Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A weekend of adventure...

This past weekend we headed North. After working 70+ hours last week, I needed a break. We got up at 5:30AM Saturday and loaded up our car and drove to Duluth where my wife had a student in a dance competition. Her student did exceptionally well, getting a first and two third place finishes. The weather was nearly perfect for the dance competition, and the location was very interesting (in the Fitger's Brewery complex). The couple we were spending the rest of the weekend with caught up with us after the competition and we all ate lunch at Bennet's on the Lake. To say that my meal was disappointing would be an understatement. Two of us had roasted pork medallions with a honey dijon glaze. My pork was newspaper dry and tough as leather. It was the daily special, and I generally expect a restaurant to do a good job with their featured meal. Not in this case. The other set of pork was slightly less over done. It was accompanied by the worst Risoto I have ever had. The other guy with us (he also had the pork) asked the waitress to inquire with the chef on his Risoto methods. My friend is quite a good risoto cook, and we both wondered how you screw it up in this manner. It was without taste, watery, and lackingg the distinct creamy taste that risoto is known for having. Pair this with really slow service in spite of a nearly empty restaurant and we did not have a good time. We then drove down to Canal St. area in Duluth where a 4 person bike cart was rented. The ladies and my wife's dance student and his girlfriend toured along the boardwalk while I and the other pork survivor caught up on some much needed sleep.

From Duluth we continued our trek North. We made a quick stop for groceries and I ran into Pamida for some white gas for our stove and motor oil for our car. I have not been in a Pamida for at least 4 years, and frankly I had forgotten about them, or at least blocked them out of my memory. If you aren't familiar with Pamida, they are a chain that makes Wal-Mart look classy. You'll find them in small towns (they can't survive in larger towns with competition) all over the upper Midwest. While they serve a purpose in small towns, I am nonetheless constantly amazed that they stay open for business.

From there we made our way to George Crosby Manitou State Park (WIKI). Unfortunately the combination of the dance competition running late, our playing in Duluth, and the need to stop for groceries got us to the park far later than we had hoped. The other couple (J & N) packed up their gear more quickly than Banana and I, so we sent them on ahead. It was 1.75 miles to campsite #7. J&N thought that they would leave behind the food for the evening, and hike back after making it to camp and setting it up. After all, who doesn't need more exercise? Banana and I finished our packing, filled our water bottles (there is no potable water in the camp save for the pump at the entrance for the park), and headed on down the trail. By the time we got hiking, we were getting the last few rays of sunlight on our backs.

I am an experienced backpacker. I was a professional guide for 2 summers (a Ranger) at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM, and spent a third summer building trails at that same camp and taking groups of trail building young men on treks (Trail Crew). The first 10 minutes of trail was all uphill. It wasn't simply just trail, but was primarily slippery tree roots and rocks. Had I build this trail, I would have turned in my tools and swore to never build trail again. And this was the best part of the trial on our trek. We were surprised by the lack of maintenance on the trials, and in the park in general. The trail signs were poorly located. We had to climb over at least 10 large trees that had fallen down over the trail. The brush/undergrowth/trees had encroached over the trail in more places than a person could count. After a surprising amount of ups and downs through the park we neared our destination. Thankfully we had some Motorola walkie-talkies with us or we might never have found our campsite. With some guidance over the WT's and through just simply yelling, we were able to find N who had come back to find us. They discovered that our campsite was virtually hidden from the world. Had they not gotten there 20 minutes earlier while there was still some light, they would NEVER have found the campsite. The trail leading into camp was so overgrown it no longer looked like a trail. The trail then disappears as you near the Manitou River. They had discovered, after some searching, that if you force your way through two pine trees that had grown together, that on the other side was something resembling a trial. 0% chance of finding this in the dark. And then just before getting to the actual site, there is an enormous tree down over the trail, requiring you to get down on your hands and knees to crawl under it. The picture to the right is the pine trees that cover the trail. Maybe it's just me, but that doesn't look like anything I would call a trail, and you can see why in the dark it was extra hard!

We set up camp, and it was clear that this site is rarely (NEVER) used. Our guess is that most people never find the site, and end up camping in another unused site, or just make their own site. There is a post in the camp where you are supposed to hang your reservation/payment paperwork. I suspect it has been many years since a park ranger last visited this site. We discovered that the area had an abundance of mosquitoes. We weighed the options of bug spray being a bear issue, and decided that having no blood left by morning was probably a worse way to go than by being mauled by bears. We coated ourselves head to toes, and it seemed to help keep most of them from biting.

After about 2 seconds of discussion, all were in agreement that there was no possible way J&N were going to make it back to the car for our food. Thankfully Banana and I packed the next day's worth of food with us (minus some eggs we left in J&N cooler). J was going to cook a gourmet meal (he's a top notch cook) of pork chops and chicken that evening. We instead ate two boxes of AuGratin potatoes and mixed fruit. We set the tent up in the dark (it's a new tent, we had never set up before) and that went fairly well all things considered. We were exhausted, but managed to build a meager fire with the charcoal briquettes that J had packed in and sat around discussing the absurdity of the trial and our campsite.

Sunday morning I woke up earlier than the others by a few hours. After laying and listening to the birds sing their morning melodies, I decided it would be prudent to get up and find the vault toilet that was supposed to be near our campsite. I figure the ladies would want to use it at some point! I had to nearly trip over it to discover it. There were 2 down trees over the path to it from our site, and to call it a path is being generous. It was just a simple hole in the ground with a toilet seat on top. No wall or anything, just out in the open. I had grown accustomed to this set up back in my Philmont days, but I wondered if the ladies would approve. I guessed they'd have to, because it beat the option of the rock over by the skeeter bog.

Once everyone woke, I started in on breakfast while J went and pumped water from the river. We again had to be creative, since 50% of our food was still in the car in the parking lot. I cooked up a package of bacon, and we made sandwiches with the bread and cheese we had carried. We finished off the fruit from the night before, and for the most part all seemed to have enough to eat. We cleaned up, packed up, and began our trek back to the cars. Once back at the cars, we dug out the cooler and ate some of the best brownies I have ever tasted. N makes one mean brownie! J and I also downed a half gallon of milk.

The hike back was beautiful. We made a short side hike to a water fall that Banana and I had "found" on our hike to the campsite. Our one wrong turn (thankfully within walkie talkie range) led us to this the night before, and while it was getting pretty dark, it was clear it was a beautiful place. The forest was surprisingly quiet. I am used to more squirrels and chipmunks, but they were nowhere to be seen or heard. We also did not see or hear any wolves, moose, or bears. I would've also enjoyed seeing the beaver that are reported to be in this area, but we didn't even see any signs of their work. Did I mention mosquitoes? Yeah, we saw/felt lots of those. I sit here itching from all the bites, literally dozens, that I got in spite of our use of bug repellent.

The four of us stopped back in Duluth on our way South to the Twin Cities. We got lunch at Grandma's (which was very good). We then went our separate ways as couples. Banana and I drove across the lift bridge to take in the last few minutes of the Park Point Art Fair. Most of the booths were in various stages of disassembly by the time we got there. We did get a good idea for a table we might build though. We puttered around Duluth for another hour or two, and then made our way back to our home in St. Paul. It was a great, and adventure filled weekend. I look forward to doing it again. This time with more bug spray, and less hiking in twilight.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

It's been a very long week...and Homosexuals and the NEA

I stepped in this week as an emergency camp director for the Science Museum of Minnesota for one of their youth camps. I got the call last Thursday around noon, and had 45 extra work hours added to my plate. I was able to get someone to work for me Monday and Tuesday night at my normal job waiting tables, but yesterday I worked both jobs (16+ hours) and today I work both jobs (17+ hours) so needless to say, I'm spent. The camp is 46 5-10 year old boys and girls, and that all by itself is completely draining. Saturday can't come soon enough! All things told, it's been a good week of camp. I have quite a bit of experience (tons) from my time working with the Boy Scouts of America. I said a long time ago I would never do this again, and yet here I find myself running camps for children. I have some posts in the hopper, but only this short bit for today.


From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing

The American Family Association is taking issue with a resolution essentially
endorsing homosexual "marriage" as well as homosexual adoption that
is scheduled to be introduced at next week's annual convention of the National
Education Association. The proposed resolution states the NEA's belief in the
benefits of a "diverse society," noting 17 categories of diversity — among
them the traditional ones like race, color, language, and religion; but also
including gender, sexual orientation, and "gender identification." It
then concludes by saying that the NEA believes those groups and individuals have
legal rights with respect to adoption, domestic partnerships, and "civil
unions and/or marriage."

AFA offers this interpretation: "Translated, that means the NEA will promote
homosexual marriage in every avenue they have available, including textbooks,
to all children at all age levels and without the permission or knowledge of
parents," They also note that teachers' membership dues likely will be used
to help implement the NEA's plan.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Deliberate Complementarian Pastors

(HT Justin Taylor)

The following was written by CJ Mahaney on the Together for the Gospel Blog. If you aren't reading this blog, you should be!


Mark, Lig and Al, thanks for serving us big time with your insightful posts on this important topic. Please keep this stuff coming, boys. And Al and Mark, any possibility you guys could live-blog the Southern Baptist Convention this week? How exciting would that be? So, how about if you cover the SBC this week, and I will take responsibility for the U.S. Open (that would be an important golf tournament, Al and Mark)? Lig, who ya got in the World Cup?

Well, you have heard from three of my favorite scholars; and now it’s time to hear from a simple, but athletic pastor. Here’s my concern: It is all too easy for us to affirm biblical manhood and womanhood and humbly contend for the complementarian position, and yet fail to intentionally and consistently apply this body of teaching to our lives and churches. So this post is a reminder to us as pastors that we must not only proclaim truth but practice truth. Preaching on biblical manhood and womanhood is not enough--we must transfer this body of truth to every member of our churches. Complementarianism must be functional in our personal lives and in our churches, not simply professed. And we must not lose sight of the difference biblical manhood and womanhood can and should make for husbands, wives, children and singles.

Our responsibilities as pastors fall into two categories: Personal Application and Pastoral Strategy.

1) Personal Application

Our teaching on this topic will only be as effective as our personal example. Modeling precedes teaching. Biblical instruction cannot be divorced from personal example. We must provide our churches with a genuine (not perfect) model of biblical masculinity. It is possible to skillfully teach Genesis 1-3 or Ephesians 5 and yet neglect to apply these passages to our lives. So, let me ask you: Where and how are you going to demonstrate biblical manhood to your wife and children this week? What difference is your complementarian position going to make in your life and for those you love, lead, and serve? If I spent the week with you, would your conviction about biblical masculinity be obvious?

Gentlemen, here is a gift you can give to your wife this week. Set aside a few hours of uninterrupted time, and ask her to honestly evaluate your personal example of godliness and your leadership in the home.

I dare you to ask her this question:

Where do I need to grow in serving and leading you?

For bonus points, ask this question:

Where do I need to grow in serving and leading the children?

This one conversation could initiate dramatic changes in your life.

After you’ve talked to your wife, I would encourage you to relate the details to a fellow elder, pastor or friend. Invite their questions and observations and make yourself accountable to them for application. This step will weaken pride and cultivate humility. Because God gives grace to the humble, this is a very smart thing to do. In fact, it would be stupid not to, since God opposes the proud. So, let us avoid being mere advocates of the complementarian position. By the grace of God we must be functional complementarians, and this must be evident for all to see.

I double dare you to ask your wife that question.

2) Pastoral Strategy

Do you have a strategy for helping your church demonstrate biblical manhood and womanhood? If so, what is your strategy? What is your plan to clarify, cultivate and celebrate biblical manhood and womanhood in your church? This must be done intentionally, strategically and consistently--not occasionally. And it won’t get done if you don’t lead humbly, wisely, and boldly.

Here’s why: The members of our churches are daily being assaulted by a feminist worldview and culture. They are breathing feminist air each and every day. So do not assume that your statement of faith or last year’s teaching series are sufficient to protect your church from cultural or evangelical feminism.

Here’s how: Begin by thinking through each ministry in your church. Is biblical manhood and womanhood modeled and explicitly taught in each ministry? What about your children’s ministry? How about the youth ministry? The worship team? The counseling ministry? Thoroughly evaluate every aspect of your church, including the teaching diet on Sundays. Then devise a specific plan to channel this important body of teaching through each ministry of your church to every member of your church for every year you pastor the church.

Although I attempted to be brief and concise, this has once again become the never-ending post. My apologies. The fact is, I am not sufficiently gifted to be concise. But before I conclude, I must reaffirm that our motivation for biblical manhood and womanhood is the gospel. I am convinced that the complementarian position will strengthen the church in her God given-role to proclaim and protect the gospel. And the most effective apologetic (apart from Scripture) for the complementarian position is marriages, families and singles who radiate the beauty and wisdom of God’s plan for men and women. Biblical manhood and womanhood is the life-transforming effect of the gospel on full display. When a church teaches, practices and honors gender distinctions determined by our good and wise God, the gospel will advance. But this will only happen where there are humble and courageous pastors who lead every member and ministry of the church by personal example and with strategic pastoring.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Judge Upholds "In God We Trust"

From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing

A federal judge this week rejected a lawsuit by an atheist who claimed that the use of the motto "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins and currency is a violation of his First Amendment rights.

In his judgment against Sacramento doctor and lawyer Michael Newdow, U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell ruled that the phrase "In God We Trust" is a secular national slogan, and its appearance on coins and currency does not show government coercion on behalf of monotheism, and does not trample on an individual's religious views. Newdow lost an effort two years ago to have the Pledge of Allegiance banned from public schools because it contains the words "under God." The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that he lacked standing to bring the case because he didn't have custody of the daughter on whose behalf he brought the case.

Newdow then filed an identical lawsuit on behalf of parents with children in three Sacramento-area school districts. In September, a federal judge in Sacramento sided with Newdow, and the case is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Newdow said he plans to appeal the currency decision, as well, to the same appeals court.

The motto "In God We Trust" first appeared in 1864 on the two-cent coin, and then since 1938 on all U.S. coins. In 1956, a Joint Resolution of Congress established "In God We Trust" as the national motto of the United States, and the next year it first appeared on paper money.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Words of Life

By Dr. James MacDonald

Proverbs 15:4 “ A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”

James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

Without exception, all of us know first-hand what a blessing and what a weapon words can be. Throughout Proverbs and James we read that life and death are in the power of the tongue.

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life,” says Proverbs 15:4. Tender, good words, spoken from the heart, at just the right time promotes joyful relationships. But the flip side is also true, “ but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Perverseness means “crooked.” Perverseness is twisting someone’s words so they’re distorted from what they meant. Perverseness brings hurt and harm. Proverbs 15:4 says those kinds of words have the power to break the spirit; it’s painful to admit—we shatter and wound those we love with the words we say.

Maybe you wonder why your spouse keeps their distance. Why can’t I connect with my son? Why am I not close to my friend like I used to be? Ask yourself, “Have I wounded their spirit by something I’ve said to them?” When a person’s spirit is injured, they close themselves off to you. They put up a wall. Ask God to bring to your mind the gentle words to say to them to make it right.
Start with these five things:

#1 A word of regret. Go to your loved one and say, “I’m sorry.” Don’t let yourself off with the big catch-all “sorry.” Be specific. Say, “I’m sorry I said this,” “I’m sorry I did that.”

#2 A word of responsibility. “It’s my fault. I have no excuse. Please forgive me.” Sure, others have a role in the conflict, but you can’t fix anyone else. Do your part.

#3 A word of hope. “I’m going to try harder.” Again, be specific. “I’m going to try harder at affection; I’m going to try harder at attention. I’m going to try harder at listening to you.”

#4 A word of commitment. “I’m here for you. We’re going to get through this together. Nothing will change my love for you.” Make sure your loved one knows that. Most people will flourish in that commitment.

#5 A word of affection. “I love you.” Say it sincerely. Say it till it comes easily from your lips. If you didn’t grow up with that kind of affirmation, you might need to work a little harder at this one, but break the chain and be the solution in your family.

Think honestly about the words spoken in your circle of loved ones. Today, you have the power to bless or to hurt them. Choose to plant the tree of life by the words you say.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Marriage in the news...

From FOTF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing:

This week, the procedural vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment — a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman — failed to get the required 60 votes so that a vote on the amendment itself could take place. The final tally was 49-48. "The outcome was clear: 48 Senators voted not to consider the MPA and have left the future of marriage to the courts," noted Tony Perkins, president of Family Resource Council.

Focus on the Family Action chairman James Dobson was outraged. "The 48 senators who voted against the MPA this week have left the definition of marriage at the mercy of activist courts intent on forcing a politically correct agenda on our nation. Judges already have struck down marriage-protection laws and amendments in Massachusetts, Nebraska and Georgia. They will continue to do so unless checked; that's the Senate's job, and it has failed at it."

President Bush thanked those who supported the amendment, but expressed disappointment that the measure did not achieve the necessary number of votes. But he also sent a reminder that it can take several tries before an amendment builds the two-thirds support it needs in both houses of Congress. "My position on this issue is clear: marriage is the most fundamental institution of our society, and it should not be redefined by activist judges," he said. "The people must be heard on this issue."

• Alabama is now the 20th state in the U.S. to pass a marriage-protection amendment, and it did so by one of the largest majorities yet: 81 to 19 percent. Voters in six more states will get the chance to do the same soon: Idaho, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin will vote on marriage-protection amendments in November. And several other states, such as Colorado, are close to adding such an initiative to their ballots.

• The Canadian Parliament last year redefined marriage as a union between "two people," rather than the traditional definition of "a man and a woman," a position that conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last weekend will be put to a vote again this fall. Both homosexual/lesbian activists and supporters of the traditional marriage definition are predicting a close battle in the House of Commons, with both sides promising to use the lengthy summer parliamentary break to galvanize support, reports.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Death by Ministry - burnout...

Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle wrote the following on his blog in addressing pastoral burn out.


Part 1 — Some Statistics
The following statistics were presented by Pastor Darrin Patrick from research he has gathered from such organizations as Barna and Focus on the Family.


* Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
* Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
* Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
* Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
* Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
* Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
* Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
* Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Pastors' Wives

* Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
* Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
* The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

Part 2 — Some Signs
The following are indicators that ministry leaders are heading toward burnout, if not already there. Sadly, we too often become so focused on our tasks and responsibilities that we fail to see these warning signs until it is too late.

* Unusual mood swings that may include weeping without just cause, anger, or depression
* Exhaustion
* Paranoia and suspicion
* Weight change, including gain or loss
* Moments of panic and feeling totally overwhelmed
* Fantasizing about dying or running away to get away from the pressure
* Fight-or-flight cycles where you rise up to intimidate and conquer others or run away from difficulties just to avoid them
* Insomnia, including difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep, which can lead to a reliance on sleeping pills
* Too frequent use of alcohol or tobacco
* High blood pressure
* Comforting yourself with unhealthy foods packed with fat, sugar, and simple carbohydrates
* General irritability
* Reckless driving
* Change in sexual desire of either noticeable increase or decrease
* Notable ongoing sexual temptation
* Health-related issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, heart trouble, chronic sickness, and stomach problems including ulcers
* A victim mentality that sees the world as against you and everyone as an enemy to varying degrees
* Shopping sprees and unnecessary financial spending
* Reliance on caffeine to self-medicate
* Children, friends, and loved ones begin to feel like yet another burden

Part 3 — Some Solutions
The following are simply some things I do in my own life that I have found helpful to prevent me from dying a death by ministry.

1. Fill your plate — In a conversation with Pastor Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii, he gave some very sagely advice. He said that each person’s plate is a different size; each person needs to first find the size of their plate and then fill it only with those things that are of highest priority. And, before adding any additional things to our full plate, we must take something else off to leave space for the new duty. Finding the size of one’s plate takes time and attention. For example, I have personally seen that high-level leaders have an energy level that is unusually high and those working under them who seek to keep up with their pace find themselves quickly burning out.

2. Exercise — Sadly, most pastors and Christian leaders I know are woefully out of shape. Many of them pound their pulpits against rock music and alcohol while their huge gut jiggles in mockery of their own gluttony. In the early years of our church plant, I ate poorly, slept infrequently, and lived off of the constant adrenaline of perpetual stress. As a result, I weighed 235 pounds at my highest point. Through regular diet and exercise I dropped back down to a lean 190 pounds. But in the past year I have seen my weight climb back up to 210 pounds as my diet and exercise routine has been trashed by laziness, travel, and the constant state of emergency. So, yesterday I cleaned out my garage and plugged my treadmill back in so I can resume daily running and lifting conveniently at home. I got started exercising this morning. I find that when I work out, I drop weight, feel better, sleep better, and am better able to lead out of health with energy. The experts say the best time to exercise is in the morning and those who work out early in the day are most likely to remain on an exercise regimen.

3. Do not allow technology to be your Lord — A recent issue of Fortune magazine had an insightful article about the average day of some of the most successful CEOs in the country. These people lived lives ruled by technology, including spending whole days each week doing nothing but obsessively responding to every single email they received. The article mentioned that the average American worker is interrupted once every eleven minutes and takes twenty-five minutes to refocus on their original task. The problem is that the alarms and bells of our technology deceive us into reacting to them even when the matter they call us to is neither urgent or important. So, turning off the chime and vibrate on your phone, only checking your voicemail and email on certain days at certain times, and turning the notification off on your email will itself go a long way toward your healing. You won’t have the unpredictable fire drill caused by the bells of technology. Imagine what the world must have been like before the 1200s when the first mechanical clock was invented, or before minute and second hands were added in the 1600s, or before 1879 when Edison produced the first light bulb, thereby enabling us to stay up all night.

4. Sabbath — This includes taking five minutes off every hour to catch your breath, go for a walk, stand up at your desk, etc. It includes taking thirty to sixty minutes off a day to nap, go for a walk, read, garden, or whatever else releases your pressure and helps you to relax. This also means taking one day off a week to Sabbath, including a date night if you are in a serious relationship or married. This also includes a day or two off a month for silence and solitude and a few weeks a year for an actual vacation that does not leave you more tired than before it began.
5. Pick a release valve — Because ministry causes pressure, any leader without an acceptable release valve will either burn out from stress or blow up from sin. So, the key to releasing pressure is to find and use an acceptable release valve. This may include exercise, gardening, a hobby, journaling, or my favorite, dropping the top on my Jeep and heading into the mountains for a day of adventure to find new lakes to swim in.

6. Work on your life, not just in it — Rather than just pulling more hours and trying harder, time needs to be regularly taken to pull back and look at your life so that you can work on it rather than just run in it. For me this includes printing out my schedule every few months to review how I spent my time and inform my assistant of what was a waste of time that should not happen again. This also means taking time to read books on the issue of time management and burnout and biographies of great leaders to learn from their lives, and possibly even taking time to meet with a Biblical counselor to get insight on your own life and tendencies.

7. Leave margin — When we push our bodies, schedules, minds, and budgets to the point where there is no margin, all that it takes to destroy us is one unforeseen expense, one small emergency, or one small cold. Therefore, leaving margin is the key to not being crushed when life does not go according to plan. This means leaving extra money in the bank, leaving extra time between appointments, and preparing to arrive at places early so that if there is traffic you will still be on time and not stressed.

8. Spend most of your time training leaders — While thousands of people came to see Jesus, only a handful really knew Him, and only three knew Him intimately. This is because Jesus spent his time training leaders to do ministry and without doing the same we will die from our work and sadly see it die with us as well.

9. Work from conviction, not guilt — Conviction comes from God and guilt comes from people. The key to being both fruitful and healthy is to do what God wants and not always say yes to or let yourself be pushed around by people who are demanding and have perfected the art of making you feel guilty if you do not do what they demand.

* Originally prepared for an elders' meeting at Mars Hill Church on May 22, 2006.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The DaVinci Codebreaker - by James L. Garlow

Having now seen the movie "The DaVinci Code" I thought it was time for me to unveil my review of James L. Garlow's book "The Davinci Codebreaker". I am not paid for this review, but I was given a free copy through Active Christian Media (what used to be called "Mind & Media").

The cover of the book states that it is "An Easy-To-Use Fact Checker" and it lives up to that end. Think of this book as a dictionary of apologetics for the book and movie. The authors research is thourough, and very comprehensive. He's thought of things and made connections that I believe few others would. As a Seminary student, some of the book's entries are review of things I studied in classes like Church History, but there is quite a bit of information that I found new and interesting. An example of it's exhaustiveness would be that rather than just referencing the Gnostic gospels that are mentioned in the book/movie, Garlow goes far beyond that and defines many other Gnostic gospels that never come into play. There are more than 500 facts and terms in this book, all of which are well written and informative. This would be a book I highly reccommend adding to your library as an apologetics tool. Unfortunatly with the way Dan Brown falsifies truth, books of this nature are necessary.

The practical applications of this book are limitless. Even if you didn't see or watch the movie you could learn a lot from just reading this book, as it is full of useful information seperate from it's intended goal of being an apologetic on The DaVinci Code. This is not a reader book, as it is written in a dictionary format, with alphabetical entries chosen by their relationship to the book/movie and the subjects in the book/movie. Go and get a copy, so when your friends, co-workers, and family start asking questions you can respond in an informed way. This book gives the facts that refute Dan Brown's fiction portrayed as fact.

I would pair this book with Lee Strobel's "Case for Faith" as a good one-two punch for anyone who finds they want to know more about Christianity and how it is so poorly represented by the careless pen of Dan Brown.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

The DaVinci Weekend...

Last night my wife and I went to see "The DaVinci Code" at the Carmike 20 Theaters in Oakdale, MN. We were actually hoping to catch Ice Age 2, but it wasn't showing, as we arrived late following a graduation party for my friend Bert Foster. So after a few moments discussion we decided it was time to catch the movie, and see what people were talking about. Neither of us have read the book, so it was good that we got to see the movie.

Generally, I thought the movie was entertaining. There were certainly parts that drug on a bit, but from a theatrical viewpoint it was pretty solid. From a factual standpoint it was anything but. I knew some generalities about what the controversy was over with this movie, but having now seen it, I see why some find it very offensive. Dan Brown has framed a fictional work around a few real names, dates and locations and has quite intentionally done his best to undermine Truth and to supplant it with his own fictional truth. Having a seminary education, an undergraduate in History, and a general interest in Church History, many things immediately jumped out to me as enormous distortions and falsehoods. I found myself wondering how many others in the theater were as perceptive. It's a sad commentary on the state of the church when such blantant falsehoods can challenge people's faith. I could make up anything I could imagine and include 4-5 historical people's names, 4-5 true locations and come up with an equally "true" story. The items Dan Brown wants the viewer/reader to believe as fact are indeed fiction. To put it bluntly, Dan Brown is so full of it his last name is quite apt.

My wife didn't like it as much as I did from a pure theatrical viewpoint. She found the end to be frustrating in that it seems to come to an end 3 times before it really finishes, and its actual finish is pretty lame. It did build good suspense, and there were a few times my wife averted her eyes from the screen. She jumped pretty good a few times as well. I could (as could my wife) see how this movie might be particularly offensive to catholics.

This morning we attended church at Eagle Brook Church in Lino Lakes, MN. Bob Merritt had the week off, and Teaching Pastor Jason Anderson filled in quite nicely. This was the first week of a 4 week series the church is doing on the DaVinci Code. Their series is called "The DaVinci Dillema" and it is intended to equip the attenders of Eagle Brook to have fruitful conversations with their friends, families and co-workers who are reading this book and viewing this movie. Jason did a great job breaking down how it is clear that Mary Magdalene was NOT Jesus' wife, nor was she the "holy grail".

The worship was excellent as always at Eagle Brook. As an offeratory song the worship team played "Where the streets have no name" by U2 and did a very good job of it. There was one song they played that nobody in the sanctuary seemed to know, and it plodded a bit, but other than that it was great music. The weather was beautiful, and the drive to the church and home was quite enjoyable. They still really need to work on reducing traffic congestion in their parking lot. It frequently takes as long to get out of the parking lot as it does to complete the 15 mile journey home, and that is without bad weather. Today we also went to the last service of the day, which means less traffic because nobody else is coming into the lot for the next service. I'd be curious as to how other large churches handle this. I've attended Woodland Hills Church (Greg Boyd's church) on numerous occassions and haven't noticed it being quite this bad. Granted, that church isn't as large, but it is in the city as opposed to out in the farthest reaches of the suburbs where traffic is always light. Bethlehem Baptist (John Piper's church) in downtown Minneapolis has some problems when the Vikings are playing or when there is an early Twins game. Wooddale (Leith Anderson's Church) in Eden Prairie has very good traffic flow (and is again a smaller church than Eagle Brook, but is also more in the city). I've been to a number of other very large churches and not seemed to experience this level of traffic issues. It'll be something to watch, and I hope they get it figured out.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Not the Promised Land, but a land with promise

For the three best summers of my life I worked at the Philmont Scout Ranch. 1994 and 1995 I was a Philmont Ranger, where I was effectively a backpacking guide (and at times babysitter) for the groups who came through the camp. In 1996 I moved into the Conservation Department where I was a Trail Crew Foreman. This job mean 18 days on a work site with 15 16-20 year old men building backpacking trails 12-14 hours a day. It was very rough work, hot, dusty, and somewhat dangerous. But it was also fun, educational, and beautiful. The payoff was that after 18 days they got to go on a 12 day backpacking trek of their choosing across the ranch. Because they had been acclimated for so long, were all generally in very good shape, and were ambitious we were able to cover rediculous milage in comparison to other groups. I could honestly talk for the next week and not run out of things to say, stories to tell about these three summer. Below is an article that captures a small bit of that experience. I remember getting my first hire letter. I think it is still in a box at my parent's house. Oh to be free again...

From The Charlotte World:

Not the Promised Land, but a land with promise
By Warren Smith

This Memorial Day, as most of the country was enjoying a long weekend, I was
driving across the country, on a long-distance road trip with my 20-year-old
daughter Brittany.

But before I tell you that story, let me back up a bit. You see, 30 years
ago this summer - indeed, 30 years ago this very week -- in June of 1976, I
began a job at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. You may have
heard of Philmont. Certainly if you've ever been involved in the Boy Scouts
you have, because Philmont is the largest Boy Scout Camp in the world. Each
summer, more than 25,000 Scouts and adult leaders go there, and they are
served by about 1000 seasonal staff members. Thirty years ago, I was one of
those staff members. And, for that matter, so was my wife, Missy. That's
where we met, at Philmont. And almost 10 years later, in 1985, we worked
there again as husband and wife. We were both teachers who had our summers
off, so it was also at Philmont that we discovered that we were expecting
our first child, this same Brittany.

This summer Brittany herself would be working at Philmont -- in exactly the
same backpacking guide job -- they're called "rangers" -- that I had 30
years ago.

So on Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend, Brittany and I got in her little
car at 5:30 in the morning, and started driving West. We had a sense, as

Huck Finn famously said, of "lighting out for the territory." Robert Penn

Warren less famously, but more directly, said that the West is where
Americans have always gone to flee their lives, to remake themselves. To
lose themselves, and to find themselves.

As we turned on to Interstate 40, which for much of its way follows the path
of the famous Route 66, all the way to Santa Monica Pier on the Pacific
Ocean, Phantom Planet's "California" came up randomly on the CD player. It's
a song that many people today know as the theme for the television program
"The O.C." But, more to the point here, it's a bittersweet song about
reaching the end of the road, literally and spiritually. "California here I
come, right back where I started from." The words are from an old "Tin Pan
Alley" song, but the minor chords give this version a new meaning. The
earlier song was one that fully embraced the idea of a Golden West. But
this new version, with its minor chords, said something different. It said

this: "What you discover at the end of this road is that there's no
avoiding yourself. No matter where you go, there you are."

We were not going all the way to California, but we were headed into the Far
West, ending up in Santa Fe by Sunday evening. And on this trip I would not

go all the way to Philmont, either. This summer I would not, as Brittany

would be able to do, throw away my watch and walk as I pleased in the Sangre
de Cristo Mountains, named for the cleansing Blood of Christ. For me, now,
there was not enough time. I had to get back home and get to work. Like
Moses, who led his people out of bondage but did not get to enter the
Promised Land himself, so I had to return to the captivity of work, and the
tyranny of the clock. But Brittany is a part of the Joshua generation, the
generation that gets to enter the Promised Land. At least for now.

So on Memorial Day Monday, the third day of this expedition into the West, I
catch a shuttle from Santa Fe to the Albuquerque airport and fly back to the
East. Brittany would drive the last two hours to Philmont on her own.

As I sat on the plane, literally on the runway in Albuquerque, my cell phone
rang. It was Brittany. There was excitement in her voice. "I can see the
mountains," she said, almost yelling into the phone above the road noise and
the sound of her specially burned "road trip" CD. She called their names to
me over the crackly cell phone, and I thought about how oddly appropriate
these names were for this conversation. Brittany didn't know it, but she
was describing my world at mid-life: Baldy. Touch-me-not. The Tooth of

The flight attendant gave me a hard look that meant I had to turn off my
"portable electronic device." So I told Brittany I loved her and hung up.
What this summer held for her I did not know. Sure, I had an inkling, but
every generation must make the journey for itself, and every journey is

I did, though, recognize that excitement in her voice. It was the same
excitement I had, at times, heard it in my own. It was the excitement you
feel when you are at the edge of -- well, not exactly the Promised Land, but
a land of great promise.

And you are about to enter in.


Warren Smith is the publisher of "The Charlotte World." He can be reached

Other Philmont Links
Giardia Club
Phil Roman's Philmont Page (I was a Ranger with Phil, and his page is one of the BEST!)

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