“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving Day when I was growing up meant crowding into a small space to share a meal with family you don't get to see more than a few times a year. And it was always fun. Our house was not as crowded with family as the Thanksgivings I remember, but we still had fun being with family.

Friday we went to Topeka so Michael could talk to Don Brent about a camera. Don let Michael try it out and we went to Dana & Jakes for dinner. Michael took lots of pictures of all of us, especially Judah. Brenda & I had our first encounter with the video game "Wii" as we played with Chris & Jacob.

Saturday we hung out at home with Michael & Heather. We did some shopping & then watched MU beat KU in football.

Sunday night we traveled again to Topeka for a wiener roast at Elaine Spade's house. We got home relatively early, but we were still tired. It was a good weekend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hallelujah Ho-Down

The tone of his first words to me had a hard edge, "Our pastor preaches the truth here. Some people are afraid to hear the truth." I thought of a brilliant response, 5 minutes later. We were in Tulsa waiting for the funeral service for Mary Carr, Brenda's aunt, to begin and the man who spoke to me was a member of the church. I became more apprehensive when everyone from the church was called brother this and sister that. I suspected what was in store for us in the service, and watching it develop was amusing to me.
There were hymns sung and a prayer. Mary's sister sang a song that was quite good. When the pastor read the obituary, he looked out of sorts and uncomfortable and presented it poorly. Another of Mary's sisters sang and played the piano. It was really good. Then the pastor stood to speak & I suspected from his demeanor that he wasn't planning to do a eulogy. He was revving up for a good preach. He had a handkerchief in his hand, along with a wireless mike. This was going to be interesting. To his credit, he did talk about Mary and her impact on him, the church, and the hospital staff. He had not known her long since Mary had only lived in Tulsa since April, but he gave a clear presentation of the kind of person she was. I noticed that his talk was scripted and he didn't make any eye contact with the audience. When he did look up he didn't look at anyone.
It wasn't long before he was pacing and talking louder. He became more animated. Soon spit was flying and sweat was dripping. I was glad he remained on the stage. The performance was void of serious content or a coherent point, but the crowd did respond to the emotion. I was fascinated and amused by the performance. Several thoughts came. I wondered how many microphones rust during the year. I thought, "This man is the wrong color." I noticed that when he really got going he added the syllable "uh" to the end of his words: "praise-uh" & "Jesus-uh". He did say that Mary would want us to celebrate rather than mourn. In his way, he was doing that. It just didn't register on the celebrate meter for me.
When it was over I thought about Mary's personality & said to myself, "She would have liked this." It did fit her personality and was a fitting tribute to her. At the graveside there was some quiet conversation about the intensity of the service. A lady standing by called it a "Hallelujah Ho-Down". That was an apt description.
Dale & I talked about the church as we drove home. He said they have a vision to add 50 new families to the church. I said that would be a challenge. There are some people who will like and respond to the style of service they offer. But I think many will find it weird. I think that "weirdness" is a problem many churches face. I think the world looks at Christians and assigns us to the "weird" pile. We're not remarkable enough. And becoming more like the world in an attempt to be "relevant" isn't the answer. We need to be different in a way that makes the world want to know what we've got.
When and if we think of evangelism, we think like hunters. Go out into the wilds of the big, bad world and find a trophy to shoot our evangelism gun at. It's intimidating for both the hunter and the hunted. I think fishing is a better metaphor. Throw out a line with something that's appealing. Make them want it enough to bite and be drawn by the Lord into the kingdom. I pray we can become people who are fishers of men.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Staring Down the Hidden Menace of What Might Be.

Ford Prefect, in the book Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, constantly quoted from the fictional "Hitchhiker's Guide". Everything worth knowing was in the "Guide".
The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferris, has become my Hitchhiker's Guide. It seems that I'm always telling someone about an idea or fact I learned form this book. This blog entry is now my latest reference to The 4-Hour Workweek. It's about Tim's strategy for dealing with fears. He talks specifically about the fears people have about taking a risk, quitting their job and following their dreams. He was running a successful business and was miserable. It consumed every moment of his time and still demanded more. He controlled every aspect of the business. His fear was that if he didn't "run" his business that it would wither and die. He desperately wanted to pursue his passion and travel the world. But he was afraid.
His solution was to "define the nightmare". He thought through every possible worst-case-scenario and found that even if all of his fears were realized they would really only have a minimal and temporary impact on his life in the long run. At the same time he realized that his worst fears would probably never happen. He includes a quote from Mark Twain: "In my life I've known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."
I had my own time of defining the nightmare a few weeks ago. I wrote about our situation of no work on the horizon and 3 empty houses with mortgages, repairs, utilities, and marketing expenses eating away at our reserve funds. As I thought through the various worst-case-scenarios, my mind automatically gave strategies to deal with each one. The most radical strategy I called the "Nuclear Option" and was one step above living in a trailer by the river. But in each scenario I realized that we would survive. The result was that I began to look beyond the immediate problems and make plans for coming through on the other side, no matter what happened. And I relaxed.
We did the fall Home Show. It was close to a total bust. But we both felt better than we had for weeks. We had faced the monster of "what might be" and seen how insignificant it really was. The following week, our phone began to ring. We are now busy meeting prospects and sending out proposals. I'm still hoping for the phone to ring with buyers for our empty houses. But we trust the Lord to provide what we need. And we stand in faith knowing that nothing will ever separate us from His love. We also are thankful that our family is praying for us. We are truly blessed.