Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What is Real Beauty?

I have two daughters. This is very important to me. Watch it.
Then, go read this book. Its a very important book you really must read, if you are raising girls.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Bucket List - Go See This Movie!

What things would you do....if you knew you only had months to live? And, would your station in life dictate what you could or would do? Would you wonder about yourself, your journey through life, and about what it is all about? Would you wonder about God? Would you make things right with those whom you may have hurt? Would you leave earth with "your eyes closed, and your heart open"?

Nancy and I went to the movies today, and had the wonderful opportunity to think about all these things. Given the loss of my Mom and Dad during the past two years, this was an emotional film for me, and a wonderful opportunity to reflect yet again on what makes this life such an amazing ride.

Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson combine to pull off this movie with grace and charm, complimenting each other all the way along. My favorite moment comes as Jack and Morgan are flying to Italy on he polar route at night. Its a full moon out, and Morgan comments on the wonder of Creation. This leads to a remarkable conversation between someone who believes and someone who does not that I loved. Its honest and real. In the end, Morgan's summary comment is, "Yes, but I believe". Simple, yet wonderful.

Go see this movie..... immediately.

From "Say" by John Mayer......theme to the movie, "Bucket List"

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for getting older
You better know that in the end its better to say too much
Than to never to say what you need to say again
Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open
Why? Say what you need to say

Shallow Christians & The New Monastics

Today's LA Times has an interesting, fair, and thoughtful article on The New Monastics.

I found this article interesting and refreshing, having known this form of faith expression for a number of years, both through my church and the urban ministries it has birthed, and in the larger community of Los Angeles.

Thankfully, the writer was careful to describe the real journey, and not detour into yet another patronistic view of well-meaning Christian folk. Thank you, Stephanie Simon.

Two things struck me from my reading. First, it seems this well-meaning bad of believers in Montana formed their new Christian community out of a sense of deep disconnection and disaffection with the Christian Church. Well then, lets chalk another one up for the great accomplishments of modern organized religion. Well meaning, serious people, those seeking after God, who feel isolated and disconnnected from the church. Does this theme feel familiar?

Had the local church been doing more to meet the needs of these young families and singles, perhaps the desire to form a monastic community would have taken an entirely different form. Maybe a community of Believers formed organically from out of the church body, young and old, married and single, rich and poor. Or a different way to live together, perhaps not in the same home, but with shared and intentional lives. Idealistic maybe, but interesting to ponder.

Secondly, I was impressed by the need for rules and order, and the struggle to complete daily tasks, even in this little community. It felt like being single and just out of college all over again. The annoying roommate who never cleans up, the undone dishes, the empty fridge. Add to this the complication of little kids, single and married people living together, and you have the ingredients for a relational mess. Tough stuff, this living out the Kingdom of God on earth!

But again, lurking subtly in the background is the failing of the organized church to provided meaningful relationship, authentic community, and a new way of living. I have also experienced Christian community that leaves me feeling sad, wanting more, unsatisfied. Friendships and relationships that once seemed so important so crucial, yet over time turn out to be not much better than what the rest of the world has to offer. Yet, I have also enjoyed deep and abiding friendships in the church that are of greater meaning than I could have imagined. Where are the real answers to these big questions of community, I wonder?

It makes me sad. The Bride of Christ, looking poorly dressed, yet again.

Is there a better way, a way to connect our lives in a more meaningful way? What does real Christian community look like? I wonder, and I hope.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bruin Good News

After a painful basketball loss to USC earlier this week, I need something to cheer myself up.

I got it, and in short order. It seems that Norm Chow, the former offensive coordinator at USC, and the artist behind a number of great Heisman Trophy winners, is going to become the
new offense coach at UCLA!

Can you hear my evil laugh? Bwaaaa Hahaha!

Nite Nite Mr. Bill

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pangea Day - May 10, 2008

Get ready. This could be amazing.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Heading Home

Business Trip - Boston

At left, above the "Big Dig".

I feel like a man from the land of plastic architecture. Disneyland. Suburban Instant Utopia - just add water.

Lets admit it, people from the West Coast are hopelessly disconnected from American History.

To prove it to yourself, just visit Boston.

My meetings were done today at 3 PM, and I took myself on a long self-guided tour of downtown Boston, ending at Boston Commons and
Park Street Church (looks very cool). Right behind Park Street church is Granary Burial Ground.

I was reading the Park Service information signs, learning of the remarkable people from American history who are buried there. I finished reading, turned around and was facing the grave of Paul Revere!

This town is amazing. And so is our nation. To whom much has been given.....

Business Trip - Washington DC

What a fascinating place to live. The entire culture in Washington DC is so strongly oriented to revolve around the political, military, diplomatic, and career government sectors, that this town is very much in a world of its own.

Infrastructure. Its another thing I thought about today, whilst riding the Metro to several meetings. Being from LA, serious transit systems (we have wimpy and very limited transit - we prefer massive carbon footprints amid the privacy of our own autos) amaze me. Rather than being a part of ordinary life, underground transit seems to me to be like something out of a fantastic future. People, hundreds and thousands of them, in steel tubes on rails, running underground. Water delivered clean to every home. Sewage systems, to remove the unsightly parts of our lives. Telephones, internet, electricity, satellite and cable TV. We take for granted, this amazing infrastructure of everyday life - and perhaps more selfishly, we do not think of the blessed nature of our advanced Western culture.

As I sat warm and content on the Metro (with a snow storm blowing above ground), whizzing underground from one point in the capital to another, I thought again about the people around me. If you look at the
stats, over 700,000 rides a day now. All those lives, young and old, rich and poor, single and married, contentedly happy and desperately depressed, joyous and tragically sad. They are sitting next to me, around me. I am one of them, trying to find my way, figuring life out. In need of purpose.

We Christian folk like to think we have it all figured out. But the older I get I find a dichotomy occurring in my life. I am, at once more certain of some things, and yet wondering of the mystery, disorder, and confusion of so many other parts of life. I am ok with the cognitive dissonance. I wonder, do I lead a life that is elevated, aloof, and disconnected with people who are not of faith. Have I cubby-holed my life into an isolated Christian subculture?

Faith can be found in the midst of wondering. Can my life be connected in meanful ways to others, so that I can relate to the bigger questions of life, of meaning, and of purpose?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Business Trip Leg 2

Greetings from our nation's capital. After about 28 hours in lovely Miami, I am now spending about 45 hours in Washington DC.

I looked at three separate office buildings today for a client. You can rest assured that your tax dollars are being wisely spent, as it seems two-thirds of all office building tenants in this area are either a branch of the Federal government, or a company that would cease to exist if not for the government's business.

I must confess that I too have the Federal government as a client, and they are fine people. Every last one of these people love their mothers, pull over and pick up road-side liter, and are exceptionally kind to animals. Particularly road-side animals. And yes, I am completely unbiased. But I digress.

Meetings with clients tomorrow, and then off to Boston late tomorrow, the last leg on this fun trip, before returning to the
Land of Milk and Honey. Weather forecast for DC tomorrow is a mix of snow, turning to rain late in the day. I love this. Weather for Boston on Friday is the same thing.

Hopefully tomorrow I will have photos of the Capital Mall or something to prove I was actually here. It has been
two years since I visited (Jill, read ALL of this link!), and strangely, the government continues to exist without my direct involvement or oversight. We shall see about that after the next election.

I fancy myself a traveling businessman. Maybe this is what I shall do when I grow up.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Business Trip Leg1A

Here I am in Miami Beach. Not much time to explore around, as I have a 9:30 PM flight to Washington DC tomorrow.

Up in the morning to look at two properties, one near the airport here (Miami Airport Embassy Suites is pictured), and another located in beautiful Pompano Beach.

I shall try to add my deep thoughts/impressions of the Miami area tomorrow PM.

Business Trip - Leg 1

Today, I leave on a five day trip, four flights, three cities. I don't usually travel like a road warrior, so I will attempt to blog my adventures here. Some day, when I am using a walker and eating pureed foods, I can look back on my business life, and smile.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rob Bell - Trouble Maker or Prophet?

Rob Bell is a pastor of Mar's Hill Church in suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan. He says things that might make church people mad. Like this (in the most recent edition of Relevant Magazine):

"What a lot of people call church in America has little to do with the church Jesus had in mind. I think you just begin by acknowledging that [America's idea of church] is an absolute total failure. The whole system that says these few people, because of what they said, did, believe, etc., are going to Heaven and everybody else is going to Hell, is deeply flawed and must die. The systems that says big growth and numbers are the goal must also die. The central metaphor Jesus uses is the Eucharist. His body is broken and His blood is poured out to the healing of the world. God is looking for a body of people who will break themselves open and pour themselves out of the healing of the world."

Thats not all. Rob goes on:

"I think the problem is that when people say "church", many mean religious good and services where you come and have a nice inspiring talk, good coffee in the back, snappy music, and everything ends up fine. Jesus speaks of His people who are willing to suffer and die so that the world can be healed - that's an entirely different proposition. For us [at Mars Hill church], if you can resolve the sermon in the course of the church service, then the sermon has failed. If you can resolve what's being talked about just by listening to it, then something's seriously wrong. The only way to resolve the church service you just experienced, and specifically the sermon, is that you're going to have to go and wrestle with it and then live it out. Our interest is not in providing goods and services that will leave you with a well-packaged religious experience. We understand the Gospel is to be how you are going to break yourself open and pour yourself out for the healing of the world. I know what we believe and what we're trying to do, but the degree to which we're successful - I have no idea. Someone else can talk about that. I always get a bit suspicious of religious leaders who talk about how big their [ministry] is or their crowd ratios."

That'll preach just fine.

I think that Rob has been reading a lot of
Dallas, and a lot of, ah, maybe.....the Bible!

Friday, January 04, 2008

What? Huh? Me...."Best Of..."?

Ok. I am flummoxed. I just found out that I made the list (mind you the bottom of the list, rather fitting...) for one of the best posts of 2007 from the wonderfully clean-shaven folks in Texas at "The Higher Calling Blogs". This is the first writing award I have received since I was published in the second grade creative writing book in 1964 at Hugo Reid Elementary school. I am stunned.

On behalf of my Director wife Nancy, my co-star daughters Kelly and Heather, and my Producer G-O-D, I accept this award gratefully and with thanks.

Jean Vanier, Powerful Jesus, Pathetic Me

Recently, during the same interview I mentioned the other day on American Public Radio, Jean Vanier spoke of power, of the handicapped giving our lives a sense of "equilibrium", about the importance of "being" rather than "doing", of the sacred nature of the body in the context of the handicapped. Jean, at 79 years old, said:

"I just want to become a friend of Jesus. Jesus was quiet...., he ate with people who were caught up in prostitution... there is something so simple about Jesus that he is disarming. Frequently we want a powerful Jesus; who will put everything straight, who will cure everybody, who will do everything we tell him to do. And its not like that."

Its not like that with Jesus, is it? And guess what? The American church, and much of the charismatic church around the world, those preaching a subtle gospel of health and wealth, they all want a powerful Jesus too. No meek and mild Lord, thank you very much. No paradoxes, no mystery, just power and response; like a new Corvette.

But wait, as I think of it, count me in too. I too want a Powerful Jesus. I want everything straight, I want everybody cured, and I want Jesus to do everything I tell him to do, because I am always right. What is wrong with Jesus?

Or rather, what is wrong with me?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sacred and Secular - You Can Take This To Work

"The universe is God's sanctuary. Every work day is a day of the Lord, every supper a Lord's supper, every work the fulfillment of a divine task, every joy a joy in God. In all preliminary concerns, ultimate concern is present, consecrating them. Essentially the religious and the secular are not separated realms. Rather they are within each other."
Paul Tillich
"Theology of Culture"
p 41
Oxford University Press, London, 1964

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Jean Vanier, Living in Reality, My Struggle

Jean Vanier is a most amazing man, who, indirectly has affected the lives of two of my close friends, as well as a far more expansive effort in the founding of the L'Arche Communities, world wide.

My friends
Mark and Tod, had a lunch with priest and writer Henri Nouwen about 20 years ago in Toronto; and this was a lunch that changed both of their lives significantly. His support for the work of Jean Vanier was the reason Henri Nouwen was living in Toronto, serving in a L'Arche community.

Vanier said something recently in a radio interview that struck me with the force of an epiphany. He said,

"The big thing for me is to love reality, and not live in the imagination; not live in what could have been, or what should have been, or what can be, but to love reality, and then discover that God is present there."

My Church Problem
As I heard these words, I realized this was me Mr. Vanier was talking about. I have spent the last decade or so wanting something bigger, better, stronger, slicker, and not being content at all with reality. Always striving for something out of my reach.

I go to a church that was once "great", what ever that means. Perhaps it was the large traditional worship services, the cathedral sanctuary, the handsome, velvet-throated pastor, or the shiny TV ministry. Oh, we were once really great. Bigger, better, stronger, slicker. A force to be reckoned with.

But then the troubles and slow decline came. The times changed, and the church did not. The new pastor was an Emperor Without Clothes. Nothing really changed, christian community was eroded, we did not look as spiffy as we once did on TV. Accusations were leveled, arguments began, it got very ugly.

This was several years ago. Our church has recovered, and is slowly, carefully, on the mend. I care deeply about all this; I have been involved at this church for more than 20 years - I met my wife there, and both our daughters were dedicated there. But sometimes, I get discouraged.

I have never really been able to just be content in our "church reality". To be satisfied with the way things are - partially complete, wounded, yet healing. Jean Vanier's words struck me as very profound; to be simply content with the present state of affairs.

I wonder, can I love reality, and find God there?

Holiday Fun Review

About 12 days ago, we pulled the kids out of school and spent the day at Disneyland. Just the four of us, as a family.

It was very fun to be a kid again, if only for a day.

The last time we pulled the girls from school like this, one was in 5th grade, and the other in 2nd grade. My, my how time flies.

I'm not sure I will ever be able to express the wonder, joy, frustration, amazement, and mystery of raising these girls, and of joining my sweet wife on this journey we call life.

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