Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How we manage our money

This past week, I posted this on Facebook:
145 interactions?  Never seen that before.

That is, without a doubt, my most-interacted with bit of social media ever (Wolfram Alpha agrees).  I was stunned to see the number of people who liked it.  We didn't get that much interest when announcing the birth of our kids!  While I'm positive that many of those folks are already debt-free and are recognizing the work of a fellow-traveler, I also expect that many of the "likers" (is that a word?) are hungry for the same thing we're experiencing now.  I've had several people ask for an explanation of how we handle our money.  This is it.

I should point out that I am hardly a personal finance expert.  If I were smarter or better with money, we wouldn't have added that debt in the first place.  Today, I make $10k a year less than I made eight years ago when I was 24.  You'd think that the early earning power would have given me a massive head-start, but instead it set us back.  I got used to out-earning my poor decisions, which ended up being a problem when my earning potential decreased.  Engineering firms pay better than churches.  Who knew?

I've been hosting Financial Peace University at our church, and I've been watching people struggle with their budgets.  I really like Dave Ramsey, and his principles are solid.  But his budget forms are really difficult for me.  Too much work.  Judi and I have migrated to an easier system that's worked well for us.  I called into his show and asked him what he thought, and he said MY approach seemed like too much work.  To each his own, I guess.  But here's what we do.

We've totally stopped using credit cards, and minimized debit cards (except for gas).  We've stopped worrying about accruing points; we've found that the amount we save when paying cash is much more than we were getting for our points.  We keep our cash in envelopes and only use cash for most purchases.  We use envelopes for groceries, clothing, special projects, and a mini-emergency fund.  So far so good, Mr. Ramsey would say.

Each one of these gets its own number

Here's where it gets odd:  we found that envelopes work so well that we use electronic versions for our non-cash expenses.  We budget based on three checking accounts:  a general account, a housing account, and an auto account.  The general account is the primary fund.  It gets the paycheck, pays the debt, and transfers money to my other accounts (both checking and savings).  It's kinda like what Ramit says, except I don't use credit cards.  Every payday, money is also transferred to my housing account and auto account.  The housing account pays the mortgage and all utilities, all of which auto-drafts.  We should have a little bit of extra money in that account every month, and we let it build up and we use it for projects.

An example of a sub-budget (housing, in this case)

The auto account is the same.  Every two weeks it gets half of my monthly budgeted amount, and it auto-pays our insurance.  We also have a separate debit card that is only for gas purchases; it's hard to impulse-buy when you're only buying gas.  Every month a little extra money builds up, which we use for basic maintenance like oil changes.

We also use four savings accounts:  one at our bank (with our emergency fund) and 3 at ING, which I love.  If you're interested, let me know and I'll refer you... I think I get $10 for referring someone.  We have mini-savings accounts through ING for gifts, vacations, education, and so on.  I don't know if I could make ING my primary account, but it sure is nice to have as a supplement.

It's not rocket surgery, but this works for us.  I'm always open to improvements... do you have any tips to share?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Politics is Bad for Me

If you're reading this, then you probably know me. If you were to list my worst qualities, what would they be? This isn't an exercise in condemnation or even confession, so don't worry.
'Politics 6 ' photo (c) 2011, Erik - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
I have no idea what that photo is, I just searched Wylio for "politics."

I, like almost everyone else in the world, struggle with pride. I'm competitive (not a bad thing, by itself), but a lot of times I want to win by making sure my opponent loses.  I want to make my opponent look foolish, because that will make me look wise.  I want to have the power to make decisions (or at least for people I agree with to make decisions) and I want to deny that power to those I don't agree with.  I tend to believe that people I disagree with are stupid, or too lazy to think through the issues, or blinded by immorality.

If you read that paragraph and think "That's not true," then we probably haven't discussed politics.

Which is intentional on my part.

I am (often more slowly than I'd like) being saved from the desire and effects of sin in my life... but it's slow going.  There's still a fair bit of darkness in my heart.  And politics is like crack cocaine for my dark side.  Every single thing that's evil in me is vociferously and voraciously attracted to political debate.  It's like chum in the water.  Brin said it best a long time ago:  The problem with power is not that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The problem with power is that it attracts the corruptible.

A friend posted a political link on my Facebook wall last night, and my (first) response was "That's like inviting a recovering alcoholic to a wine-tasting." Unlike my friends who are actual recovering alcoholics, though, I went ahead and clicked on the link, thinking I was above its effects.  Spoiler alert:  I'm corruptible.  And I think you probably are too.

Over the next three months, I have a limited amount of drive, of willpower, of mental energy, of conversations with friends and potential friends, and of focus.  Why should I spend it engaging in the division of this Kingdom, when I could be focused on the expansion of a better one?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Art of the Fugue

The Kingdom of God is like a fugue. Seriously. In fact, most of the major concepts of the Bible are like a fugue. In my experience, it's one of the most useful ways of thinking about the Biblical narrative.

A fugue is a compositional technique (in classical music) in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition. Thanks, Wikipedia!

No idea what that means? Watch this. I recommend full-screen. Focus, don't multi-task. It's worth it.

Get it?

The piece starts off with a small and simple melodic line. Easy to follow, easy to distinguish, easy to remember. That melody then gains ornamentation (it's done made fancy) which demonstrates the skill of both the composer and performer while increasing the enjoyment of the listener. It's not amusement only, though: the ornamentation actually brings out more of the melody line and makes it more distinctive.

Then, just when you think you're beginning to understand the melody line, it shuts off and appears again somewhere else. Exact same basic melody, but with a twist. From one perspective, there's no direct musical connection between the first and second occurrence. It's usually played by a different hand on a different part of the piano (or organ, or whatever). But it's unmistakably the same melody. Then that familiar melody stops, only to start again somewhere else. The enjoyment and appreciation of the fugue comes from recognizing the common melody and its ornamentation, and the way the melody can be stacked against itself in different ways.

Ok, enough of the pretension. I like fugues cause they sounds good. After being in a choir for 15 years, you learn to appreciate the complexity.

This is what the Bible is like. I'm preaching this weekend on Habakkuk 3, and briefly mentioning what I consider the major narrative thread of the Bible: "God wants to dwell with his people." You see an echo of this thread on almost every page of the Bible, if you know how to look (or, perhaps, how to listen).
It starts in the Garden of Eden, where God walks with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve are tainted by their sin, and become unable to bear the presence of a Holy God. But God doesn’t stop loving them, and throughout the rest of the Bible we continue to see that God’s primary desire is to dwell with his people. We see the tent of meeting, and the Tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple. But these are just a stopgap solution; a physical metaphor for a people that didn’t yet understand what it means for God to dwell with us. That we are the temple of a holy God.

In the New Testament, Jesus refers to himself as the temple, the place where God dwells. Ok, his disciples say, we get that. Good. Then it’s the church that is the temple of God; the place where he dwells. And finally this reaches its fullness in the writing of Paul, where he says “Your body is the temple of God.” YOU are the place where God dwells. Our God is the God who dwells with us.
You see this "fugue" methodology all through the text, "Temple" and "Kindgom" are just the most obvious melodies. See also "Covenant," "Sacrifice," "Family," "Law," "Salvation," and so on. Once you learn the art of the fugue, what otherwise seems like a solid wall of noise begins to resolve into discernible patterns, written and performed by a Master Musician.

It's worth spending some time learning the fugue, for your enjoyment of music if nothing else. Once you think you've got it, try this on for size.

Or, if that's too much, start with this:

Don't even get me started on grace notes.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Grill a Pizza

We've been in Wilmore for almost two years now, and we've been blessed to have been surrounded by some absolutely fantastic people. To maximize that, we instituted a "Sunday Night is For Friends" policy whenever it's warm enough to be in the backyard. It's strictly a backyard gig, because our tiny cinder-block duplex gets pretty cramped when we try having fifteen people around the dinner table.

For a while we tried doing burgers and dogs, which is incredibly tasty but hard on the budget. Midway through last summer, we discovered the joy of grilled pizza. The greatest thing about grilled pizza is that you can put just about anything on a crust and call it a pizza. Our friends also bring whatever they happen to have on hand, and we have a fantastic dinner without anybody having to go shopping.

I made four pizzas tonight, and every piece was eaten. It took the first two to remember all of the tricks, but by the third one the system was rocking and the pizza was delicious. So I'm writing it down here, partly because I promised Kara I would and partly because otherwise I'll forget it. If I was a real foodie writer, I'd have taken awesome pictures of the process. But between the four-foot rat snake that came to visit Jenna while she was sitting in the grass and the bee that stung my the sole of Judi's foot, I was a little distracted with getting the food on.

Now, to the cooking!

First off, get your dough going. You'll want to do this about an hour before starting the grill. We use our standard flatbread recipe:
- 1 cup warm (not hot) water
- 2 teaspoons of yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar

Let sit for 10 minutes (to proof the yeast), then add and mix:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon oregano
The spices are negotiable; we use a slightly different mix when making flatbread. This recipe makes two pizza crusts; the double recipe (4 crusts) was about right for eight adults and seven kids. After mixing, you'll want to leave the dough alone for an hour to rise (it should double in size). This will give you plenty of time to prep your ingredients. You'll be making the pizzas on a hot grill, so having ingredients prepped and ready to go is a big deal.

Once your ingredients are ready and your dough has doubled in size, prep the grill. Put your pizza stone right on the grill. We have two stones we bought at Trader Joe's a decade ago, but I'm told quarry stone works just as well. Turn on all the burners and close the lid; you'll want it nice and hot. A wood-fired pizza oven cooks at roughly 500 degrees, and that's about how hot my gas grill is with all burners on and the lid closed.

Separate your big batch of dough into two (or four, in my case) pieces. You'll want another cup of all-purpose flour handy; the dough will likely be sticky and wet. A drier dough is easier to work with, so don't be afraid to add plenty more flour as you roll it out. Once it's rolled, you've got to transfer it to a hot pizza stone in the grill. I've had the most success with this method, but whatever works for you. I don't recommend adding the cold pizza stone into the oven, because: (1) the cold stone will absorb all the heat and cook the pizza more slowly, and (2) you don't want to take a hot pizza stone out of the grill. Trust me. Throw some cornmeal on the hot stone, transfer your dough, let it cook for 3-5 minutes, then flip it with a grill spatula and immediately start building your pizza on the surface that had been against the stone.

Your pizza can be whatever you want. The first two (you know, for kids) were standard pizza sauce/pepperoni/cheese, but the last two were a lot nicer.
1. Cover the dough with olive oil, black pepper, and diced garlic.
2. Add your meat(s). On the first pizza, it was shredded leftovers from crockpotted whole chicken. On the second pizza, it was half chicken, half black forest ham.
3. Add your veggies. On the first pizza, it was sliced onions and leftover chopped spinach. On the second, it was sliced onions and jalapenos.
4. Add your cheese. We used some leftover colby, but mostly mozzarella.
5. Sprinkle a little oregano on top (I forgot this tonight but I didn't miss it much).
And that's pretty much it. A cheap, clean-out-the-fridge meal that you can make in the back while watching your children run scream and chase each other around the yard. It's no more work to cook for 15 than to cook for 2, so why not hang out with friends while you cook and eat?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What We've Been Talking About

So over the past six weeks, a group of us has been meeting every Wednesday and talking about some of the "big questions" of life and Christianity. The last post on this (sadly neglected) blog, in fact, was immediately after Week 1. Several people have asked for audio, so here it is. I posted it in my Dropbox account, linked it to this blog, and then will link this blog post to Facebook so people can find it. What a tangled web we weave.

Week 1: What Would You Ask God? (Audio Link)
In our first week, I gave a little bit of my own backstory, we talked about faith as a journey, and we talked about God being big enough for our biggest questions.

Week 2: Who Was Jesus?  (Audio Link)
In our second week, I talked about Jesus. Who was he, what did he teach, what kind of evidence should we accept, and why should we care?

Week 3: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?  (Audio Link)
In Week 3, special guest Griff Ray talked about the cross: what is it, and why do Christians care so much about it?

Week 4: Can We Trust the Bible?  (Audio Link)
This week, special guest Barry Davis talked about the Bible: it's composition, it's trustworthiness, and what it means for us.

Week 5: Why is There Evil and Suffering in the World?  (Audio Link)
This week, we talked about the millenia-old question: If God is good, and powerful, and he loves us, then why is so much of our world jacked up?

Week 6: What's Next?  (Audio Link)
In our closing week, we talked about where we go from here and what it really means to follow Christ. We also had a fair number of tangents, as people brought up questions that hadn't been answered in the class.

I really enjoyed interacting with this crew.  Everybody had such good/honest/authentic questions and a willingness to really take a hard look at what we believe and why.  A fantastic time was had (by me, at least).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

That's a Great Question

For the next five weeks (six, counting last night), the Vineyard is offering a Wednesday night dinner/discussion group on the big questions of life and Christianity. Last night we had everybody write down their questions; we've collected them and will be basing the rest of the time on these. Some of these are "What would you ask God" questions, so if you see the word "You" it's referring to Him.

'Question mark made of puzzle pieces' photo (c) 2008, Horia Varlan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There's a great (apocryphal) story about NT Wright opening up a semester by saying to his class "One third of what I'm going to teach you is wrong.  Unfortunately, I don't know which third."  That's essentially the spirit of the class.  These are great, hard questions.  Great questions usually don't have pat answers, which means the discussion around these should be phenomenal.

Without further ado, the questions:

  • Why do you remain silent? 
  • Can those who are resurrected after death hear or see those they leave behind on earth? 
  • How can I be sure of your will for me? 
  • How do I know if I am truly hearing your “voice”? 
  • How do you know the will of God? 
  • Why is it such a struggle to trust God with everything? 
  • What's the difference between your part and my part?
  • Faith and works? How does the time thing work? 
  • Why do bad things happen to good, faithful people? 
  • Why be so quiet after the resurrection? 
  • Why do Baptists and other religions not drink alcohol, but Catholics drink like fish?! 
  • What’s the deal with the dinosaurs? 
  • How do you get people to be content with what they got? 
  • Will I get to be with my grandad again one day? 
  • Why do people think that just because they have money they are better than other people? 
  • Why do it seem like the people that are living for the devil have it better than God’s people? 
  • Do you really hear every single prayer? 
  • What should I be doing? 
  • What should we be doing? 
  • Why do people have cancer, especially children? 
  • Why does tribulation come when I am trying/doing what I know to be a good Christian? 
  • The Bible is just a book that man wrote and it contradicts itself-How can we believe or follow what is written? 
  • When I am at work I am always trying to be the best person, why is it harder around other people to be who God wants you to be? 
  • Will we see and be able to talk to our loved ones in heaven? 
  • There are different words for spiritual realms. Are there in actuality different spiritual realms? 
  • Are there different types of salvation? 
  • Is there a difference between being saved and going to heaven? 
  • Will we see babies from abortions in heaven and will they be grown? 
  • Why do we sometimes lose faith in god? 
  • How much longer before you heal Pete? 
  • Why do some have so much and others so little? 
  • Why do you sometimes seem to hide?(when we can’t get a response from you when we are hurting) 
  • How does God view those who live near sinless lives and anonymously perform ”Godly” works, But not in the name of God? In other words, “unbelieving do-gooders.”
  • What about those who believe in other gods?(still living self-sacrificing lives) 
  • How am I supposed to do everything the Bible says, How am I supposed to manage that? and if not, How do I know which things I am supposed to do? 
  • Some people question about things mentioned in the Bible, whether it should be believed/followed as is, or taken into consideration of time, culture, & context? Developed somewhat from leviticus, and abominations=being gay, shrimp, selling daughters into slavery, wearing two different fabrics. 
  • Will only Christians get to go to heaven? 
  • How have you existed forever? 
  • What is your plan for me? What’s my purpose? 
  • What’s with dinosaurs? 
  • Why do His faithful followers, seem to suffer so much at the end? (death can be slow and painful) 
  • If you kill yourself do you really go to hell! 
  • If you're truly Gay can you still get into heaven! 
  • Why have you always been there for me? You never let me fall! 
  • When are you coming to get us?! 
  • Why are babies born with birth defects? 
  • Why don’t you do more to stop injustice? 
  • Why does it feel like your will is hard to find? 
  • Why do you allow so many people to suffer? 
  • Do we still follow the 10 commandments? If so, why do we not follow the sabbath and how can we have military( thou shalt not kill)? I believe the Bible says Jesus is the end of the old law but I’m not sure. 
  • How do you truly repent? 
  • How do I know that my Christian life/walk with God is enough or should it be? 
  • What does God expect from us? 
  • What’s next?
Phenomenal questions.  I'm really looking forward to the next five weeks.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

I've seen lots of people try to explain away this verse. Very few recognize that Jesus is actually quoting Psalm 22 (written a millenia before the crucifixion). Read this and tell me if it sounds like a man defeated.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.

But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!

Why is this night different from all other nights? Because one thousand, nine hundred and eighty three years ago tonight, Jesus the Nazarene died on a cross.

Thank God It's Good Friday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My New Favorite Groups Book

I led my first small group almost 19 years ago, and I've been leading small groups and small group leaders almost non-stop ever since. In that time, I've read almost every book that's been published on 'em, either for school, work, or pleasure.

I occasionally get asked what my one-book recommendation would be, and I've never really had an answer I was thrilled with. That changed this week, when I read Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups at a friend's house.

It's a good book, with one major caveat: the title is a complete lie. There's literally not a single new thought in the entire book. Not one. Calling anything in the book "entirely new" is pure marketing, and I blame the publisher more than the authors (who certainly must know how much they've borrowed).

But it doesn't matter. The book is a fantastic synthesis of the best small groups thinking of the past ten years. Without ever naming names, they seamlessly blend the best from Donahue, Frazee, Osborne, Stanley, and Eastman.

It's not really a book I'd give a small group leader (I'm still buying used copies of Em Griffin for that) and it has a very narrow definition of small group (service and recovery groups aren't even mentioned). But if you're a point leader for small groups at your church and you want to build a groups program, this is the one book you should have on your shelf. I've always argued that a groups program should only be one part of your overall groups strategy, but for that one part, this is the best book I've read yet.

NOTE: I didn't get any compensation for this post. I don't even have a copy of the book, since I borrowed a copy from a friend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Public Service Announcement: Why does Easter change its date every year?

Little-known fact: Easter does not actually change its date from year to year. It's always on the very same day... of the Jewish (not Gregorian) calendar.

'Easter Bunny Sighting' photo (c) 2011, Kate Ter Haar - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Short version: Because the traditional Hebrew calendar is based heavily on the lunar cycle, it will drift, over time, away from the Gregorian (solar) calendar that we use. It doesn't drift too far, though, because every few years a leap MONTH is added. Forget the occasional extra day in February or the arguments over the leap second, we're talking about an entire extra month.

I was going through old notes while doing some Easter planning and found this old link. If this interests you, click here for a much better explanation than I can give.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wrestling the Pig: "Masculine" Christianity

Like one who grabs a wild dog by the ears, so is the person passing by who becomes furious over a quarrel not his own. (Proverbs 26:17)

Never wrestle with a pig--You both get dirty, and the pig likes it. (Various)

'Pirate-themed Pig Wrestling in a Cowboy Town - Laramie, Wyoming' photo (c) 2007, Greg Younger - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

In general, I try to stay out of the culture wars. I spent several of my younger years (I'd say "less mature" but that might be overestimating my present self) taking forceful sides on all kinds of issues, among which was the "complementarian" and "egalitarian" view of gender and ministry. Then, over time, the reality of Titus 3:9 sank in, and I've tried to move away from argument and towards actually producing something. Sometimes I do well at this, sometimes less so.

With that in mind, I'm going to (mostly) avoid getting sucked into Piper's most recent silliness. I'm grateful for John, and I've benefited tremendously from some of his writings. I think he's dangerously wrong when he writes on men and women, though, and thanks to some prompting from Rachel, I'll make a couple observations. Specifically, my thoughts on this statement:
A masculine ministry seizes on full-orbed, biblical doctrine with a view to teaching it to the church and pressing it with courage into the lives of the people.

I'm part of a great church that pays me to work on both the spiritual formation of the congregation and the church's global participation in the Great Commission. There's a funny thing about Paul's description of those two tasks, though. When Paul refers to what we'd call "missions" or "evangelism," he tends to use masculine metaphors. Planting a field, fighting a war, running a race: women can do these things, sure, but in the Greco-Roman world they're strictly the domain of men. When speaking of spiritual formation, thought, Paul's metaphors take a decided turn towards the feminine.

"I fed you milk, not solid food" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)? "I am undergoing birth pains until Christ is formed in you" (Galatians 4:19)? Paul is "like a nursing mother caring for her children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)?

I'm all about pursuing "full-orbed, biblical doctrine with a view to teaching it to the church and pressing it with courage into the lives of the people." But if we're working from Paul's own metaphors, I don't really think that "masculine" is the term I'd use. And it's even more awkward when Piper says that a masculine ministry "models for the church the protection, nourishing, and cherishing of a wife and children as part of the high calling of leadership."

I've got one other thing to say about this, but I'll leave it for its own post. For those interested in more on Paul's feminine metaphors, I'm told that the book "Our Mother Saint Paul" is quite good, although I myself haven't read it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

VINN: Exodus 14

This year I've gotten back on a reading plan to work through the Bible in a year. Last year I tried the "Bible-In-A-Year Chronological Bible" but got bogged down in February (when I started my 60-minute-a-day commute to Richmond) and I never got back on track. This year I'm hoping to do better.

I know for a fact I've read the Bible through cover to cover, and I've read every passage multiple times. And yet every time I read, I find verses that I've apparently never read before. I'm sure nobody snuck in and added them, so it's just that they made no impression on me until now. This may be a one-time thing, or it may become a recurring segment: Verses I've Never Noticed.

'moses 1' photo (c) 2009, Ivy Nichols - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Last week I read Exodus 14, and this popped out at me:

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.

How wild is that? God's people are frightened and helpless, and Moses starts talking up what God will do for them. "Be still! Stand Firm! The LORD will fight for you, you need only be still!" There's a certain logic to this. God can do what His people cannot, and when compared to the power of God ours is insignificant. So it makes sense to passively let him handle the problem for us. And yet God's response to Moses is priceless: "Why are you crying out to me? Get moving!"

God indeed accomplishes what His people cannot: he opens up a way for them through the sea. No amount of work on their part would have gotten that done. But neither does God let them off the hook: if they want to break free from their captors, they need to do some of the movement themselves. To steal the relational wisdom of Hitch for a moment, God goes 90% of the way and waits for his people to go the other 10.

There's some obvious salvation implications here (Paul makes a baptism comparison in 1 Corinthians 10), but I'm more interested in the spiritual formation implications. How does this play out in demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit? In pursuing holiness? In breaking free of addictions?

Right now they're only questions, no answers. But it's fascinating what we miss when we only hit the bullet points of the Bible, instead of actually reading the text.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Back in the Habit

So as most of you know, I'm officially back in the saddle. December 22nd was my last day at the old job, and on January 1st I started as an Associate Pastor at Vineyard Community Church in Lexington, KY. That's fun.

I've got two primary areas of focus: spiritual formation and outward focus. My two favorite things! That's fun too.

As of yesterday, a new piece has been added to my job description: staff point of contact for our (excellent) volunteer IT team. Also fun.

I have a new schedule: Mondays off, work Tuesday through Friday, and then half days on Saturday and Sunday. Since I was already taking the kids to church Saturday nights (to give Judi time for homework) and Sunday mornings (all of us as a family) I basically get one free day a week, while not really losing any time. More fun.

I'm getting paid to do the stuff I would naturally do (and have actually done) for free. I'm getting to flex muscles that have gotten weak. There's clearly some significant workouts needed in the future to get back into game shape, but I'm already seeing the improvements. Fun.

In case I'm not being clear, life is currently fun. I know a part of that is that I enjoy novelty, and what's fun now may not be fun in 3 or 5 years. But right now I feel really blessed to be in the role I'm in. It's not always rainbows and butterflies, of course. Our budget's a little tighter than it was two months ago. I felt like God used the time off in extremely formative ways, and I didn't feel like I was necessarily done with that formation. And for all that I wrote this, it's hard to say that I lived that as well as I could have this year.

Still and all, it feels pretty darn good to be back to doing what I love. I leave you with this video of Whoopi doing her thing: