Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blogs I Enjoy

Here are some blogs I've been enjoying recently:

Alex Tuckness checks in every once in awhile for some profound thoughts on his family blog. For example, some thoughts on generosity (click here)

James Pusey is a student in our college ministry. He is a funny and talented cat. Here's an example of some of his humor (click here).

My friend just sent me this blog (click here). Everything I've read so far has been brilliantly hilarious. It seems to be a hugely popular blog, and for good reason.

I also enjoy Ed Noble's blog (click here), because you'll find stuff like this... Context... he is thanking God for all the great qualities of his son, who just turned 18. One of them was, "Evil pretty much seemed stupid to him, not a tantalizing sparkling desirable temptation, but the brightly painted turd that it is." Ed also has one of the few podcasts I keep up with.

There are other blogs I read that are more theological. I'll share those another time. They're mostly boring, though.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hospital Visit

Leatha had to take Makai into the ER on Monday night because his breathing was so bad. It was a terrible experience, for reasons which I won't go into detail now. 

The short of it is that Makai has RSV (along with Cameron and Beck) and some bacterial infection (i.e. Pneumonia?). Leatha (and me to some extent) has been up all hours of the night for the last few nights. Makai is home now but still quite sick. 

Psalm 46 was a great way to end my day. Our church is going through Lent with a Psalm countdown- click here for the link to the blog. "The LORD Almighty is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress." I'll sleep to that.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Welcome to our house. Four sick kids keeping us up all hours of the night with their coughing, crying and screaming since Thursday night. Beck told Leatha yesterday...

"I just don't like to be sick because I don't know what to do with myself. When I ask what I can do you tell me to go lay down and I just can't do that."
Leatha keeps a bowl of nuts out for the kids to snack on. One of the kids put a rock in there that looked just like a walnut. Leatha nearly died.

Then Makai decided to try to toast some nuts. Who's supervising these kids, anyway?

The answer to that last question: me.

I can't remember if I shared that Makai escaped from our house the other day (Leatha was gone) and a neighbor girl brought him back home. It wasn't that funny. But kind of. 

Below: I kept telling Leatha, "No, we can't cut my hair yet, it's just starting to get cool. Trust me, it will only be in the awkward stages for another week..."

Well, weeks turned to months and finally Delilah went to town...

Fortunately I still have my amazing physique and strength.

Here's a pic with Martin- both sporting our new haircuts. This is the same Martin from this post (click here). Martin's story is amazing. God is transforming him into a man of God. The kingdom of God is the most powerful force on earth. God, keep bringin' it.

Finally, there have been a lot of great conversations about the talk I gave on Romans 12:1-8 last week at TSC. I spent most of the talk on my "life is spiritual" rant, encouraging students to stop compartmentalizing their lives. It's not just the overtly "Christian" activities or occupations that make your life eternally significant. The work of a mom is just as important as the work of an evangelist. The work of a janitor the same as that of a pastor... here's the key... when done unto God.

Pete Matthews' sermon on this topic had a profound impact on my life freshman year of college. Thanks, Pete, for that life changing perspective from Romans 12 and 1 Timothy 4.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Anthem, U2, and Other Thoughts on Music

I've been thinking a lot about music lately.

The Anthem band led worship this weekend at Cornerstone. We tried one of the new songs on Saturday night that had just been written, or rather composed, that day. It's a song called "Take the day" that Ryan Seiler wrote. 

Honestly, it kind of bombed. 

Mostly because I still hadn't figured out the melody line for the bridge and the whole song stretched my range. It will sound much better with an actual vocalist singing it. For those of you that were there on Saturday, trust me, it's really a good song. 

On a semi-related side note: I'm a musical hacker. But I stay up on stage to remind me and everyone else of the great cosmic joke- God is using ordinary people to accomplish His work. 

I'm currently listening to the new U2 album on their myspace page (click here). 

It officially releases on March 3rd. It's classic U2. You never know what they're going to come up with, but they always make it work. It's already growing on me. But I have this policy not to make a final assessment of whether or not I like an album until the fifth time all the way through it. And I've found that the longer it takes me to like something, the longer I end up liking it. So I'm not worried if I'm not immediately hooked. Moreover, if you listen to something long enough, you can like it. I just haven't taken the time for country yet...

After the service this morning, there was some music playing. Bobby (one of our electric players) looked at me and asked, "Do you guys like this?" It was some CCM _______.  The first word I thought of was too antagonistic of a word to use. So there it is, left blank. (CCM= Contemporary Christian Music...basic stuff you'd hear on Christian radio). I'm sure they have good hearts... A couple of us shook our heads in response to his question. He said, "Good."

That led to a discussion on how we will strive to not sound like that. 

Not to say that our music will be totally original. Nothing is. Everything sounds like something else. For example, the first time I heard Coldplay........ 

........hold that thought, I'm just now listening to an incredible solo by the Edge on "Unknown Caller"...........

Back to Coldplay. The first time I heard them I laughed. I thought it was the most ridiculous U2 rip-off I'd ever heard- from his voice inflections to the delay guitar sound. But the more I listened to Coldplay, the less they sounded like U2 and the more they sounded like...Coldplay.

My vision is for God to create a culture of songwriting and musicianship- an outlet to express passion for Jesus through anthem-like melodies that inspire a generation to live Isaiah 26:8 lives.

Another digression... This U2 album is taking me back to the summer of 1997, where I spent most of the summer in Morocco. They recorded this album in Fez. Morocco is a magical place.

Finally, I'm reading a very interesting article from a guy who shadowed them for 18 months as they recorded this album (click here). Here's an excerpt...

What is most intriguing - and, to their detractors, infuriating - about U2 is that they succeeded by ignoring, indeed breaking, most of the unwritten rules of rock stardom. They didn't - with the exception of the pre-rehab Adam Clayton - do sex or drugs and, as their critics pointed out, neither did they really do rock'n'roll. They were not rebellious, nor angst-ridden, nor did they trade on adolescent alienation or anger. Instead, they did joy. And spiritual joy, to boot. This made them unfashionable in Britain, the irony capital of the world, where sincerity, especially sincerity tinged with spirituality, is seen, at best, as uncool, at worst as downright embarrassing.

"One of the reason's for U2's longevity," says Brian Eno, "is that they are not in music for entirely selfish reasons. I don't want to make them appear as evangelists, which, of course, they were seen as by some sections of the music media in the early 80s, but I do believe that they really think that what they do serves some greater purpose than simply filling their bank accounts."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Poem That Stirred Some Thoughts

I was catching up on my google reader tonight, and came across this entry (click here for the "on earth as it is in heaven" blog)

There has always been considerable (and somewhat distracting) debate on whether, before Christ returns, things will get markedly worse, get markedly better, or just go on about the same. The answer to that is God’s business, not ours. We’re told to plant and water; God alone controls the results.

Our task as faithful disciples is proclaimed by the Welsh poet Ethelwyn Wetherald:

My orders are to fight;

Then if I bleed, or fail,

Or strongly win, what matters it?

God only doth prevail.

The servant craveth naught

Except to serve with might.

I was not told to win or lose—

My orders are to fight.

I've thought a lot about this. I grew up with a dispensational theological grid that went something like this, "The world is going from bad to worse and just when things can't get any worse, Jesus is going to step in and save us from the Great Tribulation." Or there were speculations about maybe going through half of it, or all of it, but the point was the same- the world is going from bad to worse.

The basic sentiment was that earth is not unlike the public restroom, "Get in there, do your business, and get the heck out as soon as possible. It's dirty in there."

My sheltered theology of youth was soon challenged by a more covenant/reformed theology. Presuppositions about future for Israel, questions about antichrist, tribulation, rapture, etc were challenged in the summer of 1998. That's when I first realized that my dispensational theological grid was a fairly new construct, and not necessarily a historically held view of Scripture. I realized that the Kingdom of God that Jesus brought might actually be a present reality, not merely a future hope. This view seemed a bit more optimistic- there is a way to make this earth look more like heaven.

Where am I now?

It depends on the day, but mostly somewhere in the middle. I can't say what God has in store for Israel (most recently Romans 11 has me thinking there will be something), whether or not there already has been or someday will be a great tribulation, or whether we're in the millenium now or later...

This leads me back to the quote. I love the balance. I love what wells up in me when I ponder the words of that poem. Some days I feel I'm losing, others I sense victory. I'm not sure if my life will end like that of John the Baptist, Stephen, Elijah or Moses.

But at the end of the day, I will continue to fight. God will win.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Tour

My Monday started by walking into a quiet room filled with candles and huddles of prayer. Our prayer focus today was the persecuted church. It was a creative way to remember that people around the world have to gather in secret to worship. Great prayer time. "Remember those in prison as though you were suffering with them." Hebrews 13:3
After staff meeting, Mike Despard took a few of us on a tour of the new building. Let me take you with us... 

Below: Entrance to the existing gym. The sound and lights in the gym will have to be moved to the west wall because the new entrance will be right where the current stage is set up.
Below: This huge space will be for the "black box" which will coveted by all ministries as it will seat about 300 people. Along with random meetings, youth will primarily be using that space. The door you see on the far wall is the entrance to the existing Activity Center.
Below: This is looking into the foyer, which is going to be huge. The forms in the front of the picture are for the fountain, which will also be a baptismal. The connection group, family and close friends of the people getting baptized can watch out there while everyone in the auditorium will see it via live video.
Below: This is backstage, where there will be storage, green room, video/tech rooms, etc.
Below: Standing on the stage, looking out into the auditorium, which will seat about 1,100 on the main level and another 900 in the balcony. The balcony section will probably be completed later, as the funds come in.
Below: This is looking from the "back row" to the stage. It's amazing how close the back row will be to the stage- not much further than in the current auditorium. With the seats wrapping around the stage, it allows for a much closer feel. It's going to be awesome.
Below: These steps lead down to a tunnel that runs under the auditorium.
Below: The tunnel. I'm trying to figure out how to get a wall ride skate ramp down there.
Below: Here's a random picture that cracked me up. Watch out- it may happen to you someday. Beck likes to play in the sink with his GI Joe's, motorcycles, and other random stuff he finds in my drawers... 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Potpourri of Thoughts...

What truly defines a word- its etymology or its usage?

In French "pot pourri" is literally a "rotten pot"

In modern English it's a mixture of flowers, herbs and spices kept in a jar and used for scent

I'll let you decide...this post is a potpourri of thoughts from last week.

I've been enjoying this class that Alex Tuckness has been teaching. It's one of many classes our church offers to equip the next generation of up and coming leaders. I've enjoyed being forced to read large chunks of scripture all at one time. I'm plagued by the "devotional reader" complex. There's something about my mind that will only read the Bible slowly, in a meditative way. This is mostly good. But the inherent weakness of such reading is that you miss the big picture. You end up staring at a single tree, and missing the beauty of the forest, as it were. I have seen the centrality of the book of Deuteronomy. If there's one OT book to master, that's it. I love what Alex said, "Basically the rest of the OT can be summarized, 'Moses wasn't kidding.'" If you haven't understood Deuteronomy, then the Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, and history books won't make much sense. I also enjoyed a jet tour of Joshua. In my mind, it seemed to be to the OT what Acts is to the NT... God powerfully on the move. 

Do it again, God, in our day.

We just got a great update from the orphanage. This will get a separate post, but I'm having trouble with our scanner, so it will have to wait. Pictures always tell a thousand words. But here's a sample from one of the enclosed letters, "Dear my parents in the Lord. I am Deborah Paundi 11 years old, schooling at Milepa...I lost my parents 3 years ago both father and mother. Since my parents died I had no hope for my future, especially for school and my daily living. But since Leatha Foundation started in 2006 it has come to my rescue, because I am receiving food, cloth, soap, pens, books and blankets which makes my life change many things...I always pray for the poeple who are supporting Leatha foundation. May God bless you all."

That blessing is for all of you who have given generously for the orphanage. May God hear her prayer for you. I'm confident He does- there's a special place in His heart for them. (Ex. 22:22-24)

I bought Leatha a headband for Valentines Day from this website (click here). She loved it! Fellas, you might want to check this out. The main thing is to do something for your wife that required some thought and planning. I'm no expert on these things, but I was a blind squirrel that found a nut this year...

Interesting article in the NY Times on big families, which I happen to be a fan of (big families that is, not the NY Times. Click here for the article) Great thought: "Lifestyles are expensive, not kids." Props to Challies Dot Com for the vine. 

Check out if you haven't yet. It's free and customized radio based on what you like. Just type in a band you like and, "tahdah" you'll be listening to a bunch of music you'll probably enjoy.

Well, once again Alex took us to the depths of the Mariana Trench of the Bible this week with Romans 11. He did a great job, once again. I'm glad he was willing to take 9 and 11 for me. But to be honest I'm looking forward to coming up for air with the rest of the book. Romans 12 has the biggest "therefore" in the whole Bible.

The team is writing some really cool songs these days. However, today's practice reminded me of how difficult it is for a song to come together and truly hit its "sweet spot." It's a unique thing when the content, melody line and musical style perfectly collide to produce an "encounter," for lack of a better word. The Anthem band will be leading worship in the auditorium at Cornerstone next weekend, where we'll present some of the new songs.

Just a few days ago we decided to push the live Anthem recording to be on the last TSC of the semester (April 30). There will be two services in the Cornerstone auditorium at 7 and 9. It's going to be an amazing night. The Willow Creek Association is interested in marketing all the Cornerstone Christmas productions and original Anthem music, so we hope the blessing of what God is doing here will reach more people. His will be done. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Makai, the cute sinner

Did you see Makai's new white board?

Actually, it's our kitchen closet as you can see (below).

Leatha said every time she looked behind the door he stood there with the marker behind his back. He's very deceptive. A good liar. So he got spanked when I got home.

Makai follows the example of his siblings in bringing his dishes to the sink when he's done. Tonight, he couldn't handle the spoon and bowl in his hands at the same time, so he kept his spoon in his mouth.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A day in the life of me

Last Friday, Leatha had a whole day of training for her new job (very part-time job), so I had the kids all day. I thought this was hilarious, because it says something about how Cameron views me. He was apparently very nervous that I would forget to pick him up from school. So he wrote me this note and handed it to me...

This says, "at 3"
I unfold it, to find this message, 
"Go to school to pick camero
n up."
Apparently my son has me figured out. His worst kid nightmare of being left at school was a very real possibility with dad in charge.
Here's a summary of my day:
7:00 AM- Prayer on campus- highlight was having Martin in my group (pictured below). He's a brand new Christian and today was a breakthrough for him. It was the first time I've heard him pray out loud. He prayed, "Jesus, help me tell my family that I've become your follower." 

8:30-10- Staff meeting
10-11:30 Director's meeting
noon-1:00 Basketball 
2:00-3:00- Met with a guy who wanted to become a Christian. He's close. It seems to be a season of open doors for the gospel right now.
3:10-4:30- I taught 30 freshmen in our Theology of the Gospel class. It's such a privilege, even comical, to think of teaching TOG in the "Black Engineering" building at Iowa State.

4:30-5:00 One of the students in my TOG class is Silanto, from Haiti. He has one of the most amazing stories. Unfortunately it's 8:36 pm and I don't feel like blogging anymore tonight. 

This is the mud puddle that claimed my iphone last week (right outside of Black). It was such a fluke- my first drop...and it lands in a mud puddle. In spite of some weird glitches, somehow it still functions.

5:15-5:45 Catch up with Leatha while the kids play outside (actually Makai was crawling on me)
5:45-6:30 Dinner...Thai Chicken Curry with Jasmine rice. Wow, it's so good.
6:30- Put Makai down, the rest of us played Candyland
7:20- All kids in bed
7:30-now Catch up on huskerpedia,, some emails, and blog
8:42- Talk to Leatha before she crashes...
9-ish-???- My free Monday redbox is awaiting me. I watch it in bed on my laptop. I expect to get about 1 hour into Dark Knight before I totally crash....

I predict Makai will wake up screaming (he's not exactly Mr. Sunshine in the morning) at 5:45. Leatha's guess is 5:30. Once again, I'm the eternal optimist...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Prayer

I remember my Grandpa Bill (click here for a previous entry on his life) used to quote (and live out...) this whole section from A.W. Tozer. I'm preaching on Romans 10 tonight, which reminded me of this:

The testimony of the true follower of Christ might well be something like this: The world's pleasures and the world's treasures henceforth have no appeal for me. I reckon myself crucified to the world and the world crucified to me. But the multitudes that were so dear to Christ shall not be less dear to me. If I cannot prevent their moral suicide, I shall at least baptize them with my human tears. I want no blessing that I cannot share. I seek no spirituality that I must win at the cost of forgetting that men and women are lost and without hope. If in spite of all I can do they will sin against light and bring upon themselves the displeasure of a holy God, then I must not let them go their sad way unwept. I scorn a happiness that I must purchase with ignorance. I reject a heaven that I must enter by shutting my eyes to the sufferings of my fellow men. I choose a broken heart rather than any happiness that ignores the tragedy of human life and human death. Though I, through the grace of God in Christ, no longer lie under Adam's sin, I would still feel a bond of compassion for all of Adam's tragic race, and I am determined that I shall go down to the grave or up into God's heaven mourning for the lost and the perishing. And thus and thus will I do as God enables me. Amen
- From The Next Chapter After the Last, p. 36

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Green Pampers

Being an all natural family in our stage of life, this brand of pampers resonates with us.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Family Date Night

We decided on a trip to Des Moines, as we had a gift certificate to the Olive Garden and Leatha needed some maternity jeans (Ames shopping is... lame)

We dropped $60 on a pair of Gap maternity jeans. It was some of the best $60 bones I've spent in awhile. Men, if there's one thing we need, it's for our wives to feel good about what they're wearing and how they look. It comes with being a woman. 

I'm making myself sound good.

Truth be told, Leatha has only had one pair of jeans for the past couple of years, which she grew out of. I guess it's hard to fit two people into one pair of jeans. So she's been wearing these exercise pants for the past few weeks....months.

It makes it easy because my wife is extremely content when it comes to "stuff" (esp. clothes), so this purchase was a slam dunk. In proof reading this, Leatha would argue that her contentment is not true contentment (which is to "want what you already have"), but it's just the reality of not having the money in the clothing budget to buy new clothes.

Anyway, we went from Jordan Creek Mall to Olive Garden in West Des Moines. Here are some pictures from that...

Makai stuffing his face.
This is to be expected...crayons in the water.
Our family of six ordered only 3 entrees. Almost all of the lasagna and 2 pieces of pizza were left. I'm always amazed at the serving sizes here in American restaurants. And yet, our waitress gave us a hard time, saying, "Well, if you're going to split the meals, then I won't be able to get you more salad unless you pay for it." Please. Our kids ate all of one leaf of lettuce. She later realized she was ripping us off, so she brought more.
Beck chillin' with a bread stick.
Ava being silly.
Cameron was a trooper, even though he wasn't feeling well.
Every once in awhile I have to throw myself in a picture just so you know I'm a real person, and not just some random person making up this whole blog.

Be Encouraged

God is at work in some amazing ways at Iowa State. I'm so proud of our TSC students, who model the attractive love of Jesus. For an amazing article from the ISU Daily about this, click here. It's written by a transgender girl who has visited the last couple weeks.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

An Open Letter

Dear February,

I'm glad you're here, but you're off to a bad start (a Cardinals loss). says you'll be 7 degrees warmer than... you know who. Yeah, that 31 day beast right before you. I hope you're even warmer this year. You won't have to try too hard to beat a negative 39 average. Whatever you have to do to keep the groundhog from seeing its shadow tomorrow, step up and get it done. Then let the sun come out right away.


Yours Truly,