Sunday, January 3, 2010

Great New Year Message

I just read an awesome New Year's Day sermon from January 1, 1885 by Charles Spurgeon.
Check it out:
http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1816.htm

Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 Christmas Dance Video

This is the 13th year that we have recorded our family dance around the Christmas tree. We started in 1996, when Cameron was in the womb. Karen and I were decorating the tree, while Jars of Clay - Little Drummer Boy was on the stereo. The camcorder was rolling and we just started to dance.
The next year we thought, "Hey let's do that dance thing again... with the same song." And the rest is Miller Family history.
Merry Christmas from the Millers!

For a larger version, go here: www.exposureroom.com/millerchristmasdance

video

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sing or Read?

Last night I was reading Christopher (age 5) a story from a book of Christmas stories. When it was finished I said (as usual), "Okay now let's read a Bible story." He said "No I don't want to read a Bible story." So I suggested we sing a couple of Christmas songs.
I started singing O Little Town of Bethlehem. About halfway into it, Christopher interrupted and said, "Daddy... how 'bout we just read a Bible story."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Outlaw Larry Norman

I've been knocked down, kicked around
But like a moth drawn to a flame
Here I am, talkin' 'bout Jesus just the same.

Words that Larry Norman penned 30-something years ago in his song, Shot Down.

For those who don't know Larry Norman, allow me to give you a short history lesson. Larry is often referred to as the Father of Christian Rock. Back in the 1960s, Larry started creating rock and roll music with lyrics about Jesus. His 1969 album Upon This Rock is considered the first "Christian Rock" album. Mixing Jesus and rock music was unheard of at the time, and reviled by many.
He released over 100 solo albums in his career, and over 300 cover versions of his songs have been recorded.To make a long story short, Larry Norman was the trailblazer for modern Christian music.

And I was (and still am) a huge fan.

As a teenager and young adult I spent a lot of money on Larry Norman albums. I also saw him in concert a couple of times. One of those times was at my college, where I got to meet him. He did a concert one night and then stayed on a campus for a couple of days, for some reason. He ate lunch in the cafeteria with some students and even showed up in my dorm one evening just to hang out. My dorm-mates and I loved hanging with him and getting a picture taken with him. During that time he also set up a time in a lecture room where he would be willing to answer questions (sort of a press conference). You better believe I was right up front with my little tape recorder. We asked him questions for over an hour. I took that recording and did a documentary radio show for our college radio station. I also turned it in for a grade in my broadcasting class.

As the larrynorman.com website puts it, Larry was an "eccentric visionary whose songs drew controversy from both the conservative religious establishment and the secular music press for his lyrical mix of radical religious, political, and social themes." Not only was there controversy because of his music style, but there was controversy because of his lifestyle as well, which I will get to in a moment.

In the last several years, Larry battled many health problems and in February of 2008 he went to be with Jesus, of whom he had preached to the world all his life. Now, as is often the case when a person dies, some hidden things have come to light.

I always knew Larry Norman was unusual and even a little bit strange, but I still loved his music. His songwriting was incredible. And he was really much more than just a poet/songwriter/singer. He was a musical preacher, an evangelist. Many of his songs were messages to the unchurched, and unsaved. It was evident that he had a heart for the lost. And listening to his songs as a young Christian played a big role in my spiritual growth. But since his death, people are opening up about some things that are very disappointing, distressing and disturbing. There has even been a documentary movie made that talks about some of these revelations. It is called "Fallen Angel (http://www.fallenangeldoc.com/).

I won't go into too many details of his moral failures. You can look that up for yourself if you are interested. But among other things, it seems he had extramarital affairs (one with his best friend's wife), business troubles, and even allegedly fathered a child in Australia with a woman to whom he was once engaged.  He never publicly took responsibility for the child. The boy is now 19 years old, and he and his mother are still trying to get the Norman family to recognize Larry as the father.

All of this news saddens me because I did look up to him so much. And lately I have been thinking about it and asking myself what I can learn from this. Because I think there is more than one lesson to be learned.

First of all, it's the whole "pedestal" thing. We all do it, don't we? We put people up on a high pedestal and we expect them to be perfect, because in our mind, we made them perfect. They can do no wrong. They become idols. I'm reminded of the old DC Talk song, What if I Stumble, which posed the questions to themselves as Christian performers, "What if I stumble? What if I fall? What if I lose my step and make fools of us all?"

Well that's what Larry did. He did stumble. He did fall, and he did make fools of us all. But was it he that made a fool of me, or was it I that made a fool of myself for holding him up on that pedestal for so many years? He was, after all, only human. Which brings me to the next lesson we could take from all of this.

Does Larry's life remind you of anybody in the Bible? He sort of reminds me of David. Or maybe Moses. Or many of the other characters in the Bible that God used in mighty ways, despite moral shortcomings. How about Samson, Solomon, Isaac, Jacob, Lot, even Abraham.

I'm certainly not excusing any of the immoral behavior of Larry Norman, but neither can I dismiss the fact that he was used by God in many ways.

You can bet that when Larry Norman lay in his bed during that last difficult year of his life, he thought about the people he hurt and the damage he had done. I also bet he asked God's forgiveness. And you know what else?  I bet God forgave him.  I read somewhere once that Christians are righteous before God because of God's continuing forgiveness, not because they are "beyond" evil. We are all in need of God's grace and mercy on a daily basis, aren't we?

I have also been reading accounts that Larry had conversations recently with some of the people he had hurt (like Randy Stonehill) and asked their forgiveness, and from what I've read, friendships were mended.

So how did these moral failures of Larry Norman's happen? I don't know and I'm not sure I need to know. However we can look at the biblical accounts of spiritual leaders such as David and discover what caused their failures. The Bible doesn't hide the accounts of the failures. The Bible shows us the good , the bad and the downright ugly. And I think the reason for that is so that we can learn. For instance, there are many lessons to be learned from the story of David and Bathsheba. We won't go into a full study on the life of David here, but in a nutshell, David was in a place where he should not have been, then he acted upon the arrogant, self indulgent lust of his eyes and of his flesh. Then he had to cover his tracks which led to more sin. Is there any among us that cannot relate to that in some way. It's the human condition.

So what we need to do is read the parts of the stories where God's goodness is shown and his mercy is granted. We need to study the spiritual success stories as well. Then we see keys to living godly lives, things like staying in God's presence, studying His Word, and having accountable friendships.

So now that I know what I know about the hidden sins of Larry Norman, I look back at the lyrics of Shot Down and they make more sense now.

I've been rebuked for the things I've said,
For the songs I've written and the life I've led.
They say they don't understand me, well I'm not surprised,
Because you can't see nothing when you close your eyes.
They say I'm sinful, backslidden,
That I have left to follow fame.
But here I am, talkin' 'bout Jesus just the same.

I think it's important for us to remember that a person in the spotlight is still just a person, with the same kinds of hurts and emptiness that all others sometimes feel. Below is an example of that from one of Larry's lesser known songs, Soul Survivor.

I'm trying so hard to forget my pain
and leave my past behind
But when your life is suddenly filled with rain
you keep remembering how the sun used to shine
And I can't stand the loneliness, the constant emptiness
Why has unhappiness come into my life
I spend my mornings walking and thinking
and cry my evenings late into the night

When Larry died, his sister writes, they didn't know what to put on a gravestone until they looked at his note pad that was next to his bed and found a drawing he did of a stone cross that said:

Larry Norman
Evangelist
Without Portfolio
Bloodstained Israelite


.

Monday, October 26, 2009

We need Prayer

Just an update on where we've been and what's been happening...

This past Wednesday I had hernia surgery. I've had this umbilical hernia for over a year and it was starting to bother me so I figured it was time to get it fixed. It was day surgery, and I didn't expect it to be too bad. But boy, oh boy, was it painful. As a matter of fact, it still is, even five days later. I could barely move for the first couple of days. It kind of wiped me out.

Meanwhile Karen has been feeling poorly too. She started feeling bad a couple of weeks ago. Aches and pains in neck and back, nausea, stomach issues, dizziness, and other stuff. She's had these symptoms before and it usually means she is stressed to the max. About two and half years ago when I was going to through some emotional stuff with my ministry position, she was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. We figured she was probably feeling stressed again.

So a few days ago she went to the doctor and he confirmed what we were thinking. He said she is very tense and definitely stressed. When things are particularly stressful, it is manifested physically for her. This seems to be a big one. It won't go away. The trials of raising an extremely strong-willed ADHD preteen, coupled with financial burdens and a home business that has come to a virtual stand still have left us almost paralyzed.

Anyway, the doctor set Karen up for a therapeutic message. When she went to the rehab place they basically just talked to her about it (to the tune of $75). So she didn't get the message that she so desperately needs. She plans to call the doctor again tomorrow. Maybe she needs to get a lower G.I. test done or something. We don't know.

Between my surgery and Karen's mystery illness, the kids are feeling the stress as well. There hasn't been much structure around our house lately, and that can get out of hand sometimes. I am so tired of saying, "Sorry, Mommy and Daddy don't feel well."

So we are still praying and wondering what to do for Karen, for our son, and for a financial/occupational breakthrough of some sort (it will have to be the miraculous sort).

Without going into deep detail, it really is a stressful time in our lives, and we could sure use some prayer. I use my blog to vent my inner feelings sometimes, and sometimes it is rather personal, which may be uncomfortable to read. But it is also a way for me to request prayer from my praying friends who may read this. And I certainly "ain't too proud to beg" for prayer when I need it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Can I Open the Window?

Riding home in the car from Waycross the other evening, Christopher asked if he could open his window. We said no.
Meanwhile Cameron had been talking about making a movie and what would be funny scenes to include.
So Christopher joins in..."I got one, Cameron. What if a guy was riding in the car with his family and he has a bat with him, and he says (very sweetly), 'May I please open the window?' and they say no! So he takes his bat and just bustes the window."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hannah's Prayer

This girl is only 3 years old