Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dave Falls Victim to Non-Action

Well, once Dave McAllister's pick, James, got two immunity idols, it looked like he would cruise through the game. Especially since most of us thought he would win every challenge. Instead he was blidsided. I have to say that I understand why he did not play the I.I. If he had made it through this vote, he would have been able to just play them the next two weeks as precautions. He was going for the win. I have to respect that. Also, glad that he took it well when he got voted off.
How about Amanda?! Impressive. I still am pulling for my boy Todd, but I have to give credit where credit is due. She seems to have turned the whole game around.
6 Remain in Survivor, but only 5 of us remain.
Dan Stump, you got two of the field all the way to the Final Six, but I still don't think Courtney or PG have any shot of winning. At least one of them will probably even make the finals, but neither will get any serious run.
Andrea Moffat, your Amanda is looking like a favorite now.
Ami McNay, your Erik is looking great also. He could sneak in and win it all. Just like Ethan.
Karina's Denise could pull it off, although it still seems unlikely to me.
My Todd could still win, but it looks like Amanda is turning on him. If she turns, Todd is going to need some serious help.
Andrea: Amanda
Ami: Erik
Me: Todd
Karina: Denise
Just Hangin:
Dan Stump: Courtney and P.G.

So, with this Writer's Strike, pretty soon Survivor will be about the only new thing on the air. At least they can pull off the show without any writers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Consuming Jesus

I just got done reading Consuming Jesus by my professor Paul Louis Metzger. I loved this book for several reasons.
1. I love this book because it is a critique of evangelicalism by a man who is a committed evangelical. I love the humility of the book as Dr. Metzger admits to being a part of the problem, but boldly calls us to move and take action. I think this brokenness and humility is very Christlike. It is definitely something that I want to follow him in.
2. I love this book because it deals with a major blindspot of evangelicals: race and class divisions in the church. I was talking to a Hispanic pastor (Jessie) who I met in Nashville. Jessie is pastoring in Texas, and Rich Stafford and I were asking him about his ministry. He commented that Texas is completely integrated. Mexicans and Caucasians do everything together. The only place that is not integrated, he said, is the church. This is tragic. And this is not just a Texas problem.
3. I love this book because it helps to identify subtle ways that we contribute to race and class divisions in the church. We often run our ministries and programs in such a way that they feed our comfort levels. We willingly divide by taste. We have a homogeneous model, which basically drives us to appeal to a certain kind of person and then surround them with people who are like them. We do this all kinds of ways, whether it is by small groups that are affinity groups, whether it is by having a contemporary service and a traditional service, or whether it is by highlighting and emphasizing ministries that are more about appealing to tastes than about following Christ (not wasting our lives).
4. I love this book because it rediscovers the biblical emphasis of walls being broken down by the gospel. Ephesians 2 talks about Jews and Gentiles becoming one in Christ. 1 Corinthians 11 (the communion passage) rebukes the Corinthians because the rich are disregarding the poor. Jesus said that outsiders will know that we are his disciples by our love for one another. The gospel is reflected beautifully when we experience unity between young and old, rich and poor, black, white, hispanic, asian, native american, and any other group that we often segregate. That's what I want! How awesome would it be to have our churches reflect the unity that Christ brings, instead of unintentionally communicating that you need to be like us to go to our church. Otherwise, go find one that meets your tastes.
5. I love this book because it challenges me on who my heroes are. Are my heroes those who have glowing success stories? Or are my heroes those who have been poured out for the work of the gospel? At the end of his life, Paul said that he had no regrets. He said that he had fought the good fight, run the race, kept the faith. Then he talked about being poured out as a drink offering. Paul's version of success was to be poured out for Christ. Jesus himself, in John 12, said that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground, it cannot bear any fruit. I want to follow Christ (and Paul, and Wilberforce, and MLK, and others) by losing my life for him.
Anyway, I obviously recommend this book. It is convicting and challenging, but it is hitting on a blind spot that many of us have (I know it is a blind spot of mine). It is well worth the time that it will take to read.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why God Makes It Rain

I was convicted recently about how self-centered I can be sometimes in my prayer requests. Lets say I am planning on taking my family to the park on a Friday so that we can have a picnic and play some games. I may spend a little bit of time beforehand praying that it will be sunny on Friday. If it is sunny, I may thank God that he cares enough about me to allow me to have a sunny day for my family time. If it is not sunny, I may wonder what God is trying to teach me by causing the clouds to produce a downpour despite my prayers to the contrary.
When I stop to think about it, I am struck with the fact that this view of prayer, and life, assumes that God orders the weather based on one of two purposes:
1) God makes it sunny because he is giving me a good gift
2) God makes it rain because he is trying to teach me patience
Is it possible that, in light of all the people who will be impacted one way or another by the rain or sun, that God might have some other reason for choosing between rain and shine? Maybe two miles away there is a poor family praying for sun because they don't not have enough money to fix their leaky roof. Maybe across from them is a farming family praying for rain because they are behind on their commitments for their crops. Maybe if it rains someone will choose, against previous plans, to stay home. And maybe that person, if they would have gone out, would have missed an important phone call about a sick loved one. Maybe if it rains someone will slip on their driveway and hit their head. And maybe while they are in the hospital they will be visited by a chaplain who will share with them the message of life. And maybe that person will, for the first time, clearly see who Jesus is, and will embrace him fully.
My point is that there are a lot of better reasons for God to choose rain or shine than my family plans on Friday.
Is this a big deal? It is to me because it is a sympton of a greater issue. I think life is all about me. I am not thinking communally. I am praying for sun, and assuming that God will make his decision based solely on me. I am not considering how a sunny day may positively or negatively impact anyone outside of my immediate family. Wouldn't my prayer life be different if I cared deeply for those in my community, much less those in all the world?
This is not just about prayer, though. This is about perspective:
* You know, this Writer's Strike is really inconveniencing my life. 24 is going to be postponed because these writers won't just accept a deal.
* That car accident on the road really messed me up because it made me late for a meeting. Especially with all four ambulances there at the same timed.
* When 9/11 took place, it was really rough because our business took a major hit.
Am I thinking this way? Sad.
Back to prayer. Why is it that we somtimes struggle to come up with prayer requests? Normally, it is because things in our immediate sphere are somewhat in order. We are all healthy, uninjured, and no one is traveling anywhere. When I am asked about prayer requests, why I am not able to quickly think of four or five situations in which people are hurting deeply or dealing with great difficulty? Why am I not compelled to pray for those who are homeless during the winter? Why am I not moved to lift up the oppressed believers in Uganda? Why am I not burdened to pray that the American church would move closer to real racial reconciliation so that we are showing the world that the gospel breaks down barriers?
Why? Because it is all about me.
Why else? Because God decides between rain or shine based on my plans for Friday.

Toad Video

I am posing my very first video. It is from the Toad the Wet Sprocket concert I went to last August with my best friend Dave. The clip is the beginning of Fly From Heaven, one of my all-time favorite songs.

The Church: An Easy Target

Let's face it. It is easy to rip on the church. It is not only easy for non-Christians to rip on the church, but it is also easy for Christians to do so. We can talk about how Jesus did not come to start an institution, but a relationship. I think there is truth to this. At the same time, when those of us who are Christians distance ourselves from the church, we miss the mark. Jesus promised that he woudl build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Still, many times we tell people not to judge Jesus by the church. When we do this, we are disregarding the significance of the church. It seems from Scripture that Jesus does want people to judge him by his church. If they are not seeing him through the church, our response should not be to downplay the church, but to repent.
When the church is failing, it is not that THEY are failing. It is that WE are failing. We need to own the church. The church belongs to Jesus, and we are a part of it. We absolutely need to embrace and own the church.
G.K. Chesterton, my favorite non-biblical author, said in his book Orthodoxy that true patriotism is not simply loving one's country. It is also hating one's country. A person is patriotic if he loves his country enough to hate the things that are wrong with it. I believe that this is how we need to view the church. Do we love the church enough to hate that it is not what it should be? And do we love the church enough to be a part of the solution when the church is falling short?
When the church is an easy target, we can turn and rip on the church. We also can respond by blindly defending the church by saying that things are not really as bad as they appear to be. I am not in favor of being pessimistic about the state of the church, but I am in favor of being realistic. I am in favor of, like my son Jack in this picture, taking a good look in the mirror (by the way, isn't that picture awesome? I love my sons). If my church has problems (and, as is true of all churches, it does), then these are OUR problems. I am not doing any good by ignoring them, defending them, or explaining them away. I am also not helping by leaving the church. This solves nothing (except in some extreme exceptions). I think the best thing that I can do is to own these problems, to be broken over them, to confess and repent about them, and to take action in order to correct them.
I don't think the world expects the church to be perfect. I don't think Jesus does either. But perhaps we can be broken. What if when people ragged on the church, the church responded by saying, "You're right, and we are humbled and broken over our shortcomings. Please forgive us"? It seems that this would speak volumes.

In Psalm 51:16-17 David wrote to God,
For you will not delight in sacrifices, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

That is powerful. God desires brokenness and humility from us. He opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. It is pride when we rag on the church without ownership, or when we distance oruselves from the church because of her (OUR) problems. As the church, and as individuals, we ought to hunger and thirst after humility and brokenness. This is precious in God's sight.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ang Loses Her Frosti

How quickly a player can turn from being a favorite to being gone. Frosti was voted out. Regrets to Angela Stump. Frosti was a great guy and one of my favorite players to watch. It was a smart move, though, for the others to vote him off. Congrats to my sister Ami for still being around with Erik. At least for one more week.
So, what is this tribal council twist. I thought they were going to vote someone else off. Maybe they do. But probably not because the scenes from next week showed Erik.
Now we have a pretty conclusive Final Five (or so it seems), with Todd, James, Amanda, Denise, and Courtney. If Todd is able to get to the Final Two with Amanda (that is, if there is a Final Two as oppposed to a Final Three), he will deserve it.
Good Chances:
Dave McAllister: James is still looking strong. He may never have to use those Immunity Idols.
Me: Todd is still in charge. Looks like he is going to be taking on James next week.
Andrea: Amanda continues to be strong. I wonder if she'll slip for Erik. Probably not.
Some Chance:
Karina Franklin: It is hard to believe that Denise could win, but if she makes it to the end, she will deserve a chance.
No Chance (Feel free to convince me that I'm wrong):
Ami McNay: With Frosti gone, I don't see Erik making any ground into the large alliance.
Dan Stump: You still got two with PG and Courtney, but I don't think either has a prayer of winning unless they compose the Final Two.

It must just grate JR to see Courtney make it so much farther than him. I wonder if it really grates on E-Wood to see Stump make it farther than him. I guess my point is that you all have become synonmous with your picks in my mind. In fact, I think at the end we should have our own jury vote. Greg, E-Wood, Ang and whoever else ends up in the Jury should vote on the people (not the players) whose picks make the final tribal council. It would be fun.
Also, I think we should do this picks thing again, but someone else should host it. I suggest Eric Wood because of his enthusiasm every time I talk to him about Survivor.

Happy T-Give.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Trip to Downtown Portland, by Matt

This is Matt. Every Friday morning I have special time with my Dad. About a week and a half ago, Dad said that we were going to go on a vacation. Now he wants me to report back about it. Here we go.

First we got on this train. It's called the MAX. I really liked being on it. It was fun because it kept stopping so that new people could get on and get off. Some of them talked to me.
When we got off the train and walked around. We saw a place called Skidmore Fountain. That is close to where some of the college students (and others) hang out on Friday nights and do something called Nightstrike.
After that we ended up at Pioneer Square. I saw this statue of a man holding an umbrella. Pretty cool. Later on, when I was racing against Dad, I bonked my head on the statue's sleeve. I think I didn't know that it would be so hard. I cried a little, but I got over it.
When we were at Pioneer Square I saw a cool building, pointed to it, and asked if we could go there. Dad said that we would try. It turned out that I had pointed at Pioneer Square Courthouse. We went in and checked out the offices and courtrooms. Here I am in one of them.
Then we went high up in the Courthouse and looked out over the square. Pretty cool view.
When we went back to the square, I chased birds for a while. I didn't catch any, but I still really enjoyed it.
There were a lot of kids there, probably on a field trip or something. I like to play with big kids, so I went over to where they were playing.
Then Dad and I ate our lunch right there in the square. It was a little cold, but at least the sun was out.
Before we headed home, Dad bought me a steamer at the Pioneer Square Starbucks. It was funny because I had a drink and all he had was a cinnamon roll. I did a pretty good job not spilling any.
We took that same train back home. I didn't fall asleep, but I rested on Dad's leg for most of the trip.
All in all, it was a really good trip. It was fun to do something different. Maybe we'll do it again soon. I think we should take Jack and Mom next time. Things are always most fun when we all get to do them together.

Friday, November 09, 2007

E-Wood Gets Blindsided

Well, after so many close calls, JR went home when it looked like he would be okay. I thought he made a pretty good move on James (at least with the info he had), but Todd turned on him. At first I was really upset because I thought Todd would have been much better off voting off James. When I thought about it, I figured that Todd and Amanda would be out on their own. He may have just been keeping the alliance together. Still, how many chances is he going to have to get James off?
Now a little bit on who is and is not in a position to win:
In Great Position
1. Dave McAllister: James is in a league of his own. 2 idols and he seems bound to win some immunities. It will take a big blow for anyone other than James to win.
Decent Possibilities
2. Me: Todd is the best player, but he is starting to lose it. He lost a big chance to get rid of James, and I don't see him getting a win if he goes up against James at the end.
3. Andrea Moffat: Amanda could certainly pull it off. She is smart and likeable.
4. Angela Stump: Frosti is great. If he makes it to the end without having to betray anyone (which is a real possibility), he could take it home.
5. Ami McNay: I don't know why Erik has not been a bigger target. If he keeps sticking around, he might be able to slip the powers that be.
Outside Possibilities
6. Dan Stump: PG and Courtney ought to be out soon.
7. Karina Franklin: Denise is fine, but she has no real power, so she should be gone somewhere in the 5-6 range.

On the Block:
1. P.G. For whatever reason she is a bigger threat than Erik.
2. Erik. Maybe they will get smart and get him off first.
3. Frosti. He is doing so well in the challenges that Todd and Amanda may decide to oust him.
4. James. Such a big threat that he is always in trouble.

See you next week.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

But I Don't Wanna Be a Pirate!!!

Seinfield, anyone? I know Dan Stump is with me on this post's title. The puffy shirt.
Here are some pictures from Halloween. Matt and Jack will talk you through them.
I'm Matt, and I got to be a pirate. But after Mom and Dad took this picture I abandoned the fake hair. It was driving me crazy. And also, I put my eye patch around my neck like a necklace. I don't think anyone really noticed. I still looked pretty cool.

I'm Jack, and this was my first halloween. I don't remember much, but I look at this picture and conclude that my parents dressed me up like a lion. On our way over to downtown Gresham Mom put these wiskers on me. I slept right through it. Life is good for babies.

It's Matt again. I got to go trick-or-treating with my friend Maya. She was dressed up as Tinker Bell. I thought that was funny since I was a pirate, and since pirates played a prominent role in Peter Pan. We trick-or-treated in downtown Gresham. They shut down Main Street, and all the stores handed out candy. There were kids everywhere. It was pretty cool.

While we were downtown, we ran into lots of friends, including my cousins. Jake was dressed up as a dragon.

It's Jack again. Here Matt and I are with our cousins Jake and Ty. Ty was dressed up as curious George. We also saw, amongst other friends, Joel Moffat, who was also dressed up as Curious George.

I slept through this picture also. Hey, why not?

We both had such a good halloween. And my brother Matt got lots of candy. . .but Mom and Dad are only letting him eat two pieces each day. He is having a good attitude about it, though, because he isn't used to having any candy around the house.

Matt here to finish off this post. Thanks for reading. I'll be back soon to tell you about my adventures last Friday when I took the Max to downtown Portland. See you then.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Greg Moffat: Our First Juror!!!

When I saw Greg on Halloween (when our kids were roaming the streets of downtown Gresham in search of candy), he said that the previous week he had been ready to write his eulogy. This week you get your chance. Jamie had a decent run, but she is out. Man, that fake idol thing was amazing! When Jeff just tossed it into the fire like that, it was classic!
Well, it is down to
Dan Stump: P.G. and Courtney both seem like they have no chance, but who knows?
Angela Stump: Gotta be loving your chances with Frosti. Congrats on that first immunity win too.
Ami McNay: New baby or not, Erik may be gone next week.
Eric Wood: JR just keeps on ticking. By the way, congrats (late) on the new baby. Hopefully that comforted Meagan in light of Aaron's departure.
Andrea Moffat: Amanda continues to impress. I can't imagine a finale that she is not a part of.
Dave McAllister: I don't see how James can not win. He has two idols. He has numbers. He is almost certain to win several immunities. Todd NEEDS to blindside him!
Karina Franklin: Denise should be around still for a while.
Dan Franklin: Todd is by far my favorite player in the game. Only Amanda and James even appear in the conversation. Still, Todd received an almost certainly lethal blow this week.
The lethal blow. Jamie became the first member of the Jury. This almost certainly means that there will be a Final Three instead of a Final Two. If there is a Final Three, the urgency for Todd, and anyone else, to get rid of James is even more critical. If James makes the final tribal council, he will win. Who would not vote for him? Come on.
Time for action, Todd.

Annelise McNay

This morning (Friday) my sister Ami gave birth to her second daughter Annelise Louise McNay (hope all of that is spelled right).
Congrats. Sounds like all is going well. Now Ami and her husband Dave have two girls to match our two boys.
Can't wait to see some pics.