Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Google For Good & Better World

It seems that I am constantly impressed by Google. The company with a funny name indicating a seemingly infinite number is making a difference unlike any company of which I have knowledge. I and a billion of my closest friends use Google on a daily basis. It's simple search engine is fast, accurate, easy, and the portal to seemingly infinite information.

Then, came Gmail the beta program you had to be invited into, but then was offered as a free limitless storage email. I love it. Whenever something comes along that takes a completely different approach and makes the ordinary tasks of life extraordinarily easy and even fun, I love it.

Then, I caught wind that Google is working to digitize every piece of literature ever written into a super-Google library. This too is an amazing feat and one that will make study, learning, research, and potential growth available to anyone with access to the internet.

Just last month Google announced that they are entering the cell phone industry and will have a Google Phone sometime next year. They are not invested in hardware, per se, but the software that makes accessing the internet and email available to users of cell phones. Their logic is that there are significantly more cell phone users in the world than computer users. So, they will bring the internet simply and efficiently to cell phones.

Then, today while reading my Gmail across my webclips comes an article about Google pursuing renewable energy. They are investing millions upon millions of dollars in renewable energy. Sure it is for lowering their own corporate energy costs. However, most Wall Street observers think the move is sheer insanity and a case of a company trying to do too much. Many guess that Google will outreach its ability to produce. While their name represents an infinite number of zeros and seems to mirror their net worth, their goal is not making money. What? A huge multi-billion dollar company is not in it for the cash? No wonder Wall Street frowns and shakes a discouraging finger.

Get this. In 2004 when they went public with their initial public stock offering, founders Page and Brin wrote to investors:
"Our goal is to develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible. In pursuing this goal, we may do things that we believe have a positive impact on the world, even if the near-term financial returns are not obvious."
The bold italics are my addition to highlight their stunning assertion, which means "it is not about the money." They are focused on positively improving life for as many as possible. Wow! What if everyone had that as a goal? Think of the impact that one person could make who was willing to give their life - even painful embarrassing death - for the good of as many people as possible. It sounds like a hint of a faith I could really hang onto tightly. Sacrifice some of our perks, power, hours, and cash so that others could see seismic difference in their lifestyle.

The story of Jesus (and those who follow him) has green reproductive power even today. If people of faith will get out of mere sermon listening and into changing the world, then life would be better for more people. Don't get me wrong, this is not a "rah-rah" chant for human potential. I think it can only happen on the shoulders of a God who stretched his arms wide in love of the world (the whole world), but he also accomplishes it through you and me and Google. God is bringing all things to their perfection in Jesus. I am ready to follow him.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Picture Perfect Imperfect Faith

Standing on the curb, I watched my kids wave at parade floats while I spoke with old friends. They were enjoying the new experiences of Homecoming, while we adults were reminiscing about our college lives gone by. Homecoming at ACU is always fun because the Alumni community is strong and our graduating class size was small. So, it is more likely that you see people you know. However, being at a "Christian" college in a town full of three Christian colleges means that there is a. . . well, a surplus of Christians. It is great to raise a family, but not necessarily a realistic world for the greater portion of America.

As I stood with friends and current students, we watched carloads full of "the homecoming court." These pretty girls with straight teeth and combed and conditioned to perfection waved to the crowds. I overheard the student next to me say to his girlfriend, "Yep, I bet she loves Jesus." I looked and he was nodding at a pretty young girl waving from a sports car, one of the many chosen beautiful girls.

The truth of the offhanded comment stuck to the back of my brain - "she must love Jesus." Of course, the obvious curse of blessings. Who wouldn't love Jesus if their teeth were white, face beautiful, hair held perfectly by a crown, and figure worthy of a Queen's title. With everything going for them, why not thank and bless and honor God?

But what about the rest of us? What about those who stand sneering on the sideline of life longing for the perks of life that pass us by? Many of us live in the "if only's" of faith. If only God would give me X, then I would believe. If only God answered my prayer about X, then I could follow. If only God . . ., then I could.

So we look in the mirror, recount inadequacies, list unfulfilled dreams and scoff. All that is missing in our lives becomes reason enough to let following God go, too. What has God done for me?

As his words about loving Jesus echoed in my head, it was clear that some people love Jesus for what he can give them. Jesus is easy to follow when he is leaving big blessings for us to pick up behind him. It is more difficult to follow when the road is marked by suffering, tragedy and death. I wonder which faith is more valuable: faith in a Jesus who makes life perfect or faith in a Jesus despite an imperfect life? Probably the more noble is the imperfect life that mirrors Jesus way of the cross.

Come to think of it what is the difference between a faith that follows Jesus when blessed and a faith that rejects Jesus when life is less blessed? Not much.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blanket Rolled Into the Sky

Yesterday Nathan and I were again walking to school. There were hundreds, likely thousands, of birds eating in massive groups across the intramural track and field. So we sprinted right through the middle of this huge mass of blackness. Running as fast as we could the birds took to the air all around us. We were laughing and somewhat in awe of all these birds flapping the wind all around us. After we ran through them for the first time, Nathan said that it looked like a black blanket being rolled up into the sky. Now that description sounds poetic to me.

We have made a habit of running through the birds and sending them upward and away in flight. We've only done it maybe three times. Today, Nathan associated two experiences (the one were birds were in church and the other where birds fly) and said, “I think they are in church.” So there we were sprinting hand in hand as the sun was just beginning to peak through the pink sky with hundreds or thousands of black birds flying around us. Indeed, it is church - a sacred moment of worship. God's creation of animal and light and life is present powerfully in a moment shared between father and son.

Jesus spoke about birds and invited us to consider them. It is funny how we will consider scripture or meditate on a commentary or reflect upon a great new book, but not a bird. When Jesus watched the birds he explained the wisdom they reveal about life. These birds do not have barns nor seed planting strategies nor cookbooks full of recipes. Yet, God does not let them go hungry. We worry and fret and wring hands about much that we are not even in control of. God is in charge. So, enjoy life. Stop worrying about what you cannot control. Live in the church of life and let God care for you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

No Name Tag Needed

The ZOE Conference has been a delightful experience this weekend. I wondered who I would see. . . there were name tags everywhere Like any conference there are people you know, people you think you recognize, people you know of, people there you never see, people you have heard of, and people you meet for the first time. Name tags are a beautiful thing. For the people you recognize or know of you can remember their names. Name tags help emblazon the name of someone just met into memory.

And then there are people for whom you don’t need a name tag. Regardless of how long it has been, you just know them. Tonight I ran into my childhood friend Tim. He lived a few doors down when I lived in Oklahoma. We played Star Wars, Lego, football, basketball, tether ball, and camped out. I have no idea when the last time was that we saw each other, but I moved away from Tim twenty some years ago.

Tonight we went to dinner and swapped stories of the events of life good and bad that have come upon us. For the last two years we have been praying for time and Kristi. Their two year old daughter has serious health issues. She was not expected to live through pregnancy nor childbirth nor many months. Now, she is two, which is a miracle in itself, but it is a miracle that has come with costs. Life experiences give us much and take much out of us. Twenty four seven care of a child is tough, but when two other children are in the home it is tougher.

I asked Tim how he made it through knowing his unborn child might die. He said that the night they went to the hospital he had a ZOE CD in the car and it was playing “Blessed Be Your Name.” He had never really paid attention to the words, but that night "the road marked with suffering" became a reality for them. The song gave him the words to return thanks to God through good and bad. Sometimes all we have left is the opportunity to say "Blessed are you God" and that is enough to show that God is at work.

Amazing. Life comes with questions, doubts, and difficulties. There are not cute answers that heal or solve it. But there is a God who walks with us through it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bird Sanctuary

Sunday morning the sun rose with pink and orange fire, silently brilliant across the sky. Our family toddled noisily through the silence of the morning and were buckled into the car. "Why do we have to go to church?" my five year old whined. Being strapped into stiff clothes, child car seats, and a five point harness, the question was a fair one. There was little choice about his clothes, the seat, the seat belt, or the destination. However, he rarely complained about going to church . . . surprisingly he likes going to church.

I tried to duck the question with distraction, "look at those birds up on the high wire looking at the heavens." This time diverting my son's eyes did not divert his question, "Why don't birds have to go to church?"

Ok, there was no escaping. This was the pre-game for repeating this question all the way to church. An endless game of, "But why Daddy?" "I don't want to go" "Why do we have to go." So, I had to audible a blitz on his questions.

"The birds are already in church," I said.

"Hugh?" he cocked his face and wrinkled his nose.

"Sure they are already in church. They are always in church."

"How can they be in church?" he asked.

The best way to answer a five-year-old's question is usually another question. "They are outside under trees and flying through the sky. Who made the world?"

"God did."

Yes, that is right. God made the sky, sun to rise, trees to raise their branches, and wind to blow. They are exactly where they need to be worshiping God in all that they do.

Humans, while somewhat different, could learn from the birds of the air. We are always in the sanctuary of God.

Long before we strap in to a new day - Sunday or Thursday, comfy cloths or starched - we have the skin that provides sanctuary to God in a world that is his sanctuary. How we sit on a wire and watch the sunrise on Sunday and how we respond to voice mail on Monday is as much worship at pew sitting.

Sunday worship then begins to look like a whole different skyline. It is not a "have to" but a chance to fly with other creatures and explore how we might better worship God in every moment. Birds, sunrises, seat belts, and children included.

When our worship becomes strapped human routine, it will be the sky that worships because "the heavens declare the righteousness of God." Jesus himself said that rocks will speak if we refuse to speak. I will be watching the birds, soaking in sunrises, and laughing with children. Because if I listen closely enough I can hear a crescendo much larger that the worship I attend, prefer, demand or ignore.

May you find sanctuary in God and may God himself find sanctuary in you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What's Missing

The event set sail tonight, but what was missing? We were not missing great worship thanks to Steven Moore. He warmly led an inspired group in worship. We were not missing great preaching. Jerry Taylor brought the message powerfully and eloquently. Yes, we were missing Royce Money, but that simply could not be avoided with an honoring of Representative Bob Hunter elsewhere in the country. Jack Reese fit the bill eloquently. So, what were we missing? The center screen with the video backdrop. You know, the one that displays the theme. It was absent due to missing hardware to hang the video projector.

These are the things I never noticed about lectureship. Missing screens, how the greenery magically appears, the height of the stage, and other invisible details behind the scenes. That is where prayer is a priority. Not as a magic fix to life's issues, but as the reminder that each breath of life is given from a creator. The invisible details of our existence are easily overlooked, when they should be offered in prayer to a God who makes the sun rise and set.

Prayers of The Green One

I wore my green shirt today. It just seemed the symbolically correct way to go. This week I will be observing Lectureship from the inside. You might want a voyeuristic look behind the curtain. Sure I saw the sun rise this morning (and many more worked through the night), but all hard the work took place in the twelve months prior to this sunrise.

I packed my purple tie because tonight Jack Reese will introduce me as the new Director of Ministry Events. Tonight will be a great beginning to the Lectures with Dr. Jerry Taylor getting things rolling. Thousands will come to welcome the words of the Prophet Micah. If only he could experience the kind of welcome he will receive this week. Prophets are usually only welcome long after they are dead. So, it is appropriate that we honor this words. Micah would likely not be impressed with our red carpet rolled out for him. Prophets like to make a fuss. They do not wish to be pampered. But we could count on him bringing his message of performing Justice, loving Mercy, and walking in Humility with the one true God.

Tomorrow morning will begin with prayer. Jacob's Dream will be the site for morning prayers beginning at 8 a.m. This quite place will prove to be the intersection between human and divine. Prayer is our response to God's action in our lives. In years past, the ACU students have taken on the task of praying for every class presenter and keynote speaker. This year it is not happening officially. Instead, I will be praying for lectureship non-stop through the event. I will be praying for speakers, teachers, vendors, food service personnel, participants, and others. You are welcome to join with me in praying that God's Kingdom arrive in big and small ways throughout this week in ways that will strengthen God's activity in homes, churches, and workplaces throughout the world.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Director in the Shadows

The ACU Lectureship countdown has begun. This year I get to watch the behind the curtain events. I don't know what to expect. The schedule is intense. Anytime it takes a year of build up to plan and pull off an event one can only imagine how the seconds matter at the event.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

First Day of School

Who could have guessed that I would start to school the same day as my five year old? He goes to Kindergarten. I go to teach at the university.

Who could have imagined even three months ago we would both live in Abilene, TX? Tomorrow morning, I will walk with my son to school and then I will turn and walk in the opposite direction to serve as faculty in the College of Biblical Studies at ACU.

Nathan has grown into a super little guy. He is thrilled about his school, excited about his new town, pleased about his teacher, and looking forward to learning with brand new friends.

His Dad, on the other hand, has a less clear picture of life. Oh if only I had to buy glue, markers, Kleenex, and pencils. If only my biggest concern was where I would sit in my one classroom. Instead, I make a major career change from daily ministry and weekly preaching to become Director of Ministry Events and adjunct professor of undergraduate and graduate Bible students.

I have not yet put my finger on the right word. It is not worry nor fear nor sadness. It is something like uncertainty. Actually, it is a lot like the feeling I got on the night before school before a major grade change. Like when I went from elementary to junior high or junior high to high school or high school to college. There was just a bit of uncertainty, the unknown was all I could know the night before the new experience. Once my feet were wet, I never looked back.

Tonight my prayer is that I will walk with the same zip and energy to teach that Nathan will have to learn. We will both be learners. In life, even those who teach learn from the eternal wisdom of the ever present teacher. May we never stop learning from the new experiences of life.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Welcome Home

It is a great feeling to watch other people come in and load all of your heavy furniture onto a truck. I have never experienced someone else moving my stuff for me. Sure every time I have moved other people have helped. Friends, family and members of our faith community always chip in and make quick work out of moving. However, this time I was able to sit back and watch rather than direct and sort and lift and load. It was great and it was the only thing that helped fight back the sadness of leaving behind our life in Denton.

The crew left by 3:30 p.m. and Donna and I cleaned for the next three hours. The house was left in perfect condition, clean, touched up, and looking like a brand new home. We pulled out to eat our last meal in Denton at New York Sub Hub on loop 288. They make the best sub sandwich around. Fresh bread is made every day by La Madeline Bakery. There means and veggies are complimented with a great secret Italian dressing that is perfect. Donna announced to the owner manager that this was our last meal in Denton. He was pleased at our choice.

By the time we got into our cars we were worn out. We talked to each other on cell phones as we left the city limits of Denton, leaving behind the home and friends and church family we had know for the better part of a decade. I put my MP3 player on random and we road into the sunset.

Supposedly, we were heading to “the hill” in Abilene, Texas home to Abilene Christian University. However, on the outskirts of Fort Worth the terrain flattens and the road descends like a plane coming into a runway. While we were going to the hill, we were descending from the hill of Denton, Dallas, and Fort Worth.

Our rent house had no Air Conditioning so we asked the Siburt’s for a place to land for the night. We arrived at their home on the hill a few minutes before 10 p.m. Charlie’s first words were “Welcome Home.”

Welcome home . . . we both chuckled. That’s right a short journey had brought us to a new place, that was an old place, and already was a home welcoming us to a new life.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Free Chick

Our home group began to get excited about a field trip. Normally, we do pretty basic things together each week: eat, laugh, pray, cry, tell stories, share Bible stories, and encourage one another. But our group had the chance to do something out of the ordinary - an all night field trip.

Our local Chick-fil-a at the Denton Crossing shopping center was celebrating their 1 year anniversary. The first of a very limited number of people through the door would receive free Chick-fil-a (or what my 2 year old daughter calls "Chicken Play") for one year. Free food for a year sounded pretty good to our group.

Most people do not know that every brand new "Chicken Play" does this at their grand opening. A month earlier our group had tried to do this, but none of us could swing it. So, here we were out all night with our home group. We played board games, threw the football, listened to music, slept, talked, and had a great time watching for the sun rise.

After a night of fun, we high-fived a cow in PJs and sat down for a chicken biscuit breakfast sandwich. What crazy thing have you done lately? Is life about routine and order and schedule? It may be that there is room for some of your God given creativity to break through and enjoy the free chicken play of life.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


I recently caught a Travis concert at the House of Blues in Dallas. It is always great to see one of your favorite bands live, but this was outstanding. My buddy James and I made our debut visit to the House of Blues and really enjoyed the venue.

We had trouble finding the door when we walked up to HoB. We stopped next two huge tour buses in what we later discovered was the back. Out of the bus pops two guys who begin playing soccer on the sidewalk. I elbowed James and said, "I think that is Fran." It turns out the lead singer is a pretty good soccer player and that roadies make for good partners.

I stood there wondering what to do because I did not even have a pen. Finally, we just went up to him to see if he really was Fran. He was extremely nice. He even went onto the bus to get a Sharpie pen and sign my ticket. Finally, he posed with us for a picture. There were quite a few things I thought later that I should have asked, but I guess that is the way it goes. You don't expect to meet the lead singer of your new favorite band on the street corner.

The concert was a lot of fun. These guys obviously love what they are doing and let nothing stop them from having a good time and playing great tunes. Travis seemed unphased by frigid Texas A/C, reverberations from the next room, or faulty guitar on the first song. They played a number of my favorites: Side, My Eyes, Humpty Dumpty Love Song, Sing and my son's favorites: Selfish Jean and Closer.

I never could tell my 5 year old son that I was going to this concert. He would have been bugging me every day to go. He is a big fan and plays their songs over and over again. Nathan was thrilled when I told him about the concert and showed him my picture with lead singer. Music is good for the soul.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The One Thing

Back in February, Donna and I went on a retreat with the Pastor's Retreat Network. Each day we enjoyed a lunch time conversation with eight pastors from all over the country about life and love and ministry. Betty, the retreat leader, always left us with a probing question to ask of God for the next twenty-four hours. We dwelled on this one question in prayer.

On Tuesday Betty's question for us came from the story of Jesus and a blind man. Jesus asks the man, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10). While the answer seems obvious (. . . um to see again . . .), it is stunning that Jesus asks what we want him to do for us. The retreat participants were to tell Jesus what we wanted him do for us. Now that is a thought provoking question. I immediately knew that I wanted to know “the one thing” that God wanted us to be doing. Did God want us to find another church to serve or stay for 20 more years at Singing Oaks? Did God want us to sell everything and begin a new ministry to the poor in
Denton or did God want us to sell everything and go plant a church somewhere. I spent the day praying and asking God what was “the one thing” he wanted us to do.

The "one thing” appears rarely in scripture. There is really only one time that it appears with a clear purpose. However, there are some great ones. In Mark 10:21 (Luke 18:32), Jesus has a conversation with a man who wants eternal life. They talk about following the law and the man has been doing this his entire life. Jesus looks at him and scripture says, “He loved him.” He loves this man who wants to do one more thing. He already follows God, but he wants to live with God forever. So to this man whom Jesus loves he says, “One thing you lack. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor.” The man went away sad because he had many possessions. Not only did he posses a thorough knowledge of the law and great righteousness, but he also possessed the things that sometimes tend to come to those who live right – stuff.

There is another “one thing” story. This time Jesus is at the home of Martha. Martha scurries about making the house and the meal special and perfect. Mary her sister sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to him. Martha busily prepares a perfect occasion. Mary contentedly enters the perfect occasion. Martha gets frustrated at her sisters laziness and unwillingness to help. Jesus points out Martha’s own worry and distraction by many things. Jesus says there is need to do only one thing. He commends Mary for choosing the one thing (Luke 10:42).

I wanted God to tell me the one thing. I did not remember these stories about “the one thing.” Instead, I prayed and read all that afternoon. This retreat was all about hanging out with God. Late that afternoon, I was using a prayer book for my prayer time. It led me to Psalm 27 . So, as I read and prayed this Psalm there were things about the Lord being my light and my salvation and my stronghold. Then, I got to verse four “one thing I asked of the Lord.” I stopped, shocked that God was speaking to me through scripture. This is what I had been praying and meditating on all day long. Now, here it was written thousands and thousands of years earlier. I read on. “One thing I asked of the Lord that I will seek after: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” I fell flat on my face and began to cry, to weep in the presence of God.

You see in my heart, I wondered what God wanted to use me for. I had worked the better part of a decade trying to help a church grow and grow closer to its Creator. I wanted to be the greatest preacher ever in churches of Christ. I considered planting a church and help people on the outside of Christianity get inside in their relationship with God. I had all of these aspirations and wondered if I was best using my gifts and talents.

Last year I had asked Donna if this was the way we wanted to use the most productive years of our life. Did I want to continue running a church office? Did I want to go to elders meetings? Did I want to continue give ideas and plans that were shot down?

I fell on my face in prayer because I realized that my question was really about me. I wanted to know what God wanted ME to do. What I really meant is what "big important thing" did God want me to do. Here in this ancient prayer, the one thing was to seek God. Period. Seeking the face of God is the one thing this psalmist begins to pursue with his whole heart.

I spent a long time praying and crying as this new room of meaning opened to me. Over the four weeks of our Sabbatical in a combination of personal and family retreats, I realized that what God wanted more than anything else from me – was me. God wanted me to seek him all the days of my life. My plans, my dreams, my ambitions to preach, plant, start, serve, achieve just did not matter. Donna received this very same message. Through her prayer and reading and study she also realized that God wanted us to seek him whole heartedly. The music we heard in church and the books we read all pointed us to this. Remember the song, “purer in heart oh God help me to be, that I may do thy will.” Remember the new song “Give us clean hands, give us a pure heart.” Suddenly everything was about seeking God. I remembered the words from the Sermon on the Mount, which I memorized and recited as a sermon last spring. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” The promise Jesus offered to people who give God their hearts is the ability to see God. What more could we want than God. What else mattered? Donna and I returned to Singing Oaks with renewed focus and energy and most of all trust in God.

From that point on our immediate future was no less clear, but our long time future was assured. We were to seek God in the present moment. Psalm 27 became a vital part of my daily prayer life and it became a wellspring for my relationship with God.

As I began praying this Psalm daily, I realized things about it. The psalmist actually gets a three for one. It is the old genie in the bottle trick that I have always wanted to try when I find my magic lamp. You get three wishes and so you use the last wish to wish for three more wishes. He gets three things out of his “one thing.”

Dwell in the house of the Lord, see the beauty of the Lord, and inquire of the Lord in his temple. The one thing is to dwell in the house of the Lord. The other two things are results of dwelling with God. I read this as that God had plans for me to stay preaching and residing inside the church to serve.

To dwell in the house of the Lord does not mean to stay inside of a church building. This is not a command to become a temple servant or to become the building and grounds person who lives in constant prayer. It easily could mean those things but it does not have to mean a new job inside the church. To dwell in the house of the Lord is to begin to see your body as a temple of God. Your heart is the new residence of the Holy Spirit of God. The presence of Jesus as God’s son in the world and the residence of his Spirit in the hearts and lives of believers is God’s permanent dwelling. The promise of God dwelling with his people is realized when we welcome God into our life.

If you and I are to dwell in God’s house all our lives there are two results. These are the results of hanging out always in the presence of God. First, we will see the beauty of the Lord God. I have read this phrase in about every version of the bible there is. Some render it enjoy the presence of God, taste the sweetness of God, and they are all phrases that make me think about a very good marriage, where you just love being in the presence of the one you love. You love just dwelling there and being there. The second result of dwelling with God is the ability to inquire of the Lord God in his temple. Again imagine the temple of your body as a place where you might constantly be in conversation and questions and dialogue with God. It is beyond amazing that the creator of the world has invited you into this kind of relationship with him. A relationship where his presence is always with you. This relationship is one where you need only to make yourself available to him.

Yesterday we were in Abilene for the Summer workshops. We stopped again by Jacob's Dream. As we walked back to the Bible Building, Donna noticed that "one thing" was carved into the stone. The phrase "One Thing" was written exactly where I had placed the camera to take our family picture. From the perspective of the "one thing" one can see the cross and the verse where the blind man says he does not know who Jesus is but "one thing I do know, I was blind and now I see."

May your one thing always be God.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Letter

[This is my resignation letter read today to the congregation of people I dearly love. I will tell more of the story behind this decision in a later post.]

July 17, 2007

Dear Singing Oaks –

Eight years ago this month, Donna and I moved to Singing Oaks to partner in ministry with you in Denton, Texas. We had fallen in love with the people of this church. Still today we enjoy every moment with you. In 1999, we came with no children to a town of 75,000, joining two other ministers and 330 people in worship on Sundays. Needless to say a lot has changed. All of it has been wonderful.

We have been offered an opportunity to work for Abilene Christian University as Director of Ministry Events and Adjunct Professor of Bible in Abilene, Texas. This position oversees the annual Lectureship program as well as other annual ministry events for churches and church leaders. Additionally, it would involve teaching Bible and Ministry courses to undergraduate and graduate students. Obviously this is a great honor and a rare opportunity for service in the Kingdom of God. After hours and hours and days and days of prayer, fasting, crying and reflection we accepted this position and will release our ministry here as Preaching Minister. We will be leaving rather quickly on August 21st in order to begin school this Fall.

Without the support and experience and training we have received here this opportunity would probably not be available to us. We believe that you share in the honor given us by this role of ministry to the fellowship of Churches of Christ and teaching young people in the university setting for ministry. In so many ways, you participated in our development in and for ministry. We are forever grateful and will continue to share this partnership with you.

This decision was not easy. We so dearly love the people we serve, the ministers we work with, and the elders we serve beside. Few come anywhere close to you. It is so difficult to leave such an outstanding church with great potential. However, we leave you with God and trust that God will continue to nurture a spirit of unconditional love, unity, and desire to follow him at all cost. Our future together is bright as we seek God in all things.

Always yours,

Brady and Donna Bryce
Nathan and Lizzie

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Music Memories

Today we drove back from New Mexico after a great vacation in the mountains around Ruidoso. We stopped in Abilene to show the kids Abilene and share some memories. They love the monument called Jacob's Dream on the campus of Abilene Christian University. So, we stopped by to let them play and to eat at Subway.

Sitting in Subway every song we heard was released my freshman year. There were songs by Nirvana, R.E.M., Pearl Jam and other bands that took me back a few years. Donna and I were thinking about our freshmen year and talking about our dear friend James, my college room mate and long-time friend. Then a group of girls came in the door. They were cheerleaders from Wylie High School. I began calculating their age and realized that they were all born just before James, Donna, and I came to college here. Now, they were seniors. It made me laugh and then it made me feel old.

I just had to pass along this revelation to my buddy James. He was pleased to travel down memory lane with me. That is until I brought up about the ages of the High School cheerleaders. Then, he seemed pretty depressed. Well that is what friends are for . . . we pick each other up and knock each other down. The best thing about friends is that no matter how much time passes, they remain friends. Plus, the longer the friendship lasts the younger you feel every time you are in their presence. In the Kingdom of God, friendship is a head start on eternity together with God.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Life in Dallas

There are so many things to pursue. Living in Dallas-Fort Worth, everything is available. The latest technologies, the newest entertainment, world renown speakers, resources, opportunities and more. However, the remain people who are unable to access what is available. People who lack the information, connections, knowledge, or ability to reach what is available.

God is available. God is present. God is looking at you. The presence of God does not depend upon something you create, but upon your willingness to seek a God seeking you. God made heaven and earth. God does not need our religion, office space, sacred space, or even a chair. God created it all.

God looks at is the one who is humble. God looks at the one who is sincerely remorseful. God is looking for the one who is moved to tears at his word.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Miracle Neice

My closest blood relative . . . the woman who came from the same womb I did . . . experienced a miracle today.

My sister Kelly and her husband Michael have been unable to give birth to a child. For years they have prayed and tried and suffered through infertility. But, still no life. Last year they were chosen as adoptive parents. It was an answer to prayers. With little time to prepare, they readied their home, their lives, and their hearts to receive a baby. Every hurdle was passed with a bit more joy, until at the last possible moment . . . the adoption was canceled. It was the equivalent of a still born death. We were heart broken.

Then, amazingly Kelly got pregnant. A "one last shot" attempt with treatments worked! The last nine months have been anxious for me and I know they have been uncertain for Kelly & Michael. Yesterday, we met another of God's miracles, this one named Taryn.

Life never turns out the way we expect or plan or dream. However, the one true and living God is able to surprise us with life through our death.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Not Our Mission

My friend Steve is probably one of the kindest men I know. He follows Jesus everywhere.

Recently, he was reading the newspaper (warning: don't read the paper with Jesus - it can be very dangerous). He read about a woman whose roof had a huge hole in it. She had children living inside and no way to repair it.

He called her and found out the depth of the need. No one else had called.

The next day in Steve's class at church he invited anyone willing to add to the money he was going to contribute. He had $500 in his pocket after class. By the time he left church, he had $700. With Steve's action there ended up being more than a dozen local businesses and several different Christian denominations pitched in. There were dozens of people who worked and payed and donated their lives to fixing that roof in one day. A journalist from the newspaper showed up, everyone was thanked by name in the woman's thank you note. Another world was shown to be possible through willing hearts. Indeed, another world is possible.

One would think that the church would celebrate people's involvement in helping the poor. Steve was one of many Christians serving. Instead, his preacher took a different angle. He said that it was a "nice thing to do" but that this kind of effort "was not the mission of the church." Really? Are there still people (ministers) with small brains and hearts out there? The minister went on to associate this type of compassion with the "social gospel" movement or Marxism. It makes my head spin to try to grasp the logic of compassion in the name of Jesus being Communism.

Take a look at who Jesus spent his time with. Jesus spent his time with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1-2). Jesus allowed adulterous women to touch him intimately in public places (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus was considered a drunkard and a glutton by the holy people because of who he chose to spend his time with (Matthew 11:19). Like Jesus we cannot be afraid to get dirty in the world.

Take a look at who Jesus blessed. Jesus called the poor blessed (Luke 6:20).

In the New Testament we are told what "pure religion" looks like. Interesting it is not preaching sermons or keeping doctrine pure or being on the right side of an issue). James said that pure religion is taking care of widows and orphans (James 1:27). Action not words.

The action of this preacher is only a sad footnote to an amazing story. The good news was expressed in action by my friend Steve. The difference was made by people willing to act and not talk about their faith.

I pray for forgiveness for the times I have discouraged people serving in the name of Jesus. To my friend, Steve, consider it pure joy when you are persecuted for serving in the name of Jesus. He never said it would be easy.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Box of Trophies

This weekend we raised the garage and let people haul off our possessions. Rather than feeling stolen from, we felt like we were making out like bandits. It is a wonder of America that people will pay you money, to take your old unwanted items, and haul them away for you. Garage sales just feel good (if you get past the days of preparation, sign posting, ad listing, and day spent on your feet).

We have been setting aside stuff for a sale more than one year. One of the boxes I needed to look through was marked "Brady's Trophies" and sealed up more than a decade ago. Hum. . . what did I consider a trophy that I had not looked at or displayed or even thought about in years?

Inside the box was a soccer trophy "Cosmos," a science fair trophy "Altus Science Fair," a trophy from a birthday party marked "Ryan's Olympics," a Quartz Mountain Christian Camp "Boy Christian Leader" plaque, and much more. What can be done with an old box of trophies? The trophy shop did not want them. They suggested giving them to a school or church. Do I save them for my kids? (to throw away someday . . . or just save them the trouble).

Every single thing I own right now will one day be of little to no interest to me. Things I love. Things I worked hard to earn. Things I protect and dust and wax and care for today . . . someday I won't know where they are or even miss them. Think about your first computer, first PDA, VCR, television, shoes, appliance, tool or whatever. It could be that right now you really want something desperately.

"All of these things I consider trash," says my friend Paul, "compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus." Paul was not referring to things he could sell in a garage sale. He was referring, strangely enough, to a list of religious achievements. Things like being born into a religious household, having the best education, mastery of the law, and perfect practice of following God. These were the things Paul left at the curb for disposal. These are normally things people put on display, but Paul displayed them in a trash bag.

Know Jesus Christ. This is an eternal quest that makes every other pursuit different.

One day almost every single trophy and treasure you have right now will be of little importance to you. The things you are sweating to buy. Those people you long to impress. The wallpaper you desire. The software that will make your work easier. Value changes as time goes by. When viewed from the end, most things are of little value.

What if we made our eternal quest the knowledge of Jesus? Then, we would have a treasure that would never end.

Know Jesus as Lord.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

At Home With God

The Sabbatical is over, but the experience of God remains. We were so blessed to spend time away from administration, routine, email, phone, and the obligations of details to deepen our walk with God in solitude, silence, and prayer.

Thankfully there was no time spent detoxing in rehab, resuscitating a marriage, reflecting on a counselor's couch, or under the anesthesia of surgery. However, this was time when a far worse disease threatened me. It is the cancer that's as common as oxygen in our society - busyness. What makes it a far more severe cancer is that my "busyness" took place in the midst of "church busyness." One may be busy as a contractor and feel the need to reconnect to God. So you seek God, pray more, go to church, talk with a minister. One may be "busy" as a pastor and believe they are already connected to God and that relationship with God is fine. At that point, one has become unaware of how the cancer eats away at the soul.

When I realized that I had allowed "to do" lists to replace life with God, I began to make changes. Prayer with God became the focal point of my living and the beginning of my day. I reordered my priorities. I changed my schedule. I even began experimenting with prayer that never ends. God looked kindly upon my changes. I began to feel more at peace and more confident of God's control than I had in some time.

Within a few weeks and months, I was back to my old self. But I knew that I still needed extended time alone with God. The leaders of Singing Oaks gave me precisely what I asked - four weeks away to pray, read, and write. The first week of this time was spent in Comfort, Texas with the Pastor Retreat Network. Donna and I were alone without our kids for six days. We enjoyed the presence of God together and alone. We read a book out loud to each other. We talked. We prayed. We read scripture. We sat and listened to the stillness of nature that is the still small voice of God. It was an amazing experience.

In the second week, we drove to our children who were staying with their grandparents in the Texas hill country near Gonzales. We spent the week outside in the country. I would get up in the mornings while the sky was black and bright only with stars. I would watch as these far away lights slowly were dissolved into the overpowering light of the sun. I would spend hours each morning praying, reading scripture (Psalms & Epistles) and reading good books (Cost of Discipleship, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, Game with Minutes, the Way of the Pilgrim and more). Eventually, I would return back to the house. The third week I spent away from my family. I was alone on a retreat at a retreat center where a spiritual director helped give me guidance for prayer. Then, I went to Oklahoma and spent five days there writing and researching. My dad met me at a cabin in Oklahoma and we were able to talk and read and be together. In the final week, we played nurse to Nathan, who had his tonsils and adenoids removed and ear tubes put in. The whole experience was tremendous, uplifting and most of all put my focus upon God.

Ok, not everyone can get away for so long of a time. Not everyone needs that much prayer and solitude, you say. Well, I did what I thought I needed to do to rediscover God in some very important ways. I have been reminded that God is far too good and far too mysterious to be messing around with us. But Praise to God, God is interested in us. I hope you will take your times away from work. Enter your busyness of your life as His smiling servant. And let each moment be a time of worship of him.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Where is Brady?

There are times in life when it is time to unplug from the race of life. Each day has a built in time of rest. The sun disappears, the sky darkens and our bodies grow weary. We rest. Each week there is typically a day that is spent away from work. Each year there is at least some time set aside for a vacation or a ceasing of activity.

After many years of ministry and ongoing continuing education, it was time for me to unplug. Working every weekend and being “on call” constantly can wear one down. That is not to mention life as a parent and husband. My life is no different from anyone else's. Many people stay very busy.

I do rest at night. I do very well to take a day each week to stop work. However, it is time for me to completely unplug and retreat into the presence of God. I have needed extended time of prayer and reflection. Donna and I learned at the Pastor Retreat Network that a “retreat” or a “sabbatical” is much different from a “vacation.” By definition a “vacation” is an attempt to stop work activity in order to return to work with greater strength. A retreat is an intensification of activity by intentionally withdrawing from daily life. A retreat focuses activity on solitude and spiritual discipline to draw closer with God.

So, what am I doing? I am resting. I am watching every sunrise. I am praying without ceasing. I am conversing with God and listening. I am journaling. I am reading classic books of Christianity by Bonhoefer, Keirkegaard, and Guyon. I am watching the sun set. I am spending time alone with God in nature. I am walking and talking with Donna. I am writing and working on a book. I am listening to other people preach.

Life can get the best of you. God wants all of you. Maybe it would do you well to take an afternoon off from work and pray. Maybe you might rest better by turning off the television and sitting and reading some Psalm like Psalm 40 or 27. Maybe you might do better at work if you tried to smile and pray for everyone you met, served, called, drove past, or ate with. God wants to live with you. Do you want to live with God?

Thanks for granting me time to actively retreat with God. Thanks for praying for me. To give you a window here are pictures I took on the property of Donna’s parents in the South Texas Hill Country. This was one of many sunrises I watched develop in the midst of prayer with God.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Old Friend

I ran across someone I had long since forgotten. This was someone about whose life I never really knew much. Frank Laubach is well known as an educator and is especially remembered for his work in the Philippines to promote literacy. He taught illiterate people the alphabet and in a matter of hours they were able to teach others the alphabet. This is how Frank is remembered as a master educator. He wrote countless books and is frequently cited in educational literature.

However, people do not know about the private side of Frank’s life. He was also a deeply Christian man. The richness of his devotion to God was revealed in his very active prayer life and also in his missionary work to the Philippine people.

What most interests me about Frank Laubauch is a very brief pamphlet he wrote on prayer. It seems that Frank began experimenting with keeping God ever on his heart and living in a state of constant prayer. His experiment grew out of a frustration that he had been a minister for about fourteen years, yet he did not have the kind of prayer life or relationship with God that he felt he should have. In a matter of a few months, Frank began attempting to contemplate (think about) God at least one second out of every minute throughout the entire day. It seems like a ridiculous venture, but one that comes out of a deep desire to have relationship with God. It seems like an impossible venture, but it is an adventure that, if you move past what seems like legalistic second-counting, actually describes an obvious and abiding relationship with God. I encourage you to read this short pamphlet (click here).

Even more, I challenge you to give it a try and experiment with ceaseless prayer. One of my favorite passages is written by a guy named Paul in a letter he wrote to the ancient town of Thessalonica in Greece.

Rejoice always,

Pray without ceasing,

Give Thanks in all circumstances

For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

The old friend that we really need to reconnect with is God. How is it that people claim to be "Christians" or disciples or followers of Jesus and yet do not spend their lives in friendship with Him? Prayer and conversation with God is maybe something we do at meal time or hear at church. There is an old friend we need to reconnect with.

Friday, February 02, 2007

NFL Opposes Christians on Super Bowl

This is the weekend of the "Big Game" known as the. . . Super Bowl. I hope that I do not get sued writing about this. My friend Scott K told me about an article that ran in an Indiana paper. The news article dealt with threats from the National Football League upon a church party.

It seems that the church planned a Super Bowl outreach party, complete with snacks, drinks, and big screen televisions all held in the safe environment of a church. However, no place is "safe" from lawyers of the NFL. Since the church was charging for snacks, the NFL threatened to shut the party down. Lawyers of the NFL asserted copyright laws on this Baptist church sending a FedEX letter to the pastor demanding the party be canceled.

So, the church decided to remove the charge for the snacks. The hardball NFL still would not allow the party because the screen had to be 55 inches or less. The church was forced to cancel the party.

In the article, the NFL also took issue with the church's use of testimonies from NFL players and coaches. The NFL's hard line three-point stance against Christianity can be nothing less than hypocrisy.

Take a bar as an example. I cannot imagine how the NFL can allow bars and clubs and parties across the country to go without citation, and show zero tolerance in their office upon a church. Bars with fan are okay. Christians fans are not okay. Actually, the NFL is lining up in an anti-Christian offensive formation that should infuriate Christians, players, and fans. I wonder what will happen when people make their voices heard? If you can figure out a way to contact the NFL Commissioner please let me know.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sons of Thunder

It is amazing what can happen in four days. On Saturday my Friend Al read the morning newspaper. That is a pretty harmless and mundane practice. On Saturday, he read an article that ran in both the Dallas Morning News and the Denton Record Chronicle about the motorcycle group the Sons of Thunder.

Six months ago Al was looking for the Sons of Thunder, a Christian Motorcycle group. Al could not find out anything about them. They were not in the yellow book and even the owners of Christian bookstores in Denton did not know their location. But this article contained a story that had little to do with Christian motorcycle hobbyists. These men had opened up their "club house" to allow a church in refuge from the hurricanes Rita and Katrina. One hundred and fifty people stayed in the "club house" turned makeshift hotel.

After the need for refuge disappeared and the church had left, there were twenty or thirty people standing around the club house, who had no where to go. For the last two years, the Sons of Thunder has allowed them to stay.

Al read the DRC article by a reporter who actually instigated the problem with the city. It seems their "club house" was out of code with the city as a "homeless shelter." What was intended as a run down club could not technically be used as a home for the homeless because it was not up to code.

Al came to the Rosemont Bible Study on Sunday morning across from the Singing Oaks Church of Christ on McKinney Street. He shared his sadness about the situation. Michelle's heart was touched by the thought of people in sub freezing conditions, who would within seven days be locked outside by the city (and a reporters reporting and code violation filling).

The sermon at Singing Oaks Church was about Jesus. I told the story of when Jesus broke the Sabbath in order to feed his hungry disciples and to heal a man with a hand (Mark 2:23-3:6). The law club known as the Pharisees did not appreciate Jesus' violations of Sabbath. So, they planned to destroy Jesus with the local politicians called the Herodians.

I expressed my sadness that a homeless shelter is not up to "code" with the city but that it is "code" to put people out on the street in the freezing weather. That does not seem "code" to me. Al could not get the Sons of Thunder out of his mind. Michelle could not get the sons out of her mind. She called Al and said that something must be done.

Al got in his truck and drove around Sunday afternoon, looking and looking for this building. It took finding a police officer who knew the building (because the police regularly drop people at this shelter). Al met with the leaders of sons of Thunder, Ben and Keith. Ben and Keith probably are close to the original Sons of Thunder, with the exception of a strong Christian humility that James and John lacked. Ben and Keith are the modern day representation of the two brothers whom Jesus gave the nickname "sons of thunder" (Mk 3:17)

James and John were fishermen. When they heard the preaching of Jesus and Jesus' invitation to "Come Follow Behind Me," these two brothers dropped their nets, left their father behind in the boat, abandoned the family fishing business and followed Jesus. James and John were men of action. James and John were also confused at times, requesting to be Jesus #1 and #2 men in the hierarchy of Jesus' new kingdom (Mark 10). The other apostles were not all that pleased with James and John's pursuit of greatness (probably because they wish they'd thought to ask Jesus first). Arguing over greatness would disappear from James and John, when they saw their king Jesus perform the lowest servant duty of washing their feet. Greatness was redefined.

James and John had the front row seat on the mountain of meeting with God, Jesus, and the great men of Judiasm. At another time, James and John were prepared to pray for fire from heaven to fall down on those who rejected Jesus as a king who must die (Luke 9:54). James and John were men of action.

The end of this story is that four days later the "Sons of Thunder" homeless shelter is saved. In the middle of prayer time on Monday morning, Bob and Don had an idea. The money was raised in its entirety. The committee said, "yes." People are ready to volunteer to make things "code." The metroplex now knows where the Sons of Thunder open their doors. They now know that action started in the heart of Al and in the willingness of a little church called Singing Oaks.

I am sure Jesus would be proud of this new installment of the Sons of Thunder, Ben and Keith, and their new thunderous brother Al.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

* Love Yourself *

The familiar chords of an acoustic guitar gently surrounded the voice of Jeff Tweedy on Saturday night at the Granada in Dallas, Texas. My long-time friend and fellow music fanatic, James, took me to see the lead man of the alternative country group Wilco. In this one man setting, an all black Tweedy stood in front of six acoustic guitars. His acoustic music filled the place marvelously, especially the final song, which he played completely unplugged. Jeff Tweedy stepped out from behind the microphone, unplugged his guitar, and balanced on the very edge of the stage playing Acuff Rose to an extremely quieted crowd that erupted with his last chord.

High above his head, yet far below the sounds and lyrics of Tweedy was a banner stretched just below the ceiling. Two trite words hung together between two asterisk like stars. While the sparkling words were were no doubt a theme for someone (or some generation), they were out of tune with reality.

* Love Yourself *

You love yourself. Sad instructions for human beings that tend to hate themselves. These two words provide guidance in looking no farther than yourself for love. The two words seem to imply "You must love yourself because nobody else may." Or maybe the words were psychological instructions "you must love yourself before anyone will love you." Maybe the words were intended to be capitalistic "love yourself because its a dog eat dog world."

Is loving yourself . . .love? Love of self, while no doubt a good thing for a person to possess, may actually be out of tune with genuine love. When referring to people, love is an action or emotion or feeling towards someone else. Love that is true, genuine, lasting is a risk to loving someone who may not always love back. Love looks beyond the self to another.

There is a poetic section about love in an ancient letter written to people in Corinth. Love is something that is patient, kind, not strutting, putting up with anything, etc. In this piece, love is something I do to someone else or (if I am lucky) someone does to me. While I really need to love myself, it is an empty room of love if I never get past loving myself to loving someone else.

A good place to start with, if you are interested in loving someone else, shows up in another song. This is loving someone who already loves us. This other song that Tweedy sang last night (the same song that Wilco opened with in Fort Worth in the Fall of 2006) is Airline to Heaven. It is an odd song to come from the lips of someone in a bar, who has been an alcoholic and addicted to pain killers. But it is a song of love. Love has reached out to us. This song is a plea for us to reach out to the God who is perfect love. Read a few lines of the song and then I will challenge it to fly a little higher . . .

Airline to Heaven
There's an airline plane
Flies to heaven everyday
Past the pearly gates . . .

. . .Oh a lot of speakers speak
A lot of preachers preach
When you lay their salary on the line

You can hold your head and pray
It's the only earthly way
You can fly to heaven on time
Fly to heaven on time

Them's got ears, let them hear
Them's got eyes, let them see
Turn your eyes to the lord of the skies

Take that airline plane
It'll take you home again
To your home behind the skies

Your ticket you obtain
On this heavenly airline plane
You leave your sins behind
I enjoy this song. I appreciate the spirit of looking higher for answers. I love the Jesus, quoting Isaiah lines of encouraging us to see and hear the deeper meaning of what we are staring at and listening to.

The only thing I want to encourage is that the focus be off my obtaining love and off of salvation being something that happens at the end of life. While both are true. We cannot be passive invalids, we have to obtain it. And salvation does at one level occur at the end of life.

However, this saved life begins now. You love others (and yourself) because you have been loved. We love because God first loved us. This life of love is something that saves us right now and allows us to live the saved life right now. Well, I have rambled. Much less eloquently than music. So, I will leave you with one final how-to-guide for love that comes from 1 John 4:14-21. Click, Read, and Love someone else.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Moments of Insignificance

What is within a moment? A second. A few minutes. A lifetime on hold listening to the same song. Not much seems contained within an insignificant moment.

Last week the Dallas Independent School District Superintendent was ridiculed for failing to cancel services. Every other school district in every county around had canceled school due to icy, freezing conditions. We make decisions every day some are significant and others are insignificant. We do things every day that have eternal significance.

A friend shared a story about a snow day. She was a first grade girl bundled up on a snowy day. I imagined her as a poster child for the "Christmas Story" movie little brother who was a walking bundle of protection with gloves, hat, scarf and many layers. A group of first grade boys shoved her over into the snow. She could not get up. The next thing she remembers were some black gloved hands that picked her up out of the snow, set her down on her feet, brushed the snow out of her eyes, and gave her a blessing from God. The gloves were those of a Catholic priest. That long forgotten moment was for her significant. Because in those hands she found someone who knew God. From then on she wanted to know the God this priest knew.

Her story made me think of all the things I do every day. Some things I want to forget. Some are achievements I want to remember. But most things seem insignificant and disappear into the fabric of life. Most likely that priest would never remember this event. It was just something you do to help.

How we live in the small and secret moments of life defines our character. We become who we are on the inside. Our life is actually a lived out expression of the desires, intentions of our hearts. I have chosen to train my heart to become like the heart of Jesus. I can find no more genius person than Jesus. I can find no more reliable example of living life than Jesus Christ. While I am no where near getting my heart and desires in the shape of Jesus, I am trying with each moment to live as Jesus lives.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

At&t or Cingular: Whose am I

me: They must be kidding.

Seven years ago I signed on with At&t wireless for a $30 per month cell phone. Our home area allowed no-roaming charges (a dark age term for some) in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. We only had 80 minutes per month, yet we had unlimited nights and weekends starting at 8 p.m.

you: Get to the point? Why am I reading this?

me: You are bored. This is a silly story. There might be a point, which is why you are still reading.

I signed on with At&t. Then, more than a year ago, Cingular ate At&t for lunch. I became a Cingular customer almost overnight. I had no vote. But I now was a "grandfather," being grandfathered into Cingular. Same plan. Same rate. Same sorry minute totals. But now seven years later, new name.

you: Okay, I am not seeing a point on the horizon. I like Verizon.

me: Three months ago Cingular sent me a letter explaining that they would soon be eliminating my network. They were phasing out At&t. Beginning that very month I would be charged an additional fee every month (I guess for being a grandfatherly drain on the largest Cell company in the business). I needed to upgrade to the new network, upgrade phones, change my rate plan, and who knows what else.

you: So what? Verizon has a nice name, too.

me: So, I migrated to a new plan, new phone, and a new higher rate plan. I was no longer an At&t grandfather in a network about to die. I was taken from the cellular nursing home and reborn as a Cingular child.

Which brings me to the news I read the news this week. Cingular is changing its name to At&t - the ALL NEW At&t. All that clever Cingular marketing, all that careful orange and blue branding with the little asterisk man . . . it will soon all be gone. I am again a grandfather so soon after being reborn.

you: [me: you've already stopped reading so I will have to ask your question for you] So what?

me: It is easy to feel passed around. I am used by companies who want my money. I am used by churches who want to count me in their numbers. I am used by marketers who want to reach me. I am an account number. I have no say in these things. I am an object. I am a "consumer."

Regardless of who is my cell phone carrier, where my parents are, or what I own, I am someone loved by an eternal God. You are someone loved by the God who made you. The God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow gives you a name "child of God." Talk to God.

Monday, January 01, 2007

With Me

Public prayers are rare. Schools do not have them as frequently, yet they remain in private classrooms. Public praying can be quite raw. Not in a vulgar sense but in an honest or or cliché manner. Public prayer is regularly unpolished. People will fight for the right to pray and others will fight to silence words to God. On the unusual occasion that one actually hears a prayer (most often in church) it may be rote or pithy.

For some reason I have been struck by one particularly bland cliché in prayer "God be with us." This is not an unusual request. This is not even an heretical request, unless it is to bless something evil within us. Actually, "God with us" is a refrain I would encourage people to pray. We want God to be with us in our problems, our life events, and in our difficulties.

The phrase got me thinking about a twist of the phrase. What if we were to more frequently pray "may we be with God" or specifically "may I be with God today." This phrasing could be a complementary balance to our insistence that God be with us, bless us and take care of us. There is room for us to alter our focus and be more active in being in the places where God is. This brings balance because it assumes that God may not be particularly interested in blessing some project of our own doing. It may be that God will not bless one more of our purchases, our petty worries about clothes that send a message, or our desires to please the people we want to please. What God may want is for me to be with Him.

May we be with God in this new era and enjoy the blessings of life with God.