When Ethan Speaks

22 04 2008

autisticGod bless our kids.  They’ll say absolutely anything.  They have no brakes.  A though hits their brain, and within 2 seconds, it’s sliding off their tongue.  And some kids aren’t’ even THAT restrained.

I love Ethan.  He’s my associate pastor’s son.  When I first came to GFM 5 years ago, Ethan didn’t really talk.  The autistic five-year-old spoke gibberish that his older brother referred to as “Chinese”.  Every night before going to bed, Ethan’s brother would pray,

click here to read this article at wherethefishhavenoname.com.


Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

20 04 2008

“Hi, I’m Stewart, I’m an Ivy League Scholar and a Nobel prize winner, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

“Hi, I’m Brenda, I discovered the cure to cancer, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

are you smarter than a fifth grader jeff foxworthy“Hi, I’m the apostle Paul, I survived shipwreck, near-death beatings, I out witted politicians and explained the real meaning of mysterious philosophies, I once killed Christians but then met Christ and changed, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

It’s one of our favorite programs these days.  Barbara and I howl and laugh and yell at the TV and adore the kids and muse about the questions on “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?”  We both agree that…

click here to read this article at my blog on wherethefishhavenoname.com

A Man Named Moose

20 04 2008

He was a big lunk of a dude that I hired early in my days as a radio station programmer.  Though he could haveMoose Mason from the Archies a fiery temper, he was usually just a gentle giant.  A country boy through and through, he didn’t pass through life, he bulldozed through it.

I’m not sure how the moniker “Moose” became attached to him.  It seems to me that I recall mentioning in jest (what other way could you mention such a thing to a guy who could pound you into the ground like a tent spike?) that he reminded me of Moose from the Archie comics.  One thing lead to another, and for years after we all lovingly refered to him by the elkian emblem.

Click here to read this article at my blog, wherethefishhavenoname.com.

Where The Fish Have No Name Redux

11 04 2008

Welcome to my first fresh entry on my new location for “Where The Fish Have No Name”.  I started this as a place to simply let off some spiritual steam and creativity.  I never imagined the response it would bring.  Comments have come into me far beyond the blogs comment boards itself including phone calls and emails.  In recent weeks I’ve been blessed to log over a1,000 unique hits a day, which really blew me away.  And then it all crumbled off the side of the mountain.

Read this blog entry in its entirety here.

The Make-Shift Christian

25 03 2008

We’ve lived in the shadow of Chicago for about 5 years now. Let me just say that this is one kerwhaloping of a windy area. They say that Lake Michigan has a lot to do with this. All I know is that on rare days when it isn’t windy, it feels like the whole world is standing still.

Today is an especially windy day. Walking across the open lot between my church and my house, I was nearly blown over. If I were wearing a wig, it would be plastered to a wall somewhere in Ohio by now. You might say, “Well Greg, that’s why they call it the windy city.” But actually, it’s not.

There are other major cities that are windier than Chicago. But this frozen tundra of a city became know as windy thanks to the extreme statements being made to woo the world’s fair here over a century ago. Perhaps much as is happening today with attempts to lure the Olympics, the spinners were in high gear telling great tales of how spectacular things were. We chicago world's fair ferris wheelnormally just attribute illusions of grandeur to Texans, but Chicagoans competed in their own right to win the great exposition. In fact, the stories were so massive, it was said that the tellers were quite windy. Hence, Chicago became known as the windy city.

The problem with weaving great tales is that you eventually have to lie down in the blanket you’ve created. And sometimes it’s itchy and scratchy.

So it is with so many “Christians”. Our outer confidence belies our inner pain. In trying to build ourselves up, we create make-shift structures that are extremely susceptible to the winds of life. Make-shift Christians aren’t much removed from non-believers who build their lives, as Christ once alluded, on sand. The only sure mooring for any of us is in a life built slowly, surely and steadily in fellowship with Jesus. Prayer and scripture reading aren’t just good ideas. They’re tools that create structures that are firm.

Our inclination is to build up and build high. Just look at our big cities. Just look at our monuments. It occurs to me that we are still building the Tower of Babel. Unlike the great sky-scrapers we build, we forget that height is also about depth.

A Christ-follower, on the other hand, digs deep down. We find our footing, good grounding, and build from there. Some will build high, some will simply be ranch-style structures. But these slowly, intentionally laid blocks are made to last for an eternity. Make-shift Christians may look impressive, but they’re quick to fall. Those who go deep into the Word, deep into a life of prayer, deep into worship and deep into the many other facets of spiritual formation find that our shingles may tear away, but the house stands firm.

The Perfect Murder

25 03 2008

I’m a bit of a fan of those true crime shows like Forensic Files and The Investigators. The 48 Hours Mystery and Dateline’s stories are also a hit at our house.

So here’s the thing I can’t figure out. Ever notice how a suspects’ computer is full of searches relevant to the crime they committed? “How to shoot yourself and live”. “How to leave no evidence”. “How to poison someone”. They’re all there hidden in places and far reaches of the computer that can’t be erased. Haven’t we all learned by now that you can’t committhe perfect murder the perfect murder if you use your computer to find out how to do it? Then again, I suppose if criminals were all that smart, they wouldn’t be into crime in the first place, huh?

It all gets me to thinking that I’m sure glad they can’t somehow plug into my brain to find out all my deep dark hidden secrets. Or, can you imagine having a TV in the back of your head where people could actually see what you’re thinking about? Yee-gadz. I would’a gotten whooped a lot more growing up if that had been the case. My secret crushes wouldn’t have stayed so secret. And everyone would know my huge mistake in college that almost got me into hot water. Thank goodness they can’t call in the FBI to search our synapses for evidence.

Somehow, though, we retain these things. It’s so easy to stay locked up in the cage of guilt or remorse that remains steadfast in our noggins. I suspect that says a great deal about why our faith in forgiveness stays so week. We are constantly watching the rerun of what can’t be undone and we are quite unmerciful to ourselves.

We must understand that righteousness and holiness is not about guilt. If we’re constantly beating ourselves up at an altar because we feel like we can’t measure up, it’s because we’re measuring ourselves my our own broken yardsticks. Christ calls us into relationship with Him, and it follows that we become more and more like the people we hang around. If we allow ourselves to become spiritually formed followers of Jesus, we will find that we are shedding the old skin cells a little at a time. We are becoming new creatures. Perfection shouldn’t even be in the picture; this is about finding more and more peace and joy in life via a daily walk with Christ that enriches and restores us.

So what do we do with the remnants of our life’s perfect murders that echo through our cranial corridors? Rather than entering into the hopelessness of trying to forget, we can instead learn to re-categorize. Shove those unpleasurable guilties into your mind’s “forgiven” file, and use them as reason to praise and honor Christ for His restorative grace.

Oh… and keep in mind that grace is not one-dimensional. It is not just God’s way of making us right through justification, grace is also a way of restoring us in relationship to this messed up world. Grace received must by nature become grace given. A life covered by grace can only be a life that becomes grace itself. This changes our relationships, attitudes and reactions. Grace doesn’t make us perfect (until Heaven), but it most certainly changes the flavor of our lives.

On Toe Jam and Sacraments

20 03 2008

Growing up in my particular protestant tradition, I never really understood Maundy Thursday.  As you might do as well, we would jokingly refer to it as “Monday Thursday” out of ignorance of what it really meant.

For the first year in my pastoral ministry, I’m preparing a special service.  Maundy Thursday commemorates the giving of the Lord’s Supper, and is often celebrated with foot washings in memory of Jesus’ act of servanthood towards the disciples.

lord’s supper communion maundy thursdayI’m not given to believe that foot washing is a sacrament; there is no suggestion or command to commemorate it.  I, for one, do not participate in such events simply because I have a great aversion to feet!  Everyone has something that is hard to stomach, and for me, anything podiatrically related does my digestive system in.

I suspect that we miss the true meaning of the foot washing event.  Today it has far less significance in that, with the exception of the hygienically impaired, people’s feet are not as filthy as they were in sandal wearing days.  Even exposed piggies do not receive near the exposure to filth of varying degrees they once did.   So, the foot washings of today lack the relevance of the original act of service that Christ extended to His disciples.

I really like the idea that on Maundy Thursday, the monarchs of England give coins to the needy.  Herein lies the recipe for true service that this day calls us towards.  Christ commanded us to love, and to remember His sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  One of the many facets of this sacrifice involves setting the example for our lives.  The greatest rewards in this life come when we live sacrificially for others.  Therefore, beyond commemoration of the giving of the Lord’s Supper, Maundy Thursday stands as a reminder that sacrifice brings new life and great joy.

Should we do foot washings?  I would never dismiss such a ritual if it truly has meaning for you.  But like all things, if its significance has worn thin, then its time to move on.  It is not a sacrament.  On the other hand, we must find ways to express servanthood to each other through our giving of ourselves and our resources.   This is the heart of the Maundy Thursday message, and it’s where my heart is today.  May God richly bless you.