P365 – Day 110 (The Play is On)

I am finally getting around to posting the blog about the kids’ play, How the West Was Dun from last week.

It’s Friday and time for the big play, time for the kids to ‘break a leg’ and show us all their stuff. The children stayed at the church all afternoon and into the evening, getting ready for the play. Bless the drama teacher!!! She works so hard and is always cheerful and encouraging.


Band of Outlaws

The play was wonderful! It was funny and silly and full of intrigue and romance and bad guys! As Rachel commented on yesterday’s blog, the drama class was shorter this year (by 20 minutes each week and a month in total duration) so the kids had much less time to practice. There were several painful moments on the stage when the actor didn’t remember their lines. Yikes! Not good. Unfortunately the drama teacher was in the back working the lights and there wasn’t anyone in the wings to help prompt the kids.

Ah, the show must go on, nonetheless.

Joshua played the banker and all around ruthless bad guy. He did a great job with all of his lines and could have used a microphone (although he, of all the actors, really knows how to project his voice). Joshua, as Rich Coldheart, longed to marry the widow’s daughter, not for love, but for her money. He had an evil scheme in which he would get the widow’s land and possibly the beautiful daughter as well. Wicked!


Joshua and Polly Wanda Cracker

Rachel was one of the group of ‘bad guys.’ She played the Schizeophrenic Kid and switched back and forth between a bad and good character/criminal, depending on what hat she was wearing (black or white). She had a great deal of lines and delivered them perfectly. It was hysterical watching her change from well-spoken, polite gunswoman to nasty, rough scoundrel.

rachel's group

Rachel is on the far right. What a crew!

Daniel starred as the Lone Stranger. Much of the play was a take off on stereotypes and typical Western fare. Daniel had some very funny lines (and wore two layers of black masks which provided some fun physical humor). He wasn’t on the stage nearly enough! The drama class provided a wonderful opportunity for Daniel to try his hand at acting. It encouraged him in his reading and public speaking as well as taught him something of the work involved in the world of theater.


“Sorry, my friend, but his name was Toronto (my ex-faithful companion). I finally understood what he was saying. I thought he was saying Kemosabe, but it turned out he was calling me ‘Unclean and Snobby.’ I had to fire him.”

What a fun, fun evening! I took as many pictures as I could. We are sincerely hoping one of the other parents got the play on video so we can see it again.


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Prayer Conference

In January, Kathy and I were invited to attend the Great Commission Conference at Jefferson Baptist Church in Oregon, with about 25 other folks from our church. It was a two-day seminar, starting noon-ish on Monday and ending about the same time on Wednesday. We stayed overnight at a local hotel, and attended all the sessions, including the evening mealtimes hosted by some of the members of the Jefferson church.

I must admit, I had second (and third and fourth) thoughts about going to the seminar, which I had heard advertised as ‘the Prayer Conference’ … I’ve never been much of a prayer warrior, and I was afraid I would spend the whole time feeling beat-up and inadequate. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I thought several times of canceling, but my parents had already agreed to watch the kids, so we didn’t really have a good excuse not to go.

(Then a wicked scheme crossed my mind: I could still let my parents watch the children, but Kathy and I could secretly stay home! “What are the odds,” I mused, “that my folks will talk to our pastor, who, after the conference, will conveniently be away on sabbatical for three months? Perhaps I could avoid direct questions about the conference or wave my hands and speak generally about prayer, from my vast personal store of knowledge?” It was really that last consideration that brought my whole web of deceit crashing down — frankly, I didn’t know enough about prayer to talk convincingly about it for very long. I could just imagine my Mom, fixing me with a steely gaze, asking, “So, what did you actually learn at this seminar?”)

kids waiting
I’m not sure you could get anything past these kids, either.

So we squared our shoulders and drove down to Oregon that wintry Monday morning. Almost the first thing that the speaker addressed was the value of ‘volume prayer’ as opposed to ‘token prayer’. Pastor Duke argued that the main missing element in most people’s prayer life is volume … most people don’t know how much they pray and (as a result) they don’t pray very much. He mentioned how many times we are asked to pray in the New Testament, and suggested that we ought to be frequently ‘struggling’ or ‘persevering’ in prayer:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — I Thessalonians 5:16-18

I found the idea that ‘volume matters’ with prayer vaguely distasteful. I’m reminded of what Jesus said about the prayers of those who wanted to be heard on the street corners and the prayers of those who ‘babble meaninglessly’, and I am skeptical that ‘more is better’. It seems insulting to God, that He would be impressed, duped or fooled by quantity where there is minimal quality (or at least no guarantee of any particular quality).

But then I think about the other things Jesus said about secrecy in prayer and about the woman who persevered with the unjust judge, and I’m not so sure. How can you read “Pray continually” or “Pray without ceasing” and not come to a conclusion that somehow quantity matters? Maybe my hostility to the idea stems from my long-term practice of extremely low-volume prayer.

tim's shopping
Even at prayer conferences, you need to slip out for a diet Coke run. Sadly (for Kathy), there wasn’t a Starbucks anywhere around.

One thing that people often say, according to Pastor Duke, is that “it is not the length of time that I pray that matters, but rather the sincerity of the heart.” He chuckled rather cynically over that quote, which was a bad sign of what was coming. But then he gave a very helpful analogy, which really connected with me.

“Prayer is not a matter of a simple yes or no answer,” he claims. “People think that prayer is like sitting down for dinner, and asking God to pass the potatoes. He will either pass them or he won’t — that’s a common misconception about prayer. Instead, imagine a teeter-totter or a see-saw with one of your largest congregants sitting on one end.”

Duke pointed to one of his assistant pastors, amidst general laughter.

“Like Jim, here. Now, suppose there was a large cardboard box strapped to the other end of the see-saw. Prayer is like picking up a rock and putting it in the cardboard box. At first, Jim won’t budge. But if enough of you picked up rocks and put them in the cardboard box, eventually someone would put a rock in the box and Jim would rise off the ground.”

It was helpful for me to reflect on that analogy, especially as I considered that the last rock that was placed in the box was not necessarily the biggest rock, but rather it was the combination of all the rocks that lofted Jim into the air.

see saw

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. – Colossians 4:12

Duke suggested that some prayers are fairly easily granted, but that others are more difficult and involve a struggle in the spiritual realm. He reminded us of the passage in Daniel 10, when Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks about a prophetic vision he had received:

Then he [Gabriel] continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

Apparently Duke has had many people argue with him that volume of prayer doesn’t matter. He challenged us, “Is 60 seconds of prayer a day enough?” He seemed to assume that the answer would be “No” (and, in fact, most of the pastors and leaders in the auditorium were shaking their heads). He concluded that people do, in fact, agree that the length of time in prayer matters, but that they merely disagree about how much time is needed.

A formula (used by the JBC church as a motto) repeated throughout the conference is this:

No prayer, no blessing
Little prayer, little blessing
Much prayer, much blessing

My prior experience doesn’t bear this out. I am a thoroughly blessed person, and (before the conference) I prayed (on average) less than 5 minutes a day. Some days I prayed less than 60 seconds, but on Wednesdays and Sundays I tended to pray more. I’m not sure I really buy into the idea that God only blesses in accordance with our volume of prayer. Of course, maybe I am only blessed a little, but I lack the insight to see how much more blessing is available.

Duke unabashedly admits, “I’m greedy. I pray because I want lots of blessing. I want my marriage, my work, my kids to be blessed. I even want my dog to be blessed. I just plain want more blessing.”

pastor Duke
Pastor Dee Duke, Jefferson Baptist Church, Oregon.

Pastor Duke claims that he prays three hours each day, and prays for nearly everyone he comes in contact with … the scale of the operation boggles my mind, a little. Am I greedy enough to pray like that?

When we think about blessings, we generally think in terms of our specific needs (and wants) as expressed in our prayers, being answered. I ask God for a better car, He answers, voila, I am blessed. But Duke spoke as though getting specific answers to our prayers were only scratching the surface of prayer. He mentioned several other types of blessings:

  • Prayer brings unity
  • I must admit, as a teacher and a wanna-be prophet, I don’t value unity much. I am more concerned with doctrinal purity than unity, any day of the week. While I acknowledge scriptural calls to preserve unity in the church, I tend to be more passionate about doctrinal purity and I see the call for unity as being often abused by those who seek to water down the scriptures.

  • Prayer brings love
  • There is no question that this is a need in my life. I love very anemically, especially in the church, community and world. I think that this principle is very evident – the more I have prayed about someone or something, the more I have been given a tender heart toward the people involved.

  • Prayer brings a deeper knowledge of God
  • I pride myself on knowing God’s word, but do I know His heart? One of the things I have long understood about prayer is that it is very helpful in aligning my heart with God’s … the more I pray, the more I am sensitive to God’s will, which changes the way that I pray and the things I pray for.

  • Prayer brings a willingness to serve
  • I am not too geeked about this one. Many times I feel overwhelmed in the service that I am already committed to … I’m not sure I really want to be more willing to serve. :)

Hmmm. I see an interesting trend developing. Among the blessings mentioned, the ones that are personal to me, that involve my health, my marriage, my peace, my family, my job, my prosperity – those are the blessings that I value and am willing to ‘pay’ for, even to the extent of praying (if necessary). But the blessings that impact God’s kingdom – improving my pastor’s preaching, caring for the needs of others outside my immediate circle, saving the souls of the lost, advancing the ministry of the church – these things don’t seem to matter to me enough to pray about. I can’t help thinking that this is a reflection of my spiritual immaturity – that I care little about the things of God because I love God in a rather shallow and superficial way.

Do I want to accomplish anything of spiritual value in my life? Am I content to join the masses of time-serving Christians who make their way through life as spiritual spectators? Or do I want to be great in the eyes of God? I am sensing that the matter of prayer may be the distinguishing factor in terms of the spiritual quality of my life.

Back in the Fall of 2005, I was invited to take part in our Pastor’s leadership class, which met twice a month on Thursday mornings. About 15 of us were taught and gently encouraged not to settle for mediocrity in our spiritual lives, but to press on for the prize that was put before us. I developed a real fondness for a number of the men who attended the class, and would point them out to Kathy as ‘one of my boys’ when I would see them in church. We pretended to have a secret hand-shake and carried on as if we were sharing all kinds of deep and intimate truths, if only to annoy and mystify our wives. As it happened, though, three of the men from that class went on to become the core of my accountability group; we spend about 90 minutes together each week to pray for and encourage each other in godliness.

Me and one of my 'boys'
Randy and me at the Prayer Conference

I would have to say that it was the men’s leadership class that laid the groundwork for my attendance of this prayer conference, and made me start to think about pressing on in my walk with my Savior. I think it is easy to reach a plateau and to settle for ‘getting by’ as one begins to mature in age — and so years go by and the heart grows cold toward the Lord.

I found it very funny (and typical of this seminar) that Pastor Duke didn’t ask anyone to commit to praying three hours a day. If only he had! Then I could happily reject this whole convicting seminar and go home smug that I’m pretty darn good, even if I’m not a ‘super Christian’ who prays three hours a day. Instead, he spoke about making a commitment to pray 15 minutes a day, just one day a week, and then increasing it in frequency and duration by modest steps over time (even if it takes ten years) until you are praying one hour a day. It is a clever approach, because there is no one who can tell you with a straight face that they are too busy to pray 15 minutes in a week.

I think I’m sold on the need for me to pray. What am I willing to commit? Can I walk 15 minutes a day, maybe right before lunch, and pray for the people in my spiritual domain? Can I build a prayer journal and start studying the scriptures for the kind of things I need to pray about? Can I commit to praying with my wife every day I work from home?

Editor’s Note: On the way home from the prayer conference, I made the commitment to pray 15 minutes each day. Over the past 3 months, I’ve been able, by the grace of God, to keep that commitment about 85% of the time, which is a huge step forward for me. Interestingly enough, God has seen fit to answer many of my prayers, often within days. Kathy and I have started keeping a spreadsheet which tracks prayer requests and answers, a practice which has considerably strengthened our faith and has encouraged me to persevere in my commitment.

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Thinking Blogger Award

I’ve been Tagged!

My kids play Freeze Tag, Bible Tag, and one (new to me) called Candle Tag where you freeze in place and then slowly melt to the ground. Tag is a great game – it can be played in small or large spaces, it lets kids run off some of their never ending energy, and even has a built in rest time where you can catch your breath (my kind of game). Of course, the game can be rather discouraging for those who are not fast runners (that would be me). Depending on the mercy of the group playing, you could potentially be stuck “It” for the entire game, never catching any one, until you finally run home crying (hypothetically speaking).

This tag, however, is of a different sort!

Back in February of this year Ilker Yoldas created a new sort of tag. It’s a blog tag (of course) and comes with an award. Very cool!

Dorothy has tagged me for this lovely award. Dorothy lives in England and lets me come on field trips with her (via her blog). She writes in such a real voice that I often find myself laughing and nodding at the same time as I read her posts.

When you are “tagged” with the Thinking Blog Award, you pick five blogs that make you think and “tag” them. They then go on to pick five, and they pick five friends, and so on. I love the idea of sharing favorite blogs and connecting people. I am honored that Dorothy and Yvonne both tagged me. Yvonne (another one of Dorothy’s five picks) has an amazing blog full of challenge, insight and spiritual depth.

Here a list of rules to share with the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.

The participation rules are simple:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post (the original post on the award) so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

It’s hard to choose five blogs (just five??) that make me think but here they are:

1. Amy from In Pursuit of Proverbs 31 is a blog I’ve recently discovered. She wrote a post about decluttering the house that was powerful and convicting. The deciding factor on whether to keep or toss things — scripture! Amy has a wonderful testimony. Read and enjoy.

2. Edited to change – the blog I had chosen has since been closed. The blogger is a homeschooling mom of five awesome kiddos, and good friend. She is working on developing a new blog but I’m unsure of whether she wishes me to share the link.

3. One of my college roommates began blogging last March. The delight I took in reading Rachel’s blog was one of the thing that encouraged me to pick up the blogging baton on our Duckabush Blog. I loved hearing about her life and thoughts on parenting, God and housecleaning (not necessarily in that order). She recently wrote a post on how to survive those crazy days with a new baby in the house and it brought back such a rush of memories I almost needed a nap right then and there. :)

4. Emily in FL, a SHS e-mail loop friend, has a wonderful family blog. She is working on a very lengthy series on friendship that is both challenging and practical. Emily definitely captures “Life” on her blog, “Life in Pictures.”

5. Tina, a dear friend serving with New Tribes Mission in Thailand, has a brand new blog. I love reading anything Tina writes because she is truly a woman after God’s own heart and I knew her “when.” When she was an ordinary person (not a lofty missionary :) ), when she lived down the road from us, and when she was a mom just like the rest of us. Watching their family be called into the ministry and follow God’s leading (over years of labor and faithfulness) has been a huge blessing in my life.

Whew. It took me all evening (it seemed) to come up with this list. I hope you grab a cup of coffee, maybe some chocolate, and find some new treasures.


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P365 – Day 115 (Middle School)

Joshua’s Middle School Small Group came to our house this evening. It was quite an honor to be chosen as the host for the night. The standards were high. The e-mail from one of the leaders said,

All we ask from our hosts is:

1) A godly example of a Christian home
2) A place to meet
3) A snack

I imagine #1 was important to the leaders but not something the 7th graders particularly care about (or even notice). #2 was high on the list for both leaders and the students. #3, however, was the real killer. Gotta have a snack (or more than one if possible).

We’re talking about teenagers. Boy teenagers. The kind that come through, eat all the snacks in the pantry and then wonder how soon dinner will be served.

I bought a large bag of chips. There was a half cup of crumbs left by the end. Joshua made a delicious looking pan of brownies. The younger children were so excited. They just knew there would be extras left over and they could all have a snack before bed.

Ha! What silly thoughts! As if nine 7th graders and two youth workers would walk away from the house while there were still brownies left in the pan. I think it’s pretty much part of the contract they sign going in to middle school.

“I, Joshua, do solemnly promise to eat all the food that is placed before me as well as the food placed in front of my neighbor (if he is so foolish to close his eyes during prayer time).”

The boys were loud and boisterous although Joshua says they were surprisingly subdued this evening (ah, a matter of perspective perhaps). I put on headphones and drowned out the noisy sound of chip crunching and brownie slurping.

I did manage to get a picture or two before the horde departed.

middle school

It’s wonderful to have a church family and a group of adult Christians who care about your children and wish to see them grow in their walk with the Lord. The snacks are just a perk!


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P365 – Day 114 (Sweet Sarah is Sick)

Sarah (age 4 1/2) was sick today. She had a mild fever and a sore throat. Poor little one. She slept in, lounged around for most of the day, played just a little bit and then fell asleep watching a movie (must have been an action flick). It sounds like such a great day, I’m trying hard not to be too envious. Can I have all of that without the pesky fever and sore throat?


Sarah plays a quick game on Tim’s cell phone.

I took thorough advantage of her sleepy/snuggly state and grabbed her for some yummy time rocking in Tim’s super comfy chair.

Through it all, however, Sarah was careful maintain a proper sense of fashion. She had on a little pink summer dress as a night gown. I told her to get dressed this morning but she just looked at me, overwhelmed and weary. I realized she wasn’t feeling well so I suggested she just stay in her pj’s for the day.

The next time I saw her she had on white tights and a hot pink fuzzy sweater over top her night gown. It’s important to keep up appearances, even when you are feeling a bit down.


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