Tinkertown USA

Heather and I moved to Olathe, KS during the summer of 1999. We were poor seminary students who were adjusting to married life.

We had little to watch on television and I stumbled across the show, Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations on Kansas City Public Television. This silly show about two men traveling the US looking for folk artists struck a cord with me. I truly fell in love with folk art.

The quirky, homemade, 'art-out-of-necessity' nature of folk art captured my imagination. From the well known Howard Finster to the obscure Palmyra, TN artist E.T. Wickham, their art flows from a deep desire to reflect the beauty around them and to create.

Enter Ross Ward. Here is a quick bio from the Tinkertown website:

Ross Ward was born to paint, carve and tinker. As a boy growing up in the Midwest, he was captivated by the tiny villages, farms and circuses created by “spare time carvers.” His own miniature world began with circus figures carved while in junior high school – now on display at the museum. He began carving the first figures for the turn-of-the-century general store in 1962.Ross carved and built his folk art environment as a hobby for most of his adult life but he was even more prolific in his artistic endeavors of painting, etching, drawing and sculpture. A self-taught artist, he was a show painter for carnivals for over 30 years, traveling the country painting on all the major carnival shows and in winter quarters from Texas to Florida.

A couple challenges I took from Tinkertown (both of these were hand painted by Ross in Tinkertown):
  • "Ever since the creation of the world, God's invisible nature has been clearly perceived in things that have been made" –Romans 1:20
  • "I did all this while you were watching TV." –Ross Ward

I think I will combine these challenges into a few questions. How am I reflecting God's in my life? Am I spending the time I have here on earth wisely? Am I investing my life in things that have eternal value?

I hope we take the time to ask ourselves these questions and reflect on the beauty of our Creator.

Are you investing in eternity or the temporary?

Here are some of our pictures from Tinkertown USA.


The Blue Hole

Blue Hole was not a planned stop, but Heather and I saw a sign on the way to Taracumcari. It was way too cold to swim, but it was one of the moments in life where you know you might not ever be back and you need to make the most of it.

The kids and I put on our swimsuits and slowly tried to wade into the 62 degree water. I finally just decided to jump. It is a mental game. There is something about jumping into water that is 12 feet deep knowing you will not touch the bottom. Then you stare into the blue hole that is 80 feet deep. The thought of not wanting to freeze up and sink to the bottom is terrifying. I jumped and it was cold, but I came up and found my way to the side.

Check out our album.

(619) 327-3326

I was reminded this week of one of my favorite passages in Hebrews. Living in a part of the country where college football is very important, a similar news story plays out periodically. It goes something like this:

  • College football player (or players) do something they shouldn't do.
  • They get in trouble by law enforcement.
  • The media outlets run to the coach for a reaction.

This story played out this week. The story itself didn't stand out to me- it was the reaction of the coach that stood out. The media surrounds the coach prior to a round of golf and asks for a statement.

This is what caught my attention. The coach replied (this is not an exact quote), "You want to know what we are going to do to discipline these players. To you, discipline is punishment. For me, discipline is how we are going to help these young men make the right decisions for the rest of their lives."

When I heard this response, I turned to Heather and said, "That was a rather biblical response."

Take a moment to read Hebrews 12:7-11:

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline might require an aspect of punishment. The goal is not punishment, rather holiness. A parent disciplines out of love. A parent seeks to break the bad habits and replace them with 'the peaceful fruit of righteousness.'

May you be encouraged. If you are a parent, know that you are shaping young men and women that they might bear fruit. If you are living in a time where you feel God's discipline, know that He sees you has His child and acts only out of love.

May His discipline shape in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness!


Biblical Humility

I hope you have been enjoying our Sunday morning series in the book of Daniel. Last Sunday, I preached from the story of the writing on the wall. In this story, I pointed out three things that brought about King Belshazzar's fall. These were:

  • A lack of humility
  • Sacrilege (using sacred vessels at a party)
  • Idolatry (drinking to the gods)

I would like to spend a little time with the first point today. Humility is in short supply in our world today- and biblical humility is even more scarce. What do I mean by biblical humility?

Biblical humility is not low self-esteem. Do you remember how the book of Daniel began? Daniel is writing his story and the Babylonians invaded Israel. Nebuchadnezzar decides to gather the most handsome, most intelligent, and able-bodied young men in Israel. This included Daniel- the author! Biblical humility properly assesses one's strengths and weakness. Your strengths do not make you better than someone else, rather your strengths are recognized as coming from your heavenly Father. They are a gift- a gift to be given back to the one who gave them.

Biblical humility is not a lack of ambition. The stories of Daniel repeatedly tell us how Daniel and his friends moved 'up' in the king's service. We also see how they used these positions to serve and through serving they gave the glory to God.

Biblical humility is about serving others. Think about Paul's words in Philippians 2, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Humility looks to the needs of others.

These are powerful words. We see the life of a servant in Daniel, but I think Daniel would tell us it was all about his Lord. In the life of Jesus, we see this servanthood lived out in love and holiness.

In closing, I'd like to boil this down into one simple statement (I heard this somewhere, but I can't remember where!). Biblical humility is the proper understanding of who we are and whose we are. When we know who we are (how God has gifted us and wants to use us) then we can be used for His service.

May you recognize that God has gifted you and may you return this gift to your Father.

Transformed Lives

In life, we have many common experiences. One of these experiences is from elementary.

My second-grade class did it.
My children's classes did it.
I assume, no matter your age, you too participated in a similar project.

When I was a kid, we were told to keep our milk cartons one day at lunch. When we returned from lunch, we took turns rinsing the cartons out in the class sink.

The next day, the teacher had a large bag of soil and we each put a cup of soil in the milk carton after we skillfully cut the top.

Then, each student was given a seed to plant in their little carton of soil. The cartons were placed in the window and we eagerly waited for a green shoot to break the black soil.

Every class had that kid- the one who cannot wait for the green leaf to appear. Two days into the project, he goes to the window while no one is paying attention and digs into the soil to see what he finds (I use the male pronoun because it always seems to be a boy!).

In the days of the New Testament, a farmer sowed a seed for one reason- to produce fruit. Without the resulting fruit, plants were good for nothing. They were as worthless as the seed pulled out of the milk carton.

Mark 4:3-7 reads, "Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain."

This imagery in this parable is one that would have been common to the original audience. The explanation that Jesus gives a few verses later seems only natural, "The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful" (Mark 4:14-19).

The symbolism in this parable is clear. There are people, in whom, the word of God is planted. This word grows and for whatever reason, this word does not take root. Some people might even sprout roots, but pressures of this world (the literal meaning of tribulation) do not allow the roots to delve into the soil.

Discipleship is hard.
Following Jesus is difficult.

I hope this parable challenges you. I hope it reminds us that there are plenty of ways for our faith to be choked out. There are days that the pressure seems too great.

There is hope.

Seeds are beautiful things. Their size is deceiving. They seem too small, but great things can come from the smallest seed.

They open and send a sprout up through the soil and roots deep into the soil.

A seed is transformed. If a seed stays the same, it cannot produce fruit.

It is only through transformation that a seed can produce fruit.

The question is– Are you willing to be transformed?

May you allow God to do the miraculous in your life!