Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hoodie: In a reply to the anonymous comment left a few posts back about men not wearing hoodies. The hoodie should be a major staple in any man's wardrobe. Jackets are cool but the hoodie is a sweatshirt with a garage for your head. Appreciate!


Halloweeners: Halloween...seriously. Do people really decorate for it? It's a major holidays these days. I grew up carving pumpkins and going out for candy. We really enjoyed it. I've never really been anti-halloween...until this year.

We passed out candy to the kids and just made sure Nathan didn't greet the kids in scary costumes. He had a blast without ever leaving the house. Overall I'm disturbed.

I don't want to be a fanatic but I can't help but comment. Halloween is a spiritual celebration. It was believed by pagans to be the time when the spirits made contact with the physical world and magic was most potent. Our acceptance of this pop-culture holiday shows our ignorance or our laziness.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Promise: Last Monday I was praying. I knew that our festival was coming up on saturday and that it was supposed to rain. Rain would ruin the event. Rain would cost us lots of money. Rain would really put a damper on our morale.

I was praying about the rain and asking God to step in...in one of those times I really can't explain I heard got speak to me "Nick, I got this." Funny how God uses the same phrases I use. So the week went on and I prayed about the rain but trusted that God was in control.

Thursday night Bible study came and everyone knew about the rain and...everyone said the same thing. We won't worry about it. God's going to take care of it.

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This is a shot of the sky at noon. God delivered on his promise. "Nick, I got this."

Fall: Heather loves fall colors. She really loves the fall more than most colors. Because of her love my love for fall has grown immensely. Yesterday after I preached in Richmond we had decided to come up to Frederick and stay with some friends. Today we went for a drive to a park we used to enjoy when we lived here. Last time we were up at the waterfall Nathan was just 8 months old and not moving around too much. Today he was much more active and really enjoyed himself- so did we!

The weather was just about perfect. At times cool enough for a hoodie but other times just the t-shirt. We had a few minutes before lunch and Nathan had fallen asleep so we just pulled off at one of the overlooks and fell asleep ourselves. It was a great day.

We got to see some old friends and enjoy some of the relationships we built the 4 years we were here. It was a very good day!

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Community Festival: Yesterday we had our largest preview event yet. The 2006 Community Festival was great. We had vendors from local and home based businesses. We had games for kids and lots of food and candy. It was a great event that really embodied the value of community. It wasn't just a clever name it really was community. Our 4500 piece mailer was great and we had over 200 people come out to the festival. Kristy O'Neal did a great job organizing the event! I'm so tired today but yesterday was incredible. It was the first of many great things for The Bridge Church!

Community Festival Pictures

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Politics: For a few years now I've been trying to figure out what to do with politics. I feel responsible to vote and I feel responsible to have an answer to the question- why do you vote the way you do. There is this dichotomist separation between the repulicans and the democrats. They simply don't represent the same things. The problem is I want to pick and choose from either party. But apparently politics isn't a buffet...

The biggest problem: Right now I'm a staunch republican. Probably because I was raised that way and I've been corrupted from the conservative church. So I'm coming at it from a biased angle like anyone else would. I'm trying to convince myself to vote the other way. But in our system if you vote for one democratic, or one republican you vote for them all. Because of party allegiance most swing the same way.

This post lacks the passion I feel...maybe more to come later.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Stretchin it Out: We're in the home stretch for the Community Festival. I swear I spent most of the day on the phone confirming all of our orders and or setting up some last minute orders. All of the calls were positive and I haven't run into one situation where the answer was- no way we can't do that. I'm very much not a last minute person but I am continually amazed at what can be done at the last minute.

But back to the festival. The inflatables are rented, the tents are being put up tomorrow. I even have helium balloons. We have a score of local and home businesses coming to demonstrate their goods. Our goal this whole time has been to throw an event that will serve the community while previewing our idea of community and to expose the community to The Bridge Church.

If you pray then please pray for this event. If you don't pray- start!

Bridge Link: I got this idea from North Point but adapted it to fit our church, probably drastically adapted it. I'm very exited about it. Generally I wait to blog about an event until after I've put it before the launch team. This time I can't wait. I did a little write up for it in my prayer email this morning.

“Bridge Link” is a two hour event with an atmosphere that is highly relational; connecting people to people through refreshments and interactive activities, and connecting people to God through a brief message and a challenge to join a small group and to commit to coming to The Bridge. The first of these will be on Friday November 10 (just 2 weeks away!) and possibly Friday December 1.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Delegation: Delegation. Sometimes it’s hard to delegate. Not because I have a hard time trusting people, that’s not it at all. The fact of the matter is the reason delegation can be so hard for me is that sometimes I can handle it on my own. And sometimes I have way more time than most people on our launch team. I have a hard time delegating because at time I honestly have time to get it all done…this week.

But two reasons I delegate even when I don’t think I need to.

1. What happens on the week that I don’t have enough. People are so used to me doing it all that they don’t understand anything else.

2. When people contribute to a task they own it. And ownership is key to a successful church. But not really that ownership of the church helps one own the acting out of their faith. It’s a beautiful thing really.

3. When the Health Department calls and tell me I need a permit for the food on Saturday and I already have a list of stuff to do. I think of all the stuff that others are doing and I sigh in relief because that’s all the stuff I could be doing but others are doing…better than I can.

4. And another reason I delegate. Because others are far more capable at certain tasks than I am. Truth be told others might be more capable and talented at all tasks than I am…

Growth: This summer my lawn took a beating from the sun. When we moved in the grass was green and looked good. It was nothing to write home about but it was nice. This summer the sun was so hot and there was so little rain that lots of grass in my backyard got burnt. Then with the sudden rain at the end of the summer we got a ton of rain and weeds grew rampant.

I asked Robbie, my lawn care specialist, what I should do. So I put round up on the weeds and killed off all of the weeds. I had massive spots in my lawn with no grass or weeds at all. Just brown death. Then we rented an airator and airrated our lawsn (Brandon, Robbie and I). After doing that we seeded and fertilized. I had these huge plugs of dirt all over my lawn and I have to be honest. I thought we had just wasted money and time doing that. I thought there was no hope for the bald spots and little help for my lawn.

I watered faithfully then I went to Russia for 10 days. I left Heather with specific instructions on how to water and how often. When I came back a miracle had occurred. Grass had started to grow. It was only growing in the plug holes at first and looks like rows of crops. Then it started growing all over. The grass thickened and was greener than ever. My grass now looks much better than ever before.

Growth was what grass was meant to do. I shouldn’t have been surprised it was it’s natural function.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Horses: Nathan has a new love. Horses. He got to ride a pony on Saturday at Driver Days and the got to ride on a wagon pulled by horses. Then Sunday we went up to Williamsburg and he got to see lots of horses pulling carriages. Everytime he would see one he would yell- who- which is his version of "check that out!". Then last night at Bible Study Maylene had two toy horses that she brought for the kids to play with. He quickly claimed them as his own and wouldn't let them go. Maylene left them with Nathan to play with and last night he wouldn't put them down. The problem was he kept chewing on their legs.

Tonight I'm sitting on the couch and Nathan brings me a book to read. It's about horses. We read the book then he took the book and was looking at it on his own. I look at him and he's chewing on the book. I think Nathan likes horses because he secretly wants to eat one.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Group: We've been hosting a new Life Group on Sunday afternoons. This group is especially for people with children because we offer adult childcare for the toddlers and children's programming for the older kids. We have two highly committed couples come out for the last 2 weeks and have some very good prospects for the future.

It's been highly encouraging to interact with these couples. We're at a point in our church plant, just a few months until launch, that we need high commitment from people and we need this commitment fairly early on in the relationship. These couples have demonstrated this and it's been great.

Knowledge: I had the privilege of growing up in a home that went to church and I was taught the basics of the bible and stuff like that. Then my education at Toccoa was good and I received a solid regimen of theology and while it might not be the theology I now subscribe to it gave me a strong basis as to how to develop my own theology. So with all that said I so often forget that I meet people on a day to day basis that know very little about the Bible. To tell you the truth it exhilirates me but humbles me at the same time. My ultimate goal for people is to see them reading and studying the bible on their own but until then anything they know about the Bible, Jesus Christ and relationship with him is on our small faith community.

Some pictures from the weekend...

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Won't: I won't comment on this piece I'll just post the link. I think it needs to be read and often. And what's more I think we need to hear some ideas on what to do with it not just drop the bomb and let others deal with the carnage.



Friday, October 20, 2006

Disturbing: This story started out as very disturbing and has turned to something much worse than that. Original story said that this woman, who was carrying a full term baby, had been shot in the stomach and the baby was lost. After investigation it turns out she shot herself. Yesterday her case was dismissed. Apparently there is no law for killing your own baby if it's still in the womb.

Story Here

Does it disturb anyone else that a baby in the womb just doesn't matter until it's born? I should say doesn't matter to lawmakers or to legislation but there are plenty of couples that have lost children or can't have children that unborn children matter to.

I don't really get into this stuff often but it's disturbing that we live in a society with such warped values.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wild: The Community Festival is really consuming a lot of my time right now. On one hand we've/I've never done anything like this and I should be overwhelmed. On the other hand I think our team is equipped to handle it all. We're busy but not going crazy. Everything is going to be great.

I know this event is going to be very positive for the community and our prayer is that God uses it and us to impact people for Jesus Christ.

This festival has been very good for me in determining how we want to advertise in the future. While I was aware of the incredible cost of advertisement I wasn't really AWARE at how much simple advertising can cost.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Reminder: I want to use my blog as a platform for a few minutes. I know there are pastors and other church workers that read my blog on a consistent basis and I'm talking to you. Really talking to myself and to you and wanted to give a reminder.

The reminder is this. If another church is preaching the same gospel of Jesus Christ that you are teaching- treat them like a friend and not an enemy. Don't even be indifferent to them. Support them, encourage them, give them money, give them support. As a church planter there is no greater blessing than I have received from churches that support me not just in theory but in actual support. Often these churches just pray for us and when we visit them they ask us to stand up and be recognized. Some of these churches provide us with people to help us run events and others even contribute money to our church even though we may be trying to reach the same demographic in the same cities.

Equal to the blessing these wonderful churches give is the pain of being undercut or rejected from other churches. We are perceived as competition as the enemy or at best we're perceived as a distraction for current members. I have news for them. I don't want their members. I don't even want the nominal christians in the community. I want people who haven't heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, I've got something to tell them. I've got a place for them in our church and God feels the same way.

But the truth is when church is viewed as a product and you spend years prepping your product and making it ready for purchase when something new comes along you get a little nervous. But I don't want them to be nervous I want them to passionately pursue lost people. And that reminds me what this is all about- not polishing our product called The Bridge Church but making bridges to be able to connect people to people and most importantly people to God.

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Nathan told us what he wanted for Christmas!

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Hannibal doing the bull dance feeling the flow- working it, working it.

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This picture is of Peanut Butter Sculptures at Peanut Fest. Peanut Fest should be better known as Redneck Fest. But c'mon peanut butter sculptures are always cool.

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Last night, Chili, football, and 5000 postcards that needed to be stamped and labeled. We started about 7pm and by 11pm it was mission accomplished!

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Postcards: I like to comment on companies I use, particularly the ones that are excellent. www.clubflyers.com goes on the more than excellent list. I ordered the postcards on Wednesday, October 11 and they were sitting at the local airport waiting for me by Friday. 5k postcards for $175 (before shipping). They look exactly like the artwork submitted. If you have print needs I strongly recommend going with clubflyer.com. They had lots of shipping options and the fastest and cheapest for me was to have them send it Delta Cargo (deltacargo.com) from Miami to Norfolk.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Books: After what was turning out to be quite a book drought I have received a barrage of books, good books. Because there is little worse than bad books.

About Christ and the Church by Alexander Men: I heard about this book from my friend JB. He had a copy I was reading while in Russia but I didn't want to take it home with me because it's so hard to get books in English in Russia. So I read as much as I could while in Russia and figured I'd buy it when I got home. After I got home JB emailed me and told me he had bought it for me and sure enough it came this morning.

Father Alexander was a russian orthodox priest during the soviet era. Right as the curtain was falling he was murdered. You can read more about him ---> here

Chazown by Craig Groeschel
Wire: for a life of worship by Louie Giglio
God's Blog by Lanny Donoho

the beauty of those books is that Catalyst sent them to me for free. They actually sent them before their annual conference last week but they were sent to my old Maryland address and just made it to me on Friday. What kind of conference/company sends someone 3 great books for free? The kind that I can't wait to go to next year. If you haven't checked it out yet go NOW Catalyst

I also picked up a few dead guys at the Christian bookstore the other day.

Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a' Kempis

and finally I finished two books on my trip
Creating Community by Bill Willits and Andy Stanley
10 Dumbest Things Christians Do by Mark Atteberry

I'll do a write up on these in the next few days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

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For those of you who read and prayed for my friend JB I wanted to give you the good news I got this morning from JB's wife Iris. That the polyp is not cancerous! This means that if the removal goes well tomorrow the family will be able to return to Krasnodar next week and resume language school. Praise God for his provision in this.

Pray again tonight at 11pm (7am Moscow) that the operation is a success and the removal is complete!

Thanks to God for answering prayer!

Disease: I was in a conversation lately of someone whose college aged child has gotten the mumps. She goes to Wheaton college and there is a mild epidemic of sorts on the campus. She has been immunized against it, like everyone else as a baby and she still got it.

Then I got an email from my mom telling me that my stepdad has Rubella (German measels). Old diseases returning...weird!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Prayer: There is one resounding thing that God taught me on my trip to Russia and that is the necessity of prayer. So I have vowed to make prayer not only my first work but my most important work of the day. In holding this value it means asking others to pray for needs I am burdened for.

The need that stirs my heart this morning and this week is for my best friend, JB. Doctors have discovered a very large polyp in his colon. Today JB, Iris and his son Gavin flew to Moscow for JB's operation. They will operate tomorrow morning (midnight our time) and remove the polyp. They also will determine if the polyp is cancerous. If it turns out to be they will fly the family immediately to the states, leaving their home in Krasnodar under the care of others. If removal is successful and the rest of the search turns out to be encouraging they will recover in Moscow until next week and then return home to Krasnodar.

Please pray for my friend and his family.

Pants: On a lighter note. People that are still wearing their pajama pants in public- I'm not sure that was ever cool. But in case you are wondering it's not a good look, save yourself, get dressed in the morning. It's worth it!

"Forgiving is a serious business because it is basically for our own spiritual, emotional and physical benefit. We may or may not establish a new relationship with the person who injured us; that is not the heart of forgiveness. When we forgive, we finally stop hurting ourselves, hand the whole matter over to God, and believe what he says: Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

-Peter Dyck

Monday, October 09, 2006

Forgiveness: I was reading the paper yesterday and was not surprised to find stories about the amish school shooting that happened last monday. What I was surprised to find out was the nature of the stories. Surprised is the wrong word...amazement is more likely. What a I read were words of regret from the amish leaders. Words of regret that the live in a fallen world where tragedies like this happen not to those who deserve it but to those who often do not deserve it at all.

But what I mostly read were words of forgiveness, sadness but forgiveness. It really hit home when I read that over half of the 75 people at the funeral service of the gunmen were...amish.

It seems that despite their lack of technology and puritanical methods the amish are teaching us all a lesson we need to learn.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

To my blog readers: I've been wondering for 9 months now why no one has left me a comment on my blog. Yesterday I switched to blogger beta and suddenly all of my comments arrived at the same time. So I'm sorry for not responding or replying.

Blog on!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Berlin, Germany

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At the end of the war England was in the mood for revenge so like London was bombed Berlin had the favor was returned. This is a bombed out church and to the right of the old bombed out cathedral is the new Lutheran church and the windows are made from the glass from the stained glass in the old church.

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A van.

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A mini-van?

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This is what remains of much of the Berlin Wall. A slighly discolored marking on the sidewalk, occasionally it's marked by an off colored cobble stone but true to where the wall was always it always marks the spot whether over a street on through a grass field.

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This is the longest remaining section of the wall.

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An old cathedral.

Krasnodar, Russia

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This is a brand new Russian Orthodox church.

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The mullet is univeral.

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Me, Monsoon (JB), and Monsoon Jr. (JB's son Gavin)

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One of three people who smiled at me in Russia.

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The open air market...not a commodity a way of life.

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Old Russian block style apartments.

Vienna, Austria
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St. Stephen Church

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Arrived: After such long travel- 2 flights and a 14 hour layover it was great to finally arrive to our destination of Krasnodar, Russia. I was a little nervous about immigration but I made sure I had all my forms out and filled out correctly and before long I was through immigration and ready to get my luggage.

Only when I went to get my luggage there was none. The moment you learn to prepare for when you travel overseas had happened once again. I asked some questions of my new Russian friends who were returning from Ocean City, Maryland. They told me that the luggage was never put on the plane and that we can expect the luggage next Friday. I looked at my watch and realized they meant next Friday October 3rd. This was going to be fun.

I passed the news onto my group and we stood in line for another 2 hours waiting to fill out a lost baggage form in line with the other 200 passengers on board. One of the students said it right when he said “Welcome to Russia”. The only city where they can totally miss a while planes worth of luggage, tell you they’ll get it to you in a week and act somehow you are bothering them.

Russia: But I brought a full change of clothes and my toothbrush so besides having to wash clothes every other night until I get to Berlin it’s not a big deal. I even have my laptop with me. It’s great to be with JB and iris. They are doing so well here and while I know they have had their share of trials I am impressed so much by how they are learning the culture and language.

I really love being with them and the only regret I have is that our entire families can’t be together on things like this. But times will come and I know we’ll take advantage when we can get together the entire family and enjoy one another.

More tomorrow on Russia pizza, manholes and missions. But for now I need to catch up on some of that sleep I’ve been missing. I’ve gotten 4 hours of sleep in the last 50+ hours.

I’ve been in Russia a few days now and have had the cultural experience I thought I would have but in different ways than how I thought I would have them.

Russia is intriguing and yesterday in going to a Cafe, the main downtown street, riding the tram and going to the market I got to experience Krasnodar, Russia. The CafĂ© was nice, well decorated and played American music…The main downtown street, like much of the city, has the eastern European feel like Krakow and Prague but seems to lack the history and culture of both of those cities. This was communist Russia no more than 15 years ago and it shows. But like American there are cell phone stores but the primary difference is that nothing is in the same place. Like the markets of old (I assume) you have to buy everything here at a separate place. You don’t buy soap, toilet paper or tooth paste at the same place as you would buy your groceries and you don’t buy your groceries at the same place you’d buy your fresh produce or cheese. Even electronics have a separate store. All products at the toy store are behind the counter and the whole store has a counter running around it. Unlike other European cities, I’ve been to you really need to speak Russian here and at times its frustrating that I know NOTHING of the language but then at other times it’s kind of like being in a play and all the characters are going on about their business and then there’s you…

Cell Phones: Cell phones here are cool looking and they are also cool because every phone is like a trak phone and you purchase and then just repurchase when you need more. No monthly charge no calling plans.

*Authentic: Tonight I had authentic Russian food. JB and Iris treated me to a great dinner. IN the south of Russia there used to live a people group called the Cossack. This restaurant serves Cossack and Georgian food.

Shell Shock: Last night I laid on my bed and I wrote JB and Iris a letter. In the letter I told them how proud I was of them and how much I loved them and valued them. It was hard to type through the tears but the words were too important to let pass. The more I typed the more I cried but they were tears that I wasn’t ashamed to shed. I was missing Heather and Nathan and I was missing JB and Iris and I was trying to process the idea of coming from Russia and my responsibility as a church pastor to the mission field. I was shell-shocked.

Today we had a great facilitator meet with all of the Mid-Atlantic District people that went on the trip. He helped us debrief what we experienced, told me that my tears were normal and helped me figure out how to use that passion back home. Because to be honest I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to be able to go back home and still have my passion for JB and Iris and the Southern Russian field.

Berlin: What I’ve seen of Berlin has been very beautiful. Today we visited a bombed cathedral from WWII. Berlin was the last city defeated in the war and so instead of repairing the cathedral they left it bombed in honor of the war dead. From the stained glass that fell out of the windows they created the windows in the new Lutheran church that was built directly beside the old cathedral.

*Possibly offensive note- a very nice lady from the Berlin Church took us to the cathedral. She was talking to me and told me that the Germans suffered greatly in WWII. Even though they started the war they still had to endure the burning in the streets. She even made a comment as to the effect that the Germans suffered the most in WWII. I must not have been thinking or perhaps I was in learning mode and not debate mode because about 2 minutes after she said it I said in my head “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard uttered from a human mouth. What about the millions of Poles that were killed through various forms of TORTURE in concentration camps and the millions of Jews that were also destroyed through various forms of TORTURE. So frankly any suffering the Germans had to endure during the war and even the generation after…they deserved it.”

So here we are several generations removed and all is forgiven but lets not get crazy.


The plan was to blog about these things as they happened but like most trips I take the days were long and downtime short- which means little time to blog about my trip. But right now while sitting in the Frankfurt airport and through the day traveling I will try to recall important or interesting events that happened.

Bread: On Sunday we went to the Russian service. I understood what was happening but understood none of the language. Communion however was a wonderful experience. They serve the elements by row and when the server comes to the end of your row you stand. As the elements are passed and you take them you are very careful not to spill.
The bread is so important as the body of Christ that to drop any is frowned upon. When I took the bread I was careful not to drop crumbs and I used two hands for this small morsel of bread. I expected…but what I got was the strong flavor of bread it was hearty and sweet and I remembered that the body of Christ was strong and was hearty and it was broken to redeem us from our sins.

And then the wine was passed. Again being careful not to spill we stood and received the wine. The wine was strong and sweet, like the blood of Christ. I saw how it would stain your clothes but this was redeeming blood not the staining kind.
The communion experience was incredible.

Ghetto: The security in Frankfurt is intense. You go through metal detectors and baggage at least twice and one of the times- at the international terminal they not only check your bags but give everyone a free pat down to make sure no one is smuggling liquids on their person. It’s intense but the security agents are friendly, do their best to speak English and never treat you like a criminal.

Then I connected in the states. Where they don’t make much of an effort to communicate to the foreigners, security instead raise their voices as if yelling will get their point across better. The also gab among themselves and act altogether unprofessional but proud of their power! I think I’m going to write a letter to TSA about my observations.

Mark: I had the privilege of praying for a German brother last night. He asked for prayer because he says he loves God but has a hard time living it out. A couple of us prayed for him and I could tell God was working so hard on his heart and that this guy was changing. After we prayed we all hugged Mark and he thanked us. Then later he came over and asked if I needed prayer for anything. For a split second piety rose it’s nappy little head and I almost told him now. But before I could speak God told me to shut my mouth and this time open it and tell Mark that I did indeed need prayer. I knew exactly what I need prayer for…against bitterness. So Mark prayed for me and I felt a release from this bitterness and I haven’t thought about it since.

Tip: Malcolm Gladwell mentions in the Tipping Point that things “tipping” is not always a positive thing. He uses the communication of STD particularly in large intravenous drug use areas like Baltimore. He mentions suicide being a tip and generally when one person in the community takes their own life it is followed by repeated suicides. The initial person “gives permission” by their actions for others to follow suit. I suppose to add to this study would be that of school shootings. 3 in one week is a horrific thought and the copycat style of one to the other is chilling.