Friday, December 21, 2007

Valley of Vision

I just bought the Valley of Vision prayer book per the recommendation of our associate pastor and I am totally in love with the introductory prayer. It is a book with Puritan prayers and devotions in it and is really designed to help usher someone into a prayful dialogue with the Lord. I have only had this about 2 days and I would strongly suggest it for everyone and their brother! Here is the first prayer:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
Where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
That the way down is the way up,
That to be low is to be high,
That the broken heart is the healed heart,
That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
That the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
That to having nothing is to possess all,
That to bear the cross is to wear the crown
That to give is to receive,
That the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
And the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent Conspiracy pt 2

Here is something I wrote for our ministry connection this week regarding the Advent Conspiracy:

As we are thrust into the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I want to take just a moment to slow down, look around, and help. What is Christmas all about? Ultimately, Christmas is about the God of the universe making the ultimate sacrifice by coming to earth as a man and living the perfect life in order to save us from eternal punishment. Then, why do we fight traffic, mall lines, and deranged parents on this glorious occasion? It is because our culture has created a Christmas in which we are more worried about getting the good picture with Santa, standing in line at 3 am to get a new Wii, and making sure our house has a Clark Griswold amount of lights on it. Are these things bad? Absolutely not but I do think that we need to think about what we are celebrating this wonderful Christmas season.

That is why our youth group has joined a group called the Advent Conspiracy ( whose goal it is to put justice, mercy, and compassion back in Christmas. The Advent Conspiracy has four main functions: Worship More, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. The call here is to find more times to worship, give relational, less expensive gifts, spend the money that you save on a charity or clean water initiative, and find ways to love the people in your life now and those around the world.

As a result of these four things the youth group has decided to do things a little different this year. Instead of having normal Christmas parties, we wanted to find ways to give back to our local community. Our Middle School group brought in tons of clothes to be given away at Good News at Noon and our High School group will be volunteering at a local charity on December 21st (If you would like to be a part contact me and we would love for you to help out). I wanted us to take just a small amount of time and give back to our community in a real and tangible way.

Therefore, this Christmas season I want to encourage you to worship more by taking advantage of the things like Jingle Jazz and the candlelight Christmas Eve service as well as carving out time with your family to worship and reflect the magnitude of Christmas. I want to encourage you to spend less and give more by finding ways to give relational gifts and then spend extra money or time on a clean water initiative (Living Water International) or some other charity. Lastly, let me encourage you to love all. This may mean having to forgive your mom, or love your crazy aunt, or tell your kids you love them but whatever it looks like for you, just love.

Here is a link for a blog post with a couple of ideas for relational gifts/charities.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Trees, Fire, and Timer Photos

I thought I would add a picture of Emily and I's new somewhat ghetto Christmas tree. We don't really have real ornaments so everything on there is homemade and funny. We also made a fire for the first time that night and I think we ended up with more smoke in the house than actually up the chimney. I finally have the whole fireplace thing figured out but the first couple of times I made one our house smelled like a campfire for a couple days. Winnie doesn't really understand looking at the camera but she is a cat and they really don't do anything that you tell them to do. I love timer photos.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Lesson Learned from little kids and Spiderman

As I was conducting a play therapy session with a couple of kids, I was reminded of the verse in Phillipians that says: "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,..." (4:12). Let me explain...the kids are told that they can play with anything they want in a room full of toys for an hour. They aren't given any rules, are not required to clean up, are not told what to do at all (unless, of course, what they are doing is harmful in any way). Sounds like a dream for a little kid...right? Well, one boy thought so. I look over to see child # 1 happily playing with an old-McDonald's nugget box. Out of all the toys in the room to choose from, he was perfectly content...and seemingly filled with joy over this one toy. As I was admiring this situation, I hear child # 2 begin to wine and complain b/c he wanted to play with Spiderman. He went on and on about how "at home, he had Spiderman" and "nothing in this room was as cool as his toy." Amidst over fifty things to choose from, this child could not seem to find anything that he liked b/c he was so focused on what he didn't have.

All this is to to say that I walked away with a visual picture of how I often treat God. He provides me with everything I could ever need and want, yet, I so often am longing for more...and missing out on the very blessings that are right in front of my eyes! Instead of focusing on "Spiderman," I hope to learn as child # 1 certainly demonstrated that I don't need more things, or better things, to make me happy. As Paul had learned in Phillipians, Christ is our ultimate joy and satisfaction, and only when we focus on him can we be content. When I lose focus of Christ, my heart begins to long for more.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is not hidden with Christ in God." Col. 3:1-3

Advent Conspiracy

The Advent Conspiracy is an organization that is trying to put compassion, justice, and mercy back into Christmas.  We are going to talk about the conspiracy and what it means to us this week in youth group.  It will be a good time for us to look into how we can help put Christ back in Christmas.  Check out their website.