Tomorrow begins Advent. We will be celebrating Advent at the church I am on staff at. This is new to me. I've never celebrated Advent, nor have any of the other churches I've worked at celebrated Advent.
I'm actually very excited about it because it is an aspect of celebrating the coming of Christ (past, present & future) that I've never celebrated before. In all honesty, I need a fresh perspective on Christmas and the coming of Christ. For me, it seems that the consumeristic aspect of Christmas heavily taints the days and weeks leading up to this most important "holiday". It's like every year we are "surprised" that Christmas is already here - and I'm not sure it should be that way from the standpoint of a Christ follower.
The problem is that many of us from an evangelical/protestant viewpoint grew up being told that tradition was "bad" and not healthy. I am beginning to disagree with that dogmatic belief. The older I get (today I turned 30... YIKES!) the more I see the importance of tradition in our lives. Healthy tradition that is... Tradition that doesn't replace an authentic relationship with the Father.
So for me, I'm excited about taking time out of my day for the next 4 weeks to focus in on the celebration of Advent and really begin to hone in on what we are truly celebrating at Christmas.
How are you celebrating Christmas this year? I would love to hear about it...
Saturday, November 29
Cold day here in Chicago. Got my bright orange (and warm) sweater on and we are getting ready to head over to Taylor Street (Little Italy) here in Chicago to see what kind of EYE-talian food we can find. Probably not a good thing to do after just getting back from Little Italy in NYC.
It seems that the mystery hacker has finally taken a chill on my site. But again, I repeat - if you see any lewd images on my site, just beware that as crazy as I seem, I haven't gone that far off the deep end.
Thursday, November 27
BACK IN CHICAGO
(A few pics from today in NYC - Central Park, SoHo neighborhood, Me (Scott) eating food, View from Empire State Bldg - facing lower Manhattan, Central Park, Abe w/ the bull at Wall Street)
Well we made it back to Chicago. I was actually amazed at the ease by which we travelled on Thanksgiving Eve. We were not delayed at all and even arrived in Chicago early. Good job airlines! (Although I'm sure that not everyone has the same story...)
It's weird to be back home. It's hard to imagine that just earlier today we were walking down 5th Avenue in NYC, visiting Tiffany's & Co. and walking through the beautiful New York Public Library. New York City was certainly an awesome experience and I will take some time over the next few days to share my thoughts and observations about this great city.
By the way - from our home to yours - HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!
Wednesday, November 26
LEAVING NEW YORK CITY
Sitting in Laguardia (NYC) right now... Flight will be leaving (fingers crossed) in about 30 minutes. Will be back in Chicago tonight. Great, great trip - lots of things to share!
Tuesday, November 25
OUR VISIT TO GROUND ZERO
(Note: Click on links for more pictures)
Today we visited Ground Zero (GZ) here in Manhattan. It was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel. I really had no idea what to expect besides a giant hole in ground in the middle of Manhattan.
GZ is quite a place. What amazed me was how many of the surrounding buildings around GZ are still badly damaged and under repair. It’s been just a little over 2 years since 9/11 and the physical after effects still seem very fresh.
In a way, I was expecting to be overcome by sad, reflective emotions. But surprisingly, I was mostly taken back by the obvious unified spirit that took hold of the people of NYC and beyond after the tragic events of that sad day. This city pushed through 9/11 and the months following by putting each other first and seeing to it that morale and support for relief workers and survivors remained strong.
After our visit to Ground Zero we visited St. Paul’s Church (The Parish of Trinity Church) just around the block of where the World Trade Towers stood. The chapel was completed in 1766 and is considered the “oldest public building in continuous use on the island of Manhattan and the only remaining colonial church”. George Washington worshipped at St. Paul’s for almost two years during the time that New York was the capital of the United States.
After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the chapel served as a “place of rest and refuge for recovery workers.” After the collapse of the Towers, St. Paul’s chapel became known as “the little chapel that stood”. Just looking at the location of the chapel, it’s amazing that the church remained unscathed by the collapse of the Towers.
On display in the church are various items related to 9/11: pictures of the victims, banners and signs showing support of the relief workers and families, and videos and images of the days following the attacks. It’s hard to explain the feeling of sitting in the same pews where just a little over 24 months ago, firefighters, victim’s family members, etc… slept and rested.
Quite a day in NYC. Here’s our itinerary for tomorrow:
Dean & Deluca 9:00am – 10:00am
Empire State Building 10:30am – 12:00pm
NY Public Library 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Tiffany’s & Co. 2:30pm – 3:00pm
Central Park 3:00pm – 4:30pm
Laguardia to Chicago 5:45pm
BLOGGING FROM CHINA TOWN IN NYC...
I'm sitting in a Starbucks in China Town right now. This place is JAMMED packed... I love the energy of NYC. People everywhere.
Going to have dinner tonight @ Bobby Flay's restaurant called The Mesa Grill . Click on the link and check out this menu!
It's been a great day here. We visited Ground Zero. I'll write more about that later - maybe tonight. We also walked along the Hudson River on the very southern part of Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty glistened in the distance. We were going to take a trip on a ferry to Lady Liberty, but we missed the last ferry. Maybe tomorrow... (We've been saying that about everything - "maybe tomorrow" - we'll see how far we get.)
Leaving tomorrow to head back to Chicago. I've got a lot of thoughts to share about NY. A lot of observations, etc... The people here are really amazing. People have been very friendly and willing to help us w/ directions, questions, etc...
Gotta run - more later.
Monday, November 24
LIVE FROM NEW YORK
Sites from NYC
Wow - what a trip... My friend Abe and I arrived in NY last night (Sunday night). Caught a cab from Laguardia to our hotel located in the SoHo neighborhood. SoHo refers to the neighborhood south of Houston street (New Yorkers pronounce it "How-stun" street...) in the lower east side of Manhattan. We are smack dab in the middle of China Town, Little Italy and not far at all from The Village. The SoHo neighborhood is a very trendy, artsy and creative area. It's made up of a lot of "flagship" stores that we all go to in our malls all over suburban America. It's also full of specialty boutiques and art galleries not found anywhere else in the world.
Our first night here we walked and walked and walked... We walked through Little Italy and over to the Village. It didn't take long for us to get our hands on a NY style pizza (see pic). We ordered the margherita w/ fresh mozzarella, basil and light sauce. It was so/so - about a 5 on a scale of 1-10. We are making it our goal to find the best NY pizza in Manhattan, so if you have any ideas, shoot me an email!
Today was not a good day. I woke up early this morning sick as a dog. In fact, I didn't even leave our hotel until about 5pm and that was just to buy a Gatorade. I've spent a great deal of time bowing down in worship to the porcelain god. I'm guessing it's food poisoning. I'm feeling much better now. I finally felt good enough to get out so we took a double decker bus tour of Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was a great time until about 1/2 way through when my soul began longing for the great white throne. We actually had to have them stop the bus so that I could find my temple of worship - McDonalds. I'm not going to get into the details here, but it was a GOOD thing that we had them stop the bus. And the McDonalds - let me tell you... This was not a Yorkville, IL McDonalds. This was a NYC McDonalds.
SOOOOOOOOOO.... Tomorrow we are planning to visit Ground Zero. We are only a few blocks from there. I have tried to prepare myself emotionally for that visit, but I don't think I can even comprehend what we will feel.
We are also planning to visit Times Square again. We took the subway there tonight and it is just absolutely amazing! It's like standing on a sidewalk surrounded by 10,000 large screen TV's all playing something different. Pretty wild...
Signing off - more later.
Sunday, November 23
ON OUR WAY...
Getting ready to head out to the airport for NYC w/ my friend Abe. Be sure to check this site for periodical NYC updates/pics/etc...
Saturday, November 22
WHAT A DAY...
Unbelievable day! Surprise 30th Bday party (sort of...). NEW laptop!! Leaving tomorrow for NYC w/ a friend (TOTAL surprise to me)!!!! WOWZERS! I'm so stoked it's not even funny.
Friday, November 21
MY CAR SMELLS LIKE B.O.
I got my car detailed today. I had them do the $13 package and then the additional $13 add on for the super detail - which includes Armorall on the inside, tires, etc...
Well the car looks good, but there's one problem. It smells like B.O. Yes - B.O. - Body Odor. And I hate to accuse anyone, but I know which person it was that sprayed their odor in my automobile. It's the same guy who left the B.O. in my car a couple of months ago when I had it detailed.
I don't know what to do. Should I call them and let them know that they forgot to "odorize" my car? (Except that they didn't forget - it was just odorized by means of a short man who doesn't like to smile very much.) Should I let them know that I would like a free wash next time? (In which case I wouldn't have to pay money for the B.O.)
Any suggestions? :)
Thursday, November 20
THE "NEW" THANKSGIVING DRINK
Ok - seriously... This is sick. It reminds me of the Harry Potter Jelly Bellies that I had one time featuring the following flavors (and more): vomit, earwax, dirt and grass.
Tuesday, November 18
Check out The Meatrix!
Monday, November 17
ORGANIC CHURCH QUOTE
Found this quote about "organic church" here:
"Doing things organically might mean removing the additives and preservatives that we have attached to the institution we call 'Church'"
A little over a week ago, I met a church planter by the name of Jeff Vanderstelt. Jeff is a church planter currently working in the Seattle/Tacoma area. We had a great conversation and I am sure that God was behind our meeting. Our meet was totally impromptu, yet I walked away quite stirred and challenged.
One of the terms that kept coming up in our conversation was the term “organic church”. Previous to our connection, I had heard this term used in relation to the church and after my conversation with Jeff, decided to think more about it and really ask myself, “What is an organic church?” Because even before I totally knew what it meant, I had a sense that an “organic” church would be the kind of church that God might be pleased with. Afterall, it seems to me that God is definitely the ultimate “organic” being. Pure. No preservatives. No pesticides. He is as pure as one can get.
The term “organic” has several definitions and to help myself sort out what it might mean in the context of the church, I asked myself what the opposite of organic is.
Ex/ If I buy something that is not organic, that means that the product I am purchasing has the possibility (and very high likelihood) of containing additives, preservatives, coloring agents, etc… In fact, under a Google search, I typed in “What does organic mean?” and I found a site that said this about the term “organic”:
It avoids or excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, livestock feed additives, antibiotic and hormone stimulants and all genetically modified organisms, using instead cultural, biological and mechanical methods.
After reading that - my thought...
I have this simple, yet huge desire in me to return to an organic relationship with the Father. A relationship that is pure, real and as authentic as one can get. I’m tired of superficial crap and all of the “preservatives” that we’ve added into our churches and lives.
So my question (ok, questions…) – and maybe a discussion we can get moving into is this:
What does it mean to be an organic church?
Has the church (in general) moved away from an organic authenticity?
And if so, what do we need to do (on a local level) to ensure that our churches remain organic (or in some cases - become organic)?
Thursday, November 13
CHRISTMAS BELLS ARE RINGING...
Is it just my imagination, or are retailers celebrating Christmas super early this year? I've always thought that the Christmas "celebration" begins the day after Thanksgiving.
I'm sitting in Starbucks, Christmas music playing, Christmas decorations up and can you believe...I'm drinking a PEPPERMINT mocha! THEY GOT ME!!!!!!!!!!
If you live in the Chicago area and aren't doing anything Friday night, I want to invite you to The Gathering happening at my church, Orchard Valley Community Church, in Aurora.
The Gathering is an awesome worship experience where we just take about an hour or a little longer to focus on worship to God. The environment is totally different from a "typical" church service and if you're not a "church" type person, no pressure at all - you can just come and watch a bunch of Christ followers worship their creator.
Anyway - check it out if you can. It's Friday night @ 7pm. If you need directions, etc... shoot me an email at: happyweeble (at sign goes here) hotmail.com.
Hope to see you there...
LIFE IS ONE BIG LESSON
I can't believe how sometimes my trust in God just downright sucks. Yes - SUCKS. Seriously. Today was a great example of how messed up I get if I listen to my emotions more than God. My emotions have such little information to go by, yet it's amazing how powerfully they sometimes dictate my mood, my thinking, etc... And then, when things don't turn out like the picture your (again, limited) mind paints you, you sort of go, "Oh, geez...why did I allow my mind to go there!?!?"
Oh man...I need help.
Tuesday, November 11
Monday, November 10
Blame it on the cat.
AFFORDABLE SATELLITE DISH!
If he faces south you can get a lot of cool TV channels. And...it's cheaper than the DishNetwork.
LIVE FROM IRAQ
Kevin Sites is a journalist on the frontlines of Iraq. He runs a blog that features first hand photos and reports from Iraq. Today's entry is especially interesting as he discusses his "typical" day (if there's such a thing in Iraq right now...) at his "headquarters" of Tikrit.
Check his site out here.
Saturday, November 8
Ok, while I'm on a role tonight...
We, the church, do things like this and then wonder why people put bumper stickers on their cars that say, "Dear Jesus, please save me from your followers."
Note: If Christians think that your church signs are funny, change them!
Friday, November 7
Well, it's 5:30pm on a chilly Friday night. You know it's winter when Starbucks pulls out the "red cups". I'm getting ready to pound out a couple of hours of study time here in Starbucks for Sunday and then heading off to see the new Matrix Revolutions w/ my friends Izzy and Ted.
Gotta go. More later...
Thursday, November 6
Wow...what a day. Spent the day downtown with Ted shooting a video - doing street interviews, asking the question: "What is the purpose of your life?" The shoot went great, but it was COLD. Brrrr... Winter is almost here.
We were having fun w/ the digital camera. Check these out... (An attempt at a little urban train photography...)
chi-town from the train::me::ted
Shot back on the train mid-afternoon, got back to the church and taught a baby/parental dedication class, had music rehearsal and spent the evening pre-editing the video so that I can have "our guy" edit it tomorrow. Pre-editing is such a long process, but saves us lots of $$$.
Tomorrow is study day. I'm opening up our new series this weekend, "The Purpose Driven Life". I am not nearly as prepared as I should be, but my day will be spent @ Starbucks tomorrow FOCUSED. Say it with me: FOCUSED. No A.D.D. tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 4
RAISING UP LEADERS
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make excuses for not raising up leaders?
“No one wants to step up and help.”
“It’s easier to do it myself.”
“It won’t get done right.”
“I don’t know how.”
I think we all know that without investing and empowering people to be a part of our teams we will fail – or if we do succeed, it will more than likely be at a much slower pace than it could be with a team to help us make it happen.
I don’t think you have to convince too many people that in order to push forward and accomplish what’s never been done before it takes a team – a group of people who work together in unity to see something incredible happen.
I heard someone once say that when you raise up leaders in an organization, it strengthens its “skeleton”. It provides it with a backbone and substance.
So how do we respond to people who might not find it very easy to raise up leaders?
Well I want to address one excuse, reason, justification or whatever we want to call it, that people use for why NOT to raise up leaders.
Reason #1: “No one wants to step up and help.”
If there are no people, I’m sure this is true. But if there are people around, I have a hard time buying this reasoning. Here’s why:
People are longing for leadership in their lives.
That’s right. People want to be led. Most people don’t want to be a part of a pathetic, self-absorbed community. Almost everyone I know in my life wants to be around people who have vision and want to bring others along with them on their journey.
It amazes me how just offering a little bit of vision, direction and leadership to people causes them to step up and do what they didn’t realize they had the capacity to do. Taking a moment to tell someone that you believe in them. Telling a person that you see potential in them. Sharing a story of inspiration with others. This is the job of a leader.
We can wait around until the cows come home, but if we aren’t pursuing people – going after people, then we are missing out on an important (and major) part of a leader’s job.
So instead of saying, “No one is stepping up”, first ask yourself, “Who have I approached?” “Have I painted a picture – cast a vision – helped them see what they have the potential of being a part of?”
We can wait and wait and wait and wait for leaders to step up. OR, we can get off of our lazyboys and recruit, pursue and go after the people around us who hold more potential than any of us realize.