Thursday, April 30, 2009

Francis Chan & Nancy Beach

Today, I was fortunate enough to hear two great sermons today. This morning, I got to listen to Francis and thi afternoon, I heard from Nancy.


Francis gave (once again) a challenging sermon for us to truly be christian community and for us to truly live out in Acts way of life. He gave an illustration that made a challenge to me and I will be mulling it for awhile.

Later on, I will give full details on the message.


Friends, Nancy gave a great - maybe the best I have ever heard on women leadership in the church. Her voice and her message that she gave today is one that we as churches and Christians need to wrestle with.

I will also give more on this message when I get home.

So far, the Orange conference has been good. Tomorrow will be a good but long. We will have the convention from 9 am to 6 pm and then we will make a 12 hour drive.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In Atlanta

I am currently sitting in a Hyatt Place Hotel in Alpharetta, Ga outside of Atlanta typing this post while watching Sports Center.

This morning, I left home at 6 am and we got into Atlanta (Duluth) at 6 pm. We registered and then waited around for the opening session at 7:30.

The opening session was good. The night could be summed up by two words: reconciliation and restoration. I will have more to say about it later when I have more time to think on the night.

We then made a phone order to the Cheesecake Factory and went in and picked it up. Dinner at 11:15 pm was not good - even though the food was good; that is why I can not sleep. I am hitting the bed for good in about 15 mins.

Tomorrow we are over at the convention center from 9 to 9.

My main emphasis tomorrow will be ministry to teens.

I have not seen anyone that I know, even though I know they are out there --- I just cannot find them in the midst of 4,000. Well, that is not true. I did see Sheila. She use to be the Big Stuf registration guru.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What & Why of Orange

What is Orange?

I am headed to the Orange Conference in Atlanta in 11 hours and I have had a few individuals ask me about it and what it means. Here is a snipit from their site that explains it pretty well:

The Orange Conference is an opportunity for churches to have their key leaders in a room together being challenged about what it means and what it takes to reach the next generation. It's not a children's ministry conference. It's not a youth ministry conference. ORANGE IS THREE CONFERENCES ROLLED UP INTO ONE EVENT. It's the only place that a senior pastor, student pastor, children's pastor and volunteers that work within these ministries can learn together and begin formulating a strategy to impact the lives of the people in your congregation by...

...creating a plan for handing off kids from preschool ministry to children's ministry; from children's ministry to student ministry; from student ministry into college ministry - a plan that works among these age groups to build a strong foundation of faith, grow it, challenge it and mature it before students leave your ministry to become independent adults in this world.

...equipping parents with kids at every age level to become the primary spiritual leader for their kids - to partner with them so that the one hour the church has with kids each week is multiplied at home.

...creating opportunities for families to invite their neighbors to a relevant and engaging environment at your church - to see what happens to their own faith when they begin investing in those around them.

This gets me excited and makes me dream of the possibilities that could occur when church deliberately took steps to be "orange".

Why Orange

Orange is a color that symbolizes INTEGRATION. It's the brilliant result of a merger between two more traditional influences - red and yellow. Just like something radically new happens when red and yellow come together, there is a different kind of culture that is established when the Church understands the value of a true partnership with the family. There is a different kind of culture that is established in a church that really values a compreshensive and integrated strategy. When church staff members step out of their silo-style departmental thinking and start playing together, it creates synergy. Your team must be intentional about alignment. You can never get on the same page if you don't spend quality time in the same room discussing the things that really matter.

Orange is a color that suggests CHANGE. It's the primary color for autumn, a season of transition. You might be thinking, "Don't things turn orange right before they turn brown and die?" Actually, smart leaders realize there's a life-cycle to any organizational model. Every innovative idea and creative program will ultimately grow old. Styles and methods need to change more frequently than we are willing to allow. That's because the idea of change makes comfortable Christian leaders nervous, and it keeps the Church lagging behind culture. As a result, we give a generation the perception that the Church and maybe even God are irrelevant. Churches are notorious for feuding over what is already dying while they lose focus on the timeless principles that really matter. Just remember, even the most ground-breaking version of today's Church will ultimately have to be redesigned and reborn.

It is my belief that we definitely need change in the church and this is a great avenue of change and so much of the change is grounded in the Deut. 6 priniple within the ministry of Orange.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Great Facebook Video

I just had to share this when it was shared with me ....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Rock: John Delich

I have not really used Windows Movie. I have only used it once before today. I took a shot at it today and the work is below.

One of our options for music during VBS is to have singers up-front and they will use cd's as accompany. We will do this instead of musical instruments. We also may use the vocals on CD to help with the singing. Part of this is that, our children/students are not familiar with the songs. If we go that route, I thought - let us put pictures and words to the cd and make it into a movie format. We will use both pics that go with the song and then we will also use vbs themes - alternate it to mix it up. Well, the first one is pics that match the lyrics ----- or try to at least. I am not too good at this; I am still learning.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Will Save You

A typhoon stranded a monkey on an island. In a protected place on the shore, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed to the monkey that the fish was struggling and needed assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resoved to help the fish.

At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on the precarious limb of a tree, reached down, and snatched the fish from the waters. Scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments, the fish showed excitement but soon settled into a peaceful rest.

Today, I was reminded of this parable. So often, we want to rescue/save people and we think that we know the situation better than them and we reach out and save them.

In the parable, the monkey thought he was being heroic and saving the fish, however, he killed it.

How often do we do that ?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Doubting Thomas

I have re-read through my sermon a few times. I am going to check on a few things for family sunday school. Below is the sermon that I was am going to preach at the 8, 9 and 11 am service today.

April 19, 2009
Zion Lutheran
Jeff Greathouse

Before we begin today’s message, I want you to take a few seconds and think of a time when you got hurt (physically, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise).

What’s the most important thing you learned from that experience?

In the weeks leading up to Easter this year, sad news filled nearly every newspaper and broadcast. In just over a week, there were five mass murders in the U.S. alone, from Oakland, CA, to Binghamton, NY, killing nearly 40 people. In Italy, just as that predominantly Roman Catholic country was beginning to celebrate Holy Week, a massive earthquake killed at least 260 people. Violence continues in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in other war-torn corners of the globe. And all over the world, people continue to struggle with a devastated economy and our community has not gone untouched.

The week after Easter is an unmatched Sunday in the church. On most Sundays, the appointed readings are different each year, following a three-year cycle. But every year, on the week after Easter, we hear this story about Thomas, the disciple who asked for proof. That makes me wonder: What’s so important about this story that the church asks us to read it every year during this time?

It seems to me we could answer that question with two words: doubt and scars.

In the midst of danger and suffering, it’s normal for a little doubt to creep in. Thomas asked, and for good reason, to see the same proof that Jesus handed -- literally -- to the other disciples. For Thomas, as for most of the citizens of Jerusalem, the resurrection had not changed anything. Well, not anything they could see anyway. Life was still hard, and death was still at hand. So before Thomas took the message of “He is risen!” very far, he needed to be sure he wouldn’t just be telling a cruel joke to people who needed some real, meaningful hope.

So, we look today at Doubting Thomas ……

Doubting Thomas is a term that is used to describe someone who will refuse to believe something without direct, physical, personal evidence; a skeptic.
The term is based on the Biblical account of Thomas the Apostle, who doubted the resurrection of Jesus and demanded to feel Jesus' wounds before being convinced (John 20:24-29), although the Bible does not mention if actual contact took place. After seeing Jesus alive and being offered the opportunity to touch his wounds - Thomas professed his faith in Jesus; on this account he is also called Thomas the Believer.

Even though Thomas earned a negative label, he was not lacking in some very good qualities. He displayed great courage and loyalty. When the other disciples tried to keep Jesus from going to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead because of the danger from those in the area who had just earlier tried to stone Him (John 11:8), Thomas said to them, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (John 11:16). Thomas also asked Him one of the most famous questions. John 14:5-6 says, "Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?' Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"

I think I have behaved similar to Thomas at times. I have gone through stages in my life when I questioned God. Have you ?

So, let us take a look at the story once again, with the focus on Thomas

Shock and Disbelief

On Saturday he is in shock. On Sunday he is so disillusioned that he doesn't gather with his fellow disciples for an evening meal. Thomas is dazed, hurt, bitter -- and lashing out. Monday morning, the disciples go looking for Thomas and tell him what has happened in his absence.

"Thomas, we were in that upper room where we'd been meeting. We lock the doors for protection. Yet, all of a sudden, Jesus appears. 'Peace, Shalom,' he says. Then he shows us his hands. There are jagged holes where the nails had been. He pulls back his tunic and shows us where the spear penetrated his chest. But he isn't weak or sick or dying. He is alive, raised from the dead!"
Afraid to Believe

"I don't believe it," barks Thomas. "I don't believe a word of it. You're seeing what you want to see. Jesus is dead. I saw him die, and part of me died with him. But he's dead, and the sooner you accept that fact, the better off you'll be. Give it up!"

Peter pleads with him. "Thomas, I saw him myself, I tell you, and he was as real as you are!"

Thomas is cold, with an edge in his voice that cuts like ice. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
But Thomas's anger cools, and by the next Sunday evening he is eating with his fellow disciples in the same locked room. Suddenly, Jesus stands among them once again and speaks -- "Shalom, peace be with you."

All the blood drains from Thomas' face. Jesus turns to him and speaks plainly, without any hint of rancor or sarcasm, "Put your finger here, see my hands." Jesus holds out his scarred hands for him to examine. Thomas recoils. Not out of fear, really, but from a mixture of amazement and revulsion.

Jesus begins to open his outer garment and says, "Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

My Lord and My God

Thomas is weeping now and then begins to sob out loud. Jesus reaches out and puts a hand on his shoulder. Then Thomas slips to his knees and says in awe, "My Lord and my God!"

Thomas, "Doubting Thomas," as he is sometimes called, is the first disciple to put into words the truth that Jesus is both Lord and God. "Doubting Thomas" utters the greatest confession of faith recorded anywhere in the Bible.

I don’t see Thomas as a doubter at all.
I see Thomas as someone who is seeking the truth.
I see Thomas as an unusual someone
who does not just go along with the crowd,
but is willing to stand up and say,
Sorry, I just don’t buy this.
I need a little more evidence

Jesus knows and loves Thomas, too.
Jesus understands the depth of Thomas’ love for him.
Jesus returns when Thomas IS there with the other disciples,
and the very first thing Jesus says is,
Peace be with you.

A small side note ….

Peace be with you.

Imagine how our relationships would change if we began our conversations—especially our conversations with those who question us, with those we disagree--if the first thing we said to them was, Peace be with you

Now, back to Thomas ….

Thomas seeks the truth.
Because he knows it is only the truth that will give him freedom.
Freedom to be whom God has created him to be.
Freedom to do God’s work in the world.
Freedom to face himself in the mirror.

Easter is not one day in our church.
Easter is a season.
Easter is the season of resurrection, of transformation

Not just the transformation of Jesus, but the opportunity for our own transformation, our own resurrection. Easter is the season when we are invited to seek the truth:

Put your finger here and see my hands
Reach out your hand and put it in my side.

Easter is the season we are invited to celebrate the truth, to leave the dark realm of secrets and shames and to stand in the light of Christ.
The joy of the resurrection is, understandably, mixed with paralyzing fear, and the gospel of John portrays the ongoing struggle among Jesus’ followers to understand exactly what happened and what it meant for this community of believers. Doubt, confusion, and disbelief raised more questions than answers, which is why John focuses on the physical details of Jesus’ resurrected body. Jesus was not a disembodied spirit floating among them, but a tangible being whose wounds were still present: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (John 20:27). Without believing in the resurrection, the disciples could not live it, and if they could not live the resurrection, neither could they “reach out” and bear the new life of Christ to the world.

But they did believe. In the following months, the community’s faith in the resurrection was so strong that, in Acts, Luke testifies that it bore the truest mark of the new reign of God, for “the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common” (Acts 4:32). To be Christian was to participate in a unique community in which all were of “one heart and soul,” sharing both social and material equality.

Theologian MarĂ­a Pilar Aquino insists that the liberation wrought from the resurrection means that we who believe in it are called to “reach out” and touch the wounds of Jesus in the world. There we must repair inequalities in every aspect of human relationships, building community and healing where oppression and exclusion exist.

We, too, live this Easter faith in a dead and dying world. Thanks be to God, Jesus lives and breathes in the midst of our doubts, bearing the scars, and yet overflowing with life.

Jesus, you lived and died and live again, feeling in your own body how hard life can be. Help me see your love and grace in the midst of the entire world’s, and my own scars. Be patient with me, and accept my doubts even as you give me faith. Amen.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It Has Been A Long Week

It has been a long week for this aging soul.

This weekend is going to be packed full and the weekend schedule is part of what has driven the long week. As each week in life ( I think ) shows, there has been some good and there has been some bad and unfortunately there has been a few spinkles of ugly.

I am thankful that this week came after a vacation week. In a sense that may sound odd. Because this week has "ripped" away some of the great feeling that I had coming back from vacation ...... however, I am not sure how well I would have survived if I was not entering into this week completely fresh.

Some "Highlights" From the Week

- Final Preparation for VBS Meeting
- Introduction for our Vacation Bible School
- Follow-Up on the meeting and plan action steps for the next 30 days
- Volunteering at Viola Free Medical Clinic
- Preparation for Sunday Morning Sermon ( preaching at all three services )
- Preparation for Family Sunday School
- Preparation for the Synod meeting ( this Sunday afternoon )
- Preparation for National Gathering meeting ( Sunday evening )
- Isaiah & Jacob had their Reach Out And Dance Performance
- Had 3 Jeff events on Thursday night - not good (not including kids sports)
- Parents in for 24 hours for a visit & see the kids performance

Those are just a few of them.

Today, I am putting the final touches on all 4 "events" that I am participating in on Sunday. During today, I will be checking on a video that I may use for Sunday morning's 9 am service - if that works, I may "alter" that sermon entirely - but I know what I will be doing; so I will not be completely behind the 8-ball in that area.

Finally, though, I have been dealing with frustrations with the "church". At times, it really confuses me.

- Why can't we be welcoming, loving and accepting to everyone ?
- Why do we make the "golden rule" so difficult
- Why do we have to "argue" about theological matters that don't matter

The list can go on. I may actually start throwing questions out to God on here and see what type of answers that I receive from my readers.

It is time to start the morning.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Polar Bear Attacks

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A polar bear attacked a woman at Berlin Zoo Friday afternoon after she climbed a fence and jumped into its habitat during feeding time, police said Saturday.

The bear attacks the woman during feeding time.

One adult polar bit her several times after she plunged into the moat, police said.

Zoo workers tossed rescue rings toward the woman to hoist her out and distract polar bears swimming nearby, said Goerg Gebhard, a Berlin police officer.

At one point the woman fell back into the water and was grabbed by a bear before she was eventually hoisted to safety.

"They saved her life," Gebhard told CNN.

The woman was severely injured and was being treated at a hospital, police said. Watch polar bear attack woman »

It's unclear why the woman entered the bear habitat, but police issued her a citation for trespassing.

Berlin Zoo is home to Knut, the first polar bear to be born there in over 30 years. The bear became a huge talking point in Germany when his mother gave birth to him in December 2006.

I am not that smart of a person, but here is a bit of wisdom for you "my readers"; please do not enter into the home of a Polar Bear and assume that everything will work out perfectly.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Porter's Visit


We had a great time. They came over to visit for the day. We had a wonderful 6 hours with them.
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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Mean Jeff: Spring Break

We were outside playing in the last bit of the snow and I put my "rough" look hat on and gave a growl during the snowball fight. Here is the "mean jeff" look. You better not mess with me (ha):

The Gazebo & More: Spring Break 2009

Some of the things that I love about the property here are the trails and the Gazebo. The Gazebo sits above the creek and it is great to sit in the Gazebo, look at the great view and hear the water running below you.

Below are some photos of Bethany on the walk with me and the Gazebo and the view from within the Gazebo and then the boys and Bee in the snow; it is melting fast. Isaiah tried to throw a snowball at me as I took the photo - which you can see below in the pics:

Isaiah Throwing A Snowball

Bethany on the Trail: Rock Hunting

Bethany at the Gazebo

The Gazebo from the Woods

Looking Out from Inside The Gazebo

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Spring Break 2009: Snow

Bethany Patting Down Snow
She wanted to make it even with the snow, so she built it up and patted it down.

I Love You Dad
In the pic, you can not really see it. However, yesterday evening, she came in and said, "dad, i need to show you something outside". So, I put on my shoes and coat and was show the writing ... loved the act of love :)

Jacob Making Snowballs
He was very happy about making snowballs even though there was some ice mixed in with the snow.

Jacob Placing Snowball on Pile
He was making a pyramid with the snowballs and he was placing them down very strategically.

The Pile
At the time, he had 33 snowballs in place.

The Game of Life: Spring Break

The kids now love the game of life; we have now completed 4 games. Here is a picture of us playing ..... we can't get Stacey to play with us .....

Monday, April 06, 2009

Playing in Snow: Spring Break Part II

Here are some photos of them out in the snow. It warmed up a little and they had been in the house for awhile, so they decided to venture out and get some fresh air and play in the cold and wet snow. The pics are a bit blurry ... I apologize for that.

I have read Youth Ministry 3.0 and am a few chapters into Oh Shit! It's Jesus. I have also watched a little baseball - Yanks vs. Orioles.

Later on, we are having meatball calzones and then I will watch the championship game - if I can convince the family to allow me :)

My Easter Hat

On Sunday, we had "Easter" during our Family Sunday School time. Our curriculum is a 4-week curriculum each month (March at 5 Sundays).

We decided that we would not have SS on Easter. So, we "bumped" the curriculum up. We had Palm Sunday on 3/29 and Easter yesterday on 4/5. It felt a little odd. I think that the story that we did (conviction) was excellent and did a great job telling the story through the eyes of Mary, John and Peter.

I had my "Easter hat" on for the introduction. I thought that it was cute *cough* but some just could not take me seriously :)

Here is the pic, tell me what you think ???

Spring Break Vacation 2009 Part 1

It is Spring Break Week. We decided to head back up north to Michigan and stay at the same "cottage" that we stayed at last year. Last week, we started to look at the 10-day forecast and saw that it was going to be cool with precipitation in the air. Well, when we got here last night (Sunday the 5th), we checked the weather - because we heard snow reports on the radio. The weather had actually stated a snow warning.

Last night, we went into town and had dinner at a local favorite - the New Port Restaraunt. We then went to WMSC to get groceries for the week. This morning, we woke up and the snow definitely came in. Here are the photos from the cottage (front and back view):

Today, has been very relaxing. I did not wake up till 9:30. I made some coffee. We had breakfast at 10 am and then we settled in for a game of LIFE. The game took 2 hours :) Here are the totals:

Daddy & Bethany: $ 1,645,000
Jacob: $ 1,355,000
Isaiah: $ 415,000

I am not sure what happened to Isaiah.

The rest of the day, a late bath and then lunch and then time to read a book and then more games with the kids. The kids are playing hide and seek right now; their laughs are histerical. The boys can never find Bethany.