Saturday, February 25, 2006

Not All Americans are Jerks

I am married to a Canadian. My wife Nancy was born and raised in Canada, and received her US citizenship several years ago. After the events of the past two weeks at the Olympics, I wonder if she might not want to turn in her passport.

Chad Hedrick. Shani Davis. And then, Bode Miller.

Americans all. Brash, loud, self-concerned. Disappointing.

Someone needs to show these people this word. I doubt any of them have ever considered its meaning.

But then, there are little glimmers of hope. Take Chip Knight, (go, read!, sign up might be required, but worth it) for instance. And then there is always my personal favorite, Kelly Clark.

We Americans have a ton of work to do on our humility factor. Perhaps people like Kelly and Chip, can show us the way.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Just A Speck, But Loved

I have this friend who is a rocket scientist. Really. He works at JPL, and he supervises the development of little things like this. His name is Dave, and he is a remarkable guy; one of the funniest people I know. I was thinking about Dave today, while heading back to the office on the freeway.

I was also thinking about Dark Matter. I heard a piece on NPR a couple of weeks ago while in the shower (we have a shower radio) that almost made me want to fall to the tiled floor in amazement. Or crumple up in a ball and hide in the corner. Or maybe run outside and look up at the sky and weep.

How is it that I am here? At this time. On this planet. Surrounded by family that loves me. But there are others on this planet that face such pain and poverty that they don't know if they will make it another day. How is all this? I thought some of these same questions 26 years ago, as I was beginning my senior year at UCLA. I stood of the verge of the rest of my life, having nearly completed my degree, and wondering what I was going to do after college. What would my life look like? Who would I marry, would I even marry in the first place? Would there be children? Would I make enough money to be independent? Would I be happy? What is happiness, really, anyway?

And these questions, along with some remarkable relationships with some good Christian people, lead me to church. There, for the first time in my life, I heard about this man. Jesus. And my life has never been the same since.

My friend Dave knows more about the Hubble Space Telescope, Infared Astronomy, and Dark Matter than almost all of the rest of us do. He can make a Delta rocket lift very heavy things into space to study things most of us earth people can barely get our minds around. And interestingly enough, my friend Dave has had an encounter with Jesus also.

This leads me to my drive home from my Mom & Dads home the other evening. I had gone over at the end of the day to check on some clean-up work we are doing before we rent the house out. It always feels sort of strange to wander around that now dark and cold home, with all the items from my childhood memories laid out - in anticipation of a coming estate sale. How did I get from that house in Arcadia to our house in South Pasadena, about 7.5 miles, over the course of the past 25 years or so. Who lead me? Who was I following, and what was I following? And why?

As I drove home the sky was quite remarkable. A brilliant sunset after a couple of days of rain. It was cold, brisk, weather that sort of wakes you up. And then, a song by Sara Groves come on the CD player in the car:

I've been feeling kind of restless. I've been feeling out of place. I can hear a distant singing, a song that I can't write, but it echoes in what I'm always trying to say. There's a feeling I can't capture. It's always just a prayer away. I want to know the ending, things hoped for but not seen, but I guess that's the point in hoping anyway. . Chorus: Going home, I'll meet you at the table. Going home, I'll meet you in the air. You are never too young to think about it. Oh, I cannot wait to be home . I'm confined by my senses to really know what you are like. You are more than I can fathom, more than I can guess, and more than I can see with human sight. . But I have felt you with my spirit. I have felt you fill this room. This is just an invitation, a sample of the whole, and I cannot wait to be going home. . Chorus . Face to face how can it be? Face to face how can it be? Face to face how can it be?

The sunset was stunning. My eyes filled with tears. I don't feel ready to go home yet. I love it here, with all its joy, and struggle, and pain, and wonder. But someday, I will finally be home, where I really belong.

Dave. Dark Matter. This life here, for a brief while. Jesus - God with us.

Amazing. All of it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Geeked Out!

Oh my gosh...oh my gosh....oh my gosh!! I am soooo excited!! Forget the Olympics!

They have finally invented the most outstandingly cool and excellent computer game ever. I can barely contain myself......have to go out now and buy it!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A New Olympic Hero

Talk about character. My new Olympic hero, did not finish gold, silver, or bronze. Kelly Clark finished fourth, out of the medals.

But not out of the Kingdom. From Sports Illustrated:

After Clark, 22, won the Olympics at the Salt Lake Games she struggled with the expectations to consistently perform at the highest level. When reporters asked her at the X Games three years ago what went wrong with her second-place run, she began to sour on the sport. A knee injury the following season kept her off the snow for eight months. During that time, Clark attended a church near her Mammoth Lakes, Calif., condo.

Though she was unable to capitalize on another Olympic medal, Clark takes comfort in her new identity as a Christian. While close friends Teter and Bleiler were stepping up to the medal podium at the bottom of the Bardonecchia halfpipe, Clark stood nearby wiping away tears.

"I love Jesus," says Clark, who has the name written on her board. "[Being a Christian] is more joyful than all this snowboarding stuff."

Amen, Kelly

Big Questions

Here are two questions to ponder:

What issues in our world today do you think God really cares about? What are you doing about them?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Of Character, Dude with Attitude, and Girl with Cow

If you are listening, the Olympics offer many lessons on the human condition. Take for instance, two athletes, Bode Miller and Lindsay Kildow.

From the 60 Minutes interview with Bode Miller, we have this tidbit:

Does he think his partying has ever interfered with his performance? "Definitely. There's been times when I have been in really tough shape at the top of the course," says Miller. "Talk about a hard challenge right there. I mean, if you ever tried to ski when you're wasted, it's not easy. Try and ski a slalom when the gates are," Miller says, making a hand motion. "You hit a gate less than every one a second, so it's risky, you know. You're putting your life at risk there. It's like driving drunk only there's no rules about it in ski racing." Is he saying he'll never do it again? "No. I'm not saying that," Miller says.

I once watched a 14 year old get a broken leg at the bottom of the ski slopes after being whacked hard from behind from one of Bode's stoned compatriots, and it was not a pretty thing. Get fired up, America. We have another less than upstanding role model for kids on our Olympic team. And then, in giant Slalom, where does our role model place? Fourth. Poetic justice in my mind. He is already a millionaire, so my heart is not broken.

And then we have Linsey Kildow, who suffered a remarkable crash in early action this week, and after two days in the hospital, came back to ski to a fifth place finish in women's slalom. This, to me, is character, fighting through the pain, and coming back.

To top it off, Lindsay does not necessarily find money appealing all the time:

On Dec. 17, 2005, Kildow won the downhill in Val d'Isere, France, and with it came her choice of either the standard prize money, or slightly less money and a cow. She chose the cow package and named her new pet Olympe. "I'll miss her for a while, but oh well," said Kildow about her time apart from the animal. "We're not going to be together, but hopefully she'll be thinking about me." The animal is currently still in Val d'Isere, but Kildow has made arrangements to have it moved in October to Austria, where the women's team has apartments.

Which person would you choose to have your kids hang around with? I pick girl with cow over dude with attitude.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Downhill, Baby!

Alright people. Stop reading blogs, and watch the Olympics....

Preacher Sonny, Do It Yourself Church, and Me

The imagery and concept of submission has been something that has always resonated in my soul. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because I feel that I need it so much, and yet practice it so little. I am self sufficient, Type-A, a "doer", if you will. One of my favorite books is "Undaunted Courage" - the story of Lewis & Clark's exploration of the west. Now there were two take-charge guys!

If left to my own devices, I would do most everything alone, on my own. I am an only child. Who needs other people, let alone a bunch of other people focused around, of all things, a religious organization! Church? Oh please. My friend Tod is
talking about this some more, and I really like where he is headed.

And yet, I stay. In church. In a big old church, one that some camps have labeled as too liberal, and others find too conservative (perhaps a good place to be, come to think of it). And I have chosen to stay in a church going through crisis. Definitely not cool. Very uncool. And then to make matters even more odd, I
signed on to serve some more in this church.

I wish, when we installed and ordained our leaders, we might take a cue from the Catholics. On our faces, pointed toward the cross. And then, rise slowly to our knees, knowing that we must live our lives as real people, transparent people, and remember that the cold, dark ground is very close, and will someday enclose us all as we leave this planet.
Wounded Healers. Servant Leaders. Oh, that it might be more so.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Idea: Lets Just Hang at My House

Ok, so the cool thing, according to George Barna might be to forget the building, forget the coffee socials. Forget the nursery for the little ones. Lets just do church at house, or the golf course, or the local coffee house. That is where the cutting edge people are. If you are really hip, and into the latest mod trend, forget the local church; after all, they are tired out loosers. Goners. Yesterday. Uncool. Lets just start booing.

I hope you have been reading Tod's thoughts about church over the past several days. Tod's musings have me thinking quite a bit. For me, this thinking makes the whole blog thing worthwhile.

One of my favorite song writers, Christian or not, is a rather jolly fellow from Whittier, California named Bob Bennett. A number of years ago, Bob wrote a song entitled "Jesus in Our Time". This song, for me, illustrates the depth of what the church has to offer.

Jesus in Our Time

Countless legions of the faithful

Crossing every generation

Hand to shoulder in an unbroken line

Lead us to this Sabbath morning

We humbly count ourselves among them

To seek and find the face of Jesus in our time

Though an imperfect congregation

Full of folly and of doubt

We presume to ask our questions

And we wrestle with their finding out

We break the bread and pass the cup

And try to bear each other up

There are those who are among us

Who believe they are not worthy

We offer you the Word of life

We bid you come and dine

Upon the mercy we have tasted

And the love given so freely

Come take your place at table now

With Jesus in our time

And as He promised so we proclaim

He will be among us as we gather in His name

To heal the broken hearted

To ease our troubled minds

We want to know you - to follow You

Jesus in our time

I am not so sure I could accomplish all these things in my living room, with my friends, on a boat, playing golf, or just doing coffee. I think I need......a church.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Heather is Twelve!

Dear Heather:

Tonight, our house was full of sound and fury. A gaggle of lovely young ladies came for your 12th birthday party. Screaming, loud hip hop, dancing, games, presents, steak dinner (prepared by the locally recognized "Chef Dad"), and ice cream cake. Nearly the best party ever.

Your 12 years at our house have never been quiet - and why should they!? You have never been a girl to go quietly into the night. You have a passion, an energy, and a love for life that is a remarkable thing to see. You have been a teacher to your family - in the way in which you approach each day - the way in which you love others, and are always a faithful friend. Our world is so much brighten for your living here. You have a heart that always wants to believe the best in other people, and that loves without judging. When life gets a bit rough, you rise to the occasion; your efforts in band and math this year have been great. We are so very proud of everything you do.

Every day with you is full of laughter, fun, and blessing. I am so glad that you burst into our life 12 years ago, and I hope for many multiples of 12 in the years to come. As those years come, may you know the great and deep love your Mom and I have for you, and you may know that we will always be on your side, rooting for you. You so rock.

Happy 12th Birthday, Heather!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Kelly at Fifteen

Dear Kelly:

Fifteen years ago tonight, your Mom and I were waiting. Waiting for something; a birth. Waiting for someone; and it was you. You weren't due for about two more weeks, but as we have learned is typical for you, waiting patiently was not your strong suit. You wanted to be in the world sooner, rather than later. Exploring, learning, laughing - and you have never stopped, since day one.

We had been doing a lot of waiting of a special kind. For 49 days prior to your arrival in the world, Mom's cautious obstetrician had put her on bed rest, as it seemed you wanted to come into the world even earlier than planned. And so, we waited.

And you came, quickly, with the healthy cry of a 7 pound little girl. One minute after midnight, or maybe it was one minute before. We're not sure, it was very exciting, we were rather breathless. Eyes filled with tears, and hearts filled with thankfulness. The handiwork of God, a new hand in ours. The doctor asked us what day we wanted to have your birth recorded on. We looked at the clock, and it was the 11th of February, one minute after midnight. So there we were. And here you are, 15 years later, a young lady.

Fifteen years later, I would not trade these years, these months, these days with you for anything. As a very wise friend once told me, "With a first child, every day is a first day". He was so right, I will never forget those words, they have marked our lives together. Everyday since your birth, you, your Mom, and I are facing the days of growing up and growing older together for the first time. You were our first baby, our first girl. And every day since has been a first. First child to try to eat solid food, first to be potty trained, first to stop using a pacifier. First to go to preschool, kindergarten, have a sleep over with friends. First trip to Disneyland, first grandchild in the family, first to go without water wings. First in the nursery at church, first to be dedicated to God. First off to camp.

Your tiny hand in mine grew bigger. For a long time, almost 10 years, your hand held tight in mine. But then, the grip became softer, and less frequent. Friends to see, places to go, water wings long deflated and gone, cell phone calls now to make. Life. And so, as life, and time, and faith would have it, I have lessened my grip. But know this thing, my love, and my thankfulness for you grows, deepens, and changes. Like the roots you cannot see of a vine that grows older, but continues to bring good fruit.

These days with you have been filled with wonder, joy, and mostly with laughter. By some Divine appointment, God has granted us with a very funny daughter. But also a girl, who now, at 15 years old, is wise, intelligent, beautiful, and sees life with a good sense of perspective - something rather unusual for your age. You have made great decisions in your friendships in life thus far, and my prayer is that the next 15 years will continue to be marked by the same wisdom and grace.

As we grow older together and apart, may our love deepen and change. And as you go forth into high school, and then the big world, may you know, deep in your heart, there is place here deep in my heart for you. May you find in me, as your Dad, a place of love and warmth, acceptance and understanding. We are alike in more ways than either of us wants to admit. May you also find.... Home. And in that home, may you find God's love and Christ's deep care for you. These roots run deep. May they produce the fruit of love, understanding, patience, and joy for you.

Happy Birthday, Kelly!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gosh Its Hot In Here

Surely those of you older than 40 remember Hugo, The Abominable Snowman. Tunneling underground to Palm Springs for vacation, Bugs and Daffy take a wrong turn and they end up in Nepal. There they meet Hugo, who wants to make them his pets, and hug them, and pet them, and squeeze them and name them George. It gets hot, and Hugo slowly melts, saying, "Gosh, its hot in here!"

So, Christian people, is it hot in here? I found this item very interesting. Read more about it, here. Here is the website, and the signatories of the statement are here.

I have not found the location of the website from "Evangelicals Who Think Climate Change is Hooey", or "Jesus Would Drive A Big Ole". However, I find this all interesting, and worthy of thought and discussion in the church.

Don't you?

Monday, February 06, 2006

On The Edge, Moving Back from the Brink

Perhaps I have done something rather irrational. I have recently agreed to serve a three year term as elder at my church. This is the same church that I have been mentioning here or the past year - you know - the one with the severe dysfunction and problems. The one teetering on the edge.

Maybe I should have applied for some other position. Captain of the "Titanic II" comes to mind. Starting a new car line - "The New Hybrid Fuel Edsel". Maybe a franchise selling space-heaters on a corner in Palm Springs in August. Arthur Anderson and Enron also come to mind.

When I first was asked if I might consider serving, my first thought was “should I serve as an Elder, or should I undergo some form of painful surgical procedure?” In the end, I decided to calm down, and trust what God might want to do. You may call me impulsive, if you wish. But I choose to believe that there is great hope for our church.....I have read about it being possible. Go, read.

That said, I consider service in leadership in the church an opportunity not for some form of semi-important title within the church, but rather an opportunity to, if you will, pick up my towel, and serve others. From my perspective, this is what our church needs now; those who are willing to serve. Through teaching, caring, loving other, picking up after parties, unfolding chairs, stuffing envelopes, running copiers, and maybe even......leadership. I hope I might be able to serve in this capacity.

This is my prayer. Lord, hear my prayer.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bono, Bush, and the Beatitudes

In 1984, through a rather strange series of events, I had the opportunity to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. It was a remarkable time. This past week, Mark Roberts had the chance to attend, and has started what should be an interesting series on his reflections from the event.

The speaker this year was Bono, whom, it seems, is everyone's favorite hip Christian (but he needs to loose the orange glasses, no?) - even if he does not fit well in the mold of what some of us expect of an evangelical. I have read
his speech, and find it very convicting. I also see very little in what he says to quarrel with.

Indeed, what if our government were to tithe an additional 1% to overseas relief? What should we do about the daily tsunami (150,000 estimated daily deaths) in Africa?

People of faith, perhaps this is not the business of our government, perhaps it is. But one thing is for damn sure. Its our business. What are WE going to
do about it?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Of Many, Of Greatness, and of God

As I move deeper into middle age, I am often struck by the sheer mass of humanity. Today, unusually, I spent about two hours on the LA freeways. My commute to work most days is 15 minutes on surface streets. Whenever I have to face the freeways, my mind tends to wander, as I look at others in their cars on the freeway next to me. All the places they are going, the lives they lead. I think about the joys and struggles they must face - and it feels enormous. Too complex. How can God love all these people so personally? How is it possible?

My friend, Mark Roberts, had an interesting day today, and he writes about the seeming greatness of men, and the equality of God toward us all here. Amazing, isn't it?

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