Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Baby Update

We're finally home. After 5 days in the hospital Holly and William are safe at home. He's been under UV lights for 48 hours, and he's under a UV blanket here at home. The nurses will check his blood levels tommorrow, and then hopefully he'll be fine. What a rough first week this kid has had. Thanks for all the calls, comments, and prayers.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Our Son is Here!

He's here. William Riley North was born at 9:14 pm on Thursday, February 22nd 2007. He weighed 8 pounds 7 ounces and was 20 inches long. It was a pretty traumatic birth, so Holly is resting and the baby is in the Emergency Care Nursery. He wasn't breathing when he was born in the operating room. Here he is looking pretty sad!!

2/24 UPDATE:
Well, William has improved a LOT in the past 24 hours - he's out of the ICU and he's in the room with me and Holly. He still needs to be monitored for a couple more days, so he and Holly will be in the hospital maybe until Monday. All is well, and he's a cute kid!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What Our Lives Become

Last week I was watching an episode of "House." A young girl was raped and just wanted Dr. House to sit and talk with her. He didn't want to and asked her, "Why do you want to be stuck in a room with me?" Her reply has got me thinking - a lot. She said: "Life is a series of rooms, and who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives become."

Who do you spend time with? What do you talk about? What do you do? Do those experiences make you better or worse? Think about it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What is Love?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). I could quote a lot more scriptures here, but suffice it to say that the whole witness of scripture asserts that there is nothing more important than love. But what is love? What does it mean to love someone? Can the word be defined? Is it a feeling or an action? We preachers like to say that “in the Greek” there are three words for “love” – all with different meanings. That is true.

My favorite movie – Love Actually (2003) - explains this concept very well. Here is Hugh Grant’s opening monologue. “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed. I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin towers none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually is, all around.” That rings true for me. I’ve been in many an airport around the world – both arriving and departing. I’ve wept many tears while saying goodbye or hello to family and friends.

Okay, so here’s what the movie does: A number of characters lives are woven together in seemingly separate stories to define the full meaning of the word “love.” Jack and Judy are body doubles in the film industry. They meet on the set and then film several sex scenes completely naked. This is, oddly enough, business for them. Then, close to the end, Jack walks Judy home, and asks her out on a dinner date. She accepts, and he jumps down the icy stairs in joy. Message: Love is greater than sex.

Then there’s David, the newly elected British Prime Minister. He falls in love with Natalie – a “plump,” average looking girl from the “dodgy” end of Wadsworth. Message: Love transcends positions of power, stature, or social class.

Daniel is a man who has just lost his wife to cancer. She had a 10-year-old son, Sam, from a previous marriage. During the movie Daniel and Sam grow closer than any father and son could. Their embrace at the end of the movie gives a stunning visual of the expression, "love can make you fly." Message: Love is greater than the biology of family (ask anyone who’s adopted).

Sam, on the other hand, has a huge crush on Joanna – a girl at school with the same name as his mom. He does everything to get this girl's attention, including learning to play drums. After all, Ringo Star married a Bond girl. Message: True love is for children as well. Even a crush is love. No one is immune from the “total agony” of love.

Sarah is an interesting character. For two years she has had a crush on Karl, the “enigmatic chief designer” at the ad agency. He is interested in her, but she has a problem – her brother is in a mental institution and calls her day and night. She has no time for romance. In the end, she picks her brother. Message: Love as loyalty is sometimes greater than love as romance.

Harry is Sarah’s boss at the office. He is married to Karen, and has two children. They’re just an average suburban family. Except that Mia, his sexy secretary plots ways to seduce him. He buys her an expensive necklace, but his wife finds out. She feels betrayed, hurt, and angry, but in the end she chooses to stay with him and be a loyal mother and wife. Message: Love is greater than seduction – loyalty to family trumps all.

The next character is Jamie – a writer who finds himself “alone again” in a cottage in France. The housekeeper is a Portuguese girl named Aurelia. She can’t speak English, he can’t speak Portuguese, and neither of them can speak French. They fall in love without ever communicating a single word. Message: Love is ineffable – it transcends language.

Billy Mac is a hilarious character. An ex-heroin addict pop star trying to make a comeback. On Christmas Eve he shows up at his manager’s apartment and confesses that he’s the “love of his life.” Message: Men can also love each other. That’s something our culture isn’t real comfortable with because people don’t see friendship as true love – but it is.

Lastly, Mark is in love with Juliet, his best friend’s wife. This scenario is a little troubling, and it raises some moral concerns. Mark suppresses his feelings for her by giving her the cold shoulder. He calls this “self-preservation.” Eventually she finds out, and after he confesses that he will love her forever, he walks away and says, “Enough. Enough now.” It is a great scene because it sends a great message. Can you love someone you can never be with (like your best friend’s wife) and keep those feelings in check? Message: Love, as an attraction, cannot be ignored, but however strong, sometimes cannot be acted upon – it has to be unrequited. This falling in love with people you cannot have is part of the "total agony" of love. But it is still love.

Love has so many facets, so many twists and turns, so many pathways. Like John Lennon said, “All you need is love.” Your thoughts?

Monday, February 05, 2007

"Love One Another"

I have really started thinking during communion every Sunday. I always think, but the last two weeks have really been eye opening for me. Last Sunday I had what has to be the best experience of what true community means during the Lord’s Supper. Here’s what I mean:

As the bread and wine were passed, these were the people sitting around me: To my right was my best friend – a man that I have gone to Zambia with twice. We have shared so many good and bad experiences it would take pages to recall everything. His wife and daughter were sitting to his right – also people that I have traveled to Africa with. Friendships like this are born out of true companionship in times of extreme hardship. In front of me was Holly – my darling wife. We clasped hands and prayed together. We have been married for 8 years and we are expecting our first child in 4 weeks! Holly has been a pillar of strong and steadfast support for a long time. She is a soothing, calming influence on my very restless personality. I would be a loose canon without her! I love her more than words can express here. Sitting next to Holly, on her right, were my parents. A month ago the three of us returned from South Africa. This was the first time mom and dad have been “home” in 13 years. That’s a long time to be away from family. In 1994 my parents gave up a nice house, a successful business, stability, and family to bring their 3 sons to America for a better life. “Better” is an interesting term. Has life been “better” for us? Yes! Has life been easier? No. My parents work harder than anyone else I have seen – and there were moments (actually years) when all that hard work seemed for nothing. Since we have been here my mom has lost her mother, 3 siblings, and 2 nephews. As we stood in the airport and wept with family, it really hit me how much they gave up. And then there’s Jennifer. She was sitting next to Holly, on the left. Jennifer is the closest friend we have. She’s closer than family. We have been friends with Jennifer for some time now, but last September her husband Chad got killed in a terrible car wreck. They were only married for 9 months, and she was 6 months pregnant. Four weeks ago she gave birth to a beautiful girl – Emmalee. Holly was in the delivery room. Soon afterward I gazed through the nursery window with tears in my eyes. Since then I have become so attached to this little girl. Jennifer says she could not have made it through the past few months without us – I think that Jennifer has blessed us more than she can know right now. Anyway, the situation is pretty simple – if anyone messes with Jennifer or Emmalee, I break their knees! Just taking care of widows and orphans like the Bible says. As we broke bread together, as we remembered Christ together, as we took hope for the future, surely this was what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Love one another.”

Okay, fast-forward a week. The next week I had a different experience. Without going into too much detail here, we are having some friction at church – elders and deacons and ministers with some antagonism towards each other about a lot of little things. Plus, we have a very diverse membership. We have very “conservative” people who can’t handle any change, and “progressive” people who can’t stand the inertia much longer. These were the people I broke bread with. Together we laid our burdens and pride at the foot of the cross. Surely this is what it means to “properly discern the body of Christ.” We (the church) are the body of Christ. God Bless.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ed Young, You Rock! I Think. Okay, Maybe Not.

This just in from Metro Networks Communications: "Two church-going north Texans could be going to the Super Bowl -- for free. Grapevine's Fellowship Church has a couple of donated tickets to Sunday's big game in Miami -- and they're going to give them out at one of their two Saturday night services. The tickets come with free airfare and a hotel room. One of the pastors says they're simply hoping to draw people who may not otherwise come to church to hear the Gospel of Christ. Fellowship Church's sanctuary holds a little more than four-thousand people."

Your thoughts?