Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Moving the Blog

Dear Friends...I just want to let all of my followers know that I am moving the blog. The new format offers some features that are not available here and will make it easier for people to navigate the list of posts and find relevant content. Here is the new blog address. All of the old posts have been imported. You will notice the addition of categories as opposed to only having post tags. Thank you for your loyalty to this blog.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Being a Christian-Living With a Target on your Back

Okay, I'll be up front about this. I don't always like to be the guy who turns everything he sees into a spiritual metaphor. Or the guy to get the one-up on my buddies by "Jesus Juking" them (turning a mundane statement into a surface level religious dig). Maybe the snap, crackle, pop of my Rice Krispies reminds me of the voice of God? Maybe passing out candy in a parade reminds me of how I should treat those who have needs? And yes, I'll even be the guy who loves sports and has run the Christian sports metaphors into the ground. Life has a lot to teach us and sometimes the wide world of sports is great for allowing us to learn from the decisions of others. And that has happened again...and as a Christian and a blogger, I am inclined to share these insights with you!

This basketball season, everyone was caught up in the drama of the super team that would be the Miami Heat when they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to give Dwayne Wade the supporting cast he'd been needing for a long time. They opened their season against the East's top team, the Boston Celtics. I don't know that any season opener in recent memory had as much anticipation and hype as this one. The Heat lost that game by 8 points and though they won a few games after that, it took them a while to get rolling. They were hardly the automatic super team everyone assumed they would be. Why was that? These were three perennial all-stars. They were an easy lock for the most talented team in the country. So why would they have trouble winning? While there are a number of possibilities (team chemistry, no really dominant center, etc.), I think the main factor was that they set themselves up to be the team to beat. Essentially they began the season with a target on their backs.

When LeBron made his dramatic exit from Cleveland and did his national "reveal" as a primetime show on ESPN, he left a wake of angry Cleveland fans. Not only that, but casual fans who were maybe on the fence about King James now found themselves despising him rather than paying him homage. The Miami front office shamelessly attempted to buy a championship in a way that would make the New York Yankees proud. The consequence of this blatant stab at the integrity of the game (whatever that is at the professional level anyway), was that now they have become the arch-nemesis of every team in the league. Everybody wants to bring their A-game when the Heat comes to town.

Somewhere the other day, though, I was watching something on ESPN...maybe it was on my favorite sports talk show Mike and Mike...and it hit me. The debacle that the Heat created by becoming more of a circus and less of a sports team is not entirely different from the life-change that occurs when one becomes a follower of Christ. You see, in every person, I believe, there is a cynic. And there is a certain deviant joy that comes when we find something to be different from the way it was marketed. Whether it was an expensive dinner entree topped with a Kraft single instead of real cheese, a sports team that was bought instead of built, or a person who told the world he was a follower of Christ only to fall flat on his face; human nature revels in watching things implode. There is an indignation associated with seeing people stumble. And for the believer, the clock is ticking.

What's so cool about all of this, though, is that nothing gets past Jesus. In John 17:13-19 he is praying in his final hours before his arrest. He tells God how the world has hated his disciples because of their relationship to Him. And he asks the Father, not to take them (us) out of the world, but to protect his followers (us) from the Evil One.

So have you ever felt like a marked person? Like a Christian with a target on your back surrounded by skeptics who are standing in line to see you take a dive? Maybe someone's waiting to see you lose your temper. Maybe they want to see you say something bad about someone. Maybe they are waiting for something much more drastic. The fact is, if the people around you know you are a follower of Christ, some of them are in the boat with you, while others are standing on the shore waiting for the boat to capsize. But we can take heart knowing our Savior was aware of this in his final hours on earth. He was preparing to be arrested and crucified and what was he praying about? He was praying that we would have strength to stand against all those who "hate us". I think that's pretty cool. What do you think?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Helping the Needy vs. Helping the Greedy

Last week was our annual Christmas Parade of Lights in downtown Palestine. Each year, our church has a float featuring our church's children. It is a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun. Several years ago, as a safety concern, the parade officials changed the rules on distribution of candy. Candy can no longer be "thrown" from parade floats. Since the parade is at night, they don't want people being struck by flying jawbreakers and such. Also, due to low visibility, they feared children would run out into the street in pursuit of fallen candy and could be struck by one of the parade vehicles. This was a good move on the part of the parade officials, but it creates an interesting opportunity for us.

Since the new rules were instated, the only way for the candy to be dispersed is for people walking alongside the parade float to pass the candy out by hand. So guess what my role has been during the parade the last two years? Yep. And let me tell you, sometimes the parade moves faster than a brisk walk. There are times when I literally had to quit passing out candy so I could run and catch up with the float (if I didn't stay with the float, I wouldn't have a ride back to the church!). So passing out candy allows me to be one of the few persons who has direct contact with the parade audience.

I noticed something this year, though. There were basically two schools of thought on receiving candy. Some kids were very thankful and appreciative and would respond with a "thank you" or "Merry Christmas" and were often prompted by their parents who responded in like fashion. Then there were others who seemed like they were almost trained to go after whatever free things were available. They were not content with one candy cane, and had no qualms about asking for more. My little sack of candy had to last the majority of the parade, so I could only give one piece to each kid, but parents were jumping in insisting that I give to them as well. And of course, there was no "thank you" to be heard.

This forced an age-old issue to the surface of my mind. It applies for those of us in church work and in service-oriented ministries. And that is this: should we try to make distinctions between needy people and greedy people? When I was in a former church in a small Central Texas town, churches often shied away from helping people because they just assumed they were working the system. My current church has a ministry that helps with utility bills. And while we only can help each family once a year (so we can help the largest number of people) and can usually only pay $40 or $50 on each bill, there are people who will be upset with us because we can't or won't do more. So is there a way to distinguish between the two groups? If there is a way to distinguish between them, is it our place to do so? I think the latter question is really at the heart of the matter.

In Luke 17, Jesus comes across ten men with leprosy. These were social outcasts who really had no existence because they had been ostracized by society. They were forbidden from being in contact with the general population because they suffered from a very severe and very contagious disease. Upon being near other "clean" people, they would be forced to yell out, "Unclean, unclean!" to warn people of their presence. And this time they met Jesus. They cried out for him to "have pity on (them)". Jesus replies that they should go and show themselves to the priest. This was a necessary procedure for them to be re-admitted into the general population. And as they went, they were cleansed. But wouldn't you know that after being healed, only one person came back to thank Jesus. And to this one, Jesus says "Your faith has made you well." But the others were well for crying out to Jesus, weren’t they? Most scholars believe Jesus is speaking of spiritual healing. His faith had saved him.

So did Jesus not know the hearts of the other nine? He asks some seemingly rhetorical questions to the grateful one saying, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? (the grateful leper was a Samaritan)" I don't think much gets past Jesus. I'm pretty sure he knew the hearts of the other nine. Yet he healed them anyway. But the faith of the one, as demonstrated in his gratitude, gave him so much more than a normal earthly existence. It gave him eternal life.

So maybe there is something to Jesus' model. For those of us with limited resources in service ministries, we might be able to learn something from this. Maybe God wants us to minister to all who have need. And maybe only one in ten (to use the numbers from this story) will truly have gratitude and or faith that will lead to their salvation. I think where we get it wrong is we expect everyone we help to have that gratitude...that "saving faith", if you will. But Jesus knew better than that. And I think we are kidding ourselves to think that every person we help through our church or service organization is going to receive help with a grateful heart. Should we guard ourselves against those who do not legitimately need help and are just be working the system? God has called us to be good stewards of our resources and we should be wise and discreet in how we go about helping people. But either way, we should try to meet the needs that are there and leave the results to God. We may never know the eternal results of our service on this side of heaven. But that's where faith comes in, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why Pushing Christ Out of Christmas May Not Be Such a Bad Thing

It's Christmas Time. We are right smack in the middle of the dog days of retail consumerism at its finest. This is the time of year when "paper or plastic" isn't about the sacks (perhaps you call them bags) used after the purchase, but rather the method of payment during the purchase. In America, the average person spends $750 on Christmas. When you think about all of the children who have no income and all the poor who may be baking or making gifts rather than purchasing, that leaves a much smaller segment of the population that actually does the purchasing. For this group, $750 is well on the low side.

This is also the time of year when we Christians get up in arms about how we are not keeping Christ in Christmas. Some of us send emails pointing out all the stores that are saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" and how we should not shop at those diabolic
al places. We demonize Santa calling him things like "Satan Claus" because he steals the true meaning of Christmas and hogs all of the yuletide cheer (even though his story is based on a real person who was a very selfless, giving individual). We get upset because courthouses don't have nativity scenes any more or that the ACLU has declared another biblical diorama to be an infringement of someone's constitutional rights.

So before I move forward, let me be clear. I am all for keeping Christ in Christmas. However, the fact that our Lord and Savior is being "kicked to the curb" by our culture, may not be such a bad thing in the grand scheme of things. Here's why I think this is true.

Throughout history, the church has blossomed in the face of persecution. It was the persecution of the Jewish religious leaders that caused the church to spread like wildfire from its infancy. And despite the efforts of Nero and several of his successors for the next couple hundred years, it continued to grow in light of an increasing toll of untimely Christian deaths. In modern times, the church in China is really growing despite persecution from opponents both inside and outside the government.

I do not intend to make the leap to say that our subversive lull into saying "Happy Holidays" is in any manner similar to, reminiscent, or comparable to any persecution that has happened to any Christian individual or group throughout history. In the grand scheme of things, modern American Christians have got it pretty good. However, time and time again throughout history, when people intentionally (or even unintentionally) direct themselves away from the worship of God through Jesus Christ, there will be a pocket of believers who will be diligent in their faith and will be adamant about keeping their traditions alive. But in order for that to happen, several things must be true.

1. Christians must be motivated by love of others rather than hatred of government, non-religious propaganda, and all things that don't specifically mention Jesus. A picket line may be a great way to get higher wages, but it's probably not going to lead anyone to putting their faith in Christ.
2. Christians need to embrace all of the good in the Christmas season. Despite the "credit cards gone wild", this is a very benevolent time of year. We must remember that God is often glorified even when things don't have his name on them.
3. Christians must not throw the baby out with the bath water. In our quest to be counter-cultural, let's do so in a way that holds on to the good traditions we have at this time of year.

So what does the future hold? If I'm still alive in 50 years at the Christmas of 2060 (at the ripe old age of 84), what will Christmas in America be like? Will I be riding up to a family gathering in a traditional car only to park next to someone else's flying car (remember when we all thought we'd have those by now)? Will there still be Christmas decorations on the houses? Will people still put nativity scenes in their yards? I don't know, but I hope so. But as long as our culture continues to move away from the worship of Christ at Christmas, we have an opportunity to do something different. I hope we make the most of it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holy Communion: Prayer, Posture, and Provision

Yesterday was Holy Communion at my church. Being the closest thing our church has to an associate pastor, I assist our pastor during the service by passing out bread. And while I can say that this is a time of prayer and reverence, my mind does wander off sometimes to things like the difficulty of getting car and tractor grease off your hands the day before the Communion service. But I digress.

I don't know how you do Communion (aka. the Lord's Supper, Euchyrist). In the United Methodist Church (ours anyway), parishioners make their way to the aisles and come down front to kneel. As each person kneels, they hold their hands out, empty and waiting to be filled with God's grace. The pastor or assistant hands them a small piece of a very sweet Hawaiian bread. The juice is Welch's and is served in small glasses that are sitting in holders at the kneeling rail. The sweet bread, I assume (I could not find any reason for it's use), is to remind us of the sweetness of God's grace. After each person has received their bread, they spend a few moments in prayer, then partake of the elements. We also take up a special Communion offering for a different cause each month. Instead of being gathered in a collection plate, that money is brought to the Communion rail.

In the churches where I grew up, we did it differently. We sat in pews and the elements were passed. We used unleavened bread to remind us of the humility we were to have before God. Also, the bread used in the Passover Seder (the disciples were observing this when Jesus led them in what we know as the Last Supper) was unleavened. So unleavened bread is probably more biblical. A small tray with relatively bitter, tasteless, unleavened wafers would come by and you'd have to grab one and wait until everyone in the auditorium had one. Then the pastor would say a prayer, and everyone would eat it. So you had this chalky, pasty, tasteless cracker floating around in your mouth. You would swallow...and swallow again...then try to work up some more spit to get the last of it down. After all, it was probably going to be at least 5 minutes before the tray of juice would come by. Then the pastor would read about Jesus passing the cup and the juice would come by on another small tray that's reminiscent of a Chinese Checker-board with little juice cups in the holes. You would nervously grab your little sip of juice (you wouldn't want to be the person who spilled the whole tray, would you?), and then have to sit there and hold it until everyone had their juice. When all the juice had been passed out, the pastor would say a prayer and everyone would drink, in unison.

There are pros and cons to both ways. And while I think the way I grew up doing it is a little more quirky, I don't think the current way is all the way there, either. After all, my daughter often wants to buy "Communion bread" and grape juice at the grocery store. Isn't Communion supposed to remind us of Christ's suffering? But I do want to say some things I do like about the way we do communion.

1. Prayer-In our services, once the pastor reads the Communion liturgy, the rest of the time is spent in silence. The only thing you will hear is the pastor or assistant saying essentially "This is the body of Christ broken for you and this is the blood of Christ shed for you." The time is not interrupted by your neighbor passing a tray or separate prayers from the pastor for the bread and the cup.

2. Posture-There is something very humbling about getting up from your seat, walking down front, and kneeling at an altar with your empty hands held out. It reminds us that without God we are nothing. We come to the altar waiting to be "filled up" with God's grace. John Wesley called Holy Communion a "means of grace" meaning that we receive God's grace through partaking of the symbolic elements of the "meal". I have often interpreted that to mean it's an almost "magical" experience, with which I disagreed. But if one's heart is in the right place, it is a means of experiencing God's grace. Without the proper heart, though, it's just a sweet snack at the end of the service. We can just as easily "go through the motions" by coming down front as we can sitting in our pew waiting for the bread and juice. But there is something about getting out of your seat and coming down front that demands a response.

3. Provision-We didn't do The Lord's Supper very often in my churches growing up. Sometimes we even did it in the evening service rather than in the morning. I'm not really sure why. But I remember it was always done to remind us of Christ's suffering and death. Now in the United Methodist Church, we do it once a month. It is done as a "means of grace". In other words, this isn't an afterthought reminder of something, but this is an integral part of our worship of God through Jesus Christ. It does remind us of Christ's death, but it also reminds us that God's grace is continually reaching out to us. I like that part. I also like that we begin with an actual loaf of bread that is broken. Not only does this represent Christ's suffering, but it also reminds us that we are one body, the church. I mentioned earlier, that I think the sweet bread may not be a proper reminder of Christ's suffering, but it is a great reminder of God's grace.

So how does your church practice Holy Communion, Euchyrist, or the Lord's Supper? What do you like about it? What do you wish was different?

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Other Kind of Twitter snob

A few weeks ago, I blogged about what I call Twitter snobs. These are people who aren't really famous, but are using Twitter to create a brand for themselves. If you follow one of these people you will get a mention or a DM that essentially says "Thank you for following. Here is how following me benefits you." I wasn't saying everyone with thousands of followers is that way, I was just saying some Twitter users are more interested in monologue than dialogue. But today, I discovered another type of Twitter snob. I got a tweet from someone I follow that said:

"Facebook is to the web what Microsoft is to the desktop: mindbogglingly gargantuan, relentlessly mediocre & almost inescapable."

This gives credence to another post I wrote a few weeks ago about Apple snobs (and now that I am 6 days away from being an iPhone user I will have to be really careful not to fall into this technological abyss). But this tweet also tipped me off to a second variety of Twitter snob. That is those who feel that Twitter is superior to Facebook and that Facebook users are somehow the Morlocks of the tech world.

I am on Facebook and Twitter. I do not think either is superior, nor can I even compare the two. To me comparing Twitter and Facebook is like comparing a car hood to a hot sidewalk. Both items will cook an egg. But outside of that, the similarities really stop. So why do I think it's erroneous to compare the two?

  • Facebook is a familiar, user-friendly interface that allows people who usually know each other in real life to connect in ways that are usually confined to geography and time. Twitter, in my opinion, is more suited to interactions between people who have never met in person or maybe strictly know each other on a professional level. Have you ever seen someone who has their Twitter account connected to Facebook? When their posts show up on Facebook, nobody comments on them because many times they don't know how to decipher the code lingo or they don't know they are supposed to click the miniature URL.
  • Facebook is an online version of real world interaction. People who know each other can correspond about their shared experiences or ones they wish they had shared. Twitter is the online version of a business/professional conference. People share experiences to people they don't really know very well and everything is done with a premise that certain people are following me because I am either in a certain line of work, into a certain hobby, I have a certain religious view, or something else about me that makes me unique.
  • Facebook is about stating what's on your mind whereas Twitter is more about being clever. Very few people on Facebook thrive on being profound (or even care about it). However, on Twitter, everyone is either a guru or a re-tweeter of a guru.
  • More people use Facebook. Last month, nearly 25% of all internet hits were on Facebook. This is not to say that it's automatically better, but it is to say that it is where people are. Few people would agree that PCs are superior to Macs, but until more people start buying Macs instead of PCs they can get for less than $200, they will always have their place in the market. And while many PC users might learn to love the sleek, smooth, touch-screeny transition to all things with fruit pictures on them, many social media users could care less about the 140 character mini-thoughts filled with too many abbreviations, @user names, and tiny links. They just want to know what their friends are up to and how life is in certain places they can't be right now. And honestly, I don't think Twitter is not the best social media for that. My 80-year old father-in-law is one of my friends on Facebook. Sometimes I post links and he doesn't even realize it is a link to be clicked. But he's on there and we interact. He would never figure out Twitter, but because he somewhat understands Facebook, I think that makes it really appealing.
I did not intend this post to be written in defense of Facebook. But I think it is the nature of all things technological that we feel somehow superior to other people because we use/have certain tech devices, we are able to use our technology certain ways, or that we can speak a language people don't understand. All of this feeds our egos. The bible says in several places that God will exalt the humble. I like this one from Psalm 149.

So do you like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social network? Do you feel this form of media is superior to the others? That is great. But please don't look down on other people because they prefer something else. What are your thoughts? Twitter? Facebook? Both?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Transitioning to a Smart Phone

I have about ten days left on my cellular contract. The display on my Motorola W510 (a dinosaur of a flip phone) is all but gone. If you leave the phone open it works okay, but if you close it, it will either hang up on the call when you open it, or the display will not work when you open it and you have to power off and back on. The funny thing is my wife's identical phone started doing the same thing a couple of weeks before mine did. Anyway, despite incentives from our smaller market wireless provider, we are going to ride it out. My cousins recently gave me an iPhone 3GS and we've recently freed up some money in our budget to go with smart phones. So that is our plan. But as I am getting excited about the endless connectivity of a smart phone, I also have a few reservations. So, here are the things that I don't want to happen with my smart phone.

I don't want to become a phone addict. I don't want to be that guy who can't go to sleep at night because I'm still checking my Twitter or Facebook. I hope I am able to establish healthy limits on my "phone use" since I'm getting so much more than just a phone.

I don't want to use my phone at the expense of others. I don't want to be sitting at dinner with my wife or with some friends or acquaintences and have my face projected down at my tech toy. I also don't want to be sitting at home with my family totally ignoring them because I can now get on the internet from my recliner.

I don't want to get carried away with my apps and downloads. With all of the apps available to make my phone more functional, I want to make my phone functional, but I don't want to break the bank trying to get every app or ringtone I think I need to make my phone cool or useful.

I don't want to become a tech snob. I posted a blog a few weeks ago about the phenomenon of the Apple snob...and here I am getting an iPhone. But regardless of the brand name on our tech devices, they are not a lot different from cool cars or houses in that we often view them as status symbols. I think tech people often enjoy making people feel dumb by rattling off a bunch of sophisticated lingo that is littered with acronyms. "What, you mean you can't check your email on YOUR phone?" How do you survive?

I don't want to send my work emails to my phone. The iPhone allows me to set up more than one email account. I can also use my email address to streamline different email accounts to go to one address. I will be choosing not to do this for one reason. When I am at home, I want to be at home. I don't want to be checking office emails when I should be visiting with my family. If someone from the church wants to get in touch with me, they can call or text me. If it's an important matter, they shouldn't email, but rather call.

Rhett Smith wrote a great post a couple of days ago on establishing boundaries with Facebook. Most of the same stuff applies here. He suggests having a box or a basket at the house where we turn our tech gadgets off and place them there for a designated period of time. So what boundaries have you had to establish with technology?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Token Thanksgiving Post

This is a post I wrote for a conglomerate blog called "The J-listers" where I write every Tuesday about a different mutually-agreed upon topic.

This is Thanksgiving week, so we have decided to write about the things for which we are thankful. This year, I’ve been doing some extra study on the history of Thanksgiving that has given me a renewed appreciation for the hardships of America’s earliest pioneers. After spending several months cramped on a relatively small vessel, the survivors arrived in the New World with their lives. Having consumed most of their supplies on the ship, they did have some wheat which they intended to plant, but found it did not grow well in the rocky New England soil. So had it not been for the relationship with friendly Native Americans, one of whom happened to speak English (another blessing from above), they literally would have died. There were a number of obstacles that they faced and much of it was met with the sweat of their brows, but after a year, ultimately, God truly had met their needs.

This year, I’m thankful for much the same things as the Pilgrims-life, health, family, sustenance. Sure, sustenance has changed over the last 400 years, but does still mean that God has given us the means to provide for ourselves. So while I’m not necessarily thankful for a successful corn crop, I am thankful for my job and the paycheck I receive from my church that allows me to provide for my family. And family has taken on a new meaning this year, at least in a way.

Almost three years ago, I married my wife, and became the step-dad to a wonderful 6-year old girl. On November 15, after a 6-month ordeal of court processing and legal fees, the District Judge granted me her adoption. So while not much has changed around our house (she is 9 now), this is the first holiday season where I am officially a child’s father. Every time I went to the courthouse, or the Sheriff’s office, or the newspaper, to complete another step in the process, I was reminded of my own adoption-not by my earthly parents, but by my heavenly Father. You see, the way I read the Bible, it tells me that while I was lost in my own sin, God demonstrated his own love for me that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. So while I am thankful for the adoption of my daughter, I’m also thankful for my adoption into God’s kingdom.

So this week, when my extended family gathers around the table, my daughter will be in the presence of real aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. While it doesn’t change the nature of the relationship, this is no small thing. Likewise, we are the children of God-not pseudo children, or step-children, but children. He has placed the family ringon our finger, put his best robe on us, and killed the fatted calf in celebration because we have come home! This thanksgiving, be mindful of the things God has given you, but do not forget his greatest gift…adoption!

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Blog Project

First of all, I want to thank all of you who are followers of this blog and those of you who occasionally hop in off of Twitter. But this post will be one of a different sort. About three weeks ago, I was asked to be a part of a new blog project. The basic premise of the new project is six total strangers, all followers of Christ, and all who follow each other on Twitter, who each take a crack at a weekly topic. Our first topic was our story of how we came to put our faith in Christ (or however each person articulates that particular idea). The second week was just after the recent election, so we took on voting and politics. Week Three is Thanksgiving week, so all of our posts will be related to that.

Please hop over to The J-Listers website and check it out. I have been blessed, stretched, challenged, and affirmed in my faith. I'm also starting to realize just how big my God is. If he can save someone like me, I know there's hope for all of us! Add the J-Listers to your blog roll. You will be inspired!

I will be continuing to keep this blog up, so if you enjoy reading it, no worries! If you don't enjoy reading it, then please pray for the poor innocent victims as my web-presence increases.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Youth Event Nobody Has Ever Seen

I got the idea for this post from Tim Schmoyer's "63 Youth Ministry Issues I Hope You Cover". This weekend, we are doing an event that is probably the most unique event that I've done since I've been in youth ministry over ten years.

We have an annual campout retreat that we do every fall that has evolved into a family event. We encourage our youth to bring their parents. This is a great opportunity for us to have a youth event without cutting into the much-needed family time that many families desperately need. It also gives families an opportunity to study the Bible together as a family. Now, that's not where this event is unique.

This year, we will be doing something a bit different at our family campout. You see, in our area, there was famous Comanche Indian raid that occurred in 1836 during the Texas Revolution (Texas was fighting for its independence from Mexico). The raid occurred just about 2 miles from the state park where we will be camping. There is also a cemetery that is walking distance from our campground where some of the people who were involved in that incident are buried. In the incident, a 9-year old girl named Cynthia Ann Parker was captured and eventually married a Comanche chief. Her son Quanah Parker was the last great Comanche chief and was influential in teaching the Comanche to adopt the white way of life and also became a wealthy statesman, friend of several US Presidents, and even a minister of the gospel (of sorts-see link above).

So, Friday night, of the campout, we are going to go on a hike through the woods (by lantern) and arrive at the cemetery. One of our parents will be in period costume dressed as James Parker whose neice was captured in the Indian raid and who organized many searches for a number of years until she was recovered more than 20 years later. This "ghost story" will introduce the kids to a piece of our local history. Then we will examine the story from different angles and look at the biblical themes in it. The biblical aspects of the story and the biblical stories that parallel this one will be discussion fodder for our Bible studies.

I know most of us would rather teach the Bible than anything, which is good. But I think we often sell our students short by not teaching them the history of their communities. While the Bible has a lot of great role models and examples of character, often times there are people in their communities whom God has used in similar ways.

So what are the youth events you've done that you could call unique?

Do you think an event of this nature is selling the kids short on good biblical teaching?