Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Newcomer Cafe

Tonight we hosted another Newcomer Cafe for City-Wide Redeemer. We were the privileged hosts of several great folks who shared dinner with us and heard a brief introduction to the history, vision and values of CWR, in addition to a few possible next steps as they seek to become further engaged in this community of Jesus followers, and in our mission to Las Vegas. From them we got to hear about their interests outside of work over dinner. That was cool. I now can say I know a painter, flautist, outdoorswoman, pilot, barefoot water skier, photographer, runner and boat restorer. What a fun group.

As an appetizer, Angie served this new black bean soup that she made for the first time today. It is a keeper. It was phenomenal. Can I say, "phenomenal" about black bean soup? I must. That's no exaggeration in this case. Thanks, Angie.

God is Good

The earliest memories of prayer I have were the pre-meal repetitions of "God is great. God is good, and we thank him for this food. Amen." Of course, "food" was pronounced so as to make it rhyme with "good"!

Yesterday morning I was reading Psalm 18:1 to my children. Long after they were off to school and I was into my own day I found mind wandering back to that verse: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good." Each time I unexpectedly stumbled over those words as my thoughts raced around my head (almost the way one might trip over the vacuum cord when it gets left out in the hallway) I realized at a deeper level that my desire to give thanks is almost always tied to how well I think God's will for my life matches up with my desires. My heart's version of the verse goes like this: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for my truck has been running three weeks straight without needing to be repaired," or "...for my bank account has enough in it to pay the bills." You get the point.

Are these good reasons to give thanks? Yes, to be sure, but without them I'm still being called by the song writer to consider the pure character of God that is reason in and off itself to give thanks. The very fact of my existence as a creature makes my Creator worthy of thanksgiving. He is the first cause of all things. Everything I experience from Him is all of grace. The creation itself has its roots of existence in grace--undeserved kindness from God. All this is to say that I'm refocusing my thanksgiving motivation on the Lord tonight. Just looking at Him. I'm not looking around, but up, you might say, and am finding every reason to give thanks as I encounter the character of my redeeming King.

Thank you, Lord.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Funk!

I've had a bit of a funk two Mondays in a row now. Not sure what that's all about. I'm fighting back with some extra time in God's word this morning. It's so helpful to be reminded of the innumerable ways that God is for us. I just don't think I can hear that enough.

Sunday morning at City-Wide Redeemer was a great encouragement to me. We have seen several guests over the past few weeks again. Looking forward to getting to know some of these new families.

Our Sunday morning set-up crew has been such a blessing to us. Not sure if most people realize what goes in to making the sound and video projection work like it does, but their work is so appreciated!

Looks like next week will mark the first meeting of our missional community here on the north side. Really looking forward to seeing how Jesus leads the group into new areas of service in our city. We have so many gifted people who share a great desire to be used by the Lord. He will use them, I'm sure of it.

We will also be starting two new missional communities (MC's) over the next couple of months closer to the city center. I am still praying much about these possibilities and beginning to meet with potential leaders for the communities. The possibilities there are also very exciting. If God is in this, those two MC's will likely begin meeting mid-week for regular worship as well. We may be on the verge of seeing seeds of our first church plant already! We're trying to go slow.

Philip Jr. was sick to the point of needing urgent care last night. They got him all fixed up, though, and today he appears to be on the road to recovery. He was disappointed that his illness would mean missed days at school. "I really wanted perfect attendance this year!" I couldn't believe my ears. What a difference being in a school where he's learning things that excited him makes. Very thankful.

I tried removing a ceramic tile in my kitchen in order to make preparations for a small modification I'm making to the cabinet arrangements. What a chore! Those tiles just don't want to come up. I was in there with a three lb hammer and cold chisel and only removing one or two square inches at a time while shards flew everywhere. I gave up. Maybe I'll get after it some more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Double Yellow Line

Last night I returned home with Angie after spending six days (five nights) away in celebration of 15 years of marriage. Much could be said about my gratitude for her as my wife and best friend! We had a great time reconnecting and relaxing. I think my favorite moment was leading her by the hand deeper into the ocean than she had ever dared tread. We body surfed together. The moment struck me. We had the excitement of two kids on their fist date, but the mutual trust of a couple that's been married for 50 years. That was a special time.

As we drove from Huntington Beach to Santa Barbara where I preached Sunday morning we ran into a snag. As I pulled onto the 405 from the East 32nd Street on-ramp I gently eased over toward the HOV lane through heavy traffic. Even though it was heavy we still had to go 70 to keep from being run over! When I was in the number 2 lane I looked into my mirror to see that the vehicle behind was racing toward my bumper. As a courtesy I moved over the the number 1 lane. It was tight. I then noticed that the HOV lane was clear and I opted to move over immediately to get out of every one's way. As soon as I was in the lane flashing lights greeted by rear view. It took two miles to get over and off. I had crossed the double yellow line into the HOV lane. In CA they have special spots where you are allowed to enter that lane. In my concentrated effort to avoid traffic I hadn't noticed. Now I'll have a $434 reminder to notice next time.

While the officer was examining my documents and license I thought, "He's been gone a long time. That can't be good." It wasn't. He returned with my ticket, told me to sign, and told me how I could get back on the freeway.

I was so stunned that I wasn't even able to plead my case. It wasn't intentional. It was an effort to avoid causing an accident, not to avoid heavy traffic that I didn't want to sit in. When I went on to the CA website to check out the damage (the ticket included no numbers/fees) I was all the more disappointed to learn that this particular infraction can't be dismissed by the court. The legislature wrote it that way. So much for a trial by jury! Mitigating circumstances??? They don't matter.

This morning as I reflected on the incident I realized something further. I was stunned to get the ticket because as I sat in the truck with Angie and waited I was expecting grace. Yes, that's right! I was EXPECTING grace as though I deserved it or something. What a misunderstanding of grace. Now I'm wrestling with the deeper question of where I abuse grace from Jesus. Perhaps that's why God appointed Officer S. Clyburn to be there to write that ticket?

I've put a call out to his office in hopes that he hasn't yet filed the ticket with the Long Beach Court and that I might have the opportunity to ASK for grace.

These kinds of lessons are difficult, but I'm reminded of Eugene Peterson's summary of Hebrews 12:11: "At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God."

Me and Angie

Me and Angie
December 2010