Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Dare You

I have a dare for you. It's one of those that you might jump at, but later realize that you have bitten off more than you can chew.
I dare you to say the following prayer. First read it and absorb it. Read each line carefully, then read the questions that follow, and then pray it on your own.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.

Which of these lines is the most difficult for you to pray? Why?

FYI, the origins of this prayer are unknown, but John Wesley was the first to publish it.
I am going to lay off posting (maybe a week or so) until I have memorized this prayer and the prayer from the last post.

I dare you to memorize them, and pray them every day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

God Is Good, God Is Great

"God is good. God is great. Let us thank Him for this food. Amen."

Do you remember when you were first taught to pray? Do you remember your first prayer said at the dinner table?

How about this one? It gets my father-in-law in trouble when he says it:

"Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Biggest pig gets the most!"

Tracy and I couldn't resist buying this book we saw at Barnes and Noble. It's called "First Prayers." We bought it for Fischer, but I think I am going to enjoy it more than he will!

Here is a prayer found in the "Thank you for my food" section:

Thank you for the precious food

I eat three times a day.

Some children eat just once a week

In countries far away.

I wish that I could help them,

But I don't know what to do.

Please, God, will you make sure

That they have three meals, too?

Wow. Amen.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rowan Atkinson Invisible Man

Rowan Atkinson is one of my favorites. Who else could come up with this stuff?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sabotaging God

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see
- From "Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath

I heard the song above while driving home this afternoon and found myself really identifying with its message. I got really excited about seeing others through God's eyes, seeing past their surface to their hurts.
But it's one thing to get excited about lyrics, and another to live them.
I can sing this song in my car on the way to work, and then lock myself away in my office the rest of the day. Somehow, when I pray that God opens my eyes to help others, but then cut myself off from humanity, it seems like I'm sabotaging God's answer to my prayer.
Any other times you've sabotaged God's answers to prayer?
  • "God, help me get well." (But I refuse to go to the doctor, exercise, etc.)
  • "God, I need a job." (But I expect the perfect employer to call me without any effort on my part.)
  • "God, heal my marriage." (As long as it doesn't take too much of my time.)

Monday, January 19, 2009



Yes, my son is now the proud owner of his first whoopie cushion! I found it for $1 at Wal-Mart and we've had hours of fun with it.
I've already shown him how to slip it under a sofa cushion and invite a guest to sit down. I also demonstrated how to slip it under his arm, squeeze, and make the appropriate face to match the gassy sound.
Sigh...I'm so proud.

I know what you're thinking...and I refuse to grow up!! It's the little things that bring joy in life...especially the little, high pitched, gassy noises!
Hope you all have a good laugh today!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dependent on God: Part 2

So, are we dependent on God? Do we need to pray? Or are we self-sufficient to the point where we no longer need Him?
Let me try to outline two answers that I've been contemplating.
The first answer is somewhat simplistic: YES, I am dependent on God! On the surface, it seems that I don't need God, and I can do things myself. And yet, when you think about it...
  • Instead of asking God for a raise, I could just work harder. But God gave me the smarts to do my job, and He invented jobs!
  • Instead of asking God to heal my child, I could just call the doctor. But who created that doctor?
  • Instead of praying for rain, I could dig an irrigation canal. But God created the river or lake that I'm tapping into.

We don't think we need God, and yet EVERY breath is a gift from Him! Every muscle movement, gravity, the way light enters our retinas, heart rate, sense of balance, the way our fingers can manipulate tiny or large objects...how long could this list go on?

As my friend Jim often prays, "God, I can't take ONE STEP without You."

Now, my second answer is a little more difficult to grasp. I am still dealing with it myself.

"Asking" prayers are the prayers of an immature relationship with God. Don't get me wrong, I think God WANTS us to feel free to ask Him for things or help. But if this is all we pray for, something doesn't quite seem right.

When we are children, our conversations with our parents are "asking" conversations. My 3-year old and I don't have deep conversations about the world yet (even though he is incredibly intelligent!) Most of the time, he is asking for juice, or a sucker, or a toy, or to have a book read to him, or for a game...you get the idea.

As we grow older, we are able to speak with our parents about more subjects. We are learning more about our world and ourselves. We can communicate better. We start to become self-sufficient. Sometimes we even think we don't need our parents. (Sound familiar yet?)

When we get still older, our relationship with our parents changes. We become more interested in their lives. We call them more often. We check in on them, just to see how they are doing. We mention that we love them more.

And why this change? Because, I believe, as we grow older we realize the world does not revolve around us. We think less of ourselves (hopefully) and think more of others. We give up our ideas of wealth and popularity and greatness and being god and start to see how truly small we are in a great big world.

While I have an adult relationship with my parents, I am still a child in my relationship to God. Most of my prayers default to "asking" prayers. The next step, I'm told, is "thanking" prayers, or recognizing God for who He is. And even further down the prayer road is the prayer where all you want is to spend time with your Heavenly Father.

In my previous blog, I listed the Lord's Prayer. In it, Jesus only asks for one (physical) thing: His daily bread. Everything else is a recognition of who God is.

Read Paul's prayers. Very rarely does he pray for physical things.

  • I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints... (Eph. 1:17-18)
  • For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)
  • Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 6:19)
  • I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philip. 1:3-6)

I may never be a spiritual giant, and I think God is OK with that. But I aspire to have a more mature relationship with Him...one where I talk to Him more often, tell Him what's happening in my life, listen to Him, and just enjoy being with Him. And even though I am self-sufficient in many ways, I aspire to reach the point where I realize that every minute of my life is due to God's amazing grace.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dependent on God?

It's a prayer heard around the world. It's a prayer that Jesus taught His followers to pray: The Lord's Prayer.

Our Father in Heaven
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

This is a prayer of dependence on God. It asks many things of Him.

Philip Yancey shares some good thoughts in his book: Prayer (Does It Make Any Difference?)

"In former days farmers lifted their heads and appealed to brazen heavens for an end to drought. Now we study low-pressure fronts, dig irrigation canals, and seed clouds with metallic particles. In former days, when a child fell ill the parents cried out to God; now they call for an ambulance or phone the doctor.
Prosperity may dilute prayer, too. The wealthy rely on talent and resources to solve immediate problems... We can hardly pray with sincerity, 'Give us this day our daily bread' when the pantry is stocked with a month's supply of provisions

Do we really need God any more? Can we pray "The Lord's Prayer" with integrity? Why wait on God when we can just do it ourselves? Are we dependent on Him still?

My answers in a few days. For now, I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brings Out the Best

I get encouraged and challenged each year when I attend the National Conference on Youth Ministries. This year was no different.
I love it when I am challenged, and then God reinforces that challenge in my own life.

Tonight as I was getting Fischer ready for bed, I noticed a can on top of the fridge as I poured him a drink. Apparently, my wife got a can from church that supports a good cause. Nebraska Christian Services operates out of our church offices and assists in adoptions and assisting struggling mothers. As I reached for the can, an idea came to me.
You see, earlier today Fischer found some money in a drawer (you know, the ole "junk" drawer!) and asked for some to put into his piggy bank.

I wonder what he'll do if I solicit some money?

I explained to him that we should put money into this can, because it would help a child to find a mommy and a daddy.
He listened intently and stared at the can as I explained that not all children have a mommy and daddy like he does.
When I finished, his eyes lit up. "Daddy, let's put some money in there!"
He opened up the family junk drawer and showed me the change. (OK, so he didn't offer his own money, but I think this was a good step for him.)
As we put change in the can, I realized that all Fischer needed was an opportunity and a challenge to do good.

Sometimes in our youth groups (and in our lives) we just expect kids to "get by." Get good grades, obey the rules, show up for church. Maybe we don't provide enough challenges. Maybe it's like the kid who goes to school, but is bored to death because it's not challenging.

Provide challenges. Provide opportunities. Bring out the best in your children by giving them a shot at doing good things...even if it means doing good things that you are not used to doing.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Monks Share Wardrobe With the World

I'm leaving for the National Conference on Youth Ministries tomorrow, and thought I'd leave you with my new favorite commercial.
I laugh every time I see it. My favorite part is when they are around a fire and then at a football game!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Farewell 2008

Albert Smith once said, "Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid upon it."

I can't remember a year when I have cried more than 2008. Several things brought on the waterworks...

The worst phone call of my life was the one back in June telling me that Sam Thomsen had died in a tornado. While my wife's emotions rolled down her cheeks, I sat on the bed in complete shock. The tears would come later. They still come every once in a while, like this morning as I browsed through old emails. I miss Sam. I miss his smile, and him poking me in the ribs. I lament the fact that I won't get to work with him on another sermon this year for LTC.

And then there was our ordeal with Garrison. Ten days in the NICU after he collapsed a lung. It's a disturbing thing to see machines keeping your newborn baby alive.

2008 also brought the most intense feelings of hatred/pity (and eventually compassion) for the members of the Westboro Baptist Church who picketed at Sam's funeral. After a time, I realized that hatred would do nothing more than continue their legacy...instead of the legacy of love that Christ wants us to show the world.

Other great events of 2008:
  • My first intern! It really wasn't too painful...and Brent is a good sport! Now, I hope to continue and maybe even expand this internship stuff.
  • Running my first 5K. It was a good feeling to run more than 2 miles (my previous record) and it helped that it was all for a good cause. I was trying to encourage teens to raise more money for the 30 Hour Famine (they did, we raised over $3,000!) and the proceeds from the race went to a local homeless shelter.
  • Akastasia. Our annual youth rally was incredible this year. It resulted in two baptisms and a lot of open talk. I am also grateful that several other teens decided to be baptized last year.
  • Seeing my 2nd son (Garrison Steven Samuel Wood) smile! This kind of brings meaning and closure to all those tears. It reminds me that tears and pain and heartache won't be around forever. His smile teaches me that I can have joy in the midst of pain.

I hope that your 2008 was joyful and fulfilling, and I pray that 2009 is even better!