Monday, March 30, 2009
Please be praying for our pastor Kory Knott. From an all church e-mail: "Kory is hedging towards a relapse of pneumonia. He asks for your prayers of healing."

He is really sick and is taking a week off. Please be praying for his health and for a healthy return, as this coming Sunday is the first service in our new building and I know that he would be crushed if he weren't able to be there.


OK fine...

Saturday, March 28, 2009
OK fine, here it is:

Day 0: Packing
Saturday 14th, at 11:50 PM

I am getting ready to go on the mission trip. We are leaving in T-6 hours, and I still haven't packed, and there is a few things I have left to do. But what the hey, I still consider myself a college kid, I should be used to this kind of lifestyle!

For family members: I am bringing my cell phone with me, but I will keep it off all day and just check messages at night. Please only leave a message if it is an emergency!

Oh, and I just got news that we will have access to wireless internet at our hotel, so I am bringing my laptop and I plan to use my blog for the purpose it was intended: an online diary! Every day I will post and talk about what happened in the day! I hope this works out!


PS: I hope that they have some good looking ladies there, and if they do I hope I don't do anything rash!

Day 1: Driving
Sunday, the 15th, 9 PMish

What a great day!

This morning we finally left just after 8 AM (we were supposed to leave at 6, but the busses showed up late and one gal forgot her luggage at home so we drove all of the busses to her house... what a bad idea!). The bus ride was close to ten hours (the bathrooms on the charter bus help keep the time shorter, but they do drive under the speed limit). We watched some movies on the way up (Cars, Transformers, and Dumbo of all things), and we played card games and sang songs... what you would expect a bunch of college kids on a road trip would do.

We got here, barely had time to bring our stuff to our hotel rooms (nice place, we are staying at a Hilton, I hear they gave us huge reduced rates because Memphis isn't the Spring Break capital of the world and the manager likes what we stand for). Like I was saying, we just had time to drop off our stuff and run to the first night of the conference. They had some speaker up there, I don't remember his name, but he gave a stirring sermon about how we are to be missionaries to the world, but also to our local community. Somehow he made the point "Even Jesus always preached to his local community", although I don't know how he worked that in. And it is cool, because this conference has churches from all around America, both high school and college groups are here, so it is neat to meet people who are from afar.

Anywho, I am off. It has been a full day, we got back early because we have an early start tomorrow, but I can tell you I am loving this wireless internet! I just hope my leader doesn't find out I brought my laptop!


Day 2: Gleaning
Monday, the 16th, 2009 at 10:30

Today started out early, 5:30 to be exact. And I mean, we left the hotel at 5:30, so we were awake long before that. We all jumped into our team vans (we dropped the charter busses for team vans during the week) and went, of all places, to a farm! Our group split up, half went to load sweet potatoes onto pallets, the other half gleaned the sweet potatoes. I was in the gleaning group.

Gleaning (if you don't know) is simply sorting the good sweet potatoes from the bad. So you have a large box (think of the large crates you see in the produce section with watermelons and beans) full of freshly picked sweet potatoes, and we empty the box and either throw them in the good pile, which is a large bag that gets shipped somewhere, or the bad pile, which is another large box.

But how is this helping the homeless, you ask? The entire operation is a non-prof, and all of the sweet potatoes were donated (it is not cost efficient for the farmers to glean them themselves because there are a lot of bad ones in these batches). So all of these sweet potatoes go to homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

Lunch was (thankfully not sweet potatoes) handmade sandwiches from a local shop, and they came with bags of chips and drinks. The sandwiches were good, but the chips and drinks... I never thought I would fall in love with a brand of potato chip, but I want to know where they make these so I can buy some and bring them back (note to self: they are called Jones Potato Chips), and the drink was amazing, it was an orange drink, but it wasn't orange juice and it wasn't orange soda, it was between the two. It had the natural orange flavor of OJ but it wasn't overly sweet like a soda, it was almost an orangeade (which are good themselves).

After lunch we went back to the conference, "The Rising". Today they made clear why they are calling it "The Rising", they are calling high school and college kids to rise up and minister to those around them. It is all about how to minister, not by going door to door and not by "preaching the gospel at the top of your lungs", it is all about going to where people are, helping them, and then sharing how your life was changed. Some pretty cool stuff.

Tonight we broke out into small groups, and they wanted to mix things up, so no small group had two people from the same church. Anywho, one girl in my small group stood out. I don't say this often, but DANG, she is HOT! I mean, she is the nicest looking woman that I have ever met. If I didn't believe in love at first sight before, I do now! lol

Anywho, I didn't catch her name, but I will definitely be looking for her tomorrow!

Well, they are calling for lights out, and it is now after 11, so I am off.


Day 3: Cute
Tuesday 17, 11:00

I can't talk for long tonight, I have to head for the shower and get some sleep, but while my roommate is in the shower I have a moment to keep my promise to type out a blog every day.

Today we cleaned up a very old cemetery that was overgrown. We cut lots of weeds and hauled off branches, I am still sore (it feels good to be sore sometimes!).

After lunch we went back to the church for more conference. I got very lucky and the first thing we did was get back into small groups, and they asked us to get back in the SAME small group! Yea for me! I found out her name is CJ, to which I commented "Like the girl in 'The West Wing'", and she kinda blushed and pushed it off, so I did to.

After the small group and the sermon for the afternoon the entire conference had dinner together, which was different. Of course I tracked CJ down and sat next to her. I never considered myself a flirt, but I was today! She talked about how she grew up in Utah and went to the same school that Elizabeth Smart went to (remember her, she was kidnapped a few years ago). She didn't know Elizabeth directly, but it shook up the community.

Anywho, Joel is out of the shower, so I have to go. ttfn! (for mom: "Ta ta for now!")


Day 4: Squashed
Wednesday 18th, some time after 11

Today was a handful! We stared off the morning serving breakfast at a soup kitchen, we then prepared and served lunch, then it was back to the church for the Red Revolution (another name for the conference).

Funny thing: on the way back from the soup kitchen (we had walked because it was close), I almost got ran over! The group was lagging behind me, and I wanted some exercise so I went on ahead, I had a little green walking light, I even looked both ways, but out of nowhere here comes this white Chevy truck (was it Rhonda's sister?) peeling down the road and it nearly hit me. Thankfully I didn't die, but I will be more careful next time! I call it funny, I didn't think it was funny at the time, but one day I will!

Anywho, after the sermon this evening I was once again able to hang out with CJ! I found out why she was ashamed when I brought up "The West Wing" yesterday, because her name is Claudia Jean Craig, just like the woman on the show! They totally took her name!

But then she dropped another bombshell on me. Apparently she could tell I was into her, and she wanted me to know something going forward. She said that while she is here with a Baptist church, she is actually Mormon. Her mom made her come on the mission trip with a college group that she isn't a part of, they just brought her along.

So I am at a cross roads, I am struggling. I feel pretty adamant that the Mormons are wrong, but she is such an amazing person. I mean, is it wrong to date a Mormon? Do I try to persuade her from her ways? Then again, I am getting ahead of myself because she lives in New Mexico, but have I said that she is amazingly cute?

Oh well, I will sleep on it. Who knows, she may not like me. But I will tell you this: I am NOT going to get married in a Mormon temple!


Day 5: sleepy
Thursday, the 19th, 2009

Long day, very tired, built a wheelchair ramp and painted it gray (don't ask), ate lunch, more small groups and sermons. Talked to CJ about her religion, and she made some good points. Night.


Day 6: Mormons
Friday the 20th (one week after Friday the 13th!) just before noon

Well, I thought a lot about what CJ said as I tried to sleep last night. And I can't say that I am a Mormon yet, but I will say that she made some good points.

Just as we believe the Bible was breathed to life through men (a lot through Paul in the NT), the Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was led by God. God led him to the location of the tablets and God breathed meaning into Smith to make the right translation.

There is also historical proof that Jesus came to the Americas during that time period, there are paintings and sculptures. The Mormon faith is established through many elders and has been around for a long time, it has an established base of may believers, so it can't all be wrong, right?!?

So I am not going to be running off to get "Mormon Baptized" just yet, but it has my gears turning. I thought I had blocked out Orson Scott Card's attempt to indoctrinate me, but I guess I didn't.

Anywho, everyone is packing up, we are checking out of the hotel this afternoon and driving back through the night. We should be back in Denton by tomorrow morning, see you then!


EDIT: 5 PM: OK, I did it. I took the plunge... wow, what a pun. CJ talked me into it, and after lunch we snuck away from the group to a Mormon Temple and I was baptized. CJ and I have fallen madly in love with each other, so we are going to leave the rest of the group, drive to Las Vegas, and get married at a drive through Mormon Temple they have down there. Yup, I am eloping!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Actually, yes I am.

I have to say: this whole thing was a sham. If this were an MTV reality show, Ashton Kutcher would be here right now shouting "You just got PUNK'D!"

In fact, I won't have access to the internet while I am in Memphis, I am writing all of this before I leave and it will be posted on a schedule. I thought I would do something that I don't normally do and pull a prank, a nice big juicy prank. I can't wait to read the e-mails I got from Stephen re: dating a Mormon. =: >

So everything you have read about on this blog since Sunday you can forget. Tomorrow morning there will be a post that will point out how I came up with all of this, and it will give a few clues that you may have had that would let you see through my sham.


Day 7: Truth

(Note that the name of this post is "Truth", you can be assured that the previous posts were all a prank, but this post is all TRUE!)

Wow, that was fun. I started writing all of these posts just after midnight (IE: we are leaving in six hours, and I haven't packed, so I sit down and write all of this out!) and it is now just before two, so it took me about two hours to pull off this prank. I sincerely hope that no one was upset or offended at any point in this prank, it was designed to be harmless and fun, so if you were upset or offended, I am sorry. I also don't want to be offensive to the Mormon community. I think that Mormons are wrong, but I don't mean to be disrespectful to you.

Here is a journal that will tell you about how I came up with this prank, feel free to follow along with the original posts:

Day 0: The first paragraph here is entirely true. We were leaving in six hours, I hadn’t packed, and the “few things I have left to do” is to write these posts! The second paragraph is made up. I added the “PS” about good looking ladies to help throw some suspicion in there. I was worried that if I didn’t do anything like that, then the prank would be taken too seriously, but with a line like that some people would figure it out a little sooner, IE: that line was to make the prank more fun and less offensive... although I don’t know if it worked.

Day 1: I made up the story about going to the girl’s house to get her things. I picked the movies “Transformers” and “Dumbo” because last summer I did a job where I showed those two movies at a Home Owner’s Association event. “Cars” I threw in there because I thought it would be a movie a group of college kids would watch on a bus. The rest of the post was made up because I thought it was fun. (However, the part about the conference being made of high school and college groups from around America is true.)

Day 2: Gleaning sweet potatoes. That is actually something that we did last year in Washington DC, and as they say, all lies have a kernel of truth in them! So the story is actually personally correct, just the wrong year. The lunch story I stole from our Hawaii trip (Sara should remember it, it is from our canoe trip). The rest I made up.

Day 3: The cemetery bit is true. As I understand it, one thing we will do this week is clean up an overgrown cemetery. I got CJ’s name from the show The West Wing. CJ Craig was the White House Press Secretary, then she became the Chief of Staff. If you have ever seen The West Wing, this may have tipped you off (remember I just finished watching all 7 seasons?). I threw out the Elizabeth Smart story just to throw some detail in. In fact, I was personally in Utah when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, my dad and I were there on a job at the time, and I remember watching all of the news coverage.

Day 4: The “almost getting run over” story was a throwback to middle school when I went to Washington DC the first time. I had a reputation for not waiting for the whole group before I walked across the street, so there was this inside joke about me getting run over.

Day 5: The gray wheelchair ramp came from our days at UMARMY which was the mission trip we went to when we were kids. We built a lot of ramps, and we could only paint it white or gray, unless they supplied the paint.

Day 6: The fun day! The day I get to come clean! I don’t feel like doing research about Mormonism, so I am making this all up! The “historical proof” I made up. And I sure HOPE there isn’t a drive through Mormon Temple in Las Vegas!

Day 7: And here we are. I was able to pull off this prank due to the fact that you can future date posts in Blogger and they will post when you tell them to. Thanks Blogger!

Well I am off, it is now 2:20 AM, we are leaving in less than four hours and I STILL HAVEN't PACKED! Don't all great trips start this way?


That other site...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Sorry I haven't been posting as much, but I have been over at my other blog: AUMC AV Blog. As we make the move to the new church (about 10 days away now from our first Sunday service in there), I am posting more and more at the other blog. So check up with me there!


"You just got PUNK'D!"

Saturday, March 21, 2009
OK, so here's the deal. The night before I left for Memphis I had a great idea: "It would be fun to write up some blog posts before I leave about how the week gets progressively strange and set it up so that the posts get posted while I am gone... that would be fun!"

So I did just that. At midnight the night before we left (AKA: we were leaving in 6 hours) I sat down and wrote out 8 blog posts and post-dated them so that they would come out during the week. Truth is: I made up the post about me bringing my laptop to write the posts, it was all written before I left! The stories about us driving up, the gleaning of the potatoes, and cleaning out the cemetery were all made up.

But like the saying goes, even the biggest lies have a kernel of truth. The gleaning story is based on our trip last year to Washington DC in which I did glean sweet potatoes, and the cleaning of the cemetery we did do this week (I knew we were going to do it, so I wrote it into the post).

The backbone of the story, the part that was going to be most absurd, was how I was going to meet this girl named CJ (who turns out to be Mormon, which Mother somehow guessed) and fall madly in love with her. By the end (Friday) the story culminated in "CJ and I have fallen madly in love with each other, so we are going to leave the rest of the group, drive to Las Vegas, and get married at a drive through Mormon Temple they have down there. Yup, I am eloping!" At that point I came out and revealed that it was all a prank, and I explained how everything worked. I even had a separate post about how I came up with all of the wild stories.

So all of this was typed out and organized in about two hours the morning before we left. While on the trip the posts posted right on schedule, everything was working just as planned. But as the days went by, I kept worrying about the prank, I kept worrying that it was too much, that it was over the top. Then, Wednesday night we had a great worship session, and I kept worrying about the posts, and I thought: "If I can't get it out of my head, maybe this is a sign, a *nudge nudge* from the Holy Spirit saying that it needs to stop". So that night I went to the hotel lobby where there were some computers and I stopped the posts that were scheduled to come out. In fact, I stopped Wednesday night's post 10 minutes before it was scheduled to come out.

So I stopped the prank not because I thought that there was anything specifically wrong with it, I just felt like I should. It may just be one of those "I don't see how it subtracts glory from God, but it doesn't add glory to God, so is it worth it?"

I still have all of the text, and I will probably post it all soon, but I just wanted to let you know that that is the reason that I deleted the posts. It was all a sham, a prank, and I wanted to set the record straight.



I am home safe, I am off to nap, more news later.


Colossians 3:1-17

Saturday, March 14, 2009
Yes, this is only my second post in March... who knew I would go into a blog-writing slump? Or should I blame it on me being on Twitter now?

But I digress, on to the point of this post:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

~Colossians 3:1-17


How the church has failed America

Tuesday, March 03, 2009
(I am rather sleep deprived right now and my mind kinda hurts, so if I ramble, forgive me... but I think this post will be worth your time to read.)

Recently my struggles with lust have increased. I continually feel bombarded with temptations and attacks, and I can't always say I am successful in fending them off.

Because of this I have been struggling with a somewhat related religious paradox: How is it that I can be a Christian and still sin so much? I know that being a Christian doesn't mean I stop sinning; I understand that Christians sin. But how could it be that when I struggle with something and fail, over and over, how could God still forgive me? Am I a bad Christian if my temptations win over me?

Last night I was thinking about this, and I sat down to read my Bible (as I do every night). My Bible Book Marker (the obligatory ribbon attached to all Bibles) was on Romans 4 (where we were studying in Bible study), so I started reading that chapter. Here is what Paul says at the end of the chapter:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. ~Romans 4:18-25

Wow, that is a lot of deep theology. Let's break that down:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

Before this, Paul is talking about how Abraham was saved not because of his works or because of his circumcision, but because of his faith in God. God told him "Count the stars... that is how many children you will have." Abraham couldn't have a child with Sara, yet his faith did not fail. He "in hope believed and so became the father of many nations", IE: "Abraham had a faith in God so strong, and God delivered his promises."

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead.

This is the part that stirs me! Abraham's body was "as good as dead" (not meaning that he was feeble and frail at an old age, it means that he was too old to father a child). Just as Abraham's body was dead, so my body is dead in sin. I struggle with sin every day, every hour, every minute. And I don't mean that as a hyperbole, I regularly have temptations surround me every minute of the day. And because I sometimes fall to these temptations, my body is dead in sin. So, should I give up hope? Has all of my struggling been in vein? Abraham's body was dead, so let's see what he did:

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Abraham said "Here are the facts: a) God made a promise and b) God is powerful enough to fulfill his promise. So why should my faith waver?" It even says that his faith was strengthened because the older he got, the more power God would need to fulfill the promise.

Shouldn't I (we) have the same attitude? Yes, I am dead in sin, and just like the frog trying to get out of the well, for every two feet forward I move, I move back a foot... but that just shows how powerful God is! He has promised that he will forgive me for my actions. This doesn't mean I can go out and sin as much as I want, but as long as I am moving forward two steps, God has promised to forgive me the step I fall back.

In a completely related rant: Our churches have failed us.

I fully believe that the "American Church", IE: the institution that is the church as a whole, has failed young men in America. It has dropped the ball, it has fallen short, it has utterly failed us. Let me explain...

One of the most important things for a Christian to do is to have accountability. In our world of constant sin and temptations, it is extremely important for Christians to have an outside opinion on what they are doing, to steer them down the right path, to pray for them and to help them in times of need. Accountability partners don't have to be called "accountability partners", they just need to be a good friend to the person. And it doesn't have to be a person, it could be a small group, or a church that is always looking out for it's congregants.

But the accountability idea only works if the partner knows what is going on in your life. If your friend doesn't know you are struggling, how are they supposed to help?

And this is how the church has failed us: Churches have decided not to talk about issues such as masturbation, pornography, and lust. Simply by not talking about it, they have made masturbation and pornography taboo to talk about, even (especially) among Christians. It was hard for me to come out about my pornography addiction, and even harder to type the post about masturbation... BUT IT SHOULDN'T BE HARD! These are issues that should be talked about open and freely. Yes, the topic should be handled with care, but it shouldn't be something that you have to whisper in a dark room.

If Christians had an open attitude about masturbation and pornography, then they would share their struggles with their accountability partners (IE: friends, small groups, pastors...), and the partners would help as the person struggled. If, ten years ago, someone knew about my pornography addiction and they held me accountable, then I wouldn't have struggled with it for so long, I would have felt compelled to stop. And as I try to find answers to the masturbation question, the biggest struggle is the taboo barrier, IE: it is just hard to sit down with a pastor and ask them "So, what is your opinion on masturbation?" Another example: the other night at small group we broke up into guys and girls, and I asked the guys to be praying for me as I struggled with something, and even though I had talked openly about masturbation here on my blog, I couldn't bring myself to come out and say the issue I was struggling with. I resulted in sending them an e-mail later with a link to my blog.

If the church would speak out against sexual sin openly, then young men wouldn't be falling to this sin every day. Online pornography is the FASTEST growing addiction in America, and the church has done NOTHING about it! When will the church realize that they have failed every young man in America by ignoring the biggest sin in their lives? Sadly, not soon enough...