Monday, December 31, 2007

God's Return Policy

This Sunday we had Mark Schaufler come and fill the pulpit for us during our pastoral transition. He's actually been here the last 3 weeks (next week will be Master's Commission, and then maybe I'll preach one Sunday). I thought his sermon this last Sunday was very, very good. He talked from Matthew 5:21-24. It's always fun when you've been studying something, and then you hear the pastor on Sunday talk about what you were meditating on all week. Let me tell you, it's even better when you manage to get your thoughts down in a blog, and then they talk about it. I just wanted to get up on the mic and tell everyone to read my blog for confirmation of the sermon.

Pastor Mark started his sermon by talking about the things we need to do in life, and then he talked about how things like unforgiveness put unnecessary obstacles in our way. As an example he had a lady come over and shake my hand. Then he threw a bunch of stuff out on the floor and told her to walk over again, this time without stepping on anything. Then he talked about Matt 5:23, where Jesus says this:

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

What I thought was cool was that Pastor Mark brought out the fact that God says before you even come and worship me, you need to obey me. Without obedience, our worship means nothing to God. This doesn't mean we need to be perfect in order to come to church, but that, as much as we are able, we need to have a right heart before God.

Anyway, just thought that was pretty cool.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Punished for Cleaning up?

I had an interesting conversation with Kadin the other night. It went something like this:

ME: Do you know why you're in trouble?

KADIN: But Dad, I was just trying to clean up all my toys in the living room so you and Mom wouldn't have to trip on them.

ME: Was that what you were supposed to be doing?

KADIN: But I thought you always wanted me to clean my stuff up.

ME: Unless we already told you to get in bed.

KADIN: But I thought it would make you happy...

ME: I love it when you clean up stuff without us asking, it makes me very happy, but I'm even more happy when you do what you're told.

In 1 Samuel there is a story of King Saul. In chapter 13 he was given clear instructions that he was to wait for Samuel for seven days, and that when Samuel arrived he would offer the sacrifice and God's blessing would be upon the people. Towards the end of the seventh day the people started to get restless, and Saul decided that he would offer the sacrifice to God. Here is the conversation that resulted from this decision:

11 "What have you done?" asked Samuel.
Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, 12 I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering."

13 "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command."

To paraphrase, King Saul said, "But I thought it would make God happy..."

I think an even more telling story is in chapter 15, when Saul is told by the prophet to kill everything in a particular area, and yet he decided to save the best stuff to offer a sacrifice to God. That's when God reveals to him the same thing I was trying to get across to Kadin, namely that doing what He says is more important than doing what we think He wants. Here is the way God put it in the bible:

22 But Samuel replied:
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king."

God was trying to stamp out the same attitude that caused the Pharisees in Jesus time, and causes a religious spirit today. This is the attitude that made the Pharisees balk when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, or when He chose not to have His disciples fast on certain days like everyone else did. We need to learn to do what God is saying now, not what we think He wants.

With Kadin, his heart wasn't to clean the living room, it was to try and stay up a few minutes longer. I think with King Saul, he wanted to please the people more than he wanted to please God. God is good at exposing the attitudes of our hearts, and He wants a people who a fully devoted to Him, not using Him for our benefit. Ouch.

Learning to walk with Him daily,


Flood Recovery pt 4: Dreaming again

For the first time in a while, I'm dreaming again. I noticed it this morning in the shower. I was standing in there, and I started to think about cool topics for the youth group to cover, and new blogs that I'd like to write, and other things like that. It was a good feeling. I walked into our family room this morning to let the dogs out and I wasn't tripping over tools. There was a clear path everywhere I needed to go. I feel we've finally cleared a path in my head too.

While writing this I got a call from my Grandpa, reminding me of a couple things we still need to do, so I guess it's back to reality for now. We are organizing a work party on New Years Day over at our house, and we'll be painting and pressure washing our shed and making a few minor repairs. We're not out of the woods yet, but there is a definite light at the end. I'm so grateful to my Grandpa and Uncle for all the work they've done, there's no way we'd be in this position if it wasn't for their help. They would say that that's what family is for, but they've been down here three weekends in a row (including tomorrow), taking off time that they could be spending with their families in order to help mine. It's very humbling.

I think I'm gonna use one of those cool blog ideas here in a couple minutes and post a bible study. It's nice that I'm not spending all my time thinking about the house.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

So funny it couldn't be legal

I know this has been done before, but I just can't help myself. So with apologies to anyone I might be plagiarizing from, and with all humility before the bearded one himself:

-Chuck Norris once roundhouse kicked someone so hard that his foot broke the speed of light, went back in time, and killed Amelia Earhart while she was flying over the Pacific Ocean.

-If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris you may be only seconds away from death.

-The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.

-Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

-Chuck Norris once shot a German plane down with his finger, by yelling, "Bang!"

-When Chuck Norris plays Oregon Trail his family does not die from cholera or dysentery, but rather roundhouse kicks to the face. He also requires no wagon, since he carries the oxen, axels, and buffalo meat on his back. He always makes it to Oregon before you.

-Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

-The quickest way to a man's heart is with Chuck Norris' fist.

-What was going through the minds of Chuck Norris' victims before they died? His shoe.

-Chuck Norris once showed up at Google and demanded that they rename their search engine "Chuck Norris." When they refused, Chuck roundhouse kicked Google in the face, transforming it's bruised remains into Google Dark.

-Chuck Norris affects the price of stock quotes and land values. Wherever he is, prices drop due to the danger of a sudden catastrophe. He bought his own home for 30 cents and one roundhouse kick.

-If you spell Chuck Norris in Scrabble, you win. Forever.

-The following is a short list of things Chuck Norris cannot do: ....

-If you make a list of 10 things Chuck Norris cannot do, he will appear at your house and perform them all. Your life may be forfeit.

-Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting implies the possibility of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.

-When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

-Chuck Norris can slam revolving doors.

-Chuck Norris has to maintain a concealed weapon license in all 50 states in order to legally wear pants.

-Chuck Norris Isn't funny, stop laughing.

-Chuck Norris has an unbeatable poker face, concealed beneath an even more unbeatable poker beard.

-While a normal poker face conceals the emotion of its wearer, Chuck Norris’s poker face skips all that and just drives other players insane. As a result, the only way to survive a game of poker against Chuck Norris is to play online, and even then you still might go insane.

-When Chuck Norris sends in his taxes, he sends blank forms and includes only a picture of himself, crouched and ready to attack. Chuck Norris has not had to pay taxes ever.

-Chuck Norris was once on Celebrity Wheel of Fortune and was the first to spin. The next 29 minutes of the show consisted of everyone standing around awkwardly, waiting for the wheel to stop.

-Q: What’s 30 times Chuck Norris?
A: Oblivion.

-Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

-In conversation, Chuck Norris often quotes himself, and then laughs about it.

-Chuck Norris has counted to infinity. Twice.

-February 29th only occurs once every four years because Chuck Norris wills it to be so.

-There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.

-Chuck Norris really likes the movie 101 Dalmatians. No one knows why.

-In an average living room there are 1,242 objects Chuck Norris could use to kill you, including the room itself.

-There’s an old Chuck Norris saying: “He who has the Chuck Norris makes the rules.” It’s one of those nonsensical old sayings, since it implies that someone can “have” Chuck Norris.

-When Chuck Norris falls in water, Chuck Norris doesn't get wet. Water gets Chuck Norris.

-Chuck Norris CAN believe it's not butter.

-A man stopped Chuck Norris on the street and asked him to list 100 Chuck Norris facts. Unamused, Chuck Norris raised one eyebrow with such force that the man disintegrated.

-Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

-Chuck Norris once picked a fight with a duck. The duck turned out to have several 10th degree blackbelts, and was the most formidable adversary Chuck Norris ever faced. Funny how random the universe can be.

-When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.

-There are no steroids in baseball, just players Chuck Norris has breathed on.

-If at first you don't succeed, you're not Chuck Norris.

Have a very happy New Year! You guys rock.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Flood Recovery part 3: An Update

Well, we're still sleeping in our living room, but other than that things are going great! I wanted to write a quick update for everyone who's been following the blog, to let you know how things are going down here.

  1. Construction: My Uncle and Grandpa came down here on Sunday and hung about 70% of the sheetrock, which means the rooms are close to being liveable again. We've been having a harder time getting the siding dried out, but I'm confidant that it will be okay by Saturday, when they are going to come finish things up.
  2. More Blessings: I neglected to mention our windows when I was writing Neighbors helping Neighbors the other day that our bedroom windows need to be replaced. We were set to do the work and then things happened (you know how that goes) and it was never finished. Because of this one of the windows was only hanging by one nail, and was easily pulled to give John access to the house, so they could get all of our clothes and stuff out. What was once a source of frustration for us has become a point of blessing.
  3. Stuff Stuff: A lot of our "stuff" was ruined by the flood. We filled two trailers full of it. Things like tents and lawn chairs were completely yucked up by the mud, and our weed wacker was ruined when water got in the engine. So a lot of that "Stuff" is gone, but the great thing is that it's all just stuff, and it can all be replaced.
  4. The kids: They've each had interesting an different reactions to our living situation. Olivia (our 3 year old) has become very clingy. She always wants to be sitting on our laps, or be held, or even help out with chores. She just wants to be near us constantly, she has a hard time staying in her room or playing with her brother. Kadin (our over-analytic 5 year old) thought of something that neither of us had thought of. If we don't have a Christmas tree (due to space), how will Santa know where to leave the presents? Lucky for us, my parents know Santa personally and he's agreed to drop the presents off at their house this year, just to avoid any confusion. Living in such a small space with them can be overwhelming, so on Tuesday tiff's parents came down and picked them up, and they'll be up there until after Christmas.
Well, that's the quick update, I'll post more changes as they happen,


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flood Recovery part 2: Pics from the flood

Here are some pictures of the flood damage so everyone can take a look at them. Some friends of mine have a video that I'm trying to get ahold of so I can post that here as well, it's supposed to show the flood waters rising up to our house. In all there was about 6-8" of water in the family room and master bed room. If the water had gone up 2" more, it would have flooded our whole house. God is truly in control. Onto the pics:

The front and back doors to our house, after the sandbags were taken down.

(L)There was mud everywhere inside our bedroom, and (R) you can see the
Christmas presents that were hidden under our bed.

(L) Our Family Room was also covered with mud, and the tile at the base of the wood stove is starting to crack. (R) It's hard to see from the picture, but there is a crack on the left side because the ground under the slab was washed away and the slab broke and settled down there.

Both of these are pics of the Family room once we got the carpet out and the sheetrock cut away. We found some weird stuff in the walls, including a pop can (full of something) and a broomstick.

This is some of the fun mold that was growing in our bedroom. So we cut it out, replaced it with some wood from our shed and walked in there today to see more mold growing.

So there you have it, I'll post some pics of the work as it's being done and eventually the finished product.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Flood Recovery part 1: Neighbors helping neighbors

I LOVE THE HOME DEPOT!!!!! They are the greatest company ever!!!!! In a time where they should be looking to rebuild their own store, and really could be looking to turn a quick buck, they seem to be genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. I don't know if this is company policy or was the actions of two very thoughtful employees, but they have a lifelong customer in me because of how they've handled this flood situation.

Over the past week there have been several "coincidences" that have helped me to see the hand of God at work in our current problems. Because of these things several people have commented on how great our attitude has been. It's not too hard to be positive when you can see that God is on your side and working on your behalf. I'm sure I'll forget some things, but here is the short list:

  1. Our Rental House in Stanwood. It didn't sell for several months. We were very worried about it, but God has shown Himself faithful because if it had sold a couple months ago we would have invested the money in our house, now we have money available in case FEMA doesn't cover everything.
  2. Our vacation. We wanted to go on vacation for months, and were really hoping to spend Halloween in Disneyland. Because our Senior Pastor was leaving the church, we took the last opportunity we had to take a vacation and we were warm and safe while everything was happening. I'm sure if we were there we would have stayed too long at our house, and who knows what would have happened to our kids.
  3. Our car. As soon as we get the money from our house we're going out to buy a minivan. I've been dreaming for a while about walking into a dealership with cash and trying to get the best deal possible. But if that would have happened our car would have been underwater in our driveway, which is a little lower than the rest of the house. Instead it was safe at a parkinglot in Seatac. Plus, they detailed it for us while we were gone.
  4. The outpouring of love from friends and strangers. To date we've had about $550 cash, groceries and a dehumidifier given to us, not to mention all of the people who helped us take care of the house while we were gone. One lady overheard us talking at Disneyland and walked up and gave us $20. But the most amazing thing so far has been how people have really stepped up to help us, from John and Susie pulling our stuff out of the water, Melody and the gang getting most of the water up with a carpet shampooer, or my uncle and grandpa helping us get new sheetrock in place, you all have helped us and blessed us more than you'll ever know.
  5. The Home Depot. This was so cool, it deserves it's own line. We had heard that a dehumidifier would really help us, so we went to Home Depot to look for one. The only one they had was $220. Tiff and I couldn't afford that, so we passed on it. The kids were getting fidgety so I took them to the car while she payed, and while in line one of the employees walked over with the dehumidifier and placed it in our cart. When Tiffanney balked at the gift, the lady told her "This is what neighbors are for". In almost a week of use it has pulled over 230 pints of water out of the air and has made the whole house much more livable.
This store is right next to Home Depot in Chehalis

If you can't see the hand of God in all of that, you're trying really hard not to. God has blessed us indeed. BTW, our house closed Thursday and we got the money on Friday. I guess God knew what He was doing the whole time.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I dug through the trash the other day.

Blog posts are supposed to have catchy titles in order to attract more readers, so how did I do? I did have to dig through the trash, but first a little backstory.

In the middle of August Tiffanney and I put our rental house on the market. Since then we've been making two housepayments (no, that's not why I dug through a trash can, we're still getting there, hold on a minute). FINALLY, October 29th we got an offer on the house!!! Yeah!!! We'd spent some time praying and fasting about the situation and felt like God would get us an offer by the end of October, which He did.

The next week I get word from my Senior Pastor that I need to preach on the 11th, only to find out later that he is interviewing at another church (I knew before I preached that Sunday). He comes back and tells us that he is leaving on December 9th.

We've been desiring a vacation for a while now, but making two housepayments makes it impossible to save any money. We decided that we would go on Dec 3rd thru the 8th, assuming the house had closed by then. It didn't. This left us with the hard decision of waiting until we had the money in hand and possibly not taking a vacation for several months (until the new pastor comes in) or putting it all on credit cards and trusting that it would close while we were gone (it didn't).

None of this led to me spilling trash all over the floor in the post office though. Here's the main culprit. On Tuesday afternoon we were running through Toon Town in Disneyland, trying to decide where we should eat after we went to visit Mickey Mouse. Standing on the steps of Mickey's house we got a phone call. It was our Childrens pastor. She said that guys from the National Guard were standing at our front door and were waiting for our permission to put up sand bags around our house. We froze, what could we do? Absolutely yes, please sandbag, but then what? How can we get home, and what will we find when we get there? We didn't make it to see Mickey the entire week.

To make a long story short, here's what the next few days looked like. We called around to find out about changing our plane tickets, but the waters didn't receed until Thurday, meaning that even if we had flown home we couldn't have gotten to our house. We had to trust the people in our church to help us out, and they came through for us in a BIG way. Even during the flood we had people over at our house giving us updates, and once the waters went down a little there was a crew over there moving furniture, building fires and trying to make sure that everything was contained.

We got home on Saturday just after Sunset, and were greeted by piles of clothes in our living room and all of our furniture in our dining room. In all there was about 8 inches of water in the bottom of our house and only our family room and master bedroom were affected. I will detail the clean up process and our interactions with insurance companies, FEMA and Home Depot in other blogs ('cause this one's getting too long), but right now I know you want to know about rubbish.

Before we leave our house for a few days, we always try and make sure everything is clean and that any food that might spoil is taken care of. We also typically eat a lot of the food in our house, knowing that when we get back we'll be grocery shopping anyways. So we returned home not just to piles of clothes, but we had no food and our vacation had been payed for with credit cards, so we had no money to buy food. Add to that the fact that the house still hasn't closed and we need to make Decembers house payment still and I think it's safe to say we were a little stressed out. We called a friend who works with the mission and got some groceries from him, and tried to go to the store to pick up some newspapers for firestarters. First we stopped at the post office and I saw that we got those little circular ads in the mail. I thought to myself, if I got one everyone must have, and everyone throws them away, so I jumped into the garbage can and pulled out all the newspaper I could find. I only stopped when I stuck my hand on top of a moldy banana peel. I was so proud of myself for thinking of this that it didn't even occur to me that it was people's trash until that point.

I'm not used to asking for help from people. Usually I'm going out of my way to help others out. To be in the position where I need help is most humbling. Thanks to everyone who's helped during this time, you've all blessed me so much. Please remember to keep praying for the flood victims here in Washington, we can all use it.

In closing I just want to say that while the majority of this post was probably a little depressing to read, we're doing well and we can see God's hand in everything that's happened all along the way. I just needed to vent and this is one way that I can do that.