Wednesday, February 28, 2007

hallmarks and memories

Today is my mom’s birthday. I went in this Hallmark store, great store, on I10 out of El Paso. I guess Mom would have been 66 today. I loved the store. Everything brought back memories—the smells, the colors, the displays, everything. It reminded me of when Mom took me to market with her to pick out things to stock those shelves with. I remembered helping her change the colored panels with the change of seasons. And I remembered helping wrap Christmas gifts. I will never forget how quickly and beautifully she could wrap a package or how perfectly she curled the strings on those balloons. And I remembered waiting behind the register with my mommy on a really big stool, waiting for the store manager to come in and take the afternoon shift so we could leave

Like I said, I loved the store. It was bringing everything back.

I walked down the aisles with tears in my eyes picking out gifts and cards, one of everything, and avoiding eye contact, until I realized I was doing that, and that at the rate I was going I would end up buying the whole store. So I decided to put everything back, except for one gift that was just too perfect for a friend. And a little key chain with a Celtic cross on it that I couldn’t resist.

The lady at the checkout stand was very pleasant, as a Hallmark store manager should be. I told her I really liked the store, especially some of the new things I’d never seen before. She started talking about how she had come out of retirement for this, and how much she loved working in the store. It was all I could do to keep from talking about Mom's stores and how I’ve always loved working in Hallmark stores, too, and how today was her birthday, but I could not go there. Every time I started thinking about what to say to her, I just knew I was going to lose it right there in the store. So instead I paid, and went out to the car and lost it.

I really miss Mom.

I don’t know. Sometimes you really get mad at somebody or tired of somebody, or you don’t feel like the relationship is everything it could be, and sometimes you just feel like you need a break from somebody for a while. And that’s probably true. But, I’ve had a break from mom now for a long while, and I’m really kind of ready to see her again.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

i woke up in the middle of a desert


I woke up this morning in the middle of the desert. I was in a hotel amid other hotels and restaurants amid highways and houses and schools and neighborhoods, all in the middle of a desert complete with cactus, yucca, tumbleweed, sand, and big rocks protruding heavenward that I would call mountains if I wasn’t already using that word for the big beautiful snow-covered evergreen masterpieces that you ski down.

I flew here as a consultant to show some people how to implement business intelligence software. It all started in Colleyville. I drove across crowded city highways to the airport, stripped my bags and body down for scanning by x-rays and metal detectors and whatever other hi-tech anti-threat devices they’re using now, checked a bag, hopped on a jet, popped a movie in my laptop, donned my new Bose active noise-canceling headphones (thanks to my family for one amazing birthday present), and plowed through the dark night air. Once on the ground again, I got my bag, rented a brand new 4WD Jeep, and drove to my hotel, dropping by a restaurant for a late dinner. I signed in to the hotel, signed on to their WiFi, checked email, chatted with a few friends on instant messenger, took a hot shower, and went to bed.

I woke up this morning in the middle of the desert. And there are all these people here. In the middle of the desert. And they all act like they know what they’re doing. The more I look around the more I wonder how this all came to be. I really have trouble imagining the first guy and gal driving through here on a horse and carriage, looking around, and saying, “Yep. This is it. Wonder if there’s any water if we dig a deep hole right here…” And then how did everyone else find the place in the middle of the desert where someone found water? And so on until there is fast food, gasoline, banks, hotels, schools, soccer fields, football stadiums, hospitals, politicians, and all this?

The amazing thing to me about traveling—whether it’s West Texas, East Cost, Mexico, Europe, or Africa—is life. Everywhere you go you find it. The people look a little different, talk a little different, eat a little different. But it’s life. Shared life.

In the still of home, it’s so easy for me to believe that my world is the world.

Monday, February 19, 2007

solving life


Back to the puzzle metaphor. Let’s say life is a puzzle to be solved, or a riddle. Let’s say that we find 66 ancient clues for solving the puzzle that we can be very sure came from the hand of the puzzle maker.

One group of people goes about applying these 66 clues using the best methods and approaches they know, maybe through trial and error and refinement of method and approach.

The other group adds something else. Not only do they agree with the former group that these 66 clues surely came from the hand of the puzzle maker, but they also assert that these 66 clues are final, an assertion which means that if anything else is ever discovered or tried that is not one of these 66 clues proper that it is wrong. It cannot be part of the solution. Not only are the 66 clues valid, but they themselves in fact are the solution to the puzzle. The puzzle maker is not known to have said this exactly, but the fact that these 66 clues have endured this long through famine, war, and all other disasters, coupled with a few mysterious phrases within the 66 clues themselves, add up to prove that the solution and the clues are one in the same.

It makes for a different approach to the solution—the puzzle maker saying “you can solve this: here are 66 clues” vs. the puzzle maker saying “you can solve this: here are the 66 clues”.

And now I’m probably stirring up some old fires. But this has all been, sorry to say, a red herring. Jesus did not come to show us the way life is solved. He came to show us the way life is lived. And he did it with two words, “Follow me.” Everything else he said or did or taught came down from these two words. It turns out it is a person we have to follow, not some clues, because it turns out that life is personal, not textual. At the center of all reality is not a solution, but a person. The heart God offers us is not stone but flesh. And it turns out that life itself doesn’t need to be solved. It’s already working like it’s supposed to. Most of us just haven’t found it. Or it hasn’t found us.

So I have to wonder, how many of our arguments, doubts, divisions, fears, regrets, and resignations come from a skewed view that life is something to be solved for an answer rather than followed for a romantic adventure?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

biblical church

I had a thought today as I drove by a church close to my house advertising Experiencing God on their marquee. Maybe it's because I've done that study and I know what it's about. Maybe it's because that church was Baptist, and I happen to have been having a daily coffee and WiFi fling in a little cafĂ© that is part of Dallas First Baptist in downtown, called LifeWay / Church Store / Biblical Solutions for Life. I thought it odd that it was called a "church store" rather than a bookstore or a Christian bookstore, but oh well. Then I saw the "Biblical Solutions for Life" part—oy! There is so much that annoys me about that phrase! As is a problem or series of problems to be solved. As if...Biblical is the new replacement for godly or good.

I often mull over how to tell people about the church that meets in our home. It's so hard to communicate what it's like, what it's about, and why it is. And I realized at Wild at Heart Boot Camp last week that I have tended to do what institutional churches do—oversell it (I repented). There is no reason to oversell it. It is what it is, and God is happy with us. So I don't care anymore what anyone else thinks about us.

So maybe that brought some clarity as I drove by that sign. The thought I had was that one of the differentiators about our church is that it is not Bible-based. If a church is Bible-based then it is knowledge-based. And if it is knowledge-based then it is puffed up, because knowledge puffs up. Most churches are puffed up. I don't know of a nice way to say that. And I really don't care to be nice about it. When I went to a sermon-centered church (as wikipedia has it) then I experienced church as something puffed up. Sorry. Because a sermon-centered church is a Bible-centered church, a knowledge-centered church. And "if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know."

The point is not knowing but being known, which is why love will always be more important than knowledge. Which is why the sermon doesn't belong in the center, but somewhere crammed in around the edges wherever it can fit in.

So we're not Bible-centered, but what is our center? I hope we could say we are Life-centered. Odd, but if LifeWay would lose the subtitles, I would probably be inspired. To truly experience the Life of the Way even once in a while would make it all worthwhile. Life is in Christ, not in the Scriptures, Biblical as they may be.

Saturday, February 17, 2007



And for the first time since the 80's...00:02:31. Clayton timed me. Woohoo!

Monday, February 05, 2007

geese or sparrows, part ii

geese ii

I saw a gaggle of geese on my way in to downtown Dallas this morning, flying in a V. Actually, there were two groups, one V, one I. The V was massive, one of the biggest I’ve seen. I watched in wonder as they crawled northward, faintly making out their flaps against the morning gray as they flew by. At the left rear arm of the V there began to be this commotion. At first I thought perhaps it was just the lead goose falling back into his reward at the restful rear after pulling the much more burdensome shift as the pilot. I kept waiting for the V to reform and settle, but it didn’t. Several geese were flapping wildly as if perhaps there were some turbulence in the wind, until finally a dozen or so broke away.

There were now three distinct groups—one V, one large I, and one newer, smaller I. Riveted, I watched to see what would happen next, if they would form a new V, but they were becoming smaller and smaller into the horizon until they finally faded in the haze, and my road turned south.

I don’t know why the group broke off of the big V. Maybe they couldn’t keep up. Maybe the larger group wasn’t moving fast enough for them. Maybe someone in front had gas, or had an affair, or didn’t honk in tune. Who knows? What I do know is that they eventually formed the new V that I was hoping to see. They formed it not because they ought to, but because it is the easiest thing to do—the thing that is good and pleasing to do—the thing they are suited for.

I never saw the end of their story. I suppose it is still being told somewhere by someone else.

This song is resonating with me. It's in my heart and has found my voice. I admit to being a Christina Perry fan. I've been known to...