Friday, December 31, 2010

post-christmas

we followed up the 12 days of christmas with 5 days of family sickness...am ready for that to be over.

i've been working all by myself at westwinds this week. except for brief appearances by one of our interns (Jess), and the UPS delivery guy, this place has been a tomb.

it feels weird to be here with no one else around, working quietly and always finding the coffee pot full and the bathroom bearable.

still, we've got some exciting stuff planned for the new year and i'm getting more and more geeked while prepping for it this week




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Location:Robinson Rd,Jackson,United States

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

stories and writing

i've always thought of myself as a writer, mostly because i've always been writing. when i was a little kid i used to sit in the back of the schoolbus and write stories. when i was in high school i tried to take every writing class i could. i used to write in my free time. i still do. when i first began working in ministry i began writing more and more (plays, songs, stories, whatever) thinking that there would be good opps for good writing.

along the way, though, i gathered this impression that *people* thought writing was a waste of time and that i really shouldn't bother with it. that made me sad, but at the time i felt like i understood.

then we started writing atlases for westwinds.

it was a strange sort of beginning - almost an accident, really. norma everly, a lovely gal who loves christ and loves her church, transcribes all our messages after the fact. she does this for sunday teachings, but also for other stuff - like sunday school or mid-week stuff when we ask her. we had taught a new believer's class at the winds, and norma had transcribed it so when we - about a year later - considered teaching that material on a sunday it just made sense that we'd take her transcriptions and put them into some sort of book form. that way, people could read up on the material beforehand and get prepared.

the response was really positive, so we began doing it more and more and more until, now, we pretty much do it for every single teaching series.

i've often thought this has been a cool way to bring my love for writing back into my ministry. it has all felt really natural, and there's so much good fruit from it (both within the winds, and through amazon.com and the internet as well).

having written about 30 atlases now, though, i'm beginning to wonder if non-fiction writing is as helpful as i'd like it to be.

when "the shack" was published there was such a huge outbreak of enthusiasm and support that i immediately went and bought it and read it (as i do most popular books, as a means of staying in step with the popular mind/culture). i was so disappointed. the story was great, and his thoughts on spirituality were terrific, but i thought the writing was poor.

still - the shack has done 100 million times as much good as all our atlases combined. that might simply be because god has chosen to use that book in a special way, but it might also be because simple fiction is easier for most people to identify with than simple non-fiction.

non-fiction feels like work or school, but fiction feels like the beach or a sunday afternoon on the couch.

i'd like to write some fiction. i've written a bunch of short stories and whatnot for the winds (and those have been really fun), but i'd like to write a few that are a little longer, a little more involved, and (yup) a little more like the shack.

i kind of cringe at that statement, but if i'm honest that 'cringing' is pride. thing is, i have no reason to be proud. especially not these days, and especially not about writing. i've had some signficant writing-related disappointments this past year, and been told (by people i think know what they're talking about) that i shouldn't waste my time. that hurts. but then i think about the guy who wrote the shack, and about all the other cringing-jerks like me who didn't like his writing, and i think: well, even if i'm no hemmingway, i ought to at least do the things that god has placed inside me to do... and if that means writing some crummy fiction, then so be it.

that's all any of us can do, isn't it? do what we love, work to get better at it, stay sweet while doing it.

so, in a couple of years when you're scouring for trashy summer reading at the local thrift store, enjoy my forthcoming theological speculations concerning the gospel of atlantis, the recovery of quantum magic and potentiality (as taught by angels and dragons), and that one about the guy who wakes us from a coma only to discover he's satan.

they probably won't be worthy of pulitzers, but i hope you still get a few moments of reprieve from life's tragedies because of them.

peace.





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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

the transformer nativity

on saturday, jake and anna and i played out the christmas story with jake's transformers for about three hours. it was a blast. afterwards, i decided to take some fotos and cobble them together into a comic book for him.

here is the final project

enjoy!




12 days of christmas 2010: day 7 (the playfords)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 days of christmas: day 2 (gifts from dwayne and staci and sadie, taylor, & lucas)

12 days of christmas 2010: day one

every year we give our kids 1 small gift on each day prior to christmas (beginning 11 days ahead) so they actually appreciate and can take time to enjoy the gifts they receive (instead of acting mental and getting overloaded and enjoying nothing).

these are the videos that document the 12 days of christmas 2010



Thursday, December 09, 2010

there are so many things to be thankful for

one of the unique challenges of public life - political, pastoral, etc - is that you can't really share the things you're going through because (normally) anything bad is directly tied to another person in your life that matters in your church, or city or whatever.

which means, when you're hurting - you hurt alone.

i generally refuse to talk about the things that bother me with any but my closest, closest friends, because any frustrations or difficulties i encounter are usually due to other church and/or kingdom people. i don't want anyone else to know my business, and i certainly don't want anyone else's reputation to suffer because (even in code, or indirectly) i have expressed my frustration with them on a blog, or in a sermon, or at a local restaurant.

consequently, you'll never hear me talk about that lady who always posts those things on facebook; or that guy who always sends those letters; or the person with the issue that they cannot drop; or, whatever

(those, by the way, are not real examples of stuff i wrestle with...which is sort of the point)

anyway - suffice to say this week has been hard. there have been some challenges. i don't want to talk about those challenges, really, i just want to express my gratitude to god for being there in the midst of those challenges

he sustains
he heals
he comforts
and he gets me through

i have anything i need, and more than i could ever want. my life is rich in every conceivable way that matters, and my wealth comes from god.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

30?!

i'm just now realizing that the "common time" teaching atlas, second in the "seasons of christian spirituality" series is now 30th atlas.

30. wow. that's a lot of books, a lot of research, and a lot of writing.

the early atlases were amateurish at best, but they got a lot better over the years. in true bull-in-a-china-shop mcdonald fashion, i've blundered my way from sermon transcripts to something much more like a phd thesis (with charm, though) published every 4-6 weeks.

whew.

i feel proud about how far i've come, and exceedingly glad at how many other people all over the world have contacted me and thanked me for making these resources available on amazon.com and through westwinds. but mostly, i feel thankful. i feel thankful to god for placing me in a spot where i can do this. i feel thankful to carmel and the kids for putting up with me when i do this. i feel thankful to the staff at the winds who pick up the slack while i do this. and i feel thankful for the windies who gobble it up everytime i finish doing this.

god is good,
and so are you.

here's to better and better resources, and a better experience with god, for another 30 installments or so!

D

game of thrones preview

Thursday, December 02, 2010

a foretaste of advent and an excerpt from "advent: preparation, anticipation and hope in Christ's coming"


Perhaps, like many others, you've wondered: what is Advent?

Well, Advent is a liturgical season (a time or particular religious observation in the Christian faith) that centers around a "coming."

If Advent means, literally, "coming," one might wonder: who is coming?

The answer, obviously, is Christ. But we might further wonder: who is Jesus Christ?

In the Christian Bible, Jesus Christ was and is God of the Cosmos - above Whom there is none other, Peerless Peer and Everlasting Lord of All. He was born under supernatural circumstances to a teenage girl during her engagement to an older, respectable man who likely only half-believed her explanation of the Holy Spirit impregnating her and planned to divorce her quietly once the baby was born.

Jesus (his name is Joshua in Aramaic) was born under a cloud of suspicion, but later came to be called Christ (which means "anointed one" and relates to an ancient belief by practicing Jews in a military hero known as the Messiah who would deliver them from their national and spiritual enemies).

Christ wasn't his last name, but his title.

All of this begs another question: why is Christ coming?

He is coming, simply, because something has gone horribly and persistently wrong with his creation. God created the world and placed us within it as a well-ordered and developing ecosystem, complete with interpersonal and interspecies interaction that would have sustained life abundantly and joyously. We were created to be something akin to planetary horticulturalists or zoologists, while simultaneously being given the directive to establish ourselves into societies and govern the earth.

Sadly, there is now great corruption in our world for which we - inescapably - must acknowledge our own culpability. (War. Famine. Hate. Bigotry. O-zone depletion. Global Warming. Jealousy. Greed.) None of us are guilt-free concerning the human condition, nor the condition of our planet. Our world is deeply wounded, and Christ came to fix it.

Once again, one further - and, for now, final - question is now appropriate: how does Christ plan to fix the mess we're in?

To begin with, Christ wants to start by fixing us.

Jesus came to live in this world as one of us and show us how we were always meant to live. He demonstrates what it means to be human, while simultaneously giving us a reference for what it means to be godly. He was, and is God, who lived as one of us, showing us how we might behave, love, interact, and aspire to live like God.

In an important sense, Jesus re-lived all of human history - resisted every kind of temptation, confronted every kind of eveil, even figuratively re-enacted every one of humanity's great failings up until that point without, himself, failing - and showed us what God has always intended for his people and his world.


This brings us back to our original question (what is Advent?), with new insight. Advent is not just about "coming," but about the coming of a savior to heal the wounds of the world caused by sin.

Advent, then, is a new beginning for humanity - a new starting point for the future - and a new opportunity to live life the way it was meant to be enjoyed by God.




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