Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Living Like Matt!

There is something magical, and a bit of the Kingdom in this video. God has made for us an amazing and varied earth to live on. Matt has seen a lot of this planet recently, and I love his approach.


Could this be part of the Abundant Life of which Jesus spoke?

Watching this makes me think that maybe God is calling us to dance more.....

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Forrest Gump's Mama was right when she told him, "Stupid is as stupid does, Forrest". Forrest listened to his Mama. The photo to the left illustrates that I can be perty stupid at times - note the Nascar baseball hat.

This past week, the Presbyterian Church USA did something pretty schizophrenic, and well, stupid. As I am not a theologian, I direct you here, to the most well thought out, fair, and measured response to the looniness of a declining denomination. For me, its not so much about being Presbyterian, but about honoring Christ and his church. I am not so sure this sort of nonsense does either of those things.

Hmmm, maybe things like this are why Presbyterians are loosing ground faster than Dale Earnhardt in a golf cart with low batteries.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Week in Review

Help! There is too much going on. It seems like there are few moments to rest, to reflect, to pause, let alone blog. And so, here is a brief rundown of the "Steve Week in Review".

The photo to the left was taken about two weeks ago in our neighborhood, and this image reminds me, yet again, of how the Scriptures tell us that all Creation displays the majesty of God. If we will only open our eyes to see!

Tuesday was my birthday. I am 48 years old. I have many thoughts about this, which I shall share soon. I took the day off. My girls, out of the kindness of their hearts, took time out of their busy summer social and sports schedules, and spent time with Dad at Manhattan Beach. I remain in awe of the blessing of my family. Thank you God, and girls (all) for loving me.

Eight days ago was Father's Day. I decided it was time to take my Dad to visit our family home, after about six months of delayed repairs and painting. It was a bittersweet time, seeing Dad in our family home; a place he had spent so much time in, and now could no longer call home due to his declining health and mental acuity. Dad was very thankful to visit, and was pleased with the work we have done.

More reflections on middle age, time and attention, and what really matters, coming soon. I am sure that all six of you readers are so psyched!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Verbal Strategery

In our home, we have the unmitigated joy, and sometime near complete craziness of living with two daughters, one age 12 and the other 15. Could one want anymore from life? I think not.

As our oldest daughter Kelly matures, it seems her brain is sometimes caught in an interesting place; the limbo between childhood and becoming an adult. It is a strange and wonderful time indeed, full of a swirl of strange emotions and feelings, new discoveries, and internal conflicts. Going along with this is the great need to, as psychologists have termed it "individuate", or become their own person. It is not easy to be a teen today, on so many different levels. For more on adolescent brain development, read
this great book.

One of the most hysterical parts of this season of life is the verbal confusion that occurs in the teenage brain. Case in point, from the Kelly Norris and Friends dictionary of...

Those Darned Substitute and Confusing Words

"Confession Stand" is confused with Concession Stand - is this a place where you can confess your sins, and THEN order two hot dogs, a pretzel and a Diet Coke. I am thinking about a joint venture between the Dodgers and Roger Mahoney.
"Tabolism" is confused with Metabolism - as in "I am sorry, but my tabolism is too slow to eat that hot dog and still feel hungry in an hour, Cardinal".

"Organtic" is confused with Organic. "Darryl Hannah is in favor of tree sitting until the organtic farmers get the land they do not own. Joan Baez is handing out organtic treats to the protesters.
"Camel Flage" is confused with Camouflage. This may actually work currently in some Middle Eastern settings; "The Al Qaeda terrorists were caught by US intelligence officers (near the oasis) who were disguised as camels, in, of course, Camel Flage.

T.P. - as in Toilet Paper. Kelly and her friends had never heard that T.P. actually stands for toilet paper. " THAT that T.P. stands for?!" Shocking.

and my personal favorite....

"Extortion" - confused with the spiritual gift of exhortation. Kelly recently told us that one of her self-perceived spiritual gifts was extortion. With this knowledge, I am planning to quit my day job, and live in hiding in Costa Rica, collecting income via clandestine wire transfer from the spiritual gift of my oldest daughter. Please do not inform the authorities, thank you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Facing Nearly Impossible Pain

Life is seemingly unfair at times.

Such a time occurred several weeks ago, when a good, kind, young man died of cancer, leaving behind a sweet wife and baby.

Would you want to become a part of this journey?

I have found Tricia's writing at this blog completely honest and real. She is an acquaintance from a prior job she had at my church.

As you read, pray. Pray for Tricia. Pray.

Go Fuller Grads!

Saturday was the Commencement ceremony for the 2006 class of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. I have a growing affection for all things Fuller, based both on the dozens of great folks I know who are Fuller grads, along with my recent connection with the Fuller School of Intercultural Studies. Most importantly, our connection comes through the life of our dear family friend, Jill Williams, who has just earned her Masters of Divinity.

I have attended lots of commencements; high school, college, and grade school. None of these experiences will prepare one for a Fuller graduation. It is, in many ways, like watching a graduation of a part of the Kingdom of God. All shapes, sizes, and colors of God's Creation, Leaders for Christ, going forth from around the world, to around the world.

It takes almost 5 minutes to read through the list of countries represented by graduates.

Yesterday was the largest graduating class in Fuller's history, with over 500 graduates, and 4,000 in attendance. Amazing, wonderful! Dr. Richard Mouw, the President of Fuller, spoke to the graduates, and encouraged them to continue to testify to the simple message of Jesus. Dr. Mouw reminded the graduates that throughout the biblical story, the people of god have been discerning the voice and acts of god. He reminded graduates to point to God as the source of hope, meaning, and the real reason for any accomplishment in their lives, with the admonition that they should always tell others that "It's Him again" throughout their ministry careers.

We also had the priviledge of listening to the ministry plans of Fuller grads, in brief; a couple who plan to work in to work in cross cultural ministries among a variety of cultures, including Hispanics and Koreans, another couple who will be working with trouble youth, and returning veterans facing post traumatic stress disorders, and north African missionaries who plan on working specifically in ministry in North Africa. These graduates. All of these remarkable, wonderful lives. Oh! The places they will go!

This experience reminded me of this - from the end of Matthew 28:

"Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

This Amazing Place...Church Thoughts

Several times over the past year or so, I have relayed to you the struggle of my church. I use the possessive pronoun here, as it feels like home, so I call it "mine". But really, this church, like all Christian churches around the world, belongs to Christ. All these churches form, mysteriously, the Body of Christ.

This past Sunday, I had the privledge of attending a worship service that is held once a year. Its a celebration of music in which all four (yes, I know, a topic for another time) of our worship services combine to celebrate together. It is one of my favorite Sundays of the year.

Two themes kept running through my mind this past Sunday. First was the rich tapestry of music of all forms that we enjoy at our church. Second, and really more importantly, was the extravagant, beautiful, amazing tapestry of people that God has placed in our midst. It is my prayer that every church could become more of a reflection of the rich Creation that God offers to us. If you will indulge me.

In this hour in church, I sat amongst so many amazing people, and thought of so many wonderful, transformational stories of God's faithfulness, lived out there right in front of me.

There is the grandmother of 16 grandkids who buried her WWII veteran husband five years ago, and even in her 80s is fully of passion and vigor for the church, and continues to serve.

I watched as the former homeless man who now sings in a choir gave praise to his Lord.

Then there is the cancer survivor who leads one of the childrens choirs. The past year has been a great struggle, but she is recovering now, and continues to love kids and lead.

And then there is the Tulane graduate high school leader who leads the teen choir with enthusiasm and humor and grace. How did God lead her to our church, to love and serve with us?

I find this all, these stories, this music, the grace of God, part of An Amazing Place. And I am thankfull. Humbled, grateful, thankful.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I Have No Idea What I Am Doing!

Several weeks ago, I had a wonderful lunch, with my new friend Doug McConnell. Through a mutual friend, we got together, and now I will be acting as a part of an informal "advisory panel" to the Dean of the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary.

Headline to read: "Average White Guy from Suburbs Asked to Advise World Renowned Seminary". Very gripping, I know.

What are my qualifications for this task. In my mind, none. Zip. Zero. Nada. Please, can we be serious? This is like asking Elmer Fudd to be on the advisory panel of a nuclear physics lab. Or maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger to be governor of the most populous state in the union.....oh, wait, never mind that analogy. Or having someone like
Daryl Hanah speak to issues of urban development. In short, a nearly complete joke.

But strangely, in the mind of Doug, perhaps somebody like me might (emphasis on might here) be a good candidate for this task. And as I have thought of it, maybe this is a Kingdom economy kind of thing. Using the weak to confound the proud.

Over the past year, I have done some thinking and dreaming and praying about the balance of my life, the "second half" that I have left, God willing. Much of this thought has been a result of changes in the lives of my parents, as I have noted
here, and then reflecting on the things I want my life to count for.

What I want simply, is to leave this planet better off for the Kingdom that when I entered it. If Jesus does not plan on showing up here for a while, then I find it incumbent on me to do things that might bring more of His Kingdom come, until well, until it does come.

Friday, June 02, 2006

This Desert Oasis And A Still Small Voice

My wife and I are taking a two-day midweek break, as I need to be in Palm Desert for an educational seminar for my work. We are staying at a very nice hotel, and spent the last two nights eating at local restaurants, surrounded by well-heeled and very well tanned desert dwellers. This is a very upscale area, featuring mile after mile of luxury desert homes surrounding lush golf courses, hidden canyon estates surrounded by palm trees, and high-end retail developments. If you sink a well down here about 100 feet, water literally bubbles up out of the ground. It's a desert oasis of sorts. There is also a great deal of very interesting 1950s and 1960s residential architecture. There is even one wealthy family who has their own 18 hole course on a massive estate.

I think something strange is happening to me in my middle age. I actually like it here now. Yesterday it was about 105 degrees, and I did not mind. I tend to travel out this way (about 70 miles from my home) about twice a year for work, and have been doing so for a number of years. My grandparents even had a house out here, and I visited often when I was a wee baby. But as long as I can remember, I never liked this area, and thought that people who lived out here in the heat were mental. It's a desert, it's full of old people, and gosh, its hot! Yuck. But now, for me, yuck no longer.

What is going on with me? Why do I strangely enjoy this place now? I have been pondering this over the past day or so. I have some thoughts. First, I am almost 48 years old, and maybe my "personal demographic" is changing. After all, the entire Coachella Valley is geared to the over 50 crowd. Egads, I am aging!

Second, I think that I am being subtly lured by the lifestyle here. Last night, I spend time on the web looking at this place - Bighorn. I will never live there, but it feels very enticing, alluring, intoxicating. Ahh, a lovely home, with a desert view, set by a golf course. Sitting by the pool, sipping something cool, and gazing at the desert mountains in a warm twilight. When I was younger, I used to play golf all the time. I love golf, but have no time at this season in my life to play. This would be a nice life.

But there is this Voice, and it won't go away. Its not very loud, but its there, and it is persistent. Relentless. As my wife and I had a great Mexican meal Wednesday night, as I sipped on a nearly atomic margarita, and watched the tanned affluent of Palm Springs arrive for dinner, I kept hearing this little Voice (even through the margarita fog). The Voice was there by the pool yesterday too. It's a still, small Voice, and it won't shut up. Sometimes, in my weakness, I wish it would.

When I see the tanned, seemingly happy people drinking, and dining, and laughing, the Voice reminds me that real happiness, real peace, real joy come from an entirely different place; only from knowing and trying to follow in the way of one solitary life of a man from Nazareth who walked around Israel more than 2,000 years ago. He made sick people well, helped the troubled find lasting peace, and afflicted the comfortable - like me.

When I look at the luxury homes at Bighorn and begin to covet a life like that, the Voice reminds me that treasures stored up here on earth really don't amount to anything. All possessions are fleeting. Only a life immersed in grace and hope and divine love can bring depth of meaning; an abundant life. A life like we can barely imagine, and often do not understand.

When I enjoy the luxury and comfort of the soft hotel bed, the Voice reminds me of countless thousands, nay, millions who sleep each night, under the same stars on bare dirt ground, in small wooden or cardboard shacks, or who lay in substandard hospitals without proper medical care. It reminds me of children dying of AIDS. They all are lonely, and feel lost, and have little hope. Why am I here, and they are there? I have no idea. But the Voice keeps on reminding me. I am here, and they, them, "those people" are over there and, yet, we are strangely connected. The Voice created us both, and I have an obligation to them. The Voice won't stop, like a shadow companion.

I think Christian song writer Bob Bennett best express what I am thinking:

A voice, crying in the wilderness
A still, small voice, loud and clear
And a voice, still ringing in my ear
Saying, follow me, follow me, and I will show you my Father

I struggle with this Voice all the time. I need to shut up, and listen more. But I love the God who speaks it, and I want to follow Him, feeble though my attempts may be. I pray that I can continue doing so, one day at a time.

We are leaving this desert. Sadly, but strangely, and even joyously, its not for us.
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