Friday, May 30, 2008

Free Book: My Friend, My Hero, My Dad

The Blazing Center » Blog Archive » Free Book: My Friend, My Hero, My Dad

My friend, Stephen Altrogge, is offering a free download of his new book about my other friend, Mark Altrogge. Mark is Stephen's dad.

I have already read the preface and first chapter and am loving it.

Follow the links and you can download the pdf.

Who are these Altrogge's? Just a couple of the best songwriters you will stumble upon. Not to mention a few other things...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Toilet trouble for space station

BBC NEWS | Americas | Toilet trouble for space station:

"International Space Station astronauts are eagerly awaiting the arrival of shuttle Discovery - it is bringing a new pump to mend their broken toilet." (emphasis mine)

"'Clearly, having a working toilet is a priority for us,' shuttle payload manager Scott Higginbotham said."

"The space station's solid waste unit is said to be functioning well."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Must Watch Dever

Ed Stetzer (who needs to stop tapping the table) conducts a great interview with Mark Dever. It is great because of the clarity Mark brings to many issues, but primarily the whole "redeem the culture" notion.

The interview proceeds in two parts.

HT: Thabiti

The Elisha Foundation Retreat 2008 (6)

One of the remarkable aspects of a retreat like TEF is how quickly you can delve into some of the greatest heart issues faced by a family. Both years I have had the privilege to attend and speak at the retreat I witnessed this firsthand. Disability by its very nature is something that occupies so much time in the thinking of the family, yet it tends to be the one thing no one wants to talk about. Consider that scenario for a moment.
I mean, folks may want to get medical updates on your child or the like, but very few ever ask the most burning questions of the soul. “What are your thoughts of God concerning this development in your life? “How is your child’s disability affecting your marriage?” “In what ways are your other kids being impacted by this?” “Do you feel worn out, defeated, lost, directionless, over-burdened?”
I suppose we don’t like to ask these questions of anyone for the same reason we avoid evangelizing – we are fearful of the answers and even more afraid of what we will say next. But, like evangelism, once you finally open your mouth and ask, I think you will find folks very willing to talk. There will be exceptions, but on the whole these are the very subjects that families want to think through.
The TEF retreats are a little like TAG on steroids. TAG’s are our acronym for Truth Application Groups that we run out of Grace Fellowship Church. The idea is to knead the Truth of Scripture into the warp and woof of life by cross-centered examination and accountability. What I envision as my primary role at TEF is to bring this dynamic to families in the retreat’s condensed time period. The only difference from our TAG’s is that this group comprises both Christian and non-believer.
Brad getting ready to lead some "camp songs" at the indoor campfire.

How thankful I am to have been preaching that great evangelistic gospel according to John! Having been immersed in Jesus’ evangelism and evangelistic method for the last months has affirmed to me like never before the call to speak winsomely, yet almost crushingly plain the call to repentance and faith. What these families need more than pity, money, help or even expense-paid retreats – is Jesus. To have six opportunities to present that idea was a gift. To have a song leader like Brad to “improve” the preaching with cross-centered hymns and songs afterwards was an added bonus!
Pray that the Word that went forth in preaching, singing and service will bring forth conversion and life.

Gathering for a main session.

One of the most touching moments in the whole weekend happened when nobody was looking, except me. One mom had a child at the retreat that is profoundly disabled. It is a global affliction that leaves that toddler almost entirely unresponsive. While everyone else was having a blast with Brad singing campfire songs in the conference centre (it was raining) I caught a glimpse of this mom making Eskimo kisses with her child over in the corner. And that unresponsive little face… lit up. And for a moment those eyes danced and there was a beautiful, relational connection between them. I wanted it to last for a long time for them. For that moment probably comes along once for every seven hospital stays, gastro-intestinal complications and “appointments.” But it came, and it was beautiful and it was a gift. For, even if that moment never repeated itself, that little one still bears the image of God and is being loved by a family. Praise the Lord.

My friend, Eli... of The ELIsha Foundation!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Skydiver plans to fall from space into Saskatchewan

Skydiver plans to fall from space into Canadian prairies...:

64-year-old Michel Fournier plans to exit his air balloon at a world-record altitude of 130,000 feet -- and jump.


UPDATE 5/27: So much for THAT! Video link here.

French adventurer Michel Fournier's quest to set a world skydiving record may have come to an end after his $200,000 helium balloon escaped and floated into space without him attached on Tuesday.

HOW MANY TIMES have I told you kids to tie the balloon string in a knot around your finger!!!!

The Elisha Foundation Retreat 2008 (5)

I have had this insatiable urge to write a long post about my days here so far at the retreat. What holds me back is a desire to respect these families and not make their lives the subject of my own lame observations.
So, as much as I would love to tell you all about each family and the needs they struggle with day by day, I feel compelled to speak in generalities only.

The preaching
It is something to stand before folks with terminally ill or relentlessly disabled children and open up the Word to them. I suppose it is not much different than what I do week by week, other than the fact that the presenting needs are so concentrated. Many of the questions these folks face are identical to questions we have faced over the years, and those questions float dangerously close to the edge of questioning, as opposed to inquiry. Still, I believe the Bible is the only thing that makes sense out of those questions, even directing us to ask the right questions! So, it is a humbling, yet joyful exercise to think theologically about life in this way.
My teaching has all been from John’s gospel. We began with the prologue, that establishes Jesus is the most important Person in the world. We moved on to Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 – you need God to work on you to make you believe. Then we saw how Jesus is breaks down barriers to call folks to Himself in John 4. This morning we considered his healing of a paralyzed man from John 5, and how Jesus called this man to believe on Him, but though he could now walk, the man had a paralyzed faith. Tonight we looked at John 6 in order to see the abundance of Jesus’ provision. Then we will end tomorrow morning with a look at what distinguishes true from false belief.
My underlying thought in this has been that what these parents need more than health or money or a good marriage or a new I.E.P. or more retreats is Jesus. That can be hard to see when your child has needs that mean she will never talk or follow you with her eyes or toilet himself or live past 15 years old or understand more than a 3 year old.
We tend to think that our children’s issues are greater than our own soul – but it is yet another deceitful trick of our enemy. The fact is, the best think any parent can do for their disabled child is to turn to Christ, then point that child to Christ. It is an action with eternal consequence.

The Worship
Brad Hilton is here again this year leading our singing and corporate prayer. I love Brad. He is one of those guys that fights hard to remain genuine. Authenticity can be a very difficult thing to maintain when you are standing in front of people – especially when those people have big needs. You are tempted to minimize their needs or ignore them out of fear, and Brad won’t do that. He keeps pressing us to consider what we sing about and to use our words as a launching pad to Christ.
Brad is also gentle. He brings a basket of instruments for the kids to play while we sing and helps them to share and play well. If it were me at the mic, I think the whole experience would be much less pleasant! Brad is the right mix of pleasant and direct and he is a gift to these retreats.

The Families
It is interesting to watch friendships develop. We saw the same thing last year as families look at one another and realize they have much in common. It takes the first 24 hours or so to get over the hump, but it was great to watch parents yapping it up around the pond this afternoon.

The Dinner
Last night was the candlelight dinner for parents only. Justin asked if I would be the waiter for the night and I gladly accepted. It was great fun to serve these folks and to get to know the kitchen staff of the ranch. Chef Stephen makes a mean prime rib and salmon, at least it looked great – I had already eaten hamburgers with the kids and other volunteers!

The Volunteers
Over 25 of them come this weekend to serve. It is a labourious time. Besides attending to the kids all day, the volunteers stay up late every night to de-brief with Justin and to figure out ways to make the next day better. They are an eclectic group from surrounding churches and far away states. Justin’s mom organizes, teaches and runs the program for the kids that goes on while I am preaching. Everyone comes to work hard and they do… they are the backbone of the retreat.

I think I will have more to write in the future, but so many of you are praying for this weekend I wanted to give you something to fuel your prayers. And here it is already after midnight on the east coast! I will close off here for that reason. Thank you for praying – please don’t stop.