Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Beauty and the Beast

We've had a few situations in life and church and ministry and life (can I repeat that?) that remind me of the Beauty and the Beast.  Here's the beastly part:

People sin.  They're really good at it too.  I wish I could exclude myself from this category.  I wish I could somehow exempt my kids or church members or any number of folks I care about from this.  But I can't.  We're all jacked up.  Everyone of us.

But the beauty?  Sheesh.  It's gorgeous.  Sunrise or sunset, take-your-breath-away, stop-and-stare, mouth open, pancake-sized eyes, maybe even a little-bit-of-drool kind of beautiful.  It's the kind of beauty that finds a rose in the middle of a trash heap.  The contrast is actually what enhances what's is inherent within it already.

The beauty is the redemption.

Lives are changed from getting t-boned and bashed by circumstances to a steadiness of foot amid the wreckage.  People go from an immature, selfish, emotional two-year old to people you'd count on to be your pallbearers.  The tree bark that your nose is pressed into and is so uncomfortable and threatening becomes a reminder that there is a forest and not just a tree, so the perspective changes and the big picture is something better than you could have ever painted - heck, ever imagined.

The kicker for me is that I often times find myself desiring the beauty of redemption without the beast of what we need to be redeemed FROM.  If there's not a messy artist's studio, there's no amazing art that comes from it.  It pushes me toward patience until the beauty shows itself.

Be patient, Trent.  Be patient.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Letter to Kacey Musgraves

Dear Kacey,

I like country music.  A lot.  You kind of strike me as positioning yourself as the Alanis Morisette of country music, though I'm not sure that will work out so well in the end.  However, I want to do my best to give you the benefit of the doubt without sounding like that guy.  But your song really stinks.  It's no good.

[Editorial Note:  in case you don't know the song I'm talking about (for readers, not Kacey, obviously):

Make lots of noise and kiss lots of boys
Kiss lots of girls if that's what your into
When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight light up a joint, or don't
Just follow your arrow wherever it points]

If I were to truly follow my arrow wherever it points and everyone else did the same, we'd have anarchy.  If my arrow pointed to me robbing a bank, that would certainly be bad.  And the argument gets made back that goes something like this: "Well, as long as you're not hurting anyone it's okay."  The problem with that is our actions and inactions always have consequences on those around us.  So your exhortation to the young women who like your music is seriously detrimental to their lives and to the world they live in.  If a young woman followed her heart to roll up a joint and smoke it if she wanted to, ended up in jail, and stood before the judge, "Following your arrow" is not a defense acceptable in that situation.  But more than that, if they followed their arrow to any number of desires, it turns into bad news in a hurry.

The problem, Kacey, is that the human heart is tragically and deceitfully broken.  Tragically because of the potential that it holds and yet is marred.  Deceitfully because lines like "Follow your arrow wherever it points" actually make sense to the broken human heart even though it's terrible advice and the heart is socially incapable of actually living that way.  Again, if everyone truly followed their arrow, you can easily envision how a mom would up and leave her kids because she wanted to go rock climbing for a month.  It really is impossible.

Here's what I do appreciate about your song.  You have it right in a powerful way:  it's damned if you do and damned if you don't.  If you try to live on the aforementioned straight and narrow, you can end up in bad shape just as easily as if you threw constraint to the wind and became the best hedonist you could.  Your diagnosis is absolutely right.  Your cure is worse than the disease though.

Instead, there's a God who loves you and wants to heal, mend, and unify that fragmented heart of yours.  I know because He's done that for mine.  Instead of following the arrow, I'm following Jesus.  And He's a much better leader.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Galatians on the Horizon

I'm kicking off the book of Galatians in the coming Sundays and because it might be slightly interesting to know why, I though I'd offer the rationale.

Our church has been pushed by the Holy Spirit (in the best possible way) to create a Culture of Invitation within our church family.  We understand that to be that the baseline expectation and most basic strategy of evangelism for our church membership is to consistently invite people to church:  neighbors, friends, coworkers, the lady at Kroger, the guy at the KwikLube, and a ton of others.  In order to see lives transformed by the Gospel, part of what needs to happen is people need to be in a place where they are exposed to the preaching of the Gospel.  We would never want to take away from a person sharing the Gospel across the table from another person, but we also know that can't always happen in a work environment, at the grocery store, or other places where legal or time restraints impose themselves.  But an invitation to church is different.  It can happen any time and any where.

So we encourage our people to ask, "Do you go to church any where regularly?" (that last word being a key word).  And then respond accordingly.

Because we are being pushed along by the Holy Spirit in this, we are taking on the book of Galatians which is Paul's beautiful treatise on Christian Freedom and the nature of the Gospel.  Throughout the book, Paul does a kind of compare and contrast of "This IS the Gospel" versus "This is NOT the Gospel."

What better way to expose people to the reality of what God has done for us in Christ and how He has pursued us?

Please join us in praying that God will draw people there and then transform their lives through the preaching of His Word.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sermon Notes from Sunday 1.26.14 from Luke 6.46-49

Here are the sermon notes from the final installation of the series, Apprentices, that has as its heart defining who we are as a church.  You can find these notes in PDF and the audio at  You can also get the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 4 – Teach to Transform
Luke 6.46-49

Great Commission:  teach them to obey
  • To become that kind of apprentice, you don’t get a bigger checklist or more consistent checklist – you become a different kind of person
  • God doesn’t want you to obey but become the kind of person who normally obeys Him

These are the pictures of biblical transformation
  • It is not external change, though you can expect external change
  • It is a foundational change at the level of the heart

Two Formative Truths:
Jesus has the authority to speak
  • He answers the question of autonomy

Jesus has the intelligence to speak
  • He answers the question of relevance

Transformation more consistently happens in circle than in a row

Why we do Circles (convinced from biblical models, church history, and personal experience that these are the best)
  • You are transformed by them
  • You get to live out Jesus’ commands
  • You know you are not alone
  • You get to play a role in others’ transformation

How we do Circles
  • Sunday School
  • Weekly Small Groups
  • Weekly Bible Studies

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sorta Kinda Adoption Update (with an update to the update)

My wife, the Queen, has been posting pretty regularly at our family's blog about various and sundry things related to our adoption process.  I am updating here just every so often to keep things before those who don't regularly check in with us via Facebook or other social avenues.

Currently, we have received our LoA (Letter of Acceptance, some call it RA - Referral Acceptance), which is basically the last legal step before the travel steps initiate.  And so we're matched, ready to go, and waiting on travel approval.

Our TA (Travel Approval) is the next piece of paperwork we need.  There are some steps to get there, so please pray for all of them to happen and soon.

Some of the logistics we're praying about:

Cheap(ish) airline flights for all of us.  We anticipate taking Peanut with us and the Queen's Sister (Beauty Queen).  That ain't cheap.  The boys will remain and do school.  Peanut's in Kindergarten, so we're not so concerned about that.

Visa applications for China to go smoothly.

Paperwork in the US-side of the process and paperwork in the China-side to get hustled through.  We've asked for expedites on everything.  UPDATE:  as of this afternoon (1.21.14), we have a key piece of paperwork, our I-800.  Now we need a speedy delivery of our GUZ Number and so forth so we can get our DS260 completed and then move other paperwork along.  We're all still confused about the numbers and letters, but God isn't.  Thanks for praying.

Maggie's health condition is somewhat of a mystery to us.  Her paperwork shows some things are happening in her body, so we'll be seeing doctors as soon as we get back.  You can pray for all of that.

Lastly, we're trying to wait well in these days.  We didn't do a great job when we adopted Peanut.  We want to do better - and I think we are, though it's a struggle for us to learn patience and then employ it.

Thanks for covering us.  We are buoyed.

Here are my favorite pictures so far...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reflections on MLK Day as a Dad in a Transracial Family

I have waited most of the day to try to put this to words because I wasn't sure I wanted to at first.  But it just kept nagging me and so I'm here at my keyboard to type.

This is the current make-up of our family:  The Queen and I are caucasian, as are our two biological boys, the Bear and the Ninja.  Then comes Peanut, the adopted princess from China.  And we currently have Squirmy, an energetic little African-American boy who is our foster child.

MLK Day means something different to me this year.

I have sat down at restaurants with my family and no one has asked us why we aren't sitting in the Non-Whites section of the restaurant.  Italian restaurants.  Mexican restaurants.  Home-cooking restaurants.  Not one has tried to move us because of our family's transracial mix.

I have gone to the mall and been welcomed into every store with all of my kids in tow.  No one has said that I can't shop there or jacked up the price because of the skin color of the ankle-biters around me.

I have been in and around law enforcement officers and no one has threatened me or called me names because of the children around me.

I haven't lost a job because of them either.

We've garnered a few stares - but they are few.  And I dare even to believe that some were stares of admiration or pity instead of judgment and racism.

So yes.  MLK Day means something different to me this year.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 1.19.14, on John 4.22-24

Here are the sermon notes from the third installation of the series, Apprentices, that has as its heart defining who we are as a church.  You can find these notes in PDF and the audio at  You can also get the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 3 – Connect with God 
John 4.22-24

Context: the Living Water Conversation

The Father is Seeking True Worshippers
  • God has a passion for His people, even before they have passion for Him
  • He is seeking worshippers, not worship – relationship, not activity

    True Worshippers Worship in Spirit and Truth
Truth: is what I’m saying true about God?
  • Worship environments should be places of freedom and healing
  • Samaritan and Jewish issues at the heart were the same problem: a God who
    was too small
Spirit: is what I’m saying true in me?
Emotions are a part of worship like they are a part of life – legitimate
affections legitimize praise (signs of some sort of health)

Three Categories of Emotions in Worship 
1. Delight
2. Longing 
3. Sorrow

Part of worshipping in spirit is that our body naturally follows (Rom 12.1)

Three Guidelines for Bodies in Worship 
1. Authentic
2. Biblical
3. Considerate

The point isn’t to have an emotional experience. The point is to see God for who He is and be transformed by Him (2 Cor 3.18) 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dennis Rodman and the Lie of Individuality

Dennis Rodman is a basketball freak.  He grabbed more rebounds in his NBA career than anyone else.  And apparently, all those piercings and tattoos have turned him into just a plain ol' freak.  I told the Queen that I didn't think I'd get on Rodman's lifeboat if I was on the Titanic.  He's fruit loops.

He recently visited North Korea, much to the chagrin and frustration of basically everyone in the thinking world who processes oxygen through respiration.  In doing so, he pretty much bit the head off of Chris Cuomo in an interview that left everyone scratching their non-bit-off head.  But don't worry, he was drinking.  That's why he was crazy with Cuomo. [Story Here]

His essential message related to a North Korean prisoner named Kenneth Bae is that he wasn't messenger or emissary of the United States, but a personal friend of the potentate of NK.  Therefore, it wasn't his problem (and the guy was probably guilty anyway).  This is Charles Barkley's "I'm not a role model" on international steroids.

The problem with this line of thinking is it assumes that evil / sin / bad stuff in the world is contained in some spiritual flask or moral beaker with a Bible verse stopper in the top.  Nice.  Tidy.  Isolated.

But the evil / sin / bad stuff in the world isn't contained like that.  It's more like a consistent, toxic sludge dripping into the water supply for years upon years.  Poisoning is widespread and nobody gets away from it.

For a moment, let's get off the crazy train that is Dennis Rodman and bring it down to where we live. Because I have - and you have too - thought to yourself that the opportunity to sin or the missed opportunity to do good didn't really have a connection with anyone else.  It's isolated.  Contained.  Call it the lie of individual sin.  We've thought it.

And we're dead wrong.

Sin, whether of the Rodman variety or something a heck of a lot closer to home (like the computer screen you're reading this on?), always has consequences.  Always.  And they're not solely contained in the heart of the man or woman who commits the sin.  There are repercussions.  Some are slow drips.  Some are failed dams.

A wife leaves her family because of her adultery and blames her husband.  Dam.

A college student tells himself it's just videos on the computer and no one knows and it doesn't matter anyway.  Drip.

A dad always has emails to answer and phone calls to take, and a son who doesn't know how to dribble a basketball.  Drip.

A women's small group at church is the generator and promulgator of much of the church's gossip, all in the name of prayer.  Dam.

Dennis Rodman can't get around that.  We can't either.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 1.12.14, on Matthew 4.17-21

Here are the sermon notes from the second installation of the series, Apprentices, that has as its heart defining who we are as a church.  You can find these notes in PDF and the audio at  You can also get the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 2 – Fishing 
Matthew 4.17-25

Allegiance – are we fully yielded to Him?

Invitation: Rethink your Thinking
  • Gospel: the availability of the Kingdom through the death and resurrection of Jesus
  • The invitation demands a personal response

    Invitation: Follow to Fish
  • He is on the move and invites us to join Him
  • He knows people need to hear His invitation
  • He invites us all to something bigger than ourselves
  • He calls us and it costs us

    Invitation: Do Good for the Gospel
Having actions that accompany our words authenticates His announcement For His fame, not ours 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

14 Ways to Pray for your Church in 2014

I just wrote the following prayer points for our church's Midweek Memo.  But I think they apply across the board for churches - yours included.  

Everyone wants to lose weight, quit smoking, lessen their reality TV intake, read more books, and so forth in 2014.  Your diet probably starts next Monday.  Or yesterday.  And then restarts next Monday. You know the drill.

Here are 14 ways to pray in 2014:

1.  God's Kingdom coming and His will being done in your life, in your family, and in your church

2.  Salvation for family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers

3.  Hearts that are in flames as you gather with other saints in the worship of God

4.  Liberty for those spiritually captive to greed, lust, shame, and loneliness.  Those four chains seem to pock the landscape of America more than most.

5.  Those enduring trials to be shaped by them and not simply relieved from them

6.  Your church to be a good place for the broken and the prodigals

7.  Church growth to be by transformation of lives, not transfer from other churches.  We pray this so often as a church staff that it can be rote.  But we mean it.  O God, You know we mean it.

8.  A specific mission opportunity to pan out giving us the chance to work in orphanages (this one is specific to our church, though you can join us in praying for it!)

9.  Your family to see if God would allow you to adopt or foster a child

10.  When you gather for worship, a tangible sense of God's presence with you

11.  When appropriate, boatloads of genuine laughter and genuine tears among your church family (Rom 12.15)

12.  A culture of invitation that consistently brings outsiders along the journey with you

13.  More small groups and Sunday School classes (again, a specific Heritage Park request)

14.  That you, as individuals and a church family, would be deeply and insolubly stained by your allegiance to Christ

Monday, January 6, 2014

Adoption Catch Up - God report

Here are several ways that we have seen God move, provide, and generally show off in the past week or two...

1.  Provision through family, friends, and t-shirt sales.  God has abundantly blessed us.  This is huge for us because with Peanut we had about 2 years to get financially ready.  This time it's about 6 months.  The rate of savings isn't quite the same but God has provided for those He has called.

2.  Participation of the Body of Christ.  People buying t-shirts and then passing along the word.  A church member who is painting crosses to sell to bring Maggie home.  Friends who show up at our house to hang out and keep our mind off other things.  Seriously:  "it is not good for man to be alone," and the past few weeks have shown we are not.  Amen.

3.  Information has been passed along to us without our inquiry and that we "don't normally get."  We have insight as to where we are in the process.  We have further insight into how we might speed things along.  All of this is mercy to us.

4.  People have asked about us and have prayed.  Genuinely and certainly have been in the trenches with us both personally and spiritually.  Thank you.

Here are the last few things where we need prayer coverage:

A.  Our key piece of paperwork (LOA) to arrive to our agency.  It sets in motion so much, but we're sort of on hold until it gets here.

B.  Maggie's health.  Jesus, sustain her and then heal her.  Amen.

C.  Perspective on all of this.  We don't want to miss out on anything while we wait.

Thanks from all of us,
Trent (for the family)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 1.5.14, on Luke 14.25-35

Here are the sermon notes from the third installation of the series, Apprentices, that has as its heart defining who we are as a church.  You can find these notes in PDF and the audio at  You can also get the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 1 – Defining the Term
Luke 14.25-35

We all need ears to hear:
Because there are those who think they understand (but don’t)
Because there are those who don’t understand

Clarifying the Call
Discipleship Myths:  Knowledge, Skill, Activity, Next Level 
Calls us to Him and after Him – a relational following
Discipleship is Apprenticeship

Clarifying the Challenges

Sermon Notes from 1.5.14 on Luke 14.25-35

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 1.5.14, in the series Apprentices.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also download the audio on iTunes via our podcast.

Part 1 – Defining the Term
Luke 14.25-35

We all need ears to hear:
Because there are those who think they understand (but don’t)
Because there are those who don’t understand

Clarifying the Call
Discipleship Myths:  Knowledge, Skill, Activity, Next Level
Calls us to Him and after Him – a relational following
 Discipleship is Apprenticeship

Clarifying the Challenges
Relationships – people-pleasers struggle with this
Desires – ambitious people struggle with this
Possessions – entitled people struggle with this

He’s worthy of and in pursuit of my allegiance