Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Tara! Emma! Eli!

Happy Birthday Tara - you look so beautiful at 35!

Happy Birthday Emma - you're smile sparkles more and more each year!

Happy Birthday Eli - at two years old you are full of silliness and happiness!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our God is Able

I needed some inspiration this morning, some perspective, some wisdom and courage.  Martin Luther King Jr. has a way with words, has a way of saying what I need to hear.  Below is part of the sermon that I read today...I needed the reminder from MLK about God: He is Able.

Admitting the weighty problems and staggering disappointments, Christianity affirms that God is able to give us the power to meet them.  He is able to give us the inner equilibrium to stand tall amid the trials and burdens of life.  He is able to provide inner peace amid outer storms.  

This inner stability of the man of faith is Christ's chief legacy to his disciples.  He offers neither material resources nor a magical formula that exempts us from suffering and persecution, but he brings an imperishable gift: "Peace I leave with you."  This is that peace which passeth all understanding.

At times we may feel that we do not need God, but on the day when the storms of disappointment rage, the winds of disaster blow, and the tidal waves of grief beat against our lives, if we do not have a deep and patient faith our emotional lives will be ripped to shreds.  

There is so much frustration in the world because we have relied on gods rather than God.  We have genuflected before the god of science only to find that it has given us the atomic bomb, producing fears and anxieties that science can never mitigate.  We have worshipped the god of pleasure only to discover that thrills play out and sensations are short-lived. 

We have bowed before the god of money only to learn that there are such things as love and friendship that money cannot buy and that in a world of possible depressions, stock market crashes, and bad business investments, money is a rather uncertain deity.  These transitory gods are not able to save us or bring happiness to the human heart.

Only God is able.  It is faith in him that we must rediscover.  With this faith we can transform bleak and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of joy and bring new light into the dark caverns of pessimism.  

Is someone here moving toward the twilight of life and fearful of that which we call death? Why be afraid? God is able.  Is someone here on the brink of despair because of the death of a loved one, the breaking of a marriage, or the waywardness of a child? Why despair? God is able to give you the power to endure that which cannot be changed. Is someone here anxious because of bad health? Why be anxious? Come what may, God is able.

~ Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love: Our God is able.  p 112-113

Thursday, May 21, 2009

About Being the Anchor

I received this note on Sunday following our morning worship+service.  

It is written, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  
But I look inward and outward.
This is what I see.
That there are spirits three.
I see within me and my brethren a spirit 
weighed down with turmoil of this world.
Worned down by TV, work, violent times, the kids, the grocery list.
With us the spirit it is willing, but is weak.

I see within me and my brethren a spirit
warped by fanaticism, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and hate.
We spout out condemnation and brimstone
to the young woman who made a mistake
to the young man who loves another.
"There is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus."

I see not within me but in my brethren a spirit
strong, righteous, and loving.
I see them welcome the whore, the drug addict, the queer
into the House of the Lord. 
They do not condemn but give love.
Tell them not their sin, but of God's love.

To myself and my to my brethren my message is this...
Those of us with a weak spirit,
pray, immerse yourself in the Bible
run to the Lord, put your burdens on Him.
He is our rock, our refuge.

Those of us with a warped spirit, Be silent! Say nothing!
Immerse yourself in Christ's teachings and that of the Apostles.
Submit yourself, humble yourself.

Those of my brethren with a strong spirit
continue to cling to God and immerse yourself in Him.
Cloak yourself in his love.
Continue to help and minister to ALL of God's children.

- The Reluctant Profit

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ads with an Attitude

Advertising  that makes me smile, snicker, or out right laugh:

Cheez-its.  Cheese crackers with an attitude.

Steak-n-Shake.  Tasty, greasy food with an attitude.

Mac.  Computers with an attitude.

ESPN ads are usually pretty good, the Dustin Pedroia ad for the baseball video game is kind of funny, and I enjoy the ads for Coke and Coke Zero.

Hate pretty much all the car ads, all house cleaning ads, definitely despise the Viagra ads and the stupid Ultimate Fighting ads that run constantly on CNN.  Irritating.  I would rather channel surf and watch nothing, then watch commercials.  I try to read a magazine, or get up and do something else than waste my time and sit through a TV commercial.  Since I hardly watch any TV anyway, what little time I do spend in front of the tube, I definitely don't want to spend it on a dumb ad.  Unless, of course it's a Mac ad or for Steak-n-Shake!

Sunday Sermon Notes - 05.17.09

Be The Anchor! Keep Praying...

"So I say to you:
Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks receives;
those who seek find;
and to those who knock, the door will be opened.

Luke 11v9-10 [TNIV]

Prayer is so easy. Anybody can do it. Prayer is so easy - it's as easy as asking your dad for some dinner, it as easy as knocking on your neighbor's door for a cup of sugar. It's that easy!

The LORD's Prayer - which Jesus gave his disciples per their request on how to pray - is a really easy prayer to pray. It's short, it has a rhythm to it, and it's kind of catchy. Jesus doesn't have an interest in making prayer hard or boring or irrelevant. Jesus wants us to pray often, to ask, seek, and knock without inhibition.

Jesus gives two little illustrations about how easy prayer can be. He tells of a man who has a friend on a journey coming to spend the night; the man doesn't have enough bread to properly host the friend, so he goes to his neighbor's house and knocks to get what he needs. Unlike the neighbor who grumps but complies with the man, God will gladly give us as much as we need. The other little story is of a boy asking his father for a fish and egg for dinner - what dad, when given that everyday kind of request, would turn around and give a snake or scorpion instead? Outrageous! And Jesus makes the point that God knows how to give good gifts to his children even more than we do.

Jesus wants us to go to God in prayer - go ahead and knock, go ahead and ask, go ahead and seek an answer. It's easy. Prayer is easy. We're the ones who make it hard. We don't like to wait. We don't want to have to trust God - we want immediate assurance that our prayers will be answered satisfactorily. We don't like having to ask God for stuff - we want him to take care of bad things BEFORE they happen. We don't like to be in pain or trouble - we want God to bring about relief right away! We don't like inconvenience. We don't like having to work through the consequences of our own behaviors and habits. When God doesn't answer our prayers the way we expected, we get irritated. We're the ones that make prayer hard.

When it comes to making prayer easy, working your way through the LORD's Prayer is an act of faith. When you don't know what to pray, pray what Jesus suggested. When you don't know who to pray for, pray through the prayer Jesus taught you. When you're tired, overwhelmed, despairing, unfocused - pause, and then pray through the LORD's Prayer. And then do it again. And again. As many times as you want or need to in order to focus.

And to hear. Hear what the LORD is saying to you, what he wants you to focus on in praying. Clearly it's not about how long the prayer is, or how often you say it that will get your prayer answered. The prayer is about listening for what God wants you to do next, about getting guidance and assurance, but also about maturing your faith and trust. In praying to God, using the LORD's Prayer, will you trust God to hear you, to direct your next steps, and provide direction eventually...even if the silence lasts too long?

If the LORD's Prayer is a little too long for you, there are three other little prayers you can pray that stem from the prayer Jesus taught us. So for those times when you feel the urge to pray, you can utter one of these three very short prayers:




These three short prayers don't require any memorization, but they do require some trust. Most of us dwell on the negative too much. When things aren't going the way we want, change the mood, turn the tide by saying Thanks to God for some of the good stuff in your life. There will always be something to complain about, so instead of feeling sorry for yourself, feel grateful. When something goes awry, when something happens to you or someone you care about, something that is not good, but you don't know what to do or ask for, Help is a good prayer. Of course, if you are going to ask for Help, it's wise to then pause and listen for what God wants you to say/do next. As complicated as life is, there are many, many times where we want to know Why? As most of us know, God rarely gives us the answer we want. But he is ready to give us the answer we need, if we will again listen and wait.

Prayer is easy. You can do it. You need it. Other people need you to do it. You can say Thanks! You can ask for Help. You can seek for Why? You can pray the way Jesus taught us. It's so easy. Do it today!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday Sermon Notes - 05.10.09

Be The Anchor: Pray

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.
When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
" 'Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.' "

Luke 11v1-4 [TNIV]

It's hard to pray. But it's a good hard. It's good for us to pray, and it's good for those for whom we're praying. But it's hard to keep praying - too many distractions, difficult to stay focused, we get sleepy, we wonder whether God is listening or if our prayers matter. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very good at praying. I try, but I give up too easily - praying is hard work! It takes energy, it takes focus, it takes time, it takes heart, it takes patience, it takes listening, it takes hoping, it takes work.

I've found myself resorting to saying the Lord's Prayer a lot. Usually several times a day. Maybe like you, you find yourselves in a situation, or reflecting on a conversation or want to pray about it/the person, but not sure what to say. Or I get angry, I get worried, I get irritated, I get impatient, I get despairing, etc. - and I feel the Spirit tugging...but I don't know what to say to I work my way through the Lord's Prayer. Or when I want to hear from God...I work my way through the Lord's prayer - working to hear what He's saying to me through His words.

The Lord's Prayer is concise and recorded differently in two different gospels - with this effect: the Lord's Prayer is not a magic incantation that must be phrased perfectly in order for it to work; the Lord's Prayer avoids the impulse for us to speak many words hoping to get God's attention or favor. The Lord's Prayer is about ideas, about truths, about insight into what God cares about and what he is always doing in the world whether we pray or not. When I - you - pray the Lord's Prayer, we connect with what God cares about most...which is vital, since we are praying in order to share with God what we care about most.

Sometimes prayer can get stale because our prayers are usually pretty self-centered. Even if we pray for others, somehow the prayer is about us. Not always, but we can get that way. The Lord's Prayer is implicitly God centered - about him as our good and great Father who cares for us in ways we cannot fully grasp; it is about him working to feed everyone, about him working to reconcile everyone, about him working to overcome evil with good for everyone. When we begin to care more about these things in our life and in our world, we will find more of our prayers being answered. But then, it's not really about whether our prayers get answered, it's really more about are we joining in on what God is doing...what he wants to do in us and through us.

God works through people. Christ is the head, we are the body, and the Spirit is God in us. God answers prayer through people. When we pray to God, he works to answer it through somebody. Maybe it's you. You are the answer to prayer! When you pray for God to intervene in someone's life, to do something good for somebody, to protect, help, etc. - it is very likely that God has in mind for you to help make that answer happen. Prayer takes on a very personal, unselfish dimension when we pray for others with the intent of helping fulfill our own request.

Prayer is not so much about us getting God to do what we want him to do for us or others. Prayer is about connecting with what God is already doing...and what he would like to do in us and through us unto others. The Lord's Prayer reveals to us God's heart and ways: in essence we already know what God wants for us - what we're looking for is wisdom on what that means for us here and now. If we emerge into this way of praying, prayer becomes easier and harder...what used to make prayer hard is no longer the case: we're not bored with praying anymore. Now we're scared about what might happen next in our life if we give more of ourselves to being the answer to our own prayers and to God's way/work in the world.

How would your prayer life changed if you quit praying for a good day, safety, and quick recovery in the hospital for people that you know who are ill or hurt. What else would you pray for? What else do you care about? What are other people going through that requires not only prayer but your personal intervention? Or are your prayers about God making your life more convenient, more pleasurable, more successful? What if prayer is about getting a more messy life, a more complicated life, a more confusing life? What if prayer was not about life working out the way you dream, but about dealing with reality and what God is needing you to do next with the people around you?

...your kingdom me...through me this life...and the one to come...

Be the Anchor: Pray!

Be the Pray-er...

Be The Answer to Your Prayers...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Healing of Persons: The Knowledge of Man

Man is not just a body and a mind. He is a spiritual being. It is impossible to know him if one disregards his deepest reality. This is indeed the daily experience of the doctor. No physiological or psychological analysis is sufficient to unravel the infinity complex skein of a human life.

He sees how little his patients understand themselves, as long as they do not examine themselves before God; how apt they are to close their eyes to their own faults; how their good will is held back by circumstances, discouragement, and habit; how little effect his advice can have in reforming a person's life when the patient's mind is torn by an inner conflict.

When I decided to devote all my energies toward acquiring this deep knowledge of man, the first precondition seemed to me to be the necessity of giving more time to each of my patients, and in order to do so, to accept a smaller number. The way our profession has developed has had the effect of turning the modern doctor into a man in a hurry. Many of my colleagues suffer from the sort of life they have to lead, in which too many patients troop through their consulting rooms, generally without leaving the doctors time enough really to get to know them. The development of social welfare plans and the standardization of doctor's fees have largely contributed to this state of affairs, which is one that must be put right.

The result is that patients see their doctors very frequently - or even a large number of doctors - without ever having time to seek the hidden cause behind the ills they suffer from. The diagnosis is arrived at after a clinical or radiological exploration, or a laboratory investigation. The patients are given advice and medicines. The recover successively from a number of illnesses. But why their resistance is weakened, why they have so many diseases in succession, why the lack to strength to live as they ought to live in order to be in good health, they only rarely have time to help to go into with their doctors.

To understand a person's life, to help him to understand it himself, takes a long time.

~ Paul Tournier, The Healing of Persons, pg 55-56

Sunday Sermon Notes - 05.03.09

Be the Anchor!

Be the one who Listens!

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Luke 10v38-42 (TNIV)

A really interesting story that is NOT about the different personalities of two sisters clashing over Jesus. A homely story that is NOT about the tension between the task-oriented and the relationship-oriented. It's entirely possible that Martha has an outgoing personality with a task-oriented bent to her. And Mary may have a laid-back personality and also be very relationship-oriented. But the story is beyond those dimensions.

Note that Martha is the one that invites Jesus into her home. To offer hospitality was central to their culture, and thus the more honored the guest the more honor for the home that hosted. It's possible that Martha was seeking to host Jesus, not only for the sake of honoring Jesus, but garnering honor for herself as well. Mary, it is worth noting, probably had no interest in hosting Jesus for an elaborate feast. This becomes clear when, amidst the flurry of preparations (slaughtering the calf, prepping the meats and bread and dishes, cleaning the home, etc) Mary sits at the feet of Jesus.

It's possible that Mary would have helped Martha out had the guest been someone else other than Jesus. It's likely that Jesus was a brilliant story-teller, able to tell tales and recount past events with mesmerizing effects. Mary couldn't tear herself away from Jesus - he was too funny, to wise, to enjoyable to leave alone. And this made Martha really angry. Here she was, wearing herself out getting this feast ready to honor Jesus, and Mary just sits there. And Jesus allows it! Martha loses her cool and brings shame on herself. She accuses Jesus of playing favorites, of disregarding her, and being selfish. She even commands him to do her bidding.

The feast is pretty much a lost cause at this point. Martha has brought dishonor upon herself, she has shamed her guest, and put a chasm between her and her sister. But notice what Jesus does in response to this outburst - he is very gentle with her, but very direct: "Martha, Martha - you are worried and upset about many things...."

What you are worried and upset about these days?
How is your worry and anger tainting other areas of your life?

Worry and anger cannot be contained - it contaminates all the other areas of your life. Worry and anger kept Martha focused on herself, her intentions, her heart, her plans, her goals, her work to honor herself and use others to get what she wanted. Martha was worried that her plans to honor herself were not going to go as she wanted, thus she got angry at the people she wanted to use because they wouldn't go along with her plan. All of this kept her from listening to Jesus. And all of this prompted her to tear Mary away from listening to Jesus. And Jesus wouldn't allow for it.

When we get worried and angry it is really hard to focus and listen to Jesus. We know already what worries us, what upsets us. The dance has gotten kind of predictable at this point. One of the ways to resist the inevitable worry and anger is to pause in the moment, focus on the Way of Jesus, and listen to Him - he can bring good out of your outbursts...if you'll listen. Make a decisive break - exert your freewill and refuse to let the powerful emotions of worry and anger sweep you away. Let Jesus be your anchor - listen to him.

If you're going to be an anchor to your neighbor, you need to listen. It's really hard to be an anchor for another when you're life is wracked by worry and anger. Determine to resist worry and anger by listening hard to the wisdom and way of Jesus. His way leads to a better way. 
Be the Anchor: Listen!

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Healing of Persons: Conflict in Marriage

It is only when a husband and wife pray together before God that they find the secret of true harmony, that the difference in their temperaments, their ideas, and their tastes enriches their home instead of endangering it. There will be no further question of one imposing his will on the other, or of the other giving in for the sake of peace. Instead, they will together seek God's will, which alone will ensure that each will be able fully to develop his or her personality.

In every argument between a husband and a wife there are apparent causes: conflicting ideas, opinions, ideals, and tastes. But behind these apparent causes there are real ones: lack of love, touchiness, fear, jealousy, self-centeredness, impurity, and lack of sincerity. Indeed, one may say that there are not marital-problems; there are only individual problems.

When each of the marriage partners seeks quietly, before God, to see his own faults, recognizes his own sin, and asks the forgiveness of the other, marital problems are no more. Each learns to speak the other's language, and to meet him halfway, so to speak. Each holds back those harsh little words which one is apt to utter when one is right, but which are said in order to injure. Most of all, a couple rediscovers complete mutual confidence, because, in meditating in prayer together, they learn to become absolutely honest with each other.

- Paul Tournier, The Healing of Persons, pg 88

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Anchor's Neighborhood CleanUp Day

Anchor had a lot of fun cleaning up the alley that runs behind our church. We partnered with the city of Fort Wayne and the Great American CleanUp that they sponsor on May 16th (the third Monday of May every year). The city will mobilize hundreds and hundreds of volunteers to clean up parks, alleys, riverbanks and streets on that Saturday. It didn't work out for us to volunteer on that day, but the program will include anybody that volunteers for a project in the month of May. Through the city and their cleanup project Waste Management delivered for free a huge dumpster for us to use. We filled it in a couple of hours, and we only cleaned up half the alley.

Not only did we partner with the city and the Great American CleanUp, but we also partnered with NeighborLink FW. They help connect people with a need with people who can meet that need. Anchor has committed to trying to meet the needs of anyone from our zipcode that posts a need on NeighborLink. On Saturday we tackled one of the projects in our zipcode. We got the yard cleaned up, but we still have a few more projects on the house to complete.

If you want to see some more pictures, you can visit the Anchor blog or see Steve Dennie's Facebook page.