Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Zoe's Happy Birthday

Zoe and Cousin Anna hanging out.

21 things we've learned about Zoe through 21 months:

1. No idea that people sleep at night and are awake during the day.
2. Steadily improving with therapy.
3. Is at a 5-6 month old level in development.
4. She can reach for and pick up a toy.
5. Grasp things longer.
6. Working hard on rolling over.
7. Practicing sitting up.
8. She'll push a button to activate a toy when she figures it out.
9. Intentionally waving hi and bye-bye.
10. Working hard to form her mouth into speaking.
11. Loves Pediasure.
12. Daddy's girl (but loves her momma).
13. Loves loves music. It makes her smile.
14. Likes to use her foot as a feeler.
15. She'll run her feeler foot on people and things to feel texture.
16. She especially likes running her feeler foot on keyboards of laptops.
17. Is still taking Captopril twice daily.
18. Isn't a fan of fruit baby food. Prefers baby food with meat in it.
19. Breaks into a huge this-is-hysterical smile when her face is smushed against something.
20. Still loves looking at her hands.
21. Since Daddy took an hour nap and drank coffee to stay up with her tonight...has fallen asleep.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Now And The Not Yet

It struck me driving up to Kohl's Department Store yesterday. It was Saturday at 2 pm and there was a really light snow falling. I pulled up behind the store - back by the dumpsters - and saw... And people parking their cars and hustling in. I guess it was the contrarian in me that drove around to the front to see if there was any spaces, and there weren't. At all. Between the snow that has fallen and this, the last Saturday before Christmas, the lot was full.

And inside the store was full. I found some 80% off gifts, but when I saw the line for checking out, I just put my stuff down and left.

And that's in West Bend, which, by last count, is suffering from an almost-historic high unemployment rate of 12 percent.

It was the end of a week where we've been putting together a video for the Dohmen Foundation. Watching the footage from Sudan and Haiti - of the abject poverty, of the huge eyes of children who have seen more than any of us would want them to see - absolutely broke my heart. Goodhearted people like the BloodWater Mission, Dohmen Foundation, IMA World Health, MAP International, Vitamin Angels, are trying their hardest to fight a tide of poverty and sickness and pain.

And as I pulled into the parking lot, I was in tears. Not about the five year old Haitian girl infested with intestinal worms, and not because I had to wait in line with others suffering under this economy. But because perhaps the most vibrant life force I've known, the best athlete I've ever seen, the most demanding and exceptional artist, easily the finest worker in the God's field could no longer lift his cup to his mouth. My Dad was being placed under hospice care.

If anyone can describe to me a circumstance as terrible as watching someone who prided himself on the food he consumed, who worked out with fervor reserved for the elite, to be decimated by this world....keep it to yourself. I've had enough of this place.

This morning has me running low on hope, low on peace. Low on faithfulness.

The problem is I'm so mired in this world as if it's anything but a torn and broken place. And I've spent no time thinking about Heaven. And yet, that's where I'm supposed to be focused. And Dad spent His whole life trying to get me and everyone else to focus our gaze there.

The missing solace for me is Heaven. It's a lesson I should have learned looking at that footage this week. Kids living in squalor, undernourished. Living in huts with no clean water...and yet, singing, beautifully, loudly, dancing for their Savior. A gathering of village people holding hands in a circle praying " Jesus' name." What possible reason did these children and adults have to believe? To sing? To have joy or hope? They were not receiving joy from their surroundings or current condition.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." - Colossians 3:1-2

Heaven. When I hug him there, I won't be afraid I'll break him. Where he'll be back to singing loudly, whistling. Heaven, where the artist meets the Artist. Heaven to tell stories of grace, and they'll laugh, and he'll laugh telling them. Heaven, where he'll see the thousands whose lives were changed by God's work through him. Heaven, where he'll experience completion beyond any moment he's had here.

I know what I want. But what I want, I have, and will have again. Just not today.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Winter Snow.

Wow this song is incredible. Merry Christmas.

Winter Snow

Could've come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could've come like a forest fire
With the power of heaven in Your flame

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

You could've swept in like a tidal wave
Or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things we've scarred

But You came like a winter snow
(Yes, You did)
You were quiet
You were soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Oh, no, Your voice wasn't in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
It was still
It was small
It was hidden

You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

(Oh, yeah)
To the earth below
You came falling
From the sky in the night
To the earth below

The Weary World Rejoices, Or Why We Are Dangerous

I've spent my share of time these past few blog entries telling you my heart about the trials and travails of this world. It's good, cathartic, it beats a shrink, and to hear that it has struck a chord with you all is nice.

But there's one other thing you have to know: I hope.

Do you?

I hope. This world beats me down, and then maybe I cry or I whine on this blog, and then you get up and you hope. You hope.

There are times that our hope is as preposterous as our sin and failure. To me, it's the thing the devil can do nothing about, except to try and exhaust you and convince you it's gone. But it's not. There is no Godforsaken place.

Our ability to hope is what makes us dangerous to the world and to the Devil. "Let Zoe die gracefully," we were told over a year ago by her pediatrician. If we didn't we were selfish. Letting her die is safe; fighting for her life is dangerous.

I think instead, I will hope Zoe can say "Daddy." There are medical professionals who, based on the data, do not share that hope.

I hope my children are loving and caring husbands, wives, and parents. There are many who, based on their dire predictions of their lives, do not share that hope.

When I act in strength, with the confidence of hope, my soul feels its worth.

Long lay the world In sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd And the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope The weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks A new and glorious morn.

Below is what Louie Giglio shared at the Chris Tomlin "Glory In The Highest" concert on Sunday in Milwaukee. I know it's long. But if you want God to touch you, if you want God to clean the crap out of your heart this season, find some time and listen.

Love, GB

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Monday, December 07, 2009

This Moment

It's the Holidays and that means a lot of emotion for me. I used to sing, and when our group sang best was around now. Our Thanksgiving Eve service was...was just one of those moments when you can't feel your fingertips. There was this one Christmas service once that we did that was the best thing I've ever been a part of. We did so much. So much good for others and each other.

I don't sing anymore, and so this season comes with a deep longing. And now even more longing.

A long time ago, in 2001, I found out my father had cancer over Thanksgiving. And for the postceding months, I believed him to be going or gone. I walked alone at night around the streets of my little town begging God for his life.

And..for the past few years I've been telling my troupe of kids that we should look around the table and be grateful for who's here, because when the kids grow up, who knows where they'll be. Next year, God willing, two will be in college and my heart will miss them. Longing.

I look in the mirror at a tired 41 year old man. If I live as long as my grandfathers, I am more than halfway done. I long for sleep, for health, for a few more moments with my kids - but the kids who giggled in the tub. For my dad - but the dad who plotted out his practical jokes very seriously. For my singing days - but the days when the biggest fight was how long to hold a note.

All this longing. Today we drove by the big Nativity scene outside a church here in Cedarburg and Selah wondered why there was no baby out. I told her it was likely the church wanted people to ask that, to wonder where the baby was, when it would come.

Me too. Come quickly, Lord. Fill my longing with a song again. My father with peace. My children with enough to be strong in you. Fill this season because I need you.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

One eighteen

My dad could throw a knuckleball. Overhand, underhand. If you ever seen someone throw a knuckleball, ever seen one up close, floating by you when you've got a bat in your hand, it's pretty mesmerizing.

When he threw it, his eyes were huge - Mike Singletary-like, for those of you who know the reference. Being a perfectionist, Dad worked hard to conceal the pitch, to keep his motion consistent. But a knuckler looks like a knuckler coming off the pitcher's hand. And knowing the pitch is a knuckler won't help you hit it, anyway.

It made me realize - I think most of us realize - that Dad was letting us hit pitches. That if he wanted to, he could have dug out the huge sweeping curve too and kept us at bay for as long as he wanted.

He's not going to throw a knuckler anymore. It sucks. Kellen will never see it, and I guess it's to me to explain in reverence so he understands what an amazing, dominating athlete Bat was. Ridculously fast. Incredible hands. Mercury quick.

I sat across the table from Dad on Tuesday and told him that we all have to quit wishing. Wishing for the past, for the days of the knuckler, for a batch of waffles prepared while dad was whistling to the stero.

And we have to quit wishing for the future. Today is today and it's all we have. And today is the only place where God is waiting for us. For Bat, all 118 pounds of him.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What I'm Talking About

The detractors of Christian music might not have failed on such a grand scale as me. But for me it's the confluence of gifted musicianship, profound lyrics, my sin and God's glory.

You Are On Our Side
by Bethany Dillon

The orphan clings to Your hand
Singing the song of how he was found
The widow rejoices
For her oppressors are silenced now

You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor
You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore
When You could just be silent and leave us here to die
Still, You sent Your Son for us
You are on our side

The runaway falls at Your feet
You are what he has searched for
The rich man is broken
When he stands beneath a sky full of stars

You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor
You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore
When You could just be silent and leave us here to die
Still, You sent Your Son for us
You are on our side

You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor
You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore
When You could just be silent and leave us here to die
Still, You sent Your Son for us
You are on our side

Still, You sent Your Son for us
You are on our side

Because Journalism Is Dead But Jesus Isn't: The "Side-hug" Smear Part II

In Part I, I talked about a video I found through a friend on Facebook.

The video bugged me. I'm kind of a Christian music geek and I can think of two songs that have the word "Christian" in them. Neither are contemporary: The carol "Good Christian Men Rejoice", and "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love."

Besides, if the side-hug was a legitimate concern of a group of hard-core Christians, they'd be banging on their pipe organ, not trying to emulate rap.

So I contacted the church that submitted the video. Here's my interview:

1. Let’s legitimize our interview by having you introduce yourself and role at TFH. How did you come to work there?

My name is Tim Bittle. I am not "employed" by TFH but I am an associate youth pastor. I am a bi-vocational pastor (meaning that I work a secular job for income and pastor at the church for free). My wife and I have been working with the youth for about 3 years now.

2. Did you all ever have a clue that this video would get the views its getting?

Not at all! As of last night, we we're over 500k including all sources (youtube, vimeo, and other video websites). We never intended the video to be anything other than a nostalgic memory for those that were in attendance at the 2009 EG conference.

3. Did Huffington Post contact you before it put it on its blog?

Never once! Which makes the claims of the videos legitimacy all that more hilarious!

4. Everyone who watches this video is struck by the high level of organization, sound design and choreography involved in this song. For detractors, it’s proof that it’s a professional group trying to legitimately promote a Christian ideal to Christian youth. For people like me, it’s proof that these are a group that if they’re going to spoof something, they’re going all the way. Which is it?

This video / performance was never intended to be taken seriously. The "rap" was written by myself, an actor and a full time janitor at the church (we are all good friends). We are about as far off from being "rappers" or even aspiring "rappers" as one can be.

When we put on these events, we get tired of standing in front of 1000 people and rattling off a bunch of rules (don't bring food or drink into the sanctuary, turn your cell phones to silent so you don't disrupt the service, etc...). This rap was created to spice things up a bit. At the opening scene, you notice that the screens are all fuzzy. That's because the rules video had just cut out and we came on stage to make the rules a bit more fun.

When we do something like this at our church, we always do it with a ton of energy and what we believe to be excellence! You can see evidence of this in the other videos posted to the TFH account on youtube.

5. There are clues this is a spoof. It’s posted on a Youtube channel that has only rap spoofs. It is tagged under “comedy.” You can hear peals of laughter throughout the video, starting at :40 seconds. Why do you think people didn’t get the clues?

Beat's me. The best answer I can give is that they didn't want to. Much of the response, as you can see, has been negative. It is generally aimed at demeaning Christians and not necessarily us a individuals in the video.

I think much of the controversy has been stirred by peoples desire to share their opinions about how much they despise organized religion and those that would be "shallow minded" enough to believe it. At the end of the day, we are not offended at all but it was a bit of an eye-opener about outsiders views of the church.

6. Are you all going to do anything to address that it is a spoof?

We have purposely not responded online or posted a response video. Partially because we think it's funny that something this hilarious turned into such a big deal but also partially because we have been surprised to see how quickly information gets twisted. Many of the mainstream media websites posted that "we have verified that this is a legitimate rap group".

The fact that none of us had been contacted to verify this information is alarming! How many people are just buying into whatever garbage they are told online, on the news or by what they deem to be reliable sources. It just supports the thought that journalism today is not what it should be. This is one of many interviews we have done with those who want the truth behind the video. I think after a short period of time, the spoof will just sort of address itself.

7. My father’s a pastor and I’ve been a Christian all my life. I honestly have never heard of the “side hug” before the rap. Is it a part of your church’s beliefs? Is it part of any of the “rapper’s” beliefs?

Not at all! We are all totally fine with hugging. This was just some self-depreciating humor working itself in song :).

8. I am amazed that the stories of Christians having an impact on this world are rarely ever told, but slams on Christians like this spread like wildfire. Something tells me you wish a different video, story or website would have gotten as much notice. Is there a story, video or website you would like to tell me about that tells more of who you all are and what you do?

I would love to recommend that anyone interested download the TFH podcast / videocast. We have a great church with an amazing senior pastor. It's a relevant church with amazing worship and practical teaching.

I guess my advice would be "don't knock it till you've tried it". All of us in the video were living pretty colorful lives before we became christians and began attending this church.

I can honestly say that without it, we may have all found ourselves in much less desirable place in life. Any info you would want about our church, our campuses, our internship, our beliefs, etc, can all be found at Thanks!


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