Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How often do you ride through corn fields

Now that summer is almost over (stores are already opening up their Fall displays!!) I finally have my bike in working order. After putting off and putting off getting it fixed I eventually broke down and realized that it wouldn’t fix itself. Last summer…or even earlier maybe…Sarah was riding my mountain bike when the drive side (right) pedal fell off! Turns out that it had stripped itself off and the only way to fix it is to buy a new crank arm. I soon found that I couldn’t just replace the arm but I needed to also replace the entire crank because it is such an old model. I took it into a local shop, found a good deal and ended up replacing the bottom bracket (all the ball bearings that help turn the pedals) while they were in there. Replacing the bottom bracket marks the point where everything on this bike but the frame has been swapped out…it sorta begs the question, “at what point does a bike no longer hold on to its original identity, and where does the soul of a bike reside?” hmmmm… but that is another posting, I was talking about riding!! Anyway, I get it fixed, race home in my jubilation, throw on the pedal and head out to discover all the trails I have been dreaming about. About 8-9 miles out I realize that I can’t go any further (mostly it was my backside yelling with pain) so I turn around. No sooner do I do that then my pedal falls out AGAIN!!! Ok, now I am upset!! I am mostly upset because as I look at it I see that there are shavings of crank on my pedal, therefore when I put on the pedal I must have done something wrong in my haste. I now have taken the bike back to the shop and turns out there is a very easy and cheap way to fix this (why didn’t we do that first, huh?) you just drill out the old threads, and tap in a tube that is threaded for the right size… done in an hour. So I again, came home in my jubilation, and head out for another ride. This time though, I took the pedal in with me to the shop, so that they could put it on right! : )

Monday, July 30, 2007

It's back

Well after a year hiatus, Matt's larger photo website is now operational again. There is nothing new posted there currently, but I'm sure he'll start posting images there again soon!
Matt's photo site

Sunday, July 29, 2007

who is God?

The other week at Bible study we watched a sermon produced by "Nooma" entitled "Kickball". If you ever get chance to watch it, it's pretty good and is filmed in a more artsy style. Anyways, the subject of the talk was about our desires verses God's desires for us. In short the conclusion is that God's way is always better. Very simple sermon with a very simple point.

However I was blown away with a simple thought towards the end of the video. The pastor, Rob Bell, closes by saying that there are a lot of hard things that happen in life that we do not understand. That there are questions that do not have easy answers. Yet despite these injustices and questions, "who do you say that God is? Because how you choose to answer that question will determine how you answer all the hard questions and situation in life."

While simple, it's actually a pretty profound idea. Who do I say that God is? And how does my answer to that question determine my outlook on unjust and unanswerable things in this world? I came to the conclusion that I'm not sure I have an easy answer to who God is. Every time I try and answer, I feel like I'm leaving something out. I think the closest thing I've landed on is that God is the Omnipotent, Unfathomable, Righteous, Father. But....that doesn't seem to do justice to who God is.

It's an interesting idea to think about who God is and what implications that would have on your life perspective. If I say God is a King, that leaves room for him to be perhaps unapproachable and so in response to hard situations I could say they have occurred because God is preoccupied somewhere else. If I say God is a Father, that leaves room for him to be completely relational and more on a buddy buddy basis and so in response to hard situations I could say that they occurred because God doesn't have enough power or authority.

All I can say is that God sure is indescribable, and maybe that's where I should leave it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Prayer Updates

  • Matt made it back safely last week and has spent the last few days recovering. The trip went well and he was able to spend time interacting with a lot of amazing people of faith. Thank you to all who were praying for him while he was gone. Pray that he would transition back to life at work well over the next few days.
  • Christine, the intern from Canada who is living with us, has been a tremendous blessing. It was great to have her here while Matt was away. Keep praying that we would learn from each other and enjoy the summer God has given us.
  • Sarah will be attending a Leadership Summit in two weeks sponsored by Willow Creek. She's not really sure what to expect, but pray that she would be challenged and open to new ideas.
  • Pray that both of us would continue learning how to rely on God above all else.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Summer reading reviews

I have to admit that I have not read as much as I thought I might this summer, but the following books are worth recommending:

Judaism Before Jesus, by Anthony J. Tomasino: This has been one of the more challenging and informative reads that I've read in a while. The book in short is a condensed history of the events leading up to Christ as well as how theologically Judaism developed over time. It's so easy to forget the other events that coincided with biblical events and accounts.

Africa Bible Commentary, edited by Tokunboh Adeyemo: This may be one of the first if not few non-western commentaries on the bible ever published! While I haven't really read a whole lot out of this commentary, the few pages I have are incredibly rich with insight and challenging. I don't think I would ever just sit down and read a commentary, but I've been finding myself doing just that with this one.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling: All I can say is that a huge chapter in my life is over! (Sigh). While I don't think the book was better than any of the other Harry Potter books, it's nice to finally have some resolution in my life! Thank you JK for finally putting an end to this series so my life can now move on!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The New Atheism

There was a great editorial article in the Wall Street Journal by Peter Berkowitz the other day who shares his opinion about the rise of commercial atheism. If you have a few minutes it's worth reading. (click here to read article).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"I believe I need Jesus, but..."

"I believe I need Jesus, but I don't believe he's the only thing I need" -Doug Grimes

This was a quote from a sermon I heard almost a year ago that still haunts me every once in a while. Do I believe that Jesus is the only thing I need? How would my life look different if I truly believed that?

I think what makes that quote so haunting is the reality that God is the only thing that we really need. And he desires us to live like that. Not just because he says so, although that is reason enough, but because he knows how much sweeter our lives will be as we come to realize the full truth of him satisfying every need.

There are so many things other than God which claim to meet our burdens and needs: money, community, diet pills, the internet, a spouse. But I guess in the end, they will always fall short.

I was reminded this morning about a passage from Matthew which in The Message is translated
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28)
There is something freeing in coming to Jesus, and only Jesus. I pray that I would learn what it means to desire Him only and come to Him first before all else.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

July 2007 Prayer letter

Most of you should be receiving our July update letter in the mail any day now! Yippee for snail mail!

For those of you who for some reason have escaped being on our prayer letter list, you can see our prayer letter by clicking on the two images above! If we have somehow missed you and you would like to receive our updates via mail or email let us know!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

World Assembly 07, post 1

Greetings from Ancaster, Canada!

I am currently sitting in an auditorium at World Assembly 2007, an IFES international conference where missionaries from 150 nations have come to gather. While my role here is to be the conference photographer, I am being awed by things other than my job. I never realized the people I would be interacting with here!

Just walking around I’ve had simple conversations with individuals working around the world. We chat about ministry, compare stories and laugh at our similar failures. Later I find that I was chatting with the founder of campus ministry in Africa, or chatting with the General Secretary from Cuba, or talking to an author form somewhere in francophone Africa. Becky Pippert (author of "Out of the Salt Shaker" and founder of Salt Shaker ministries) spoke last night, Stella Kasirye spoke the day before about AIDS in Africa, and Peter Kuzmic has spoken today. It is amazing to hear all the things that God is doing through these people alone, and there are more stories to come!!!

For example, Peter was talking about his ministry in Sarajevo, Bosnia. (yes, that is the place that Sarah and I have gone on Global Projects) He spoke of the church that he was preaching at during the war. Near the end of the service, they heard the air sirens go off and minutes later the shelling began. Outside, the Croatian Army was systematically bombing the city. Sarajevo is still a very diverse city, and even during this time, there were Croatians in the city. Peter know that if he sent his church out to run for cover, they would surly be picked off by a sniper, instead he called them to pray. Over the sound of bombs and explosions, he heard the church surrounding the Croatian families in prayer, welcoming them and comforting them, in effect saying, “we are not judging you like the rest of the city is.” Peter then walked through today’s talk about community in the Christian context and how different we can and should be from the world.

One of my favorite conversations was with a woman from the Caribbean. We talked about what ministry is like there, and how very important it is to minister to the youth. Not just for the obvious reasons of protecting them from the world and talking to them about Jesus, but because these are the future leaders of the country, these are the future doctors, lawyers and politicians, what a great place to have a Christian influence! They are striving to reach every student in High School, before the temptations of the world attract their innocent minds.
In all I think I am experiencing something that my mind cannot wrap itself around. There are 600-700 people here from all around the world, starting and continuing student ministries all over the world, one even said that IFES is the most diverse, and influential non-profit in the world. I think I am hearing all that is going on around me, but not really grasping the full impact that God is making through His people.

Please pray for this conference, pray for the delegates, pray for the countries, pray for perseverance through troubled (and dangerous) times; pray for simple things like fatigue, conversation issues (many, many languages are spoken here) and safety (many people are risking their lives by associating with us here.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pray for Matt

Matt is currently in Canada for the IFES world conference. He's there as the primary photographer for the event. They made it there safely last night and they spent the day setting up and getting everything ready for people to arrive tomorrow.

  • Pray that he and his team will get a good night's rest before everything starts tomorrow.
  • Pray that there would be no technical difficulties.
  • Pray that Matt would not be so focused on the technical side of things that he forgets to look for what God is doing.
  • Pray that he would relax and enjoy being in Canada!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"We all must choose between what is right, and what is easy."

So I just got done watching a Harry Potter movie marathon in preparation for the new movie release this week.

For some reason I was struck by one comment Dumbledore made at the end of "The Goblet of Fire". (I think it was that movie...they are all blending right now). Anyways, Dumbledore makes the following comment in reference to the evil wizards return that there "are difficult times coming, times in which we must all choose between what is right and what is easy."

It's interesting that it was not between what is right and wrong, but between what is right and what is easy. It's amazing how often taking the "easy" course can equal being wrong. This seems particularly true in areas of seeking God's justice and taking a bold stand for God.

I think of Peter who chose the easy route and denied Jesus three times. I think of the church in Germany who chose to be quite rather than stand up for the millions of Jews being killed. I think of my own self who would rather ignore the pain, suffering and poverty around me so that I might enjoy the illusion of my own security and well being.

Jesus never called us to an easy road. He called us to what is right: following him.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Rats and Such

So we went and watched Pixar's/Disney's new Movie "Ratatouille" this weekend. My biggest disappointment? None of the rats looked cute! I started getting flash backs of nightmares of the rat in "Lady and the Tramp" that I used to get when I was younger.

But if you can get past the hundreds of gross looking rats scampering everywhere (disgusting), it has some good humor and a good message.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Almost 4th of July

There is a fireworks show that happens in Madison every Saturday before the 4th of July, it is known all around as the biggest show in the Midwest… well Sarah and I had to check this thing out.

And of course, there was another fun sunset!

We went downtown to a park to watch it across the lake with a couple work friends and Sarah’s sister Amy. It was pretty big, to put into perspective, these shots are across the lake, through 3.5 miles of atmosphere.

click to see the new star nebula and the happy face?


The one thing that I (Matt) have had to get used to here in Madison is the fact that you photograph sunsets different. (I know, of all the things, I struggle with sunsets!!) Anyway, in Santa Barbara I would just get in my car, drive up the hill and voila! Or down to the beach, voila! But here that are no mountains, there are no beaches close by, and the horizon is nowhere to be seen! But what we do have are these really dramatic afternoon storms that sometimes stay around till sunset, and then it is, “make sure you are ready Matt, because the Lord will show you his wonder!!”

Going wide...really wide

So… I have not posted here in quite a while. Sarah is kicking my little tuckus in postings. But I guess I will give this thing a shot or two.

This last weekend I was able to borrow a really wide-angle lens, and boy is it crazy, reminds me of my film days. (for those that actually care, it is a Nikon 12-24mm f4) for the rest of you, basically it is ‘almost all that you can see with your eyes’ wide.

I took it down town and had a lot of fun. As sunset was approaching I relized that it would be good to be on the other side of the ithsmus I was on, so I ran the mile across (I am really out of shape) and boy was I surprised at the sunset.

More so, there was a group down at the park that caught my eye! We have seen them before but this time I actually got some pics, interacted and chatted with one of them. Basically they are a medieval times type of gang, they have really crazy battles. They have real armor, shields, bows and arrows, and tactics. They just look a little funny because the tips of the arrows, and the ‘blade’ of the swards are covered in high-density foam! After talking to one of the guys I found that they are designed per specifications and have fiberglass handles and blade cores. There was even a guy there with a replica of an Elvin Blade from Lord of the Rings!!!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Am I my brother's keeper?

This past Sunday, the preacher suggested something that I thought was fairly interesting. The sermon focused on the Genisis story of Cain and Able. In that story, there is a point where Cain chooses to kill Able and God asks Cain where Able is. Cain's famos response is "Am I my brother's keeper?"

So Nate (the preacher), pointed out that the hebrew word used for "keeper" is the same word that God used when he commanded Adam to look after the earth. Adam was supposed to "keep" the earth.

Nate suggested that in God's eyes, we are to care for both people and nature equally. We are to "keep" and care for all of God's creation. Or as Strong's Concordance put's it "to watch, observe, guard, preserve" both man and creation.

That's a pretty tall order, but a significant one in my opinion. Am I willing to do this for all of God's creation?