Thursday, February 28, 2008

More on Education

My former pastor (no, he's not dead) wrote a great post last year on why they chose homeschooling over other options. It is very well written. As of today, homeschooling is our second option for Adam, for a lot of the same reasons that Mark has shared. There's one thing, though. I don't want to do that alone. This has in some ways become a community decision, though I don't think anyone would necessarily voice it that way. The momentum has come as the numbers of interested parents has increased. That is what has made this so exciting. So, if public school doesn't work out, I think it would be great if several of us do homeschooling together. I'll share more thoughts on this at a later time. For now, I invite you to read Mark's thoughts on the subject.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Public School Education

A few weeks ago Al Mohler's new book, Culture Shift, came out. One of the chapters is entitled "Needed: An Exit Strategy for Public Schools." I have not read the book, but have read a few articles and blog posts about this chapter (see below). This topic is very near to my heart. When we were first planning to move to Memphis, one of the first questions that came up was, "Where are you going to send Adam for school?" We were told that the public school system was in a mess, and we would most likely end up moving out of the city when Adam turned five. We knew that it was going to take longer than 4 or 5 years to see a church started, so we had to find other options.

In our first year in Cooper-Young, we started learning about Peabody Elementary School. Last April we held a forum at the school, and discovered that the question of where to send our children was near to a lot of people's hearts. We discovered that many of our friends desired to live holistic lives that revolved around their neighborhood. They didn't want to leave the city, and neither did they want their kids going to school outside of the city. Mandy is now on the leadership council at Peabody, even though she teaches at a different elementary school. We have been so encouraged by what we have seen there. In three weeks we are going to have a new playground. The CYCA, Peabody, Home Depot, and a nonprofit called Kaboom have teamed up to build a playground on March 20. This is going to be such an exciting time for our neighborhood and our school.

I am proud of our little church because everyone is behind this. And I'm definitely proud of my wife, because she has played such a large role in getting much of this off the ground.

When I hear someone say that we need an exit strategy from public school, I am saddened. On one hand, I want to be live with a lot of grace in this issue . My child is not in school yet, so who am I to judge someone for choosing one way or the other. This is not an easy decision. I would like to think that all of us will stay in this neighborhood and fully support the public school, but I want to be realistic. I'm sure that some of us will end up moving out of the city or sending our children to private school. That, however, is not going to stop me from working hard to try to get more and more people to consider public education.

As a follower of Jesus, I feel that this is one of my roles. I'm getting ready to preach from Genesis 12 in a few weeks. God's covenant with Abraham was that he and his descendants would be order that they might be a blessing to the world. I desire to be a blessing to my neighborhood and my city. The only way that will happen is for me to be a part of my neighborhood and city. That's why incarnational ministry is so essential. The original incarnation featured Jesus (aka God) becoming flesh and blood like us and moving into our neighborhood. Praise God for that!

I'll leave you with one resource. This is a blog post from Scot McKnight's site. Read the comments as well. As of now there are 136 of them.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Baby Boy

Mandy corrected me that a baby boy is in fact not growing her stomach. It's growing in her uterus. Thank you, dear, for that correction.

Thoughts on Paul's Calling

We're now almost through the book of Acts in our church's daily Bible readings. I think it's taking everyone time to get in a routine, but I hope that everyone will continue on with it. I know that God wants to speak to us as a community.

I've been thinking a lot about Paul's conversion experience. Often, when we talk about our conversion, or when we talk to someone else about turning their life over to Christ, we talk about going to heaven, or having a more fulfilling life. Don't get me wrong; I totally believe that this is a major part of becoming a Christian, and I am truly grateful for both. However, I've been caught off guard when reading about Paul's encounter with Jesus.

When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he encountered glory. He was knocked off his horse, saw a light brighter than the sun, heard a voice, and then went blind. From Acts 9 we learn that this voice, whom He quickly learned belonged to the Lord Jesus, told him to go into the city of Damascus and "you will be told what to do" (9:6). In Acts 22:10, the wording is, "you will be told all that is appointed for you to do." Finally, in Acts 26:16-18, we get even more details:
" 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 16'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. 17I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
What strikes me is the clarity of calling that Paul receives. What is happening is that allegiance is being shifted. Paul goes from persecuting Jesus one day, to becoming His servant the next. As you can see, he receives "'forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (eternity in heaven), but these are just a small part of Jesus' plan for Paul.

From the very beginning, Paul learns that he will suffer in this calling (Acts 9:16). By the time Paul is in Caesarea standing before Festus and Agrippa, it's safe to say that around 25 years have passed since his conversion on the road to Damascus. Paul has been faithful to his Master's calling. And during those 25 years, he has suffered a great deal. We learn through his writings that he wouldn't trade that suffering for anything, because it has led to the Gentiles becoming disciples of Jesus.

I am so encouraged by Paul's life. And as I continue to read the story of the early church, I am in awe of Jesus. His plans are so beyond my plans. His thoughts are so beyond my thoughts. I put Him in a box so often (or at least I think I do). I desire to see this type of transformation, but am I willing to go through all that Paul went through?

I guess that's the question we all have to ask ourselves every day.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Mark 8:34

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Good Day

Yesterday we found out that there is a little baby boy growing inside of Mandy's stomach. We took Adam to the ultrasound. It was great to experience that together as a family. After the doctor's appointment we went to Chuck E Cheese, or, as Adam calls it, "Chuck E Jesus." We figured this would be the way a 2 1/2 year old boy would properly celebrate this news. He was very much in awe the whole time we were there. All in all a very good day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nearly a third of recent homebuyers have negative equity

I knew things were bad, but I didn't realize it was quite this bad.

According to a report released today by real estate portal Zillow, nearly a third of U.S. homebuyers who purchased a property in the last two years now owe more than the home is worth.A whopping 30.4 percent of those who purchased homes in 2006 and 2007 have negative equity, largely because single-family homes posted a year-over-year decline of 5.5 percent, while condos slid a record 7.4 percent.

To highlight the severity of the problem, only three percent of those who purchased a home in 2003 currently owe more than their homes are worth.

Homeowners were hit hardest in areas like California, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada, where home prices saw the worst declines and borrowers put little to nothing down.

Read more.

Free Wi-fi: Coming soon to a Starbucks near you

Is the end of paying for Wi-Fi near?

By Michal Lev-Ram

You know the feeling: You just ordered your carmel machiatto (extra foam), sat down at a table and opened up your laptop. You log on, hoping to quickly check your e-mail, when all of a sudden a screen pops up asking for your name and credit card information. That’s when you realize that hopping online won’t be as quick — or as cheap– as you’d hoped.

Say goodbye to all of that. On Monday Starbucks (SBUX) announced it was dropping T-Mobile’s (DT)’ s $6-an-hour Wi-Fi service for AT&T, which will provide coffee- house customers with two free hours of Internet access a day. With about 7,000 Starbucks locations in the United States, that’s a major boon for AT&T (T). Now the question is, how long will hotels, airports and other venues be able to continue charging sky-high fees for a service that many people see as essential as running water and electricity.

“This is something that people want,” says Morningstar analyst John Owens. “I think customers will embrace this move.”

Of course, Starbucks’ hopes free Wi-Fi will convince coffee drinkers to not only opt for Starbucks but also to stick around longer and buy more lattes. To log onto the company’s new Internet service, customers will need to have an active Starbucks card.

“This is what customers have been asking for,” says Starbucks spokeswoman Sonja Gould. She says a typical Starbucks Internet customer uses one hour of Wi-Fi a day. The company will begin rolling out the new service at select locations this spring. By end of 2008, it will be available at all Starbucks’ U.S. stores.

Read more

Thursday, February 07, 2008

When I Don't Know What to Do

This morning over breakfast we were listening to Tommy Walker, and the song "When I Don't Know What to Do" came on. I thought back to my post from last night, and was reminded that this is an appropriate response to tragedy. It reminds me of something I read once by Jimmy Abegg (from Ragamuffin Prayers):
Sometimes the best prayers are something like this: "Oh my God, Help!"

The amazing thing is that God welcomes the "Oh my God, Help" as much as he welcomes the lifting of hands and singing praises. Here are the lyrics.

When I Don’t Know What To Do
Tommy Walker WeMobile Music ©2005

Lord I surrender all to
Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all
Though I’ll never understand
All the mysteries around me
I’ll just trust your perfect plan

As I bow my knee
Send Your perfect peace
Send Your perfect peace, Lord
As I lift my hands
Let Your healing come
Let Your healing come to me

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

2008: So Far, So ???

We're less than six weeks into the new year, and I feel like it's becoming the year of tragedy. First there was the death of Amber Mathenia. Next was the death of our friend Linda Griffin. Bob is doing better but still has a long way to go. Updates can be found here. On Monday I heard that my friend Dieter Zander had had a stroke on Sunday night. Dieter was a mentor during my time in the Bay Area. The latest on Dieter is here. Finally, there were the tornadoes last night. I graduated from Union University in 1997. If you'd like to read updates, go here.

As I reflect on all of these tragedies, I am reminded that life is precious, and that it is a gift from God. I am also reminded that God works everything to the good of those He loves. I've seen this through Linda's death. I am so thankful that they were a part of a church like Hillside. It's also evident with what has happened at Union. Today on CNN I heard a student being interviewed. It was powerful. I know that God will share His grace and love with many people through these tragedies.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Game

What a game last night. We hosted a party, and had around 30 friends show up. Of those 30, one third of them were kids, all between the ages of 1 week and 3 years. There were only a few of us left by the end of the game, but it was a great time. Hopefully an annual tradition.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Neighborhood Church Bible Reading Plan

Here is our church's daily Bible reading plan. We believe that the Bible is God's primary way for speaking to His people, and we decided awhile back that we wanted to create a culture where Bible reading was normative for everyone. We read two chapters a day, and then reflect through journaling. If you'd like to get more details, go here.