Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Small Insight

"Peace happens in your spirit, not in your schedule"

- from my journaling time this evening

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Jennifer's Last Sunday

Jennifer came to our church a little over 10 years ago as our children's pastor. Over the years, she has become a dear friend to Brooke and me. Several years ago she transitioned into the role of creative arts pastor at the church, and now she is transitioning again. This time, she is transitioning into her own ministry and will no longer be on staff at the church. Those of us who know Jen knew this day would come. For a while, she had an e-mail address of BigDream@whatever.com. God has give Jen big dreams, and she is off to pursue those dreams. We will miss seeing Jen around, but we wish her God's best. We gave Jen a card, and here's the note I enclosed.


Wow, things have changed a bit since you first came to the church and gave Pastor David that 85 page prospectus on children's ministry. Of course, I remember it because I got to type it up being secretary and all. And you know, the thing that makes this all OK now is I KNOW, with your meticulous filing system, you have kept that thing through all these years and are taking it with you as a treasured memory of working at the church. Maybe you stuck it right next to that nice poster you did for me of the comparative worldviews...oh wait, that one is still in your head!

Yeah, there's lots of stuff I could harass you about. I do wish I had been at Wal-Mart with the first, and now-famous, taped envelope. I don't know if I ever got to thank you properly for the opportunity to “dance” to “Getting to Know You” at that kids' camp World Wide Witness did. Thanks so much. And I guess the classic phone call from the marquee will go down in the books now, too. What was that word you were trying to spell? Whatever it was, just remember it was spelled “OK”.

You were my staff compadre through the years. You helped come up with fun staff activities...alternatives to bowling every time! You were the only one who went along with my pranks on Harry. World Wide Witness has lots of fond memories and going to the Liberty Fellowship family conference with the “Sweaty Mommas”. I guess we wouldn't know what Whirlyball was it if wasn't for you, too.

And then there's the stuff I learned from you. If I EVER needed ANYTHING, you were the one to ask. I guess you've been to every specialty shop in the Metroplex. One of the most important things I learned from you was how to delegate and equip people for ministry. I've read lots about it and have been taught it, but you were always good at finding people's gifts and then finding a way for them to use those gifts. You found people I never would have thought of, and that both challenged me and encouraged me to try and do the same.

To be any good, every ministry needs a right brain person as a part of the team. Since I'm about as left brained as they come, you added a LOT to my youth ministry. Thank you for the Wednesdays you threw something together for me on the computer because I did not get the idea until after lunch that day. As I was cleaning out my youth office, I found the torch you made...the one I “borrowed” about five years ago to speak at a Bible club. If it's any consolation, I shared that message 3 or 4 times and used the torch every time. A lot of people thought Duckalien was OK, but I thought it was GREAT! And I couldn't have been Uncle Sam without your help. I've still got the notes from our Titanic night that I've got to scan and give you a copy of, but that would never have happened without you either. I still look in awe at the one wall in the youth building (and the best part is, you used an overhead to get it started!). The youth building had a lot of your creative input in it. Had it not been for you, I guess it would still be black and white with blue carpet.

Out of all the fond memories, the things I learned from you and the fun times, the thing I am going to miss the most about you not being around all the time is your friendship. Over the years, other staff people had ideas for my ministry, but you were one of the few I felt like was “in my corner” when you had ideas. I guess that was it...you had “ideas” more than “suggestions”. Same thing...they just feel different when people share them. You were always a huge encourager and always remembered to ask me how something went after you knew I had planned and worked hard on it. It was always a great encouragement to have somebody I respected in ministry supporting what I was doing.

Several years ago I realized this day would come...they day you would move on to a different ministry. It is the way God gifted you, and I think anybody who knows you thinks this is a God thing. I'm going to miss you being around and your friendship, but I pray God's absolute best for you. I believe in you and believe God is going to use you mightily. If you ever get to an overwhelming place and wonder if you've done the right thing, remember there are people at the Vine who know you, believe in you and believe you've heard from God. He's got a lot of people to bless through your ministry, and I'm thankful to have known you and been blessed by your ministry all these years.

- Rob

A canvass mural Jennifer painted for our Missions Conference this year

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Wow, That Was a Surprise

We went to a prayer conference this weekend. To be honest, I wasn't real excited about it. I know, and believe, prayer is an important part of the Christian's life, but Friday night and all day Saturday listening to somebody teach on prayer seemed like a long time.

When I got there, I found out the title of the seminar was "Communion with God" and the theme was more about how to hear God's voice. When we went to pick up Amanda who had stayed with my parents Friday night and Saturday, my Dad asked me if there was any "simple" thing they taught us about hearing God's voice. I told him "yes" and shared what we learned.

Hearing God's voice is as simple as:
  1. Stilling myself
  2. Fixing my eyes on Jesus
  3. Tuning in to spontaneity (spontaneous thoughts)
  4. Write it down
I learned a whole lot more, and there is more to the above four points, but the main thing we learned was that hearing God's voice is not hard. This is basically "two-way journaling".

I want to share just one journaling exercise we did. This is pretty personal stuff, and I don't think I will be publishing any more of my journaling time with the Lord, but I want share how awesome this is. The idea to this type of journaling is, keep writing and don't stop. When you are done, you can look at what you wrote and judge if it is from the Lord (or have some close personal friends help you judge).

Here is just one question I asked the Lord, and the response I believed I received from him. I pictured myself walking with the Lord along the beach. I asked him, "Lord, how do you want me to use what I am learning at this conference?" Immediately, I felt "spontaneous thoughts" and started writing. "Rob, you've been reading, thinking and journaling about loving me/living for me from your heart and not from rules. This is a way you can hear what I'm speaking to your heart. I have given you a new heart, I have come to live in your heart when you invited me in. You think too much when you pray, you don't give me an opportunity like this where you are quiet and let me talk. You are my son, and I love you. When you ask for guidance and direction in life, I am not going to ignore you. When Amanda asks you for a drink, even when you don't want to get up, you do it, don't you? Why? Because you love her and you know she is dependent on you. Guess what...I love you and I know you are dependent on me, too. If you will come to me, and sit with me, I will talk to you and answer the questions you have. How else can we have relationship? When you pray, you talk too much. I want you to bring stuff to me, but don't be like Amanda going to the park and talking so much you can't answer her questions or enter into the conversation with her. And it's good for you to picture these peaceful scenes with me. If you want to hear me speak, you need to get away from where you live your too bust life. Next time, let's talk about your busy life and what you can do to better know my peace. (then I pictured Jesus laughing) You had no idea what this conference was going to be about, did you? Guess what? I did! I love you and hope you will use this to spend more time with me."

- Rob

Thursday, April 21, 2005

No One Really Knows the Father Except the Son

Matthew 11:25-27 - {Jesus said} "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way. No one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (NLT)

When I read this the other day, I thought "Wow, this makes it sound like God chooses not to reveal Himself to some people." And this seemed contradictory to the Gospel (Good News) message. And then I thought about a group of people who helped clarify this verse for me in context of the whole teaching of Scripture.

In internet chat rooms, I have talked with people about the Lord. They have "arguments" that they feel disproves Christianity or at least makes it look inconsistent. And I have gotten excited at times like this because I have an "answer" to their question, objection, argument or whatever. But then I go from being excited to being frustrated because no matter how effective the answer to their question, objection or argument, they won't change their mind. I got to the point where I wanted to ask, "OK, if I answer or disprove what you just said, will you quit arguing and admit the Bible is right?" I never said it that way, but these "debaters" wouldn't quit debating anyway. I was so frustrated because the answer to their questions was right there in front of them, but they could not see it.

And then I came across Hebrews 11:6 again. "So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." (NLT) Christianity doesn't "make sense" unless one is willing to take that first step of faith toward God. The more I study the arguments of the critics of Christianity, the more sure of my faith I am...the more it "makes sense." But I took that first step of faith. If one could debate somebody into Christianity, there would be no need for faith. And, as Hebrews says, without faith, it is impossible to please God.

2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. (NLT) So coming full circle, God doesn't want anyone to die not knowing Him, but He chooses not to reveal Himself to anyone outside of that initial first step of faith. Once we take that first step of faith saying, "God, I believe you are there. Reveal yourself to me", He will.

By the way, I got my screen name, e-mail address, blog address, etc from Hebrews 11:6 because of the impact this verse had on me after talking to these "professional debaters" ... Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. I had to add the "17" because "seekhim" was taken. My birthday is on the 17th of the month.

- Rob

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Just a quick testimony about the goodness of God. We're in a "don't spend...period" time with our finances right now. We are saving towards Brooke's summer trip to Nicaragua and trying to pay off some old debts, so things are pretty tight right now. Both Brooke and I have been praying about the situation. I had one idea of how to address the situation, but I felt the Lord told me to let Him handle it in His time...so that's what I've been trying to do. Our list of things to buy "when we get the money" has been growing.

Today, I went to the mailbox and found what looked to be a check from one of Brooke's doctors. They had already told us we had overpaid something in the past, so I was looking forward to an extra $20-$30 to help out with something this week. Imagine my surprise when I saw they check was for almost $550! Thank you, Jesus!! We will be able to put a good chunk down on Brooke's mission trip to Nicaragua, get me some shoes, Amanda some clothes, the dogs some heartworm medicine and a few other things we really needed to get.



Friday, April 15, 2005

Amanda and good friend Abigail

Thank the Lord for Extended Warranties

I don't know about you, but I get kinda irritated when I buy anything from a printer to a VCR and am offered an "extended warranty". Of course, they begin to tell all the things that "could" go wrong with your purchase after the initial factory warranty runs out. In the midst of this, I am almost always tempted to say, "If your product is so great, why doesn't it come with this warranty included in the purchase price?". Of course, I am never so bold as to actually SAY this, but it's what I think. Anway, I refuse the extended warranty most of the time.

When I bought my previous laptop, I was given the "extended warranty speech" at Best Buy. Like I said, I'm not a big fan of the extended warranty, but since I bought the thing on credit, I hated the idea of something happening to it and not having the money to fix it while I was still paying for it, so I bought the exteded warranty. Sure enough, two years later, the thing quit working. I took it in to Best Buy, they mailed it to a processing center, who mailed it to the place that fixed it, who mailed it back to the processing center, who mailed it back to the store. As you might imagine, this was not a quick process. When they told me what was wrong, the guy at the customer service desk said something that stuck with me. I had asked if the problem I had with that laptop (a Compaq) was a known problem for that model. The guy said, "I don't know if that was a known problem or not...all I know is this. It doesn't matter what kind of laptop you have, something can go wrong. I've seen EVERY brand of laptop come through here."

About a year ago, I gave that laptop to a missionary friend of mine (complete with the transferable extended warranty) and bought a Dell. I did not get the top of the line system, but I got a pretty nice one. When it came time to decide on a warranty, I bit the bullet and went all the way. I paid for 3 years AT HOME service and got the fourth year free. This kind of warranty cost over $300, but again, buying the machine on credit, I did not want it to go down while I was still paying for it.

Well, guess what. This past week, my extended warranty MORE THAN paid for itself. The computer started acting up on battery power...if I bumped it, it went off. Things kept getting worse, so I called Dell. While I was on hold (yet another story) it went down and would not boot back up. After an hour on the phone with technical support, I was told they would come to my house and fix it. You can read my post about Dell technical support, but the short version is, if I did not have my warranty, it would have cost me $900 to get my computer fixed! Thanks to the extended warranty, it didn't cost me a dime and I am back up and running. Thank the Lord for extended warranties.

You can see a picture of my laptop all taken apart by the technician who replaced the motherboard, processor and heat sync fan in 30 minutes!

- Rob

My laptop with its' guts laid bare

Dell Technical Support

You can read my post about purchasing an extended warranty for my Dell Inspirion 5150 laptop, but I wanted to tell you about my experience with Dell technical support. Overall I'm very satisfied with the work they did, but it took a bit of work on my part to get them here.

It all started when I purchased this laptop a little over a year ago. I purchased a three year, at home, extended warranty. By buying the three year warranty, Dell threw in the fourth year "free". I was told if I called one day, the next business day someone would be at my house fixing the computer.

My problems started about a week before I called, but I called Dell technical support last Wednesday. I believe I was on hold for about 10 minutes before I could talk to a real person...and here is where the adventure began. I consider myself a NON-prejudice person (does anybody consider themselves prejudice?), but it does frustrate me when the person offering me assistance has such a think accent that I have a hard time understanding them. I hate to have to ask them to repeat what they said over and over again.

Dealing with technical support on this issue over three days time, it became apparent that Dell (literally) sends it's technical support calls to India (Bangalor, India to be exact)! When I used tech chat, I was told I was speaking to Raghavendra, but I could call him "James". But I'm getting ahead of myself.

On Wednesday, I tried calling technical support but got tired of being on hold for so long. The Dell website recommends using tech chat, so I got in line for that. Sure enough, I got somebody online before a technician answered the phone (my laptop was working at this time). Only problem with online chat tech support when you are chatting with the problem computer...if you have to reboot, you lose tech support. So I had to end up calling back on the phone. An hour later, as my computer went down never to come back on, it was decided my motherboard, processor and heat sync fan would be replaced under warranty. I was told I would receive a call within 48 hours to schedule a time for a tech to come to my home and fix the computer. At this point, I questioned 48 hours since I was told, when I purchased the warranty, that I should have service the next business day. At this point, I was assured I would have my next day service.

Thursday. Heard nothing from Dell all day. Called around 3pm and told them I had heard nothing. They told me I had a "dispatch number" and could expect a call soon.

Friday morning. Realizing that I would be without my computer all weekend if I did not get a tech to my house that day, I called Dell again. While I was on hold, the recording again suggested online tech support chat. I used my wife's laptop and went online while I was on hold. I finally came to realize if it was possible to use chat, this was a better alternative. For one thing, it was quicker. Secondly, the tech support people in India talk with a VERY thick accent, but you just don't hear it reading their response on the screen. Anyway, I was given a number of the company that was supposed to dispatch someone to my location and I called them. Guess what? They had no record of my dispatch number, and even checking by area code, they were not able to find anything.

Another call (make that "online chat") to Dell. This time, I chatted with "Charles" in India. He was able to help me after making a few calls from his end. They ended up giving my case to a different company. I told "Charles" I wanted to use my cell phone number as the contact number (so the company could schedule a time to fix my computer) and was told he had already given them the phone number they had on file for me (which happened to be my work number). I asked him to change the contact phone number since I was not going to work that day (Friday is my day off). He told me I would have to do that myself and gave me the phone number to call.

So I then called Qualxserv to ask them to change my contact number. After being on hold for 10 minutes, they picked up the phone and I explained why I was calling. I was then told I would need to talk to a Dell representative instead and was transferred BACK to Dell.

By this time, I knew that chat was faster, so I opened yet another chat window with Dell. When I got somebody, I hung up the phone (still on hold). After another 10 minute chat, I was told the contact number was changed. Actually, it was not. Fortunately, Pastor figured out what the call was about when Qualxserv called the church to reach me, and he gave them my phone number. They called, showed up Friday and replaced the motherboard, processor and heat sync fan in 30 minutes.

I am pleased with the end result...Dell did fix my laptop under warranty and my warranty more than paid for itself. I was a bit put out having to spend two additional hours on the phone or online chatting just go get the technician out, but the most frustrating thing to me was shipping my call to India. I honestly don't think I am prejudice against Indians, but since I bought my laptop in the US, I'd rather talk to somebody who has learned English as their primary language and who I can understand without having to ask them to repeat something three times. Dell did right by me, but I sure wish they wouldn't outsource to India.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Quote By Reverend Peter Jensen

Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Australia from "Fear of Criticism Has Made Christians Silent Instead of Significant," Sydney Morning herald, May 11, 2002

"Churches must have the courage to win influence back from a secular world. The role of the Christian churches...today is to speak the truth in love... We have accepted the secular world's verdict that we have nothing of importance to say, and we have adjusted ourselves to this reality. We have become domesticated... Instead of explaining and defending the Gospel, we have sought the path of relevance... The Christian Gospel is the insertion of truth into the untrustworthy discourse of the world. Some of us want to be kind, so loving that we will not speak the truth. The therapeutic model of pastoral care has been perverted into mere affirmations of human behavior. Our love is not love, for it refuses this great test: will it speak boldly, frankly, truthfully?... One of the chief reasons why we have ceased to speak the truth is we are fearful of the reaction of those around us... We have contributed towards the gagging of God, perhaps because we are frightened of suffering. But there is one fundamental task to which we must be committed, come whatever may: Speak the truth in love."

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Today a Dead Bolt, Tomorrow...

OK, most people reading this are going to say "You've got to be kidding. What is so exciting about installing a dead bolt lock?" To be honest, it wasn't all that exciting other than the fact it was the first time I've done it. You see, at our church, the administrative pastor (that's me) has to oversee maintenance issues. Pastor said the church secretary’s doors (yes, TWO of them) needed dead bolt locks today, so I had a job to do. I called a guy from the church and asked him to help me put them in, and he said "sure". Now, I know the job is not too difficult, but all I could think was, "What if I cut that big hole and it's in the wrong place. I'll ruin a door if I mess up!"

So before this guy came to help, I headed to the hardware store to pick up a hold saw to cut the hole for the lock. While I was there, I found this "kit"
(similar to this) that made it look like an idiot-proof job. When I shared with our secretary that the clamp made the job look idiot-proof, she "encouraged" me by asking, "What if the job is idiot-proof and you still mess up?" Anyway, the kit was a clamp that clamped onto the door and showed you where to drill the hole for key part of the lock on the side of the door, and showed you where to drill the hole on the end of the door for the lock part to slide in and out. It worked great! I had never really used a chisel for anything useful before, but I chiseled out the spots for the plates (our sound/techie guy helped 'cause he was there) and it all came out good.

Like I said, no big deal, but for a not-so-handy guy, it was a small victory today.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Missions Conference 2005

Our annual Missions Conference was held April 3-6 this year. The missionaries who were able to join us were Roger & Linda West serving in Mexico, Jim & Diane Clair from Uganda, Bob Hill (his wife Melissa could not come) from Scotland, Dirk, Elizabeth and Abigail Wood from South Africa, Sandy Carter from Nicaragua and another dear missionary who do not publish being a missionary online due to the people they serve. The Missions Conference is always an exciting and exhausing time at our church.

The conference started on Suday moring and we heard from a number of our missionaries. We continued on Sunday night and heard from everybody. Sandy Carter from Nicaragua met for lunch on Monday with the team going to work with her for a few days this summer (Brooke is heading up the team and eager to go). Monday night the ladies met a Spaghetti Warehouse, enjoyed a good meal and heard from our missionary ladies. During this time, the missionary men, their hosts and staff ("the guys") met at someone's home form the church who fixed us some GREAT burgers!

On Tuesday, the staff went out with the missionaries to the Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens (see pictures below) and then to the Ft. Worth Stock Yards for some good 'ol Texas BBQ. Tuesday night, the men met at Spaghetti Warehouse and heard from our missionary men.

The conference ended Wednesday night with all the missionaries sharing once more and then the congregation having a chance to pray over them (after giving them a standing ovation as they came forward). We (our church) love our missionaries, thank God for them, pray for them and continue to add to our support list every year. Our theme this year was "God is not willing that any should perish"..and that is our church's heart.

I've posted 60 something pictures here...of the conference, the men on Monday night, the stock yards and the botanical gardens with the missionaries if you are interested.


End of the Missions Conference Wednesday Night as we Prayed for our Missionaries
The two greatest moments of your life are:
1) the day you were born
2) the day you understood why you were born.
- Pastor Kirk Pankratz

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Another Picture at Botanic Gardens

Waterfall at the Botanic Gardens

At the Botanical Gardens with the Missionaries on Tuesday

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A Fun Site I Found

Hear a greeting to our web site. I created this little audio clip by typing in the text I wanted and then getting a computer-generated reading of the text. I used the little "try it now" type box at the bottom of the ReadPlease order page.

Let Me Tell You About Dirk

Dirk Wood, pictured below, is one of the missionaries our church supports. Dirk and his family have been coming to our annual Missions Conferences ever since I can remember (I've been at the church since 1991). Dirk met my pastor at Bible School, and they've kept in touch ever since. Anyway, Dirk is a missionary with Globe Missionary Evangelism, and you can read more about his ministry HERE.

Dirk is kinda hard to describe in just a few words, but I don't think he'd mind being described as "excited for Jesus"...better yet, EXCITED FOR JESUS!!! Dirk is what you might call an "unconventional" kinda guy. Everything about Dirk points others to Jesus. He's got a pinstripe suit and the pinstripes spell "Jesus". Or look at the outfit he has on in the picture with me (below)...it tells the whole Gospel message. Dirk has been known to "talk to God" on his daughter's play phone (he just so happens to be in a large crowd when he does this, and the Lord inevitably tells Dirk how much He wants those listening in on the conversation to know of His love for them). He loves to stand up on a ladder and preach to crowds on the street corner, or walk down the street wrapped in a ball and chain demonstrating how Jesus set him free from the bondage of sin. Dirk would have to be the epitome of the whole idea of being an evangelist.

But I'm not writing about Dirk tonight because of the cool things he does...ok, not JUST for the cool things he does. I'm writing about Dirk because I admire him. I think he has everything I lack in the area of boldness. I know his brand of evangelism is not the only way to do it, but if God had given me a different personality, I would want one like Dirk's.

When you are as outspoken about Christ as Dirk is, you can imagine there are a lot of people who do not like him and give him a hard time wherever he goes. He's been yelled at, cussed at, spit on and arrested while trying to tell others about Christ. I guess you should expect that if you are going to be as bold for God as Dirk is, but I guess another reason Dirk is special to me is because of the flak he takes from other Christians. He'll tell a "funny story" every now-and-then about some Christian who has gotten upset with his style of evangelism, but I also know there are some churches who won't support him because he's too "wild". I just admire the guy. I don't have the guts to do what he does, but he is ALWAYS thinking of way to present a witness for Christ. I would dare to say that most Christians/pastors/churches who criticize Dirk have not witnessed to as many people as Dirk has led to the Lord (let alone the THOUSANDS he has been a witness to).

God gives us all different personalities and gifts, and I've finally learned to appreciate the way God shaped me. We're all unique, but God definitely broke the mold with Dirk...and I just want to say "thank you Lord for Dirk Wood!" I really enjoyed spending time with Dirk and his family (along with our other missionaries) during our conference this year. Dirk is always good for a laugh and a HUGE challenge to me in the area of being a witness for Christ. God bless Dirk!


Missionary Dirk Wood and Rob Sunday Night After Missions Conference

Saturday, April 02, 2005

We Mowed Today

Who cares if it gets HOT during the summer...I love the weather in Texas. Today was April 2nd, and it was nearly 80 degress (and this is not the warmest day we've had so far this year). On Thursday, it was so danged windy and cold I hated it. I could not imagine living up north, having the temperature be in the low teens and then having a wind like we had on Thursday. I would much rather be in the HOT than in the wind. But like I said, that's what I like about Texas weather...if you don't like it, stick around for a couple days and it will change.

The only down side to so much nice, warm weather is the fact that the grass grows. I do not enjoy yard work. For those of you who don't consider riding a riding lawn mower to be "yard work", I don't really enjoy that either. It's not that the job is so difficult, I've just got other things I'd rather be doing. This is the second time I've had to mow in 2005.

"So what would you rather be do"? Thanks for asking. There are a number of things (a GREAT number of things) I'd rather do than mow my yard...like spend time with Amanda Kay. Well, in Texas, we not only have great weather, but we also are known to be a little smarter than the average non-Texan (non-scientific study). So what you see below is my compromise between doing what I WANT to do and what I HAVE to do.


Daddy and Amanda Mowing

Friday, April 01, 2005

"My software never has bugs. It just develops random features."

Sully likes to play in this blanket. We were playing, so I wrapped him up in it and carried him around...he thought it was fun!

Mommy and Amanda Playing Dress Up