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Here it is if you want to buy it:

544 Elm Ave.

Doesn't it look lovely!

If you or anyone you know wants to buy a beautiful (and affordable) home in Old Southwest, click here for the listing.

This video clinched it for me, I want Mike Gravel to be my president.

10-solorio.jpgGretchen and I love summer reality TV. It’s cheesier and more bizarre than TV during the regular season, and it’s concentrated into just a few months. Our favorite summer show by far is So You Think You Can Dance. It’s pretty much American Idol with dancing instead of singing. For some reason this show really captures out hearts with it’s eager but overly dramatic contestants and comically enthusiastic judges. Last year we had a tough time deciding who to root for, but by the end I was giddy with anticipation when America was deciding which mormon teenager would receive the So You Think You Can Dance crown.

This season has been great so far, and picking our favorite to win no problem when we realized that Jesus was a contestant. I mean, I know he can dance. So if you’re as big a fan as we are, vote for Jesus!

Forewarning, this entry is very “mom” of me

I usually buy Pampers diapers at Kroger but last time I got them at Wal-Mart, and was amazed that they were $8.00 cheaper! I felt like the box should contain more than 104 diapers, but that’s what it said so I thought I must be mistaken. Well, yesterday I was at Kroger to buy diapers and realized they DO come in a box of 144 there! (And when they’re on sale, they are only $5.00 more than Wal-Mart.) Tricky Wal-Mart has a slightly smaller box so that you don’t realize it may be less expensive but has fewer diapers.

I noticed an article on wired news this morning about the increasing number of homeless people using the internet. The article was very interesting and it rang true with my own experience recently. It only takes one trip to a public library downtown to notice that there are indeed more and more homeless folks in the computer labs all the time. Being small minded and ignorant, I had assumed they were just playing solitaire, but it turns out that a lot of them are blogging. Evidently the increasing availability of internet access via public libraries and WiFi hotspots is resulting in a lot of homeless folks reaching out and finding a voice over the world wide web. Who would have thought?

One such blog is written by Kevin Barbieux, a man living in a shelter in Nashville. I took a minute to read a few of his posts today and he seems to have a very intelligent and well-rounded perspective on homelessness. I would highly recommend you check it out if you have the time.

Here is a snippet from one of his posts:

So, you ask yourself, “Self, what can I do? How can I help homeless people, even though I don’t have much?”

Well, there IS something you can do. There are many things that homeless people usually do without, which sometimes seem insignificant, that homeless would be very happy to receive.

This is a project you can do rather inexpensively – and you can make this a project to do with friends, or your Church group, and share the expense – and you can include people of all age groups.

Get some paper lunch bags and fill them with little goodies. This is just a list of things I can think of, that everyone on the streets would need and appreciate. You might have your own good ideas too. — “travel size” tooth paste and tooth brush and deodorant. A pair of new or clean socks (it’s hard to keep feet healthy on the street) nail clippers, a comb, a bar of soap, gloves when it’s cold out, a disposable razor, etc. Then add something special, like little Halloween size candies, a personal note that says “I care”. You could even decorate the bags with drawings of happy faces and hearts – yeah, even mean ol’ grumpy homeless guys like that kind of stuff – even if they don’t admit it.

Once you have your care packages together, take them to where homeless people hang out – wherever it’s safe for you too. If you aren’t a proper adult, bring along proper adult supervision. And personally hand out the packages. Just try to plan to have enough for each homeless person.

Now it does happen sometimes, when you do this, that a street person will then ask you for something you don’t have, or you are uncomfortable with giving. Just tell them that the packages are all you have right now, and that you’re sorry you can’t help more. Sometimes they will try to make you feel guilty so they can get more out of you. Be polite but firm. If you set, and hold to your limits, they will respect you for it. This is a great way of giving. I have received such packages myself – they’ve always been a blessing.

Someone showed me this interesting site today, It asks for your address, then shows you a map of your area with a little square representing each registered sex offender that lives in your area. Here’s what our map looks like (we are the tiny house in the middle):

Pretty interesting huh? The squares are color coded according to the nature of the crime. If you do the search yourself you can click on each square to see a photo and more information about that individual.

I’m a big fan of redemption and forgiveness, but I want my wife and our soon-to-be daughter to be aware of certain people in our neighborhood that might be particularly dangerous. We seem to have quite a few. Hopefully you wont have quite as many “friendly” neighbors living near you…

I had lunch with Keith Farmer, the director of Straight Street last week, and I must say that I was very impressed with what they’re doing. I’ve known Keith for five or six years but I haven’t been keeping up with him very well recently, so sitting down and hearing about all that God has been allowing them to do lately was very encouraging.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Straight Street is a ministry to at-risk youth in the Roanoke area. They define “at-risk youth” as a young person who is behaving in such a way that if a caring adult or peer does not step into their life with help, they stand a good chance of hurting themselves or others.

I think that might be a fair description of just about every teenager I’ve ever met, but Straight Street focuses directly on those kids with what might be perceived as the most needs. Teenagers who are being abused, who are struggling with drugs or alcohol, or who may have run away from home can find refuge at Straight Street. Keith has created a place that is accessible and non-threatening to kids who are in need.

He took me on a tour of the new facility they are building, and I can’t even express to you how great this place is going to be when they get it finished. They’ll have a huge living room area, a 50’s style diner, and enormous worship area with a really cool stage, a computer lab area (filtered and monitored), and even a shower and a place to crash for the teenager who isn’t safe at home.

All of that being said, I was most impressed by Keith himself. His attitude was a great encouragement to me. I’ve worked with people in the past who consider ministry to be a burden, people who talk about what other high paying jobs they could have had but instead lowered themselves to work with the poor and ignorant. Keith’s attitude was the opposite, and he talked about ministry as a privilege. He described the suffering teenagers he works with in a way that communicated respect for them despite their circumstances, and he seemed genuinely happy to be serving them.

If you have a minute, check out the Straight Street website, and if you are looking for a place to get involved with ministry in the Roanoke area I highly recommend giving Keith a call.

I wanted to make a quick note here and draw your attention to the resources section of this site. For the past few years I have been collecting electronic versions of Christian literature, most of which is public domain. I thought it might be useful to some folks if I put a little of it online, so I’ve been slowly sifting through files and uploading my favorite stuff.

Here’s a list of what’s available at the moment:

Bible Study Tools
– Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the whole Bible

Historical Church Documents
– Luther’s 95 Theses
– The Apostles Creed
– The Athanasian Creed
– The Augsburg Confession
– The Canons of Dordt
– The Canons of the Council of Orange
– The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon
– The Heidelberg Catechism
– The Nicene Creed
– The Westminster Confession of Faith

– Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards
– A Defense of Calvinism by Charles Spurgeon
– The Need of Decision for the Truth by Charles Spurgeon
– Earnestness: It’s Marring and Maintenance by Charles Spurgeon

Other Literature
– The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
– Morning and Evening: Daily Readings by Charles Spurgeon
– Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen

Feel free to read, download and distribute these as you desire. You can access it by clicking on “Resources” on the “Links” section on the right of your screen. Enjoy!

A couple weeks ago I went on a retreat with the leaders of Grace Church. Our group of 25 included Pastor Tim, the Elders, the Deacons, all the folks heading up various committees and ministry teams, and myself.

We got there and enjoyed a relaxed and delicious meal together, then gathered in a comfortable room with a fireplace. We sang some songs, then heard from our guest speaker, a Pastor Smith from a church in Charleston, West Virginia. For the next 24 hours Pastor Smith helped us to examine the idea of servant leadership. He taught about the type of leadership Christians are called to, and my mind was blown by what he said.

Particularly, that the church is not meant to be run like a company. Ministry is not business. A Pastor is not a CEO and Elders are not a board of trustees. A congregation is not a group of clients, and the gospel is not a product we are trying to sell. Ministry is service, ministers are servants. If a parallel had to be drawn between the church and a business the minister would be better compared with the custodian than the CEO. The purpose of the Christian minister is to serve people. It’s not to preach great sermons, but to preach great sermons to people so that they might learn. It’s not to grow the congregation and build a bigger church, it’s to serve people in such a way that their lives are improved, then to serve the friends and neighbors they bring along with them. People people people, all the time. Not the future of the church as an organization or the future of my position or the budget or whatever, but people. Human beings trump everything else, and thank God for that.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that my focus in ministry was refreshed. I am reminded of that moment right before Jesus had his final meal with his friends before he was killed. He took off his coat and got down on his knees and washed their feet. He did the job of a slave. The Lord of all creation humbled himself and became the servant of foolish men.

Like most humans, I’m selfish and I want to be in charge. I want people to respect me and think I’m the greatest. I want them to be scared of offending me and eager to do what I say. Please pray that God will make me more humble. Pray that I would exhibit deference rather than arrogance, and that I would serve rather than be served.

And if there is anyway I can pray for you, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

I’ve mentioned before that we have a men’s Bible study at my house on Tuesday nights. We are still going through the sermon on the mount, and last night we talked about the model prayer of Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13. Here is the text of that prayer in it’s entirety:

9. “Pray, then, in this way: `Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

10. `Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

11. `Give us this day our daily bread.

12. `And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13. `And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’

Interesting isn’t it? In the gospel of Luke we learn that Jesus gives this prayer in response to the disciples request, “Lord teach us to pray”. Imagine asking your pastor or an elder how to pray and hearing a response like this one. It’s six sentences, fifty-five words. You would be hard pressed to find a book about prayer thats only 55 pages long in the Christian bookstore today.

And yet this is the teaching of Christ on prayer. This is the way in which we should pray. Our Catholic brothers and sisters take this to mean that we should pray this prayer verbatim, repeating it often exactly as it is written here. On the other hand, many of our brethren in the modern evangelical church look down on any sort of written or memorized prayer at all, teaching that a pre-written prayer is not from the heart and therefore inferior to spontaneous prayer. So what did Christ mean? How should we “Pray, then, in this way”?

I recently heard a pastor explain this in a way that that I had never heard before. He compared this model prayer to the frame used by a sculptor. Evidently, when creating larger sculptures an artist might begin with a rough frame of wire and pipe. He then adds more and more clay to this frame as he creates his piece. Eventually the frame is obscured completely, seeing only the finished product one would not even realize it’s there. Yet all the beauty of that work of art had it’s foundation in that frame.

In the same way, the Lords model prayer might be a frame on which we can build our own prayers. It’s depth and simplicity are the crude pipe and wire that we apply ourselves to as we sculpt our prayers to God. In the end, one hearing the final outpouring of our hearts might not even realize that the foundation is those six sentences uttered by Christ.

I’ll post more about this idea as we study it together, so check back if you are interested. And feel free to post your comments here.

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  • Acts 2:36
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