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Archive for September, 2009

Real Relationship

avatars

The other day I was browsing Facebook and found this avatar world community thing.  Curiosity struck a chord, so I spent the next half hour creating a character and entering this world.  I was shocked with what I found; it was an avatar world where people try to live like it is real life.  They had shopping malls, bowling alleys, beaches, hotels, parks, bus stops, and even swimming pools.   What was even more amazing was the people in this world.  I saw avatars asking if anyone wanted to be their father or mother because they wanted starting a family. Not in a perverted way, but in fantasy life sort of way. Also, you could be in one of the locations I mentioned earlier and wait several minutes, and next thing you know you can witness someone ask another person out on a date; and if your nosy like me, you can even follow them.  I watched one couple go on four different dates.  Then I was invited to their wedding which, strangely enough, took place in Heaven.  I guess in this avatar world anything is possible.  

During the pretend wedding ceremony, the minister asked asked if anyone had any objections.  I was bold, and I typed in “I have a question.” I asked why they were doing this whole fantasy world and taking it so seriously.  Their answer unveiled a realistic truth.  They said, “In this world we don’t have to worry about getting hurt.”

Whoa! Did you hear that?  People are substituting a fake world for the real world.  The real world and real relationships can bring pain, but also great joy.  This is the basic principle of our existence.  We are here to relate with each other. God created us for fellowship with Him and with each other.

Genesis 1 deals with God preparing the environment; the earth for His ultimate creation…us. In the second half of Genesis 1, after God creates the earth, he turns His attention to us. So, how wonderful it is that God would care enough for us that He made sure we would have everything we needed before creating us. We were not an afterthought or some sort of filler for the earth, in truth we were God’s culmination of a detailed and love-filled plan. We were created in His image for the purpose of fellowship with Him. How wonderful to have someone who cares that much about us. We weren’t accidents or genetic mutations; we are the result of careful planning and attention.

Real relationships are a risk, but we were created for fellowship. So risk away, because no matter how many times you get hurt, tomorrow brings a new day, and God is always there for fellowship with you, and a relationship with Him is no risk. He cares too much to hurt you.

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Dangerous and Chilly

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Today, I found this article online (www.theuselessinformation.com), and despite how I usually share inspirational stories, today I had to share this one.

Apparently, this is a new activity for the extreme sports enthusiast—underwater ice hockey played upside down. For those looking for a new pursuit to keep them busy through the long winter, under-ice hockey may be just the thing. Played under the ice of a frozen lake and upside down, this isn’t a sport for the thin skinned.

Wow! That is insane; there seems to be a lack of intelligence in the gene pool these days.  Whoever came up with this new sport is a bit on the weird side.  I can see it now; he’s sitting in his hut and mentions to his friend that he would like to play hockey, and another guy says that he would rather go swimming.  So they must have had the brilliant idea to combine the two and throw a sheet of ice over it to make it a little more challenging.  I like extreme things, but this is definitely pushing it.  Perhaps they will come up with a whole new venue; underwater ice football, soccer, or basketball.  At least then the athletes would earn their millions.

Thoughts and Comments? Would you play?

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A Light in the Fog

feininger_andreas_Brooklyn Bridge in Fog 1948_L

Something’s on the horizon in our lives – I just don’t know what it is or how long before it arrives.  You see, I’ve been looking over all my youth ministry books, writings, and folders recently… sorting through old files and boxes of stuff, tossing clutter, and rearranging things; all in preparation… for something.

What am I getting ready for?

A year ago I made the decision to take a break from youth ministry for a while.  I felt the longing in my heart to step away for a brief period, so after a considerable amount of prayer, I decided to follow my heart.  I left my job, moved away from everyone I knew, and moved to Seattle, WA, for what I was not sure of.  But for some odd reason I wasn’t fearful or worried.  It’s kind of invigorating to head off full speed into the fog and not know where you’re going – until you realize where it is you’ve gotten to. 😉

So where did it get me?  Well, I believe the main reason I felt fate call me to Seattle was to meet my wife, Shannon.  So now that I am married, my wife and I have been praying feverishly over whether the time is right for me to enter back into youth ministry.  What spurred this?  My grandpa and the longings of my own heart.

Six months ago, my grandpa died and went on to the hope he had always been waiting for (seriously, he talked about heaven like it was Disneyland).  Three weeks prior to his death, he called me to ask if I would speak at his funeral. Despite how awkward it is to have someone who is still alive ask for you to speak at their funeral, I said it would be an honor.  Then my grandpa told me his dying wish was to have his grandson (me) get back in youth ministry, because he thinks “I am extremely gifted and have a calling with the youth”.  I told him I would think about it.

After my grandpa passed and our wedding came and went, I started to pray about whether the time was right to reenter youth ministry.  I started volunteering with more youth activities, and I realized that my longing to share Christ’s love with teens never went away.  I began to include my wife in prayer with me, that God would give us confirmation concerning my decision.

After a few days, I started to browse youth ministry jobs all across the country.  It turns out that the economy has devastated the market for youth pastors too.  In the last three months, there were only thirty jobs listed across all fifty states.  Slim Pickens.  To say the least, I decided to throw out my fleece like Gideon did in Judges 6:1-40.  My fleece, however, was my resume; after much prayer we decided we would throw my resume out there and if I got some responses, we would pursue this and see what happens.

Truthfully, with only thirty jobs listed I thought I was a long shot at best, especially since I took a year away from youth ministry. I applied for about eight different churches.  Surprisingly, I received responses back from quite a few, and started the preliminary interview process with churches in California, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.  After speaking with the pastor in California, I decided not to pursue that position because we did not share the same vision.

About three weeks ago, I spoke with the pastor and his search committee from Nebraska.  It seemed that we shared the same heart for youth ministry.  The pastor was a Mass Media Communications major at San Diego State University, so needless to say he is a movie buff like me.  After a couple weeks of talking and countless e-mails, the church in Nebraska has asked my wife and me to come for a visit in October.  My wife is ecstatic at the possibility of moving back to the Midwest, an area that she truly loves.  I don’t know if the job will be offered to me, or if we will like what we see.  But we are excited at the new direction God could have in store for us.

It’s funny how something that was never on a radar pops up, and it could be the direction were supposed to head all along.  For now, I trust God and continue to pray for his direction, but as I mentioned before, it is invigorating to head off full speed into the fog and not know where you’re going – until you realize where it is that you’ve gotten to. I believe it’s called FAITH!

Please pray for us as we pursue this possibility.

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A Village of Sex Offenders

SexOffender2009-05-22-1243031455Written by Shannon (Chad’s wife and editor)

This morning while I was browsing over the news, (speaking of which, did you see the 19 pound baby?!) I came across a pretty controversial article. It deals with one of the most hated and ostracized groups in society; sex offenders. Now I, like most other members of society, have to admit that I hold a personal prejudice against this group. I have never knowingly interacted with a sex offender, but I must admit that if I met someone who was, I would probably hold preconceived notions about him or her. Just like prejudging anyone else, this is not right or fair, but it is because of this negative connotation towards sex offenders that this issue is turning so many heads. If you wish to read the full article before reading the blog, it can be accessed at:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090925/ap_on_re_us/us_sex_offender_neighborhood

Basically, a minister in Florida named Richard Witherow in Florida has opened a community of houses for sex offenders who have been released from prison. Pastor Witherow is a member of Matthew 25 Ministries, (http://www.m25m.org) which in an international organization created to help oppressed people, including those facing political and social persecution. The pastor has been preaching in prisons for over thirty years, helping people who have committed sexual crimes to find hope in God and turn their lives around. Pastor Witherow said that, because so many laws exist limiting where sex offenders can live and work, many end up homeless.

In most states, sex offenders cannot be anywhere within 1,000 feet of any place where children may assemble. This means schools, churches, community centers, even school bus stops. Not only does this really limit housing options, but sex offenders are blacklisted from most fast food and mall jobs, because most of these places have a children’s play structure of some kind. So without a place to live and very limited employment options, most sex offenders end up living in tent cities and under bridges post prison. As demonstrated in the article, statistics prove that a very small number of sex offenders repeat their crimes. Many are incarcerated at a young age and, while in prison, gain the desire to start their life over on the right path after their release. Pastor Witherow advertises his housing community to these people, where they will be among others with similar backgrounds to support them. Witherow also has a church in the community, where he ministers specifically to this group of adults. In most churches, these people would not be allowed to attend for fear that they would harm the children there. Now so far, this really doesn’t sound so bad. The pastor has put these (mostly) men in a safe area where they are secluded from children. So what could be the harm in helping them out? Well, first of all, while most sex offenders do not re-offend, some do. This face has made neighboring communities very nervous. Although no children reside in the same neighborhood, there are many families just miles away. Second, in order to create this community, a preexisting housing complex was evicted of all its tenants who had children. Many people felt it was wrong to kick out families in order to house criminals.

Personally, I do not know how to feel about the subject. We live in a country where everyone is guaranteed the right to make a life for themselves. America is one of the only countries where you can fall hard, and still have the ability to pick yourself back up and start over. However, when one commits a crime against our giving society, they sacrifice certain rights. Sex crimes cannot be swept under the rug, because if they are, we put ourselves and our children at risk. Nobody wants sex offenders to live in their neighborhoods, but banning them will not make them disappear; they have to live somewhere. Pastor Witherow’s community has been successful so far, but it has only been open for eight months. In terms of ministry, he has about fifteen men who regularly attend his church on the property. The article closed with the following: “Aponte, 34, a recently released sex offender, bowed his head and closed his eyes, an open Bible on his lap. He took the microphone and wrapped the service with a prayer. ‘Lord help us … to stop loving things that are not of you,’ Aponte said. ‘You see the struggles that each one of us are going through, Father, you see the physical pain, Lord, the mental pain, the emotional pain, Lord, help us Father, because we are weak.'” It is great that Pastor Witherow is helping these men. However it is not so great that they cause uneasiness and tension in the communities in which they reside, because they pose a potential threat.

Please share your thoughts on this tough subject.

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Wow, what kind of world are we living in?  Coffee with a smile suddenly has a whole new meaning.  Read the following:

5 Bikini Baristas Accused of Prostitution

Women reportedly charged up to $80 to strip down while fixing coffees

Thurs., Sept. 24, 2009 EVERETT, Washington

Five Washington state baristas charged customers to touch their breasts and buttocks at an espresso stand where servers wear bikinis to draw business, police said. The five were charged Wednesday with prostitution. Charging money for that kind of touching falls under the city’s definition of prostitution. The Everett Herald reports the women were charging up to $80 to strip down while fixing lattes and mochas.

During a two-month investigation, detectives also saw the women lick whipped cream off each other and pose naked for pictures at the Grab-n-Go Espresso stand in Everett, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

Owner Bill Wheeler told KCPQ-TV that employees sign a policy prohibiting the kind of behavior alleged by police. He said anyone caught doing anything illegal would be fired.

The women, ages 18 to 24, were not arrested, said Sgt. Robert Goetz. They were expected to be in Municipal Court in a few weeks to answer misdemeanor charges.

40 complaints:


Police have received more than 40 complaints in the past year of women exposing themselves at coffee stands. Goetz said the department investigated Grab-n-Go because it had the most complaints.

“This was about alleged conduct, not about what the women were wearing,” he said. “They could have been wearing parkas and if they continued to conduct themselves that way, we still would have filed the criminal charges.”

Undercover detectives began posing as customers in mid-July.

During one visit, a barista allegedly told a detective that for $20, she and another barista would give him a show. He paid and they bared their breasts and pulled down their undergarments.

The women also charged customers to play “basketball,” a game in which customers threw wadded up money at the women, who caught the money in their underwear, detectives said.

The city council is expected to decide next week whether to change the city’s lewd conduct ordinance to cover espresso stands.

The owner of this coffee stand feels nothing is wrong, and his 17 year old daughter even works there.  He’s definitely going to receive father of the year.   Whether you’re liberal or conservative, we have to come to some consensus that this is wrong and that there is a line being crossed.  I don’t know, maybe we’re turning our country into another Sodom and Gomorrah.  You may think it’s just liberal Washington; 35 out of the 50 states in the US have some sort of Bikini Barista.  Washington did try to take a stand requiring more decency in the way baristas dress; however, it was voted down 40%-60%. Many Washington people believe in freedom of expression, but at a certain point, it becomes a matter of safety within the community.

Thoughts and comments?

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Fearafutura

AG_NoWorries

Do you have a case of Fearafutura?   If so, you are likely haunted by the “worry questions” as I call them:  Where will I be in five years?  What will my family look like?  Will I have kids?  Will the economy turn around?  Where will I be working?  If you are like me, these questions, or questions of a related nature, have wandered through your mind a time or two.  The economy is getting worse, were in another state of depression, actually in terms of national debt the Great Depression was better off economically than us.  Gas prices keep getting higher; everything costs more yet my income stays the same. Will this trend continue? What about health costs?  Beyond that, what about the safety of America with terrorism threatening us?  And don’t even get me started on the health care thing.  Do you fear the future, or as I call it, “Fearafutura”?

The short answer is that no one really knows what will happen; what we do know is that something will happen. We can use logic and see trends and study graphs, but in the end we’re just as clueless as we were when we started. The reality remains that tomorrow is simply a breath away, but with that breath comes uncertainty.  Some people may be asking if they will even get to take the next breath.  It’s all out of our control. When car accidents, thefts, cancer, heart attacks, and loss happen, the majority of us become fearful because we are forced to face a self-realization that we are not in control and that at any time in a blink of an eye, your life can suddenly change. You can gain a child/lose a child, become very ill/be miraculously healed, become jobless/receive the job of your dreams, become rich beyond your wildest dreams/find yourself penniless overnight, and be depressed and single/married and ecstatic.    The point is that we’re not in control and things can change with the tick of the clock.  We can’t control the future, but we can ask ourselves, “What will my reaction be to the uncertainty I might face?” Our reaction is the element that we can control.

Sometimes, the greatest adversary we face is our own fear.

At his first presidential address, Franklin Roosevelt stated that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  This was at the time of the Great Depression. Most of us were not alive during this time. We have no idea how tough it was or of the fear that many people faced. The president knew that a nation living in fear would become crippled. Fear can cripple us.

Fear of the unknown usually leads to worry. My wife Shannon can literally make herself physically sick by worrying about something too much.  In the past it has frustrated Shannon how I just don’t worry about job interviews, money, being sick, and the passport issue (for those who don’t understand the passport issue, refer to previous blog “Passport”).  In the beginning of our relationship, she could not grasp how worry didn’t bother me.  But it’s not that it doesn’t bother me, it’s just that a  couple years ago I made a deal with myself not to worry about things which I couldn’t control.  Well, as luck would have it, that is almost everything.  Shannon has caught on and realized that you can’t really change anything by worrying anyway. 

God knows the desires of our heart, so I trust He will provide in one way or another.  He has never failed me nor will He.  I truly cherish the verse in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  We should focus on the now, not the next day, focus on this moment, this second, and making it count.    I have a friend who has just had a baby girl. She is a beautiful little girl, but she has a plethora of medical problems that stem from her early birth.  She struggles with acid reflux, additional stomach problems, and because of this she cannot gain weight.  She is almost three months old and weighs about eight pounds, which is seriously tiny.  I often ask the parents how she is doing and they say moment by moment or hour by hour.  They have seen how quick the situation can change.  They trust God with what they can’t control.  All they or anyone can do is trust in God and pray.  Their baby is going to be having surgery sometime soon, so I am asking all my readers to send out prayers and put on their prayer chain or prayer circle a prayer request for Baby London; pray that God is with the surgeons and that He will comfort the parents of the baby, and most importantly, that this situation is finally be resolved so that the family can have peace. Thank you.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don’t seem to understand.
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.

Please leave your thoughts and comments.

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Mutton Bustin’

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(Shannon’s Perspective)

Today is officially the first day of fall. With this season comes cool, crisp weather, red and orange leaves, and a local favorite; the Puyallup Fair.

Last weekend, my husband and I attended the fair not once, but on both Saturday and Sunday, each time with different relatives. Now we do like the fair, but I doubt we will ever conquer it two days in a row, ever again.

This was our first time “doing the Puyallup”, so we were not prepared for the chaos that met us there. First of all, we had to fight a sea of traffic for nearly two hours just to get there (we live ten minutes away).  Then, after finally reaching our destination, we were informed that all the parking was gone. Luckily, the “No Street Parking” sign by our car magically disappeared (Chad swears he had nothing to do with it).

But once inside, the journey was well worth it. Not only could you indulge in every deep fried food imaginable (my sister in-law introduced me to deep fried cookie dough), but the free entertainment was quite unique. And no, I’m not talking about watching teenage girls stumble across the gravel lot in their clear plastic platform heels, although that was pretty hilarious. I’m talking about Mutton Bustin’’. You must be asking yourself, what is that, and where did it come from?

Well, once upon a time, I’m guessing some unruly farm child did something so bad that their parents had to think up a new form of cruel and unusual punishment. So, they threw their kid on a sheep and let that sheep run around while the kid held on for dear life. While witnessing this, the parents must have recognized the entertainment value it offered and decided to capitalize on it as a sport.

And that is how Mutton Bustin’’ was born, or at least that’s my guess. So, at the fair, you could volunteer your child for this public torture, as long as they were between the ages of two and five years old.

So how does it work? The kid sits on the sheep, a gate is opened, the sheep bolts out, and the kid flies off, face planting into the dirt. In the rare case that the child’s fingers manage to grip the wool, points are awarded for how far the sheep goes. If the sheep rams the kid into the gate or into the flock of sheep waiting at the other end, the kid is guaranteed a spot in the finals.

Now, I had mixed feelings about this sport until a parent put their two year old, 28 pound daughter on a sheep. She crashed into the dirt and just laid there, helpless. When the commentator came to help her up, he patted her on the back and about two cups of dirt fell out of the face mask on her helmet.

So what is the prize for this humiliation? No, not a chunk of cash or a year’s supply of anything. It’s a belt buckle. A belt buckle?  And that only goes to the first place winner.

Now, if you’re the type of parent who likes to spray tan their three year old daughter and parade her around stage on a show girl outfit, this sport may be for you.  All I can say is thanks to my mom and dad for not putting me in a Mutton Bustin’ competition.

 

(Chad’s Perspective)

That was Shannon’s take on the sport.  I find the sport no more dysfunctional then cheering on the fighters in an ultimate fighting match as they beat each other’s heads in.  The majority of the kids who participated (minus a few) loved doing the sport.  Some other parents seemed to have just signed their child up and they were forced to do it.  Now, when little Trenton is of age, I think it would be awesome to see him ride the sheep, but only if he wants to.  Mutton Bustin’; it’s a controversial sport, but I included a clip of it so you can make your own decision.  Please tell us what you think.  Tiesha, would you let Lincoln do it? Or Mike, would you let Matthew?

Mutton Bustin’:

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