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 www.one.org. 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. www.thehungersite.com