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Camp, Texas, and Hiking: The Last Forty Days

The last forty days of summer have been a blur — but oh so much fun. Let’s start with the beginning of August. At the hottest and driest part of the Central Texas summer, we went to children’s camp. I have included both videos I made. One is the typical camp style video with the theme song for camp, “Aint That Funky Now” playing over it.

The one below it, well, those are my bonus reel. So, it is what it is. You will notice a lot of shoe tying and bunkhouse shenanigans. We spend a lot of time tying shoes at children’s camp. Tons. Of. Time.

 

 


I also read Texas.

For reals. I read the entire 1200 or so page tome by Michener. I bought it a while back at a great bookstore in Kerrville. It has been on my TBR for man years, though. Quick Review: The first seven hundred pages were nice, entertaining, and fun. Then it fell apart into stereotypes and tropes. He spent almost two-hundred pages on high school football. I could understand fifty, but . . . for crying out loud.

I can’t say I recommend the book, but it is one of those required reading kind of things for people who love writing, reading, and Texas history. It reminded me of a phrase I learned in college: mega kakon esti mega biblion. It is Ancient Greek and translated it says, “a big book is a big bad thing.”  I tend to agree. Michener could have used a brutal editor.


The last two weeks I’ve been on vacation, and Mrs. Greenbean and I hit three of the state parks nearby: Enchanted Rock, Colorado Bend, and Pedernales Falls. We love to go on hikes, and these were refreshing for my soul and for my heart. Pedernales Falls is an easier hike, but the trails are not as well marked. We may or may not have gotten lost. Colorado Bend was rugged and the most difficult hike we’ve done here. However, the trip down to Gorman Falls was worth it. The last video is me imitating my good friend John Duncan, who among his many talents is being able to give a weather forecast from anywhere at the drop of a hat. This my weather forecast from Enchanted Rock’s summit.

 

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The Pastor Draft

What if churches chose pastors coming out of seminary the way the NFL draft works?


Announcer Guy: First Church from Somewhereville, California is on the clock now with their first round pick.

1st Analyst Guy: Somewhereville has two big needs in the off season. Easter really exposed some of those holes, too. They need a solid Bible exposition preacher, that is their obvious need but up from they are weak so the best pick would be a great discipleship pastor who can develop some solid formations.

2nd Analyst Guy: Thats Right. Everybody thinks they will go for a preacher, but I expect them to take Stan Standard from Asbury as a spiritual formations leader. He’s a solid three tool guy–Firm handling of curriculum, excellent people skills, and that degree plan of his includes Biblical languages, so he is no slouch in the study.

1st Analyst Guy: The problem with Stanley is Somewhereville needs to come in under their salary cap, and Stanley will have a big price tag. There is some speculation they may trade down.

Announcer Guy: The Deacon is coming to the podium.

Deacon: First Church Somewhereville has traded their pick to Mosaic Missionary of Downtown Elsewhere for two picks in the second round.

1st Analyst Guy: That is a great decision. Now they can get both of their holes filled, but for a cheaper price tag. Looks like they will talk Tommy Talks-A Lot out of Truett Seminary in Waco for their Bible peaching needs. He has two great tools–evangelism is one, but his secret weapon is the funeral service. No one does a funeral like Tommy. With the savings under the salary cap they can probably get someone like Sandy Small Group out of Fuller. Her Methodist background will really come in handy for all the relational small talk she’ll need to make.

2nd Analyst Guy: Doesn’t Sandy also have a certificate in baking from the Paul Dean School of Sugar Overload?

Announcer Guy: Sandy graduated first in class at the Paula Dean Academy. It was one of her summer pick up annexes last year. A lot of people advised her it was a waste of time, but she knew she’d need to up her stock to make it to the big leagues.

2nd Analyst Guy: She’s gonna nail the potluck and coffee klatch at First Somewhereville. This is such great pick for them. Give it a couple of years, and they will be in contention for solid mega-church numbers during Christmas and Easter.

1st Analyst Guy: You can bet there is a building campaign in that church’s future.


 

Of course, this system would be okay with me if there were a nice signing bonus and guaranteed contracts.

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Bible Questions: A Short List

Sunday I began the sermon from John 19 and the trials of Jesus with an idea that some of the juiciest places in the Bible are the questions. These lines that end in those crooked little scribbles called question marks are the places we can often fold ourselves into the easiest, with almost instant and always profound application. Here is a list of some of the highlights. I count them down from ten to one, but really, no order is necessary and there are far more than are included here.

10. Who has bewitched you, O foolish Galatians? (Galatians 3:1) Paul’s questioning of the Christians in the region of Galatia regarding false teaching. It is still a legit question for a religiously confused age.

9. What is man (human beings), that you are mindful of him (them)? (Psalm 8:1) A great existential question that leads to a doctrine of humanity, plus the Messianic implications of the New Testament usage.

8. Who touched me? (Luke 8:45) Jesus asked the question he already knew the answer to.

7. Shall I crucify your king? (John 19:15) Nothing makes me come face to face with my own sin like this question. Pilate thinks he is being clever. He is not. He is being theological.

6. Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15) It is the question we all, I think, must answer.

5. Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29) The answer is a story, and the story’s point is that anyone who needs our help is our neighbor. ANYONE.

4. How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3) The rhetorical question centers the book of Hebrews. The writer’s obvious point: there is no escape.

3. Where are you? (Genesis 3:9) To loosely quote Michael Stipe of R.E.M., that’s me in the corner, hiding from God behind the fig trees.

2. What should we do? (Acts 2:37) The essential question from Acts. The answer: repent!

1. Have you considered my servant, Job? (Job 1:8) The question we never want asked about us in the heavenly ream.

The more I think about this list, I ponder this would be a great sermon series. The series title could be something like, “The Question!” or maybe “Query” or perhaps I’ll just use a giant question mark–maybe in parenthesis (?) or perhaps in backslashes in a cool hip and with it way– // ? //  or maybe like this // ? \\ or perhaps \\ ? //

Yeah, except bigger and with color.

I’ll have to remember to preach this in 2020 or 2021 because this year is already full.

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A Book Review: Santa Claus Goes To Haiti

Not exactly Santa Claus, but close enough.

Joseph Courtemanche has recently released a beautiful book that combines so many themes that are near and dear to me. It is titled Nicholas of Haiti and is available at Amazon in paperback and kindle. There is also an audiobook featuring the author’s own voice.


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What I Love About Nicholas of Haiti

There are three specific things I love about this book.

  1. A major plot theme is human trafficking. My first novel, The Little Girl Waits, is set against the problem of child sex-trafficking, and as such it shares a kinship with Nicholas of Haiti. Slavery still exists in the world, and this book wants you to do something about it.
  2. I enjoyed the action scenes. This is not a spy novel or a thriller per se, but it definitely has one or two Ethan Hunt moments. Those are some of my favorite moments.
  3. The setting of Haiti intrigued me. I have never been there, but the book is so immediate that I FEEL like I have walked through Cite Soleil or talked to the orphans at Titanyen. Specifically, I liked the behind-the-velvet-curtain feel of the missionary work in Haiti.

There is lots more good stuff. Courtemanche obviously enjoys the simile comparison, and some are real howlers. I noted the one found on page 70, “Nick dove down into the narrow space between the door and the bank, the violent flow of water battering him against the wreckage like an angry bully interrupted while mugging an old woman.” I am not sure what an interrupted angry bully is like, but man, that is some kind of sentence. In the context of the whole scene, it is extraordinary. I also liked the discussion questions at the end of the book, which could be useful in a book club. I liked the building of secondary characters and even tertiary characters. There is one particularly delightful scene that, at first read, doesn’t further the story, but that is a wrong impression. The scene involves an elegant French restaurant in the middle of a shanty town. Those characters, and that scene, give the story depth and life beyond the rat-a-tat of action and adventure which makes a book about amazing and unreal things feel actual.

What You Will Love About Nicholas of Haiti

I think you will love at least two aspects of this book.

  1. You will love the transformational nature of the main character. Nicholas Bacon changes dramatically from start to finish.
  2. You will love the little girl, Violene. She will stay with you after you’ve forgotten about Nicholas.

Who Will Not Love Nicholas of Haiti

Some people will not love this book, and the is okay. Everything is not for everyone. I don’t think you will like this book if :

  1. You don’t like supernatural stories. Nicholas of Haiti has supernatural elements and things which are ‘impossible’ in the strict sense of the word. If that kind of action bothers you, then, perhaps, you should read something else.
  2. If you like Amish love stories, don’t even think about reading this book.
  3. People who get annoyed when church people or Christian people don’t behave in the ‘stereotypical way’ might not appreciate certain parts of this book.
  4. People who have an anti-catholic bias might not like this book, either.

Those things aside, I recommend Nicholas of Haiti–if for no other reason it offers a different kind of Santa Claus.