Monday, February 25, 2008

Snow on Sunday... what a surprise!

Of course, it was Sunday and there was snow. It happens every weekend. Still we had a great day at Central. Both morning and night services were good, good, good. God was with us!

We had a good chili cook-off too. I think I heard that Pastor Molly's was the "Most Unique Chili" and Alice Smith's was the "Most Like Mama's."

It was great to pray with the people who will be participating in the Spanish Service. We are expecting great things as this service begins this Sunday at 11 AM in the Student Center.

No Soup for you!

I love Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup. Even the name sounds fun, doesn’t it? It’s “Fiesta” Chili Beef soup. How many other soups have a celebration right in their name? You don’t eat “Yippee Yahoo” Beef Barley or “Zippity Doo Dah” Chicken Noodle. But with Campbell’s Condensed Chili Beef there’s a fiesta in every can!

I have always loved Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup. I think my mother put Fiesta Chili Beef Soup in my bottle as an infant. Sometimes, my dear sweet mother would place a Ball Park Frank or two into the soup and thereby creating an all-in-one yummy meal. Hot dogs and chili, what a treat! I remember making this soup in a “hot pot” in my dorm room while in college, even though there were rules about cooking in our rooms. I thought Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup was worth being labeled a rebellious, rule breaker, and worth any fine the Resident Assistants might levy on me if they discovered me and my “hot-pot.” (Typically if a college student is fined for having “hot pot,” it does not involve a cooking apparatus, as it did for me). Even after getting married, when Karla would go away for the weekend, she knew that the pantry could be without fruits and vegetables, but it absolutely needed to include at least one can of Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup. Yes, I love that soup.

Or I should have written: I “loved” it. After weeks of not seeing it on the super market shelves, I was coming to the realization that something was seriously wrong. Week after week, I would run into the grocery store hoping, praying that Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup would be on the shelf, and weekly I was disappointed as I discovered that (to quote the “Soup Nazi” from the old Seinfeld show) there was “No soup for me.” It was not at HyVee, Dillions, Price Chopper, Wal-Mart or Hen House. It was not in any store.

What happened to my beloved Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup? Were the Campbell’s Soup Chefs on strike? Was there a drought in some third-world country making it impossible to produce beans or beef or some other vital ingredient in my Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup? I had to know: Where’s my soup? So this week I wrote to the Campbell’s Soup Company. I politely asked them where my soup was. I told them I had been eating it for years and years (I did not tell them about my mama putting it into my baby bottle.). I reminded them I had been a loyal customer. I told them how I could not find my tasty soup in any store throughout the Kansas City metro area.

Here was their reply:

Mr. Rob Prince, we received your message and appreciate your taking the time to contact Campbell Soup Company to inquire about our Campbell's Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup. Unfortunately, this product is not currently available.
Tastes and preferences constantly change and there is only so much space on a supermarket shelf. Periodically, we look at the sales for our various products and are forced to make the difficult decision as to which products stay and which must be replaced.
Inquiries such as yours remind us that sales figures aren't the only measure of a product's value. Perhaps one day Campbell's Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup will make its way back to your grocer's shelf.

Nooooooooo! This was the worst possible news!

“Not currently available…?”
“Forced to make difficult decisions…?”
“Periodically, we look at the sales….?”

Ah ha! Corporate greed has taken away my dearly loved Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef! First the M & M Candy Company stopped making Red M & M’s and now this! Oh sure there may be more Chicken Noodle Lovers and Tomato Soup lovers, but do the powers-that-be in the hallowed kitchens of Campbell’s Soup really expect me to believe that there are more people that like Split Pea Soup or Cream of Asparagus Soup than Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup? “Only so much space on a supermarket shelf?” Are you kidding me? The grocers seem to have space for lima beans and pig’s feet and other gross things, surely the good folks at Price Chopper can make room for my tasty Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup! (And don’t even get me started on how super markets seem to have plenty of space for Pabst Blue Ribbon and Budweiser).

What is a hungry pastor to do?

Just before my mind started devising schemes and insane plots to kidnap those lil’ “Mmmm Mmmm Good” Campbell’s Soup twins (I’m telling you I was desperate), the Lord reminded me of Jesus’ words: 'People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' (Matthew 4:4) I know Jesus doesn’t mention Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup by name in that verse (I think it would have been very confusing—and may have made the people in the first century a little jealous—to hear about such a tasty soup that wouldn’t be created for 1900 years) but the same principle applies: “Get your mind off your tummy and onto the things of God.”

You know that’s not a bad lesson. In fact, that’s the point of this Lenten season. That’s why we fast or give up something like burgers or chocolate or TV as we approach Holy Week. It’s to get our mind off of the things of this world, and on to the things of God. There’s still time to do just that. As we make our way toward Holy Week and Easter, make time to think about the things of God. Seek him. Seek His direction for your future, your family and all your ways. And of this you can be sure: Finding God’s favor is even better than finding a can of Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Chili Beef Soup on a supermarket shelf. David was absolutely right when he wrote: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) How true it is!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Snow, Snow Go Away!

Why does it always snow on Sundays? More than a few strong and hardy people made it to Central yesterday-- and the Lord was with us as we continued in our Stories from the Upper Room Series. If you were afraid of the slippery roads and stayed home, check out our website and listen in to the sermon on our Advocate from John 14:15-31.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Feaste of St. Valentine

Tonight begins the first of three performances of the Feaste of St. Valentine. It will be a great night, I am sure. The cast and crew have put in many hours of work to make this a success. I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Numbers Numbers Numbers

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Here are some numbers that I’ve seen this week.

68,095 dollars. That was what my little “fun-filled vacation” in St. Luke’s Hospital cost. Of course, that does not include the emergency room at Shawnee Mission Medical Center (I think that bill was around seven grand), doctors, technicians, and I don’t know what all. Wow! For you non-math whizzes that figures to nearly 10,000 beans a day—and I thought a day at Disney World was pricy.

67,595 dollars. That’s how much our insurance paid. Whew… I am glad for health insurance. While 500 dollars out of our pocket (so far) is nothing to sneeze at (or blow a head gasket over); it’s a whole lot better than 68,000 smackeroos!

276 years ago (next Friday) the most famous person in my family tree was born: George Washington. The rumor is that somewhere on my mama’s side of the family we are related to old George Washington’s mama, Mary Ball Washington. Who knows if it’s true or how we are related? It’s President’s Day Weekend, so I thought you might be a little impressed.

13 years ago (on Saturday) my little Ben was born. I know for a fact that I’m related to him (and his mama). The only thing that Ben has in common with George Washington is their wooden teeth (that’s not true) and their ability to chop down a cherry tree (that could be true).

52 people will be leaving one month from tomorrow for a mission trip in El Salvador. Besides working on a church building we will be holding dental clinics in some public schools, leading VBS like gatherings, and participating in some Jesus film showings. I hope you are praying for this trip and the people who are going. Be looking in the worship folder for supplies that we will need to take with us that you can help provide.

4 ties I have yet to wear for missions. I finished wearing my Royal’s tie on Sunday (if you were counting, I wore that lil’ beauty four weeks in a row), and now have a KU, K-State, Ohio State, and my own tastefully eloquent Michigan tie to wear. For those who may be unaware, people paid 200 bucks for me to wear those ties (compared to staying in a hospital, that’s a bargain). The 200 hundred dollars helps pay for the building supplies for our mission trip. And yes, you read that right; I paid 200 of my own cold hard cash for the privilege of wearing my own tie.

24 hours (actually less than that) until Valentine’s Day. Please use this as a reminder. You may recall that last year I waited too long and ended up purchasing two dead Wal-mart tulip plants for my wife, Karla. Bad idea. I’ve planned better this year, and I hope you will do the same. Because when those potted plants hit you on top of the head… it hurts! (Just kidding, my wife has never hit me with a potted plant. Maybe she has wanted to—but her self-control has heretofore always won out, thankfully!)

24 hours (actually less than that) until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Can summer be far behind? I haven’t been this excited for a Spring Training since 1985 (the year after the Tigers won the World Series.) Unfortunately, that year didn’t work out so well for my Tigers, instead a team with guys named Balboni, Biancalana, Iorg, Quirk, and Quisenberry won the series—anybody ever hear of those guys? (Can you believe that I used the word “heretofore” in the last paragraph? What was I thinking?)

38 days until Easter. Are you praying for a neighbor, co-worker, friend, or family member that you can invite to Easter Services? Quite possibly, heretofore (I’m using that word so much you’d think I was a lawyer), your friends and loved ones have not expressed interest in things spiritual, but through prayer (maybe even fasting), God can soften their hearts. Everyone you know should celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus!

That’s all the numbers I know. So, I will “86” this email, and as Smokey (or was it Bandit?) used to say, “10-4, Good Buddy!”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ties for Missions

Yesterday was my last day wearing a Royal's tie. If you haven't noticed, I've worn the same tie the last four weeks because people paid $200 each week for our mission trip supplies. I still have to wear a KU tie, K-State tie, and awful of all awfulness an Ohio State Buckeye tie. I even paid $200 mself to wear my own University of Michigan tie.

I suppose it's not too late-- if you have a special tie and are willing to give $200 for missions I am willing to wear it (maybe... nothing too crazy or my wardrobe warden -- that is, Karla, might rejected it.)

Another Good Day at Central

Yesterday was a good day! Many folks were helped in discovering that in the midst of their "no way situations" God will make a way. I think I am going to like this Lenten series of Stories from the Upper Room. This week we will be looking at the end of John 14, and the exciting announcement from Jesus about "another Counselor."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ash Wednesday Recap

The Ash Wednesday Service last night was a really good service. Some of our folks had never been a part of such a service, and I think it was extremely meaningful.

Have you decided on something to fast during the 40 days of Lent? If giving up chocolate or soda is not your thing... how about fasting sports or TV or fasting from complaining or anger or spending too much money. Use these days to come up with a way to focus on what it means to follow Christ and follow his example of being a servant.

A Sweet Week

The old song says, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before….” I won’t dispute the lyrics, but I must admit that this week has had some goofy twists and turns in that ever growing sweetness.

Sunday was the Super Bowl. I didn’t have a horse in the race, so I really didn’t care if the Giants or the Patriots won the game. (When you root, root, root for the Detroit Lions, you come to the conclusion that even if all the other horses die of the plague and yours in the only horse in the race, somehow your old grey mare will still find a way to mess it up.) I enjoyed the commercials, the half time show, and most of all, the snacks at the party I attended. Who cares about football? Pass the Crunch-N-Munch.

On Monday, I attended my first basketball game in Phog Allen Field House on the campus of the University of Kansas. (Well, the first since my being the pastor at Central. I attended one game in 1988 when the Jayhawks had a kid name Danny Manning playing for them. I wonder what ever happened to that team.) The Jayhawks squeaked out a victory over the Missouri Tigers (they won by 19 points), and I heard more Rock, Chalk Jayhawk chants in more ways than I thought possible. There were fast “Rock Chalks,” slow “Rock Chalks” and nearly cult-like and eerie “Rooooooock Chaaaaaaalks.” Hmmm… maybe “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” really means “Worship the Spaghetti Spaceship.” In any event, I had a wonderful time. Sorry MU fans.

Tuesday was both Fat Tuesday and Super Tuesday. I guess you could say it was a “Super Fat Tuesday.” But it wasn’t all that super or fat for me. Usually on this day in Michigan, we would eat pazckis (pronounced Punch-keys). The story is that the Polish immigrants that settled in the Great Lake State would take their extra lard and use it up before Lent by making pazckis, which are a type of jelly donut. I couldn’t find any pazckis in Kansas. (Maybe that was best. My new diet doesn’t allow for pazckis, cookies, or practically anything else that tastes good.) So I didn’t get fat on Tuesday, and the lack of an open Kansas primary is not very super in my opinion.

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday (make a note to attend the service next year if you were not here last night, it was really terrific!) and we also had at least two whole of inches of snow that “buried” the city and caused all the area schools to close. Two inches of snow closes the schools? Are you kidding me? Why in my day… (Oh my I was about to sound like my mom recalling days of waist high snow and sub zero temperatures in which she walked to school uphill, both home and back, as a girl). I think my son Ben’s “Snow Day School Ritual” of putting a spoon under his pillow and wearing his pajamas inside-out the night before must have worked because I have never heard of school being canned for two inches of snow. (By the way, I am not sure where Ben learned of this ritual and I do not know the significance of the inside-out jammies or the spoon. I am slightly worried that I have a closet witch doctor living in my house. ) We were then faced with the decision of what to do about our Ash Wednesday Service, I made the call that Ash Wednesday trumps two inches of snow twelve hours before the service. So in spite of our inclement weather policy that would have had us canceling the service, since the powers that be at the Shawnee Mission schools are “snow fraidy cats,” we had the service. As they say in Hollywood, “On with the show…” I am glad we did too. What a service!

Wednesday I also officiated at the funeral for Henry Langstaff. Henry was a great guy, who loved the Lord. He is walking on the streets of gold where presumably they don’t have two inches of snow and they never cancel worship services.

What is in store for the rest of the week, I can only guess—but I know this—God is in control, and as you grow in the Lord it is sweeter each and every day—whether you eat a paczki or not.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ash Wednesday Service

Looking Forward to Wednesday Night's Ash Wednesday Service. We will meet together as we begin the season of Lent. Plan on being part of this meaningful service for the whole family.

Surprise, No Surprise

That yesterday was a Super Sunday... no suprise.
That the Giants beat the Patriots... surprise.
That we had a great time praising the Lord, dedicating babies, digging into his word, and celebrating communion... no surprise.
That Pastor Kevin made it nearly through two worship services while very sick... surprise.
That John Hall our Worship and Arts intern stepped in and did a great job at the end of the second service... no surprise.