Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Perhaps you have watched this video on the web. It is a very graphic depiction of the fast pace of life, the fragility of our current lifestyle and the impossibility of keeping up with change. My great grandfather lived almost exactly the same life as his great grandfather farming in Italy. Yet my great grandfather would find my life very alien if not surreal and indecipherable.


We do not like being reminded of our finiteness. And when we are, we quickly move on to something else or we despair. There is a third choice. One Christians should know but often let slide in our reaction or avoidance. The third choice is the Cross.


The Cross, so present at this time of year, is the only way to the Resurrection. In other words, God is well aware (as is Jesus) that the world will (not might) dish out all sorts of crap that lessen the human experience or overwhelm us to the point of oblivion. Poor health, lack of money, tense relationships, incivility are not dead ends (unless we choose them to be so) but opportunities for God to make things new by making us new. God transforms people from "dead" to living. Too often we ask God to change circumstances when, in fact, God yearns to change us to be circumstance-proof.


Yes, the world is scary. Things are tough. The next step may be overwhelming. But God has overcome the world. Open up. Let him in. He loves you more than you'll ever know. And his love transforms.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Walgreen's adopted a new business model over a decade ago and it has led Walgreen's to become a Fortune 500 company. The model? They moved, even at a large cash outlay, to move to all stores on major corners (intersections) to make it easier for customers to get in an out. Obviously, the big risk yielded big rewards.


Somewhere down the line, church became associated not with risk (faith) but unchanging safety. The church's people took on a veneer of safety and personal piety. It is hard to imagine Jesus being crucified for being a 21st century North American church-goer. Ignored, maybe, but not crucified.


Which begs the questions, "What happened?" Why are we not the ecclesial equivalent of Walgreen's, risking it all for a larger vision and a bigger market share? (Yes, I am aware of the repugnant sound of "market share" but I believe that we have a magnetic message and Person; why would we not want to share it?)


May you/we have a faith so big and risky that you/we draw people to Christ because that is your/our vision and our goal. May we rely less on ourselves and more on God. "I will, with God's help!"


Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT)


A wiki is a community website where the members can add, delete or modify the content to provide the best product or information. The wiki is the child of the whole community. Some wiki's have few rules. Some have many rules for posting or modifying. "Wiki" in Hawaiian means "fast," presumably because the wiki changes very quickly as a result of changes in circumstances, history, interpretation, and knowledge. The most popular wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia.


"Wikipedia is about as good a source of accurate information as Britannica, the venerable standard-bearer of facts about the world around us."  


Wiki's survive because they are reliable. They would move to obscurity if they proved to be untrustworthy. Who wants a source of bad information? Wiki's are sought out because they are open/transparent and are honest in terms of reflecting the community.


Jesus calls us to a large dose of authenticity, openness, inclusiveness, integrity, service and "looking out for one another" community. We, the Church, are also the best hope for a rapidly changing world. Jesus says the world may pass away, but his Word will not (also see Isaiah 55:11.)


So how "wiki" are we? Does the entire community have a stake on our church? Are we completely open in our dealings, with a minimum of rules which we employ to keep us honest? Do we provide service to a broken world and not just to ourselves? Do we change rapidly when the hurts of the world call for it (without losing our core values?) Are we the best source of the unvarnished Truth? With God's help, I hope so.

Goofing Off

In a recent press release, the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that our kids average over 7.5 hours of "media entertainment" a day. That's a lot of Facebooking, TV watching and video gaming. (See  for details.) I notice that many Facebook entries from parish teens come during school. The study also showed that 70% of teens had no parental limits set and that those with the most usage got the worse grades.


Now, I knew how to goof off as a teen. I may not have done it electronically, but I did do it. A certain amount of goofing off is Biblical (Sabbath time.) But my goofing was limited and monitored. My parents set limits and knew what I was up to. God was a given as part of the mix. I always wondered how God gets in at all in the lives of youth when sports and grades got to much play by parents. Now this.


Kids have parents/guardians and grandparents for a reason. Even the Son of God did. The reason is for training up a child. Too much freedom or too much emphasis on the entertaining or the fleeting yields struggling adults later on in life. And to top this off, kids are more apt to do what we do than what we simply say. They can spot a hypocrite from a distance. Each week, dedicated people offer Christian Education for all ages yet only a small percentage take advantage of it.


How much do the kids in your life, by your example, see that God is a priority? A priority demonstrated by the limits you set on yourself as well as them. By the involvement in a faith life you have on your own and with them? Is not God worth, each day and each Sunday, a little of that time?  


 Train a child in the way he should go,
       and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22.6 (NIV)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Play Nice

In my mind, the Church should be most power force in society. After all, we are the Body of Christ. But, like the guy who does not go to the prom, the Church too often is considered nice but dull, boring and incapable of impressive feats of power (think athletic.) Jesus was killed for his work. Should the Church, then, be ignored?


I think it comes down to faith. Faith moves mountains. Minute amounts of faith can change the course of human history. Faith makes the impossible possible.


Jesus called his disciples "little faiths." I think that moniker fits us as well. Too often, we attempt what is easy, what we can accomplish under our own power.  Too often, we pretend things are okay rather than tackling the impossible task of reconciling the world to God and one other. Too often, we are uninspired by our self-help religion where we dare not consider anything that moves beyond the resources we can spare. Too often, we are afraid that, if we dream too big, God will not be able to deliver.


I do not have a lot of faith, but God does. In fact, he says, "Don't worry, I make more!" I, as part of the Church, must seek to be faithful because faith changes reality. And things are not okay as they are. I must allow Faith to take me places I do not want to go, provide times I fear being overwhelmed and expect work that outstrips my resources. My life and the lives of others depend on Faith taking over where I run out.


I don't want to be nice and domesticated or even clever. I want to be faith full and, if need be, a bit afraid. God wants more for this world. He will accomplish it through risk takers who believe he can deliver.

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

Pardon Me

Recently, Glenn Beck made the news ( by telling listeners to quit churches that have "social justice" or "economic justice" as part of their agenda. Beck equated these terms with Nazism and Communism. I do understand that Mr. Beck is more concerned with advertising dollars than the truth, all entertainers are. Ill-informed, inflammatory words sell ad space. But I think he misses the mission of the Gospel people by a mile.
God routinely tells his people to seek out and change the reality for the poor and oppressed. Our Baptismal Vows state the same thing. We are to work to make society more just. We are to relieve the plight of the poor and motherless. We are to seek out those in pain. The privatized, "me and Jesus in a love fest" gospel to the expense of service is a non starter. We are here to make the world more just and not simply more gentle.
Ponder the words of Mary as she learns that she will be an intimate part of the Gospel by being the Mother of God.
 46And Mary said:
   "My soul glorifies the Lord
    47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 48for he has been mindful
      of the humble state of his servant.
   From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
      holy is his name.
 50His mercy extends to those who fear him,
      from generation to generation.
 51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
      he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones
      but has lifted up the humble.
 53He has filled the hungry with good things
      but has sent the rich away empty.
 54He has helped his servant Israel,
      remembering to be merciful
 55to Abraham and his descendants forever,
      even as he said to our fathers."  Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)

Are you on the side of the poor and oppressed?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


While driving in Houston last week, I was passed by a gleaming, new Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. A red convertible. You make' em, we buy' em. Growing up after World War II, I collect pictures of aircraft clipped from magazines. I also assembled model planes. I knew Mitsubishi. The made the dreaded "Zero" naval aircraft that amazed our pilots in WW II. Yesterday, an enemy. Today, we engage (even throw money at) a friend.


If anything spiritually arrests a person, it is holding onto a hurt. So many people limp through life keeping a past hurt on life support. When Jesus tells us to forgive, he means it. And he means it for our own good. Financial debt enslaves us (Psalm 22:7) as does emotional debt.


Seeing our fiercest foe become a trading partner and friend reminds us that freedom from emotional (spiritual) debt can be possible, if not liberating. Not an overnight thing, but both possible and revitalizing.


What hurt do you hold on life support? Isn't it time to let God have it? He is big. We are too puny. Get on with living through debt reduction.


Prayers are odd. I have noticed that prayer does not seem to be a part of our life unless we are reduced to having no control or when we have no idea where to go next. Conversely, if we are intent on doing whatever it is, we skip God altogether (or give God a passing nod) and do what we want. If it pans out, we seldom return to our knees to thank God. Prayer is viewed as commerce.


By commerce, I mean this. We call in a plumber when we are over our heads in water (or worse.) We call in a lawyer when we get into trouble. We consult a horoscope if we are unsure what to do next. We call on God when the end of our rope is in sight. It's a transaction. Call in the expert and pay what is necessary.


Only God sends no bill. It slips our mind to pay up or even say, "Thanks." In fact, "paid in full" is stamped on the life of his crucified Son. God wants us. The one thing he will not force is love. Yet he is the one who has nothing less than a total commitment to us, even when we ignore him. No matter what.


Prayer is not an event. It is a lifestyle. A lifestyle of communion, not with an advisor who is on retainer, but with our Lord and Savior. Open your relationship to life Himself through a daily time with Christ.


I drove by a church the other day. The marquee stated that Jesus was the answer to life's puzzle. I am not sure that is true. Jesus is the answer, true, but I am not sure that God makes life out to be a puzzle.


A puzzle is something that must be solved. With a puzzle we start clueless and must gather facts. We might put a tremendous amount of effort into puzzles (I like them.) I think that there is a problem with viewing life as a puzzle.


I meet many people who believe that God has a very specific plan for them. They must guess or conjure up exactly what that plan is and do it…or else. Every piece must be right and fit exactly. Worry accompanies this quest. This yields a very frustrating and tiring faith. This is more of God taunting us to "get it right." What he does say is this: Let not your heart be troubled, believe in me.


I believe God has many paths that would suit us. The point is not to figure out God but to accept him. To surrender to him. To love him.  Out of that relationship will come all sorts of possibilities, not just one. And God freely forgives if we find we have taken a less desirable path.


Jesus says he is the Way. This implies that life is found in a journey and not unlocking a solution. We follow because our finding a solution is not the point. We are to seek Jesus' Kingdom and everything else will take care of itself. Life is to be lived and not solved.


God loves us and that is not a puzzle.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Okay, no one much thinks about etiquette these days. It even sounds quaint. But, I think a Christian should, especially in the days of texting, email, Facebook, and voicemail. Etiquette is the very Christ-like action of thinking of others first. We are called to a higher standard – Christ. Here is what I try to use in my own life. Let me know if you have additions.


  1. Email or text only to praise or report. And do praise. No one gets enough. Save criticism and bad news (like not showing up or keeping a commitment) to a face-to-face meeting or (second best) a telephone call. Don't bail out over email or text.


  1. Not everyone uses email every day or texting at all. Know your recipient. Tailor your missives to allow for there preferences. Last minute replies may look like "no reply" to someone who does not check email everyday or who does not receive text.


  1. Answer all your email, and texts and voicemail – preferably in 24 hours. No one likes being ignored. If you do not want correspondence, let people know not to contact you. Realize that people for whom Christ died sometimes get delivered to your Junk Mail. Check it.


  1. If you have an instant visceral response, shut down your email. Wait for a cooler head. Reply as if you were replying to Christ. You are. See Matthew 25.


  1. If it was originally sent to "All," reply to "All" unless it is a most personal note to the author. No one likes to be in the dark or out of the loop.


  1. Remember, Facebook is public. If you don't want me others to know that you were playing Farmville on Sunday morning instead of being in church (among other things,) don't "Friend" them.



Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3 (NIV)


Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13:35 (NLT)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible. Proverbs 10:23


Having 60 years to look back upon allows one to see changes and trends that, when you are in the middle of them, you don't see them and, sometimes, refuse to see them. One thing I have noticed as I go around the church is that there are more occasions where I find (even on Sunday mornings) things left a mess and even purposely messed up – small, but real, vandalism, which someone else will clean up. Things for which my mom would have "boxed my ears in" (her phrase, actually, another part of my anatomy was involved.) She knew everything I did. The community (neighbors, school, parents, and church) would tell her. While she did ask me what I did, she usually agreed that those in the community were right and I had something to learn. We had community standards and the community upheld them.


Which brings me to consider this. We do not have as close a community in which to raise children as we once did. We often refuse to accept that our children/grandchildren are off track. Either that or we have little time to monitor children because we have crammed so much in our calendar. We dare not speak of other people's children for fear of reprisal. We do not have a clear norm for community behavior. Maybe we don't even have any real community. I am reading Leviticus (yes, people do read it) right now and, if one thing is clear, they had community and community standards. AND…they lost them.


Solomon, writing in Proverbs above, saw the same thing thousands of years ago. We resist wisdom because foolishness seems so much fun (short term relief.) But foolishness does have long-term effects that injure the fool and the fool's community.


Today, resist the short-term high of foolishness. Encourage true community. Embrace wisdom in playing a responsible part in community be it family, neighborhood, school, church or city. Be wise today.



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Small Voice

AccuWeather was accused of sensationalism when they billed a recent Eastern snow storm a "snowicane." Competitors and the National Weather Service both took issue with the name since hurricanes are measured by sustained wind speed and these storms had not such thing. It would seem that we need an escalation of words in order to catch people's attention, much like how commercials do this by being so much louder than the TV show.


How often do we inflate words or facts in order to gain attention? Exaggeration seems the norm. No longer are are we sick, but we SO sick. No longer are we good at something but we are SO good. No longer do we have something but we have the NEWSET something. No longer has a glitch come up than it is the end of the world. In 1950, there were no superstars (the word came into use later.) There were just stars.


The problem with exaggerated speech is this. How do we weigh what is important and worthy of our attention in a world where everyone and everything shouts at us to "pay attention OR ELSE?"  Constantly plugged in, we have endless music, glitter and activity. LOUDER!


On Mount Carmel, God said he spoke in a "still, small voice" or, as another translation puts it, God spoke in the sound of "sheer silence."


God is speaking to you today. Will the noise win out or will you listen for him, spend time attentive to him? God does not bug us for attention. While he showers great things on all, only some tune him in and take advantage of it. What are you missing if your life has too much noise in it? Turn down the volume. You have something special waiting for you.




National Public Radio had a story the other day ( about teen aged brains and how they are not fully developed. Why teens are "sullen, self-centered and reckless." Scientists had originally thought "that the teen brain is just an adult brain with fewer miles on it." In fact, the real difference lay in the mechanics of the brain. It turns out that the frontal lobe is not fully connected to the rest of the brain. The frontal lobe is where weighing consequences, differentiating good/bad action and a developing a sense of what is socially appropriate lie. This explains why our lectures seem to get no where and why teens can be so frustrating.


It also turns out that habit wise; teens have a "more robust habit-forming ability" while adults often won't change no matter what. This makes addiction easy for a teen to fall into (a habit) but also makes learning easier (why teens can do so many technical things adults complain about but may not learn.)


This all begs the question, "What habits are you exposing your teen (child) to? Specifically, what habits do they see in you act on (forget your lecturing about what is good while you, in fact, don't do it) and in which you place a real value in? I think of church habits – regular attendance, prayer, Bible study, acts of service towards others, and going to Christian education. Alas, I see a real inconsistency in these while I see an almost slavishness in the habits of sports, extracurricular activities and grades. These latter habits are not bad but they do crowd out ones that will support our teens long after the others give way (and they will.)


What habits are you teaching the teen around you? Not the ones you hope to teach, the ones you are really teaching in the habits you keep and impart.