Friday, December 30, 2005

Nowhere is Somewhere

It takes being in the middle of nowhere to discover the somewhere at which you live. Being out in nature, the quiet surrounds my soul. The absence of constant activity allows my body to rest and my soul to find its focus. It takes work to slow down.

At age 19, I came to the Harding’s ranch near Gonzales, Texas for the first time. We were it seemed in the middle of nowhere. I arrived with an 18 year old girlfriend. In one weekend, I was hooked on Texas and on a girl that has since become my wife, the mother of our children and my spiritual best friend. The isolated "middle of nowhere" became somewhere very special.

When I enter the expansive quiet of nature (which is actually quiet loud), I realize my small place in this world. At the very same time, I feel connected to something much bigger than myself. Smallness and bigness are odd companions.

However, being able to realize my insignificance and my great significance can come only from the external. I think it may even be a message from God to any human being. God is more vast than I can imagine. God makes me feel small. However, when my smallness is connected to the breadth of God, then I have significance and purpose.

And now . . . back to the middle of nowhere . . . when I slow down, it means that I stop pretending that I am god. I must trust someone else for a change. Let God be the limitless resource of my life. Being out in the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere, locates me in the lap of a God who is big enough to take care of my worries and close enough to transform my small nowhere into somewhere sacred.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Do You Believe in Santa?

It is Christmas Eve and tonight I am wondering, "“Do you believe in Santa?" My Mom always told us kids that as for as long as we believed Santa then would come. So, I continue to believe and he continues to come. But, I long for something more than belief.

This week I decided how I would like my kids (ages 4 and 9 months) to "“figure outÂ" Santa. . . It is a strange idea, but it is an idea that is worth more than belief. It demands action.

This has probably been the best holiday season ever for our household. There is not one thing I can point to, but our family agrees this holiday season has been the best and holiest. Earlier this fall we had the privilege of making some new friends of people who survived both hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Our children have been right there with us, serving people, visiting with people who lost their homes, helping families move in, buying Christmas presents, eating dinners and on and on. Needless to say we'’ve made some great friends out of people who were strangers.

However, it has been a learning experience for our family. One tough thing is that sometimes our kids have gone to parties where they do not get any presents. Our kids have gone to parties and had to wait until the end to eat. Our kids have even gone to parties and been unable to see Santa, because we let other kids go first. This may sound like cruel and unusual punishment. I hope not. They are taking it very well.

Two nights ago we delivered trash bags to several families. They were thrilled to receive trash bags because they were filled with presents for their children. These angel tree gifts go to families who have some member of their family incarcerated. Again, there were our kids in the cold with red and green clothes on and even red caps with balls delivering Christmas cheer.

So, here is what I want my kids to "figure out" about Christmas. I hope that they become so caught up in giving gifts and spreading the joy of the Lord that they forget about Santa Claus. I hope that instead of wishing for the heavy set gift-bearing man in red that they will become like the real man known as Saint Nicholas. There is a difference between these two holiday fellas named Santa and St. Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas was a historical figure who walked the earth in the third century. He was born in modern day Turkey and was raised a devote Christian. His parents died when he was a child, but left him an inheritance. Nicholas used this inheritance by taking Jesus' words seriously to "“sell all that you own and give it to the poor" (Gospel of Luke 18:22). He was a Christian man who tossed gifts in open windows, brought joy to the poor, the suffering and the hurting. He is best known for his help with three poor young girl's dowries. In ancient times, a female needed a dowry (financial sum of money or property) to get married. No dowry, meant no marriage and worse - slavery. Mysteriously three bags of gold were tossed in the windows of the poor man with the three daughters. The gold landed in shoes and socks hung by an open window to dry. This led to the modern day ritual of hanging stockings for gifts and of the giving of oranges. In essence, Saint Nicholas was a man who simply lived like Jesus Christ. (Learn more about St. Nicholas here)

I am ready to do more than believe in Saint Nicholas, my family and I want to become Saint Nicholas. Not that we put value in "“saints" or want to be granted some title. No, I want to become a person who lives a year-round Christ-like lifestyle.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I want to be a Rock Star

No, I am not a singer. No, I am not interested in fame. I do love music, MP3s and lyrics that sail, but I do not want to record CDs, tour with groupies or deal with limo drivers.

Better said, I want to be like a Rock Star. Oddly enough a rock star graces the cover of Time Magazine'’s Person of the Year 2005 edition. On the cover, he stands between the wealthiest couple in the world, but even more important he separate them from their cash.

Paul Hewson, known to the world as Bono lead singer of the mega-group U2, is an activist for justice. Bono has met with the Pope, spoken at Harvard, been found in the halls of Washington, met with Presidents, found himself on the covers of more than a few non-music magazines . . . all because his life sings to make God real today. The poor of the world are better because of this man's work. Hewson is just one person, using and expanding his circle of influence for the good of the Kingdom of God.

You can write me about his language. You can complain about his appearance. You may even gripe about his music and his beliefs. But do not overlook that this man is a third millennium Mother Teresa hiding behind shades in black leather.

I want to be like a Rock Star . . . a heavenly man who was born under the Star, lived the extreme life of God, died a delinquent and broke through the Rock to the other side. I want to be like a Rock Star named J.C. the S.o.G. I have a long way to go . . . and I still haven't found what I am looking for.

Monday, December 12, 2005

You Can Change the World

Not me. . . I need brains. Not me. . . I need millions. Not me . . . I need love.

One of the best DVDs of the Holiday is one you may as well purchase rather than rent. I had been waiting for this one to hit theaters and then anxious for its release on DVD. Two kids loose their mum (I mean Mom). Millions of dollars land in their playhouse one day. This is a powerful fairy tale that makes us believe that we can change the world . . . by giving . . . of ourselves.

You can change the world. Movies Like "Millions" and "Pay it Forward" put world change within reach. They alter our belief, our assumption of insignificance. Too often we believe that changing the world means that we must change everyone in the world or change the entire world to our perspective, dogma or worldview. However, within the Kingdom of God the earth is ripe for change.

Last week a frequent visitor to the "Lost & Found" blog emailed me. He informed me that my mass email made a difference. I had asked people to "give birth to Jesus" by being a presence of peace to others. I used the example of a frustrated parent of a teenager sharing exasperation with a fellow parent.

In the email I tried to communicate that you are a simple expression and an example of peace. No sermon is required. Remember our future is assured. We have certainty that God will bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Jesus (Paul's letter to Ephesus 1:9-10). . . God is patient. Let's be patient in our waiting for the coming of Jesus. Be patient with our struggles. Try to live today so that Jesus will find you at peace (Peter's Second Letter 3:14).

Oddly enough, he happened to be sitting on a plane reading my email after talking with a woman struggling with her teenager. The previous night this woman caught her 16 year old daughter climbing out of the window. The daughter was attempting to run away. She felt unloved. This mother-daughter talk had not gone well. He turned his computer screen to the mother and let her read. She wept. He writes, "Sometimes it feels great just to be a vessel! Thanks for letting me share God's love."

You can change the world. Show peace. Be an expression of the peace of God. No one may notice. No one may care. No one may send you an award. HOWEVER, you have changed the world . . . because you have changed you.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I just need someone to love. . . I just need a hundred thousand, maybe a million dollars. . . If it just could be me. . . then my life would be perfect.

Mack and Virginia were common people. Virginia was Mack's second wife. They lived pay check to pay check. Mack drove a forklift. Virigina made corrugated boxes. The best life offered was a blue-collar existence in a run down apartment.

As some say, all their dreams came true. In 2000, Mack bought a $3 lottery ticket that won the $65 million dollar Powerball jackpot. Any desire of the heart could be reality. They took the lump sum, which was $34 million, and split it 60-40. After taxes, Mack netted $14 million and Virginia took home $9 million. They separated. Bought lavish homes. He went deeper into alcoholism. She went deeper into drug addiction. His former wife collected on overdue child support. Her family came harassing. It is odd that the desires of their hearts brought pain instead of pleasure.

Just three years after his windfall, Mack Metcalf died of complications relating to alcoholism in 2003. Virginia Merida's partly decomposed body was found in her bed the day before Thanksgiving. She had been dead for several days due to a likely drug overdose. She was 51 and he was 45. The New York Times reported the story last week. Less than a handful of years to live out their desires.

One of Virginia's brothers related this wisdom, "Any problems people have, money magnifies it so much, it is unbelievable." And Mack's first wife remarked, "when you put that kind of money in the hands of someone with problems, it just helps them kill themselves faster." Maybe having our desires, just being who we are and living in total freedom is a dangerous thing.

Oh if only, "My Name Is Earl" had been on television in 2000. Then, maybe Mack and Virginia could have discovered Karma to go with their winnings. Seriously, our addictions to religion, sex, race, chocolate, football or drugs will kill us. We try to live and control a universe of our own creation. The center of this universe is not the earth or the son, but the self. This universe will implode.

I want my addiction, my center to be God. Something outside myself. Someone who calls me beyond myself to become more that I could alone.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tuesday Morning Hangover

By Tuesday morning we are already deep in responsibility and demanding needs. Anything we may have learned or experienced over the weekend is vaporized. I just need some caffeine. Doctor Pepper is more appealing to me than Latte, yet when it gets cool java can invigorate.

What would it take for you to keep spiritual conversations going past the weekend? I wonder if some "spiritual" caffeine might do the trick. Maybe an email reminder would get the soul moving. Maybe a quick read through a blog would re-open our tired eyes to share hope. It seems that by Monday or Tuesday, I realize that my life with God needs daily nourishment and exercise and rest. One time a month or week is not going to fight spiritual flabbiness.

What type of spiritual caffeine could I offer you to keep your soul going and growing?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

There Is No God

Belief in God is becoming more and more difficult for people today. People are becoming more and more sophisticated in their absence of belief in God. If honest, many of us struggle to believe in the God we were raised on.

I have been listening to “This I Believe” on National Public Radio. This weekly segment picks up a series started in the 1950s. Famous people are asked to share their credo. These are not necessarily religious, but they are personal. Two weeks ago, I listened to this segment with magician Penn Jillette.

Jillette makes his belief the absence of belief. God does not exist. Other than the blatant non-belief, several things were striking as I listened and then read his essay. Jillette believes someone can be a good person without believing in God. He does not believe that only Christians are good. In fact, he indicates that Christians refuse to enter honest dialogue about their beliefs because they hide in their faith. A believer’s claim that “I believe it and you cannot change me” is a cop-out in Jillette’s view. I agree.

One of the big fallacies with his essay is that Jillette blames suffering on a God who does not exist. He says that since God does not exist then there is the possibility of eliminating suffering. How is this possible? Many people say they cannot believe in God because of suffering or God’s lack of involvement. The problem is that if God doesn’t exist, then we are still left to explain suffering and evil. Eliminating God does not make the problem of suffering go away.

Another interesting belief of Jillette is his elimination of sin and the need for forgiveness. He says that if you get rid of forgiveness then it makes people better. They have to try harder to be nicer the first time. Rather than just beg for forgiveness. So, his answer to mistakes (or sin) is to try harder to be nice. This is his weakest point. And like suffering, Jillette leaves sin unexplained and unresolved. Trying harder will not make suffering going away. Trying harder will not make sin go away. Only a forgiving God who creates a forgiving person can reduce the power of sin and suffering.

Let’s leave Jillette behind for a bit. For now, let’s read how a man named Peter responds to a similar question. People living after Jesus’ death began to wonder if what Jesus taught was really going to come true. They wanted Jesus to come back – like he promised. “What happened to the promise of Jesus coming back?” they ask (2 Peter 3:4). Our ancestors have died and the world continues to spin pretty much the same as it always has. Really we could ask this question similar to Jillette’s. If God really cared about us and our suffering, then he would do something about it. However, God does nothing. Therefore, God does not exist. Every thinking and feeling person at some time wonders about the tardiness of God and is angered at God’s absence. Come back. Do something. Make a difference in this situation of my life now; yesterday would have been better but now works.

God seems slow and God seems absent. Peter gives a response about God. There have been times when God has stepped in and judged people (like the flood). God has been involved. But the primary answer Peter gives is one of time. God is not slow about his promise – God is patient because God wants repentance (2 Peter 3:9, 16). God is not bringing the world to an end because he is hopeful that more people will turn to him. Time is irrelevant to God. One day is the same as a thousand and a thousand can feel like just a day to God. God is outside of time.

The truth is God will eliminate suffering and evil – it is as good as done. It is in the future, but it is as if it had already happened. Picture God as he really is – outside history calling us to him. We cannot escape the future he has planed for us. His future is an eternity with him an eternity of service and work in the kingdom of God. Time is not the issue. Repentance is the issue. The longer God waits the more opportunity he has to draw people to him. Not force them to see how wonderful and loving he is, but time for them to come to see it on their own. Picture God standing in front of the universe. Imagine him waving us towards him like a Father calling his daughter to walk toward him. There will be suffering and a stumble and a fall. Sometimes even a bonk on the head, but God calls us to him. Our future, the future of the universe, is certain in the hands of God.

Do you remember the original question? Why doesn’t God intervene and return and set things straight. The answer is that he is patiently awaiting more and more people to repent. Repentance is the reason. Repentance is where you recognize that you make mistakes. You cannot make them right. Repentance is a turning from your own ability to make things right and trust the God who is waiting in the future to give you life eternal. The delay is not a sign that it will not occur. The delay is for the purpose of repentance and turning to God. God is patient so that the Penn Jillettes of the world can choose to embrace the God who created them. God’s patience equals our salvation (16). The identical twin Psalms 14 and 53 express that only fools say that there is no God. The end result of such non-belief is death eternal. God in his graciousness gives to Penn Jillette exactly what he believes – that this life is the best life he will ever have. Tragedy of tragedies.

John Fountain also has belief. He relates his belief in God in NPR's This I Believe series. He shares his belief in God by talking about his personal pursuit of his father. Listen to the story of this black man and his father and how it brought him in contact with another Father.
The God who created you does not lie in a casket somewhere. God is in front of you calling you to himself. He is waving you towards him. He is encouraging you to be holy and Godly. He wants you to anticipate his coming and to allow him to come into your life more today than you allowed yesterday.

I pray that the world will one day realize that God dealt evil a death blow through Jesus Christ. Jesus did not escape suffering – he entered suffering. As God entered into a suffering existence with his creation sin was destroyed. Will you love the God who loves you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Two sides of the family. Two major travel holidays. Celebration should be simple math. Travel to one set of grandparents for one holiday. Travel to second set of grandparents for the second holiday. Rotate holidays annually. This is simple math.

In reality the Holidays require higher math celebration. They are multi-purpose. We traveled early to my parents for Thanksgiving because we needed to return before the weekend. While at my folks, we celebrated Thanksgiving in the morning, Christmas that night, my mother'’s birthday on Friday and threw in an early present for our twelfth wedding anniversary. The answer to the formula is the multi-holiday "AnaBirthMasGiving." Hurrah! The only thing I left out is Festivus.

During this time of year, I anticipate "the coming." More than any American holiday real or imagined, each day becomes a holy-day welcoming "the coming."” God took skin and bones and turned it into something beautiful - something God like. The human being reflects God's image. While humans were the culmination of an amazing creation, God out did himself by taking up the same skin and bones as his own coat. God became human.

The result is worth celebrating. God did not remain a baby in the straw. God became a dead man on a cross. God again stood alive on the tombstone of his grave. The results of the journey divinity to baby to man to death to life are difficult to reduce. On one hand, God was never the same because he entered our suffering and death and made it holy. On the other hand, humanity could never be the same because God made us holy.

Celebrate that God has come to earth, that God has come to life again and that God will come again in victory. Why? Because God loves you. God gives you life. God gives you future.

Monday, November 14, 2005

In Flight Romance

If something happens high above the earth . . . does it really matter? After all if you are suspended in space and time, then why not suspend morality. You hear and experience stories about what people do and say in the air or in space. Take a trip, go somewhere exotic and become a different person.

She smiled warmly and sat down. Called her boyfriend, said "I love you. Good-bye." He sits down next to her in the middle seat. Cute young woman, unmarried and on her way to do five days of training. Strong tanned guy with wry smile, a captivating conversant and in television. She is a visitor. He is in his hometown. A three-hour in-flight conversation ensues. The five-day potential romance has only begun with this chat and an exchange of phone numbers. That phone call before the plane took off was placed by a different person long forgotten - or at least forgotten in flight.

~ ~ ~

A line of three young laughing women come down the aisle. He was sitting in her seat. The accident allows for a laugh and a start to a conversation. The aisle does little separate their conversation and obvious interest. She is the aggressor sharing lewd comments to go on T-shirts. He takes the bait. Three hours of drinking the $5 variety of "tiny wine" make the aisle seem more and more narrow. They lean across the aisle and exchange some unknown suggestive comments. Her response, "Well, I would like that, but my friends here are fairly Christian."

~ ~ ~

If it happens in the air, then is it an affair of any significance? Or are the words and the actions those of a different person? The names may be forgotten in a blur of faces that cannot be erased.

Is it possible to become a different person for a time and then after a round-trip landing resume your identity? People do it all the time. Or does one upon landing become forever a different person? A person who might be even "fairly Christian." If we cannot forget, and our beloved is none the wiser, then maybe God has forgotten.

But maybe, just maybe God has in mind a different kind of Christian who is the same in the air as they are here on the ground.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Final Day

Five days ago the skies were split open for me to fly through. Crossing the country, I descended through the smog into a darkened city of angels. It feels surreal that a few square palm tree lined city blocks of downtown Pasadena could form a spiritual oasis. When I am here, a day can seem a lifetime.

There are moments in life when time appears to have stopped, opening us to new perspectives of old things. These pause moments come with variety: a child's laughter, an insightful phrase, in worship or in remembering life at the time of death. In these moments it seems as if you have traveled far away to a special place.

This morning I am thankful to my wife and children for letting me disappear for a few days. I am grateful to have elders who provide me space and time and support to grow. And once again, I am reminded that it is good to have a group of believers to whom I can come home.

There is little more real or more important than the routine of our lives. Our family, our work, our home town and our community of faith is the place of our most important work. Your closest circle of friends and community is the arena in which you change the world. Our day-to-day routine is enhanced when we stand with spiritual giants to speak and listen to them speak of what they see on the horizon. These moments make being grounded have a new perspective and revitalized mission.

Here is a passage to keep you moving and it is inscribed in the front of Vincent Donovan's book:

But I am still running,
trying to capture
that by which
I have been captured.

- Paul (in his letter to the Philippians 3:12)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thursday Night Reading

This week, I have been reading a book Rediscovering Christianity” by Vincent Donovan. What intrigued me about this book is its setting in Tanzania. Bob Bentley and I have talked about Donovan before. It is the story of Donovan taking the essence of the gospel to the Masai people of Africa, a pagan untouched society. It is a beautiful story of his mission to bring nothing but the gospel to a culture in the language and thought of that culture. The book is twenty-five years old, yet I believe it has amazing insights and implications for believers in America today who are facing a larger and larger America that does not believe or sometimes even know about Jesus. It is a very well worthwhile read.

If you are up for a challenge and want to read another story (of sorts) about American Christianity, I suggest you read New Kind of Christian.” It is a narrative about a man trying to have faith in a time and life situation that made it very difficult to believe. If you are feeling the shifts in the world and the world and want to listen to a fellow believer on that journey, then read this book from Brian McLaren.

I Need Good News

Could you use some good news? Is your life more filled with bad news sticky notes than good news. We were given an assignment to explain the gospel to an inquiring friend in only a few minutes. Here was my take on good news. I would add that it is the best news on the planet!

The gospel is a slippery term because everyone assumes they know its many contents. It is treated like box into which people try to shove a library.

So, here goes. The gospel is the good news story of what God does for humans that humans cannot do for themselves. This good news has been around since the beginning of time. God created us (people) as a reflection of his image. To look at a human being is like looking in the mirror of God's love. Most people do not even realize they are part of this story - the gift of living to reflect God.

The cliff notes version of this story of can be found from John’s (one of Jesus’ friends) experience of Jesus. We were loved and so we love (1 John 4:19). God love humans first. God's love enables me to love.

Yet good news existed long before Jesus’ arrival in the world. Isaiah speaks about good news as God creating peace, healing and freedom from oppression (Isaiah 52 & 61).

People like me, who are caught up in this story, declare God. We are to show how God rules in love. That God’s invisible reign has been made visible in Jesus (Mark 1:1). That by God’s Spirit (Acts 2) we make the invisible God visible. In essence, we were loved by God and so we give our lives in love to others.

Maybe you could use some good news today. Does this work for you?

Seeking Mystery

The week is quickly drawing to a close. Today I look back amazed at the people God brings into our lives. A group of diverse ministers and pastors have come together from all over the world for the purpose of learning about Christ and sharing his life in ministry. We have talked about issues, explained our Christian traditions, eaten together, disagreed and learned from one another. We have for this week become a community of God’s people seeking the mystery of God.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Prayer of Betrayal

Brian shared an interesting explanation of Matthew 5:48 from the sermon Jesus preached on the mountain. It has instructions for when we are slapped on the right cheek (insulted, hurt, degraded), which would be a slap from a superior to an inferior. We are to turn our left cheek to them and allow a second blow. This blow would be like a blow from an equal. Obviously, these are strange words in any culture. We do not enjoy allowing others to harm us. But, Brian encouraged us in the way of Jesus to take an approach of love. A way of knowing or living in the world that is explained only by love.

I had to ask a question. How is Brian able to embody this way of love in the midst of criticism and attack? He quickly responded that he has been praying a prayer since January of this year. It is a prayer written By Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic. Velimiroc was a Serbian bishop who spoke out against Nazism. In a private meeting with his fellow bishops he expressed that he did not agree with the Nazis. Shortly, he was arrested, and taken to Dachau prison. That meant that one of his friends, his fellow bishops betrayed him. And now here is the prayer that Brian has been praying – the prayer written by Nikolai Velimirovic.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish. Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a [fly].

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

So that my fleeing will have no return; So that all my hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; So that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; So that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

So that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; Ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies. A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Downer

Today began with disappointing news . . . Brian McLaren would not be arriving until Tuesday evening. This news was added to the bad news we received a few months ago that the class would be one week instead of two weeks. I enjoy learning and so I am always disappointed when the learning experience lacks the person (professor) from whom you want to learn.

At this point, I needed to be reminded that learning is more than the teacher. These courses require thousands of pages of pre-reading before you begin class. I spend time reflecting on the reading and interacting with the concepts of the books in the form of short response papers. The learning experience also involves the students. Amazingly, the students come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. The cross-section of this class includes a pastor from Hong Kong, a missionary from Viet Nam, church planters, para-church ministry leader and ministers of all different function. Our ages, locations and ethnicities are diverse. Students can make the learning experience better.

Fuller professor Eddie Gibbs saved the day for me. He came to speak about his new book "“Emerging Churches," which researched churches that are developing in this postmodern age. He strongly emphasized that America is becoming much more secular. The West coast is most secular followed by the North West. Christianity is loosing ground in most every American denomination and we are mirroring the decline of Europe.

Maybe his most thought-provoking comments were to describe a Christendom mentality church or most good churches in America. These churches depend upon invitation and the transfer of membership. It is important to be welcoming. They claim to be "seeker sensitive" but faith seekers are in the minority, because it is the invitation of seekers to come on our terms. Twenty percent of the membership is needed as volunteers to keep the work of the church going (maintaining insider ministries). These churches construct buildings rather than people.

Wow, churches that construct buildings rather than people. There is nothing wrong with building buildings or being welcoming. Actually, the are obvious results of people on task. These are not problem until they become the fixed focus. Maintaining a fixed idea of church and believing it "works" in all ages may be the problem. I wonder what a church would look like that focused on birthing people? What would change? What would become important? I wonder what a church would be busy doing if it realized that it existed for the good of the world and to be a blessing to the world. I wonder what the church would look like if it used its 20% core and its ministers to prepare the other 80% to go into the world?

Well, I think it is important to dream and think and reflect. Maybe it helps you to think and talk, too. I realize that I have the benefit of doing the readings, sitting in class, wrestling with these issues and all that you get is a few words here. Yet it is still good to think . . . thanks for letting me think out loud.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Plane rides are always similar in their formality, but unique in the mosaic of people assembled. One of the passengers in first class was a star from the TV sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond."” I cannot think of this name, but he plays the part of Robert's father-in-law, a very conservative Christian.

I filled like an ant through the narrow aisle. For this ride, I was placed at the back of the plane next to the engine (the perks of a free ticket with flier miles).

My row of three seats stayed empty and I hoped to have some extra room. Clicking the overhead light, it would not turn on. I had a few hundred pages left to read for the course. It was night. I needed the light! The flight attendant's solution was to shrug her shoulders. I started using the light in the vacant seat next to me. Eventually, two singles one male and one female sat next to me. Thankfully, they talked for the entire flight, hovered towards one another and eventually exchanged phone numbers. I was able to lean in toward the middle seat and share the light from the middle seat since they were hovered toward one another.

I arrived in Southern California at 8:00 p.m. This week I am taking a class with Brian McLaren and Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. McLaren is a noted evangelical speaker, pastor and author of a number books (A New Kind of Christian, More Ready than You Realize). I began coming out to Fuller about once a year beginning in 2001. I am working toward a Doctorate Degree in Ministry. My course work has emphasized ministry, spirituality, postmodernity and mission. I have learned at the feet of some great professors: Terry Walling, Dallas Willard, Richard Peace and now Brian McLaren. I will do my best to share bits and pieces of my experience.

Once on the ground, I made a quick call to Donna. I was sad to be learn about Mary Tom Price passing away in her sleep. She is a sweet gentle soul, who was always there with a hug and a word of encouragement. We will miss seeing her life continue here, yet we can rejoice that her life moves on. Death is not much different from a plane ride. You get on in one location and you get off in another. The only differences: it is a one-way ticket to infinity and there is no luggage. All you take and all you leave are the things that you have done and most importantly the person you have become. Remember you are becoming the person you will be for all eternity.

Live God'’s story of 1 John 4:19

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


The phone rang. The man on the other end of the line incoherently rambled through tears. Life stunk. He had lost his brother to death. He was facing the possible death of his daughter and another family member.

The only pain medicine available to him was alcohol and porn. They weren't working. So, he called a stranger. We talked about spiritual things. We talked about concrete life change. Finally, he refused to answer the phone. It was most likely that suicide was the reason. So, I called 9-1-1 and MHMR. They were on their way. Situation handled. Right?

I could not leave the phone dangling. So, there I was with the police, fire and EMT crews. When everyone cleared out, we again talked about spiritual realities and real physical changes. This story is like dozens I could relate. People often sit at the edge of their bed and view it as the end of life. It is similar to sitting on the edge of a canyon - certain that the best alternative is a quick flight to the end.

Let life continue. Let life go past the moment you are stuck in. It will pass. Clarity comes not when we surrender our lives to a physical death, but when we accept a spiritual death. What I mean is a death of a different kind. This death is a choice to quit running our life and let God set the course. Give it a chance. Choose the God of life.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Losing to Buzzards

Last week something strange happened. I drove into our parking lot, watching a buzzard circling a small corner of the lot. He was only about 30 feet in the air. I got out of my car and assumed he would fly away. However, he began to circle me at about 25 feet. I must confess having a buzzard circle you is not a comforting experience. I picked up my pace a little bit, figuring if this was going to be “my time to go” then I wanted to be inside.

This year losing is becoming regular instead of rare. I am forced to accept losing as someone spoiled by undefeated seasons, BCS National Championship games, and Big 12 championships. Yes, I am an Oklahoma Sooner fan and have been throughout my life. The good years have been very good and the bad years, not too bad. But this year the football team has dipping at or below .500 all season. In fact, the Sooners have not won two games in a row. They have lost three games, which is more than they lost in the previous too years. I am dealing with losing.

From a spiritual standpoint, losing is really not entirely bad. Our American culture despises losing, fires losers, blames others and pursues trophies at all human cost. We are in denial about losing. It happens. Losing is going to happen. There are times when it feels like buzzards are circling over our heads or that horn frogs are sitting on our desk.

How one responds in the spiritually darker times when all seems lost is what can deepen our faith. There is an amazing story about God not being afraid of the darkness of this world. Rather than stay perched in the safety of invincibility, unquestioned status, immeasurable power, God descended into the darkness of earth. God became a man. At the same moment Jesus was divine being and human being.

This decent took God to the bottom. This divine-human being, Jesus, was executed. His execution exposed the darkness of the sin in this world. At the exact same time, Jesus' execution brilliantly showed the eternal and inescapable love of God. God would not be denied.

Buzzards circled a dead God, killed by his creation, who had seemed to lose all self-respect. How would God react to the very world he spoke life into that now sucked all life out of his son?

God turned losing into victory. God again made life out of death. He raised Jesus back to life and in essence told humanity, “There is no escaping my saving love. You cannot beat me at the game of life.”

Losing is bad, but there is no better story than the God who pulled the light of life from the darkness of death. "Shew, buzzards!"

Monday, October 03, 2005

Safe Sex

Where can someone go to talk about sex? This is a serious question. I will give you that you can see sex on TV, be sold sex via advertising, and get caught up watching a racy movie. That is not my question. Where do you go to talk about sex? The locker room, a ladies tea room, chat room or even the church bathroom . . . but never, never ever talk about it publicly at church.

I disagree. Church is the perfect place to talk about sex. Have you read the Bible? I spent the summer reading every mention and story about sex. Now, I am questioning giving kids Bibles! Where is the congressional bill to censor the Bible?

Seriously, I believe the Bible is a great resource (and a challenging one) to learn that humans are humans regardless of the millennium. Church is the right place to talk openly about sex. If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, thanks for talking with me. I already have been encouraged to hear from so many of you. Thanks for letting your guard down and sharing your struggles, desires and wants. I want you to know that you are not alone.

Thanks for your overwhelming reaction to the new series. I just do not see the point in "“shushing" sex at church and I am glad you were willing to talk. Please take some time to post or email me your responses. Your input has been very helpful.

You may be interested in some further study and reading. Realize that compiling a list of resources is not easy, it is risky and my reading in this area is incomplete. Nevertheless, I believe that books can be helpful conversation partners. So, here goes . . .

Chastity: Song of Solomon (in the Bible)

Sexuality: Real Sex by Lauren Winner (2005)

Sex Addiction: Faithful & True by Mark Laaser (1996)

Homosexuality: Straight & Narrow by Schmidt (1995)

Women & Sexuality: Secrets of Eve by Archibald Hart (1998)

Family Issues: Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw (1988)

Pornography: EverymanÂ’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker (2000)

Marriage: What Wives Wish their Husbands Knew about Sex by James Dobson (1975)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Denton Disaster Relief Fund

Good morning. It has been ten days and the waves Katrina produced are still being felt. Now, the waves are actually people coming to Texas. Tuesday the Glenn Mitchel show on NPR stated that 250,000 evacuees have come to Texas with more than 25,000 are in North Texas. Just in Denton, there are about 500 evacuees: 300 plus at Camp Copas, 100 at the Quality Inn and a few scattered others. We are working closely with Quality Inn of Denton to assist more than 100 evacuees.

I commend our church for a swift response to tragedy. Last Wednesday night there was a prayer meeting. Saturday a fundraising effort for Red Cross & Salvation Army raised $8,000 and sent almost 20 truckloads of supplies to those in need. Sunday our church was organized into teams. We have been working hard.

“So, how can I help?” you ask. I am so glad you are still asking that question ten days later.

1) Pray: Pray for those overwhelmed by this tragedy. Pray at meal time, in the car, morning and evening. Pray that God will be a refuge and a provider and that he will use YOU.

2) Volunteer: Take a look at the chart Steven Carrizal sent out ( and identify where you can help. Contact Marcia Browder (volunteer coordinator)
940-381-0567 You will be placed in an area of need.

3) Give Money: Determine with your family an amount you would like to contribute (involve your kids). The Singing Oaks Church elders have already launched “Disaster Relief Fund” 101 Cardinal Drive, Denton, TX 76209; 940.387.4355; This is money SOCC will utilize to help and minister to local refugees. This Sunday, September 11, 2005 we will take this collection. We commit to make sure every dollar goes toward people in need.

4) Serve: Be a calming and patient presence as you serve, yet be quick to serve and fill in gaps. This is not a science, but prayer and the art of the Holy Spirit of God can overcome our inadequacies.

5) Show Gratitude: When you see Steven or these team coordinators, thank them and offer to help them.

Again, I’m glad you asked ‘how can I help?” Now it is up to you.

For more information, check the hurricane tab of our church website
and the Denton's web site

Monday, September 05, 2005


Disaster Plan. The word combination seems almost oxymoronic. Can we possibly prepare for tragedy?

Hurricane Katrina flew with Kamikaze-like stealth in plane view of the weather radar. She was just another hurricane on a TV screen. Do the drill and things will be fine. Not exactly.

When she exploded on land, three states and a nation were devastated. She did not stop affecting weather until reaching Pennsylvania. Even today a week later, her mist remains in our eyes and a fog of confusion remains. How do we respond?

The answer to "Disaster Plan" comes with how we move. Right now I am thankful that responders are not asking "“why" but "what can we do."” That is the prayerful action we need. Ask God, “what can I do” and He will answer. Get up from TV screens and computer monitors and look for the stranger in your midst. The media and political blame games are for someone else. We respond not with finger-pointing, fear nor uncertainty. Instead, we listen in Faith, we announce there is Hope and we show it by our Love. Somebody very famous said 2,000 years ago "“they will know you by your love."

I am so proud of the people of our church. You first responded on your knees together in prayer. Then, you visibly collected supplies and money on Saturday. Next, you provided comfort for the evacuees. More than 200 reside just 5 miles down our road at Camp Copas. Another 30+ are staying at a local hotel only a few miles from our church. Prayer, food, clothing, money and support have come flowing from your heart. Thank you.

There is much left to do. Where ever you read this, I am positive there are strangers in need not 20 feet from you now. They need not be Hurricane evacuees. They could be hurting from many kinds of physical and spiritual disasters.

Disaster Plan. Today my answer is that a "Disaster Plan"” is something you have been (un)prepared for your entire life. Your life leads you to moments of decision. Out of the character of Jesus Christ within you we act. Know that while victory has already been announced, the world needs to see God working through his people.

Listen in Faith. Announce the Hope. Show our Love.

Thursday, August 11, 2005



I had no time. If I stopped for breakfast, then I would be late. So, I grabbed a banana.

Looking at the banana, its greenness made me pause. It was not ripened on the tree. It was Picked early to arrive at my grocery story at the perfect time. Consumers do not like brown banana. Grocery stores would rather wait on a green banana, than toss a brown banana. But this banana was not quite ready for me to eat.

So, I put the banana in my window sill. A little sun would turn the green to yellow and ripen it up a little bit.

Timing, they say is everything. Bananas taste different when they are green, yellow or brown. Jokes are funny when the timing is right. Music becomes music only when the notes are properly spaced. The notes we play are important. However, it is the silence in between the notes that makes the music heard.

Timing matters. Yesterday yellow caught my eye. I forgot about that breakfast banana. It has been sitting in my office window sill for more than a week. It must have quickly moved from green to yellow all the way to a lovely brown. I missed the perfect timing.

Life could be described as knowing what time it is. Is it time to move or stay put? Eat or hunger? Correct or be corrected? Save or be saved? Everything has its time (see chapter three of Ecclesiastes)

May your words,
May your movements,
May your discipline,
May your work,
And may your faith be properly balanced
between silence and speech,
greenness and brownness
So that your timing
Gives way to God's timeliness
for the glory of God.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Friends, Faith and Action

Yesterday my friend Bob Bentley from Nairobi, Kenya told me the news about the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the life of John Garang the Vice President of Sudan. This man was a peace maker. He was very well educated. Garang had been in office only a few months. It was a bold move by the government to have a leader form the South in office with a Northern president. The hope was peace. It is sad that bad weather and a crash may result in riots, death and more religious fighting and genocide in Sudan.

So, why not get rid of all religion? > > >
My friend Jackie King happened to mention something she saw on CNN Saturday night July 30th. The interview was with a woman who wishes to see the elimination of all religion. Because religion is the cause of war, fighting, violence. In fact, she is a leader of a group to work for the elimination of religion.

Wow! Do people focus on the negative? Never mind that the history of hospitals is tied to Christianity. Never mind the billions of dollars given away to needy by churches. Never mind the millions of good citizens who are followers of Jesus. Instead, lets look at the failings. We all have failings.

So who's to blame - Not Me! > > >
Today another friend, Mary Perry, mentioned an article to me from today's Dallas Morning News. It was a reprinted article from the Washington Post.

Read it here: Story

This was a story that for some reason I decided to write the author. Why do we write authors? I don't know. Do we expect them to respond? Rarely. It is easier to hide under a pillow. After you read the story. Read my reply.

John -

Are you serious? Your article admits and rationalizes your non-presence in a community of faith. Your article acts as a pulpit to accuse others of not doing enough for the poor, gangs and ghettos. These words flow beautifully even as you pull your pillow over your head. I really expected you to admit that you and your parenting were ironically part of the problem, but it never came.

I appreciate your call for churches to do more and pastors to show material restraint. I agree with your treatment of the hypocrisy of some ministers and churches. But your own words come as soft as the pillow that covers your eyes and ears.

Justification is something God offers all of us as failed sinners. Justification is not something we offer to cover our own backsides.


Last words > > >

We excuse ourselves and blame others.
This is the remedy for complacency.
When do you find yourself in excuse and blame mode . . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Let's Talk

Place yourself in Paris, France. Imagine the sites. Hear the beauty of a foreign language spoken around you. Cross the old cobble stone roads and enter a beautiful garden park - the Luxembourg Garden. As you walk through the flowers and geenery of this garden, there before you is an elderly woman with a sign, "Let's Talk."

Miss Lilly is her name. She wants to talk to whomever will talk. Everyday she makes space next to and around her to talk and listen to others. She speaks many languages, she is not a counselor, she is not pushing politics nor religion. In fact, politics and religion are off-limits. She will not speak of them because these are the cause of war. Instead, she hears of the hopes and dreams, hurts and fears of people. If you want to listen to a brief newscast by Susan Stamberg then Listen Here.

This is perfect. I love this set-up. Now, I would not want to eliminate any subject from conversation. Let people talk about whatever they wish. Miss Lilly claims this cannot be done by a man nor a young woman. This can only be done by an old woman because they are "safe."

Well, I want you to imagine something. I have hung out my sign "Let's Talk." You are here. You have read this far. Ask me something. Ask me anything you wish. Or share something with me.

Let's Talk!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Standing Crooked

A huge crooked cross snaked upward on the stage. The natural wood cross loomed some twenty or thirty feet high. I was asked to stand under this cross. It took 12 strong men to carry only the long post into the room.

I stood under this cross and spoke in Irving, Texas last night to a small gathering of disciples at Plymouth Park. Their meeting place burned. They could have relocated out of the inner city neighborhood. Instead, they chose to belong to the neighborhood. “This is where we belong.” I admire that.

There is something powerful about growing and blooming in the place you are standing. There is something sad about always feeling the real life is in the greener pasture. Take what you have and take who you are and become aware of the present possibilities. You are of use to God right where you stand.

It turns out the cross was tree that had burned in the fire that consumed their building. I guess you could say it was “lost in the fire.” However, with God nothing is intended to be lost. The people commissioned an artist to fashioned the burned crooked tree into a crooked cross on site. Beneath the blackened bark, the artist revealed a beautiful natural wood cross.

Take whatever burns you have and allow the master artist to fashion you. Be of use right where you stand today.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: To get to the other side.

Two months ago, I began an experiment -– a chicken and egg experiment. For the purpose of this story, I am the chicken. My leaders, the elders, are the one'’s who encouraged me to pursue this experiment.

The chicken crossed the road McKinney and went to the Rosemont Apartment Complex to begin a discussion about Faith. The children'’s ministry and the youth ministry had already established a weekly children'’s program at Rosemont. I went to start an adult program in the evenings to build community by talking about life, faith and God.

What did a chicken have to lose by leaving the security of a building, crossing a busy street and looking for people who wanted to find God? Nothing. Well, nothing except fear.

I made a friend named Kim, who is the community relations director. She is a new college graduate of UNT, who started her first job. She and the other staff of Zohala, Chelse and others have been so accommodating.

After tossing around a number of names, I chose to call this Life & Faith. It is a place to build relationships, to talk about life, to express faith. I had no idea who would show up. But, I wanted this gathering of people to strive for three things: #1 to track God in Faith, #2 To make Love our trademark and #3 to be a voice of Hope.

I thought I would call up a restaurant and ask if they would donate food. Jesus says, "Ask and you will receive, SEEK and you will find, KNOCK and the door will be open to you." Did I believe it? Or was I chicken. God openned doors and I found what he wanted me to receive.

Every week food has been provided for free by a local Denton Restaurant. Thanks to New York Sub Hub (on Loop 288), Chipotle (on Loop 288), Pizza Hut (on Teasley), Milian's Pizziteria (On McKinney), Little Ceasars (I-35) and even members of the group.

Every week we have had a mix of races, backgrounds, ethnicities and even religions. Black, white, Hispanic, Sudanese, Indian and more (Joel 2:27-29). It is amazing the people that God will draw together, when you go out into the world that is just across the street.

Each week the group talks about what is going on in life. I ask simple questions. I allow them to ask me any question they wish. After listening to them for most all of the time, scripture always comes to mind. Because I have listened and shared, a window is opened to hear GodÂ’s word spoken into the reality of life. And God is good! I have much to learn about God and his promises to all people (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

Why did the chicken cross a fearful road? Because God crossed that same road long before I was a chicken egg. God has shown great love in laying down his life for me. So, now it is no longer a chicken and egg question for me. Which came first? Egg or Chicken? God is before all things, in all things and bringing all things into his eternal plan (Paul in his letter to the Ephesians 1:10-11).

The chicken experiment continues . . .

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Body Part

On Friday, Donna sliced her thumb and severed her tendon. This clean cut with a sharp knife caused her to loose the function of her thumb. It is just one cut, just one tendon the size of fettucinni. One body part can mean everything.

Thanks to Linda who watched our kids. Thanks to Karen who drove Donna to the E.R. Thanks to Doctor's Allen and Amy Coffey who saw Donna on a Saturday. Thanks to Donna's mom who is playing grandma. Thanks to Allen for a great surgery. Thank you Debbie for nursing us through the surgery. Thanks to Shelly and Maria who made the day smoother. Thanks to God for all people who surrounded us and wanted to help. Thanks for your prayers and words of support. We will need you. We love each of you

Being the mother of a soon to be 4 year old and a four month old, is drastically altered by one little tendon. Diapers cannot be changed. Babies cannot be carried. The focus is on the tendon, which is now surgically repaired, hidden by a dozen stitches and wired into an arm splint.

When one part of the body hurts, the whole body rises to the challenge. Would you do me a favor? Would you watch for someone else who is hurting? Watch for someone that most people would not notice. Pay attention to them in a phone call, email, letter or friendly conversation. Let them know that they are missed.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Saloon or Church

There is no subsitute for my own bed. Last night we came into town after time away from home. Rest, in whatever bed, should be appreciated. While there is no replacing the familiarity of home, the journey away from home awakens adventure and creates new insight.

Recently my family attended a small church. The adult class was on John 4, which is the story about Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman. In that time period, men did not talk publicly to women. Jews did not talk with what they called the “half-breed” race Samaritans. Jesus, however, did both. He talked to a "half-breed" woman in public. The church Bible class was a history lesson. There was no application to life, despite one-hour of lecture. The class only made sense to those Christians of many years. The study interested only those with thorough knowledge of the Bible (and who wanted more knowledge).

I almost laughed out loud at the irony of my setting. There I was in church with the pious, listening to a story about Jesus talking with an outcast woman at a well. Jesus had no business talking with her. It was beyond shocking and was more like ‘scandalous.’ Jesus was outrageous in his action and all I could do on a Wednesday night was sit and listen a history lesson. I sat there thinking how irrelevant church is to the average person. A history lesson. Old. Out-of-date. Out-of-touch. The question shuffling through my mind was “who is the Samaritan woman in this town?” I almost interrupted the history lesson to ask this question:

Who is the Samaritan woman in this town and why aren’t we talking to her tonight?

One hour earlier, my family walked into a “restaurant.” The quotes indicate I could use a better term like “small town Saloon.” To give you an idea, the non-smoking section consisted of three booths at the back of the room separated by a three-foot wall.

Our waitress, looking at our two young children, immediately said, “I guess you want the non-smoking section.” The smoke was thick. A fireplace burning tar might have served as an air-freshener. We ended up leaving and taking our food 'to-go." Our waitress was apologetic. She was sensitive and kind, unlike anyone else we encountered in the saloon. Earlier, we overheard her conversing with a regular. She had just moved to this small town two weeks ago. Maybe this was why she stood out as unusually kind - she was new.

Later that night, after we ate, after we went to church, I was thinking about the waitress. I felt sorry we left so abruptly. I wonderedwhy she moved. Divorce? An affair? A cheating husband? Death? Lost her job? Filed bankruptcy? There is no way to know. Then it hit me. She was the Samaritan woman!

My question came back and punched me in the face. Which is more comfortable for you: risking a scandalous, smokey talk with a Samaritan woman or listening to a history lesson with your friends?

Church is not a bad place, it is a good place. Church is not the problem. Learning about the Bible is not a bad thing, it is an important thing. If only church could become a place where people are encouraged to open their eyes to see the Samaritan woman and moved to speak with her. The business of followers of Jesus is scandalous speech and not secure learning.

Monday, July 04, 2005

One Click = Less Poverty

Music stirs the soul. As I write, the G8 Live concert is blaring somewhere across the globe. This is the “opening act” (surprisingly) for a group of politicians from the eight largest countries in the world. They are meeting to discuss world-wide economic issues. One of the specific agenda items is debt-forgiveness of the world’s poorest countries. The idea is captured in the catch phrase “make poverty history.” Rather than provide loans to poor countries, these wealthy countries are being asked to forgive, eliminate, tear-up the note on the debt. This really is not a significant sum for countries that spend multi-billions of dollars. In many ways, it is the equivalent of a handout to a panhandler.

Music also stirs the body to action. Two of my favorite bands, U2 and Coldplay are promoting this venture. In fact, the lead singer of U2, Bono, has been meeting with politicians for years to gather support for this issue. That is a rather strange thing for a rock star to do, is it not? Play politics? That is because he has a vision of making the world a different and better place. Take a minute and sign the petition for the One campaign at You signature will agree that it is good for countries to spend 1% of their budget on debt forgiveness, addressing the global AIDs crisis and providing basic necessities to fight tremendous poverty.

Ok, one more unrelated venture is the Hunger Site. You do not have to sign anything or give anything. You click on the site and food is donated by sponsors.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Money, Cards, Fools & Action

Take control of your money (or it will take control of you). Money is one of those necessary evils. It is "Necessary" because it is the currency of exchange and the way we trade our skills for food. It is "“Evil" because it becomes an all-consuming god. Eating up our time, longings, families and emotions. People get left behind when money becomes God. Those we love (including ourselves) get run over by money.

Money has a close connection to our spirituality. Awareness of how money controls us is vital for your faith. In a capitalistic culture, cash is king and it dethrones many good things.

So, here are a few of my thoughts on money.

  1. Do not carry credit card debt! Period. Pay off your credit card balances first and use them only if you can pay it off monthly. The interest rate on any credit card is horrible! It siphons off more money than you realize.
  2. Exist on LESS than what you earn. Seems obvious, but you have got to do it. Consider cutting your spending by 10-30 %. That means less expensive clothes, gadgets, services, movies. It also means living expenses are less than 70%
  3. Give some portion of your earnings away to a charity. Ten percent is a good figure. It seems high. But if you cannot give money away (living on less), then you will never be able to save money.
  4. Save at least 10% of your income. Start where ever you can. Even if it is $50 per month building up to 10% of your income. (Remember, that if you have credit card debt. Pay if off as fast as you can BEFORE you start saving. No savings account or mutual fund can recover the fees you are paying to carry a balance on a card).
  5. Pay off your debts (car, home, student loan, etc.)

I could go on and on, but I thought I might give you a few random tidbits. This year a law Congress passed goes into effect. You can view your credit report for free This is not a gimmick. There are three major credit agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. We used to have to pay for access to our report. Now you can get one free per year per agency. I recommend that you spread your three freebies across the year. Get one first. Look it over. Check for errors in your report. You might need to dispute some facts. Then later in the year get another.

Do you get tired of credit card advertisements? There is a phone number you can call to opt-out of receiving these credit card solicitations. 1-888-5-OPTOUT. When people check your credit (called 'pre-screening') they have access to your information and can send you special offers. This phone number allows you to call and permanently or temporarily opt out of these offers. It works! I tried it more than a year ago and they have almost disappeared. Please realize they will ask you for personal information (like your telephone number, social security number and date of birth), but it is only used for the opt out process.

Can you imagine a world without telemarketing phone calls? The National Do Not Call Registry is wonderful. The Federal government made it easier for you to stop getting telemarketing calls you donÂ’t want. You can register online at WWW.DONOTCALL.GOV or call toll-free, 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236). Call from the number you wish to register. This is free!

Finally, I saved a fun one for you. The name is funny Motley Fool, the style is laid-back, but the information is seriously helpful. The website is These two brothers (and now a huge staff) provide sound financial advice. Tons of free research is available on their website. They even provide free email newsletters depending upon your interests.

Make the money god bow down - before it breaks you in two! The spiritual consequences are devastating.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bread Broken & Broken People Eat

The service was simple. No accompaniment. No fanfare. Simple stories were shared of three movements separated. Stories of communion tokens tossed aside. It was a setting that anyone from my community of faith would have been comfortable. There were 40+ people from my faith community who experienced this worship.

Sunday evening at a Dallas church building, Christians from the Disciples of Christ, Churches of Christ and Christian Churches came together for the first time in 100 years. These were once united by a clarion call to be "Christians only, but not the only Christians" almost 200 years ago. However, about 100 years ago these believers were divided from one another by their differences. Lost was the focus upon Jesus as the King.

On this Sunday evening, the name of Jesus was exalted over the differences. Will the differences disappear? No. But neither will Jesus disappear. Jesus will outlast our differences into eternity.

Different ministers from churches with different names stood together to share words of about the breaking of bread and friendship. Different scholars from schools with different affiliations read from the same Bible. Different believers with difference experiences sang the same songs. We all prayed through Jesus to one God, enabled by one Spirit. It was one special night.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Kids With No Doors

Tonight I tucked my son into bed. He was focused upon a Star Wars toy he got at Burger King. Earlier he talked about how many toys he had. My wife mentioned that some kids do not have any toys. He was stunned by this. He could not quite grasp it. We suggested that maybe he had some toys he would be willing to give away. He was not interested.

So, at bed time he was talking about kids with no toys. I again explained that some kids have toys and some don't. He looked at his bed room door (of all things) and made a comparison. "Some kids have doors and some don't," he said. I replied that most kids in the world do not even have their own rooms. Again, he was stunned. He asked if we could cut out one of our rooms and give it away. I was moved by his compassion - if not challenged by physically cutting off one of our rooms.

Our conversation continued and I explained that cutting out one of our rooms might not work well, but that we could give Mommy & Daddy's money or some toys to them. He again refused to give away any toys, but offered to give all of his money in his piggy bank to the parents of the kids with no toys or doors. This was huge. He loves his Piggy Bank. He understands that he can buy things. He knows about saving. But he offered to give all his money away. May God water this seed of generosity in his heart.

Out of the mouths of children . . . flows love for kids with no doors.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Late Night DJ

Last night I was coming home late from a meeting. NPR is normally my station, but I needed music not talking. Music soothes the soul. A DJ named Delilah was on. She is one of these new DJs who is a hybrid counselor-listener. People request music, tell her about some tragedy or triumph in their life and then Delilah has a one-liner or a comment before playing a song.

This particular caller was a woman who felt alienated. She was adopted. She tried to find and to contact her birth mother. The agency assisted her in locating her mom. Initially it looked like they would have some form of communication, but now it is up to the mother. No contact has been made -- – only silence and the passing of time. Now, it seems the mother will not contact this lonely daughter. The woman wondered why her mom did not want to talk with her.

Delilah'’s answer was on the mark. There is no telling why your mother will not talk with you. Maybe she is in a relationship with a man and cannot. Maybe she knows that talking to you would hurt you more. There is no way to know.

But (and here is where I was astounded), Delilah confidently assured her that God loves her. No matter what womb God used to bring you into this life, God is the one who created you. God can borrow a womb or borrow a parent, but the truth is God is your real parent. God loves you and will never leave you. God has plans for you. Seek God. Wow. Thank you Delilah.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Star Wars filibuster

In 1977 the galaxy opened up to me. Previous to the summer of '77 I had only known the town of Omaha, Nebraska. But in a darkened theater when the white dots became a blur of parallel lines, my tiny body was transported. I saw the movie three more times that summer, which was rare in those days. Normally, when you had 'seen' a movie - you had already seen it. There was no reason to go back to see the movie again. Instead, you just waited 14 years for it come out on VHS.

A good story takes us places. It is 'moving' or 'engaging' or 'takes me back.' I enjoy seeing some movies again and again. Others cannot get over fast enough and I am pleased when the credits finally roll. What is the difference between a good story and a so-so story? Why do some stories stay with us for a lifetime and others we sleep through?

I have yet to be transported back to the brand new Episode III. I am still a hold out. I have not gone to see it. Maybe this is probably because I do not want to close the chapter of these movies. When I have been reading a page turning book, I am torn. The desire to see how it ends hangs taught with the desire for it not to end. I like the in-between, but I long to know the end.

Some people say that big stories are dead. There is no overaching story that fits all people. The reasoning goes something like this: To claim one narrative is to exclude another. Therefore, no narrative has the ability to effectively include all people.

I say that big-stories still have a place. What if you could know how the story of life ends, but still get to act out the middle? Now that would really be living. You would know how your life ends so that you could enjoy the living

What if the part you played in the story really mattered to the ending of the story. That would be real meaning. If your "middle" part of the story affected the whole.

There is a powerful story. It is a grand over-arching story. I can tell it through five ancient passages (see below). But first I will tell it in only a few words. God created you. God has plans for those who seek him. Jesus saves seekers. God's Spirit stays with seekers. By the power of God, all things are brand spanking new.

The ending of this story is assured. You have an important part to play. Enjoy living the middle of the greatest story ever told.

Long Ago, In a Galaxy Near You . . .

(The Story in 5 paragraphs. These Five Passagaes can be found in any Bible. Feel free to use this summary for your own reading or as you see fit. Just let people know where you found it . . . in the Lost & Found.)

The Story Begins
1~ Genesis 1:1-4 (the first book of the Bible)
2~ Jeremiah 29:11-14 (writings of an ancient prophet)
3~ Hebrews 1:1-3 (sermon by an un-named preacher)
4~ Romans 8:10-14 (letter from the apostle Paul)
5~ Revelation 21:1-7 (a vision given to the apostle John)