31 December 2010

A Tribute to a Dad

Yesterday my friend Dan posted a beautiful tribute to his father who died a couple of weeks ago. You can read it HERE. I can think of no better way to ring in a new year than to see the example of a father and son's enduring relationship.
       Thank you for sharing this Dan.

30 December 2010

Donating to Support Our Ministry

This post is unusual because I am mentioning Susy's and my financial support, i.e. how we are funded to do ministry. First let me say how INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL we are to so many people and churches who give generously toward our ministry. It is humbling and motivating to us.
       Some of you know that I was on staff at Lookout Mountain Community Church for several years until the beginning of 2010. For the past year I have had a part-time role in corporate fundraising with Christian Associates (CA). As of January 1st that position is ending and we are returning to a full support raising position with CA.
       As of the middle of December we had 80% of our support pledged or given for 2011. This is already a significant increase from September, when we were at about 50% of our support.
       If you would like to begin supporting us with CA you can do so by clicking HERE or on the logo below. JustGive is a simple and secure way to give online. In the designation line of the form please write, "Account 41435."
       To everyone who is part of our support team on a monthly, annual, or occasional basis, THANK YOU for your abundant generosity!

29 December 2010

$787 billion + $850 billion = ???

A couple of years ago a lot of people screamed loudly about the $787 billion bailout of Wall Street, banks, and a load of other things. It was called the Troubled Asset Relief Program and, if I remember correctly, people were upset.
       Most folks blamed Barack Obama for this mess, although President Bush recently reminded everyone that it was his administration which passed TARP.
       A couple of weeks ago the U.S. Congress and President Obama passed an $850 billion bill which , among other things: extends tax relief to wealthy people (those earning more than $250,000 per year; extends tax relief to middle class folks, extends unemployment benefits, and gives tax breaks to small businesses.
       Here is what is bizarre to me: I have heard very little from people complaining about this $850 billion and what it will do to the national debt, while I heard many, many people screaming bloody murder about the $787 billion.
       So what gives? Are we yet again avoiding the pain of fiscal responsibility so we can line our pockets with loot? Answer: YES.
       OK, let's ADD Up the $787 billion and $850 billion and see what we get. I think it is a whopping $1.637 trillion!
Can you say RED INK?

28 December 2010

The West Needs to Wake Up to Zimbabwe

In 1980 Rhodesia became Zimbabwe when it gained independence from the United Kingdom. Robert Mugabe was a hero of the independence movement and has ruled the country with an iron fist ever since. He has arguably destroyed a country which has subsequently suffered enormously.
       Unfortunately the plight of Zimbabwe and the dictatorship of Mugabe has been largely ignored by the United States. The first page of the New York Times today announced, "Fears Growing of Mugabe's Iron Grip Over Zimbabwe." The article noted that Mugabe is organizing his henchmen/political operatives/hacks in the build up to elections next year. The article says,
"In recent months, Mr. Mugabe has been cranking up his party’s election-time machinery of control and repression. He appointed all the provincial governors, who help him dispense patronage and punishment, rather than sharing the picks as promised with Mr. Tsvangirai. And traditional chiefs, longtime recipients of largess from his party, ZANU-PF, have endorsed Mr. Mugabe as president for life." 
       For those of us who are Americans, we need to have a voice in these kind of matters. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is one place to start, more specifically the Subcommittee on African Affairs. Here are the Senate members of the subcommittee:

  • Cardin, Benjamin L. (Democrat - Maryland)
  • Webb, Jim (Democrat - Virginia)
  • Shaheen, Jeanne (Democrat - New Hampshire)
  • Coons, Christopher A. (Democrat - Delaware)
  • DeMint, Jim (Republican - South Carolina)
  • Corker, Bob (Republican - Tennessee)
  • Inhofe, James M. (Republican - Oklahoma)

The chairman of the committee - Democrat Russ Feingold was defeated in the election in November. The committee will be re-organized in January when the new Senate goes into Session. But you can write to the committee at:

446 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6225

Fax: (202) 228-3612

27 December 2010

Boxing Day Was a Hit!

We had a great time with 40 or 50 people in our house and around the firepit for Boxing Day yesterday. A great post-Christmas celebration and time to catch up with many wonderful friends. Special thanks to Susy and Carly who created an awesome spread of food and drink! Have a look:

26 December 2010

Boxing Day Party Today!

Today is Boxing Day in the United Kingdom. So we are celebrating here in Denver with an Open House at our place, 3 - 7 pm. We expect about 60 people - should be a blast. If you are in Denver you are very welcome!

25 December 2010

Billy Graham's Christmas Interview

A man who is finishing so very very well.

Christmas Eve Mass

Carly and I went to a midnight mass tonight, on Christmas Eve. It was a wonderful, reverent time for me. It was at Church of the Risen Christ in Denver, a large Catholic church pastored by Msg. Ken Leone.
       I noticed a few things in the mass that We could learn from and appreciate:
* Symbol is very important, and can draw us closer to God;
* Jesus was THE center of the Mass - not Mary or angels or anything else;
* The Communion table was open to whoever wanted to partake;
* Pastor Ken's homily was entitled, "My Love Letter to My Congregation." It was profound, simple, and 10 minutes long. The service was an hour in all;
* There is a vocabulary/lingo that I am not familiar with. It can certainly become dead ritual, but it did not seem like that to people in attendance tonight.
       All in all this was a worshipful and gracious way to begin Christmas Day. Thank you to my Catholic brothers and sisters!

23 December 2010

"I have to believe something extraordinary is possible"

In January (weekends of 8-9th and 15-16th) I am doing a two-week series at Lookout Mountain Church which I am calling, "To Dream the Impossible Dream." The focus is on Isaiah 59 and 60, which are a couple of wild chapters of the Old Testament.
       I am inspired not only by God's relentless love and grace toward "the peoples of earth," but also by artists (musicians, film-makers, poets, writers, etc.) who tell wonderful stories reflecting this crazy love of God.
       One of these films is A Beautiful Mind, the story of John Nash. Remember the scene when Nash's wife pointedly declares to him, "I have to believe something extraordinary is possible."
       Ya, I have to believe that too!

22 December 2010

On Tolerance ...

Yesterday I was getting my teeth cleaned and had an enlightening conversation with the hygienist. She is Jewish, gay and grew up attending a Unitarian-Universalist church. She's also a great dental hygienist, by the way.
       She wanted to know what I am up to now, since I am no longer pastoring a church. I told her of my interest in Jews and Muslims (what I call the Isaac-Ishmael Initiative) and how reconciliation can begin to happen. She asked lots of questions, thought this was a wonderful idea and wanted to know how she could get more information.
       Afterward I thought about this brief encounter. It was awkward only because I had dental instruments in my mouth as I tried to talk. But it was not awkward even though we have some pretty different views on things.
       And I wondered why I do not have as positive interactions with some people of faith - Jews, Muslims, and Christians. I find it just a tad humorous to me that the gay Jewish lady who used to hang out at the Unitarian-Universalist church can teach us so much about acceptance and engaging in civil discourse.

20 December 2010

Thought for the Day

"I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery. "
~ Brennan Manning

19 December 2010

A Prayer for Advent

I attended the Liturgy of Peace last Thursday put on by Urban Skye in Denver. It was facilitated so well by Ellen Haroutunian. It had been a truly bizarre day for me, so this prayer that we read made all the more sense in an odd kind of way.
Lord of the watching ones,
Overwhelm our fear,
that we might learn to trust one another.
Lord o the watching ones, the waiting ones,
Overwhelm our insecurities that we might seek the flourishing of all people.
Lord of the watching ones, the waiting ones,
the slow and suffering ones.
Overwhelm our loneliness so we might dare to reach out in love.

18 December 2010

"God uses the talent pool available"

"Thinking back over the Christian personalities I’ve known, as well as those featured in both Old and New Testaments, I’ve come up with the following principle: God uses the talent pool available." ~ Philip Yancey, www.philipyancey.com
       One of my favorite authors is Philip Yancey. I think it is for three reasons:
1) His dominant themes are grace and suffering, and he deals with both very honestly and humanly;
2) he is a great story-teller in writing and listening to him speak;
3) he has not given up on God and the Church despite all the messes he has seen. That gives me hope!
       I was reading Philip's blog yesterday and read this principle: "God uses the talent pool available." It felt like a prophetic word for me personally. I am exploring a new focus in missions (still with Christian Associates) which is both exhilarating and is scaring me spitless (not typo there!). People are responding to me with excitement, confusion, skepticism, and hope! And I am having these moments like Moses in Exodus where he sends, "I can't do it! Send someone else!"
       Then I got to thinking about Philip's statement. And perhaps, just perhaps I am the available talent pool at this time in this place. Not sure about the choice of a Jewish kid from Long Island with my history in Europe and currently living in Denver. But, hey, God has done crazier things than that I suppose!

17 December 2010

I'm beginning to believe God is doing the impossible

Last week I wrote something on my Facebook wall that said, "I'm beginning to believe God is doing the impossible. - oh me of little faith!" I got a fair number of responses to this and I want to say a little more about it.
       First, you should know that this idea came to me after hearing the theme song from "Man of La Mancha" in a restaurant! Not too spiritual, but bone honest. And just to be totally truthful, I LOVE that film and play! Really.
       Second, I spend way too much time living rationally and not so much living supernaturally. I realize that the opposite can be true also - that some live in fantasy and not in reality. But that's not the danger for me too often.
       Third, it seems to me that I only really grow and mature when my "impossible" meets God's "possible." That's where I desire to live more often than not.
       For all of you secret romantics who really want to live LARGE in God's vision for heaven and earth, enjoy this clip from "The Man of La Mancha"!

16 December 2010

Larry King Finishes Up

Television talk show host Larry King went off the air today, after 25 years of being in Americans' living rooms. His final show was a great tribute to him. He has been quite the character indeed!
       Way to finish well, Larry.

The Giving Pledge Expands

The Giving Pledge, launched by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett in 2009, has continued to expand. It is very encouraging to see the world's wealthiest people stepping up for the good of humanity.
       Among the more recent signers of the Pledge is Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, founders of Facebook and the most recently wealthy. They are also only about 25 years old, so to say that you will give away the vast majority of your wealth going forward is quite the statement by these guys.
       Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Time magazine named Zuckerberg Person of the Year this week.
       You may ask, "Does it make any difference to me that these Billionaires are pledging to give away most of their wealth? After all, they can afford to give most of it away. As for me I'm just scraping by."
       Personally I think it makes a huge difference in our culture when anyone cuts across the grain of society and decides to be wildly generous, whether can means giving billionaires or giving pennies. Generosity is contagious and so I applaud these wealthy individuals as pacesetters for us.

14 December 2010

Tax Cuts Extended ... Let the Donations Flow!

Last week the United States Congress and President Obama came to agreement to extend the so-called "Bush Tax Cuts." This means that individuals who earn more than $200,000 and couples who earn more than $250,000 will continue to pay a lower federal tax rate. Translation: Wealthy people in America will have more disposable income in their pockets.
       So, let the donations and charity flow! I have heard from a number of wealthier people who have said they were keeping money in their wallets because they feared that the U.S. government was going to take more in income tax in 2011. Well that fear is now gone, at least for the next two years.
       I hope the wealthiest 2% of Americans will "step up to the plate" just like Warren Buffett has done - giving extravagantly for the good of our country and of this earth. Let the donations flow!

13 December 2010

Thought for the Day

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

11 December 2010

The Blackthorn Project

I'm not a lover of bluegrass style music. But The Blackthorn Project defies my prejudices.
       These folks played at my church last weekend and were fabulous.
       Check out this song:

10 December 2010

Yale Center for Faith and Culture

Yale University's Center for Faith and Culture has recently launched their Reconciliation Program. Miroslav Volf is a professor of theology at Yale Divinity School and is heavily involved in the Center.
       I mention this program because there are so few in the United States, at least from at least a nominally Christian perspective.
       Yale states this, "The goal of the Reconciliation Program is to promote reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, and between Muslim nations and the West, drawing on the resources of the Abrahamic faiths and the teachings and person of Jesus."
       An honorable pursuit, to be sure. I'd love to be part of those conversations.

09 December 2010

A Liturgy of Peace - Tonight

Urban Skye in Denver is hosting "A Liturgy of Peace" for the four Thursdays of Advent.
The second of these is tonight, 5 and 6 pm at Pomegranate Place, 750 Clarkson in Denver. If you are in Denver I'm sure this will be a worshipful evening.

07 December 2010

Those Who Dialogue Are Those Who Have Suffered

One of the best treatise or cases for inter-religious dialogue is found in the thinking and writing of Miroslav Volf, a professor at Yale University.
       Volf is a Croatian whose country (Yugoslavia) was torn apart by civil war in the early 1990s. Croatia was the first republic to breakaway, triggering the first of numerous secessions. Volf knows firsthand who is the enemy (Serbs) and how to hate.
       That is why his book Exclusion and Embrace is so stunning. It is autobiographical more than it is purely theological. It is a deeply personal reflection with Volf's struggle to enter into relationship with those who are truly "other" than him.

"Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion—without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person's humanity and imitate God's love for him. And when one knows that God's love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God's justice and so rediscover one's own sinfulness."
—Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace 

06 December 2010

Richard Mouw on Dialogue

Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw speaks candidly about the importance of inter-religious dialogue. His views are controversial in some circles.
       Those Christians who value evangelism over anything else fear that dialoging with other world religions compromises the Truth of the gospel.
       Those Christians who value dialogue and justice more than anything else fear that other world religions will be alienated by Christians who try to cram God down the throat of non-Christians.
Listen to how Mouw addresses this issue in the lead article from Theology, News and Notes.
"It is important to value both evangelism and dialoguing without reducing the one with the other. The two activities have a complementary relationship. Christians can engage in evangelization while at the same time hoping to gain new understanding through dialogue with other religions, so when "evangelism" and "dialogue" become the watchwords of two opposing camps, it leaves me very uncomfortable."
       It leaves me uncomfortable also. I have two concerns or critiques of we Christians in this regard:
1) I am concerned that we who value evangelism are fundamentally insecure in our beliefs so we refuse to listen people of other faiths. We become narrow-minded and end up having the attitude, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."
2) I am also concerned that progressives who value dialogue jettison the uniqueness of Christ and His Kingdom. We can be so accommodating that we lose the core of our beliefs in Jesus.

05 December 2010

The Challenge of True Dialogue

The most recent edition of Theology, News, and Notes published by Fuller Theological Seminary is about inter-religious dialogue. Fuller President Richard Mouw is a major proponent of such dialogue and has led the seminary into relationship with Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. Needless to say, Mouw and Fuller have been criticized for these efforts.
       Many of us in the Evangelical world feel that "dialogue" means "selling out" or compromising our core beliefs. On the contrary, it means the exact opposite. As theologian Jurgen Moltmann has said, those people who "merit" dialogue "have arrived at a firm standpoint in their own religion, and who enter into dialogue with the resulting self-confidence."
       Thus, I am reading this edition of TNN with great interest.  More and more I am convinced that I am to be in the dialogue amongst the Children of Abraham - Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Next week's blog entries will center on what I am reading in TNN.

03 December 2010

Danny Byram in Concert @ Lookout

Danny Byram is doing a Christmas Concert at Lookout Mountain Community Church tonight. Danny previously led worship at Lookout and has a great ministry, especially to the military. He's an awesome musician/songwriter as well.
The concert is free, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. If you are in Denver come on up the mountain.

02 December 2010

From Jeff Shaffer in Santa Barbara

I read a fair number of blogs and Facebook updates. Few of them stop me in my tracks like this did from jeff Shaffer:
"if you got up at 4am on Black Friday to save money on a sale, would you get up at 4am to save a life?"
Thanks for "ruining" my materialistic worldview, Jeff! 
Check ouf Jeff's ministry amongst the homeless of Santa Barbara HERE. The title of the post is "Toys R Us or People R Us?" Warning: It may mess with you, in a good sort of way.

01 December 2010

An Awesome Video on Muslims in America

This is a 4-minute video entitled, "I Want to Live in Paradise" by Kareen Salema about Muslims in America - their hopes, dreams, biases. It is incredibly inspiring.

30 November 2010

Screening a Film - fun stuff

Tonight I went to a screening in Pasadena of the upcoming film, "The Adjustment Bureau" starring Matt Damon. The film is being made by Universal and Grace Hill Media, which has a connection to Fuller Seminary's film and theology department.
       There were about 300 Fuller students in this theater in downtown Pasadena. We watched the film and then Robert Johnston, professor of film and theology at Fuller, led a discussion which was fascinating.
       Basically the film addresses issues around predestination and free will, to what extent do humans have a genuine choice in life decisions and to what extent are events pre-determined. So it touches on the issue of Open Theism as well.
       I thought it was a pretty good film - not a typically cheesy spiritual film made on a low budget. In fact I am pretty sure this film had a very large budget. It will be released by Universal in late March or early April. It's worth it - a great discussion starter for sure.

29 November 2010

Article: Narcissism from LeadershipJournal.net

Pastoral Narcissism | LeadershipJournal.net

From Philip Yancey's New Book

"Several years ago, a Muslim man said to me 'I have read the entire Qur’an and can find no guidance in it on how Muslims should live as a minority in society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find no guidance in it on how Christians should live as a majority.'" ~ Philip Yancey, What Good is God

28 November 2010

THE Paradigm for Giving

I can testify that [the Macedonians] gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. ~ 2 Cor. 8:3-4
       I have reflected on this verse from the Apostle Paul many times, and in different cultural contexts. I come back to it again and again. Each time I do so I am more convicted about the spiritual poverty and immaturity of the Church in the West when it comes to stewardship.
       Consider these contrasts:
1. The Macedonians gave "far more" than they could afford. Westerners give from our surplus;
2. The Macedonians gave "of their own free will." Westerners give because of slick campaigns and appeals, and largely due to guilt - especially toward year end;
3. The Macedonians "begged" to give. Westerners are begged so that they give;
4. The Macedonians counted it a privilege to give; Westerners count it a responsibility.

For a great treatment of principles of stewardship which challenge the western mind, read The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn.

27 November 2010

Visiting Universities with Steven

This week we have been in the Los Angeles area. We picked up Carly and friend Lauren at Westmont and spent Thanksgiving with good friends.
       Along the way we visited three universities - USC, Pepperdine, and UCLA - in anticipation of Steven heading off to college in a year and a half. It is quite the unique American experience to visit schools and hear their "schpeels" about why their institution is the best.
       I was impressed with all three schools we visited - USC has a rich school heritage in the midst of south-central LA, Pepperdine is one of the most picturesque places on earth being located in Malibu, and UCLA is like a small city of itself - some 50,000 students!
     This is an exciting and fulfilling season of life for our family. Carly is in her second year of university and thriving at Westmont. Steven is doing very well in high school and seeing many opportunities for him to go onto university.

23 November 2010

This is a Great Story

My friends Michael and Julianne Cusick were featured on the 700 Club this week. Their story is a tremendous testimony to God's grace. Check out their ministry at Restoring the Soul.

22 November 2010

Troy's Daily Prayers

My friend Troy - a good friend and colleague from our years serving in Europe - writes a short, one-sentence prayer each day. He posts it on Facebook and Twitter. I have come to use these as my own prayers. They are powerful, insightful, humble. Check them out on his blog HERE. They are listed on the right sidebar under "Twitter Update."

21 November 2010

SUNY Cortland Athletics - Cortland Beats Endicott, 49-35, in NCAA First Round

I attended university at a somewhat small, somewhat unknown school in central New York. So this news today that Cortland State football won their first found game in the NCAA Division III playoffs means very little to most of you. But I'm proud of my Alma Mater! Go Red Dragons!

SUNY Cortland Athletics - Cortland Beats Endicott, 49-35, in NCAA First Round

20 November 2010

Generous Justice

I have begun reading Tim Keller's new book, "Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just." So far I am so impressed with Keller's thinking about this subject.
      Here's the central issue, as Keller points out: Conservative Evangelicals have been very concerned with evangelism and people coming to personal faith in Jesus. Protestant liberals have been very concerned with social justice and caring for the poor. Both groups have had a very incomplete understanding of the gospel. As Keller points out, evangelism and social justice are two sides of the same coin, called the GOSPEL.
       In recent years the Evangelical church has been waking up to doing justice, and speaking up for the marginalized. Sometimes we have done this to the detriment of evangelism, almost shunning the latter. We have self-corrected and perhaps over corrected.
       As keller points out, maturity is living in the dynamic tension of the "both/and" rather than the "either/or."

19 November 2010

Tim Keller and Church Planting

Few people in the U.S. is a better spokesman for church planting in Western Culture than Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He critiques the Church in the West without deconstructing "church." He offers a positive way forward in reaching out to our culture. Check him out:

Redeemer City to City from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

18 November 2010

Outrage: Cholera in Haiti

There is a cholera outbreak in Haiti, reaching the capital of Port-au-Prince last week. Cholera is a brutal disease. I watched people in Africa die by the hundreds from cholera during the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s. It was like hell on earth.
       Cholera is a water-born disease of the intestine which causes acute diarrhea and dehydration. It can kill a person in a matter of hours.
       This epidemic was almost inevitable, 10 months after the massive earthquake which devastated the country. The earthquake was horrible, the assistance from donors around the world was anything but helpful. In the rush to help we in the west have perhaps caused as much harm as anything else.
       What is needed is for major organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, CARE, and World Vision along with government relief agencies (such as USAID) to run the relief programs in Haiti.
       It's time for all the church groups and other nonprofits to step back from going to Haiti and simply send money to the Red Cross and other organizations which can work on a large scale.

17 November 2010

Tribute to Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta

On Tuesday this week U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta received the Medal of Honor , the highest honor given to a soldier. He is the first and only active and living soldier to receive the award.
       You can read about why Sgt. Giunta was awarded the Medal. Check it out HERE.

Or you can watch this video:

16 November 2010

Very Kind, Gracious, Generous People

In the past week I have had the great pleasure of visiting with or otherwise being in contact with very kind, gracious, generous people. Some 5 or 6 of them. I count them as good friends which is a great privilege. I won't mention them by name because they would prefer to be anonymous - typical of their humility.
       I have asked myself what these people have in common, what are the characteristics of lives lived so well.
1. It is not about them! This is the first and most important common thread, and it sets them off from the large majority of the rest of us. They care deeply about others and will sacrifice themselves for others.
2. They are generous with their time, treasure, and talents without being asked to use them. They give before they are asked to give! WOW!
3. They are dependent people, as opposed to INdependent types. They are utterly dependent on God for their lives, and they take little for granted.
4. They know what is most important in life. God, family, close friends, helping the most vulnerable. They have an intuitive sense of right priorities and live consistently in that way.
       To those who so enrich our lives by your life, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

15 November 2010

Daring to Dream Broadly

Few of us dare to dream big. I mean really big.
As Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."
Here are some questions I have been asking myself about this:

  • What do I fear would or would not happen if I pursued the dream?
  • What will others think about the dream?
  • How will this dream be financed?
  • What if the dream is really folly?
  • If God is birthing this dream, why should I care about any of the above questions?

14 November 2010

A Great Article on Pastoral Narcissism (really!)

The most recent edition of Leadership Journal is all about AMBITION - the good, bad, and ugly of it, especially in ministry contexts.
       Let me say at the outset that I am mentioning this issue on my blog because I am 'the chief sinner" when it comes to matters of ambition, drive, narcissism, and the like. I do not mean to point fingers here.
       Here is a link to an article from the journal. It is titled, "Pastoral Narcissism." Whether you are a pastor or someone in a church where there is a pastor, you should read the article. It is insightful and profound - and convicting.
       The author, JR Kerr, quotes T.S. Eliot in the article. He sums it up very well:
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm, but the harm does not interest them ... or they do not see it, or they justify it ... because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

And now for something on the lighter side of narcissism:

12 November 2010

The $27 Sports Car Rental

I got to the rental car counter in Tulsa yesterday afternoon to pick up my economy class car, pre-paid for a whopping $27.
       The young gal at the counter said they were out of economy and compact cars and would I mind driving either an SUV or a Mazda 3.
       "I'm not familiar with a Mazda 3," I said. "Do you have a picture?" She showed me the picture to the right and said there was only 2400 miles on this 2010 car. It was a no-brainer - I took the Mazda 3.
       I had to drive about 100 miles from Tulsa to Oklahoma to have dinner with good friends. As I drove on the interstate (long, flat boring roadway with few cars) I noticed that the speedometer went up to 160 miles per hour. Hmmmm, I wonder if that's just for show or if this car really goes that fast?
       I drove to Oklahoma City late in the afternoon, when more people were out on the road. So I kept my speed to 80 MPH, only 5 miles over the speed limit. Good self-discipline!
       On the way back to Tulsa - at 11pm and without a soul on the road - I just had to see how fast the road would go. I think it's a guy thing or something. I chickened out at 120MPH and took my foot off the accelerator. But it still could have gone a lot faster, I could tell.
       Boy, that car was SMOOTH AS SILK on the road!

11 November 2010

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day in America. It used to be called Armistice Day back when it was created by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 after World War I.

       I used to make little of Veteran's Day - I am not too nationalistic and do not necessarily believe that the United States is the greatest nation on earth. Now before some of you get too upset, let me say how much my respect has grown for the 25 million Americans alive today who have served in the military. My dad is one of them. Our very dear friend Nate is a retired two-star general from the Air Force.
       This is what I appreciate the most about Veteran's Day: It honors ordinary people who have done extraordinary things for their country. The people who have served in the military are not super-human; they are plain folk like you and me. And yet many of them have responded to incredibly difficult situations with extraordinary valor.
       The other reason Veteran's Day has become more important to me is that the veterans of World War II (those amazing people who Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation") are dying off, and soon we will not have them in our midst. For me Veteran's Day is about those 80+ year olds. Here's all of them!

10 November 2010

An Impressive Interview with George W. Bush

I listened intently to Matt Lauer's interview with former President George W. Bush a couple of nights ago on NBC TV. It was an amazing, mesmerizing interaction.
       Breath-taking really.
       Here's some things I respect from the interview:
   1. Mr. Bush was articulate, much more than I remember than when he was in office;
   2. He owned up to his mistakes, he admitted when he had been wrong on some decisions (something Barack Obama could learn from);
   3. He seemed honest, open, direct, and clear. He did not mince words as politicians usually do;
   4. Mr. Bush never criticized his successor. To quote Mr. Bush, "President Obama has plenty of critics. I am not going to be one." Wow, CIVILITY from a politician! Well done, President Bush. Thank you.
   5. "I believe in justice, not in revenge." ~ George W. Bush on being at Ground Zero after Sept. 11th.

09 November 2010

A Mind-Blowing Thought from Richard Rohr

"We all remain who we are. But on the way to healing or liberation we have to do what the Romans called agere contra: we have to act against the grain of our natural compulsions. This requires clear decisions. Because it does not happen by itself, it is in a way "unnatural" or "supernatural" . . . (we) simply have to cut loose now and then, and in the process . . . make mistakes."
~ Father Richard Rohr
Check out the Center for Action and Contemplation which Rohr founded.

08 November 2010

Every Monday, the Economist Magazine

Every Monday the Economist magazine arrives in the mail at my house. I love the Economist. I feel like I re-enter the global conversation when I pick up the magazine and begin reading it.
       They always cover subjects, countries, and issues overlooked by much of the rest of the global media. There are usually articles about some out-of-the-way place that nobody has heard about. And they have a very different perspective on the U.S., which makes sense since the Economist is a British publication.
       Here is some of the article titles from last week's edition:
* Argentina after Kirchner: End of an Era
* War in Afghanistan: Lunch with the Taliban
* Sri Lanka's Moral Policing
* Blogging in China: Breaching the Great Fire Wall
* Can Kenya make its New Deal Work?
* France's Pension Reform After the Protests
* Technology and Obama: End the the Silicon Honeymoon
I can't wait for the mail to arrive today!

07 November 2010

Bailey took me out this morning!

Our two-year-old Lab, Bailey, came bounding down the stairs this morning as I going down the stairs. Totally took my legs out from under me and there I went sliding down the remaining 4 four steps.
       I lay there motionless for a few minutes. Bailey retreated, tail between legs, under the dining room table. She knew she had done something bad, just was not exactly sure what. She's not the brightest light bulb!
       So I whacked my lower back, and I landed on my left elbow and it's pretty sore.
       This blog entry has nothing really to do with my blog at all. I just wanted to tell someone what happened!
Bailey last winter in the snow.

06 November 2010

A Banquet That Was Worth It

We went to a banquet for Hands of the Carpenter last night. I'm not much into the fundraising banquet scene, but this was the best one I have been to.
What made this banquet better? A few things:
* Location: Denver Botanical Gardens and we could walk around beforehand. Beautiful!
* Open Bar - free beer and wine tasting. Sure, I might sound like a lush but I'm not (really). A beer company and a wine company donated their goods and staff to make this happen. It was a great time!
* The food was outstanding from beginning to end. A+
* The program moved along at a good pace, with a great dance group performing, a powerful slide presentation, and brief but powerful words from the Staff.
We live at a time when generating the resources needed for valuable non-profit work is hard to do. A lot of people are sitting on their wallets for one reason or another. Hands is doing a great work and is worth the investment.

05 November 2010

Leadership and Those 3 Magic Words!

I watched Barak Obama's press conference on Wednesday first with wonder and then with great unease. At least four times the President was asked something like this: "Is it possible that you have not heard the American people, and that some of your policies are wrong?"
       Each time the President gave an answer like this: "Clearly the American people are not happy" and "clearly we have to do better."
       I wanted to SCREAM at the TV, "Just admit that you were wrong on some things! Humble yourself, mr. President!"
       But he did not. Pride got the best of Mr. Obama, as it gets of many leaders who have an immense sense of power and authority. Pastors and other Christian leaders are tripped up by this over and over again.
       Somehow I thought Obama just might rise above petty politics, discover humility, own up to situations and policies in which he was wrong.
       Instead he acknowledged that the Democrats were beaten badly in the election. Duhhhhh....
       My point here is not to say that Mr. Obama's policies are right or wrong, best or worst for the American people. But surely Mr. Obama can own up to at least SOME poor policy decisions, even a few! But to put it on the American people and to say they are upset is just dodging the leadership issue. 
       There are two sets of words that every great leadership says AND means and lives humbly by - we would all do well to seek to live with these words on our lips - so would Mr. Obama:

"I was wrong."

"I don't know."