Friday, August 29, 2008

TSC Kickoff, Makai Gets Glasses

I will post pictures of the TSC kickoff later, but in a few words... preaching Jesus to 700 college students is something I hope I will never take for granted. As one of my mentors, Jeff Dodge, always used to say to the TSC staff, "There are people who pray more than us, know their Bibles better, articulate it better, love Jesus more and never get to see this kind of fruit. Don't let yourself believe it is because of our goodness or something we are doing, or some formula we've stumbled on. It is a grace gift from God." 

For those of you who have spent any time at all reading my blog, you're thinking, "No doubt." Me too.

Another highlight of mine every fall is cleaning the football stadium after ISU football games. Again, I have no words for what joy it brings me to see 300+ college students picking up trash at midnight all because they're in love with Jesus. It helps us raise about $35,000 for the ministry of TSC (We have to raise $180,000 total).

Before the game we did a tailgate. There were hundreds of college students enjoying free food- chillin' and grillin'. And a couple random people who decided to join the party. 

Two of these are not like the others...
Tonight we ate at our favorite Ames restaurant thanks to my parental units... The Cafe! The Wikki Stix were a hit with the kids. Makai got glasses...

...and kid bifocals.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Random pictures from the last couple days

Sunday afternoon I spent a couple hours making salsa. True to my personality, there is no defined recipe, just a mixture of about 30 tomatoes (I squeeze all the juice and seeds out), 3 onions (small, from the garden), 3 jalepenos, minced garlic, a whole bunch of cilantro, 1 lime, salt, sugar then I throw it in the food processor. We froze and canned enough to get us through the year. 

Sunday night we took the family to Salt Company's freshmen group kickoff. There were over 500 people that came. It's amazing to see all the freshmen- there are more divine appointments than you can keep track of. It's no surprise with all of you praying. Bless you!  We have our TSC kickoff Wednesday night at 6:30 CST. Please pray! (Stan Hayek is up on stage. I call him our 23 year old Rick Warren.)
Today we picked some apples out in the country at Crita's. She is a sweet widow who lives near my uncle's pony farm. Tons of cats entertained the kids.
Makai was trapped in the jog stroller. We just kept feeding him apples. Everyone was happy. For awhile...

We filled the whole trunk of our Odyssey with apples. This should be applesauce for the whole year. These are as organic as they come- worms and all. 

Speaking of apples...this is the apple tree in our backyard. It has produced one apple, as you can see near the bottom. My only question about this tree- according to the "bearing fruit test," will it make it to heaven? 

Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm thinking about becoming Retropuritan

We're already on our way... you know we hang our own clothes out to dry, grind our own wheat, make homemade salsa, apple cider vinegar, laundry detergent (but we don't do it by hand in the nearest river...yet), and are contemplating joining an agrarian community.

I could feel the simplicity of life flooding my veins as I rode. Oh, for the olden days again! No gears to worry about switching. No handbrakes to wonder, "Is this the front or back brake?" One gear. One kickstand. One basket. One way to brake (simply push back). 
Are you struggling with envy? (Holly, is your Mary Poppins bike this cool?)
It corners well.

You know I'm joking about the agrarian community, right? Leatha came across an agrarian blog that she found fascinating because she went to high school with the guy. (Funny thing that these Neo-Amish folk are online). I don't think they'd let us in anyway, because we don't homeschool and they're probably not willing to build a skatepark. 

Moreover, it's hard to live off the land with the upcoming baseball pennant race (Go Cubs!) and football season.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good thoughts...

Here are a couple other blog posts I've enjoyed this week:

1. Ed Noble's thoughts on our need to rethink our use of the popular axiom: "love the sinner, hate the sin" (click here)

2. Chris Brauns has creative thoughts on our need to be connected to the body of Christ. I can't wait to rip off his metaphor next time I preach on the body of Christ (click here).

Both of these men also need props for praying on a regular basis for our church and college ministry (The Salt Company). For that alone they deserve some props.

Please join us in prayer for the thousands of college students coming to Iowa State University this week. We're doing our best to make it hard for them to go to hell.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ministry Policy

I had to play "Pastor Policeman" the other day by enforcing the law.

Rule #1 "No one starts a ministry unless someone starts a ministry."

Here was the infraction, "Hey, do you have anything in place to get college students more connected with the community? We'd like to be apart of that."

It sounds harmless enough, but it has ruined churches all over.

Someone's brilliant ministry idea becomes the pastor's responsibility to initiate, launch, own, and administrate.

My response, "That's a great idea. I'd love for you to start that ministry. In fact, update me on how it's going in a couple weeks after you launch it."

People starting ministries that no one really starts is epidemic. This infraction alone has turned many (most?) pastors into activities coordinators on the Carnival Cruise liner, rather than the front line disciple-maker shepherds who lead, teach, pray and build the Kingdom.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parenting- Sharing

We have a policy about sharing in the Arant home (thanks to the Nesbitt's example). It's pretty simple- if you don't share, we will give it away to the person you won't share with.

So some random boy at the pool, Dominique, is the proud owner of a new Spider-Man scooter (compliments of Beck).

For those of you who have young children- if you're looking to save money on Christmas/Bday gifts, just stop by and see what the condition of our kids' hearts are that day. You may just walk away with some great (free) presents.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another Homeschool Rant

It's fall and school is about to start. It reminds me of a fun "discussion" this summer with a smart friend about home school. He's very much in favor of home school.

I know it's a little redundant to describe any pro-homeschooler as "smart", because they all pretty much are. But this dude isn't your ordinary home school cat.

But this didn't stop me from taking him on- just me and my public school education.

I'm going to re-create the discussion to the best of my knowledge (making myself sound smarter and more articulate, of course). I will let him remain anonymous, unless he chooses to weigh in with his comments, and reveal his identity... (although his initials are T.L.)

Me: "I'm really okay with home school, I just hate it when people use Bible verses to show why parents ought to home school. This lady pulled this on me at family camp this year, using Voddie Baucham's argument about letting Caesar train our kids. I don't think the Bible is pro-home school."

Him: "I think it is. For example, the command in Deuteronomy 6 is to 'teach our kids diligently'."

Me: "What are we to 'teach our kids diligently'? Geometry proofs? The Periodic Table? History? I don't think that's at all what that passage is about."

Tim (Ooops, I mean Him): "You're assuming that knowledge is amoral, and it's not. We have a responsibility to train our kids with a Christian worldview."

Me: "Yeah, but in that Sh'ma passage, the command is to diligently teach the Scriptures- God's word- not Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic."

Him: "But wouldn't you say that you've failed as a parent if you haven't taught them how to read?"

Me: "No, you haven't failed. You could be an illiterate Berber out in the Sahara teaching your child to love God with all his or her heart, soul and mind and never teach them to read or write or do multiplication tables. The imperative of Deuteronomy 6 is not to home school your kids because that's not the only way to teach them the word and ways of God."

Him: "So you're happy to send your kids to someone else for 8 hours a day so they can teach them- and that during an age when they are most impressionable?"

Me: "I think teachers are generally doing a good job of teaching what they are paid to teach- reading, writing, math..."

Him: "But there is definitely a worldview attached to what they're teaching. It's impossible for them to be objective. Moreover, grade school is when they are most impressionable."

Me: "I think my teachers through grade school had very little negative influence over my thinking. If they were poisoning my mind, it was a drop in the ocean of the influence that was my parents, church, etc. By the time I got to junior high/high school, when evolution was being taught, I was strengthened in my faith because it made me own my reasons for believing in the Creator God."

Him: "But in high school there are other real social pressures that you can't deny (i.e. drug use). Do you want to subject your kids to that?"

Me: "I want to win the high school for Christ."

At this point it went back and forth some more. He made some great points and really made me think. We also talked about how we need to foster an environment (esp. at church) where people can feel the freedom to make the best choice for them, and not say, "I'm ok if you home school (or public school)" but in your heart you still pass judgment.

So I'm cool with home school or Christian school, and of course public school, but please stop using the Bible to say, "The Bible is pro-home school."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Harry Potter Band

Some dudes from our church have been trying to "make it" in the music business. After a couple semi-successful bands, they decided to start a Harry Potter band for fun in the "wizard rock" genre.

Next thing you know, Ministry of Magic (click here) is blazing a trail for wizard rock. They've had their music played on MTV, and they just finished an interview with them as well about their music. They just returned from shows in Chicago, where there were over 400 people (from around the world!) at them.

Amidst the packed concerts of wizards (where they encourage the crowd to bust out their "wands"), they are seeking to represent Christ. In the interview with MTV, which will be released soon, Mark Jennings spoke boldly about Christ.

They are getting a lot of flack from their old fans (from when they were in the Christian music industry), who consider them to be "selling out Christ." They need to watch Brad Stine's satire of these "burn Harry Potter books" people (on his DVD "Put a helmet on"- hilarious stuff). And they need to remember C.S. Lewis' words, that what we need is not more Christian artists, but artists who were Christians.

Go Ministry of Magic! Your music rocks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Can this be work?

Great question after another Salt Company fall staff retreat.

We just returned from a great time together in Omaha, where we enjoyed the hospitality of my family and friends. Highlights from the trip (in no particular order):

- Worship Monday night at Darrell and Nancy Fager's crib in downtown Omaha was soul therapy. And holy cow, they have a beautiful place, just a stone's throw from the Qwest center. Nancy put out an awesome spread for our staff and afterwards we did some worship and prayer.
- Softball (I made a Bill Buckner error that cost our team 4 runs)
- Mom and Dad's hospitality gifts are off the charts. My mom served us tirelessly (while watching Beck and Cameron!) Dad shared with us about hearing God's voice and mom shared a great story of how God gave her courage for a new life adventure.
- We discovered game crack- Wii Golf. We stayed up later than we should've playing that worthless game both nights. But it was fun (an that justifies everything). Mo is a natural, shooting a record 4 under his 3rd time. Mo, maybe you should consider pursuing a career in Wii golf.
- Time with God and prayer walking Swanson Park... a reminder to me that when God asks me "Do you trust me?" it should be easier and easier to answer "yes."
- A few of us went to see The Dark Knight. It was creepier than I expected. It illustrates the proverbial Tom Nesbitt line, "Hurt people hurt people."

I love our staff team and I'm so proud of all of them. It's a blast to have your staff be people you enjoy hanging with. I often use one of two metaphors to describe my job...

1. Ministry candy land.

Who would've thought that in the middle of a bunch of cornfields God would do such a thing (i.e. Cornerstone Church/TSC)? There is so much hype these days about making urban centers the church's strategic focus. It's not all for nothing, but I don't have any plans of moving to the city.

2. Standing under the Niagara Falls with a Dixie cup in hand trying to take it in.

God's favor is thick here. Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I'm a proud parent

As it turns out in this case, it's not because of my honor roll kids. It's because I had a shining parenting moment. These are rare enough for me that they must be documented.

I called home to see if I could pick anything up on my way home from church (Husbands everywhere, take note of that. It's a little something I learned from my friend Paul Sabino). Ava informed me of a serious crime.

Cameron and Beck snuck into the van (in the garage) and started eating her chocolate. She told me that mommy was waiting for me to come home to deal with it.

I showed up and called Cameron and Beck into our bedroom. I asked them some questions to draw out what happened. As it turns out, Beck had tempted Cameron and he went along. By the end of our conversation it became clear that there was lying and stealing- which meant there must be punishment and restitution.

We always spank our kids for disobedience, so that wasn't too stellar. But it was the restitution that provided the best teaching moment...

Me: "Now you guys have to give those chocolates back to Ava."
Beck [perplexed]: "But how am I going to get it out of my throat?"
Me: "What do you think, Cameron?"
Cameron: "Well, I can just buy her some- I have lots of money. I don't need my money anyway."
Me: "You're going to have to work to earn money to pay her back. You guys will be pulling weeds this afternoon and I'll pay you enough to repay her for the chocolate you ate."
[You'll recall our ghetto yard that's singlehandedly destroyed the real estate market around here (click here)...there are plenty of weeds to pull. To my defense, my Granola wife wouldn't let me put chemicals on the lawn, thus our weeds.]

So I had a parenting victory, without any help from Leatha (to put it mildly- she has the edge on me when it comes to training our kids).

And I even read the Bible to them tonight.

Dang. It's been a good day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Leatha Foundation Update

Through a crazy set of circumstances, we ended up with an orphanage in Malawi named after Leatha. It's called the Leatha Foundation. Many of you have contributed to feeding, clothing, etc the orphans you will see in these pictures. Here is the latest update from Pastor Thomas Tambula, who gives oversight to the orphanage... (click the "Leatha Foundation" link to the right for related stories)

"Dear Mark and Leatha Arant, I write to thank you very much for your administration. I pray that God should keep your family peace and harmony...The program of Leatha foundation is hot. People who saw the distribution of blankets, clothes, and food as well as transportation are attracted and they appreciate me. I told them that do not look at me but look at our heavenly God can do anything easy. And I am assure you that your work is well appreciated here in Malawi. You have preached good news through me."

In the pictures you will see the blanket distribution- it gets surprisingly cold this time of year in Malawi. You can also see the bags of food. They mostly eat maize- as I understand it's a sort of bland corn meal (maybe some of you that have been to Zambia can fill us in on what kind of grain/food is pictured here)

I want to personally (how insincere, as I write this on my blog :) ) thank all of you who participated in supporting the Leatha Foundation last year, especially the hundreds of college students who gave generously (in one night raising $5,000!).

We will be taking another offering for the orphanage this December or January.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this- to look after widows and orphans in their distress."

Saturday, August 2, 2008


My apologies for not posting in a few days... I've been busy reading Life of Pi, watching X-games (go Danny Mayer, an old Omaha homey), cleaning apartments (TSC fund raiser), keeping up with the Cubs and Ed Noble's podcast (fyi- he preached a pretty "defining" message on where the church should be related to the issue of gay marriage, you can hunt it down free on itunes).

I last posted on a heavy note. It's definitely time to come up for air. Here are some pics...

The genius of my dad's resourcefulness and innovation... this is one of the reasons I had such a cool childhood. This slide launches the kids right into the pool. My dad tried it once to test it, and since he missed the physics class where you learn about the relationship of momentum, mass and velocity (p=mv), he went flying over the pool and slid across the concrete patio, with the house finally stopping his forward momentum. Go Papa Jack!
I'll give you one guess what Makai is eating off the spatula...
In most households, you might guess cookie dough, cake batter, frosting.... Oh no. Not in this Puritanical garden. You guessed it- the magical fruit. Leatha's homemade refried beans.
We were pumped to get invited to Brady's birthday party (a friend of Cameron's and our family). You can see the Iowa agriculture in the background. I was fortunate enough to have rural Iowa integrated into my childhood during the summers. It made me want to live on a farm and buy a four wheeler. Well, at least for a day...
Cameron flying solo on the four wheeler. (above)
Here is Beck on the four wheeler. I led him on a short ride. Earlier today I was watching X-games with Beck. (I think we were supposed to be napping in our bed, but magically ABC popped on the TV screen) He said, "Dad, I want a motorcycle for my B-day. And a helmet. And a motorcycle costume." I have to admit, with a name like "Beck", your heart is bound to be inclined to guitar and X-game activities. And hopefully Jesus.
Here's the b-day boy with his crew. Thanks Ehresman's!