Posted by BT

38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

For some strange reason, people in the world think justice was done tonight.

God, help us.


Posted by BT

Christmas Songs  

Posted by BT

Last year, my sister posted the lyrics to her favorite Christmas song on her blog, which I thought was a great idea. My good friend Dave posted a small section of a relatively unknown verse of a Christmas song the other day, too, and it all reminds me how much I enjoy Christmas music. Whether it's Harry Connick Jr.'s first Christmas CD, with new tunes like "I Pray on Christmas" and "It Must've Been Ol' Santa Claus,"or his rendition of classics like "O Holy Night;" or MercyMe's The Christmas Sessions with the great song "Joseph's Lullaby" and the meaningful "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day;" or the classic soundtrack to the Peanuts Christmas special, with "Linus and Lucy," "Skating," "Christmastime is Here," and "O Christmas Tree;" or my Dad singing "Gesu Bambino" and "10,000 Joys" with my aunt, or any of the other songs that just bring a smile to my face, like "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," "We Are the Reason," "Christmas Eve in my Hometown," "Breath of Heaven," and so many others.

If you don't know the story of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," I posted the story last Christmas. You can read about it here. It is remarkable, and brought a completely new level of meaning to the song for me.

Here are the lyrics to my favorite Christmas song of all time, "Hand of Sweet Release," recorded by the Gaither Vocal Band (shocker, I know). Even if you don't at all like Southern Gospel music, I recommend giving this one a try. It's available on iTunes.

Come thou long expected Jesus,
come illuminate the mysteries of life.
Come redeem us from the refuse,
bring an end to endless suffering and strife.
Be the star that shines so brightly
that it draws our weary eyes to the sky,
to Heaven's sky.
Dearest child of new beginnings,
be the start of something beautiful, I cry.

There's an end to all the waiting,
there's an answer to the "who?" and "where?" and "why?"
All the years anticipating,
are surrendered to a tiny baby's cry.
There's a dawn to follow darkness,
there's a face to fill the title, "Prince of Peace."
What he promised, he delivered...
I am saved by the hand of sweet release.

In this war I've been a captive,
just a sinner seeking life and liberty.
But these hands that hold me tightly
are the hands that set my shackled spirit free.
Blessed Jesus, meek and lowly,
you have come into my life and made it new,
now I'm new.
Out of bondage into everlasting light,
I owe everything to you.

There's an end to all the waiting,
there's an answer to the "who?" and "where?" and "why?"
All the years anticipating,
are surrendered to a tiny baby's cry.
There's a dawn to follow darkness,
there's a face to fill the title, "Prince of Peace."
What he promised, he delivered...
I am saved by the hand of sweet release.
What he promised, he delivered...
I am saved by the hand of sweet release.

Two movie questions...  

Posted by BT

I've had these two scenes from movies in my mind (for some reason), and I cannot for the life of me figure out what movies they come from.

1. Someone is threatening a man that they are going to kill his wife and children. The man kills his entire family himself, shocking the others and taking their leverage away. I seem to remember this taking place in an apartment with some orangish/red lighting.

2. A man walks into a security booth of some kind, which requires him to pass through a metal detector. The man places his cup of coffee on top of the metal detector, walks through without arousing suspicion, then reaches into the cup of coffee, from which he pulls out a weapon of some kind (I think it was a tiny gun).

Any help?


Posted by BT

That is one of the first words that comes to mind when I think about my wife, Kari. She is so hospitable to others, so caring for Braden and me. There is no one like her. Over the course of our life together, my insecurity has slowly melted away as I rest in her warm embrace. She is my beloved, and I hers.

She makes me laugh. What a gift.

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Sweetheart. I love you.

It's important to vote...  

Posted by BT

...and that's why I'd love for you to visit this site and vote for the t-shirt my friend designed, the one that says "Everbody Loves Ramen."


Oh yeah, and this is what a bumper sticker that I saw today said: "I'm pretty sure when Jesus said to love your enemies he meant 'Don't kill them.'"


Posted by BT

So, to celebrate the Cardinals' 10th World Series championship, Kari has given me two choices: I either have to dye my soul patch red, a la Scott Spiezio, or dye all the hair on my head blonde, in honor of MVP David Eckstein.

I decided I'd do whatever you all thought I should do.

What About...  

Posted by BT

...Capital Punishment?


Posted by BT

I just returned from Kansas City, where I reconnected with some great friends. The purpose for my trip there was to hear Len Sweet in a one-day seminar at MNU, and to meet with Debi Nixon, the small groups pastor at the Church of the Resurrection. Debi gave me some meaningful insights, but the time with Len was...well...Sweet.

I'm going to post the notes I took on here, under the comments section on this post. This is either some sadistic way to get people to comment on my blog, or the kind way of my not making you read all the way through it on this front page (I took six pages of notes). Anyway, they'll be there for your perusing. I hope you can understand my disjointed note-taking method.

The Cardinals series with the Mets is all tied at 2, and it looks like rain in the forecast for tonight. All things considered, I'm really happy the Cardinals made it this far yet again.

Please say a prayer today for some dear friends who have unthinkable memories associated with October 15.

Caedmon's Lyrics  

Posted by BT

Last night in a church van the clock said 11:11, and a friend tapped it and made a wish. Hilarious. It reminded me of one of my favorite Caedmon's lyrics, and it got me to thinking about all of my other favorite Caedmon's lyrics. Here's a brief list:

It seems I've misplaced my faith, 'cause it's 11:12, and still nothin's changed.

The only problem I have with these mysteries is they're so mysterious.

I'm so scared of being alone that I forgot what house I live in.

Give me purity and give me continence...But, oh no, not yet.

All things considered, we're both certifiably insane.

You are no more than a piece of glass.

I get turned around, and I mistake my happiness for blessing.

It's like I ripped my arm right off and left it, and now I guess it wasn't mine at all.

You can read all about it, about boy-meets-girl, and then he screws the whole thing up, just like always.

When everything looks pretty, it's easy to think you've found the way, but it's all just a big masquerade.

For better or for worse, we both know I'm the wrong man for the job.

I've done the work of Sisyphus, thinking that I could get over this hill.

I may never find the sleep I've lost all feeling in my hands and feet may touch the ground but my mind's somewhere north of here.

The Wind in the...  

Posted by BT

I spent the last three days of last week in Chicago, at Willow's Small Groups conference. There were five keynote speakers, and three of them were mediocre at best. But the other two...well, they were Donald Miller and Erwin McManus. And that was fine by me. One of my favorite thoughts from Erwin is the fact that we shouldn't be trying to get people into church, get them into our programs, etc. What we really should be trying to do is give people life. This was my favorite quote from Miller: "Sometimes God says to me, 'You make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I'll run the cosmos.'" Both men said things I needed to hear and things that reminded me of my vision for small groups ministry. I truly long for BCN to experience authentic, genuine, biblical community. It's going to be tough.

Jason went along on the trip with me, which was a lot of fun. He reads this, so I'm really just kissing up to him, but it was great spending some time with him and getting to know him a little better.

I recommend reading this article, which was published in Time magazine a couple weeks ago. Dave B. linked an article on his blog which alluded to this article. I concur with his analysis. Jason's message yesterday in EPIC was on materialism, and it included the scary quote from Terrell Owens' publicist last week in the wake of his pseudo-suicide attempt: "Terrell has twenty five million reasons for living." Wow.

There's also something interesting happening on October 15. We're looking into the possibility of organizing a Dayton gathering here at BCN that day. There are two gatherings scheduled in Ohio, one in Cincinnati and one in Columbus. An interesting method of going after a worthy cause, to be sure.

And the focus of Nazarene Compassionate Ministry Magazine's last issue was social justice. It contains some interesting stuff. You can subscrube to this magazine (I think it's free) here.

And the Cardinals ended up making the postseason after all. Baseball is a great game of hope. And hope is a good thing...

Hope things are going well for all of you. Really interesting reading today at James', Corbin's, Brandon's, and the Whartons' blogs, all linked to the right, not to mention some great fun pictures of my sister and her husband (notice the evil eyebrow look!) at her blog. Peace to all...

What you are witnessing...  

Posted by BT

...is a meltdown of epic proportions.


Posted by BT

Well, having kicked most of the sickness, Kari and I hopped in the car and headed to St. Louis last week to see our first game in the new Busch Stadium. It's a very nice facility. And, as Mike Shannon would say, old Abner was right on duty that night. Pujols came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Brad Lidge, whom he victimized in the playoffs last year, and the Cardinals trailing by one. Two runners were on. Pujols doubled down the left field line, scoring both runs, and giving the Cards a walk off winner. Kari had the presence of mind to take this fantastic picture during the excitement:

What a great first experience at the new ball park. I only wish my dad could have joined me!

I also ran across this beautiful tidbit: Pujols has struck out fewer times this entire season than Adam Dunn has struck out in his last 115 at bats. Ouch.

Had a very enjoyable lunch with Obadiah yesterday, and even got a brief phone call from Doug. (Their blogs are both over there ---->) Obadiah and his wife, Alesha, have a three month old baby named Aurora. He had recently posted how well things were going with Aurora until he bragged on her, at which point she returned to her yelling and screaming and crying incessantly at night. Well, I (the ever experienced father) encouraged him yesterday, telling him things would only get better, and bragging on how rare those times are with Braden these days. You can guess what happened next. Right on cue, Braden woke up four times last night with long, loud cries. Amazing.

Not much more of depth today, just wanted to post some updates. Hope things are well for all of you who make your way to read this every now and then...

Down and Out...  

Posted by BT

As I was watching the OSU-Texas game Saturday night with some friends, something weird started to happen. I hadn't been feeling too hot all day, and it started getting worse. Before I knew it I was shaking almost uncontrollably, feeling quite cold inside but hot outside. I went home, where Kari found that my temperature was 103.3. This is my second highest temperature ever (I hit 106 in Peru...remember that night, James and Dave?). So, yesterday was a quiet day at home with a nasty sore throat, a fever, aches and pains, and lots of football. Here are some thoughts:

  • The Colts' run defense is bad. I mean just flat out bad. I think the Colts will still make the playoffs, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jacksonville wins that division.
  • Bengals' fans won't like this, but the hit that Geathers guy put on Trent Green was far worse/more classless/more bush league than the hit the guy from the Steelers put on Carson Palmer last year. Don't mess with a guy's head, man.
  • I've never been a fan of Joe Morgan. I think he's pretty much the worst color commentator in baseball. It's a shame, because I really enjoy Jon Miller's play-by-play, but Morgan makes me so sick I usually just mute the TV. Last night I was reminded of one of the reasons he's so lousy at what he does. He was talking about how well Woody Williams had handled Barry Bonds, and he said the key was changing speeds (this isn't exactly rocket science for baseball fans to begin with). Then he made this statement: "Every pitch Williams throws him in this at bat is a different speed." Hmmm. Then they replayed the at bat, showing the speed of each pitch. There were six pitches in the at bat. Two were 85 MPH. One was 84 MPH. But, according to Joe, each pitch in the at bat was a different speed. And for this performance he gets ESPN's number one baseball color job? Please.
  • On an entirely different (and more selfish) note, Kari and I are in need of new appliances. The house we bought had all the appliances left, but they're less than energy efficient (understatement). Since we don't have a thousand or two bucks laying around unused, we thought we'd just ask all of you for money. Just kidding. But, what you can do is click here and fill out one of the simple offers from FreePay, a site that offers all kinds of free stuff. (Make sure you fill out a free offer...I don't want to be responsible for the financial downfall of my friends.) If enough of you sign up, we'll net a $300 gift card which will help with these needed appliances. We appreciate it in advance.


Posted by BT

I've been wondering...What is our (the traditional Church's) fascination with "devotions?" It seems like that makes our "time with God" too cut and dried, implying that our whole day isn't "time with God." It is semantics? If I call it the "Daily Office," is it any different? I've just been struggling with that for some time now. Any thoughts?

On a separate note, Labor Day weekend was fun and included a trip to Cincinnati for a softball tournament, where I was able to see two of my closest friends in the world, Dave and Dave (both their blogs are linked to the right). It was great to see them and I only wish I had had more time to visit with them.

If you click here, you'll go to a site where you can download Derek Webb's CD, "Mockingbird," for free. That's right folks, free! Make sure you click on the link that says "Why is Derek Doing This?" to find out...well...why Derek's doing this. Pretty admirable.


Posted by BT

Most people who know me well know what I think about John Maxwell's body of work. I must say I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I read this snippet of an interview with the "leadership guru" in Rev Magazine recently:

Rev!: What would you do differently if you were starting over today?
Maxwell: I’d have a lot less church; I’d have less programs; I’d have less services. I’d have a lot less of everything.
Rev!: Why?
Maxwell: As a pastor I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but one of my major mistakes was thinking that life revolved around the local church and what we were doing. For example, if you were a member of the church, you had to have a ministry in the church. That was a huge mistake. I had high-capacity people in my church doing things that were pretty mundane for business people. If I had it to do over again, I’d have people doing a lot more ministry outside the church, in their workplace or in their community or in their volunteer organizations. I’d find out where they had the greatest influence and make their ministry where their greatest influence was, not confine it to a church. Huge mistake I made. And I didn’t see it until I was out, but I was too inward. I had a lot of high-capacity people who were probably never “salt and light” like they could have been. I’d change that immediately if I went back to the local church. I’d be much more into how we influenced the community and a lot less into “How can I get everybody onboard with my church and with my program?”

(If you want, you can read the rest of the interview here.)

Kari and I also listened to a message by Brian McLaren which was recommended to me both by Jason and linked on James' blog. It was very insightful and challenging, which will be no surprise to anyone who has read McLaren.

In light of some challenges which face the EPIC service here at BCN, we've decided to start an EPIC blog, administrated mostly by Jason, the teaching pastor in EPIC. It can be found here (right now all that is on there is a test post about how lousy the Green Bay Packers were in their preseason game against the Bengals). Hopefully we'll get it up and running soon.

Well, just an update on us. We're wading through (and really enjoying) "The Challenge of Jesus."

I've noticed a couple friends asking anyone who reads their blogs to post a comment to say how they stumbled there, how often they read, etc. This seems like a good idea. So, post away.

From the Redundant Dept. of Redundancy  

Posted by BT

Here is a list of the fine, quality, Major League pitchers who have recently beaten the (ahem) defending NL Central Champion Cardinals:

  • Dave Williams
  • Steve Trachsel
  • Aaron Heilman
  • Michael Wuertz
  • Paul Maholm
  • Ian Snell
  • Zach Duke


Isringhausen (n.)  

Posted by BT

Function: noun, proper
Etymology: German, from German issrinhaus, meaning sorry arm

1. An exercise in futility.


Posted by BT

...who knows some stuff about composting, help me out. In the interest of not alienating our neighbors with any unpleasant aromas or unsightly piles o' crap (figuratively, of course), is this what we need?

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3 (Except I don't know if they'll ship to the States.)

Also, would these help?


Posted by BT

It's been a nice couple weeks.

It all started on my birthday, ironically, when I thought I saw a ghost in the back of the church. Instead, it was my college roommate, Doug, with whom I have shared some of life's most amazing moments, and his lovely wife, Molly. They were visiting from Honduras, where they care for children suffering from HIV/AIDS. You can read about their work or donate to them by clicking here. They couldn't stay long, but it meant a lot to me that they went out of their way to swing by BCN and see if I was there.

While Doug and Molly were there, they invited me to a gathering in Columbus the following Saturday. While there I reconnected with some people who have played an integral role in my spiritual development, saw some old friends from college I haven't seen for years, and met some wonderful new people.

Then I got to have lunch with Brandon last week, one of those friends with whom I have reconnected in this journey. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be with him. He, Doug & Molly, and others (many whose blogs are linked to the right) have had a profoud impact on the (hopefully) deepening of my spiritual walk and commitment to Jesus.

All this sandwiched around a trip to my parents' in Kentucky so Braden have fun in the water, a couple small birthday celebrations, revisiting an old hobby (baseball cards; I've decided to start building my first set, the 1968 Topps set), an opportunity to speak in our EPIC service here at BCN, an amazing all-church prayer meeting, deepening friendships with the people in this new community, and the joy my wife and my son bring me day in and day out.

Kari and I are preparing to tackle our first NT Wright book together, The Challenge of Jesus. We're both excited about it. We're also still dealing with the balance between ministering to the young adults here at BCN and truly developing the Small Groups ministry, which (if accomplished with my true vision) will require quite a culture change. Frankly, there's not much balance at all right now.

I've been dealing with a few questions lately, mostly surrounding nationalism, patriotism, and the Kingdom. There's a great conversation on this topic taking place here and here.

Oh...Kari and I are about to start composting.


You heard it here first...  

Posted by BT

Well, maybe you heard it somewhere else first, or maybe you figured it out on your own.

The Cardinals are terrible. They did a lousy job building a team to compete their first year in a new stadium. Their ownership, which has always been very aggressive and willing to reinvest profits in player salaries and team improvement, apparently has decided that the bottom line is all that matters anymore.

The Reds will win the NL Central, and they will do so with considerable ease (4 games or more). One of the teams from the West or the Phillies or Braves will win the Wild Card. The Cardinals will go home disappointed, where they deserve to be with a sorry pitching staff like the one they have.

This is not me being a naysayer. It's not me trying reverse psychology. It's not even me trying to prepare myself for the heartache. Any reasonable observer would draw the same conclusion.

Congratulations to the Reds, whose new ownership, as I feared, will embarrass Walt Jocketty and the boys for years to come. What a shame for Pujols.

When the Redbirds leave Cincinnati next Thursday, they'll be comfortably in second place. And they'll be lucky to stay there.

Mercy and Justice  

Posted by BT

Brian McLaren tells a great story.

Imagine you are at Niagara Falls, and you see someone in the water, floating quickly toward the waterfall. You jump in and save them. After drying yourself off, you can hardly believe it, but you see another person flailing in the water. You hop back in and save them, too. Again, the process repeats itself. Soon you have saved the lives of ten people. This is mercy.

After the tenth person is saved, you realize something fishy must be going on. You walk upstream and find a man throwing these people in the water. You stop him from doing so. This is justice.

By what means is it okay to stop this person from throwing more people into the stream? How does this relate (if at all) to the current situation in the Middle East?


Posted by BT

Did you ever just feel like you were out of creative juice? I didn't have much to start with, and now I'm feeling like I'm dangerously approaching empty. I couldn't even come up with a title for this post.

Had a tremendous lunch with John Ballenger on Thursday (and I don't just mean the food). As I've said many times when commenting on his blog, John has a way to put things into words which I've been trying to articulate for a while. He did it again Thursday. We talked a lot about small group/community life and the role those things play in the Church. We talked about my need to examine whether my philosophy of ministry meshes with the church's need for small groups. We talked about the Kingdom. All in all, I left encouraged and feeling inspired to make meaningful strides in my ministry, which is a nice thing to feel when leaving the company of a brother. By the way, one of the most memorable things he said: "We talk about how blessed America is, but when you look at what Jesus has to say about wealth, perhaps we're really cursed." Frighteningly true, John.

Kari, Braden, and I headed to Kentucky this weekend to see my parents. Braden had the time of his life in the swimming pool (especially spraying himself with the hose). It was really nice to be with Mom and Dad for a couple days. Then we returned home Saturday night and were treated to an amazing service at church yesterday. The focus was the prodigal son, and I was rocked by a quote from Henri Nouwen used during the service. As I sat stewing about the way I felt I was treated by a certain person, I found myself almost depressed because of that perceived injustice. "Why doesn't he like me? Am I that annoying? I probably should just leave him alone. He's tired of hearing from me. Of course I'm that annoying. I would annoy myself." The cycle went on and on, even as we were corporately singing some amazing music. Then, during the teaching, Jason throws this quote on the screen, from Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son:
"At issue here is the question: ‘To whom do I belong? To God or to the world?’ Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves…" God help me.

Kari and I are really enjoying Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. His story is remarkable. Sitting on my desk is a box of books which were recommended by Bell (as well as by a number of friends of mine). I'm excited to dive in.


Posted by BT

Lest I should incur any well-deserved wrath, I simply added the ads to my page because I thought it would be really interesting to see what topics ended up being advertised (they're supposed to advertise things which are related to posts).

Interesting that the first ad I saw had to do with Christian Millionaires.


Reliving college...  

Posted by BT

It's been a while since I posted. Here are the most recent happenings...

  • For Father's Day, my amazing wife landed tickets to see Seinfeld live in Columbus. He was HILARIOUS. My face hurt from smiling so much after just five minutes, and tears streamed down my face after ten. And he was on for an hour. Some of his funniest bits were about eBay and Raisin Bran. It was a wonderful evening.
  • Now that I'm college and career pastor, I'm remembering what college life was like. Three nights in a row I've been up until 1 AM or later. Ouch.
  • I just found out that the freelance contract I have with one company, the one that pays the best and sends the most frequent projects, is about to come to a close. I trust God will provide the extra income we had planned on, but I will sincerely miss writing for them. It's something I have truly enjoyed.
  • I find myself strangely upset (or jealous or something) that my name is not linked to all my friends' blogs. It makes me feel as if what I have to say is not important or something. I'm sure this is a tool of the devil (and it hearkens back to this post, which I just reread with tears in my eyes). When will I grow? When will I change?
  • I'm still dealing with the small group ministry here and trying to figure out what it looks like. At times it feels like an unscaleable mountain, but mostly I'm just excited about it. I still seek insight from all of you when it comes to answers to the questions I posted here.
  • I'm really fed up with the American League's dominance over the National League.


Posted by BT

A few things...

  • Last night I threw wisdom to the wind and went to the late night showing of Superman Returns with some guys from here at church. There were a few surprises, and it was somewhat predictable (which is to be expected), but overall I really enjoyed it. I was especially struck by all the spiritual metaphor.
  • Still very interested in what some of you have to say about all the questions I posted in my last post about small groups. Thanks to those of you who responded.
  • Spent some time reading Mark Palmer's wife's blog today...I was moved to tears as I read her pain. I never met this man, but he must have really been something special, especially to have moved a bunch of the guys in his community to have the word elpida (hope) tattooed on their forearms, where he had it tattooed. It made me revisit my thoughts of having the word charis (grace) inked somewhere, especially as a tribute of our time in Kansas and what the Lord taught us there.
  • Prayers would be appreciated today for Peter Gammons. Gammons is the Hall of Fame baseball analyst for ESPN who yesterday suffered a brain aneurysm. He revolutionized the way baseball was covered in the 1970s while writing for the Boston Globe. Even though my Dad and I always kid that he says "I mean..." too often, he is respected by everyone who has ever been around him.

Now Reading: We Really Do Need Each Other, by Reuben Welch

What are small groups?  

Posted by BT

I can't believe I managed to make it the entire month of May without a single post. I hope some of you are still reading, as your input is so important to me.

Part of my responsibility at Beavercreek Church of the Nazarene is to develop and maintain the small groups ministry. Kari and I have been part of an amazing community (small group) of people for the past two years in Kansas, but now I have to apply what I learned (both the good and the bad) from there to a large church with an existing Sunday School ministry, some small groups already meaning, and (probably) a general sense that not much needs to change.

So, I figured I'd open this discussion to the smartest group of people I know...you. What should a small group ministry look like? What is the purpose of small groups? Evangelism? Accountability? Bible Study? Prayer? All of the Above? What about mixed demographics? Do the senior adult couples meet with the 30-years old couples with two kids and the 34-year old single person? Do each of these demographics have their own group? What about the existing Sunday School? Should small groups be allowed to become large groups? (I think I know the answer to that one.) Should one of the goals of small groups be to multiply themselves, "planting" new small groups as time goes by? What about small group leaders? How do you train them? Are there books they should be reading, videos they should be watching, things they should be listening to? Should people meet according to where they live? How on earth do you initiate all this? Have I asked the right questions? Enough questions?

A quote from the book I'm reading: "You see, I have come to believe with all my heart that the life that Jesus brings is a shared life. The life of God in the world does not have its meaning in isolated units, but in a fellowship of those who share that life in him."

Now Reading: We Really Do Need Each Other, by Reuben Welch

Harold Sutherland  

Posted by BT

Kari's grandfather, Harold Sutherland, passed away this afternoon in Iowa. If any of you were at our wedding, you may remember him as the funny older gentleman who said a sweet prayer for us near the end of the ceremony. He left behind a beautiful legacy for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Occasionally, when he got fired up about something, he would send a four or five page email to the entire family detailing his thoughts, complete with Scripture quotes, malapropisms, and hilarious misspellings. I was fortunate enough to be on the recipient list of those messages.

You will be missed, Grandpa.


Posted by BT

Well, the day has come.

When Braden was born, almost a year ago now, Kari and I had no idea what we were in for. As she tried to hold down a full time job and be a mommy, she became overwhelmed. We began talking about how nice it would be if we could get closer to home, so our parents could be with the grandson and we could have some relief.

When I lost my job at headquarters a couple months ago, our desire to get home reached its height. We decided to begin actively looking for an open door to return closer to home, wherever that may be. We received a few enticing opportunities, including ministries in Honduras, an Asian country, and Seattle, but none of those fit the "closer to home" rule. We received conjecture from two other locations which did fit that bill, one in Michigan and one in Tennessee (difficult to pass up, for sure). But there was no peace. So we waited, and eventually we saw what we thought was an open door at our alma mater, Mount Vernon Nazarene University. The job, while it would have been amazing, would not have been ideal for our family situation, but I applied anyway. After a phone interview, I was asked to fly to Mt. Vernon for an interview in person a couple weeks ago. We were excited at the possibility that was before us.

The day before I left, I received a phone call from a pastor in Dayton. He had offered me a job before and had had a staff position come open just one day earlier. He had heard I was going to be in the area for an interview and wondered if I might be able to change my return trip so I could chat with him and his ministry team. I agreed, not knowing what was around the corner, and headed to Ohio. After arrriving at MVNU, I was told that the folks in another office had found out I was in town and would like to interview me for a position they had recently had come open. Again, not wanting to close any doors, I agreed. That night I had interviews at 4:00 and 7:30, followed by a quick drive to Dayton for a night with Kari's folks and an interview at 6:00 the next morning at the church.

This past Wednesday, we received a call from Keven Wentworth, pastor of Beavercreek Church of the Nazarene. The board had voted to offer me a staff position: Associate Pastor for Community. I would be in charge of small groups. We gladly accepted. BCN is the church where we were married, and where Kari served as College and Career Pastor. Her parents attend the church, which is only about 2 1/2 hours from my parents' home in Kentucky. I start June 1.

And tomorrow I start looking for a place to live. I would appreciate your prayers, as I have the responsibility of doing this without the assistance of my wife, the one who will truly make it home.

We are very excited to be close to some of you who read this who we haven't seen for too long, and very sad to leave some really close friends out here in Kansas. But, the former things have taken place, and God is declaring new things (Isaiah 42:9).

May it be so.

Now Reading: The Importance of Being Foolish, by Brennan Manning


Posted by BT

The guys in our small group had an amazing conversation last night...One of our best ever, I think. It reminded me about hearing the other person's viewpoint, something that many of you who read this taught me a lot about.

Our conversation focused mainly on two topics, which I'll briefly discuss here because I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on them.

1. Christianity vs. Other Religions. The question about Gandhi was raised, which spurred this conversation. The gist of it was that Jesus is the only way to the Father, so is it possible for a Buddhist, Muslim, etc. to make it to Paradise? Many different viewpoints and angles were shared. I'm still formulating my opinion, but, suffice it to say, I'm getting further and further from the "Fundamentalist" Christian view as we would know it. I'll leave it at that.

2. America's Presence in Iraq. Basically, I began this conversation by stating how opposed I am to our being there at all, then backing up and saying that I'm more concerned with the motive and (this is my word) hypocrisy of our decision to go there. One of the other guys in the group talked about how we still accomplished something great (by removing Hussein from power and making hopefully positive changes to their government), and we should be glad for that. While we disagreed, it was civil and, I felt, a time that stretched both of us and the thoughts of the other guys there (some of whom also participated in the conversation, albeit to a lesser degree).

So, as I'm still formulating what I think about these two topics, I'd be very interested in hearing what some of you, my respected and loved brothers and sisters, think.

Now Reading: Blue Like Jazz (second time)

The Hymn...  

Posted by BT

...from the Lectionary reading for this week.

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
Whit thorns thine only crown;
How pale thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does this visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!

What thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners' gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
To thank thee, dearest friend,
For this dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever,
And should I fainting be,
Lord let me never, never
Outlive my love to thee.



Posted by BT

CPT rejoices in the release of our peacemakers
by Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose

Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad.

We rejoice in the return of Harmeet Sooden. He has been willing to put his life on the line to promote justice in Iraq and Palestine as a young man newly committed to active peacemaking.

We rejoice in the return of Jim Loney. He has cared for the marginalized and oppressed since childhood, and his gentle, passionate spirit has been an inspiration to people near and far.

We rejoice in the return of Norman Kember. He is a faithful man, an elder and mentor to many in his 50 years of peacemaking, a man prepared to pay the cost.

We remember with tears Tom Fox, whose body was found in Baghdad on March 9, 2006, after three months of captivity with his fellow peacemakers. We had longed for the day when all four men would be released together. Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration. However, we are confident that his spirit is very much present in each reunion.

Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.

Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.

During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?

With Tom's death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God's compassionate love to show us the way.

Living through the many emotions of this day, we remain committed to the words of Jim Loney, who wrote:

"With God's abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies.

With the love of Christ, we will resist all evil.

With God's unending faithfulness, we will work to build the beloved community."

Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose are co-directors of Christian Peacemaker Teams

Oh well...  

Posted by BT

When I started blogging, I thought..."Maybe this won't be a trend. Maybe I'll actually be able to stick to it. Maybe I won't have long dry spells."

So much for that.

Now Reading: The Big Book of SuDoku #2, by Mark Huckvale

The Search is On...  

Posted by BT

Well, the job search officially commences tomorrow, although it has been unofficially underway for some time now. Unfortunately, the two most promising leads both fell through on Friday of last week, so we're kinda back to the start, I guess. It's not a great feeling not having a job, not knowing if there's one in sight, not knowing how I'll continue to provide for my family. Not so great at all.

My faith is shaken.

By the way, Happy Birthday, Dave Ballenger.

A Radio Appearance  

Posted by BT

Tomorrow morning at 8:35 AM Eastern, I'll be appearing on my friend Obadiah's radio show to promote my new web site. Dave Ballenger and I hatched the idea for this site, and, since Dave moved back to Ohio, I've kinda taken things over. The site provides information for people who play fantasy baseball...I'm hoping to make it an extra source of income for our family during this time of transition...But we'll see. Either way, it's something I've really enjoyed putting together. Special thanks to my brother-in-law, Brian, who gave me a badly needed tutorial on HTML while I was in Florida recently. If you think the site looks great, give all credit to him. If you think it looks lousy, that would be my fault. :) Anyway, I'm posting this far too late for most of you to actually get on the website and listen...But, Obi told me they'd be archiving the interview, so if anyone wants to remember what I sound like, you should be able to hear soon.

My time in Florida was good...Thanks for asking, Chris. And thanks to any of you who thought to say a prayer for me. We spent the entire weekend talking about how Christians should treat others, especially "the least of these." A few kids came up to me after the services and told me they had received a call to full-time missions. Humbling.

I just finished reading Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies," an account of what went on in the White House before, during and after September 11, 2001. I believed it was a bad idea to invade Iraq all along, but this shed new (disturbing) light on the subject. I learned things I didn't really care to learn. It's interesting...I know some people will read this and totally agree with me, and some will read it and disagree vehemently...I'm not interested in the partisanship that apparently comes with being an American these days. I'm sure if I were to read something written by some pro-Bush, pro-Republican person, they would tell the other side of the story with equally convincing rhetoric.

One things I said to the teenagers in Florida is what it boils down to, I guess: Mass genocide and other atrocities have been carried out by Americans (and those of other nationalities) in the name of Christ, and I can't imagine anything Jesus Christ would want to distance himself from more than those things. My friend Kevin wrote a great piece on his blog the other day about the trendy, non-violent stance of many Christians these days. (Kevin, if you ever read this, I really appreciated what you had to say.) My other friends, Kyle and Eric, replied to Kevin thoughtfully. Even in the midst of their replies, I found myself wondering if I was becoming a non-violent because it was the cool thing to do, the thing my friends were doing. After finishing this book, and re-reading Matthew 25:31-46 about 50 times this past weekend, I'm sure the opposite it true. Jesus Christ longs for non-violence...Jesus Christ longs for peace, especially from those who readily claim his name.

Now that seems like about the most obvious thing I could have possibly said.

Now Reading: Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt by Anne Rice

In Florida  

Posted by BT

In about an hour, I'll speak to a group of teens from the Central Florida District. Strange how people hear about you...I did a short bit at a missions conference in Kansas City for headquarters, and all the sudden I have a speaking engagement in Florida? And for teens? The Lord does have a sense of humor.

I'll talk to them about the Kingdom, and primarily about "the least of these." Using Scripture, Nouwen's Reaching Out, and excerpts from some of my recent reads (see post below), I feel like the Lord has given me something of value to say. Please pray that I will say it well, and that they will hear Him clearly (even through the remnants of the southern accent).

Thanks to all of you who have written your support in our mini-dilemma. It's remarkable how God has always cared for us, and I don't doubt, as one of my good friends wrote, that He will meet our every need. No decisions have been made, but nothing has been ruled out.

I can't believe I forgot to post the best news of all in the last week.

Now Reading: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, by Anne Rice


Posted by BT

...I lost my job.

My boss called me in and told me that there was no more funding available for my salary, and that I had until the end of February.

We'd appreciate your prayers.

Now Reading: Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard Clarke

Recent Reads  

Posted by BT

I've been reading lately like it's my job (wouldn't that be nice), so I thought I'd post a little bit about what I've read, if for no other reason than to summarize for my own sake.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons
Kari got me this book for Christmas, and it was the first thing I read when we returned home. The Advent sermons are outstanding, and the editor had access to some previously unpublished letters, including some from prison, that Bonhoeffer had written to his fiancee and to his friend, Eberhard Bethge. Because of some other things I've been reading, I'm especially fascinated by Bonhoeffer's involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. This reminds me of Gandhi's statement that nonviolent opposition to injustice is best, but violent opposition is better than nothing at all (forgive the rough paraphrase). If you don't know much about this martyr, find out about him. He wrote one of my all-time favorite books, given to me by my good friend David Ballenger, Life Together.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
When Brian McLaren was on campus here at MNU, he recommended this book to us. I was incredulous at some of the things I learned. The Americas (North, South, and Central) in the 15th century were much more populous than our American history textbooks would have us believe. When Columbus and other Europeans arrived, they found sophisticated cultures with advanced levels of commerce, the arts, and especially agriculture. So how did the Europeans eliminate them so quickly, you ask? Two reasons: Enormous four-legged creatures that were incredibly strong and fast, the likes of which the Native Americans had never seen (yeah, horses); and, more importantly, the Native Americans hadn't developed an immunity to some of the diseases the Europeans (and their animals) carried, especially small pox. And this is staggering: Over the 15-20 years after the Europeans first arrived, 25 million Native Americans died of small pox...About 80% of their entire population. One lighter note: The reason we call them Indians is because when Columbus landed, he thought he was in India (must've been some compass).

God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It
I'll not attempt to summarize what Wallis says in this brilliant piece of work, only to say that he is a prophet of hope. He has hope that right-wing extremists who do not have a consistent ethic of life can see the error of their ways. He has hope that left-wing extremists who have become "allergic to spirituality" may find the hope of a compassionate Jesus. He has hope that a frighteningly partisan America is, perhaps, on track to become more aware of poverty and disease, and the havoc they are wreaking on the world.

A New Kind of Christian
This is the first in a quasi-fiction trilogy by Brian McLaren. It's been especially interesting to me because he was here on campus recently and shared many thoughts from this book. In fact, the entire conversation that takes place at the coffee shop between NEO and the wavering pastor was his outline in sessions two and three. Kari also got me McLaren's A Generour Orthodoxy for Christmas, and she was clever enough to get him to sign it while he was here without me knowing it. A book that McLaren wrote with Tony Campolo will be re-released in paperback in a few months. What's so cool about that, you ask? I proofread it, that's what.

The Kingdom of God is in You
This must be the shortest book ever by Leo Tolstoy, but that doesn't mean it's easy. I'm still wading heavily through the first chapter.

Give It Away
This isn't exactly a read; it's the new CD from the Gaither Vocal Band. I've been very pleased with it, though, for three reasons: 1) The title track is all about "taking everything that you have" and giving it away, for the right reasons; 2) There is a great tune with the African Children's Choir about celebrating the differences between cultures, and recognizing other children of God for what they are; and 3) It has a fabulous rendition of a very old, familiar classic: "Jesus Loves Me."

Coming Soon
When you get most of your books at the library, sometimes you have to bunch your reading up. That's what I'll be doing in the next few weeks. Among my upcoming reads:

-Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, by Anne Rice
-The Challenge of Jesus, by NT Wright
-Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard Clarke
-Lies my Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen

I've also added the Nouwen journal Gracias to my stack...It will be a re-read, but I saw where Doug is reading it in Honduras, and I think it gives me a feeling of solidarity with my old roommate.

And, with baseball season looming, I've picked up a couple books by/about Jack Buck, the late Hall of Fame radio broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals.

In Other News
We could use a few prayers today. Kari's dad, Dick, has been in the hospital all day today with a bleeding ulcer, and he may need a blood transfusion. He's doing better tonight. And, my brother-in-law, Brian, got laid off today. EA moved he and Sis down to Orlando just a few months ago, and today they told him and thrity-four other employees to hit the road. If you think about it, or even as you read this, say a prayer for Dick, and for Brian and Sis. Thank you.

Now Reading: Well, I guess I just told you, huh?


Posted by BT

Well, my friends at Nazarene International Headquarters apparently aren't fans of bloggers, so I've been officially blocked. Not just me, but anyone trying to access Blogspot from HQ. I wish I could say this was the most egregious of their offenses...

Posts will be more sporadic, I'm afraid, since I can only post from home now, and I prefer spending my time at home hanging out with a very active little boy and a very busy little wife.

Now Reading: God's Politics, by Jim Wallis


Posted by BT

To see some amazingly cute pictures of our little boy, visit my sister's blog by clicking here.

Now Reading: 1491, by Charles C. Mann
Colts' Magic Number: 3

Important Days...  

Posted by BT

Over the next three weeks, President Bush will be making some very important decisions regarding the budget for next year. ONE is an organization that is pressing for the US to give an additional 1% of our budget over the next five years to address AIDS and poverty needs.

If this 1% is given, there will be 10 million fewer AIDS orphans, and 100 million children will be able to attend grade school who otherwise wouldn't.

By clicking here, you can sign and send a letter to the government encouraging them to add this 1% to the budget...Only a penny on every dollar can make an enormous difference.

Now reading: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann


Posted by BT

Luis Jones-Posada. Deybi Fabrezio Gomez Morales. Crystal Greiner. Hal Fogarty. An Unnamed Baby.

Bacterial Meningitis. AIDS. A house fire. Cancer. A miscarriage.

These are the names of people who have died in recent weeks, and the ailments/incidents that took them. They were all extremely dear to people who are extremely dear to me. My heart is so heavy...My tears flowed easily today.

Eric, Kerri, Trey and Riley; Doug and Molly; James; Jared and Karrie--I love you all, and my heart is full of pain.

May the peace that only comes from Jesus permeate you all today.

Romans 13  

Posted by BT

Not to be a beggar, but I had asked for some insight on Romans 13 from any of you readers, and I received very little. Thanks, Brandon, for the articles you posted. Here is one of my favorite quotes from those articles: "The church must live as a sign of the coming complete kingdom of Jesus Christ; but since that kingdom is characterized by peace, love and joy it cannot be inaugurated in the present by chaos, hatred and anger."

This is the passage our small group is about to discuss, and I'd really like to hear what some of you think about it. Feel free to respond in the comments section or by email.

You can read the chapter by clicking here.

Thanks in advance.

Now Reading: Dieterich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons
Colts: 14-2; Magic Number: 3

Thank the Lord for...Liquor Stores?  

Posted by BT

That's right. Liquor stores.

Kari, Braden and I had a really nice vacation. We spent a week with each of our families and had a great time of sharing, giving, playing and loving. Our families and friends are some of the most wonderful people in the world to hang out with. The trip was not without incident, of course.

After we had been at my parents' house in Kentucky for about four days, it became evident that Braden was getting sick. It seemed like a little cold with a cough, so we gave him some PediaCare and didn't worry too much about it. On New Year's Eve during the day, though, it was clear that something wasn't quite right, so we called my parents' family doctor, who told us we needed to take him to the emergency room. So we had our first ER experience with our little guy on Saturday night. We were there for four and a half hours. Braden has an ear infection and a cold, and he had to get two shots and two prescriptions, an antibiotic and a cough suppressant.

Well, for those of you with kids, you know what an antibiotic will do. And for those who don't know, I'll spare the gross details, but let's just say things become a little...um...runny. More on that later.

Monday morning we left Russell to start the long trip back to Kansas City. My mom called my cell phone after we had been gone about a half hour to tell us that we left our coats behind. Kansas City in January is not a good place to be without a coat. So, Mom met us halfway and brought our three coats and Kari's scarf, and we were back on the road.

After we came through Louisville about three hours later, Kari hopped in the back of the minivan to get Braden out of his car seat and change his diaper. When she pulled his pants down, the runniness effects had kicked in, and suddenly she and Braden were covered with...well...use your imagination. Kari proclaims, "Oh my word," from the back seat (those of you who know her can hear her say it now) followed by a few cries. I look back long enough to see what has happened, and then I ask her is she's laughing or crying. She tells me she's laughing, so I rest a little easier and start looking for an exit.

So we're driving along between downtown Louisville and the Indiana border, and there is no exit for 10 miles. TEN MILES! I'm not exaggerating at all. Ten miles of Kari holding Braden on his changing pad on her lap (which is no small task considering his considerable squirminess) with poo everywhere. She laughs. He squirms. I drive.

Finally, just inside the Indiana border, an exit. There is no sign of a gas station, a restaurant, anything that would be of help to us, but it is an exit, so I get off and start looking. There is one place that looks open: A liquor store. I run in and ask if they have a public restroom, and the guy shakes his head. I say, "Man, are you a father?" He looked at me real funny, and I told him we just had a diaper blowout. He says, "Yep, I am a father. Bring him in."

I run out to the car and get Kari and Braden. Kari carries him and the changing pad, I carry the diaper, blanket, paper towels and wipes. We go inside and the guy points us to the back, where we are met by what I can only describe as a liquor-store-owning-angel (am I allowed to say that? Is that blasphemy?). This lady tells us she has grandkids, and that she's been there. She takes us into the liquor warehouse where there is plenty of room. We are surrounded by Maker's Mark, Jack Daniels, Bacardi and Zima. She brings more paper towels, garbage bags for Braden's soiled clothes and the nasty diaper, soap, water, refreshments (well, not refreshments, but you get the idea). Kari works her mommy magic, and the next thing you know, he's clean as a whistle. We told the lady what a blessing she has been, and we're back on the road.

Ah, the joy children bring. :)

Now reading: Dieterich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons (a fabulous gift from my fabulous wife)
Colts: 14-2; magic number: 3