Tuesday, December 30, 2008

new year's resolution

I was walking with Tiffany last week and she mentioned her new year's resolution: Memorize Scripture. That's a great spiritual discipline [see 1 Timothy 4:7-8]. We began to talk about which verses would be the best to commit to memory. I suggest that she and her friends memorize 1 verse from each book of the Bible. Fifty-two weeks...66 books...merge a few prophets...skip a couple of books....you could end up with quite a catalogue of spiritual truth at the end of the year.

It wasn't long before I began to reflect on the verses that I would propose:

Genesis 50:20
Exodus 34:6-7a
Numbers 23:19
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (add vv. 6-9 if you can!)
Joshua 1:8
Judges 21:25 (theme of the book of Judges)

OK. If you dare, that gets you started. I'll continue to work on the rest of the list.

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
[Psalm 1:1-3]

Friday, December 26, 2008

the challenge of Christmas

Christmas morning was incredible in the Daniels' living room. Not surprisingly, the kids required no second call to get out of bed. I flipped gingerbread pancakes [from one of my favorite restaurants in Austin, Kerby Lane Cafe] and we gathered around our Duraflame log to read the Christmas story. To keep our conversation lively, I posed several questions from Luke 1-2:

1. How many angelic appearances are listed?
2. How many "songs" are sung?
3. What was the significance of Zechariah's occupation?
4. What was Zechariah made mute?

Then, we proceeded to open our gifts to one another. Tiffany and I both came from backgrounds (me especially) where Christmas was the "grand haul." Kids could expect 10-15 presents on Christmas morning. Parents could make up for any failure of the year at Christmastime. All was forgiven with stacks of presents that took multiple trips to carry to our bedroom. So, for years, we showered our kids with similar extravagance.

Then, not long ago, we made a family decision. We explained that we would purchase 3 gifts: a "large," meaningful, very personal gift; a medium gift; and a small gift. We've made it three years, but it hasn't been easy, I promise you. While, I know that volumes of gifts don't make Christmas any more "christmassy" and I'm sure that my kids don't estimate our love for them by whether they have 3 gifts vs. 12 gifts under the tree, it's still strangely difficult. There's a cultural battle that Tiffany and I fight each Christmas. It's a war against expectations [truly loving parents don't put a price tag on gift giving, do they?] and against comparisons [the kid across the street also got an XBox, but it was gold-plated...and plugged into the rear seat headrest of his new BMW]. More than that, it's really a war against security: Do we really trust that our kids [and other kids] know how much we treasure them apart from any gift we give?

As I wrestle with this, I conclude that greater confidence will come from the way we lead our children and love them throughout the year. And then, whatever gifts we give them along the way won't become substitutes, but symbols of our affection for our kids.

OK...if this doesn't make sense to you, it may be because it is still trying to make sense to me. Post your comment and let's encourage one another.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

old thoughts for the new year

I just finished Ron Sider's The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience and was quite stirred by his insight of the dilemma facing American Christianity. His subtitle poses the indicting question: "Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world?"

For such a brief read, Sider does a great job of highlighting the moral apathy of Christians [especially in the areas of divorce, compassion, fidelity, racism and physical abuse] and puts forth a call to counter-cultural living that rejects individualism and isolation and embraces community and accountability in order to model Jesus' intention for the church. Though published in 2005, Sider's reflections resonate with the church today.

You can read Sider's book in a day or two. But, his challenge will stick with you for a long time. I'd highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

i'm still here

OK....I haven't posted for 2 weeks. Most of you probably have given up on me. But, I've been busy. To give you a peek into my top 12 activities during the 12 Days of Christmas:

1. Raked leaves.

2. Wrote and delivered 4 sermons.

3. Hosted Christmas parties for friends and teenagers (not the same group....).

4. Started reading Religiously Transmitted Diseases. Lost interest. Started and almost finished The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience by Ron Sider. About to start reading Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by the same author.

5. Met with Faith Nibbs to talk about social justice and gather my Christmas reading list for research and study.

6. Worked on a new set of ministry brochures for Pantego Bible Church.

7. Walked with my wife.

8. Went bowling with my boys.

9. Watched Elf and The Grinch with my girls. Snuggled with my daughter for a late-night movie: Prince Caspian. Great film!

10. Enjoyed great evenings at the Mission Arlington Christmas Store and Oakcrest Church. Marveled at the generosity of folks at our church!

11. Wrangled with car repairs. Thanked God for my friend, Carl Deaton, who has come to my auto rescue on more than one occasion.

12. Put my Home Group community in danger with a Christmas gift exchange battle. Hysterical!

Monday, December 8, 2008

props to our photo phriend

Terry Ip, a friend and professional photographer, just delivered our family portraits. To be honest, this was an investment that I've been hesitant to make for many years--one of those expenses that makes you think, "I'm in the wrong business." But, the final product was worth it. Terry was patient, creative, professional and we're thrilled to have a great picture of our family, captured in time. Check out Terry's work on his website.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

quest for compassion

This year, my dear friend, Don Wisthuff, gave me a copy of Same Kind of Different as Me. I read the touching journey of two unlikely friends on our flight to Spain and I highly recommend it! It's the story of a high society art dealer in Fort Worth and his unsuspecting connection with a sub-poverty plantation worker from Louisiana. By the end of the book, both lives have been dramatically changed and compassion is awakened.

2009, is "The Year of Community Impact" at Pantego Bible Church. As I prepare for a series of messages on social justice, poverty, prejudice and other topics, I am scheduled for several ridealongs with Arlington and Fort Worth police; interviewing directors of our church-supported compassion agencies; and inviting Ron Hall and Denver Moore, authors of this life-changing book, to join us at Pantego Bible Church for this series. Our desire is for PBC to become the kind of church--the kind of people--that compassionately changes our world as God changes each one of us!