Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer Me Too

Today was the much-awaited Presidential beer fest at the White House. Beer me too....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Maybe it's about time we people who purport to follow Jesus just admit that we are not:

Less likely to completely foul up our lives
Look better
Somehow superior
Have some kind of special edge on the rest of humanity

We should, rather, admit that we are completely, well.... breakable.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Climbing Evangelicals

Here is something I have been thinking about.

In so many ways, we evangelical Christians have adopted the culture of the rest of America in forming the church, as opposed to the radically unusual world view that Jesus spoke so much about. You know, that "first shall become last" stuff. Pick up your cross and follow me? Be little, not big?

We have become a league of career climbers. We adore the large, the seemingly successful, the cool, the spiffy, the humongous.

This is for my pastor friends, those who would become pastors, and the like. Its also for all us lay people who take our leadership role in the church seriously. Recently, in my Internet wanderings, I came across this, which quotes letters written by Eugene Peterson, which I must quote nearly in whole:

“The one great advantage you have as a new church pastor is that you are forced to start small. Nothing is imposed on you. Determine that you will know every person, their names and whatever of their lives they are willing to let you in on. Be in their homes. Invite them into your home in small groups for an evening or lunch. The killing frost in too much new church development is forming programs that will attract people or serve their perceived ‘needs,’ getting them ‘involved.’ The overriding need they have is worship and that is the one thing that is lowest on their ‘needs’ list. Insist on it: keep it simple – learn to know every last one of them relationally. And call them to worship – and not entertainment worship, but a community at worship. Americans these days are not used to being treated that way, personally and apart from promotional come-ons. Religious entrepreneurism has infected church planting all over the country. When it is successful numerically (and if you are a good salesman and smile a lot it probably will be) you will end up with a non-church.”

And how about the greatest temptation when planting a church – and how do we avoid it:

“I’d say ambition. Church planters are tempted to do what it takes to succeed. Most of us grow up as competitors, competition is bred into our bones. And most of us are good at it. But the very nature of church – the Christian life – is to stay close to the ground that you are given, the people you are given, the Jesuw ho comes alongside of us. The temptation is to look for ‘leaders’ or ‘winners’ or look at people as ‘resources.’ That is not a mindset that cultivates patience with losers and the mediocre. Not that we don’t want to do our best, but unchecked ambition cripples us for dealing with the people who are right under our noses, the left-out and ignored. If we hold our competitive instincts on a short leash, we will probably stay small for a considerable time.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To the Moon, Again

Forty years ago yesterday, man first set foot on the Moon.

Yesterday, I sat in my office and listened to a 40-year old live stream of the Apollo 11 landing, timed to the second to match the event that happened that July afternoon when I was 11 years old.

The adventure of Apollo was an adventure and celebration of courage. What adventures do we have yet to embark upon?

If you want to see an outstanding film about the space program, may I recommend one of my all time favorites?...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite 1916-2009

Almost exactly 40 years ago today, I sat with my parents and watched Walter Cronkite narrate the landing of Apollo 11. This man was a journalist, and today seems to dwarf almost all of what is loosely called journalism today.

Married for 65 years to the same woman, father of three, and grandfather of four. He will be dearly missed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What My Wife Does for Summer Vacation

This next week, our house will be just a bit more quiet, because my wife will be gone. We will be a bit (ok, a LOT) more disorganized around here. Meals might not have as much love in them as usual, and may have some rather odd, "guy-inspired ingredients". But it's for a very good reason.

I am married to a woman who chooses to take part of her summer vacation, drive to Arizona with a van full of teenage mothers, and spend time with them at this place:

It feels just wonderful to me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Different Sort of Sunday

Warning. Do not leave me alone with an underwater camera.

Nancy and Kelly took off this morning for college orientation at DePaul in Chicago. I came home and just generally vegged out, save for a trip to the roof, to clean off the solar panels. Yes, Al Gore loves me.

I then found the waterproof mount for the old digital camera, and commenced a taking photos of myself whilst sitting on the bottom of the pool. I am hopeless, and may never grow up. Man, it is so good to have days off like this, if only on occasion.

Today was a different sort of Sunday. The middle of the beginning of something new, post high school for Older Daughter, a trip to DePaul for her and Mom. New things to see, new places to visit, a new world out there. Dad waits at home, goes to the office each day for the next couple days, and eagerly collects the daily reports from Chicago via cellphone. rushing off to church like a family in a (badly dressed) Normal Rockwell painting. We had the morning free, and girls slept in.

I had the ability to leisurely enjoy the LA Times on the back porch, where I came across this touching article by columnist Steve Lopez about his latest journey with Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a gifted musician troubled by mental illness.

What a wondrous, frustrating, and mysterious life this is, where a gifted musician is handicapped by mental illness. I plan on watching The Soloist very soon.

One line jumped out at me from Mr. Lopez column today, where Mr. Ayers is listening to Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1, Opus 11. Mr. Ayers says, ""That's the sound of a child's heart," and later...."That's what God looks like."

Leave it to a seemingly unstable man to show us the beautiful. Who really is unstable and unsure of themselves, anyway?

Life is like that, you know.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

John Adams - The Day of Deliverance

John Adams wrote to his wife, with a prediction, soon after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, in July of 1776:
"The Second Day of July, 1776, ought to be commemorated by succeeding generations as the day of deliverance. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows and games, sports, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more!

Now you think that I am getting carried away with enthusiasm. But I am not. I am well aware of the toil, the blood, and the treasure it will cost us to maintain this Declaration. Yet through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory, I can see that the end is more than worth the means. Posterity will triumph in this days business, even though we may regret it.

I trust in God we shall not."
Have a wonderful 4th of July, and may we remember these words, deep in our souls.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Summer Evening, A Teacher, The Future

A Summer Evening
It was a warm summer evening last Sunday, and we spent it with good friends, enjoying, listening, and for me, remembering the past, and pondering the future.

Over the past decade or so, the music of one particular group has been one of the primary play lists in the
background music to the life of this middle aged father and husband.

Sunday night Oldest Daughter and I joined good friends for an memorable evening of Bluegrass music - at the Largo in West Hollywood. On the bill - The Punch Brothers (photo above) and The Watkins Family (photo below). Some of these amazing musicians have a common genesis - from the group Nickle Creek.

For almost two hours we enjoyed the acoustic Bluegrass music of Chris Thile and The Punch Brothers. The was ridiculously good music. No amps and electricity for these guys. Just a banjo, guitar, acoustic bass, fiddle and mandolin. Beautiful.

After this, off to the bar for the "after show", featuring the Watkins Family. Another hour and a half of haunting melodies, beautiful lyrics, lots of laughs, and great music by amazingly talented people who surely enjoy each others company. It seemed we were all transported to a different place for a time, a place where only the music mattered.

If you ever want to head on down to the Largo and experience something special at the Watkins Family Hour, here is all you would ever need to know.

A Teacher
Our family was introduced to Nickle Creek almost eight years ago, through the gift of a 5th grade teacher. A teacher with a warm smile, a terrific sense of humor, and a gift of love. And, a teacher with a guitar. This was no ordinary teacher, this was the woman who changed the course of my daughter's life. If you asked her, Kelly might tell you she wants to grow up and be, well, much like that teacher. She will be majoring in Elementary Education this fall at DePaul University - and we can trace it back to Miss Lang in the 5th grade. The year that changed history for Oldest Daughter.

Miss Lang would bring her guitar to class most every Friday, and play for the kids. And one of the songs sh
e played is shown below.

Miss Lang is an entirely unique and remarkable teacher, someone who takes her work seriously, expresses joy daily, loves kids well, and fills the room with her personality. She teaches her kids well, and loves them greatly. Its a rare commodity these days; someone who does their job with all they have, with all their heart.

The Future
As I sat in the dark soaking it all in, I would occasionally glance over at Oldest Daughter, enjoying her gaze, and her smile; feeling thankful for the young lady she is becoming. For a moment I smiled and thought to myself, "imagine this, we are together at a concert, enjoying the same music!".

I also remembered those days in 5th grade, and the gift of Miss Lang. I thought about the future, and the teacher this young lady next to me might become. I am amazed at this life.

When You Come Back Down

You got to leave me now,
you got to go alone

You got to chase a dream,one that's all your own
Before it slips away

When you're flyin' high,take my heart along

I'll be the harmony to every lonely song

That you learn to play
When you're soarin' through the air
I'll be your solid ground

Take every chance you dare

I'll still be there
When you come back down

When you come back down
I'll keep lookin' up awaitin' your return

My greatest fear will be that you will crash and burn
And I won't feel your fire
I'll be the other hand that always holds the line
Connectin' in between your sweet heart and mine

I'm strung out on that wire

And I'll be on the other end

To hear you when you call Angel,
you were born to fly

And if you get too high
I'll catch you when you fall
Catch you when you fall

Your memory is the sunshine every new day brings

I know the sky is calling Angel,
let me help you with your wings

When you're soarin' through the air
I'll be your solid ground

Take every chance you dare

I'll still be there

When you come back down

Take every chance you dare

I'll still be there
When you come back down
When you come back down
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