Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Starting Over Again

The past year has been a most interesting one for myself and our family. We have watched our once-great church home of some 17 years go through mismanagement, confusion, and an emotional and painful split, followed by a loss of some members, a period of wondering and wandering, and finally, now, a chance to start over.

For some odd and serendipitous reason, I have become involved in the begining of something new. A new birth, if you will. On Sunday mornings, I am meeting with a small group of younger (definition of young which I hope might include me!) couples, who desire a safe place to grow and nuture their faith. A welcoming community. A new beginning. And even as I write these words, I realize they are actually a form of a plea unto God; may this be so with us. With our little beginning band of believers.

I have come to reflect on how precious this new thing is. How important this little collection of people can be. And ironically, how this links directly and personally to the things that Tod Bolsinger has been talking about the past several days. Just look at the words of Acts 2:41-47:

41That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. 42They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. 43Everyone around was in awe--all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! 44And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. 45They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met. 46They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, 47as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

Baptized. Signed up (not: went out on their own to Starbucks). Committed (not: showed up when they felt like it, or the mood hit them). Life together (not: Bowling Alone). Common meals, prayers, people in awe, wonders and signs, wonderful harmony, holding everything in common (not: my OWN stuff).

Meals at home, every meal a celebration. Joyful. And people liked what they saw.

A church. Imagine that!

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Different Side of Hollywood

In the fall of 1987, a group of my friends from Hollywood Presbyterian Church finally realized a dream that was years in the making. But it was not the typical Hollywood dream that is glamorized in film and television for all the world to see. Not a dream of fame and fortune, or of public recognition.

There is another side to Hollywood, a far less glamorous side. A side of Hollywood that few see, and fewer care about. Just blocks south of the storied corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street is the heart of this "other side" - the barrios of Hollywood, near the far less famous corner of Carlos & Gower Streets. In this neighborhood live the individuals and families that clean the tables, cook the fast food, clean the hotel rooms, and pick up after those of us who are more fortunate in this life. Theirs is often a life of survival from paycheck to paycheck and the struggle of coping with a neighborhood troubled by crime and gangs.

The dream we began to realize all those years ago was the purchase of a Community House for the ministry of HUP - Hollywood Urban Project - Now named DOOR. The house was purchased, additions made, and nearly every year since, there has been a physical presence of the followers of Christ in this neighborhood.

This presence continues today. Shown above is the current leadership team of HUP. On the right is Mandy Updegraff, a remarkable young lady you now have the opportunity to get to know much better. Mandy has just completed her first book "A Different Side of Hollywood" which chronicles the joyous, painful, difficult, and remarkable journey in a fast-paced, fresh, and fascinating account of a young woman leaving college behind - and becoming a missionary in the inner city. Mandy's book offers us the first-hand reflections of a remarkable young woman, as she transitions from the insulated world of a small Midwestern college to the harsh streets of Hollywood.

I admit bias, but I think that this book might become required reading for undergraduate and seminary courses on cross cultural studies and urban missions. Prepare to have your preconceived notions of inner city life challenged, as you journey alongside Mandy as she confronts her own fears, personal demons, and ideals in a completely new world. This book is candid and sometimes raw in its description of inner city life, and tragically, in violent death. Prepare to meet remarkable people, doing courageous things for the cause of Christ. This is the body of Christ. Buy this book!

Friday, January 27, 2006

No Church, No Problem

Here is a great review of a controversial book, by a church layperson. This is in keeping with my previous thoughts, and those ongoing of Brother Tod.

Perhaps the church is not yet a goner. Good news!

Happy Birthday, Wolfie

Happy 250th, big guy. The world is so much richer because of your music.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

James Taylor, Baby Jesus, and Kanye West

Does this picture bother you?

My good friend,
Mark Roberts and I were walking back from the beach several months ago, our families in tow. Mark mentioned to me that he had a friend who he respected greatly, who had just started a blog. Mark said I should check it out.

I have been, and I am
glad I did. Go. Read. Learn. Thanks Ben, for clearing up my head.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I Have These Friends....

I have these friends. Actually, several of them. They love Jesus, and want to serve him. They are serious about their faith, but they are also fun, and funny, and very loving. They are among the most generous people I know. They lead transformed lives, full of joy. I am very glad I know them, for they provide for me great evidence that Christ is alive and well, and changing lives on a daily basis. These are good people.

But these friends also think the church is, well, dumb, not worthy of their time or money. They think the church is largely irrelevant. Its a mess, a 50 car pile up. Forget it. So, they do their own thing on Sunday; some are in home churches, some not. Some just go hang with their Christian friends. Some have been church shopping, for years.

I think this is just plain wrong. And sad. Really. And it misses the point, the point that I think Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the abundant life, and the stuff that guy who wrote Hebrews mentioned about meeting together. Please remember, not a Bible scholar here.

Tod Bolsinger has taken up this issue over the past several days, and you need to read his thoughts in response to the most recent book of George Barna. If I understand Tod right, Mr. Barna, who I have followed and admired for many years, has given up on the church completely, and is now advocating for a form of "Individu-Christianity", or just being faithful to Jesus and doing your own thing. This sounds very much like some of my friends. And it sounds very much like the decline of our culture in general - and follows from the concepts described in Bowling Alone.

So, it seems to me that if you and your friends form your own "Individu-Church", or "Church of What We Think Is Cool" here is what you typically get: anywhere from a gaggle to a gang of people who are, in varying forms, a lot like you. Same age groupings, same income class, same ages of kids, same job strata. Same. Similar. Neat and clean. No mess. Read: boring.

And if you join a more traditional organized church, of the type Barna seems to think is a goner, you get different things. You get old people, senior citizens, grey hairs. You get some odd people, who don't normally fit in, and other needy folks who find much solace in a place where Jesus is very important. You find some unlovely people, and some unshapely people. You find people who might not be welcome in other places. You also get some rather silly people, that really get a charge out of being in committee meetings to discuss the color of flowers for the Spring Social event. These are the kinds of meetings that make you think about oral surgery as a viable option, if that would get you out of going to the committee meeting.

But you get other things. You get a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. All shapes, sizes, colors, kinds, and types. Its like Creation. Big, and wild, and amazing, wonderful and messy and in your face. You get to meet some of the most interesting, loving, maddening, remarkable people you will ever spend time with. This is what you get when you say yes to organized church. As for me, I like this option far better.

By the way, I don't have to be right. These are just my ideas. What are yours?

And to top it all off, what are we church people going to do on Super Bowl Sunday?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Tragic Loss, A grateful Memory, and A Silent Epidemic

A couple of days each work week, I take off at lunch by myself. Its my time to catch up on reading, usually back issues of the Wall Street Journal that I have missed. Last Friday, I never thought I would eat lunch and read the paper through tears. But I did.

The little fellow raking leaves to the left is Simon Sparrow, who, tragically, passed away in April of 2004, at 17 months old, less than a day after his parents were even aware he was sick, from a sudden and deadly form of staph infection. From the Wall Street Journal:

What killed Simon Sparrow is a new form of an old foe: the staph infection. Identified as a lethal threat in 1999, this new strain is resistant to drugs and is highly virulent, responsible for 60% of all skin and soft-tissue infections treated in the nation's ERs. Infections can recur and ping-pong through families. The germ can penetrate bones and lungs, and the abscesses it causes often require surgery. In severe cases, up to a quarter of patients die.

Public-health officials see a silent epidemic on the rise. Almost 1% of the population, or more than two million people, carry drug-resistant staph without symptoms, according to an article in this month's Journal of Infectious Diseases by Matthew Kuehnert, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Carriers can spread the disease and suddenly become acutely ill themselves. In a separate study based on data from 1999 and 2000, Dr. Kuehnert estimates there are 292,000 hospitalizations a year for staph, of which 126,000 are for the resistant kind.

So why am I sitting at lunch and tearing up over the newspaper. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. The tragic loss of this sweet little boy strikes very close to my own heart. Our own 12 year old daughter Heather very likely had an early form of this very same infection about 11 years ago, when she was only 7 months old. Without a fast-acting doctor, and a wonderful hospital staff, I wonder what might have happened. We might still be living in the difficult places that the Sparrow family must face each day. I have prayed more than once for the Sparrows over the past couple of days, their loss must feel overwhelming. May God grant them courage and grace to face each day.

Heather woke up one September morning with a fever and acting very lethargic, and my wife Nancy noticed a red bump on her thigh. Something told Nancy she should get Heather into the pediatritian. That afternoon, my wife called from the doctor's office to say that our Heather was being admitted to the hospital immediately. I was shocked, but hurried to meet them in the pediatric admitting area. I remember holding a saggy, sweating, and feverish baby Heather in my arms in the admitting room, and silently praying to God for help, for guidance, and for healing. This was a real prayer, nothing pious, just a desperate plea for help. Help! For some odd reason, I knew in my soul this was the place God wanted me to be, right at this point in time. It was like standing at the edge of a cliff...

We were there for a week, through a hard fever, sleeping in the hospital, constant IV lines, surgery, and recovery. Friends and family came to visit, and Heather returned home after a week. The staph came back, in lesser forms, several times over the next several years, requiring more antibiotic shots. To this day, Heather does not like the doctor one bit. We are living proof that this disease is for real. I still, on occasion, have little boughts with this disease myself. Its lurking, in our own family.

This is indeed a mysterious journey, this life. Perhaps by calling attention to this, I might do a small amount of good.

For those of you with kids in the house, you need to look here to learn more.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Jesus, Warren Zevon, and Sandwiches

First remember that I am not planning on becoming a Catholic, although the mysteries of the Catholic church are sometimes appealing to me.

In her book John Paul the Great, Peggy Noonan offers some fascinating thoughts about life in the Kingdom of God, as she reflects on the Mysteries of the Rosary, specifically the Sorrowful Mystery of Christ's suffering. She reflects upon all the things that must have been going in the mind of Christ on the night he was betrayed.

"And he must have loved life. He must have been in love with life on earth. He must have wanted to grow old. He knew of heaven, and yet he wanted to stay here. Did he love the taste of bread, the sound of the animals on the hills? He must have liked being a carpenter's apprentice. In woodworking you can see the results of your labor, you can touch it, you can feel its smooth finish."

"I can't stop thinking about Christ, and his desire to live. What I think of when I think about it is the composer and performer Warren Zevon. Like the pope, he was a philosopher, though I don't suppose he would have thought of himself that way. He said something very true about like on earth though, and it is worth more than gold or diamonds.

When he was dying of lung cancer, in the autumn of 2002, Zevon did an hour-long interview with David Letterman. Letterman asked, "From your perspective now, do you know something about life and death that maybe I don't know?" And Zevon famously replied, "I know how much your supposed to enjoy every sandwich."

He knew how wonderful and delicious that smallest parts of daily life are. He knew wonderful and delicious a day in your life, or an hour of that day, or this minute is.

We're lucky to be here. And now when I think of friends and family and those I love, or those I'm just getting to know, I think, "He knows how good the sandwich is." Or "She doesn't know how good the sandwich is yet". But its good to know. More fun too."

As I read these words, I thought to myself, "YES! Peggy Noonan gets it - she understands a bit of the Kingdom of God as I have experienced it too!"

I say, lets make a really big sandwich, with all the trimmings, and lets share it - with the whole world!

Is It a False "Revolution"?

Ok people, there is a controversy a' brewin! It seems that George Barna, the renowned Christian culture research guru, has penned a new book, "Revolution". The basic premise is that the organized church is a goner - and will someone please turn out the lights on the way out? Sad news, if its true. Is it? I wonder.

Disclaimer - I have not read ithis book yet.

But, my friend Tod Bolsinger certainly has read it, and has some thoughts he will be sharing over the next several days. Most worthy of our attention.

Onward, Brother Tod!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Understanding My Parents, Myself, and Others

To the left is my father, a captain in the Army Air Force, during World War II. Dad was about 23 years old when this photo was taken. Sixty years have come and gone; Dad is now 86 (this past week was his birthday). He forgets things you told him 10 minutes ago, but he can wax on for up to an hour on flight school, supervising training at Chanute Field in Illinois, and air sea rescue missions in the South Pacific.

Peggy Noonan, in her most recent book, John Paul the Great, has a very helpful insight on what Tom Brokaw has called The Greatest Generation, and, if we are paying attention, to ourselves and others. In lots of ways, this generation was not so different from mine, and in some ways similar in the way they viewed things of faith. We are connected together with our parents more than we think. From Peggy Noonan:

"My mother, too, associated Catholicism with unhappy things, though she was not clear as to why. They married in 1947, my father just home from the war, and one belief they seemed to hold in common was that organized religion was for the old-fashioned, for hypocrites and creeps who would hit you on the head for wearing the wrong shoes.

They wanted to be modern, They wanted to leave their not-adequately lit apartments behind and enter the American sunlight. And while the church held little for them, other areas of life, which might even be called competing areas, seem more alluring. My parents were born at roughly the same time as the American movie industry, in the mid-1920s, and during their most impressionable years, in the late thirties and forties, when the world was most vividly imprinting itself on their young brains, the images the absorbed were not those of statues or religious art but celluloid images, cinematic pictures. And they developed, I think, an imaginative reverence for the images they saw. Their icons were not the Blessed Virgin or the Infant of Padua but Joan Blondel, and Bogie and Gable and Cagney and Bette Davis. We did not as a family go to church, but we never missed the Academy Awards."

And so, is there anything new under the sun? I am not so different. I want to be modern. I want to be in the sunlight of hipness, looking right, being accepted by others. For those of my generation and younger, we want to fit in, to be liked, to be popular, to be able to have things, to love, and be loved. This is a universal human thing.

Peggy Noonan goes on in the chapter entitled "Closer" to describe the process by which she returned to her Catholic faith, and her understanding of the Lordship of Jesus. What made the difference for her? Not religious ceremony, or art, or rules (although there is merit in these things). Relationships - these are what made the tipping point of faith difference for her.

And here we continue to stand, as the church, shoulder to shoulder over the generations, trying to find our way since Christ walked among us. And what do we have to offer of lasting significance? Again, relationships - with the Savior, and as evidence of his continuing presence here - with each other. Listening, caring, encouraging, building others up, laughing with them in the joys of life, and crying when the rain and disappointments come. This is what we have to offer, we are representatives of Christ; building relationships that are real, and make a difference for The Kingdom's sake.

Lost Video Of Jesus

At long last, a rare lost video of Jesus has been recovered.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Like, Totally Fight On, Muffy!

For my good friend, Rob Asghar:

- Cheerleading, tumbling lessons and camps since age 3: $30,000

- Annual cost of attending USC: $ 50,000

- Annual cost for staying just the right shade of blonde: $10,000

- Cheering when the other team scores: Priceless

The defense rests.

Good Thought, Dr. Mouw

Just heard this on the radio.

Dr. Richard Mouw President of Fuller Seminary was recently being interviewed by a newspaper reporter. The reporter asked Dr. Mouw what "would be your one wish for American Evangelicals; the one thing you want to see happen in the American church?"

Dr. Mouw's reply:

"I would just wish that Pat Robertson would shut up."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dad! I Got a Goal.....!

If you look for them, life can be full of little moments of blessing.

This fall, our oldest daughter Kelly has started high school - rather a shock for her Dad, who still seems to see her in his minds-eye as that little girl who comes rushing for a knee-hug when he arrived home from work. Also this fall, Kelly has decided that she wants to play girls JV water polo for South Pasadena High School. She is dedicated, rising early in the morning for practice, and swimming miles in the pool. But, being a freshman also means you spend quite a bit of time on the bench. And its cold sitting there! So, Kelly's playing time has been limited. Not a lot of shots-on-goal, either.

Last night, I returned home around 9 PM, after a rather long day of work, freeway travel, meetings, and more freeway travel. As I came in the door, my daughter greeted me at the kitchen counter. I was a bit frazzled, and annoyed that my work schedule had cause me to miss her water polo game that day.

She had a smile on her face, and a glimmer in her eye I will not soon forget. I am writing about it here, because I do not ever want to forget moments like these.

Her greeting? "Dad, I made a goal today!"

I will not soon forget this moment. Thank you, Lord, for my daughter Kelly, and for the woman she is becoming.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sunday, January 15, 2006

John Paul the Great - Part I

I am aware that this blog has resulted in the purchase of at least one book in the past. Stunning results. May I then, with my vast and impressive array of book sales, recommend to you another book? Alright, then, I will.

Peggy Noonan has just produced another literary gem, John Paul The Great. Buy this book, and be blessed and understand the heart of a great man, and the admiration of an honest, hopeful woman who writes of him.

Over the course of the decline and loss of John Paul last spring, I posted several thoughts about this truly great man. This book is moving on many different levels, and strikes many of the same cords that I have been feeling about faith, the journey of life, and what the church might become for a hungry world. John Paul had much to teach us, if we listened. Peggy Noonan listened, and reflected well.

Noonan speaks of a public audience she attended in 2003, at a time when John Paul's health was beginning to fail:

"We entered the Paul VI Audience Hall, an enormous concrete structure, cavernous and modern, like a big suburban church, or an evangelical McChurch at the edge of a city....People were coming in single file and in groups, hundreds of them and then thousands. As I walked among them, I heard the languages of France, England, Mexico, Austria, the Czech Republic. There were groups from West Africa, Germany, Poland, Scotland, Portugal, and Brazil. A Romanian chorus of middle aged women began to sing softly in their seats. When they finished, a choir from Bialystok, Poland, thirty young women and men, began to sing lustily.

Suddenly, a rustling up front. Dozens of tall African women danced in, laughing and clapping in floor-length white cotton dresses. On the hems were sown the words, "Archdiocese of Freetown", in Sierra Leone. They sat next to Catholic schoolchildren from Rwanda, who were clapping and shaking tambourines.

I thought: The whole church is here."

As I read this, my eyes filled with tears. The whole church!

We Americans have funny ideas sometimes about what the church is supposed to look like. I think when we get to Heaven, we are going to be surprised, as it will look, smell, and feel much like Ms. Noonan has described here. It might be scary, at first.

The challenge for us now, while we are here, is to work towards building relationships and communities of faith that reflect the characteristics of Heaven....here on earth. This will be hard and messy work, and perhaps challenge many of our conventions. However, this is work worth doing.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Welcome to my World

Tonight, as I was cleaning the paper-strewn floor of our study (the place where we have the desktop PC and our girls do their homework) I found the latest issue of Teen People. I immediately threw it in the trash - which is the rightful place it belongs, given its vacuous content that is fed to over 1.5 million US teens each month. But then, I thought better, and pulled it out of the trash and decided to see a bit of what might be competing for space in my 14-year old's head. Here we go.....

  • What crucial issues are on the minds of the Editors of Teen People this month? Lets see:

Lindsay Lohan's Hottest Looks (Lohan recently admits to suffering from bulimia)

Top 10 Star Makeovers (yawn)

Jessica and Ashley Simpson on "why being there for one another is so important. (snore!)

Chad Michael Murry and Sophia Bush (who?) call it quits.

And the capper, an article entitled "I was Expelled Because I Have Two Moms". Interesting. Seems this girl was going to private Ontario Christian High School. Hello, two moms? Wonder if you thought enrolling your daughter there might cause some problems? Seems there is more to this topic than presented by Teen People. Not taking sides here, but just another example of Christian folk being made to look stupid. Sigh!

So, you can see, I live in a rather complex world. Welcome to life with teenagers.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Done Looking...Found the Perfect Church!

After all my musing about church, the search is over.

I am done, I have found it!

And, I get a pony.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Maybe I Should Surrender

Over the past several weeks, I have posted several pieces here on issues related to the recent troubles at my church. I had a plan to rationally describe the events that have transpired over the past months - perhaps to bring a voice of reason. I would be fair, and smart, and witty. Oh, how much I know, and how much others would be impressed with me. After all, I was right there for all of it. Very impressive how much I know. Sigh.

However, upon reflection the past couple of days, I have been impressed that maybe what the world needs less of is people trying to make a point; trying to be right, or to impress others with their knowledge of the truth. Silly self-concerned little Christian people, like me.

While there is quite a bit of history I am familiar with, it is just that; history. Old news. Tired out, sad. Depressing and tragic.

Here is what is really important, in a word. Christ. Here is another thing that is worthy of time, effort, love, persistence, and building new relationships - we have a church to rebuild! I have never felt more hopeful than I have the past month or so, as the troubles of the past have been largely resolved, and we can move forward.

Its time for me to surrender. Lay down my arms, my arrows, my bullets, and even my laptop. Time to knock it off and move forward. Time to focus on other things, on new things, on creating a new and vital community of faith. There are new books to read and then discuss, thoughts to think, ideas to ponder, a world out there to think about, reflect upon, and engage in. I am excited thinking about these things. I have lots on my mind, and this old stuff, well, it is beginning to bore me now, and really, its really not what is important.

Enough. Onward!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Myth of the "Strong Christian"

To begin, a disclaimer. I am not a theologian, but I have been around things Christian long enough to be dangerous. Sort of like having a learners permit. So, if any theologians or doctorate types read this, feel free to dress me down.

Alright. I think we need to watch our language.

There is a completely over used expression that has been bandied about Christian circles for many years, and I have evolved to a place when I have decided that the concept it suggests makes me crazy. The expression is:

"He (or she) is a really strong Christian"

I think this concept is basically unsupported in Scripture, but is very much a reflection of what our modern American culture tells us is worthy of merit. I think the "Strong Christian" is a myth.

Our culture affects us in so many ways, and has permeated much of the American Church - often to the point that it is difficult to discern where "American" ends and "Church" begins. What does our culture teach us are admirable qualities? Think of the great Westward Migration in the US. Taming the West, making something out of nothing. Lewis and Clark. Self reliance. Independence. Self sufficiency. Affluence. Control. Winning. And remember that great cultural theme brought to us by Frank Sinatra, "I Did It My Way". Are not these the characteristics of strength? No cowering in the corner for people like this!

And yet, we who try daily to follow Jesus have a completely different model. A model of failure, suffering and persecution. Lives that often involve great
struggle. We do not have a God that came to earth in a cloud of fire and flame and rainbows and pronounced to us unending success, majesty, control, dominion over nature, and unending happy thoughts. Nor do we have a sugary Precious Moments God. We instead have a Savior who came as a nearly anonymous baby born in a crude barn, raised in mysterious obscurity, followed in his late twenties by a small band of zealots, and who then was crucified nearly completely alone on a hill. On the third day, he was raised again.

Strong Christian? I don't get this concept. What I do get is

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Diversity, Change, and Setting a Course

In prior weeks, I have been processing a bit of the history and struggle of an iconic church in American evangelical history.

About 10 years ago, our prior pastor retired from Hollywood Pres, as he had been appointed as Chaplain of the US Senate. As a part of the transition, the church was charged with the task of completing a Mission Study. While our church has had a remarkable past, the present seemed a bit frightening, and the future was far less certain. And so began the Mission Study task. The process was lengthy, and involved interview, study, listening to the congregation, prayer, reflection, and thoughtful course-setting for the future.

At first glance, the concept of a "Mission Study" could sound like "churchianity" in its worst manifestation. Yikes - committee meetings. Run away! The bane of Presbyterianism! Imagine gaggles of elderly folk seated around a table, sharing lovely pastry snacks or potluck, and discussing under their breath, to one another, the evils of the new worship band at "that hippie/contemporary service" and "their collection of bar room instruments, and all the racket they make!"

Turns out, our Mission Study group was far from that. Members included a retired school teacher/mystic sudo-catholic, a gregarious real estate developer, a focused Disney executive, an energetic high school vice principle, a US Appeals Court Judge, an affable young entertainment business professional, a utility company real estate officer and father of three teenage girls, a younger seminary grad and family therapist in training, a retired nurse from the Deep South, a post college urban missionary (see HUP), a professional church consultant, and a real estate appraiser (yours truly).

We had a big responsibility, defining the future course of a large urban church populated largely by suburban members. In many ways, the task was enormous. How could we accurately communicate the mission and vision of such a diverse and unique place?

All told, four men, and seven women, ranging in age from 24 to nearly 80. I recall it seemed like an eclectic group, but in large part, that is what Hollywood Pres has always been like, hard to define, hard to categorize. And we got in fights too, just like any family does. I can remember rather terse discussions between the "process oriented" educators (one one side of an issue) and the "get the job done" executives and the judge (on the other side). The process people were happy merely with everyone just "saying their feelings", while the task-oriented folks just wanted to make a decision and stop all the talking. Welcome to family!

I can also remember one thing - laughter. While faced with a task as large as we had, our group was place of joy, fellowship, encouragement, and belonging. We laughed a lot. Even in a big church, we took the time to know each other well, love each other, ask after friends and family, and to enjoy the diversity of our bond in Christ.

For me, hidden in this memory is the primary strength of a healthy church - acceptance, joy in the task, a sense of common purpose. The love of Christ expressed in service. I also think of this, when I remember my Mission Study friends of more than 10 years ago.

Coming soon - setting the course....and loosing our way.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Congratulations Longhorns / Bruin Confessional

Tonight I witnessed what has to have been one of the greatest college football games of all time. The National Championship on the line.

Texas 41 USC 38

In a game that went down to the wire. Literally.

I must confess, I am elated. My UCLA Bruins have lost for seven years in a row to the weenies from Troy, and most recently by a completely pathetic 66-19 thonking. I have two favorite college teams; 1) the Bruins, 2) whoever is playing against USC this week. This feeling carries over into the post season. Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

As I watched the first quarter tonight, I wondered aloud if I have some kind of cruel, dark heart - that just can't stand USC no matter what. Am I just a bad man? I have friends that tell me I should, in an altruistic fashion, root for the Trojans in the big game, as they are a West Coast and Pac Ten team. To that I say, balderdash! Poppycock! After four years in Westwood, this is not humanly possible. My DNA is laced with Blue & Gold.

My heart may be dark and unforgiving, but I cannot stand USC. I am tired of all of SC's overwhelmingly glowing successes, and I have wished for this night for a long time. I am fed up. I am worn out by thirtysomething wins in a row, two Heisman trophies, seven straight losses by the Bruins, two national championships in a row, that ridiculous guy on the even more ridiculous horse (neither of whom even went to SC, although the horse had the grades) in the little Troy Boy costume with the creepy Ben Hur sandals, a marching band that looks like a league of janitors and plays that one song over and over and over and over (mind control I think!) and still boasts about the Grammy they won with Fleetwood Mac back in like 1945, blah, blah, blah. Oh yeah, and there is always OJ Simpson to boast about.

I just cannot stand this college. There. Said my feelings. Sorry if I have offended any ex-felons, or malcontents.

Tonight, after the game, I was as giddy as a kid. But maybe I am just a kid at heart anyway. I hope so.

Bless me Father, for my heart is dark, I have sinned, and gosh am I happy! Hook 'Em Horns!

A New Member in The Blogosphere

After months of my teasing, encouraging, humoring, pleading, and cajoling, my good friend, Dr. Neil McLeod has decided to start his own blog. Neil is the consummate definition of a Renaissance Man; husband, father, dentist, Boy Scout leader, churchman, world traveler, reader, writer, poet, ship-in-a-bottle-builder, tree-house constructor (not kidding), wine aficionado, and lover of people.

Stop by Neil's blog, and experience something completely different. You can find him at A Biting Chance.

Good stuff, and cheers!
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