Thursday, September 29, 2005

SQUISHBALL.COM - "GET THE FUN FROM THE BALL"




SQUISHBALL.COM
My oldest son, Dylan started his own website when he was in first grade.

The name of the company, the logo, everything was his idea. I just got a good friend to do the website and the rest is a thing of beauty.

Please visit and maybe even buy a t-shirt or a coffee mug with the SQUISHBALL logo for your friends. They make wonderful gifts!

So proud of him.

SQUISHBALL
http://www.squishball.com/

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

WHERE TO NOW?



WHERE TO NOW?
By Keith Giles

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20


This is the journey.

In the last few months I have felt, more and more, the hand of God upon my life. It is heavy. It is hard. It is not an easy thing.

God is imposing His will upon my life. All I can do is sit back and say, “Yes, Lord.”

Of course, this is exactly what I’ve prayed for. Night and day I have come before Him to ask that He would allow His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in my life…no matter what.

My wife and I have been through these times of transition before. Several years ago I was laid off from a job I loved, only to wander in the wilderness for over a year and a half without fulltime employment.

During this time I learned what it means to depend on Him for daily bread. Literally there were days when we had used the last of the eggs, paper towels and milk, only to have someone show up at our doorstep unexpectedly with eggs, milk and paper towels in a gift basket.

There was the day when we needed over a thousand dollars to cover rent, registration on our car, a smog check and our monthly medical insurance payment. I was in the car on the way to my temp job praying for God’s provision for us since our bank account was empty and we had used our Discover card to pay for groceries only days before.

By lunchtime I had a check in my hand for exactly the amount necessary to cover all of these bills, from people who had no idea what our exact needs were at the time.

God is good.

We’ve also been through a season where we had to move and had no idea where we’d end up, only to have God provide miraculously a house for us only a few blocks away with a giant backyard, an avocado tree, and plenty of room to host a small group for our new church. He even gave us a dream a month earlier to show us how He would provide this house for us, and then He did it…at the last minute.

I think now our family knows in a deeper sense that God will take care of us. We have seen His hand closing doors in our life and in our ministry over these last few months. We’ve started packing up our belongings, still with no clue where we’re moving to next, or even when.

We’ve said goodbye already to people we dearly love who’ve moved away from us.

We’ve prayed, for the last time, over people who God has allowed us to minister to for nearly three years with tears in our eyes.

We don’t really understand exactly all of what and why God is doing this. But we do know a lot.

We do know that God is good. We know He loves us. We know that it is His hand closing these doors. We know that He will open new doors for us soon. We know that we are called to be His ambassadors. We know that our family has a calling from God. We know that He has given us a ministry and that He has revealed to us what we are to do next….which is to simply trust Him.

We also know that God seems to like the last minute. He’s never late, but He’s rarely on our time table.

I was thinking just the other day that it’s seasons such as this that build our faith. These are the times we look back on and see the hand of God upon us. It’s these times we will be drawn back to re-live over and over again in the form of testimony and praise.

Why would we not want God to bring us through times such as this?

This is the life.

This is the journey.

“Giddy-up!”

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

DRAWING NEARER by Keith Giles




DRAWING NEARER by Keith Giles

Jesus called everyone to come near to him. Some who came after him did so out of a sincere desire to follow him. They truly left everything to sit at his feet and to put his words into practice. Others who followed Jesus drew nearer only to see a sign or a miracle, having no intention of coming under his teaching or his authority. They were only there to see the show. Still others drew nearer to Jesus so that they could catch him in a mistake and discredit his ministry.

Jesus was searching for people who would draw near to him, not for what he could offer them, not for the experience or the “show”, but because they were willing to give him their heart.

'These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” Mathew 15:8

Jesus called everyone to draw near to him. He wasn’t picky about it, but he did want those who came after him to come honestly and sincerely. He was searching for those who would come after God with their whole heart and seek Him “in Spirit and in Truth.”

He even went out of his way to seek out those who couldn’t come to him. The lame, the sick, the outcast, the broken, all of these were the ones that Jesus sought after and to whom he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

MORE THAN REST
Not only did Jesus call those who were lonely and outcast to come to him, he asked them to “learn from” him, to trust him as a teacher and as a friend.

This was in contrast to the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, who were harsh, critical and oppressive to the masses, especially to the poor who couldn’t even be in their presence, nor worship in the temple.

As I look at this passage, I both long to know the rest that Jesus offers, and also to come under his yoke of learning. I want, I need, to become more like Jesus. I desire with all my heart to be transformed into someone who looks, acts, thinks and loves as he does.

That doesn’t happen by accident. No one “falls into” a transformed life. It takes a strong desire; A daily decision to put away my kingdom and to make a great exchange with the King for His Kingdom of hope, and life, and peace.

MY YOKE IS EASY?
If you want to know what a hard life is, just look at someone who is addicted to drugs, or in prison, or living with alcoholism, or any other path than is “other than” what Jesus offers. This is why Jesus can honestly say that his burden is light and his yoke is easy. The decision not to follow Jesus bears its own fruit of despair and ruin.

Still, there are times when it seems that Jesus isn’t so “near” to me. I can seek him in prayer, search the scriptures, worship him in song or in the quiet of my room, and yet he doesn’t “feel” close to me. Why is that?

I believe it has to do with faith. As I undergo these momentary lapses of the awareness of God’s closeness I have to make a decision. I have to decide if I trust my feelings, or if I trust God. I have to decide if I believe the “Truth” or if I believe “Experience”. Because the “Truth” is that God is near enough to reach out and to touch. He has promised us that he will never leave us nor forsake us. That is the truth and no human experience can change it. No amount of darkness can ever extinguish the smallest candle flame of light.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” - James 4:8

We were made by God for a relationship with Him. Our hearts, our minds, our emotions, our intellect, everything about us was designed by God for an intimate interaction with Himself. That’s why creation exists…and because of this, anything less than a complete intimacy with God is not just “sub-Christian”, it’s actually “sub-human”.

Think about that. To be anything less than completely intimate with the Creator is actually sub-human.

Don’t settle for anything less than 100% of all that God is, and desires to have, in your life.

Spend time with God. Read His Word. Pray without ceasing. Worship Him with song, with your thoughts, with your whole life.

Draw near.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

THE CHURCH COMES HOME



I am intrigued lately with the notion of the House Church.

Even just discovered that there's one on my own street that's been meeting for the last 3 years.

Weird huh?

I'm looking at several books right now too, recommended to me by Professor Scott Bartchy at UCLA.

"The Church Comes Home" by Robert and Julie Banks

"House Church and Mission" by Rober W. Gehring

Need to pick these up..and a few others by Justo L. Gonzalez.

What I love is the sense of simplicity and the return to the early church model of community, fellowship and service to others and the community as a first priority.

More on this later...

Peas,
Keith

Comments Welcome

Ok...I've done some house keeping due to several comments from the two or three of you who actually read this thing about not being able to post comments.

NOW YOU CAN POST COMMENTS WITH NO HASSLE!

See?

I do care.

Peace,
Keith

Friday, September 16, 2005

FORGIVE ME....

...It's been ten days since my last blog entry.

I don't normally post items of a personal nature here, you know like what's up with my job, my family, my favorite films, etc.

This will officially be the first blog entry deemed "Personal" in nature.

Honestly, I can't really understand what God is doing in our lives right now.

Over the last few months, God has begun to systematically close doors in my life.

He's closing doors in my ministry, in my job, even on the home we've rented for the last 3 years (we've got to move out in 60 days).

It seems now that there's not very much holding us down here in the great "O.C." anymore.

Wendy and I have been sensing for a while now that God might be getting ready to move us on to newer things. (ya think?)

I should know one way or the other by this coming Monday evening whether or not I will have a job at Soul Survivor, or if I need to start looking elsewhere.

Lately I've been very intrigued with the idea of starting my own design house with Scott Laumann and a couple of other guys. It's a sound biz model. Not much up front cost and no workman's comp, insurance, etc. since it will be a virtual company with myself running point and 3 other designers handling jobs on a project basis.

I do think we'll eventually get this rolling...but the truth is, my family needs money NOW! Like...I don't know where we'll get the cash to afford a new apartment or house rental here in the O.C. if we don't get about $3,000 in the next few weeks.

Yikes!

I've been waiting and waiting for God to move...and for events to unfold around us...but now it is looking pretty grim.

Wendy and I have full confidence that God is good. We know that He is the one who is in control of things. He is the one who has closed these doors...and we're praying He is the one who will (very soon) begin to start opening doors for us....very soon...we hope...and pray...please....God?

We've also been sensing that God might be leading us to become "missionaries" into our own culture. That might involve starting a house church down the line, or maybe becoming honest-to-gosh missionaries into our culture, to the poor and the lost around us...with our two elementary age sons in tow.

Yes...it's scary.

Yes....it's a little insane.

I've actually turned down offers for full-time employment recently because it didn't fit into this calling we find ourselves in.

Crazy. I know.

My father would slap me naked and hide my clothes if he knew this..but luckily he doesn't read this blog...and pretty much no one else does either so this is sort of like talking to myself in the bathroom mirror...but without the echo.

Hello?

Good night.

Peace,
Keith

Friday, September 09, 2005

Survivor Story: 6-Year-Old Leads Five Toddlers, Baby To Safety

Survivor Story: 6-Year-Old Leads Five Toddlers, Baby To Safety
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9230423/


(FROM WLEX-TV)
In the chaos that was Causeway Boulevard in New Orleans last Thursday, one group of survivors stood out: a 6-year-old boy walking down the road, holding a 5-month-old, surrounded by five toddlers who followed him around as if he were their leader.

They were holding hands. Three of the children were about two years old, and one was wearing only diapers. A three-year-old girl, who wore colorful barrettes on the ends of her braids, had her 14-month-old brother in tow. The 6-year-old spoke for all of them, and he told rescuers his name was Deamonte Love.

Thousands of human stories have flown past relief workers in the last week, but few have touched them as much as the seven children who were found wandering together Thursday at an evacuation point in downtown New Orleans. In the Baton Rouge headquarters of the rescue operation, paramedics tried to coax their names out of them; nurses who examined them stayed up that night, brooding.

Transporting the children alone was "the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, knowing that their parents are either dead" or that they had been abandoned, said Pat Coveney, a Houston emergency medical technician who put them into the back of his ambulance and drove them out of New Orleans.

"It goes back to the same thing," he said. "How did a 6-year-old end up being in charge of six babies?"

So far, parents displaced by flooding have reported 220 children missing, but that number is expected to rise, said Mike Kenner of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which will help reunite families. With crowds churning at evacuation points, many children were parted from their parents accidentally; one woman handed her baby up onto a bus, turned around to pick up her suitcase and turned back to find that the bus had left.

At the rescue headquarters, a cool tile-floored building swarming with firefighters and paramedics, the children ate cafeteria food and fell into a deep sleep. Deamonte volunteered his vital statistics. He said his father was tall and his mother was short. He gave his address, his phone number and the name of his elementary school.

He said the 5-month-old was his brother, Darynael, and that two others were his cousins, Tyreek and Zoria. The other three lived in his apartment building.

The children were clean and healthy -- downright plump in the case of the infant, said Joyce Miller, a nurse who examined them. It was clear, she said, that "time had been taken with those kids." The baby was "fat and happy."

"This baby child was terrified," he said. "After she relaxed, it was gobble, gobble, gobble."

As grim dispatches came in from the field, one woman in the office burst into tears at the thought that the children had been abandoned in New Orleans, said Sharon Howard, assistant secretary of the office of public health.

Late the same night, they got an encouraging report: A woman in a shelter in Thibodeaux was searching for seven children. People in the building started clapping at the news. But when they got the mother on the phone, it became clear that she was looking for a different group of seven children, Howard said.

"What that made me understand was that this was happening across the state," she said. "That kind of frightened me."

The children were transferred to a shelter operated by the Department of Social Services, rooms full of toys and cribs where mentors from the Big Buddy Program were on hand day and night. For the next two days, the staff did detective work.

Deamonte began to give more details to Derrick Robertson, a 27-year-old Big Buddy mentor: How he saw his mother cry when he was loaded onto the helicopter. How he promised her he'd take care of his little brother.

Late Saturday night, they found Deamonte's mother, who was in a shelter in San Antonio along with the four mothers of the other five children. Catrina Williams, 26, saw her children's pictures on a web site set up over the weekend by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. By Sunday, a private plane from Angel Flight was waiting to take the children to Texas.

In a phone interview, Williams said she is the kind of mother who doesn't let her children out of her sight. What happened the Thursday after the hurricane, she said, was that her family, trapped in an apartment building on the 3200 block of Third Street in New Orleans, began to feel desperate.

The water wasn't going down and they had been living without light, food or air conditioning for four days. The baby needed milk and the milk was gone. So she decided they would evacuate by helicopter. When a helicopter arrived to pick them up they were told to send the children first and that the helicopter would be back in 25 minutes. She and her neighbors had to make a quick decision.

It was a wrenching moment. Williams' father, Adrian Love, told her to send the children ahead.

"I told them to go ahead and give them up, because me, I would give my life for my kids. They should feel the same way," said Love, 48. "They were shedding tears. I said, Let the babies go.' "

His daughter and her friends followed his advice.

"We did what we had to do for our kids, because we love them," Williams said.

The helicopter didn't come back. While the children were transported to Baton Rouge, their parents wound up in Texas, and although Williams was reassured that they would be reunited, days passed without any contact. On Sunday, she was elated.

"All I know is I just want to see my kids," she said. "Everything else will just fall into place."

At 3 p.m. Sunday, DSS workers said good-by to seven children who now had names: Deamonte Love; Darynael Love; Zoria Love and her brother Tyreek. The girl who cried "Gabby!" was Gabrielle Janae Alexander. The girl they called Peanut was Degahney Carter. And the boy whom they called G was actually Lee -- Leewood Moore Jr.

The children were strapped into car seats and driven to an airport, where they were flown to San Antonio to rejoin their parents. As they loaded into the van, the shelter workers looked in the windows; some wept.

The baby gaped with delight in the front seat. Deamonte was hanging onto Robertson's neck so desperately that Robertson decided, at the last minute, to ride with him as far as Lafayette.

Shelter worker Kori Thomas, held Zoria, 3, who reached out to smooth her eyebrows. Tyreek put a single fat finger on the van window by way of goodbye.

Robertson said he doubted the children would remember much of the helicopter evacuation, the Causeway, the sweltering heat or the smell of the flooded city.

"I think what's going to stick with them is that they survived Hurricane Katrina," he said. "And that they were loved."

JIM WALLIS: "WHAT THE WATERS HAVE REVEALED"

What the waters have revealed
by Jim Wallis

In what may be the most catastrophic natural disaster in American history, the waters of Hurricane Katrina are washing away our national denial of just how many Americans are living in poverty, our reluctance to admit the still persistent connection of race and poverty in America, and even the political power of a conservative ideology that, for decades now, has seriously eroded the idea of the common good.

The pictures from New Orleans have stunned the nation. They have exposed the stark realities of who is suffering the most, who was left behind, who was waiting in vain for help to arrive, and who is facing the most difficult challenges of recovery. The face of those stranded in New Orleans was overwhelmingly poor and black, the very old and the very young. They were the ones who could not evacuate; had no cars or money for gas; no money for bus, train, or airfare; no budget for hotels or no friends or family with room to share or spare. They were already vulnerable before this calamity, now they were totally exposed and on their own. For days, nobody came for them. And the conditions of the places they were finally herded to ("like animals," many testified) sickened the nation.

From the reporters covering the unprecedented disaster to ordinary Americans glued to their televisions watching their reports, a shocked and even outraged response was repeated, "I didn't realize how many Americans were poor." Powerful images have emerged along with the pictures. "We have now seen what is under the rock in America," said a carpenter in Washington DC. The vulnerability of the poorest children in New Orleans has been especially riveting to many Americans, especially other parents. Many say they had trouble holding back their tears when they saw mothers with their babies stranded on rooftops crying for help or jammed into dangerous and dirty places waiting for help to arrive. And the pictures may get worse as countless bodies are brought out of New Orleans. Even Homeland Security Director, Michael Chertoff, is warning that it will be horrible and gruesome. Clearly, a very high percentage of those bodies will be poor, black, elderly, and even children. The public anger may grow.

As a direct result of Katrina and its aftermath, and for the first time in many years, the media are reporting on poverty, telling Americans that New Orleans had an overall poverty rate of 28% (84% of them African-American), and a child poverty rate of almost 50% - half of all the city's children (rates only a little higher than other major cities and actually a little lower than some others). Ironically (and some might say providentially) the annual U. S. Census poverty report came out during the Hurricane's deadly assault showing that poverty had risen for the fourth straight year with 37 million Americans stuck below the poverty line - and they were the ones most stuck in New Orleans.

Katrina has revealed what was already there in America; an invisible and mostly silent poverty that we have chosen not to talk about, let alone to take responsibility for in the richest nation on earth. This week, we all saw it; and so did the rest of the world. And it made Americans feel both compassionate and ashamed. Many political leaders and commentators, across the ideological spectrum, have acknowledged the national tragedy, not just of the horrendous storm, but of the realities the flood waters have exposed. And some have suggested that if the aftermath of Katrina finally leads the nation to demand solutions to the poverty of upwards of a third of its citizens then something good might come from this terrible disaster.

That is what we must all work toward. Rescuing those still in danger, assisting those in dire need, relocating and caring for the homeless, and beginning the process of recovery and re-building are all top priorities. But dealing with the stark and shameful social and racial realities Katrina has revealed must become our longer term but clear goal. That will require a combination of public and private initiatives, the merger of personal and social responsibility, the rebuilding of both families and communities, but also the confronting of hard questions about national priorities. Most of all it will require us to make different choices.

The critical needs of poor and low-income families must become the first priority of federal and state legislatures, not the last. And, the blatant inequalities of race in America, especially in critical areas of education, jobs, health care, and housing which have come to the surface must now be addressed. Congressional pork barrel spending which aligns with political power more than human needs must be challenged as never before.That requires a complete reversal of the political logic now operating in Washington and state capitols around the country - a new moral logic must re-shape our political habits. In the face of this natural disaster, during a time of war, with already rising deficits; new budgets cuts to vital programs like food stamps and Medicaid, and more tax cuts for the wealthy in the form of estate tax repeal and capital gains and stock dividend reductions, would now be both irresponsible and shameless.

Restoring the hope of America's poorest families, renewing our national infrastructures, protecting our environmental stability, and rethinking our most basic priorities will require nothing less than a national change of heart and direction. It calls for a transformation of political ethics and governance; moving from serving private interests to ensuring the public good. If Katrina changes our political conscience and re-invigorates among us a commitment to the common good, then even this terrible tragedy might be redeemed.
***
(Re-printed without permission from the Sojo.net daily e-newsletter)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

What's Wrong With This Picture?



What's Wrong With This Picture? by Keith Giles

Seventy percent of the world’s wealth is in the hands of those who call themselves Christians. Out of this, only three percent is tithed to the church and less than this is given in support of missions.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Dallas Willard had a great perspective on this issue. He said, “You can’t separate the belief from the action. That’s the illusion–the idea that you can be all right on the inside and not act it out–and it has affected us in many ways. That’s a part of the idea that professing is enough.We have churches full of people who profess all kinds of stuff that they don’t believe. They think that by professing it they’re doing something good. Really, they’re just deluding themselves. In the area of social righteousness we cannot be right on the inside and not do it. We cannot! Of course we have people who pretend that they can, but it simply isn’t true. If we are right on the inside, we will address these issues straight-forwardly and take a stand on them, and, if necessary, die for them. We will be that committed.” –(from “Renovation Of The Heart”)

Where have we gone wrong? Where have we misunderstood what Christ redeemed us for? More importantly, how can we get back to a true, authentic form of Christianity that involves more than just professing a belief, moving into actually living it out?

A friend recently brought to my attention that Lot, although a godly man, was comfortable in Sodom. Even as God was ready to strike down this city for its vile practices, Lot was drawn to the allure of this place. The hearts of Lot and his family had been colored by their time in this land. How can we not see that we too have grown enamored with the world we live in?

Ezekiel 16:49 says that Sodom was “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” We always look at Sodom and Gomorah as cities of homosexual perversion, but it cannot be ignored that God’s word condemns them just as much for their indifference to the poor as to their sexual practice.

Are we comfortable in Sodom? Have we forgotten that “Friendship with the world is to be the enemy of God?”- (James 4:4)

Jesus was always trying to get his disciples to have the right perspective on things. He urged them to “seek first the Kingdom of God” because He knew that this was where all of us would spend eternity.

It’s why he tells us “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” because He knew that our perspective should be more about the Kingdom of God than the cares of this world.
One day each of us, you included, will stand in the physical presence of Jesus. This life will be over and our time in Eternity will begin. At that point each of us, you included, will look back on this life and regret the way we lived.

At that point, we will realize that all the time we wasted in pursuit of cars and clothes and status was a complete waste. We’ll realize that we squandered endless hours of our precious time on television and other empty distraction. We will see that Jesus gave us each an incredible potential to have an eternal impact on the Kingdom of God, and we blew it.

Jesus is urging us to take a step back, get an eternal perspective of our lives, and seek first His Kingdom. He doesn’t want us to blow it.

The great nineteenth-century evangelist Charles G. Finney warned believers in his day that God requires us to surrender to Him the ownership of everything. He contended that a Christian must never consider anything as being “owned” by them. Finney even went as far as to suggest that "young converts should be taught that they have renounced the ownership of all their possessions, and of themselves, or if they have not done this they are not Christians”.

I don’t know about you, but I need to get a fresh dose of this Kingdom perspective every single day. I need to take my eyes off the problems and concerns of my little life and start trusting that God has it all under control. There are only a few more days, maybe hours, left in my life before I enter into the actual, physical presence of Jesus. I want to be able to look back on this time I’ve been given without any regret for how I spent my life.

John Wimber once said that we’re all pocket change in God’s hand. He can spend us in any way He chooses, as long as we surrender ourselves to His control.

I’m ready to be spent.

-Keith Giles