10.31.2009

Day 24, The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth.


Friday nights in Baumholder Germany, can be quite the challenge for any family. Back in the states you pack up a hot chocolate and head to a Friday Night High School Football game. Not the case here. Therefore, in the Craven residents it typically becomes movie night,...dinner on the coffee table/ Boy Scout popcorn popping / and of course, some Hot Apple Cider.

Now last night we decided on a movie that Jessica and I had no idea about...we were pitted between AMADEUS and ELIZABETH. One was for 9.99 to buy, the other was the 2.99 rental. (We took the frugal route).

After our trip to London 2 months ago, we have been intrigued by the historical significance of the places we visited. For instance, we saw the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded ...etc..etc. You get the point...SO, last night we watched the movie, "Elizabeth", a retelling of the last couple of years of her reign in England, as the Spanish Armada was preparing to attack.

I am not a history buff, so watching these movies makes me race to wikipedia to research these events, and atleast get a decent overview of what I have been watching. VERY enjoyable. Costumes were amazing...hair....ridiculously PROM! And if you read the previous blog regarding Jessica and my movie tastes, it matched perfectly.

A great night of stimulating History. Does anyone know any other classic like that?

So, what's the bottomline:
I don't really know. Maybe, Friday Nights are just good times to sit and enjoy the bounty of your labors. Maybe, from time to time, Jesus did take a day and just talk about fishing to Peter or carpentry? I am not Max Lucado, ...careful not to over-emphasize Christ's humanity...but I did enjoy it.

10.30.2009

Day 23, 250 Words or Less.

After blogging for almost a month now, I have learned one thing. Be brief, cut the chase, and cut the fluff out. So, I am making it a goal to hit 250 words or less each blog, so that I don't spend an eternity writing, and you can quickly jump to the next part of your day.

Not just being polite, but if you can't say your point in a few words, do you really have something to say with a lot. I have read quite a great deal of books over the last year, and some of them I think an 'abridged' version would suffice. Definitely the case for some devotionals I read, or sermons I listen to. Get to the point.

So, keeping with my words; and thought for the day: Keep it brief. Maybe I can change the title tomorrow to add the word, "Concise."

Famous quote: "Best to remain quiet and be called a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." ~ Abe Lincoln

10.28.2009

Day 22, Treehouse of Horror vs. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.


Without fail as the holidays season begins, the stores are filled with the 'ole faithful' cartoon classics. Of course, you didn't buy them last year or the year before, thinking you would save your money and purchase them after the season for a discount, but that morning you still had your 'fat-turkey-sleep-in-hangover', thus you still have no cartoon classics in your DVD library.

Jessica and I typically try to make it a goal to watch the classics just like every other family. So, around the upcoming holiday, if it can be called that, "Halloween" we have come upon a cross road that maybe difficult for us to figure a way around.

In our marriage, this without a doubt is the lone problem we have. It is making decisions regarding movie selection. Thus, here are the sides.

Jessica enjoys the following:
1. No conflict.
2. Girl meets witty cute guy, they flirt, romance, guy leaves, guy returns. Happy Ending.
3. Anything from the "Love comes Softy, tenderly, ..." series. (Amish/western)
4. Let me reiterate, absolutely no violence or heroic slaying of the dragon (no dragon). :)
5. Genre: Romantic Comedy.

John enjoys
1. Conflict and drama.
2. Not a horror flick or gory bloody.
3. Anything from with Gov't/Spies/Intel/Ancient History.
4. Let me reiterate, it must have a plot.
5. Genre: Drama/Suspense.

Now in our marriage, this has not constituted any throwing plates or yelling. We came to a conclusion since my return that we watch "Jessica's" Movie one night, and the next time, "John's" Movie. This recent discovery, makes the Halloween conflict over Charlie Brown or the Simpson's, quite manageable.

Jessica and I, are not perfect. We have areas that we don't necessarily see eye to eye, BUT, by the grace of God alone through Christ, we often must die to self. I never knew how 'self-centered' I was until I put on the wedding band. There is no doubt that God has shown me time and time again, that I have a great deal of growing up to do in this life.

Always Reforming.

10.27.2009

Day 21, Why Music Matters?


Ok, I have an Ipod with a ridiculous amount of songs on it. It goes with me to work and working out. Yet, although I like to consider myself an up to date Christian Music guy, I have found the last ten years quite unproductive in many of the albums that I have purchased on Itunes. I might have high standards, I have decided. Here are some of my reasons I don't like most contemporary Christian songs:

My reasons:
1. The lyrics sound like a 80's love ballad by Chicago.
2. Talk a lot about God, but very little about the work of Christ.
3. When they talk about Jesus, he sounds like a guy who's locker is next to yours.
4. The music itself is cheeze, and I really think typifies our generation of 'lack there of' in any artistic skill.
5. Super-Chic. (enough said)

Ok. I will stop with the negativity. There is a reasonable amount that is halfway decent. Over the last 5 years, I have been listening to Sovereign Grace and Indelible Grace music. I am convinced, that they don't have the greatest 'voices', but heck they atleast don't go down the 'easy-listening' super repeating chorus track trail.

Sovereign Grace and Indelible Grace bring to the table: Thoughtful doctrinal anthems, creedal/hymnal themes that I think cause you to think more Biblically than just marshmallow brain teenage pop crap. I think music does matter. And in the short period of time that I have in my car, since I joined the Army, I value each selection to and from PT or PX.

Keep Listening...but what are you listening to?

10.26.2009

Day 20, Is Jesus the Only way?

If you really want to see where you stand in the realm of Christianity, ask the question to someone or yourself, "Is Jesus the only way for which some to stand right before a Holy?" Or more simply, "Is Jesus the only way?" You will quite clearly get an accurate read on the spectrum scale of where you lie, either liberal or conservative quite quickly.

Now in the local church, you would hope and assume that the Bible is being taught so frequent, that most conservatives would respond quickly verses, such as: John 14:6, or Acts 4:12, as clear answers to such a question. Sadly though, it doesn't seem to matter where you go,...the school locker room, the youth group,...the local ecumenical gathering of pastors,...you will here more of a overall tolerance of all beliefs, or a Christian Inclusivism. This can be defined as a belief that one does essentially get right standing before God, through Christ, but their honest labors in whatever faith, if seen as noble, is accounted to them as included in Christ atonement, and thus they are 'included' or 'inclusive.'

How do you stand or fair in this question? Is Jesus the only way to God? If Jesus is the only way, what about those people who never hear about Him? Do they die and go to eternal punishment?

How conservative is your family? If you want to have a good discussion around the table, ask the question? Give some good Biblical advice.

Jessica and I, actually talked about this the other day while sitting on the couch. It came about as we discussed the various religions we have come across in the military family. Our feelings and answers to this question are quite clear. We believe that the Bible is clear on this issue. A confession in Faith alone in Christ alone is essential for salvation. Thus, we place ourselves as missionaries/ambassadors of Christ here, to reach those who have never heard.

Bottomline: What type of theology sends you headlong into accomplishing the Great Commission where you are? Or does your theology cause you to rest assured that everyone's good to go?

10.25.2009

Day 19, Celebrate Reformation Sunday.


Enjoy all the links! My treat today!

How could I possibly be the "Reformed Chaplain" without a taking the time today to mention the obvious. Its Reformation Sunday, the last Sunday in October to commemorate Martin Luther's 95 Theses that was nailed on the Wittenburg Church door, on October 31, 1517.

His protesting of the several Catholic Church problems that he wished would be 'reformed'. Yet, after such a stance was dutifully challenged by Rome on several accounts finally leading him to the Diet of Worms, about 30 kms from here, where I will celebrate the 31st of October with my wife on, "Reformation Day". Very exciting.

Protestants need to faithfully recognize their church history. Its almost sad to talk to anyone in the local church in regards to denominational heritage. Most people have no clue why they are such and such denomination, or even some basic tenets that separate themselves from other faith groups. I think this boils back to the lack of church leadership taking on the development of teaching the congregation more than just how to 'streamline' their classrooms or coordinate more meaningful cell groups. I think most of our leadership needs to take the time and focus the churches attention on learning some heritage, that may help it from falling back into new/old heresies or false teachings in the upcoming future.

Take the time and read a little on your Church Fathers. I highly recommend a book called, 101 Christians that every Christian should know.. Go to CHRISTIAN BOOK DISTRIBUTORS, and order a copy today.

Learn some Church History. Watch the acclaimed movie, LUTHER. It is very eye opening for those who have no idea, what I am even talking about. Learn why you are a PROTESTANT!!

Justification By Faith alone, not by some Indulgence or Works or Papal Decree!

10.24.2009

Day 18, Why Job?

Today and tomorrow, I will be sitting in front of my ESV Bible and 5 sheets of paper that I have scribbled ideas, breakthroughs, and questions on all week regarding 5 verses in the book of Job. Just finishing up a sermon manuscript that currently, I feel is finally coming together.

What's the sermon about? Well, Its primarily about questioning God, and how should we respond when we are overwhelmed in suffering, loss, and pain. I think it 100% applicable to anyone who has lived longer than 5 years on this planet. I dare say that I can be brought to similar standards as Job in his loss, but I know that I have experienced death and depression, just like you.

The heart of it is really simple. I can vividly remember right after my dad passing away, a strong bitterness that never seemed to settle. I was broke financially, living in Athens, GA. I was attending a beautiful church with a lot of other college students, who I thought had it all together. One particular night, I was struggling with the whole situation, and in route to Prince Avenue Baptist Church, stopped at a stoplight directly in front of the Varsity and Milledge Avenue, I just cursed God. My heart hurt so bad. Tears streaming down, wiping them as I drove. I wanted escape. By Grace alone, truly, I drove the remaining 1.5 miles to the parking lot at PABC, and sat in the car...Bible in hand and questioning why?

I never got a voice from Heaven, or a starry vision through the cosmos. I did have a flood of verses dance through my mind. The story of Job, the suffering of Joseph, the humiliation of Daniel, and on and on and on. Sober reminders that God knows what he is doing. I said a quiet simple prayer, and asked God to just comfort me.

12 years later, I can truly say, I have a deeper understanding of God's Sovereignty. Why did God take my roommate? My dad? leave me broke? single?...I don't know. But, what I do know is that He restored me. He restored fortunes of my life, that I thought were stolen. And, I will gladly tell anyone that suffers and is in pain currently,...'there is hope, my friend, for those who are in Christ.'

You may not know the 'WHY?' of the situation, Job never found out according to the book, but we can trust that God remains faithful to His children. Stand firm, cry, punch the pillow,...but trust God's not only with you, but restoring the season of famine.

10.22.2009

Day 17, She Did It Again.



Yes, I do think its appropriate to praise my wife when she makes a hallmark moment in the kitchen. For those of you have not had Creme Brulee, I invite you to stop by the Craven's residence sometime soon and let your taste buds find utter ecstasy.

Jessica's Birthday was this past Sunday, and I decided to add to her kitchen collection with some Ramekins by Le Creuset, just 4 little white ones. These would be for our 'special' dessert nights only. Little did I know I would be greatly surprised tonight as she brought out the Grand Finale, as we watched the seeming 100th Episode of the 'The Office' marathon.

Creme Brulee, described by a Army Chaplain, who has ZERO kitchen skills, is a dish...that consist of a very rich vanilla pudding with vanilla beans, served cool,...with the top of the dish covered in vanilla sugar which is caramelized with a blow torch, SWEET!

I have learned a few things about this life that I have to live, and that is proper praise at the proper time. Tonight was one of those moments. To hold a very special dish, and see that she had labored on a brand new recipe and scored an A+, duly deserves praise.

Bottomline: Men, its quite simple. Praise your wife. They should be nestled in your praise and adoration. Your best security in your marriage is the adoration of your spouse. Make it count, be specific, and use volume.

Jessica,...you are my award-winning chef tonight!

10.21.2009

Day 16, I love Madden 09, but not the music.

Its absolutely true. I am a junky for playing Madden 09 during the football season. I grab a bowl of Cool Ranch Doritos and kick-off the boots, while simultaneously turning the xbox, awaiting the soothing graphic sounds announcing the churning game inside.

The couch is comfortable. Jessica is typically working in the kitchen, or facebooking while I embrace my 1 hour escape before settling down with dinner. Seconds pass, the screen goes black, then white....then "Eeeee Aaaaa Sports.....It's in the game!" pipes through the Sony Bravia. Chills go up my spine, my eyes widen, my heartbeat quickens...I am so ready to live out my unrealistic Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcon's QB) dream.

The iconic picture of Brett Favre in a Green Bay Packers jersey still makes me smirk...what a dork (yee-haww for Minnesota Vikings). I told by the screen to . I obediently select.

Then, almost like sinking you teeth into pungent piece of rye bread with an excessive amount of fennel seed, the background music erupts and almost causes one to instantly reach for the remote to 'mute' this bad boy. YIKES! I can't bear it, its not the volume, its the thought that such a successful game has the most ridiculously 'Gangsta-punk-rap-voodoo-mix' soundtrack.

Here's a sample:
Madden Music

Ok. I know this trivial. But, after getting very annoyed, I went through the set-up menu and deselected every song, so I can enjoy my own personal sound track in my head.

What's the connection? Its simple.
Are you even conscious of is the background music in your life? I am talking about the music that radiates around you. The speech that fills your office. The television humming beside your computer. The background music. We often say, "Awww, that junk doesn't get to me, I just put it out of my head. I don't let that get to me." I am reminded of the life that live, and how much I am around soldiers and officers that have incredibly 'rich' vocabularies, sadly most of them are 4 letters and they use them in every part of speech imaginable. (quite gifted).

Yet, I would tell people, that never bothers me, "I am Chaplain." But, I noticed how much when I get angry or I am getting sleepy that these words fill my mind quickly, as 'options' to select to communicate. By the Grace of God alone, have I been able to keep myself from this for the most part.

Bottomline:
Do you really think about what surrounds you? Friends? Music? Etc. Do you have to listen to it all? Can you mute certain things that are truly distracting you or swaying you away from holiness? Just think about it.

10.20.2009

Day 15, How Fit Are You?

Most people I talk to who are outside of the Army, think that soldiers are some type of super-human physical athletes. It seems we all should be chiseled out Davidic statues, that sling M-60's (or 240s, nowadays) and run around with a company level of ammunition weaved on our bare chest. So, what are the facts?

The typical soldier wakes up everyday around 0600, does Physical Training (PT), which consist of running, sprints, muscle failure (push-ups and sit-ups). This last about 1 to 2 hours depending on training schedule. Every few months we have a Army Personal Fitness Test (APFT), to grade how well you are doing in your PT. Three events to include: push-ups, sit-ups, and 2 mile run. The push-ups and sit-ups are graded by how many you can do in 2 minutes.

So, take the time today, give it a whirl. Set your clock to two minutes and GO!! Mark out a track, and run 2 miles and time yourself. Then grade yourself on the grade below, I have also included how much you should weigh according to our standards.

Note: 60 is passing, 70 is expected, and most soldiers score total of 230-300.
The Army Standards for PT
The Height/Weight Standards

The Bottomline:
Sometimes as Christians we don't want anyone to set a standard that we have to match or to uphold in regards to holiness. We like to maintain the status quo, or look in the mirror and flex and say, "oh yeah, I am ok. Heck, I know so and so, and they are much fatter than I am." The point is simple, the standard has already been set: It is complete and utmost perfection. Jesus Christ is the only human, who achieved a 300, so to speak. He sets our standards in living a godly life. SO, in regards to how you are living in holiness, quit looking at the fat guy besides you to justify your own gluttony. Look to perfection, strive for His Holiness.

10.19.2009

Day 14, Sleeping on the Floor.

Not to be confused by complaint or frustration, I preface this blog with the fact I know many people complain about 'in-laws'; but this is not one of those blogs.

So, there I am laying on our 2nd bedroom floor on top of our exercise mat, with several throw blankets keeping me warm. My wife 5'5" snuggled up comfortably on a loveseat just inches above my head, her feet dangling off the edge. The ipod is playing our 'rain/thunderstorm' as we try to get into a comfortable position that doesn't make a limb fall asleep or worse.

Not so typical for me, I lay there wrestling. Feet shifting in and out of the 'Barbourville' blanket, head bumping the particle board laptop stand,...and listening to my wife shifting around on the reclining loveseat, just waiting for her to trigger the recliner mechanism that would fling my body against the wall, like a paper football.

It was in the midst of this, that I thought. What is hospitality? I was reminded of Abraham taking care of visitors and Lot taking care of his angelic guests. It seemed that giving up things and being sacrificial is somewhere locked into the definition. I can see clearly that the GUEST gets the goods, (hence a fluffy queen-sized mattress with comforter). BUT, what is the benefit of the being the HOST?

I thought about some benefits, even though I have to admit I struggle with many of them.
The benefits of hospitality for the HOST:
1. Seeing the pleasure of those people you serve.
2. Seeing that your sacrifice of food, time, and agendas; Increases your gratitude for your day-in and day-out routines, that are often times seen as trivial.
3. Christ-like Host, lay down their lives, willfully (not grumbling or asking for 'my time'.)
4. Kills pride, to willfully give up your selfish tendencies. NOTE: Willfully = joyfully.

The Bottomline:
How good of a host are you? Would you be willing to open your home to others? Would you be willing to turn your den into a place of ministry and not 'misery'? What 'exercise mat' will Christ call you to bear? Do you joyfully accept visitors? Put out a guest book, make your home a place for ministry.

10.18.2009

Day 13, Adoption II: Are You Still Going to Have Your Own Kids?

SUNDAY SPECIAL:
Due to the fury of responses to the Adoption posting earlier, I decided to continue more on the topic.


Russell Moore, wrote in a very thoughtful book about adoption in chapter two, that the most common frustration to parents adopting is 'stupid questions'. I agree. Of course you have your typical financial, family, paperwork, etc....but a common frustration is the questions that a couple might receive when going through the process.

1. Are you still going to have your own kids?

A: In no way less are the kids that I am adopting 'less' than kids that just so happen to have my own DNA running through their bodies. Think about the implications of this through Scripture. Jesus refers to us many times as 'brothers', 'heirs', 'sons'...now the rights that you have as a blood-atoned sinner, are no less than that of the REAL Son before the Father. To be called a 'half' or 'adopted' in a negative sense, seems to make less of the work of Christ, that brought us into the family, 'unblemished' having full rights.

2. 9 months of knowing the date, and 6-16 months of guessing.

A: Many parents that adopt have no idea of the exact timing or window of the adoption. This definitely applies to those adopting internationally. I am not sure what a good question would be, but maybe just patience, and understanding that about every month a huge 20-30 page document must be filled out (a repeat of the previous document) and submitted. This can be a painful process as they 'labor' through several months. Continual prayer and fostering the family a long with encourage, a prayer for the adopting family during service is a suggestion.

3. How can you guarantee they are going to be healthy?


A: This one is painful, because it implies that our desire for children can only be validated if it is healthy. The child becomes a 'showroom' commodity instead of a life. You would never dare ask that question to a pregnant woman, or a lady who just had a miscarriage. The adoption agency typically gives good judgment in this area, but as we all may know, children are governed by the sovereignty of God. If God chooses to take an adopted child or biological child home to Him, should we question Him? Health is an issue, but consider the same notion when going a mission trip, "Am I going to be safe?"; What a safer/healthier place to be than in the will of God?


Do you know of any stupid questions that have been asked regarding Adoption? Maybe they aren't stupid, but just not thought out. I would love to hear some of them, as we address a topic that is truly at the heartbeat of many.

10.17.2009

Day 12, Vacations have abrupt Endings.

As a child I can still remember taking into the cabin my 70's sky blue suitcase as we began our 5 day vacation in North Georgia at Tugaloo State Park, at Lake Hartwell. Mostly waterskiing and riding up and down on the pristine lake, during any season. Yet, I can still remember the excitement of the exploring and seeing new things (although not much changes up there), and the fifth day would come. Dad would leave early with our uncle to pull the boat out of the water, and we would have to pack and be prepared for his return. As he pulled back in, we would drag our suitcases out to the car reluctantly across those beat down porch steps, where many visitors did the same ritual.

Today, I wake up..get a coffee, plug into my dying laptop (no 220 or 110 outlets), only to notice the little envelope near the door, reminding me that today is the 'final day' and check out has come. The Alps are over, my Italy trip over, and my Strasbourg France trip....over. Yes, where did the 7 days go? How quickly do they come and mostly unexpected end.

Our lives very similar. We must be ready for such abrupt endings. Check out time is coming for us all. Whether you are on a 'prodigal' vacation, or denying that your excursion will one day end. My prayer for you is simple: Come home. Realize that the world you currently live is not forever. One day we all check out,....do you have a home to go to? I do. I unashamedly recommend a song by Sovereign Grace, "It is not death to die." Truly song worthy of atleast 3 minutes of your time today on iTunes.


Oh to be with Christ, is more than any Euro could buy. No matter the currency exchange rate.

10.16.2009

Day 11, My Early Morning Habits.

Around 0538, my only alarm goes off. I quickly roll from the bed to the pile of PT's on the floor, and dress. Grab my tennis shoes and socks and walk to the door. Usually by then, I turn on the first light and prepare my morning notes for my 0600 daily meeting. Drive to the meeting,...after the meeting some PT, then back home to the shower.
I use Suave shampoo, and some new funky body wash with my 'womanly' loofa (lu-fa) sponge. Due to Jessica's encouragement. I brush with Colgate and Oral-B. Shave with Barborsol and Fusion (Mach 4), then put a little Old Spice Cool in the pitts. Then....press a magic button on my Nespresso Machine, and within a couple of seconds have a Polish Pottery cup steaming hot with a Caramel Macchaito, for .55 cents. No ellaborate breakfast.
By then, I have somehow put on my ACU's and socks, but not my boots.
I wait,...I grab my Tabletalk (Daily Devotional) and sip and read. When done, take the time to kiss my wife, grab my briefcase/lappy bag and head out.


We all have these routines. Mine is probably not that much different than yours. But out of my 17 hours of being awake, that was 1/4 of my day. Have I thought on how to minister to people at my 0600? Have I taken any moments to fulfill the Great Commission as a believer? Do I care? Am I thankful? Or do I give the excuse that I am just not a 'Morning person"?

Do I start glorifying Christ at 0900/9:00AM,...if so, I think I am missing something?

Bottomline:
What do you do that makes this time Christ honoring? How do you glorify God, fulfill the Great Commission in the midst of eating the bowl of cereal and 2% milk or skim?

10.14.2009

Day 9 &10, Cathedrals, Idols, and our daily lives.

While traveling throughout Europe, it never fails that every city that you see will have a Cathedral that you must see. Out of all that I have seen thus far, St. Paul's in London, and the Cathedral in Koln, Germany have been far more than impressive.
What makes them impressive?

1. The immense structure that can only be compared to as skyscrapers in any US city.
2. The front doors are massive, decorated with brass/iron/gold biblical depictions.
3. Interior, just huge weighty columns that make you question what earthly being could construct.
4. Decorations beyond your wildest imaginations: paintings, wood carvings, golden everything, mosaic floors.
5. Figurines everywhere. Bishops/Mary/Jesus/Apostles.

________
I am not Catholic. (Thus, 'reformed'). I have a different feeling every time I enter a Cathedral. I ask questions like. Here are some of my contemporary protests:

1. Who paid for this?
2. Does that incredible painting, statue, sculpture, golden crucifix ...do anything for anyone?
3. Why do so many of these cathedrals have so many horrific depictions on Jesus on a Cross, that would almost make you gag? (Especially, a Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico)
4. Did some who got an 'indulgence' in 1513 really help pay for this?

________
Now, I get back in my car and head back the hotel, and we stop at a local wood-carving spot just south of Garmisch. As I enter it, my stomach turns at the 100's of crucifixes and nativities that decorate the room. So, here is my question. Francis of Assisi in 1223, gave us the first 'live' nativity...which later became what we have in our houses. Puritans refused to have such, 'graven images' in their homes. Puritans even band certain traditions in England that would center around a 'Jesus' baby figurine, calling it 'idolatry'. So, what are we doing with our nativities. As Protestants are we trulying showing hyprocrisy by criticizing Catholics for their idols, while we wrap up baby Jesus extra careful this year, or make sure everyone sees our 'lovely nativity scene'. Are we hoping that the Gospel is seen in our figurines this Christmas and not our lives? May we present the Cross of Christ in our daily living. May our nativities be more of a vehicle where by we discuss our beliefs, and not something else.

Grant us more than wood and ceramic to save our souls.
Give me the Risen Christ, to put my head on his chest and hear his breath, and feel the warmth of the His hand against my head, and to hear him say in a deep resonating voice made by vocal chords, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

10.12.2009

Day 8, Random Blogging and Topical Sermons

Yesterday, as I began to write the daily blog I thought about how it parallels the same early discovery I had in ministry, that just about made me quit. Let me explain.

June 10, 2001, I was ordained to be a minister. I was excited to take on the challenge, the church that I served gave me the opportunity to be a college minister. I taught Sunday School, and prepared to start a ministry called, Campus. Basically, a weekly Bible Study that would gather the local college students from various churches to have a study. As it began to grow, I saw some of the early struggles of ministers. I was teaching on a weekly basis. Sounds pretty easy. It is if you have some direction or guide, but if you are winging it, it can be quite challenging for any superstar creative pastor.

The parallel is rather simple. Random blogging thus far has been quite easy, but now that I am starting into the daily ritual, I can see this to be quite the challenge for a 'novice' writer. I remember the joy of understanding Expository Preaching/Teaching, which saved my ministry. A logical progression through a book of the Bible, where the next passage or paragraph in the text would dictate what you would preach/teach for the next week. Drawing doctrinal, or application directly from the 'whole counsel of God' versus trying to 'creatively' come up with a sermon/teaching every week.

Blogging, needs some type of good lectionary 'type' guide for me. I know, Albert Mohler, uses the current events thought, ...who knows? I don't want to float to and fro from topic to topic. Yet, I don't know exactly where to begin.

I suppose I will give a variety of thoughts. Maybe, break out into series that would interest other people,...while trying to keep it to a 'Craven' kitchen table discussion.

Chasing Rabbits, (can you tell that I drove 6 hours to the Alps today), I can.

10.11.2009

Day 7, Television and Agenda's

Day 7
Turn on your computer or watch your itunes TV, and watch and you will see it. You will not miss it. You don't have to rub your eyes. Its quite apparent. The writers of just about every Television Network have decided to make sure their agenda is clear. I am hoping, a network will emerge similar to FOX and CNN, where you clearly just say, "I have a bias on news, and here it is. So, tune in." Why don't networks do that?

What am I talking about you might ask? Well, let me give some names that cross my path as I watch through my favorite TV episodes,...Oscar Martinez, Smithers, and here is a list of what I am talking about.

This blog is not about the willful decision of human beings to turn their lives away from a Holy God. Every blog is about that, we all fall short of what God has established. That is not the point of this. The point is: Why do a majority of television shows seem to go out of their way to make sure they have a character that is homosexual in the line up of characters? Not only that but, then almost highlight that character in episodes? So, here' two letters just to think on.

Letter 1, To the Networks:

I know you are wanting me to 'laugh and accept' this as a norm in our society. I know by getting me to soften my antiquated views, I will embrace this. I just want the liberty and some of your writers to escape the agenda that you are enslaving the viewers. Be creative, everybody is pressing the agenda, how original can you be to pop off yet another 'provocative' joke to make us cave-dwellers feel uncomfortable?

Give us a channel where you have writers that 'think' original humor, versus instead of retooling an agenda through new seasons. Are you out of ideas? Or just like many movies, is potty humor the only thing we can grip our depraved minds?

Your tentative Viewer,
John

Letter 2, To US the Viewers,

Take time this week, and watch carefully what is 'funny' at your house. Are you laughing at something that is truly funny or is awkward? Everyone loves a blasphemous joke, (SouthPark, knows it), the question is will we continue to bathe ourselves weekly in this and finally wake up years from now telling the same jokes at Sunday School for Icebreakers?

FYI: The button is also a option for your flat screen.

Fighting with you,
John


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It's true today we celebrate the first full week of my blog. Jessica's parents have arrived in Germany, and now the discipline of writing while on 'vacation' will test the seriousness of my commitment. I am sure Garmisch will inspire, good Tabletalks.

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10.10.2009

Day 6, Mission Accomplished.















Words can't express this moment.
(From left to right: John Craven, John Piper)
Koln, Germany
09 OCT 09

10.09.2009

Day 5, The Scarlet Red Letter, "A" : Adoption

Not many years ago, the church that I worked for placed out 3500+ crosses in the front yard of their church to represent the daily abortions that occur in the United States. It was very humbling on that Sunday to drive up to the church, or drive by during that week and see that massive cemetery.

I even took the time during my seminary years to write and research my personal view on abortion and 'what happens when infants die' in relationship to my view of predestination and Reformed Theology. It broke my heart to hear of all these deaths, and I had no answer in my early years of ministry to help students, (Yes, I said students.)

It was not until my wife and I got to our first church that a young lady was discussing adoption, that something changed in our perspective. She said that, if you support a Pro-Life agenda it will manifest itself fully in a Pr0-Adoption agenda. (Basically, you can't stand against a abortion, while never saying anything about adoption.)

Keenly observe your local church this January, or heck this week. Listen to the rhetoric regarding Pro-Life, Roe. v. Wade, ...but do you hear anything about how to aide the parents who are willing to NOT to go ahead with the Abortion? Do we have anything in place for the families who would be willing to take the 'saved' child in?

Sadly the answer is, no. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

Here's my soap box:
Talk to many people regarding the SCARLET A, "adoption" ,and you will hear primarily about orphanages and recent mission trips.

The question to you Christians is, would you be willing to adopt? Would the church be willing to take on agenda that would be PRO-ADOPTION? Would you change the picketing line fund in the church budget to include a scholarship for those adopting? Does anyone on your staff know anything about how to refer or get into with the local Christian adoption agency? Take the money and time spent this year to show your outrage, and place it toward adoption.

Do you take a balanced approach to adoption and abortion?
Think about it.

10.08.2009

Day 4, Dan Brown and Other Less Glorious Writers.

I admit about 3 years ago in Barbourville, Kentucky, I secretly went to the Wal-mart in my veiled sunglasses and costume to purchase the Dan Brown Best Seller, Da Vinci Code. It's True. It was quite the page turner. Plus, as having a very limited Art History and a personal love for Leonardo (not the city he was from, retarded name 'Da Vinci', ((trns. From Vinci)), I found the book super appealing.
A couple years later, as I was wasting valuable time (15 months) down in Baghdad, I also picked up Brown's, Deception Point, Angels and Demons, and Digital Fortress. Interesting reads. Out of those, Angels and Demons atleast kept my interest. And of course, right now, I am finishing up 'The Lost Symbol'.
Here's my take on good ole, Dan Brown. Great Fiction. Everyone enjoys a 'hidden' conspiracy theory, especially when you throw the church into it. Everyone loves the 'Matrix' idea that the world we exist in is simply an illusion, and the real world is hidden behind a cloud of knowledge that only an elite group have tucked away in hidden books and symbols. Great Fiction.

Why is it so appealing? I think we all want to believe that this world is not it. We want fantasy. We don't want to be content. We desire an answer to our lives and the corruption that we see, but don't want to give a Biblical answer to it. I encourage Escapism in my counseling, as a means (within moderation) to relax for a second. Yet, I do believe that indulging in anything my cause us to enjoy the reality that we live in, thus causing us to envy or covet a another life.

The life we live is quite glorious. God's creation has more mystery and glory than authors could ever pen. Take the time to look up from your novel or computer screen and see the glory of the created order in which you exist.

10.07.2009

Day 3, 10 years of John Piper

Its true, I am a Piperite.
Here's my story: 10 years ago, I sat down in my lovely rented 'Triple-J' Ranch home with Josh Stewart, and popped in a sermon tape by John Piper. I remember as if it were yesterday. The title was appealing, "Did Christ die for you or for God?". Seemed provocative enough to engage my senses.

10 minutes after it had started, I could barely hold back my thoughts of how this man preached with such authority and seriousness. It wasn't hell fire and brimstone, and it wasn't comic relief. It seemed as though this was his last sermon, and this was the last sermon the audience would ever hear. Every now and then, I would steal a glance at Josh as we listened, and I could tell he was going through the same internal breakdown I was experiencing.

Soon after the sermon was over, I made it my goal to read a book by this guy. The Borders I went and got a copy of "Pleasures of God". I began to read, and waves of questions flooded my mind regarding my personal understanding of doctrines. I felt like for the first time, I had exited the kiddie blow up pool and had thrown myself into the thriving waters of the ocean.

The love affair began, because he pointed me to greater things...and he lived what he preached.
So, I have composed the following list to help anyone understand this guy:

10 Reasons: Why I am, still a John Piper Fan.

1. He challenges a pastor to see the seriousness of their profession, as pastor and theologian, when the world mocks our job and other pastors turn it into the Sunday Comedy Routine.

2. He adopted.

3. He wears the same shirt and tie, at every single event/preaching, b/c he wants the audience to focus on his message not his attire.

4. Financially, he gets paid the average of those at his congregation. Not more and not less, in order to keep common ground with them.

5. His book earnings go to missions and making his ministry/teachings available online for FREE.

6. He preaches entire books, Hebrews, Romans, and John...and they take years to complete. No rushing around...and you know he prepares and prepares and prepares.

7. He writes a biography each year about 1 hero of the faith, and then preaches on him and how he is an example to believers.

8. He is focused on 'one thing', and I think he's got it right. (Single purpose for which we exist). Soli Deo Gloria.

9. He's a nerd. He's not handsome. He's quite odd socially.

10. He sets standards for ministry that I feel most ministers tremble at, due to their own sinfulness.


Finally, I have not listened to John Piper for almost 2 years now. I read his blogs occasionally, and buy his books when necessary. I believe that God used him in my life for one purpose. He showed me the glory of God in Christ. For that, I am eternally grateful. I pray that I can have the same impact on young ministers when I am in my 60's, as he has on mine.

Thank you John Piper for the fervor you bring to so many ministers, and Chaplains like me.


(oh...this weekend, I go see John Piper in Bonn, Germany. Nice!!)

10.06.2009

Day 2, Hotdogs or Turkey Dogs.

A couple of days ago, I came home for lunch. I went through my typical routine of dropping the planner, keys, beret, cell phone, etc, off onto the appropriate counter-top. Jessica was preparing lunch and cranked up the George Foreman. As she was unwrapping the grocery bag, which concealed my surprise, she offered, "John, would you like a hotdog for lunch?". Although, I am trying my best to vow never to eat another hotdog (see Josh Stewarts view on eating hotdogs), I could not resist the temptation.

We threw 3 dogs onto the George Foreman, and watched. As they cooked, I never noticed any significant changes until they were getting 'done'. This is when I realized that the 'ALL BEEF' hotdogs I was accustomed to, would glisten in the grease and fat splattering....these were merely sitting and burning on their sides. I rolled them off into the buns and added the necessary toppings.

Glancing over at my wife, and said, "These look a little different than the typical Oscar Myer or Ballparks, I am used to." She didn't say anything, for I have learned that sometimes its best not to question the cook. Trust is a major deal in any marriage. Therefore, I strolled out of the kitchen only to rest on my coffee table, prepping the Apple TV, for my daily ritual of another rerun of "The Office" Season 1-5, at random.

Simple Blessing, and then...bite one. Bite two. Bite three...rest...drink water...Bite Four. First dog is down. Yet, no mouth coating or sudden swelling in my gut. What was going on? I finished the second in the same pattern. No, adverse reactions. Then it dawned on me. I had just eaten a meat that was clearly not a composite of Grade C or lower meat parts swirled into an intestine lining. I had eaten a TURKEY DOG!

Now, what's the moral of this story. Does it have to do with Turkey Dogs? Not really. I really think marriages have a underlying principle of 'Turkey Dog' moments. Its when a spouse understands that by default the other spouse will by in large reject any direct inquiry, therefore they subtly stretch the limits (not in anyway harming the other), to test and see if he/she would enjoy it.

Now how tight the logic here is....I don't really know. Yet, what in your marriage has been a 'Turkey Dog' moment? A stretching...to benefit the marriage?

10.05.2009

Day 1, Korean Church and My Thoughts.

Military Chapel's are unique places to say the least. First you have the most transient people in the world coming to a service, which typically is different from week to week. Even as being a Chaplain, I have seen them range from quality services to something quite unusual. ((If you have been there you know what I am talking about)).

Yet despite all the variants I have concluded in the local church and Chapel, there is never going to be a perfect worship service or 'Church' until we, the church, stand before the Throne of God. I think in His presence, we will not concern ourselves so much with ourselves but be overwhelmed with Him.

Ok, what's this have to do with Korean Church.
Simply this: I am not Korean. I don't speak it, write it. I do want to adopt a Korean Baby. That's about it. This Sunday though, my wife and I attended the Korean Service at Baumholder. It was at this service that I got yet another glimpse of something. It was this: God is Holy and I am not. How did I hear this seeing that I don't speak the language. Very simply, I got quiet and quit worrying about me and my negativity and just resolved to listen to God.

And there in the Korean Service, God spoke clearly to my heart through Deuteronomy 24:17-22. I saw God's Holiness, and my disregard to hear him. I have placed so many things in my life from Xbox, Itunes, and 100 other idols that simply satisfy my flesh, that I don't hear God.

I don't know about you, but I am a wonderful musician about orchestrating a thousand other things that drown out the voice of God.

Thank you,...Korean Church...it was my inability to understand your service that I heard God.

Julie and Julia: A Blogger's Dream Come True.

I admit, I was not so excited about the idea of paying 14.50 euros to go see a movie that centered around Julia Child, a cookbook, and a blogger (Julie). With my Fanta and Gross (large) Popcorn, I sat down beside my poised wife.

As expected the movie bounced from Julia Child in her early years preparing her cookbook to Julie in challenging herself with the daunting task of cooking every recipe from the cookbook in a single year. Thus, the plot: 365 days of cooking, for 123 mins.

Yet, I noticed a bizarre desire in my life begin to creep up my neck. A desire to go from bush-league writing and blogging to the top, a book actually published. Dare say, that as the movie progressed it seemed that the cooking and recipes only took a secondary part as the 'publishing' became the overarching theme of the movie.

I could feel it happen, my own creativity began to swim as I sipped on the last bit of Fanta, eyed my wive's half full glass. My mind wondered, "What splendid adventure could I embark on, that would capture the world's attention?" "What story?" "What keen insight do I have?"...By the time the ending credits were scrolling, as Julia Child opens her paper wrapped 1st Edition,...I thought...and thought.

What do I bring to the table? I am not a published scholar or writer.

I do have one thing: Desire.

Therefore, as most quiver at this notion of beginning a endeavor that may find itself soaring only on the wings of electrons.

Here's my blogging Challenge:
365 Days of Me. (unplugged, kitchen table conversation)

Let the Dream Begin.