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December 19, 2006

Chapter-a-Day Luke 11

One of the religion scholars spoke up: "Teacher, do you realize that in saying these things you're insulting us?"

[Jesus] said, "Yes, and I can be even more explicit. You're hopeless, you religion scholars! You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help. Luke 11:45-46 (TM)

I've found it a short road from sinner saved by grace to religious hypocrite ruled by regulations. I feel like I've run the circuit. I came to Jesus - just another bozo on the bus trying to find my way home. Then somewhere along the line I became a self-righteous Pharisee keeping "meticulous account books" and spiritual spreadsheets checking off lists of "do's" and "don'ts" and "rights" and "wrongs". I made the journey from grateful penitent to religious inquisitor in the blink of an eye. I climbed upon the Judgement seat that was never meant for me - wearing my polished medals of religious merit and the coveted Junior Holy Spirit badge.

I'm not sure how I wound up there. God, forgive me.

I've taken off the Junior Holy Spirit badge. I've put away my medals of religious merit. They've profited me nothing in the eternal scheme of things. Those medals and a buck fifty will get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Somehow, I've found myself back at the bus stop. Here comes the next load of bozos just like me. I think I'll join them for the ride...introduce myself...offer to buy someone a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Maybe, just maybe, I can help give someone the directions home. Heck, maybe I'll just offer to walk along and keep them company.

December 18, 2006

2nd Place

It was a strange weekend - strange for its' roller coaster of emotions. Friday night we hosted our 2nd "Starving Artists' Dinner". We invited some Theatre students from Central over for dinner as well as our good friend Ann who teaches Theatre at  Central. We had a wonderful dinner before going over to the Pella Community Center for the announcement of USP's playwriting contest winners. I was really excited to have Taylor and Madison there. Afterwards, we had a big group of friends come back to our house for a party. It was a blast. What wonderful people.

My play was awarded 2nd prize in the contest, which is great. The staged reading of the first few minutes of my script went really well and the audience loved it. As I read the judges comments it became clear that I was hosed by one of the three judges who didn't like it and dismissed it with terrible ratings that were neither explained or justified. I won't lie to you - I was disappointed. I wanted to win. C'est la vie.

To add insult to injury, Wendy and I went out to rake leaves on Saturday morning to find that someone had written "LOSERS" in bright pink chalk across our driveway. Great.

I know that 2nd place is something to be proud of. I know that everyone in the audience liked my play. I know I won $300 for 2nd and it's better than nothing. I know that USP still wants to produce the play sometime in the future. I know that this is a great learning and character building experience - yada, yada, yada - blah, blah, blah. I know all that.

Sometimes character building sucks.

Chapter-a-Day Luke 10

Korazin Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. Luke 10:13-14 (NIV)

One of the more sobering stops on my trip to Israel a few years ago was the ruins of Korazin. To get to this site just north of the Sea of Galilee required driving on some backroads and a little hunting. The ruins are a national park, but no one goes there. It's like a ghost town from the old west, but instead of clapboard shacks it's just a heap of stones.

Jesus - Immanuel - came to Earth bring light, salvation, joy and peace. Yet, those blessings are only for those who receive it. Jesus also brought judgment, as politically incorrect as it might seem in our culture today. Korazin stands to this day as reminder of the flip side of the Christmas message.

Photo: The Sea of Galilee in the distance past the ruins of Korazin.

December 13, 2006

Chapter-a-Day Luke 8

Then Jesus, gripping her hand, called, "My dear child, get up." She was up in an instant, up and breathing again! Luke 8:54 (TM)

There was a lot of great stuff in the chapter today, but sometimes when I read it takes my mind down different paths. We just spent the past two days taking Taylor and Madison to Minneapois and Milwaukee where Taylor did campus visits at two different Art & Design schools. So, of course - I've been pondering in my heart how much they've grown and where the time has gone.

When I read this morning I remembered reading this story to the girls when they were very young and acting it out with them. They would be the little girl playing "dead" and I would be Jesus and as I read the story I would do what Jesus did - reaching out and touching them and telling her to rise. They would open their eyes and slowly rise like some zombie in a B-movie. Then they would giggle and giggle and want to do it again...and again...and again.

Sometimes, to make the scripture come alive for kids - you have to let them "live" it.

December 12, 2006

Chapter-a-Day Luke 7

If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal. Luke 7:47b (TM)

Is this why I've noticed that grace, love & understanding seems to be most scarce among good, "religious" people raised in the church & sheltered from the world?

December 11, 2006

Chapter-a-Day Luke 6

"These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on." Luke 6:47 (TM)

So often faith seems like an add-on. Work, school, play, family, chores, errands, shopping....oh yeah - and church. And too often it's "church" - for the act of driving to the local church, spending an hour or two, throwing a few bucks into the plate - that's the summation of our spiritual lives. It's thrown in at the end and we give it an hour or two a week. It's just an addition to all the other things we give priority to in our lives. I like the metaphor Jesus used here. We consider our faith - our spiritual life - as a sun room (son room?) we've added-on rather than the foundation upon which we build every other thought, decision, choice, and action.

How can I take a step toward making my faith more "foundational" to my life today? God, make me mindful of what you want from me as I interact with my family, my co-workers, or complete strangers. Remind me of your priorities as I choose how to spend my time, as I make decisions that will affect myself and others, and as I have opportunities to give, share and love.

December 08, 2006

I'm a Grandpa!

01_preggo Okay family - control yourselves - I'm not a grandpa literally. I just thought I'd share Taylor's hilarious turn in The Christmas Post for those who haven't seen it.

Taylor plays a "shopper" in the play, and is on stage much of the show singing in the chorus. Taylor came late to the production because she was in another play at school. That meant she got the leftovers from the costume department. The coat they put her in was huge, and she complained: the only way I would fit in this coat was if I was pregnant.

Then Peg Moriarity mentioned that the costume shop had one of those "sympathy pillows" to make you look pregnant. Taylor, always one to seize the opportunity for a good gag, arranged to get the pillow before dress rehearsal and - voila'! - she was the pregnant shopper.

At Saturday night's performance, Taylor was thinking about the "chase" scene. It's a musical interlude in the show where chaos and pandemonium ensues on stage among all of the frenzied Christmas shoppers. She thought it would be funny if, in the midst of the chaos on stage, she went into labor. Once again, Peg Moriarity was there to spur her on - and as the craziness broke out there was Taylor in the throes of labor pains with Peg fanning her off. It was absolutely hilarious. But that's not all.

After "the chase" was over, everyone was sitting back stage in the green room. Someone walked in and said "Oh - you haven't had your baby yet?" - to which Taylor said - "wouldn't it be funny if I walked out for the curtain call holding a baby?" With that, she ripped off the pillow and the cast started scrounging for a doll (baby Jesus was on stage in the manger - we couldn't use him) - and a makeshift baby blanket.

Taylor's "delivery" has now become part of every Christmas Post performance and it's one of those stories that I know will become part of Union Street Players legend - recounted at numerous cast parties for years to come.

Our Taylor-made is one of a kind.

Photo: Pregnant Taylor and her mid-wife, Peg Moriarity

Chapter-a-Day Luke 5

Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, "I want to. Be clean." Then and there his skin was smooth, the leprosy gone. Luke 5:13 (TM)

Anyone with the least amount of spiritual self-awareness understands the feeling of leprous shame that comes over you in the midst of sin.

"I'm no good"
"I'm a failure"
"I'm worthless"
"I'm sick and ugly"
"God shouldn't want to have anything to do with me"

I feel it, too. That's why I love the story of the leper. Jesus reaches out to touch the hideous, contagious, sick leper - because he "wants" to make him clean. Jesus wants to make me clean, too. He wants to love me. He wants to forgive me. He wants to heal my leprous, sinful heart. He wants to clean me - to change me - to transform me from the inside out.

Today, I fall on my knees before the Master, and hear Him say - "I want to".

December 07, 2006

A Strange Time...Good, but Strange

It's been a bit strange the past few weeks since Wendy left her job at Goalsetters. The routine has been screwed up, but that's not necessarily a bad thing! The house hasn't been this clean in....well, ever. The kitchen cupboards and drawers are organized. I had the most fabulous chicken parmesan dinner last night and I didn't do a thing but open the wine! I watched Wendy read an entire book in two days.

The best part is that I feel "life" returning to her eyes - and her spirit.

The tree is out and up. I think I'll see decorations hung today. We found out that the Hall family is celebrating on Christmas Eve here at Vander Well Manor, and we couldn't be more excited.

Chapter-a-Day Luke 4

That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and was on his way. Luke 4:28-30 (TM)

Truth does not win popularity contests.