Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Gross Munster Church in Zurich



We went to downtown Zurich, Switzerland the other day. What a cool city.
We came upon a church that was important during the reformation days.
As I was inside I was struck by the simplicity of the church. I then noticed a pamphlet that talked about the church and it’s history.

Here is a paragraph from the pamphlet that helped me to understand what I experienced.

As you enter our church today, you may be struck by the simplicity and sobriety of the sanctuary. This is the result of one of the Zwingli’s reforms at Grossmunster in 1519. Whatever gave a worldly appearance to the church was removed: pictures, altars, sculptures and even the organ. The intensive study of the Holy Scriptures and the preaching of the Gospel were to be the focal point of the religious community. Zwingli argued that reforms were necessary if one was to live according to the Gospel.

As I sat there in the sanctuary I thought about church today and how we make it so complex but not just with our windows, altars and organs (or the latest and coolest media equipment) but in the way we do it (our methodology).

I think that our programs in the church today can so much distract from the simplicity that the church was intended to be. Church is really not so complex as we often make.


The Fellowship of the Believers - Acts 42 - 47


They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tennessee Buns


Okay the title is rather literal. I could not resist taking this picture.

I think sometimes the best way to describe life overseas is "random". What better way to illustrate randomness than to find hamburger buns in a small village in Southwest Germany. But not just any hamburger buns but Tennessee ones. Yee Haw! Why not North Dakota Hamburger Buns or Alabama or New Hampshire buns? Well .. nevermind. I guess Tennessee Buns are the best.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

2 out of 3 ain't bad


For those 40 somethings you may remember the song 2 out of 3 ain’t bad by Meatloaf.
Well yesterday I bought a new moleskin journal and a stock of G2 pens (the best pen in the world for 1.50). All I lack now is to reclaim my Mac computer from my kids and I will be 3 for 3 and totally cool.

I am sitting in Atlanta. It has been snowing and yes the date is correct, March 8.
It did not cause traffic problems but it is wild to see.

I have been on my journey for two weeks and I am so ready to get home. Before I left I was able to spend the afternoon with one of my best friends, David Putman. He is a co-founder of a really cool organization that helps church planters in the states. (http://www.churchplanters.com/) . He also has a new book coming out in May called Breaking the Discipleship Code. Check his blog out and buy his book in May. We had a few “doppio macchiatos” at our favorite Starbucks in Alpharetta.

Not to do a total commercial for the guy but he is one of the best strategic thinkers / coaches when it comes to church planting that I know. But what is really cool is how he follows Jesus Christ every day in a very real way. He is a hero to me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

the salt and light - living intentionally

I am writing today on the way to the states. I am heading there to attend a series of meetings. Several places I will be speaking and giving some talks on some missional intatiatves that I am involved with. Speaking of, I really want to take seriously in my life to be the salt and light that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5. An important aspect of this teaching of “salt and the light” is that you are amongst the people. You are not self contained but you are out living with the people.

Yesterday I watched my wife interact with our German neighbor. She is professional that works in several different cities. She travels a lot. My wife is just trying to get to know her as good neighbors do. My wife and her talked about her work schedule and my wife volunteers to help her take her trash to the street. In Germany there is a right day, time and position for the garbage container to be set out. To do this out of order is not a good thing. I guess the point of this story is that my wife is a great example of someone who lives her life missionally. She feels one of the best ways she can tell others of Jesus is through her actions and serving them in whatever way possible. She is salt and light anywhere we live.

I think what keeps me from being this way?
If I wrote it all down you would think pretty lowly of me. I will give you some hints.
Being too busy.
Being too selfish.
Thinking that I am the most important.
Unfortunately I could go on.

But I will stop. I pray that my life will not become too busy where I am much more like the religious leaders who passed by on the other side of the road. I pray that I will have my life oriented in such a way that I can be more like the Samaritan who took the time to stop, help and take care of a person in need. I think when this happens we can be the salt and light that Jesus intended.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mission Strategies

On my last post I wrote about three streams that in my opionion summarize to a great extent the culture here in Europe. I want to talk about this some more today. I believe that those same streams exist in North America today. How will the church in North American navigate through such water?

I like jumping onto websites of churches and reading how they approach missions. It seems that many churches take the Acts 1:8 passage and segment their missions into - Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermosts parts of the earth. They will then find mission leaders to lead out in each of those areas and develop mission strategies for such. I am not casting judgement on this for it is one way to approach the strategy. My fear is that it casts missions into mini-compartments and does not approach the Great Commission as a whole. Whether you read demograhic studies, internet or the Sunday paper you can see that the world is in the USA. I sometimes hear of churches who get fired up about taking a mission trip to one of those uttermost places ministering to people of another faith. This is not a bad thing. What I am curious about do they have the same excitement with people of a different faith who live next door to them or in another part of the city? How are they being salt and light to people who are different from them in their own location?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

missiology in Western Europe - three streams

A week ago I had the privledge of hosting Ed Stetzer and several pastors from the U.S. in Barcelona. After he returned I was wrote a blog post for him on www.edstetzer.com and I want to post it here today. I will talk some about these three streams in the coming days. So I invite you to respond. By being a church planter first in the United States for over 10 years and now in Europe I see some things that shape our lives and ministry in Europe that I think would help me if I were to plant a church in the states again.

so grab an espresso and enjoy.

My name is Larry McCrary, and I have lived and worked in Western Europe since 2001. What can I say? The history is fascinating, the sights are out of this world and you can’t find a better cup of coffee. However, when it comes to living out one’s faith incarnationally in the day-to-day here, you have to consider the cultural context.

I like to think of Western Europe as a river with three major cultural streams affecting it right now. Each stream is a spiritual challenge in itself, but combining the three makes for extra-difficult navigation when it comes to engaging people with the gospel.

The first stream – which is decreasing in size – is that of the institutional church’s decline. This may be the Roman Catholic Church in some countries, the Church of England or the Lutheran church in other parts of Western Europe, but as a whole the churches are declining in attendance. What makes this stream interesting is that, while it is decreasing in size and influence, the veneer of the institutional church still has an impact on the culture.

In Spain, where we served for the last five years, my friends would say they were not part of the church and would speak out against it. In the next sentence, however, they would claim that they were Catholic, thus identifying themselves as religious. The opportunity for those of us who live here among these people is to help them see it’s not about religion, but about a relationship with God.

The second stream worth mentioning is that of the post-Christian or secular worldview held by many Western Europeans. Evangelism research shows that, in most Western European countries, less than 2 percent of the population is evangelical. (“European Believers Report”, 2007 by Ruth Robinson, Greater Europe Mission)

The only exception to this is Scandinavia, and they have a whopping 3 percent according to most studies. (“European Believers Report”, 2007 by Ruth Robinson, Greater Europe Mission) The worldview of most indigenous Europeans is post Christian/secular. While most are generally closed to the idea of institutional church, the hope lies in believers who will live out their faith incarnationally in Europe.

The third stream is also growing rapidly, and that stream is Islam. The flood of Muslim immigrants moving to Europe over the last 10 years is incredible. Most major Western European cities have several mosques, and in some cities, mosques are literally replacing the empty cathedrals.

The increase in the number of Muslims moving to Western Europe makes an impact on the cultural and religious climate. Believers have a great opportunity for ministry in that we don’t face the same restrictions on sharing the gospel as those in closed countries. This gives us some freedom in how we can minister among people.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

coming out of retirement

I know it is a little late for new years resolutions. I have already blown most of mine anyway but I thought I might try to make one on Feb. 10th, 2008.

I think I will try to write more down this year.
Wow. That was deep.

This year I want to consider deeply how Jesus and others in the scriptures lived their lives and what I can learn from it. So if all goes well i will talk about some of the verses that i am reading and how that affects my life here in Germany or wherever we are that for that matter.

We moved to spain in late 2001 but just 8 months ago moved to Germany. We are amidst trying to learn a new language and culture. The language part is quite difficult so we are trying to figure out once again how to live incarnationally amongst the people that we cannot communicate well with, yet.

I am reminded of what St. Francis of Assissi said: "Share Jesus everyday and sometimes use words". Obviously I want to learn how to use those German words but I also need to know how to minister in our culture without using words. What does that look like for me?

So this blog will be about our journey. I hope you will enjoy and feel free to comment.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sometimes you can't make it on your own

“Sometimes you can’t make it on your own”

I don’t know what it is about Bono songs from U2 but they often connect with my soul. I think the guitar runs always help. They always build up to this awesome climax of lyrics and guitar. They are classic for sure.

I was listening to “Sometimes you can’t make it on your own” . I must it admit it seems a bit like a throwback from the 80s or would have been made a great song in the Breakfast Club movie. It just fits.

So if I just take the "title" it speaks to me at this junction of my journey. There are two extremely important aspects of being a Christ Follower. I was reading the book of Acts this morning about the early church and Jesus followers. They desired so deeply to know him and to be with one another. Over 2000 years and we should still be at that same place. We need both community with God and we need community with other followers of Jesus. Practically speaking so many people evaluate this in church attendance but it is so much more than that. Simply speaking it is having a living and growing and real relationship with our Lord on a daily basis and it is sharing in that relationship with others .. spouse, children, parents, friends, etc…

I think there is a danger in the church today where we assume both of these are met on Sunday mornings. We can connect with God for our one hour a week and we can talk with some of our friends and even do business with them if needed. But there has to be so much more.

I think there are so many people who are living their life by themselves and are lonely and feel disconnected. Here is where this song comes in or I should say the title. The entire song does not fit my theme here but the title does. We cannot make it on our own. We cannot handle the stresses, pressures, disappointments, heartbreaks, rejections, failures, etc…. by ourselves. We should have someone to share the ups and downs of our lives with.

I really believe that God created us for community both with Him and with other people.
This takes some effort and some risk. It takes some discipline to develop that time with the Savior each day. It takes us for sure letting go of our independency and moving towards a dependency on Jesus. It is that independency that sometimes makes us falsely believe that we can make it on our own.

I think it also takes effort and risk when we connect with others. With have been back in the states now for 6 months and I can tell you just because you go to a worship service does not mean you will connect with others in community. You often have to take that first step towards community. It may not come to you but you may need to pursue it. Find some people you can share your life with you. You can share your heart and life with. You and I need this.

I would also say that you most likely will have several “community” groups. You may have one with your family as you spend time in prayer, devotion and talking about spiritual things. You may have community with some men or women in a small group. You may have community with your house church or a small group within your church.

I don’t know exactly where I was headed with this when I started other than this simple thing and it came from U2. We cannot make it on our own! We need community. We need Jesus. We need others who also share that same bond with the Lord whom we can connect with.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

turning

I have been reading from my red letter version of the bible this new year. So far so good for 2007. I have started in Matthew the first book of the New Testament. As I mentioned before I am wanting to spend the year looking into what Jesus said and mediating on it and applying it to my life. I am not just wanting to apply His principles. I know that I must let the Holy Spirit do it's work in transforming me. I am wanting as it says in John 3:30 - To become more like Him. He must increase .. I must decrease.

So my first blog on this matter has to do with "turning". Before I start with that I must mention that my daughter is now "turning" a car. She was able to get her Driver's permit here in the states on her first try this past week. For some of you you can remember it took me 6 tries in Spain to get my license so I am proud. We are now driving and learning to turn those corners.

So what it is about turning? What turned my head as I read Matthew 4:17 ? Jesus said Turn from your sins and turn to God because the kingdom of Heaven is near". I think this a major. It is huge. When I read the parables of Jesus. When I read about his heeling's, teachings, etc... it really motivates me but where it begins is here. It is in the turning away from our sins and turning to God.

So often we do try to move towards God but we are not willing to truly turn from our sins. I think about my own devotion life. I think about how much time do I really talk to the Lord in confession? When do I truly turn from my sin and turn to God. I do not usually have a problem with this when I make some major mistakes. It is the little ones that trip me up. I think it is interesting how in Matthew 5 we move to the sermon on the mount and He teaches about the law and the fulfillment of the Law and how often we can fall in the trap as they did in that day of feeling okay about keeping the 10 commandments when we take them literally. However, when you go to the deep intention, the deep heart issues of the commandments then sin can become apparent quite easily. For example we may not kill someone literally but in this sermon it addresses other ways to "kill" a person without using a weapon. We can sometimes do this with our words or hatred in our hearts. The hard thing about the sermon on the mount is that he list quite a few things that we may feel like on the surface we are okay but in the end and as intentions and motives are involved then it gets messy.

This is where I have to take a close inventory or evaluation in my life and if it is not measuring up and I have sin in my life that I have to confess it to Him and turn from it and turn towards Him. I think this is true initially when we become followers of Jesus but it is also true on a daily basis as we follow Him.

So in 2007 are you turning from your sin and turning toward God ?



Friday, December 29, 2006

red letter

Well Christmas is over and Kings Day is on its way. Our kids since they have lived in Spain and the US claim both nations during the holidays. It is really a wise move on their part. They can recieve gifts on both days. King's Day is the day where Spaniards give gifts to their children. So even though we are in the states during the holidays our kids remind us that Jan. 6th is coming.

One of the presents I wanted to receive at Christmas time was a new bible. I have been using my bible that my wife gave me almost 15 years ago when we planted our first church. It was quite worn and even ducked tape together. But actually I wanted a type of bible that I had not had seen nor used in many years and that was a red letter edition. I know I will still use my old one when I speak. You can get comfortable like that. I wanted to study the words of Jesus. Now I did not want the KJVersion of it but the New Living Translation but that is another matter.

I had no idea that I already had one of those bibles. We packed most of our goods and left them here in the states five years ago when we moved to Spain. On Christmas day when we visited my parents my father told me that he had found a bible that was mine that I had left there. it was an unused red letter edition in NLT. I forgot I had that bible.

I got a renewed interest in this over the summer months when a friend of mine who is a seminary professor told me a story of how a small group of new believers were meeting once a week to study the bible but they did not know where to begin. They read about the "red letter" edition and decided if those were the words of Jesus Christ then that would be a good place to begin to study and apply to their lives what Jesus said. I liked that and quite frankly I needed that reminder.

So I have set out to start reading the red letter edition of the bible. Hopefully I will blog about some of the things that I am learning or re-learning. I need to become more like Jesus in alot of areas of my life so it should not be so hard to write out some resolutions as the new year approaches. smile

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Geyser


We went to see several geysers in iceland.
Did you know....

The orginal geyser is what you are seeing. Thats right we now use the word geyser because that is how they described it many years ago. The word means to "rush forth"

church in Reykjavik, Iceland



A tribute to the vikings.at the harbor in

Reykjavik, Iceland


Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

I am blogging from Reykjavik, Iceland today.
66 degrees North is the name of the outdoor store here in Iceland but it also describes where the country sets in terms of latitude. North would be another way to describe it. You could use the word beautiful, festive, cold, dark, snow, lights, etc.. It is funny but when you get off of the plane you get a sense that you are in the north. You sort of get this artic feel when you walk outside. I do not know how to describe it but you feel you are at the top of the globe.

I think I am here at a great time of year. This afternoon I went to the town square where we heard a band and listened to an Icelandic choir sing Christmas Carols to celebrate the lighting of the Noweigen Chirstmas tree. Every year the country of Norway gives a Christmas tree to Iceland for the celebration of Christmas.

There are so many things to talk about so I may post some pictures as well as some thoughts of the city, country and culture.

Here’s an overview for this time of year

25 degrees outside
Wind gusts of 30 – 40 mph each day though today we have enjoyed the calmness of the day.
Snow
4.5 hours of daylight and the day is getting shorter everyday.
Lots of coffee to keep you warm

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New York, New York

New York, New York. It is indeed my kind of town.

I was able to visit NYC for the first time this past week. I was not there for Thanksgiving so I missed the big parade. I have been through the airports but that doesn’t count. I was able to experience the Pastrami Sandwich at Carnegies Deli, New York Pizza, an off Broadway production, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, Starbucks coffee (of course), Macys, Tiffany’s, Sax, The Subway system, hailing taxis, Times Square, the United Nations Building and I am sure the list could go on and I am sure I missed lots but I had a great time.

I also got to see and hear some things that sounded like home. I turned the corner into Times Square and saw “H and M” which is a clothing store from Spain. I was walking down 5th Avenue and went into “Zara” another store from Galicia, Spain. It made me feel like home. I heard many people speaking Castellano and I was able to have a café con leche at a bar in a Spanish Restaurant. I was able to read “El Pais” a newspaper from Spain and I talked with people from Spain. One person told me that 36% of the people in NYC speak Spanish. I believe them now.

One of the aspects of my ministry overseas is that I work with a lot of volunteers who come to our city. We talk to them a lot about not getting distracted by the “bright lights big city syndrome”. I thought I knew better. I needed to take heed to my own advice. It was a good reminder for me. It is so easy to get off of task in a big city. There are so many noises, sights, smells. There are new adventures all along the way. There are the things you only have heard about and never have seen for the first time.

My admission here is that normally when I go to a new city or I return to an familiar one I make it a habit of praying for the city and its people. I love to prayer walk to converse with God about the people there. I pray that God will bless that area and that he will make me a blessing to the people I come in contact with. I noticed quite often that I would get off task here for some reason and I think it is for the same reasons that I listed above and for the reasons sometimes groups get distracted when they visit our city. I guess I will have to lighten up on them the next time around.

I love to get to know a city and get a feel for its people. I like to get a sense of the needs of the city both physically and spiritually. I like to pray for the people who are the salt and light who live in that city. But I also know that you can get distracted. I find that it helps to go visit the older churches in the city to get a feel for the state of the church not to mention it is usually a great place to stop and be still and to pray. I find that when I carry my journal around with me and stop for my coffee (which is several times a day) that I write out my thoughts and I become more conscious of the atmosphere around me. I find that staying on my schedule with quiet time with the Lord is very helpful.

Regardless of being on vacation or on my job I want to pray for that city and the people. I am often reminded of the verse where Jesus looks out over the city and he had compassion on them. I don’t think the buildings moved him to compassion but the people who moved around and within the city.

Friday, October 06, 2006

the big splash

The Big Splash

I am a little late writing this blog entry so you will have to forgive me. I was at the pool this summer watching my 10 year old son at the time (he is now 11). He was with his cousin and they were having this contest. You know things do not change over the years especially in East Tennessee where it all stays the same and that is a big cultural value. A place where most consversation have to do with the past tense. I remember when ...

Anyway we are at the pool and I am listening to Southern Rock music which also stays the same over the years. It is like I have never left. Lynard Skynard( I think I forgot how to spell their name) , Blacksnake, Molly Hatchet are all still popular in the South. Sweet Home Alabama is still the national anthem or atleast the people in Alabama think so. But I digress. I was actually watching my son participate in a game that I remember quite well. It goes like this. Each person has a turn on the board and you see who can make the biggest splash.

You have the cannonball
You have the Belly Buster
You have the can opener
You have the can opener with a twist

I am sure the list could go on. Perhaps you remember some from your day in the pool.

Each time the participant runs and jumps off of the board in hopes of making a big splash. The other kids are the ones who judges how well he / she has done though I do not remember girls doing that as much but it is 2006 you know. Times change even in East Tennessee.

It made me think a little of churches in a way. Not that churches jump off of diving boards to make a splash literally. I know churches sometimes flop but I am not thinking of that as well. I am thinking of our tendency sometimes as leaders to make a big splash. It is almost like we are running off of the board and taking a jump and seeing how big of a splash we can make. We see who can come up with the most creative program, sermon, church building, name of a church or even a blog.

I think these is a desire in many of us for recognition and we want the attention and we want the alloclades that go along with being successful. We want the boys to talk about the can opener that we just did that got water on most of the people sitting around the pool. We would rarely admit this. We would not strive to do this but some times the way I feel or perceive it is that we are trying to make the splash. Perhaps so I can write a cool blog about it. Or someone can write about me.

I guess where I am going with this is what drives me? Is it the recognition? Is it people saying WOW? “He really is creative”. “He is on the cutting edge”. Or is it about seeing people come to faith. We justify our coolness a lot of times by saying we do this for the lost people of the world but I do know if I trust myself on that all of the time. How’s that for honesty. Sometimes I wonder if my motives do not get a little mixed up with the idea that a little attention would be nice.

What about churches? Is there a sense amongst some churches that we have to do something that makes a bigger splash then the other churches so that people will want to come to our church since we make a bigger splash. I do not think we plan intentionally to do this but when I hear or read pastors or church leaders say we want to have the biggest and best ….(you fill in the blank) then I now scratch my head and say but why? What is that about? What is the real reason behind that? When I hear someone say “ I think that our church is so good that I do not think anyone should even think of going to another church in our city.” I just don’t get it any more or I should say I don’t buy that any more. We are not about making big splashes I think we are about seeing lives changed and that usually happens one at a time in a relational context rather in some BIG SPLASH context.

Before I leave this we also do this on the m. field. We try to make splashes overseas as well. We want the coolest way to do something. We want to be on the “best practices” list. We want to get written up by our organizations. We want to be invited to speak at the conferences on … ( you fill in the blank ). We want to write articles or books or blogs (this one of course does not count) about our adventures. But why ???? Again, I return to motive and what is my motive in be recognized or to make a splash.

But… I am a recovering Big Splasher. I still have my days in the pool where I take off my shirt and suck in my stomach and take a jump off of the board to see what kind of splash (= “impact” in Christian Leader language) I CAN MAKE. You see what I think I am learning is that it is about the kingdom and how He must increase and how I must decrease (John 3:30) .

Friday, September 29, 2006

the wall

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

I try to read a Proverbs a day from the Bible. I also like reading out of the New Testament as well but I start my day with Proverbs. I think I like Proverbs because I am a pragmatic person. So it is helpful to me to get advice and when it is sound advice it is that much better.

I read this Proverbs this morning from my hotel room in Las Vegas. I am out here doing some networking and coaching. It is a city with a lot of light. I flew in last night very late and it is quite wild as you fly in. You see nothing because you are in the middle of a dessert and then all of a sudden when the Captain says we are starting our descent you see lights and lights and more lights. As you land you see the famous strip and you see big buildings with more lights. You get off of the plane and you have all kind of slot machine options. You go to you hotel and you have more options on how to invest your dollar. You have shows. You have girls. You have guys. You have games. You have all kinds of options and choices. I have noticed this before when I travel to this great city. I say great because it is an interesting and fun place for sure. You have to go see the Hoover Dam if you get this far west. I think people change when they fly into this city. There inhibitions do not come with them. In their mind they have permission from within to act on their impulses and to let it all hang out. Even our pilot said last night. What you do in Vegas stays in Vegas. I think he knows. While I am on Vegas let me jump across the ocean 9 time zones away to my home in Spain.

I never understood what a lot of these bible metaphors meant until I lived abroad and especially in a country that is so old. As you travel Spain you will get to know the landscape and you will come to understand that wherever there seems to be a rise in the elevation of land there is a castle with a wall around it and then usually a city built around it. I love looking at castles and walls and perhaps my favorite city is Avila which is about an hour outside of Madrid. It is a walled city and it is in tact and at night time if you drive into Avila it is like going into a storybook. The wall is lit up and you really get the sense that you are in the old world.

As you walk around the city and look around the city you see how important that wall is for protection. If it breaks down at any point then the enemy can come through. Most of the time from what I know the enemy would always to try to strike it the walls most vulnerable point. I also watched the Lord of the Rings to figure that out as well.

I think this is the picture that Proverbs 25:28 paints for me today. It is about a wall. A wall that is to protect the city but it is broken down. And because the wall is broken down it can be captured. The bible says that about our lives. If we lack self control then we are like that city with a broken down wall. I think about that today as I am in Vegas. I place where no doubt temptation lies in wait. But we should think about this not just in Vegas but everyday wherever we live. For if we do not have self control then we will not make good choices and this can go to every area of our life. (Especially since I just ate a huge buffet breakfast for 3.99.)

later

the wall

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

I try to read a Proverbs a day from the Bible. I also like reading out of the New Testament as well but I start my day with Proverbs. I think I like Proverbs because I am a pragmatic person. So it is helpful to me to get advice and when it is sound advice it is that much better.

I read this Proverbs this morning from my hotel room in Las Vegas. I am out here doing some networking and coaching. It is a city with a lot of light. I flew in last night very late and it is quite wild as you fly in. You see nothing because you are in the middle of a dessert and then all of a sudden when the Captain says we are starting our descent you see lights and lights and more lights. As you land you see the famous strip and you see big buildings with more lights. You get off of the plane and you have all kind of slot machine options. You go to you hotel and you have more options on how to invest your dollar. You have shows. You have girls. You have guys. You have games. You have all kinds of options and choices. I have noticed this before when I travel to this great city. I say great because it is an interesting and fun place for sure. You have to go see the Hoover Dam if you get this far west. I think people change when they fly into this city. There inhibitions do not come with them. In their mind they have permission from within to act on their impulses and to let it all hang out. Even our pilot said last night: "What you do in Vegas stays in Vegas". I think he knows. While I am on Vegas let me jump across the ocean 9 time zones away to my home in Spain.

I never understood what a lot of these bible metaphors meant until I lived abroad and especially in a country that is so old. As you travel Spain you will get to know the landscape and you will come to understand that wherever there seems to be a rise in the elevation of land there is a castle with a wall around it and then usually a city built around it. I love looking at castles and walls and perhaps my favorite city is Avila which is about an hour outside of Madrid. It is a walled city and it is in tact and at night time if you drive into Avila it is like going into a storybook. The wall is lit up and you really get the sense that you are in the old world.

As you walk around the city and look around the city you see how important that wall is for protection. If it breaks down at any point then the enemy can come through. Most of the time from what I know the enemy would always to try to strike it the walls most vulnerable point. I also watched the Lord of the Rings to figure that out as well.

I think this is the picture that Proverbs 25:28 paints for me today. It is about a wall. A wall that is to protect the city but it is broken down. And because the wall is broken down it can be captured. The bible says that about our lives. If we lack self control then we are like that city with a broken down wall. I think about that today as I am in Vegas. I place where no doubt temptation lies in wait. But we should think about this not just in Vegas but everyday wherever we live. For if we do not have self control then we will not make good choices and this can go to every area of our life. (Especially since I just ate a huge buffet breakfast for 3.99.)

later

the wall

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

I try to read a Proverbs a day from the Bible. I also like reading out of the New Testament as well but I start my day with Proverbs. I think I like Proverbs because I am a pragmatic person. So it is helpful to me to get advice and when it is sound advice it is that much better.

I read this Proverbs this morning from my hotel room in Las Vegas. I am out here doing some networking and coaching. It is a city with a lot of light. I flew in last night very late and it is quite wild as you fly in. You see nothing because you are in the middle of a dessert and then all of a sudden when the Captain says we are starting our descent you see lights and lights and more lights. As you land you see the famous strip and you see big buildings with more lights. You get off of the plane and you have all kind of slot machine options. You go to you hotel and you have more options on how to invest your dollar. You have shows. You have girls. You have guys. You have games. You have all kinds of options and choices. I have noticed this before when I travel to this great city. I say great because it is an interesting and fun place for sure. You have to go see the Hoover Dam if you get this far west. I think people change when they fly into this city. There inhibitions do not come with them. In their mind they have permission from within to act on their impulses and to let it all hang out. Even our pilot said last night: "What you do in Vegas stays in Vegas". I think he knows. While I am on Vegas let me jump across the ocean 9 time zones away to my home in Spain.

I never understood what a lot of these bible metaphors meant until I lived abroad and especially in a country that is so old. As you travel Spain you will get to know the landscape and you will come to understand that wherever there seems to be a rise in the elevation of land there is a castle with a wall around it and then usually a city built around it. I love looking at castles and walls and perhaps my favorite city is Avila which is about an hour outside of Madrid. It is a walled city and it is in tact and at night time if you drive into Avila it is like going into a storybook. The wall is lit up and you really get the sense that you are in the old world.

As you walk around the city and look around the city you see how important that wall is for protection. If it breaks down at any point then the enemy can come through. Most of the time from what I know the enemy would always to try to strike it the walls most vulnerable point. I also watched the Lord of the Rings to figure that out as well.

I think this is the picture that Proverbs 25:28 paints for me today. It is about a wall. A wall that is to protect the city but it is broken down. And because the wall is broken down it can be captured. The bible says that about our lives. If we lack self control then we are like that city with a broken down wall. I think about that today as I am in Vegas. I place where no doubt temptation lies in wait. But we should think about this not just in Vegas but everyday wherever we live. For if we do not have self control then we will not make good choices and this can go to every area of our life. (Especially since I just ate a huge buffet breakfast for 3.99.)

later

Friday, September 01, 2006

time

Lately I have been thinking of this re-cultural adaptation thing alot. As from some of my previous posts I have been looking at some of the things that have struck me funny such as my Starbucks experience.

Today I wanted to mention probably the easiest transition that I have had to make and that is regard to time. You see I never really adapted to Spain as well as some in this reagard. I always had a hard time staying up late because no matter how late I would go to bed 1, 2, 3 in the morning I would still be awake by 7 or 7:30 on a real lazy day. This was not very Spanish. BUT here is more normal for me. I get up by 5:45 AM and have some personal time and then I go excerise by 6:30 am. I also go to bed earlier and I LOVE this. I like how it feels I must admit. I always felt a little strange going to bed early in Spain. It was like I was committing some sin to go to bed before 12 midnight. I always had to tip toe around the apartment in the morning since no one else would be up before 9 am.

So there are some things that are quite freeing to me living on this side of the ocean. Some things that make more sense to me and my timeclock. I could add more words about being punctual and how that makes more sense to me also. I love how people are on time here but that will be another blog on another day or week.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

re-entry part three

I am continuing my re-entry series for those ardent blogging fans of mine. smile.
One thing that I enjoy is a good strong espresso. In Spain this is not a problem. You can go to McDonalds and get a better cup of coffee than you can in most places here in the states. I really miss coffee in Spain. It is strong and bold. a mi, me gusta mucho cafe de espana, pero...
But... here there is pretty much only one place out in the suburbs of Knoxville Tennessee where you can get a good espresso and that is Starbucks. I have heard some people here call it "four bucks" since it cost so much to get a cup of coffee but one survival tip for those living on my salary would be to get a double espresso with a hint of skim milk. I can get that for 1.91. The cheapest thing in the house.

Back to my story. Here I am in the south and being able to drink Starbucks. I am remember 6 years ago here where the closest Starbucks was Atlanta and that probably was about it in the Southern Red States. BUT .. times have changed and we have Starbucks now and we have quite a few but somethings never change. Take for instance this story:

I was enjoying an afternoon espresso the other day at our Starbucks Turkey Creek. I had a good book in my hand "The European Dream". As I settled in to read my book and sip on my espresso I noticed several people sitting around. Pretty normal. Some college studetnts, soccer moms and some business people. I noticed this two very nicely dressed professionals having their Starbucks but little did I know or maybe I had just forgotten that in the South there are multiple uses of cups. Yes.. this is right just after a good cup of Starbucks it is time to put a pinch between your cheek and gum and relax a bit and have a dip of Skoal.

You can put Starbucks everywhere but when you put them in some places the culture rules. You may not be able to smoke in the Starbucks ( a problem that really disturbs Spaniards) but in Tennessee you can dip skoal or chew tobacco in a Starbucks. no hay problema

enjoy your espresso.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

re-entry part two

I keep getting these re-adjustments into the USA that I am not ready for but I find abusing. Yesterday we were having lunch with one of the intersn that lived in our building in Spain.
We were standing in front of the restaurant. We noticed that a car pulled to the side of the road and then another one pulled in front of the car. A woman jumped out and walke to the car parked behind her. A few minutes later, she left and the other car pulled into the restaurant parking lot. It was our intern and she was red in the face and dying laughing. She had just returned from Spain the day before and she was in shock. She told us the story.

I was driving down Kingston Pike and this lady pulls out in front of me. I really did nothing. I did not even raise my hands. Okay, I honked but that was it and only once. I simply put on my blinker and was pulling into the parking lot. As she pulled in the woman pulled in front of her and stopped and got out of her car.

Our friend did not know what to expect but the lady came up to the window and .....
apologized for pulling out in front of her. I bet that would not happen in Madrid.

adios

Sunday, July 23, 2006

re-entering

We have been in the states for the last week. I wanted to post some thoughts some things that seem different.

Mayberry USA

Granted I live in the South. I live in a mid size city so it is larger than the famed Mayberry, North Carolina from the Andy Griffith show in the 60s BUT... I have noticed at least one thing about life here that is different than Madrid.

I like to run. I need to run more and eat less but that is really another blog but I was running the other day here through a neighborhood and something was strangely different. When I run in Madrid it is as if I am running and no one else notices. You pass a person and they will not even look at you and they would never think of addressing you and saying "hola" or "como estas?" or waving a hello to you.

BUT when I was running here the other day I forgot what a social deal this was. You have to tell everyone hello, you have to smile, you have to wave, you have to look them in the eyes. It is so exhausting to run here since you have to do so many things while trying to keep your pace up.
Why cant a person just run. smile

Stay tuned for some more re-entries.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What ever happened to being a just a Christ follower?

I am on a plane going across the ocean. One of the things that one does on such long journeys is to take a peak what other people are reading. I guess I am guilty. The lady next to me is working. She is a business woman and she has just been to a marketing conference on “branding”. She is coming up with some ways she can “brand” the product of the company she is working for. So I am borrowing this idea from her. Thanks.

This thought led to another one and it led me back to the 1980s when Russ Taff (who was then a cutting edge Christian Singer who would now qualify as adult contemporary) had a song that went something like this: “I don’t care what label you may wear but if you belong to Jesus then you belong with me”. I have liked that song for years though I must admit I do not listen to it much now. It struck a chord with me then and it still does today.

We attend an international church in Madrid on Sunday mornings that is one of the most incredible sights that I have witnessed. Every Sunday people from all over the world come together to worship. Africans, Asians, Spaniards, Americans, Northern Europeans and the list could go on and on and on. Sometimes I get the chance to speak there and every time I am awestruck as I stand up and look out over the 250 plus people who are there and I get a glimpse of what heaven will be like. A glimpse of seeing people from every tribe and nation worshipping together. I know from my past and the background in which I come from that you would rarely see anyone who looked different than us in our worship services. In reading a biography of Russ Taff this prejudice (spoken or unspoken ) that is in the church today was what inspired him to write “We Will Stand”.

ALSO, I think we often try to brand our denominations and make our particular denomination (you can fill in the blank on which one you put in the blank, we are almost all guilty) the best or the only one. Now I am not saying that all religions are the same. They are not. Religions are belief sets such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Then we have the cults and sects like Mormons, JWs, etc.. Then we have Christianity. We basically have Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodox and Protestants that would fit into that category. I realize I am painting some pretty broad strokes but hang with me for a moment. I recognize there are differences even further in Protestants such as Evangelicals and Ecumenical. Then we have the different types such as Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptist, Church of God and this list would go on further then your interest in this blog would allow.

No, my concern is that we make a BIG deal out of things that do not have to be so. We become much too preoccupied with what someone is rather than who they are. I personally do not like the labels. My point is not about belonging to a denomination or not. I belong to one myself. What I am trying to say is that we often get far too hung up on these things and when we do we start making big deals out of small things and we forget who we are and what we are trying to become and that is a mature follower of Christ and not a just a Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian. I know this is old news and worn out but it is a message I need to remind myself of from time to time. I want to focus more on becoming a Christ follower and living my life on a daily basis following him and being led by the Holy Spirit than worrying about labels that people put on each other.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

sayings from the southland

There are lots of sayings from the south. I know I must have 100s that I use and I am not even conscious of dem. Okay I cannot spell either. I learned fonix as a kid and that has shaped me in some interesting ways.

I remember hearing in church that cleanliness is next to godliness. Or was that from my mother? I am not sure. We took our bathes on Saturday evening whether we needed to or not so it may have been her that I heard or it could have been my 4th grade Sunday School teacher. I know it was not my 5th grade teacher because he took us spelunking (caving) and we got dirty and he would have never said cleanliness is next to godliness.

It is interesting but I have also heard that from deacons who have said that "orderliness is next to godliness. I guess that sounds rather "deaconish". They must have learned that from their mother as well and adapted it. Just kidding.

I have another one that I have never heard but it seems to be the practice of the day. It would go like this. "busyness is next to godliness". It is easy to point fingers these days at America. Everyone does it. It is the thing to do. I could say this is something that is about the culture in America and I would probably be fairly correct. I recently went to the states for a couple of months this past summer. I was there for almost three months. I got to go to a lot of churches and catch up with a lot of my friends in church life. I noticed how "busy" everyone was.

I came up with a sermon but I have not had an opportunity to preach it. I would probably not be invited back anywhere if I said what I wanted to. Perhaps I could give you the message on a blog. The first point would be: Busyness. I see that as something that has invaded our churches.
We have become soooooooooo busy that it is a wonder that we can experience God. It can make one very tired and burned out trying to keep up with the programs and schedules of the churches. Not to mention that as we are so busy going to church we run the danger of being too busy to "be" the church to the very people we are suppose to "be" in community with. We also are so busy doing church that we do not have time for anyone outside of the church unless they come to the church with us. So then we have made the church a place where we must invite the lost in order for them to be found instead of going into the world as our Lord asked us to do. It seems rather confusing , but I am worried about this busyness.

I could be pious and say that I am worried about this aspect of church life in the United States but I am rather worried about it due to my own life and addictions. I am much more excited about checking my email and clicking the finished button on a task than I am spending time with my supposedly best friend in the world: Jesus. I am much more excited about doing things rather than being the person I need to be or the husband I need to be or the father I need to be.

WHY ??

I am too busy. I can be too busy for such simple things in my life as prayer, quiet time, worship, reflection, journalling, walking in the park. I do not have the excuse of living in the states. I am in a country that is about as laid back as one can be and I still have managed to become busy and addicted to "doing" things instead of "being".

I need to go back and read the story of Mary and Martha but I am too busy to do that. I am so much like Martha that I do not even remember what Mary did. smile. Just kidding. I do remember that Jesus really liked that Mary sat at his feet and was content with being with just him and in his presence. I bet Mary did not know how to use Outlook or Excel though. I bet she knew nothing about scheduling appointments and ordering her day like Martha and myself.

So I can point my finger to the american church and call it too busy but I must realize the part I play in this. I am also very busy and I need to also slow down and smell the coffee. Actually drinking coffee is one that I do right and I do not go through a cup of coffee too quickly. You have to enjoy it. I need to practice that in my other relationships. My relationship with the Savior. My relationship with my wife and my children and my co-workers and my friends. Perhaps if I could BE that way (notice I did not say "if i could do that.. i am learning) then i could in effect help the church out. What if all of us practiced "being" rather than "doing".

Put that on your outlook and check it off.
adios.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Making things simple

Making things simple

I wish I could make things simple. I have a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be. Take for instance the time I got a new computer. Okay, it was a gift from some friends in the states. I live in Europe. We use 220 watts and the states use 110 watts. Instead of doing the simple thing and reading the specs. And what to do with the extra current or whatever a watt is I just did the “male” thing and plugged it in and gave it the juice and instead of seeing windows pop up I smelled smoke. I naturally unplugged it and then decided to look at the manual and sure enough it told me what I should have done. There was an extremely small button on the back where all I had to do was to switch the button to the 220 position and I would have hadno problems. A couple of weeks later I finally decided to go to the store and try to fix it and I was able to buy a transformer to replace the one that smelled like it had been burnt. Smile
So … After another week of trying to figure out how to change it out I was finally able to turn it on. YEA. When I plugged it in there was no smoke and sure enough it booted up and became the computer it was meant to be for me. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble, patience, sweat, reading, etc…. If I had only read the instructions to begin with.
I made it all too complicated.

I have found something similar that I have done with churches. I think I have started churches that are far more complicated than what our Lord ever wanted. When I read the second chapter of Acts and especially when I get to verses 42 and following I see some pretty simple stuff about what a church or New Testament community of faith looks like.

They were devoted to ..
The apostles teaching
The Breaking of Bread ( the Lords Supper)
Fellowship – doing life together
Prayer

I think I have added so much more to what a church needs to be and the reason is that I have focused more on what we should “do” rather than “be”. I was often more concerned with all of the programs that I could generate rather than disciples that I could make.
I also think when I have added all of these things to a church then I greatly reduce its ability to reproduce itself because it is too hard and too costly.

So let’s remember the KISS principle- Keep It Simple Silly

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Five Second Rule

Today we had a group of friends who came here from the states to help us teach english this week in our neighborhood and in some areas around madrid. As many groups do they like to bring us goodies to eat and such that we may normally not get. As a family we have what is called a "5 second rule". If a piece of food or candy drops on the floor for more than 5 seconds then you must throw it away. If it only stays on the floor 5 seconds or less then you can blow it off and go ahead and eat it.

Well sometimes you need to throw away the rules. Today our good friends from Knoxville brought us some Girl Scout Cookies. We are so excited that we immediately opened the package and started eating the cookies. I believe it was the "Thin Mints" that were opened and one precious thin mint fell on the floor. It stayed there for more than 5 seconds and maybe even ten but we ignored the stupid rule and enjoyed one of the best american treats that come once a year from the Girl Scouts.

Some rules are made to be broken.

adios

Sunday, March 12, 2006

There are a lot of conversations going on these days on blogs and with certain topics. One topic that I wish I knew more about was the topic of "speaking in tongues". It seems many people have opinions and thoughts and proper theology about it. Some people use big words in their arguments for or against. I have a hard time even saying those words or spelling them. The list could really go on and on. So perhaps now I got some attention by blogging on a "hot topic". Perhaps I may even get a comment. smile

Well... No need to dream about getting comments that is not the purpose of this blog. I hope that on the days I can remember to blog that whatever I write may help a person out in thinking about the journey of faith that they are on. We have been in Madrid for 4.5 years. When we moved to the country of Spain I could not speak but one word of spanish and I learned that from Taco Bell. "quiero" . I want. .... I want a lot of things. A taco, A cup of coffee, Some Pastries, A Volvo, etc.. Over time and a lot of hard work I have learned the language. I am not an expert. I would never get the job for the U.N. as an interpreter. I watched that movie last night with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman.

That would not be a job that I would be offered. BUT .. over time I have learned to communicate and I was really amazed last week that I had coffee with a good friend who happens to be Spanish and guess what. I was able to communicate to him at a heart level things that really matter in life. I was able to talk to him about spiritual things. It has not been the first time. I have had other opportunities as well.

Here is my point with my un-controversial blog. THAT WAS A MIRACLE. I am not trying to minimize the various conversations going on about "speaking in toungues". Those have their place. I will leave that to the scholars that really know what they are talking about but I want to talk about the miracle of sharing Christ with another person.

That in my opinion was not something that I did through my own merit but something that God opened up and gave me the ability to do. I do not understand it. I have challenges in the English language that still kick me after 40 years. I have problems ordering coffee at spanish restaurants but somehow and in some way God gave me the words to use in talking about spiritual matters during that conversation. He did it. Sure I study Spanish. I have taken many classes but I would be foolish to think it has been something that I have done to get to that level. God helped me in a time of need. Thanks be to God.

From a human standpoint I think someone can study a language and learn it to a certain level but I think it is God who opens the door for those conversations and I think no matter what language it is in either your own heart language or a language that you have learned it is a special moment when you can share about the One who can make a difference to one of your friends. I pray that all of us will have miracles like this that will happen regularly in our lives.
I would be foolish to think that it was solely my effort or ability to effectively communicate the good news to someone.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Look, there's Big Ben Posted by Picasa

driving differences in Europe

One aspect of life overseas has been trying to learn to drive here in Spain. I am not speaking of the 6 times it took for me to pass the drivers test. I am not talking about the one year time in which it took me 6 tries to pass the test. I am actually talking about driving here.

In Europe they have what is called "roundabouts" or "glorietas". The classic visual example of this is in the movie European Vacation with Chevy Chase as his family drives around and around a glorietta in London and keeps saying "Looks kids there's Big Ben" everytime they go around the big traffic circle.

We have these all over the place in Madrid and actually they are very nice. There is a sort of competition that evolves as you enter one and you are always trying to get in the inside of the circle where you will have the right a way. So the game begins when you try to beat the other person coming into the circle and the winner gets the right a way until of course someone else takes the right a way from you. I guess you lose if you wreck as well. Luckily up til now that has not happened for us.

I like gloriettas because it creates a feeling that at least you are moving. You are at least going somewhere even if it is in a big circle. You do have options though. As you go around you simply take the exit or road that you need. This is much different than our cross roads in the states where you usually have a stop sign or red light. At the crossroads you seem to have to stop or atleast that is the idea. I have gotten tickets before for running red lights or "rolling through" a stop sign but I think it is the idea fo actually having to stop that bugs me. I like to keep moving, to keep rolling. Once you stop you lose the momentum and then you have to decide from being still which way you should go - left, right or straight.

But with "roundabouts" you can actually make the decision as you go around and you do not have to stop.

I think life is like that at times as well. We find ourselves at a crossroads and then we stop and reflect what turn we should make. What decision needs to be made? What adjustments in our life we need to make?

I think the "crossroad" metaphor where you must stop and think about the direction you need to go makes a lot more sense from the perspective of "being still" and "listening" but atleast for us we find ourselves on a "roundabout. Our life keeps going around but we see some roads that must take. The problem for me is that I like being on the roundabout and I do not want to get off and make that turn that seems so obvious to others and even to me.

I like having options.
I like choices.
So I have been giving some thought and attention to how we make a decision and I have decided that too often in life I have looked only at the roads of opportunity and the circumstances that we are in instead of some other things.

I need to return to my "Old Experiencing God" book by Henry Blackaby. I need to have a recommitment to his teaching on this for I believe he is right on. He says that our circumstances are only one part of the decision making process. We must first seek the Lord's will in the scriptures and in prayer (both talking and listening) and then we look at our circumstances and then we listen to what other Christians in our "community/church" have to say. The trouble too often for me is that I listen more to my friends than I do to God. I look at the circumstances far more than I look at the scriptures.

So I am trying to turn off the radio while I am driving around the traffic circle. I am trying to spend more time in prayer and reflection and looking at God's call on our life and for our family.

Come to Europe and experience driving in a glorietta/roundabout.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


the view Posted by Picasa

fogged in


This past New Years we took a ski trip with some friends here to Switzerland. I am not a good skier but I love the mountains and the love the views and the best way to see a great view is to take the lift up to the top. I found that sking down the mountain is the quickest way down so I have learned a little about skiiing. There is this spot at the top of the mountain in Adelboden Switzerland that is just incredible. I was telling my friends of the view and how excited we were to get to the top and see it. The day that we arrived there it was snowing alot and the next day our first day of skiing it was still very foggy and cloudy. We went skiiing and took off on the lift to the top of the mountain all the time I was telling them of the beauty. We got to the top and you could not see anything in front of you. It was so "whited out". I was disappointed and a little ungrateful. We skied all day and then the next day we went to the same spot and the fog was gone and the view was incredible. See another blog entry for the view. It was / is awesome. What changed? The mountains were the same yesterday and today. The change was the fog. The fog lifted and we could see the view.

It dawned on me the next day as I was thinking about my rather ungrateful attitude. I should be thankful for the unseen things as well. God's beauty. His awesome works were there but I let the fog "fog" me in and I became ungrateful. It dawned on me that I need to be thankful for things even when I do not always see them clearly. I have a lot to be thankful for: I have a great wife, kids, good job, etc.... God has truly blessed my life but sometimes I let the circumstances fog me in to where I become ungrateful for the things that are always there but I cannot see them or in my mine be thankful for them due to the fog.

I ran across this verse.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thes. 5:16-18

I really think the key for me in being thankful always and in having a joyful spirit is to be in constant comunion with God. I think my prayer life affects my thankfulness and when I go through my day doing my thing and doing it my way and doing by myself then I get fogged in and I lose my gratefulness and joy.

Take a look at the scenery and be thankful.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

four years ago

We moved to madrid four years ago last night. WOW. We cannot believe how time flies and how far we have come yet so far we have to go. A couple of 2006 resolutions.

1. I am going to blog more. So watch out. Be ready and fill free to comment.

2. I am going to eat less. I always have to include this but this year I have grown fond of the spanish pastries.

As for todays blog. This afternoon since we do not have the luxury of watching American football this time of year and I cannot get got up in the bowl games. Never mind that my team was not good enough to even play in a bowl game. They were terrible this year but there enough blogs about U of Tennessee football so I will not join that club.

This afternoon I found a large stack of notecards. Now you must understand that notecards are foundational for language learners and when we arrived here in Madrid I really went to town on notecards. I wrote atleast 1000 cards. What does one do with notecards? Well, I stored them away for this day I think. We were having coffee with some of our spanish friends last night and we had some good conversation but I always come away thinking how dumb I am and how much I have to learn. and I do...

Well this afternoon I went though those notecards. It was great. I made two stacks. One stack for the ones I knew. The others for the ones I need to review. If I took more than a second I had to put them in the review stack. After this lengthy review session I had two stacks. One very BIG stack and the other very small. I was encouraged because four years ago I knew nothing in this language but now I have quite a stack of words in my memory. Pretty cool.
I proudly through the BIG stack away. I will review the others later. I have so much to learn but I realized though I have lots to learn that I have learned alot and sometimes we lose sight of that and we get caught up in what we cannot do or what we do know or what we cannot finish and we do not realize that we have actually accomplished quite a bit.

Just a thought as you start 2006. Don't understimate how much you can do little by little or a notecard at a time. As someone once said the way you eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I have never tried nor do I want to eat an elephante but I think I get the point.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I was reading this morning from a devotional book from the guy who wrote "Wild at heart". I feel like such a wimp sometimes after reading his books but he says some pretty neat things and some things that I really like. He says something that I dont like either but thats not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog is to simply restate something that he wrote and this way you do not need to read the entire book or try to find the page this devotional was one in order to benefit. This is providing I accurately restate his state.

He was writing about quiet time and how men "do" quiet time or "dont do" quiet time. He said something pretty profound for my simple mind. QT is simply connecting with God. Now this is hard for a pastor or Christian worker such as I to accept. Afterall I spent a lot of study hours in seminary and theological education and reading and studying about the disciplines of being a Christ follower. To say that the purpose of our QT is to "connect with God" is well ... TRUE.

BUT .. so many times I try to do everything in the quiet time. I memorize scripture, study, read, write, pray, etc... I find myself trying to connect with God and sometimes that is like trying to plug in a lamp in a dark room. I cannot find the outlet. I think I often try too hard to connect. I make it more work than it needs to be. I feel like it has to be some formula. Why can I not as the author says realize that some days it may be a hike in the forest, other days a song, other days a scripture other days a "blog". Speaking of in 2006 I will do more blogs. Atleast this is my hope. I know my mother reads them so I have that going for me.

Again, the point of our daily time with God is to connect with Him. Sure, I need to study deep into the word of God at times. I need to memorize scripture some. etc.. but I need to chill out about trying to make my QT the catch all and be all in my relationship with the Lord. I would do well to be in more of a "constant communion with the Savior".

adios de madrid

Saturday, December 24, 2005

irony of nations

We were walking in downtown madrid last night and we were near one my favorite parts of the city, plaza de cibeles. It is here where you can see the rather large Post Office which looks more like a Palace. Atleast I know where the money for postage goes. The Banco de Espana which I am told is sort of like the USA's Fort Knox. The Casa de America and then a ministry building. It was at the ministry building which is a governmental building of Spain where I noted this irony.

Here I am in Spain and in a country where less than 2 percent of the people would say they have a personal relationship with Christ. A place where we feel called to share our lives and witness to our friends. It was at this governmental place where I saw a large navity scene. Complete with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and all the animals and shepherds, angels and kings.

I heard music being piped out (in english) about the birth of our Saviour. It was at this place where it dawned on me that I am in a country to share the good news and in this country I can actually hear the good news at a federal building.

I work for a Christian Organization that is located in a country where you could not see the navity scene on federal property and you could not hear the story of the good news of the birth of Christ in song from federal property.

It seems rather ironic to me that this happens this way. What does this say about Spain? What does this say about the USA? How far have we strayed as a country where we cannot celebrate the meaning of Christmas on public property? We are led by a man who is Christian. We have many politicans now that are consertavie and have strong Christian values. We have many evangelical churches. Yet, on public property you cannot have the Good News of Christmas demonstrated.

Iam amazed at the irony. It is no wonder that many countries send people to the states to evangelize. It is needed. Perhaps we have lost our way.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Puerta de Alcala, Arpil 2005 Posted by Hello

movin on

Movin' On

Sometimes we are asked : "when are you all coming home?". I usually get a surprised look on their faces when I give them my normal answer: "We are home but we will be visiting the states soon." We try (some days I must admit are better than others) to call wherever we are "home". In this season of our journey Western Europe is our home and more specifically Spain. We love Spain. We love living abroad with all of its challenges. While we miss at times what we used to call "home" and someday may call "home" once again we feel where we live now is "home". Following me??? I hope so.

If we do not live our lives with this orientation then home sickness amongst other things could get mixed in with our "calling". We had to "burn our ships" so to speak. I think there is some historical story of where the captain burned his ships so his crew nor himself would be tempted to go back. I did not do well in history so I do not remember what that referenced to or if it was just a story a "preacher" used one time. It is a nice thought.

If we try to live in both places it becomes difficult and can get messy and confusing. So we call this place home. It is our new life. It is our new way of life.
It is not always easy but it is home.

I was reading in Romans the other day about "movin on" with your life but as it relates to living a life of victory in Jesus Christ not continuing to live in a life of sin that you left behind. I think at times we have a memory lapse and we try to go back in revisit it at times. We even think to ourselves that God is a God of grace and will forgive us and we go back to take a visit to the old life.

But this is not the way we need to live. This new life is our home and offers everything we need to content and to have joy.

Romans 6
When Death Becomes Life
1So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? 2I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? 3Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace--a new life in a new land!
That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. 4When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. 5Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


A shot of Madrid at dusk

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Where are you God?

Read This Psalm Slowly and Carefully
Psalm 54

1God, for your sake, help me! Use your influence to clear me.
2Listen, God--I'm desperate.
Don't be too busy to hear me.
3Outlaws are out to get me,
hit men are trying to kill me.
Nothing will stop them;
God means nothing to them.
4Oh, look! God's right here helping!
GOD's on my side, 5Evil is looping back on my enemies.
Don't let up! Finish them off!
6I'm ready now to worship, so ready.
I thank you, GOD-you're so good.
7You got me out of every scrape,
and I saw my enemies get it.

I do not know what you understood from this passage. Sometimes when we read things we see them differently. I read this passage from other translations such as the NIV and the NLT (New Living Translation) but THE MESSAGE really opens up a thought for me on this. I could really identify with the Psalmist in this version. I highlighted in color the verse that literally jumped out at me.

I was having coffee with one of my friends the other day. He is not a believer. Oh, he believes that there is a God but does not believe that God is actively working in the world today. He is a modern day version of Karl Marx who said “religion is the opium of the masses”. But as we finished coffee and went back into our daily lives and routines those thoughts and his conversation lingered in my mind. The very next morning I was reading a Psalm. I try (emphasis on try) to read a Psalm, a Proverb and then a chapter from the Bible everyday. One thing I know: I am not perfect. I miss some days.

Back to the story: I was reading Psalm 54 and then all of a sudden it jumped at me:
4Oh, look! God's right here helping!
This verse is so me! Here I am going along in life. Sometimes things are good and sometimes my life seems such a mess. In this case the Psalmist was citing how tough life was at the moment. He was telling about his desperation and pleading for God to rescue him and help him. He was pleading with God to not be so busy that He has no time to help me. THEN (from this version of scripture) it reads like the author suddenly realizes that God is active in his world today. God is actively helping him daily. God is involved in his life. If it were not for God he would not even survive.
I do not know about you but I know for me I could write the same psalm. God, where are you? I am hurting? People are trying to harm me? I need you. Don’t be too busy to hear my request. BUT.. then I realize that God is with me. God is helping me. God is actively involved in my life. God does care about my requests and needs no matter how small. I sometimes overlook what God is doing in my life. I think for me it is because I get so busy and caught up in my day that I leave God out. I am moving too fast to see where God is working. But.. now I know. He is working in my life. And Yours…
Lets not forget as the psalmist reminds us at the end : THANK YOU GOD for YOU ARE GOOD.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


A really cool building in Madrid

adapting to the culture

One thing that we have had to learn is to adapt to the culture here in Madrid. There are many things that look like home: PC City, McDonalds, countless Starbucks, malls, walmart type stores called CarreFour, German and Swedish Cars, golf courses, and the list could go on.

There are also a lot of things that are different: bullfights, running with the bulls, eating lunch at 3 pm and dinner at 11 pm, walking everywhere, public transportation, eating all the parts of a pig, and this list could go on and on as well.

As internationals living and working overseas we have to adapt to the culture that we are living in. We have to learn their language and learn about their customs. This is healthy and it is essential if one is going to live for a while overseas.

However, there is a danger. I do not know how much nor often that I have thought about this but when I read The Message yesterday it struck me in a new way. I think this is true regardless of where you live. You could be living in the same small town for 30 years or you could have just moved to a large metro area or could have just moved into the college culture. I think this is true when you move overseas as well.

There is a danger of over identifying with the culture. What if some of the things of the culture should not be learned or better still ... acted out. I know for instance here in Western Europe that it is not a society that prides itself in being dependent upon God. It is not a culture that seeks a personal deep relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a culture of secularism. It is a culture in this season of world history that is rather rich. Thier euro is pretty strong right now compared to the US dollar. It is a culture where "anything goes" and being tolerant is the name of the game. It is a culture of openness. It is a culture where morality is not always a high value.

As a follower of Christ it can be dangerous to be put into such a culture suddenly. It is like we have to adapt to the culture but at the same time learn to make the right choices amidst living in a culture such as this. In some ways it could be compared with living away from home for the first time like in college. But the subtle danger of living in such a culture is to be lulled into becoming self dependent, materialistic, secularistic and little by little becoming loose in your thinking and moral choices. Maybe not suddenly but maybe a better metaphor would be "drifting" and then suddenly you realize you are far from where you need to be.

Let me print out The Message and see if this makes more sense now.

Romans 12
Place Your Life Before God

1So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

The idea here is not to be conformed to the world which is easy to do especially when you are trying to fit in. The life God wants you to live is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

think and live,

larry

Monday, April 04, 2005

the message

From time to time I read verses in the Bible that really stick to me. Verses that somehow or in someway just make sense out of my life. My profession has always been a "full time Christian worker". This title has come in very different roles. I have been a pastor, a minister on staff of a large church, a seminary student studying theology, a church starter, a worker in a denominational office and a worker overseas. But I have pretty much lived my adult life (since 20) working in a Christian vocation.

As I try to think about my life and how I am living it as I approach middle age or as the author Bob Buford says "Halftime" I ran across this verse:


7This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. Ephesians 3:7

I do not think of myself as a great evangelist. I do not think that I actually share my faith enough atleast in the formal sense or the way that many of us were taught to. However, this seems to be a verse that describes my passion and role in life. I feel that my role is to help people connect with God. I want people to see that the Message is not as complex as we have made it. I want to help people that in some way or in some form have been turned off by the church, by organized religion, or disappointed in God. I want to see them respond to God and follow Him and put thier faith in Him.

Now here is the part that is hypothetical atleast in my life. This verse applies can apply to everyone. Sure, the Apostle Paul wrote it and it was a true description of his life. I in a much lesser way can say this is who I am (I would not even think of comparing myself to Paul). But I think no matter what your profession is, if you have a heart for God and you want to see others come to God through a relationship with Jesus then this verse can describe you as well. You can make this be true in your life whether you are a lawyer, futbol star, taxi driver or high school teacher. In fact ... I think it may be easier for you to do this than it is for me.

You have the natural credibility that I do not have. If I am sharing my faith I can often be "discounted" as a religous person, a pastor, etc.. As one person said "I get paid to be good". But if you are working in the real world then you have the opportunity to be the salt and light in a natural way. You can share your life with others in a real and authentic way and your life can become "Contagious". People will wonder why you are different because they see the way the Message was meant to be. I think our best testimony is living an authentic life as a follower of Jesus and that draws people into spiritual conversations and intrigue. No matter where you are and what you do in this world you can be a person that helps people understand the Message.

Live the life this week and let people read the Message by observing your life.

for further reading : John 3:16



Saturday, March 19, 2005

Running On Empty

It makes little difference how fast you are in 100 meters when the race is 400 meters.
George MacDonald

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
In sixty-five I was seventeen and running up one-o-one
I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on
Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I’m running behind
Running on Empty, Jackson Browne

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:24


The other day I was taking my kids to school. Suddenly while going up a large hill in our neighborhood I heard a little "ding" go off in my car. Then since it is such a smart car on the dash board a computer message came up and told me that "we were very low on fuel". We were in a traffic jam and this is a new car. I had no idea how long we could run on empty. In the states I knew that the warning light usually means you have plenty of time to get gas. BUT ... we are not in the states. Some things are different here. To make matters worse, our car started to make a very unique smell. A smell of fumes, I thought. I am not a mechanic but for the sake of this story I think we were out of gas and literally running on fumes. Luckily I
I made it to the gas station.

I say all of that because it seems like a very good metaphor for how I have been feeling lately. I feel like I have been running on fumes. I feel drained emotionally, physically and even spiritually. I know the warning light has went off. I can feel it. But what does one do when you are out of gas personally. I know there has to be some 10 step book to this problem. I know there has to be a message out there that is a good three point sermon by some well intending pastor. All of the points probably start with the same letter. I know there are solutions. Probably a good google search would be give me 100000000 's of solutions.

BUT ... I am not sure that is what works. Sure they can help. I know I am probably not the only one who is or has experienced this feeling of "empty". I think it happens quite regularly with "driven" people. We just become so preoccupied with our success, our "to do" list that we simply forget to stop at the gas station and re-fuel.

This is what I must do on a regular basis. I need to stop and re-fuel. I think each person has a different type of fuel therefore it can be different ways of refueling, not a simply 5 step process.

I remember hearing a message one time by Bill Hybels (pastor of Willowcreek Church) about the three guages. He talked about your emotional, physical and spiritual guages. It was probably the best message I ever heard on that subject and I do not think it had some pre-set process to help you. It talked about taking the daily time of checking your guages. The reason I ran out of gas in my car was one of two reasons and probably a little of both.

I did not look at my gas guage before I took off that morning for my errands. But, I looked at the gas guage a few days before and remembered thinking : "Wow, we need gas in the car." YET.. I did nothing about it. My life is like that also. I often do not check my guages enough and sometimes I do notice the levels are low and do nothing about it. Both can have the same result: running out of gas.

I see life and my service to God as a marathon not a dash therefore I must keep a check on my guages. I have to find ways of refueling even amongst my "busyness". I do not have a lot of set answers for this. I am really hoping to write this and as a result do something about my "gas guage" and if someone else reads this that they may look at their levels as well.

I know for me reading scripture and writing a little about it seems to fill me up. I know it is important for me to read and think about the Bible. It is water and food for the soul.

Drink and Eat.
















Sunday, March 13, 2005

being a father

I have been thinking a lot lately about ...

being a good father.
I guess it is dawning on me that we have a girl who now has 14 years and a son who has 9 years. The Spanish people use the word "have" regarding thier ages. Yo tengo años.

I was explaining to one of my Spanish friends who is also a father of a young teenager the other day that we do not have our kids living with us much past 18. Once they turn 18 they go to college, then get a job and their apartment and so on.. Here they often live with their parents until the get married which is not that bad but they often do not get married until they are 30. wow. In that case my friend has several more years to be concerned but we do not. We have less than 4 years before she enters into college. Of course we would still be able to speak into her life but not like she is while she is at home.

This is exactly what I have been thinking. Am I speaking into my kids the things that will prepare them to be a well functioning adult some day. Will they be responsible? Will they be hard workers? Will they be trsut worthy ? Will they keep a clean house? Will they make their bed? Will they practice piano without us here to tell them ? or even brush their teeth without being told? All of these things matter to me?

What will our kids be like when they grow up? I have been thinking about these things lately and I hope I am pouring into my kids like I do my work. I read a book by Andy Stanley where he says " Love your family and do your work not love your work and do your family. I really disliked the way that hit me. I way too often pour myself into my work and it is a very noble job for the world and then I give my wife and kids the leftovers. I do not know about you but do you really eat the leftovers in the fridge? More often than not I do not because why? Because they are just that: leftovers. They are the scraps, Sure it may not be bad but it is not the fresh off the stove stuff that you ate the day before.

I want to give my wife and kids much more than I normally give them. For me I constantly have to draw boundaries and say no and schedule it in my outlook before someone takes it. But I also must more into my life the life of Christ and experience his fullness. As He fills me up then I have more good things to give and out of my overflow come my actions and words and this is what I can give my kids.

They will not be Christ followers just because we go to church most Sundays. We want them to see Jesus in us 24/7. We want them to see us live our lives in an authentic way in front of them. This is what we want them to catch. One of my friends Rodd Rhode says that Christianity is not taught but caught. If that is the case then it is very important how I live my life in front of my kids.

larry de madrid

Friday, March 11, 2005


The Prodigal Son by Rembrandt
The Lost Son Coming Home