Saturday, September 27, 2008
More than 24 years ago this summer, I spent time in Eastern Europe, on a mission to serve the persecuted church, prior to the downfall of the Iron Curtain. During that time, and for many years prior, from 1967 to the end of communist rule, religious practices were banned, and Albania was proudly and officially proclaimed atheist, marking an event that happened for the first time in world history.
Just think of it. For almost 30 years, God was seemingly gone in Albania. No churches, no Christmas celebrations, no Easter.
Nothing. Silence. Darkness. A form of hell on Earth.
Enver Hoxha reigned over perhaps the most repressive communist state in history. In order to enforce his radical program, however, Hoxha resorted to brutal Stalinist tactics. His government imprisoned, executed, or exiled thousands of landowners, rural clan leaders, Muslim and Christian clerics, peasants who resisted collectivization, and disloyal party officials. Private property was confiscated by the state; all churches, mosques, and other religious institutions were closed; and all cultural and intellectual endeavours were put at the service of socialism and the state.
Total control. Complete isolation from the world. And Life, and Freedom.
There is a happy ending to this story. As we now know, in the 1980s and 1990s, freedom broke out across Eastern Europe. God was up to something. And then, in 1998, Albania established a democratic system of government based upon the rule of law and guaranteeing the protection of fundamental human rights.
Several weeks, ago, I mentioned here that our daughter Kelly had an amazing summer mission trip experience in Albania. We now have a video review of the trip.
As I watched this video, something remarkable and other-worldly dawned upon me. I was watching Psalm 30 come to life. Where nearly absolute spiritual death and darkness once reigned for more than 30 years, my own daughter, nearly oblivious to history, was laughing, and playing, and loving, singing in church, and even.......dancing.
And people say there is no God.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I remember once in college, a good friend said, "Don't you think that all of life should be put to music?" I thought this was a wonderful idea! I still do:
Thanks to the people at Improv Everywhere for this!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Go ahead, imagine putting your professional life in a box.
Over the past several days thousands of faithful workers in New York, London, and other cities around the world have stood in their offices, and tried to understand what in the world is going on in their lives. I know some of them.
And they have had to pack up their box.
In my work, I have stood on the sidelines of this situation for years. I watched as Lehman Brothers bundled up commercial real estate loans into packages and sold them on The Street. Lots of people in my world thought that this was sophisticated and sexy. As a person who works in due diligence, I never felt comfortable with the situation, and avoided it completely in my own investments. And now, it has all come home to roost.
If you just had one box, standing in your cubicle and pondering your future, what would you pack? The plastic cube commemorating a Big Transaction? The stuffed penguin from that Big Meeting in Vegas?
In the end, what DO you have to pack, if you are in the situation of these folks? One would hope that there might be things that you could not pack in a box. After all, we are all going to leave this planet in a box. Or an urn.
Friendships. Shared lives. Wedding, births, birthdays, casual lunches where the conversation turned to more meaningful things. I think that is the best kind of work, the kind that matters.
I hope my life might reflect things that can't get packed into a box.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Friends, I give you "Sonseed":
My favorite lyrics:
"He is like a Mountie, he always gets his man, and he'll zap you anyway he can.....ZAP!"
"He loves me when I'm right, He loves me when I'm wrong, He loves me when I waste my time by writing silly songs."
I think Jesus loves "Sonseed" a GREAT deal.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
In the best case the Large Hadron Colliders' ALICE experiment successfully creates quark-gluon plasma, a substance theorized to have existed just milliseconds after the Big Bang. By generating temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the sun, scientists hope to watch as this particle goo cools and expands into the particles that we know. That could help scientists answer why protons and neutrons weigh 100 times more than the quarks they're made of. And why women cry at the most random times imaginable.
The the worst case, scientists inadvertently make a micro black hole, and the earth is quickly erased from existence. Just kidding. Scientists at CERN and elsewhere have ruled out the possibility that the LHC will create any kind of doomsday scenario. The black holes that the LHC could theoretically create don't even have enough energy to light up a light bulb. On the other hand, the U.K.'s Astronomer Royal put the odds of destroying the world at 1 in 50 million. I plan on going to work tomorrow. If not, I hope I see you in Paradise.
If you are as geekish as me, check this out, its interesting:
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Sometimes, God presents you with these little moments. Glimpses of grace and reflection. The feeling that, if maybe for a few moments you have been relieved of the mundane pattern of living. Gravity gets a little lighter, and the space between Heaven and Earth gets very thin.
I had a few moments like that last night. I won't forget them soon.
It was 10:45 PM, and Nancy & I had just had a wonderful dinner and long, interesting conversation on our back porch with friends. After chatting for hours, our friends departed, and it was my turn to pick up our 14 year-old at a friends house, just two blocks away. A bunch of neighborhood kids had all decided to gather at this home to watch TV and hang out. I was to pick up Heather and her friends, and deliver everyone home. Normally, this would be an ordinary task. Lately, I have taken to looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary.
As I pulled up to the house, I could see all the kids in the kitchen, hugging each other goodbye, in that special, Not in Junior High, but Not Really in High School sort of way. There I sat, outside in the dark in the car, looking back 35 years or so, and reflecting on that same time in my own life. Caught farther along in time, glancing over my shoulder.
The kids piled in the car, and the friends were delivered home, complete with jokes, and giggling, and even cell phone photos taken of each other as we drove home. Playing softly in the background, from my Ipod, was Eric Clapton, the Unplugged Album. Just another seemingly normal September night.
But as we headed home, Clapton's ballad, "Tears in Heaven" came on. I paused the Ipod, and turned to Heather, telling her that this song had been written after Eric Clapton lost his son, who was only 4 years old. "This song asks a lot of good questions", I said.
And then, we two, drove silently, all the way home, a drive of about 5 minutes, listening to the words of this haunting song.
Loss, pain beyond our knowing, and questions about Heaven.
I drove home slower than I usually do. Note to self: I need to do this more often.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Based on the video below, it seems everyone is required to drink at least four beers before participating in worship. Sign me up. Also, Italian love songs work so well as sacred music, would you not agree?