Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Gifts

It was a pretty interesting year in terms of Christmas gifts.

My dad always wants me to give him a "Christmas List" of what I want, so that he just has to pick something. The last two years, I've refused.

A Christmas gift should says "I get you," not "I got you a gift." So I've made him do it on his own. Last year that whole concept was a struggle for him. This year, he made strides. He got me a half-dozen really nice goose decoys . He also got me a package of four AAA batteries. The batteries I opened first, so I figured they went to some electronic device I hadn't opened yet.


He just got me some batteries.

The gift I got him totally surprised him, I think. He got a new fishing reel I knew he'd been interested in, but didn't really need and definitely didn't expect.

After opening presents at my dad's house, my brother and I headed over to my mom's house to do Christmas stuff there. My mom's husband's son and his wife (Chad and Kelly) came over, along with my mom's husband's mom (Grandma Peach - I don't actually know her real name, we just all call her Grandma Peach).

I loved it when Chad and Kelly opened their gift (in a bag instead of a box) from Grandma Peach. Rather than having one or even a few individually wrapped presents, they had a ton of little presents inside one giant bag. They just kept coming! I kept expecting to see Kelly pull a hat rack out of the bag next. (P.S. - Julie Andrews was a total cutie).

My brother gave my mom's husband (Mike) a bag of ham (okay, not really, it was actually a couple of steaks... but they did have drawings for bags of ham at the Halliburton Christmas party a couple of weeks ago).

A while back my brother asked for some recommendations for books on Godly guy-girl relationships. I loaned him a few, but afterward I sort of thought about it that he already had the best book on Godly relationships. So I gave my brother the best book I know of on how to read / study the Bible.

Mom gave me a scarf. I am so metro. I'm not real sure how a guy's supposed to wear a scarf, so I've been googling it a bit tonight.

Anyway... it was a pretty great Christmas. It's great to give, and I love to give other people the gift of giving (aka, it's also pretty great to receive).

What was the best gift you gave / received for Christmas this year?

Still meandering

Sunday's meetings with people in Tulsa did little to clarify the timing of God's vision He is casting through me.

I am going to plant a church. Most likely, in either Tulsa or Fayetteville, AR. I don't know where yet. I want to know where - but God hasn't revealed that. I'm going to meet with some people from the Fayetteville area early next week. I'm hopeful that those meetings will spark a light to the vision.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Headed to T-Town

I'm headed to Tulsa tomorrow to each lunch with a friend and talk about the vision I have for launching a church. I've had this vision for launching a church (and I'm thinking in Tulsa at this point) for a while, and every time I think about it, God keeps putting the name of this certain person in my head. What's weird is that I don't really know her that well. I called her a couple of weeks ago, though, and told her about what I wanted to do and that God kept giving me her name to be a part of this. Through our brief conversation, I just felt really confirmed that God wanted her to be a part of this. Even though we'd never talked about it before, I came away from that conversation feeling that we share the same vision.

So now I'm going to Tulsa to talk about the vision over lunch and see where she stands on this whole thing. This discussion tomorrow will, more than likely, determine the timetable for the launch.

If things go well tomorrow, then I will probably be looking to move to Tulsa in the Spring with an eye toward a fall church launch.

This is all very exciting, and very, very scary. But I'm probably pretty sure that's what faith is.

I'd appreciate any and all prayers and I leap forward into this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whatever it takes

Proverbs 5:8 - "Remove your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house."

I had an old computer that didn't have accountability on it out in the garage that acted as a temptation to me. Let's just say it's pretty amazing what a load of #00 Buckshot will do to a computer at 10 yards.

I don't think that will be too much of a temptation anymore.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Triangle

I don't know how James did this with a straight face.

Tim Stevens talks a lot about redeeming culture for God. That is, taking popular culture and using it to get into people's minds and relating it back to God.

I think this video is a great example of how to do that. Sesame Street took a song that had no redeeming value for their audience and turned it around to lead people in the direction they were trying to point them. For Sesame Street, obviously, their purpose was to teach kids about geometry. For the Church, our purpose is to lead people to God. But I think the premise is the same - and the method can be the same.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that "God has made everything beautiful in it's own time." That means everything. Everything can be redeemed for God. How do we do it?

What are some ways that the Church can redeem culture to make it relate to God?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where are you?!

Yesterday I had a very interesting phone conversation. It went a little something like this:

Me: "Hello."

Irate woman on the other end: "Where are you?!?!"

"Excuse me?"

"Who is this? Where's my husband?"

"This is Patrick Sievert, I think you have the wrong number."

"No I don't! This is my husband's number."

"I've had this number for over a year."

"This has been his number for two years!"

"Well, I'm sorry, but I've had this number for over a year and have never received any calls for him. What number did you dial?"

"580-606-##27." (she knew what number she was dialing - and it was my number)

"Well, I'm sorry, but this isn't your husband's number."

So, apparently this woman's husband had a different phone number for at least the last 15 months and she never knew about it. Which made me think. How can two people who are that close to each other (even if only in proximity) go that long without communicating something like that? Did the husband just assume she knew his phone number? Did she never once call him on that phone in that time?

How do you think closeness to someone hinders your communication with them?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Church Looks Like to the Unchurched

This is one of the most powerful articles I have ever read.

An independent newspaper in Seattle (one of the most unchurched cities in America), The Stranger, sent thirty-one writers to thirty-one different churches one week to record their experiences.

These are their thoughts:


A few excerpts (I've changed color when the author/church changes):

If you're thinking of attending a church, I beg you not to attend the CFC—find one that understands humility and grace and charity. I'm an atheist, but the CFC brings Bible imagery to my mind. Standing in all the gaudy sound and tacky fury, all I can think of is the perverted temple that Jesus Christ ripped to pieces with his bare fucking hands.

At that point, Pastor Tim's worship band got back onstage and they started the whole booze and crackers thing—but I bolted. I could see all the single guys scanning the room for single ladies—and the last thing I need is some sissy Christian boy trying to knock me up.

On the front wall, where one expects Jesus to dangle, there's a large photograph of a mountain lake at sunset. "Lake Wenatchee," it reads, "January, 1986." Just to the right is a tiny door with no doorknob, which could only lead from the adjacent chaplaincy. The door has a peephole in it. Is the chaplain in there behind the peephole? Is he peepin'? Can he peep all the atheism that fills my cold, doomed heart?

I lower my head and pray to Lake Wenatchee. I get the overwhelming feeling that Lake Wenatchee doesn't give a shit. And even if it did, what could it possibly do for me? Or my family, or the hobo taking a nap, or all those people terrified to get on all those planes? How awful, to blame your misfortunes on a personal failure to pray persuasively enough. Anyway, at least Lake Wenatchee exists.

I slept badly the night before church: I was scared because I had never been before, and everything I know about Sunday services comes from David Lodge novels and Garth Ennis's Preacher series. "Are they gonna make me confess my sins?" I asked my boyfriend. He promised me they would not. "Can I eat beforehand? Can I get up to pee?" I was sure I would stick out.

There was only one point when I felt totally out of place: Toward the beginning, the pastor asked those of us who were guests to introduce ourselves. You're not likely to find someone more reluctant to speak up than a bashful Jew at Sunday morning church services. So I didn't, but the church is small enough that everyone knew I was a stranger, and that made my heart pound.

Two things worried me: how to dress, and the dread of singing. Dress is not normally a dilemma. Nor is singing. But in this instance both were concerns. I craved anonymity.

I stood out like a sore heathen thumb. To complete my sense of alienation, the sermon began with a pop quiz.

"What was Nebuchadnezzar's Folly?" Pastor Sam asked.

I stared at my neighbor's hands to avoid eye contact.

A toothy beard in back spoke up: "He didn't take the tree stump seriously." Pastor Sam nodded and expounded on the disrespected tree stump. I put on my thoughtful face.

After the show I chat with the main pastor, Ken Hutcherson. I confess to him that it’s practically my first time in a church. He announces it loudly and excitedly to the people around us. Then he puts a firm grip on my shoulder and steers me to a table where some women take my information so they can follow up with me later. Luckily I have Christopher Frizzelle’s e-mail address memorized.

Finally, a couple of positive ones:

This place is fucking gorgeous: 50-foot ceiling; stone-slab floors; white concrete pillars bookend the altar; light-pink, yellow, and off-white stained glass filter the morning light; and the piano-and-flute-heavy ensemble croon away.

In an era when Christianity is marketed as a sort of rock concert meets Gatorade commercial—with TV-screen preachers beamed into makeshift houses of worship in high-school gyms—St. Mark's splendor is awesome. I understand the populist impulse of the evangelicals, but God deserves some gentle beauty.

The words from prayers I thought I'd long forgotten rose to my lips unconsciously and there was something soothing in the...community of it all. I'd expected to feel a lot in my return to church—hypocrisy, boredom, and unease at least. What I hadn't expected was the sense of calm and goodwill that enveloped me the rest of the afternoon. Nostalgia? Father-son bonding? That delicious BLT I had at our postCommunion lunch? I don't really know, and I don't think I'll go next Sunday, but now I'm wondering if church might be something more than church after all.

What impression does your church give to its visitors?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

What's in it for me?

I'm currently reading Mark Batterson's In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. In it, Mark makes the point that no one can ever sacrifice anything for God. Any time we do anything for God, any time we make any "sacrifice," we always get more back from God than we give.

Now, it may not always look that way at the time, but in the end God's reward for obeying Him always outweighs what we have to give up in obedience. I'm not just talking about rewards after we die either, but in this life.

The whole point of Mark's book is that we, just like Benaiah did in 2 Samuel 23, must chase our lions - that is, that we must take risks for God. We mustn't sit on the sidelines, but instead we must actively pursue obedience, even when it's dangerous. That danger, though, has its rewards.

Mark writes:

"You've never sacrificed anything for God. But let me push the envelope even further: If you were to always act in your greatest self-interest, you would always obey God." (emphasis mine)

I have a lion that I've been scared to chase for quite a while now - and honestly, it's the kind of lion that, until recently, I would have simply chalked up as an unattainable lion. But now, by God's grace, I have received the courage to chase.

What lions have you been scared to chase out of your own self-interest?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Certified 100% Pure USDA Grade-A Christian!!

I saw this ad on facebook today. The girl has a "Certified Christian" stamp on her. I wonder who certified her? The USDA?

Not only that, but Christians join for FREE! I guess if you're not a Christian, but you're looking for a Christian girl, you have to pay.

Unbelievable. We are pathetic.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Faulty Expectations

When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, he specifically taught them how to pray for food.

Give us today our daily bread. -- Matthew 6:11 (NIV)

It's interesting to me that he didn't instruct the disciples to pray "give me today enough bread for the rest of the week." But instead, he said to ask for just enough for the day.

Too often I let my expectations get in the way of what I really need. I expect to have plenty to eat. I expect my car to run properly, and when it doesn't, I expect to be able to pay for a new one! I expect people to listen to me when I talk to them. I expect those around me to do things exactly as I would do them.

When I place my own expectations on things, however, I put blinders on to God's provision. I expect God to come through in a certain way, and I miss that He's working behind the scenes or in a different way.

What expectations do you have that get in the way of recognizing God's provision?

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