Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dorothy and Leadership

I read something today that was written seven years ago. However, this article will likely not go out of vogue for at least another ten years, and maybe not for 50 more years.

The article is entitled "Dorothy on Leadership", and it has had bells going off in my head and heart ever since.
My favorite bit:

"In a world plagued by ethnic hatred and telemarketers, every voice adding stridency and sales pressure to the world is one voice too many. Nobody wants to be “won to Christ” or “taken for Jesus” in one of our “crusades,” and neither do they want to be subjected to a sales pitch for heaven, that sounds for all the world like an invitation to check out a time share vacation resort. A presentation of the gospel that sounds like a military ultimatum or like a slick sales pitch will dishonor the gospel for postmodern people. Instead, think of leadership (and especially evangelism) as a dance. You hear the music that I don’t hear, and you know how to move to its rhythm. Gently, you help me begin to hear its music, feel its rhythm, and learn to move to it with grace and joy. A very different kind of leadership, don’t you agree?"

Take a minute, go read it. Then take a minute and reflect on all the wrong ways we might be doing leadership in the church.
Hat Tip to the Right Reverend KC Wahe.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Malibu Presbyterian - Memories

For a moving visual summary of the devastation of Malibu Presbyterian Church, go here.

I traded emails with my friend Neal Nybo this morning, who is a pastor in Rancho Bernardo at this church. So far, they know of 57 families in their congregation who have lost their homes. There may be more.

Pray that God will bring healing and wholeness out of

Loving the Church

From the pen of Henri Nouwen:

"Loving the Church does not require romantic emotions. It requires the will to see the living Christ among his people and to love them as we want to love Christ himself. This is true not only for the "little" people - the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten - but also for the "big" people who exercise authority in the Church.

To love the Church means to be willing to meet Jesus wherever we go in the Church. This love doesn't mean agreeing with or approving of everyone's ideas or behavior. On the contrary, it can call us to confront those who hide Christ from us. But whether we confront or affirm, criticize or praise, we can only become fruitful when our words and actions come from hearts that love the Church."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Can KC Do This?

This is a little bit of heaven in this:

I just wonder if my buddy KC can do this yet?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fire, Pain, and Faith

Yesterday, Malibu Presbyterian Church burned to the ground.

A holy place, so many memories, seemingly lost in wind whipped fire that must have resembled what we think the Apocalypse might be like.
Read this, for a wonderfully honest account. Kristi is a friend of my friend KC - she must be a wonderful woman.

My prayers, and those of so many, are with Kristi and the Body of Christ at Malibu Pres. God will bring back something beautiful from these ashes!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Movie of the Year: Lars And The Real Girl

Delusional Disorder is defined as a person who has "irrational beliefs, held with a high level of conviction, that are highly resistant to change even when the delusional person is exposed to forms of proof that contradict the belief."

Last night we saw a movie about delusions. "Lars and the Real Girl" shaped up to be my favorite movie of the year thus far. I have never sat in a movie theatre with so much going on in my mind as I watched a movie. This movie is billed as a romantic comedy of sorts, but is so very much more. You must go see it.

While the Christian media is currently foaming at the mouth about the release of the cartoon version of the "Ten Commandments", there is this little art-house film about Lars, a man with a profound delusion that a silicone sex doll is his girlfriend, and that she is real. That sort of topic would not go over well with Dr. Dobson, but the messages in this film are where the wisdom of the Ten Commandments meets the road of real life.

As I have had time to think about it, this movie is less about people with delusions, or mental disorders, or dysfunctional family systems, than it is about what is deep inside all of us, including me. This is a movie about the delusions we all have. This is a story about emotional struggle, redemption, a caring community, gradual healing, accepting the pain of reality, and about loving others just exactly the way they come to us. If I were In Charge, I would make every last Christian church goer on the planet go see this film, and then go home, form a loving community full of messy people, and do what the movie tells us. Oh, and the Scriptures too!

And image this, in this film, the church comes off just fine; rather than being mocked, or made to seem irrelevant, or stupid, dorky, and unreal. The church is the core of this story, it is a place of acceptance, love, hope, and also goofy and annoying people. Here is one of my favorite examples of this, in a clip from the movie, entitled, "The Church Meeting" (note the cranky protestant elder type):

What would Jesus do, indeed.

Delusions. Which ones do I have that need clarity and correction? What am I just so sure of in life that might be, well, untrue? Where am I unflinching and difficult? I need healing too.

Lars and the Real Girl. Go see it, you will be very glad you did.

OMGosh Bruins!

Its the season of nutty college football in Westwood. First we loose to just about the worst team in the country in Notre Dame, then we BEAT the #10 ranked team, in Cal.

Is this what it's like to live with bi-polar relatives?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Picture of Jesus

"Picture Of Jesus" - Ben Harper

It hangs above my altar
Like they hung him from a cross
I keep one in my wallet
For the times I feel lost
I feel lost

In a wooden frame with splinters
Where my family kneels to pray
And if you listen close
You'll hear the words he used to say
I've got a picture of Jesus
In his arms so many prayers rest

We've got a picture of Jesus
And with him we shall be forever blessed
Forever blessed Forever blessed

Now it has been spoken
He would come again
But would we recognize
This king among men
There was a man in our time
His words shine bright like the sun
He tried to lift the masses
And was crucified by gun

He was a picture of Jesus
With him so many prayers rest
He is a picture of Jesus
In his arms so many prayers
So many prayers
So many prayers rest
With him we shall be forever blessed
Forever blessed
Forever blessed

Some days have no beginning
And some days have no end
Some roads are straight and narrow
And some roads only bend

So let us say a prayer
For every living thing
Walking towards a light
From the cross of a king
We long to be a picture of Jesus
Of Jesus
In his arms
In his arms so many prayers rest

I long to be a picture of Jesus
With him we shall be forever blessed
With him we shall
With him we shall be forever blessed
Oh- Oh- I long
I've got a picture of Jesus

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fleeting Moments Each Filled with Grace

It has been a remarkable week. One week ago this evening, I sat by my father's bedside, listening with concern to his irregular Cheyne-Stokes breathing pattern; wondering how long he would be present in body with us. He was gone less than 13 hours later, passing quietly, without struggle or pain. Fleeting moments; one minute here, the next, gone. Calmly, almost silently, his breathing ended, no struggle, only peace and rest at last. An ending. Grace.

Dad wanted no service, no memorial, no gathering. It was rather fitting to the way that he and my mom chose to end their days, quietly withdrawn, choosing to separate from the bustle and energy of daily life. This was the pattern in which they had lived their lives for more than 10 years, almost entirely disconnected from civic life or involvement in the lives of others, save for a small handful of family. We were a small family, really just my immediate family and his sister, who is 79 now, and lives in Beverly Hills.

And so, my Dad is gone.

Saturday morning, I headed to the mountains, to this place, to spend a shortened bit of time with our church family. These are the people who spent the week thinking of and praying for our family as we faced our loss. And so, for me a loss, followed by not by isolation and withdrawal, but by engagement and embrace. So many who greeted me had kind words of sorrow, of sympathy, encouragement, or merely a long hug and tears. None of these people knew my Dad, but they know me. These are good people. Broken, messy, fallen, redeemed, awkward, loving, grace-giving people. The Body of Christ.

I always keep thinking that our church could do better. In so many ways. We are not big enough, not influential enough, not cool enough, not hip enough. Just not, well, enough. But you know what? This past week, and again over the weekend, for me, my church did just fine. Simply, graciously, fine. I need to be content with the simple gifts of this life.

And then, on Sunday morning, as our congregation gathered one more time, came a moment that nearly knocked me over. A fleeting moment. A moment full of joy and noise and singing, of music, and laughing and Grace. So much Grace.

Our oldest daughter has wanted to be a teacher of elementary kids for as long as we and she can remember. A junior in high school now, her life is full with school, studies, sports, and social life. And as is normal in young ladies her age, we parents do not necessarily get the best parts of her personality. We are often living with the sullen, grumpy, at-odds-with-the-world young lady who lives at our house. Not a lot of joy on some days, you know. Its hard to be 16, and we hear about it often. Much drama.

Fleeting moments. On Sunday morning, all of the kids of the church gathered in the front of Hormel Hall to sing to the adults. This is a tradition that has lasted as long as we can remember. There were almost 50 kids in all, crowding the front of the room. And there were two high school girls leading the singing, on their knees in the front, conducting like mad. One of those girls was Kelly, our oldest.

This was a moment I could not miss; I snuck to the front of the room to watch.

As she conducted these little kids, the smile on her face was as bright and broad as I have seen in months. The somewhat sullen high schooler was transformed by the smiles, and signing, and joy of a stage full of pre-schoolers and elementary kids. As I knelt on one knee and saw the beaming face of my girl, as my eyes filled with tears, the entire week, if not my life to this point, was illuminated.

In some strange way, the pieces of my life rearranged, and fit together in a more coherent picture. A picture of Grace.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Saw What I Saw

Sara Groves is one of my two (that is all I like) favorite Christian artists. A while back, she went to Rwanda, to the Killing Fields. This song is about what she saw. That I might have eyes to see.....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Grace In The Midst of Facing Death

This morning, at 8:53 AM, my Dad left this earth, bound for Someplace Far Better.

The feelings, emotions, and words are still hard to form in my mind. But there is this one word, this one feeling. It has been growing from a distant whisper into a bold headline over the life of our family in these recent days.

The word, feeling, and experience is Grace.

Theological types will tell you that the definition of grace is essentially unmerited favor. Perhaps they will remind you that grace is God's free action for the benefit of His people. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. In grace we get eternal life, something that, quite obviously, because we are goof-ups by nature, we do not deserve. But because of God's love and kindness manifested in Jesus, we receive the great blessing of redemption.

I have been overwhelmed by grace this past week. Its hard to get into words just yet, but I will. I have to. I must tell this story, as I have experienced it.

Amazing Grace.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Good News, Bad News

First the Bad News. UCLA was defeated by just about the worst team in college football yesterday; the semi-fighting (more like a pillow fight) Irish of Notre Dame. I was an eyewitness of this pathetic charade of a college football game. My wife/football buddy summed it up well in the third quarter...."Honey, I think the Goodyear Blimp is more entertaining than this game." The FA-18 fly-over during the national athem gave me goose bumps and tears; the Bruin football play gave me gas, and a rash.

I am not one to fly off the handle, but honestly, Karl Dorrell, the fellow who has been "coaching" (and I use the term loosely) the Bruins for just more than 4 years now, should have his photo next to the definition of "average" in the dictionary. He is 29-22 thus far in his coaching career in Westwood. My quick sports analysis: time for a change!

And now, the good news. Stanford 24, USC 23. The biggest cheer of the Bruin game Saturday night was the announcement of the final score of the USC game! It was a bittersweet Saturday night.

And for my friend Rob, who must be suffering greatly, a theological observation on these events. I find the SC loss somewhat of a substitutionary atonement for the Bruins sad season. Rob, please pass my thanks along to Pete and the Overconfident Crew. Fight on, heh.

Friday, October 05, 2007

They Care, and So, They Run

I have often had a frustration with some pastors I have known. Often, they don't get really involved in the street-level lives of their congregants, they avoid getting their hands dirty. They are happy to preach, to tell, not necessarily to "do".

I also have a problem, with marathoners, or those who participate in triathlons. Some can be complete narcissists, absorbed in their own world of training, diet, and performance.

My friend Tod is a guy who "does", and he is not self absorbed. He is willing to run out of breach, to face "the wall", to sweat, to keep on going. Tomorrow he will run with a team from
his church in the Chicago Marathon; and will raise over $25,000 for children impacted by HIV and AIDS.

Lets support a pastor who makes it real.
I am in. Are you?

Run, Tod, Run!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Soul Searching - The Documentary

Over the past year or so, I have made a new friend. His name is Michael Eaton. He is a husband, father (of perhaps the world's cutest baby girl, according to him), and film maker.

Oh great, you think, another film maker living in LA. Just what we need. Badly.

But Michael's films are different. Very. He makes films that really matter. These are films that contain beautiful and breathtaking cinematography, and are filled with heart touching purpose.

I am proud Michael is my friend.

At present, he is releasing "Soul Searching", a documentary companion to the nationally recognized
book of the same name.

Michael has not yet put the trailer up on YouTube, but you can view it
here. This film is a must see for anyone who cares about kids.

For another beautiful example of what Michael can do with a simple message, go here.

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