Saturday, January 31, 2009


In my opinion, this movie was both cheesy and profoundly helpful.

The whole time I was thinking, "There's no way I'm really enjoying this right now. Sub-par acting, cheap (i.e. no) special effects, predictable storyline..."

But this story has to resonate with anyone who's been married. I'm sure there's something for all of us in the characters, and it epitomizes what's happening in the typical American family. A couple replaces their love for each other with a large mortgage payment, two incomes to pay for that mortgage, devotion to pleasure, addiction to entertainment and lust for more and bigger stuff. The net effect is to shrink the soul, leading to misery, brokenness and two individuals who happen to share the same house. (Great quote from the 16th century Henry Scougal, "The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.")

Going into it I didn't expect it to be so blatantly evangelistic. Although some of the dialogue seemed forced, it's very difficult to make conversations about the gospel feel natural. It was accurate to real life. Many conversations I've had about the gospel feel labored, like a real war is going on as I speak. I think that's the nature of conversations about Jesus. He is a dangerous man who wants to wreck the idols we've built for ourselves. 

I have to admit that I did cry a couple times. Redemption stories have a way of doing that. I did think, "I need to fight for my wife, like Caleb." There are not many movies where you walk away inspired to that end. I'll give a quick plug for "Family Man," a movie that stirred me in a similar way, and "Spitfire Grill," which is a metaphor of the gospel made with Catholic funding. (Watch that movie and see if you can pick out all the characters in the gospel)

Moreover, I was so proud of this church, who made the movie. One of the best parts was watching "the making of Fireproof" at the end. Most of those actors were volunteers from the church. They took no glory for themselves and everyone pulled together. The "Wayne on Wayne" extra was funny. I applaud that church for their vision- a little church is making a big splash. 

Some questions I still have: 
Can Christians make a movie where sin is accurately portrayed? I can't imagine that an unbelieving firefighter wouldn't be dropping some F bombs and other expletives.
How far can Christian actors/actresses go in their roles as it relates to swearing, kissing, and other depictions of sin?
Will the church step up and use this artistic expression (i.e. movies on the big screen) for God's glory? Or is it even a worthwhile pursuit?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Taste of Heaven

Here are a couple samples of the new Hillsong DVD: "This is our God". This is the stuff that gives me chills, makes me cry with joy, fills me with vision, and stokes a fire in my soul for authentic, relevant, Christ exalting worship. You can watch the whole DVD on youtube- it's set up as a playlist. There's not a bad song on this album.

Thanks, Hillsong, for leading the charge in worship for the next generation. I'm praying for some of this anointing to spill over to the U.S. (particularly Ames, IA). Bring it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Finally home!

After speaking Saturday night, we drove through the night to get back in Ames on Sunday afternoon. I took a one hour power nap, and headed off to a retreat with the other directors on Cornerstone staff. It's a bummer to get home only to have to leave right away. I left to Makai crying with 2 balls in his hands, waiting to play catch with me. "Daddy has to leave now, bye bye" 

I'm not a martyr. Most dads experience this on a regular basis. But it's never easy having to leave Leatha alone with the kids while I enjoy time away. Husbands, I hope we can thank our wives often for their sacrifice. Ours is minimal compared to theirs.

Here are some images from our trip, with comments above each picture.

Ben Jensen is the man. He scored 10,000 man points for going shirtless on his final run. He says it's some kind of tradition. Any predictions on how old he'll be when the tradition will end?

Peer pressure... the other men couldn't stand being left out.

Well, you'll notice there's one man not in the picture... 

I call this "Unintelligent Design"... This yellow "B" has been forming over millions of years in the timbers of the Rockies. It's amazing we found it as we boarded through this tree run. Evolutionary theory right before our eyes.

Thanks Ben (Hunt) for discovering this. (Bro, that took some amazing skill.) 

There may or may not have been an "M" by a neighboring tree.

Speaking of Ben Hunt, here he is leading some yoga with Aidan and Lance at the Lodge.

Here's part of the crew, minus Stan. From left: Aidan, Kent, Ben J, Me, Ben H, and Lance... These men did an incredible job of pursuing conversation and ministry throughout the weekend.

BTW: Props to Bobby... The day before I left he asked if I was good to go on gear, and I said, "Yeah, my dad let me borrow his ski bibbs." He shook his head, "Mark, we can't have that." Next thing I know I'm decked out in his boarding gear. You da man!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rocky Mountain High

I'm currently blogging from the YMCA of the Rockies, where I'm speaking (aka: snowboarding) on a retreat for an Omaha youth group. You don't need dope to get high out here. God's creation is overwhelming.

Below: On the way out, we had a pit stop in Omaha, where I dropped off Cameron and Beck at my parents. They rode with Stan in his truck, eating deer jerky and talking about how to kill animals and make meat (Stan is the red-neck on our TSC staff)

Below: Here's my room with some of the fellas I brought out. This picture is meant to be a contrast with the next one. Before you view the next one, imagine that our room wreaks- it smells like a hamster cage. Four guys in a room with have that effect...

Below: Step outside, and this is what is staring back at us. The pure Rocky Mountain air, with unusually picture perfect snow flurries. It's breathtaking here.

Here's stan and I after breakfast this morning. 

Here's the picture perfect snow flake I was talking about...

Below: Here's my notes from last night. Every time I get up to speak I have to chuckle to myself- "God, if you can make this pathetic piece of paper come to life, changing hearts with my weak and inadequate words..."

All I can say about last night is this: there was a deep spirit of conviction among the group. It was an unusually intense night for the first night of a retreat. I felt like I was merely a hammer in the hand of God, who was pounding conviction into the souls of these young people. 

Hammers don't boast. 

Neither can I. "I praise you, Lord, that you can take an insecure, weak and nobody teenager (for that was me sitting in their seat 16 years ago) and use me for your purposes. I love you Lord"

Tonight I will be speaking on moral purity, based on our 2 Tim. 2:22 theme. It's the talk I rate "PG-13". If you are reading this before 10 pm CST, please pray for me as I speak. Pray also for the souls of these young people, that their hearts would be torched to live for Jesus.

Finally, I tweaked my knee pretty bad (really bad) yesterday. But I can't not go boarding today. I'm in Colorado. Winter Park, here I come...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dangerous Journey

This is a book every family should own and read often to their kids...

Our kids love it, and we do our best to revisit it a few times a year. Sometimes we just pick a random chapter to read, and don't feel the need to go beginning to end.

The full version (Pilgrim's Progress) is a book everyone should read at least once in their life. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow!

Here is a letter I just sent out to all of our TSC alumni and supporters (many of you received this earlier today). Soli Deo Gloria!

Dear TSC Alumni and Supporters-

I write with overwhelming gratitude in my heart. Let me share why...

As you know, at the beginning of December we made you aware of the financial need for the ministry of the Salt Company. The need was over $28,000, which is a very large amount of money to raise in one month. Especially given the state of our economy, we wondered how God would provide. But we prayed as our Lord taught us, "Give us this day our daily bread."

And did He ever... $33,423.30!!!!

I laid in bed last night wondering how to thank you. Words just can't capture my gratefulness- first, to God, who has richly provided for all of our needs, and second, to you, who faithfully responded to the Lord to contribute to His work here in Ames. I give glory to God, for there is no other way to explain the abundant provision than God putting it on your hearts to give.

I hope you will be encouraged that God will not only meet our needs, but yours as well in the uncertain days ahead of us. 

Finally, I wanted you to know that the overage will not be "lost." We know that your sacrificial gift was for continuing the work of reaching the lost and making disciples of college students here at ISU. We will use it with wisdom as we move ahead in this vision of reaching every dorm, apartment, and college student that comes to Ames.

Again, thank you.

Mark Arant

TSC Director

Since writing this, I just had the awesome privilege of leading a lost 19 year old college student to Christ. 12 hours ago, he was the worst sinner on his floor, wreaking havoc. Less than one hour ago, we went into the chapel of the Memorial Union, knelt before the cross, and he prayed to receive Christ. 

To all of you who pray for us and give your money to support the ministry of TSC and Cornerstone, you shared that moment in the chapel with me. God will reward you on that Day. Bless you and bless the work of His kingdom here!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Man's Trash...

... is the Arant's treasure. At least in this case. Check out this car seat Leatha found in our neighbor's trash. Guess which one.
The one on the left is old faithful. All of our kids have ridden in it. But check out this beauty on the right that Leatha uncovered digging through (just kidding, it was near the top...) our neighbor's trash. I guess that means we live in a nice neighborhood. There's probably something in the neighborhood bylaws that you can't dig through your neighbor's trash. Or least there will be after we're here a couple more years.

Here's Makai riding in his new caddy. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Guerito (Beck) Quote

If I promise not to say, "I'll kill you" then will you get me a really dangerous gun for my birthday?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My movie list

The fact that it is movie season, I thought I'd post some of my favorites. I put similar movies together...

1. Shawshank Redemption, Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, and The Passion
2. Quiz Show, Truman Show, Cast Away
3. Young Guns, Tombstone, 3:10 to Yuma, Lonesome Dove and Return to Lonesome Dove
6. Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, and We Were Soldiers
7. The Fugitive and US Marshalls
8. The Firm, Pelican Brief, Conspiracy Theory, Enemy of the State, Shooter, Mission Impossible 3, and the Bourne series
9. The Last Samurai, Troy, The First Knight, Gladiator, Apocolypto and Braveheart
10. The Princess Bride, Sandlot, Second Hand Lions, The Legend of Zorro
11. Munich, Traffic, Blood Diamond and Crash
12. Peewee's big adventure (kidding)
13. Ocean's 11, Italian Job
14. Awakenings, Patch Adams
15. Planes Trains and Automobiles, Dumb and Dumber

Here's a short list of movies I try to keep a secret that I like. I'll use big numbers to pretend they're way at the bottom of my list...

99. Pride and Prejudice (the long BBC version)
100. While you were sleeping, Sweet Home Alabama
101. Anne of Green Gables
102. Sense and Sensibility

1984 and Appaloosa

I just finished 1984, by George Orwell. It's a classic book that everyone should have read well before 32. That's a tactic "refined" people use to make us "commoners" feel inferior. Oh well, I blame it on my public school education. Actually, I think it was only the AP English classes that read it...

It's obvious why this book is a classic, as it's well written and stunningly prophetic. I kept thinking, "No way, this was written in 1948!" The story not only applies to totalitarian regimes, but also to us Americans in 2o09. 

At one point Orwell drops this bomb- tell me if this doesn't apply to our brain dead and culturally conditioned society... "The goal of big brother is to get people speaking with their larynx, and not with their minds."

In our culture, the media sets so much of the agenda- what we will think about and how we will think about it. We begin regurgitating the nonsense as a regular part of our conversations, and thus, speaking with our "larynx."

The book had a lot of great insights- I could go on. But I agree with C.S. Lewis on this point- if you've read Animal Farm by Orwell, then 1984 is not a critical read. Orwell basically says the same thing in a much   l   o   n   g   e   r   way. 

If you want to be able to have a conversation about it without actually reading the whole book (thus sounding smart, a clear goal of everyone), just wikipedia it and you'll get a good summary.

Last night I was in a movie watching mood. What else is a Friday on a cold January night for? I checked out some reviews on and because I have a bent toward Westerns, I settled on Appaloosa.

This was a mildly entertaining movie. It's a story of loyalty, integrity, and honor mixed in with the classic Western drama. A little romance, suspense, drama, solid dialogue, humor, cool cinematography and you've got yourself an entertaining evening. Don't get me wrong, it won't go down as a top 5 western, but it served its purpose for me- an evening of relaxed entertainment.

Is it a good movie for a couple? Leatha was planning on going to bed, but she stayed up and watched it with me. I think she thought it was alright.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

College Ministry

Tonight was a reminder of all the things I love about college ministry...

1. They're not afraid of -30 degree weather (the gym was full). BTW: it was 3 degrees colder here at noon than Antarctica. The south pole has nothing on us.

2. Worship was amazing tonight. Listening to Haleigh sing Brooke Frasier's "C.S. Lewis Song"...dang. The lyrics come straight out of Chapter 10 of Mere Cnty on "Hope"

3. Preaching on passages like Romans 8:18-27. I felt like my words fell terribly short of the glories found in that text, but based on the conversations afterwards, God's word went out with conviction. Praise you, Father in heaven.

4. Praying with a student who found out over break he has cancer. He wasn't planning on coming tonight, but he called his friend last minute and told him he felt he needed to come. The message was for him. He's afraid. We prayed for him and trust the Spirit will pray for him as well (v 26,27)

5. Talking with 2 atheist students, one (an American) who was cut to the heart. He didn't have an answer for the question, "What is my hope?" He's wrestling with truth and eagerly seeking out Christian community. The other student I was able to give a Chinese Bible. You would have thought I had just given her a new Wii system.

6. A freshman who wants to go into ministry wants to hang out and learn from me (I know, it's kind of ridiculous, but that's part of my job...and the cosmic joke in heaven)

7. Meeting a student (that I had already met once) who gave his life to Christ earlier this year, is facing opposition from "religious" parents. He's a total stud. God bless him. And he wanted me to know how excited he was to be in my TOG (theology of the gospel) class this semester.

8. An email in my inbox from a student who was inspired to get a tattoo and whether or not I think it's okay.

9. Being in Alex's Old Testament class and learning alongside a sophomore, who told me we were using the same books as his friends at their Christian college. Our TSC students are getting a Christian education at Iowa State. Ha. 

Someday I'll write a post on all the things I don't like about college ministry. Here's a sneak preview...

1. Looking at the clock and thinking, "I've got to be up in a few hours for an elder meeting."

PS...pray for us, as we will be talking about how to lead the church to trust and follow Christ in this new year...

-11 here in Iowa? My thoughts exactly

Oh yeah, and we're still having Salt tonight... if they can pack Hilton full of screaming fans to watch guys throw a ball around, we should pack out our "box" to worship God.

Don't die on the way in, though.

(props to Wally for the image...)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Year Anniversary

It's been a year since I wrote my first blog entry on January 13, 2008.

Now that it's been a year, I've inducted myself into "official blogger" status. Another year or two and I'll be in Canton. Here are some reflections on being an official blogger (in no particular order)...

1. I started blogging because I wanted to have a sort of life journal that I could look back on. I wanted it to be public so as to demonstrate what an "unto God" life looks like. I've strived for authenticity, even when I come out as the friend of Beevis. As it turns out, that happened more than I'd like, but oh well. Maybe 2039 will show improvement. I'll either be 62 or with Jesus by then. I wonder if there will be bloggers in heaven.

2. The blog has gotten over 22,000 hits. That's good news, not just for narcissistic reasons, but because I hope readers are in some way encouraged to live out the Sh'ma (Deut. 6:4-ff) in everyday life. As a pastor, I lead a lot more people than I'm able to have daily relationship with. This allows people to stay updated on my life without a two hour meeting at a coffee shop. Plus it's better than that, because here you can see pictures.

That said, this blog was never meant to replace personal relationships with my family and close friends. (i.e. "I don't have to call, because I expect you to be reading my blog...")

3. Because my blog has the personal intertwined with theology, entertainment, recipes, etc, I think a lot of people feel like "stalkers" if they see me and reference something from the blog. It also restricts comments, or makes people want to post anonymous comments. I find that interesting. Maybe all blogs are that way...

4. I enjoy writing.  The blog has helped me formulate thoughts and communicate them clearly and concisely. If most blog readers are like me, I like pictures, short and to the point. So I try to make my blog more like USA Today than Wall Street Journal. Maybe smart people avoid my blog for that very reason. No offense if you're a daily metropuritan reader...

5. I hope 2009 is filled with more God, more fun stories, and more offspring (#5...)

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cheer up, spring is on its way!

Someone told me that according to historical averages, Sunday (Jan 11) is the coldest day of winter. So now that we're past that, it's all up from here. Slowly, but surely things will be warming up. 

I was looking through some skate pictures that a relative (props to Greg W!) shot of me at the skatepark on one of the last nice days of fall. I can't wait to get to the park again.

These two are a sequence. The second is my favorite.

Below is an old skool (everything I do at the park is old skool) judo air...
Below is an ollie out of the small quarter. The rush of flying through the air keeps me coming back!
The next six shots are a sequence of a Christ Air. This isn't the prettiest one, but you get the point. At the climax of the move, you are supposed to be in the form of a cross. At the skatepark, it's always good to have a trick that allows me to share Jesus.

The next four are a Japan air. It's a cool trick when it gets really tweaked out. This is a little less than stellar, but it works...

(below) A simple ollie down the stairs is something any chump at the park can do. But you can never take for granted the danger involved in skating. I've had some gnarly injuries over the years, and I can't help but encourage my kids to do something else with their youth. 

Besides, the more I'm at the park, the more I realize skateboarding is less a sport, and more an identity. A lot of the kids you'll find there are fatherless, insecure, and desperately wanting acceptance and attention. I wouldn't want my child there unsupervised. 
Oh yeah, and if there are any teens reading this...wear a helmet. It's saved my life a couple times. Last time I was in the ER getting stitches on my knee (stupid accident on the rail), the doctor told me, "This cut is OK... cuts and broken bones will heal, but I can't fix a brain injury."

"No one wears a's not cool." 

Cool won't help you when you can only talk with slurred speech because you cracked your head on the pavement.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Brothers

With numero cinco on the way, will Ava get another brother, or the sister she's (desperately) praying for?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Great reminder

I love the Puritans for reminding me...

"The true ambassador for Christ feels that he himself stands before God and has to deal with souls in Gods' stead as God's servant, and stands in a solemn place; a place in which unfaithfulness is inhumanity to man as well as treason to God." 
- C.H. Spurgeon, considered to be the last of the Puritans

"I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men." 
- Richard Baxter, 17th century Puritan

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On the home front...

Here are some odds and ends from the last week...

Guess what this is. Answer is at the very bottom.
Saturday's freezing rain left us unable to get the van into the driveway, much less the garage. Our driveway hardly has an incline, but putting the van in park didn't stop it from sliding backwards. I was overjoyed to get it partially onto the driveway/lawn.
We spent a couple days in Omaha over the new year. Leatha got the boys a set of K'nex. These toys are perfect for our engineer minded son, Cameron. Here he built a faris wheel.
Here's a shot at Jesse and Rachel (Nesbitt) Antelman's wedding. Makai is on the dance floor with Bobby and Maria Scott. I used the van ride home to preach to the kids about walking in moral purity- like Jesse and Rachel.
Here's a little conflict between Leatha and me... to have the DVD player in the van or not to have it?
We did a one day trip to NW Iowa the day after Christmas, and I was looking ALL OVER for my keys. Mysteriously, the keys were in the dead bolt lock (below) when I got home. Add this to my "I'm an idiot" list. Sadly, this doesn't even crack the top ten.  
Not pictured...

- Leatha has been making her own yogurt lately. Mixed with her homemade granola, and is amazing. Even better than McD's parfaits.

- If you're having cabin fever and you have a lot of little kids, then play a game called "Lion in the Darkness." It's a game I invented, as far as I know. Basically, you turn all the lights off (in our case, we do it in our basement). I go and hide in the dark basement, while the kids count to twenty upstairs. The kids all come and find me (I start growling to give them a clue). They are freaked out and it's a test of their courage. When they find me- sometimes I sneak up behind them- they scream and I chase them. It usually turns into a wrestling match.

It's basically hide and seek with a cool, scary name. So on second thought, maybe I didn't invent it. 

- Makai is at such a fun age (about 18 months). So much fun apparently we forgot about how hard the first year is.  So ready or not, numero cinco is on the way, due in July! (If this were our first, second, or even third child, it probably would've warranted it's own post. But this will have to do for a baby announcement. I have a good intention of doing a post entitled, "Reflections on having our fifth child." In it I'll talk about all the bone head comments we get, juxtaposed with God's view of children and family. Something like that...

Speaking of having a baby... It's funny because tonight I was showing our kids my burn scar that's all over my right thigh. Add this to the idiot list- the comment, not the scar. The scar is already on the list... I said, "Good thing it didn't burn this area [pointing to my 'loins' -in King James speak], otherwise we wouldn't have had you kids." 

The first thing Cameron asks, "Why?"

Ava starts laughing, "You mean you could give birth to a baby with that stuff? Moms have the babies, not daddies..."

Well, it's not surprising I got myself into this unplanned sex talk. Our parenting strategy is to be as forthright as possible on this issue. So we call all the body parts what they actually are called.... "hand" "arm" "leg" "foot" "penis" (not "thingy")

I already have a whole post on the sex talk. Click here

Oh yeah, the answer to the first picture: the remnants of Makai's tortilla from dinner tonight. You've got to give him credit, though. The way he folds it and takes bites makes it look like a kind of tortilla snow flake. Or swiss cheese.

 When you're worn out from little kids- dinner is a big pain- the homestretch before the much anticipated bedtime. So tonight I pulled out a winner using all the leftovers I could muster to pull off chicken quesadillas. So the half eaten tortilla picture reminds me that today was another "W"- chalk it up!

Props to all you parents out there in the trenches! 

Monday, January 5, 2009


Sports will never be anything more than the candy section of life.

But I like sugar. And this is the best time of the year for a sugar high.

So here's an open letter to all you sugar addicts...

Viking fan- My condolences to you. You never thought the day would come when you would envy a team with a Cardinal on their helmet. But that day has come. All you have to look forward to is another team in '09 on the cutting edge of mediocrity. Look on the bright side...9-7 isn't all that bad when you've got the best running back in NFL on your team (too bad the guy handing him the ball has no business being in the NFL).

Husker fan- Oh how times have changed. We're overjoyed by a 9 win season and a New Year's bowl victory? Yep. Take what we can get these days. But the future is bright. Cheers! Oh yeah, and based on the post game interview with Ron Brown, it sounds like revival is breaking out on the team. That dude is so unashamed of Jesus.

Charger fan- I'm so glad for you. You got the perfect ending to the season- another shot at Denver at home (Ed Hochuli, you're off the hook!), then you took Indy out in OT. Nice. BTW: With the way Sproles looked, don't be bummed LT is out. 

Cyclone fan- I'm trying to be optimistic, but it's tough these days. Hilton magic isn't quite as magical. Jack Trice has been a home for blowouts. We had one of the worst weeks in history (losing to the Hawkeyes in everything, losing our football coach, etc.). But the sun will come out tomorrow...maybe.

Big 12 fan- If Texas and Oklahoma lose, it will be Big 12 exposure. That would be terrible. In that case, we should all feel bad for USC (I don't like them, either) and the Pac 10 for piling on about how terrible they were. Then they go off and go undefeated in the bowl games. 

That's all the sugar I can handle for now.