Saturday, January 31, 2009

We've Moved

Come and join us on the Complementary Journey

Sunday, February 10, 2008


As part of my profession, I regularly listen to other people preach. I do my best to listen to a variety of different kind of sermons and switch between them as time goes by. Not too long ago, during one of these rounds of professional (and personal) upkeep I heard an idea that has stuck with me. This particular orator touched on the idea that only God can create and He only creates good things. Evil and sin come into the picture when blessings from God are twisted into something that He never intended them to be. The sermon then went on to elaborate on how this relates to the topic of love and sexual relationships. God gave them to people as a blessing for a particular purpose, but they have been twisted into something else.

I'm a big fan of this idea and I think that this rings true for any of a number of sins. I've spent some time pondering this idea in relation to possessions - culminating in a better understanding of the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-15).

Now, I want to know what you think. What other sins can you see as perversions or twisted forms of God's blessings? Some I've thought about but haven't delved deeply into are drinking, freedom, guilt, the environment and justice. I'm looking to write a sermon series that focuses on a number of these, to help explain God's original plan for the topic, how society views it and how it got twisted. I'd love a couple of other people's views on the topics I mentioned or maybe some other ones. (If you're feeling industrious I'd even be open to some scripture references.)

Thanks for your help

Monday, January 21, 2008

AUTHENTIC |ôˈ-θ-entik| (abbr.: auth.)

real, genuine, bona fide, kosher, honest-to-goodness, honest-to-God, sincere, true, unfeigned, unfinished, heartfelt, unaffected, affected, complete, incomplete, utter, knowingly tainted, thorough, absolute, through and through, changed, changing, total, prize, imperfect, perfect, veritable, legitimate, flawed, strong, lawful, legal, valid, the real McCoy, reliable, dependable, trustworthy, authoritative, honest, open, broken, faithful, accurate, factual, true, truthful, veridical, veracious


The soft white flakes had just begun to fall, each one floating gently, slowly down as if to prolong the time it had before it would melt helplessly on the quickly moistening ground. His boots routinely trudged along the familiar path to the side door of the garage.

Inside, he flicked the light-switch, the cold of the morning causing the ballast of the fluorescent lights to hum as the overhead lights flickered and struggled to life. In the slowly brightening chemical glow mixed with the sunlight from the windows, he made his way to the far side of the shop, weaving between the customers’ cars in various states of disarray. Today’s project sat in the corner, away from busy work that paid the bills. He slowly pulled back the tarp, looking at the familiar lines of the car he’d known for so long. He knew every angle and every curve as well as he knew himself, maybe better.

He put the tarp away, stealing a glance out the window. The snow was falling harder now, the flakes quickly giving up on their ill-fated attempt to stay afloat and plummeting to the rapidly cooling earth. Small patches appeared on the ground, expanding islands of white in a damp sea of the black asphalt parking lot.

He ran his hands along the car’s rear fender, his experienced fingers feeling the ripples of decay underneath - hidden from view only by a thin layer of green paint. At the workbench he picks up the orbital sander and pulls a circle of sandpaper from the roll. He sprays the disc and smoothes it over the head of the sander as he makes his way back to the car. The tool makes a familiar whir as he switches it on and soon it is covered in faded green dust that matches the car. The green gives way to gray and then silver - all surrounding the familiar pink hue of a years-old fiberglass patch and the deep umber of rust that has bubbled up around and through the old repair. More sanding reveals the extent of the damage, and the sander is exchanged for a wire-brush wheel.

A quick glance out the window shows a stark reversal in color. Islands and seas have switched places, now it is shrinking dark patches that struggle to stand up to an encroaching sea of white.

The wire brush does its job, digging out fiberglass and oxidized steel, leaving a hole-scarred, pock-marked, swath of silver metal in an expanse of green. He leans down and inspects the metal closely, removing his safety glasses and positioning himself in the best light. Deep within the marks, beyond the reach of the bristles, he can still see tiny pockets of brown. Another pass with the wire brush makes no difference. Neither does a different brush. The man sighs and hangs up the brush, he walks over to the mixing bench and gets down the can of fiberglass and the hardener. His hands scoop out the pink fibrous mud and he scrapes it absentmindedly onto a mixing board. Almost without thinking he measures out a portion of the hardener and begins to mix the compounds together and get the patching process started.

As his hands continue the familiar work, he looks out the window situated above this bench. From here he can see the whole parking lot and the street on the other side. Nearly everything he sees is white. It looks clean and fresh, unspoiled and untainted. No plow trucks have gone by, no footsteps have trampled the snow. From his point of view, the world looks perfect.

His hands still at work, his gaze moves closer to the shop and suddenly his eyes stop. There, in front of the far garage door is a spot, a blemish, a scar. He watches as white flakes continue to fall on the spot and instantly disappear into black - powerless to cover this one spot of ground. A month prior one of the mechanics spilled a basin of used oil there and the fluid soaked into the asphalt before it was sopped up. Now, the normally invisible stain was all too obvious and it glared at the man through the glass.

He looked at the spot and then at the silver swath of fender. He saw the invisible stain and the barely visible spots of rust. He saw the mix of green, gray and pink dust that had fallen throughout his work area and at the pink mixture on the board before him. He scraped the mixture into the trash and swept up the floor. Putting away the broom, he pulled out the die grinder and cutting wheel. The falling flakes of snow that had captured his attention in the window were replaced by shooting sparks of flaming hot metal that flew from the grinder’s wheel as he cut out the diseased section of metal from the fender.

As he searched through the sheet metal bin, looking for a piece to fill his newly created hole, he thought about his decision, the oil under the snow and the rust buried in the fender. This wasn’t someone else’s car, it was his. This wasn’t a paycheck, it was his passion. This mattered to him, it was important. He knew the only way to fix the problem was to get to the root of it, cut it out and rebuild it. Anything less would just be a temporary remedy, another patch that would have to be replaced in time. Things this important shouldn’t be patched, they should be fixed.

He picked his piece of metal from the bin and carried it with him as he walked back across the shop. He walked right past the cutting tools and right past the welding equipment. He set the piece of metal down and reached for the shop telephone. His fingers brusquely punched in the numbers and he scarcely breathed until someone picked up.

“Hey, its me.”
“Yeah it has been a while. And I’m sorry for that.”
“No, no excuses.”
“Uh... We need to talk - can we meet and talk? - I... I want to fix really fix us.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Let's see PC do that

So, I've got 2 stickers on my truck, one says "GF" (its for "God First" - not whatever you were thinking) and the other is a little piece of fruit, you know the one. While this may be the cool and trendy brand right now, I hung the sticker because they make a quality product, one of the few that I wholeheartedly recommend whenever asked. But, when you see things like this, it makes the sticker just a little bit more stuck.

He said Apple officials didn't want any publicity.
“It was strictly from the heart and just wanting to help,” Boyack said.
Foulkes didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment yesterday.

As it should be.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


A short clip from the "Sage-ing while Age-ing" piece on Fox 19 this morning while I was in the locker room:

Interviewer: "Shirley, what would you say is the biggest 'false moral'?"
Shirley MacLaine: "Monogamy, definitely. It has caused so many people so much pain."
Interviewer: "Who is the love of your life right now?"
Shirley MacLaine: "My dog."

Ouch. (And "May I Never.")
Is there any doubt that there is a sad, sad connection here?
Is there any doubt that 'age-ing' has not helped Shirley's 'sage-ing' at all?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Just (Juxtaposed) Opposed

On the eastern side of I75 around Loudon, TN there are two things that you can’t help but notice screaming for your attention as you drive down the highway. The first one you’ll see is actually a response to the second. At 99 feet tall, its hard to miss the giant white cross on the side of the road. Spanning about 100 yards with bright blue roofs and giant billboards, it is equally hard to miss the super-sized Adult World in its shadow.

Quite the juxtaposition, huh?
I’ve driven past this spectacle about eleven times in the last year, never really thinking about it until the last two. What happened here? The “Semis Welcome!” sign on Adult World makes it obvious why the store is there. But, why the jumbo cross? One could make any number of guesses as to the reasoning of those who paid for its construction.
“We want to let people know that Jesus is greater than pornography.”

“We don’t want that kind of stuff in our town, we want the Lord.”
“We want those people to know that God sees their actions.”

It is not hard to think about the point of view of the cross makers, but what about the store patrons? What do they think when they see that giant white “X”?

Chances are pretty slim that they’ll walk out into the bright sunlight with a bag of DVDs and their eyes will curiously follow the shadow across the parking lot to find the sun eclipsed by the magnificent cross, its rays beaming gloriously out from every side and they will fall to their knees, miraculously realizing that what is in their hands won’t bring them a portion of the happiness that Jesus can.

Chances are also pretty slim that getting out of their car they will look up to their left and see the cross, then to their right and see the store - left, right - left, right - left, right and decide that from this moment on they will choose the cross over all else and never sin again.

It is a much more likely scenario that the person will look at nothing but the ground on their way into the store. They will conduct their business in the store and come outside into the sunshine. The shadow on the ground will not lead them to a miraculous discovery of grace, but instead will remind them of the scorn and condemnation that they feel for themselves and reassure them that this is the same response they will get from others - especially those who built that cursed symbol of their suffering and shame.

You want to build a monument to God’s glory and grace? Fine. Not my cup o’ tea, maybe not the best use of God’s resources (“Sell all you have and build a giant cross” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Sell all you have and give it to the poor.”), but not a bad thing in and of itself.

But think about the message you might be giving to others. As the church, judgment and retribution are not our job. It is not enough to be lazy and just opposed to immorality. We have to offer a solution, the solution. The world has enough judgment and condemnation, it needs acceptance, love and compassion. Put away your cross and open your arms.

Monday, October 01, 2007

I couldn't resist

I didn't write it, but I couldn't help linking to it. You can find more here.
Update: This one too!

Monday, September 17, 2007


So, this morning I was watching “The Morning Show” on the local Fox affiliate and I saw one of the saddest features I’ve ever seen. Sad, not because of what was going on, but because of why it had to exist and what it said about the current state of things.

The feature began with a 17 year old whiz-kid who is currently a college jr. studying aerospace engineering. This is not sad and not why he was on the show. The reason for his appearance was that he came up with a website for finding unknown half-siblings for people who need donors for various organs, etc. Again, on the surface this is not sad. Sure, it is unfortunate that organs fail and people suffer while looking for donors, but this is part of living in a fallen world and the very fact that we can transplant organs is reason to celebrate.

Even the website itself was not in itself sad. It is a great idea, one that could help many people. There are reasons why people may be estranged from their half-siblings that have different degrees of sadness related to them. Couples who have turned to artificial insemination for one reason or another may raise children with half-siblings that they never know. Children who came through the adoption system for any one of a number of reasons may have half-sisters or half-brothers (or full-blown sisters or brothers) that they never had the chance to meet.

What was sad about this feature in particular was the cheerful reunion that they hosted on the show. The audience was introduced to a family consisting of a mother and her two children, a girl and her big brother. They were raised never really knowing the “man” (I use the term purely in a biological sense) who impregnated their mother. Through the use of this website the teenagers discovered that they had two other half-siblings, one living in Delaware, the other in Ohio.

Oh, happy day! New brothers and sisters!

Here’s the rub, mom didn’t know either. And the new sibs were just about the same age as the two teens. Again, we turn to the “man” who was not present on set, not talked about and not present in the lives of any of these teens. Sad. What kind of a world is it where a “man” can act in such a way as to leave offspring scattered across several states, from three different women in a relatively short amount of time without any of them knowing each other? How can someone completely disengage from their own progeny to such a degree that they don’t even keep in touch with their mother - that they don’t even know that there are other children in the situation? Furthermore, what does it say to a child who has to turn to a website to find out if they really have brothers and sisters that their parents haven’t told them about? You want these kids to trust their parents (or anyone) when this bombshell drops on them? Sad.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Small Adventures

“Master, must we go on?”
“Of course, young one, of course.”
“But why? Each day all we do is walk and walk - I’m sick of walking. I’m bored and my feet hurt.”
“Now is the time for walking, so we walk. But, that is not all we do each day.”
“It seems like that is all we do. We walk and we talk and that’s all. I don’t even know where we are or remember where we’re going. All I know is that I’m sick of walking.”
“Is that really all you know?”
“What else do you know?”
“I know that when I left my family to follow you we were supposed to go on an adventure. This is no adventure, just walking.”
“What is an adventure?”
“Adventure is fighting bad guys and saving people and...”
“And what?”
“... and... and... not so... boring.”
“You’re bored?”
“well, mmm ... yeah I guess.”
“And you want adventure?”
“Yeah! Adventure.”
“Did you know that we are being followed?”
“We are?”
“We are. Soon they will catch us and then you'll get a taste of what you call adventure. And you won't like it.”
Sigh. “How do you know they're following us?”
“I watch, like I taught you when we began. With each step I scan the horizon, taking in everything that changes as we go. From the top of the last two summits we have passed, one yesterday and one three days before that I have seen the same small speck in the distance growing closer. What do you watch as we walk?”
“Not nothing. You watch the puffs of dust that spring up around your feet - and fret about how they dirty you with each step.”
“How do you know that?”
“I already told you, I watch.”
“Well, how are they following us?”
“What do we do each day?”
“We walk.”
“And when we are finished...?”
“We make camp.”
“And in the morning..?”
“We walk.”
“Before we walk.”
“You make breakfast and I clean up.”
“Is that all?”
“I pray while you cook breakfast and you pray while I clean up.”
“Is that what really happens?”
“No. I don’t pray, I sleep.”
“And you don’t really clean up. They’ve been following us by following the messes we’ve left along the way.”
“But why? If you knew I wasn’t doing what I needed to do and that I was letting them follow us, why didn’t you stop me? Why didn’t you make me clean up better? Why did you let this happen?”
“Me? This is your adventure. An adventure is not just the exciting parts, it isn’t just the highlights. Adventure is every step you take, every responsibility you fulfill. It’s the small things you don’t want to do, but have to do. They add up, they contribute to the whole - they matter. If we overlook them, they will still add up, but only to our detriment. All of life is our adventure, we just won’t look wide enough to see it.”

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.” - GK Chesterton

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pleasure and Purpose

"I believe God made me for a purpose…for China. But, He also made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure!" - Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire

Today I was wearing the TWLOHA shirt my sister introduced me to and our waitress at Izzy's asked me about it. I told her about the story (you'll have to check the website) and her eyes welled up. As I talked, she started rubbing her arms and I could see she had goosebumps. Turns out her adopted daughter is a had the same problems and she has been struggling a great deal lately.

When I left the restaurant, I was the one with goosebumps. It was one of those times when I knew I was in the right place and the right time for the right purpose. But, I didn't do anything. God made me for a purpose, to help others. There is nothing I have experienced in life that brings me pleasure like letting God use me for that purpose.

Society tells us all the things that can bring us pleasure - sex, money, power, cheeseburgers, coca-cola. These things might make you happy for a minute, but not really happy, not really fulfilled. That only comes from finding your purpose and letting God do the rest.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Flashback: "I'm Not Christo", Summer 2006

We headed down to breakfast without having made our final plans for the day. Because the Guest House dining room is rather small, we sat down at the table that seemed to have the most room. After exchanging pleasantries, the couple we shared the table with mentioned that they were heading to St. George’s monastery and wondered if that was in our plan and if we wanted to share a cab. The offer sounded great, so we quickly cleaned our plates and ran back upstairs to grab our stuff.

In the cab ride over, we found out that our traveling companions were Eric and Sylvi, a Jewish couple who were in their early 60’s. Eric was from New York, a practicing psychiatrist and this was his first trip to Israel. Sylvi was from Paris, an author and professor at SUNY, making her second trip. The ride proved to be a great experience as we discussed our lives, our studies and talked about current Old Testament studies from the perspective of a modern-day Jewish person. Eric proved to be rather knowledgeable in speaking Hebrew and expressed his preferred translations of the Old Testament were the RSV and JPS. He dismissed the others as too Christological in their approach.

When we got to the site, we took the long descent down to the monastery itself. The scenery was beautiful and the monastery itself was incredible, hewn into the side of the face of a cliff. Also of note on the descent were the carved aqueducts which still held several inches of flowing water. After knocking on the front door of the monastery repeatedly, it was opened and we were welcomed inside. They provided us with water and juice. After a short time they invited us into side rooms to see their treasured possessions. Chief among these were the bones of St. George and St. John, the founders of the monastery, and the skulls of 14 other martyrs who died in defending it.

Leaving these rooms, we found an interesting scene. There was a monk there dealing with two senior Orthodox women. Both women in turn seized his hand and pressed it to their heads and their lips. They squeezed his hand and murmured unintelligible prayers. The monk, obviously taken aback, repeated over and over, “I’m not Christo. I’m not a Priest. I’m just a monk. I’m just a monk.” It was a touching scene that greatly enhanced my opinion of the monks from this order. Later we would have another interesting encounter w
ith one of the monks who was wearing Nike sneakers. As we were leaving, asked us young Americans what the word Nike meant, and be overjoyed to find out that it came from a Greek word meaning “Victory.”

We went to the upper level of the monastery where we found the cave where Elijah supposedly received comfort while in the desert. The cave was filled with Orthodox icons; pictures hung from every wall, candles burned in all corners, there was nary a section of the wall that was not covered. It was an interesting sight. As we left the cave, we discussed the difference in worship style with Eric and Sylvi. Sylvi stated, “Protestants have it the wor
st. No walls to kiss or scrolls to revere. No pope. It’s just you and God.”
I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Friends and Brothers

Here I am, flat on my back, helpless, defenseless, beaten. Intense pressure crushing down, intense heat closes in from all sides. Again.

It hadn’t started this way. This time was supposed to be different The heft of my armor had come to give me confidence, the pommel of my sword was worn and true, my shield was dented, but still strong and now it was all I had.

The fight erupted seemingly without warning, as always. I had seen the shadow approaching, extending along the ground as it silently slithered out from beneath my feet and poured into my path. Yet I’d ignored this obvious s
ign and brushed it off as a passing bird or a simple storm-cloud.

It wasn’t until the first blow hit me that I recognized what was going on. Upended by the sudden impact behind my left shoulder, I tumbled forward and tucked into a roll; it seemed an eternity passed before my feet were under me again. How could I have been so
unaware? How could I miss what I knew to look for?

I found my bearings and laid eyes on my attacker. The dragon slithered through the sky. His black body effortlessly glid
ed on scaly wings, his eyes of fire laughed at the ease with which he had once again surprised me. My eyes followed as he circled around and he placed himself between me and the sun.

I squinted and raised my sword to shield my eyes so as not to lose sight of my attacker. But, as he glided toward me, staying in the path of the sun, the corona of his evil eclipse baffled my mind as I saw an angel of light. Mesmerized and artfully distracted, it was only at the last second that I dodged his attack.

The closed claws of his front legs that had knocked me forward were now open and swiping towards my face. I countered and felt the claw tear along my shield as I spun with the blow, using the dragon’s force on the shield to swing my sword around and into the soft underside of his outstretched wing. The dragon screamed out a paralyzing roar of pain, fury and fire as his momentum brought him to the ground and my wound ensured he’d stay there.

He tucked his wings behind him and reared up to his full height, towering over me. Sensing what may be my only opportunity I sprang forward, overly aware of the dangerous flames spewing from his mouth. With my sword held like a javelin, I lunged towards his midsection, attempting one great blow to finish him. I felt the tip of my sword slide between two thick scales, ready to tear through the soft flesh beneath.

The slight smile was w
iped off my lips as the dragon crouched and turned. Returning to all fours, the dragon’s scales clamped down on my sword, ending my attack before it did any damage. As he turned, the sword was wrenched from my grip and his tail swept around from behind me and hit me in the back of the knees, sending me hard to the ground.

Now, here I am again, flat on my back. I cow
er behind my shield as the dragon’s front leg pushes me down and peals of fire curl around the edges of my shield. Everything I see is distorted and moving, the waves of heat rising like those from a parking lot on a scalding summer day. I smell my own hair being singed off and the leather that holds my armor together begins to burn. No matter how hard I push, the weight of the dragon is too much, my shield is too small, I am too weak. I close my eyes and await the inevitable.

Before the flames envelope me, something unexpected happens. I’ve been here before, I know the ending, but this time its different. This time. With my eyes still closed I feel my shield move imperceptibly. Just a slight change in the slow downward progression. I recognize that my right side is not quite so hot. I slowly pry open my eyes and see something beneath my shield. My arms are both there, crossed in front o
f me and shaking from exertion, but between them is another arm, reaching out from my right and holding up my shield.

I turn my head to the right and there you are, lying next to me, the edges of our shields just overlapping. You have scars, just like I do. You are bleeding, just like I am. And now the flames lick at your skin, just like they lick at mi
ne. You have fought the same dragon I have. But your arm is under MY shield. As we push together my shield stops moving downward and it hovers there, balanced from above and below for just a moment. As my shield stops, yours starts to drop. I take my arm and place it beneath your shield and push with strength that I didn’t have a moment ago.

There, on the ground the two of us together push. The flames are still as hot, the cuts still bleed, the pain does not subside. But there, under the dragon’s weight, amidst the flames and with the pain, for the first time we begin to stand. Together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


“How many times should I forgive my brother?”
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
“Forgive and ye shall be forgiven.”

I have forgiven others.
God has forgiven me.
Have I forgiven me?

- I have sacrificed my integrity, my morals, my purity for my own temporary pleasure again and again - pushing away the only thing that could truly satisfy.
- I have lied to myself: justifying, rationalizing, twisting the truth and my conscience to take the wider, easier path.
- I have hurt myself: my pride, my self-image, my soul by believing and acting in accordance with the very lies that I created.

- I am sorry for the beatings I have inflicted upon myself, for the punches I’ve thrown and the pain I’ve inflicted as a wretched vigilante.
- I am sorry for the times I subjugated myself to sin, for the times I pushed aside my own voice of truth because I wanted to feel comfortable hiding in the darkness.
- I am sorry for belittling myself, for pushing down the man I really was in order to vainly attempt to be someone else’s someone else.

It is ok. It is over. It is finished.
It has been long. It has been difficult. It has been hell.
We are still here. We are still whole. We are still standing.
We have withstood attacks from within and proved our mettle, our manhood and our might.

I forgive.
I forgive you.
I forgive me.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Broken Rearview

The wheel feels familiar beneath my hand, the worn leather over soft foam giving beneath my skin as the stitching pushes back against my grip. The gas pedal gives way beneath my foot, as the orange needles on the dashboard shakily climb higher.

In a sequence practiced hundreds, thousands of times one foot rises as the other lowers, one presses and the other releases. An orange needle drops and a tug on the gearshift causes the pinion to disengage with a dull click like a key being removed from a lock. For an instant things flow freely on their own, power disconnected from direction.

Pushed up and to the right, the gearshift finds the next ratio. The mechanism gives with only the slightest effort and grasps the intruding lever, holding it tight as the clutch reengages, the pedals switch places and power and direction are joined again, hurtling the vehicle forward and causing both needles to rise again.

Outside, things become more and more confused. On the right, telephone poles whiz past, their proximity is felt in the ears as much as it is heard. On the left, the lane divider seems to change from short white lines to blurred white dots to a single translucent white line. Trees, houses and oncoming traffic quickly come into a peripheral focus and even more quickly disappear, devoid of detail and strangely misshapen by speed.

Up and to the right a different view is found. A small window to a more stable world. The things behind are clear. Dotted lines remain dotted lines. Telephone poles are not blurs, cars have detail, houses have shape. The world looks right, normal, calm, comfortable.

Ahead, insanity reigns. Curves, turns, traffic, lights and rules jump out in front, demanding action, demanding effort and reflex and change and pain. The mirror shows peace. It shows where I’ve been, what I’ve come through, what I’ve learned, what I’ve loved. There is no madness, no grief, effort, turmoil.

The mirror shows an image of the best of what was. But it is only that, an image. And it is a twisted one at that. It is protected, shaded from the true harsh nature of what is there. I protect myself by dulling the edges and angling the details. The view through the mirror is nothing like the view was through the windshield.

No matter how pretty the picture, how comforting the view, my focus must be forward, on the road ahead, not the one behind. I cannot go back, I cannot retreat. And even if I could, what I found would be much different than what I remember. The good old days are not as good as I delight, but they are just as old. And no matter how much I may painfully long for the contrary, objects in the mirror are NOT closer than they appear.

Picture used without permission. I'll replace this with where I found it later.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Open Enrollment

God has a university. It’s a small school. Few enroll; even fewer graduate. Very, very few indeed.
God has this school because he does not have broken men and women. Instead he has several other types of people. He has people who claim to have God’s authority. . . and don’t - people who claim to be broken . . . and aren’t. And people who
do have God’s authority, but who are mad and unbroken. And he has, regretfully, a great mixture of everything in between. All of these he has in abundance, but broken men and women, hardly at all.

Gene Edwards – A Tale of Three Kings

Funny, I don't remember choosing classes or receiving a syllabus - but I've gotten to know my adviser pretty well and they keep asking for tuition money. I hope graduation is soon...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

So Close

The NBA (I know, you don’t care) has a new series of commercials out where they show a clip from a game and then show a quote relating to the clip. They don’t compare to “I love this game” but, they are better than some of the other NBA commercials that are out there. The latest commercial shows Luke Ridnour dribbling the ball (way too much) as the clock winds down. After faking and driving he hits a teardrop in the lane as the buzzer sounds and the backboard lights come on. He runs to the sideline and slaps hands with a fan as the screen fades to black and you read the following:

The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul - Proverbs 13:19
That’s great! Wow, the Bible on TV, in an NBA commercial, phenomenal! Then you read the whole quote and you wish they would have used the second half of the verse.

Look at me! Look at me!

Easter is coming. You know what that means - pastel colors, eggs, marshmallow peanuts, those little yellow and pink chicks, hundreds of rabbits being purchased as pets that will be let out into the grass to play that will get worms and eventually be released into the woods to make easy prey for real wild animals, and of course an onslaught of sensationalized Christian criticism. One of the first examples of this is rearing its head already, less than a week into Lent. You can find out the details here, but the main idea is:

In a new documentary, Producer [James] Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting [sic] claim that Jesus wasn't resurrected --the cornerstone of Christian faith-- and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.
No, it's not a re-make of "The Da Vinci Codes'. It's supposed to be true.

Now wait a second, why does this James Cameron fellow sound so familiar? What has he done before? Wait a second, didn’t he make another movie? Yeah. That one that did really well at the box office, the love story - what was it? With the ship... Poseidon? No. Queen Mary? No. Oh yeah, he made Titanic and after that he... After that he... help me out here. What exactly has James Cameron been up to? Well it seems he worked on a failed TV show and made a few documentaries. Nothing you’ve heard of. It must be hard to fall from such a height. I bet it would make you want to do anything to get back into the spotlight. You might even consider doing something controversial and presenting it during a sensitive time of year.

As for the content of documentary, two quotes from the comments on the linked site:
“A cartload of dung is still a cartload of dung even if it is being peddled by PhD's and Oscar-winners.” - Siobahn O’Halloran
"I refuse to take direction on God and happiness, from people who have neither." - GK Chesterton
And one link to the blog of a certain professor who writes about such things.

Music that Moves You (Part 2)

Music has power. You’ve felt it. Each of us have been in the car when a song comes on the radio that just clicks. Everything changes - your mood, your attitude, your thoughts... Why? It’s that song on the radio. You find yourself temporarily taken to another place, transferred to someplace in the past or someplace in fantasy. Images, faces, places, feelings, thoughts, flash in your mind - all triggered by a few chords on a guitar.

Music has power. Maybe more than any other art form that man has dabbled with (unless you consider chemistry an art form). It has the power over people to make them feel, to make them live, to make them believe. Music soothes the savage beast. Music calms the man with an evil spirit sent by God. Music breaks chains and crumbles stone.

God uses music. 1 Samuel 10:5 “you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying.” This sure sounds like music being very closely tied to prophesy. Twice in the last two weeks I’ve found myself in the middle of an in-depth conversation with music playing in the background. Multiple times in each case a pause in the conversation revealed to our unsuspecting ears that the words in the music playing spoke directly to the topic of our conversation. Is this just a small, paltry coincidence? Maybe. But it happened. More than once - at the very least one would have to call it eerie.

Do we respect the power of music? Do we use it to its fullest potential?

A while ago I went to a church who’s pastoral team (of 10+) is led by a certain author who at one time wrote about kissing a certain something goodbye. Admittedly this was a special-event Sunday and I was later told that this was not the normal order of service, but the Sunday I was there they sang a whopping 2 songs. One of the songs I did not know (along with what sounded like a large portion of the congregation) and the other I did. After singing through the first song there was a small devotional/prayer time (which deserves its own post) and then another song - the one I knew. Or thought I knew. We sang through all of the verses of the song, but the worship leader was not finished. After the uh.. formal verses the worship leader added another verse that I can only believe he made up on the spot. Why such an assumption? 1) I’ve never heard it before and neither had anyone else. 2) It didn’t rhyme. 3) It didn’t fit the theme of the rest of the song.) 4) It didn’t make theological sense. But don’t worry - we sang it enough times so that everyone had time to learn the words - and then we kept singing it and singing it. Now, maybe it’s a character flaw of mine, but I just couldn’t seem to really worship singing words that didn’t make sense.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the worship song “Beautiful Scandalous Night.” Up until that moment, the word scandalous had nothing to do with the crucifixion in my mind, but it has ever since. The melody and the words stimulated both my heart and my mind. When I hear that song, I worship - in church, in my car, mowing the lawn. Other songs, both hymns and choruses, don’t achieve that same effect. Have you read all of the verses to some songs? Ugh. But, what is one of the easiest things to remember? The words to a song. Think of your favorite song - I bet you know every word (if it has words...)

We can and should use the power of music. Before I play basketball I might listen to RATM. When my boss decides to like the temp more than me I might sit in my maroon 1986 Trans Am and listen to “Everybody Hurts” while everyone in the Office is stuck outside because of a fire. Before I go to sleep I might listen to something unplugged.

Which song will make a person’s heart ready to hear God’s word on a given Sunday?
Which words do you want the congregation singing to themselves when they leave?
What a tremendous responsibility worship ministers/directors/leaders have.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Extra! Extra!

An angry black-clad outdoor poet emotes:

Conflict boils over like an angry sludge
Politicians lie to us like they’ve got a grudge
We’re in a decaying spiral of fevered ferocity
A horn honks, cut to a new white Rabbit driving by:
"3 V-Dubs for under $17,000! Woo-Hoo!!"
Back to our lovable poet:
Hope... Springs...
Have you seen these commercials? Given my life-long love affair with VW, I usually pay attention to their commercials and fortunately they usually have some pretty good ones. "Drivers Wanted" and "Fahrvergnügen" are definite classics, "Un-Pimp my Ride" was hilarious, the "accident" Jetta commercials were jarring. (Zing!) But, these latest "3 V-Dubs for 17" commercials are among my favorites. In addition to the spot described above, we find a man climbing to the edge of a rooftop ready to commit suicide and a Streetcorner Doomsayer with an all-too-cliche "The End is Near" sign. Like our poet friend, both of these fellas hear the excited cry of a newly found "Driver" and suddenly find a new perspective - a realization that the end might not be something to advertise or to leap towards. (Groan - again with the terrible puns.) These commercials work for me - I just sold a VW, but I still remember buying it and driving it home - I remember how excited I was, how good it felt, how proud I was of my new car. I can relate to the guys driving and yelling. They have good news and they can't help but share it.

Yeah, you saw that too, didn't you?
I've got some Good News too. (And I'm not talking about the Canyonero.)

When was the last time you drove down the road shouting, "Jesus loves you enough to die for you!" at the top of your lungs out of a car window? Okay, maybe that approach does work better for selling cars. But, are you excited to tell others the gospel? Do you look for opportunities to give people a reason to hope in He from which all Hope Springs?
I don't do it as much as I should. It's way too easy for me to hide behind my pulpit and claim that I'm doing my part to carry out the great commission. It's safe, it's easy, it's cowardly.

Where's our excitement? Where's our joy? Let's get out there and change lives with news that trumps even 'swagen discounts. Drivers..? eh. How about:
"Witnesses Wanted"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dwight's Little Light

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

For those of you who don't care about such things, the NBA All-Star game is being held in Sin City, Las Vegas, this year. As if the NBA didn't have a bad enough reputation already =fights, public divorces, players demanding trades, illegitimate children. No wonder I'm one of the only NBA fans left. Putting these young multi-millionaires in a place where literally every vice is for sale can't lead to anything good. Or so one would think.

In order for the NBA to make their All-Star Game into more of an event (and make more money), the festivities begin on Friday night when the rookies play the sophomores and continues on Saturday night for the 3-Point Shootout and Slam-Dunk Contest (as well as some other games that no one cares about). This is basically just a time for tremendous athletes to show off and for others to see and be seen. It is about having good seats and having a lot of bling.

So, when you see something other than that, its something to pay attention to. In the dunk contest, one of the contestants, Dwight Howard, performed a dunk that was (in my opinion) not highly regarded enough by the judges. Howard jumped on the left side of the basket, reached as high as he could with his left hand, touched the backboard and dunked the ball with his right hand. When the dunk was over, he had left his mark - in the form of a sticker - very near the top of the backboard. His teammate brought out a tape measure and they measured 12' 6" to the sticker. Granted the guy is 7' tall. But do you realize how high 12' 6" is? Stand directly underneath a basketball hoop and look at the top of the backboard - staggering.

Big deal, a basketball player and a sticker. The guy didn't even make it to the next round, nevertheless win the contest. Who cares? Well the proof is in the pudding, or the stuff is in the sticker. Dwight wrote something on it. He wasn't flashy about it, he didn't shove it in anyone's face. But there, in the middle of Sin City, surrounded by moral corruption, Dwight made his own little statement. He didn't hide his light in a bushel, he didn't put it in a bowl or write it on a sneaker or wear it on his wrist - he put it right out there - 12' 6" high in the center of attention. On the sticker Dwight wrote "All Things through Christ! Phil 4:13."

Does whatever happens in Vegas have to stay in Vegas?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Broken for Good

Growing up a Christian in a Christian environment (for the most part), I have always had mixed emotions when I heard the testimony of someone who has come from a very different direction than I have. Sure, Paul went from persecuting Christians to being one - but I couldn’t relate to that. Or the drug addict who left a life of partying behind when they heard the gospel - that is amazing! But again, I can’t really relate. I see these people, I talk to them, I preach to them - but, I’ve had trouble feeling like I was one of them. What did I repent of when I was baptized - picking on my little sisters? I’ve done things much worse since then. I’ve even thought about how much easier it would be if I wouldn’t have become a Christian until later - that everything would be easier of I would have waited. Those medieval theologians who wanted to be baptized on their deathbed may have been on to something...

I had a conversation this week with a woman from my church who told me that she wanted to be baptized again, after becoming a Christian 2 years ago. She remembers the feeling she had when she was baptized, the excitement, the hope and there were things in her life that hadn’t faded, hadn’t been taken care of and if she was baptized again she knew that this one thing that she struggled with, this one thing that pulled her down, this one thing would be washed away...

The truth remains that no matter how long someone has been a Christian, they still have to deal with sin. God doesn’t just swoop in and fix all of the problems. Sanctification is a process, not a point in time. How does this happen, how does God work in the lives of those striving to follow him?

So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled (marred, flawed) in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. - Jeremiah 18:3-4

God asked Abraham to give up the thing most valuable to him. Jacob fled the country because his own brother wanted to kill him. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and once he was back on his feet he was thrown in jail. Job. David’s sins led to him losing a child and huge family uprisings. Peter denied Jesus. Each one of these people were crushed back into a lump of clay and then re-formed into something better than what they originally were. We can be tricked into thinking that when we say, “you are the potter and I am the clay,” we are telling God that he has our permission to make subtle changes in our lives - to make the base of the jar a little wider, or the neck of the vase a little taller. However, these words have much more power than that.

The Pennsylvania Christian Teen Convention is held every year towards the end of February. I remember sitting in a chair in the Harrisburg Hilton and praying these words. The speaker had told us that if we really wanted God in our lives, if we wanted Him to use us in amazing ways, if we wanted to grow in Him, we should pray for Him to break us and form us into something new. Ten years ago I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Are you brave enough?

Monday, February 12, 2007


Don't you just love the feeling of finally learning something that you have wanted to know for so long? It's like getting a gift on a random day for no reason at all (as opposed to Christmas or your birthday). It's like finding a buried treasure when you aren't even looking. That's how I feel right now, at this very moment. Why? The answer is here. Read the whole thing if you want, but here is the relevant portion:

In the largest study to date on the health effects of napping, researchers tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years. Those who napped at least three times weekly for about half an hour had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap.

All of those afternoons, sitting in my cubicle, head propped up on one hand, pretending to read specs were really to benefit my health. And here we were, thinking the Greeks had ceased to be world leaders back when the Romans took over. Shows what we know!

If you need me, you know where I'll be.
Don't knock too loud...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Music that Moves You (Part 1)

I remember sitting on the bus and MF passing me his headphones. I slipped them on and for the first time ever I heard Eddie Vedder sing an entire song without opening his mouth (it was “Leash” from Vs. so it wasn’t quite his usual mumbling). I bought a CD player the next week and Vitalogy along with it.

I don’t know much about music, I don’t know how to read sheet music, I don’t know melody or pitch, I don’t have much rhythm and I’m not such a great singer. But, I do know what I like and I do know how powerful music is. We’ll get to that in part 2, but for part 1 how about some fun music memories…

Singing Audio Adrenaline at the top of my lungs while on the riding lawn mower, Nirvana Unplugged every morning on the way to high school, speeding to Ghoti Hook’s “Spice Drops” then hearing them live in a church basement, Weezer’s Blue Album – all of it – over and over and over, roller-skating to “The Final Countdown” by Europe (I had to look it up) at Roll Away, the steroid football player singing Danzig’s “Mother”, Smashing Pumpkins “Disarm” and Meatloaf “I’d Do Anything For Love” at the school talent show, a bus of students cleaning up trash and a spontaneous sing-along to “Betterman”, mom reading the lyrics to “Satan’s Bed” and not responding so well, the morning my car broke down and I listened to “Wicked Garden” by STP on the way to basketball camp in Dad’s truck, hearing Plankeye for the first time at Creation, Skalleluia, Tekken and 311, Simon & Garfunkel and They Might be Giants in the Swinging Bridge office, dancing to "Come on Eileen", singing “Dust on the Bottle” with my secretary, seeing Pearl Jam at the chocolate factory with the guys, “Meant to Live” and the Antioch youth group, the whole congregation of SVCC circling the sanctuary and singing “Family of God”…

Okay, there are comments for a reason. Everybody has the songs that give them chills when they hear them on the radio, that take them to another place, that bring smiles and tears. For the handful of you out there, please participate. I want your favorite Album, Artist and Song (or a short list for each) and if you are feeling particularly into sharing, some small musical memory. I know it’s not easy, but if it was easy it wouldn’t be fun. To start things off I’ll give you mine:

Artist: Pearl Jam
Album: Blue Album, Weezer
Song: Lost the Plot, Newsboys

2nd Place:
Artist: U2
Album: Ten, Pearl Jam
Song: Far, Far Away, FIF
( I also have to mention: All I Want is You, U2; RVM, Pearl Jam; Bro Hymn, Pennywise; Seasons, Ghoti Hook)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

All is fair in love and war. This applies in all types of war – between nations, between people. It applies in a war of words, doubly in a war of the heart and most deviously in spiritual war.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Who are the combatants in this fight? Who are the pieces in this chess battle? Unfortunately they are you and they are I. All of us? All of us. (I told you it was inconvenient.)

But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

Woah! This is Peter he’s talking to here. Peter the pebble, Peter who was blessed with answers from on high, Peter who had the keys to the kingdom, Peter who would speak at Pentecost. And he flat out calls him Satan! He could have used a lesser insult – whitewashed tomb? Brood of vipers? Hypocrite? Son of hell? He used all of these before, but not with Peter – Jesus goes right to the head of the pack and calls him The Accuser himself.

But why? Peter had just been named a white bishop (or rook if it makes the religious politics easier) and now he’s the black queen? All is fair in love and war. Satan uses whatever he can in this war, and he’s good at it. He uses people and they don’t even know it. He’s used me. He’s used you. (I told you it was inconvenient.)

Why did Satan use Peter? He had the best access; he was closest. Who better to attack us with than those who are (were) closest to us? (I told you it was inconvenient.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Near to the Heart of God

In lieu of killing the Lord’s anointed, David trekked all through the desert, acting contrary to his nature - as the prey instead of the shepherd. Before frustration bubbled over, he found respite in a desert wadi named En Gedi.

Crowds pressed in on him daily, people called to him, begged for him, needed him and when Jesus needed to reconnect with his mission on earth, he retreated - off by himself, away from everything.

Is this OT and NT Biblical precedent for vacation? Not really. It’s a gentle snowfall inspired homage to finding peace. My neighbor’s house was broken into yesterday. A friend of mine had her work plagiarized by a professional peer. Marriages fall apart, friends pass away, God knows that this life isn’t easy. He never tells us that it will be. Actually, Jesus’ words speak more to the contrary. But he never tells us that we shouldn’t have peace. He gives us places and people to help us find that peace for our bodies and minds so we can find true peace in our souls. Boxers fight for three minutes, then head to their corners with their trainers to find a moment of peace in the middle of the fight - to steady themselves and get ready for the next round.

Thank you for the places of peace in my fight. Thank you to the people in my corner. Thank you for putting allowing me to be in your corner. Thank you to the Prince of Peace who gives sweet rest to my soul.

Monday, February 05, 2007

My Own Personal Bible Story

In Acts chapter 19, Luke recorded a story specifically for me. I don’t remember asking him to; then again if it was up to me I probably wouldn’t want it there. Yet there it is.

The story is about people dabbling with things they don’t really understand. There were a number of Jewish exorcists who had found a new weapon in their efforts to cast demons out of those who desperately needed their help. They had heard stories of a man named Paul who was much more than a successful exorcist. While their efforts included a great amount of work and had only so-so results, Paul cast out demons easily and seemingly as a simple means to an end. It was not his main business, just a side effort. Yet, he did it with such ease. He simply spoke a few words and demons fled.

One group of these exorcists, a group of seven brothers, the sons of a high priest named Sceva, decided to employ Paul’s methods. They approached the demon-possessed and cast out demons by invoking, “the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” They saw great success in this method and traveled the land with their newfound powers.

Eventually the brothers encountered a demon that they weren’t ready for. After speaking their “magic words,” contrary to what they had seen before, the demon spoke to them. “Jesus I know, and Paul I have heard of, but who are you?” Uh oh. The brothers were somewhat taken aback, this was the first time they had seen any resistance since they had begun using their new spell. They looked curiously between one another and back to the demon-possessed man. Before they could even consider what to do next, the man, filled with demon-inspired rage and strength, jumped into action, attacking the brothers. The single man pummeled the brothers, leaving them bruised, battered, bleeding. They fled the house, bereft of dignity and most of their clothes.

What had gone wrong? Why had they failed? Up until this point they had been successful. Up until this point they had been okay on their own. They had encountered small problems, weak demons, which they could handle on their own. As they handled these problems on their own, they became more and more confident – in themselves.

They failed to realize that the power of Paul in casting out demons wasn’t in the words that he spoke or the names that he dropped. It was in the man Jesus, not just the name. Paul knew Jesus, he relied on Jesus. Sceva’s sons didn’t know Jesus, they didn’t rely on him; they relied on their own devices and when they faced a problem that required more than what they had to give, they found themselves outmatched.

So, why is this my story? Like the brothers Sceva, I have tendency to overestimate my own abilities, to rely on my talents and gifts to solve a problem or remedy a situation. And, like the Scevas, those problems have been known to fight back. So, God gave me this story to remind me where my strength comes from. When problems mount up and ask me, “but who are you?” I answer that I am a child of God. The talents and gifts I have are from Him. Any success I have is from Him. When facing any problem, large or small, the only way to successfully handle it is to turn it over to Him, in word and in deed.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Turn, Turn, Turn

The world has turned and left me here
Just where I was, before you appeared

What of the interaction between a man and his world? We are surrounded by things out of our control. The car we drive is under our control, but just barely. We depend on four small patches of rubber which depend on a certain coefficient of friction. We depend on three (2?) small pedals which rely on levers, cables, pistons and cylinders (or wires and electricity). We depend on a wheel which depends on gears and fluid and racks and pinions which depend again on those patches of rubber. Change that coefficient of friction, remove some of that fluid, break one of those cables and suddenly control is gone. Suddenly the car is controlling you. Suddenly the world turns and drops you off in a place that is completely new, a place you don’t know and don’t understand.

You remain, turned away
Turning further every day

So many people stay there. In the new place, wallowing in what has happened, absorbing the pity of what they couldn’t control. Instead of looking at where they are, taking stock of their new situation, they continually look back at where they were. They constantly look back, remembering when they thought they were in control, when things made sense, when it was easy, when the problems were buried, when the car wasn’t spinning. This new position, this turn, is seen as evil, as a hazard, as an inconvenience.

Do You Believe?

What if the world turns for a reason? What if it turns not in spite of you, or even because of you, but for you? It turns in just the right way, to just the right degree, that you are left specifically in the only place that could produce the necessary result. But in order to recognize the value of this turn, painful as it may be, we must realize that the world turned for us and cease lamenting. We must find out why it turned and recognize who really did the turning.

The World Has Turned - words and music by =w=

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

*Where are all the good men dead; in the heart or in the head?

...don’t know or don’t care.
A solid argument can be made for death in Everyman’s head. In some ways we are spoiled. Anything I want to know I can google - why remember anything? There are thousands of opinions out there, why create and (gasp) defend my own position? Why read, think or debate when I can watch pillow fights on my local news? I know there was a time when the internet didn’t exist (I’m old) and I imagine there was a time when people had to find other things to do besides watch the “boob tube” (not that old). Was there some magical age, before the internet, before TV when people delighted in reading and thinking and debating and writing? A more likely explanation is that there was a time before the internet and TV when people found other distractions to spend their time on that involved as little reading and thinking as possible.

On the other side of this coin, is modern Everyman dead in the heart? Hmm. What does it mean to be dead in the heart? Certainly this is a different condition than having a broken heart, as the implication that a heart is broken leads one to believe that the heart is alive enough to be hurt. It seems likely that a broken heart can lead to a dead heart (I’ll suggest that a broken heart can also resurrect a dead heart, but that discussion is for another time). But the reality is that it is something much more dastardly that leads to a dead heart, something much more sinister.

It’s not an easy thing to kill a heart. It doesn’t happen in an instant or a single moment, it takes days, months, years. You can’t take it out in one shot, it takes many blows, one on top of the other, pounding and pounding and pounding. But even then its not the heart that is heart by these blows, its deeper than that. These blows don’t kill the heart, they weaken the spirit, This is where the real trouble begins. See, the heart can’t be killed from without, only from within. A heart dies when someone decides that they’d rather feel nothing at all than feel that pain anymore. So, the spirit and the deceitful mind get together and beg the heart to give up, to throw in the towel. They come to the soul and argue that they don’t need the heart anymore, they can get by on the shadow of pleasure given by the flesh and the mind. So the heart, hurt and dejected, dutifully slinks into the background, lessening the pain, but taking joy and love with it as well. Eventually the spirit and the mind convince the mind that this is how things should be; calm, peaceful, familiar, and even keeled, running like clockwork - like a machine. Seeing them content, the heart is left in the shadows, to collect dust and rust solid, dead.

A steady onslaught of blows, reigning down in the form of greed, pain, sorrow, mocking, rejection, lust, anger, sloth, idolatry and gluttony. What kills a heart? Sin. From outside and from within. Sin studies it, stalks it, seduces it, surrounds it, and suffocates it. Calm, cool and calculated, it works in such a way that the man doesn’t even know what’s coming, he may even welcome it.

But one day, one day the man realizes that he’s become hollow - he has a solid, protective (tin) exterior but nothing inside.

There are plenty of good men out there in this position, not realizing how they became hollow, not knowing where they lost their chests.** Most horrific of all is that so many don’t know that there is a (THE) way back, that their hearts aren’t dead, just sleeping. The head isn’t dead because of TV or the internet, its dead because of motivation. The mind is reinvigorated when passion is re-ignited. The mind needs the heart like the heart craves relationship with its maker.

*Shakespeare by way of Grosse Pointe Blank.
** "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful." -C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Flashback: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Summer 2006

Almost as a matter of chance we found ourselves at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We went inside, saw the place of the Crucifixion and reached in and touched the rock in which the cross was placed. When we made it over to the tomb, we discovered that this was one place where the “No Shorts” rule was enforced. So, we decided to go to dinner and come back later. We figured there would be less people around then anyway. When we came back, we found the door to the church’s courtyard was closed and locked. A monk who was waiting at the door told us it would be opening in 5 minutes. We waited with two other people to be let inside. Once inside we rather quickly made our way over to the shrine covering the tomb and sat down to wait for the priests to do their required things before we got in line.

As we sat there, watching the priests go in and out, a Ukrainian Orthodox monk stopped to say hello in the few english words he knew. After finding out that he disliked our current administration’s policies in the middle east through a series of hand gestures, he began to ask about my religious background. “Orthodoxa?” No. “Catholique?” No. “Armeeenian?” No, Protestant. “Ah, Proteestant - vich? ” None, Neutral. “Neutraday?” Yes. “Oh.” Then he looked straight at me andpointed to his eyes, then he pointed to his ears and finally pointed up. He seemed to want to tell me to begin to look to and listen to God. (Apparently he thought that “Neutral” meant that I didn’t have a religious background.) I smiled and nodded my head, wishing I was better at charades. I wanted to tell him that I do see and hear God, and that I love Him and follow him as well. Instead I settled for smiling, nodding and receiving an old Ukrainian hand tussling my hair.

In the several minutes that we chatted with the Ukrainian, the line at the tomb became rather unruly. We explored the basement of the church to pass some time. After seeing the shrines and relics, we returned to the tomb to find the line even longer than it had been. We decided we should get in line now before things got worse. We got behind a couple of nuns which soon became several. Then some of their priests joined them and a few congregants. Not wanting to be a problem in this holy place, we held our tongues. The line behind us continued to get longer as well. Those in charge of keeping people out of the tomb lost a little control when the nuns continued to flock forward in large groups. As we got closer to the two small steps up to the tomb entrance we noticed that we had been positioning ourselves to block those behind us from moving in front of us. Here we were, at the very place where Jesus made himself last, trying to secure our place in line. We were annoyed with the nuns for slowing down the line and frustrated that any priest could walk in without waiting. As our turn finally arrived, we walked beneath the hanging lights and incense and ducked into the tiny two-room structure. Inside was a lone priest still praying. The monk outside said something to him (presumably asking him to leave), to which the kneeling priest virtually shouted back in response. He continued his prayers at a much higher volume and remained for the duration of the time we were there. I knelt beside him and said a short prayer as I looked around the tiny room. As I got up to leave, a man and his son were squeezing into the inner room with us, creating quite the pressing situation in getting out.

The experience was interesting, but not as spiritual as I would have hoped. The short, cynical prayer, “Lord, please save us from your followers” could not be ignored. We wondered what Jesus would do if confronted with what his tomb has become. Our own tired, cynical answer was, “Well, for starters he would have gone to the back of the line.”

Friday, January 19, 2007

Peter swam across the water and found it on the beach

Everything that had gone on the last few days had taken me to the lowest place I'd ever been . My heart was shattered and my spirit was crushed. Sure I'd had disappointments before in my life, but this was something else entirely. This was a continuous state of torture, a constant gnawing at the pit of my soul. I needed something that I could relate to something familiar, so I rounded up my brother Andrew and our friends James and John to head back out on the Sea of Galilee, back to the life that was all I knew for so many years. But in those few short years that I spent away from fishing, so much had happened. My life had changed and now that was all gone, nailed to a tree and buried forever. And here I was, left on the outside. The last time I'd spoken to him he had corrected me (yet again) and the last time I'd looked him in the eye... he looked at me with love and sadness - not because of what he was experiencing or because he was disappointed in me - but because he understood the anguish I was experiencing. He had every right to be angry or to be ashamed, I had just denied that I even knew this man who had done so very much for me, but there was none of that - just love. But from there they took him and as I ran away, he stood firm as they beat him, mocked him, humiliated him and killed him. He was gone and all the words I wanted to say, needed to say, were locked inside my heart. I would never get the chance to see him again, to tell him I was sorry to feebly try to make things right. So, here I am, back in my old life, out on the water early this morning trying once again to eke out a living . Well, it seems I'm not the only one who's head is in a different place. John isn't even paying attention to what we're doing - he's just staring at the shoreline, wishing for some hope. These nets seem way too heavy today. Why won't John pay attention, we could use the help over here. What's he looking at anyway, its just the shore, you can't see anything from way out here. "Try the other side," the distant voice echoes from the shore. As though in a trance we all drug up the empty net and dropped it joylessly on the other side of the boat. How could we hear that voice from the shore anyway? That's way too far. Wait, this net is heavy - too heavy!
Did John see something on the shore?
Why can't we pull in this net?
James, pull your share!
Can John really see something on the shore?
I think its a person.
The hairs at the base of the back of my neck stand up and then those above follow, sending a shiver up and down my spine like dominoes falling in reverse. Before I know it, I'm standing along with the hairs on my arms.
Is it?
Oh my...
It can't be!
It is!
Oh, My God!
Suddenly the shore doesn't seem so far. I can only see one thing, it consumes my vision and nothing will keep me away. I'm coming, Lord. I'm coming, friend. I'm coming...


I used to think that being strong meant never falling down. It meant not needing anything from anyone. It meant doing it on your own. I thought I was strong. I can benchpress more than my body weight. I can rewire a house, fix my car or design nuclear subamrines all by my darn self. Does that make me strong? Nope. If anything, its all of those things (more specifically my knowledge of those things) that keep me from being as strong as I can (should) be. This isn't a new concept, how many cliches try to tell us the same thing? Strength in numbers, two heads, a cord of three strands, and on and on. Yet who are our hearoes? A lone man in a cape or a mask or boxing gloves. Yet more often than not there they are - alone.
A crock, a sham - a cruel, cruel joke.
I know that I'm strong. I don't want to chase after the world's idea of what strength is. I'm tired of that. The strongest people still fall and they have others there to help them up. They don't hide their fall, they reach up from where they are. I want to reach for real strength and find that I can never hold it, just let it hold me.

Wasted Life

I have faced it...
A life wasted...
I'm never going back again

I think its every little boy’s dream to live a life that means something, a life that is more than just a statistic - a life that impacts other lives. I know that dream has always been mine. Is it possible that we have this dream because our purpose, the very reason for our creation, screams out from somewhere deep inside of us before we can even realize what that purpose is? Maybe we can’t even really know what that is - until after we have tasted what it cannot be. I’ve been there, I’ve tasted a wasted life that spit in the face of purpose and the whole time the screams got louder and louder. I faced it...

I escaped it...
A Life wasted...
I'm never going back again

Countless times I swiped by badge to let myself into my own three-walled prison cell, separated from the outside world but by ethernet and telephone, lifelines to a world that doesn’t include timecards or spreadsheets. Timecards - a written record of the hours spent wasting my life, my energy, my God-given gifts. Spreadsheets - countless cells filled with data that seems vitally important inside that world, but means nothing. Is this what life is about? Is it worth spending so much time (and realizing it will never be enough)? Is it worth what must be given up? Is it real? Does it make a difference? Is it a waste? Guidance counselors don’t think so. Professors don’t think so. Society doesn’t think so. My boss didn’t think so. I knew. I escaped it...

You’re always saying you’re too weak to be strong...
You’re harder on yourself than just about anyone...
Why swim the channel just to get this far...
Halfway there why would you turn around?
Darkness comes in waves... tell me,
why invite it to stay?

It was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be fun. It is still work. It is still life. It's still hard. But not a waste. Not empty. Not hollow. Not pointless. Not alone. Not anymore.
 It's a hug and a handshake. It's a hospital room. It's a hammer. It's humanity. It's humane. It's honor. It's humbling. It's hope. It's love. It's truth. It's infinite.
All the paychecks in the world can’t buy the feeling of knowing that your life has meaning - of seeing it on people’s faces and in their eyes - of hearing it in their words and their voices - of feeling it in their embrace and in their hearts. Meaning is more than this world. Its more than right now. Meaning isn’t a waste. Meaning is giving something, the only thing, to those who have nothing - while expecting nothing in return and yet gaining everything.
I’m never going back again

Life Wasted - Words by Eddie, Music by Stone