Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back from vacation

Well, we are back home in Texas after a long vacation and road trip of nearly 1700 miles. It was the longest vacation we have ever taken as a family. And our son was able to join us fore the entire time. What a blessing! During our vacation we fulfilled the dream we had nearly 8 years ago when we wanted to take a trip that involved seeing the people that mean the most to us... our family and friends.

We flew to Columbus, OH to join up with our daughter. But before we left Ohio for the rest of the vacation we got to spend some time with our long time friends in a rousing Wii competition of Dance Dance Revolution and Mario Kart. (Be thankful there is no video posted of my attempt at DDR!) We also took advantage of the opportunity to welcome Andréa home from a semester abroad in Brazil.

We picked up some old friends and new friends and made them a part of the rest of the trip. We were joined by our long-time friend Joshua and our relatively new friend, Katie. But, the beauty of how God works is this. They are not really friends. Rather, they are family. We called them pseudo-son and pseudo-daughter throughout the time together. But that title belies our true feelings. They are not pseudo-anything. They are God's gift to us and we are grateful to Him who added them to our family for that time. And there were others that would have or could have joined with us. But that was not God's plan at this time.

We headed out for Flint, MI to visit my brother and his family. He pastors a great church in West Flint, MI and God is blessing his ministry there. We had never been able to be with him in the eight years that he has pastored there. So, it was high time we did. And God was good to us there. The weather was unbelievably gorgeous. It was a welcome respite from the heat of springtime in Houston.

From there it was off to the Ontario side of Niagara Falls. God blessed us with a rental house that was a block and a half from the river gorge and about 3 blocks from the falls. In fact we walked down to the river's edge to watch the fireworks over the falls on Monday night the 19th of May, which was Victoria Day in Canada. We even got a chance to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario while in the area. And, yes, we got a chance to see and touch the real Stanley cup!

The last weekend of vacation was spent with my folks in Warren, PA. We met last Friday night for dinner at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Cub for a tremendous dinner. We spent a few days with Mom and Dad and got caught up on all the happenings in the raging metropolis of Warren, PA!

We finished our vacation back in Mount Vernon, OH. We got our daughter somewhat settled in to her apartment for the summer. Plus we had a chance to spend some time with her boyfriend and enjoy a few meals together.

So as I sit here tonight and reflect on the past week or two I realize how blessed I am. God has blessed me with an amazing family. And He has given us amazing friends to share this journey through life with.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sincere -- Sincerely Wrong

I have become a huge baseball fan over the past few years. I won't go into why or how I became a baseball fan so late in life. But, trust me. It's a good story.

I saw this quote tonight while skimming the sports news. Apparently, Yadier Molina, the catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals was thrown out for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire Paul Schreiber last night. You can maybe mutter something under your breath to the umpire. But everyone knows you are going to get tossed out of the game if you argue balls and strikes. And both Molina and his manager Tony La Russa got tossed out of the game for doing just that.

But that is not the point of this post. What really struck me was the comments by his manager, Tony La Russa. La Russa knows Yadier Molina well and Molina has a reputation for being competitive, but good to work with from the home plate umpire's perspective. Here is what La Russa said to the media following the game.

“You try to coach emotion in players, and that’s what competition is about,” La Russa said. “That’s not his style, so evidently he was sincere. And if he’s sincere, what can you say about it?”

So what does all of this have to do with a blog like this?

Sincerity is not enough. Our own human efforts are not enough. Believing with all our might is not enough. Popular culture tells us if we just believe we can achieve whatever we want.

We must be right. We must be righteous.

And there is only one way to attain righteousness. And that is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Play ball!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Vacation is coming

It's Friday... but Sunday's a'comin'...

Oh wait, that line has already been used by a famous preacher.

It's Monday, but Wednesday's coming!

By Wednesday night at this time we will be together and complete as a family. Those of us still living in Texas will join with the wayward one in Ohio and be reunited as a family for a much needed vacation for all of us. And I can't wait!

And if God is gracious to us, we will expand the family for most of the vacation. We are hoping and planning to pick a few extra "family members" in Ohio and drag them with us around much of the northern tier of the United States. The plan is to spend as much time together with those that can't go along due to responsibilities and work schedules on the front end of the trip and again on the back end.

I didn't mention this earlier, But I am a big fan of Tax Rebate Stimulus Packages...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sinner or Saint

This dialog has resurfaced in my social circles lately. It was also a topic of my pastor's sermon last Sunday. Now I recognize that it is a debate that has raged down through the ages in the evangelical church. And sometimes it has raged at a feverish and less than “holy” pitch. As usual, I have many thoughts and some of them are conflicting.

My favorite musical genre is southern gospel. One of my favorite singers sings a song that was written by one of my favorite songwriters. George Younce sings a song written by Bill & Gloria Gaither entitled, “Sinner Saved by Grace”. If you haven't heard it, you need to! It never fails to bring a tear to my eye. And although that is a great song, it doesn't really help me understand who I am or what I am.

I guess when all else fails we could look at what the Bible says... Plus that will give me a chance to break out the new set of commentaries that my best friend, Dave, gave me as a gift last week.

A reasonably thorough search through the Bible will point out one thing when it comes to the topic of whether or not I am a “sinner” or a “saint”. New Testament authors refer to Christians with many labels. Most of them self-given. For instance, you see Christians calling one another “brethren,” “the faithful,” “the elect,” “believers,” “the church of God,” “servants (slaves) to God,” and “saints.” Not once do they refer to one another as “sinner.” I find that interesting.

Now, compare that to the use of the word “sinner” in the New Testament. Study shows us that the word “sinner” indicates a pattern of sin, a devotion to sinning, or in some cases it was a Jewish derisive term for women of ill-repute. Now I find that interesting too.

So here is a verse or two for consideration.

Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household.
Philippians 4:21-22 NIV

Notice the free flowing use of the word “saints”. Paul uses the term when he tells them to greet their fellow church members in the church at Philippi. And he uses it when he sends the greetings from the fellow Christians there in Rome.

So, to a large extent that really settles it in my mind. I am a saint. The Bible says so. And that's good enough for me. I will put away any other thoughts and self-condemnations to the contrary.

But here is the tricky part. If I am a saint, shouldn't I act like one and live like one?

Maybe the key to this is not so much to focus on what or who I am. But rather, WHOSE I am.

I am a Child of the King.

I am an Heir and Joint-heir with Jesus Christ.

And that my friend will dramatically affect how I live my life on a daily basis. It will lead me to think and act in ways that continue to put distance between the person I was and the person I am.


I think I want to write more on this, but it's suppertime.