August 2006 Archives
It's not Tuesday, but this one is too funny to wait for:
As a not-so-subtle reminder, Saturday is Week #3 on "Single & Satisfied" at Compass Class. A good time will be had by all.
I was doing so good, just looking through this Rolling Stone photo gallery of Christian youth concert festivals. Then, the commentary for the last photo floored me with how out of touch some folks can really be: "Jesus is their personal savior. He's almost alive to them."
Yeah ... almost.
Still, the photos come close to giving an interesting portrait of life at these festivals. Can't say I've been to one myself, tough. In order of attendance, my biggest Christian concerts to attend involve seeing Stryper ('87) at Six Flags; Hillsong United at Lakewood; and Geoff Moore ('90ish) at the Sam Houston Coliseum. After that it goes downhill quick with a few club appearances by Stryper and Bride. What I wouldn't do for a Messiah Prophet reunion, though ;-)
I have to admit that most of what I like about this church is that they've offered so much material online for things like sermon notes, Bible studies, and even podcasts. Sadly, it looks like many of the materials have been nixed in getting the new site up. That's a shame since they were exceptionally well done. But I may have to give this church a peek when they move pretty close to my neck of the woods.
Always an attention-getter at Koinonia, this would otherwise strike me as too corny by half, but for the fact that the one time we had Dr. Paul Osteen speak to our group, he came on following this video. I'm sure he still doesn't know what to make of us ;-)
One surefire way to load up my MP3 player ... put two good CDs in my hand on any given week. I mentioned Heath Rosborough's CD earlier, now it's overload time since I've had time to break in Michael Sweet's "Him."
A bit more my cup of tea, it's easier for this disc to satisfy my hard rock cravings. But there's really precious little of that on display here. The songs are all hymns that Sweet took out of a hymnal he had and set to more contemporary music. While there's some nice crunchy guitars playing behind a chorus on a nice (and early) Christmas hymn, "Oh Holy Night," that's a bit of an exception.
By far, the first song I've fallen in love with from this disc is the slowest, most acoustic song of the lot: "Take My Life." I literally had to stop what I was reading on the way home in order to give this song the attention it merited. If it doesn't move you, there's a chance there's something wrong with you. OK ... so maybe, maybe not. I kid.
For the more contemporary stuff, however, "Calvary" was far more pleasing than the sample led on Sweet's site led me to believe. But then again, a lot of the niceties on Sweet's instrumentation plays out over longer than the usual 30 seconds allowed for previews of the songs. Meanwhile, "Gilead" has more of a newer rock vibe to it, giving it an interesting twist. "I'll Remember You" is another slow tune that very well make a few people think there's something wrong with me for not appreciating it more than I currently do. As expected, though, my clear choice for music to be appreciated in any setting is "Alleluia" ... a very uptempo treatment of the song and one that just oozes worship. And, yes, I did rework it with an appended soundclip to give it that added radio-ish feel (see here for the preview clip version).
All in all, this is definitely one of my favorite new CDs this year. Granted, it's always good to hear Michael Sweet rocking out. There's some chatter that he'll be doing some of these songs the next time Stryper hits the road. In the meantime, there's some spare concert listings by Sweet sans Stryper that would be nice if they were to extend down to the greater Houston area. If you're not sure why, there's a good sampling of video online at Sweet's site with some of his solo videos as well as recent Stryper concert footage. I keep thinking this would be a good fit to try and gather a crowd at the Lakewood loft. I doubt I'll ever drop that.
Interesting find online: Weighty matter: Is religion making us fat?
Joel's sermons on dieting and health have concluded on television. I remember being in Tina Underwood's class last week when she mentioned that she'd gotten a pointed jab or two from friends over Joel's preaching about dieting. But she added something that suddenly made the topic more relevant: about 90% of the prayers that prayer partners get during service are health related. Quibble if you want over the methodology, but that number doesn't strike me as too shocking. Not that every health problem begins with one's diet, but I don't think it's any more of a stretch to conclude that it's a sizable chunk of the causes behind those prayers.
Similarly, Frank Lockwood opened up a blog post for feedback on this topic on his wonderful blog, asking "Should houses of worship talk more about health matters? Should Osteen be applauded for encouraging his crowds to eat healthy? Or should he stick to more traditional spiritual fare?" The responses run the gamut. But my favorite is this one: "The real surprise about a minister preaching good nutrition is that it's a surprise at all. For years, evengelical preachers have raged against drinking, smoking, drugs, and sex to the point they've left food out."
Of course, I'm among those that Joel may as well have been preaching to the most. Most of the time, my own philosophy has been that I'd just work off whatever hideous amount of calories I'd take in. Worked great when I was younger and had some semblence of a metabolism and worked retail, standing on my feet for 8 hours at work. Now, being a few years older, working at an office where I get the luxury of sitting down ... and still feeling the need to take in some caffeine to start the day off right, that recipe doesn't work as well as it used to. For now, babysteps ... water in place of soda (actually, this is more than babysteps if you knew how much Code Red & Dr Pepper I can go through). After all, if God has a plan for our lives, why should we impede it with our diet?
I took a bit of liberty in transcribing this sermon from the 19th: Coming Up Higher Through Obedience. I just thought it was a great sermon that deserved a bit of extra publicity. This will be hitting the airwaves this coming weekend. Feel free to either get a glimpse of next week's televised sermon or pick it up afterward for closer reading.
God has a great plan for all of our lives. His dream is that we continually be rising to new levels. But how high we go in life and how much of God's blessings and favor we experience will be directly in relation to how obedient we are. It will be in direct proportion to how quickly and willingly we obey. And one of the ways God leads us is through our conscience.
The Scripture says in 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us." When we make mistakes, three things we need to do. Number one, admit it. Don't try and justify it. "Well Joel, I was under a lot of pressure." "I was dishonest, but everybody else was doing it, too." Don't make excuses, don't beat around the bush, just call it like it is: "I was wrong."
Number two; we need to confess our sins. It's not enough to just think about it. We need to go to God in a private moment and just say, "God, I'm sorry. I made a bad choice. I hurt somebody. God I need your forgiveness, I need your mercy."
The third thing, very important, we need to repent. Repent means we turn around and we don't do it again. It means we go off in another direction. We cannot just say, "God, I'm sorry" and keep doing it again and again and again. We have to change our ways. And some people are sorry that they did wrong. They're sorry that they hurt somebody. But they're not sincere enough to turn away and not do it again. Really, they're just sorry they got caught.
Hmmm ... sin? ... confession? ... repentance? Aren't those the sorts of thing that people claim Joel never talks about?
Anyways, the transcript could use a bit more organization, but I'm not a professional transcriber. It's enough that I managed to get it done and formatted to the extent it is. It's also edited very minimally, so that it reads as delivered, not as a perfect standalone booklet. There's a lot of references that come across far more clearly in person than they do reading this quietly in the study. If I wanted to take greater liberty, I could rework it so that it served that purpose better. But then it really wouldn't be a transcript, I suppose. Be that as it may, let the Good News go forth.
Two good reasons to blog a little on the current Compass Class series, "Single & Satisfied." One is this Lexington Herald-Leader article on what appears to be a great parallel to Lakewood's own Koinonia groups. There's loads of mirror images to what I believe most Koinonians experience, but there's also a few points that add some new light to our shared state in life:
According to the 2000 census, 45.6 percent of the 221.1 million adult Americans are single. Almost 43 percent of Kentucky's 3.2 million adults are unmarried.
With more than three-fourths of single adults claiming to be Christians and only one-third of them attending church functions on a regular basis, the church has a large group of people to draw into its doors. But the task is tricky. Single adults don't fit into one nice, neat mold. They span generations and life experiences.
The never-been-married crowd is by far the largest contingent. Members typically range in age from early 20s to mid-30s. They tend to be educated professionals who live away from their families and are putting marriage on hold.
In May, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the average age for a first marriage was 27.1 years for men and 25.8 years for women, up from 23.2 and 20.8 respectively, 25 years ago.
But by putting off marriage, young adults are finding it harder than in years past to easily plug into church while in their early to middle 20s.
Read the whole thing, though. Sounds like they've got a great group going up at NorthEast Christian Church.
Locally, we all had the treat of Tracy leading the class prior to service. It's been too long since the lectern has been so blessed, but Mike & Cordell did an admirable job in the meantime. The series we're now in the midst of derives from the teachers' reflections on Tony Evans' book "Being Single & Satisfied." It's a brief, brisk read that focuses mainly on Paul's message from 1 Corinthians regarding singleness and marriage. I've previously blogged on the book, so I won't add much more than that.
What's always refreshing about Tracy's classes is that she has a great way of augmenting the material from the book in a way that ingrains it into our own experiences (or at least mine ... but I'd find it very weird if I'm alone on this). What I took away from the class was this:
"What you value, you protect" ... Tracy pulls another one of her classic analogies here by offering a million dollar ring off her hand. It rings true to me in a far harsher way. I once interned in Washington DC for a summer. On my exit out of town, the cab dropping me off at the bus station ran off with my tickets and camera in tow. Upon calling the cab company to retreive my bounty, I was greeted by a smart alecky customer service agent who informed me that if the tickets were so valuable, I should have kept a closer eye on them. Suffice it to say, that didn't go over well at the time. But the simplicity of the message is true. Currently, I travel around with my laptop a good deal. It's also one of the most valuable possessions I have since I do a lot of work on it for people that like to sign checks over to me. Believe me when I say I keep close tabs on that sucker when I'm out and about.
Likewise, our hearts are to be protected and guarded. That's not to suggest that they should be locked away, though. Just like I've got to haul the laptop to work almost every day, there are times when you've got to step out on a limb and expose your heart to some amount of risk. The letter to the Corinthians tells us to "remain with God in that condition in which he was called." Yet, as Evans tells us, too many times we separate our status from our calling. There's clearly a purpose for all of us to be in the state we're in at the time of God's calling. That may not mean you stay there throughout. But the time that you realize someone else is running a similar race to yours ... and pushes you to strive harder in your calling ... is probably a far better time to think about God calling you to marry than any other set of situations.
"Don't compare your insides to somebody else's outside" ... another great powerful phrase to ponder. Too often, we look at others as if they're living the perfect life when, in fact, they're not. I remember having dinner with some married friends of mine a while back. Thought they'd reached a very wonderful point in their lives, both together and individually. It was enough to be envious of them. But later conversations would prove otherwise. We rarely see the whole picture of other people's lives. And while there is typically something we can learn from everyone, we shouldn't accept the corrollary that we might learn everything from any one person.
As always, good stuff. There's plenty of good seats available for the Saturday night class. Feel free to join in if you're not already doing so. Is there any better way to spend a Saturday night?
Well, I finally managed to get a copy of Heath Rosborough's CD, "Clarity In Heaven." How that came about, of course, reflects on the legendary coolness of Heath Rosborough himself. I'd already spent my monthly "CD allowance" on Michael Sweet's new solo CD. I was hoping I'd have it delivered on Thursday or Friday for some weekend listening. But as dumb luck has it, it arrived at work on Saturday ... with me, very notably, NOT at the office.
Heath Rosborough to the rescue. Intending to only pick up a $5 CD single he's offering ("In My Father's Eyes"), Heath made sure to send me off with a review copy of the full CD in spite of my frugality. Weekend music problems solved. And very nicely at that.
As I approached my table at Koinonia, I'm greeted by a lot of first-timers. So I kick into an all-out public relations department for all things Koinonia, including trying to talk the newcomers into sticking around for Heath's performance later on. It was a measured success, but not for any lacking on Heath's part. Heath did put on a one-man show and I was pleasantly surprised to see his piano chops on full display.
The strongest selling point about Heath's performance, however, is his voice. Among the questions I had from the new arrivals was "Well, what kind of music does he sing?" Even after watching and listening (and listening and listening), that's still a tough question to answer. On one level, it's not terribly difficult to describe it as just plain old fashioned CCM. But Heath's voice invokes a bit of traditional gospel flavor thrown in for a nice twist. Performing live, it's a bit reminiscent of listening to Marc Cohn at a piano bar (which probably doesn't help much if you don't know who that is). Spinning the CD offers a bit richer experience due to more instruments. But the similarity in the experiences is that it's Heath's voice that carries the show.
About the only drawback to the Koinonia show is that it's not a format that lets him sing as loudly as needed to fully display that particular strength. But there were a few songs that showed off what he can do at low volume, including the number he started off with, "I Praise Your Name." It's a very slow and meditative song, which came in handy for an early morning Sunday rain. The separate single, "In My Father's Eyes" was another case in point. To borrow a quote from my tablemate, "It's like there are certain cars that just perform best when going very fast." Point being that much of the strength of Heath's voice comes when he's able to belt out a tune at the top of his lungs. But these songs give a good glimpse of that gift in slow motion.
I mention that "In My Father's Eyes" is a separate CD single for good reason. It's a good tune and it's worth making sure you get is in addition to the CD. I should have some information on how to get your hands on the CD outside of Heath's Koinonia performances later. In the meantime, just bring an extra $5 to Koinonia the next time Heath performs (sadly, he's not booked for September).
There's a range of styles that ought to make most musical tastes happy. "I've Got My Victory" stands out as perhaps the most bluesy of tunes on the disc. Listening to it, I'm reminded of Marcos Witt's sermon from a while back about how he found it easy to meditate on God's word because he could simply write a song about it. So if you're lacking the songwriting ability to capture some good Lakewood-style encouraging Scripture, Heath and wife Wendy have done that with this song.
"Let Go" starts off heavily before gliding into a more manageable blues-rock number that serves much the same purpose, telling us to "Let go of the tangible/God works in the supernatural/Nothing is impossible/When you let go and you let God."
The title tack is a good mid-tempo example with a good deal of richness in instrumentation (I'm a onetime guitarist from an era time has since passed by, so my bias is laid bare). It stands out as a bit unique among the songs, many of which have an identifiable Lakewoodian stamp in the lyrics that's always good to hear.
On the slower side, "Here I Am" is a catchy and memorable number. Likewise, another good song put on display in the one-man live format - "Weep Not My Child," which I'm ranking as an early favorite from the disc. Another personal favorite has to be "You Took My Place." It's a good mix of rich textures behind Heath's voice and a melodic hook that stays with you a while after listening to it.
I took a few of the songs and put together a sample pack below. If you don't see anything there, then get a free (and quick) Flash download. If you like what you hear, the full CD Is available in the Lakewood bookstore as well as Amazon and other online record stores. If you like what you hear on "In My Father's Eyes," check back for more distribution notes.
If you attend Wednesday services, there's a nifty survey on the Lakewood website accepting feedback on the services. Very short, very quick, and very painless. But be sure to give some genuine feedback rather than just say how much you love everything. As much as I like the legroom and prime seating available on Wednesdays, it's just as nice if it's a packed house.
On that somewhat evangelistic note, I happened upon a couple of highlighted events coming up next month:
Sept. 9 ... Star of Hope Transitional Living Center: A Day of Celebration with single-parent familes! Come and encourage families making a new start. Volunteer opportuinites include serviing food, playing sports, crafts, and games, music and ministry. Pick up a flyer at the Information Centers. To sign up, call 713-491-1254
Sept. 30 (8:30am - 12:30pm) ... How to Share Your Faith
Helping everyday peiople confidently and effectifely share their faith with friends, family, skeptics in practical ways. Speakers: Renee Branson and Saleim Lahleh. To RSVP and for childcare, call 713-491-1270
Not to detract from Heath Rosborough's musical appearance at tonight's Koinonia gathering, but a quick look through the upcoming calendar indicates that we're in for another treat on September 16. The Lakewood band is giving us another late night of praise & worship. I blogged about the last time the band played and it sure seemed like it was probably the most well-recieved Koinonia entertainment experience in my time with the gang.
Worth noting that Heath led that band last time. So consider tonight something of a warm up for that. But since I've never actually taken in a full Heath show at Koinonia before, I'm looking forward to tonight just as well (total fluke given that I've seen Shauna & Kelli about a dozen times it seems ... they play again on the 9/30). Still, would it be considered whining to ask for at least a brief cameo by Aimee for the 16th? ... or a co-Hodge tune?
I know, I know ... demanding audiences like me can be so difficult at times ;-)
ADD-ON: I should add that the reason I got spurred to checking the calendar was the newly redesigned emails for the weekend services. Much nicer look to them if you ask me. It's at least organized in a way that's designed to invite a reader to the Lakewood website. Kudos to whomever is responsible!
A bit of a preview, I suspect, of another great Frank Lockwood report. This time on the fledgling spiritual rebirth of New Orleans one year after Katrina. I'm guessing most of this will make it into the Saturday edition of Frank's newspaper article, but why wait to find out? There's even a photo gallery with some amazingly good photos. Frank's gotten his fill of the Gulf Coast it would seem. Kudos to the Lexington Herald-Leader for footing the bill to let him do what he does best.
What I take away from this is a sampling of how hard some of these pastors are working to look after what remains of their scattered church members in the aftermath. There's a precursor post that's also worth reading, as well as a somewhat irked Frank checking in on the state of cable news in this post-JonBenet world in which we live. I tend to share the sentiment, but instead of ditching cable like Frank, I just thank the good Lord for ESPN!
So I'm a guy ... sue me.
Outreach Magazine: Can Mega Be Missional? Ed Stetzer
Interesting read here. It's late and I don't have adequate time to give it the summarization it deserves. But since it's a fair question on the part of some about what appeal a big chuch might have over a small church, this article seems to give a good bit of balance ... even putting criticisms such as overt consumerism into an historical context.
Personally, my initial reasons for setting foot in Lakewood were somewhat unique. I'd only heard good things about the church for about the past 15 years and since I frequented the old Compaq Center for hockey games, I was a bit curious to see how the old place was transformed. But my own previous hunt for a church home had been spectacularly unproductive - to the point of it being buried and left for dead for a few years more than my first word about Lakewood. I wasn't quite sure that I'd step in and find a church home, but I wasn't reluctant to let the opening weekend go by me with the only excuse being that I was too tired to go. Fate? Maybe. But I've obviously got no complaints.
Reminds me, though ... I remember stumbling onto some online rant about megachurches leaving churchgoers hungrier for the Word of God than when they arrived. It was offered as a derogatory statement, but the more I came back to that argument, the more I kept asking myself .... "Is that such a bad thing?" I mean, I'm back from a wonderful Bible Study with Lisa Comes that actually dovetails nicely into Tina Underwood's terrain (which I'm committed to for tomorrow (er, today)). I left with a newfound spark to read through Philippians as a result. Amazing how that might strike anyone as such a bad thing.
Totally unrelated, but I usually leave the laptop at the office Wednesday nights rather than lug it through church with me. Problem being that I was hoping to finish transcribing the weekend sermon tonight (which - you guessed it - is on the laptop! ... at the office!). D'oh! And I may have new reading material and music to dive into tomorrow night. Ah well, all in good time, I suppose. For now, Philippians awaits me.
A bit of YouTube.com funniness for the day. This always gets a laugh out of the Koinonia group, so in case nobody else has seen it, here ya go ...
As promised, a few words on last week's class with Tina Underwood.
I think part of the reason I've been a bit reluctant to make it to any of the Recovery Classes was due to the fact that none of the topics really jumped out at me. I did, however, want to try and get a look at some of them, though. If only for the off chance that there might be a really great teacher or a class more interesting than I might have otherwise guessed. This qualifies for both.
Having heard a lot of good things about Tina Underwood from others, I still left a bit more impressed than normal. These are 90-minute classes - sometimes with no break. And Tina teaches in a way that's compelling in a way that demands interest like few others. If nothing else, I give her immense credit for finding a way to make guys relate to a story that begins with Tina being a cheerleader and rebellious teenager into one that is immenently more relatable from a male point of view. And yet, what I appreciate even more is that the outline offered isn't a substitute for the message she offers - but rather, a complement to it.
The course topic for last week was "Rejected to Accepted." We're warned right up front that this wasn't a feel-good type of class. A quote that Tina offers that I found worth scribbling was that "rejection is meant to take your focus from God." And the more I reflect on that, the truer I realize it is. Every attack that we can point to as originating from Satan isn't meant to make us bow down and worship him ... it's merely meant to prevent us from worshipping God. Think about those moments where you've let rejection, fear, and doubt distract you from that relationship. Tina runs through a veritable encyclopedia of examples in her own life. And I think if we were all being half as honest as Tina was, we'd have no problem putting together a similar encyclopedia of our own. For the sake of brevity, I'll leave my own entry with something along the lines of "Yeah, been there."
Tina does a great thing in closing out her class, praying over everyone individually. We're not talking about a small class here, either. Maybe 50 or so people. It's truly amazing to witness this for the first time when you're on the side of the room she gets to last and you've heard all these great prayers for so many people.
Anyways, treat yourself to a Thursday night at Lakewood. You won't be disappointed.
Coupla musical notes to pass along ...
1. Chris Tomlin's new site is up and running, complete with sound clips of new tunes. It all sounds pretty appetizing, but then again, has Tomlin done anything less than stellar? The guy's definitely making Texas proud.The new CD comes out on Sept. 26th, also
2. Over on the west/southwest side of H-town, there's a KSBJ Brown-bag thing going on at Chik-fil-a ... this time by Baytown's own, Leeland. They perform on Friday, September 29, starting at 6:30. Check out some sound clips on their MySpace page & show up if it's your cup of tea. I'll likely be there just since it's in my vicinity.
I fully expect to pay a steep price for adding this to the conversation, but check out the mop on top of the guy pictured with Liza Minelli:
This sorta came up in post-Koinonia conversation Saturday night. It's not much of a surprise that Wendell has a background in professional acting. But apparently, our beloved Koinonia pastor had a pretty amazing run. The film with Liza Minelli, "The Sterile Cuckoo," did quite well ... or so I'm told. Liza flicks aren't my preferred genre. I was accussed of being a Star Trek fan over nachos Saturday night. Alas, I'm more of a comedy buff with an appreciation for a good horror flick every now and then. Anyways, Wendell's played Charlie Brown and Dick Van Dyke's son and he apparently turned down a lead role in Harold and Maude ... all of which rank as rather cool in my book.
So what became of our once promising actor-turned-pastor? Here's where the bio posted on IMDB picks up things:
A soul-searcher by nature, Wendell questioned the direction of his life and, after much traveling and study, immersed himself in the Christian religion. He married in 1978 and is the father of a daughter and a son. Reminiscent of the perennially boyish and now balding Ron Howard in looks and demeanor, his career has pretty much fallen away since he turns down most roles he deems morally objectionable. In later years he taught acting in Hollywood, and eventually became a minister.
And we're happy he did. Our gain is Hollywood's loss.
Now if we can just figure out the mystery of Wendell's hair ....
Just to tease a bit ... Hillsong's "Mighty To Save" CD comes out on September 5. This is a sample of Darlene Zschech's version of "The Freedom We Know." A good chunk of it, really, is just to show off some guitar work of Michael Hodge. But the song is as catchy as anything I've ever heard. So this is just my way of getting everyone else addicted.
Ya know, I was all set for a big blogging kick yesterday, but instead, I decided to try and transcribe Joel's sermon from Saturday. I'm about 3/4ths of the way through. After I get it cleaned up for better reading, I may do something with it online. It was one of Joel's better sermons in my time at Lakewood and I'm sure it'll be one that drives his critics nuts (well, moreso).
A few things to report from my travels through the bookstore and other points throughout:
First, there's a lot of Billie Hunt tapes & CDs on the clearance aisle. Good deals abound. Actually, though ... I should say there were a lot of Billie's material there. I first noticed it Wednesday and when I came back with money on Saturday, it was fairly slim pickings. I'll be shocked if there's anything left next weekend.
Also, there's tapes available of John Osteen's booklets. If your an audio type of person, it's a good deal - $3 a tape. Even the multi-tape sets are $3. Not uncommon for that to be a hair cheaper than most or all of the booklets. I snagged one just to sample. Sue Strachan does the reading and she does an excellent job of it. For my own taste, though, I'm a reader. But if you're not, pick up a few tapes and treat yourself.
Lastly, Heath Rosborough had a great performance during the offering this weekend. I'm kicking myself that I slept late on Sunday and didn't get a recording of it. Heath will also be doing the musical segment at Koinonia this weekend, so be sure to work that into the schedule.
By way of reminder, Thursdays are now high on my agenda for trying to get in the rest of Tina Underwood's "Captive No More" series. I promised I'd have more to say about my experience in her class and I haven't forgotten. I'll try to get to that tonight.
Tragic news in the extended Osteen family today ...
Murdered woman identified as Joel Osteen's great aunt
An elderly woman who was beaten to death with a hammer inside her East Harris County home was related to Lakewood Church's Osteen family.
Deputies in East Harris County investigate the murder of an 84-year-old woman.
Dodie Osteen, who founded the church along with her late husband John, said 84-year-old Johnnie Daniels was her aunt and the great aunt of her son, Joel Osteen.
"Aunt Johnnie was a kind and generous woman who lived her life in mercy, compassion, and deep love for the Lord," said Dodie Osteen. "She was dearly loved by me and my family and will be missed greatly," added Osteen.
Investigators believe that generous nature may have cost her her life.
"She would let people into the house. She would give people money and that," said Lt. John Denholm.
Daniels' body was found Thursday in her home in the 13200 block of Forest Knoll.
Her neighbors watched out for her, but they hadn’t seen her in a couple of days so they decided to check on her.
"It's hard to believe," said Vicky Racard, a neighbor in the Royal Wood subdivision. "I've lived in Royal Wood for 10 years and nothing like this has ever happened."
Neighbors said they didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary Wednesday or Thursday when they were looking at the outside of the house. They didn’t discover anything until they went in.
Schepps Dairy is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person(s) who murdered Johnnie Daniels.
Anyone with information should call the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Division at 713-967-5810 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
Pressed for time this week, but a few things worth passing on ...
1. Caught Tina Underwood's "Captive No More" last night at the Recovery Classes at Lakewood. Add her to the list of too-hidden talents at Lakewood. Just a powerful teacher. If you've not treated yourself to her class before, find an excuse. More later.
2. Darlene Zschech's appearance at Lakewood is now in the archives. If you missed it, you can begin to make up for that loss by watching it now (#315). I've already mixed my own MP3 files to carry around with me at all times.
ADD-ON: Listening over and over (and over) to Darlene's Lakewood performance, I'm reminded of something that I truly neglected to mention from the day: Michael Hodge's guitar playing. It's not uncommon to hear a few sweet notes for us guitar afficianados each time Michael's on stage. But this performance just seems to have an awful lot in both the upbeat songs as well as the slower, melodic tunes. Seriously now ... just treat yourself to watching it all over again.
Just for the fun of it, though, a visual addition or two ...
Be sure to check Dakri's elevation on that last photo. Just part of the reason we love him so much ... he's an endless well of enthusiasm and energy on stage.
Easy calls here for new stuff to pick up for what essentially qualifies as my September music and book choices. But since I'm buying them early, I'll go ahead and plug them early as well:
Book: "Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith" by Bill Hybels
CD: "Him" by Michael Sweet
On that musical note, I happened to have a few things stored in my MP3 player that gave me an idea. One song is an old radio recording of an ad that speaks to my particular musical tastes. There's some advertising spillover as it's not a great recording. But the part that immediately comes on after the commercial I enjoy hearing is an announcer saying "Here's a beautiful thought to wake up to ...." The song immediately after (completely random, mind you) is the sample of Michael Sweet's version of "Alleluia." Whenever I would hear the first words of the ad, I'd click over to the next track and realized how wonderfully they went together. So, with that ounce of inspiration, I decided to make my own mix of the two. I'm borrowing the sample from Sweet's site below. For the full version of the song, buy the CD. If you prefer to have the audio splice job done, email me and I may be able to help.
... a beautiful thought, indeed.
With a little opening in the schedule, I snuck in one of the Recovery Classes at Lakewood Monday night ... in this case, the class going over Robert McGee's "The Search for Significance." The nice things about these classes is that, at 90 minutes per class and no service to attend afterwards, there's more of a relaxed feel for the whole thing. Granted, I suspect that all those folks who reserved their seat prior to a Compass Class might not notice much of a difference. But still.
I missed the first week this class was held, but the material does well in standing up on it's own. So even if you make sporadic attendance, you ought to do well. Not every class is based on a book study, though. Leo Tyler (probably one of the most dynamic and popular teachers at Lakewood) has a Healthy Souls class on Thursdays, for instance. If you feel like just sampling what's available, try just showing up on a Monday or Thursday at 7pm. The more longstanding Recovery Classes are also, apparently, still operational. I do like that they've added several of the book study classes, though. It makes it worthwhile to try and get in the habit of making it to church on either night just in case they start up a class on a book that I've actually read ... or just need a weak excuse to pick up. McGee's book is a close call. It's an appealling book, but strikes me as a too-close cousin of the uberpopular Rick Warren book, which I've already read.
Whenever I get home and relocate my pushcard of the newest classes offered, I'll update this post with a fuller listing. Then again, Choir practice is on Tuesday nights and if I manage to get out of work early, I may try and sneak a viewing of that into my schedule as well.
Monday Recovery Classes ....
Search for Significance [Room 3024]
Safe People [Room 3023]
Thursday Recovery Classes ....
Healthy Soul: Healthy Life Strategies [Room 2044 C&D]
Forgiveness 101 [Room 2029F]
DNA of Relationships [Room 2042]
The Dream Giver [Room 2028]
Captive No More [Room 3021]
All of these classes last 8 weeks (we're in week #2 right now), from 7:00 - 8:30pm. The Monday classes don't meet on Labor Day.
Any longtime Lakewood veterans looking to reminisce about the old place? The new owners of the old church are having a big conference there from Wednesday, August 30 to Friday, September 1. The capper of the whole event is a worship service on Friday night (7:30 to be precise) that will be recorded. Israel Houghton is among the performers. Others joining in will be CeCe Winans, Mary Alesi, & Myron Williams. Maybe I'm just scanning through the conference website a bit too quickly, but I don't seem to notice a pricetag for the event.
In a perfect world, Aimee Beard would just rework all of Kurt Carr's songs and repackage them as only she can. She's done excellent work with his songs before. This week's treat was "Something Happens" from Carr's One Church Project album. With all due apologies to the fine work that Kurt Carr does on his own material, I'm taking a bit of liberty to proudly display Aimee's rendition below. My connection got a few hiccups during the webcast, so it's not the complete song. There's a slight fade-out/fade-in about a minute and a half into the song. Altogether, this is about 2 and a half minutes worth of Aimee belting out another gem. Enjoy.
PS ... Oh, and someone sign this woman to a record deal!
Brandon over at YBBN has a great read on some spiritual insights gained from doing some promo work at the big American Idol tryout in San Antonio. If you've not seen coverage of these things, they're huge. Thousands of people line up in the hopes of their shot at the limelight of American television. And even if they don't make it that far, they might get a fifteen-nanoseconds of fame (or even a record contract, for that matter) via even the poorest of performances in the audition. Brandon lists 4 types of reactions on display among those coming out of the auditions upon being rejected by the judges. One in particular merits a good bit of attention:
American Idol Attitude #4 This isn't what I wanted, but I'm going to keep my eye on the prize and keep giving it all I've got." Ahhh. So refreshing. These people know they've got talent and they're not going to let one person's opinion dictate their future (or today's mood for that matter). A good amount of people dispalyed this attitude, but one remarkable indiviudual stands out in my mind. A man in his early thirties walked out, girlfriend and guitar in tow, with a big smile on his face. We asked him if he had been selected. "No." he said, "but that's alright." He chuckled and continued, "We had actually travelled here from Pasadena [the last AI audition]. I'll get 'em at the next one." This guy was ready to travel across the country to hit his third audition in seven days. Kudos to you, early thirties guy with a guitar. Nothing is going to get the best of you.
Brandon may be one a similar wavelength as I've been on after seeing the recent X Games through a different perspective. I've never mastered the strenuous demands necessary to skateboard. Granted, I'm of a generation that falls between the 70s exploration of the fad and the 90s revival of it. So who know what could have been. Be that as it may, I've always found skateboarding entertaining to watch. But upon watching the X Games on TV, I stopped just to watch Winter Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White do his thing indoors. And it's truly mesmerizing.
But what really got my attention was this simple observation: They fall down. Usually, quite a bit. These guys (and girls) will take several attempts to get that one or two magical runs executed that have all the look of a beautiful work of physical art.
But it gets better ... typically, when you see them fall down, there's a smile on their face. A very genuine one at that. As if there's a sense of exhiliration in trying to push your limits and almost getting there. There's a joy in trying. There's a joy in knowing that a few more tries and you may very well nail the move that proved your undoing.
That's such a remarkable change from what normally happens to us whenever we fall down or fail at something in our own, more gravity-bound lives. And yet, often, we let those failures eat away at us, preventing us from growing, from realizing that a few more tries might very well see us accomplish what it was we had our dreams set on earlier. If only we found it easier to sense that joy and exhiliration in knowing that you gave it your all and, with a little more to learn and practice, we'll eventually reach that goal
Anyways, that's about the most moving I think I ever recall the X Games being for me, personally. The scripture reference that Brandon ties into his own observation applies here as well:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
And just for good measure, a YouTube clip of Shaun White wiping out ...
The path to gold medals is full of a lot of such falls.
So my day gets off to a bad start ... I wake up late, I go and leave my notes from last night's service at home. So while there's no hope for an early recap of the sermon while it's still fresh on my mind, all is still well. There's a couple of points in Lisa's sermon on overcoming fear that I hope I can still capture somewhat faithfully to how they registered with me. We'll see.
But in a bit more bookstore browsing, I spent a bit of time on two books. I'm in danger of reading Bill Hybel's "Walk Across the Room" for free. But it's such a great read that I'll probably cave in regardless and get a copy. There's a section of chapter three that really hit home with me. So much so, that I had to write down a few paragraphs. I was hoping Amazon would bail me out by having the book scanned into their search engine. No luck there, either, it seems.
So about all I'm left with for immediate thoughts is that other book I picked up: Billy Graham's "The Journey". I have to confess that there's something about Graham's writing that usually leads me to pass them over. Not that it isn't good. Far from it. But my first glance through this book, I was just struck with a sense that it was a bit too elementary for what I felt I needed. The book is, in this sense, a very basic guide to many of the central Christian beliefs while being an admittedly great apologetic. That's great. But I've already read several books like that dating back to my own original early days of being born again.
But in looking at the book after reading the Newsweek article, I got a bit of a different reaction as I flipped through a chapter or two. In this light, the book is Graham's own closing arguments ... those things he's learned from roughly half a century leading people to Christ. Simple and basic, sure. But also worth stating for once and for all. In other words, I read it more as Billy Graham's own personal advice (albeit through ghostwriter), rather than just another Billy Graham Crusade speech put to the form of book. The words sank a bit deeper with this in mind and makes the book a far more refreshing read. Even though the words, the arguments, and the liturgical feel of the text echo words you may have heard from numerous days back, there's still something refreshing about reading them with a bit more perspective.
Anyways, more tonight. Koinonia this weekend should be great with Shauna & Kelli kicking the jams (acoustically, that is). Compass Class on Saturday has a wrap up on "Choosing God's Best." Got a question about the book? ... a comment? Come by at 6pm, then. Make a full evening of it.
Absolutely great read in this week's Newsweek on Billy Graham. While a fair chunk of the article dwells on differences between Graham and the likes of Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham, there's more than enough quality in the portions that cover Graham's move into a new season of his life:
On this particular night, Graham lay in the darkness, trying to recite the 23rd Psalm from memory. He begins: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ... " Then, for a moment, he loses the thread. "I missed a sequence, and that disturbed me," Graham recalls. It was frustrating—the man who has preached the Gospel to more human beings than anyone in history does not like to forget critical verses of the Bible—but in the end the last line comes back to him: "Surely thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Relieved, he drifts back to sleep.
Of course, to fully understand that point is to understand Graham's desire to keep God's word closer to his heart. Would that we all shared that strength of desire. Surprisingly well-done, I think is the way the writer portrays Graham's growing sense of mystery about several aspects of the Bible against the backdrop of this desire. While I'm not too big on reading articles such as this for affirmation of my own views, there's still something powerfully gripping about reading this and realizing "There! That's what it means to be questioning and critical while at the same time being devoted and growing in faith."
Graham's life, obviously, dealt with a lot of big events, important people, and tumultuous times. That, together with his evangelistic endurance helped make him the figure he is in American religious history. But at his simplest, he's just another guy with a testimony. Often, we tend to look at the conditions in the first part of that analysis and conclude that there's nothing we can accomplish that lands anywhere near in terms of import or significance. And maybe that keeps us from trying. But if we focus on the latter part of that analysis, that we are all believers with a testimony, then we can start to see ways in which we are just as important, if not moreso.
One of my favorite books at the Lakewood bookstore is by John Osteen's friend who led him to Christ. It's a simple, and short, tale of how leading one to Christ eventually led thousands more. But it's also an apt celebration of the fact that whether we're serving as lights to the world for our friends or for Presidents, we all have a significant place in the Body of Christ.
Among the more interesting aspects of the article is that Billy Graham is portrayed now as less interested in the political than he used to be. Instead, he's focused more on heaven. And yet his views of what's important are still relevant no matter where we view that intersection of faith and politics:
As his days dwindle, the man whose heyday was consumed with preaching and with presidents is increasingly reflective. In interviews with NEWSWEEK in recent months, Graham has made it clear that partisan politics and the culture wars feel far away. He will not offer opinions on stem-cell research, for instance, and he has stopped giving political counsel to the powerful, a habit that began with Eisenhower. He was tempted to call President George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war to advise him on the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, but decided against it.
You can see more from a mountain, and from the perspective of years. Graham believes both the right and the left in America have sometimes gone too far, elevating transitory issues when, in Graham's view, the core message of the Gospel, and the love of God "for all people" should take priority: "The older I get, the more important the eternal becomes to me personally." His mind is on the heavenly more than the temporal, on the central promises of Christianity more than on the passing political parade.
Credit where credit is due, that's also just good writing by Newsweek writer, Jon Meacham. But the central truth of that point remains whether we're in our final seasons of, or in the prime, of life.
There's something of a tangent offered in this article to Franklin's seeming successors. Meachem refers to a meeting between Graham and Jerry Falwell where Falwell elaborates on the difference in their minisitry - Graham's being an evangelism that requires him to be more inclusive, Falwell's being a pastor that requires him to be more to "confront the culture." In it's simple essence, I don't argue much with that. Where I do find problems, however, is in the belief that "confronting the culture" diminishes or takes precedence over the role of strengthening personal relationships with Christ.
Admittedly, I don't share Falwell's politics. But I don't deny his passion for growing the kingdom of God as he feels his calling warrants. There was a time when his approach was ascendant among churchgoing Christians. As it stands now, that ascendancy belongs to those who realize the inherent difficulty of showing love for everyone while condemning others. There's also a matter of relevance that I argue evaporates when we assume that what the congregation needs to hear are fiery discourses on a few hotbutton issues rather than a way for people to live their life like Christ.
I'm reminded of one of my favorite Marcos Witt sermons: "How to Scam-proof Your Life." The message centered on the fact that the best way to know a lie isn't to study each lie in great detail, so much as it is to merely know the truth first and foremost. There's truth to this in both a secular and spiritual realm. I usually offer an example from work, where a manager of mine asked me to help figure out why he was getting these emails from PayPal and why, upon signing on, he'd get money stolen from his account. I told him I didn't even have to see the emails he'd gotten. I'd seen them as well in my own inbox. But I immediately knew the problem with them - not by knowing what's wrong with them, so much as knowing the truth about what it is this company DOES send out for the nature of information they're gathering. There can be a thousand lies to explore in this manner, but if I know the one truth, my task is much simpler and following the truth is so much easier. Too often, we'll see a whole series by a church offering to tell us why homosexuality is bad, why abortion is bad, why pornography is bad, why smoking is bad, why drinking is bad, etc. The list goes on. But in the course of it all, wouldn't it have just been better to know the one truth rather than the thousands of lies? Besides, with the exception of maybe a beer or two in any given month, I don't worry about doing any of those other things. Watching a 60-yr old pastor preach to 70-yr olds on the evils of abortion don't strike me as incredibly relevant to the lives of those 70-yr olds. Maybe in the course of Graham's life, he was more aware of this so-called modern topic of "relevance" than we've realized.
Another contrast is drawn with Graham's son, Franklin. There are some obvious issues that both parallel Billy's earlier years and now stand in contrast to the more conciliatory father. But what really stood out for me was this statement:
It's not the calling of my life to preach against Islam. You're a reporter; you ask me, and I answer the question. I don't go on television or into stadiums and make Islam or gay marriage or the right to life my theme. But in the work that I do I come up against belief systems all over the world."
Far be it for me to nitpick singlular quotes as a statement of one's errancy of mission. Lord knows (as do the rest of us) that Joel Osteen gets enough of that. But this isn't a theological quibble just so much as a question of focus. Isn't our ministry woven throughout the entirety of our lives? Isn't the biggest, most important ministry we can offer the world is how we live our lives? ... how we conduct ourselves even when the spotlight is off of us? Franklin Graham may not hit the stage to preach on the evils of Islam. But if he's to show Christ's love to those who currently practice it, his words to reporters matter just as much, if not moreso.
Again, I don't offer that as a "gotchya!" media moment. I think Franklin has the best example to grow in this regard - his dad. And like his dad, I think there will be a point where he realizes those moments he overreached and apologize in a way that furthers his outreach to people of the Islamic faith. I understand the basic point that drives Franklin's statements, but I do pray that he aligns his spotlight ministry with his non-spotlight ministry.
Another point that I think deserves to be permantly etched into the memory of folks who desire to see a certain answer to that perpetual question of "Who goes to heaven?" is this by Graham:
A unifying theme of Graham's new thinking is humility. He is sure and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation. When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have." Such an ecumenical spirit may upset some Christian hard-liners, but in Graham's view, only God knows who is going to be saved: "As an evangelist for more than six decades, Mr. Graham has faithfully proclaimed the Bible's Gospel message that Jesus is the only way to Heaven," says Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross. "However, salvation is the work of Almighty God, and only he knows what is in each human heart."
And with that ... Amen!
Just in case anyone stumbles in from Jerry's email, the post referencing the casting call for writers and whatnot is located here. Much obliged to Jerry for passing on word and any/all interested in growing this fair blog a bit.
From the televised sermon: "Controlling Your Moods" ....
Another important key to not living our lives moody is we have to learn to be realistic and not idealistic. Idealistic means that we think everything is going to always go our way. Everybody's going to treat me right today. Every freeway is going to be traffic free. I'm going to get out of this parking lot tonight in five minutes. No, that's not realistic. Even Jesus said "In life we will have difficulty." I know people that are so idealistic, that they set themselves up for disappointment.
And I'm all for expecting good things. I'm all for expecting the best. But the reality is we live in an imperfect world, with imperfect people. And there are going to be things that don't go our way. Sometimes simply so God can test us. Sometimes so our character can be developed. If you're expecting your children to always be perfect. Your spouse to never hurt you and that every break go your way, then you're setting yourself up for disappointment. A better way to live is to say "God, here are my plans for today. I'm submitting them to you believing for the best. But whatever does or doesn't happen, God my trust is in you. And I believe that because I keep my trust in you you've already promised that you'll cause all things to work together for my good."
When you have that kind of attitude, even if your plans don't work out, even if you go through some dissappointments, you don't have to be frustrated. you know that God has you in the palm of your hands. You know in those tough times your character is being developed. You're growing. So you can stay consistent and enjoy that day anyway. But don't set yourself up for disappoinment by expecting everything to always go perfect.
For some reason, this jumps out more at me this time than it had before. But I think it speaks directly to those who would suggest something less of Joel's ministry. But I guess this is just one of those sermons they choose not to hear.
This actually ties in a bit to the section covered in Koinonia by John Maxwell. The chapter was on "The Approachability Principle." The point of it is that, by making ourselves approachable, we help others become more at ease with us. Think about it. If you don't know how your boss is going to react to bad news, are you more or less inclined to approach him with it? If your friend has wildly differing reactions to certain topics, does that make you more or less likely to bring them up in conversation?
There's a section of this principle in which Maxwell notes that one way we help make ourselves more approachable is to delay our emotions, maintaining a consistency in mood. That set off a bit of discussion after the video at our table (abley led by FBB commentor and my good friend Dale). I think there's some inherent difficulty in grasping this point, though. After all, didn't Maxwell have another principle in this same book that spoke to the need to confront people ASAP whenever conflict arises? But to the degree that this principles get confused, I think it's that we confuse our reaction with our emotions. They're not the same.
Emotions are best formed gradually. I've never been one to make a great deal out of first impressions, despite everyone saying how important they are (and, really, they are). Part of that is because I've been through enough moments in life that I've been grateful to have a second chance at making a good impression. But there are moments where something or someone rubs you the wrong way far more quickly than you'd like it to. When that happens, however, I can address the situation or person involved far better if I keep an even keel. That's different from my emotions, which may as well be to strangle someone. But I may learn something in the course of addressing the situation that gives more background to it then I had before. So what's the point of letting off a hotheaded emotion if there's a reasonably good chance that it's not fully formed by fact? It doesn't do me any good ... I'm not sure how it really does anyone else any good either. That's not to suggest you should store up everything and never let it out. But it is to suggest that you should go with a fully-formed emotion moreso than one that doesn't have enough information behind it.
Two totally different articles in the daily print run, so for whatever reason I thought I'd lump them together despite their disparate topics.
Up first, a comedic entry on Christian dating. Since this fits with the latest Compass Class topic, I'm just adding it for a laugh. There's not any real depth to the column, so take it for what it's worth. But our writer, assuming there's some truth to this tale, happened to get lured into something of a dating relationship via a church mixer. What sparked the column's thesis was that the relationship didn't pan out, that neither party was a believer in the church, and that one was a member of the choir with the other getting lured into church committee work.
So much here that it ought to make you either cry tears of laughter or make you mourn the fate of 20-somethings in America. Amy Balfour, the writer, is a humor writer, though, so I'm sticking with laughter for now. But a lot of the concepts mentioned here have a way of staying a bit too close to the accepted conventional wisdom, so they do deserve a bit of critical treatment:
Now, 10 months and several dates later, I'm here to tell you that adding a church, synagogue or other place of worship to your dating territory can be fraught with spiritual and moral dangers never contemplated by Match.com or Dr. Phil.
Let's start with the Ten Commandments. These tablet-borne rules probably get broken regularly on the L.A. dating scene, but breaking God's rules during a relationship seems a bit more troublesome when God himself played a part in its formation.
That last sentence is a bit bothersome. God may have had a "part" in guiding someone to create a safe environment for Christian singles to meet. But that doesn't mean that He had a part in someone who, as it turns out isn't a believer to ask another non-believer to attend it. In fact, it's not uncommon that you'll see efforts designed to create despair, doubt, and anger at situations that seem to derive from God. Well ... guess what. That's not from God. But I suppose spiritual warfare doesn't play as well for comedy writers.
Finally, there's the issue of the break-up. When most relationships end, the participants avoid places the ex might be spotted. But what if that place is church? If you skip church, are you rejecting God? Destroying your chance for heaven to avoid a moment of social awkwardness?
"Uh, Lord our God? I'm not rejecting you per se, just Herbert here. I didn't really agree with his politics, and he wears unfortunate T-shirts and, well … I'll just put $10 more in the plate next time. Cool?"
Funny, to be sure. And I can relate to an extent: when you end a relationship, there is a tendency to put some distance between yourself and any visual or physical reminders. But, last I checked, God has led and guided many great churches (big and small) in most every town (small and big). Also, it's worth asking yourself if a relationship's dissolution is truly an indication that you should find another church ... or if there's not something you should work on within yourself, or possibly sympathize with on behalf of the other party involved.
Reading this, I did have a bit of a reaction spawned from reading Raunikar's "Choosing God's Best." One of the central concepts of the book is that God has no plans for us that involve harm ... and since dating can be harmful, it is therefore not a Godly construct. That's a bit of an oversimplification, I grant. But not much of one. My problem with it, however, is that God doesn't want us to simply avoid every situation that involed pain, rejection, or even defeat. I mean, if I fall down, that hurts. But it doesn't mean God wants me to avoid working in a multistory office building. If a friend lies to me, that hurts. But it doesn't mean that friendship isn't a Godly concept.
As a result, I've been less-than-convinced that Raunikar's prescription of replacing "dating" with "courtship" is a universal answer to anything. It may very well be a great solution for two people that believe it to be the most God-inspired approach to developing their relationship. But dating, while fraught with more than enough peril, isn't the problem.
There's a natural course of relationships where you learn more and more about someone. You see them in different settings and situations that invite new and sometimes wildly differing views of the other person than you may have had prior. You may simply discover that a particular relationship isn't for you as a result of that process. Or you may find it by any number of harder, more painful, ways. But that doesn't mean that "dating" is the enemy. It means that the fruits of our sinful nature are the problem. If we lie, then dishonesty is the problem. Not the fact that someone "dates" a dishonest person.
The net result of this is that, while the author attempts to paint a humorous example that I'm sure a good number of people can relate to, I think there's an inverse effect that does a bit more harm than the laughter does good.
The other story that raised an eyebrow this morning is out of Hartford, Connecticut. Turns out that Steve Bunnell, an award-winning newscaster, is leaving the set of his TV News outlet and going into ministry. I'll leave the recap for this one brief, but the biggest thing I get from this is a great reminder of how errant our stereotypes can often be. That's a fairly universal lesson, but in this case it applies mostly toward Bunnell's profession and politics.
Bunnell fiercely believes in the Fourth Estate's watchdog role, reads the U.S. News & World Report regularly and New York Times online. He watches PBS and jokes about the "fair and balanced" reporting on Fox news.
If stereotypes were true, he could be the poster boy for the liberal press.
Except for his faith.
As an evangelical Christian, he believes in the urgency of saving souls in this fallen world -nonbelievers being doomed to Hell, a real and everlasting conscious punishment.
In evangelical thinking, one is spared this fate or saved through Jesus Christ and personal conversion, enriched by the study of a Bible believed without errors.
As one among the saved, Bunnell prays daily and studies the Bible constantly, accessing it on his Palm Pilot. To prepare for his new profession, he listens to sermons on his iPod while running and on his computer at work. A longtime fan of Christian music, he is married to Shirley Bunnell, a well-known Christian singer/songwriter and recording artist.
If religious stereotypes held, Bunnell should be an advocate for the religious right.
Except for his politics.
I tend to relate to Bunnell's story in a few ways, but what made him snap to the realization that his calling might be in ministry is even more gratifying to read:
"In the past, it's always been Shirley the singer and Steve the TV news anchor. That's how we've always been known," she explains. "What comes next is going to feel very different, but we're ready. We've prayed for this."
The story behind their move is filled with personal epiphanies.
Among these was Bunnell's reading John Eldridge's best-seller "Wild at Heart," which asks Christian men the question: What makes you come alive? This was followed by the Bunnells' January mission trip to Nicaragua, where they ran a vacation Bible school for children and Steve delivered several sermons. It was then, he "came alive," for the first time in a long time and felt he was making a difference that mattered.
This experience led to a job offer from Jeff Miles, pastor of Touchstone Christian Fellowship, a new church Miles established with Bunnell's encouragement, prayers, and support. Bunnell and Miles have been friends for years, their families as well. In a sense, the move to Sacramento is also a move home.
Will he bring his politics home as well?
Not at Touchstone, he says. "One of the things Jeff and I care about most is keeping politics the heck out of the church.
"We're not about that. We're about the Great Commission, which is spreading the gospel: the good news that God loves you so much, even though you are a sinner ... that he sent his only son to die for you."
It's not difficult to read Eldredge's books and realize how close to the truth he gets about the motivating factors in men's lives. Reading his work has been eye-opening and liberating all at once. Similarly, I'm heartened to see that one of the strong points about Lakewood is becoming more common. I think there's been a fair number of churches out there that realize the personal nature of a relationship with Christ being far more important than the stereotype that all churchgoers are de facto members of the religious right. But the way to combat that stereotype is not to build a countervailing stereotype ... it's to simply let others know about the presence of those among us who don't fit the stereotype.
Of course, while we're at it, building that relationship with Christ on a daily basis comes in awfully handy as well.
I'll admit right now that I have a Google Earth addiction. I've got all my usual haunts around town placemarked and I use it for seemingly everything commuter-related. But I thought I'd put a bit of historical record up here since the map imagery they have of Houston is still prior to most of the construction done at Lakewood. Essentially what you see here is the Summit formation. Eventually, they'll get new maps and replace this, so for now, I present "Before."
Of course, what originally sent me on this tangent was trying to find Hillsong in Australia. For once, the search feature didn't help any, but the Google Community placemarks came through:
One of the drawbacks/benefits/bugs/features of being a professional tech geek is having to test and play with new toys. So I get a kick to install the MovableType plugin Scripturizer. I'm not sure how I've ever lived without it now.
To the less-than-geeky/normals among the readership, it means I don't have to go fetch a link to apply to Bible references. I just type in a book & verse and the program automatcally alters it into a link.
Just for my own amusement and testing ...
Things that you notice from browsing at the bookstore for too long:
Given the proximity in the authors' names, it was only a matter of time before someone noticed this a mere shelf apart from each other.
One cruel fate from the worship service, however, is that the addictive number that Darlene unleashed on us isn't available yet. "The Freedom We Know" is set to be released on Hillsong's Mighty to Save CD, which comes out September 5. ... with a little luck, Cindy Ratcliff will work the song into heavy rotation here at Lakewood (hint, hint).
... and receive!
Well, well ... wasn't that timely? Second song into the set, there we were (actually, we knew it was coming since they rehearsed it prior to service). As luck would have it, the crowd reaction seemed to indicate that I'm not alone in thinking this oughta get more run.
Anyways, the rest of the service was wonderful as well. I can get used to the drama team doing some work on Wednesday services ... it seems like we see them a bit less on Saturday nights at Koinonia. Paul's sermon was on "Winning Over the Critical Voice Within." Somehow for a church that allegedly doesn't mention the word Satan, that name sure came up a lot. I may or may not have a whole lot to add whenever time permits. For now, it's late, I'm tired, and there's a whole lotta work to get done at the office.
In other news, the monthly pick for book material has gone poorly. I did manage to sift through all the initial selections I had, but nothing really grabbed my interest. Adding to that, I felt that most of them were a bit more nebulous than my current tangent of interest was calling for. Fortunately, Bill Hybels has a new book out: "Just Walk Across the Room." I had a little bit of time to flip through a chapter or so and this one really hit the target with me. The workload has ground my reading time to a trickle, so I've still got a whole John Maxwell book to finish. I'm thinking I'll just finish that one and call it an August, making Hybel's book my September selection. With a bit of effort, I may have a few reflections from Andy Stanley's "Visioneering" to post soon.
Interesting column from an Arkansas paper by Bob Haynes, who just happened upon the televised version of Joel's sermon "The Power of Remembering." Great reading ... just read the whole thing.
A little bit of navel-gazing if I may. One of the recent things with regard to this blog that I'm a little bit proud of as of late is that there's a huge upswing in web traffic this way. Now, for us geeks, we're well aware that when we see stats for a website, there's a lot of automated & spam traffic that accounts for that. But in parsing a few different sites of mine, I'm of the opinion that that's less true here than elsewhere.
There was a traffic spike in January that happened on the heels of the infamous Osteen Christmas de-boarding story. Sometimes news like that will put a spike in activity. But as it stands, traffic here is now double what it was in that month. In fact, traffic has nearly doubled in the last three months. In the big scheme of things, this is still a fairly well-kept secret of a site. And that's fine since I don't pretend it to be anything bigger. In one sense, the blog is an outlet for me to reflect and think about activities that I take part in at Lakewood Church. If a huge number of people were interested in that, I'd worry. But on the other hand, there's a side of the blog that tends to be a bit more universal in appeal, when I pore over a book or Bible study that, I'm sure a few other believers out there are interested in.
But my point here isn't to brag on myself. What I might like a bit more is an email or comment about who some of you are, why you drop by, what type of information you like/dislike about the site (the more constructive the better), and whether you're a Lakewood member or not (we love ya either way, though). Or just feel free to drop a line saying "hi" if only for the purpose of introduction.
I'd also like to think there might be a Lakewood reader or two (or more) that might like to take up blogging as well. If you've not blogged, but have an itch to write, think and pray about it. You don't have to know any tech stuff ... just how to type. It's literally as simple as that.
There's a lot more of Lakewood to offer to the outside world, and ultimately it's my hope that a few folks out there either find a new/better relationship with Christ because of this site ... as well as find a church home that they experience renewed growth in (be it Lakewood or elsewhere). And for the inhouse community of Lakewood members, I'd love nothing more than to have some more diversity of coverage on this or another blog. Think about it ... blogging updates from the music ministry, any or all of the youth groups, some of the other Compass Class groups, or maybe even a 'Tales from the Usher'. The possibilities are endless. If you think you might be willing and able to offer a few thoughts here and there (or, more specifically, at least once every week or two), drop me a line.
Just for a bit of historical record, though ...
Unique Visitors in July: 2182
Number of Visits: 3929
Search terms that seem to find this site:
(though, curiously, one day's worth of stats for August have "the significant church" leading this list)
Sites other than mine that tend to link here:
(*) Brandon's site rocks, for those who don't know. I've only recently discovered the links from RelevantMessage.org. Not sure where the links are coming from there, but it's another cool site with a heavy interest in Christian books, so I'll have to bookmark that one.
A few weeks back, I decided to pick up a few of the little tracts for sale around the bookstore. One of them was Joel's "Living the Joy-filled Life." I've only just now gotten around to perusing them - there's just something about me that refuses to accept anything under 150 pages as worthwhile reading, so I'm not sure how to explain the sudden curiosity. Anyways, the first step mentioned was "slow down" ... in other words, don't miss the joy of today in living for tomorrow. Two things from this jumped out at me:
Maybe you're living in anticipation of a big moment that you believe will make all the difference for you. Let me encourage you to not be deceived by the hope of mighty exploits. Start enjoying every single day of your life right now. It's certainly great to dream big dreams ... to have big goals. But most of life is very routine, and there is joy in the routine! The psalmist said it this way: "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)
Rejoice today - not tomorrow! Now - not later!
Remember, there will always be another dream to dream. If all your dreams were to come true today, God would soon birth a new dream, a new vision, for you to pursue. That's the way He is. And the sooner we learn to slow down and enjoy every single day of life - whether it's sunny or rainy, exciting or boring, stretching or satisfying - the more satisfied and fulfilled we will be.
That more or less runs counter to what I think is a common stereotype of Joel's ministry - that we're all sitting around just praying to get rich here at Lakewood, and that if we just believe hard enough, we will be rich. In fact, one of my favorite sermons that I continually replay is "Staying on the Potter's Wheel." The central point of it was to realize that we have a purpose for being in whatever situation it is - good or bad. And it's up to us to realize that God is working on us in those difficult times. If we allow the tough times to defeat us, they don't merely affect us in those situations. They have a way of taking away from us the positive, uplifting times as well.
The other item that sticks with me from this portion of the booklet has to do with the material we've been covering in Compass Class on single life.
Maybe you're single today and praying for God to bring the right person into your life. That's great! I encourage you to continue to pray, believing for God's best. but as you do, let me challenge you to enjoy every moment of your single life. This time will not come again. The same thing is true if you are a married couple longinf ro children, or a man or woman working two jobs to make ends meet. Don't get so caught up in the hopes of tomorrow that you forget to enjoy today!
That's pretty close to the message Tony Evans has in his book, in fact. Enjoy what you do have, rather than worrying & bemoaning what you don't have. Not a whole lot to expand on this one, but I just had to marvel at the distillation of the point that we've been spending a good deal of time on in Compass Classes.
Speaking of which, I happened to take in another rare Sunday Compass Class this past weekend. It's always interesting to see how the other half lives. They seemed to be covering the same topic we were, just not based on the same book selection (in fact, Doyle didn't reference a particular book, so I'm guessing they may not have used one at all). Still, Doyle's a great teacher and as dog-tired as I was about that time Sunday, there's no way I could be found dozing off as Doyle worked the crowd. Next week, it's back to my more familiar Saturday night group, though. I'm suddenly reminded that a week without is too long.
- Thursday YouTubing: "EvE Harmony"
- Sept. 17 ... No More Sleeping Late on Sundays?
- YouTube Tuesday: "Baby Got Book"
- Michael Sweet: "Him"
- Rebuilding That Temple ...
- Coming Up Higher Through Obedience
- Single & Satisfied (and Praising)
- Heath Rosborough In Review: "Clarity in Heaven"
- Wednesday Feedback
- Footprints 2.0
- Music Alert: Don't Say You Weren't Tipped Off
- Frank's Back from New Orleans ....
- Being Missional and Hungry