Monday, November 27, 2006

Behind the Music

A few years back I bought a tiny MP3 player. My car has an audio cassette deck and a stereo. My very inexpensive CD player with car kit has no way to resume with the track you are listening and the power cable and the cassette adapter no longer work. The MP3 player allows me to carry the audio from multiple CDs with music, lectures, and programming in one tiny little box. It did not take much time to sell me on this media. Music is special

Music is potent. Portable Music is even more influential. Living plugged into music makes you feel like you are the star of your own movie. People tend to walk and move to the beat of the music and see that the music itself give meaning and movement to the common everyday events around them.

This day my prayer is that I am moving and walking and seeing the world to the music of my creator. May we come to know that he does view us like a parent behind the lens of a video camera, like a laughing mother behind the camera standing in front of her little girl. God loves us. God calls us to move in step with him.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Super Size Me

The golden arches of McDonalds have hovered for more than half a century over burger joints that now cross the globe. I have never been fond of their burgers, yet their fries. Many people talk about loving those Mickey-D fries. I high school two of my friends agreed with me that McDonalds had the best fries, Burger King the best burger, and Wendy's the best drink the Frosty. So, for lunch we drove through all three. We got hot fries from McDonalds, a charbroiled burger from BK, and we sat down at Wendy's with our Frosties. The Wendy's manager came out to observe our spread.

Donna and I typically avoid McDonalds because we like Wendy's and Burger King much better. Now that kids are in the back seat, we occasionally hit McDonalds because they have the best playground (of course). Those precious moments of glassed in separation make choking down fat a little easier.

This week we watched "Super Size Me" the movie documentary of the man who willingly chose to eat nothing but McDonalds food for one month. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served to Morgan Spurlock by McDonalds. Now, this was Morgan's own personal adventure and he did not have the blessing of McDonalds. Spurlock went to three doctors with different specializations general practice, cardiology, and gastrointestinal. Each doctor check him out carefully. While wondering about his mental stability and mentioning minor troubles, they gave him the all clear ahead.

Over the course of the four weeks he gained almost 25 pounds from 185 to 210, which was 13% body mass increase. His body mass index went from a healthy level to the overweight level. He suffered from heart palpitations, liver damage, depression, lost energy, and mood swings. It took Morgan nine months to lose the weight he gained in just one month.

After watching the film, we were certain that we would never again eat fast food (or at least limit the frequency of eating their). The most surprising thing was a scene that was in the extra footage of the DVD. They placed several McDonald's food items under glass lids to observe how they aged over several days, weeks and months: a Big Mac, a fish sandwich, french fries, a normal burger, and normal french fries. Amazingly the normal burger and fries began to mold almost immediately within days. It took several days before any of the McDs sandwiches showed any age at all. The biggest shock was the fries. After several months, they never even molded. They looked the same. Can you say processed?

What we put into our bodies must affect the health of our bodies. It should be obvious. How we eat, consume, and store away fat will affect our health.

If we do not care what we put into our stomachs, is it any wonder that we do not care what we put into our souls? Few people are intentional about the inner development of their soul or heart or will. To me, that is ridiculous. Many are content to shop for the best tasting soul fries from one drive-thru religious vender, the best religious burger from the hot writer of the month, and choke it all down with the smoothest spiritual smoothie.

I believe that our souls are becoming who we will be forever. I believe that a soul's best trainer is Jesus Christ. This person was completely human and completely divine. Jesus shows us how to develop for all eternity, but fewer listen.

I want to intimately know Jesus and the power of his life that would not end. If it takes sharing his sufferings and eventually death to achieve this new life, then count me in for eternity (Philippians 3:10-11).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back in the Saddle

After a few weeks of Doctor required rest, I moved from an indoor stationary bike out onto concrete. I road the 62 mile Denton Power Rally ride on Saturday in about four and 1/2 hours. It was a great feeling to be back again.

I have thought many, many times that I was lucky to have escaped my crash with as few injuries as I did. A broken wrist that required only 6 weeks in a splint and no surgery. A separated shoulder that just needed three - six months of recovery time. I am very blessed.

Why is it that some of the craziest people escape injury and others stumble into it in a fluke? Why is it that some children are born in safe loving environments and others are born addicted to Crack cocaine? What separates triumph from tragedy, disease from health, and hardship and luxury is not much.

Perhaps you've seen the children's book "If the World Were a Villiage" by David J. Smith or the studies by various people. It is eye opening when one considers the world if it contained only 100 people.

52 are female 48 are male

70 non-whites and 30 whites

70 non-Christians and 30 Christians

6 persons possess 59 % of the world’s wealth

50 of the village inhabitants live on 2 dollars a day and 25 live on 1 dollar a day

50 persons suffer from malnutrition

70 persons are illiterate

80 persons live in poor-quality housing

20 inhabitants control 86 % of the GNP and 74 % of the telephone lines

11 persons have a car

1 person(yes, only 1) has a college education
This is pretty eye opening . . . heart wrenching . . . sad for those of us privileged 1%. I suppose that no matter how large this world may be (billions upon billions of people) this earth is still a village. The ratios of privilege do not change when we consider the millions of Americans around us that we think of as normal.

Check that . . . we are abnormally blessed. What are you doing with it?

Monday, August 28, 2006

No Go

There must be something to be learned from slamming into concrete at 23 miles per hour, but what is it.

Follow up x-rays revealed potential breaks in the scapula and in the clavicle bones. The Doctor was insistent and adamant that I not ride on Saturday. He told me directly that I was not going to ride. A MRI was ordered for the next day that was supposed to reveal for certain the nature of the injuries. He felt that we could get the results back late on Friday. I was bummed.

Well, the nurses and technicians at Clearsky MRI (which was a closed MRI by the way) expedited the data to the radiologist. I called the doctor at 5:00 p.m. and there was no information to be shared. I was down in the dumps Thursday and Friday. By Saturday I begin to realize that my prayers should be that there are no broken bones. That is what people were praying for.

On Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. the Doctor called me at the office and shared good news. I did not have a broken shoulder. My shoulder has a partially separated AC joint and bursitis, which would take 3-4 weeks to recover from and not the 3-6 months for a broken shoulder. I was relieved, but instantly began to regret not know this info on Friday afternoon. I would have ridden. The Doctor again told me that it was better that I not ride and better that I not ride for several weeks. The shoulder needs time to heal.

It is probably better that I did not get to go. I was a bit crazy to ride in 100+ degree weather, 100 miles, with a broken wrist, let alone a separated A C joint. It was good that I did not know the results and good that I took it easy. But I still missed going. Never mind that it was record heat, never mind that they closed the entry to the Century Ride 2 hours early because of medical cases - I still missed it.

What can be learned from hitting concrete?
#1 you don't actually break bones on a bike, but off a bike
#2 people typically do not have Good Samaritan sympathy (see last blog)
#3 nurses are not funny (i.e. the nurse who asked me if it was a stationary bike)
#4 some times God gets our attention and tells us to slow down

I realize that I am not invincible. I realize that I am not God. I realize that I cannot heal bones. I commit my life to God and commit to stop trying to be God at any opportunity. Here are some old words from a song writter with my reworking (Psalms 46:10-11).

Brady, Be still,
and know
that I am God (not you)!
I am exalted
among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth (even when you are on the concrete).

The God of all powers
is with you;
the God of people who lived long be for you
will also be your place of healing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bike Hell

All year long I have been looking forward to hell. Actually, I eagerly anticipate being able to say that I have been to hell and back. Every year in August, the city of Wichita Falls, Texas hosts the “Hotter than Hell” Bike Rally. This year I planned to go and do at least 50 miles in the sweltering 100 degree plus weather. My early registration is already processed. I have been riding as often as I can.

However, as I lay in the middle of the road at 5:50 a.m. in the darkness, I wondered if I might miss the ride this year. I had my own little experience of the Samaritan road. I was sitting on the concrete wondering how badly I was hurt.

Here is what happened. I got up at my normal time of 5:30 a.m. and was about 5 miles into my ride. It was still very dark on the streets of Corinth, Texas. Traveling about 23 mph down a small hill, I took a drink from my water bottle. This bottle is one of several I keep frozen in the freezer. When I replaced it in the rack it dropped to the ground. There was no time to react to this ice hazard. I hit the frozen bottle square with my back tire and flipped over the handle bars. My fall was “cushioned” with my right hand, head and left side.

So, there I sat. But I was not alone. Cars drove by slowly. People walked by quickly. Only one woman said anything and it was pretty worthless “Good morning.” Not really I thought to myself. One man even crossed to the other side of the road, passed me by and then crossed back over to my side. Where was the Good Samaritan? I wondered if people really thought I was some early rising thief setting a trap to rob them of their tennis shoes. Oh, well. I took the long way home and as always my wife was my super-Samaritan.

I have received lots of jokes about “falling off my bike. Lines like “do you need some training wheels” have oozed with sympathy. None have topped what the nurse asked before my x-ray, “Were you on a stationary bike?” How old and stupid do I look?

The x-ray indicated that I broke the ulma stylus bone in my wrist. The doctor gave me the option of the normal cast or the “you better not do anything” splint. I took the splint. It could have been much, much worse. I was lucky to be wearing a helmet and to have fallen fairly safely.

My plans are to be at the ride in Wichita Falls. My bike is almost fully repaired and I am ready to take it back out for a real ride. Monday I was back on a stationary bike. I probably should start wearing my helmet inside too, just in case.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thanks to Rick

Last night I spoke at Richland Hills Church of Christ. It was nice for my family to spend time with Rick Atchley and meet many old and new friends. The Richland Hills church has been doing tremendous outreach and sharing Jesus with their community of North Richland Hills (and the world) for many decades. It was an honor to be asked to share good news with them. Rick paid me quite an undeserved honor by calling me one of the next generation of great preachers. I felt it was undeserved because he had not yet heard me. The encouragement meant a great deal coming from Rick. Thank you Rick. If you want to listen to my first sermon with a broken wrist, then here is the link to the August 9th lesson (Today’s Troubles).

Monday, August 07, 2006


As I have confessed previously, I am a heavy drinker. I really enjoy Dr. Pepper. This week I went to "happy hour" at Sonic when they offer half price drinks.
I was captivated by the little paragraph on the side of the cup.
At Sonic we believe in your individual choice. And in the Spirit of choice we offer you 168,894 possible drink combinations. Think about it. Starting with Orange Vanilla Sprite, you can have a different drink everyday for the next 462 years. How's that for refreshing choices?
- Sonic Cup © 2006
This is a credo, an "I believe" statement. Sonic believes in individual choice. The whole add has a religious, authoritative feel to it. In some ways, it redefines what is refreshing. The choice or the opportunity to choose is refreshing. In Sonic's belief, refreshment is not found in the drink itself, but me having my choice of a drink.

I just wanted a drink. I do not think that the choice is what quenches my thirst. I believe it is the drink that quenches my thirst. A long time ago, a woman came to the equivalent of Sonic. This was long before 'free refills.' There was a man sitting there who was also wanting something to drink. He offered the woman unlimited refills for life from water that really satisfies. She was completely confused. The man's name was Jesus. Jesus offered her and us a different way of living that does not find satisfaction unlimitedted choices or more things to buy or more empty promises. Jesus offers his unlimited presence in your life right now. For people who are willing to follow Jesus, they find the life that realy refresheshes from now into all eternity.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Lebanon, Israel and Gandhi

No one seems to want to mention WWIII (World War III) when it comes to the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Who would want to think that "it" is a possibility? No one. Instead, we might find it easier to keep the TV off and ignore the day to day concern of this distant mini-war.

I have been unable to keep from praying about the conflict because of friends in Beirut. An outstanding family who became our friends and followers of Jesus several years ago. They moved to teach in Beirut. They are not Americans (so they are probably more safe). We were relieved that the wife and children were not around for the beginning of the bombing, yet the husband left for his homeland several days after heavy bombing. The conflict is a little more real for me and very, very real for them.

The problem with wanting to ignore this 'mini-war' is that the world powers are involved. North Korea is trying to pretend they have something more than firecrackers to shoot at their neighbors, Iran probably does possess (or will soon possess) some deadly nuclear warheads, American troops are strung out in Iraq, Afghanistan and the world. Each country is carefully weighing their words and their involvement in light of their own interests. It would not take too much to force the countries of the world to choose sides to defend their own interests with wartime force (God forbid!).

I am not chicken little. I do not believe the sky is falling. I do not have some silly theory of Armageddon nor of the end of times or the apocalypse to scare people. These anxiety provoking theories about the end of the world create unnecessary fear about the future. Often, it leads to half-wit preachers predicting the end of the world to scare people into the pews or into giving.

It seems that their is a better way to live than fear. Living life based upon fear is missing something about what God intended. Recently I saw the movie Gandhi again. I remember seeing it when it came out decades ago, but it did not mean as much as it did this time.

A young lawyer in Africa (who looks white) is thrown off a train for being colored. It turns out he is Indian. His name is Gandhi and he changed the world and the way people practice their faith and followed the words of Jesus. Gandhi was a Hindu who had a deep understanding of Muslims and a great respect for the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount.

Gandhi's first act of non-violent resistance was to level the world by burning a passport that Indians had to carry in their own country (then a British colony). He was beaten to a bloody pulp by British guards. He chosen not to return the violence. He chose to turn the other check until he had no check to turn. From that moment until now, people read and practice Jesus word's differently. Is it not a little bit amazing that a Hindu practices Jesus' word's more seriously than most any Christian?!

No longer can Jesus' words be 'spiritualized' and explained away in war time or in self defense. Literally practicing Jesus' words 'if someone strikes you on your right cheek turn the other cheek also' becomes an option. Cheek turning becomes a practice that exposes violence and the violent person as a violator. Refusing to return violence is so stunning that it is shocking.

How these words get applied in my life today is up to me. I do not have easy answers. There are not easy answers. If someone bombs your capital turn to him your ____ . If you love only your allies what reward do you have? If someone poor takes your social security, then what?

Living without fear does not mean denial nor that life will be easy. Following Jesus is never easy. So, without coming up with a wartime response to submit to the U.S. President or the UN or any world leader, I do have something I am doing and I invite you to join me. I am practicing these words from Jesus:
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Side Comment about Clerks

A funny thing happened on the way to work . . . I heard an National Public Radio interview about the upcoming movie Clerks. During the interview, Kevin Smith (Filmmaker-director) took NPR interviewer Steve Inskeep's innocent 'side comment' and made a major point about life. Listen here to how a meaningless jab at minimum wage workers ended up being opportunity for a lesson about the meaning of life.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith is someone who uses his movies to shock the culture with truth about God (and shock/abhor Christians with pop culture). Most Christians receive a stunning jolt from all his disgusting portrayals of life and most do not see God. Seating in the theater seat next to them are those people who live a secular earthy every day life, who also are shocked by truths about God.

While I cannot say that I have seen these 'Clerk' movies, this particular interview with Kevin Smith had me cheering. The interviewer (ancitipating yet another movie maybe Clerks III) said something like 'you would have to be sad if these guys are still working dead in burger jobs when they are forty.' Smith responds in a heart beat that life is about much more than titles, important jobs or making money. There is much more to life like family and God.

In my opinion, this is shocking good news for a culture bent on consuming itself into debt, anxiety and depression in order to "HAVE" something. When they 'have' it, they end up actually 'having' nothing of substance. Give me a burger job with God over a million dollar job on Wall Street without God any day. Thanks Kevin for being quick on your feet to show the emptiness of those things we exalt and the value of those things we ignore.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stoned by a Sermon

Vacation is a time that typically I like to escape sermons (at least the ones that I preach). For me, when I am listening for words from God (rather than trying to speak them), I am much more changed.

The words of a couple thousand year old sermon still intrigue me. Yeah, I know that is a little strange in a world of high-tech movies with computer graphics and best-selling, page-turning novels. This sermon was spoken on a mountain in Israel by Jesus and it was preserved on 4-5 pages by Matthew. He was a follower of Jesus who spent all his time with Jesus during his three year ministry.

The words of the Sermon on the Mount have haunted my soul all my life and now they really seem to fill my mind. I memorized the entire sermon. Ok, now I have lost you. Too much work. Too weird. I have been practicing on my wife and kids and whoever would sit still long enough to listen. My kids are actually the best targets. When we are in the car, they are strapped in with five point harnesses. I control the wheel and the stereo. Needless to say the family has heard this sermon many times.

Well, here is the story. Last night I was putting a very tired kid into bed. We had done literally a million things together all day: fishing at a pond, Independence Day parade, swimming, eating and playing at McDonalds, a long nap (for the others in my family), changing the oil in the Camry, shooting fireworks, playing games and running through the house playing shoot the rabbit. It was a full, full final day of vacation.

When I put this tired kid in bed after a "great, great, great day" he asked for a drink of ice water because he was thirsty. Initially I tried to brush it off and say that it was time for bed, yet even I was thirsty from all of that running and hiding all over the house. Nathan was insistent to get ice water. I told him that I would get water in a cup from the bathroom, but he wanted ice water. I gave him a 'love and logic' choice. Either you get no water or water from the bathroom. He reluctantly chose water from the bathroom.

When I brought it to him, he said "Daddy, do you want to hear something funny?" I nodded. So, Nathan says, "If your son asks for ice water would you give him a stone?"

Nathan has heard me do the sermon on the mount so many times that he used Jesus' words on me! He adapted this line from the Sermon on the Mount "if your child asks for bread will you give a stone?" (Matthew's gospel 7)

We laughed and laughed. What can you do? I told Nathan that he is a smart boy. I went and got the stone (I mean ice cube), told Donna that I had a story for her and gave him the ice. Then, he told me another joke. "If your child asks for pizza will you give a door?" And then on and on it went. He really cracks me up.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


While on vacation we had a rare shot at grandparent baby sitters. Donna and I decided to catch a movie called Click. It had a huge quantity of poor and grotesque humor. Plus, I felt like the previews had given away the entire movie away.

However, enduring to the very end brought a moving conclusion and life message that was good. It basically was about a man who was able to TiVo his life (pause, fast forward, reverse, etc. using a truly universal remote control). But, using this remote control was not without permanent consequences. The universal remote control used to control his universe had a memory and learned to function based upon his past actions. So, he winds up at the end of his life having lost his life.

One lasting metaphor was the leprechaun on the cereal box. He was always looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But when you get to the end of the rainbow all you had was a box of cereal. A great metaphor for the life of a gold digger. He gets to the end of his life and has wasted it away. He does muster enough strength to tell his son "family first" as he lay dying, which is a huge leap from the way he lived life as "work first." However, this 'good' message is still far short of a "God first" or the selfless way of life that was shown by Jesus.

This was a movie that brought me to tears (in a corny way). Especially tough for me was the part about the daughter who grows up before his very eyes quickly. It is a frightening thing for me to think about my daughter growing up and dating guys, and being attractive, etc. The time we have with our kids will be over before we can stop that sticking the fast forward button. Note to self: Take life in slow motion when it comes to the people you love.

Friday, June 23, 2006

RIpped Vacation

Next week begins our vacation time. I have not taken any vacation time off since last year. I really have not had any time to think about vacation or what I will most enjoy, want to do or take along to read.

This date had been on my calendar for about six months. The original plan was to vacation in Colorado. We had a reservation. We planned to see friends. We planned to meet my parents and my sister and brother-in-law for a week away from everything a mile high. But then came the adoption. We canceled the Colorado trip in favor of an adoption party in Kansas at some undisclosed date. The entire family was thrilled.

That's when things fell apart. I got a call from Kelly one Friday that the mother had the baby early and was considering keeping the baby boy. We prayed. It was my son's idea. We prayed. The end result was that the birth mother chose to keep the baby.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Excavation of Selfishness

On Thursday evening a few weeks ago, Donna and I were talking about our front flower beds. Scratch that . . . I should say that Donna was talking about flower beds. I was listening (sort of). Ever since we we have lived in Denton, she has wanted expanded flowerbeds. We were again in a conversation of how "we" were going to tear out a very small section of grass, tear out two Holly Trees, uproot most all the plants, haul in better dirt and completely redo our landscaping.

This conversation was more like a dialogue from one person (Donna) with a whole lot of mumbling, grumbling and head shaking on the other end (Brady). For whatever reason, I was not interested. The flowers and trees seemed perfectly fine. Probably more because they were already planted. They were fine because I did not have to do them. They were fine, well except for those Holly Trees. We both wanted them out. The little red berries are poisonous. Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell a 1 year old and 4 year old that little red berries are not candy? Nearly impossible. Nathan seems to get it because we have told him that his life would end. This first little lesson in death (not by punishment, but by poison) seems to have connected with him. In fact, he is our extra pair of eyes to keep Lizzie from eating them.

And then I realized Mother's Day was coming. I was sitting there basically a non-participating party to this conversation of what my wife wanted to do. I changed my entire approach and begin talking and participating. We made a plan on that Thursday night to start on Saturday morning. Together we were going to do the work. Remove the trees, uproot the plants, till the soil, haul better soil and make it new.

The next morning Donna called from work. Her work schedule had been shifted and we were ready to begin work a day early. The work stretched on several weekends. We had fun with it. We got dirty, sore and sunned. The weather was great and the kids were cooperative. We had friends and neighbors who loaned us what we needed. It was pretty clear that we could not do this on our own. A lot of people helped make it possible. Gardening is not something you do alone . . . even if you are kneeling alone in the garden.

Nathan was thrilled when the plants went into the rich, new soil. He asked Donna what each plant was called. He announced that he was going to begin praying for the plants to do well. I told him that was a great idea that prayer was an effective means of gardening. I had read that "scientifically" plants prayed for did better than those not prayed for. Funny that we are more likely to trust "scientific proof" than actually living "spiritual lives."

Our friend Steve, who is an expert gardner degreed from Texas A&M and a deeply spiritual man, agreed. Here is an exerpt from an email that he willingly allowed me to post.
May 29, 2006

Speaking of prayers, Nathan has already discovered the secret to successful gardening. It's prayer. I pray over every crop that I plant, no matter what it is. I plant it, and then I give it to God. Only He can provide the growth. I just consider it a privilege to be allowed to pretend I'm helping by watering, weeding, fertilizing and grooming the plants. I hope your new garden is a fabulous success. There's just something so wonderful and fulfilling about seeing a well-grown, mature plant that you've nurtured from just a pup. I look forward to seeing the before and after pictures. If you don't see the quick summer color that you're looking for pretty soon, I've got some ideas about some great annuals that just might fill that niche.
I hope you had a safe ... enjoyable ... holiday weekend!
I suppose that the real gardening has been the tilling of my own soul. To care more for the needs and interests of my wife than for my own needs. To realize that anything we do is never done alone, but done with the help, encouragement of support of others.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Singing or Speaking

Several weeks ago my friend James called me up and asked, "You have paid to hear Bono sing . . . so would you pay to hear him speak." The answer was obvious.

On Friday night, James, Donna and I went to hear Bono speak. The lead singer of U2 is also quite politically involved in raising awareness of African poverty, AIDs orphans and other tragic death. He wore a black suit and shirt with a yellow tie. I had never seen him in a tie. No one ever sees him in a tie. This must be a very, very special occasion. He did not wear a tie to see any U.S. president nor the Pope nor graduation addresses.

As he pulled at the yellow choker around his neck, I wondered about the ways he himself was likely pulled back stage. Business people, politicians, religious people, Christians and fans. Would he mention the irony of sponsor Exxon Mobil donating 1 mosquito net for each attendant, when petroleum is used to make nets? Was he asked to tone his message down?

The message lasted about 40 minutes. He was funny, comfortable with his notes and confident of his message. He began by talking about his recent trip to the White House to speak at the annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast. He quipped that this must be sign of the apocalypse - a rock star speaking at a prayer breakfast.

Bono touched all his listeners with his single-minded focus on debt elimination. The One campaign has gathered a wide swath of diverse people into One goal of helping to wipe out poverty. He explained the yellow tie around his neck showed his willingness to do anything to get money from big business. He challenged businesses to do the right thing. He spoke out to government and asked for a tithe of a tithe - one percent of a government's budget to be set aside for the poorest and most debt ridden countries in the world. He even spoke out clearly to Christians in the audience to show their faith by how they use their influence and capital.

All and all it was a good speach and a rare experience. To see a Christian, with vast world-wide popularity, speak openly of faith and call listeners to action. I continue to be impressed with any Christian famous or invisible, powerful or dominated, singing or tone-deaf that is willing to use his or her realm of influence to be a dedicated servant of God.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chosen Three Times

It was said, "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep."

And now the best news of the week. My sister called today to say that she and her husband will have a baby! This is a short pregnancy for her. It is one month until the baby is born. No, she is not gaining weight. No, she did not just figure out that she is pregnant. She and her husband have been chosen as adopted parents. This is a double blessing. Any mother is chosen by God and the order of the universe to bring a child into the world. But how often is this chosen blessing passed along to another mother and father.

Countless babies are born into the world every day. Countless couples are unable to conceive a child. Donna and I have been there, too. The pain of being unable to bear a child, to bring life into this world, is quite potent. Other couples are surprised, by a pregnancy that is unplanned, unexpected or in circumstances that make them less than idea parents to nurture a child.

Raising a child is incredibly hard work. It thrusts parents into an adulthood that they may or may not be prepared to handle. Wise are the young women who can see their circumstance, celebrate the gift of life and yet still pass the baby into the loving arms of a chosen couple. Wise is the young woman who continues life and gives the best life possible to the young innocent baby. Sometimes real love means we give ourselves and our wants away.

I am so thankful that this young lady treasures life enough to sacrifice herself to pregnancy and delivery in order to give the gift of life to her child and to a tearful couple. May God bless this twice chosen baby and someday may this child know that God has chosen him/her for an eternity of life with God.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Taken On the Wind

This morning's dawn marked both the passing of night and the dawn of a new day. I learned of a baby's birth that has formed reflections deep within my soul. The births of two babies have left me breathless on this still and cool morning.

Two babies were born five days apart. Each was born to different parents; one was born today and one was born on Saturday. They both have the same name. The boy is named Evan and the girl is named Eveyn. Today one is alive and breathing and the other is breathless on her birthday.

If life were only about breath, then I could say that one is alive and one is dead. However, life is about more than breath. It is also about wind. What I can say and I believe is that baby Evan is here breathing. The other baby Eveyn is gone breathing only by the Spirit of God. Indeed, they are both alive, and they live with the same breath - the wind of God.

Neither of these parents knows each other. They do not realize that their babies were born five days apart, nor do they realize one Evan lives here while another Eveyn lives elsewhere. These parents live separate lives and distant experiences. One set of parents knows life turned into breathless joy. The other set of parents knows only the promise of joy emptied into a hollow pain.

There is not much to say when a new life is taken from sight. A life removed from us as quickly as it is seen. We will now not be able to see how this life will grow -– that is until we are breathless also. When the breath in our lungs is taken for the last time, then we can go to the place of reunion where lives exist forever by the eternal wind of God.

And now, what I have this morning is breathless sorrow for two sad breathless parents. I, too, am gasping to know these two new little babies. May the wind of God fill our lives and be our comfort when we have no reason to go on breathing. Dawn awaits.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Da Vinci on Screen

In some ways, it was the book “the Da Vinci Code” that began this space. Not that it was the inspiration. The book'’s only inspiration is fictional doubt. Several summers ago, I spopubliclylly about the Da Vinci Code fiction novel by Dan Brown. Now, it will soon be in theaters for what they hope will be a blockbuster summer movie.

Already churches are beginning to boycott, websites are being established, campaigns against the movie are being waged. I have a campaign of my own. It is much more modest and its goal is a little odd, but it is one I believe in. Here are three thoughts that I offer in the form of requests.

I ask that you look at the copyright page of this book. Notice how it is categorized: Fiction. It is not based upon truth. It is a clever and creative work of fiction that blurs the lines of reality and imagination. This is what good fiction does - blur what is real and what is illusion to the point they appear the same.

I could only hope that the uproar with James Frey's memoir “A Million Little Pieces” would be a prelude to a similar uproar about this book of viction. If you remember Frey wrote what he said was truth about his life, but in fact it was embellished to make him appear tougher and meaner than he is or was. People were outraged to realize that he had deceived us.

No such luck with Dan Brown. He has lied, but unlike Frey he has properly catalogued his book as fiction. Do not forget it is fiction for a reason.

My second request is that you not go see the movie. When any of us go to a movie we are casting our dollars as votes in favor of a movie. I would encourage you not to vote for this movie. This is not some form of a strong boycott, which just gives this more publicity. My hope is that the movie will do poorly. I do not think that will happen because Christians run around picketing or complaining or damning people to hell who go see this movie. That just makes people want to go.

Instead, I am asking you not to go see it. If you must see it, then go see it when it comes to a discount theater, check it out from your library when it is on DVD or rent it sometime later. There are many other movies you could see (maybe they are not worth voting for either). My campaign is to get people to spend their money on something other than this movie and their efforts and emotions in another direction. This brings me to my final request.

If you have read the book or eventually see the movie, then I ask you to read a book like Ben Witherington'’s book on the Da Vinci Code. Get some more information before you allow an artistic piece of fiction to be the basis for belief or disbelief.

Here is one brief example of the fiction of Da Vinci. Brown doubts the authenticity of the biblical texts and manuscripts. Because there are differences and there are no "original" or "“signed"” copies of biblical books, then they must be untrue. Lets do a quick comparison with some other ancient texts. Homer's Iliad was written in 800 BCE and the earliest manuscript we have is from 400 BCE and there are something over 600 copies of it. That is 400 years after it was written, which is a long time. Or maybe you'’ve heard of Plato'’s works which were written in 400 BCE, but the oldest manuscript we have is from 900 A.C.E. That is thirteen-hundred year gap and there are about 7 manuscripts.

How do these manuscripts (we could use many, many others) compare with the evidence for the Bible? The gospel of John was written between 50-100 A.C.E. and our earliest copy is 130 A.C.E. and I have actually seen this fragment. That is a distance of 50 years to the original work! There are manuscripts of the entire New Testament that date from 325 A.C.E. which is about 225 years removed from the originals. IsnÂ’t it interesting that the manuscript evidence for the Bible is so strong. This is only one thing to consider, books about the Da Vinci Code can unpack many more.

So, here are my simple requests: remember the Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction, wait to go see the movie and read a book about the code. At bare minimum, I hope this book and movie can be a coffee discussion between people of Christian faith and people of other faiths. Learning will take place for everyone and God will be made more real.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

One Holy Place

This is an important week. What makes it important is remembering what happened during this week. For me it is another busy week. It is easy to "forget" the meaning of Holy Week even as we busily try to "remember" it and honor Jesus.

Yesterday in staff meeting, I read from the prophet Isaiah and shared this passage. The quote came via the Upper Room email. I do not know the author nor the book, but the words communicated deep meaning to me. Read through this a couple times (italics are mine).
THE REVEALING of the Holy One is what we need to transform our lives. We need to know that the ground on which we are standing is holy ground. When we have found one truly holy place, then all places become holy.

-- David Adam
This week I anticipate unwrapping Jesus from the tomb. This week I anticipate entering the sadness of Jesus death. This week, I need Jesus to be unwrapped so that I can be different.

What I forget is that I am standing on holy ground. Wherever I am located is holy ground. It is not holy because I am there. The ground is holy because God is at work if I will but see it. Will I be alert enough to recognize the holiness of each moment he gives me.

The holiness of changing a diaper, choosing my words with a friend, eliminating my words in the car, stopping "to listen" instead of hurrying "to do" the holy. May you find holy ground everywhere you go this week.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Three Feet of Wisdom

My little man is quite attentive and wise. He is only three feet tall, watery blue eyes and dusty-blond hair, but his heart flows with spiritual wisdom.

Within the last year, the dinner table was my sounding board for frustration. I was talking about a problem with a person. Donna and I were speaking in the artful parental code language. Do you know the parental code of mixing Pig Latin, spelling key words and leaving out the names to protect the innocent?

Clearly I was downcast. Frustrated. My best friend Donna was the woman I wanted input from. However, this time the wisdom came from my little man with white hair and the blue eyes.
"Daddy, you seem down."
"Yes, son. I am trying to figure out what to do about this person and how to help."
"Daddy, I will tell you something. Here is what you need to do. Tell them Jesus loves them. Tell them Jesus will heal them. And pray with them."
All I could do was look eye to eye at the table with this little man and smile. It was clear to me that the One we sometimes call "the big man" was speaking through this little man. Could it be much more clear?
Jesus expresses God's love perfectly.
It takes a God outside of ourselves to save us.
It takes humility of the soul to bow before God and submit to being saved.
Three points flowing out of three feet of wisdom. So may you love, listen and learn that God still speaks.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

April Fools Party

Last weekend we celebrated one year of life with Lizzie. The gathering was a huge success bringing together both sides of our families.

The party favors were not so . . . favorable. Lizzie, Donna and I all had fought this "24 hour stomach virus." The virus was the "party favor" that we passed it to everyone except two people who came for the party. This was one contagious virus. One bad treat.

A virus can affect people in an instant. Common things like a touch, a hug, sharing food, or sharing the same air can spread a virus. In the same way, you and I affect people in an instant. Common things like a handshake, an embrace, mealtime or conversation. Love, hate or indifference can be passed in a moment. Oh, if only love could be genetically created to be passed like a virus. Contagiously passed through kind courtesy or warm conversation or in the generosity of a gift.

One problem is that many disciples of Jesus are so thoroughly insulated, disinfected, and protected from any form of doubt, disbelief or trouble. We disciples are often times hesitant, resistant to enter the very world that God created, loves and has entered. The fullness of God entered the limited space of flesh and bone. God in a body. . . is a bizarre concept to understand.

Rather than fear infection, Christ-followers must become infectious. Spreading, contaminating, multiplying the love of God out in the world. "And the world will know that we are followers of Jesus . . . by our inescapable love." (click the gospel of John 13:35)

Friday, March 31, 2006

365 days / 52 weeks / 12 months = 1 Year

Three hundred sixty-five days ago Lizzie moved from the security of the womb to the new world of oxygen. Cliche's speaks wisdom "I cannot believe it has been a year" and "where did the year go. What has been a lifetime for Lizzie has been only a matter of months, weeks and days for me.

This year has been a long struggle of growth for Lizzie. First to survive the birth canal journey. Then, to learn to eat with her mouth instead of having nourishment conveniently piped into her belly. Next, to deal with all the open air space rather than the warmth and snugness of the womb. And then on to eat solids, crawl, fight infection, develop immunities . . .

In one year of life, the changes, growth spurts, increase in knowledge, ability to communicate are greater than at any other point in life. A baby goes from sleepy lifeless blob to a mobile, communicating self with opinions and emotions. Amazing! As my Dad would sarcastically say with a sly grin, "isn't evolution wonderful."

Why is it that baby Christians are left alone in the nursery, without affection, food, love, stimulation, and learning? Where are the spiritual parents? Where is the community that affectionately claps, hugs and high-fives people into faith?

I have a brand new prayer request on my list. It is something that I am praying fervently. It is something quite personal. It is something that deals with life and death issues. Right now it is too personal to share. It is something that God and I are discussing and I am trying to do some more careful listening.

There are babies in your life. People hungry for the insights you have about parenting, faith, Jesus, doubt, unemployment. There are people you are around who are starving for spiritual relationship.

However, you may feel like you are spiritual baby. You may be in need of spiritual nurture. But where do you start? Whom could you go to? Well, I do not pretend to be a super parent nor full of all the answers nor perfect. However, I am "virtually" here if you want to discover more to what this life has to offer . . . real life. I do not spiritual candy, not cliche', but I am offering to help you begin a journey with someone who is a never ending resource of spiritual growth (not me by the way).

Remember: one year can provide a lifetime of growth. May our spiritual growth be like that of a new born baby. Happy birthday, my little Lizzie!

Friday, March 17, 2006

A New Friend

Yesterday, I made a new friend. I got out of my car and a guy was walking down the sidewalk. We exchanged '‘how ya'’ doings?'’ and both of us did not break stride. He replied, "“I'’ve been better.'” I stopped.

This moment could have easily passed with nothing more. We did not know each other. We were just being neighborly. But what developed was a 2 or 3 hour conversation some was spent in the parking lot and the remainder over lunch. My new friend was without hope. His girlfriend left him. The relationship looked irreparable. He had not seen his baby boy in more than a week. He had begun to doubt whether he would be allowed to see him. He pulled out yet another job rejection. He talked. I listened and asked questions. Our exchange really made my day. His whole demeanor seemed to have brightened. My spirits were lifted - I know it sounds weird - but they were lifted by talking to someone feeling hopeless.

How many times do we pass by people? How many occasions each week do we bypass someone who is hurting who needs conversation. Not counseling. Not rescuing. We need conversation and community. Pay attention to those cliche's people speak around you. Do more than simple "act friendly" be a friend.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Special Email

Recently I received an email from my wife. Actually, I regularly get emails from my wife. So, this was not a special occasion. But this email was one of those emails that was only a subject line. There was no email message. So, here for your reading pleasure is the email subject printed in its unedited entirety.

“please update your blog”

Ok, well, I am behind on blogs. My wife’s email is one of many complaints. I get the point. And now I can say that I have updated my blog with new content.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Missional Churches

This space is reserved for talk about things of spiritual significance. Often my words rough up the church a bit, talk about real life and occasionally some fresh words about faith. These seem like common practices of one of my heros. So, I am in good company.

My time in Pasadena is part of a journey of learning. I sat in a class with Alan Roxburgh and Mark Lau Branson entitled "The Missional Church." I read several of Alan's books and met him and Mark at different places last year. This chance to sit and learn was one I could not pass up. They are helping ministers and churches re-imagine what it is like to be followers of Jesus in the third millenium. Me, too. I cannot say that the course broke any new terrain for me or had many aha moments about "missional churches." It confirmed my journey and gave me more resources to explore. It did challenge many of my assumptions about the world and the country of which I am a citizen.

If I had to define this "missional" journey, I would be hard pressed to say it in a few words or stories. Here are my random thoughts anyway. I believe that God is alive and that God reigns. I believe people can enter into relationship with God. I believe we experience God's reign over our lives and participate with him in bringing his reign to the world. This is a voluntary offer given to humanity and not a crusade of overpowering people. We can enter the Kingdom of God as servants in an eternal kingdom or remain rulers in our own kingdom that will end. To be a missional church is to be transformed (changed) by relationship with God and to want God's very best for the world. It demands an attentiveness to the stories and context and culture that shapes us. So that we can be the gospel to the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Ticking Clock

The class ended with goodbyes and promises of internet phone conference calls. My cohort even set up a time for a conference call next week. I was ready to get on the plane and get back home to Donna and Nathan and Lizzie. My shuttle to Los Angeles Airport was due to arrive at 11 a.m. with my flight at 2 p.m. 11:00 p.m. came. 11:15 p.m. came. I called the shuttle came and left from the wrong address. 11:30. Would I make the filght? 11:45. . .

I had nothing to do with my time to think at the corner of Walnut and Madison. I waved as new friends in ministry passed by and left for their home. I thought about the experience of two full weeks sitting in class, reading books and taking in new information. My life is filled with much planning, a good bit of study, lots of interaction with people. But when it all comes down to it, at the end of the day we are given a few opportunities to be God to others. Regardless of our planning and structuring, we must be aware that the Spirit is nudging and opening opportunities if we will move.

I stood in the beautiful LA sun until noon Eastern Standard time before my back-up shuttle arrived. The driver was a Russian American, who explained to me that he had been sent to get me. The fare he would receive was reduced. He had other customers to pick up in downtown. Then, the shuttle company called to cancel his customers. So, he was receiving a reduced fare and caring only one customer. He was not complaining to me, but describing the system that was stacked against him. I am sure that it was in part to mine my pockets for a tip, but I bought it. I have been blessed tremendously.

My blessings are too numerous to count. Just the fact that I had money in my pocket, soon would have a late lunch in my belly, a home to return to and loads of education. These all put me in the top 5% of the world's wealthiest people.

Sure, he was in the top 5%, too. He told me about his plans to retire, buying his grandkids a toy each and every Saturday (which made me question my plan to give him another tip). Actually, anyone who owns a car is there at the top. However, today he was serving me. So, the last money I had in my wallet was saved for this servant. I can empty my wallet any time and know that God will give me food, all the basics and more. I am blessed. I gave him the money and said "God bless you and fill your shuttle full of high tippers." His smiled filled his face and we waved good-bye.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Reflecting on Photos

One of the exhibits I wanted to take in was Robert Adams'’ Landscapes of Harmony and Dissonance. Adams is a contemporary landscape photographer who has been taking stills of landscapes in Colorado, Oregon and California for over forty years. The pictures he snapped in Colorado were near my home town of Arvada - places like Longmont, Boulder, Table Top Mesa and Golden. This made me even more intrigued by the photographs.

Ok, boring stuff, right? Well, he takes pictures of the places where modern development meets nature. He is captures how humanity destroys nature to facilitate "progress." His work really captured my imagination and showed the contrasts in a striking manner. What was most interesting (and the reason I am writing this piece) was a quote from Robert Adams that the Getty Museum placed in one of the gallery rooms. The words were so powerful to me that I had to sit down on a bench and write them down. These words were Adams' own definition of what it means to be a photographer. I give them to you.

What a landscape photographer traditionally tries to do is to show what is past, present and future at once. You want ghosts, and the daily news and prophecy. (Robert Adams, 1980)

Again, you may be bored, yet this artist captures something of my view of speaking the word. Adam'’s pursues the world that is seen by "“not blinking" -– a snapshot of a moment in time that tell of the past (where nature has existed) of the present (where human development destroys) and of the future (places with less nature and more development).

I believe that a preacher is an artist who tries to express past, present and future all at one time. Words bring forth ghosts, news and prophecy into the conviction of the heart and into the conduct of life. Followers of Jesus are people with a definite past, a mysterious but assued future, and a way of living that is aware of each.

Today May your present living be a wise reflection of your past and a confident expression of what is future.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Seeing the Invisible

Being away from the love of my life is a tough instructor. I must find and make my own food, wash and fold my own clothes. I must do things that are typically done for me. These are things that I appreciate and participate in when I am at home. I am not a mooch because Donna and I have a great partnership. However, being away from home and normalcy, my appreciation for her increases.

Each one of us live in systems of people and relationships. Many of these people we never see. Even if we cannot see them, we are dependent upon these invisible relationships. We forget that our home prices are so low in Texas because of immigrant Mexican workers. This "“illegal"” labor about which many complain, makes it possible for us to have cheaper labor, which invisibly makes a cheaper bottom line. When we go out to eat, behind the scenes is much invisible service. We only see the woman who takes our order, the man who cleans our table or the boy who brings us more water. We depend upon the chef to cook a healthy and appropriately created meal that is prepared in a clean environment, but we are not in the kitchen. Eating out hides a huge amount of people that we are wealthy enough to pay one bill that supports dozens of people by paychecks.

Who are the invisible people in your life? Maybe this week you can make them visible and show them the gospel.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Beating Boredom

This weekend I attempted to divert my attention from school. Los Angeles has amazing weather, yet this week it has been off a bit. Friday was a pretty clear day that eventually became overcast and spit out some drizzle. Saturday it was cold (50s) and rainy, but the clouds cleared out to a crystal blue sky with huge puffy white clouds. I used Saturday to get my housework done. I went to a Laundromat down the road. I was the only person around speaking in English. After washing a drying a couple loads of laundry, I folded the clothes and left. I used the time to sit and read and reflect on my class time learning. The day was absolutely beautiful. Very clear and pleasant, but chilly and cool.

Sunday I awoke to the sounds of a downpour of rain. I wondered how this would affect my plans. I wanted to go to the earliest service I could go (9 a.m.) and then get on the road to go to the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The rain was pouring down.

Before I left for church, the rain let up, the skies turned from grey to cloudy to blue. In the distance I could see snow on the Sierra Madre mountains. When I got to the Getty museum at 11 a.m. I ate my lunch and could sea the vast ocean in the West, the expansive city of L.A. and the towering Sierra Madre Mountains covered in snow. This is an amazing paradise where there are days you can choose between being in the cool of the mountains surrounded by trees or choose the crashing waves of the ocean chasing the beaches. From this place on the balcony I could see it all . . . mountains, ocean and city. A good way to beat boredom is to take in life from a bigger perspective

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Inside Out Psalm

This morning I was still troubled with being on the inside. I got to come home and sleep inside. The psalm given to me for reflection was Psalm 13, but I could not go there. I could not complain to God about his absence. Not after last night (read yesterday’s blog Inside Out).

So, sitting outside under a tree, I kept reading and found Psalm 14. Here is where I am located. Especially verses two through four. God looks down upon the complainers and the content, the righteous and the self-righteous. God sees no one who does good.

Are we blind to our evil practice of “eating up the people as they eat bread”? We cannibalize the life of the poor, taking anything of value even while they are eating a slice of bread.

Inside Out

A penetrating, foul smell lived in the air. Downtown Los Angeles has a place known as skid row. L.A.'s skid row is flooded with activity, sleeping bags, shopping baskets and tents pitched on the street sidewalk. These are people pushed to life outside the world that towers around them.

My friend Tim brought me to skid row to meet his buddy Tim and to experience the only church on skid row called church on the corner. Several classmates also came (Wayne, Bob, Barnabus). We had come to go to Karaoke night . . . yes Karaoke night. But first came the kids. Each day the church has an after school program. There were several kids the age of my kids. They hugged me as if I were their own father.

We served the kids their dinner, cleared the table for the teen program to eat dinner. For my lunch, I had eaten off a huge buffet of Mediterranean food. I was so full from lunch I had not eaten dinner (along with Tim, Wayne, Joe and Moses). My bulging stomach was a striking contrast to everyone I met. We had food left over, so we took it out on the street and offered it to people. Only one of the people I asked politely refused. Many people looked me in the eye and said, "“Thanks, this is the only food I've eaten all day."” I could not eat tonight. I could not take food from the hungry.

With our duties complete, we had a good hour until Karaoke night. I had no idea what to expect at a karaoke night with homeless people. To pass the time, I went out on the street and sat down. I felt like I fit in pretty well. I had not shaved in five days and wore old clothes. People had already begun to line up outside the door. They were talking about songs they would sing. One woman explained that she was going to become a famous singer so that she could get on Blue Cross & Blue Shield to cover her medical expenses. Another younger man was dressed in a black cowboy had, complete with a sheriff'’s badge and a long black trench coat. I saw an elderly woman mumbling something indistinguishable walking the street wearing only one shoe.

My most memorable acquaintance was Marita. After I had been sitting outside, the blanket next to me began to move. The face of an elderly woman appeared. She smiled and we began to talk. She had no idea who I was. She had been on the street for only two months, after she lost her apartment in Phoenix. Actually, she has a job as a cashier at the ballpark in Phoenix. It does not start again until April. She looked as if she had always been here, when in reality she was new. We talked about the missions, the lack of markets and the safety of the streets. Homeless people are not much different from those "‘inside the world."’ Maybe a little more friendly, maybe more dirty and maybe more hungry, but only one eviction separates those outside from those inside.

It is astounding that a few blocks away tower the world's most powerful bank buildings, renovated loft apartments, fancy chain restraints, and the hotel presidents sleep in. It is a world of separation that is inside out.

Thanks to Tim Neufeld for giving me an inside out view of Los Angeles. Tim is a new friend who shares my fanatical love of U2, mexican food and taking people on "experiences" like this one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

English Lesson

Mark Lau Branson made an off-handed comment that was easily the most memorable of the week. A discussion had developed about how it is hard to go to church. Sometime church is unbearable for any of a number of reasons: false piety, pretension, entertaining display. Mark said, “it is hard to go to church where God is never the subject of an active verb.” Let that one soak in.

Umm, what? Many times in church God is the object of everything we do and say. We are here to praise God. We want God to be in this place. Etcetera. Worship does well when God is the subject and we are the object.

Translation: Talk about what God does not what we want God to do. Talk about what God has done and praise him. Do not objectify God. Do not make God an idol to back what you want and do. Allow God to be the subject that acts.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stop, Reflect, Listen & Pray

This afternoon we listened to scripture. We started with the first Psalm found in the first testament or Old Testament of the Bible. The assignment was to read it repeatedly and listen to the passage. This is the ancient practice of lectio divina (spiritual reading) of which I am quite familiar and maybe I will share about another time. You are familiar, too, with lectio but you may not realize it. Here is an example. For the past several weeks my faith community has been listening to a passage read orally from different voices and different languages. This is a form of sacred reading. Usually in the reading and re-reading of scripture a word or a phrase is especially meaningful. You mediatate upon that word or phrase. Then, you offer it back to God as a prayer.

Here is what I experienced. I wanted to get outside, but all I found in this concrete city was an outdoor burger joint called Rick's Burgers. I couldn't hear the passage for the noise of traffic, the crying of a newborn, and conversations in other languages. City life. My focus was on verse four: the one who meditates on the instruction of God is like a tree planted by streams of water. This is one of my favorite images - a tree that has the bennefit of unlimitted water. I realized that trees always thrive along a riverbed. In fact, I had seen trees snaking their way across the country supported by water they did not dig for or channel.

People are like trees. We grow where the water is. The city is a collecting place of people. A busy street corner is a place to give water. The gathering of believers cannot become a sheltered tank of water. It must be outside, on the streets, where the thirsty people live. I want to take the water to the people and help them grow.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wooden Nickels

Our pilot said his name was Wooden Nickels. I still do not know if it was a joke, but he did not sound the joking type. We were late taking off, but he made up time by rerouting us over White Sands Missile testing ground. Normally the military do not allow commercial traffic over White Sands, however on Sunday allowances were made. I always enjoy the shuttle ride from LAX to the Guest Center at Fuller. One never knows what landmark will be around the corner. In the Olympic spirit, I was able to see the L.A. Coliseum a beautiful palm tree lined view. We drove right by the Staple Center, and Dodger Stadium.

I look forward to the course which begins tomorrow "“Missional Leadership" with Alan Roxburgh and Mark Lau Branson. Alan (minister, author) has been in ministry for many years in growing North American Missional contexts. Mark Lau Branson is a pastor, whom Fuller brought on as full time faculty. My interest in this course and learning cohort is centered on thinking about our local American neighborhoods as mission fields of opportunity. Places where we can be Jesus to the world.

I am glad an excellent pilot named Wooden Nickels landed us smoothly and safely on the ground. I look forward to Alan and Mark helping me think of ministry on the ground.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Black Leather Messiah

Many of you have been emailing me about Bono's latest public words. I wish I could have been there in Washington, D.C. I have heard Bono sing in person more than a half-dozen times, but I've never heard him preach more than a few lines. So, I am open to either Bono or the president's invitation.

My most recent post about Bono mentions a desire to be like him in a unique way. In the speech below, clearly he has a Messiah complex. Bono often jokes about his "Messiah complex." This complex is shorthand for someone who believes they can save the world. Most often, I hear it and use it to indicate that a person "can not be God." I've always found it odd that Bono embraces being a Messiah.

In this speech, the answer to the "why" hit me. Bono is attempting to be like Christ, to do the things Christ would do if Christ were Bono. In other words, Bono is trying to be Christ/Messiah. That is actually a good thing. Not a blasphemous thing. Nor a pretentious pride thing. In fact, it is biblical. In an old letter written to Christ followers in Ephesus (read 4:11-13), the goal of service (or ministry) is that everybody would reach full maturity which is specifically identified as Christ. We are to become Messiah-like in our words and actions.

Impossible, you blurt. Irreverent, you complain. Maybe, but it is a very biblical journey to the presence of God. The map is Christ and the destination is Christ. My work here in this space on planet earth is done with each person I "present as mature in Christ" (Colossian letter 1:28).

While there is and only will be one Messiah, the Messiah has invited us to be like him. Go be the black leather Messiah in your cubicle. Go be the prophet in white to your kids. Be Christ to the world, for the world.

And now enjoy this 'sermon' from an unlikely messiah in black leather and shades. . .




Thank you.

Mr. President, First Lady, King Abdullah, Other heads of State, Members of Congress, distinguished guests…

Please join me in praying that I don’t say something we’ll all regret.

That was for the FCC.

If you’re wondering what I’m doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I’m certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It’s certainly not because I’m a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I’m here because I’ve got a messianic complex.

Yes, it’s true. And for anyone who knows me, it’s hardly a revelation.

Well, I’m the first to admit that there’s something unnatural… something unseemly… about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the South of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert… but this is really weird, isn’t it?

You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind. .

Mr. President, are you sure about this?

It’s very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned—I’m Irish.

I’d like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I’d like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws… but of course, they don’t always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you’re here.

I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here—Muslims, Jews, Christians—all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God.

I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.

Yes, it’s odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it’s odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.

I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God’s second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…

I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.

Even though I was a believer.

Perhaps because I was a believer.

I was cynical… not about God, but about God’s politics. (There you are, Jim.)

Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick—my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the Millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world’s poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord’s call—and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic’s point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.

‘Jubilee’—why ‘Jubilee’?

What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lords favor?

I’d always read the Scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)…

‘If your brother becomes poor,’ the Scriptures say, ‘and cannot maintain himself… you shall maintain him… You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.’

It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he’s met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he’s a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn’t done much… yet. He hasn’t spoken in public before…

When he does, is first words are from Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,’ he says, ‘because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.’ And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour, the year of Jubilee. (Luke 4:18)

What he was really talking about was an era of grace—and we’re still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate—in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn’t a bless-me club… it wasn’t a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions… making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

But then my cynicism got another helping hand.

It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called A.I.D.S. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The one’s that didn’t miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children… Even fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.

Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself Judgmentalism is back!

But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.

Love was on the move.

Mercy was on the move.

God was on the move.

Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet… Conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS… Soccer moms and quarterbacks… hip-hop stars and country stars… This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!

Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!

Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!

Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.

It was breathtaking. Literally. It stopped the world in its tracks.

When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened—and acted. When churches starting organising, petitioning, and even—that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying… on AIDS and global health, governments listened—and acted.

I’m here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”

It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

Here’s some good news for the President. After 9-11 we were told America would have no time for the World’s poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it’s true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.

In fact, you have double aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund—you and Congress—have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.

Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.

But here’s the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There’s is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice.

Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad.

Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, “mother nature”. In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It’s annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren’t they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, “Equal?” A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, “Yeah, ‘equal,’ that’s what it says here in this book. We’re all made in the image of God.”

And eventually the Pharaoh says, “OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews—but not the blacks.”

“Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man.”

So on we go with our journey of equality.

On we go in the pursuit of justice.

We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans… left and right together… united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

We hear that call even more powerfully today, as we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King—mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only just getting started. These issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and cross the seas.

Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market… that’s a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents… That’s a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents… that’s a justice issue.

And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.

That’s why I say there’s the law of the land… and then there is a higher standard. There’s the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it’s OK to protect our agriculture but it’s not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?

As the laws of man are written, that’s what they say.

God will not accept that.

Mine won’t, at least. Will yours?


I close this morning on … very… thin… ice.

This is a dangerous idea I’ve put on the table: my God vs. your God, their God vs. our God… vs. no God. It is very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity.

And this is a town—Washington—that knows something of division.

But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the Scriptures call the least of these.

This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:30) Jesus says that.

‘Righteousness is this: that one should… give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.’ The Koran says that. (2.177)

Thus sayeth the Lord: ‘Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.’ The jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.

That is a powerful incentive: ‘The Lord will watch your back.’ Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…

And this wise man said: stop.

He said, stop asking God to bless what you’re doing.

Get involved in what God is doing—because it’s already blessed.

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.

And that is what He’s calling us to do.

I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to ten percent of the family budget. Well, how does that compare the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than one percent.

Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:

I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is one percent?

One percent is not merely a number on a balance sheet.

One percent is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. One percent is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. One percent is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. One percent is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This one percent is digging waterholes to provide clean water.

One percent is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism towards Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.

America gives less than one percent now. Were asking for an extra one percent to change the world. to transform millions of lives—but not just that and I say this to the military men now – to transform the way that they see us.

One percent is national security, enlightened economic self interest, and a better safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, one percent is the best bargain around.

These goals—clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty—these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a Globalised World.

Now, I’m very lucky. I don’t have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don’t have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don’t have to make the tough choices.

But I can tell you this:

To give one percent more is right. It’s smart. And it’s blessed.

There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.

I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did—or did not to—to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.

Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Wow: End of the Spear

Go buy your ticket now. It is Friday night. You have not been to see a movie in who knows how long. Get online right now and purchase your ticket for "End of the Spear." Wow.

If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you have seen any other movie in theaters now and you have not seen "End of the Spear" there is something wrong. Go.

"End of the Spear" is the best true story movie I have seen in years (and maybe ever). I was not entertained. I was made uncomfortable. I was challenged. I learned the essence of faith in a way that few books or movies or people can communicate. If you are at all interested in what Jesus offers the world and the religions of the world, then this is a movie that will show it to you.

"End of the Spear" is set in the Amazon. An indigenious stone age tribe lives by the spear, showing its strength. This tribe approached by 21st century missionaries in the 1940s. The story is one you must experience to believe and challenge your belief.

Go. Tonight. Stay till the final scene and watch the good news at the end of the spear.

Friday, January 27, 2006


It seems that Big Jim Industries is built upon a farce. The fairy tale of recovery continues. Yesterday before a watching world the golden finger of books and daytime TV complained that she had been "duped." She regretted making a phone call to Larry King Live, supporting author James Frey.

Oprah brought Frey back on her show. She complained. He confessed and fulfilled AA 12 step # 5. End of (multi-million dollar) fairy tale. Well, not really. As they say on MasterCard . . .
Cost of a Million Little Pieces = $15
Cost of a rebuke = free
Cost of a confession = free
Being a multi-millionaire for writing a fairy tale memoir = priceless

My problem remains that James Frey has done nothing to address step #2 or #3.