Big Air 2009!

ADSCN0759fter taking nearly 500 pictures off the back of the boat at Ute Lake this past weekend, here are the “Big Air 2009” pictures.

The only injuries sustained by the three teenage riders were random raw spots on elbows and toes and random muscle soreness.  As for the photographer, he suffered a stiff neck and fought off intermittent motion sickness as the entire 3-hour episode was viewed through a three inch screen!

In the pictures: Alexis Potter, Taylor Potter, Rachel Kaplan.

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Getting Some Air!

Getting AirThis is one of the best “in action” pictures I’ve ever taken.  A couple of summers ago, I sat on the back of a friend’s boat while we sped around Ute Lake in Eastern New Mexico.  I snapped nearly 200 pictures of my kids tubing and skiing that day, and many of them turned out blurry or empty of kids.  Many times they flew out of the picture before I took it and all that was left was an image of choppy water!  But this one was the perfect shot and well worth the hours I sat looking backwards at the kids through a two inch screen.

We’re heading to the lake again today and will spend the entire day on it tomorrow.  This time, however, I have a new camera (well, it’s actually the one I bought for my graduating daughters).  Anyway, this time, I’ll be looking through a three inch screen from the back of the boat!  And, for the same reason I would ever watch NASCAR, I’ll be watching my kids tomorrow: to catch the perfect wreck, wipe-out, or big-air on camera.  Hopefully, I’ll have some good ones to share with you next week!

The Slow Hours of Fasting

fastingMy church – Foothills Fellowship – is currently involved in a four-week fast.  No, we’re not going without food for 28 straight days; that might be considered borderline cultish…and really hard to do.  What we’re doing is asking as many people in the church who are able to go without food for 24-hours once a week for the next four weeks, and to be honest, I’m not really looking forward to it….because I love food.

Eating is one of the highlights of my day.  I wake up…and eat.  Around noon…I eat.  After work…I eat.  Before bed…I snack (which is probably why I’m not as skinny as I used to be).  I follow this routine every single day, and quite frankly, I dig it!  Interrupting this routine is not enjoyable – unless it’s adding to the routine (as in an afternoon snack) – and it seems like when I fast, the passing of time does not live up to the name of the exercise in which I’m participating.

As much as it pains me to break my beloved routine, I know that it’s spiritually good for me, and it’s good for us as a church to do this together as we embark on the implementation of our amended constitution and as we select a new batch of elders to lead us.  John Piper, a pastor and well-respected author wrote an entire book on the topic of fasting called, A Hunger for God.  In it, he says this…

Christian fasting is a test to see what desires control us. What are our bottom-line passions? More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside of us with food and other things.

Psychologically, that sort of thing is spoken of a lot today, especially in regard to people who have much pain in their lives. We would say they ‘medicate’ their pain with food. They anesthetize themselves to the hurt inside by eating. But this is not some rare, technical syndrome. All of us do it. Everybody. No exceptions. We all ease our discomfort using food and cover our unhappiness by setting our eyes on dinnertime. Which is why fasting exposes all of us – our pain, our pride, our anger.

One of the reasons for fasting is to know what is in us. In fasting it will come out. You will see it. And you will have to deal with it or quickly smother it again. When mid-morning comes and you want food so badly that the thought of lunch becomes as sweet as a summer vacation, then suddenly you realize, “Oh, I forgot, I made a commitment. I can’t have that pleasure. I’m fasting for lunch too.” Then what are you going to do with all the unhappiness inside? Formerly, you blocked it out with the hope of a tasty lunch. The hope of food gave you the good feelings to balance out the bad feelings. But now the balance is off. You must find another way to deal with it.

Throughout the day that I’m fasting, the way that I deal with the hunger pangs, the headache, the sometimes overwhelming desire for food, and a mushrooming bad attitude is to pray.  Whenever I feel hunger and am consumed with thoughts of eating, I pray. I ask God to help me to hunger for Him like I hunger for food.  Whenever I feel my head throbbing and entertain the desire to bite off someone else’s head for no reason, I pray.  I ask God to forgive me for my sin, and I thank Him for the suffering of Jesus on my behalf.

And when the 24-hour period is over, I feast…and pray, thanking God for providing daily for me and for allowing me to grow a bit closer to Him through the slow hours of fasting.

Youth MiniSTARZ

The associate pastor who works with our youth sent this to me yesterday, and after watching it, I HAD to post it on my blog.  If you’ve ever been in youth ministry, then this might be the funniest thing you’ve seen in a long time.  And even if you’ve never worked with youth, you’ll still get a kick out of it.

The Home of No-Pants Worship

no_pantsI read an interesting article the other day that was posted on the Fiji Times Online.  Evidently, there is a strict observance of Sunday worship on one of the islands that has resulted in men not being allowed to wear pants on Sunday.  The Sunday ban also forbids travel and the hanging of clothes on lines.

The head of the village said the ban was enforced so that the islanders could learn to respect the significance of Sunday as a holy day.  Not a bad idea, but prohibiting pants seems like kind of an odd way to set Sunday apart.

The man went on to say that the ban is meant “to bring good luck to the island as we respect the day of the Lord.  You can see that often misfortune befalls us because we don’t respect His commandments.  It used to be difficult to separate the days, but not anymore.”

Now on Saturdays, the clothes lines in the villages are full as the villagers know they can’t hang anything out on Sundays, and as a mark of respect, men can only wear a sulu (a skirt-like garment).

But, like with any rule or prohibition, there are always dissenters.  A villager – who requested anonymity – said this, “We can’t understand how wearing a sulu on Sunday will help us forge closer relations with the divine.”

The Lord has made it clear that He made the Sabbath for us as a time of rest and spiritual refreshment, and like on this island, it seems as though all of our days are the same as well.  So, I’m thinking that banning men from wearing pants at my church would really set Sunday apart for us.  I can see the sign now: Foothills Fellowship: The Home of No-Pants Worship.

We’ve been looking for an innovative and creative way for our neighbors to get to know us, and I think I may have just found the answer.  I’m considering not wearing pants to church this Sunday.  Anyone else with me?

Surprised By Aliens

district9posterLast night, Michelle and I were offered two tickets to the Albuquerque Isotopes game (the AAA affiliate of the LA Dodgers).  Excited about the night out alone, we headed down to the ballpark – only to discover that there was no one there.  As we drove by the empty ballpark, we noticed that the tickets were for last Tuesday’s game!  After sharing a laugh, I suggested we catch a movie, and because our last movie together was a chick flick, I boldly declared that we should see Peter Jackson’s latest movie, District 9.

I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson.  After all, he directed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which are – in my opinion – three of the best films ever made.  He proved in these movies that he is an excellent story teller.  He also directed the 2005 box office giant, King Kong, which wasn’t much of a story, but the special effects were incredible.

district-9In District 9, Jackson (who worked as the producer this time), combines both his masterful story telling craft with incredible, eye-popping special effects.  The result: the most visually jaw-dropping movie of the year that just-so-happens to include a surprisingly touching story – one that might even prick your heart if you can get past the fact that it revolves around the plight of displaced aliens that look like giant bugs.

The language is pretty rough (although much of it is “tamed” by sharp British accents), and the gore is pretty graphic (very Jackson-esque), but most memorable are noble themes like the importance of caring for the less-fortunate, friendship, loyalty, and the power of committed love in the context of marriage.  I have to admit that I was completely surprised by how good this movie is…I was surprised by aliens!

I know that it’s a very dangerous thing as a Christian and a pastor to recommend a movie, because inevitably there will be someone who can’t believe a Christian (much less a man of the cloth) would enjoy such a film.  So, if you have a hard time with strong language and watching people get vaporized by alien weaponry, I do NOT recommend this movie.  However, if you’re up for a compelling story and incredible special effects, then by all means, go see this movie.

And hurry.  Make sure you catch it before District 10 comes out!

It’s a Sham(e)

Kenneth-Gloria-CopelandOnstage in Fort Worth, Texas before thousands of believers weighed down by debt and economic insecurity, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and their all-star lineup of “prosperity gospel” preachers delighted the crowd with anecdotes about the luxurious lives they had attained by following the Word of God.  Private airplanes and boats. A motorcycle sent by an anonymous supporter. Vacations in Hawaii and cruises in Alaska. Designer handbags. A ring of emeralds and diamonds.

“God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you,” preached Mrs. Copeland, dressed in a crisp pants ensemble like those worn by C.E.O.’s.

Large buckets were passed so that those in attendance could “sow their seed of faith”…and so that the Copelands and their fellow “ministers” could pad their pockets.

At the same time, on the other side of the globe in Pakistan, about 2,000 Pakistani Christians have been forced to live in a refugee camp.  Their only crime is that they are Christians, and among the displaced Christians, two have already died due to poor hygiene.

The displaced Christians told CNN correspondents, who visited them recently, that the government had kicked them off their land without warning only because they are Christian.  The 2,000 displaced Christians have ended up living in tents for the past three months in the middle of nowhere and in the scorching heat (110 degrees).  People are dying of poverty in this camp regardless of any religious strife, CNN reported. Two have died since the group settled here, and children lay totally exposed to the sun, suffering slowly.

My question to the Copelands and their partners in crime is this: “If God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get it to those in need, then why isn’t he doing it for these suffering believers in Pakistan?  Might it be that he has blessed you in order for you to be a blessing to people like this rather than for you to buy another car, boat, ring, or handbag?”

It’s inexcusable and a total shame that Christian leaders like the Copelands (and many others like them) would use their influence to pad their pockets with an ungodly amount of material excess while people all across the globe are living and dying in extreme poverty.  May God have mercy on all of us.