Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Big Apple Adventure

Monday morning at Oh-Dark-Thirty, we Norris' are off for four days in New York City, baby!

I hope to blog on my impressions of New York, after an absence of 13 years. Much adventuring with lovely wife and teenage daughters!

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Shift Happens

I find this....fascinating:

Going Solar in South Pasadena

Last summer, I came home one day to find a $550 electric bill for our home. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I was on the Internet looking into solar power.

Now, since I am in the commercial real estate business, I am not always the environmentalist NIMBYs best friend. But when it hurts my wallet, I can hug a tree, or sit in one, with the best of them.

And so, we are in the process this week of installing solar panels on the roof of our home. Being pretty much of a geek, I am jazzed about this. Our 5.2 KW system should roughly cut the "carbon footprint" of our home by about 50%. The payoff for the cost of the system should be approximately 8 years, and the internal rate of return of this investment is about 15%, based on current utility rates, and factoring modestly for inflation. I will even have the system report to my PC each day, so I can come home and obsess about my power savings. Matter of fact, now that I have this system, bring ON the global warming, baby!

Take that,
Al Gore!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Christ Killer to Christ Follower

This past Sunday, I listened to a remarkable story. One I have heard before, but never grows old. Its the story of the journey of one man's life, of great love and great loss, and of redemption.

My friend Frank was asked to share his "testimony", as we church folk call it, at a meeting of our congregation. We should have all gone home as soon as he was done; nothing else we said or did or voted on afterward seemed to matter after we hear Frank's story.

Frank was born more than 80 years ago, and grew up in a Jewish family. The first time he ever heard of Christ was in Kindergarten, when one of the other kids called him a "Christ killer" on the playground.

Like my own father, Frank enlisted to serve in World War II, and right as the war ended, he married his bride of more than 60 years, Jane. They moved to Southern California and started their life together. Kids came along, and it was time to find a church. Jane came from a Christian family, and they ended up at our church. There, Frank heard the preaching of Ray Lindquist, and heard about Christ in a way he never had before. Soon, Frank found himself at a church retreat, listening to Major Ian Thomas. His life had become changed, permanently.

Frank went on to tell how, after the raising of his family, and being rewarded with success in business and life, along with many grandchildren, "everything seemed to fall apart" in the last couple of years. In the past several years, Frank and Jane have witnessed the death of their oldest daughter Jan, a wonderful wife and mother of a beautiful family of her own. She was too young to die, too full of life and hope and joy. It was brain cancer, and it was not pretty.

And then, at about the same time, Frank found out that he had ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. There was nothing he could do about it. His body would continue to deteriorate, but his mind would remain completely alert. Just like Stehphen Hawking. Since then, Frank has spend a week in a coma, and in various hospitals for nearly six months. He is back at home now, enjoying mornings by his pool in his wheelchair. Thankful.

Frank spoke to us from his wheelchair, with his breathing controlled by a ventilator. He cannot move at all, and requires nearly constant assistance. And yet, he spoke to us of hope, and love, and God's care for he and his family.

I have always said, I want to be like Frank when I grow up. Thank you Frank, for your story, for your life, and for the joy you still radiate to everyone around you.

From great pain, great faith.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mexican Food & Evolution

Last week, my oldest daughter Kelly and I stopped for a Mexican food dinner during a busy evening of errands and tutoring. She is taking high school biology this year, and having a rather rough go of it, but is hanging in there, and learning a lot.

We had a great conversation about what she is learning, and the relative merits of evolution versus creation, very much along the lines of these thoughts by Dr. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary. I am thankful beyond words for these little moments of connection in a life that moves way too darn fast.

On a totally separate note, I appreciate the thoughts of Ben about the Edward's decision to keep on running.

That is all for today. Soon, updates on solar power!

I am also very thankful for the sharp mind and creative thinking of my 16 year old, that she lives in the real world that God created, but hasn't yet given up hope on the Creator.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Oh My.....Final Four Baby!

The past several weeks have been torturous for us Bruin fans. Two losses to end the season, including one embarrassing one to Cal in the Pac Ten Tournament. Aaron Afflalo playing well below his capability. Bruins winning games on defense.

But tonight! For the last 43 straight games, Kansas had held their opponents to under 50 points. No more. Afflalo - 24 points!

Final score: UCLA 68, Kansas 55.

Here we come, Atlanta!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Doing Things Differently

From Dallas Willard's latest book:
"Why should one insist on the exclusiveness of Christianity if all it is is one more cultural form? But let the reality of Christian spiritual formation come to its fullness, and exclusiveness will
take care of itself. If the witch and the warlock, the Buddhist and the Muslim, can truly walk in a holiness and power equal to that of Jesus Christ and his devoted followers, there is nothing more to say. But Christ himself, and not Christianity as of form of human culture, is the standard by which "we"
as well as "they" are to be measured (Acts 17:31).

Are we seriously and realistically about the business of Christian spiritual formation as measured by the unqualified love of Jesus Christ, and as specified by our "job description" in the Great Commission?....How much of what goes on in ourselves, our local assemblies, our denominations, and our (Christian) schools, is dictated only by 'futile ways inherited from our ancestors" (I Peter1:18)?

Suppose we were to engage in ground-zero planning, planning which, armed with the best theological and psychological understanding, considers only the aim without attempting to salvage or justify what is already in placethrough previous efforts. How much of what we do would be omitted? And how much of what we now omit would be done, if all we were trying to do was to bring ourselves and others "to do all things whatsoever I have commanded you"?
This just might be what Jesus is asking us.......

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Matt is Planning Another Trip

I love this. Matt is planning another trip. Here are outakes from his last trip.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jesus As a Magic Clown

My friend Julie, and Professor Dallas Willard have me thinking about the Jesus we may have created in our minds - as opposed to the Christ of the Scriptures.

After a bit of thought, and based on my recent reading and reflection on this book, I think we church people might have created a caricature Jesus, as in Jesus the Happy Magic Clown.

Not the real thing, but a funny looking shell of the genuine article. Stripped of Divinity, and simplified by our culture. New and improved. Now with Sin Whacking Bleach - you can have the whitest whites ever! Just believe, and He makes everything better!

My college chum Julie has illustrated better than I ever could the way the church does not own up to its shortcomings in this article about the Ted Haggard tragedy. And then, reading Dallas Willard's latest book, I was struck by this question:

"How many churches do you know that actually have a plan in place to teach people to do everything Jesus said?" How about THAT?

So, we are left with Clown Jesus, a sad American version of the real thing. He does what we need, when we need it, for as long as we need it, and then, stays out of the way. Just like a rented birthday party clown, when his tricks are over, he will sit quietly in the corner eating cake.

He can forgive us of our sins, just like that! But inside his heart, he would like to show us more, much more. He wants to give us an abundant life, truly. What would happen if we gave him the darker parts of our lives, our money, or maybe even our anger. But we did not rent him for those other things, just the animal party balloons and general sin forgiveness. No financial lordship, no anger management.

And so,
Jesus the Happy Magic Clown sits quietly, out of the way, waiting. What he really wants is for us to remove his costume, the wild wig, and the rubber nose, and see him for what is really is. Fully human, yet fully Devine. A mystery. Partner in Creation. The Atonement. Good Shepard. Yahweh.

No wonder it feels easier to keep the costume on him.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Want to Help Transform the World

Saturday night my wife and I attended the International Justice Mission dinner in Los Angeles. They will also be a part of this event:

We cannot be ignorant any longer. I am in to help. Are you?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Strange Man in Shades Plans Marathon

The strange man in the shades in this undated photo is planning on running a marathon for a very good cause.

Although in dire need of recognition, and at the same time, dealing with lack of affection issues, he is basically a good fellow.

Support him here. I am.

The Dangerous Act of Worship

About 20 months ago, during the darkest time in the history of our church, when we were in the midst of a painful split, a dear friend gave me two CDs to listen to. I am a fussy listener to sermons, and so, this was an act of bravery for my friend. I don't do well with about 80% of Christian radio; it bores me.

Soon after, I needed to be in my car for about a 3 hour drive, and I listened to the CDs, recorded at a retreat several weeks before. The speaker was the
Rev. Mark Labberton, and for the next three hours I found myself at once thrilled, challenged, laughing, convicted, and in tears. For me, Mark "gets it" about what it means to follow Christ in the real world.

Then, about six months later, as my family and I were taking an emotional break from the near insanity of the hysteria that had surrounded our church, I took a weekend away for a retreat, at which Mark was the speaker. After the first night, several of us stayed behind to chat, share a bottle of wine, and enjoy each other's company. Mark joined us, and I found him to be an engaging, relaxed fellow (remarkably so, for a pastor-type) with a refreshing view of things Christian. His topic for the weekend was worship. I loved every word, and at the same time, felt convicted and challenged in new ways.

Mark has just completed a book which should become required reading for all of us confused, or wondering, or just trying to get an understanding of what in the world the concept of worship really means. The title of this book is
"The Dangerous Act of Worship", and the premise of this title is well taken.

We silly church folk have been embroiled in a lot of chatter over the past couple of decades about worship. Worship styles, worship settings, the meaning of worship, on and on and on. It seems endless. To me, most of this discussion has felt like meaningless prattling; silly and trivial banter about a topic that is so far beyond our real reach we have little idea about what we really are talking about.

In this book, Mark Labberton takes us on a journey about the real meaning of worship, and makes some very disturbing observations about the state of the church as it approaches the concepts of worship. His first observation: much of the American church is asleep (me included)! I could not agree more.

More soon. Meantime, buy the darn book. You will be very glad you did.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Kelly Song

My friend Eric Myers found this clip. I will always remember the first time my wife suggested the name "Kelly" to me - this song came to mind, and I promptly began to sing it to my wife. Here, for posterity's sake, is the real song:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Being Sixteen

Recently, we celebrated our oldest daughter Kelly's 16th birthday party.

Kelly. Sixteen. That is a good collection of years. Almost a complete bushell. A good clump. In California, you can drive at 16. In two more years, you can vote. In 5 years, you can drink, whether your parents want you to or not.

If Mom and I are realistic, in two more years, assuming the grades stay up, California doesn't fall off into the ocean, our savings don't evaporate, you will be leaving home for college. What the heck?!

And now, at this point in life, it seems, speaking only for myself, that pretty much of the parenting work, is well, almost done. And as I look back on these years, I feel like I want to do two things. First, give thanks. Second, apologize.

Every Day a First
I had a very wise man tell me years ago that with the oldest child, in any family, the parents and the kid are "doing each day" of the growing up years for the first time. Everyday its the first time. Changing diapers, going to kindergarten, Girl Scouts, T-Ball, 5th grade graduation, first day of Middle School, all new. Softball, the Middle School musical, knee surgery, going to summer camp, every day, for the first time. High school orientation, mission trips to Mississippi and Alaska, girls water polo, the struggle of biology class, all of it for the first time. It never stops.

Kelly, you are an amazing person. Every "first day" with you has been an adventure and full of joy. For me, your name means that word - joyful! Funny, outgoing, laid back but energetic, a great friend. The girl who is always singing, unless the shower music is so loud we can't hear you (which is often). Your social life rivals that of Hollywood people, without all of their fakery. You are a great friend, and have surrounded yourself with quality people. For these things, as your Dad, I am completely, utterly, and almost without words to say it, thankful. What a ride. When you were little, and you wanted to be pushed again on the swing, or chucked on the bed in a pile of pillows .....over and over would say "Go-giin!" as in lets keep it going! Now, that's what I want to say....

Just the other day, I found something that struck me, and made me think of being a Dad, and of needing to apologize:

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don't condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity."

Jesus said this, in Luke. I know now, after thinking about it, he was talking to me, as a Dad of a 16 year old. I need to "be easy on people", and there is one person in our family that I am the least easy on. You and I both know who that is.

It seems I have spent most of my adult life trying to be less like my Dad. We both also know that he is not exactly the world's warmest fellow; he was not exactly "easy on people", nor easy on me. And now, after all this time of telling myself I would not replicate his behavior, I find myself being often too critical, and far less loving to you - my "first". For these things, I ask your forgiveness. I am going to try harder in year 16, I promise. I won't stop being the Dad, but maybe I can bring less stress.

For me, the good news is we aren't done yet. You and I are not finished growing up. With God's grace, we have lots more miles to go before we are done. I am so completely excited about your future, whatever the heck it may be. There's a world out there, Kelly, and you can do and be whatever your heart desires. I can't wait to see what happens!

So now, as you turn 16, know that as always, I love you more than I can tell, I am sorry for the ways I have judged, or not listened, or not understood. Its not easy being 16. I can remember vaguely, in the fog of the past, what it was like. Trust me, I was not the picture of grace, handsomeness, poise, and generally having my stuff together. No way. And so, I hope this next year, and many years in the future find me out to be a fairly tolerable guy. Someone who listens better than he talks, who cares, and laughs often and loud. You sure can make me laugh!

Happy Birthday, girl - I love you!


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Shoppers Alert

Do we really need more stuff?

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Today, while recuperating from the cold/flu fungus in our home, I watched "Parenthood" with Steve Martin. This is one of my all time favorite movies, as it so well captures the pain, humor, and trials that all of us face as we grow up together in families.

One of my favorite moments is near the end, when Steve Martin's grandma intervenes in a discussion that Steve (Gil) and his wife Karen (Mary Steenburgen) are having about how messy families are...

Grandma: You know, when l was 19, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.

Gil: Oh?

Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride.

Gil (sarcastically) What a great story.

Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together.

Some didn´t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. l like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

The next scene is the perennial school play, and Gil and Karen watch as their youngest child charges on stage and disrupts and "ruins" the school play. As Gil finds himself, yet again, stressed out by the behavior of his kids, he suddenly envisions himself on a roller coaster, right there in the school play audience. Gil hates this feeling; the stress and pandemonium his kids create in this life.

But as the coaster ride goes on a bit longer, Gil realizes that all this school play chaos, is really the joy of life, as he turns to smile at his wife, and they share, for a moment, the knowledge, that in the midst of all this panic, they are right where they are supposed to be.....on the roller coaster...of life.

Grandma was right. I feel so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together. I am just like Gil.


I have been missing for a couple of days from my random blogging. We have been having a small epidemic of the flu/nasty bad achy joints hideous cold running through our house. Not wanting to be left behind, I have contracted a nasty case myself.

We should be back to normal in a couple of days.

In the meantime, the girls JV Waterpolo team is coming over tonight for their post season party. Never a dull minute around here.
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