Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Night of the Living Update

Night of the Living Celery is coming along. (See Night of the Living Teaser for an excerpt from the first chapter and a brief intro.) I've completed fourteen chapters so far. The story is silly in parts and sad in others. You'll be surprised, I hope, at the ending...assuming I can get to the ending I have in my head.

As soon as the story is completed, I will begin releasing a chapter a day, posting them to a new category, My Fiction, which will be created at the time. That way you'll be able to find the day's new chapter and refer to earlier installments all on the same page.

I can't give you a firm starting date, but my wife suggested February 13th. We'll see. No more for now.

A 'Parable' from Today

The man knew it was time to go. His eldest daughter was pestering him. "Dad, come on. It’s time for my piano lessons." But he was busy.

"I’ll come when Mom’s ready," he shouted back, pushing another scoop of snow off the drive.

"She’s ready." He turned and, sure enough, his wife was stepping out the back door. He sighed and propped his shovel up against the basketball pole.

As he walked toward the family van, he shoved his hand deep into his right front pocket, the pocket that always held his keys. They weren’t there. He fished around. Flash drive. Chapstick. No keys. He pushed his left hand into the left pocket. A few coins. No keys.

"I don’t have my keys," he shouted as he jogged into the house. He glanced at the kitchen counter as he headed for the master bathroom. He was sure he’d dropped the keys on the counter top next to his sink. His pocket and that spot were the only places he left his key ring. Usually. Peeking around the door frame of the bathroom he saw a clear counter top. No keys. He ran into the bedroom and checked the desk top and the dresser top. Nothing.

Puzzled and running late, he walked briskly back to the van. "I’ll have to use your keys," he informed his wife as he sat behind the wheel. "I can’t find mine."

A short dig through her purse and the man’s wife proffered her set of keys. He took them, popped them in the ignition and, with a twist, the engine came to life. Backing out of the drive, the man began a quick mental run down of the places the keys could be. He’d come home late from a Bible study the night before. He remembered carrying the keys in his hand when he got out of the car. The keys and an armload of other stuff. His Bible, a notebook, a few odds and ends left behind by his younger daughters who were quick to head for bed. Pulling up at his wife’s workplace, the man was sure he’d find the keys somewhere near the door. He slipped her work keys off the car ring, handed them over and then drove back home.

Once in the back door again, the man began his search in earnest. He opened the notebook on the counter where he’d left it the night before. He looked all around the kitchen, scanning every square inch for his keys. He made a more thorough inspection of the dining room counter and pushed a few things around in the computer hutch. No keys.

He returned to his bathroom and the master bedroom. He opened drawers, lifted papers, threw back covers. Nothing.

It was nearing time for a second trip in the van. The younger girls needed to get to school and, with the blowing snow and frigid temperatures, they'd be asking for a lift. The man spotted his youngest standing ready in her winter coat, book bag strapped on.

"Would you help me look for my keys?" he asked. "Look around down stairs."

Always eager to please, the girl headed for the basement. The man continued his quest, poking around the living room and the remaining rooms upstairs. The guest room. The second bathroom. The youngest’s bedroom. When his middle daughter called from the dining room, "Dad, we need to go," he trotted to the garage, snatched up his wife’s keys again and made the short drive to school.

When he stopped the van and shut it down after this final trip, he decided to hunt in the car. Maybe he hadn’t brought the keys in the night before. Maybe that was a figment of his imagination. He glanced under his seat. He lifted up the console. He moved umbrellas and gum wrappers and sun shields around. He pushed his hand down into the cracks at the back of each seat. No keys.

Then he remembered that he’d gotten a call the night before from a Girl Scout leader who couldn’t lock the doors after her troop’s meeting. Maybe he had gone over to lock up and absent-mindedly left his keys on his office desk. Stranger things had happened before. He went to look, but couldn’t see in the window.

He returned to the house and did his own basement survey. He walked through the older girls’ bathroom. He snooped around near their beds. He even looked in the pockets of the pool table. None of these were logical places to search, but he’d run out of logical ideas. The entire time, the man prayed fervently to God, a habit he’d picked up from his mother as a child. "Help me find my keys. You know where they are."

The anniversary clock atop the computer hutch in the dining room chimed the hour. Hearing it, the man broke down and did the one thing he hated to do early in the morning. He picked up the phone and called the man who kept a spare key at home. When this friend answered and heard what was up, he laughed. More than a gentle chuckle too. They talked for a bit and then the key loser begged, "Please bring up your key as soon as you can." The conversation ended with that.

Where could those keys be? the man wondered as he waited. He thought through the past evening and the hour or so that morning before he discovered his loss. He had brought in groceries from the car. He looked in the refrigerator, opening every drawer and clearing off every shelf. No keys.

He’d tried looking through the window of his office earlier, but he hadn’t been able to see anything. A flashlight. He needed a flashlight. He found his new LED flashlight, its sleek brushed metal body begged to be used. He shoved the tube in his back pocket, shrugged into his coat and walked out the front door. The man with the extra keys had arrived. His black pickup sat in front of the church. The flashlight would not be necessary.

When the man walked through the front doors and turned the corner into his now opened office, he half-expected to see the lost key chain laying next to his computer keyboard. It was not there. He opened a drawer or two on his desk. Nothing. Bothered, but knowing he needed to get something done that day, he settled into his chair and began to pray. He had plenty of people to pray for, so he set his mind on heaven’s throne and began.

His mind wandered. Where were those keys? Maybe he’d put his keys in his coat pocket the night before and when he had paused to put on his gloves that morning, the key ring had been thrown out by the gloves. Unlikely, but likely ideas were in short supply, so he put his coat back on and returned home. Lacking a rake which had been suggested to him by the extra key holder as he walked out the church door, he took out a broom and slowly pushed the snow aside. Whisk. Whisk. Whisk. It was slow and tedious, but it had to be done.

About a half hour into the job, a friendly soul pulled up and offered the most needed words of encouragement. "You know you’re fighting a losing battle." The snow was coming down fast, covering the concrete almost as quickly as it was pushed away.

"I know," the man replied, "but I’ve lost my keys and think they may be somewhere out here."

"Oh, no," was the concerned response. And then, in a by-the-way fashion, the encourager said, "I have a prayer request," and laid out the minor – her words, not mine –medical procedure headed her way the following day.

"I’ll pray," he said. And he did. "I hope it goes well," he shouted as her vehicle pulled away, its window still partially opened. A word of thanks reached him on the breeze.

He continued sweeping, praying all the while. "If those keys are out here, Father, direct every stroke of this broom, every sweep of my eyes. I don’t want to miss them." It would be weeks before he’d see the ground again, he thought, and he’d have to get copies of everything – car door, car ignition, house, church front door and office door. The last would be a pain. Wal-Mart had tried twice to make a key that would work on that knob. Both failed.

The man finished the driveway. Nothing. Not even sweeping out a foot into the grass on either side dug up his treasure. The man stomped off his feet in the garage, dropped the broom by the back door and re-entered the house.

"Argh!" he shouted, his frustration pouring out. He dropped his coat to the floor and looked around again, half-heartedly. Walking from room to room. Sticking his nose in a few bags and crevices he had skipped before. Nothing.

Defeated he shoved his arms into coat sleeves once more. Right arm. Left arm. His eyes fell on a blue hood that had been removed from his middle daughter’s coat the night before. She didn’t like it and had left it between the front seats of the car. He’d carried it in. He reached down and snatched it up.

The jingle of keys brought tears to his eyes. Five keys on two rings. A Pepsi logo key fob. A grocery store loyalty card. His keys. Joy flooded his soul and he whispered two words to the heavens: "Thank you!"

There is greater sorrow in heaven over just one lost soul than the man experienced over his lost keys. And there is greater joy in paradise over one lost one who repents than the man had over five keys placed securely in his pocket once again.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

First blood...

I was fast today! Scary fast! The wind was nothing and I pedaled 25.27 miles at 18.2mph on a hybrid...not a road bike! It was a blast. I maxed out at 30.6mph coming down L'Alpe Danville so it was a double red day with a bold red thrown in.

Don't remember my "red rules?" See Chasing Hard.

Friday, January 26, 2007

On the road again...

Finally, after days of ice and snow and temperatures too cold to mention in polite company, a perfect day for riding arrived. Today!

The snow and ice are still on our street, so I strapped on my bike rack, hefted my two-wheeler onto it and drove a quarter mile north to the high school parking lot. There I unloaded my precious cargo, hopped aboard and, with two clicks, I was headed down Highway 160. It had been more than two weeks since my last excursion, a short ride on the 11th. It felt good to pump pedals again - outside! Something about exercise bikes in a gym isn't quite right.

So I rode 20.2 miles today putting my total over 100 miles for the year. A cold front is coming in this evening, but at least it's not supposed to snow.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The perfect, sweetest, broken place to be...

Sweetly Broken
by Jeremy Riddle

To the cross I look,
to the cross I cling
Of it’s suffering I do drink
Of it’s work I do sing

For on it my Savior,
both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
And God is just

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift,
undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled

In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous
Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

©2005 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Music Services)
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Though God’s redemption begins much earlier (with His first move toward us by creating humanity in the first place), it is at the cross -- at the foot of a most-undignified, brutal, and simple machine of execution, stained if not soaked with His blood -- that our new creation-life begins. It’s ultimate shame and glory, all at the same time. It’s where we meet our Savior. But more importantly, it’s where He met us -- where He still meets us today. It’s the peak, the zenith of God’s move toward us, and at the same time the lowest point, the nadir of His descent to humanity -- it is both the depths and the heights to where He went to meet you. He did that. Your friend, your Lord, the One who took something unspeakable from you (shame, sin, guilt, burden of reconciliation, death...) and gave you everything in return (undeserved forgiveness, eternal life, glory and righteousness...).

As weird as it may be for us guys, it’s really the most natural thing in the universe to be in love with that Man named Jesus, our God in flesh. This is the most honorable hero story the universe has ever, and will ever, know. And stories of glory and honor hit us guys right there deep in the heart. Don’t shrug that off. Lost for words and lost in love with our Lord and Savior is the perfect, sweetest, broken place to be -- at the cross. Where He met us.

Guest Blogger, Mike

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

But I want to see Jesus...

I've been thinking a lot about heaven recently. It's not because I'm especially old and think my visit to the pearly gates is just around the corner. It could be sooner than I expect, but I'm not thinking about my trip home because age is statistically ready to do me in. I'd guess I have a few decades left here. Four or five maybe.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I've been turning my mind heavenward. I could say it was Ted Dekker's book, The Slumber of Christianity, which I finished last week and which encouraged me in my passion for the afterlife, but I was thinking about glory before that. I've been thinking about paradise for months. And the most prominent thought in my mind has been this: I want to see Jesus.

Lots of people, especially those folks with higher mileage, tell me they can't wait to get to heaven and see their loved ones again. They long to interact with their parents, their spouse, a child they lost. I think of my grandparents as I write this. It'll be great to see them and thank them for the godly example they set in their homes. It was their influence that made my mom and dad the great followers of Jesus they are and they in turn pushed me toward passionate kingdom living. I'll love to see Leroy and Elva and MoMo and spend an eon or two with them, but, quite frankly, given the choice, I'd rather see Jesus.

Jesus is the one who died for me. He's the one who called me. I know him as healer, Lord, guide, friend. I want to see him. He's what I'm hoping for and longing for and looking for. Heaven will be great if only I can see him and be loved by him.

What are you dreaming of? Who do you desire? I urge you. Want Jesus more than anything or anyone else. Want him and his will for your life and heaven will be better than you imagine.

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Big Brother

I graduated from high school in 1984, but this post has no Orwellian overtones at all. Trust me. No one is watching you. Okay, maybe they are. Enough!

I became a Big Brother again last night. No, my mom who's...29 did not give birth again. I simply went from my house to another house, signed on the dotted line...several dotted lines actually...and became a fourth grader's Big Brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters...great organization. We then jumped in my van and ran back over to Mikey's house and played pool for a half hour or so. It was fun!

Can't say much about my Little Bro, but I'm looking forward to the friendship. He's pretty cool...and he thought I was only 30. Smart kid.

Night of the Living Teaser

Because my nephew in Iowa is bugging me about Night of the Living Celery, the story I'm writing, I'm going to post a teaser. Below you will find the rough draft of the first paragraph or two. Hope you enjoy it. I will be releasing the entire murder mystery as a serial in the near future. You'll get a chapter at a time over several weeks...or days. Depends on how impatient my nephew gets and how often he bugs me on Skype.

So here's the teaser...

Something was eating at Herb as he sat watching reruns of the Brady Bunch. A crime wave was sweeping Garden City, the likes of which no one living could recall. Of course, biennial vegetables don’t have much of a collective memory, so that wasn't saying a lot. There’d been a string of choppings, one celery salt and battery and numerous reports of stalking.

Folks, were terrified. They ventured out only when absolutely necessary and only in bunches during daylight hours. They had stalked up on essentials and barricaded themselves in their homes. Worse, citizens were stalkpiling weapons – potato guns, carrot sticks, ginsu knives. Herb knew he had to stem the tide or the whole town would stalk off and find themselves a new chief of police. Already the mayor was screaming, ready to bite his head off and the rank-and-file at the station were ribbing him at every briefing. The "stalk holder," as they called their jail, was full of petty thieves and hot bed hussies, a seedy bunch to be sure, but incapable of the vicious murders and the single attack.

That's all folks...for now. And yes, the misspellings are done on purpose.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Vocabularians join me...

Believe it or not, language is not static. It changes all the time. Think about it! Three years ago had you ever heard the word "blog"? Yet you're reading one now and you blink not once at the word's existence.

"Who makes up these new words?" Vocabularians, that's who. People who learn new vocabulary, use newly grasped words and create language for others to use. How do I know this? I are one...a vocabularian that is. I've made up and used dozens of previously unknown words - vocabularian happens to be one of my most recent discoveries. Vocabularian is a very useful word. My kids and I use it all the time. We are a vocabularian family. (See it can be used adjectivally, too!) Now you can use it...and be one, joining Mikey and his clan in joyful wordufacturing. (That one just sprang to life as I typed it.)

So how about it? Will you join me? I await the rich new nouns and verbs lurking in your subconcious. Click on the comment link below and share your baby words with the world.

Talent night...

It was talent night at Mikey's house tonight. My youngest decreed it so. She announced the event loudly at the end of supper. Soon afterward, the dishes rinsed and stacked on the counter, we all gathered in the living room.

The first four acts were a bit much. Four renditions of chop sticks can be grating. But then the real talents began. Back bending gymnastics, magic tricks, knock-knock jokes and tons of laughter. (Not at the knock-knock jokes, my wife wouldn't play along.)

In the middle of the show I presented for the first time this original poem based on an event at a basketball game last night...

"Is that your dad with the beardish thing?"
"Yep," said Tatta. "Yep," said Bree.
"Yep," said Nan, the middle of the three."

That incredible wordish (or was that weirdish) creation was followed by flutes being played through the nose and marshmallows flying through the air. You should've been here.


The seasoned veteran of hundreds of battles slept soundly. The woolen blanket that lay loosely across his chest raised and lowered slowly with each breath as the ox cart, his bed, rolled and rocked along the rutted old road. The war raged on but after years of active duty this soldier was headed home. He was pleased with the prospect. Loved ones he hadn’t seen in years awaited him.

As his slumber deepened, he dreamed of conflicts past. There he was as a young buck, 18-years-old, a cadet being tested on the front lines. Flaming arrows by the thousands, it seemed, glanced off his shield as he lay face down in the trenches begging for mercy and help. It had come. Fellow soldiers had surrounded him and lifted him up. Their companionship in the fight had given him strength. Their stories and instruction had made him a better warrior.

The scene in his mind’s eye shifted quickly, dramatically, as visions are wont to do. Now 44, he spotted himself in a mass of soldiers, head down, sobbing as the others celebrated. In his dream world, it seemed like yesterday. Red-hot tears dripped down his sun-chapped cheeks, dampening the pillow under his head. He’d felt like such a failure then. Miserable. Ready to quit. The enemy had won too much ground on his corner of the battlefield. A kind word from a single wet-behind-the-ears recruit, was all that saved him from utter despair that day. That time had passed and he’d returned to the fray, but the wounds were deep and, though scabbed over, hurt even now. Maybe when he got home he’d finally find peace.

Years passed in a flash over the eyelid screen of the warrior's mind. He now saw himself as he had been just twenty-four months earlier, the newest teacher at the academy. He barely knew how to act in his new surroundings, but there he was. Newly recruited fighters hung on his every word as he told of days gone by, battles won and lost. His youngest son and his eldest grandson were among them. Both had enlisted on the same day. Both eager to catch up on years wasted in other pursuits, asked questions about the warring skills they’d need. The veteran had poured himself into these dear ones and their classmates. He was so proud when two months ago his grandson had spoken in his final class about victories won. He’d be alright. He’d survive. A smile, a smirk really, crept across grandpa’s lips.

All that was past now. The old man’s breathing slowed even more. His dreams ceased. The quilt covering him fell once more. It did not rise.

"Welcome, faithful warrior!" The Commander’s voice was joy-filled. "Wake up! Come! Enjoy! You’re home!"

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The prize awaits...

I want you to imagine that you’ve signed up to run a marathon. I know it’s hard for most of you to picture yourself doing such a thing, but humor me. You’ve been building your endurance by daily jogs around the neighborhood. You’ve run a few half-marathons and done well. You’ve suffered, but you’ve survived. Now you want to test yourself. Can I run 26.2 miles in just a few hours?

The day of the contest arrives. You’re fit. You’re fresh after a good night’s rest. The morning sun warms your smiling face. You’re ready to run. The starter’s pistol fires and you surge forward. Your first steps are full of energy. Your heart and lungs feed your body all the oxygen it needs to operate. What are you experiencing? Joy! That’s what you’re experiencing. Life is good!

You run on and on. An hour into the race, you’re beginning to feel tired. Your steps are not quite so lively, but you keep going. Snacking on the energy bar you picked up at the last checkpoint perks you up a bit. You thank God for calories. What are you feeling now? Joy? Maybe, but not the same passionate exuberance you felt earlier, but it’s there. Just under the surface is an almost uncontainable excitement. Life is hard, but you’re still moving toward the finish line.

Mile 17 passes under your feet. Your whole body aches. You’ve disciplined your legs and arms to keep pumping, but they’re protesting every stride, every swing. Your limbs ask why every time your mind says move. Someone hands you a cup of water. You take a swig. You’ve never tasted water so sweet. Your mind tempts you to stop and drink more. But drinking water, no matter how satisfying, is not what this day is about. This day is about completing 26.2 miles on your own two feet. Do you still have joy? Yes! Though dulled a bit by the agony you’re experiencing, it’s still there. The prize is not far off. It’s just around the bend.

You pass under a banner that reads, One more mile. The crowd lining the path you’ve chosen is thicker here. Everyone claps and cheers as you plod past. You’re sick with pain. You no longer think of water or food or the brilliant sunshine. You only think of crossing the finish line. Rest awaits you. Blessed, blissful repose! But more than that keeps you moving. Joy! You know in just a few minutes you’ll have conquered what seemed nearly impossible a month or two ago. Tears stream down your face as you round the final corner and spot the finish line. Your steps regain some of their original buoyancy. You raise your hands in victory as you break the tape and fall into the arms of your loved ones who’ve supported you all morning long. Finished! You can’t wipe the silly grin off your face. Life is good!

That’s the story of life, friends. You’re running a long-distance race. There’s pain along the way to be sure. Disease takes us from time to time. Financial setbacks grieve us. Friends offend us. But there’s pleasure too. Wedding days enthrall us. Kids are born. Delicacies fill our plates. And beneath all of this, behind both the distress and the delight, there’s joy. When...if...we think of the finish line and the prize that awaits, we’re overwhelmed with pure, unadulterated exuberance.
Heaven awaits us, believers! Eternity with our Savior! Pleasure beyond anything you have ever dreamed of in your moments of greatest faith. So enjoy the sweet waters of this life, the good things God sends your way, and keep your eyes on the purpose of the race when pain enters unwanted. It’s all about the finish line. The prize awaits! Keep running with joy!

(For more on the joy of looking foward to heaven read The Slumber of Christianity by Ted Dekker.)

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Midnight Call

The sound doesn’t scare me one bit when the phone in my office chirps out its cricket call at 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning. There’s no fear whatsoever as I pick it up. I’m pretty used to the stuff that folks call about while the sun is shining. It’s business as usual...usually.

"Friends Church, this is Mike." It’s a telemarketer calling from Timbuktu. It’s a local pastor calling from his office. It’s one of my kids calling from the school.

Daytime calls. Piece of cake. Call me any time. 1:15. 3:45. 8:32.

But midnight calls? Those are another story. When the phone rings in the middle of the night, I’m almost instantly alert. Adrenaline floods my system. I sit bolt upright, jerk back the covers and dive for the handset. My mind starts racing. "What now?" it asks as I pick up the receiver. The news is hardly ever good. An accident. A domestic disturbance. A teen who’s given up hope. A sudden death. I may sound calm, cool and collected when I answer with my usual, "Hello, this is Mike," but I’m none of the above. I’m a high-speed blood pumper with arms and legs. I’m ready to fly into action.

It wasn’t a phone that awakened young Samuel one night. It was someone calling his name. "Samuel!" The boy’s heart jumped to his throat. He ran to Eli’s bed. The old man was asleep until Samuel spoke. "Here I am! You called me."

Groggily, the priest corrected him. "No, Samuel, I didn’t. Go back and lie down."

Just as he was drifting off, the call came again. More urgent this time. "Samuel!"

The child sat bolt upright, threw back the covers and sprinted to Eli’s room. "Here I am! Surely, you called me. I heard you."

"My son," Eli spoke a bit more crossly this time, "I did not call you. You must be dreaming. Go back to bed."

Samuel returned to his cot in the corner, puzzled. He was sure there’d been a voice. Someone had called him. He hadn’t imagined it. If it wasn’t Eli, then who?

The voice spoke again, clearly. "Samuel!" The boy was beside himself. He returned to Eli’s bedside. Almost before a word was out of Samuel’s mouth, the elderly priest’s eyes popped open. "You called me?" he heard his servant ask.

The third time was the charm. "Go back and lie down, boy." He spoke softly this time, awestruck as the realization hit him. It’d been years since he’d heard that voice. "It’s God calling you, son. Go back to your room. If he calls your name again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’"

A midnight call from God? Thump, thump, thump! The child’s heart pounded. His eyes were wide as he crept back to his bed. His mind was racing. "What could God want with me? I’m just a servant, a worker. I’m nothing special."

But the voice came again. "Samuel! Samuel!"

"Yes, Lord?" the lad’s words were shaky. "I’m your servant. I’m listening."

Then God spoke. He revealed the future of Eli’s house to Samuel. His words were terrible. Eli had not controlled his sons. He was as guilty as them. The time for judgment had come.
Samuel didn’t know what to do. He lay there stunned. It wasn’t the message he had expected. He knew more than he wanted to know. Eli would ask what God said. Dawn was coming. What would he say to the old man?

The boy was up and around early the next morning. He hadn’t slept a wink since God had spoken. His eyes were blurry, bloodshot. His heart was broken for Eli. The old man found the boy as he opened the doors of the temple. Samuel could hardly bear to break the news, but Eli insisted. "What was it he said, Samuel? Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he said."

So Samuel laid it all out. He kept back nothing. The awful truth, God’s prophetic word, spilled from his lips. Eli took it all in. He heard God’s judgment on his house. He heard every word and he ignored them, at least in practical terms. He did not beg for mercy. He did not repent. He just muttered these few words. "He is the Lord. Let him do what is good in his eyes." And that was the end of the matter. The old priest puttering off to carry out some menial task. It was a daytime call. No reason to be alarmed. While the sun is up, it’s business as usual...usually.
But this time, the sun deceived him. He had received a midnight call to action and he didn’t recognize it. And his failure to acknowledge God’s pronouncement from a child’s lips was the death of him.

A child spoke God’s truth to me recently. I have not been able to shake the words I heard from my mind. I’m convinced they were a midnight call to me and that they are for you too. They are God’s word to his church. It’s time to wake up! God is calling! Get ready for action! For repentance. For obedience.

The message came in the form of a question: "Why aren’t very many people excited about God?" Hello. Hello. Is anybody there? A hard question to answer, isn’t it?

God’s pretty exciting! He created all that we see and all that we don’t see. He set apart a people for himself and displayed his power over and over on their behalf. He sent his Son Jesus to save the world. He will take all who trust in Jesus to heaven one day. We know these things and more. We know the stories of the flood and the burning bush and the plagues and the parting of the sea. We know the stories of manna in the desert and victories against overwhelming odds and walls falling at Israel’s shout. We know the stories about deliverance from the fiery furnace and the lion’s den and prisons. We know the stories of the resurrection and Pentecost and Saul’s conversion and miracles – lame men walk, the deaf hear, the blind see, lepers are cleansed and the dead raised. We know the stories of individuals and large crowds and entire households believing on Christ for salvation. We know...and we yawn.

J. B. Phillips, in the introduction to his New Testament translation, had this to say about the modern church. "The greatest difference between present-day Christianity, and that of which we read in these letters (of the New Testament), is that to us it is primarily a performance; to them it was real experience. We are apt to reduce Christian religion to a code or, at best, a rule of heart and life. Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we could achieve what they achieved."

That challenges me. Do I view my faith as an act or a show or as a genuine experience? Perhaps, as Phillips suggests, the reason our church and so many others in this nation see so little of God’s power is because we don’t believe, in practical terms, that he has the power to work today.

Wake up church! It’s midnight and the Lord is calling. He’s calling to be passionate for him and for his kingdom.

When the church was in its infancy, God revealed himself to the apostle John on the island of Patmos. John saw Jesus in all his glory and he heard seven messages from his Savior to the church. These letters call the church to excitement. Not fuzzy emotionalism, mind you, but true fervor, a zeal for God and his glory.

Listen to Jesus’ words to the church.

"I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first." (Revelation 2:2-5, NIV)

"I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you." (Revelation 3:1-3, NIV)

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth...Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:15-16; 19-20, NIV)

Do you hear Jesus’ love for his church? Do you hear his deep desire that his church be on fire for him? If you hear his midnight call, church, answer it. Open the door! Let Jesus in. Enjoy him!

May God infuse us with his power and passion. May he baptize you and me and every believer in this nation with fire and with the Holy Spirit. May he do in our day and in this place "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" (Ephesians 3:20, NIV)

Humbly come before God’s throne. Do it right now. Kneel right where you are. You can lift up your hands before the Lord asking for mercy if you want. If you’ve been spiritually asleep, repent of your apathy, your laziness, your "who cares" attitude. If you’ve heard God’s midnight call and you’re wide awake, ready to follow him, I urge you to make your commitment known to him. Stay on your knees as long as it takes to get the passion you need, as long as it takes to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow.

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Sunday, January 7, 2007

Ted Dekker on Thr3e...

I picked this up from Ted Dekker's website...


Well, well, well, here we are on January 6th and Thr3e the movie has opened in roughly 450 screens across America. There’s been a lot of buzz in the Circle and all kinds of comments thrown about by some who know and many who don’t.

So here’s some information to help us all to put the release of Thr3e into perspective.

First the really good news: Audiences are supporting Thr3e at a rate of 4 to 1 over Fox Faith’s last release and the per screen average is more than double. This after an extremely limited campaign through Christian outlets due to lack of support and the Christmas season. It was booked very late in many theaters and only some bookstores promoted it, as far as we can tell. TV ads in the last week and YOU drove the traffic. Thank you.

Bottom line, I’ve always believed that there is a huge audience for meaningful thrillers and Thr3e is the first, albeit rather small, shot across the bow. The reporting is bearing that out.

It is critical that we continue to support this endeavor over the next week if we hope to see larger, better releases in the next few years. No one ever pretended that Thr3e was a big budget film set to rock the world, but that doesn’t mean the next one can’t be. It’s in your hands as much as mine at this point.

Now the bad news: If Thr3e drops dramatically over the next week, our options down the road will be limited. Everyone seems to think that Christians are only interested in Biblical set pieces, or remakes of Little House on the Prairie. This may be true among traditionalists, but I believe younger audiences deserve movies that examine our struggles using a more contemporary voice, and I am dedicated to pressing through whatever stands in the way to ultimately deliver that in most excellent fashion.

We currently have 3 more movies slated for release over the next two years (HOUSE, BLINK, SHOWDOWN) and all will raise the bar. IF they proceed as planned. That is up to all of us.

Finally the mixed news: The reviews across America are mixed for Thr3e. Most of the negative reviews have compared this film to Seven or Saw and regret the fact that Thr3e lacks the teeth of either movie. The fact that this is Fox Faith’s first theatrical release has received a huge amount of attention in these reviews.

But the news from many reviewers is encouraging. Here are a few:

Dallas Morning News – “Thr3e is a surprise of this new year in film.” 3 stars

Charlotte Observer – “..a triple-twist ending, highly appropriate..” 3 stars

Detroit Free Press – “Moves the action at a heart-pounding pace.” 3 stars

Crosswalk – “A cleverly written Psychological thriller.”

Buffalo News – “Thr3e" is a first-rate thriller based on the book by Ted Dekker."

Cedar Falls Courier -- " This is a thriller; be prepared to hover on the edge of your seat..”

Jacksonville Daily Progress – “A movie that makes you think.”

Newark Star Ledger – 3 out of 4 stars.

Philadelphia Daily News – 3 out of 4 stars.

Chattanooga Times – 3 out of 4 stars

Akron Beacon Journal – Three Stars

Lexington Herald Leader – Grade of B

Among Christian reviewers, Focus on the Family, Crosswalk, and Dove all gave it a nod. Surprisingly enough Christianity Today seemed to think it was “…tamer than most dramas on television.” Perhaps next time we should change that?

At any rate, this is our first time at bat. Let’s try to get around the bases. Please do what you can to support this film.

Cheers, Ted

So maybe you should go see the film. I still like the book better. (See my Thr3e review.)

He Knows My Name

In the movie, Cars, there’s an incidental character that stole my heart. His name is Fred. He’s a lovable old car, rusty as all get out, a die-hard racing fan whose headlights are a bit dim – if you know what I mean.

Fred shows up early in the movie at a post race rally for the star of the show, Lightning McQueen, the rookie racing sensation. There McQueen calls him by name, obviously reading Fred’s "Hellomynameis" personalized plate.

Fred is blown away. "Lightning McQueen knows my name!" he shouts.

As the enormity of this truth dawns on him, his jaw, that rusty front bumper, drops.
God knows your name! In fact, he knows more than that. He knows everything there is to know about you. He knows you. That ought to make your "front bumper" fall to the ground. "God knows my name! God knows me!"

That fact blows me away every time I think of it. God knows me as I am now. He knows my thoughts. He knows my desires. He knows my faults. He knows my victories and defeats. He knows me and he loves me.

When I first sensed God’s call to preach, I ran across these words spoken by God to his prophet Jeremiah. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5, NIV)

The weight of those words knocked me off my feet – my "front bumper" dropped! God knew Jeremiah would be a prophet before he was born. That’s what the Bible said. "Before you were born I wet you apart." Those were God’s words to Jeremiah and he used them to speak to me. "Before you were born I set you apart." God knew I would be a pastor and preacher before I was conceived. Others saw the tell-tale signs years later, but God saw them when I was a single cell just one second old. "There’s Mike the preacher I’m sending to Argonia in 1998." Don’t you doubt it! When I was just a zygote, God knew that I’d be where I am now. And he knew much more than that. God knew then every day of my life from beginning to end. He knew every day that I have known and he knew every day that I have yet to know. He knew the day I would die. And he knew beyond that. He knew and longed for the day we’d meet face to face in our eternal home.

I say with the psalmist, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me..." (Psalm 139:6, NIV)
Friends, come what may, good or bad, God is with you. He knows you He loves you. Let your "front bumper" hang limp in awe.

I want you to think about where you’re at in your life. What’s happening right now? Are you experiencing not so good times? God knows about your troubles. Are you tasting sweet success? God knows about your victories. No matter what’s going on right now. God knows. He’s with you.

Now think about where you’ve been. Take a trip through your past. Remember the good times and the bad, the hurts and the healings, the triumphs and the tragedies. Don’t skip over the days that caused your greatest pain. Don’t hide from the horrors you’ve endured. Face those days you’d rather forget and know this: God knew every one of those days would come before you were born. He knew them and...he walked through them with you.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me..." (Psalm 23:4, NIV)

Some of you hate the God who knew because, knowing what he knew, he could’ve, would’ve, should’ve kept you from harm. "Why?" you scream. "Why did my business go under?" "Why did my husband leave me?" "Why did I have to be molested?" "Why did that tornado hit my house?" "Why wasn’t my child born normal?" "Why did my dad beat me?" "Why did my friends turn their backs on me?" "Why did my crops have to fail?" "Why was my daughter killed in an accident?" "Why was I abandoned when I needed love most?"

To be quite honest, I can’t answer a single one of those questions. I don’t understand why garbage gets dumped on God’s children. But listen! I do understand God’s great love and compassion for those who suffer. I do understand that he knows you and weeps when you weep. And I do understand that at the end of all things every evil deed will be dealt with perfectly and justly and every tear will be wiped away from every believer’s eye. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (See Revelation 21:4.)

Until that day, I choose to walk daily with the One who knows me and loves me – the One who makes my "front bumper" drop every day. I choose to trust my Father even when life doesn’t make sense. I choose to honor Jesus with every breath that I take. I seek to bring my God glory, with the Holy Spirit’s help, by every word I speak and every deed I do.

Will you choose the same path? Following God wherever he leads you today and tomorrow and the next day. Trusting him when life isn’t so great and when it’s so marvelous you can hardly stand it. Honoring him with every word, every deed, every breath. Seeking his glory – and not your own – all the days of your life.

God knows you and he loves you. Give your life to him.

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email and join the "webmessage" discussion group, send a blank email to Past messages (there are well over 100) are available at

Friday, January 5, 2007


How do you describe the struggle between the conflicting desires in the heart to do good and to do evil?

If you're Paul, the Johnny-come-lately apostle, you write this to your friends in Rome: "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." We all understand those words. We experience daily the same battle Paul did. "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Who doesn't live that?! "What a wretched man I am!" we scream with Paul. "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" And then we fall on our faces before God in worship: "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (See Romans 7 for more.)

But if you're Ted Dekker, you don't lay it out quite so neatly. You write Thr3e, a psychological thriller that graphically depicts man's fight to do what's right when evil tempts and the sin nature begs to be set free to wreck havoc. Thr3e is full of twists and turns and a climax that will blow you away. (My wife couldn't sleep for Thr3e weeks after she read it.) And truth shines out through dozens of not-too-cumbersome theological conversations between Kevin Parsons and his seminary professor. As they discuss the fight against sin's rule, we're given ample opportunity to ponder our own inward bent toward evil.

And now for the movie! I saw an ad yesterday, got excited and went to see the celluloid version of Dekker's tale tonight. It was well-paced, suspenseful (even for those who've read the book and know the ending) and kept much of the original storyline intact. (It might be a bit too intense for some. I'm warning you. It is a thriller and it deserves its PG-13 rating.) I have but one gripe. Something was missing - and desperately needed in my humble opinion. It was those long theological conversations. Readers of the book will long for the interplay of student and instructor. The film's professor makes a couple of profound statements at the very beginning, has a brief conversation with Kevin after class and then doesn't show up again until after the movie's climax. As he talks with Jennifer, a police profiler, while walking the grounds of a mental hospital, he corrects her erroneous conclusion (can't say more without ruining the final twist) saying, "No, we need God." A true statement to be sure. We do need God's help to overcome sin. We cannot do it on our own. But on screen, without the deep conversations the book provides - I hate to say this - his words sound empty. And God certainly did not show up in the two hours of action I watched to help Kevin.

I don't know what to say. I'd like to recommend the movie. It was well done. the book!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

New Year's Revolution?

As I was reading a novel last week - Blessed Child by Bill Bright and Ted Dekker - I realized that I was allowing the world to influence my thinking too much and not allowing God nearly enough time. In 2006, I found time to watch TV often enough, but seldom found time for concentrated prayer. I read Bicycling magazine cover to cover the day it arrived, but only read a bit (if any) of Scripture each day. Not a good way to build a relationship with God.

So I decided somewhere in the pages of Bright's and Dekker's tale of faith and seeking God to do just seek God more earnestly...and reduce the world's influence. I have made a commitment to fast from most secular media for the year 2007. I might ocassionally watch something good with my family, but I'm not going to sit for hours by myself soaking in violence and other questionable material. I'm going to spend time in prayer every day. I'm going to read God's word and listen to his voice. I'm also going to read books that push me to grow in my faith. I hope it will revolutionize my life.

Will you join me? Try fasting from secular media for just a week if you don't think you can go for a year. Try it for another week after the first week. Go for a month...or two or three. And with all the time you free up, seek God. Read and watch things that will build you up. Join the revolution.