I heard something this morning that I thought was too cool and I just couldn't pass up the chance to make it blog-worthy. A nice, short and sweet post before I leave for the next 2 weeks.

As Michaelangelo lay on his back, spending countless hours painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, an observer noticed that he was going to great lengths to meticulously paint the corners of the chapel ceiling. The observed asked, "Why are you so worried about that. No one will ever see the corners."

Michaelangelo quickly responded, without missing a beat, "God will."

To have such integrity in all of my work. How sweet a day that would be... The Good Book says that we should work at all things with all of our hearts as if working for God and not men. Kinda goes back to my last post. It's all about Him, not me.

Well, I am signing off for a good while now. I am going on holiday to Hawaii and I will return hopefully rejuvenated in two weeks. No blogging while I am gone...I'm taking a holiday from my computer as well. You can count on some photos when I return, because picture-a-holic is my middle name. Here are some of my primary goals for the trip: rest, surf, snorkel, photograph, find hidden gems and people, marvel at God.

May he make his face shine on you and give you peace for the sake of his glory. Later dudes and dudettes!

Who is it all about?

I was reading some discussion online recently and one man in his comments recalled the following situation that unfolded while driving with his daughter.

My five-year-old daughter read a billboard this weekend for real estate. Their tagline:
"It's all about you."

A few minutes later we stopped behind a car with a similar bumper sticker. It read:
"It's all about me."

Those sentences...reflect the new age tendency that each individual can define his own God. Or as my daughter put it, "Those people are silly, Daddy. Don't they know it's all about God."
I've always heard that "kids say the darndest things," but I've also heard this one: "From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise." I think that little girl had it right and how often we lose sight of that infinte Truth. It's all about God. It always has been and it always will be.

I was reminded of the fragility of life this week when I got a call from a close friend that one of his close friends, a guy who I was around all last summer at Colorado LT, was killed in a car accident. 22 years old. The joy in the midst of this tragedy is that Tyler knew it's all about God. He was living a life that said so and I pray others may find Life because of Tyler's commitment to Christ.

It's not all about me.

I struggle when I wake up in the morning, when I stand in line at the supermarket, when I am working, when I am eating, when I am with friends and family, when I am having leisure time and when I go to sleep thinking that it is all about me. It's a daily fight for Truth. Why? Because media, Hollywood and advertising that overwhelm our senses on a daily basis say that it is all about me. And shoot, my own self says that it's about me. Why would I want to give up something temporarily good for myself or my pleasure so that another could have something they need? Or why would I want to give up something here and now so that I can have eternal life which isn't exactly something I can see with my physical eyes or touch or taste or smell?

Is this the language of someone who thought "it's all about me?":

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
"It is better to give than to receive."
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Deep Breath

Several months ago, I began reading through the Psalms one by one with sort of an agenda to understand the truths of God's character a bit more. Yes, it is certainly a book filled with emotive poems that oft hold very raw, uncut words, but that doesn't dismiss the presence of God's tried and true character that is spoken of. As anyone who has ever read the Psalms before can tell you, the word Selah often appears. For the longest time, as I read the Psalms, I just assumed this to be some sort of musical notation for the guys back in the day when they put these poems to music. But I began to notice that this strange word usually appeared at very climactic points of the Psalmists poems. (If this is old news for you, feel free to stop reading).

So, as any good young pupil I began searching the depths of human wisdom...on, you guessed it, Wikipedia :) This is the beginning of the entry on Selah.

"Selah ( Hebrew: סלה) meaning "pause, reflection", within the context of a prayer or psalms, is similar in purpose to Amen in that it stresses the importance of the preceding passage.

In this way, Selah is thought to imply that one should pause and reflect on what has been said. Alternatively, Selah may be a musical notation (thus explaining its use throughout Psalms) or may mean "forever", as it does in some places in the liturgy (notably the second to last blessing of the Amidah)."

Another source says:

"Selah, [celah], is from the primary Hebrew root word [calah] which means 'to hang,' and by implication to measure (weigh). This is readily understood because in Biblical history, money, food and other valuables were 'weighed' by hanging or suspending them on a type of balance (the equivalent of our measuring scale) to determine their value. We find an example of this word [calah] as it is literally translated 'valued,' in the book of Job, indicating that which is an illustration that we should 'measure' or value carefully what has just been said."

It makes so much sense now! I'm not even trying to pass myself off as a biblical scholar, but, truly, if you read the Psalms with this understanding of what Selah means (at least I think so), then the Psalms hit you much more heavily. They carry more weight. Or maybe the Psalmist is just trying to prepare us for the weight of words to come?

Take this passage for example. Read it first by just passing over Selah. Then read it again, but stop and take a deep breath at Selah. A bit heavier, eh?

Psalm 3

3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

4 To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.

7 Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.


Much of what I write on posts such as this is simply me collecting my thoughts and corresponding resources with the added benefit of you gaining some insight into what has been grabbing my heart. I do hope that you are stirred to action, to prayer, to conversation with friends.

The second greatest commandment that Jesus gave us was to "love our neighbor as ourselves," and caring for orphans seems to be a natural progression in obeying that command. True redemption and hope comes through Jesus, I believe, after all, I am staking my life on that. But what does it mean for us to carry that message of redemption to a broken world? Does it mean we only tell people that Jesus died for their sins and wants them to go to heaven to be with him and ignore their desires in this world or does it mean we focus on meeting the physical needs of a devastated world, rooted in a belief that God cares about the poor, but we leave out the important message of hope that God has brought to us through Christ's sacrifice? I think not. I truly believe there has to a harmony of these two. Yes, we will fail in this world to further the kingdom of God in a perfect manner, but I believe that Jesus wanted to see his kingdom come to our lives on this earth before we die and that not only comes through restoring us to a right relationship with him here and now for eternity but in showing his love in tangible ways to those around us. He did say that "let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." So, ultimately it's all about bring glory to our God and one way that we can do that in the here and now is to care for orphans. How do we do that? Well, maybe we can figure that out together.

"Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles..." James 1:27, NLT

"Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 24 of the 25 countries with the world’s highest levels of HIV prevalence, and the fastest growing proportions and absolute numbers of orphaned children. Between 1990 and 2003, the number of children orphaned by AIDS increased from less than one million to an estimated 12.6 million...

In five countries in southern Africa, 15 per cent or more of orphans lost one or both parents in 2003, the large majority of them due to AIDS. Equally high numbers of children are now living with chronically ill family members and will become orphans this year.

Even without the impact of HIV/AIDS, sub-Saharan Africa already had the largest proportion of orphaned children. In 2003, 12.3 per cent (43 million) of all children in the region were orphans...

Botswana has the highest rate of orphaning (20%). In 11 of the 43 countries in the region, more than 15 per cent of children are orphans. Of these 11 countries, AIDS is the cause of parental death between 11 and 78 per cent of the time...

By 2010, more than one in five children will be orphaned in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe."

-2004 UNICEF Report on AIDS,

"The time has come for all of us to see beyond material possessions and geographical boundaries. We must reach out with helping hands to feed the poor, care for the sick, and deliver a true message of Hope." -Larry Warren, African Leadership

Hot Pockets

If you haven't seen this Jim Gaffigan bit on hot pockets and you are in need of a laugh then watch this video. It's scary how true it is!

Leatherbound Books

If you're into reading or just like thinking that you are, you should check out LibraryThing. Pretty sweet site actually. I have many leather bound books in my online catalogue. You can see for yourself: The site allows you to see users who have similar reading tastes as you and then you can check out their book reviews and other reading selections. I didn't have time yet to upload the Bearenstein Bears books I read back in high scho...I mean kindergarten. Mostly--well entirely, actually--my catalogue is filled with some books I've had the chance to read since the start of college. The point when I began to take reading seriously. Useless site? Ah...I wouldn't say so. It may help me to broaden my reading intake a bit. Or, maybe I'm just a sucker for these novel sites that allow us to connect with others and share knowledge.

How to not get fireworks in your eye

Well, since I didn't have much planned here in Sparta for the 4th, I decided I needed a holiday up in Champaign. So, I drove up on Monday morning and chilled (or tried to at least, it was durn hot) with Fred all day. We sat in Aroma Cafe and I did a little reading and some people watching. I really enjoy sitting at a table at the window front to just watch the people striding up and down the sidewalks. Roland came over for dinner and the three of us ate meat. Lots of meat. It was such a fun, zero-pressure day and I also saved some money, too. Here's how. So, I've known that the gas mileage on my near 19 year-old truck has been steadily decreasing over the years (been driving it for 7.5 years). And to combat that with the near $3 gas prices, I decided to drive slow on the interstate. Sounds like a drag, eh? Well, it pretty much was, but decreasing my average interstate speed by 15 mph saved me like 10 bucks on gas. I figured it was worth it. We'll see how long my patience lasts.

Tuesday brought rain. This was the first time I had been in the Midwest for the 4th in about four years. Fred and I went on a run in the morning and then I had a chance to catch up with Casey. He and Brooke live on the floor below Fred (and soon to be, Erica) convenient. Wish I lived in that building. We went over to Espresso in Champaign, which was entirely dead. So, we had the place to ourselves and we sprawled out on the couches with some books. I soaked up four chapters of N.T. Wright's Following Jesus. It's a fairly easy read, but so insightful. He gives his views on the themes and motives of each Gospel writer on the person of least those are the chapters I've read so far.

Tuesday was destined to only get better because Amber was rolling through town with her family, which had been in Ohio for the weekend. After a long ordeal of my cell phone batter dying and me going on a hunt for a functional pay phone (What a difference ten years makes), we finally met up for dinner. After her family left, she and I went back to Fred's and then to the Dawg Haus, before going out to watch the fireworks. So, Chris had a great spot picked out to watch the show. And I have to say that Champaign's fireworks display did not disappoint. It was quite impressive! But where we lay happened to be the same place where all the fireworks shrapnel decided to land. And a few pieces decided to land in my eye. So, I missed the last five minutes of the show trying to wash out my eye. No worries. I've still got another one. So, in the future, when watching the fireworks directly underneath where they explode in the sky, take some old chemistry lab goggles. After the dust settled, I drove Amber to Bloomington to hang out with some of her friends who were in town. I topped the holiday off with a picnic with Amber during her lunch break at work.

I'm back home at the ranch in Sparta. Both eyes are functioning once again. All in all, amazing weekend. Very refreshing and energizing getting to spend quality time with friends up in Champaign.