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It All Adds Up To Love 
Monday, February 6, 2006, 10:44 AM - Extra Christy
It's annual report time. For church folk, it is a time where all the groups of the church write up what they have been doing the last year and how much money they have used to do it. It's the Church's version of the Christmas Letter: a way for folks far away to know what the family has been doing all year.

Usually there is one person in the congregation who adds up every list of numbers and checks every sum printed in the multi-page report (we hit 40 this year!). While not an elected position or one required by church policy; every church seems to manage to find someone to check the math for them.

I never held this position. In fact, when I took the “are you sure you want to be a pastor” career test, I scored average on just about all careers (I'm an easy going guy.) except accounting. I was in the basement. Number crunching sets my teeth on edge.

So annual report with all its numbers is not a happy time for me, there are always things that don't add up the first go around and chasing them down is not fun for me. But with some help from number friendly folks we got all the reports to add up. Whew!

Jesus had to balance a report from one of his disciples. The disciple Peter, also called Simon, recognized by many as the first church official, famously gave a report that needed to be fixed, denying he even knew Jesus 3 times on that first Maundy Thursday. The story is in Luke 22:54- 62 and is often a part of the church readings before Easter. What isn't often read is Jesus' editing of that first annual report that didn't add up in John 21:15- 17. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loved him, matching the three denials that didn't add up. Each time Peter affirms his love of Jesus:

The third time he said to him, "Peter son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
When things don't add up Jesus shows us the love brings balance back to the relationship.

Hoping love makes everything add up in your life!


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Steelers Win the Superbowl 
Sunday, February 5, 2006, 07:36 PM - Entertainment
Yay! The Steelers won the Superbowl! A good ending to Jerome Bettis career, my favorite Steeler player, who announced his retirement in his hometown after winning the Superbowl there. Nice.

I admire Bettis because even though he is no longer a starter, he plays hard and with heart to spare for his team and his community. He is usually called on to go up the middle into a group of large men who are determined to stop him. Yet he goes into the opposition again and again, usually gaining ground. Even after you think he cannot possibly go any further, he moves ahead.

This whole season is an extra step for Bettis. He was probably planning on retiring after winning last year's Superbowl...but losing the in playoffs last season stood in his way to the Superbowl. So he kept going another year and his team and his efforts, after he had been blocked, brought him to the Super Bowl.

It is what you do after you meet opposition and suffer setbacks that makes a difference
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Groundhog Day Remembered 
Thursday, February 2, 2006, 09:34 AM - Family
My favorite movie is Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell made in 1993 about a visit to Punxsutawney that never ends. In 2001, my daughter and I made the trip to Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney. Official Groundhog Site for the real (surreal?) thing.

Phil comes out about 7:25 AM but the Knob opens at 3:00 AM for bonfires, fireworks, music, dancing on stage, cheers and lots of standing in the cold mud. (How is there mud in February in Northern PA? Friction of thousands of Phil fan feet I guess.)

A bus took us from the town (where the film festivities were set) to the actual hill. We met thousands of happy for no apparent reason people self divided into a “family” section and an “others” section. We joined the family section in standing, singing, dancing, shivering and waiting for a rodent. (The “others” section had more active versions of these activities, and more signs cheering on Spring and Phil). We took pictures, admired the artificial dawn of fireworks, followed by the slower but longer lasting real dawn, watched the bundled up stage dancers and listened to the countdown to the emergence of the groundhog from a large stump on stage.

About 7:15 AM a dozen or so members of the groundhog club in top hats and formal wear marched down the hill, passed the TV cameras and lights at the base of the stage, and gathered around the stump on stage in the woods. After introductions of the impressively titled members of the inner circle, the groundhog was taken out to immense cheers, the prediction was whispered, and then read from a scroll. After the festivities, (about 15 minutes) we walked the mile back to town rather than wait in the crowds for buses.

I was glad for the experience, but I haven't felt the need to go back. I still enjoy the movie version; I even have taught a series of classes using clips from the movie. A common theme of both the movie and the reality is that meaning is where people place it. Groundhog Day is both cold boring hours standing outside in the gloomy woods for silly people doing meaningless rituals, and a gathering of happy hopeful people carrying on a tradition of cheering for spring, light and life in the middle of a dark cold winter. It is your choice which event you attend.

I think worship is like that too. Maybe that is why I like both.


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You Are Not Alone 
Monday, January 30, 2006, 04:48 PM - Extra Christy
Living in the Pittsburgh area for 6 years I've learned to eat my salad topped with french fries, expect my sandwiches stuffed with cole slaw, and watch my football in Steeler black and gold. These are all rare in the Akron, Ohio area where I now live.

Yet last Fall, I was discussing football with parents of a preschooler that attends the Color our Rainbow Academy here: "There are Steeler fans here", Brian assured me. I was doubtful. Okay, I didn't believe him, Brown fans are legendary, the Browns' Dawg Pound has been recognized by the US Congress! How can there be Steeler fans in this brown land?

The prophet Elijah had some lonely times. He complained to God:

He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 1 Kings 19:14

Yet God corrected him; telling him there were seven thousand faithful still left. What an undercount!

And now that the Steelers are going to the Superbowl...I see diamond flags flying from Akron homes, a steeler cap on the head of the owner of the corner restaurant, and even a Steeler team jacket worn inside the church! (We are inclusive folk!)

When you think you are alone, God tells you to look around, the faithful surround you. So get out of your cave and surround yourself with friends and fans that encourage and support you.

Hoping you always feel a part of God's winning team!

(sent as this week's Extra Christy.)
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Knowledge and Power 
Sunday, January 29, 2006, 02:58 PM - Church
I was discussing how "knowledge puffs up...love builds up" from 1 Corinthians 8:1 and managed to use my favorite current commerical. You can see it here: Nextel:Dance Party.

Since I only had audio, the contrast of the dancers vs. the must know it all worker now didn't come across as as well. (Someday, I'll have video for worship!) But for now, you can get both at the link above, (after a commerical before the commerical.)

(The song is Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It", thanks to the ever patient and always helpful Robert Ramsey for finding the clip.)

:LOGO
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