Monday, November 27, 2006

Thankful for all of you

The past 6 days have been a whirlwind for me. I left work at about 7:30 on Wednesday and made the trek, "over the river and through the wood's to Grandmother's house" and spent a wonderful thanksgiving with my family. Suffice it to say that having Dad their with us was particularly awesome. he has come a LONG, LONG way. He still needs our prayer. He is dealing with fear and discouragement so all of you that know him, give him a call or drop a line.

Because of the death in the Church, we traveled back on Saturday. Saturday's Memorial service was certainly memorable. Our Church was filled to capacity and then some. Folding chairs were brought out, people were standing around the perimeter of the inside of the building and the foyer and stairway were filled. Then the crowd spilled out into the sidewalks up and down the front of the Church. My best estimate is between 300 to 350 people with many of them having gang affiliations. I was able to share a simple message of the gospel with them and the service went beautifully, until the end. At the end we had a minor disruption that could have escalated into a much larger one but God gave me grace and wisdom and in the end, many, many young people heard the message. I won't go into detail about the disruption because my Mom reads this and Chicago scares her to death anyway but ALL IS WELL, MOM!

I had already planned to have a guest speaker for Sunday, so Debbie, Sam and I took the opportunity for some down time. And what a great time together we had. It's good to be back, although when I returned home my computer had crashed. :<( I'll get it going again though, I'm sure. Hope you all were blessed beyond measure over the Holiday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

There is no classroom for this

I write with a heavy heart today. Early, this past Sunday morning, a 26year old nephew of one of my parishioner's was killed by an intoxicated hit and run driver.

Alberto Ruiz II, had an automobile accident at around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. His automobile had turned on its side but Alberto had survived intact. He crawled out of the overturned vehicle only to to be hit moments later by the intoxicated driver of another vehicle. That driver was found and arrested, thanks to the help of witnesses.

I ask for yor prayers in the coming days as I attempt to be an instrument of comfort to a devastated family.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

No strings attached?

I sit here in utter amazement over the release of the new PlayStation3. I just read a story where a Walmart had people camped outside of the building waiting for the midnight hour to come so that they could purchase one of the twenty, PS3's that Walmart would recieve. Fights broke out, police were called in, arrests were made and Walmart was closed down for a while.

What has happened to us? This sickens me to the core. There are people starving to death all around the world but here in the "greatest" country on the planet, we will camp out, wait in line to buy a $500 toy and fight for the right to do it?

We've lost something along the way in our "achievments." We've lost what life is about. We are pawns in a Madison avenue game, puppets on a material string, supposedly smarter than any other time in history but childish in our behavior.

I remember a time in my life when men would have laughed at the idea of playing video games. It would have been a waste of time that could be spent doing something useful. Now we have phrases like, "Big Boys toys." Maybe that's part of the problem. We've forgotten what it means to be men.

The very makers of these games prove that we are like puppets on strings when they dictate release dates and times, knowing that we will show up. Imagine 30 years ago, some toymaker saying, we will release our new toy on the 15th of the month at Midnight. Ooops, just more proof. 30 years ago you would have been hard pressed to find a store open at midnight. It just wasn't that important. My, how we have advanced.

I say it's time we cut the strings and take back what we've lost. I plan to do just that, just as soon as I get through this line!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

God is God and I am not

In my nearly six years now at Narragansett, I am still overwhelmed at the fact that I've been called to be there. I've never been what anyone would consider to be "urban" by any stretch of the imagination. I grew up in many Americana style small towns and my "wild" days are pretty tame in comparison to what I see now on a weekly basis. I've questioned God many times on why I am where I'm at. I've argued that others would be more qualified. I've insisted that I'm over my head. I've protested that there are more capable ministers for the congregation that I've been given charge of. God's reply to me is usually a very simple, "I know and that's why you're here." He really ticks me off some times. ;<)

We had great services Sunday. God moved in a powerful way and I haven't beat myself up too much over what I could have done better because after all, God knows and that's why I'm here.

Today I saw the return of one of my "addicts." One of the most frustrating things of an urban pastorate is the drug culture and in my nearly six years, I have pretty much seen it all. (and you thought pastoring was glamorous now, didn't you) I have a cast of regulars that come in and attempt to get clean and pretty soon they are back out and using again. I won't see them for months at a time and then they will either get in trouble with the law or OD and end up coming back home. There are a few success stories but overall the drug culture has a strong grip in this area.

The young man that returned today, (we'll call him "Steve," God knows who he is) has been in and out of prison. He is a heroin addict and his addiction makes him look much older than what I'm guessing is his 35 years. The first time I met him I could see great potential in his life, if he could ever get past his addiction. When he is clean, he is a very polite, charasmatic and good looking young man. When he is dirty, he falls off of the face of the earth for months at a time. Today he gave his heart back to God. Ironically, I preached on "commitment." God spoke directly to his heart.

I want to ask all of you to pray for "Steve." I believe his life is in the balance. I believe that if he gets it together and becomes victorious over his problems that, through God, he can wreak great havok to the kingdom of the enemy.

I could be wrong. After all, I'm unqualified, filled with inability and over my head. But thank God that God knows!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Go Bears!

I recieved this in an e-mail from one of my Church members and I just have to share it. Thanks, Ellen, and we are praying for your recovery from shoulder surgery!

Quarterback Brett Farve, after living a full life, died.

When he got to heaven, God started showing him around.

They came to a modest little house with a faded Packers flag in the window. "This house is yours for eternity, Brett," said God.

"This is very special; not everyone gets a house up here."

Brett felt special indeed and walked up to his house.

On his way up to the porch, he noticed another house just around the corner. It was a three-story mansion with a blue and orange sidewalk, 50-foot tall flagpole with an enormous Bears logo flag, and in every window, a blue helmet with a "C" on it.

Brett looked at God and said, "God, I'm not trying to be ungrateful, but I have a question. I was an All-Pro Quarterback, I won a Super Bowl, and I even went to the Hall of Fame."

God said, "So what do you want to know, Brett?"

"Well, why does Walter Payton get a better house than me?"

God chuckled and said,

"Brett, that's not Walter Payton's house, it's mine.

Go Bears!!!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just one message today---VOTE

If you don't vote, you shouldn't complain. This is a right that men have died for us to have. That alone negates any excuse we may have. Don't cheapen the price that men have paid.

If you're not sure who to vote for just give me a call and I'll help. Here's a hint: we should do EVERYTHING we can to prevent Nancy Pelosi from becoming speaker of the house!

Even if you disagree with me, VOTE!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thoughts on the Haggard fiasco

No doubt you all have heard about the accusations against Colorado Pastor, Ted Haggard. He was accused this week of an improper relationship with a male prostitute.

When I first heard the news I was saddened but hopeful that the accusations would be proven false. I admired that Pastor Haggard, immediately stepped down from his position as Pastor and resigned as President of the Evangelical organization. At first, I was taken aback by his resignation of both posts, as I thought if you're innocent then make them prove it. But then I remembered the Swaggart fiasco and the now infamous, "I have sinned" speech. I remembered the damage that the Swaggart fiasco did to the Church and I thought, "here is a guy being mindful of the Church as a whole." It WAS truly admirable.

Then, as the week went on, there were admissions to "some indiscretions" and my heart sank as I realized that we are about to face another black eye. To Ted Haggard's credit, his accuser failed a polygraph test about a sexual encounter. To his shame, Ted Haggart is lieing about buying Crystal Meth once but never using it. I say lieing because his accuser played a recording of what is, most likely, Ted Haggards voice asking if the accuser can "get him MORE stuff." So, if we are to believe Ted Haggard, then we must believe, by his own admission, that he hired a known male prostitute to give him a massage and that he used that same male prostitute to score him some crystal meth once and that's all that happened between them, although he asked for more meth? Pastor Ted, it's time to come clean. There is forgiveness and restoration in the body of Christ but please don't marr it any further.

For those that do not know, Crystal Meth is a highly addictive drug, (some claim, one use and your addicted) that is used primarily for it's affect during intercourse. I won't get any more explicit than that but suffice it to say that it is a highly popular drug of choice among deviants. It is a drug that has quickly become an epedimic in this country, affecting almost every area and walk of life.

I'm saddened today by this situation. Not only saddened by the falling and failing of a brother but saddened at the responses I've been reading. There are some in the body of Christ that see this as only a politically motivated story. Gay marriage is up for vote next week in Colorado and Ted Haggard has been a loud voice against it. While there may be some merit to the accusers timing, the fact that should sadden us the most is that it has happened at all. While I am a firm believer that the Christians should be involved in the political process, I am even more of a believer that our creed should be upheld over and above ANYTHING else that we may involve ourselves in. The fact is that a brother has fallen, that should alarm us more than any political process.

This story also drives home the fact that WE are the Ambassadors of Christ. Our lives, our actions and our character should ever be mindful of this. Not just when we are behind pulpits but when we are living our daily life as well. I'm sure if you were to ask Ted Haggard today, "did you intend to fall into this trap," that the answer would be no but fall he did.

My heart and my prayers go out to the Haggard family, the male prostitute, the Colorado Church in which Haggard pastored, to the people of Colorado and to the Church as a whole. The true Church of Jesus Christ cannot be damaged but the public perception of what the Church is has taken a massive hit. May we turn our perceptions back to being followers of Christ and not followers of man.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Political Musings

Politics and common sense are far too often estranged. This current campaign is all the proof we need of that. I have a few things I want to share on the National and Local political front that I find highly amusing. I don't consider myself a Republican or Democrat. In fact, I think the "party" system is one of the reasons that this Country is in the mess it is in. Somewhere in the mix "character" should count. Instead we have a bunch of characters running for office.

Just so you know a little more about me I will tell you that more often than not, I do vote for Republican candidates. I do so based upon the issues of abortion and defense of marriage. In my opinion, little else matters if our values are skewed. However, I will state that the Republican party has been a great disappointment to me as they have squandered the last four years. I do support and uphold our President, even when I vehemently disagree with him and I would do the same if John Kerry had won the election. I wouldn't have liked it one bit but I would have supported him as President. I believe it is time to get out if Iraq. Not because of a "failure" of the administration but because the very ones we have liberated are now turning their backs on us, as is the case with the elected Prime Minister of Iraq. Anyway, back to the musings.

National Front

This week, in a prepared speech to College students, John Kerry made a statement that basically said, "get a good education or you'll end up in Iraq." (not an exact quote but it is the jist of his statement) The Republicans jumped on it like a blind dog in a meathouse turning it into the most interesting sound bite of any campaign so far.

Kerry, realizing his blunder, turned the spin doctors loose in an effort to minimize the damage. He is now saying that he blew a line in the prepared speech and that he was referring to Bush and his administration and not our Military.

First of all, if you have viewed and heard the sound bite on the news, you will see Kerry look down to his notes before delivering the line. So if Bush is the stupid idiot that the Dem's regularly attempt to make him look, then, (accepting his blown line statement at face value) what is Kerry? Apparently he can't even read.

Next, accepting his "blown line" statement at face value, what is Kerry saying about the American public? After all we elected this "uneducated man" so what is Kerry saying about us? And yes, WE elected the President. It matters not who you voted for in a democratic process.

No matter what spin is put on it, John Kerry owes the Military and the American public an apology but I won't be holding my breath.

Local Front

I am facing a dilemma in Illinois' Governer's campaign. I don't like either candidate. I believe G-Rod, (as we call him around here) is one of the most corrupt individuals to ever hold the office, and in Illinois, that is saying a lot.

His opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, is a very outspoken and straight talking individual. You rarely have to wonder what she means. In a man that would seem to be a good quality but as a female it makes her appear to be brash and abrasive. My dilemma is not in whether she is male or female but in my opinion her straight talk and outspokenness doesn't always seem to be very intelligent. Regardless of my opinion, she trails G-Rod, who will almost certainly be re-elected, although he has been under investigation ever since he took office.

The funny part about this is that we, Illinoisians, apparently think that Judy B is not qualified to be Governer, (for what ever reason) but the fact is that we have elected her to be our State Treasurer, three consecutive times. Apparently, we trust her with our money but------

Politics and common sense just don't mix!