Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Thoughts

It is easy to see bad customer service in businesses. The complaining usually follows and we tell all our friends about what jerks that business is. Sometimes the opposite is not true, if we have great service do we tell others about it? I had a great experience this week with the U-Haul on route 6 in south haven. I had to pick up 6,000 books in northern wisconsin and had a quote from another truck company. Judy from the south haven U-Haul is awesome. She matched the price but I would have paid a little more to use this branch of U-Haul. I have had experience with her before and she is great. She bends over backwards for her customers. if you need to rent a truck in this area use her. She is great.

The Red Sox swept the Yankees this weekend :) That always makes a weekend better.

Next time I buy a grill it will be the pre assembled floor model.

I was so happy how I had pitched last week in my old mans league. I was equally disappointed with this weeks outing. My arm is killing me.

Rice Lake Wisconsin is a long ways away. Thank you Micah for spending friday with me. (I drove to this little quaint town in northern wisc to pick up books).

Our worship service/gathering has a really good music leader. We will soon be doing our service weekly.

Back,back,back, back (ramirez,drew,lowell,varitek). The highlight of my weekend.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Missional Living

Last saturday night, there were a few of us who had a conversation with some retired missionaries from Indonesia. One of the first things the missionary said was it is much easier to be a missionary to the tribes in Indonesia then it is to North America. Him and his wife went on to explain their lives as missionaries and now as their lives; they live in Canada, and speak both there and at American churches.
Throughout this week I was thinking through the context living in America and what it would mean to live missional here. As I was thinking about the missionaries of Indonesia they shared how they brought in medicine to the tribes. Could you imagine if someone came here to America with something that physically change our lives? The medicine can change the way these tribes live their lives, it can save their children from diseases, and it can prolong their own lives by many years. I think this concept has to be brought to the people we want to share with in America. What these missionaries are doing is adding value to their culture. Before they can share their faith, they not only have to learn the language but they have to have some form of platform to speak on.I saw this in action yesterday.
I started volunteer coaching baseball at wheeler high school. Yesterday was my first day and before the coach introduced me and told about my illustrious college career :). I forgot to tell him about all the yahoos I played with. But nayways when these kids realized that I could them preform better in their baseball playing they all clamoured to talk to me. Now it was perception. Was I a college baseball star? Not in the least. But, there was a perception that since I had played college baseball that I would have something to offer them. Who knows how this can help in my sharing my faith and values with them. But, isn't that the point for us as Christians? If we live in our community and add value to people in our areas of expertise then what would life look like? If we took the church to them it might actually change the world that our kids are growing up in.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

ISP class 9

Last week I was in Florida so I missed my class. This week I had a good friend of mine from college go with me. This email is mostly from his thoughts and experience. I just want to share one quick story.When I got back from florida there was a story in the front page of our local newspaper about a teen I knew pretty well is charged with murder. I was shocked and worried for him, I want to communicate with him either through a visit or a letter. I am unsure of what exactly to say. I decided to ask one of the guys in my class about what was going through his mind and what he needed in that time of his life. His response saddened me, he said Ben you know what I remember most from that time I was locked up in the county jail before being sentenced? I shook my head because I was clueless. He said the thing I remember most is that my youth pastor never contacted me, never visited me, he pretty much disowned me. He went on to say that as I sat there thinking about my guilt, God, life etc I kept thinking about church/youth group and it was sad that the person I associated most with had abandoned me. It left me as something to think about.
Here are Lance's thought's on the night: if you would want to respond directly to him his email is
As we walked up to the Indiana State Prison, I found myself tensing up inside, hoping it wouldn't show on the outside. During my drive up earlier in the day, I asked God, "What am I doing here?" This was my first visit to a prison, let alone a maximum security prison. It was obvious Ben had gone through the routine before, as he seemed quite relaxed.
After going through several gates of security and flashing ID badges at a few checkpoints, we wove our way through the halls to a door leading outside, then across a short courtyard to a century old chapel that could probably hold around 400 people. As we entered, another class was taking place with about 50 inmates scattered around the room, so we took seats in the back. As we sat, Ben motioned to an inmate by name sitting several seats over. The huge smile that appeared made it clear that Andre was very glad to see Ben. A few moments later an inmate that looked like he just arrived in a time machine from 1970 walked up and started a lively one-sided discussion about a contradiction he had noticed in the chapters of the book. His argument was persuasive, and Ben just nodded and smiled. Dave went on to chat about how well he was doing in school, listing the grades for each class, beaming with excitement about his progress and the potential merit it could earn him to reduce his sentence.
The class in progress was wrapping up, and we got up to moved to the aisle. As we stood, several other inmates approached us, and Ben greeted them each by name, introduced me, and participated in light banter with each about various topics.
I struck up a conversation with Andre. He was a large man, probably would've been a linebacker or defensive end in high school, yet carried a very calm and quiet presence about himself. He looked to be 30ish, and began to tell me about his four children, all under the age of 10. Before I knew it, he had whipped out a stack of photos, and was proudly displaying them to me, rattling off their names and ages. He then showed me pictures of his wife, and was full of compliments for the way she was raising them while he was in "the joint." I felt so at ease talking with this man who most likely committed a horrific crime, and I almost forgot I was in a place that housed death row offenders. Andre went on to tell how he was came to know Jesus in 2004 (he quoted the date), and how his life before knowing Christ was full of one terrible choice after another. He said growing up in east Chicago was really tough, but God is faithful. We talked about the importance of praying for our kids, staying faithful to Christ, and the power of encouraging others. Then he quietly said something about having to be here for 60 years, as if it were going to be over soon. At that moment the weight of it all hit me....
I struggled with the fact that this man was human, and that he would be staring at the barbed wire surrounding the complex until my own toddler sons were grandparents someday. I struggled with the thought of Andre's children only knowing their father through plexiglass visits and timed phone calls. I wrestled with the idea that if I knew the man's actual crime, I might find myself thinking "And you only got 60 years as a penalty?"
Class began as Ben handed out the essay tests, and the inmates took 15 minutes to fill in their answers. As each came to turn in their papers, Ben introduced us. Each man looked me in the eye and shook hands.
Ben shared on the first two chapters of the night, covering the ideas of Accepting Your Assignment for Service and realizing that we're all Shaped for Serving God. He did a great job hitting the highlights of the chapters, engaging the students, and wrangling the tangential comments back on course. As he asked for feedback from the group, he called out each raised hand by name - this was very striking to me.
Then it was my turn to share from the final two chapters for the night. By this time, all my fears were gone as I felt as if I was speaking to a bunch of guys I could hang out with to watch a game this weekend or play a pickup game of hoops. I highlighted the author's chapters on Understanding Your Shape and then Using What God Gave You. Again, the group was very willing to participate in discussion and offer insight based on their unique experiences. It was an easy discussion to lead.
As time ran out on our class, the guys started to dismiss and several approached Ben and I to offer thanks for making the effort to be there. They seemed very genuine in their gratitude, and had I not been in a maximum security prison, I would've never realized I was rubbing shoulders with a population of men that the church - for the most part - has left to rot inside these thick concrete walls.
Ben and I left I.S.P. telling each other about the conversations we had with the men that night, and how apparent it was that once Christ enters a man's heart, no matter what evil that heart had done, that same heart can become new.
This was my first visit to a maximum security prison. It won't, by the grace of God, be my last.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

People I learn from


Many people like me want to change; the question is how we get the inspiration/motivation to do this. My inspiration comes many times from those around me.

I am going to share some of the different areas that I have been challenged recently in and some of the people who have inspired me.

In the area of money-

Recently I was in a small group and the issue of finances came up and we were all talking about our current status and talking about how money wasn’t that important. This one older wiser man in our group said well I want to make more money. I was shocked and was taken aback by this comment. He smiled and went on to explain that his goal in life was to be a reverse tither. I asked him what that meant he said I want to be able to live on 10% of my money and give 90% to God. Many Christians think the gold standard of giving is ten percent and once they accomplish that they are good for life. This friend of mine has taken a different stance and has inspired me to think about my finances. I have to ask the question how much money do I waste on myself and my selfish desires? To be absolutely honest most of it.

In the area of Spiritual Disciplines-

Who have I learned the most from in this area? None other than my new found friends in prison. These men are an inspiration to me in reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible. I feel that I have much to learn from these men in their dedication to God’s word. One gentleman I was talking to last night was talking about how he was reading through the Bible for his second time. I have read through the Bible once and it was for a class in college. One other man was sharing how he writes Bible verses down on note cards and memorizes them through out the day. Verses flow from these men’s mouths through out the class I teach. It is an inspiration and a desire to know God’s word front wards and backwards like these men do.

In the area of helping the poor-

I have had the opportunity to watch a 65 year old man who wears Mr Rogers sweaters love poor people. This man has dedicated his life to the poor and loving them. He pastor’s a church fittingly called the Love Church. He is one of my favorite pastors in the world. His enthusiasm and passion reminds me of the late Crocodile Hunter. This mans passion is contagious. He hasn’t guilted me into loving the poor, he has inspired me to love the poor. He has inspired me to bring many people to meet him and his wife.

Inspiration to change is much better for me than change because of guilt, obligation, or fear. There are so many more people that have inspired me and will continue to inspire me. Is it true that we become like the company we keep? I hope that some of these people that I try and surround myself with will rub off on me.

By the way if you want to be inspired this Saturday night a small group/church that I am a part of is having a missionary couple who was persecuted in Indonesia is going to come and talk with us. It is at a house but if you want directions let me know.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Florida Trip and it was a trip

There are very things in life I will say never again: Such as having ten drunken men in the middle of a city work on my broken down car. My list has added one item after my prolonged trip to Florida. Unless forced I will never drive 24 straight hours with my three children again. I love my children but having them sit in the car for that long is not pleasant. Anyone that has traveled with me knows I hate stopping for any reason. So with two children who need to use the bathroom more than once every six hours we brought along the potty chair. Some advice for anyone who might try that in the future bring along quite a bit of air fresheners it makes a car stink like an outhouse. On the way down to florida it took us 20 hours. I didn't go crazy so I thought the way back would be even better. After an hour driving and me thinking this is going to go by quick, we hit a traffic jam in Tampa. After three hours of sitting there and listening to the Little Mermaid, I think I can remember the movie line for line. Did you know that they call a fork a cadidlehopper? I didn't either until this traffic jam. After we got out of that we went for a ways and hit another traffic jam. It lasted that way until we got out of Georgia some 15 hours later. Needless to say it was one of the longest day/night/day of my life. After The Little Mermaid played through until it broke then there was the Lion King, Cars, Beauty and the Beast, and who knows what other torture they put on the dvd player.
I would recommend making this type of trip once in your life, we brought the mother in law with us but I think you could bring anyone in the family along. I don't know how a family pet would do in this type of setting but if you do try it tell me so I can decide if I want try that when my wife convinces me that we need to rent a rv and tour the country. Btw, I had suggested flying to alaska and going on a cruise for our ten year anniversary but she has vetoed that and wants to rent the affor mentioned rv and traveling the country. This is bound to be a summer to remember.