Thursday, March 31, 2005

monticello times email

I sent this email to the Monticello Times. They had someone write an article about MN voting down a statewide smoking ban. I was upset because the writer claimed MN was not joining other 'progressive' states in instituting a ban. I'll post the email here. Hopefully not to many people will be upset with my thoughts. Here is the email.

3/30/2005 2:52:00 PM
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Rest in peace, smoking ban

While I sympathize with people who do not enjoy sitting in smoke-filled restaurants, I cannot agree that I am saddened that the smoking ban was “snuffed.”The whole idea of a smoking ban regarding places that are privately owned is ridiculous to me, and is a step in the wrong direction regarding personal freedoms and rights.

Whoever thinks that a restaurant owner (someone who puts his own money and time and sweat on the line) should have to cater his or her business to people who don’t like the smell of smoke is just wrong.Where in the Constitution does it declare that anyone has the right to eat at a particular place? Nowhere.

Let me tell everyone this: You do not have the right to go out to eat at any particular restaurant! If you do not like smoke, don’t go there. It is that simple. I have two young children myself, and if I am worried that the atmosphere of a place is not healthy for them, then I won’t take them there.

Restaurant owners should not be told how to run their businesses. If enough people had a problem with the smoke and stopped eating there, business owners would make their restaurants smoke free. That is how consumers influence business–with their dollars, and not with their legislature.

So everyone who whines about smoking, and smoking bans, in privately-owned businesses, just stop, take a deep breath, and eat your food somewhere else that is more comfortable to you. You don’t have a right to tell someone how to run their business, just like they don’t have a right to tell you how to take care of your own house.

–Brenton Balvin, Monticello.

Evangelism 'outside the box'

I just started reading this new book by Rick Richardson. Well the copyright is 2000 but it is new to me. Anyway, I'll try to post a few thoughts I have about the title as I read through it. This will mean it will take me longer to read, but I should process it better so that's a bonus.

the book begins with Richardson sharing a story from his childhood. When he was six his two brothers and the three neighbor girls across the street all went to a North Carolina ocean beach for the day. 30 minutes into the ride home (which took place in an old, green station wagon) the family noticed Richardson's three year old brother was missing. He was left behind at the beach. After much speeding and risk taking the car was back at the beach and the missing child was found near a far out guard tower. Richardson tells of a lovely embrace and hear felt reunion between mother and child.

the connection to evangelism should be obvious. God is the mother racing back to the beach to find us, the missing children. The question is what role do we play in this? God has asked us to help him bring his children home and so in effect we are driving the car... Which leave us with a choice. Do we turn around and go look for some people, or do we just keep on driving happy about whose already in the car?

an interesting analogy and thought.

clarification on 'the bridge'

I don't know how many friends I won or lost regarding the content of my last entry and some of the conversations I've had, but in case anyone is listening (reading) I want to clarify a few things.

first, I admit that I am probably ignorant when it comes to the amount of work that people put into a service like we pulled of on Sunday. My vision of what we could produce is clouded by the numerous examples of churches with much larger staff, budget, and able volunteer bases. I realize that the people of the quarry gave quite a bit to pull off what we did. To those people- I apologize if my feelings came across as condemnation or a call for more, more, more.

secondly, I really do think that what we did could be accomplished on a more regular basis. The key component however is not more effort (though sometimes that thought creeps into my mind...) but more people moving together in the same direction. larger teams and more delegation. More spiritually gifted people in areas of giftedness, etc. I understand the limitations of our people and the amount of time and effort they have to give. Maybe I just shoot too high...

thirdly, I have my own part to play in all this. I could surely improve at building teams and empowering people to do things that I cling to myself. It is often easier to point things out in others, than own them in ourselves. I think Jesus said something about this relating to a log and a speck. I need to be more reliant on God brining about his vision for us and this church and less reliant on my own desires and dreams. Making God's dream my dream is likely the best thing I could do.

so in conclusion, I stand behind the idea that Easter Sunday was an amazing time and that the people of the quarry gave a ton to make it happen. I also think that sort of service can happen more often - but rather than people just giving more, we need to get more people on the bus and look for things that will simplify our efforts. We have a wonderful team of people at the quarry with amazing giftedness. All people who I know love god and people, and so please accept this post as an apology for my criticalness, high expectations, and frustration inducing comments.

and if anyone reads this ... Please talk to me about it. That is acts 2:42, people being real and getting everything out into the air so that loving relationships grow and blossom. And that is a dream that everyone can make happen, everyday.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

the bridge

I already typed this whole thing and something got messed up and it got deleted so this will be a shortened version....

we had a marvelous Easter service at the Quarry on Sunday. All kinds of people came together to make it happen. People with gifts in: music, dancing, acting, speaking, building, singing, lighting, listening, and many other areas all came and served like crazy for the week to make Sunday morning a reality.

it makes me sad to think that this sort of thing doesn't happen ever week. Yeah, sure, people are busy. But to me, seeing that production, was like seeing something really amazing and beautiful that is right in front of me for the taking and yet when I reach out to grab it I realize it is just beyond my fingertips.

what an amazing thing it would be to be part of an authentic community of people willing to use all their creativity, giftedness and energy to make sure that every Sunday (the one hour we get communally to communicate Jesus Christ in a creative, relevant and fresh way) is done in an excellent way. I know some of that happens at the Quarry.

don't get me wrong, we have probably the best thing going in town and some really awesome people involved in making it happen (i.e. Chad, Margie, Curt, Barb, and Chris - to name a few, though the list is much, much longer), but Easter Sunday just gave me a glimpse of what it could be! The Quarry does a good job...But is that what we want to settle for? Good? What about doing a really great job. That is something to strive for and something worth giving my life's resources (time/money/energy) to.

I hope no one who reads this is offended in any way. There is much to be praised at the Quarry and many people who should feel proud of all they have given and done. But that sparkling gem is right there in front of us, and I think on March 27, 2005 many people saw how shiny and magnificent it is, and all we have to do is collectively reach out and grab it. It will be given to us.

But we have to want it. So I am going to try and continue being a part of leading the charge and inspiring people to get involved and make the Quarry a place where lost people want to come and a place that when they do come they will meet Jesus Christ and begin to follow him.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

the tragedy in red lake

What a sad day it was when the news came out regarding the school shooting in red lake, MN. 10 people, including the 16 yr. old, shooter, were killed. It is truly a tragic situation.

One of the real sad things is that there were so many signs of the great pain that the boy was suffering. If there ever was a case to be made for the great importance of Christian love and fellowship in our society here it is. This kid needed Jesus and he needed people around him to show God's love. That was his only chance. The darkness must have felt so heavy in his spirit.

As Jesus followers we can not allow these sorts of stories to keep appearing in the news and making us feel bad. Where is the city on a hill for people like this kid to turn? Wow, a story like this really highlights the great calling that we have to go and make disciples. We have what the world needs, we just need to be more intentional about giving it away.

easter is coming

We spent quite a bit of time today discussing the upcoming Easter service. This is a critical Sunday for churches all around the country. I hope that many c/e attendees are touched in a special way and that following Jesus becomes a reality for them.

we are in the process of developing the children's ministry at our church. It has to be a place that is fun and relevant to kids lives. The challenge is putting something together in a consumer culture that trains kids to expect high level entertainment all the time. We have the greatest product in the world to offer and it is crucial that we present Jesus in a way that makes kids excited about following him everyday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

dennis prager - 'Liberal feeling vs. Judeo-Christian values: pt. VI

I was sent an email by my friend Jon Towey asking me to review this article and give some feedback. So, I submit my thoughts to him and anyone else, as always, in humility and with a willingness to dialogue and learn from others responses. To read it yourself go to

In the article Prager discuss how many of the 'liberal/leftist' positions as dominated by feelings rather than what is right or wrong. I agree with the many examples that he gives: moral relativism, sexual harassment laws (which began in a good place but have been warped), mothers feelings towards the worth of a fetus, etc. Prager is right on when he says that liberals care more about feeling like they did good, than actually looking at the long term affect of such feeling based decisions.

I was very intrigued by his analysis of how feelings play into our political and social positions. Especially thoughtful were his comments on why women and young people, in particular, typically hold leftist positions. Most people do not think through their positions all the way (myself often included) and so decisions are made with blinders on to the possible state of the future.

I was interested by the way Prager started the article, when he said that 'with the decline of the authority of Western Judeo-Christian values' people started to look for other places to guide them. My question: what made the values decline? Did they not work anymore? Did people get bored with them?

Secondly, Prager sites a bumper sticker that says 'war is not the answer' and goes on to critic it saying that war has solved many major problems with evil in this world that pacifism never could. I think that he clearly is not considering the power of Jesus Christ. There was plenty of evil around the time of Christ yet he never even hinted at his followers rises up to stop the oppression, idolotrous, power hungry Roman empire.

Jesus was leading a revolution underground, changing one life at a time, and trusting that ultimately his heavenly father was in control. Political ideology and saving the world from the leftist liberals is not what a Christian agenda should look like. We should be people striving to reclaim this world and make it the place the our Creator God designed it to be. We should be sending missionaries in force to Iraq and food and medical supplies and the like. We can never rely on war to eradicate terror and enforce morality.

cultivating an Acts 2:42 lifestyle

I just got back into the office after having lunch at my home with my wife and kids. The entire church staff was there to join us. It was great. We picked up food from Cub and made some sandwiches in the oven. Everyone sat around talking and discussing life issues from a faith perspective and tried to figure out how Jesus relates to stuff. That must have been what it was like in Acts. Everyone being together, eating and drinking and laughing and making sure that Jesus played a role in it all somehow. I want more of that, and I want other people to experience it was well. No division, no judgment, no comparisons, no competition. Just being and loving one another.

henri nouwen's 'the life of the beloved'

I read Nouwen's 'the life of the beloved' yesterday and was moved by its simplicity and wisdom. The main theme of the book is that each person is God's beloved child, uniquely loved and gifted by God. Nouwen bases this theme from the story of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River by John the Wilderness Prophet when the Spirit of God came down and a voice was heard proclaiming Jesus as God's beloved son in whom he is well pleased.

Nouwen expands the idea of belovedness to a communion metaphor, explaining that while each person is factually the beloved we must learn to become that which we are. Nouwen uses four themes from the sacramental act - 1) taking/choosing; 2) blessing; 3) breaking; 4) giving. He describes the process of becoming the beloved as our learning to live as people who are chosen by God, blessed by him, stuck in a broken world, and ultimately finding our highest fulfillment in being given to others.

it is a moving book that is easy to read. Nouwen lays things out clearly and offers suggestions that are practical and light for growing in our understanding of being the beloved. The idea that God has chosen each of us and has spoken words blessing into our life is not profound or new, but owning this fact and letting it impact the deepest parts of us is something that not a few Christ-followers today struggle with.

how much different would this world be if its people were gripped by the fact that God is a lover who wants to be loved by his creation? How much different if people spoke words of blessing to one another rather than condemnation and judgment? How much different if we grew in strength and faith through our brokenness instead of becoming hardened and depressed? How much different if people's sole focus was to give themselves away to one another in loving acts and relationship instead of exploition and selfish ambition?

the life of the beloved' can be read in a couple hours, but putting its principles into play is something that requires much more time and intentionality to accomplish. The length of journey should not be a deterrent however. What else is life about, besides partnering with God to become the way he designed us to be and to help him in reclaiming this world from the darkness that engulfs it. Becoming the beloved and living in the light of this truth will go a long way in a kingdom of God mission.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Saturday, March 19, 2005

birthday fun

hey guys! me and erin just want to say happy birthday! and tell you we love you. so what's going on? well, since neither of you had a party we are having one tonight. only you need directions to get there. we have hidden five clues around maple grove for you to find, figure out and follow. we hope to see you soon. by the way - all clues require you to ask the people who service customers for assistance

for clue number 1: pick me up that David Crowder CD if you have time.

when you get to the border - ask for some advice on real estate at the counter
when you get to the barn - ask for some advice on being naked

from now on we will not communicate except through text messaging at our discretion. don't be too slow or we'll miss dinner.

peace and we love you both!

Friday, March 18, 2005

at peter and erin's

I'm at peter and erin's right now, like we are never together. anyway, the boys just ate mac and cheese and the baby has a wet spot on her clothes by her butt. who knows how? anyway, just wanted to say hi