Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years


A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Donald Miller
Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2009
254 pages

Donald Miller is a one-of-a-kind writer. His talent is a rare gift. He is one of the few that can tell a story about himself and get out of his own way.

The premise of Miller’s book is story. He explores what makes a story great. The big question the book asks is “can my life be a great story?” Miller writes, “…the elements that made a story meaningful [are] the same that made a life meaningful.”

A good story has a protagonist; the good guy. That’s the person in the story you love or want to be. The protagonist has to have an ambition; he has to want something and be willing overcome conflict – even risk death – to get it. “The thing about death is it reminds you the story we are telling has finality,” Miller says.

A good story has an inciting incident. Something has to happen to motivate the protagonist to do something big enough to make him change. Something has to force him to change because no one takes that kind of action on his own.

The elements of story became meaningful for Miller as he and some Nashville movie writers took on the project of creating a screenplay based on his New York Times bestseller, Blue Like Jazz. It turned out that Miller’s actual life wasn’t interesting enough for a movie. A fictional version of Miller had to be cast as the hero. This was a tough pill for Miller to swallow. He wanted his life to be more than fiction.

A good story begins with who you are. “I wondered whether a person could plan a story for his life and live it intentionally,” Miller writes. “If I have a hope, it’s that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you.

Miller says that we love stories for more than just entertainment. “It’s the thing that empties like a stomach and needs to be filled again,” he writes.

Miller's book is laugh out loud funny but forces reflection and prayer. It imagechallenged me to be a more godly man; a more godly character in my own story. It dared me to take the long route rather than always choosing the short-cut. The destination is more highly valued when the journey isn’t a piece of cake. I’m reminded of the verse in James that says, “count it all joy when you suffer various trials.” A great story has trials. This is a part of life; God is teaching me something. And the book moved me to tears.

“A good storyteller doesn’t just tell a better story, though. He invites other people into the story with him, giving them a better story too,” Miller says.

I was sad to finish this book; I wanted it to keep going. If you only read one book this year, read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I’ll definitely read it again. Maybe I'll listen to the audio version next.

Read an excerpt here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Priority of the Word


Pastor Chris taught from Mark 2 Sunday, September 27. He read the first two verses and fine focused the remainder of his message on verse 2: "And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them."

Jesus made teaching the Word a priority and Pastor Chris made it clear that a distinctive of Bow Down Church is teaching and proclaiming the Word of God. There is nothing else that will transform a life and the world that life influences like the Word of God.

Click the player below to hear the message.

Length: 50:59

BowDown Church Blog

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tullian Tchividjian: Allow Your Critics to Teach You | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Bobby Ross, Jr. interviews Tullian Tchividjian of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. The interview recaps the recent turmoil at CRPC and some of what Tchividjian took away from the conflict.

image Francis Schaeffer once said that division inside the church gives the world the justification they're looking for not to believe.

This conflict ensued because those who had a grievance did not come to me or the leadership of the church, but they took it to the street. They did not follow Matthew 18.

As a result of not handling their grievance or their complaint biblically, conflict ensued and we gave the world the justification they're looking for not to believe the gospel.

I have every reason to believe that God has allowed this conflict to take place so that the way we recover from this will be a powerful demonstration of the gospel.

Click below to read the complete article:

Tullian Tchividjian: Allow Your Critics to Teach You | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Red Light, Green Light

image Yesterday I arrived at Allie's school to find her standing in this walker. All the kids who could stand with this kind of assistance were. They were playing red light, green light. In this picture, Allie has a green light and Mary is helping her go.

Most of the kids in Allie's school have difficulty talking. They're all vocal, mind you, but making intelligible words is the hard part. So they teach the kids to use a switch box. The switch box wires speakers and big buttons together. In this case, one button is programmed with "green light, go!" and the other, you guessed it, "red light, stop!"

You remember the game from recess, right? Well, at Allie's school, they're using the game to teach the kids to walk and interact. It was a hoot to watch. But it made me want to cry a little to see these kids having so much fun yet struggling so hard to do the things I take for granted. It's a whole new world for me.

I must say that these teachers are amazing; heroic. They are so dedicated to the success of these kids. Their hope is infectious. That also makes me want to cry a little.

After Allie made it across the room, it was her turn to man the switch box. She had so much fun pushing those buttons and making the other kids go and stop at her beckoning.

The walking part is really difficult for her and she struggles so hard to do it. I'm amazed at what she's learning and doing. What a fighter.

Monday, September 21, 2009

BowDown Church Launch Day « BowDown Church Blog

bowdown graphic

September 20, 2009 was a great day at Urban Youth Impact. It was the Launch Day of the Sunday Morning BowDown Service lead by Pastor Chris Tress. Over 70 including children were in attendance at the launch.

Pastor Chris shared his vision for the church and taught a dynamite message from Mark 1.

Click the player below to hear the message.

Length: 47:22

BowDown Church Launch Day « BowDown Church Blog

Über Christ Follower Phil Metzger

pmetzger The Calvary Chapel Movement is alive and vital and fresh in Eastern Europe. Pastor Phil Metzger directs Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe (CCBCE) in Vajta, Hungary. The school facilitates training for a generation of pastors and future pastors and leaders.

As if running a bible college, managing staff and students isn't enough of a challenge, Metzger has also stepped up to pastor Calvary Chapel Budapest.

Metzger is a pastor to pastors. CCBCE is a hub for Calvary Chapel church plants in Eastern Europe. Once a year, the staff at CCBCE gathers church pastors and leaders and their families to minister to them through refreshing Bible teaching and practical workshops. They also provide an environment for nourishing fellowship. The time spent for a week in Vajta revitalizes the workers before they head back to the field.

Metzger trains his staff to serve with a heart that puts others first. This is not a pseudo-spiritual put on; they genuinely have a heart to edify others. The staff work and play and serve and pray as a team functioning as complete unit. The staff's respect and fondness for Metzger is notable - and infectious. Spend a little time with Metzger and you'll understand why. He puts you at ease and cares for you and about what God is doing in your life. He listens as you tell him about your ministry and then he encourages you in the calling on your life. And then he prays for you.

Metzger strikes a perfect balance of building up faith in the Word, providing a launching platform for mission, and strengthening bonds of friendship and ministry support through loving relationship.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: Tightrope Walking


Tightrope Walking
Author: John M. Safarik
Publishing information: Mustang, Tate Publishing, 2009
Number of pages: 200

John Safarik, my old friend, is a war hero, a successful business man, an outstanding role model as husband and father, a dedicated Christian leader, and, most recently, an author.

Living a balanced life is a balancing act. Safarik skillfully weaves the story of the Great Wallendas into his helpful book. The Great Wallendas were circus headliners who've experienced catastrophic setbacks and record setting achievements. The Wallendas real life balancing act took brainstorming, planning, and dedication to keeping a schedule of both activity and rest. The story of the Wallendas is a good metaphor for living a successful and fruitful Christian life.

Talent is a gift, but it is wasted if not applied thoughtfully and prayerfully.

Safarik organizes the book around five main topics: Spiritual Life, Vocation, Finance, Education, and Recreation. At the end of each chapter, the reader is provided with the study questions to think through the topic discussed.

I recommend that you get the book, read it, and thoughtfully (prayerfully) work through study questions at the end of each chapter and then really utilize the goal-setting tools provided in the back of the book.

It's an easy read. John is a great mentor and teacher with a warmly accessible writing style. And he's a genuine Man of God.


A Full Week of School

image Allie made it through her first FULL week of school. The week she started school (almost a month ago), Thursday was her first day. The next week she was sent home sick on Monday and never made it back. The following week started with Labor Day making it a short week with a sick day in the middle cutting it shorter still. This week started strong on Monday and finished even better on Friday.

Everything is different now. We used to drop off and pick up a crying little girl. Now she's happy to be at school. She's off the bottle. She makes sounds trying to talk. She says "hi" when the teacher says to. She sits plays by herself for extended periods of time. They're potty-training her.

For the first time in two and a half years, we feel like we can breathe again. The teachers at her school are reaching for goals we never knew were possible. And Allie is learning and getting with the program.

We have more hope now than we've ever had.

When Allie was first introduced to physical therapy, the goals that were set were aggressive, but always out of reach. It was exhausting for all three of us. But now, the three of us are on Cloud Nine. There's momentum; there are results. We feel like we're finally hitting our stride.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Über Christ Follower Tullian Tchividjian

tullian Nothing gives me greater pleasure in this life than watching a young person heed the Call on his life. Everyday God intervenes in or even interrupts the natural flow of events in a person's existence. He radically, often abruptly, changes the trajectory of a life. God changes destiny.

I've witnessed this over and over. It proves the existence of God and strengthens the faith of those willing to believe in Him. God changes lives and those changed people reach the world around them.

Early in my ministry I had the privilege of leading a college aged group at my church and remember a young man in his early twenties that attended the group a few times. He had at least ten friends in tow. The kid was a natural leader. Tullian only stuck around for a few weeks before life took him on to things bigger and better, but a handful of his friends hung out for several months taking part in Bible studies, volleyball matches, and beach barbeques.

As a young minister, I have to admit that I was star struck to have one of Billy Graham's grandkids sitting in my Bible study. I'd fantasize that I would say something deeply spiritual that God had not yet revealed to anyone else and word would get back to Graham and he'd call me personally inviting me to co-author one of his books or fill in at a crusade. I'm pretty sure I was more excited about ministry heavy weights than I was about God.

Nowadays, thanks to the Internet, you can watch someone's career unfold from afar. That I've done with Tchividjian's ministry. I've followed his blog, read and reviewed one of his books, and listen to his sermons delivered to my MP3 player courtesy of iTunes.

I read as he posted about church merger meetings. I've never seen this kind of a process happen both so publicly yet so humbly. Pastors can be amazingly territorial. In my not so humble opinion, Tchividjian is the model for the church merging process.

So it's depressing, quite frankly, to learn of the incredible opposition he's facing at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church since he's been invited to take the pulpit, unanimously approved by the church's elders, and swept into the position of lead minister with a 90% membership majority vote.

Whenever God is doing something good, it doesn't come off without opposition. In the Gospels there is constant conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. Now, I know I've made it clear that I admire Tchividjian as a man of God, but I'm not casting him as Jesus in this story. He's not. He's just a guy that decided to follow Jesus no matter what the expectations, no matter what the cost.

I am casting his opponents in the role of the Pharisees, however. They are naturals for the part. They're hyper-actively-spiritual and religiously rigid. They are in the minority but louder than the majority. Strangely cruel forcing a fight while Tchividjian's father lay in a bed in an intensive care unit. They resist newness and freshness even when God Himself is so obviously at work behind the scenes. They ignore the existence of God. And, I predict, no matter how events play out, just like the Pharisees, they will never concede. They'll cover up wrongs, spin outcomes and shift blame. Old tactics, indeed.

Even though this all bums me out, I'm looking to the future with excitement. God continues to prepare Tchividjian for bigger and better. It will take Tullian and his beautiful family some time to heal from this assault (so PRAY for them), but the wisdom and strength and faith that will result will be legendary in our generation.

HT: Not Conformed Thoughts

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Arc Fundraiser

duffys Allie's school, Arc Potentials, will host a fundraiser at Duffy's on Village Blvd. this Tuesday night. Click here, print this coupon, and bring it with you. Arc will get ten percent of the dinners purchased.

Allie, Uncle Aaron, the Charming and Beautiful Susan and myself will be there for dinner around 5:30pm. You should join us.

Arc in the Park

Saturday Allie's school, Arc Potentials hosted an event at Kelsey Park in Lake Park. The school needs to fund raise and they had tons of fun with this one.

Below are some pictures and some video. Mary, Allie's physical therapist, grabbed Allie and introduced her to the dog you'll see in the photostream as well as the video. Allie loves this pooch which ain't cool because I'm not too good with pets.

I think the Charming and Beautiful Susan had more fun with this puppy than Allie did. More bad news for me.

And below, we're gathered around the swings. Aaron needs an attitude adjustment.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Layin' Down the Rules

My son is back to work at Urban Youth Impact. Here's him laying down the rules for the kids in the mentoring program.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Book Review: Fearless

image Author: Max Lucado
Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2009
Number of pages: 221

Fear is the one frontier we vigorously explore; its boundaries will never be discovered. Toxic panic runs rampant.

"We fear being sued, finishing last, going broke; we fear the mole on the back, the new kid on the block, the sound of the clock as it ticks us closer to the grave," writes Max Lucado in his latest book Fearless.

Whether rational or irrational, we live in a world and a time in history that startles and alarms us. Author and pastor, Max Lucado writes to remind us that this is neither necessary nor productive. He doesn't chide or ridicule; Lucado pastors the reader.

You may think you're fearless. But, no doubt, Lucado will name some of your personal fears in his book. Fear of one thing or another creeps into every conversation we have. Fear is easy to talk about, but confusing to overcome. Lucado points out that Jesus took human fear seriously and made it a priority to teach his disciples about fear. Christ's language throughout the gospels is seasoned with phrases like "don't be afraid" and "take courage." He often told followers, "I tell you not to worry," "do not fear," and "don't let your hearts be troubled." Lucado points out that Jesus even told crippled man brought to him by friends, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." At first glance, this is confusing. The problem wasn't sin, it was paralysis. The problem is the man can't meet his own needs because he lives on a mat. "Before Jesus healed the body (which he did), he treated the soul," writes Lucado. "To sin is to disregard God, ignore his teachings, deny his blessings," Lucado continues. "The sinner's life is me-focused, not God-focused."

Lucado has chapters discussing your fear of insignificance, your fear of not pleasing God, your fear of running out of what you need, your fear of not protecting your kids, your fear of violence, your fear of death, your fear of global calamity, and your fear of finding out that God may not be there.

Overcoming fear takes a healthy dose of perspective. Lucado helps us see life from a different vantage point. Lucado emphasizes that we must walk through our fears with Christ. We can't take control of them in our own strength or with our own wisdom. Without a Biblical view of our fear, we won't understand it and we won't apply a helpful solution.

Rehearsing our fear causes us to forget to rely on Jesus. We strive to provide for our own needs and security rather than trust God. The fortune we amass in this life is like Monopoly money Lucado says; it's fake in God's economy. Fear causes us to invest in things that matter little.

"Feed your fears, and your faith will starve. Feed your faith, and your fears will."

Lucado has fun with the disclaimers tagged onto the end of prescription drug advertisements on television. He lays out this satirical scenario of a lawyer reading the fine print to the inhabitant of a pregnant mother's belly: "Welcome to the post-umbilical cord world. Be advised, however, that human life has been known, in most cases, to result in death. Some individuals have reported experiences with lethal viruses, chemical agents, and/or bloodthirsty terrorists. Birth can also result in fatal encounters with tsunamis, inebriated pilots, road rage, famine, nuclear disasters, and/or PMS. Side effects of living include super viruses, heart disease, and final exams. Human life is not recommended for anyone who cannot share a planet with evil despots or survive a flight on airplane food."

"But it is in storms that [God] does his finest work, for it is in storms that he has our keenest attention."

Lucado says, "Everything will work out in the end. If it's not working out, it's not the end."

Fearless comes with an excellent discussion guide to help readers work through issues either privately, or more helpful, with others.

Humans are the audience for this book. We all fear. We all can use some help working through our fears. Lucado has given us an excellent tool in Fearless to do just that.


Buy Fearless

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Marathon Training

I'm gearing up for the 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon happening in January. I've been working a schedule for the past nine weeks.

There are four runs a week and one cross-training day in the plan I'm doing. For example, my week went Tuesday, three miles, Wednesday, five miles, Thursday, three miles, and Saturday, eight. Tomorrow I'll walk a couple of miles to stay loose. Monday and Friday are days off.

This will be my fifth marathon. I started the year I turned forty. If you can handle a three mile run, there's a good chance you could run a marathon if you worked a schedule like this.

This morning's eight mile run went well. I got an early start. It was cloudy all night which kept the temperature WAY down in the seventies this morning. This is my favorite of year in Florida. Except when we have the occasional hurricane.

run time: 1:20:53
run distance: 8.01 mi.
avg. pace: 10:05/ mi.
calories: 1289

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Feelin' the Love

IMG_1378 I've been writing book reviews for Thomas Nelson Publishers for about a year now. It's not a paying gig. It's not prestigious. They send me a free book. I write about it. They send me another one. Some of the reviews end up in print so that's cool.

But what's really cool is that Thomas Nelson sent me two - count em' - two pre-release copies of Donald Miller's new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I thought I was going to get one, but they sent me two. One for me. And one for you. Whoever you are that will buy me a premium coffee drink at a Starbuck's in a nearby zip code.

Be the first local to leave me a comment (I don't care if there's only get one comment - that's how bad my Starbucks jones is), and you get this extra prerelease copy.

It's been a year

imageToday marks a year since we adopted Allie. It's amazing how much has changed in 365 days. Our heads our spinning. And we are so thankful.

New Routine

I'm not sure what to be. Sad or happy. On the one hand, we drop Allie off at school and the separation anxiety of parent and child is excruciating. On the other hand, the Charming and Beautiful Susan and I have not had any time away from Allie in over two years except on about three very rare occasions. So now we can (and are) getting reacquainted with each other.

The day works like this: we get Allie ready for school knowing we'll have time on our hands to really get things done. And we're excited. Then we get her dressed, and reality hits us: Oh no! we have to give her to somebody else. We put her in the stroller and it feels like we're just going for our morning walk. Then I'm driving in the car and I almost (I said almost) burst into tears knowing she's going to have to figure out how to get along without me. I turn into the parking lot at school, get her into her stroller again, steel my nerves, and roll her through the double doors. I park her with the other kids. And it hits me: I get to leave her here! And, like Flash, I'm a streak of light bolting out the door.

The guilt never seems to catch up with me. I leave it in the parking lot and enjoy time with my wife or dig into projects at work with blessed few interruptions. Allie's attendance at school has lifted a huge burden from our shoulders. We know she's in good hands and is improving every day. The guilt and sadness over leaving her is diminishing more quickly than we imagined.

This is video of Allie in her new, cheap highchair. This is her third high chair. It's not easy to find one for a three year old.

In the picture below, you can see where I got busy with a drill, saw, and razor blade to modify this chair and install a strap. In the video above, she's strapped in with a belt from my closet.


In this picture Allie is standing tall. The pink vest she's sporting was given to her at school. It stabilizes her torso and keeps her back straight and head up. She is also wearing ankle braces shoved into over sized tennis shoes. She practices walking in physical therapy at school.


imageThis is how we found Allie today when we arrived to pick her up this afternoon. Usually when I walk in, I listen for my crying little girl and hone in on her howls. She's used to taking a nap at eleven so by her 12:15 pick up time, she's done. Today, we walked in and she was in front of this computer monitor glowing with brightly colored backgrounds and animated soap bubbles floating across the screen. Allie uses her hands to trace their track trying to touch them.

Fixed to the frame of her stroller/chair was a big red button (like and "Easy Button") within reach of her right hand. When Allie sits for awhile in her chair, she starts fussing. A teacher will then start rocking her in her chair to calm her. She likes the movement. So this button is connected to a speaker that says, "rock me, please." So instead of fussing, Allie just pushes the button. I was amazed that she got this in just one morning. She can't talk, but she can use the button to communicate.

Ever since our first interview when we got back to town, these educators thought Allie had the aptitude for this kind of communication. It's good to see that they were correct and that Allie easily grasps the basics of communicating with those around her.

Life after death | The Good News


I reviewed this book here on this blog but I re-worked it and sent it to the Good News. It appears in this month's issue.

Life after death | The Good News

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pray for my friend Ed

I received this email today from Shepherd's Staff missionary and good friend Ed Compean. Ed is a church planter in Kenya. His church serves the inhabitants of one of the world's largest slums: Kibera.

Check out this prayer request and remember to pray for Ed and for God's will in this situation...

Dear Friends,
Because we are going through a strong trial we are counting it all joy, I even think there is some patience. (James 1:2-3).

We need prayer. Last night armed men in police uniforms beat and bound the guard at Calvary International Fellowship here in Githurai. They then cut the locks on the shipping container we use for storage and cleaned out much of the church’s belongings. Praise God the guard was not harmed more. He had recently used his bow and arrow to fight off some other thugs, but when these these men came with rifles he was compliant. When I arrived early this morning the guard’s  wife was arriving with her infant son strapped to her back. She was coming to find why he had not returned home after dawn. She smiled to see her husband was beaten and dirty, but otherwise okay. God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

The thugs stole two water pumps belonging to the workers digging the church’s septic tank, all the church’s chairs, most of the Bibles, all the children’s ministry supplies and a small library of Bible resources. Plus they broke broke our locks.

So I ask for prayer. Please pray thanksgiving that James, the guard, is okay. Please pray thanksgiving for the years God allowed us to use His chairs, Bibles and other resources. Please pray that this allows the sheep to see church for what it is, not about the physical stuff.  Pray for this evening’s Bible study that will be in the dirt. Please pray for repentance among the thieves. Please pray as I work with the police. In the past these sorts of things result in the police rounding up and shooting suspected thugs, so please pray Jesus reigns in all this and that we can minister to all involved.

We know God allows these things for His purposes. He is working out something far greater. May He be glorified.

Compean Missionary Page