Spotify Worked for Ryan Adams

Last week, I received an email from Spotify saying that Ryan Adams new record "Ashes and Fire" was now available to stream.  It sat in my inbox waiting for the right time.  You can't just put on a Ryan Adams album any time of day.  It has to be the right time.  For me, coffee must be present, and a general feeling of melancholy doesn't hurt either.  Monday morning most weeks fits these two requirements, so today was the day.

I have loved Ryan Adams since the days of Demolition.  His songwriting captured me in a way that few songwriters have.  Simple, honest lyrics, with a bent towards self-pity.  I love it.

This album was a fixture in my musical diet in 2002.  Then, I went back and bought Gold, and have almost every one of his albums since then.  He is constantly writing.  And he never really repeats himself.  He is committed to this craft of making good music, and I love that about him.

So back to Spotify.  I made it through track 5, and went directly to iTunes and bought the whole album.  It's good to support good music.

What's your favorite album as of late?

Whole 9

So, about a month ago Vanessa and I found out that some friends of our were doing some crazy cleanse to kick off Marathon training season.  This cleanse was totally healthy, with no supplements or medication of any kind.  More of a body SHOCK, to get us off of our Carb/Sugar addiction.  I was sold immediately, as more and more frequently I have been feeling just kind of blah, after a carb heavy meal.  Yet we return time and again.  There is a reason it's called "Comfort Food".  Anyways, Vanessa felt the same, and both of us have seen this addiction in our children too. So, we had a month and a half to prepare mentally, and yesterday was launch day.

The basic tenants are:

No processed food.

No alcohol. Period.

No legumes. (beans, things that grow in the ground)

No dairy.

No white potatoes.

No grains of any kind.

No added sugar.

Here is the website for this plan.  It's for-real hardcore.  I am stoked about this "change your life" type of eating.  It's time to get food to work for me, not against me.

Anyways, yesterday looked like this:

Breakfast was Sundried Tomatoes and Onion Egg Fritata, and strawberries.

Lunch was chicken salad (canned chicken, avocado, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper strips, garlic salt, and pepper) wrapped in lettuce leaves. Delicious!

Then, dinner was browned Pork Chops, steamed broccoli, mashed cauliflower (that we told the kids were potatoes).  So funny, the whole time Bailey was like "this tastes like squash".  No response from Vanessa and I.

The tough thing, is that organic things are preferred.  Well, you and I both know that organic is code for crazy expensive.  In fact Vanessa bought organic Bell Peppers, 4 of them = $9.  Thus the end of our buying organic experiment!  But, they were some darn good looking peppers!

 

Christian Orphan Policy

This is a guest post of a friend of mine named Ken Gross.  Ken has a heart for worship, and for responding to God's call on his life.  In this post, Ken shares and interesting bit of logic tied to taking care of Orphans (i.e....James 1:27). Thank you for sharing Ken!

Christian Orphan Policy

I was reading a book recently and I ran across a term called replacement birth rate.  This is the rate of live births a nation has to have to replace its population.  The number for the modern world is about 2.1, meaning that we need to have an average of 2.1 babies born per child bearing woman to keep a population where it currently is.  The US is about on target, but Europe runs at close to 1.5, meaning their population is doomed to decline unless they change it or have significant immigration from somewhere.

Obviously there are many implications to these kinds of demographics, and I started wondering how this applies to the Christian community.  What is our replacement rate, and even if we replace, are we “training up a child in the way he should go” (Pr 22:6), meaning will he or she end up as a Christ follower?  Even if we have the average replacement rate and all our children accept Christ, aren’t we just holding our own?  I know that this ignores any fruitful evangelism we might succeed in here in the US, but are we successful at that?  Based on the decline in church attendance here in the US, we are not succeeding at either moving our children toward Christ or helping our neighbors, “see the light”.

Now, let’s take a little leap here.  Consider this verse from James:

James 1:27 - Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  NASU

It appears that God the Father is particularly sensitive about widows and orphans, which means we ought to be too!  I will leave the consideration of widows for another time, and focus on orphans; children without parents.

In looking at the need to improve our “Christian replacement rate”, there is one way the great commission (Mt 28:18-20), and the desire to obey God in taking care of orphans, can be tied together.  If Christian families adopted more orphans, there would be fewer left in the world, this would please God.  If we were somewhat successful at pointing these adopted children toward Christ, we would increase the size of the Christian community in the US.  This is a win-win situation in the context of scriptural obedience.

The only loser would be our pocketbooks, and this is where it gets interesting.  If Christian families that cannot or are not willing to adopt orphans would financially contribute, it would go a long way to helping the families that would be able to adopt.  If we adopted a simple personal “Christian Orphan Policy” at the family or individual level we could see some interesting results.

Each adopting family would have a policy of adoption and financially contributing whatever their resources would allow.  Each non-adopting unit (Family or individual) could have a policy of contributing a small sum of money over and above their monthly tithe, they would have to pray about this and eventually figure out what small sum was appropriate.  In this article I am going to use $10 per month.

Another consideration I would make is to restrict such giving to local situations, for example at individual churches or having a loose partnership of like minded churches within a community.  This would avoid the inevitable financial and operational drag that comes with excessive oversight and distant decision makers.  Mostly it would make the giving up close and personal.

Let’s take a medium size church of say 500 hundred giving units, it might be 400 families and 100 teens and singles, but it could be any combination.  500 giving units at $10 per month is $60,000 per year.  When we add in gifts and grants that are frequently available from other sources, we end up with a significant sum of money.  That would go a long way to helping the adopting families within that church.  This small gift system could facilitate adopting as many as 5 children a year from overseas or more than 10 a year locally.

A small sacrifice for each of us, but very effective in its outcome.  Just something to think about.

 

 

Dreaming Big Dreams

What one "thing" out there, that God is calling you to do, are you not doing because you feel that you are insignificant/don't have what it takes/can't see a way to get it done? What is it? I know what mine is. Adoption. This is why my wife and I are adopting our son Samuel from Ethiopia.

But, there is something else out there that I began dreaming today. Be on the lookout.

This group of folks means business.

 

Priorities - Idols

Mark Driscoll: "Religious idolatry uses God for health, wealth, success, and the like. In this grotesque inversion of the gospel, God is used for our glory, as if not only are we supposed to worship ourselves, but God is also to be a worshiper of us. This kind of false gospel preaching is evident whenever Jesus is presented as the means by which an idolater can obtain his idol. Examples include Jesus being presented as the one who promises to make you rich, happy, healed, joyfully married, and parentally successful." I read this on a Mars Hill Blog the other day.  Mark Driscoll does such a wonderful job of clearly communicating the Gospel, and It's implications on our lives - and simultaneously debunking the prosperity gospel that so many churches are preaching these days.

The quote above really stirs something in me.  Is Jesus my only priority?  Or have I set something else up as an idol in my life?  Music?  Band?  Media - Design?  Creativity?  Myself?  This is really foundational stuff, kinda like, "no duh".  But still, I struggle with it every day.  Am I the only one?

My prayer for today, is for Jesus only.  May I find true joy and fulfillment in Him alone.  A tall order when feeling poor, unhappy, sick, in a struggling marriage, and as an unsuccessful parent.  Yet, that is the order even if I feel like all these things.  The truth is, i feel like some of these things almost every day.  I am sure you do too.  Our feelings are fickle, God never changes and is always deserving of our utmost attention.

And I will praise Him!  And today - this morning as in every morning, I renew that commitment.

The Power of Words

I met Will Mancini about a year ago, as he came and talked to our church about church vision.  Today, he posted this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Hzgzim5m7oU

I thought I'd share.  Because it's beautiful.  Because it's profound.  Because I love their Scottish accents.  Ok, not really.  I believe in the power of words, especially when they are thoughtfully put together.  Enjoy the video.

Run4TheChildren

At 30 years of age, and after 5 years of unhealthy physical decline, I decided to start running.  That was 5 years ago.  I have since done many triathlons, 1 marathon, and several 5 K's.  Not quite Forest Gump, but I do love running.  I love being active, and I love punishing my body to make myself stronger/faster.  I love how I feel when I am in a season of good health.  Everything seems to go better for me.  I sleep better, eat better, feel better, and weigh less.  And...I think people can see that on my face.  Running works for me.  Does it work for you? Last summer, about the time Vanessa and I sent our first payment to America World Adoption Agency to adopt Samuel from Ethiopia, we also started a Bible Study group called 1:17; named after Isaiah 1:17.  At first, we were just like minded individuals of the same heart, with the same dreams - to make this world a better place for the 163 million orphans in the world.

It was at 1 of these meetings in the early Fall of 2010 that Dr. Scott Balin of The Wellness Center (who has hosted our group) said he had an idea for a fund raiser for adoptions.  Run4TheChildren.  He said it so quietly, so uncertainly.  But I think in his mind, he knew this was going to take off.  Immediately I knew this idea was going to take off.  What a great idea!  A 4 mile run for kiddos, actually raising money for adoption.  Who wouldn't get behind that?

Well, Scott and I started dreaming, building websites, recruiting sponsors, putting it all together.  

Scott has some great connections in the community.  Our list of sponsors grew and grew, as did our list of registrants.  Oh my goodness the buzz in Katy, Tx. was ALIVE with Run4TheChildren.  This was actually going to happen.  The 1:17 people have been amazing.  Gathering to stuff packets, and help us stay organized.  Thanks to Suzanne Box!

Yesterday was Packet Pickup at Luke's Locker.  So many people we didn't recognize came.  The word had gotten out!  400 people registered at this point.

Thousands would be raised for actual adoptions.  Glory to God.  I am amazed.

Well, here we are 1 day away from the first annual Run4TheChildren.  Already, I am a little misty eyed to know that it's finally here, and all of our hard work is about to pay off.

I think about the kids who will ultimately benefit from this race...they can't get here soon enough.  And, though international adoption is anything but easy, and normal, real strides are being made to make it a reality.

There is a little rumbling underneath it all, and I don't think it's stress.  That's normal.  I think what is happening is that we are making inroads on the kingdom of darkness, and a massive 1 million watt LED is being shined into the dark places.  I think that is shaking the earth and I love it.

Oh, how the Kingdom of God can grow when people that love the Lord, come together for the same purpose.  Through HIS strength, so much can be accomplished.  Stay tuned for pics from the actual event.  I am stoked!

 

 

Outrage.

When I first read the email, I was outraged.  Seriously upset.  Furious is probably a good word for me to use. See...I live in a VERY affluent area.  When I look around me, I see wealth and abundance.  I see Hummers and UGG's and manicured lawns and esplanades.  It's beautiful where I live.  There is plenty to go around.

And many in my neighborhood want to keep it all for themselves.

Now...I remember a time in my life where I felt the same way.  I felt the poor got what they deserved, and by my hard work, I earned what I have.  I wanted to get far away from poverty and disease for fear of what it would mean for my family.

Did you see that?  Fear drove that attitude in me.  John told us that, "perfect love, casts out fear."  (1 John 4:18)

My outrage turned to sadness.  Sadness that so many people are so fearful that their beloved property value will be brought down and that crime will go up.   600 people have signed this petition so far, and they are hoping to get 1200 more to sign it.

I sent an email to my neighbors today asking them to reconsider.  Many of my neighbors call themselves Christians, so I am using Scripture to appeal to them.

Matthew 25 says that whatever we do for the least of these we also do for Jesus.  We don't allow poor people in our neighborhood, we don't allow Jesus in our neighborhood.  Mother Teresa said, and she lived in the squalor of Calcutta, "that the poor were Jesus in His most distressing disguise".  In fact, do a google search for Mother Teresa quotes and then read what she wrote about love, and giving, and poverty.  It will break. your. heart.

Jesus taught us this very thing in Matthew 25.  Have you read it lately?  What does this mean for YOU?

Then I read in 1 John where we encouraged NOT to love in words and speech, but in actions and truth.

"I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness." - Mother Teresa.

New Music in the making

http://vimeo.com/20685111 Some of you know, other's do not, but I am in a band called Forlorn Hope.   And...this video shows something that I get really excited about. There is nothing better (aside from an Americano at my favorite coffee shop) than having something come together out of nowhere.  I can't wait to finish writing this.  This will be song #3 of our 2nd album.  (First album isn't even released yet).  Soon...very soon.

Anyways.  Hope you enjoy this little ditty.

Declaring Chapter 11

My Pastor says something quite often.  "You are only as sick as your secrets." He first used that phrase to illustrate a parenting point to me.  I then used it on my kids, encouraging them to be honest about stuff.  They haven't gotten it yet.  Who am I kidding, it took forever for me to get it.  Each time I hear this phrase, it's beneficial for me.  Why?  Because I have a short-term-memory-loss.  I remember the words, but I need a reminder of their impact in my life. You know...1 John 1:5-10 describes it well.

Seth Godin gets this too, he just calls it something else.  "Declaring bankruptcy, Chapter 11 style."

When we walk in the light, we give up the impossibility of "sin management".  We give up control.  We walk in freedom, openness, honesty, truthfulness.  People will appreciate you more, and see that you are seeking authenticity in life.  People love that.  They might not know what makes you different, but they can sure sense it.

In addition, 1 John says that the chief benefit of living like this, is:  "..He will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness."  Sounds pretty good.

"Sin Management" will make you sick, it will destroy you.  You are only as sick as your secrets.

There is such freedom when you "Declare Chapter 11" in your life.  What are you waiting for?

Pain. Not so fun.

Friday night, the family and I were at some friends house celebrating their last weekend in the states before leaving for Banda Aceh, Indonesia.  This couple, from our church has worked as NGO Macaroni's for a year, and is going back for another.  They love the Indonesian people, and they themselves are living the radical life. We were enjoying their last taste of authentic Tex-Mex (Lupe Tortilla catered).  I was lost in my beef fajita, when I heard my middle child scream a blood curdling scream.  You parent's know by the intensity of your child's cry, when they are in pain.  I ran to the trampoline to find my precious Bailey rolling around in agony.  I scooped her up, and carried her inside.  Rolled ankle.  Intense pain.  Not fun.  

After a weekend of walking around on crutches, her underarms hurt.  Then, to top it off today Vanessa performed minor surgery without anesthesia on a small boil.

Poor little girl.

Isn't it so not fun to see your children going through such awful pain.  It kind of breaks my heart.  You can connect the dots and make a wonderful sermon illustration.

I cannot.  I must go wrap her ankle back up.

Hope your Sunday was packed full of amazing truth, and worship.  At my church, Sissy Holder and Lori Romain sang two beautiful tunes.  I was blessed, and Christ was worshipped.  What better way to spend Sunday morning.