Monday, November 30, 2009

Hope in the Hood

I took this pic while driving down through Aliquippa the other day.  I was coming back home from spending a few hours with Ben...the 12 year old boy that I "mentor" there.  If you've not been to Aliquippa and you live in the PIttsburgh area, you owe yourself a trip through there.  It is such a depressed place in so many ways.  When the steel industry pulled out a few decades ago, it's like they pulled out the heart and soul of Aliquippa and its people.

But NO!  Take a closer look and you'll see heart, and soul.  Jesus said that the last shall be first, and in many ways that is living out as truth in Aliquippa.  I take heart in a world that is obsesses with "Happy Holidays" and other politically correct crapola that a town in the heart of our region knows where the true hope lies, and is not afraid to display it.

Merry Christmas, Aliquippa.  And may the peace and hope, which can only be found in Jesus Christ (which you apparently already know) be yours this Christmas and always....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Caught Not Taught...

So I'm thinking it's true, that the fine line between the dog and owner begins to blur over the years...

You see, we have this crazy dog Shadrach.  He's almost 10 years old now and I love him...but I must admit he drives me crazy.  He is so reactionary.  Every little thing that happens he reacts like a crazy dog.  Every time I get out the chair, he's ready for his next "big adventure."  That usually means I'm just getting a glass of milk and he doesn't get anything, but still there is this ridiculous excitement...

He's also very fickle.  One minute he is all lovey and stuff and the next minute he's like "leave me alone."  One minute he is lying on the floor and the next minute he is fidgeting around on his cushion (his cush-cush!).   

And I look at him and think...what a nut!  And then I realize...over the years, he has taken on my personality!!!  I didn't teach him to act this way, he just learned it by watching me!  His behavior was caught, not taught. 

So I wonder...are we watching and catching Jesus? 

And then I wonder...who (besides Shadrach) is watching and catching Jesus...from ME?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Here...let me do that for you!

So I went to the Bishop's Day on the District meeting last night.  It was a very long meeting, but it was good in some respects.  First of all, I got to see some old friends and hang out a bit.  I also heard the bishop be very honest about how the United Methodist Church is dying and we better do something about it.  I agree.

But after a 2 hour and 15 minute presentation, we spent a few moments on our knees in prayer.  And part of that time was in explanation of why we need to pray.  It just struck me...again...this notion that has been rolling around in my bean for a while now.

It seems that we (as Christians) spend much of our time and energy trying to do things only God can do, and then trying to get God to do the things only we can do.   Some plant, some water, but it is God who makes it all grow (see 1 Corinthians 3:6).  Only God can grow the church.  Only He can bring about the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The best effort is to allow that to happen in us individually as we spend our lives on our knees in prayer, devotion, worship, and service to Him.  That's our job.

The rest, I gently remind us, is His...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Me and My Big Mouth (Boy, did I just open myself up for comments, or what?!)

I love Bugs Bunny.  He has always made me laugh since I was a little boy and watched him on Saturday morning cartoons ('mimber them?).  He had a way of getting himself into some scrapes and then would often, in reflection, say "me and my big mouth!"

I guess I have a big mouth sometimes and I get myself in trouble for it.  Take for example recently when Carla and I were trying to decide upon a realtor.  We met with this woman who was extremely scattered and disorganized.  She forgot some paperwork, forgot her pen, and then lost the keys to a home she was showing us!  When she emailed to see if we were interested in using her as a realtor, I said no.

Now I tried to say it in a polite way, but I guess the truth sometimes hurts.  I had a few friends read the email just to make sure I wasn't slamming her and stuff, but I still kinda felt badly speaking my mind.  Even if it was the truth.  Even if it was in a kind fashion.  Even if we, as a buyer, have the right to determine with whom we'll do business and why. 

So why do I feel badly?  I feel like I've opened my big mouth and "hurt" somebody.  But in the end, aren't we really called to "speak the truth in love?"  (see Ephesians 4:25)  And how do we expect to grow if we're not honest with each other?  How do we expect to be changed, and to change the world if we're not willing to lovingly confront? 

In fact, I'm gonna preach on that this week....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fun Facts from Brett's Kitchen

With Carla working so much, and especially 3-11, I have been doing a lot of my own cooking.  I just thought I'd share a few fun facts I've discovered along the way:

- Pork can, and will, explode in the microwave!

- Exploded pork can take a long time to clean up!

- If you bend down to get something out of the fridge, make sure you back up far enough before standing up or you'll bang your bald head off the freezer door handle, leaving a noticeable divot in your head!

- Bald head divots quickly turn to big bumps on your head!

- Seeing stars is not just a figure of speech.

- Dishrags can, and will, get caught in the disposal!

- Food doesn't taste nearly as good when you eat alone...

It kinda reminds me how spot-on God was when He said that thing in Genesis 2:18..."It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."


Sunday, November 08, 2009


Heck, I'm not even dying (at least at a faster-than-normal-than-I'm-aware-of-but-if-I-don't-stop-eating-Krispy-Kream-donuts-that-could-change-rate).  I am alive and well.  Let me repeat that for the hard of hearing: I AM ALIVE AND WELL!

Why do I feel the need to share this news flash?  Because of how people are treating they are responding to my news that I'm pursuing God's call on my life to "local" missions.  I have people from my previous churches calling and crying because I'm not going to be a pastor anymore.  I have people at Cornerstone that avoid talking to me or at least avoid talking about "it", you know, the way it is when you're dying and nobody wants to say you're dying?!?!

Well, I'm not dying, and I'm not dead.  I'm alive and well and following God's call on my life.  I am more excited (read: scared too life) about what God is doing next than I have been in a long time!  This is a very good thing.  My life as a pastor hasn't been a mistake, it is just that the season has ended.  My life isn't over.  In fact, my new, new life is just beginning.  And this is a good thing!

I'm not dead, at least not unless you consider the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20... "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Friday, November 06, 2009

Bert and Ernie

So back in the day, I used to work on a horse farm that had Belgian draft horses.  They came and went, but my favorite team we called Bert and Ernie.  Bert was an older, gentle, wise gelding, and Ernie was younger, crazier, and personable.  When we hooked them together, it was almost unbelievable how they took on each others' best characteristics and covered for each others' weaknesses.  I used to love to sit behind them on a wagon or whatever and just watch them work as a team.

Stan is my lifting partner at the gym.  We usually meet at the gym at 4:45 (a.m....yes it does come around twice a day) and start lifting at 5.  We work out for an hour or so then sit and drink coffee and share life.  It is a fantastic way to start the day.

How are the two related?  Well, Stan is on vacation this week, and I made it to the gym Monday.  That's it.  Just Monday.  Why?  Because I'm Ernie...and I'm lazy unless I have a Bert to inspire me, push me, drag me, perk me up, settle me down.  (NOTE: I am not calling Stan a horse, or any other part of a horse's anatomy, although there are times....)   Carla plays this role in our marriage. (NOTE: I am not calling my wife a horse, or any other part of a horse's anatomy!)  Some friends play that role in my Christian journey (NOTE: I am not calling my horses, or any other part of a horse's anatomy!) 

The bottom line?  I need to be a part of a team, or I stumble.  Maybe that's why God said in Hebrews 10 that we should not "forsake meeting together as some are in the habit of doing..."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

4th Gear

So it's freezing outside 48ish, but I decided to ride the hawg today.  Let's face it, one is not going to be able to enjoy too many more days on two wheels this Fall.  So this afternoon after my last appointment and before the sun set, I took a nice little "therapy" ride.  As I was cruising along enjoying the cold wind, the sights and sounds of Fall, and the freedom of the open road, I decided that I like 4th gear best.  Roads that are 4th gear roads are twisty and windy and maybe a little rough.  They are roads with blind curves and blinder hills and lots of chances for fleeting wildlife.  4th gear roads have lots of hazards and surprises waiting, and so they demand 4th gear.  Not 5th, not 6th, for sure.  But not 1st or 2nd either.  Just fast enough to really keep on alert on the bars.  And just slow enough to enjoy the day, the view, and the challenges of the road...

I've spent a good bit of my life in 6th gear, and while I don't regret it, I find myself more and more comfortable with 4th gear.  And not just on the bike, but on the road that leads to life...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Thoughts on Germ X

So my wife, Carla, is a nurse.   And therefore, she is acutely aware of germs and what they do and stuff.  So we have Germ X everywhere...various places in the house, in the car, at the office, etc.  And the bottle says right there on the bottom...kills 99.99% of germs.

However, from Carla's microbiology class a few years ago, apparently it isn't just the Germ X, or even the soap in handwashing, that does the trick.  Apparently, it's the rubbing.  No matter how you "sanitize" your hands, you must rub them together vigorously, for that is what really sheds the germs!

It kinda reminds me of 1 Peter 1:6-7, where we are told that the "rubbing" makes us stronger...healthier...more faithful...