Tuesday, February 28, 2006
From Amy's blog:
Hi, This is Crystal's husband Scott (aka Emily's Dad). I can't tell you how much this means to us. It's so wonderful to see the Church in action the way God intended for it to be. Tomorrow is going to be a pretty tough day for us, but with Him and all of you we'll make it through.
Crystal will be at the hospital for the next three days and I'll be there as much as I'm allowed and as much as the baby will let us be. I promise I will update Crystal's blog with news before I go to bed tomorrow night. It may be very late at night and since our day is starting a 4:30 am it may be very incoherent, but I will post something to let you all know what is going on.
One last thing, I know you are all praying for Emily and I appreciate that more than I can say. But I was wondering if every once in a while you could just mention Crystal as well. As brave and courageous as she has been through all of this, she is still scared to death for her little girl.
Wow. Everything you guys have done is amazing. Big thanks to Amy for organizing all this and to all of you who have committed a portion of your day to pray on our behalf. Truly amazing, and so undeserved.
We're humbled and we feel blessed.
Monday, February 27, 2006
- David Crowder cracked me up.
- Gordon MacDonald made me feel like a great big tulip. And I cried.
- Bo cracked me up.
- Jack Groppel fit about three days worth of seminars into an hour, and it felt like it. I can't stop thinking about sugar and oxygen and pyramids and wells and boars and fences. I'll have to unpack all that later.
- Jarett attempted to play 800 records in 30 minutes as the pre-show dj.
- Darren "Phillip J. Fry" Whitehead reprised his role from last years conference as giant party pooper with the 'don't jump in the balconies or you'll all be pancakes' speach. Hmph. How will we know what the balconies can take if we never get to go bonkers up there?
- Half a dozen crazy Gomers some how managed, through sheer persistence, to get 7000 people to do the wave.
- Third Day, in American Idol parlance, "worked it out, dawg!"
Here are a couple of my favorite bits from Hemant's last report:
The band that I watched was, like the others, great. Though some of the lyrics were questionable: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. it may be the devil; it may be the lord.” Really? So, you’re either with them or you’re evil? That whole mentality is why religion has such negative connotations in my Atheist community. And I realize it’s just a song, but the message stuck out at me because I’m not serving the lord… so what does that make me? Not welcome, that’s for sure… at least not initially. But it got much better later.
I’ve also noticed another change. Whenever I used to think of a church, I thought of a boring place that people never looked forward to going to… you’d have to wake up early, put on dressy clothes, listen to a boring sermon… that’s not happening at the places I’ve been to. Is that a recent change? People (and kids) never seem to be complaining, and I can understand why. It’s not such a bad place to be.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
After Promiseland Steph and I went down to the auditorium to help get things ready. Since I quit stage managing at Impact a couple years ago my production expertise has shriveled down to hitting the space bar on Steph's Powerpoint presentations. That doesn't make me much of an asset in "the largest legitimate theater in North America." I was able to test some batteries and hold a flashlight while Justin and Patrick taped down chords. So, hypothetically, if Mac Powell doesn't trip on a cable during the concert tomorrow it might be because of my steady and capable use of a flashlight. All glory be to God (imagine me pointing heavenward.)
Tomorrow, in these chairs, there are going to be loads of hard working men and women who love teens and twenty-somethings deeply. If you think of it, please remember to pray that they have safe travels, come with open hearts, are provided with many oppurtunities to worship God, and receive love and service from our staff and volunteers. Oh yeah, and that they have some fun!
Thanks to Meyer Sound for the photo.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Dear Enews Friends,
What a difference a week can make! Last Monday the American Consulate in Bern, Switzerland added a significant number of pages to my passport, and later on that day I was flying 11 hours to Capetown, South Africa for two days of mentoring sessions with our key WCA pastors in that area. In both Capetown and Johannesburg, I enjoyed the assistance of an African American WCA pastor friend of mine named Bishop Ken Ulmer from Los Angeles. The two of us sat side-by-side on the platform in each city, answering the steady flow of questions that came from the African pastors. The questions from some of these pastors were difficult to hear: “How can we try to build a youth ministry when we bury four of our students every week due to AIDS?”. Or "how can we train our leaders and volunteers when we cannot afford to buy the books or the training manuals we need?” Both Ken and I found ourselves fresh out of answers several times during our time there.
I was able to meet with 5 or 6 of our AIDS ministry partners while I was there. The work they are doing would astound you! One of our partners is located near a hospital that is so overcrowded that when an AIDS patient is deemed terminally ill, the hospital staff wait until the cover of darkness and then secretly drag the dying patient to the back of a dark parking lot, or into a forest, or even to a garbage heap and dump the body. They return to the hospital without saying anything to anyone. The hospital staff simply needs to open up some beds for the next day's wave of diseased people.
One of our WCA churches near that hospital asked Willow for grant monies from our AIDS/Global Poverty Fund in order to build a small sleeping facility with 24 beds in it. Willow provided the funds and the building was built. Now the volunteers of the church go out every night and intercept the hospital staff who are dragging dying bodies to the trash heap and gently take them to the AIDS hospice building where they are laid on a bed with clean sheets, and are cared for by church volunteers with love and dignity until their final breath! I am told that many of these gravely ill people place their trust in Christ during their final hours.
To join the eNews mailing list go to this link and look for eNews in the left hand column.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Psychiatrist William Frey spent years studying the dramatic impact that laughter, humor, and joy have on our lives. He found that joy increases our pulse rate, blood circulation, and oxygenation. Joy causes remarkable relaxation. Frey discovered, "Humor banishes the tightness and the severity necessary for anger. If mirth is experienced, rage is impossible."
So here's to a rage free day!
If "Fashionable Dude" doesn't do it for you check out this link for more fun stuff.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
South Dakota lawmakers yesterday approved the nation's most far-reaching ban on abortion, setting the stage for new legal challenges that its supporters say they hope lead to an overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The measure, which passed the state Senate 23 to 12, makes it a felony for doctors to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman. The proposal still must be signed by Gov. Mike Rounds (R), who opposes abortion.
The bill was designed to challenge the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe, which in 1973 recognized a right of women to terminate pregnancies. Its sponsors want to force a reexamination of the ruling by the court, which now includes two justices appointed by President Bush.
Not all [Pro-Life] groups agreed with the South Dakota supporters' effort to directly challenge Roe.
"If you're just reading the law as it stands now, South Dakota's law doesn't really stand any chance under Roe or Casey. I have to agree with those who think it's remote," said Chuck Donovan, executive vice president of the Family Research Council and a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee.
He said there is not a consensus for a national approach to finding a way to overturn Roe. "There are lots of voices out there and nobody has a single strategy, so South Dakota has stepped in to fill that void," Donovan said.
Still, some abortion opponents are more confident than they have ever been that Roe could be overturned with two new conservative members of the high court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. Roberts has not publicly expressed his view on abortion rights. Alito opposed Roe as a young Reagan administration lawyer and had a mixed record on abortion rights while a federal appeals court judge.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether a federal law banning a procedure that opponents call "partial birth" abortion is constitutional. The law passed Congress in 2003 but has been struck down by three federal appeals courts and has yet to take effect.
The partial-birth abortion case should come before the Supreme Court in the fall. I haven't yet heard any specualtion as to when this South Dakota case might make it to the Supreme Court.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Crossing the Divide: Even in the church, race divides more than it unites. Here's how to build a bridge.
The article features this handy sidebar:
5 Ways to Bridge the Gap
If you're not quite ready to sell your house and move to a new neighborhood in the name of racial reconciliation, there are still intentional steps your family can take. Bibbs, Emerson, and Pitts offer these practical suggestions:
- Pray. Pray for God's guidance in how you need to actively participate in bridging the social divides in our country—and the church.
- Expand. Access your circle of influence. How many people of different ethnic backgrounds do you have a close relationship with today?
- Go. Visit a church whose members are racially different from you. If you go with a group, spread out and mingle.
- Welcome. Invite acquaintances of a different race into your home for dinner or a small group. Let your children participate in these relationships.
- Connect. If you attend a suburban or rural church, encourage your church leaders to partner with urban churches in ministry and fellowship. If you attend an urban church, encourage your leaders to connect with suburban or rural congregations.
I especially like the part about including your children. Dialogue among adults is all well and good, but the kind of insidious segregation we have today will never end as long as our children spend their formidable years isolated from people different from them.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Why has every one of us had this experience? Because it is human nature. By pretending that chronic illnesses come to those who deserve them (sinners, smokers, drinkers, the physically unfit, etc.) or can be healed if people just do what they are supposed to do (pray more, eat right, exercise) a healthy person can maintain the illusion that they will never be in the same unhappy predicament. It has the added appeal of minimizing the need for a compassionate personal response.
Because this is a matter of human nature and not mere ignorance it is a problem that is never going to go away. So how should we respond? Lisa Copen has some tips that I have found very useful in her excellent article, Why Can't I Make People Understand?
Friday, February 17, 2006
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Create your own! Warning: this thing can be really slow!
Here's my version of Steph:
Here's my version of Crystal:
And here's Daddy:
This is Noah's of himself:
Friday, February 10, 2006
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Last night Hemant visited Willow. His entire report on the experience can be found at the eBay atheist blog.
I’ll admit that if I were to convert, it would have to be at a place like this. They drew me in, and I’m not even a believer. They discarded the numerous rituals I expect to see at other churches. The sermon was interesting, and the activities that they hold would certainly be entertaining (e.g. A lecture called “Who’s Your Daddy? Adam or Ape?”) However, the whole idea that a church of this size would be promoting Intelligent Design and non-scientific theories about the Earth’s origins scares me. Because if they’re doing it, the other megachurches are doing it. And if they’re all doing it, they’re rallying an army of millions of people who don’t know how science works against the precious minority who do. Frightening.
What is Off the Map up to?
I have been asked numerous times if our “real” (meaning hidden) agenda was to convert Hemant to become a Christian. I said no. That is not why we are employing him. We are employing Hemant to gather information that will help us convert Christians from being disrespectful, unkind, arronagant, and abnormal people and turn them into good listeners who are genuinely interested in hearing another persons point of view.
It was expected to be a race between Kanye West and Mariah Carey Wednesday at the 48th annual Grammy Awards, but in the end U2 rolled to its biggest night yet.The rock veterans won five awards, including song of the year (which honors songwriting) for "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" and the coveted album of the year for "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb."
Between this year and last, u2 has won 8 Grammys for their work on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb!
Sandy Cohen reports:
Grammy night belonged to U2, but Bono and the boys recalled that hasn't always been the case.
“We've been here and lost on some of our most important albums. We've been at the other end of this, too,” the U2 frontman recalled after the group walked away with five awards on Wednesday, including the coveted album of the year trophy for “How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.”
Bono noted the group was particularly disappointed that its 1991 album, “Achtung Baby” didn't fare better. Drummer Larry Mullen said the reaction to 1997's “Pop” was another disappointment.
“After the 'Pop' record, things like this actually mean something,” he said.
U2 now has 20 Grammys and counting, and guitarist The Edge was asked if that certifies the group as the greatest band in the world.
“I think we are tonight,” he replied.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Monday, February 06, 2006
The CBS local news did a story tonight on area megachurches, including Salem Baptist, Harvest Bible Chapel, New Life and Willow Creek.
The story itself was not very insightful (at one point Mora intones "they call them min-ist-ries") but the extended interviews with Bill Hybels and James Meeks (pastor of Salem Baptist and one of the speakers at this years Leadership Summit) are worth checking out.
A couple of my favorite parts (paraphrased):
Mora asks this strange question: "What you do - are there greater similarities to a Falwell, a Graham, a Meeks, an Osteen, or more differences?" I would've been flabbergasted by that question but Bill didn't miss a beat, "When people ask me what we teach, I tell them we teach the same thing Billy Graham has taught for 50 years. Now stylistically we would compare one way or the other, because methodology changes over the decades."
Another interesting moment was when Mora tried to get Meeks, who pastors an inner city church, to speak out against Osteen and prosperity gospel. Meeks response was that God is not against people having wealth, He is against people having wealth and not using it to do God's work. "To whom much is given much is expected. " Those who are more focused on materialism eventually come back to the truth because material things don't satisfy the way a right relationship with God does. If there are people in a church who are off balance, they'll come back into balance, they have to.
As usual, as soon as I post them here I can see some things that need to be fixed - something about shrinking them so you see the entire picture at once always does that. Mr. Wertheimer's right jaw line needs to come in at more of an angle because his chin is supposed to be tucked in. And with the other one, I tried to widen her neck and then forgot to go back in and put the folds of her collar back in.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
The surprises don't stop there.
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
The study debunks many myths about supersized congregations. The vast majority, it turns out, are not politically active. Nor are they homogenous: On average, 19 percent of the congregation is a nonmajority group; 56 percent of churches are making efforts to be racially inclusive.
They are not mostly independent churches; two-thirds are affiliated with denominations. And they are part of a broader trend found in other research: a growing concentration of worshipers in the largest churches.
"Something is happening that is leading more and more people to shift from smaller to bigger congregations within all denominations, liberal and conservative," says Mark Chaves of the University of Arizona. His research shows, for example, that 15 percent of Southern Baptists attend the largest 1 percent of their churches.
What's the appeal of large churches? Commentators' favorite explanation has long been a baby-boomer desire for anonymity. People close to the scene say that may have been true 25 years ago, but not today. They see a cultural shift in which people are comfortable in big institutions. Yet most compelling, they suggest, is the expectation of quality.
"Today people demand quality, even if it's subconscious," says David Travis of Leadership Network, a church consultant group. "They find quality almost everywhere else in their lives and expect it in all venues - music, visuals, preaching, written communications."
The cost of running churches has increased, and it's increasingly difficult for small churches to deliver that level of quality, Dr. Chaves says.
The founder in 1992 of a new church that is now home to 3,000 members (70 percent formerly "unchurched") sees it a bit differently: "Churches don't get large by accident - there is an outreach of spirit, a heart for reaching people outside the church," says the Rev. James Emery White, senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C.
The Hartford study confirms that, while most megachurches have a range of evangelism programs, what most contributes to their growth is word-of-mouth, enthusiastic members reaching out to neighbors.
Megachurches are successful because they attract and retain more people over time. They have hospitality programs, hold orientation classes, encourage participation in fellowship groups or volunteer community service. In short, they make people feel at home.
What newcomers are after, Dr. White says, "is a sense of spirituality; they want the transcendent in their lives. And they are hungry for relationships, to be interactive as they carry on their search for God."
While many are seeking community, worship remains the central focus of the church, the study shows. It's also a myth that megachurches grow by offering "theology lite." The churches generally hold strong beliefs; have a clear mission and purpose; and have high expectations for scriptural study, prayer, and tithing.
For more news coverage on this story click here.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
[Speaker:] Bono, Lead Singer of the rock group U2 and TIME Magazine's 2005 Person of the Year in an exclusive, video-taped interview with Bill Hybels.I don't know what to make of this. A video taped session seems a little chintzy for the Summit, and the Summit has kept visits from high-profile speakers hush-hush in the past, so there is a possibility that Bono might actually show. Then again, with most attenders viewing via satellite and Bono being a notoriously busy dude, it's probably more practical to go the video route...
Verdict? Since I try to make the Summit a part of my year every year it doesn't really matter, one way or the other. But I'll still have my fingers crossed!
Friday, February 03, 2006
God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”
It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.
The speech also includes a cute reference to the book God's Politics by Jim Wallis and a quote that has, in the past, been attributed by U2 Sermons to Bill Hybels, with the qualification that Bill Hybels might have been quoting John Wimber. If U2 Sermons is right, then I'd be remiss not to include that bit in my Willow-centric blog, wouldn't I?
A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…
And this wise man said: stop.
He said, stop asking God to bless what you’re doing.
Get involved in what God is doing—because it’s already blessed.
Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.
And that is what He’s calling us to do.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The Daily Herald has an article about Casa de Luz.
Latinos now account for about 20 percent of the people living within a 20-minute drive of the South Barrington-based megachurch, and its leaders are taking notice.
About 200 people are expected to attend the services this weekend — most of them from Elgin, Carpentersville and Palatine — but the church predicts that number will grow to more than 800 by the end of the year.
Actually, about 800 showed up this weekend!
The outreach effort started Friday night with a concert by popular Mexican Christian singer Maria del Sol — an old Hermosillo friend — that brought out hundreds.
The number was actually about 3,500! Way to go Casa!
If you are a fan (of Anderson, not Dickens) check out this interview in the Houston Chronicle.
Here's my favorite part from the interview:
"David (Duchovny) and I and (series creator) Chris Carter have been excited about and determined to do the next X-Files movie," she said. "It would be a huge amount of fun to get together in a kind of reunion situation and make a really good, really scary film." Sounds good to me!