The New Checkers

Tonight, my son Hudson wanted to play checkers with me. Great, right? Except he’s never played checkers and to my knowledge didn’t have the first clue as to how to play.

But what Dad can turn down his 5 year old son asking to play checkers? Not this one.

So, we sat down on the floor and I began to explain to him how the game was played. I was clear, concise, and I thought for sure he’d pick up on the rules quickly. Well, if you know Hudson you know that I should have known better.

On his first turn, he moved one of his checkers from the back row to the front row.
On his second turn, he moved another checker sideways.
On his third turn, he rolled a four.

Click on the photo and you’ll notice his unique checker placement. And the dice.

Clearly we weren’t playing the same game.

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On presentability

Have you ever had a weird dream? In Genesis 39-41, Joseph was called upon to interpret a couple weird dreams that Pharoah had. Joseph was in prison at the time and had built for himself a nice little reputation as being someone who interprets dreams accurately. He had even accurately interpreted a baker’s dream that 3 days later the baker would be decapitated, his body impaled on a pole, and birds would come and peck away at his corpse. Can you imagine being that baker for the next 3 days?

So, Joseph was in a jail after being wrongfully accused of attempted rape on Potipher’s wife. He had in been imprisoned for over 2 years and while we don’t know the sanitation facilities of an ancient Egyptian jail, they likely had it a little rougher than today’s inmates. While I was reading this morning, a few words caught my eye that hadn’t before.

Genesis 41:14: “So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. “When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.”

Now, hopefully I’m not making something out of something that shouldn’t be made something of. But since it’s recorded in the Bible, it must be something to make something out of, right?

So, why did Joseph shave and change clothes before meeting with Pharoah? And why would that detail be included in this story? There are a few truths to glean here.

1. Joseph was showing respect for Pharoah.

I’ve been in fulltime student ministry for almost 15 years, with part-time internships before that. So, I’ve been around long enough to watch a none-too-subtle shift in the teen culture. Some people would label it as a blatant decline in respect that young people have for just about anything. In many places, teens speak to adults as equals and there is even a doing away for “Mr.” and “Mrs.” where children/teens address adults by their first name. In our fractured-family culture, we have tried desperately to use materialism as a stand-in for time spent with our kids. This has left young people with a sense of entitlement and a disappearing of the ability to wait for anything. We have placed cell phones in their hands under the guise of “safety/security” and in doing so have weakened our position as boundary holders in their lives. They are instantly in touch with anyone they choose, making anyone else marginalized and therefore irrelevant. In these and in other ways, it appears that young people are becoming more and more disrespectful. But I’d like to disagree with that evalutation; at least in part. The children and teens of today’s generation are nothing more than products of the world you and I (as adults) have created, just and we are products of the world that our predecessors created. But before I shift too far into digression, let me bring it back to the issue of Joseph’s respect for Pharoah’s position and what in the world that has to do with us right now.

It’s really only when we recognize the position of God that we are truly set free as His creation. When you truly understand the holiness of God, and you couple that together with your own sinfulness, and you recognize the purpose and the power of the cross to bridge that expanse, then you are in a place where you are not only set free to worship, but where all you can do is worship.

2. Joseph was showing respect for the situation.

Weighty situations call for weighty decisions. Today is Monday. I work today. There’s nothing extraordinary about today. I might get a slurpee since it’s hot. I might not. But last Wednesday was my 14 year wedding anniversary. THAT was a day to celebrate the significance of the date. Joseph saw the significance of the event that day; the fact that he was being called before Pharoah, the most powerful man on earth, and would be playing a supporting role in Pharoah’s life and reign. And just like that, there are days (some planned, some not) for us that demand a showing of respect for the weight of that day. Will we rise to it or will we slouch? Does my day of worship (typically Sunday) when I meet together with others in the body of Christ hold a place of prominence in my week?

3. Joseph was showing respect for God.

There’s no way to look at Joseph’s life and not see a reverent awe of God. Because of this awe, God enabled Joseph to do amazing things. While certainly imperfect, Joseph was clearly used by God throughout his lifetime. And likewise, when we respect God as Creator and Completer, we are in a position to be used by Him in this world. And you’d be hard pressed to find anything more humbling and awe-inspiring that a mere human being used by the Divine to carry out His purposes on earth.

But our respect for God has dwindled, I’m afraid. I fear that God, in many places has been reduced to a Grandpa figure, or a best buddy, or a bailout plan. We’ve lost a sense of the divine reality that I breathe in and out, moving my fingers across this keyboard–and your eyes move from left to right across these words and compute them correctly so that your mind can understand what you’re reading–all because God thinks we should. I breathe, you read, the world spins…all because of the thought process of God. The instant God stops thinking the world should spin on its axis, it stops spinning on its axis. The moment God stops thinking I should be breathing, I stop breathing. What a magnificently powerful God He is. A God who commands respect; not because He’s worked hard and earned it, but simply because He is. And in showing respect for Pharoah and the weighty situation he was in, Joseph was ultimately respecting God.

So, on presentability, Joseph found it necessary to shave and get dressed for Pharoah. It’s one of the instances in the Bible when the outward appearance reflects the inner condition. May I also be a person who’s insides are able to be seen by looking on the outside.

Beans

A few weeks ago, someone (or several someones) thought it’d be funny to throw lima beans all over my yard while I slept. This was also the night they wrapped my car in saran wrap after painting the windows and dropping handfuls of Fruity Pebbles all over my bushes and mulch.

Well, unbeknownst to me, those beans are not entirely harmless, as first thought. It seems those beans have transformed my front lawn into a veritible lima bean wonderland. I have pulled them out by the roots and they have returned with avengence. My parents spent far too long on their far too brief trip here stooped over in my front yard, trying to fight back the tide of limas. But to no avail. They have returned.

Just this morning I mowed them down and I can nearly guarantee that in a few days all those sprouts will be back again, laughing at me as I’m sure someone (or several someones) are right now.

Who Knows You?

The other day we got a phone call at my house. It was a friend of ours, a woman in our church asking if our son would like to come over to their house and play with their son, who is about the same age. My son and their son have played together on Sundays during The Wave, but never outside that setting. We thought that’d be a great idea. We agreed, set up the day and time, and hung up the phone.

Then we went to my son and said, “Hey Crews, Paul wants you to come over and play with him at his house.” Crews began to think out loud, trying to remember who Paul is. He finally said, “Is he the Christian with the glasses?!?”

How are YOU known? Are you the Christian with the curly hair, the Christian with the nice smile, the Christian with the blue eyes, or the Christian with the great sense of humor?

I thought it was amazing that my son recognized Paul as a Christian first before any other descriptions came to mind. I thought to myself, “Wow, Paul’s doing something right if that’s how he’s known.”

So, how do people know YOU? What’s YOUR reputation?

Not only does Paul, my son’s friend have a good reputation, but the Apostle Paul had quite a reputation as well. In fact, we’re even told in the book of Acts, chapter 19, that demons knew who Paul was. Check it out in Acts 19:11-16:

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. (One day) the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.


Did you get that? Paul had such power and authority that even pieces of cloth he touched, when taken to sick people, made them well. Not only that, but demons knew Paul. And people knew Paul. These seven sons of Sceva tried to use the name of Jesus “whom Paul preches” to cast out demons and the demons begin a conversation with the seven sons and basically said, “Who in hell are you?”

Imagine living a life so sold out to Jesus that you build a reputation among demons! And don’t think that Paul was some hot-shot either. Remember Paul was the dude who, before meeting Jesus literally tortured and imprisoned Christians for following Christ! If God can turn his life into one that is known among demons, then what can God do with YOURS?

14 Years

14 years have come and gone.
14 years have past.
14 years of hoping that
14 years would last.

14 years I’ve spent right here
14 years with her.
14 years have flown so fast
14 years a blur.

14 years I’ve loved them all
14 years so grand
14 years to have the joy
of holding my lady’s hand.

14 years have seemed more like
14 days but then
14 years will start anew
When this poem comes to an end.

Heavy Cloud, No Rain

I was recently reminded that the #1 rule of blogging is to write and publish regularly. To some that’s once a week, and to others it might be once a day. I wish I could be so regimented. My Dad’s blog is updated every Thursday; you can just about set your clock by his blog. Not so with me and my blog. But hopefully, as the song goes, what I do share is “precious and few”.

There’s a song by Sting called “Heavy Cloud, No Rain”. And even having just returned from a truly remarkable week away with 77 students, I can’t say that there’s one thing that really is jutting out in my mind as to what I could share here. But if there were, it’d probably go something like this…

I just spent a full week that felt like a month in a place of discomfort, hard work, sweat, no privacy, and gloriously divine breakthroughs of God’s Spirit. It was awkward and awesome. It seems that I spent most of my time either behind the wheel of the minibus or behind the trigger of my megaphone, conveying information like: “It’s cabin devo time!”, “Everyone to the dining hall”, “Here’s Alex who’s going to do our bedtime prayer”, or “Hurry up! We’re waiting for YOU!”

But through it all, no matter what, there was an unmistakable knowledge that God was not only near, but here. No matter the environment, no matter the conversation, no matter the snag in the plans, no matter the tension, no matter the triumph, no matter the trial, God gifted us with a clear indication of His presence. And that to me was the best part of all.

Throughout the week, we had worship experiences each night (I hesitate to call them “services”). We went through Mark 4:1-9 and studied each soil type that Jesus talks about in “The Parable of the Sower”. The compacted soil on the path, the rocky soil, the weeds that choke, and the fertile soil. On the final night we talked all about the crop that Jesus spoke of; 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown. And we concluded with this question: “What is more important than eternity?” As humans we get so wrapped up in this world, our culture, our stuff, our status, our comfort, our image, our worth, and all the other things that serve as gods to us. But what will any of that matter in light of eternity? I dare you to find something that weighs more than eternity. If you do, please feel free to enlighten me, so that I don’t continue to waste my life on something that actually matters.

Two Days Left

There are 2 days left to vote on which blog is better: Faith’s or this one.
The results have been rolling in and haven’t surprised me in the least.
After all, Faith’s blog really does have it all, even random pictures of gymnasts.
And let’s be honest, this blog is blatantly devoid of random pictures of any sport.
That fact alone is a glaring support for Faith’s blog over this blog.

Not to mention, have you seen Faith? She’s adorable. And I…well, I’m not.

But still, the poll isn’t over yet. So, I should get back to blogging.

We returned on Saturday from a week away at Kilmarnock. For those who don’t know, Kilmarnock VA, is a town in the Northern Neck region of VA, near the Chesapeake. It’s a very small town with HUGE opportunities to serve people. We partnered with an organization called Interfaith to help bring hope and healing to people living in homes in desperate need of repair. We replaced roofs, painted houses, built wheelchair ramps, and anything else could find to do in order to bring help and joy to those homeowners; who were usually elderly and extremely low income.

Some of the things I learned/was reminded of at Kilmarnock this year:

1. The physiology of the brain and its development is incredibly amazing to watch, especially in middle school students.

2. Serving others is the solution, no matter what the problem is.

3. You can plan good, but you can’t plan God.
Our week was fully of serendipity and miracles. God did amazing things that we didn’t ask Him or expect Him to do. Oh sure, we expected God to do something, but not what He did and when He did it. (Silly God, didn’t you read the script we wrote?) God’s presence was made known to everyone there, I guarantee it. Some listened, followed, and obeyed. And to them God has given power, passion, authority, a new sense of mission, wild abandon, and a fire in their eyes for the Kingdom.

4. I’m still dead set against pranks. And I’m pretty sure I always will be.
Some might argue that pranks do have a place in a healthy group image. To them I respectfully say, “Are you insane?” I’ve never seen a prank do anything but damage property or damage feelings. And yes, there were pranks on this trip.

5. I’m in awe of how God orchestrates things to have the right people in the right place.
We had 20 adults on this trip to lead the 77 students. Every adult blew me away with their passion for Jesus, their nonstop love for students, their examples of holiness and servanthood, and their availiability to God’s Spirit, no matter what. We didn’t take chaperones and we didn’t take wardens. We took spiritual leaders and it was obviously that God used all of them to accomplish His purposes on this trip. These 20 adults gave up a week of their vacation time to spend it sweating, working, and loving students. It was incredible and I’m so thankful for each of them.

I want to thank anyone who prayed for this trip, and assure you that prayers were definitely answered and are still being answered now. I want to thank the students who participated not only on the worksites, but also with God throughout the week. You’ve come away from this experience different than when you left, and that was the whole point.

Kilmarnock 09 will be one for the books, that’s for sure. It was memorable and monumental in the life of this student ministry. And now we get to the work of allowing God’s Spirit to continue the work right here that He began over there.