stories, lessons, and a lot of nonsense

Archive for August, 2008

one more thing


I’ve got rap in my blood. Here I am with my brother Dan. I think we were 5 and 6, posing like Run DMC for our brother Steve. Dan clearly had a better understanding of how to do this. Still, even from a young age, I took rap seriously. Don’t tell Mom.

Bum Rap Part 1


I wish I could find some good footage of a bum rapping. Unfortunately, the only video I came across was of a drunk dude dropping f-bombs like a Lions receiver dropping passes. So you’ll have to just enjoy this nice picture of the coolest bum I’ve ever seen. I’d probably give him a few bucks. But alas, I did not start this blog to talk about panhandling bums and their mad rapping skills. This blog inspired me to talk about a group of people that gets a bum rap: Christian musicians.

I love Perry Noble. He’s one of the best preachers I’ve ever heard. But I have to take umbrage with a statement he made in a recent message: “If a Christian can only listen to Christian music, I wouldn’t listen to music because most of it is bad.” And he’s not alone. There are a number of pastors that hold this position, but since they’re on staff with me, I’m not going to throw them out there. Perry’s a big enough guy to not get upset that I disagree with him, especially since he’ll never know…

I guess I understand where this position comes from. If I was a teenager when he was, I’d probably feel the same way. At one point, DC Talk was the biggest name in Christian rap. Seriously? Give me Run DMC, Sir Mixalot, and even MC Hammer. Christian rap was certainly a joke back then, but no one’s laughing anymore…no one that knows what they’re talking about, anyway.

I’ll never forget a ride home from work in 1999. I was working at Meijer (that lasted for a whole month), and my brother Dan picked me up. A song came on the radio called, “I AM,” by the Cross Movement, off their House of Representatives CD. This song rocked my world. It’s the first song I learned by them, and it wasn’t uncommon for my brother and I to butcher it, in classic white guy style, on the way here and there. I immediately bought this CD. Growing up in Detroit, or rather having a big brother who grew up in Detroit, really turned me onto rap. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything good for me to listen to, until now.

The Cross Movement seemed to be all alone in the Christian rap field. There were other groups out there, but CM was a group of men among boys. I only had them to cling to, and I anxiously awaited every new CD (which I happen to have if you would like to hear what I’m talking about). It was cool, but it was also sad. Why couldn’t anyone else put together beats, rhymes, and solid theology like these guys? I learned more theology from CM than I did at Bible school, and I didn’t mind sharing that with my profs along the way. They minded, though.

Imagine my excitement when Cross Movement Records started, and they recruited their first solo artist from outside the fold: Da’ Truth. Holy cats! Unbelievable stuff. I can listen to his first CD for hours. They were on the verge of starting something huge: a record label with, in my opinion (which I highly value, and you should, too), the best collection of Christian rap artists. I had CDs that I could recommend. Sure, my friends were skeptical, but when they borrowed a CD, they heard what I was talking about. I’ve never lent out a CMR CD to someone that didn’t go out and buy at least one for themself, and that includes unsaved people. From teenagers to adults, blacks and whites, saved and unsaved…everybody who appreciates quality rap loves CMR.

Here’s a list of their artists. Click the link and go check them out. If you like rap, you won’t be sorry.

  • The Cross Movement (the Ambassador, the Phanatik, the Tonic, T.R.U.-L.I.F.E…all of which have their own incredible solo works, but I’m still waiting for the Tonic release)
  • Da Truth
  • Flame
  • Lecrae
  • Everyday Process
  • R Swift
  • MOD

There’s more on the site, but they’re not all rap. There’s rap/funk, r&b, and rap. Those are just the guys whose stuff I own and can vouch for. Oh, and I’ve seen them all in concert, too. Sure, I felt a little out of place, but it was worth it. It was a great show. One more thing, you should notice that I didn’t talk about any other Christian rappers, and that’s cause there’s no one out there in mainstream Christian rap that compares with these guys.

I’ll talk about Christian rock when I get back from Jacksonville. In the words of Kip Dynamite…peace out!

pursuing irrelevance


Josh Polderman is a great friend to me. In fact, he’s my nominal best friend. He gave me a great gift when he introduced me to my wife. They worked at Arby’s together, by the way. I think everyone should have a fast food job at some point in life. So what did Josh do? Essentially, he made himself irrelevant…or at least he made it possible for himself to be irrelevant. He replaced himself by introducing me to my new best friend. So now Sarah is truly my best friend in the world, but Josh still gets to be called best friend…and I call Sarah a variety of other names, like wife, honey, sweetie, buttface, etc. I can’t tell you what she calls me. This is a Christian blog.

A great leader will also make himselph irrelevant. He will identify another leader that he can bring by his side and train. This person may even be a better leader than him. It takes a lot of courage to do that. After all, if the person you mentor/train turns out to be better than you, he very well could take your job. The question you’d have to ask yourselph before making the decision to do this is this: am I more important than the company I work for? If the answer is yes, you should probably quit and find something else. The answer is easy for me: ABSOLUTELY NOT! Of course, I work for the church, whose goal is to reach people for Christ, so it should be a no brainer. Too bad there are a lot of people who do have brains that still can’t figure this out.

I’ll put this out there: I hope I can make myselph irrelevant within one year. That’s my goal. That doesn’t mean I want to be fired, cause I seriously love my job. Seriously. I’m being serious. It doesn’t happen often, so take note. I just want to train someone else to do what I do. That would come in handy if I die, or if God moves me somewhere else, or if God directs me to another position in the church, or if I get fired. Then again, if I get fired, maybe the person that has been trained by me may not be the best choice for a replacement.

sending you on a Wild Goose Chase


I do not like to read. I don’t particularly like geese, especially after attending a college whose grounds were covered in goose poop. I also do not like being chased. If I am being chased, I must be running, and if I am running, I am no doubt unhappy. Running is for chumps…said the little out of shape man. What am I getting at? I’m getting at the fact that I might be the least likely person to do a book review on a book called Wild Goose Chase, by Mark Batterson. Lucky for me, it had nothing to do with geese or being chased. It was about following the Holy Spirit. I like Him.

This book addresses something that we all struggle with: following God’s will in our lives…no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There are a number of things that keep us from following the Holy Spirit’s leading. I could list six hindrances right off the top of my head, but that’d be cheating. You’ll have to BUY THIS BOOK and find out for yourselph. Mark refers to these hindrances as cages, and he provides wisdom on getting out of such cages.

This is definitely one of the most liberating books I’ve ever read. It can’t quite match up with the Bible, but it is definitely a good supplement. Wild Goose Chase gives you advice for coming out of chains you have put on after getting saved. We have set up so many boundaries for our own lives and have asked God to work within these boundaries. I know I have. There is a quote from the first chapter that I highlighted, wrote down, and kept going back to: “Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us.” Mark appeals to your logic, intellect, and the Holy Spirit within you to cut it out. The Holy Spirit will be okay without our advice. Wouldn’t you agree?

I don’t know the last time I picked up a book that I wanted to read. Usually it’s assigned reading from school, bosses, and accountability partners. Finally I found a book that I wanted to read, enjoyed reading, and recommend you read. You should read Mark Batterson’s blog, too, by the way. Below is the official summary and author bio. Hey, if you read it here, it’s like saving an entire page of reading later, since it’s exactly what’s on the back cover of the book.

Summary:

Most of us have no idea where we’re going most of the time. Perfect.

“Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something….

Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.” –from the introduction.

Author Bio:

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger (www.markbatterson.com). He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

some things never change


Did you know that not ALL change is good? It’s good to change your approach, change your style, change your hair…it’s especially good to change your underwear. Seriously it is. If you haven’t done that yet this morning, please stop reading my blog and go do that. I don’t want to get between you and good hygiene.

Okay, back to not all change being good. There have been a few constants in my life that have never changed, never will change, and I wouldn’t want them to. I’ll tell you all of them, but I’ll only elaborate on one, cause it’s a special day. The first thing that has never changed is God’s love for me. If His love for me was based on my obedience and faithfulness to Him, I’d be in big trouble. So it’s good that that doesn’t change. The second thing is how good my family is to me. They’ve always been there for me, and they always will be. If there’s a fight, they’ve got my back, and now that my nephew has his black belt, my back is feeling quite safe.

The third thing that has never changed, and the topic of today’s show (brought to you by the letter 4) is the greatness of my wife, Sarah. Greatness? Yes, greatness. What’s so great about her anyway? I’d be glad to fill you in, although if you know her, I don’t even have to tell you. But here’s a gratuitous list, just because I want to…

  • She’s beautiful
  • She loves me, in spite of me (that takes a lot of love sometimes)
  • She’s Korean. I know, you thought she was part Chinese, part Japanese, part Laotian, part Thai, part Vietnamese, etc. Nope, she is, in fact, Korean.
  • She’s passionate about serving God, and she’s never held me back from serving
  • Did I mention how pretty she is?
  • She sings like a bird…not a vulture, by the way
  • She’s hilarious
  • She’s entirely faithful to me
  • She’s a big sports fan, which only matters cause she likes Michigan, the Red Wings, the Pistons, and even the Lions
  • AND…she likes me a lot more than she likes you. I just love that

I may have fooled her when I was dating her. I pretended to be grown up, mature, and sensitive. Ha! She hasn’t changed, though. She’s still just as sweet as the day I met her, and of course, she’s every bit as gorgeous. Maybe more. Would that be considered a change? I’ll let it slide.

So you can imagine how happy I am to have been married to her for 7 years today. It’s been the best time of my life. No matter how bad some things get, at the end of the day, I’ve still got Sarah, and that’s more than enough for me.

Happy Anniversary, Sarah! I love you.

would you like fries with that?


Would you? The question is a classic upsale at many fast food restaurants, based on the theory that EVERYONE likes fries. I happen to love fries, but my dad actually doesn’t. I don’t see him ever saying yes to this question. But the approach with every customer must be the same. Either they offer you fries, a combo meal, some limited time offer, or a dessert. Whatever the focus is, everyone’s getting offered that ONE thing. I think it’s a rather dubious sales technique. Just shoot a buckshot…you’re bound to hit something. Of course, fast food is fast food, and if they took the time to really get to know the needs and wants of each customer, it wouldn’t be very fast.

More food thoughts: I went to Little Caesar’s after grocery shopping tonight. We do this commonly, because we don’t want to come home and wait until we’ve put the groceries away and cooked dinner to eat. Now, I am a little different when it comes to pizza (and many other things): I like those bubbles that randomly pop up on pizzas. So when I saw a pizza being pulled out with bubbles all over it, I got a little excited. The girl helping me told the other girl to throw it away, cause no one would want a pizza that way. I asked if I could trade pizzas, because I like pizza bubbles. I was told no, because she would have to throw it away. I asked again, explaining that I REALLY liked the way that pizza looked. “Sorry, she had to throw it away.” What? I just asked to PAY for a pizza, but I was told I could NOT have what I wanted, basically because no one else would have wanted that pizza. So in the end, throwing away the product was better than selling it to someone that would have enjoyed it.

I’m sure there is a spiritual application here. Maybe something that applies to the church. It’s right there, on the tip of my tongue…but it doesn’t taste quite as good as that pizza with bubbles would have. Anyone got a good application here? I have thoughts, but I can’t put words to them yet. I’m WAY too annoyed.

vernacular

Regional vernacular usually leads to arguments over who is right. Is it pop or is it soda? It’s pop. Thanks for asking. Sometimes we agree on a word, but the way we pronounce it becomes the argument. Peh-con or Pee-can? Who cares? You say tomato, I say ketchup. It shouldn’t cause a big stir…but sometimes it can.

Cornhole…think about that for a second…let it sink in. What does that mean? If you’re not from Ohio, you didn’t think of the party game that has captivated central Ohio. Be honest with yourselph. That’s not what you thought. Sinner. I was in a meeting for Manfest 08, and my new coworkers kept talking about cornhole having to be part of the festivities. After hearing it a few times and giggling to myselph, I finally asked what it meant. I had to admit that that was NOT what that term meant where I was from.

I will remember that for a long time. In fact, I will probably think of that every time corn hole is brought up or played in front of me. Funny as it was to me, nothing can compare with this vernacularly charged situation. Make sure you click on the link and watch the video. It’s well worth your time.

home slice


Home is the best place to be, wherever home may be. I have not lived at home for just over four years now. I hail from the great Grand Rapids, MI. That is home. That is where my parents live. My parents still live in the house I grew up in. Over the past four years, I have longed to move back. I wanted to live in my hometown, work at my home church, and hang with my home E’s.

Life was hard for us in Jacksonville. It was never a place that I considered homey. One thing that was seriously missing for me in Jacksonville was the sense of belonging to a big family. Our church was splintered into different groups. I was a part of the youth group family. The teens were my kids, the leaders were my siblings, and my wife was, well, my wife, but we really didn’t belong to a big, happy church family like I longed for. I must add in that we were quite the multiracial family. I had a black brother, a Cuban brother, two white sisters, and a Malaysian wife…or was that Japanese? I’ll have to check the wedding video again. Anyway, the splintered existence I lived in left me longing to go back home, desiring to work at my home church where I felt I belonged. I was never content.

Fast forward to June 1, 2008. I moved home. I know I didn’t move back to GR. Maybe I never will. But when I pulled up in the moving truck with Sarah, three cats, and a dog, my family was waiting for me. Sadly, they weren’t Selphs or Jolings or VanSolkemas or Volz…but they were certainly the next best thing: New Hopers. New Hope is a church family. We really are just like a family. Some of us are crazy, we all have our problems, and we’re going in a million different directions…but we care about each other. The environment that has been established here is one of love and acceptance (and let’s not forget change). I have never seen Sarah so happy to be at church, and I’m sure it’s because of the warmness she feels here.

So Loudonville is my home for now, and I pray that it is for a long time. I’m close enough to go back to my hometown and see my awesome family several times a year…but in the meantime, I guess I’ll just hang with my new family, even if they are a bunch of crazy buckeyes. Word to my Loudon-villains.

semper paratus

Happy Coast Guard Day to you. Today, August 4, is the birthday of the United States Coast Guard, founded in 1790. Happy Birthday, Coast Guard!

I’m a big supporter of the Coast Guard, namely because my brother, Steve, has faithfully served our country as a Coastie for several years now. Recently, he made the rank of Chief Petty Officer of the United States Coast Guard. I’m very proud of him. So I couldn’t think of a better way to honor Coast Guard day than to post the video of his promotion, with pictures of where he has served over the years at the end.

Semper Paratus is the motto of the United States Coast Guard, meaning “Always ready.” They are always ready to act, to serve, and to protect the United States. Wouldn’t that be a great motto for the church! Are you always ready? Are you ready to move, to act, to serve, to stand up, to give an answer about what you believe in? Are you ready to do WHATEVER it is God calls you to do? I hope I am.

By the way, you should also check out another post I did about this weekend at church HERE and a video I made HERE.

camp


I was put on the spot on Sunday night and asked what camp meant to me. I gave the traditional answer (and I really believe it….really): changed lives. Then I gave the real answer – the answer that makes me smile: making your own fun by providing your own activities. No, they weren’t pranks, they were sanctioned activities. Sure, the camp never approved them, but we did, and a cabin full of adolescents couldn’t be wrong. I’m not sure my audience agreed with me, since that consisted of a camp director, his right hand man, and my boss. Incidentally, none of them agreed with the magnificent shirt I wore today, either. I guess we can’t see eye-to-eye.

Kids from our church are wrapping up a week of camp today, and I see that not much has changed. Girls are still cleaner than boys. Camp food can be great or scary, depending on the day. AND, Kids still love having fun at someone else’s expense. At least this camp provided a fun loving way for them to do this. Here I was trying to enjoy my lunch, and a chorus of, “Sing us a song, Pastor Jeff, sing us a song…” broke out. Shoot. If I didn’t sing, I would have had a pitcher of water dumped on my head. So, I sang the shortest song I could think of, and I was booed and called a cheater. If I had picked a longer song, I may have been booed and had water thrown on me for offending their ears. Yes, I’m that bad.

It seems like our kids had a great time. Half of them are ready to come home, and half of them want to stay another week. The only thing that concerns me is the new sisterhood in Xtreme Kidz, which was developed amongst the boys. They all chose girl names to go by, call themselves the sisterhoood, and watch each other’s backs at all times. Even Chazzdaddy’s boy has a girl’s name now: Christina. What is this world coming to? At least they were still wearing boys clothes the last time I checked.

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