I taught Sadie Piper Psalm 1 and she ruined my day

(This is originally by Brian from 2012…stumbled upon it and thought I’d share again.)

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.  Psalm 1:1–4

Sadie Piper made a very interesting point about ministry to me today and she has no idea she did. Here’s how it happened.

When Beckham graduated from Children’s Church they gave him an ESV Children’s Bible. It’s the actual text of Scripture rather than an abridged version with only stories. Problem is he reads at a 12th grade Arkansas level, which of course is a 1st Grade Kansas level so there are not many words in it he has a grasp on.

He likes to bring it to the Worship service at Redeemer and flip through it, but he has really wanted us to read it to him during the service. I told him we’ll read it later and then for awhile in a disappointing father way I did not read it to him. Mostly just forgetting about it, but also with some dumb idea that he wouldn’t be able to track with what I read.

So this week at breakfast I began to read and explain Psalm 1 to Becks and Sadie Piper. It’s only day two and I can’t guarantee day three will happen so don’t be too impressed. Anyway, the plan was to read them a chapter a day. Day one we finished two verses and I only kinda think they understood.

Best I remember, the first two verses by the end of talking were reduced to… the man who wants to be happy should not listen to the bad advice of people who don’t love God. But they should love God’s Word and they should think about God’s Word as much as they can.

This morning was day two and we read verses 3 & 4. I’ve learned already that they learn better from my asking questions about the text than just my talking.

So our verses read like this, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

I told them God is comparing one thing to another to teach us something. Like I might say Beckham is as fast as a lion. Do I think Beckham is a lion? No. I’m just trying to tell you I think Beckham is really fast.

The following is lacking rabbit trails and completely unrelated comments that make the whole experience funnier. 

So I asked Beckham and Sadie Piper

– What do trees need to grow? Water

– So what happens if I plant a tree in the desert? It won’t grow cause there is no water (don’t get caught up in the details)

– Do you know what a stream of water is? lakes, ponds, creeks, “really really really long lakes”

– So if a tree needs water and you plant it next to a lake what do you think will happen? It grow big big big, Becks even rose in his chair to show me how big they grow.

So God is telling us that the person who loves God’s Word and who thinks about God’s Word all the time will grow up strong like a tree planted next to water.

– What would happen if you went outside and tried to push our tree over? It wouldn’t move because it’s too big.

– Y’all know what chaff is? No.

– Me neither, but I know it’s kinda like those leaves (we are looking out back window at leaves we’ve failed to rake up at this point, they may even be from Fall 2011), dead pieces of plant that are not connected anywhere. What would happen if you pushed on them? We could pick them up.

– What happens if the wind blows a tree? Nothing. Why not? It’s big and strong.

– What happens if the wind blows those leaves? Crazy Talk, I lead them to see that the leaves will go wherever the wind blows because they are not strong.

So that was fun, but then Sadie Piper kinda ruined my day when she said this afterwards,

“Dad, we could fill up buckets of water and pour them on our tree so it will grow bigger.” (because our tree is not planted by a stream of water)

Hmm… My head is already thinking analogies and it occurs to me what she just said is a bit of what we actually are doing.

I think of how much time I spend in God’s Word (sometimes great, other times pathetic) I think about the way many of our youth at Heritage and Redeemer function in this analogy.

We talk about being in God’s word, being planted next to a stream of water like we see in Psalm 1 and while we aren’t necessarily in a desert (some of us at some times are) we are often planted in fields away from water.

So what do we do to minister to youth who are not delighting in God’s Word and who are not meditating on God’s Word (Psalm 1:2)?

In a sense we fill up a bucket of water, of God’s Word, and we pour it on them. We pour a bucket on them Sunday morning, we pour a bucket on them if they come to youth group, we pour a bucket on them in Chapel and a bucket in Bible Class.

I know this well because I fill these bucket and I lug these buckets and I pour out these buckets (along with many others) and I see that it is good for some, they grow. But for other students, it’s like throwing water on hard soil where only some of the water ever soaks in. My prayers are often filled with a plea for God to soften the soil and cause growth. If you’ve actually read this far I ask that you would pray too for covenant children, particulary those in their teens.

So, all this lugging of water works ok, but I guess the real concern here is what happens when we are no longer there to pour buckets of Scripture on them a few days a week?

Maybe you see now why Sadie Piper ruined my day.

I want so badly to see our students like trees planted along side streams of water, rooted in the Word of God. Delighting and meditating on that which gives vision to what really matters in life. I desire this for our students and the lugging and pouring and lugging and pouring of water, while good, is not the end goal.

The bigger question is this: How do we help to dig up these trees where we find them and plant them next to the river?

I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on this, but here is where I’m at right now. 

1. We’ll need prayer, for illumination, for soft soil, for love of God’s Word.
2. We’ll need parents who read the Word with their children, who will encourage their children to spend time in the Bible with as much diligence as they encourage finishing homework and sports and cleaning their rooms.
3. We’ll need older believers and younger Christians and peers in their life pointing them ever back to Scripture for everything.
4. We as parents will need to be sure we are planted personally next to the river. After all, the normal way God works is a lot like an acorn falling from a tree. Be planted near the water that brings delight.
5. And we’ll need more buckets and more people lugging it to the trees who simply aren’t planted near streams of water.

Note: I admit there may be errors in this analogy, I don’t hold on to it like I do Scripture, but I find analogies help me understand and felt I ought to share it with you as well.

The Dance of Corporate Worship

Bates Shake2
I really love Bates Dance Recitals each year. I love the fact that it’s not a “Christian” dance studio, so the music is a wide variety of songs, most of which are in the realm of secular music; yet throughout the show you see the marks of Christians being a part of this production. Teachers have the freedom for their faith to be incorporated without it being required and the result is a beautiful image of how our love for Christ should look in all aspects of our lives. Not living in some walled off Christian Utopia and yet not living as Christians incognito. It’s life in the culture, but not of the culture (John 17:14–19), I love it!
This year the finale, which includes every single dancer, was put to Shake by Mercy Me which included the lyrics, “Ain’t no explanation, How I saw the light, He found me and set me free, And it brought me back to life” as well as “Great God Almighty done changed me, Great God Almighty, He done changed me!” It was full of joy and celebration at the work God has done for us.
OceanFull
This year the dance that stood out to me more than any other was one choreographed by Heidi Hilton and put to the song Oceans by Hillsong United. The dancers were older and very talented and thus communicated the emotional tone of song very well. They wore flowing blue dresses that together looked like an ocean of water. At one point three dancers were lifted into the air across the stage making three crosses.
But you know, the dance has stuck with me these past few days because as I watched and listened what I saw was an image of corporate worship. Let me explain. During the dance there were times when the dancers were all doing their own individual choreography or a small group would dance the same and then something changed in the music and every dancer on the stage came together in sync dancing the same choreography together and it was like a force of emotional wind burst out from them.
And I’m not a cryer, but my eyes got a little watery because that’s corporate worship. We spend our weeks all doing different things. Attempting to calm a crying baby or replying to emails from our supervisor or memorizing things in Latin we don’t know in English and in all of it we’re trying to glorify God. But then Sunday morning comes and the call to worship is like the that point in the song where the music changes and we all come together in sync singing to God and responsive readings and prayer of confession and the Lord’s prayer together and the result is just beautiful as we lift our voices in harmony to worship God. The diversity of our individual lives is beautiful, but so is the coming together in union for corporate worship.

Social Media vs Reality

Hammocks and books.

Laura is running the Book Fair at Lee this week so I got to take Berkley to her dance class. When we got home she and I climbed into the hammock to read books. I snapped this photo and put it on Instagram because I thought it looked so peaceful. It made me want to be sitting in a hammock reading a book which is weird since technically I was the one sitting in a hammock reading a book.

We all know social media isn’t the same as reality, but here’s a little video of what “reading” in a hammock really was like to help you really know that social media isn’t the same as reality. I think I read one paragraph. I couldn’t tell you what was in the paragraph. I did have a fun time with Boozer, but it wasn’t as relaxing as it looked in a still image.

Empty Trailers

field o trailers

We live on a hill. On the backside of the hill is a road so steep that I have never been able to ride my bike up it. I can barely walk up it most days. At the bottom of the hill is an out of place gravel road that goes by the creek and through the woods. Along the way to civilization is a small field with a huge oak tree in it. It could be a scene in a Nicolas Sparks movie or something by Tolkien and as yes I know those names should never appear in the same sentence.

Anyway, it’s beautiful except for a collection of about a dozen abandoned 18 wheeler trailers. At first it was the ugliness of the trailers that bothered me when I would drive past this field, but eventually I saw it differently. It was the fact that these trailers were no longer being used that saddened my heart. They’ve been clothed in graffiti and the doors have been pried open by vandals or bored teenagers.

They’re empty at this point, but they weren’t meant to be that way. They are supposed to connected to a power source outside themselves. They are supposed to be taking their cargo to destinations which need their delivery. But yet here they are, severed from the engine and wasting away in a field. Another name for an 18 wheeler is a “semi” (as in, Semi-Trailers.) Semi because they aren’t complete on their own, they only have some of the wheels they need to be functional.

I found it interesting that in Australia and other parts of the world the front half of the semi-truck, the part the driver sits in is called a “Prime Mover.” Which I guess explains the name Optimus Prime, but really I found it interesting because people, like trailers, are incomplete. We don’t have all the wheels we need to move forward in our purpose, we need to be connected to the Prime Mover. To the LORD.

In John 15:4 Jesus makes the same point with the image of a vine. He says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

When I see these trailers I can’t help but see people who have walked out of serving in their churches, walked away from living missionally and carrying the gospel into their offices and classrooms and social circles. Maybe, like the trailer, they were worn out from a difficult trip or had something that needed to be repaired, maybe they thought it was just a temporary place to park, and yet here they are still empty sitting in a beautiful field, but not being used like they were designed.

When I see people in that place it makes me sad. I see these “trailers” and want to paint them and replace the tires and fix the hinges and to pray that they might be united with the Prime Mover, that they might be made whole and complete and put back into the service they were designed for. Maybe the world would still see ugly trailers, but what a glorious image it would be to see them on the road again.

Two Options, One Path

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There is a road south of Manhattan called 903. I follow it’s 5 mile loop when I just want to take a short ride or stay close to town. About 3 miles in there comes the point in the photo above. I’ve found it illustrates life in Christ well.

There are clearly two options, you can go right or you can go left. There is road both directions and I can decide to go either way. In fact when I first began riding this route I became very curious where the road to the right went. I knew the left well, it is labeled and all I had to do was follow it to continue on smooth road back to the city, but what if there was something really amazing to the right? Something better than the actual path?

So I tried it. It turned into gravel and then an actual pit where machines are extracting sand for cement. It dead ended in a pit. I guess it made me realize I know the Christian walk, but often, particularly in our youth, curiosity gets the best of us. Which was the next thing I learned, there is wisdom in learning to follow the proper path. There is also wisdom in not going down that path the next time I come around the loop. Growth through mistakes is commendable, failure to grow from mistakes simply is not.

This Messy American Life

Messy American Life

Let us remember, our God is a redeeming God, not a “complaining god,” not a “hashtag solution god,” not a “who can we find to blame god,” but a redeeming God.

A God who when he saw that the world was a mess of sin and guilt provided not awareness or hashtags, but solution. More than that, he gave himself as the solution.

In the world we live it is no profound thing to observe that the world is messy. For that all we need to do is walk out our front door, or not, stay in and you’ll see that world is messy. The profound thing that our redeeming God calls us to is not disgruntled observation, but actual love. It’s investing in efforts, in work, in life, in others, in so many risk taking endeavors.

So when we find ourselves walking in a door and finding a messy floor, and messy beds and messy dishes and possessions scattered about and we are tempted to condemn and publicly tear down the owner of this home, we must stop and remember the door we walked through was our own house. We live here. This is our mess.

So then let us ask ourselves, how can my words and my actions work towards a solution? Can I affirm the people who have cleaned up the mess in the living room even if they have not yet cleaned up the mess in the kitchen (which in my opinion was the more pressing issue to deal with)?

I’m thankful today for the Christians in Manhattan who are giving their time to find funds for children living in poverty across the globe. Those who are serving meals to the homeless, the unemployed and the underemployed members of our society. Those who are giving their time to build homes for families, who are showing hospitality to foreign exchange students. Who advocate in the courts for teens who have need of an advocate. The men & women who gather the excess food in this community to distribute to those with need. Those who show simple hospitality to neighbors in the name of Christ. To those who are discipling the children they have been gifted with. Those who are a voice for the unborn children who have no voice. Those who protect women facing violence.  In short, those who have loved others as they respond to the deep and eternal love they have received from Christ our savior (1 John 4:19). 

This day, I’m thankful that through the love of the saints God has made our messy world a little less messy.

 

 

Great family devotional book

We’ve loved this book for our family to read together, and just wanted to share!

After we’d been through the Jesus Storybook Bible a few times, we moved on to The Gospel Story Bible:

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It’s a lot like the Storybook Bible in that every story ends with and points to Jesus. But the stories are shorter, so it has more of the bible in it, and it has three questions at the end of each story. Brian reads it to the kids at breakfast, and all of our kids track.

Earning the Wine

Laura and I take a spinning class every Monday and Friday. Our instructor is fantastic, pushes us beyond what we would ever do on our own. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that on Fridays she motivates us by telling us to earn the wine were going to drink this weekend.
This week I thought the only wine I’m planning to drink this week is on Sunday at the Lord’s table, I’m riding way too much to earn that tiny cup of wine. But then it occurred to me that we often come to the table either feeling we’ve had a great week and do deserve this cup or we’ve had a terrible week with lust, anger, gossip or just neglect of God’s Word or prayer and we think “I didn’t earn the right to partake in this cup.” When we come to the sacrament with either mentality we are being fools. We are rejecting what we know to be true from God’s Word.
See, we don’t earn the cup and we don’t earn the bread. It was earned for us by Christ on the cross. In fact our confession that we are unworthy, undeserving is part of participation. When we are served the bread we are saying, “I am a sinner and Jesus alone is my righteousness.” And that’s why this is so nourishing to our souls, it’s a sensible sign pointing us not to what we’ve earned from God, but what Jesus earned for us.

Why Does God Love This African Woman?

Fee

I recently attended a Church Plant conference in Arkansas that RUF puts on. I went on a walk on Tuesday morning. As I passed under a few pecan trees I filled my pockets with these wonderful nuts. In an attempt to not make a mess with the shells I wandered into the kitchen and met a woman named Miss Fee Fee. She’s a 74 year old woman from Liberia (one of two countries established for people who were previously slaves in the United States). She was an absolutely breath of fresh air.

I asked so how’d you end up in middle of Arkansas from Liberia? She responded, “God is sooooo good!” She then began to talk about her life which was an amazing story. At one point she teslls me her husband died three weeks ago. She works at this retreat place and she also in her free time helps run a food ministry for people in need. Her husband did too.

She talked about living in a house that was falling apart and a brother in Christ built her a new house. A house II’d complain about, but one that made her feel incredibly blessed. Eventually the church building was falling apart so they converted this house into a church meeting place. I didn’t quite figure out where she lived after that or if her home doubles as a church building now, but she said often, “God has been so good to me, I just want to give everything to Him.” Someone turned her BBQ sauce into a bottled product sold locally there and I got to say it’s really really good.

FeeFee2
At many points I was taken aback as she said, “I says to the Lord, I don’t know why you love this African Woman so much!” That broke my heart in a good way. So many of the people I know including myself simply don’t think like that. We ask why God is unfair, why He gives us so little, why He is so far from us and really just endlessly complain against the blessings of God we aren’t even aware of.

Three weeks ago on the day that her husband died he was working on a Pastor appreciation celebration. He pulled up to church and had heart failure in the middle of the project. He was serving the Lord. In fact the chances of Calvin Jones dying serving his Lord were high because he was so often doing jus that. It was going to cost Fee Fee $7,000 to bury him and a brother in Christ she doesn’t know that well covered the whole cost. Her response? “God is so good to me!”

I came to gain wisdom from the nuts who are RUF Church Planters and I did, but what I also needed to hear was this woman, this woman who in the midst of suffering knows deeply and spoke freely of the love of her Savior. I needed to see her joy in a life that we would call less fortunate. I needed to be reminded that while it’s hard to see past the struggles and the disappointments at times my life is overwhelmingly reasons to say, “God I don’t know why you love this foolish Texan so much! God is sooooo good!”

Here is a picture of the guys at the RUF Church Planters Conference/Retreat.

RUF Church Planters

Fast From Feast On

FastFromFeastOn

William Arthur Ward was an American Army Soldier, Author, Teacher and Pastor who lived from 1921-1994. I wouldn’t agree with most of his theology, but I came across this poem of his a few weeks back and it’s a beautifully written challenge to my life. It was originally written for Lent which is when catholics and some others give up something they enjoy from Ash Wednesday until Easter, roughly six weeks.

In reading this poem you’ll find real quick there are things to object to. Christ does not dwell in all people as line one seems in imply. In verse 3 it denies that darkness exist, that can’t be true since Christ has sent us into the darkness to be lights (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Despite all that, the basic concept of this poem is worth our consideration. Give it a read it and I’ll tell you why I say that.

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ within them.
Fast from emphasis on difference; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from worry; feast on trust in God’s Care.
Fast from unrelenting pressure; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.

Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.

What is it you need to fast from? Not in the sense of chocolate or TV or cokes [soda pop], but in terms of what God has called us to fast from in His Word? The other side of that is what helps with that fast, what do we need to feast on that will give us real fulfilment in Christ? That’s the devotional aspect here, ask yourself what do I need to fast from or even write your own poem using this model. Fast from…Feast on…

Page CXVI put together a song based on this poem as well, give it a listen.