Tuesday, December 23, 2008

best christmas

This may be the best Christmas gift I've ever received…

best Christmas

These are still available online here: http://www.lifetoday.org/site/PageServer?pagename=out_missionFeeding, and you can still get these in time for Christmas if you have that last minute gift you need to get for that guy, girl, or family who has everything. And if they're American, chances are they really do already have everything. And then some. Of course there are other ways of feeding the hungriest children in the poorest places. Not lots of other ways, but other ways no doubt. I have always liked James and Betty Robison because I know they could have easily been those shiny teeth televangelists with a huge national stage and lots of money, but they chose to drill clean drinking water wells and feed hungry children in the third world instead. Not because it proves their faith is superior, but just because it's a good thing to do.

To me, outreaches like the FEED 100 bags and Life Today are brilliant. To me, it's simple. They have a way to get food to starving people, and I have a way to get them the money to do it.

I believe and want to support lots of world-changing causes—everything from politics to education to spreading the gospel. But it's frankly a joke if I would do all that walking past starving people along the way. A dirty joke.

Thanks, Brent and Kindra. Thanks for riding along side us. Thanks for sharing our passion. Thanks for listening to our hearts. Thanks for accepting who we are.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

sinners rule

Sinners need lots of rules. Have you ever noticed this?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

christmas gifts

Here's where some of my Christmas gifts are coming from and going.

First, I ran across this website called LIGHT GIVES HEAT (www.lightgivesheat.org). It's an organization made up of young people who moved to Uganda to see if they could make a difference. They have entwined themselves with an African community called SUUBI. The women of SUUBI make these beautiful bead neacklaces and jewelry from recycled paper. LGH buys them from them consistently and at a better price than locals could or businesses would, and then they sell them online to wealthy people like me. The money allows allows the SUUBI women to have a sustainable income. LGH also lives among the SUUBI community and does other stuff like cooking, washing clothers, and teaching English. Anyway, I bought a few of the $20 necklaces, and they are beautiful.

SUUBI beads

Next, I was doing some shopping in Whole Foods in Austin, the original store, and came across these FEED 100 bags. Basically, it's a shopping bag replacement, an alternative to "paper or plastic". Or you could use it for a purse or gym bag or diaper bag or luggage.

FEED 100 bag

Each bag you buy for about $30 provides 100 school lunches for Rwanda children through the UN World Food Program. You can see the bags front and center on Whole Foods' website (www.wholefoodsmarket.com) or you can get the full story on the FEED 100 Project website (www.feedprojects.org). There's also a pretty cool youtube video here.

Right now I've got the boys bringing out the Christmas decorations. To get in the spirit, they surfaced the Christmas music collection, and I can hear carols filling the house. Each Christmas I really hope this will be the year I don't spend too much on myself—feeding myself, my family, my rich neighbors...buying gifts for myself, my family, my rich neighbors... Each Christmas I hope this will be the year that Jesus gets his birthday wish.

When you put on a luncheon or a banquet, don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.
Jesus

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Caleb's fall

My youngest son, Caleb, gets very upset when he falls down or gets hurt. At three, most kids sit on the floor and cry until Mommy comes. Here’s how that scene plays for Caleb. First, he pauses to see if he’s really hurt. If not, he moves on. If he is, he either grits his teeth or runs out of the room screaming. If someone asks him, “Caleb, are you ok?” he runs out of the room screaming. It’s like he’s embarrassed for hurting himself, or ashamed or something. I’m not sure where this came from, but I will say that he is one tough kid! The one time he really cried was at two when he climbed up on the table and fell into the metal brads on the corner of the couch. That was a doozie. He cried as he bled all over the living room. This picture is from our recent holiday to the Smoky Mountains. The scuff on his cheek is from falling in the parking lot while his brothers were swinging him. The scar over his right eye is from the fall in the living room.

Yesterday, Caleb was at the park playing with his big brother Joshua, the one in the picture, and some other kids. A bigger boy began pushing Caleb in a swing. His mom was walking around the perimeter of the park with a friend. She could see him playing, and could see the boy was pushing him, and thought to herself that he was pushing Caleb a little too hard. She decided to tell him to get down when they got back around to the swing. Maybe the boy thought Caleb was older or stronger than he was because of his size (he’s rather big for a three year old). Whatever the case, Caleb lost his hold and went flying through the air. Now, what goes up must come down, and with Caleb that means a thud, a pause, and then that embarrassed scream.

But he didn’t scream this time. Jill wasn’t sure what happened at the time, because she looked up and saw Caleb whimpering and walking toward her. It was pretty easy to figure out when he got to her that he had fallen. She consoled him, and they went back to playing. But all day, Caleb was in his mother’s words, “edgy”.

When I got home, I said hi to him. He screamed and stomped his feet. He does this sometimes, but it’s usually for some immediate reason. I asked if I could hug him. He screamed and stomped his feet and ran out of the room. I backed off and tried again later. Usually I just try again later. He’s a very warm and friendly boy, but sometimes he’s slow to warm. Anyway, this happened several times. Later, Jill gave him a bowl of Pringles that he was walking around eating. I asked him for one. He screamed, ran into the next room, and stood with his back to me. (I asked him for one fully expecting him to say, no, which is ok. Because after he said no, I was going to share another one with him from the can, which I had. I like doing that kind of thing.) Anyway, his no was over the top. Jill, who knows Caleb very well, even wondered at this behavior. She said it was almost like Caleb is afraid of me or something. She asked me if something happened between us. I told her no.

Now, here’s one more thing about Caleb. He’s a boy. I say that to mean not that he has a penis, but that he’s a boy at heart. At night when he gets tired, he wants his juice, and he wants to lay next to his mother, rubbing her neck. He used to say, “want juice, want mommy neck” as he moved toward sleep. He’s not interested in daddy neck at all. In fact, if I lay down beside Caleb and his mom, he will often kick me out of the way. Oedipal? But one day I was spinning a top on the floor with Joshua. Caleb’s eyes filled with wonder. He came over to me, sat in my lap, and before you know it, he was touching my neck. Ever since then I have noticed that when it comes to kicking balls or throwing Frisbees or wrestling or playing catch or whatever, Caleb wants to be very close to me. There’s a real connection there with motion and strength and skill and performance.

I finally pulled Caleb back to me and forced him to look at me and tell me yes or no, through wails, to the question of the Pringle. I literally turned his face towards mine with a hand on either side of his head. Not until his mom finally came and held him in her lap to reassure him that he wasn’t in trouble did he answer. And the answer was no. I could not have a Pringle. “Well”, I asked him, “do you want one of my Pringles?” He kept crying, but you could see the wheels spinning. I asked again, and he shook his head ever so slightly yes. “Alright,” I said, and gave him one. He took it in his little fingers and stacked it snugly with his others. He was still whimpering, but he had stopped wailing. I asked him if he wanted another one. He shook his head yes again. So he got another one. And then he wiped his eyes and was quiet. Then he sat at the table in his mom’s lap, eating his stack of Pringles quietly.

So, with Caleb sitting in her lap eating Pringles, Jill starts talking about how edgy he’s been all day, and she tells me about him falling from the swing and the other events of his day. I asked Caleb about falling from the swing. He just stared at me. I asked him if the big boy pushed him too fast. I raised my arms in fists to communicate strength. He just stared at me flatly, maybe with a dazy-glazy look, hard to tell. I asked again several different ways. I kept bringing it back to the swing because I had a hunch that the fall, seemingly minor, was behind all this. Jill took my lead and asked him very tenderly if he fell from the swing when the big boy pushed him too high. And there it was. Caleb finally spoke, and when he did, this articulate little fellow, mouth full of Pringle glob, produced a jumbled mess of a sentence with swing and park and shopping and mommy and car and chips. Poor little guy. I don’t think he knew what to do with that fall. And because he didn’t know what to do with it, he didn’t know what to do with me or anyone else in his little world.

I went over to where Caleb was sitting in his mom’s lap and kneeled down so my head was on the level with his. I told him I was sorry he fell from the swing, and that it was ok, and that the big boy pushed him too high, and that I loved him. And then I kissed him on the cheek. He has such soft, chubby cheeks. I have such a prickly face.

Caleb went to bed in good spirits, and today he is back to his normal fun-loving self. He hugs and smiles and talks and makes a mess of the house.

I wondered last night, and woke up still wondering this morning, at how wounds work to shape our lives. Much is made of the father wound—whether it be violent physical abuse or shaming verbal constructs, or whether it’s a different sort of violence—abandonment, rejection, withdrawal, silence, passivity. But not all the hits we take are from our father or even from someone in our family. Some wounds come from thoughtless boys on playgrounds, and sometimes they come from actions that seem to carry no malice at all. Sometimes things just happen to us that hurt us, and we don’t know how to process them. I wonder how much bad behavior comes from this. Sometimes things happen to us that we don’t even know are hurtful immediately, like a meaningless kiss from a thoughtless boy or the first vision of a naked woman on a magazine page or a dirty joke. We enter that stunned stage where we are trying to figure out what just happened to us, and then maybe we move on. But then later, maybe we scream and stomp our feet, or get snippy and sarcastic with those we love. Maybe we lose it over something that would seem quite trivial. Maybe we slide into the other room and hide from the world.

Caleb needed to hear from his Daddy. And it was no use changing the subject. The subject was the fall. The issue was his heart. The cure was the words he desperately needed to hear.

It happened.

It hurt.

It’s not your fault.

I love you.

Caleb on the merry-go-round

we are far too easily pleased

More than anything else I have ever read, these words penned by C. S. Lewis changed my life. I came by it in little coffee table book by John Eldredge called Dare to Desire. It was basically a condensed, greeting card version of The Journey of Desire. I can't find that coffee table book for sale anywhere anymore, but I can find these words inscribed on my heart.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We are far too easily pleased.

Monday, November 24, 2008

on jon foreman and the art of not writing

I haven’t been writing much lately. And I’ve been trying to figure out why. I think it has to do with me working more and more. This has been happening for over a year now. That and there is a certain numbness that comes with being busy. I really think the numbness is allowed to settle in like so many warts because there is no acidic joy to pierce it. And of course there is no joy where there is no grief. And grief is exactly what got drowned by the business and pettiness and drunkenness of work.

There is something else, though. I write to give voice to my soul. Many times when I write I learn how I feel, what I think, what I believe, who I am. Thoughts condense into words as they sink into black against a cool white canvas. They collect against the roof of the green house and trickle down its sides into dark, damp soil where life grows. It is good. But then, once in a decade or so something else comes along that sings my soul’s song as if God were reminding me that on the seventh day he rested and so must I. The something else this time is Jon Foreman’s little EP’s: Fall, Winter, Summer, and Spring. I list them in that order, not knowing what Jon intended, because that is the order I first listened to them, and that is the order they still sit like old friends around the communion table of my playlist, “strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words”. And it is good, too.

It really takes a lot to shock me. I’m sorry about this. I’m sure I’m the worst one to share news with. I can remember now several times when my wife or a friend has come to me all aglow with some excitement to blow me away with, only to meet a lackluster hoorah. And then there’s the moment when someone realizes I was dead on about something or someone, and they can’t wait to tell me how right my intuition was all along and roll out the wonderful “I told you so” red carpet for me to strut upon. But I think red carpet looks better on the wall. And then there’s the shock of finding out about some great crime, some great offense, some great sin, some great evil right here in River City. No snap, crackle, or pop there, either. I don’t think this is numbness in me, no matter how it actually comes across. I think it’s acceptance. I took Ayn Rand’s advice a long time ago—the advice about no one being as naïve as a cynic. But that’s where Jon Foreman’s words, words like these exposed the cynic hiding behind my eyes:

I'm gonna miss you, I'm gonna miss you when you're gone
She said, I love you. I'm gonna miss hearing your songs

And I said, Please, don't talk about the end—
Don't talk about how every living thing goes away. She said, Friend,

All along, thought I was learning how to take,
How to bend not how to break,
How to live not how to cry,
But really I've
Been learning how to die
I've been learning how to die.

I have been learning how to die, I really have. The classroom seems to follow me around, sitting me in a desk for another lecture or standing me up against the back wall when I’m too tired. The lesson is hard. When you’re still trying to keep from dying, that is. It’s hard to eke out a living when everyone is taking from you—payments, taxes, bills, losses, crashes—like so many leeches sucking the life out of you. But like I said, I’ve been learning how to die. Beat ‘em to the punch. Give more than they require. And it’s hard to love your friends and keep them, too. But someone will have to keep them for you when you’re dead. Again, beat ‘em to the punch.

This is just one song of the many that has been raising its voice in my stead. Maybe they'll keep it up. But it feels like a Monday morning.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

first speech

I watched for the first time Barack Obama make a speech. I wanted to hear what the next leader of the free world had to say. It was a decent speech, I think. But my first impression was that he doesn't speak from his heart. It's not his words as much as his face. He licks and purses his lips a lot. I do this when I'm nervous and concerned about how I look and what people are thinking about me. Maybe it's the same for him.

Before that I watched McCain's concession speech. I wasn't too happy with the boos in the crowd, but loved McCain by the end of the speech. He seems very sincere and appreciative of all he's received and all he's been allowed to serve. It's probably a lot easier to make a concession speech than a victory speech. Obama is already under the weight of leadership. McCain just had to say thanks, I'm done, and please everyone accept that and support your new President. This was the first time I watched John McCain make a speech, too.

Truly, Obama's speech may be his best, worst, or somewhere between. I don't know. It's just that it's my first one to see. And my reaction is a "Blink" analysis (if you've read that book).

I did wonder what he meant by saying that we were in the worst financial crisis of a hundred years. Maybe he knows we're in for something worse than the Great Depression? That could be scary.

One other thing I noticed was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, speechless, weeping. I smiled and was genuinely happy for him. I'm not sure why. I have never liked him very much. Ok, I've never liked him at all. And I'm sure that the Obama campaign made it very clear to him that he was to keep his mouth shut and stay away from the press during the campaign. And now that I think about it, I'm sure the Reverend knew the camera was on him, and so maybe he was putting on a show with the crying and all. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful picture.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

without a fight

Take anything good, true, or beautiful upon this earth and ask yourself, “Can this be protected without a fight?”

- John Eldredge, The Way of the Wild Heart, p. 141

I keep coming back to this. I come back to it at a time when it seems my country is a warmonger. I come back to it when it seems that the mark of a mature man is a conciliatory style. I come back to it as I look down and see the scars on my wrists, on my feet, on my heart. I come back to it when I second guess what today might have been had I just gone along quietly. I come back to it when I get so tired and want it all to be over.

I'm sure there are many ways to fight well. I know that sometimes fighting means abstaining. Sometimes it means compromising. I know that there's sometimes a marked difference between fighting the battle and fighting the war. I know about sacrifice. I know about non-violence.

But sometimes I have to be reminded that not fighting is not an option.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

infectious cloud

head in the clouds by friedpaint

What would you do if an infectious cloud descended all around you, threatening to take your life? What if you had heard rumors of this cloud before, rumors of how it made its end of you? Some of the effects would be immediately felt--it would affect your vision and your hearing, and even darken the way you perceived reality. But, some of the damage would be slow and torturous, killing you one cell at a time. What if some of the rumors were even queerer? Rumors that the cloud would mutate you into a completely different kind of creature? One that had supernatural strength and perceptions, ate flesh and blood, and was even immortal? Do images of a vampire come to mind?

What kind of crisis would it be if this cloud descended not only around you, but your whole family? Your neighborhood? Your nation? The whole world?

This is exactly the striking image I got from reading Mere Christianity to my boys in the car last night as C. S. Lewis described the salvation process. There are two types of life, says Lewis: bios and zoe. Bios is natural life, created life, life that God made. Zoe is timeless life, the life of God that is and was always existing, the life that the Bible talks about us "entering". Salvation is when we enter that zoe life that was made available by Christ and leave behind the bios life. In fact the bios life is opposed to the zoe life, and will do everything it can to resist the process. No one wants to die. Even if rumors of a superior life exist.

There are many ways to "explain" salvation and many pictures to imagine it from different perspectives. Right now, I'm quite excited about the idea that the difficult part of eternal life has already been done. Christ has descended and envoloped you, me, our families, our neighborhoods, our nations, and the whole world. The question is:

How long can you hold your breath?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

darkness

I saw The Dark Knight again. Loved it. Enjoyed it more the second time.

Chaos is another one of those things that we all know is integral to reality and most of us hate. We want control. We like to plan. A good plan when it comes together gives us this wonderful sense of security. It is an illusion.

Heath Ledger will probably win an Oscar for his performance. And he should. Posthumously. God rest his soul. He made the Joker come alive in a way that no one else ever has. It was disturbing. The Joker in this one was chaos personified, a feral spirit, a word that took on flesh. I experienced something that I'm sure a lot of people did, if they could stop editing themselves. I call it the Archie Bunker phenomenon. The things the Joker said were so dark, so diabolical, so inhumane, so offensive to all propriety, and so...true. This was the most disturbing thing I think for people. We want to put on our good Western civilized hats and defy this lunatic criminal, but we find the words he says hitting close to home, scratching an itch deep in our throats that cannot be reached when we are awake to our better nature.

So we talked a bit about chaos in our Sunday gathering this afternoon.

I've often been told that God is not the "author of confusion" or something like that. I think there's a bible verse to go with it. I've also been preached at that God is a god of order. I think there's one for that one, too. The problem that monotheism has that polytheism doesn't is fitting all of reality into the personality of one god. When you have lots of gods, each one introduces a virtue or a vice, or a peculiar combination of both. When you have but one god, that god has to encompass them all. Or if you have no gods at all, just abstract spiritual things like yin and yang you get a by on this one, too. But, when you're a monotheist, you have to answer difficult questions like the problem of pain and the source of evil and how it is that bad things happen to good people. Stuff like that. Sometimes it's kind of like repacking your sleeping bag in that entirely too small stuff-bag.

Jesus, I think, copes with this problem quite well, but not if you listen to popular doctrine. In fact, I think Jesus is the only way to cope.

But Jesus, instead of encompassing the fullness of reality, sometimes just collects a bunch of asterisks. Like when he turns water to wine. (We talked about the account that has made the rounds several times among us of the elder's wife who, when studying the story in John 2 where Jesus' first miracle was turning water to wine, said, "I wish He hadn't done that.") Or like when Jesus trashed the temple, turning over tables, breaking open cages, and cracking the whip at the businessmen there. He introduced a little chaos.

But Jesus wasn't the first.

I ran a search to see what the Bible had to say about planning (all the while hearing in my head, "plan your work and work your plan"). I was surprised to see that the first mention of this is Genesis 11. I'm told by Hebrew scholars that the first mention of a word or the first occurrence of a concept is always the most important, and is critical to understanding subsequent words on the same concept. So that would make this one really important to understanding the nature of God and reality and everything. Anyway, the story goes like this.

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

I don't know if you read this story as a myth or as science. Either way the point is the same. These guys, our ancestors, wanted control. They wanted to have a sense of security without appealing to a god, who might or might not give it to them. They didn't want to be scattered like some airheads. It would have been an illusion if they had achieved it. But the God of Confusion introduced a little chaos. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I love Death Cab for Cutie and their album, Plans. It's named for the leader's favorite joke, "How do you make God laugh? Make a plan." And really, that's just like any joke. Funny not in spite of being true, but because of it.

Jesus all but tells us not to make plans. His famous Sermon on the Mount (or as Dallas Willard calls it, Discourse on the Hill) has Jesus teaching us all to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" and ending his midrash on this subject with, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Later, when he almost seems to be ok'ing making big plans, upon re-reading I think Jesus is just pointing out the folly of doing so. He says that if someone is going to build a tower or wage a war, doesn't he first need to sit down and figure out if he has the wherewithal to execute the plan? And if he doesn't he'd better save face before he commits to it. I rather think Jesus doesn't want us building towers or waging wars. The point is not winning wars or building towers, but what they will cost us. That's in Luke 14.

It sounds like heresy to talk about God introducing chaos. We who have been baked at 451 degrees for 451 years are so fully brainwashed with the virtues of order and safety that we can't even make room in the inn for chaos and confusion.

But God is bigger than order. God is in all and through all and over all. If life is in God then so is death. If good then evil. If love then hate. If heaven then hell.

Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in hell, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
And the light become night around me,”
Even the darkness will not be dark to you;
The night will shine like the day,
For darkness is as light to you.

There really is no place to run to, no place to hide, nothing that can keep you from the light of God's love. When God considers darkness and light, they don't really affect him the same way they do you and me.

I am learning to not only accept chaos, but to embrace it. It is part of God, part of this over all and in all and through all deity that is wrapped around all that we can ask or imagine, and even more than we can ask or imagine. When I embrace the chaos of my days I find a joy and peace and harmony with the rhythms of reality. Flight delays, hurricanes, blizzards, cancellations. It's too bad that I need someone as twisted as the Joker to remind me of this. But in a world infatuated with everything going according to plan, sometimes we need a good laugh to set us free.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

a perfect world

Have you ever noticed that when someone starts a sentence with “In a perfect world” they always end it with something simpler than we experience here and now. And everyone accepts this. We all believe that as something approaches perfection it gets simpler, purer, less complicated, less mixed.

Why is that?

The other side the mouth gives voice to a belief that the nature of progress is moving from the simple to the complex, that something or someone mature is more complex. Adults are more complex than children. Mature economies are more complex than emerging ones. Late model cars are more complex than early ones. Version 2.0 is more complex than version 1.0. Even looking back in time theoretically, early forms of life were simpler than their evolutionary successors.

Can a mouth speak two voices at once?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

forgiveness

Forgiving is central to the teachings of Jesus, and to the life Jesus lived, which is way of saying the same thing.

Years ago I learned the dirty little secret about nursing grudges. And it is truthful to talk about them like this. Nursing them. Because the natural thing to do is forgive someone and get back to living. The difficult thing to do is exert the psychological effort to remain in a state of offence. This is not easy to do without being supernaturally endowed with evil intent—something that comes easily enough to fallen creatures. It’s easy to see how this is true. Just look at the lines on someone’s face and the weariness in someone’s body who has been holding a grudge against someone for years. How tiring. Anyway, like I said, the dirty little secret about nursing grudges is that I think I’m holding something against someone, but really it’s the something that is holding me.

But there is an underlying assumption that forgiving is this small thing that yields big results, that it’s some kind of secret weapon that you get issued to you once you become a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew or some other religious person. But the idea is not that forgiving is easy for anyone to do, though. In fact what a lot of people believe is that forgiving, simple and powerful as it may be, requires that you exert a lot of work to get over all your junk first, so that you can finally do the simple act of truly forgiving.

But I’ve been thinking that forgiveness itself is work. It’s not at all that you say, "I forgive you" over and over, even if you don’t feel it, to convince your soul of the already reality, to convince your heart to accept it and live like it’s true. Fake it till you make it will NEVER work.

The thing I’ve been thinking is that you have to do the work of forgiveness. Where you begin is with the determination to do the work of forgiveness. As surely as you would wake up one summer day and determine that today is the day to dig that trench, you would wake up one summer day and determine that today is the day to forgive that sin. But the determination is not the work. Once you determine to do it, you roll up your sleeves and start digging. This is quite backwards from the other way. Instead of starting with the act of forgiveness and then repeating the words over and over to convince yourself that you’ve already forgiven someone, you set out with forgiveness as the final goal and accept that there will be a process, and that process will require effort. You don’t assume that the work is already done just because you say it’s done. You don’t have slaves to do your work. You can’t contract this out. You have to do it.

If you dig a trench you know when it is done. You can see it. But how do you know when you’re finished forgiving someone? I think you can’t really know by counting to 490 or by setting some arbitrary goal. I think you don't know until the trench finally breaches the bank, channeling the river of life into your fields, returning the scorched earth to a verdant garden teeming with new life, and making a place to walk with God in the cool of the day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

maybe

Something I read on Sam's blog yesterday morning reminded me of something I started writing a year ago and never finished. Sam wrote about this verse in the Bible (which has found its way into several worship songs) that talks about some day every knee bowing to Jesus. This verse, quoted with the requisite brashness, comes off as a taunt. And that has been bugging me for some time. Sam said that as he follows Christ, those words lose grip on the oppressor's sword. I seriously doubt that the people who came up with those words meant for them to be crusade language. So I hope that what happened to Sam can happen to everyone everywhere.

Anyway, I called what I wrote Biblical Uncertainty for lack of something better. I don't think I ever went public with any of it anywhere, but maybe I did. Here it is:

It's always bugged me about the name it and claim it crowd, and other fundamentalists as well, how certain they are, or rather how certain they need things to be. Mostly it bugs me because Jesus didn't come off that way. He just spoke calmly, expecting people to get it. Or not. I don't get the feeling from reading the gospels that he was a thumper, pounding the podium and stomping his feet and all that. And I don't get the idea that he would sayuh thingsuh with poweruh so thatuh the peopleuh would putuh their faiuthuh in Himuh.

So it bugged me enough that I started digging into some of these things.

There's a lot less certainty in the Bible than some Christians are representing. And I think this could be a big relief to a lot of people who feel intimidated in front of the firing line of Christian boldness. I know it has been a relief to me to know that I can simply shrug off most of the absolute-truthisms and authority-of-scripturisms that fly irresponsibly to and fro around the Bible Belt where I live. And in all that shrugging I have actually rediscovered a verb tense used in the original language of the Bible that seems to have been totally translated out. I call it the maybe tense. Its technical name is subjunctive.

For example, there's this popular worship song that goes...

One day every tongue will confess you are God
One day every knee will bow
Still the greatest treasure remains for those
Who gladly choose you now

Doesn't that inspire all the Christian Soldiers want to take up arms, and fight to the death, knowing that the day they get braggin' rights is just around the corner? (at least on God's timetable)

But there's a fly in the ointment. The problem is that it's just not true. Those words come from a stanza of poetry in Paul's letter to the Philippians where it says this (more or less)...

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him
to the highest place
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

So here, briefly, is the problem. In the Philippians 2 poem, there are no future tense verbs. At all. There are present, aorist (timeless tense, peculiar to Greek), and subjunctive (maybe tense). That says something to me. It does not say that this attitude WAS in Christ Jesus. It says this attitude IS in Christ Jesus. The verbs that aren’t present tense are aorist, which says to me that they should probably be written in present tense as well. The verb used for bowing and confessing is subjunctive. (Strongs Concordance says subjunctive: The subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon circumstances.) So it's basically: “Since Christ is Lord now, every knee should bow and every tongue should confess, but they may not.”

This is all very interesting to me. But I know I'm not really normal when I dig into ancient greek verb tenses. And I am quite sure that a thorough understanding of ancient greek is not required to follow Jesus. And I've the same sureness that an education in ancient greek is something that religious figures use to intimidate parishioners and protect their powerful seats. But like I said, this has been bugging me for a good while, and so I got under the covers a bit. As far as good contemporary translations go, at LEAST I would say that this is a better translation:

Let this mind be in you, which is also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thinks it not robbery to be equal with God: But makes himself of no reputation, and takes upon him the form of a servant, and is made in the likeness of men: And being found appearing as a man, he humbles himself, and becomes obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also highly exalts him, and gives him a name which is above every name: So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, those dwelling in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth; And every tongue should confess since Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The first thing that intrigues me is this. It doesn’t express any certainty that one fine day Jesus will finally really be Lord and then coerce everyone to accept his Lordship. It says He is Lord now, and therefore everyone and everything should accept that reality and submit to it. There’s no “well, you wait and see—you’re gonna get yours!” Christ IS Lord now so that every knee should bow and every tongue should confess, but they might not, depending on the circumstances. There’s no absolute promise of future knee bowing or tongue confessing or Lord exalting. It’s all now. It’s all yesterday, and it’s all today, and it’s all forever. Whatever is will be. The possibilities are endless.

This goes for all the people we meet when we're walking down the street, as well as for gods, demigods, spirits, demons, principalities, powers, even Satan himself. They may never kneel to the Lordship of Jesus, may never be able to see the beauty of the God who became man and humbled himself to die on a cross, and may never accept special favor God has given this Son because of it. But you can. You can do it anytime you want. Because of his humility, Jesus has now been given a name above all names. The choice is yours whether you will accept that same posture. If you decide to kneel, what you are saying is

This is the kind of Life I accept,
This is the kind of Man who lived it,
This is the Man who will rule my heart.

The second thing that intrigues me is that this is present tense. Christ is found in the form of God and man. He is now. Not he once was. Someone could say, “Well, yes, He is now bodily in heaven,” and that’s true. But it’s also true that he is now bodily in earth, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his / To the Father through the features of men’s faces."

Christ is found NOW as mankind. You should bow.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

hickory nut falls

I woke up this morning to cool, sweet summer air. A sensation not familiar to me in Texas. From the porch of my cabin I looked up on Chimney Rock where Last of the Mohicans was filmed. I couldn’t wait to wake the boys up and run the trails where Nathaniel pursued Cora, where Chingachgook defeated Magua, and where Alice tumbled over the sheer falls to find her death.

And now I sit on the same porch looking on the same green blanketed rock face under clouds raining lazily all around my umbrella, wistful.

The skyline trail that the Mohicans ran was closed for repair, and the other trail leading to the top of the falls where the final showdown was had been closed as well because of some forest fires on the other side of the mountain. Even though I always feel like the world conspires against me when these things happen I did grant plausible denial and dropped the charges for today because yesterday evening we enjoyed the sights and sounds of choppers flying over with buckets of water scooped from the river to quell the hottest outbursts. Even so, it felt like so much of my time here on earth. Nothing seems to fully deliver. Moments of pure joy are endlessly elusive.

So we hiked to the BOTTOM of Hickory Nut Falls on a gentle trail. The boys and girls both enjoyed it. Even Caleb, our beefy two year old, made it the whole way. While taking some pictures I noticed the boys had gone over the edge where the rocks piled up below the falls. Benjamin called up to me, asking if he could keep going. I yelled back, “You can go as far as you can!” I’m learning when the boys start doing what boys do not to stop them. I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s rather rebellious for an earthly parent to counter a heavenly parent. So after watching Benjamin’s head disappear, followed by Christopher and Joshua, I packed away my camera and headed down. That and Jill expressed to me some concern over the six year old tagging along.

We descended a long way. Longer than we should have. I was surprised that the boys made it as far as they did, actually. But they did, and it was a sight to behold. The crevice the river carved out of the mountain through the trees was quite steep, resulting in giant steps down where the water fell then rested then fell some more. The lush green forest and long trees shooting up to stretch for the morning sun were stunning. The flat rock plates jutting out invited the waters to make beautiful ribbons, which happily obliged, and the massive boulders squatting resolutely proved a great vantage to scout our trail to the next level down. With each level up or down we seemed to become more and more skilled. It was not difficult to imagine that if we had come in another time long ago and made a homestead here we should become as nimble as mountain goats bounding over rock and stream.

But the most beautiful sight was my six foot tall fifteen year old boosting his six year old brother, half his height, over a tricky spot, or pointing out hand and foot holds so he could follow along. There’s nothing quite like watching brothers on a taxing adventure, sticking together, waiting on each other, helping the weak.

We also went above the base of the falls, peering the steep face where Alice fell. It was gorgeous to look down from above at the pools below and imagine how an eagle feels as he soars his circles over all this. I could write forever about the beauties I have seen in this day, but I must be brief for the sake of anyone reading this and for the sake of the falling wine in my glass and the falling temperature on this damp porch. So I wanted to end with some observations on illegal rock climbing before the park ranger scolds you and tells you to return to the trail.

  1. Going down is different from coming up. It’s not that the earth has changed, or that you have changed. But even if you face the mountain both ways and try to reverse your movements, some things are more difficult coming down, some more going up. It’s just the way it is.
  2. Going down and coming up are both eventually tricky when you’re off the beaten path.
  3. If you’re walking down a steep incline and start to slip, just go ahead and sit down. Having both hands and feet available to reach for salvation is a big bonus, and your butt makes a decent skidder.
  4. The earth is your friend—keep as many points of contact with her as possible.
  5. When climbing, test before you trust, or in other words, try before you buy.
  6. Wet rocks are slippery.
  7. Doing the “spider” helps on slightly declining flat wet rocks (the spider move is face up, hands and feet both on the rocks)
  8. If you would like to learn to surf but don’t live near an ocean, you can practice on slightly declining flat wet rocks. Skip the spider.
  9. No matter how steep something looks from the top or from the bottom, there is usually a way to navigate it.
  10. No matter what, mothers will never be persuaded that their boys are safe when climbing.

It was after all a glorious day. We had looked into a full day top rope rock climbing session with an AMGA Accredited Guide Service. But after our off trail vertical adventure the boys said, who wants to go do that. This is just the kind of holiday a boy needs. I’m so grateful to God that the man’s body I’m trapped in still serves well the boy inside.

Friday, July 25, 2008

german coastguard

My first big screen debut!

They are making a movie about me and my time at SAP. Check out the trailer:



Ze end is right.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

don miller and love's torture

I’m reading Don Miller’s Searching for God Knows What a second time. I’m reading it with a group of friends we call our book club. Everyone who knows me knows I love Don Miller’s writing. This book is no exception. I love this book.

But I have just come across a paragraph that’s really got me thinking, and I’m thinking that Don’s got it backward. I bet if I sat down with Don and told him what I was thinking he would listen. And I bet he wouldn’t discount me because I’m not a published writer like him. He might even rethink what he wrote. At least I think he would enjoy the discussion.

I just finished reading about Adam, Eve, and the Alien, and then about the Lifeboat. Now he’s talking about Jesus, and the subtitle is, Who needs a lifeboat? He’s talking about how Jesus must have really liked people, and I think that’s true. Then he talks about how Jesus never wrote a manifesto or a mission statement or anything for that matter, but instead put all his eggs in his followers’ baskets. And that’s really, really amazing when you think about it because it’s a precarious way to start a religion, and would Jesus even be taken serious in today’s world if he wasn’t published? And then Don talks about the impact Jesus had on people, how they went and lived amazing lives full of passion and dedication to the point of death for him. I don’t know who could argue with that observation, even if they’re not a Christian. And then he comes to this paragraph, the paragraph I can’t accept:

People don’t go out and get tortured and arrested for somebody who doesn’t love them. If somebody loves us we will do all kinds of things in their name, for them, because of them. They will make us who we are.

But I don’t think that’s true. It’s backwards actually. The truth is that people go out and get tortured all the time for somebody who doesn’t love them. Unrequited love is almost a proverb. I personally know of several instances where someone loves someone so much it hurts, but the object of their affection is not moved at all, and sometimes is even freaked out by their love. The truth is that some people cannot accept love, and some people can accept love, but cannot accept love from certain people. I think some of the time it’s because people cannot recognize love. It was certainly true in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth was repulsed at the very name of Mr. Darcy throughout the story. But in the end she discovered his love, and in the end she discovered her own love as well. If you see one of the movies or read the book you’ll know what I mean. It’s really quite moving. I can see why so many women like it.

People do get themselves tortured for somebody who doesn’t love them.

But that’s only half of how I think what Don wrote is backwards. The other half is that if somebody loves us we will do all kinds of things in their name, for them, because of them. That’s not really true, either. The truth is not that if we feel loved we will die for someone else. The truth is that if we love someone else we will die for them. We will do all kinds of things in their name, for them, because of them. We will lose sleep. We will write their name a million times on the cover of our geometry text book. We will spend hundreds of dollars a month on long distance phone calls. We will waste a small fortune on gasoline on trips to see them, or even just to drive by their house in hopes that we might see them when they go out to check their mail. If something goes wrong we will spend weeks going through correspondence and retracing our steps to create a timeline of events that led up to the catastrophe to figure out what went wrong when. We will pluck daisies. The truth is not that if someone loves us we will go the distance. The truth is that if we love someone we will go the distance. No price is too great when we are in love.

If we love someone we’re liable to do anything.

And this was the real secret of the Christ movement, in my way of thinking. It’s not that he loved his disciples so much that they turned the world upside down. It’s that they loved him so much that they turned the world upside down. Somehow that ancient romantic, irrational, desperate current swept them off their feet into something much bigger than could be written or explained or campaigned. They didn’t enlist in a school of discipleship. They fell in love.

So after disagreeing with Don in both directions, I want to savor his last sentence. They will make us who we are. The problem with falling in love with someone is that they will make us who we are. It quite cancels the life our guidance counselor helped us to identify and make plans for. It makes us who we are because it defines the object of our attention. It dictates where our time is spent. Without any discipline or planning at all it propels us to “have done with lesser things”. It makes us who we are by reorienting our priorities around the one who matters, the one we can’t let fall, can’t let go of. And ultimately, that makes us who we are.

To me this makes a lot of sense when I read what some of those disciples wrote. It does make me look at their letters differently, though. When I think about what they did and with what fervor they did it, I can only explain it as them being in love with someone. What they did goes beyond reason, certainly beyond what reasonable people would do. They turned the world upside down, and they did it because they were in love with someone, someone that it was only fitting for them to call Lord, someone who had captivated them. So then their letters have become to me more their defense of themselves, their explanation of their own actions, their own fervor. John called himself, “the one whom Jesus loved” in the hope that he would be excused for his radical behavior, his radical love of the dear woman and her children and all the others for whom he was tortured or exiled. And Paul wrote, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed…” Paul actually wrote more than a few times the phrase, “I am not ashamed”. Peter defended his love by saying, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories… we were with him on the sacred mountain.” The thing is, it’s not what these guys wrote that was so powerful. It was their lives. The New Testament is this eclectic collection of theology, plus personal items that frankly belong in a journal, greetings, personal appeals, apologies, poetry, lyrics, and other stuff. The real power was in the writers’ lives. It was each of their lives that said loud and clear, “Love. It’s the only way.” It said it better than any song or poem or epistle ever could. Christ had captivated them. They had fallen in love with Him. They went on to live fanatically—not fanatically as crusaders trying to subject the rest of the world to their new religious order, but fanatically as a lover can’t help but pursue his beloved and everything his beloved loves. It was in that process, whether intentional or not, that they turned the world upside down. The writing was mainly to answer questions about all that energy being kicked off by their fanatical love and the effect it was having on the world. I know maybe it sounds weird for a bunch of men to fall in love with another man, but it happens. Especially when said man loved them so purely and so deeply from the start.

Finally, I saw again the other day the words that I think are so stupid. I was driving by the big Baptist church in Fort Worth on I30, and I saw on their marquee, “We love God because he first loved us.” It’s a misquote from 1 John 4:19. It’s a terrible misquote, because you can’t even make the case that you’re inserting God in there for clarity. Inserting God there actually changes the meaning. It’s quite simply, “We love because he first loved us.” You can look it up in your favorite Bible version. It’s what it says.

And this ties in nicely with what Don wrote, because it is true that we are able to love others because God lavished us with his love. There is something so comforting about being loved. There is something that provides so much security and warmth in knowing that you are loved. It’s not that we would die for someone if they loved us. What we would die for is the one we love. We would extinguish all that is our life for the object of our love. It’s not that we would die for someone once they loved us. It’s that we are able to love others once someone really loved us. It’s quite liberating to be loved, when you can accept it, that is. Once Elizabeth could accept that Mr. Darcy had done everything for her, she could then quit focusing on herself and all her complaints and just love everyone else from her heart. It was quite time consuming for her until then.

Somehow Christ, like Darcy, was able to captivate his beloved. Somehow he was able to do more than extend his love to her and earn her gratitude. Somehow he was able to turn her heart to love him back. And that is where all this came from.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

God is in my backpack

I went backpacking this morning—just on the forest trail close to my home. It was the first time I’ve been in a long time. I remember the first time I read the words—What I do is me: for that I came—how easily I swallowed them. I knew them to be declaring something deep and true and powerful. The way I knew is because I had been backpacking. Or maybe I should say because backpacking had been me.

I was born for backpacking. I have tried jogging several times. I jog a little while and then I walk or stop. Then, after just a few days my knees get sore and I can’t keep it up. I’ve biked, both street and mountain. I enjoy it. But I can live without it. I’ve lifted weights, but we won’t go there. When I backpack I am alive. The more I do it the more I want to do it. I can feel life rushing into and out of my heart with each rushing breath.

I used to pack every night, just around my block and the neighboring streets and parks. I thought about quitting my job, moving my family out to Colorado, and starting a ministry or business venture to take people out into the wilderness for a real journey—spiritual, physical, emotional. It was going to be great. I had bills, though.

At the height of my fitness back in the late 90’s, I would work out with my pack late at night, sometimes even after midnight, when it cooled down below 100 in the Texas summer. I started with about 40 lbs, a good target for a week long trek in the mountains. But as I got stronger I upped it to 50, 60, 70, even 80 lbs. I had an Iron Man watch with a lap timer on it. In those days I could power walk about 7 minutes for a half mile, which was the distance around my block. With a 70 lb pack, it took me about the same. I used to go 6 laps, 3 miles, and time myself around each. The first lap would usually be about 7:15, a little slow as the circulation got cranked up and my muscles and joints limbered and lubed up. The second lap I’d get around 7:00. The third was 6:50. 6:45 for the 4th, 6:37 for the 5th, and sometimes I’d even get faster on the 6th as well. But usually the 5th was the best. Like I said, I was born for this. I was packing as fast I was walking. A lot of that had to do with technique. When I first started I was bouncing up and down, the pack squeaking and clanging the rhythm of my walk. But after I got good I was so smooth, like a duck on the water, smooth and easy on the surface, paddling like heck underneath. I think the reason my 6th lap was slower had less to do with me physical exhaustion and more to do with my ability to keep my focus up for that long.

I got so focused on this that I started timing my half-laps—quarter miles. The first half of my lap to the opposite corner of my block was down hill; the second was up. And it never failed that I was faster uphill then down. Never. It must have something to do with my posture and the distribution of weight. Whatever it is, it definitely points to a certain kind of skill, a kind of skill you only get by doing. But whatever skills and techniques I developed, I could never shake the feeling that I was born for this, that I was home somehow when I backpacked.

It was during this time that I used to nurture my dream of introducing backpacking as an Olympic sport. I figured you could have different classes of competition based on how much weight the trekker would carry. You could have a 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 lb competition. But since it’s the Olympics it would have to be in kg. The race would be cross-country, full of hills and valleys and tricky passes. A new cottage industry would be spawned to outfit competitors and all the kids who idolized this new class of athletes. And in my dream, I would actually compete, even in my thirties. Yeah, it was a good dream.

My love for backpacking began with my very first trek, on an amazing trip to Philmont Scout Ranch when I was 12 years old.

I will never forget Ranger Rick going through our packs during our briefing beneath the big evergreens, laying their shadows towards the mess hall, as he rifled through our packs tossing stuff over his shoulder saying, “You don’t need this…get rid of that…this is worthless…this’ll slow you down…I thought we told you to leave this at home…” It’s quite funny the things we think we need, the things we are convinced we can’t live without, even when those who have been there and back again are telling us we can survive just fine without them, telling us that in fact we will be better off without them. The funniest thing was that we had met probably 6 or 8 times before we left to pare down our packs, to read and re-read the list of stuff that we should take, and the stuff we should leave, and to downsize. We had all made some hard choices, and all felt so brave to enter the wild with so little. And there he was making fun of us for trying to urbanize the outback.

But that’s not my memory of the trip. I have a memory more vivid. It was morning, and we had just packed camp and found our trail head. I turned to take off and got waylaid. My Scoutmaster started yelling at me because I was always leading off, always blazing off and leaving everyone else in the dust, always setting a pace, and not letting some of these other boys go first. I think he probably had made several comments earlier, more subtle, expecting me to take a hint. I can remember talking back to him, and I can remember him really losing it. I was almost afraid. And then, an amazing thing happened. My dad stepped between me and him. The next thing I knew my dad and the other dad were telling all of us boys to go on ahead, and they’d catch up. We walked down a ways, but then we stopped, knowing we were getting too far ahead because we could hardly hear the yelling any more. My memory is my dad, chest to chest, with another man for me. Even though I couldn’t see it, and to this day don’t know what was said, I knew something powerful had just happened.

It was one of the best days of my life.

Nothing was said after that. I noticed a few wet eyes as the men caught up with us. But nothing was ever said. I do, however, remember being more considerate after that. I remember offering to let the other boys lead. I remember sometimes they would do it, but sometimes they wanted to get behind me. And I remember feeling small, humble, and to a certain extent noble.

I packed today. And I’ll pack tomorrow. I intend to lose some weight and feel better as I work out some of these toxins and some of this laziness. I’m glad to have packing back in my lifely routine, and I expect this thing that found me at an early age will carry me for the rest of my life. In truth I expect to pick up speed as I go. After all, my home is on top of a hill.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

make it go away

I just reread this from Journey of Desire.

Should the king in exile pretend he is happy there? Should he not seek his own country? His miseries are his ally; they urge him on. And so let them grow, if need be. But do not forsake the secret of life; do not despise those kingly desires. We abandon the most important journey of our lives when we abandon desire. We leave our hearts by the side of the road and head off in the direction of fitting in, getting by, being productive, what have you. Whatever we might gain— money, position, the approval of others, or just absence of the discontent itself—it’s not worth it. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).

(John Eldredge, Journey of Desire)

But it's soooooo hard sometimes. I think I've been seeking the absence of discontent lately. This is where you run when you believe it doesn't really matter anyway. It's so hard to believe that my miseries are my allies. Hence, they don't urge me on. How can they urge me on when I'm busy telling them they don't exist? That doesn't work so well, though. It's kind of weird when you have a conversation with someone who isn't there. It's not the conversation that is weird. What's weird is when you realize you're having a conversation with someone who is supposed to not exist. For this aid is required. Strong medicine.

Maybe that's why the Bible says to get miserable people enough beer and wine until they forget (Proverbs 31).

I don't think God disparages people if they drink to dodge their misery.

But Eldredge asks if it is fitting for a king to forget his miseries. Aren't kings made of nobler stuff? Aren't kings forged of stuff to rise above the woes common to man, to push through, and to overcome?

I was thinking about Jesus, when they offered him wine with myrrh (spiced wine) to ease his suffering, and he refused it. All the gospels record that. But they also record that just as he was about to die, they gave him wine with vinegar (bitter wine). All the gospels record that, too, and John (the only gospel writer who was actually THERE) made it very clear that Jesus drank it.

I've always thought that the second wine was the "it's over" one. The first one was the "this can be easier" one.

And I think that's about right for kings. The peasant path is one of survival, of squirming to avoid the bitterness of reality with a little spice (when it can be found) to lighten the load. But the noble path is to face the harsh reality of misery, grief, and loss, and to be emboldened to endure the pain of it all to push through to greater joy. The noble path is focused on more than just the self and more than just the moment. "Bringing many sons to glory" can be a bitter path, and really, there's nothing for it. Except. At some point you have to swallow the bitter truth that it's over. It is finished. It is time to let it go. It is time for something new.

Maybe this is the defining moment, the moment that everything that has been suffered finally bursts open with the seeds of new life.

And maybe this is the moment that would only be possible once the eased path was rejected.

And maybe that's why the Bible says,

It is not for kings, O Lemuel—
not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
...
Give beer to those who are perishing,
wine to those who are in anguish;
let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
(Proverbs 31)

So here I am. I don't know why I'm writing all this.

Monday, June 30, 2008

once

One word:

Wow

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

how to save a life

Lately I've been listening to this song by the fray called how to save a life. The song is about this guy wondering where he went wrong, and how things could have gone differently if he'd known what do do to save his friend's life. There's an interesting story behind it.

The thing is, I do know how to save a life. It's a value for value thing, a one-for-one.

Laying down a list of what is wrong won't do it.

Praying to God that he hears you won't do it.

Lowering your voice and slipping past his defenses and staying up with him all night and all the skill with people techniques in the world won't do it.

How to save a life is to lose yours.

It hurts. It costs.

And saving a life and saving a friend are not the same thing.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

the call

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder
'Til it was a battle cry
I'll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye

Just because everything's changing
Doesn't mean it's never
Been this way before
All you can do is try to know
Who your friends are
As you head off to the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light
You'll come back
When it's over
No need to say good bye

Now we're back to the beginning
It's just a feeling and no one knows yet
But just because they can't feel it too
Doesn't mean that you have to forget
Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
'Til they're before your eyes

You'll come back
When it's over
No need to say good bye

- The Call by Regina Spektor

I saw Prince Caspian yesterday. Great stuff. I think I liked it more than the first movie...for several reasons. It was good to see the children older. Growing up is such a beautiful thing. For you who have been, "As you get bigger so do I."

There is something unmistakable the Chronicles of Narnia do to me, something the filmmakers captured. There is something indeed magical at work, something that begins to stir the cauldron inside me, waking me up from the spell I've been under, sparking hope, making me want to live for the first time, or maybe the second.

If you've never heard the call, keep listening. Or maybe stop listening and just hear.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

transcendent

Gary Barkalow showed this clip at the retreat last weekend in Colorado. He said every now and then TV catches a transcendent moment. It's very rare.

There are about 6,804,262,091 versions of this waiting to happen. All I want is to see every one of them.


As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:5
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;10
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918

Monday, April 07, 2008

power corrupts

If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then why doesn't God get corrupted?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

your epic life, part ii

I have come to the realization that the last post could use some expanding. That, and I feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t get some of these thoughts out of my head!


You can always be who you are in any situation.

That could mean anything. Stand up and fight. Run away in terror. Laugh. Listen. Stomp your feet. Cry out in anger, or in agony. Show undeserved kindness. Crack a joke. Put your hands in your pockets. Any human expression could be you.

Being you is not always taking the path of least resistance. Just because it feels like you doesn’t mean it is you.

Being who you are is telling the truth.

Life is not a gameshow. If there is no good answer to the question the moment is asking you, you don’t have to answer before the clock runs out. But you can always tell the truth. You can always be yourself. But I repeat myself. If someone is asking you a question that you are not the answer for you don’t have to make one up.

No one else can tell you who you are. Except God. And He hasn’t written it down anywhere. Except on your heart.

Reading God’s writing, the kind on the heart, is not like reading a book. It is much less explicit and cannot be grasped in a single reading. The writing takes form over time. It’s like invisible ink coming into focus. And the focus is not in the form of sentences. It is as if a question were roared in the halls of antiquity, and God said, “To answer that I am whispering a story.”

You can always be who you are where you are.

Changing careers won’t help. Changing churches won’t help. Changing friends won’t help. Changing spouses won’t help.

When you be, some things will go well for you, and some things won’t. This is the epic adventure.

In an epic adventure, the character sets out on a journey. He overcomes foes. He sustains losses. When things go well he presses on. When things go foul he presses on. The journey is over when he returns home, tells his story, and sees what everyone thinks about it. That’s when it’s over. When he goes back home. When he tells everyone and sees what they think about it. He’s no longer living the adventure at that point. He’s no longer living his life. He’s talking about the life that’s over. When he goes back.

Who you are cannot be expressed in a moment. It takes an entire story to express. This is because you don’t start perfect. You’re being perfected. You’re not finished. But I repeat myself.

The path of perfection starts at yourself. It ends at your tombstone. The hope of perfection is not that you get there and enjoy the rest of your time on earth in a perfected state. The hope is that when someone reads the last word and closes the lid they will say, “That was a good story.”

Being perfected means being finished. Nothing else. There is no remedy for imperfection but continuation. None.

And repentance? Repentance is getting back to being yourself. It is getting back to telling the truth. But I repeat myself again.

You will not become yourself by working on yourself.

Every action you take has consequences. Being yourself is not your defense. It is your charge.

The adventure you are on, your epic life, is not just for you. It is your contribution to the larger story, the larger answer. It is an offering you present that says, “This also is who God is.”

You cannot start the journey, cannot live an epic life, cannot be a good story, until you have an inkling of who you are.

You are not your personality. You are not a collection of wounds and wins. What you are is one thing. It is like the introduction in Spanish: “¿Como se llama? Me llamo _____,” which translates, “How are you called? I am called _____.” You are called. What you are is what God calls you. It is not what you call yourself. It is not what someone else calls you. You are called something. Life begins there. And more importantly, life finishes there.

Who can give a man this, his own name? God alone. For no one but God sees what the man is… It is the blossom, the perfection, the completeness, that determines the name: and God foresees that from the first because He made it so…
George MacDonald

It is not easy to be yourself. There are many diversions and temptations to be someone else, and many counterfeits are offered.

The easy thing is to be yourself. But this is a privilege only offered to those believing God is telling the truth and deciding that they will, too. There will be all kinds of things, good and bad, pleasure and pain, that you will get to enjoy and suffer when you give up on being someone else, when you give up trying to be a you that you read about somewhere besides on your own heart—whether in a book or on the faces of others or from a painful chapter early in your story.

The most epic adventure of your life comes when you simply be yourself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

your epic life

The most epic adventure of your life comes when you simply be yourself.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

why the next computer i buy will be an apple

In the olden days, apple computer made a big mistake. They didn't embrace open standards--standards like ISA. They didn't open their hardware to communicate with many different devices from many manufacturers, all of which required an installation which was basically this: crack the case, seat the card into an available slot, configure the IRQ, memory address, and port for each device, and install special drivers. All us techies prided ourselves in figuring out how to come up with different configurations that allowed us to install lots of different stuff from different manufacturers in our PC's. Those days were great. Those days are over.

At the time apple's strategy was to take care of their customer by giving them limited options, but options that worked. How many apple users have I known to say, "Apple. It just works." I think that must have been one of their marketing messages. It was a bad strategy at the time. Bad in the sense of the apple community and platform was dwarfed by the PC community and platform, which wowed consumers with the dizzying array of cheap options.

But everything is different now.

I have spent most of the day on several phone calls with Lenovo tech support for trouble with my Thinkpad. I spent close to $3000 USD on this laptop about a year ago, which included the highest level of warranty possible with next day on-site repairs. Most of our conversations included one burst of fury from me when the tech suggested that the only thing the warranty covered was hardware problems, or that the best advice he had for me was to erase the hard drive and reinstall from the factory CD's (and he recommended that I back up all my files first. Thanks.).

In short the issue I am having is that the wireless network quit working all of the sudden. The first tech had me remove the IBM/Lenovo software that controlled the wireless and just use the Windows XP software, which did get me back connected to the internet, but left several issues unresolved. To start with, I liked the IBM/Lenovo software. I could configure all the wireless networks I connect to (a lot since I frequent coffee shops and hotels). And it was the only way this particular wireless adapter could connect to my super-fast 802.11N router at home. But worse than this is that I cannot press the hot key and enable/disable the wireless (something American Airlines frowns on) and cannot do a Repair (which if you run Windows and connect to many different networks, you know is something that keeps you from rebooting all the time and is the only way to resolve some routing and DNS caching issues). And it's just gotten progressively worse the more I follow their suggestions on fixing it. Eventually I will (apart from them) stumble across something that fixes it, and they will never hear back from me. I could call them and tell them what it was that fixed it, but they wouldn't care or know what to do with that information.

This is just symptomatic of the shift that has happened.

Lenovo tells me that only the hardware is covered. If I want them to transfer me over to the software team then it's going to be a $50 minimum charge for them to open a ticket. I'm sure that Lenovo has contracted out these guys and told them that they get points for not having to send a tech out with new parts, and to make the customer prove that it's a hardware issue or else send them to the software team to remove some more ca$h from their customers' pockets. And this, too, is symptomatic of the shift.

In a world where everyone is specializing and outsourcing, in a world where measurable metrics are put in place for each department and division, in a world that is increasingly dehumanized, why is anyone surprised that the world is disintegrated? Why is anyone surprised at being transferred 5 or 10 times to different parts of the world? Why is anyone surprised at extensive navigation through computerized phone menus? Why is anyone surprised that there is no more respect for customers anymore?

If I called apple with a problem, every person I talked to would know how to spell 802.11N, and someone I talked to would know how to get my network card back up. They wouldn't tell me that they only cover hardware. They recognize, like all of us now do, that there is no such thing as just hardware. Every piece of hardware has to have software that makes it play with the rest of the world. And they recognize that I don't buy a computer for the opportunity to negotiate with several groups of people who don't want to take responsibility for the problem someone else created and I paid for. Apple works.

I want to live in a world that is integrated. I want to be integrated. I am an apple.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

new life

I wonder if the journey towards new life doesn't begin with death: an ending, a letting go, a breakage or even a disillusionment. New life emerges when a capacity to receive something is created. Sometimes we make the room, but most of the time the space is made for us, whether we agree to it or not.

Expectations in my life most often provide opportunities for death. The person didn't measure up, I was disappointed, my illusions shattered, dreams broken, hopes dashed, and I am left frustrated and resentful. I am also left with an opportunity. Do I allow these emotions to grip and control my life, so I have no room for the newness? Or am I being invited to choose life anew, to let go of my expectations and answer life's beckoning call?

Keith Reynolds

Now darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I'm crawling on your shores

Indigo Girls

Friday, February 29, 2008

i

iPhone. Love it. I fired it up on the plane with my Bose noise canceling headphones, set up an On-The-Go list, hit Shuffle, and was swept into this eclectic collection of slices of my life and times and tastes. Love the iPhone.

iTunes. Love it. I’m amazed at how easy they make it to buy any song you can think of, and podcasts are more than I could ask for. It’s amazing. I don’t know why I resisted for so long. Oh yeah. I do remember that. It was apple’s proprietary format. But now it’s all MP3 and the world is good.

And on a similar note, I have found peace and happiness at work by carrying my own phone, my own laptop, my own hard drives, my own thumb drive, my own laptop, my own luggage, everything. I just took all their government issued, horribly supported equipment and parked it in the corner of my home office. It’s amazing how happy you can be when you stop thinking that someone else SHOULD be doing something for you. Sure, I shelled out 5 grand or so to fund my employer’s operations, which is not reimbursed nor appreciated, but it’s so liberating to quit requiring everyone to do the right thing and just be ok to get what you want by spending yourself and your money on it. It’ll come back on them eventually for screwing all of us. I don’t have to answer for that. I do have to answer to God and my own conscience. And for how I loved all the people God put me next to.