Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Jim Tressel, the coach of the Ohio State football team, resigned today. In Buckeye Land, where football is a religion, this is bad news. The NCAA is investigating all sorts of stories about the antics of State players, antics the coach, the Athletic Director, and even the President of OU should have monitored and corrected. But that is not the reason Coach Tressel resigned.


Jim Tressel resigned because he lied (I think I am supposed to add "allegedly here.) He lied to the NCAA investigating committee. He lied to cover up. Now, we may believe the NCAA rules are fussy and too voluminous. We may think no coach can know all the weird behavior her or his athletes are up to. But a coach can tell the truth. So can you and I.


What if everything you and I said were broadcast on ABC and Twittered or Facebooked to thousands of followers? What would be exposed about us? Would we have to "resign?"


Jesus encouraged the transparent life. The Truth sets us free.  He embraced the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) life. He was transparent so we could see and know the Father. He was transparent so God could act directly through a human being. People we remember as saints are people who were transparent. A transparent life points to God. A transparent life acts on God's behalf. A transparent life is power.


God has something awesome in store for us through us, provided you and I remain transparent or return to transparency once we realize it. You are the vehicle for some of God's greatest work. We need you. And God allows as many "do-over's" as we need.


Embrace transparency. We cannot afford one more follower of Christ to resign.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tommy Knockers

In the mining business, they are called tommy knockers. In the oil patch, they are gremlins. Either way, they are the "things" that work in mysterious ways, defying logic and generally causing havoc. Like the day I had polyethylene pellets (plastic) coming out of the administration water fountains. Or when, on a drill rig, the tension indicator registered we were getting stuck in the hole yet the drill rig didn't hunker down like you will expect under all that load. Both were later explained but baffled us at the time.


Much of life does not make sense. We major in "why?" questions? Why did a child die? Why did she leave? Why did I lose my job? Why can't I find a job? Why?


Not only is evil real. So is randomness. And I like certainty.


I turn to Jesus because the world is uncertain and I am too puny to face all the questions I have. Questions that only deliver crickets in response. Oh, I could buy stuff and gather back-slaps and awards. I could get lost in addiction. I could try escaping responsibility and avoiding attachments. I could become hardened and swagger. I could fret my life away. But questions would go unanswered.


I need God because life is full of tommy knockers.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Twitter Bible - Luke


1-Gospel 4 God-lovr-Liz baren-hubby,Zech c's angl-All gd, God will giv U kid-Zech silent-angel visits 2-2 have Jesus-Mary sings

2-Census-Jo&Mary 2 home twn-Mar preg-Motels filld, find barn-Shephrds gt wind o'birth, C baby-Lots o'praise-Jesus cut, hangs out @Temple

3-John preachs public change o'heart-It aint bout holy yakking, act out change-not about you-I'm welcome mat o'life-Door is coming

4-Jesus temptd /devil-3 temptations about powr-Jesus C's self in Isaiah-rejectd by homies-outsidrs C his authoriT-J heals many

5-Jesus, "thers mor" thn meets eye-calls folks 2 follo-heals "Tell no 1, but do religus thang-J's datebk swampd-relig dudes: J=bogus

6-J: rules enhance life, not abt fussines-heals on sabbath-calls 12-relig dudes pissed-thers gonna B reversal o'fortune-luv enemies

7-Jesus finds faith in pagan-J doesnt meet ppls expectations of relig Poo Bah-J sez look at wht I do, not how. Fruit points 2 God

8-Women bankroll Jesus-J teaches reality o'Gd w/stories-discipls ned explaind-must be open to C Gd at work-heals many-calms storm

9-Jesus sends 12 w/his power-sez dont burdn self w/stuff-12 amazed @ results-5k fed w/resourcs @ hand-Gd-"My kid A-OK. Listen up!"

10-J senz out /2's-need o'helpers gr8-helprs wowd /results-merC shld derail all othr plans, incl churchy ones-hangin w/J primo

11-Jesus teachs prayr: will o'God,forgive,persist-J sez evil always lookin 4 host: that U?-woe 2 religus fussbudgets-love God instead

12-Bware hypocrisy-fear God, not ppl-life not found n stuff,dude-stuff won't save U-worry gets U no whr-prepare-followin me tuff

13-chang o'heart marx Xn-sins equal-Gd patient-J heals sabbth, angrs relig leadrs-Godz realiT not pushy but its huge-disciplship costly

14-J healin silences relig dudes-God=radical humiliT-insidrs out, outsidrs in-followin Jesus costs-don't srt till willing 2 pay $$

15-Bunch of little stories w/BIG points told against religious leaders and for those overlooked-every person is important, no matter what, even sinners-compassion!

16-How U handl $ = eternl consequencs-B shrewd but 4 Christ-use $ 4 othrs/Godz work-Dude, youre gona luv Gd or $, yr choice-chuze wisely

17-Dont B an occasion 4 sum1 2 sin-faith grows through obedience & thx, not magic-Reality of Gods hand at wrk seen now thru faith

18-Persist n prayr, Gdz no magic act-Pompus relig bozos mis pt-humiliT-childlik faith best-mov Byond follwin rulz-bellyflop in2 Gdz arms

19-Jesus' love changes life of cheatr-abt gifts; "use em or lose em"-J returns 2 Jerusalm 2 crowds-relig leadrs mad:work 2 kill him

20-Relig PooBahs 2 J: who gav U rt?-J turns tabls, tels story aganst thm-they get mad, try 2 get J n hot H2O w/Romns-J silencs crtics

21-Depth o'sacrific mattrs mor thn $-Jungl out thr, trust me 2 mak it-wach out 4 fals teachrs-wors it is, closr Gd's realiT is 4 trustrs

22-Passovr-Relig Ldrs want 2 86 Jesus-Judas plsd 2 do 4 $-Last Suppr-discpls whine about whos 1st-B prepard 4 whats next-arrest

23-Jesus on trial-Relig leadrs want him killed, govt sees no prob-Pilate appeases crowd-Jesus crucified, dies and is buried

24-Guys dont Bleve womn who say Jesus is risen-Jesus talks w/bummed out followrs who are stirred w/his scripture lesson-J ascends 2 heavn

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Thought You Were Jesus

A young girl came up to me the other day and said these words to me. She now knows I am Jim. I could have told her that a number of folks who left the church thought I was Satan. But that's another story.


Children often think the parish priest, all dressed in white, is Jesus or God (I have gray hair.) It's understandable. We think, how cute. But, hold on.


I think these children are more theologically astute than we think. In Matthew 25, Jesus seems to say, he is the person in need we serve. In Hebrews (and the Genesis story it refers to,) entertaining another is entertaining God.  Right out to the box, God tells us in the first pages of Genesis, we are made in God's image. We who follow are called His Body.


You, in some mysterious but real way, are Jesus interacting with other Jesus' all day long. I wonder what a day would be like if we consciously saw one another (and ourselves) as the Jesus we are. What if we reached down within and drew on the Jesus within? What if we saw the relationship inherent in the Trinity in our day-to-day interactions with one another? What if we never saw an adversary, or a down-out-outer or a foreigner without seeing Jesus first?


I want that day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Move It!

In September of 1972, Christine and I quit our jobs, packed the Toyota (no A/C) with most all our belongings and headed west from New York City. We knew we were not coming back. Nothing was waiting for us. Each day was an open book. Sometimes long drive. Sometimes novel stops. Always interesting people.


We stayed in Motel 6's (then $7.77 for a double, 25 cents an hour for TV) to conserve what money we had. Coolest building – Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD. Most jaw-dropping view – driving into Sheridan, WY. Worst pizza – Butte, MT. Longest drive – Butte, MT to Vancouver, BC (must have been the pizza.) Final stop a month later – Boulder, CO (and 6 months of being unemployed.)


Jesus says he is the Way. Our spiritual life is called a journey. How many of us would call our spiritual life more of an Encampment?  Encampment in the sense that we take few if any risks. Encampment in the sense that we stay stuck being defined by our past, for good or ill. Encampment in the sense that we will get on with life once we get everything we need in order. Encampment in the sense that all our time is spent getting and conserving stuff. Encampment in the sense that we are too busy to entertain anything beyond the urgent.


An adventure awaits. Christ is the guide. Pull up stakes.

 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
      do not depend on your own understanding.
 6 Seek his will in all you do,
      and he will show you which path to take.    Proverbs 3:5-6 (NTL)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Do You Smell?

I visit my dad at his apartment often. Recently, the parking lot at his place was resealed with asphalt. The smell was straight hydrocarbon.


Now, I suspect you think of that as a stink. For me, the aroma is like the smell of mom's home cooking. While I know the smell of asphalt is neither healthy nor pleasant to most, it triggers fond memories. I remember wonderful experiences and people from my oil patch days. Just a whiff transports me to a good place, good times.


Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15, "For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." In other words, we who claim to follow Christ should by our actions and words help others conjure up thoughts and feelings of love and courage to face the day ahead (or to reconcile a bad day in the rear view mirror.)


Be so Christ like today that you give off an unmistakable aroma to those who need reinforcement for their faith and those who are just hanging on.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dead Letter

I got an email from a deceased friend yesterday. I suspect he did not write the note soliciting me to buy the latest in "life-saving" gadgets. I did his burial. I am sure he is no longer there to write emails.


I wonder, if I got an email from either Heaven or Hell, what would it say besides "It's nice/It sucks?"  


I bet it would be about love. About how much I am loved and about how much love a person secure in her/his love needs to love. And about how much love can make a marked difference in a day, a year, a world, a life.


Love is a strategy, a way of life. So much more than a feeling (oh, but what a great feeling-let's not stop that.)


Love today. There's enough to go around and plenty of places that need it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

True Disciple?

Are you a true disciple? Do you make the grade? Take this test and see.

          Do you lie?
But Peter denied it. "Woman," he said, "I don't even know him!" Luke 22:57

Are you dense in matters of faith? 
"You have so little faith," Jesus said. "Why did you doubt me?" Matt 14:3 

Are you overreaching? 
But they didn't answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. Mark 9:34

         Are you fearful?
           That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. John 20:19

Are you dense? (and afraid?) 
They didn't understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. Mark 9:32

Do you lack an attention span? 
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, "Couldn't you watch with me even one hour? Matt 26:40

Do you whine? 
His disciples replied, "How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?" Mark 8:4

If you answered "yes" to all these questions (or even one,) you are in the company of some of the greatest followers Christ ever had. Don't let yourself be judged. Don't judge yourself. Following takes practice and our Lord provides forgiveness.

Love the Lord with all you've got and keep following.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The End

I usually start early on my sermon. I need to let it "percolate" for a while. I was not sure about the May 22nd sermon, however. I have been advised by a local billboard that the world will come to end on the day before the sermon will be delivered. I mean, I am kind of busy and all and this would free up some time since, whether Heaven or Hell, I will not get a chance to preach. If Hell, I am sure the devil does not appreciate sermons. If Heaven, my guess is that God's sermons are better (probably shorter, too.)


I have not idea if the world will end today let alone this Saturday. I suspect it will not. Jesus didn't even know. I have no idea what God is or isn't saying to the prophet who purchased the billboard. I think I will enjoy today. After all, it is all I have.


Here's what I believe. Everyday must be lived as if it where the last. I can be fortified by my past. I can plan for my future. But today is all I really have. Jesus reminds us not to look over our shoulder and not to build huge barns for our future plans. He does say that today is enough and to plan for God to enter our life (and judge our work) today.


How much are you a slave to your past and past experiences? Jesus would encourage you to for give? How much do you let fears about your future spoil today? They may not be good predictors. Enjoy each current moment. Tomorrow would doubtlessly be different than you imagine (because you do not know.)


Expect God today. Let him in on your life today. Invest in what God's up to. Make a dent in the suffering of the world today.


Oh, and I will see you on the 22nd.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Your Well Is Up

3:23 AM. Sound asleep. The ringing of the phone breaks the silence. "Good morning, Jim. Your well is up." I scribble down the location and the directions to a well somewhere in northern New Mexico, get in my coveralls, kiss Christine and fire up the Torino. I'm off. When I went to bed, there were a few wells that might finish drilling before day break. I caught one of them. Hope my crew is sober.


In the oil business, you never know "Where?" or "When?" Sometimes, "When?" happens right after 36 straight hours working on the previous "When." Oil and gas wells keep their own time.


Truth is, as much as we think we are in control (or attempt to control the outcome of others) and assume one day will be mostly like the last or believe we are masters of our won destiny, we do not know what's next. Nor do we know what will be required of us. Maybe a lot. Maybe beyond our imagination. Maybe wonderful.


My experience tells me that both Nature and God are as bout a predictable as the next oil well. While I may not know "Where" or "When," I do know God had good in store for me if I listen. Always good.


Did you hear that? If I listen. While God is always offering good, I am not listening always.


What are you missing because you are not taking time to listen through prayer and scripture reading or by just stopping for a while? It may be a lot.


Listen, God is calling your name.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Drop your Stuff

It happened about once a month. We would go to the gate of the construction site and ask outgoing construction hands to open their lunch pails. Heavy construction sites for an oil company were rife with theft. After a few hundred workers would file out, we would police the area where the line was. Stuff was everywhere! Stainless steel valves, flashlights, instrument wire, gloves, you name it. It was all dropped as word spread down the line that we were checking for theft.


So here was the Rule: If the Man is checking, drop your stuff.


What would you drop if you knew God is looking? What would make you feel guilty? Anything? What would you stop immediately if you knew God was checking? How about if a spouse was checking? Your kids? Your parents? Your best friend?


What would be sitting by your feet? Gossip? Lies? Porn? Acting half your age? Pretending perfection? Demanding perfection? Blistering anger? Racial slurs? Stinginess? "Woe is me?" "Wow, aren't my kids great(er than yours?)" I'm rightness? Unforgiveness? Busyness? "But, I gotta?" "But, I can't?" "If only…?" "It's my right?"


Why not pick up one of the things that would drop at your feet if the world was looking and ask, "Why is this so special to me and how is my life (and those around me) diminished as a result?" Share it with God.


God may be watching but God is more concerned that we have a change of heart. He votes life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quantum Jesus

The May 2nd issue of The New Yorker has an article entitled "Dream Machine." In it, Rivka Galchen describes the world of quantum mechanics through the eyes of David Deutsch.  I am a bit of an engineering nerd and love science and its interplay with God.


Anyway, part of the article discusses the possibility of parallel universes and the ability of two things to be in the same place at the same time and the phenomenon of just changing an object by looking at it.


So much of our understanding of God is based on what we can comprehend. Yes, I know it's "faith:" the Bible and Church history and all that. But my experience of myself and of others as a priest tells me that we base most of what we believe on what we have experienced (hence we can grasp it) and less on what the Church tells us is "the faith."  In other words, if it's too "out there," we may say we believe it but we have faith in our informed hunches instead. Often, Jesus takes a back seat to what we "feel."


So, what if the world truly is not what we think it is? What if our comprehension of bigger things does not translate to little (quantum) things, like faith? If there is other intelligent life, did Jesus die for them? Or does God have a plan to redeem them? Is there a good "me" and a bad "me" in the same place at the same time? I am I a trustworthy source all on my own?


One of the most freeing things in my life was the day I realized that "there's more" and "there's stuff I cannot wrap my brain around." Rather than drawing me from God, it drew me to God. Mystery grew my faith. I am little but God is big. And that's okay. No, it's great.


Do you know what you don't know? Are you way too sure of what you do know? Is there room for a real challenge to your certainty? Have you had the pleasure and warmth of mystery? I pray so. What if there's more?

Monday, May 2, 2011

What Love Looks Like

Over the year's I have had many mentors. I have tried to learn from them but must admit that I forget a lot. This is about what I remember. Here are a few pearls that I learned and made their way into my heart and have become second nature. They are about acting in love towards others through communication that embodies love.


o       Close the Loop – Follow up on what you were asked to do so all know it is done and not "hope" it is done.


o       Return calls (email) within 24 hours – If I don't want to do this, I should not give a person the expectation that I will promptly answer them.


o       Never give bad news by email or leave on voicemail – Too impersonal. It is cheap to "bail out" on someone via email. Take the heat. Do it in person. At worst, over the phone.


o       (New one) Do not use email or voicemail to give "last minute" information – Many people just don't check in that often, especially on weekends.


o       Put it back in such a way that it is ready for the next person – First, they will find what they need where they expect it. Second, they will find it in usable condition (not empty, dirty or broken)


o       Say "Thank you" often – Better yet, write a note of thanks


o       Drop what you are doing when someone enters the room – Give them your full attention.  If you don't want to drop it, close the door.


Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

John 15:13


What would you add?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Smart Enough?

Now when the rulers and elders and scribes saw the boldness

of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated

and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. Acts 4:13


It is a pretty common phenomenon for us to "Oooo" and "Ahhh" at very knowledgeable Christians. In our part of the world, quoting scripture is de rigor – expected.  We "Oooo" and "Ahhh" at those who have the Christian "look." The Bible, the prayer posture, the dress, the ICHTHUS for the car, the twinge of self-righteousness, the moralisms, the proper issues, the certainty of who gets to go to Hell.


Let me be clear; I love to learn, I am passionate about my Lord, and I know a fair bit of scripture.


Yet, I am taken with the fact that Jesus accomplished his work with rabbinical school dropouts. That Jesus left his Bride, the Church, in the hands of ordinary people. Ordinary people seemed to gravitate to Jesus. Religious folks seemed to be repelled by him. Jesus seemed quite fond of ordinary people.


The really religious folks, for the most part, found Jesus to be undermining God – working for Satan. Ultimately, they did away with him as an inconvenience.


I am going to go out on a limb here. I bet you are wonderful but ordinary. I bet you know enough even as you strive to know more.


Guess what? You are the Church and Christ trusts you to be his ambassador. Remember that as you go about your day today. Let's hear it for ordinary.

Twitter Bible – Book of Exodus

1-Joe's kin fruitful-King n Egypt:2 many Hebrews!-Hebrews oppressd but thrive all the more!-Hmm, okay, kill off baby boys

2-Moses born-Pharo's daughtr finds/savs fm death-Older Mo kills Egyptn taskmastr-Mo flees/marries-God remembrs Hebrew plight

3-Mo minding own bizns-angel/burning bush-I AM(God)-I hear cry of my ppl-I am sending U (Mo) 2 release them-name game ensues

4-Lord, needa sign-staff/skin/blod-Mo:Hmm, let me try ths (2 get out o'whole let my ppl go thing-Ima bad public speakr-God pissed

5-Mo: Let us go-Who's ths LORD dude?-Get back 2 work-no straw 4 brick but make full quota!-Hebrws: Hey, Mo ths is yr fault!

6-God remembrs covenant-hears groans o'Hebrews-they will B free-Mo whines-census-Mo:surely sum1 better equipped 4 ths work

7-God 2 Mo: U R spokesman but Pharoh wnt listn but I get 2 show off-Mo&bro obey-wizards not impressd w/Mo-Nile Bcomes blood

8-Let ppl go or FROGS!-Pharaoh: get dem frogs outta hre-Go worship-Phar reneges once frogs gone-now bugs-Phar still:manana

9-Let ppl go or plague-Pharaoh's heart hardened-same w/ boils & hail-but Israelite unaffected

10-again, let 'em go-locusts ths time-but LORD still hardened Pharaoh's heart-now darkness 4 3 days-no deal-outta my sight!

11-LORD: 1st born sons die 2 show distinction between Egypt & Israelites. Huge sorrow in Egypt camp. Then they will let U go

12-Passovr-lamb,B redy 2 travl,place blood@door-Death pass ovr U-only hit Egyptns-remember-1st born die-Hebrws leave town

13-1st born set aside 4 Gd-Remem Passovr - 'I do ths b/c of wht LORD did 4 me when I came out o'Egypt'-Fire nite,cloud day

14-Ppl camp-Pharo: I scrwd up!-Bring em bak-Ppl: Nice job, Mo,we're dead-Mo: God will help-Sea splits 4 Ppl, drowns Egypns

15-Mo & his sister sing "We gotcha w/ R God" (aka, Don't mess w/ the LORD)-No drinking water, ppl grumble-Lord provides

16-Israelites grumble,"Slavery was better!"-Mo, blame God, not me-Meat and Manna from God-Ppl disobey God anyway

17-Ppl quarrel:Water!-Mo: Hey, God, whaa, whaa, why me?-Battle w/Amalekites won as long as Mo keeps hands in air

18-Mo bivouacs w/dadinlaw,Jethro-Our God better than othr gods!-Jethro 2 Mo: lern 2 delegate-Mo listens 2 advice-It works

19-Mo & God talk on Mt. Sinai-God makes covenant w/ppl-God gets smoky-wash up, stay clear, no sex-ima coming 2 U

20-10 commandmnts-Basicaly,stop playing god & act nice-ppl scared of God-God repeats busines abt worshiping other stuff

21-Don't keep Hebrew servants 4ever-reasons 4 capital punishment & wht 2 do in personal injury cases

#Bible #Exodus 22-Property laws-care 4 foreigner, fatherless, widow, no sorcerers, no relations w/animals, 1st born Blong 2 God

23-Act lk adult,please-give same break 2 every1, not just friends-keep sabath&festivals-You'll conqur Promisd Lnd, if U obey

24-Mo cn come 2 God, no 1 else-Mo leads worship-Folks say they'l do as God sez-Mo goes up mtn, stays n cloud 40 days

25-Have folks giv God offerings fm heart-God will hang out w/ (tabernacle) them-instructions 4 buildng holy recepticles

Exodus 26-extensive Tabernacle building instructions-Home for God's presence - goat hair, ram skins, acacia wood

27-Build altar 4 burnt offerings-a courtyard w/curtains wld B nice-oh, & olive oil 4 lamps, 2-Make it all pretty fancy

28-Haberdashry 4 priests-great if U look gd n gold & blue-uh O, don't forget linen underwear when @ altar-could mean death

#Bible Ex29-animals gotta die in order 2 make priests-7 day process-pass on holy clothes-priests get cut of sacrifices 2 live on

30-Make altar smell nice-flat tax 4 atonemnt-priest wash hands & feet B4 worship or die-copyright on priests anointing oil

31-Keep Sabbath: it's a sign we have a relationship-kill or separate violators-take ths 2 tablets & call me in the morning

32-Mo dallies,folks make own gods-Goldn Calf-God: folks runnin amok, R such weenies on ther own-Mo pleads, God sends plague

33-God: go 2 Prom Lnd-I'll skip trip, I might wipe U out-U frustrate me-Gd talks 2 Mo-Mo pleads-Gd shows bak so Mo wnt die

34-Mo chisels new Xcommandmnts-God: im compassnte, slow 2 anger, but I do punish, conquer new land & obey me. Moses shines

35-Mo: Listen up, Israel-open burning not allowed on Sabbath-Capital fund drive 4 earthly God home-Craftsmenship is a gift

36-Sanctuary Capital Fund Drive oversubscribed!-Detailed instructions for Tabernacle

37-Building portable ark of Covenant-cherubim with wings spread-table and lampstand, too-lots of gold-incense

38-detaild instr'ns 4 altar 4 burnt offerings-over ton o'gold used 4 worship items-4 tons of silvr-all donations fm ppl

39-The Lord in2 haberdashery, Priestly duds ultra fancy-Even have sign "Holy 2 the Lord"-Work done, Mo inspects-Thumbs up

40-Mo opens up tabernacle-God shows up in a cloud and settles in-Israel, follow the cloud