The Bridge

Jamie and I watched a very powerful, chilling documentary last night called The Bridge. It is a documentary about the large number of suicides that take place on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was made in 2006 and the film maker spent one year filming the GG Bridge during daylight hours from multiple angles. He actually caught most of that year's over 20 jumpers on tape. More people choose to end their life on the GG Bridge than any other location in the world. Sometimes they actually fly in to San Francisco from all over the world just for that purpose.

The film is really a study on the emotions, mental instability, and circumstances that lead to a suicide and the emotions of those left behind. The thing that makes this an incredible documentary is it is absolutely beautifully shot. And it is filmed with almost no "hollywood drama". There's no musical build-up to the jumps. No crazy camera tricks. It's simply filmed from a distance with a decent zoom lense. It's a very honest look at a very troubling subject.

Suicide is one of the most troubling things in life to me. It's hard to imagine a seemingly normal individual coming to such a state of hopelessness. This is one of the reasons it's so important for us to be Jesus to as many people as possible. You never know when you're going to be that God-sent lifeline that someone desperately needs.

The Golden Gate Bridge is probably my favorite location in the world. It's stunningly beautiful. When we lived in the Bay Area, I tried to visit it as often as possible, but I wish I would have visited more. Below is the trailer for the film.


The Old Guard

One of the things in my past that I'm most proud of is serving in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). I served for 3 years from '93 - '96 as the Regimental Chaplain Assistant. They have really strict selection guidelines and I was selected for the honor straight out of chaplain school and it was a teriffic assignment. The Old Guard is the official ceremonial unit of the Army and official escort to the President of the United States. Their mission includes funerals at Arlington Cemetery, White House arrival ceremonies, guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, Army Drill Team, Caisson Platoon, Army Fife & Drum Corp, and more. While their primary role is ceremonial, they are also an active infantry unit.

This is on my mind because the Military Channel aired a special the other day that highlighted The Old Guard and I got to show it to my kids yesterday. It was neat to show them exactly what Daddy did in the Army. I even got out my old uniform and medals and such and they thought that was pretty cool, too.

I found out today there is an Old Guard Association for former members. Here's a link to a really good Old Guard video they put together.


Severed from Christ

"You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace." - Galatians 5:4 (ESV)

This verse hit me like a ton of bricks while in Panama. It was one of those verses that I've read a thousand times but never really read. Some of you may find some way to dismiss this, but I have this nasty habit of believing the Bible to be true even if it doesn't fit into my theology or chosen doctrinal statement. For instance, when Jesus uses a parable to teach that God will yank your forgiveness if you can't forgive others, I think that's true (Mt. 18). And while I believe every bit of my Free Will Baptist doctrine, I think we're a bit off-base by requiring our members to be tee-totalers. You won't find that taught anywhere in Scripture and I'm personally of the opinion that it's hard enough to obey what IS in the Bible without adding more to it. However, since I believe our doctrine is the most accurate and because I love our denomination, I'll wait till heaven to start my drinking.

Back to Galatians: the strength of this statement just bowled me over. How many people (yourself included) do you know that try to improve their standing with God by trying to improve their morality. In our nonsensical minds, it is much easier to keep a checklist of do's and dont's than to simply enter into an authentic relationship with Christ. And I don't mean relationship in the pansy, feminine way that most preachers today speak of. I mean entering into a relationship with Christ where you place all your hope, faith, devotion, dreams, everything. I believe one of the many reasons American faith is so weak is because we've sold this idea of a romantic relationship with Jesus. I think romance is only one small part of our relationship with Jesus. The problem with romantic relationships is that they are controlled and driven by emotions. So if Jesus is not making us happy on any given day, then our faith falters. Jesus is your friend, but he's not just your friend. He's your counselor, but not only your counselor. He's much more than your homeboy. He's your God, your example, your Savior, your boss, your master, your companion...what he is is everything you need (even if you don't think you need it).

The idea that in all this effort of trying to get closer to Jesus by being a moral person, we are actually seperating ourselves from Him is so sad. I want to live in total dedication and submission and love to Jesus. He will work out my morals as he shapes me into the shape he has planned for me. I will be moral, not because I'll get closer to Christ that way, but because it's the only reasonable response to the love he's shown me.


Join the BC United!

For those of you who know the awesome people who are Micah & Becky Derby, here's a great way to help them out (and look good, too!). The Derby's are missionaries to France who minister specifically to the Muslim population. They had been home on furlough for a year and as they were preparing to return to France, they found out Becky had breast cancer. Their return to the field has been postponed indefinitely while Becky undergoes treatment.

Micah was sick of all the girly breast cancer t-shirts out there and wanted to show his support without wearing pink all the time. A friend of Micah's in Nashville, designed a very macho t-shirt. It's a soccer tee and looks great. Everyone who purchases one will have their own unique number on the back. The cost is $25 and your can contact Joel Gibbs at (615)871-4610 to purchase your shirt. Proceeds go to support the Derby's.


Great Performance Idea

Sorry I've been so sparse in my blogging recently. I am finishing up my busy Summer season this week.

Props to Ron Hunter for sending me this video. This is a great idea for a youth performance. Very cool stuff!


Flatfoot 56

Totally by chance, I heard one of the best albums I've heard in a very long time. The band is Flatfoot 56 and the album is "Jungle of the Midwest Sea". Flatfoot 56 is a hard-driving Christian celtic punk rock band based in Chicago. You can check them out here on their Myspace page. They've definitely got a great punk sound, but they masterfully mix in bagpipes, mandolin, and accordion to create a super-cool adrenaline-raising sound. I especially love the manly chorus in the background giving the "OI, OI, OI..." shout-outs. I've had their CD sitting on my desk for several weeks and hadn't listened to it. I got it in the mail through this youth pastor Christian music subscription service called Interlinc. I had to drive to Springfield yesterday and grabbed a couple of CDs to listen to on the way. I was totally blown away by these guys. I ended up listening to it like 4 times. Seriously, if you're tired of listening to 24-hour Tomlin on Christian radio, you need to pick up this album. Good stuff!


Pics from Panama

Well, I'm back from Panama. It was really a great week. It's a little sad being back. If the weather was a touch cooler, I wouldn't mind living there permanently. The people are so kind, the pace of life is so much slower, and the church seems to be so focused on reaching the lost. It's inspiring and refreshing. Here are a few pictures:

This is me with my friend, Gabby (Gabriela). She is so much fun to be around. When I was in Panama this last January, Gabby was my shadow. She teased me relentlessly because I couldn't roll my r's. When I tried she laughed and said I sounded like a turkey (pabo). This trip she picked up where she left off and immediately called me pabo again. She's a great girl and was incredible leading the younger children during our VBS. I told her she should be a teacher when she's older.

I met Randall on my previous trip as well. He's a total ham. He's got a great sense of humor and loves being the center of attention. Randall had great fun tricking me into saying Spanish cuss words. He wants to work with computers after he graduates next year, but I'm secretly praying he'll hear God's call to ministry. He'd be a great preacher!

Panamanian children are very well-behaved. But there was one boy at the VBS that was definitely the exception to the rule. Oscar was a sweet boy, but wanted nothing to do with the rules or anyone's affection. He would flip everyone off and yell profanities all the time. It was obvious he came from a rough home life. We found out that his parents weren't together anymore and his mother was an alcoholic. Despite the tough front he put on, he was always the first one there and the last one to leave. I believe he really felt safe and cared for at the church, but he didn't know how to respond to the affection. Pray for Oscar and his family.

There were 34 people on our team, but above are the 14 who went from our church. (L-R: Marty & Ann Robertson, Joe & Julie Wilson, Austin Moore, Karlee Wilson, Gary & Katy Fry, Jon & Becky Chastain, Jeff Myers, Katie Poletti, Debbie & Frank Webster, and our host missionaries, Stan & Brenda Bunch) I was extremely proud of everyone from our church. They worked very hard and accomplished alot. But most importantly, they allowed God to use them and speak to them in Panama. It was definitely a trip we'll all never forget.


Praying in Parita

Most of our efforts have been centered around the church in Chitre, Panama. However, today we went to offer some assistance to the church in Parita. Parita is the second oldest city in Panama. It's small and the gospel has never been widely accepted there. The missionaries and nationals have tried everything they can think of to reach the lost, but so far nothing has worked. The congregation is small and struggles. The pastor is a true hero of the faith, but struggles to stay encouraged. They have decided to simply commit the town to prayer. We went today and did a "prayer walk". We divided into groups of 5 and simply walked the streets of the town, bathing it in prayer. We would occasionally stop and talk to people. Once we stopped and played basketball with some boys. It was a lot of fun.

Pray for the church in Parita that they will see their town changed for Christ.

Team Panama Blog

Here's the link to our Team Panama Blog. You can view lots of pics and if you click the podcast tab you can see my handsome face in a video. Enjoy!