Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Keith Brenton

I'll be taking a break from blogging and email from May 26-June 5.

In the meantime, visit the blog of my friend, Keith Brenton. Keith is helping take us to the next level in our Wineskins site and MUCH more is to come later this year. Keith will be joining our Wineskins team as our webmaster beginning officially July 1. But he's already been busy designing and coding a Wineskins Blog and a fresh feature called the WINESKINS NEWS FEED.

Below, Keith explains more about the feed for bloggers.

I’ve come up with a news feed for the New Wineskins magazine that you can place once on your blog or web site, and forget about it . . . and it will be automatically updated as new articles and blog entries are added to the New Wineskins site.

If you’d like to add this feature to your blog or site, just copy and paste the line of code below into your blog template or the HTML of your web page.

When someone clicks on a link to an article or blog post from the feed, it will be opened in a new window, with your blog or site underneath. You can format it with font or style tags before and immediately after to give it the appearance you desire.

As some of you know, I’m going to be trying to help Greg Taylor out with some of the webmastering of the New Wineskins site as he takes on new duties at Garnett Road in Tulsa (where Wade Hodges serves). After four years of serving as managing editor of the magazine – and successfully moving it from a printed to an online subscription publication (with free-access areas) – Greg is committed to continuing to broaden its scope and focus to Restoration churches and beyond.

This news feed is one idea that Greg cleared right away, and if you’d like to help by posting this news feed, we’d be grateful for your help.

Thanks very much!

Your brother,
Keith Brenton

Thank you very much, Keith!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Last day of school

Today is the last day of school for my children and for Jill, who teaches Algebra and Geometry in a city school. This year has been a challenge for all of us, and frankly I think we're all happy it's coming to a close today.

After celebrating with Jill and the children this afternoon, I'll be attending a speech by Jim Wallis at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville. Wallis is author of God Politics. The tag line of the book is, "Why the right gets it wrong and the left doesn't get it."

Last week I attended the Emergent Nashville conference. Excellent and would like to tell you more about it. Bet Wade Hodges has already said it mo betta than I could, so see his blog. I attended with Wade, John Dickman, and Shannon Russell, my co-workers at Garnett.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Next step of the journey

My journeys have taken me from the place of my birth, Oklahoma, to Arkansas for college at Harding University to the school's study abroad program in Florence, Italy then to Houston and on to Uganda with a group of dear friends and teammates to Nashville to work with Wineskins and now full circle back to Oklahoma. I haven't lived there since I left home when I was too young to leave home at seventeen years old.

Here's the scoop on what's happening with my family and ministry. For the last four years, I have been managing editor for Wineskins magazine. With the ZOE/Wineskins board blessing, I plan to continue on as managing editor, but my family and I are moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Garnett Church of Christ has asked me to come and work with them as their associate minister. As associate minister, I will be focusing in the areas of spiritual formation, outreach, and small groups.

I'll be working with a great staff of ministers, body of shepherds, ministry leaders, and congregation. One of the staff, the lead/preaching minister, Wade Hodges, is a redemptively challenging preacher who also blogs to beat the band. I'm looking forward to working with him and the rest of the staff and congregation at Garnett.

What a blessing for my family and me to be able to work with this church that I have known from my childhood. I've long appreciated the Garnett Church of Christ. Like a beacon to ships at sea, the church in Tulsa has helped other churches sail. The Garnett Church has always struck me as a church that is willing to stick out its neck and answer the question, "Where is Garnett going?" with the resounding response, "Wherever God takes us."

In particular, their role in the Tulsa Soul-Winning Worship every March for the last quarter century has been monumental in my life. I attended the event since I was a young boy roaming the aisles in search of the best "JOY BUS" sticker till college days when I helped bring dozens of my fellow Harding students to the workshop to hear inspirational speeches from the likes of Rousing Ruel Lemmons, Marvelous Marvin Phillips and "listen to me now" Terry Rush and Jim Mcguiggan. My experience with helping plan and execute the ZOE Look to the Hills Leadership and Worship Conferences, I believe, has prepared me for some of what's to come as I help to plan the Tulsa Workshop.

We are sad to leave Nashville, Tennessee, where we have in this short four years received the blessing of abiding friendships that we intend to keep for eternity. Our children's friends in the Nashville public school, Jill's math teaching in public schools here, our journey with Woodmont Church and small group, and our neighbors and soccer teams we've coached will all be missed and remembered fondly.

Now our journey is turning full circle, at least for me--Jill is from Texas, so now she'll get the experience of living in the long-time state rival. I learned to appreciate Texas, so perhaps Jill can do likewise with Oklahoma. Oklahoma is still on top of Texas . . . that is, if you subscribe to the old ethnocentric cartographer's rendering of the world of Europe and America as on top. (More on that in another post.)

One thing is sure as I come back home. My world has been turned upside down, and if you keep reading this blog you'll start to see just how. My prayer and hope is that the small part of the world I'm moving to with Jill and my three children will also be turned upside down by the One and Only who shapes us, rocks our worlds, and forms us into new persons. I bless and appreciate my heritage in Oklahoma that sent me out into the world, but in returning, I'm not the same person who left Oklahoma twenty years ago.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bird Prayers

How to pray with the birds:
1. Wake up
2. Walk outside where there's a lot of trees
3. Listen
4. Hear the blending of birdsong
5. Pick out certain ones
6. Count how many different songs there are
7. Listen for rhythm and rhyme of the song
8. Listen for mockingbirds who mimick the others
9. Try to actually see them calling so you can know what type make that call
10. Thank God with them, for the birds are taught by God to sing for him.

This is the reverse in a way of St. Francis of Assisi's sermon to the birds. Rather, the birds are teaching us something. Below are links to St. Francis.

St. Francis preaches to the birds

My brothers, birds, you should praise creator

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A generous six-year-old boy

Jacob, 6, has more than once given lavishly from his personal savings piggy bank. He is very good with numbers and counts his change and dollars and ciphers out how much he has by writing down pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars he has then adding them together.

This evening we wondered aloud why his bank was lower than usual. He said, "I gave $46 to my school."

"When did you do that, Jacob," Jill asked.

"Last week. I put money in my wallet and gave it to Ms. Wilson," he said. "You and dad didn't even know."

Jill and I were tickled about the whole thing, how he'd done it without us knowing, how we have a son who is naturally generous. Will we teach him not to be so lavish and irrational, giving the majority of his money? May we never lessen the love and goodness of someone in favor of rationality. Better to have a millstone tied around our necks and be thrown into the sea. That doesn't mean we won't teach him frugality and stewardship as well, but that's for another day. Today he was an amazingly generous six-year-old boy.

2 Cor. 8:1-8
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know how God showed his kindness to the churches in the province of Macedonia.
[2] While they were being severely tested by suffering, their overflowing joy, along with their extreme poverty, has made them even more generous. [3] I assure you that by their own free will they have given all they could, even more than they could afford. [4] They made an appeal to us, begging us to let them participate in the ministry of God's kindness to his holy people {in Jerusalem}. [5] They did more than we had expected. First, they gave themselves to the Lord and to us, since this was God's will. [6] This led us to urge Titus to finish his work of God's kindness among you in the same way as he had already started it.
[7] Indeed, the more your faith, your ability to speak, your knowledge, your dedication, and your love for us increase, the more we want you to participate in this work of God's kindness.
[8] I'm not commanding you, but I'm testing how genuine your love is by pointing out the dedication of others. [9] You know about the kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor in order to make you rich through his poverty.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Cans for Christ

Last night a man in a wheel chair who'd recently moved from West Virginia, a former science teacher named Richard Austin, came to our fifth and sixth grade class and taught an object lesson.

He brought a sack of tools and hardware and had asked me to bring empty "pop cans," as he called them. (For those of you in the North, that's "soda cans." For those in Arkansas, that's "coke cans"--as in, "What kind of coke do you want?" Sprite.) He also brought rubber bands, six inch wire hooks, and half inch nuts. He demonstrated what he was going to make then showed us how.

Richard rolled the can across the table, and it came back to him. A boomarang can. The kids of course said, "cool." Here's how he made it:

1. Poke a hole in the bottom of the can.
2. Tie half inch nut to center of a large rubber band.
3. Hook the rubber band on the tab of the can then put hook on other side of rubber band and push nut and hook and other end of band into the can.
4. Pull the other end of the band through the hole in the bottom of the can.
5. Put a paper clip sideways to hold the rubber band as it comes through the hole in the bottom of the can. Tape it.

Now, when the can rolls, the nut and rubber band twist and then want to untwist and come back the other way.

Richard first asked us how we might apply this to the Bible and the fifth and sixth graders gave great answers, and Richard was amazed at what they came up with. Here was his object lesson from Scripture. He had one of the students read Luke 6:38 (Message):
Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.
He had them write this and several other Scriptures on the can. He talked about Agape love and what happens when love is purely expressed and what comes back to us. The children loved it. Did you know the Scripture verse numbers for three places where the Golden Rule is found add up to ten? When he first said that, I thought he was going to start into numerology! Then he said it's a good way to remember where the passages are found. I was relieved and also have a good way to find the Golden Rule now. Remember the chapter and you can find the verse by finding the one that adds up to ten and of course is the right verse, since more than one will add up to ten. Matthew 7:12, Galatians 5:14, Luke 6:31.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Daniel's Diet Plan

I met Daniel Mwasa November 1994 in a crowd of young men fishing in Lake Victoria.

Daniel stood tall above the rest. If I were a college basketball recruiter, I’d have signed the twenty-five-year-old because of his physical stature. I later learned Daniel couldn’t hit the side of the Boston Garden with a basketball. What impressed me, however, was Daniel’s stature of heart. His questions outweighed his answers to life, and he was searching for something eternal.

Daniel began attending Bible studies in his village, Musima, and about a year later he committed his life to Christ. And Christ has changed Daniel’s life dramatically. “I used to visit bars at night,” Daniel said. Since becoming a Christian, Daniel stays with his family at night. Now, he often travels into town to buy his wife a new dress or a new shirt for one of his children.

He and his wife, Nabirye, walk more than two miles to every church meeting, and Daniel always comes prepared to teach in the church from the Bible.

I like Daniel’s simple and straight-forward life: he lives in a two room hut with his wife and three children (one is named Jill, after my wife). “Many people want the city life,” Daniel said. “Not me. I want to live here in the village with my family and be a farmer.”

Daniel puts his energy into caring for his family, growing a great garden, selling the produce, and telling others about Jesus. His favorite topic to speak about in the church is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount--we are a light, a city set on a hill to shine in darkness.

One day Daniel offered me some advice about how to lose weight: “Stop eating so much,” he said. I glared at him. He smiled and shrugged then laughed the classic jolly green giant style laugh: “Huh, huh, huh.” We have always ribbed each other and enjoy it going both directions.

When I think of Daniel, I remember why I went to Uganda.

Ask your doctor if SPAGARD is right for you

Hello, my name is Greg Taylor, and I have ARD.

A lot of people are suffering these days from ARD: Attention Requirement Disorder.

Notably, ministers often crave attention, recognition and affirmation and therefore "suffer" from ARD. But ministers aren't the only ones who contract ARD. Artists, writers, bloggers, doctors, teachers and those in many other vocations and stations in life can all potentially have ARD.

You may have ARD if you do the following:
  • Check your email often, many times looking for affirmation of your ideas and proposals
  • Constantly look for affirmation from spouse, boss, co-workers, even from children
  • Require compliments on your accomplishments in order to feel proud of them
  • Always asking for feedback from everyone regarding things you say, teach, preach, do, and participate in.

    Granted, some people are loved with words of affirmation rather than other forms of love such as touch, acts of service, and gift-giving, but any of the ways we feel love can potentially lead to ARD.

    Can we medicate ARD? No, but we can treat it. Ask your doctor if SPAGARD is right for you. S-P-A-G-A-R-D helps sooth those inflamed attention requirement glands and settle you down to work without anxiously seeking affirmation from your peers and loved ones. A daily regimen of SPAGARD gives ARD sufferers these daily requirements in order to overcome:
  • Solitude
  • Prayer
  • Attend to others
  • Give without others knowing
  • Accomplish work without affirmation at every turn and learning to feel satisfied with a job well done and not the words "well done" from anyone but God the Father
  • Run to God for building identity
  • Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God

    S-P-A-G-A-R-D . . . ask your doctor if it's right for you. Do it for all the loved ones in your life.

  • Monday, May 09, 2005

    Mother's Day: She Deserves a Little Money

    Jacob, 6, was talking to his sister, Anna, 8, and this is what we overheard:
    I'm gonna give mom five dollars for Mother's Day . . . she deserves some money.
    After running to the store for a couple last minute items for Mother's Day, thinking I'd help my children make their mother's day, I came home to them sitting on the bed with handmade crafts, pictures, gift bags. I had forgotten how much my Anna loves to prepare and give gifts. That's one key way she shows love. I felt stupid having her sign the card I'd bought for them. The kids had each already made their own card. I should have just asked Anna and Ashley, 11, earlier what they'd planned.

    Jill's father had come to help take care of the kids while I was at Pepperdine last week. Her mother and grandmother joined us, so we had a great Mother's Day with four generations of Rudd/Smiley/Taylor women together.

    Monday, May 02, 2005

    Wineskins Devotional at Pepperdine Wednesday

    I'll be at the Pepperdine lectures later this week. If you're going to the lectures, here's your "personal" invitation to the Wineskins early morning devotional, Wednesday at 7:30am in Smothers theatre. I'll also be speaking 2 pm Wednesday about my novel, High Places. I was pleased that Brian McLaren recently recommended High Places.