Archive for March, 2008

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The New York Yankees today are playing another March spring training game.  However, this is not the typical Grapefruit League spring training game.  The Yankees have traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia to play an exhibition game against the Virginia Tech Hokies.  

It is hard to believe that it has almost been a full year since tragedy hit that campus.  In April 2007 a graduate student murdered 32 people while wounding 23 others.  I know that it is easy to let numbers and news like that fly in one ear and out the other without thinking too much about it.  We have become all too comfortable with tragedy like this.  Unless we are personally affected, we often are not driven to heartbreak (me being the first to admit that).  32 families were destroyed that day.  32 moms and dads lost their son or daughter that day.

For today’s seven inning exhibition game, the New York Yankees are dressing a full squad.  They have sent 28 players, the entire coaching staff, General Manager Brian Cashman, and Team President Randy Levine.  Out of those 28 players, all the Yankees star players will be there, including Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, among others.  They didn’t send all the scrubs and bench players.  They sent their stars.  Their varsity.  Their “A” team. 

The New York Yankees are helping affirm something that God has been teaching me lately.   They are a perfect example of the ministry of presence.  The ministry of presence is simply being there for somebody who is experiencing tragedy.  It isn’t fixing the tragedy or taking away the pain.  The Steinbrenners and other executives at the Yankees could have simply thrown some money at the campus or worn a Virginia Tech hat in one of their games as a tribute.  They could have had a special moment of silence at their other games.  While all of those honor VT and are good expressions of support, it is not as comforting as  being on campus, shaking hands with students, and hanging out with the players.  

In the book of Job, Job goes through tragedy.  He loses his family, his possessions, his wealth, his status, his health, and well, pretty much everything.  Job is right in the middle of his tragedy when we meet three of his friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  Now these three often get ripped for how they react to Job’s situation, but they also did something right that we can apply to our lives today.

Job 2:11-13 (NIV) says, “When Job’s three friends heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

What an amazing picture of the ministry of presence!  They simply sat with him for seven days and nights without saying a word.  They knew that in the middle of Job’s storm their words would not resinate like they normally would.  Their actions of simply being there spoke loud enough.  They cried with him, sat with him, grieved with him, and gave a very precious gift to him…their presence.  

Whether you are a Yankees fan or not, you have to like and respect what they are doing simply because they didn’t have to do it.  Will their presence at Virginia Tech fix their situation?  No.  But does their presence mean a lot?  Absolutely. 

Next time somebody you know is in the middle of a tragedy, remember the ministry of presence.  

Fantasy Baseball Draft Last Night

Posted: March 18, 2008 in Random, Sports

Last night I had the privilege to sit down at my computer for 2 and 1/2 hours for a fantasy baseball draft.  I play fantasy sports with five of my best friends on this planet.  We are competitive but not too hardcore.  Anyways, I just thought I would share who I drafted.  Meet my fantasy baseball team, the Sons of Thunder:

  •  C – Jorge Posada
  • 1B – Mark Teixeira
  • 2B – Chase Utley
  • 3B – Miguel Cabrera
  • SS – Derek Jeter
  • OF – Ryan Braun
  • OF – Grady Sizemore
  • OF – Manny Rameriz
  • UTL – Alex Rios
  • UTL – Adam Dunn
  • BN – Rafael Furcal
  • BN – Matt Kemp
  • SP – Cole Hamels
  • SP – Aaron Harang
  • RP – Jose Valverde
  • RP – Manny Corpas
  • P – Carlos Zambrano
  • P – Brett Myers
  • P – Francisco Liriano
  • BN – Joba Chamberlain
  • BN – Chad Cordero
  • BN – BJ Ryan
  • BN – Rich Harden

The Biggest Loser – Gaby style

Posted: March 17, 2008 in Family

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About a month ago, we took Gaby to our vet because she was having some foot problems.  We were hit with some news that all proud parents don’t want to hear:  Gaby, our awesome basset hound dog, was over-weight.  If I were to be completely honest, the vet said that she was obese. 

The good news is that obesity is fixable.  The biggest cause of her weight was not her food consumption, but the extremely fatty treats that we were feeding her on a consistent basis.  We immediately started taking some practical steps to slim her down a little.  For example, we substituted carrots and low-fat chicken treats for the normal fatty treats.  We also started taking her on walks a lot more consistently.

About a week after our initial visit with the vet, his office called back with an amazing offer.  They asked if we would be interested in putting Gaby on a new, trial dog diet.  It was totally free and it required giving her diet medicine everyday for four months (they provide the medicine).  We decided to do it.

This afternoon I am proud to announce to the world that after going for her first checkup after one month of the diet, she has lost SIX POUNDS.  Yes, the diet and lifestyle changes are working.  Let Gaby teach you a lesson today: with consistent diet, exercise, accountability, and discipline you can shed those pounds just like Gaby.

Hotel Cromer

Posted: March 14, 2008 in Family, Friends

The past month has been crazy at 900 Barbara.  It is has been so crazy that it is no longer the Cromer home; it is officially Hotel Cromer.  Heather has been out of town twice for work (one time to Orlando for 10 days and one to Las Vegas for 5 days).  Here is a rundown of our recent guests:

  • We recently had a great couple in our home, Luke and Lindsay Norsworthy.  Luke came down to speak at church and last weekend’s spring retreat.  Luke and Lindsay are good friends who enjoyed their stay at Hotel Cromer and left earlier this week.
  • Heather decided to check back in to Hotel Cromer yesterday which made me happy.  With how much she has been gone lately, I keep forgetting that she is a part-owner, not a guest.
  • James Howell is checking in tonight to Hotel Cromer.  James is going to be Shannon Oaks’ male summer intern this summer.  He will be staying throughout the weekend.
  • My parents are checking in tomorrow for almost a full week at Hotel Cromer.  I am really excited to get to see them and love on them a little.  They are staying through Thursday.
  • Finally, Ben and Lisa Vos are coming on Thursday (yes, the day my parents leave).  They are moving here in June to be part of the youth ministry staff at Shannon Oaks.  They will be here around 5 days.

We have rooms available in April if anybody is interested in a stay at Hotel Cromer.   It reminds me of the episode of The Office where we learn that Dwight uses Schrute Farms as a bed and breakfast.  However, we do not have an irrigation room. 

Interesting Debate on ABC

Posted: March 13, 2008 in Life, Ministry, Spirituality, TV

Is America addicted to porn?   That is the question ABC’s Nightline asked during a recent broadcast.  You can go to www.abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaceOff/ and see a debate over that topic.  It is extremely interesting and insightful.  Note of caution:  this is over a national, secular broadcast so you never know their real agenda. 

Pornography is drastically affecting America and the church.  It is often the “dirty little secret” that is constantly being ignored and swept under the rug while it kills intimacy, marriages, and purity.  The porn business is a $14 billion dollar a year industry.  It is supposed to be designed for mature adults, but the reality is that it is killing America’s youth.  The average age of a porn viewer is between 12-17 years old.  The average age a person is first introduced to pornography is 11 years old.  The reason for these startling stats is because it is only a few clicks away now.  It’s not like 20 years ago, when you had to look under your dad’s mattress or go into the XXX store with a ballcap pulled down low to cover your face so nobody knew you were there.  Anybody with an Internet connection can have porn available in a matter of seconds without anybody knowing.

One of the best resources I have found that is fighting the fight against pornography and calling people back to God and holiness is www.xxxchurch.com.  I strongly support these guys (one of the guys, Craig Gross, is on the Nightline debate mentioned above).  Check them out.

Whether you have kids or not, we have to be proactive about protecting our purity and intimacy in marriage.  Here a couple of practical suggestions that I recommend you put into practice immediately in your home:

  1. Put your home computer in a public area.  This definitely applies if you have kids.  Don’t let your kid have a computer in their room at home.
  2. Put some sort of filter/accountability software on your computer that monitors what websites are being viewed.  XXXchurch.com has a FREE software for Mac and PC that is called X3 Watch.  That software is an accountability software that sends a weekly email to an accountability partner of what websites you are looking at.  The key is that your partner is somebody that will hold you accountable and you don’t want them to know you are looking at porn (I recommend your wife, your pastor, your mom, etc).

It’s time we stop sweeping this epidemic that is drastically affecting our churches, our marriages, our teenagers, and our culture under the rug.  Pursue holiness.  Pursue purity.

Guilty Pleasures

Posted: March 12, 2008 in Funny, Music, Uncategorized

I strongly believe that there are two type of people in the world: (1) People who are geeks and know they are geeks.  (2) People who are geeks but don’t know they are geeks.  I definitely fit it group number 1.  I embrace my inner geek and my uncoolness. 

We all have guilty pleasures.  Whether you are a big burly guy that secretly has a cry every Sunday night watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition or you are a prim and proper lady who enjoys watching MMA.  I decided to share some of my guilty pleasures from my iPOD.  These are all songs that I actually have on my iPOD but songs that I normally wouldn’t brag about.

  • Boston – Augustana (if you know me, you know why this on that list)
  • My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion
  • Bad Boy This, Bad Boy That – Da Band
  • How Do You Talk To An Angel – The Heights
  • What Is Love – Haddaway (the song from the SNL club skits)
  • Good Vibrations – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
  • U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer
  • On the Way Down – Ryan Cabrera
  • Pump Up the Jam – Technotronic
  • Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice

I laughed a lot looking over this list.  I hope you did too.  Feel free to take a few jabs or share your guilty pleasures on your iPOD.

Treading Water

Posted: March 11, 2008 in Faith, Friends, Ministry

According to the Limca Book of World Records (it is similar to the Gluiness Book of World Records in India), the longest a human being has tread water is a total of 85 hours.  It also states that there is also a difference between treading water and “drown proofing”.  In treading water, the swimmer’s face must remain out of the water.  In drown proofing, the swimmer can lie face down in the water, and raises only to take a break to conserve energy.  

Think about that for a second.  85 straight hours of treading water.  That is a long stinkin’ time to keep your head above water.  However, I think that the Limca Book of World Records got it wrong.  I only say that because I have been treading since August.  Now I have not been treading in water; I have been treading in my ministry.  

The Shannon Oaks Church Student Ministries (SOC/SM) has grown a lot since last year.  We have grown spiritually.  We have grown numerically.  And we have grown a lot in each.  For the longest time, it seemed like we would have somebody new walking through our doors every time we met.  It was incredibly exciting but at the same time exhausting for me.  

You see for years I have based the student ministry here at Shannon Oaks around relationships.  It is to me the only true way to do ministry (all ministry, not just youth ministry).  The problem with relational youth ministry is your humanity.  What I mean by that is that a normal human being has a relational tank that can only hold and maintain so many relationships.  When I say relationships, I mean real relationships…not “high/bye” relationships.  When my relational tank filled up, I simply started treading water.  However, I knew this could only be temporary because I knew I would eventually drown.  I was simply surviving, not thriving.  The longer my treading water phase went, the more I realized I couldn’t be everywhere I needed to be.  I couldn’t be at the soccer game, the dance recital, the Jr High Bible study, sitting across the table talking about life at Chilis, on the phone with the student that hadn’t shown up in 3 weeks, while making sure I took care of my family at home.  I needed help and I needed help fast before the ministry plateaued.  

I went in one afternoon to talk with our shepherds (elders) here and they asked how the student ministry was going.  I decided to verbally throw-up on them my current situation.  I told them my need for help.  They stepped up and told me that help would be on its way.  

I am pleased to say that Ben Vos will be moving to Sulphur Springs in June to be another youth minister at the Shannon Oaks Church.  We will partner together and lead the SOC/SM.  I can’t think of a better guy to work with and live life with.  I am incredibly excited.  

I am definitely excited to stop treading water.  God is good.