons of wine. . . .this is after all the other wine had been consumed. I love how Jesus’ first miracle is so couldn’t-see-this-one-coming type of deal. . . I think it sets up his revolutionary 3 years pretty well – many things that none of us will completely understand or predict. Why? I’m not completely sure but I do know a few things from this miracle:
1. Only the servants got to actually see the water turn to wine. . . everyone else just saw the results - serving Jesus opens your eyes to miraculous things.
2. Jesus chose a celebration to first reveal His glory, and a marriage no doubt. . . the union that symbolizes the trinity moreso than any other . . . Jesus wants us to be able to celebrate in our lives.
3. Who was this bridegroom that he would be honored with such a blessing?. . . . but I suspect. . . he was a “nobody” – Jesus seemed to like those types of people a lot. Somebody or nobody. . . doesn’t seem to matter to Jesus that much. . . why does it matter so much to us?
2:13-16 – Jesus throws down in the temple. I love this passage because it surprises me. Not because this is one of the few times that we see Jesus get overtly angry, but because it says he “made a whip“. I don’t know about you, but when did my savior learn how to MAKE a whip? – He did not buy one, have someone else do it for him, or find a whip. . . he MADE one, and then goes on to use it effectly to drive out people and cattle. . . you have to know what you are doing to do that – and that takes a lot of practice. Last time I checked, there’s not a lot of uses for a whip in carpentry?? Obviously this was a hobby in His past somewhere, and for some reason. . . that makes Him more human to me, because I just think that’s awesome – I would love to learn how to use a whip! . . and maybe he had the exact same thought when he was a young man.
2:24-25 – I always tell my classes that this is the passage that proves Jesus was a psychologist – But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like. I don’t think he was taught this in school or in carpentry, and so my guess is. . . . He learned this the way that most people do in their lives, through betrayal of friendships, miscommunication and misunderstandings, watching the effects of lies and sin in others. . . . make no mistake, Jesus knew what real life and real relationships entailed – a lot of pain.
I have never completed a bible reading plan for at least thirty days straight. . . there, I said it. . . . my confession of failure. There is no ONE reason that prevents this - it changes based on what is happening around me. However, I have discovered through my time in India and a dear friend of mine’s death last week that. . . it is time to take intentional steps to be the person I want to be – there is no time to waste. As stated by Mark Beeson this past weekend, – READ MY BIBLE – simple, not easy.
I’ve never done it, . . . but I’m going to try it again. I always say that I want to get closer to Jesus, and yet in the area of scripture, there is little evidence that I really desire that. As I told my students this morning in class, if you truly want something, you WILL make time for it. It is time to test how badly I really want to know Jesus and follow Him. It is time to stop talking about it. . . . . it is time for real, practical, daily steps towards my goal.
I found a great 30 day reading plan through the gospels today on youversion.com - so I downloaded the app. I know this journey will guarentee several things:
- It WILL be inconvenient most if not all the time
- It WILL loom over my head some days as I struggle to get other things done
- It WILL get me closer to Jesus
- It WILL help me place scripture into its proper place of authority, priority, and influence in my life
-It WILL help me be a better husband, father, teacher, and friend
-It WILL cut me deeply – cutting away parts of me that are me. . . and not yet like Jesus.
-It WILL bring God glory
Time to begin. . . . I have so much other stuff I SHOULD be doing right now, but it is time to read my bible. . . I have no evidence that I will see this through till completion. I have started out strong many times before. . . we’ll see
Mathew 1:6 – I am always amazed that Bathsheba – the sign of David’s worst hour – is in the blood line of Jesus. She is the mother of Solomon. . . I love God’s incessant need to turn the worst into the best – it’s what He does!
1:25 – I love how the Bible mentions that Joseph did not have sex with Mary until after the baby was born. . . was that really necessary to mention that? God is not ignorant to the fact that Sex is a powerful force – for good or evil – moreover, Joe’s resistence provides great evidence that he really did believe Mary and the Angel (just ask any guy to justify this. . .). Btw. . . I also think this is one reason why churches never use this passage during the Christmas season – just because they don’t want to say sex. My thought is – if the enemy is spending so much time and energy trying to downplay the importance and “specialness” of sex, maybe that should clue us into how much we should be talking about it??
Luke 1:3 – The scientist in me loves the scientist in Luke!
1:7 – how many years of agony did Zechariah and Elizabeth face without having children, and yet they were faithful (verse 6). Faithfulness is not proven during good times, but during difficult times.
1:17 – I love the fact that one of the powerful things that John is going to do according to the Angel of the LORD is “Turn the hearts of the fathers to their children” – guess they had that problem too. . . wish that change would have stuck.
- Both Zechariah and Mary questioneg Gabriel’s message, but Zechariah doubted its truthfulness – whether or not it would happen; whereas, Mary questioned “how” it would happen.
1:61 – from day 1 John was different. . . “there is no one in all your family by that name” – he was breaking social norms before he could even sit up. . . maybe that was part of the preparation he was doing for Jesus!
1:78-79 – I just love this line – Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. So, what is the morning light (i.e., Jesus) going to do? It looks like first on the list is to bring light to those who are in darkness or death. . . and #2 to guide all of us to peace. Don’t really hear lot of wealth, ease, or long-life in there. Maybe I should be having those as my top two priorities as well??
John 1:4-9 – alot more talk about Jesus being the “light” – how am I a light?
John the Baptist was bold, honest, and humble . . . what great characteristics for a man of God.
1:35 – 51 – it is always amazing to me that the first 4 disciples were gathered by just a brother or a friend shoulder tapping the other one, and saying “you gotta see this!” . . . . if personal invitation was good enough for the disciples then maybe I should be doing more it??
- I think people are afraid to do so for one of two reasons:
1. They don’t really believe that Jesus or their church will live up to the hype that they are expressing.
2. They are afraid to push people away, and “scare the off”. This is why it is so critical that you have a relationship with people that can handle any trust issues that surround such an invitation.
13 years ago last night, I made the 2nd smartest decision I have ever made (Jesus in #1). . . . . I decided to go bowling and bake cookies with a ministry group on my college’s campus. Why so smart? Because through the course of several other minor bad decisions that happened that night (including having a 3 hour conversation with her roomate – about my roomate). . . . the only decision that really made a difference – happened. . . . . Angela Twedt came into my life for good!
I seriously have no idea how such a gorgeous, smart, loving, grace-filled, athletic, beautiful, fun, tough, amazing young woman ever came into my life, but I’m keeping her!
So, to this day, I really like BOWLING
So, a couple of weeks ago I performed this monologue at church. . . . but that was really the icing on the cake because God had already done His work in me over the previous 2 weeks. You see, that’s how long it took me to memorize the 2 pages worth of material, and digest the depth of the character. The script, written by Greg, was absolutely incredible! As an actor, it was one of those deals that you know right away – the limit of this piece is not the script, but me – and it deserved my dedication.
This story stikes a common chord with me and my family (immediate and extended) at times, and even now, we are taking strides to modify our life in order to fit our priorities – including rest and relationships!
I hope this speaks to you as it did so strongly to me over the past few weeks. Thanks again Greg and Kristen for the opportunity!
So why did I take time out of my day today to vote – confession time:
1. NOT because I have a deep belief that my vote actually makes a difference in the grand scheme of things as suggested in the picture above
2. NOT because I feel guilty because of those who have given up their lives for this privilege – though that is true, and I am grateful
3. NOT because I feel like I even have a civic duty to do so
4. NOT because I enjoy getting bothered on the way into the polling place this morning with my 20 month old son who celebrated by several of the candidates’ groups as a “potential voter” in a few short years, and the actually trying to give him promotional materials. . . really?? Along with this came many people telling me how cute he was. . . . at least that part is true – he really takes after his mother!
So why then did I vote . . . . ?
1. Simply put – I want to be able to speek my opinion to others and engage in the debate all year long. It is my belief that in order to do so without serious loads of hypocrisy, I need to put some action to my belief – engage in some level of physcal responsibility to my philosophical exercises of thought (especially if those exercises EVER involve complaints). It really does remind me of James 2:20 “. . .faith without works is dead” – because there is no evidence of your faith acutally being alive if there are no corresponding actions. Similarly (but in the contrapositive form), putting forth my vote on this day allows me to engage in lively/respectful discourse at other times because my voting has demonstrated LIFE in my beliefs.
2. Funny, but also true – I always love meeting new people in the line, and hearing just a bit of their story. . . . usually these are people I would never otherwise meet, and maybe. . . just maybe, I can bring some encouragement, and that itself is worth it!
If you have not voted today I encourage you to do it . . . . for whatever reason you choose!
I just thought I would put down some of my thoughts on how and why my and I went trick or treating last night. Here is an email I sent to a friend a couple of days ago about this issue. By the way, our firefirefighter, superman, spiderman, minny mouse, and pegasus had a great time:
Great question – we do allow our children to dress up for Halloween; however, no witches, ghosts, bloody skulls, etc… – really nothing that celebrates death, violence, or darkness. In coordination with this, our Fall decorations around the house are pumpkins, corn stalks, cute scarecrows – no black cats, ghosts, witches, mummies, etc…We have a great family time trick or treating around our neighborhood, and is honestly, one of the biggest ways we meet many of our neighbors (kids and adults), since they are rarely just “out and about” during other times of the year.
In the past few years, this whole experience has led to many conversations about witches, mummies, ghosts, violent characters (you the kids with an axe stuck in their head and “blood” that is all over their head), and other things that we believe have made them aware of how our beliefs/behaviors are different from the world’s.
Other “teaching moments” that come up during this time include greediness and even lust with candy, as well as nutritional things about candy and certain ingredients that we find in the candy themselves (because we rarely have candy or a lot of sweets in our house). This participation without celebration of darkness is how Ang and I have decided to walk the line of “in the world, but not of the world”. I would love to hear from others on this as well.
P.s. we also have our own theories on what to do with the Easter bunny and Santa Claus – so this conversation can continue throughout the year
WOW – does our culture ever live for surprises – in fact I believe one of the foundations of entertainment in this country is SURPRISE. We tune into reality shows because they are unpredictable. . . it is the fact that we don’t know what is going to happen. . . that drives us to see what actually happens. Whether it is the mind bending movie of Inception or the twisted trail traveled in Lost – Americans live for surprises in stories, in fact we wait in suspense all week – reading blogs, tweets, and facebook updates from others- just anticipating the possible storylines that could occur in the next episode. In essence, the amount of surprise and unpredictability is directly related to how interesting something is. . . . and quantities of interest is the currency of entertainment.
Does this concern anyone?? It does me for several reasons, but I will only focus on one right now.
Flat out. . . when was the last time the Bible surprised you?? I mean. . . . many of us already know the stories. . . we know what is going to happen. . . there is always a rainbow after the flood. Many times I feel like the church focuses so much on memorizing that they forget to help feed the desire that we all have for surprises. . . . they forget to remind us that the Bible is the living Word. . . capable of being fresh and new every day!
I have been really affected recently about how many Christians are no longer surprised by what they read in the Bible – as if already knowing the story limits God’s ability to speak to them in a fresh and new way. So whether they are teens or adults – of course they are going to think that the Bible is boring, stale, and not relevant. But, they are missing out, and we need to tell them of the surprises, help them become more interested - For example, John 2:15 really surprises me – and not because Jesus is getting really mad and clearing the temple (though surprising to some who never heard this – I already knew the story!), but in the details of story that I had never realized before. . . . . Jesus made a whip . . . . He did not borrow a whip. He did not buy a whip. No. . . . He made a whip. Since when did my savior know how to make a whip. . . . remember He was a carpenter – not a lot of need for whip making.
Not only did He make a whip – he obviously made one that was in good quality (considering He used it quite extensively), and He had to have made it quickly (since He was already mad, and had not cooled off yet – we all do things very quickly when we are this upset). In addition, HE KNEW HOW TO USE A WHIP – - – - have you ever tried to move a cow?? yeah, not easy – much less countless numbers of people doing their normal business, but the scripture says that he drove everything from cattle to merchants out of the temple courtyard – translation. . . . He was using a mean whip. WOW – Jesus had to have had practiced all of these things – from whip making to knowing how to use it. . . . . well, I just had never pictured Jesus doing that . . . . I guess we know one thing that He did before His ministry started at 30.
As I sat in my chair thinking about all of this – it just really surprised me, and in that “didn’t see that coming” thought. . . . Jesus became more real to me. . . a new point of human connection. . . I always wanted to be able to play with a whip ever since I first saw Indiana Jones!!! What a surprise, and I wanted more – - – interested?? Try this - I want to encourage all of us to pray “God surprise me” before reading scripture in the next few days. This process has really encouraged me as of late, and so I wanted to pass it along to you.
go . . . live. . . and be surprised by the God who created surprises!
WOW - faculty retreat – there has been a lot, but here is some wisdom that I have picked up in no particular order:
10. You can love someone without ever spending more than 20 seconds with them. Love is like the beauty of the ocean depths, but many of us still only use waders in the waters of love.
9. 1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – have you ever wondered why love is the greatest? I am not sure, but a colleague of mine suggested that maybe its because love is the only one that is eternal – you see, in heaven there will little need for faith or hope, but love. . . . . love will always be there.
8.The places where I am most unlike Christ is where God wants to work the most
7. One of my goals needs to be: Radical abandonment to God and radical availability to others.
6. True Christlikeness comes at the point where it is hard NOT to respond as He would – D. Willard
5. I am as holy as I want to be – be disciplined – most imporatnt things in life do not seem urgent in the moment.
4. Fact: Life intune with God is nurtured by time alone
3. Almost everything that is worthwhile in life is difficult at first
2. It is delusion to think that a great relationship with God can be carried on sloppily
1. Do our lives look like we want to HEAR from God? Time for silence is MADE not found.
Finally, . . . simply. . . a true learner obeys -
This was so much fun – seriously, thanks all to Ben Sanders (brilliant. . . and from California) who lets me run with my crazy ideas. I love being able to serve with such talented people at my church . . . Bryant family fun!
This is a video of the “Feed” – which is our church’s way of doing announcements – enjoy!
Thanks again Ben!
Yes, I know that we have all heard most of the stories about David in the Bible, he killed a lot of people (Philistines in particular) and certain wild animals with tremendous courage and fortitude as the ultimate underdog with strange weaponry. He reigned over God’s people, committed aldutery and murder, was the father of Soloman and Jesus Christ was born from his lineage. I do not want to down play any of those things – for they are an entire sermon series/books in an of themselves. . . . but I have been surprised recently by some new twists in his story that have spoken to me:
no chance right
1. Opportunities to kill giants in your life usually come when you are focused on some other task and seemingly “unprepared”: this just makes sense, the enemy is going to try and attack you when you are distracted and don’t have what you think you need (i.e.bringing food to your brothers at the front lines. . .without armor or a sword) – but in that moment. . . our task-oriented focus MUST ALWAYS be vulnerable to the opportunities of God almighty.
2. You can defeat the giants in your life with what you already know how to do: Do you are do you not trust that God will never forsake you (Heb 13:5). If so then live believing that God’s work in your life IS THE PREPARATION for the giants. It may have only been a sling and 5 stones, but David knew how to use them . . . . what do you already know how to do that can help defeat your giant(s) – thanks Rob Wegner for this insight recently.
3. If you truly believe then run: Simply put. . . David KNEW victory was at hand – so he ran (1 Samuel 18:48) towards Goliath. Seriously, if we trust that God is good all the time and is always with us then why hesitate – NO – let’s get off our butts and run into battle. . . no excuses. . . victory is not waiting on God. . . it is waiting on us!
4. If you ever think you have workplace drama/issues as well as in-law issues? Read 1 Samuel 18,19 – Boss/King/Father-in-law trying to murder (literally) David many times. . . . . and what did David do? What should all of us do? He trusted God more than he hated the situation - remained obedient to God amidst the confusion/stress/anxiety. . . he did not quit on God.
5. God could have put anyone in the lineage of Jesus His son. . . anyone – who did he pick? David of course. . . .but also, Bathsheba (Mathew 1). . . this is our God - He took one of the most shameful acts in all of Israel’s history, and redeemed it. . . it is simply who He is – it’s called grace and it blows me away! Have you ever had someone that you have associated/and put trust in fail you?? yeah . . . pretty rough. . . . what’s even more difficult sometimes is to follow in God’s footsteps – claim and redeem their willing heart.
Why do they call them leaps?
Because it’s not just a step. . . it’s not even a jump. . . it is something that you are choosing to do that inherently has quite a bit of risk – it is pushing you to the edges of your ability or capacity.
Why are they so good?
I believe that they are a critical part of our spiritual race because it forces us to rely on God who promises to be reliable and that in our weakness (or vulnerability – i.e., whatever is being risked in the “leap”) His strength is made perfect. Then at the aftermath of the leap. . . whether it turns out exactly how we thought it would or not. . . God is once again shown to be both GOOD and FAITHFUL. . . . thus, giving us memories or stories to share with each other that both edifies the Church, and constructs protective barriers around our heart from the bitter root of unbelief that tries to grow from time to time. These stories of God touching our lives in profound ways when we need it the most becomes the comforting evidence that He is always with us, and always wants what is best for us. They also can be seeds that are sowed to our children and grand-children.
Sadly, many of us are so far removed from the enslavement of the Hebrews in Egypt or the parting of the red sea – or even the passover to feel a tangible peace and comfort from recounting those stories. . . . but when we “leap” at God-ordained moments – new stories are born. . . . fresh evidence is discovered for us personally – that can inspire us to not just land from the leap, but to run full-speed ahead into whatever God has in store.
I took a leap today. . . . and no I can’t tell you what it is – not yet at least — but, I believe it is what God is calling me to do. . . . and once you believe something . . . . truly believe something – there is no reason to simply walk to your opposition or decision. . . no, look at what David did with Goliath in 1 Sam 17 – he ran to meet the giant, why delay when you know that victory is at hand?? David needed no last minute preparation. . . his life WAS his preparation – same way with your leaps of faith – God has been preparing you for this moment for longer than you could ever know. . . trust Him. . . and take off!
I have some friends and family dealing with some very challenging diagnoses recently, and it just breaks my heart. I know that we all have difficulties, and we all wish that we could simply hold on to the gratefullness and perspective that we feel upon our return from a mission trip or after heart-wrenching movie or newscast. . . . . . but, it is so hard to be consistently grateful, especially when the world seems to crashing down around you, which is why these reminders are so important to me. I am reminded of the value of grateful heart NOT out of pity for someone else’s situation, but out of the strength that I see as they fight for hope, maintain focus, and abolutely refuse to give up! So, read the following passage and let it penetrate into your struggle right now -
and finally, one of my favorite passages of scripture (Hebrews 12:12-13) because it fuels me to live to the edge of my possibility:
12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
As Christ-followers, we want our children to be able to try and understand what GRACE means as early as possible in their lives. Grasping this concept not only helps them understand the heart of God, but it will help protect them from one of the biggest lies of the enemy, which basically is – you are what you do. . . . . if you make a mistake – you are a mistake. . . . and you are only worthy of love if you do great things ~ the religion of performance.
Some recent insights:
1. Lie/expectation that the world teaches us: that if we give our kids the best of who we are we will always feel loved by them, and get their best in return. . . how many of you know that is not how it works – at least not in the short run. You see. . . . kids are often times on their “best behavior” around other people, and then forget about things like manners, being nice, and respectful when around their own parents/siblings. Not unlike why many spouses get the left-overs of their spouse when they are at home, because there it is safe to be tired, stressed, and cranky. Do not let how your child treats you sometimes to determine your joy as a parent nor your measure of whether or not your child knows they are loved.
2. God says – me too: It is at this point that I feel even closer to God, because that is exactly what we do to Him – He easily gave His best for us – several times throughout history, and of course the greatest being His own son for us. . . . and yet we often times give Him our left-overs, our worst – our inauthentic praise, extra money at the end of the month, sour attitudes, complaining tongues, shortest memories of his blessings, least amount of trust, and shortest patience.
3. Always remember: Modeling in relationships is one of the most powerful ways that our children learn anything about relationships. . . . even more than what we tell them. That being said, there is no way to model grace to our children without us being treated unfairly or badly by them. Their mistreatment of us opens the door of opportunity for us to show grace to them. . . it is at this point of receiving what they do not deserve, without strings attached, that brings the awareness of God’s heart = unconditional love.
Keep loving your children of all ages well
Here is a topic that I am pretty passionate about, and I especially get amped up for this discussion in my Adolescent Growth & Development class because I hear so many teens wanting to talk about it and so many adults too scared to discuss it with them??? To which I say. . . WHAT!!!! – A.) The teen actually wants to talk and B.) they are actually open to your guidance on an issue. . . . and we, as adults, are too scared to engage – ahhhh!!!. . . . and it is not just teens – children and adults too – Church. . . .we must do better.
Anyways, I want to share just briefly a few things that have helped clarify some of the issues in my class discussions, and also a couple of videos that have been great for discussion.
First of all, this is not a religion or philosophy class, and so I do not debate the sin nature of homosexuality in class because that is what most of the students expect – a debate about what is the TRUTH. . . . consequently, in my experience, that is the only thing the students are prepared to take about. We take the stance of many churches – that homosexual behavior is a sin. . . and we go from there (I have additional materials for the students about the “truth” debate if they want it, and the subject is covered in more detail in other ways here at Bethel). . . it is amazing to me; however, that many people cannot even think past this truth concept – to see that there are other very important issues about this topic that we are failing to address.
Another way of viewing my purpose is to look at a familar phrase:
Truth in love (Eph 4:15) - Once again, not messing with the truth part – that is definitely a huge part of how Jesus was uncommon, but the “in love” – which is an expression of “how” we are to express the truth – that is what made him a walking revolution - he was revolutionary not just for what he said but for what he did - healing on the Sabbath, touching the leper, going to Matthew’s house, talking to the woman at well, and associating with prostitutes! He chose to not condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). . . which starts with forming a relationship with someone, getting to know someone before we could ever share “truth” about heated issues.
In my experience, when people focus only on the truth in these situations then judgement/condemnation is already on its way – and can be felt by those around them. However, when I focus on the “in love” then judgement stays away, and the other person is more open to talking because they trust that I care about them. . . not just their sexuality. . . – I refuse to live in a way that reduces the immense/Jesus sacrificing value of another human being’s life and experience to simply an alterior motive and/or a grossly stereotyped label. . . and I think Jesus models that behavior over and over in scripture.
Interesting dichotomies here to notice in these videos:
Acceptance vs Approval - we use these terms interchangeably at times with regard to this issue, and yet these terms are critically different.
Attitude vs Belief- Again, attitudes may change without changes in beliefs. . . .misusing these terms can cause serious wounds.
Watch this video to get a fresh look at “hate the sin, love the sinner”. . . one of the most popular Christian phrases regarding this issue.
OK – don’t give me a hard time . . . I know that it is March, and I am just now posting our letter and video – sorry about that. I was in a cave for around 4 months – but better later than never right
We spend quite a bit of time on our letter, because we feel that having clear, intentional communication is very important – especially when you KNOW that people are going to be reading it. We just feel like this is yet another opportunity that God gives us each year to give Him glory by sharing the story of the past year as witnesses to what God is up to in our lives. So, here is the letter that we wrote and the video recap of our multiple celebrations!!!
The adventure continues 2009
Philippians 4:6: “do not be anxious about anything, but through prayer and petition submit everything to God, and He will give you a peace that passes all understanding.”
What a wonderful year this has been full of so much adventure. The year had such a difficult beginning with the loss of Ted’s aunt and uncle (Phil and Louie Rieman). They were such tremendous servants of peace and love, dedicated to trying to bring the Kingdom of God to everyone they encountered. They are greatly missed –
Inspired by their legacy and the injustices witnessed through his trip to India, Ted began a journey to grow greenLockers (www.greenlockers.org – his non-profit organization) this past year, and God continues to bless the project with over 17 schools participating producing 9,000 lbs of supplies, which were given to 23 different charities in the area, as well as to orphans in Mexico and India. Ted continues to love teaching and mentoring students at Bethel, and has been humbled and honored by the influence that he holds on campus and in our community.
Angela feels privileged to be at home enjoying the little moments each day with the kids. She continues to equip psychology students teaching at Bethel one night a week. With a passion for family and fulfilling relationships, she loves getting to mentor several young women on campus as well as developing new curricula for the premarital counseling seminars at our Church.
As blessed as we feel with all of that, it pales in comparison to the newest addition to our family. Dane Justice Bryant was loaned to us on 3.3.09, and our lives have been enriched ever since. He is such a good boy with his favorite activities including pulling himself up on anything he can grab onto, and trying to sneak away from us to crawl as fast as he can to the dog food and water bowls!! J. Elliana, Kya, and Dakota are great with him – they love him so much!
Elliana started Kindergarten this year. . . she is growing up way too fast (ok, now I sound old J). Her and Kya both love their new public Montessori school that they are attending. Dakota gets to have some great time with Mommy and baby Dane in the morning, and he loves to “read” books.
Amidst the planning, and efforts to raise kids well, fulfill responsibilities at work, church, and in our community. . . . we were interrupted in September of this year. Since we know God loves interrupting our lives (i.e., look back at our track history the past 10 years), we decided to listen. What we heard was a call to help the broken children all around us by becoming a foster family. We have completed the paperwork and begin training early next year, with our first placement probably happening in March sometime. . . . the adventure continues J. We are excited and nervous, but have decided – like most of the rest of this year – to live in Phil. 4:6. God has got our back, and so we are committed to love boldly in the opportunities He places before us.
We love you all so much, and are incredibly blessed to have you in our lives. We hope and pray that you and your families have the opportunity to love, and be loved, like never before this Christmas season!! Peace & love to all!