Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Trifecta

I finished three books within a span of about two weeks. Not that I read three books that quickly, I just happened to finish the three I've been reading around the same time.

I finished Philip Yancey's "Prayer - Does It Make a Difference." What a book!! It has challenged me to consider my prayer life and become more purposeful with my prayers and my perception of God at work in the world.

I finished Don Miller's "Blue Like Jazz" given to me by some wonderful people. Again, I was inspired, challenged, and changed by that book. Miller's personal telling of his spiritual journey has inspired me to look for God everywhere and to begin to discover what God is passionate about, not what we are told as Christians to be passionate about.

I finished Joel Sherman's "The Birth of a Dynasty," the story of the '96 Yankees. That was an incredible year that set the stage for four World Series victories. What astounded me is the relevance of EVERYTHING in baseball. Every pitch has meaning and will ultimately decide the course of the game; every trade can impact a season for a team; every player has his role and will, at some point, cause something terrific or terrible to happen to his team.

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My internet and email have been down at the office since Monday. It's rather annoying because I'm a habitual email checker. I feel lost.

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Lost comes on tonight. I can't WAIT to see what they do with Locke's story.

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Titus still has a double ear infection. It's been going on for a few weeks now and we're on our third antibiotic. If you have a moment, please pray for our little guy. He hasn't been himself lately and we're ready to have our happy man back.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Picks sure to be wrong

Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick'em

Click on the above link if you would like to know my full predictions for this year's NCAA Tournament. Really there's not much of a surprise, other than VCU getting to the Sweet 16, and Texas winning it all (even though, as I stated in my last post, I despise the Longhorns).

MARCH MADNESS, BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Yancey on Prayer 5 (and other stories)

A good quote from Yancey:

Thus God flatly declares that, in addition to our private spiritual state, our social concern (or lack of it) - for the poor, for orphans and widows - also has a direct bearing on how our prayers are received. Other prophets, such as Malachi, get even more specific. Those who pay exploitative wages, who break marriage vows through adultery and divorce, who treat illegal immigrants badly, who refuse to share food with the hungry or provide shelter to the homeless, risk closing God's ears to their prayers. As a twenty-first century American, those warnings cut me to the quick.
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Last night I sat on Levi's bed and listened as he said his prayer, then I said mine. In it I prayed that God would protect the people with no place to sleep last night because it was cold outside. After I said, 'Amen' he asked why some people had no place to sleep and I told him it's because they don't have money to buy a house. He didn't really understand why you needed money to buy a house, so I explained that everything costs money. I said, "When Momma and I decided we needed to buy you more pajamas, we went to the store and found some and they said, 'If you want those pajamas you have to pay money.' I explained further than his pillow cost money, his blanket cost money, his stuffed animals cost money, etc. He still had a confused look on his face and asked, "But when you paid money for our house, how did they get it in the bag?"
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Yesterday I preached for the last time as a "fill in" preacher. Our full-time minister, Bob Odle, his wife Teri, and their boys, Austin, Jett, Micah, and Elijah arrive this week. It's been fun filling in and I've learned a lot, but I cannot describe the weight that is lifted knowing I can focus only on youth ministry again. I love to preach although I dread the preparation (for which I owe thanks to Jack Reese for scaring the bejeezes out of me in my college days at Abilene by regularly quoting such phrases as "Who dares to preach, knowing what preaching is? Who dares?" So my preparation usually consists of sweaty palms, second-guessing, and loads of prayer that what I'm saying won't veer from the message of Scripture even one iota). Perhaps someday I will pursue the pulpit, but not until I feel I've run my course in youth ministry. My heart, my energy, and my passion still lies with helping teens see Christ a little more clearly.
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March Madness Predictions: Duke loses to VCU in the first round (I'm really praying this happens, despite being a Duke fanatic. That way this miserable season will finally be over, and I can cheer for the hometown VCU Rams).
Final Four Teams: Wisconsin, UCLA, Texas, Ohio State
National Championship Game: Wisconsin vs. Texas
National Champion: Texas (I despise the Longhorns, but Kevin Durant is just too good)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Yancey on Prayer 4

Life has continually kept me from reading Yancey's book, "Prayer - Does it Make Any Difference?" But the past couple of days I've had a few moments to sit and soak in his insights and wisdom.

I was intrigued by Yancey's suggestion to "pray the Psalms." He suggests using the Psalms as a template for prayer by inserting your own circumstances, a friend in need, a stressful day, etc. into the Psalms and allowing them to become your prayers to God. I thought I'd try it this morning for a teen I've committed to praying for. I used Psalm 1 (the beginning seemed like a good place to start). So my prayer went like this:

(I'll call the teen "Bobby")
"O Lord, bless Bobby by helping him walk away from the counsel of the wicked
Help Bobby to avoid standing in the way of sinners or sitting in the seat of mockers
May his delight be in you
Inspire him to meditate on your law, on your goodness, day and night
So that he might become like a tree planted by streams of water
May his leaf not wither and may he prosper in all that he does
Keep Bobby from being like the wicked who are like chaff that the wind blows away
Instead watch over Bobby and keep him in the way of the righteous

I continued on in Psalms looking for more ways to pray like this for other circumstances and events in my own life. But I honestly found it difficult (at least for the first 20 Psalms - that's as far as I've gone). The problem is each one seems to beg God's destruction upon one person or a group of people. I'm not really sure that there is anyone in my life that I would classify as my enemy, much less anyone I want God to DESTROY!!!!

But that's the beautiful thing about the Psalms; it's real people with real struggles who see God as playing a real role in their lives. Sure they pray for sick folks or for strength, but they also pray for the struggles from the "daily-ness" of life. It's real prayer that invites God into every part of a person's day, not just the "God time."

I plan to use the Psalms in the coming weeks to help me pray better. I plan to use them to draw strength from those who labored and toiled for God generations ago and to help point my mind to a God who is present in everything I do, whether I know it or not. I hope you'll join me.