Monday, November 24, 2008

preaching generations

Well, yesterday was one of the coolest days in my life. I got to preach (which is always cool for me, even when it isn't for anyone else) and my son Caleb got to preach in the same service. We actually preached a sermon together and as I watched him preach, I had tears in my eyes and quietly thanked God for this awesome opportunity. He did a great job (how many 17-year old students can talk in front of a huge audience?), but more importantly it was a maiden voyage of sorts for him.

Like me growing up, he's only ever wanted to be a preacher. He has said this since he was six years old and I know what he feels like, because that was my experience too. But you can talk about it all you want. It is in the doing that scares you, overwhelms you, hooks you, ignites your heart and draws you in all at once. When it was all over yesterday, I knew he was hooked! He got to talk on God's behalf and this is a rare and incredible privilege (one I still haven't gotten over after 23 years). But it was a beginning for him. He will train at a Bible College on how to preach. He will grow and have many life experiences and then God will open a door for him to work for some church somewhere. Then he better be calling his old man to have me come speak at his church (I just know it's going to be somewhere cooler than central illinois).

Behind the scenes - my oldest son Michael (our tattoo artist of whom I am equally proud) came to second service yesterday and came back stage after Caleb preached to give him a hug and a "good job". Now that's not much maybe to you, but for two teen-age boys it doesn't get much more sentimental than that. It's enough to make a mom cry (yes) and a dad to smile that wistful smile that says, I'm really filled with joy right now. I went home thinking that if God were to take me home that yesterday would rank up there in my top five for all-time favorite days (and I've had some really fun days!)

So I'll watch as my son grows into a pastor/preacher and hopefully get to hear him preach many times in the future, and maybe just maybe, I'll get to hear his son preach sometime. After all, my father-in-law (a retired preacher of over 50 years) was there yesterday and he saw his grandson preach. How cool is that?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

wisdom ride

Yesterday I rode on a bus (which I learned was really a motor coach - man is nothing easy any more?) with about 53 people of a mature nature (most were over 70 years old, two couples I met had been married 62 and 65 years - one couple had a retired daughter who was on the trip with them). The group is called Spirit Lifters and this was their 81st trip to places like Branson, the dinner Barn, someplace on a lake in Ky, and the smoky mtns. Yes, they stereotypically like buffets and trips and dinner theatre's. But that's not what I really enjoyed. I really enjoyed the stories (what lives they have lived!) and the energy (they were like nice smelling jr. highers) and their years of faith. Honestly, the food was o.k. and the show was less o.k.; but the fellowship with these people who have been at our church for 30+ years was a blast.

I felt like i learned a lot from people who have lived a whole lot more life than I have. It's important to hang out with people older than you, you know? If you don't, you'll miss some great stories, some great lessons and some great people. Ironically, we are celebrating generations this Sunday in both services. By God's design, the church is made up of generations and all of them are important.

Monday, November 17, 2008

tis the season

Well, as I write this blog I see it snowing outside my window. Awesome. Thanksgiving and Christmas season is here and I love the excitement it always seems to bring. It is the season for giving as our church gathered over 2,500 toys for children yesterday (and their still rolling in) with coats and food to follow.

It is the season for cool decorations. After yesterday's service (which was life-changing with 11 baptisms) the volunteers that work on stage design removed THE X series stuff and made the stage Christmas ready! It really looks good - good work guys. It is also the season for Christmas programs and we've almost given all of our tickets away for this year's Christmas pops concert December 6&7.

It is also the season for eating desserts. Sweet is definitely in this time of year. This has to be good, just think of all the sayings we use that put desserts in a positive light:
"She's a smart cookie"
"Easy as pie"
"Icing on the cake"
"Having your cake and eat it too"
"Hey sugar."
"She's sugary sweet."
"This was cake"
"That was a cake walk"
"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream"
"That's how the cookie crumbles" (which is kind of negative, but if you eat those crumbs, it's still good I'll bet).

Well, I'm salivating so I'd better end it here. Three out of four dentists do not recommend this blog, but hey, it's the season for sugar. I will tell you that I will eat my share of the best of all holiday desserts in the next month or so. And what just what is that dessert? Pecan pie of course.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

day 6

Today was pretty uneventful. Another run through the waking up streets of Thessalonica. There was no way to get back to Athens for the marathon today, but it was completed as we drove into town. We spent most of the day on the bus. We read and talked and shared some Scripture together. This group has become a fun group of guys and their wives.

My thoughts are definitely towards home now. I really am thinking about everyone at church. I'm praying for Doug as we are 40 minutes from 1st service starting. I know he'll have a great message and I wish I was there to hear it. So the ladies are shopping and I'm chillin before supper. We'll probably go to this older section of Athens for dinner and then we'll hang out and pack for in the morning. We are heading to the airport and will arrive in New York by around 4:00 tomorrow afternoon (monday). Unfortunately, we are too stretched for time to get home tomorrow night (although we are going to try and change our flights). Our plan is to be home late Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

day 5

OK today was by far the coolest as far as archeological sites go. I got up early for a run through the streets of Thessalonica and then hit an early breakfast (what is breakfast you say? - pretty much typical Greek fare is yogurts, fruits, nuts, honey, bread, coffee, cheese, olives, some bacon somtimes and scrambled eggs). We then made our way north to Philippi. Acts 16 tells you the story about this town. So we saw some amazing biblical stuff.

First, the River where they best conjecture that Paul met the women at prayer and baptized Lydia and her household. So here we were taking pictures on the river where our Christian sister from 2,000 years ago came to Christ. Then we made our way into the city proper.

There we walked on the Egnatian way (a 700 mile Roman road that Paul and his companions traveled a lot on his missionary journeys) and imagined Paul being followed by a demon possessed girl whom he cast the demon out of. We stood in the market place where the apostle (with Silas) was dragged before the Roman magistrates (and stripped and beaten). The place of judgement is there, we stood on it! And we thought about Paul paying a price for his faith.

We went to the jail cell where Paul and Silas spent the night. Again, remember the oral history would have been kept in detail by the Christians in that place, so the sites are believed to be accurate. So we did the jail thing - very wild.

Then we walked through the ruins of three different churches built in the 4th and 5th centuries. It was obviously a very strong church (as you can tell by reading Philippians). Very cool to spend time inside what remains of churches over 1600 years old. I stood in one of the pulpit areas in one of them.

finally we headed to the arena that was originally an ampitheatre in Greek times, but by the first and second century became an arena where Christians were thrown to the lions for sport. We actually saw the place where fences were put in place to keep the lions out of the stands. It is sobering to think of our Christian brothers and sisters dying because they believed in Jesus.

After we left Philippi we went to the city Kavala (a port city) where we had octopus and squid for lunch! Interesting about this city is that in the New Testament times it was Neopolis (literally new city) and was a place Paul came into port on one missionary journey to see the Philippians.

the trip is winding down and we are heading back to Athens tomorrow for some more educating stuff, but my heart will be 6,000 miles away with my family at Eastview.

Friday, November 7, 2008

day 4

Today, we hit the road by 7:30 a.m. and it was absolutely packed with cool stuff. We began with a 15 minute drive into the town of Meteora where there are these incredible large rock formations jutting up out of the Greek plains. These formations are from 500 to 800 feet high and here's the the 4th-6th centuries A.D. a bunch of monks came here to establish monasteries (there were 24 at one time and now only 6 remain). Now, you really have to see this to believe it, but these chapels with surrounding living quarters and gardens, vineyards, etc... are built on the very edge of some incredible precipes. We visited one that reopened again in the 1920's and was turned into a convent. The convent of St. Barbara was formerly a monastery established by Roussenou (spelling is definitely wrong), but I'll bet you could google it and find out the real way to spell it and maybe see some pix). We were able to visit this ancient (and incredibly small chapel with Byzantine frescoes and icon painted on the walls in the 12th-13th centuries) chapel with an incredible view. We packed into this place with ancient church relics (remember Greek Orthodox is an off shoot of Roman Catholic) that depicted pretty much the entire Old and New Testaments through judgement. We learned that the nuns begin every day with a three hour worship service beginning at 4:00 a.m. - standing!

After this cool visit we headed to the town of Vergina and the royal tomb of Philip II (of Macedon). He was the father of Alexander the Great and although there is no biblical history here, we were able to see the stuff buried with his body over 2400 years ago. It was an undisturbed tomb until the 1970's! It was very cool.

We then had lunch and headed to the city of Berea. Now what's incredible about this is that we know that Paul reasoned with them in the synagogue (Acts 17:10-15) and the steps that he preached on are still there in a monument to this day. yes the very steps the apostle preached on I stood on for a picture today. This is incredible stuff for a 21st century preacher to stand where the guy who wrote much of what I preach wrote and spoke 2,000 years ago.

After a short visit we headed to thessoloniki (Bible Thessalonica - where Paul also preached and started a riot in Acts 17:1-9) and went to a chapel from the 6th century. Again very small but there were frescoes of all the twelve apostles still visible, with old candelabras, pulpits, kneeling benches, etc...

We are now in the hotel in downtown Thessalonica and are heading to supper after which we are heading to Starbucks (another religious experience!) and then a walk down the plaza to the Aegean Sea. Tomorrow - Phillipi

Thursday, November 6, 2008

day 3

today, we actually have adjusted our time clocks to the proper sleep patterns. We slept until our 6:00 a.m. wake up call (which means I didn't get up and run before breakfast). Today was a travel day so we spent about 7 hours on the bus and are now in a small town called Kalambaka at the Meteora hotel. It is at the base of some serious rock formations where century old monasteries are built on the top. Tomorrow we will tour one.

We headed north this morning for about three hours until we came to the town of Delphi. This was the ancient spiritual center of Greece. Here people from all over the world would come for spiritual advice and guidance from an oracle (a word from a priest). But here's the gig...the place was built over some place where some natural gas of some kind was emitted next to a spring where laurel grows. They built a room (temple) over this spot and a priestess (usually teen - aged) would sit there all morning smelling the gas, drinking the water and chewing the laurel. At some point she would come into some kind of trance and then begin some estatic utterances! Crazy stuff, basically chicks that were high would babble and guys from all over the world would listen to their advice.

What's cool is that a major complex complete with temple to Apollos, statues, ampitheatre, hippodrome (hippo is Greek for horse), and stadium all became a part of this complex in the side of the mountain. The stadium was at least a mile hike up where 7,000 stone slab seats are still in existence after 4,000 years. It was incredible! We had a great lunch at a roadside cafe that overlooked about a 800 foot gorge. We were impressed with the mountainous terrain and the villages built into them.

There were some cool remains from a church that was built in Delphi around 400 AD when the Roman empire opened up to Christianity and it spread basically putting the oracle out of business. So this building is there that became the church at Delphi. Very cool to think about the Christians (former brothers and sisters) who attended this church with an incredible view and to think that we worship and follow the same Jesus.

I had the opportunity to have a great conversation with Kent Odor on the bus ride this afternoon. He's the Sr. Associate at the Cincinnati Vineyard church. Great to experience this trip with a fellow brother.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

day 2

Well, we awoke this morning around the time John McCain was giving his concession speech (this was 6:15 a.m. here) and I said a prayer for our new president Barack Obama that God would use him to accomplish his will (see Hebrews 13:1-4). I was up for a morning run before joining the group for the day. The world certainly was watching our election, very strange from this side of the pond. Anyway, I hit the streets of Athens for a three mile run (sara was afraid I'd get lost, but as I knew, i didn't ... I just came back a different way than I came!)

Anyway, we ate breakfast (some really good dates and breads with jam), and then hit the museum of culture here in Athens. Very cool, mostly statues (some that dated back 10,000 bc.) from the Greek culture before Rome (around 4th century bc.). Then we headed to Corinth. It was historically a great city because it lay in a 2.5 mile stretch of land between the Aegean and Adriatic Sea. This caused it to be a world city with cultures and races from literally all over the world. They actually dragged ships across this land mass to get from one port to the other (now there is a canal). So Alexander the Great was here and then the Romans destroyed it and left it desolate in 2nd century BC. It was totally destroyed until Caesar Augustus (same one in the Christmas story in Luke 2) rebuilt it in 44 BC and restored it to it's greatness. It was this cosmopolitan city that Paul entered in the middle of the first century ad (Acts 18).

I stood at the place where he stood before Gallio and where he preached for 1 1/2 years in the collonaded stoa. We walked through the market area where he made and sold tents! This is an awesome experience. Corinth was known for Bronze (bronze mirrors that you could polish and kind of see - read I corinthians 13:12 - were actually excavated and on display), and gold and for exporting wine, olive oil and inventing raisins! When it's all said and done we felt a deeper connection with our brothers and sisters from the past (yes we have pictures).

After, we got back to our hotel, Bob, Sandi, Sara and I took a twenty minute walk through the city in search for an alleged Starbucks..and we found it! Awesome to enjoy my favorite drink in the Athens air (it has been unseasonably warm - 80's - the last two days). We have eaten supper and the ladies have gone to the old market to shop and I'm just chillin' in the room writing this. Tomorrow we will get up early and head north eventually getting to Phillipi and Thessolonica.

day 2

Well, we woke up this morning to hear our next President Barack Obama give his acceptance speech. The world certainly was interested in what was happening. it was the only thing on every channel from France to Greece.

I woke around 6:00 to take about a three mile run through the city (of course Sara was afraid that I'd get lost, and of course i didn't - I just came back a different way than I went:-) We had breakfast around 7:30 and then went to this cool museum here in Athens. Basically lots of statues and stuff, but it was cool. there were artifacts from 10,000 bc. We then headed to Corinth. A very cool ancient city with tons of history (both pre and bible). Pre Bible times of course it was a major city because of it's location. Stretched just in between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas (miraculously they actually had slaves drag ships on land across the 2.5 mile stretch to get from one port to the other. They exported gold, and bronze and they invented raisins.

Alexander the Great was here! and the place was completely destroyed and looted and burned in the 2nd century BC. It was left desolate. Then in 44 BC Caesar Augustus decided to rebuild and repopulate the city and raised it to prominence again. Yes this is the guy who was in charge when jesus was born in luke 2....awesome! So by the time Paul hit the place in the middle first century and started this church here - it was a brand new and glorious metropolitan city known throughout the world. It was awesome to experience the road the apostle walked.

I stood where he defended himself in front of the

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

day 1

Well, it's just about 24 hours later and after a VERY long plane ride we arrived in Athens around 9:30 Athens time. I hope you all were sleeping (I couldn't, but sara took the right pill). First let me say how sad i was to hear about Joyce Smiley's passing just after i blogged yesterday. Jim and Joyce have served here in remarkable ways, and thanks to a generous couple with a helicopter, Sara and I were able to talk and pray with her and Jim in Rochester last thursday.

Anyway, i was hoping to go straight to the hotel and get a quick nap when we arrived, but when the guide said we were going to the Acropolis (yeah the one from the 5th century BC) and a visit to Mars Hill (yeah the one the apostle Paul stood on in Acts) i caught my second wind. I have been up for 24 straight hours, but I'm already blessed to have stood in the spot where paul delivered his famous "unknown god" sermon. What an awesome connection to my Christian heritage!

Another cool thing...we found out that the Athens marathon (the one originating because a soldier ran from Marathon (an actual place) to Athens to tell the people that they had been victorious over the Persians and then died) is being run this coming Sunday. I'm kind of in marathon shape and if i can talk the guide into it, I'll run it, but i think it's not going to fit with our tour schedule.

Well, now i am running down and need a nap. we are going to meet as a group tonight and go to supper...not much else. Sara and I have a great view to the Acropolis from our hotel balcony which should look pretty sweet at night all lit up. I'll update you all tomorrow

Monday, November 3, 2008


Well, it's the beginning of a long day of travel. Sara and i are getting ready to catch a flight to JFK where we will meet with a group of pastors from all over the country with a tour group called Jerusalem Tours International (which is weird since we aren't going to Jerusalem, oh well) and then fly to Athens (not Georgia, Greece). It is a ten hour flight, so we will leave around 3:00 p.m. (central) today and get there around 1:00 a.m. (9:00 a.m. Tuesday in Greece). My biggest issue is figuring out how not to wear the cheesy tour group name tag without being a jerk about it:-)

We will spend the next eight days with Bob and Sandi Knapp (they are going with) checking out the possibility of guiding some from out congregation on a "footsteps" of Paul tour in the future. I'm really looking forward to standing in Athens, Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica and some of the places where the church started in the first century. There is something that makes you feel like a very small part of something incredibly large when you visit these places. What were these Christians thinking? What lives did they live? What sins they struggle with? What songs of praise did they sing? Well, over the next week I'm going to try and keep a daily blog for you guys (both of you) to follow along in the journey - both geographic and personal as I tour these places you can read about in Acts 16 and following!

See you on the other side.