Wednesday, May 28, 2014

J-word Overload

Like any good geek dad I'm reading the Narnia books to my kids. This is partly because they love it, but it is also selfish on my part since I love the books too. I sometimes get so into the book that I get frustrated when they interrupt or fall asleep during a good part. Then I have to remember that I am a grown up. For these little ones I am THE grown up. I'm their prototype male figure--the paterfamilias. I also have to remember that they are very young and will likely get to read these books again someday. It is not important that they "get it" right now.

Anyway, one thing I love about the books is the way C.S. Lewis captures the effect a glorious being has on those around him. Between the lines of the book you get a sense of wonder/awe/sanctity/magic that accompanies Aslan (the fictional creator of Narnia, as if you didn't already know that). Last night I tried to help the kids understand that this is the way I feel about my Creator. Just like the animals all listen and get excited and quiet and energetic and peaceful around Aslan, my maker is the one who makes me feel those things. My oldest just stared at me contemplatively, dimples raised.

But when is the last time Jesus made me feel those things? When is the last time that just saying his name made me take a breath and feel...anything? Yes, I've had good times of worship and prayer and Bible study, but those were anchored in things about Jesus. I know I should be moved by Him. I know it probably seems like semantics, but there is a specific thing I'm going after here. When I hear the name of my Savior and Master, I should feel something. Too often I can say the word with hardly a thought at all. I don't generally listen to much Christian Music on the radio, but when I do the name is used rapidly and repeatedly. In my reading I come across his name quite a bit. As a preacher I use his name daily in conversation. I'm worried that it has somehow become too common.

I had the thought that I needed a J-word detox. Not that I need a break from him, only a break from the casual use of his name. I considered a fast from the use of the J-word to help me consider it more deeply over a month or more. I'm afraid I would have a lot of explaining to do to my church. I could try preaching exclusively from the Old Testament for a time, but our focus is the Gospel and it is hard to imagine a sermon that would leave out naming him to which all scripture points.

So maybe I won't fast from using his name in public, but I really would like to recapture some of the wonder I feel like I need to have over the mere name of my Lord. Do you ever feel like the church is guilty of the gratuitous use of "Jesus" in our music, prayer, t-shirts, ties and breath mints.?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pastor's Ideas for Summer Outreach

We live in an area that has some drastic changes during the year. We go from a winter wonderland to a summer play land. These two opposites present unique opportunities to be faithful worshippers of Jesus Christ. Now that summer is approaching I am praying about what we can do as a church to love others in our very special context. I thought I would pitch these ideas just for feedback and to see if anyone is interested. Assumed for each of these is an understanding the WE NEED TO PRAY. Attempting any of these things without praying, seeking God, and submitting to his will is pure vanity and will produce no Kingdom fruit.

Park Outreach
We have the best kid parks. For some reason citizens of the CDA area will not settle for lame play structures. Nor, it seems, is it possible to go more than two miles without discovering yet another awesome park. My kids take it for granted and have become a bit snobbish about which parks they will settle for. With this in mind perhaps we should find a way to live out the Gospel in some of our parks this could include:

  • Passing out water bottles and snacks to parents watching their kids
  • Gathering for song and story times and including anyone who wants to come
  • Hosting informal worship gatherings in the park
  • Looking for opportunities to "Share Jesus Without Fear"
  • Meeting new people and asking them "How's life?"
So you see, some of those things would require a little planning and organization, but some of them just require adopting a "park outreach" mentality. Again, it all starts with prayer. Pray when you visit parks, and think about what God might want you to do. 

Easy Kid Programs
We are already planning a great kids' outreach opportunity called Vacation Bible School. That will require a lot of time and work, but it will be a great and effective (not to mention fun) way to show kids and families God's love. What I'm thinking about here is less time/work intensive opportunities that still provide kids and families something fun to do that points back to the Gospel. Ideas:
  • Mommy/Kid story time. We did this several years ago at the old building. It is basically the same as the story time at the libraries, but instead the pastor reads a bible story and sings fun Christian songs with the kids. This would be about 30 minutes once a week and doesn't require volunteers since the parents/grandparents stay with their child. As a bonus someone could organize some refreshments for a fellowship time to follow. 
  • Project Craft Day for older kids. Okay, I don't know what to call it. But older kids can get bored during the summer. Grown men and women can be immature (at any time) and need excuses to do stuff that only kids should like. Examples:
    • Build water rockets
    • Build compressed air rockets
    • Make your own play dough
    • Make marshmallow shooters
    • Build a water balloon launcher
    • Other dangerous and messy things.
    • Okay so those are all things I want to do. I'm sure there are other things you might like better. The point is we can get kids together to do these things. They can invite their friends and their parents and we can all be friends and talk about Jesus and share his love with each other. This could be a weekday thing to give stay-at-home parents a break, or it could be a Saturday thing for those working parents needing something engaging to do with their kids. All I know is, at some point, it should include rockets.
Parking Lot Party
We tried the block party thing one year and learned some things. 1. We have a great parking lot and grounds for doing things. 2. People don't automatically come.

So I'm not sure what the missing ingredient is, but I would love for us to find a way to invite the community into our parking lot in a way that lets them know we love Jesus and we love them.

What Else?
So there you go. Three thoughts about some possibilities. It doesn't take a church-wide or special team effort like VBS or the Montana church build for you to be involved in serving Jesus. His command to "teach... and baptize..." is meant for wherever you go. There's an old song that says, "Wherever He leads I'll go." That's a perfect attitude for us. Phrased another way it is also true-- wherever you go He leads. There is no aspect of your life, whether it's where you live, work or play, where God is not at work. Let's join him and seek every opportunity to serve and worship Him.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Hawk Fail

Normal weekend day at home. Sitting at the table picking crumbs off my plate when I hear something hit our front window. Something biggish. Then my wife gasps from the living room like she just saw a unicorn explode.

"Jana, what is it?" I ask, too lazy to get up and look.

No answer for exactly two seconds. This makes me panic. If you gasp like that you should explain yourself quickly. No answer means that my primal male instinct is about to be called upon to protect my family at all costs. Suddenly, the crumbly sandwich crumbs on my plate are not my biggest concern. "What is it!?" I demand as I leap from my chair and run into the room.

She is a little dazed. "Sorry, I think a bird hit the window. It almost broke it I think. It was...really big. It might have been two birds."

My three kids crowd around the window to see. They are usually quite graceful kids, but for some reason when they get around windows, sharp corners, coffee cups, etc. they turn into slapstick clowns; which would be funny if when they fell they just honked a bike horn and jumped back up instead of crying and wanting me to pick them up and hold them while they, all three, cry loudly directly into my left ear canal. So I get all Barney Fife, "move along people nothing to see here..." and no one in my family gets the joke. Nor do my kids understand the literal command to "move along." I resort to my physical strength and move the kids out of my way so I can confirm Jana's bird report.

Indeed, I see two birds. A small one and a large one. My five-year-old daughter nervously laughs and says, "The little one has a really tiny face."

My wife and I exchange a look of awestruck disgust. "Kids, move along. Seriously, go play for a minute."

I finally get a good view of the scene. Right below the window is a small hawk of some kind. It is laying on its back panting and wide-eyed, obviously dazed from the impact with our window. Next to the hawk is a very small bird WITH NO HEAD. That's right. A cute little decapitated bird. The "tiny face" my daughter saw was actually a few vertebrae sticking out of the bird's neck.

"What do we do?" my wife asks. The possibilities rush through my mind as I walk to get my phone to take a picture (obviously this would be one for the family scrapbook). Maybe we should call an animal hospital to come rescue the hawk? Maybe we could put it in a shoebox and nurse it back to health. You know, bandage its wing and hand feed it hamburger meat. Maybe I could have a pet hawk and we could go hunt field mice next to our kids' park. Before I took a few steps and had time to laugh at my own stupid ideas, Jana grunts again, "Oh gosh. It flew away."

Which one? I thought. I looked out again. The hawk left behind its decapitated prey. Not cool. Very inconsiderate. I hoped it would come back and get its snack, but it never did. Evidently, this young hawk had snatched up a little bird and snapped its head off. Then, perhaps rushing home to show his mom or maybe running away from a bully hawk trying to steal his lunch, he tried to take a shortcut through our house. Only we were protected by an "invisible forcefield called glass" (credit Blue from Rio), and the hawk flew away confused and hungry.

Great job, hawk. I usually think you guys are pretty cool, but in this case you just delivered me a bird corpse.