Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
As I shared in a previous post, Grandma was my biggest blog fan. I printed my blog each month and mailed it to her. Just this past week, she told me she read every page word-for-word, then some posts she went back and read again. I was really excited to send this month's blog where she was a featured story, but she won't get to read it. I don't think the Bible says a lot about it, but somehow I don't think people in heaven spend a lot of time watching us down here on the earth...they've got better stuff to do there. So I doubt Grandma will be reading my blog from heaven, but at least I can tell her about it one day.
I'm still processing how I feel about Grandma being gone. When we went to see her the day before Thanksgiving, I told Brooke on the way home that I wanted to take Amanda to see Grandma whenever she had a day off from school. Grandma was only 25 minutes or so from the house, but I didn't get out to see her very often. I was wanting to make sure she didn't pass away and I'd be left saying, "I wish we'd gone to visit her more." So I am wishing that I had taken Amanda to see her more often, but I thank the Lord that we went to see her last week. I had planned on going to see her around Christmas time and I'm not sure what made me decide to go last week. I make a real effort not to over spiritualize things, but I really believe the Lord prompted me to go.
I guess I'm still learning the lesson that I will always be busy, but I've got to make an EFFORT to enjoy, appreciate and work at the relationships the Lord has given me here on this earth. I'm thankful that the Lord prompted us to go visit Grandma last week, and I'm trying to learn the lessons He's wanting to teach me about relationships so that I don't have more regrets.
Grandma, I'll miss you and I love you,
Saturday, November 26, 2005
All of this made me think about some of the accusations I have heard railed against God: "Why would I want to serve a God who kills women and children? Why would I want to serve a God who forces people to obey him?", etc.
And then in the midst of all God's warning about the judgement coming upon Israel, I found verses like these:
For the Lord Almighty has not forsaken Israel and Judah. He is still their God, even though the land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel . (Jeremiah 51:5, NLT)
Have you heard what they are saying? The Lord chose Judah and Israel and then abandoned them! They're sneering and saying Israel is not worthy to be counted as a nation. But this is the Lord's reply: I would not more reject my people than I would change my laws of night and day, of earth and sky. (Jeremiah 33:24-25, NLT)
And then I made the following observations:
- It was God's people (who knew him, knew his demands and knew his blessings) that he was punishing, not some people who could claim this was unexpected
- God had given LOTS of warnings and opportunities to repent
- God's grace and mercy was great even in the face of his judgement. In the face of great sin, God promised not to reject his people forever
- God's anger was righteous. He punished not out of anger but out of a desire for redemption
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, "Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?" (Psalm 8:4, Message)
And then the same day I read these passages from Jeremiah, I also read Hebrews 9:13-14:
Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people's bodies from ritual defilement. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God. For my the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. (NLT)
Thank you, Lord, for your great grace and mercy in my life. Thank you that the blood of Christ can purify my heart!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Amanda and I got up before Brooke and decorated the house with a few balloons, steamers and a birthday hanging thing (see picture above). We got her Casting Crowns and Third Day CDs as gifts, but the real "party" was the surprise of the evening. The week before, Amanda and I had gone to downtown Ft. Worth to check out Mi Cosina as a possible party meeting place. It seemed to fit the bill, so all that was left was to make sure Amanda could keep a secret, and that turned out to be easy. It seems Amanda really likes being old enough to keep a secret and be in on "the good stuff". Brooke went so far as to tell Amanda that she had already bought some of Amanda's birthday presents and she would exchange birthday present secrets (what kind of mother...?). Amanda's response? "Huh?" pretending as though she could not hear. That was Amanda's response to the end...good job, Punkin!
So a little after 7pm, the three of us piled into the car and headed for "Destination Unknown". Brooke asked if anybody else knew where we were going, and I told her I didn't think so. She asked if anybody else would be joining us, and I told her "No, it is a family time." Once we got downtown, I parked and we started walking, Brooke still not knowing where we were going. As we approached the corner to turn onto the street where the restaurant was, I saw a couple who was going to meet us at the restaurant, so I took a quick "detour" and we crossed the street. Brooke did not see them and asked me why we were walking back toward where I had parked the car. I just acted like I was lost and she bought it ('cause I get lost so often and easily). So at the end of that half block, we made a U-turn and headed back on course. Once we got to the restaurant, our friends were seated at a table near the front and so we joined them. I believe Brooke was genuinely surprised.
After dinner we walked around a bit and stopped by Starbucks and Marble Slab. Amanda got a tummy ache and others had kids or had to work this morning so we all headed home. Amanda went to sleep and Brooke and I watched a movie and then called it a day.
Happy Birthday Baby, I love you,
Amanda knows Grandma as Grandma GiGi, her great grandmother, but to me she is Grandma Robinette. Grandma is my Mom's mom, and she just happens to be my most avid blog reader! Grandma does not have Internet access, but I print my blog at the end of each month and mail it to her. I know she reads it because she told me so, she talked about stuff I had written in it and one of the ladies who works at the home where Grandma is asked "Is he the one that sends you the e-mails?" when she introduced me as her grandson.
It was good to see you today, Grandma. We'll be back again next month. I love you!
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Are you curious or disgusted now? You needn't be disgusted, let me explain. I had three vacation days left for the year, so I thought I'd take Mon-Wed off this week (since I have Thursday off for Thanksgiving and Friday is my normal day off). My plans were to kick back and read (currently reading The Resurrection File, a novel) and do some work on the church web page that I have been trying to get done for over a month but cannot find time to complete. The whole "toilet incident" started on Sunday when a lady at church told me one of the toilets in the women's restroom was not working properly (fortunately it was not plugged up or anything nasty). I figured we could go one week with one less toilet in the women's' restroom (I could not fix it on Sunday), so I printed an "Out of Order" sign to place on it for the week. That was Sunday. On Monday afternoon, I get a call saying one of the two remaining toilets is now running non-stop. I went to check it out, and sure enough, the report was correct. I did not have time to go to the hardware store that night, so I made my second "Out of Order" sign.
On Tuesday, our church secretary called and asked if we were going to have just one of three toilets working or if we were going to call somebody to come fix them. Of course we were not going to call anybody to fix them...that's part of my job. Knowing that we could not let Sunday roll around with two "Out of Order" signs up, I went in Tuesday morning to fix the problems. I'm spare you the details, but a couple hours later I had both toilets fixed. Some of that time was running back and forth to the hardware store, but one toilet did have three separate problems. Now those of you who do not know me are saying "How difficult could this be?", but those who know me are saying, "Wow! You fixed something? Two somethings? And they are working now...no water flooding the restroom or anything? Great job!" All I can say is "I'm a more handy man today than I was yesterday" and "I spent my day off on the toilet."
Saturday, November 19, 2005
My friend Jennifer Moore had an e-mail address BigDream@ispname.com. If she were asked the question, she would have any number of answers. And then I have a friend Steve Hammond who has planted a church with a desire to change the culture. He lives his life as if everything he does cannot fail and will accomplish something great. I used to look people like these friends and compare myself to them which only caused me to feel like a failure.
The deepest desire of my heart is to have Jesus look at my life and smile...to make him proud of me. I used to think he could not be proud of me because I must be lazy or lack vision or ambition. One of the biggest examples of somebody I was NOT like was the Apostle Paul.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11, NIV)
As I was thinking about this during the week last week, I remembered that the Apostle Paul also wrote these words:
...We put no confidence in human effort. Instead we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us. Yet I could have confidence in myself if anyone could. If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! For I was circumcised when I was eight days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish family that is a branch of the tribe of Benjamin. So I am a real Jew if there ever was one! What's more, I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. And zealous? Yes, in fact, I harshly persecuted the church. And I obeyed the Jewish law so carefully that I was never accused of any fault. (Philippians 3:3b-6, NLT)
Paul was zealous even before Christ because that is how God created him...it is the heart, personality and gifts God gave him. Before Christ, he used them in the wrong way. After Christ, he became a zealot for Christ. I was relieved to realize that although I should always be challenged to be more passionate for Christ, my passion does not have to look like Paul's because God did not make me the same way he did Paul.
And God did not create me like a Jennifer Moore or a Steve Hammond, either. Once I could realize my attempt at something did not have to look like somebody else's, I could truly search my heart and find something great to attempt. And when I did this, I found I was already attempting something great. I am attempting to make (good and happy) lasting memories for my family so that my wife's life will be richer and my daughter can grow up to reach the full potential God has for her.
To some, that may not seem very grandiose. But stop and think for a minute. What if every parent in the world had that same goal/desire in life? For one thing, kids would not grow up feeling unloved. For another, schools (both public and private) would be more effective and safer places of education because parents would be involved. Crime rates would be lower because kids would be with their families more. The divorce rate would be lower because parents would be thinking about somebody besides themselves (some people think only about themselves, others are the victims of those who think this way) and maybe the moral vacuum wouldn't be so great in this country because values are passed on when families spend time together. I cannot make every kid in the world feel loved, I cannot do homework with everybody's kid, I cannot pick up every kid from school and spend time with them so they do not join a gang, and I cannot keep every marriage in America together...but I can do those things for my family. I'm spending time with my wife and daughter...and I am making lasting memories. I am making a difference in the life of my wife, my daughter and generations to come through my daughter's family. I am changing the world...at least the part I can influence. To me, that is something great.
So in my attempt to make a difference, to make Jesus smile and to build lasting memories with my family, I must sign off for now. It's almost time to go make another memory today. Amanda doesn't know it yet, but we are going to the circus in less than an hour. We're going with tickets another friend gave us. You don't have to be rich to accomplish great (i.e. important) things..I'm using free circus tickets to make a lasting memory with my family.
(to be continued)
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
So off to Sears we went. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long and we were show to a studio room. Brooke already knew which backgrounds "we" wanted, so we started with those and then the photographer had a few ideas of her own. She managed to get just one picture of me with my eyes closed and one with my eyes in some "wild man" mode. There were family pictures, Mommy and Amanda pictures, Daddy and Amanda pictures, Mommy and Daddy pictures and then just Amanda pictures. Those people know what they are doing. How can you look at a picture of your kid in this cute pose with a big grin on her face and then say, "Naw, you keep the picture. I don't want it"? Do you think these picture people don't know this?
So we ended up with the portrait package and the matted proof page...only twice as much as I planned on spending when I walked in there. I am sure car salesmen get their start in portrait studios! But now we've got family memories that will last forever (in a drawer somewhere), so I'm happy. Someday when Amanda is a teenanger, we can pull the pictures out and look at them one more time. When we look at the one of Amanda laying on her back, hands behind her head and flowers on the ground all around her, a tear will well up in our eyes. Amanda will ask why because she will not understand...until she has kids of her own some day.
Oh, I almost forgot. Do you want to see the pictures? Here they are.
Monday, November 14, 2005
As I watched Seargent Joe Enders die on the battlefield, I became reflective as I often do at the end of a war movie. When I watch a movie about World War II, I try to imagine what it would have been like to leave everything familiar, your family, perhaps a pregnant wife and to be in the battle for your life day after day. Besides the fighting and missing your loved ones, there were the regular hardships of war (lack of sleep, often lack of good medical care, lack of basic hygiene, etc). To be honest, I cannot imagine that kind of sacrifice. I'm getting too old and am (literally) too flat footed to be drafted, but if called upon to make that kind of sacrifice for my country and my family, I hope that I would step up like so many did for this country in WWII. But as Joe Enders died, I quickly reflected back on what I knew of his life from the movie (as far as I know, he was a fictional character merely representing some who were actually there). Joe talked about being raised Catholic, but he did not knokw much of anything about church tradition. It would be safe to say he was not a practicing Catholic, and it would not appear he was even remotely interested in following Christ. As he was dying, he began to recite Hail Mary. As I pondered his life and his sacrifice, although fictional, I was burdened by the fact that he sacrificed so much for others yet still died and probably went to hell.
All of this caused me to think of real life soldiers who have given their life for this country, and those currently serving risking their lives, willing to make such great sacrifices only to die and wake up to an eternity in hell without Christ. What a tragedy. I thanked God for those who made such great sacrifices for me to live in this free country I take too much for granted. And then I prayed for those putting their lives on the line for our country today...especially those who do not know Christ.
As I sat there thinking about the tragedy of anybody going to hell, especially those who lived through the hell of war, I thought about a lady on the Humanist web site I have been visiting and how much she really despises Christians. Either some Christian has done something that has really hurt her or down deep inside she has serious doubts about her ideology (I image the latter is true, I hope the former is not). I would hardly classify it as "persecution", but she pretty much attacked me personally when I answered their attacks on Christianity. I thought how odd that I would be upset about people going to hell, and somehow the faith that causes me to care upsets this lady so much.
And this led me to yet another paradox. I thought about Christians in China, North Korea, Islamic countries, etc who are tortured and executed for their faith. They care so much about people going to hell that they literally risk their lives in an effort to keep people from going there. Think about it, the soldier torturing these Christians is torturing them for caring that they, the soldier, is going to hell without Christ. "You care about my soul, so let me beat you to death."
I ask my Humanist friends and others who make logic your religion, does that make sense to you? To me, persecution of the Christian church is an evidence that there is a real spiritual world. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12, NLT)
Friday, November 04, 2005
So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life--whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are.7Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. "And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you? You have so little faith!" So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today."
Financial miracles at the Hurt house this week:
- $89 credit from the gas company - paid this month's bill and we still have $60 credit toward next month's bill
- $35 income from unexpected source
- $55 unexpected savings paying bills this week
- $35 income from MoreTechSavvy
- TOTAL $214
God has entrusted us with his most precious treasure—people. He asks us to shepherd and mold them into strong disciples, with brave faith, and good character. I would not give my life to any church that was not serious about this calling—the transformation of human beings. God has decided, for his own good reasons, that people are not transformed outside of community.
Years ago, while on vacation, I was going to fix something on the grill. I made a pile of charcoal, I poured a few gallons of lighter fluid over them, and I started the fire. My son was just fascinated by fire, as most young boys are. He asked what I was doing, and I told him.
"There's something about the way these little briquettes are constructed that when you put them together, the fire glows and they get real hot. And if you isolate one it cools off quickly. It loses the fire. But when they stick together, there's fire, because they feed off each other. God designed them to work that way."
This fits what Dallas Willard has said about the Christian life: "Personalities united can contain more of God and sustain the force of his greater presence better than scattered individuals." Think about that. Personalities united—people in community—contain more of God and his transforming power than isolated individuals. We should not be surprised that transformation requires community; it's how God designed us.
When we are alone, it's easy to think, incorrectly, that we are spiritually advanced. I can watch a Hallmark commercial alone and find myself moved to tears. I tell myself that I am a very compassionate person. But when I spend time in community with a person who annoys me, it's amazing how quickly I experience "compassion fatigue."
In community we discover who we really are and how much transformation we still require. This is why I am irrevocably committed to small groups. Through them we can accomplish our God-entrusted work to transform human beings.
It seems odd to me now, but I was never part of a small group experience prior to my overseeing small groups at our church. I guess in the eyes of some that would make me "unqualified" for my job. I certainly am no small group guru like John Ortberg, but I think God may have sped up my learning process a little, or at the very least, he gave me a HUGE heart for small groups when I took on this role at the church. Having been youth pastor for the past 14 years, I had little interaction with adults...practically none in a small group setting. (I had been a part of groups that were small in size, but nothing like the vision for Life Groups at our church).
As I began to study and pray about Life Groups in our church, God showed me how much I personally needed the community offered by a Life Group. I became convinced that there are things God teaches us through small group relationships that He chooses to teach us no place else (like was pointed about in the above paragraph about the Hallmark commercial). We either learn some things in a small group or we do not learn them at all. If you have a broadband connection, I encourage you to check out this small video about the Life Groups at our church...it does a good job of highlighting what is so special about the community provided by small groups.
If you want to hear more of my musings in relation to small groups, you can listen to my teaching "Casting a Vision for Life Groups", but I just wanted to share a few gems from John Ortberg's article today and a few of my own thoughts about the importance of small group community.
I had not checked the gas since their trip, so Wednesday I turned the key on to see if I needed to get gas before picking up students on Wednesday night. The gas gauge read empty, so I planned to stop for gas on the way out. At 5:10pm, I was headed to the gas station and realized that the gas gauge did not budge when I started the bus...it was EMPTY. I thought how inconvenient it would be to have to call Brooke, go back to church, get the gas can and fill up the bus just to get to the gas station. As I crossed all the intersections I needed to cross and was looking at the break in traffic to turn into the gas station, I thought to myself, "Well, at least I could coast from here if I had to." As soon as I started my turn, the bus died! I was coasting up to the pumps saying, "Which side is the gas tank on!!??" Thank the Lord I knew which side it was on and thank the Lord this often extremely-busy gas station had an open pump I could coast right up to! Since I was able to coast up to the pump, this is a funny story. If I had run out of gas even 20 seconds earlier, it might not have been so funny.