Monday, August 31, 2009

Love of the Father

Nobel Prize winning author, Tony Morrison, was asked about all the experiences that made her the great author she was. She said one and only one thing made her a great author. When she was growing up, every time she entered the room, her father's eyes lit up. She knew she was special and free to explore that specialness, wherever it took her. The love would be there always and no matter what.

Love does that. Real love. It sustains us, releases up, and inspires us. People will do almost anything for love. People are free to try great things with love.

I don't know about your earthly father. Some of you never received that love. I am sorry. Some of you knew that kind of love. You are blessed. All of us have a Father we know in our head loves us but we never quite know how to make that reach our heart. Love in the head does not inspire us much, although it may give us a pleasant moment now and then. Love that hits us right in the heart; moves us.

Love moves from the head to the heart when we risk. I am not talking about infatuation, which mostly gets us in trouble. Infatuation is love that doesn't get within a mile of the head. When we risk believing what we know, we are betting our life on it. That bet can burn, when the person who claims love lets us down. But that bet can make us soar was well.

I think we all need to soar more. There is just not enough love out there and it is our job as Christ followers to see that changes. Our Father wants that. Will you risk seeing if his love is real today? That is, will you make the trip from your head to your heart? The payout is great because our Father has created us as noble beings, destined for greatness (even when circumstances don't go our way.)

God says we love him and risk for his love when we love those around us, especially those we do not understand, or like or are fearful of. I pray you find your greatness today in the relationships with others. Risk it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I am reading Uncommon by Tony Dungy, NFL coach. In his book, he describes an abbreviation used when drafting players out of college; DNDC. It means: Do not draft because of character. The Indianapolis Colts passed on talent if character was weak (or they thought it was.) Dungy, in both of his books, has character being foundational to people and their success (fruitfulness) in life. His parents taught him this.

His mother saw being unreliable or untrustworthy as the worst thing possible. Your word meant that it was as good as done. No saying one thing and do another. You can count on me. I LOVE being around these people! Today, we often make excuses for unreliability (you cannot count on me) and untrustworthiness (I say what gets me by.) These are seldom seen as character flaws to be addressed. They are seen as quaint throwbacks to an era that could not keep up with today's fast-paced reality. Or are they?

Dungy says, "What you do is not as important as how you do it." Jesus would use this phrase with the Church People (Pharisees and leaders) of his day. Jesus looked to the heart and to motive. Expediency was a word for Pilate, not Jesus. Jesus pointed out hypocrisy as a major character flaw of the religious.

Do people see you as reliable and trustworthy? Does Christ? Are you as good as your word? Will you do what you claim today? Do you deliver today what you desire on the part of others? May you follow Christ in such a way as your true character becomes His.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


I invited the new (we had none) rabbi in Pearland to coffee to hear his story and offer my assistance in any way that might prove helpful. Having come from Brooklyn, I knew he was experiencing some culture shock. We had a good talk. And he left me with a gift. A true story from his tradition.


It seems that an older, wise rabbi was much sought after for his sage advice and mere presence. Even at his age, he made himself present on every Sunday afternoon after lunch and often went till the early evening. He stood all those hours in a room and received the host of pilgrims who often would wait hours for a short audience.


A woman, herself advanced in years, approached the good rabbi. She was hot and tired. "Rabbi,"" she said, "How do you do it? Stay on your feet for so long. I have done it for an hour and a half and am exhausted."


The rabbi answered, "I see each person as a diamond, a jewel. A person of great value. And who doesn't like spending time involved with the priceless?"


Obviously, I see Jesus in this. My Baptismal Vows encourage me to "respect the dignity of every human" and to "seek and serve Christ" in everyone.


Underneath it all, I do think the Way of Christ is the truest expression of God. But I also see how much the great religions of the world have in common. The rabbi in the story could have been Jesus, or Peter or Paul or St. Francis.


I am conditioned by the world to magnify differences at the expense of the common. I think Jesus would be more inclined to magnify commonalities at the expense of the differences.


What are all the things you have in common with the people you will meet today? Don't think of a difference until you have exhausted the commonalities.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I must admit, I don't have the time to really keep up or report on Facebook but I do love the pictures and triumphs of those I follow. I have noticed something of a trend. Bored and tired. I am not a fan of either. They are not fun. Of all the things, noble and mundane, these bored and tired are reported at a higher frequency than the others. "Bored" are usually (but not always) are under 30 and unmarried. "Tired" (I bunch "sleepy" in with these as well) are usually from 40 to 50 and have demanding jobs and/or demanding shuttle schedules for families. I have friends who have nothing to do and friends who have too much to do. I wish they could meet each other. I think they would be a great match.

I wonder what God - who created the sun, stars, mountains, streams, daydreaming, sex, lattes, sea otters and hangovers - thinks about "I'm bored." Boredom sets in when everything is predictable and the "present" looks like it will never end. Boredom wants novelty. And novelty sells. Our world that cannot invent novelty fast enough because there is an insatiable appetite for novelty.

I wonder what God thinks because there is so much unexplored territory inside us. Territory he made, thought was pretty darn good, and died for. The last frontier is not space or the ocean or quantum mechanics. The last frontier, the place of endless novelty, is our soul. To explore that takes courage, patience and dedicated time.

Last week, while at Half Price Books, I saw a mom with an adult child in a wheel chair. The child could not navigate much without mom's help. She obviously loved this child who, I assume required most of her life's energy and focus. She conversed with him, tended to him and checked out the cook books. She is my hero. I am impatient and don't like it when I have been inconvenienced just a little. I get bored and act (childishly, I admit) like this has and will go on forever.) She was not bored (I am sure she gets tired.) While I didn't stop and ask her, I bet she had plumbed the depths of her soul many times (possibly at night when everyone was asleep, in tears.) The reward of her exploration was love. Love for herself and the love of selflessness. Love is never boring.

May you, who are loved beyond your imagination, take the time to see what God thinks is so special about you. And may you live it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Identity Theft

San Jacinto College has an advertisement out with the catch phrase, "Invent yourself." I know what that means. But it causes me to think (always dangerous.)

We really do love to invent ourselves. We buy stuff to make ourselves accepted or cool. We dress in a way to make impressions on others. We will do what our peers are doing in order to be liked and not be too unpalatable. We hold our tongue, leaving a false impression, because we know that our expression will get us into trouble. Fads give us an outlet to see if, underneath our exterior, lies a jewel of a person that universally would be acknowledged as such.

But God says, "I knew you in your mother's womb" (Jer. 1:5.) Literally, God is saying, "Hey, I thought you up and it was one of my better moments, thank you very much!" Parenthetically (probably in a thought bubble so as not to upset us,) God says to himself, "Why won't you believe me?"

We invent (reinvent) ourselves because we let others define us. We are always looking for outside approval. And we love to judge, rank, order others. I remember my first day at college when I realized that none of these people knew my past and I can be anyone I want to be. I shed one false identity that was thrust on me in high school due to my average looks and athletic ability. High school was a Darwinian experiment of natural selection.

Being liberated I did what any "intelligent" person would do. I made up my own identity to thrust upon myself. One I knew would be a hit with my peers. As a result, I drank my way through college on a poker scholarship. My choice for me was WORSE than the one I was issued in high school.

At 27, after multiple identities, I sought out God, more as a last resort. We never rest in peace until we come to the realization that no identity works except the one given by God. And we learn that no peace comes to life until we learn to embrace the beauty and miracle of ourselves, raw and unvarnished.

God knew what he was doing when he made you. You are the most beautiful thing he ever laid eyes on. Just you. No inventions. This is not an exercise in ego-centrism. It is one of theo-centrism.

 Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
       and who seek the LORD :
       Look to the rock from which you were cut
       and to the quarry from which you were hewn;

 look to Abraham, your father,
       and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
       When I called him he was but one,
       and I blessed him and made him many.
 The LORD will surely comfort Zion
       and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
       he will make her deserts like Eden,
       her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
       Joy and gladness will be found in her,
       thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Isaiah 51:1-3 (NIV)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Old Folks

I read in the Houston Chronicle today that the young tech-savvy people who helped President Obama get elected were uninterested (and, therefore, not helping) him with the health care initiative he was proposing. This is not about Conservative/Liberal or even politics or the president. This is about people.


When working as a chaplain and being assigned to mostly emergencies and deaths, I noticed a strange phenomenon. Severe illness or death of a child was considered tragic. The same for an old person was not. I thought both were tragic. Life at both ends of the spectrum has value. We live in a culture obsessed with youth and forgetful of elders.


People would tell me that a child will never reached his or her potential. True. But some who start out cute become members of East Los Angeles gangs or suicide bombers. I knew, too, that some who died in old age sent 5 kids through college without a high school diploma or a husband. Some were doctors who treated people for free. Some were inventors. Some people sue potential. Some waste it. But ALL have it. It is called the Image of God.


Sentimentality views people by how they make us feel. It is mainly based on externals. Babies are cute. Older people often need more attention. They have their own ideas. Where we should be looking, however, is not at our feelings but the soul of the person. Regardless of external appeal or lack thereof, Christ is resident in everyone.


When Paul says that there is neither "Jew nor Greek, male nor female…," what I think he is saying is that at the heart of it, we all bear the stamp of Christ. At the heart of it, we are all the same. And that same is inherently lovable.


Ask yourself how you view people today. Those in your family. Those at work or school. Those on TV. Those who say things you like. Those who say things you hate. You are looking at Christ.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Christine and I saw Julie and Julia last night on our date night. It was a good movie. The 60's saw many Julia Child cooking shows on channel 13. Later, she was parodied on Saturday Night Live. She was an icon of the time.


The movie was about people following their passion. Julia had a passion for cooking, especially French cooking and a passion for bringing this kind of cooking into American homes. Julie had a passion for writing and wrote a blog about cooking through all the recipes of Julia Child's The Mastering of French Cooking cookbook. The stories are true. People with a passion create life around them because they are alive.


I am saddened when I see people do things for money or pressure from parents or from incidents of their past. The people are good but, without passion, life is absorbed rather than created. When Jesus tells us that his desire for us is abundant life (John 10:10,) he is saying, "I want life to overflow for you and it will happen following me."


Abundant living occurs regardless of life's circumstances. Jesus had it even in his humiliating death. If he can, so can we, even in the face of lay-off's, salary freezes, being a bench warmer, retirement or illness. When I lived in New York, the Puerto Rican and Italian food stores had one thing in common. They had produce overflowing in the aisles. Abundance. Overflowing.


Do you have overflowing life? Are you working in your passion? Do you know what your passion is? You were created for life. Christ can open that door if you will follow. Start by living or finding your passion.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Wonder If I Try This

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. Matthew 7:13 (NIV)

I am often leery of formulaic Christianity. Follow these steps (rules) and you will uncover the key to getting God to do your will. Sounds crass but this thought is behind a lot of Christian thinking.

Jesus does tell God what he would like but always prefaces that with wanting God?s will more. Jesus is a great vessel for the actions of God but, I have to admit, Jesus does not fair well in the process. He is hate, tortured and dies. His friends desert him. His family thinks he is loony. The religious people of his day think he is Satan.

Jesus chose the narrow door. Christians should be put out more than successful in life. Yet, especially on TV, Christians are shown to have the mastery of getting from God what they would love. Health, wealth, and, most especially, control, over their lives.

Control is an illusion. Only God is in control and God may love me to pieces but he really is not interested in my personal agendas. The narrow door.

The wide door is the comfy, pious, in control way of life. The narrow door is the scary, dangerous, relinquishing control way. No way can I repackage Jesus? life to the comfy one. I believe true peace and contentment do come from taking the narrow door but they are the fruit of living in concert with God.

?I am too busy to pray.? I just cannot get into the Bible.? ?Once I get my life in order, then I can help the poor and right injustice.? ?Tithing is too big a risk.? These are the prayers of those who have taken the wide door because they know that there is no control over the narrow one. I think that is scary. God thinks that is the only way we will live. I wonder if I can convince him to adopt my ways.

The one who loves the least, controls the relationship.
Robert Anthony

If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.
Mario Andretti