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.