A brief critique of Abraham's Children: Reuniting an Old Family

Before I get to my post, I want to say that I am going to be taking an computer hiatus this week. I won't be playing any games, posting on my blog, checking my email, or any other sort of thing. The only things I will be doing on the computer are business related tasks. So Pulling Weeds out of Potholes will not be updated again until next Monday.

I figured it was time to do a reset on my computer habits. It's easier to get a proper perspective on things when you distance yourself from it. That is what I'm going to be doing this week.


This morning before church, which I missed because I have a case of the flu or something of that sort again, I watched a show entitled "Abraham's Children: Reuniting an Old Family." It was a show that was talking about a play with the same name that is being performed in theatres and the like throughout the midwest. It stars Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The following is a critique of the show and not of the play because I have not seen it.

It came across as a very universalist program. The theme seemed to be that all people have the truth. I was amazed by the Christians that are on the show and actually buy into what the play teaches. They reiterated the point that there doesn't have to be just one truth; there can be two.

Two truths. I can see how this would appeal to people who don't really believe. But if they think this is going to convince the people who really believe the hate that they falsely or genuinely receive from their religion, then they are sorely mistaken. All this will do is be a rallying point for those who don't really believe what there religions teach because nobody can truly believe in the teachings of Jesus and think that the Muslims are okay, and vice-versa with the teachings of Mohammed. I'm sure the writer of the play had great intentions, but watering down the teachings of the various religions in order to bring unity is misguided at best.

We don't have to think the other person is right in order to respect them and not run around tyring to kill one another. Teaching that we are all right seems to imply that people need to be right in order to be respected. That is a dangerous thing to teach because we are actually saying that in order to respect someone's humanity we have to believe they are right. We need to learn to respect people's humanity even when we believe they are wrong. That is true love. It is easy to love those who we think are right. It is much more difficult to love those who are wrong.

"You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don't even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Watch out for the potholes.

Predicting Crazy.

Last night, I was reminded how insane the predicting culture, especially when it comes to sports, is.

My family were participating in a no-holds-barred game of Candyland. Isaac just anihilated us.

Anyway, at one point in the game he started predicting what the next card would be. We let him continue doing this for about two minutes. We could really care less what was going on because Candyland is a boring game, and the only reason we were playing it was for Isaac to have a good time. So we let him continue predicting what the next card would be.

"It could be a green. Or maybe a double orange. Would you like a double orange? Hmmm, how about the cookie. Do you think the next card will be the cookie?"

This went on and on for about two minutes until we were sick of it and finishing the game seemed to be in peril. We decided it was time to stop Isaac from predicting what the next card would be.

I finally declared, "Just draw the next card and you will see what it is."

He picked up the card, looked at it, and said, "Pink."

Mom moved her piece to the next pink square. The game continued on as planned.

Whenever I turned on sports radio this week, all they would talk about was the draft to be held on Saturday at noon. They would predict who would pick whom. It's crazy. If you're that concerned, just watch the draft. Stop predicting.

Watch out for the potholes.

More on popes named Benedict

Benedict III (September 29, 855 - April 17, 858)

Little is known about his pontificate. He was not the first choice for Pope. The first choice refused the job.

Benedict IV (February 900-July 903)

He was Pope during a time of politcal and social chaos in Rome. He was known as a Pope who was generous to the poor and those in distress. It is believed that he was murdered. Records of the time period, due to the upheaval, were mostly destroyed.

Benedict V (May 22 to June 23, 694)

He had only a month long pontificate. He was a "learned, reformist cardinal-deacon." He was stripped of his position due to a conflict with the former Pope. It was nothing of his wrongdoing. The former Pope was politically powerful and was on the in with the Roman empereror, Otto I. "Benedict was still widely admired and respected for the holiness of his life."

Benedict VI (January 19, 973 - July 974: January 19, 973 - June 974 in the Vatican's official list)

He forbid bishops from charging fees for ordinations and consecrations. He promoted the reform of monasteries. He was strangled to death by a Priest under the orders of the antipope Boniface VII.

Benedict VII (October 974 - July 10, 983)

He "was primarily a spiritual rather than a political pope. He promoted monasticism and monastic reform in France, Germany, and Italy." He also prohibited the buying and selling of church offices and spiritual benefits.

Benedict VIII (May 18, 1012 - April 9, 1024)

He was a layman elected pope. He was militaristic in his pontificate. He used military force to crush his opponents. He passed legislation prohibiting clerical marriage. "Some have referred to this pope as more powerful than all of his immediate predecessors, but he wielded a power - political and military especially - that is far removed from the original meaning and purpose of the Petrine ministry."

Benedict IX (October 21, 1032 - September 1044, March 10 - May 1, 1045, November 8, 1047 - July 16, 1048: These dates are in dispute)

He was also a layman like his uncle, Benedict VIII. He was the only pope to hold the office three seperate times. He was removed from the papal throne by order of the emperor. Later, He was accused of buying and selling of spiritual goods and church offices. He refused to appear at his trial and was excommunicated. He "is said to have been one of the most profligate ever to occupy the post and degradation seemed again to triumph."

Benedict X (April 5, 1058 - January 24, 1059)

He was an antipope. Apparently he wasn't regarded as such by the church at the time because the next Benedict was Benedict XI and not Benedict X. You will see that there were two Benedict XIII because he was also an antipope.

Benedict XI (October 22, 1303 - July 7, 1304)

His pontificate was marred by acquiescence to the king of France. He improved the rights of Dominican and Franciscan monks.

Benedict XII (January 8, 1335 - April 25, 1342)

"Benedict XII had come into office with a reputation as a learned theologian and an indefatigable inquisitor, skilled at extracting confessions from alleged heretics, some of whom were burned at the stake...He also prohibited the transfer of money when spiritual services were rendered, limited the fees that could be charged for documents, and banned the drawing of revenue from vacant beneifces (except in the case of cardinals and patriarchs)...He regulated the temporal authority of the Cistercians, Franciscans, and Benedictines, mandated regular chapters (formal house meetings) and visitations of monasteries, established houses of study, and reformed the training program for novices."

He settled a controversy on whether saints had to wait after death to see God or whether they saw him immediately. "Benedict XII ruled in Benedictus Deus (1336) that souls have an intuitive, face-to-face vision of the divine essence, which theologians call the Beatific Vision, and that this vision of God occurs immediately after death in the case of those who die in the state of grace."

He was pope at the beginning of the Hundred Years' War.

Benedict XIII (1394-1417)

An antipope. The papacy was divided between the powers of Germany and England against the powers of France. Benedict XIII was the French pope. He refused to abdicate his throne and was declared "a perjurer, a heretic, and an obstacle to the union of the Church...Benedict continued to insist that he was the rightful Pope" until his death in 1423.

Benedict XIII (May 29, 1724 - February 21, 1730)

"He criticized the lifestyle and fastidious appearance of cardinals (their use of wigs, for example) and banned the profitable lottery in the Papal States." His papacy was marred by corruption among his underlings. He was extremely unpopular.

Benedict XIV (August 17, 1740 - May 3, 1758)

He focused on the roles of bishops. "He promoted clerical training, episcopal residentiality (evidently many bishops were still living away from their dioceses), and pastoral visitation." He wrote what is considered the first papal encyclical. "He founded four scholarly academies, purchased manuscripts and books for the Vatican Library, and imprvoed the University of Rome. Montesquieu described him as 'the scholar's pope,' even though Benedict XIV had condemned his The Spirit of Laws. His book on the making of saints, De servorum Dei beatificatione et beatorum canonizatione [Lat., 'On the beatification of the servants of God and the canonization of the blessed'], was often reprinted and remained the classic treatment of the subject for many years. He also composed another enduring work on diocesan synods in 1748. The great Voltaire even deciated his tragedy Mahomet to the pope." He was greatly respected.

Benedict XV (September 3, 1914 - January 22, 1922)

Upon appointment, he "took stock of the financial status of the Holy See, determined to dispense as much money as possible to those in need."

"During and after World War I Benedict XV again and again addressed the world, calling to its attention principles for establishing peace and urging the belligerents to compose their differences. He used the facilities of his church to alleviate the sufferings from the war through negotiating the exchange of prisoners and civilians in occupied countries, aiding the sick, furthering the repatriation of prisoners of war and the correspondence of prisoners with their families, and promoting the relief of devastated areas."

"On the missionary front, he also pursued a more creative course...urging that missionaries receive a better spiritual and theological preperation and that missionary bishops form a native clergy as quickly as possible and never place the interests of their native countries ahead of the pastoral needs of their people."

"In the end, he was a pope dedicated to healing and reconciliation, even if, on the political front, his ministrations were unappreciated."

Benedict XVI

The new pope. With so many Benedict's before him, there are many traits that would be great to mimic. It is my prayer that he would listen to God and do for the church what needs to be done in order to help bring about unity among all believersq and restoration of biblical doctrine in all areas that the Bible addresses. I also pray that the world might see the love of Christ through him. May he always be sensitive to the guidance of God.

Watch out for the potholes.

Why Benedict - Behind the new Pope's Name - Benedictine Monasteries

After hearing the media talk about the 15 popes who named themselves Benedict in the past, I decided to not trust the news and do some research on my own. Here is what I discovered about the Benedicts of the past. What in here is the reason Cardinal Ratzinger chose the name Benedict? History will only show.

I found reading about the Benedictine monasteries very inspiring. I can't imagine reading through the Psalms every week. I wonder how the spiritual life that was taught there could be grafted into a church that is also focused on loving the lost. I think the combination would be tremendous. Maybe we could start and online monastery where we develop readings to be read and prayers to be prayed for people not living in monasteries but who want to be unified with one another in spirit, want to develop their spiritual life with other brothers and sisters in Christ, but want to remain witnessing in the world. That's just a thought. It might be a terrible idea. Or it might be great. I guess that is what church is supposed to be, but churches refuse to be strict for various reasons. We could be strict if we were just a volunteer group, but could it work without the commitment Benedictine monks had to make. Anyway, that was just an idea that came to me while writing.

First, I will deal with the two famous laymen that were named Benedict. Then I'll move on to the popes.

All of my papal information comes from the following books:

Benedict of Nursia (born around 480 - died sometime after 542) - Not a Pope

"As a youth he went to Rome to study, but the scholastic life held no attractions for him. He was distressed and disgusted by the vices and frivolities of the city, and, when about fifteen or twenty years of age, he took up the life of the hermit. Fame began to come and the monks of a neighbouring monastery urged him to become their abbot. He proved too strict for them and returned to his hermit's routine."

From this point in his life, many brought their sons to him to have them trained by him. It resulted in twelve monasteries being built at Subiaco, a valley east of Rome. But that was just the beginning. Benedict then travelled to Monte Cassino where he destroyed and active temple to Apollo and placed a monastery in its place. He then became very influential in the church. Although just a layman, many clergy and other laymen would come to him for consultation.

"He seemed to carry with him an atomosphere of quiet peace."

"Benedict's great contribution was the rule which he gave to his monastery...He was aware of the various kinds of monks, some anchorites, some wanderers, some living by twos and threes but witout wise guidance. He believed the best for of the life of a monk to be the cenobitic, that of the community, and it was for this that he devised his rule."

"As Benedict envisaged it, the monastery was to be self-contained and self-supporting, with its fields and workships. Over it was the abbot, chosen byt the entire community. He was to have complete authority, but was to remember that his title meant father and that he was ultimately accountable to God. The monastery was to have other officers, especially if it were large - among them a prior (or provost), deans (each over ten monks), a cellarer, a novice-master, and a porter. Monks were to be admitted first for a novitiate of one year. After that time their decision was irrevocable. Upon entry the monk was to surrender all his porperty, either distributing it to the poor or giving it to the monastery. He was to think of nothing as being his own. The nobles and wealthy who brought their sons to be enetered in the monasteries, even though they made large gifts to the foundation, were to expect no special favours. The ideal was a kind of Christian communism, like that of the early Christians in Jerusalem, whom Benedict cited for his precedent, where no one called anything his own, but all shaed in the common stock."

"The life war orderly but was not unduly severe and was probably more comfortable than was that of the great masses of the population. Clothing and meals were simple but adequate, and special provision was made for the ill, the aged, the very young, and those doing heavy manual labour. There was to be fasting at regular times, but this was not of the kind practised by the extreme ascetics whom we have met. Much weight was given to humility. Provision was made for various degrees of discipline, from private admonition to physical punishment, excommunication, and as a last resort, expulsion. Idleness was declared 'an enemy of the soul.' The entire round of the twenty-four hours was provided for, with eight services, one every three hours, and with periods for sleep, including a rest early in the afternoon, for eating, and for labour. The labour might be in the fields or in the library, according to the aptitude of the monk. There was also time for directed and supervised reading and for meditation and private prayer. Silence was encouraged and was the rule at meals after compline, the last of the services of the day. Joking and laughter were frowned upon. There was reading aloud at meals from religious books by those assigned ot that function. Stress was placed on worship by the entire community and directions were given for th services. These wer to include the Psalms, so that the whole of the Psalter was recited each week, reading from the Old and New Testaments with accepted commentaries on them, hymns, prayers, amd ont them the Lord's Prayer, and the frequent use of the Gloria, the kyrie eleison, and the canticle Benedictus. Although hospitatlity was enjoined and practised, provision was made for keeping the monks from having more contact twith the outside world than was absolutely necessary. There was a place for priests, for they were needed to say mass, but theyr were to obey the rule as fully as the lay monks."

"The rule was wisely deesigned for a group of men of various ages living together in worship and in work for the cultivation of the full Christian life as that was conceived by the monk...The rule of Benedict became standared in the West, probably because of its intrinsic worth."

"In an age of disorder the Benedictine monasteries were centres of quiet and orderly living, communities where prayer, work, and study were the custom, and that in a society where prayer was ignored or was regarded as magic to be practised for selfish ends, where work was depspised as servile, where even princes were illiterate, and where war was chornic. Like other monastic establishments, Benedicting foundations tended to decline from the high ideals set by the rule."

Benedict of Aniane (born about 750 - died February 11, 821)

"In his twenties, he had renounced the world and entered a monastery. Disturbed by the laxity in the house which he had chosen, he founded a monastery of his own at Aniane in which he sought to restore the observance of the rule of Benedict in its full strictness, and with especial emphasis upon worship and self denial. His example proved contagious and by the time of Charlemagne's death (814) many other houses were adhering closely to the Benedicting ideal...True to his convictions, Louis (the Pious - the king who followed Charlemagne) was especially concerned with improving the quality of monastic life. To this end he called to his assistance Witizia, better know as Benedict of Aniane...Louis made Benedit of Aniane his adviser on monastic affairs and the order went forth that all monasteries in the realm must follow the Benedictine rule as interpreted by him."

Benedict I (June 2, 575 - July 30, 579)

Not much is known about this fellow. He apparently chose

Benedict II (June 26, 684 - May 8, 685)

Apparently Pope Benedict I was influential enough that someone wanted to name themselves after him, or maybe he thought the Pope Benedict I did a disservice to the name of Benedict of Nursia. I guess we will never know. He "was known primarily for his humility, gentleness, and love for the poor." He battled the church of Spain over the doctrine of Monothelitism ("a heresy that held that in Jesus Chrsit there is only one divine will rather than a human and a divine will"). Benedict II's predecessor Leo II had condemned the belief in the Third Counicil of Constantinople (680-81). Benedict II confirmed and unsuccessfully tried to implement that condemnation.


That's all for today. I've spent way too much time on this. I'll continue tomorrow.

Watch out for the potholes.

Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Quotes

Here are some quotes from Pope Benedict XVI prior to becoming pope. After reading them, I think I'm going to like this guy.

"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires," the future 256th pope said. The church, he insisted, must defend itself against threats such as "radical individualism" and "vague religious mysticism."

"Concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences are needed."

"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism... Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards.

"We have such difficulty understanding this renunciation (celibacy-the renunciation of marriage) today because the relationship to marriage and children has clearly shifted. To have to die without children was once synonymous with a useless life: the echoes of my own life die away, and I am completely dead. If I have children, then I continue to live in them; it's a sort of immortality through posterity...The renunciation of marriage and family is thus to be understood in terms of this vision: I renounce what, humanly speaking, is not only the most normal but also the most important thing. I forego bringing forth further life on the tree of life, and I live in the faith that my land is really God -- and so I make it easier for others, also, to believe that there is a kingdom of heaven. I bear witness to Jesus Christ, to the gospel, not only with words, but also with this specific mode of existence, and I place my life in this form at his disposal."

"If we cannot have common values, common truths, sufficient communication on the essentials of human life--how to live, how to respond to the great challenges of human life--then true society becomes impossible."

"The authority of private revelations is essentially different from that of the definitive public Revelation. The latter demands faith; in it in fact God himself speaks to us through human words and the mediation of the living community of the Church. Faith in God and in his word is different from any other human faith, trust or opinion. The certainty that it is God who is speaking gives me the assurance that I am in touch with truth itself. It gives me a certitude which is beyond verification by any human way of knowing. It is the certitude upon which I build my life and to which I entrust myself in dying. Private revelation is a help to this faith, and shows its credibility precisely by leading me back to the definitive public Revelation."

"The criterion for the truth and value of a private revelation is therefore its orientation to Christ himself. When it leads us away from him, when it becomes independent of him or even presents itself as another and better plan of salvation, more important than the Gospel, then it certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit, who guides us more deeply into the Gospel and not away from it. This does not mean that a private revelation will not offer new emphases or give rise to new devotional forms, or deepen and spread older forms. But in all of this there must be a nurturing of faith, hope and love, which are the unchanging path to salvation for everyone."


Here's the funny part.

Evelyn Strauch, a 54-year-old housewife from Ratzinger's home state of Bavaria, buried her head in her hands and wept.

"This can't be true," she said. "I had hoped so much that we would get a good pope who would do something for women. ... This is so terrible."

I find it funny that we expect the church to do what we want rather than what God wants. I know it is difficult to distinguish at times, but we need to be in the word and be people of prayer in order to discern the truth.

Just a Blessing

Everyone will be used in some way throughout their life to bring glory to God. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we want to receive the blessings that go along with being used by God.

Take the kingdom of Israel for instance. God intended so much for them, but in the end all they chose was to be the vessel through which God blessed the world through and not receive the joy of being blessed along with being a blessing. God's plans will never be stifled by our actions. His plans for us might be quenched, but his overall plan is much greater than than any of us.

Whether we live a life that is more than just being a vessel for God's will is all dependent upon us and our response to God's leadings and teachings. We can be the type of people that are obedient and faithful to what God has planned for our lives, which will carry innumerable blessings with it. But we must be careful. Sometimes the blessings of God are disguised in ways that they aren't quickly identifiable as such, and God never promised any of us a bed of roses.

God has designed us to be people of blessing.

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them" (Romans 12:14).

"With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so" (James 3:9-10).

"Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3).

Like the Israelites did at various times through history, we like to view our being blessed as unconditional. History has shown us that the only part of the promise God made to Abram that was unconditional was that he was going to use them to bless all the families of the earth.

"It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:32).

When Israel broke the covenant, God changed the kingdom. He wants to be a God of blessing, but he also wants us to be people of blessing just like him. His people are to carry on his mission of blessing.

In so doing, we will be blessed people, but no matter what God will use our lives to be a blessing to others. The choice of whether we want to be blessed by God is ours. We show whether we choose to blessed by becoming a blessing.

Watch out for the potholes.

City of God excerpts

This was supposed to be "of God" week at Pulling Weeds; however, I decided to read more thoroughly the City of God by Augustine. Following is some of the great quotes from the book:

"There are two things on which all interpretation of Scripture depends: the mode of ascertaining the proper meaning, and the mode of making known the meaning when it is ascertained."

"For a possession which is not diminished by being shared with others, if it is possessed and not shared, is not yet possessed as it ought to be possessed."

"Those thoughts which the Lord has already vouchsafed to me with a view to undertaking this work will, as soon as I begin to impart them to others, be multiplied by His grace, so that, in this very work of distribution in which I have engaged, so far from incurring loss and poverty, I shall be made to rejoice in a marvellous increase of wealth."

"There are some things, then, which are to be enjoyed, others which are to be used, others still which enjoy and use. Those things which are objects of enjoyment make us happy. Those things which are objects of use assist, and (so to speak) support us in our efforts after happiness, so that we can attain the things that make us happy and rest in them. We ourselves, again, who enjoy and use these things, being placed among both kinds of objects, if we set ourselves to enjoy those which we ought to use, are hindered in our course, and sometimes even led away from it; so that, getting entangled in the love of lower gratifications, we lag behind in, or even altogether turn back from, the pursuit of the real and proper objects of enjoyment."

"We have wandered far from God; and if we wish to return to our Father’s home, this world must be used, not enjoyed, that so the invisible things of God may be clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, that is, that by means of what is material and temporary we may lay hold upon that which is spiritual and eternal."

Watch out for the potholes.

Death - Alone or together

A man in our church died last night. His wife had requested that someone would be there with her at all times because she didn't want to be alone when he died. I thought it was nice that our church helped with that.

I found that very interesting compared to a post on Shannon's blog this week. It is worth checking out.

Watch out for the potholes.

What does your name mean?

Here's a stupid silly site that I found. It also has a ton of other stupid silly things on it. Go waste some time if you have nothing better to do.

My name means:

R is for Rebellious
E is for Explosive
G is for Godlike
A is for Articulate
N is for Naive

Watch out for the potholes.

Our Family Prayer

For starters, The Onion has a hilarious piece: "Heaven Less Opulent Than Vatican, Reports Disappointed Pope."


After some contemplation and hammering it out, we have come up with our family prayer. We'll see how the family prayer works and get back with you. Feel free to pray it with us this morning.

Our Family Prayer

Our Holy Father, righteous and loving beyond our comprehension,
we love and praise you. We thank you for supplying all our needs and
ask for you continual provision. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, may
your grace and mercy cover our sins as we also forgive those who
sin against us. May your hand rest upon us as we go into the world;
please give us strength, wisdom, and boldness to be light in the
darkness. Our Loving Father, use us to show your love to our
neighbors and to further your kingdom through the talents and
possessions you have blessed us with and by your Spirit in us. Give
us an unselfish love for you and for one another. Help us to grow
closer to each other as we grow closer to you. We want to be people
of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control, not for our sake, but for your sake
because we bear your name. Let your will be done in our lives and
across the earth. To you be all the glory, amen.

There you have it.

Watch out for the potholes.

The Taste of the Past

I went to the health food store, was looking around, and bought a package of mixed nuts. I looked inside and saw something that I don't see in the mixed nuts that I purchase at Meijer, macadamia nuts. I was happy.

Then I paid for my goods, hopped into the car, opened up my mixed nuts, and began driving. Then it hit me. When the macadamia nut entered my mouth, floods of memories of the holidays of my childhood raced through my mind. Subconscioulsy I associated that flavor with holidays. It was a great experience.

Then I began to wonder about all the things that I associate with certain places or events. Some days I go outside and it smells like the ocean. Whenever I hear Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", memories of the first time I heard the song at a teen dance flash to my mind. Our senses seem to be connected to our memories. As we go through life, events around us trigger our minds.

That brings me to the central struggle of my life right now. I want every scent, every song, every taste, to ultimately bring me to thoughts of God and his glory. When I have memories of the holidays of my childhood, a teen dance, or of any other event in my life, I want to give God thanks for whatever it was.

I'm still having trouble seeing the positive in one event in the past. I still don't know what to give thanks for concerning the death of our twins, Luke and Logan, a memory that is triggered much more often than any other event in my life. I could give thanks, ala the Pope, for being able to experience a little suffering. But I almost feel that is a copout. I could give thanks concerning how loving the church was to us at that time. What I'm supposed to learn from that experience still eludes me. Maybe I'll never learn on this side of the grave.

I remember going out to get the mail a few days after we left the hospital. The mail lady was there. It was, for me, one of those awkward moments.

She says, "What are you celebrating? You are sure getting a lot of cards?"

I replied, "I wish we were celebrating something. We just gave birth to two still-borns."

She said, "I'm sorry."

I said, "Thanks."

I don't know why I shared that story. I guess it shows how loving people were to us at that time. I don't even know how this post became a post about Luke and Logan. I guess it shows how strong that memory is in my mind. I hope this isn't a sign of a sad, depressing day. But it is sort of a sidetrack from the point, almost worthy of being deleted. But, as you can tell, that didn't happen

So I'm trying to train myself to be consciously in God's presence all day long. I want everything to trigger memories or thoughts of God. Jason's comment in reply to my "Pray Without Ceasing" post was a great idea. Fixed-hour prayer would help me focus on God throughout those days where I'm too busy to even think about anything. Any other suggestions would be helpful.

Watch out for the potholes.

Every Generation Needs a Reformation

I read the biographies and writings of the great people of our faith. From the life of Paul to the life of more contemporary church reformers, I am amazed and inspired by reading their writings and observing the faith lived out in their lives.

Then I look around and see the church, the church that these people sacrificed and strived to change. I see the sweat and tears that they poured out, and in moments of depression I think that it was all for naught.

But then this realization hit me. Those great people of the faith kept the church alive for the next generation. Now it is our turn. It is up to us to remain faithful. It is up to us to not conform to the system when it deadens our faith or the works of Christ. It is up to us to follow Christ no matter what the cost, to live a life that keeps the church healthy for the next generation to come along and start all over again. We build upon the shoulders of the past, but those bodies slowly sink into the quicksand of time. Ours will too.

Lately the thought of being a jealous old man has been in my head lately. I know that I'm only 27, but here is what I've been thinking about. I see many old people who seem to be jealous that their day in the spotlight is dwindling. That their days of running things are passing by. The want to hang on to the power they wielded in the past. But then I thought to myself a way to insure that I am content in those times of ineptness. If I invest my life in building up the next generation of believers, then the work they do will not be something to be jealous of. It will be something to find joy in. I don't want to be one who fights to get my generation's way. I want to be one who just loves to see the work of God being done.

So it is up to me to be a person who receives God's grace, to live my life full of faith, and to turn that faith into tangible acts of love to those around me. In so doing I will create a little reformation. If others join in, it will get larger. If we all do it, it might just change the world for a little while. But then the next generation will come along. They will have to do it all over again, or else they will just be going through the motions acting out a dead faith.

I've heard it said that God has no grandchildren. Every generation needs a reformation.

Watch out for the potholes.

It Is Time To Judge

For starters, I am happy to announce that Lindsay tried out for a play and received a major role. We're looking forward to her playing Audrey in the Little Shop of Horrors. If you want to come and watch, we would love to see you. I'll give more information when it is forthcoming.


A lot of my conversations lately have centered around the core of why we are more critical of our own groups than those that are less Scriptural or loving than ours.

The answer is that we have no control over changing groups outside of those we are a part of. It does us absolutely no good to criticize churches that we aren't a part of. It does us no good to criticize other people who we don't have relationships with. Our criticisms should be reserved for ourselves, and those that we are in a position to help improve.

On a church level, we should constantly be examining our church and see how we can be more like what Christ intended us to be. Too often we become content just doing church. We think, and many times rightfully so, that we are better than the church down the street. We know all of their flaws and problems, yet we fail to address and correct the problems in our midst that we have some control over. It is easier to complain about something we can't do anything about than it is to address issues that are partly our fault.

On an individual level, we like to point at the messed up people across the aisle in our church or the people down the street who have a depraved lifestyle. However, neither one of those are productive in any way. What we must do is examine ourselves and make the changes that are necessary for us to be like Christ. This can't happen if we spend all of our time critiquing others instead of looking at ourselves.

All of this starts with understanding grace. It is absolutely okay for us to be failures. We aren't saved by not being failures. We're saved by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. But we're not saved just to glory and wallow in our salvation. We've been saved in order to be transformed. We're saved in order to be what Christ wants us to be right here and now. Let us examine ourselves instead of spending our time critiquing others. I think if we did that the world would see the kingdom of God a little more clearly among us.

"For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. 'Drive out the wicked person from among you'" (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed" (2 Corinthians 13:5-6)

"Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.' Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin" (James 4:11-17)

Watch out for the potholes.

Pictures of my favorite two guys

I didn't include captions because I'm just lazy. However, you can make your own captions if you are so inspired. Enjoy.

Watch out for the potholes.

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The Transparent Pastor

In order to be an effective Christian or church leader, you have to be transparent.

In order to be transparent, you have to be genuinely passionate about following Christ.

That is where it becomes difficult. Once we let one sin into our lives that we don't want others to know about in our life, we begin to live a life of secrecy. That secrecy soon spreads throughout our life. And soon we lose our effectiveness because we lose our transparency.

The solution is to strive to be holy. When we sin, we need to be genuinely repentant about and share it. If it is a sin that would make us lose our position of ministry, then losing our position of ministry is what we deserve. We need to be to geniunely passionate about following Christ. If we are, then it will be easy for us to be transparent.

"The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop F8 desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach" 1 Timothy 3:1-2.

Watch out for the potholes.

Pray Without Ceasing

"Pray without ceasing."

This week at work has been extremely hectic. With my new responsibilities, I have way more work to do than I used to. I might even have more work to do than I am capable of getting done. A few weeks will tell about that. At times I go into work mode and completely forget about God and anything else. All I focus on is getting the task at hand done. Then, I hop in my car at the end of the day of work, relax for the first time in nine hours, and feel guilty that I forgot to talk to God throughout the day.

I want today to be different. And I think the key to that being different is to focus on the comments in Scripture that sandwich the exhortation to pray without ceasing. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

A new attitude of joy needs to fill me. I need to thank God for every little blessing I encounter. I need to figure out how the negatives surrounding me can be turned into a blessing.

Turning our suffering into blessings is something that really struck me with the death of Pope John Paul II. He turned his death into a blessing and reproclaimed to the world that suffering is a blessing in disguise. He did it in such a way that even the Chicago Tribune wrote an article about suffering being a blessing.

If the Pope can find reason to rejoice in the pain of lying in a bed and suffering, then I need to train myself to find the joy in rejoicing daily at work. Then, when I overflow with joy, I will be praying without ceasing.

Watch out for the potholes.

Jumping Into The Fire

Today, we were burning an area of weeds in our yard. Isaac was running around, so we wanted to make sure that he didn't get into the smoke or the flames. As we were preoccupied with him, I looked back to the fire and saw one of our cats. The stupid cat was warming herself up with the flames. She just stood right by them. I went over to get the dumb cat, and she jumped right into the flame that was warming her and screeched loudly. She didn't know what to do. So I gently nudged her (as gently as you would nudge anything in a flame) with my foot. Thankfully, nothing happened to her and she is fine.

Our cat, Joanie, likes to be warm. For instance, she sat right under the grill today as I was grilling our lunch. There's nothing wrong with liking to be warm; however, when you don't realize that some sources of warmth can start you on fire, it can become dangerous.

Our lives are often like Joanie's quest for warmth. We enjoy various forms of entertainment and hobbies. Most of them just provide enjoyment and pleasure, but sometimes we can get so wrapped up in them that they cross a line and become more than just entertainment; they become a detriment to our life in Christ.

It is up to us to be sensitive and discerning people. When God gives us a nudge trying to tell us that we shouldn't be entertaining ourselves in such a way, we need to listen. We need to beware of jumping further into the fire where we risk being permanently damaged. When we get that nudge, we need to stop doing what we're doing and get right with God.

"So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

Watch out for the potholes.

A Family Prayer

One idea that Lindsay and I were talking about is creating a family prayer to say every morning with our children at breakfast. One thing I think we miss in Protestant churches is memorized prayers. Prayer, especially, with children can also be an educational tool along with it's main purpose, communicating with God. We say the family prayer in the morning and then have typical Protestant prayer at dinner and before bedtime. If the prayer is done right, I hope that it will help put us in sync with God and his will every morning. When Lindsay and I finish it, we will post it on here. Feel free to join us in creating your own daily family prayer if you would like.

That's brief, but that is all I can come up with today.

Watch out for the potholes.

The Pope Dies - The Catholic Church's view of Protestants

All too often we base our views of other people, not on their teachings, but upon our view of them. Sometimes, with the Catholic church, I think we want them to not view us as Christians because many among us don't view them as Christians. In order to clarify this and help continue a little bit of the unity that the recently deceased Pope wished to bring about, I will share some of the Catholic views of Protestants.

Here is a website that I found concerning Catholics and their views of Protestants.

With this one, scroll down to the section, "Seperated Christians of the West":

Here is another site.

The main quotes from that one are the quote from Vatican II (1976) and Dominus Lesus Document (2000).

Vatican II:
"The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and teachings, which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men."

Dominus Lesus Document:
The remaining Christian denominations which have not preserved the Apostolic succession. They are not "churches in the proper sense." However, their members are "incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church."

Here is a more meatier site that quotes a lot of Vatican II and other Catholic documents:

Here's are some of the highlights from Vatican II:

". . . in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared . . . for which, often enough, men of BOTH SIDES were to blame. However, one CANNOT CHARGE WITH THE SIN OF SEPARATION those who at present are born into these communities and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with RESPECT and AFFECTION as BROTHERS. For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."

"The brethren divided from us also carry out many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. In ways that vary according to the conditions of each Church or community, these liturgical actions most certainly can truly engender a LIFE OF GRACE, and, one must say, can aptly GIVE ACCESS TO THE COMMUNION OF SALVATION."

This is from the Catechism of the Catholic church:

"Believers who respond to God's word and become members of Christ's Body, become intimately united with him: "In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe, and who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his Passion and glorification" [citation of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 7], This is especially true of Baptism, which unites us to Christ's death and Resurrection . . ."

The teaching of the Catholic church states that faithful Protestants are Christians. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I think it would be wise to end with two statements from Vatican II.

"The sacred Council exhorts, therefore, all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism."

". . . every effort to avoid expressions, judgments, and actions which do not represent the condition of our separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations with them more difficult . . . Through such dialogue everyone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the teaching and religious life of both communions."

Watch out for the potholes.

Justice - A Distant Thought

After my post yesterday, I'm going to let the Bible do the talking today.

"Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice" (Deuteronomy 27:19).

"For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord" (Psalm 33:4-5).

"To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice" (Proverbs 21:3).

"When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you, even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:15-17).

"The Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blesses are all those who wait for him" (Isaiah 30:18).

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1)

"O house of David! Execute justice in the morning, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed, or else my wrath will go forth like fire, and burn, with no one to quench it, because of your evil doings" (Jeremiah 21:12).

"Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:23-24)

"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

"Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope" (Matthew 12:18-21).

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others" (Matthew 23:23)

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. The the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me'" (Matthew 25:31-40)

May God grant us the strength to be the sort of people who bring justice to the world, who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, house the homeless, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit the prisoners. May our eyes be opened to ways to bring justice to those around us and abroad. May we be used to help bring justice to victory. To God be the glory.

Watch out for the potholes.