Sunday, December 7, 2014

The week of tornadoes

Sunday was a very interesting afternoon. We went over to our friend's Ben and Annie's house yesterday after church for a good ol' fashioned BBQ. We had a great time, and God even parted the skies so that Ben could grill for a few minutes. See his most recent entry for the details. We left for home around 2:15 or so, and at almost 4:00 Carolyn's family came over to grill. It was definately a day of grilling. And no, that's not a complaint. I had the most amazing burger for lunch, (thanks for the recipe Ben) and chicken for dinner.

At about 4:30 or so, we were playing a game at the kitchen table. The sky grew darker, and the thunder started a rumblin'. Just then, my phone indicated that I had an email. "Tornado Watch for Anoka County", it said. I announced to the family what I'd just read, so we moved to the front window. Within minutes, I got another email "Tornado Warning for the cities of Andover, Coon Rapids, Anoka, Blaine". Basically, my neighborhood. So, we moved down to the basement and turned on the TV only to hear on WCCO that cloud rotation was spotted at the intersection of Bunker Lake Blvd and Round Lake Blvd, which I can almost see from my front window. It was weird, because the wind wasn't hardly blowing, and we had only a little rain. The whole family (except for the grandparents) ran out into the cul-de-sac to catch the action. And THERE IT WAS. I saw the clouds rotating, tapering down into that tell-tale funnel toward the ground. It was very close, but moving away from us.

Turns out that the tornado touched down about a mile from our home, but wasn't very strong. Some slight property damage, but didn't do a whole lot. However, the same storm moved east at about 45 mph and about 30 minutes later produced quite a destructive storm. The town of Hugo was hit hard, and a 2 year old boy was killed. There are still about 20 people missing, they believe most of whom were out of town for the holiday weekend. Here are a few pictures of the devastation.

Things must change

I just got home from one of the most powerful, moving evenings of my life. Carolyn and I attended a benefit dinner put on by International Justice Mission, or IJM. The mission of the organization (as stated on their website) is to be a "human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression." They tirelessly work to free human slaves across the world, and work with local governments to stop criminals from abusing and exploiting the poor.

Carolyn and I spent the whole night hearing stories of people freed from the clutches of oppression, snatched away from brothels, and even given the tools to start new lives. We heard about IJM workers in other countries that are going into the slums of the world to find sexual slaves, freeing them from their owners. They are living out the call to every Christian to "Seek justice, protect the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:17)

We have both been feeling for a long time now that God had called us to partner with something bigger than us, bigger than our church, bigger than we can imagine. When you have little kids, your world becomes very small. You can't easily travel the world and give yourself, time, money away. Your responsibility is to raise your children. How can we be a part of something large when our world is wrapped up in 2 little faces? THIS is how God is calling us to widen the view of our world, to partner with an organization that is redeeming what the enemy is trying to take away.

We are now actively praying about how we can get involved in what IJM is doing here in Mpls. I don't feel like this is some kind of "fly by night" emotional decision, but something that has been resonating deep in my soul. What IJM is about is the very thing that God has been calling me to be a part of. Our very close friends are the local chairpersons for the event, and it's likely that we'll be helping them pull this off next year. But what else? I don't know if it's enough to just help coordinate an event once a year. How else will we put our hands to the plow?

Pray for us, things must change

A blog you should be reading

I made a new friend recently. (Don't laugh) If you add one blog to your reader anytime soon, it should be Ben and Annie's. They just started attending our church, and we've had a blast getting to know them. They're having a baby in Sept (I think), and they'll periodically post something relating to the upcoming birth. My favorite posts however, are when Ben tackles things like the problem of evil. You HAVE to read this post. He's a deep thinker, and doesn't let himself get away with easy answers. That's one of the reasons why I like him. The other reason, is that he's a self-proclaimed nerd, and he embraces it. He is a computer guy (database management) by day, and a Sci-Fi reading, Star Wars loving nerd by night.

Here's some link love Ben and Annie.

Ready to go home?

Within Christian circles, "going home" means something other than heading back to the place where you sleep and eat. It refers to our eternal home, heaven. There have been many times when I've heard people say something like "I'm ready to go home" or "Anytime God wants to take me home, I'm ready". In fact, it happened twice within the past week. I've always thought this was a really morbid thing to say, and it makes me feel kind of creepy. I mean, why would you WANT to die? I know this world is hard, and it's full of pain at times, but are things really so bad that you don't want to be here any more? My life is pretty good, I'll admit. There are things that I struggle with, but for the most part I don't have many complaints. I know that heaven will be awesome, but I feel like life is pretty good here too.

I wasn't until recently that I started to think about this concept for me. Even though my life is great, there are still some major problems in the world. Famine, oppression, violence, and even closer to home loss of home (tornadoes), debt, and death. When I think about it, life isn't so great. I've had a chance to experience some amazing things, and by no means to I think my time is up (I have much more to do here). However, I've come to a place where I'm comfortable with the idea of not being on earth anymore.

I'm still not ready to embrace the idea that I would be going alone. I don't want Carolyn or the kids to have to do life without me. THAT thought gives me pain. So....can Jesus just come back for us? I'm ready for that, for sure.

The REAL April Fool's Joke

Although my last post was a really lame attempt at an April Fool's joke, this is the real deal. I played this joke today.

Carolyn told me that a friend of hers and her husband play April Fool's jokes on their kids every year. This little doozie was taken from a page out of their play book.

This is a picture of a cereal bowl with frozen milk. Last night, I poured half a bowl of milk and placed it in the freezer overnight. Yesterday morning, when it was time for breakfast, I pulled it out of the freezer and filled it with Cheerios, like I always do. I put the cereal in and put another quarter inch of milk over the cereal. At first glance, they couldn't even tell the difference, until they tried to eat. It worked PERFECTLY...Ella was very frustrated that she couldn't scoop her cereal like she normally does. She yells (while I clearly can't hide the smirk on my face) "My milk is frozen Daddy!"

All I could do is laugh...

March - Blog Review

I've found a number of folks that like to repost the best of their own blogs from the previous month. It's a good way for newcomers to learn a little about my blog content (welcome to the 5 of you that added Collide and Converge to your RSS feed this month!), and helps me see where I've been and what God has been doing.

It seems a little weird to repost my own posts. In fact, I'll go ahead and say it. It's self indulgent. But here goes anyway.

March 6th, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead
March 7th, I want to be a shepherd, not a cowboy
March 20th, What the world thinks the church should be
March 25th, Best idea for an Easter event, ever

Why I can't be dogmatic about theology (or truth with a little "t")

I had a conversation this morning with Carolyn, and I had one of those moments when the light came on. She was talking to me about this class that she's been taking at The Master's Institute. One of her teachers was teaching on God's revelation as it relates to Scripture and the Holy Spirit. At the risk of going deep theology on y'all, I'm going to put into words what I've been feeling for years now.

God's Truth is unchanging, right? I think that we can all agree that God doesn't change (unless your name is Doug Pagitt or Greg Boyd), and therefore the basic truth that God gives doesn't change also.

However, my understanding of that truth is always changing. In other words, as I grow in my knowledge and understanding of God, there is a greater revelation of that truth. It's impossible to fully know God, but I'd like to think that the more time I spend with him, the better I can know him.

Herein is the problem I have with denominations. I say this carefully, because I'm serving in a denominational church now. In fact, every church I've been on staff at has been a denominational church. When a denomination is formed, it is because the values and interpretations of God's word or how the Holy Spirit works is different from the group they presently are a part of. The new group believes they have to form a new group because they don't agree fully with the existing group. Essentially, they say "We understand God's word differently (better) than you do". Without saying it, they communicate that they have the corner on God's revelation and others don't.

I can't do that. I'm a work in progress. The more I get to know God, the better I know him. My theology and understanding of God develops, hopefully for the better. I never arrive. I never have the corner on the market. I never fully understand God. My theology today is based on how I know God today. That doesn't make it right, it just makes it mine. As soon as I say that a particular theology is right and others are wrong, I risk stopping the flow of God's revelation in my life.

I'm not Baptist, CMA, Lutheran, Catholic, Charismatic, Emergent, or anything else. I'd like to think that I'm a none of them, and all of them.

For me, truth has to be with a little "t". I can't capitalize it, I'm learning more and more what Truth is. It's out there...Truth that is, but I don't fully understand it.