30 June 2011

The Boss on The Big Man

I have read and pondered Bruce Springsteen's eulogy of Clarence Clemons the past couple of weeks.
       It's a bit weird to quote Springsteen on my blog, but he is emblematic of our culture and of our times. I appreciate his candor about Clarence's complexity and brokenness.
       "Those of us who shared Clarence's life, shared with him his love and his confusion. Though "C" mellowed with age, he was always a wild and unpredictable ride. Today I see his sons Nicky, Chuck, Christopher and Jarod sitting here and I see in them the reflection of a lot of C's qualities. I see his light, his darkness, his sweetness, his roughness, his gentleness, his anger, his brilliance, his handsomeness, and his goodness.
       "But, as you boys know your pop was a not a day at the beach. "C" lived a life where he did what he wanted to do and he let the chips, human and otherwise, fall where they may. Like a lot of us your pop was capable of great magic and also of making quite an amazing mess. This was just the nature of your daddy and my beautiful friend.
       "Clarence's unconditional love, which was very real, came with a lot of conditions. Your pop was a major project and always a work in progress. "C" never approached anything linearly, life never proceeded in a straight line. He never went A... B.... C.... D. It was always A... J.... C.... Z... Q... I....! That was the way Clarence lived and made his way through the world. I know that can lead to a lot of confusion and hurt, but your father also carried a lot of love with him, and I know he loved each of you very very dearly."
       My overwhelming response to these words is one of SADNESS. Yes, it is tragic that Clemons died. But what is more sad to me is that he never seemed to get through the cycle of sin and brokenness in all of our lives. To be clear, we never fully get through it in this life. And yet Jesus transforms people's lives; the Apostle Paul said that through Christ the old man is gone and the new man has come. I do not know where Clarence Clemons was at with God at the end of his life. But I take away from his story the urgency for people to be brought from our darkness into God's eternal light.

29 June 2011

"Beautiful Things"

My friend Mike told me about the Michael Gungor Band the other day. I know of them because of the church they started in Denver, called Bloom.
       In the midst of grieving over Nate moving away and the death of our friend Christa Rosier in Holland (see previous posts), one of the Gungor Band songs has really spoken to my soul.
       Check out the video of it below, along with the lyrics.

Beautiful Things
All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

28 June 2011

On Umpiring Baseball

I love the game of baseball - have loved it since I was a little kid in New York screaming at the TV for my beloved Yankees.
       I played baseball, my son Steven has played baseball, we both now umpire baseball.
       Steven and I have umpired well over 100 games this season - we did FIVE in one day last weekend alone. So you can imagine we have some funny stories about people and what happens in the midst of games.
       Winston the catcher.

       Here is a little thing that happened the other day that just cracked me up. Before the game began the catcher for the team going on the field came up to me (I was umpiring behind the plate so would be standing behind him for every pitch in the next two hours). The boy is 11 or 12 years old. He sticks out his hand to shake my hand and says in a serious pre-puberty alto, "Hello Mister Umpire. My name is Winston and I am here to protect you from the ball!"
       I chuckled to myself, shook Winston's hand, and thought to myself, "Now that boy has some healthy self-esteem!"
       Late in the game when there was a foul ball and it hit me in the thigh (one of the few places on an umpire's body which is NOT protected), Winston apologized profusely to me. I told him it was not his fault and there is nothing you can do when a ball coming that fast gets hit by a bat and changes direction. Winston's response was great:
       "Oh ya, I guess you are right!" And he bent down to catch the next pitch.

27 June 2011

In Honor of Christa Rosier

Our friend Christa Rosier went to be with Jesus on June 19th. She was 50 years of age. I do not have nearly enough space to write adequately about Christa, and her family of Victor, Rachel, and Ephraim.
       Our lives intersected in a unique way. I became pastor of Crossroads Amsterdam in late 2000. I had known Victor and Christa a bit before then, but only vaguely. When I became pastor I got to know them because of a life-threatening illness that Ephraim had.
       In those first months of 2001 we prayed for Ephraim, they sought medical care, we all cried out to God for him. In June Christa asked if she could be baptized at Crossroads, which I had the privilege of doing. It was something of a statement of her faith as well as the faith of her family. I remember speaking to Christa before her baptism and was amazed at the depth of her faith in Christ.
       In the fall of 2001 Ephraim died and we as a community mourned the tragedy with the Rosiers. I was an unseasoned pastor trying to figure out how to shepherd a flock which happened to have a series of deaths that year. Some people thought me courageous, others that I was a spiritual infant. Perhaps there was a bit of truth in both.
       And now 10 years later Christa has also gone to be with Jesus. I can only imagine she and Ephraim worshipping the Lord together - what a scene! It brings me great comfort and hope. This mother and son who followed Jesus and who now live the words of the Revelation, "there will be no more tears."
       In the past 10 years since Ephraim's death, Christa has painted impressions from various Psalms (see her website at www.christarosiernl). The painting in this post is from Psalm 126 - an image of she and Ephraim with sheer joy in their eyes. It is magnificent.
       And so today I write in honor of Christa Rosier today - daughter of the King, wife to Victor, mother to Rachel and Ephraim, friend to many.

26 June 2011

Pondering ... Frank Laubach

I do not know the writing of Frank Laubach. He was quoted to me a few weeks ago over a good cup of Dutch coffee with a friend in Holland. My friend followed up our get together with an email quoting Laubach.
       "We ought to give ourselves up to God in things that are temporal as well as things that are spiritual. We should seek our satisfaction only in fulfilling His will. If He leads us into suffering or if He leads us into comfort, our satisfaction should still only be for the fulfilling of His will, for both suffering and comfort are the same to a soul truly resigned to Him."
       "Come to the Lord, ask Him not to deliver you from this situation but ask Him for strength to bear this thing. Ask Him to give you a deep and strong love for Him. Ask Him to give you everything that would please Him. Ask Him to give you what He will and to do with you what He wishes as long as He pleases."
       "The Lord knows best what is needful for us. What He does, He does for our good. If we really knew just how much He loves us, we would always be willing to receive anything from His hand. We would receive the bitter and the sweet without distinction. Anything, yes everything would please us just because it came from Him."
      When I first read these quotes I was pretty annoyed, just to be honest with you. I felt preached at, felt as if my friend and Laubach did not know the first thing of mine and other's situations.
       It has now been a couple of weeks since that coffee and receiving that email. These words are beginning to live within me, to somewhat settle me. I am even growing grateful, dar I say, for these words of rebuke, comfort, and challenge.

25 June 2011

The One Percent

I watched the film The One Percent last night. I wish I hadn't, not because I disagree with it. Rather, because the film exposes the tremendous disparity between rich and poor in this country.
       I am still trying to grasp something such as this: The economic top 1% of the population now controls more than 70% of all financial assets in the United States.
       What I am puzzled by the most is that Christians often defend capitalism and the "free market" as if this economic model was God's plan from the God of Eden onward. We have figured out how to wed ourselves to the good and the bad of the creation of wealth, and we do an incredible job rationalizing it all.
       I found this documentary (The One Percent) disturbing; I find some attitudes of Jesus' followers even more troubling.

24 June 2011

Visiting God's Creation

Last week we went to Moab, Arches National Park, and Dead Horse State Park in Utah. We took a few days away with my brother and sister-in-law, Randy and Pam. It was a marvelous time, I wish it could have been longer.
       Recently I re-read parts of C.S. Lewis' essays in God in the Dock and was struck by his statement about creation. It relates well to the experience we had in Utah.
       "Because God created the Natural - invented it out of His love and artistry - it demands our reverence."
Here is what Lewis is talking about:
Sunset in Arches National Park, June 14th.
Moon rise facing east at same time as sunset photo above.
Dead Horse State Park - that's the Colorado River snaking its
way through the canyon. Breath-taking views of creation!

22 June 2011

What Would People Think of the Church if ...

I saw this bumper sticker the other day and just chuckled at we Christians. There is something about the "tithe" (giving 10% of your income) that is kind of a litmus test of whether Christians are obedient or not.
       Churches do it also. Pastors tell their congregations that 10% of all money that is given goes to missions. That does not seem to motivate people to give their tithe though. That always has felt like a small percent to me.
       I am grateful that churches which support my ministry tithe. My funding is part of that tithe, so I probably don't want to "look a gift horse in the mouth." Conventional wisdom says that I should be grateful for the 10% giving by churches, especially because some churches give away 2 or 3% only.
       And yet I would love to be part of a church that reverse tithes. That is, for every dollar you give to the church it turns around and gives away 90 cents. Can you imagine that? Wouldn't that be crazy?
       A church that I know used to have an annual budget of $3.4 million. They were running behind budget until December when $740,000 came in over the course of those 30 days. The church tithes, so $74,000 was given beyond itself. The other $666,000 was used for: the mortgage on the property (about 50%), salaries and year-end bonuses for pastors and staff (about 40%), and 10% was put into the bank 'for a rainy day."
      Let's just dream for a minute: What if the church kept $74,000 and gave away $666,000! Think of the many, many incredible causes and people who might have been blessed. 650K is a good chunk of change after all! It's a crazy dream, to be THAT generous as a church! I think it's a dream worth hanging on to.

20 June 2011

Northern Ireland and Golf

Rory Mcilroy of Northern Ireland
with his father after winning the U.S. Open.
Northern Ireland is a relatively tiny place in the context of the globe. County Down within Northern Ireland is even more tiny! It has less than 500,000 inhabitants. Two of them have won the the U.S. Open golf tournament in the past two years! Incredible!!!
       I love that Rory Mcilroy won this year - a blue collar guy from a small town in northern Ireland. His parents scraped and clawed for years so that their son could compete in the U.S. and in Europe. So it was all the more poignant when Rory and his dad hugged at the end of the tournament. After all, it WAS Father's Day!

19 June 2011

On This Father's Day ... Proud

Today is Father's Day. I'm the dad of two fabulous kids/young adults. Carly just turned 20 this month, Steven is 17. They are engaging, bright, fun and funny, insightful, challenging, they are their own people!
Offspring, you rock my world!
Here's two recent images:
Carly at her impromptu birthday
celebration at Dan and Lizzy's.
Steven and I at the beginning
of a game we umpired together.

18 June 2011

Clarence Clemons: 1942-2011

Clarence Clemons, that iconic figure who played saxophone alongside Bruce Springsteen for so many years, died today at 69 years of age.
       I have two enduring memories of Clemons. The first is the sax solo he does about two minutes into "Born to Run." I remember listening to it in my dorm room at Cortland State and saying to my roommate, "Who is that sax player? He totally makes the song!" Little did I know.
       The second image is the cover of the Born to Run album, which shows Springsteen (The Boss) leaning on Clemons (the big man). In some ways that image is sort of prophetic in my mind's eye. Thanks to the big man for many years of great music making and showmanship. I will miss you.

17 June 2011


I thought I would wake up this morning and "be over it." Be over what? Be over my sadness about saying good-bye to Nate yesterday. That's wildly naive of course, even though I think I am the type of person who is more activist and gets on with the next thing pretty quickly.
       But it is not that easy. I am especially perplexed with God this morning, and where He is in all of this. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis' comment in A Grief Observed as he reflected on the loss of his wife:
"When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of 'No answer.' It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, 'Peace, child; you don't understand.' "
       I get at least some comfort from Lewis' comment, but my heart remains heavy and my day appears to be painted with a hue of grey.

16 June 2011

My Salute to the General - June 2011

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JUNE 16, 2011: Reposted on May 28, 2015.
Major General Nate Lindsay went home to be with the Lord on Memorial Day, 2015.
I drove our friends Nate and Shirley to the Denver Airport today. It is the last time I will see Nate in Colorado; he is moving into a care facility in California next week.
       I have had several good "closure" times with Nate over the past few days. He helped me clean up stuff around my house one day (he's great at that!); we did part of a puzzle together and drove around listening to country music; we walked that dogs a couple of times; Susy brought him to a baseball games I was umpiring; and I drove him to the airport today.
       That last thing I said to Nate at the curbside was, "I salute you General. I love you." And then gave him a hug and he and Shirley walked into the terminal. I determined not to break down crying right then, but I drove a few hundred yards from the terminal and pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road. And had a really good, hard cry. Boy, it actually felt refreshing to cry that hard.
       Then I called Susy and told her about saying goodbye to Nate and we had a good cry on the phone together. Phew, I'm tired!
       I plan to see Nate as often as I can when I am out in Los Angeles. But today is the end of a season for us. We won't be driving up the hill to bring Nate for a walk, he won't be coming to our house to play with the dogs, we won't do puzzles together, and I probably won't listen to country music again for a very long time!
       If this sounds depressing, it is not actually. It is good and right for Nate to be in a care facility and I understand it is a great place. I am confident, along with his family, that he can do well there. And yet I am left with a big hole in my life, and I feel sad. But it's a good sad.
       So ... I salute you General Lindsay ... You are indeed a very good man.

09 June 2011

A Song Captures My Heart

The worship team closed the service at Crossroads last Sunday with this song from Jeremy Camp. It captured the morning of worship and has stuck with me. I love it!

07 June 2011

Amsterdam Trip - Wrap Up

It's the end of our week in Amsterdam and we head home today. I am tired yet fulfilled in the work/ministry we did this week. Serve the City is a major undertaking and the coordinators do an incredible job juggling the many details of the projects.
       Here's a few personal reflections on the week:
1) Serving others is both incredibly simple and full of complexity at the same time. It does not take that much to push a wheelchair with an elderly person, but their needs and hurts are so far beyond that moment of bringing them to the park;
2) We could have done Serve the City projects in Amsterdam for weeks on end and there would still be many, many more needs. The goal is not to meet everyone's needs, but rather to show love through serving and thus point people to God in some way.
3) There are better mission project leaders than me! :o)  I have not led a mission team to Europe in many, many years. My team was flexible and gracious with me, which was a good thing because I needed grace!
4) Susy's and my worlds of Denver and Europe "met" for the first time this week, which was a lot of fun for us. It was like linking to important chapters of our lives together at last.
       I'm left with one more thing to ponder - I do not know what God will do with the work our team did this week. We were in many situations and interacted with a lot of people. We stay in the heart of Amsterdam and met servers in pubs to people on the street to someone asking for directions. We painted the apartment of a emotionally challenged guy and another apartment of a woman who is addicted to drugs. 
       Hopefully we left God's mark wherever we went, and I trust that He will use it for His purposes.

04 June 2011

Amsterdam Trip - Day 5

It is early Sunday morning in Amsterdam. Most of Serve the City is behind us now; it has been a full and fulfilling three days. Today we attend worship services at Crossroads Church and then have a party for kids in one of the parks of Amsterdam.
       Yesterday we spent the day with elderly folks who are in assisted care facilities. Some of them have forms of dementia, many need to be pushed in wheelchairs. They rarely get out of their group home, so we packed them up and brought them to a nearby park and had a picnic lunch together. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It is. It was also profound for all of us. It's often the little things of life which are most most poignant. It was a beautiful scene seeing our team pushing wheelchairs with elderly people into the park. (photos forthcoming in tomorrow's blog)
       I am up early to look over my sermon notes; I am preaching at Crossroads today. Very much like coming home for me. Looking forward to seeing many dear people to my family.

03 June 2011

Amsterdam Trip - Day 4

TEAM: You never know how a group of people will gel and live together for a week on a mission trip. We are half way through the trip and this has been a great mix of people, talents, personalities. Just a wonderful time!
     There are 11 of us, and it has been a meeting of our family's worlds of Europe and America (Amsterdam and Denver). We have been privileged to have three people on the team - Joe, Betsy, and Gail - who we journeyed with us when we lived in Amsterdam. Joe and Betsy live in the US now, Gail still lives here. It has just felt so natural to have them as part of the team.
       The rest of us (8 people) are from our church in Denver. Relative newcomers to the church - Chris and Kelda - as well as old-timers (who will remain nameless!). Extroverts and introverts, life-of-the-party and wall-flowers.
       We have walked the streets of Amsterdam together, served people together, laughed and cried and prayed and pondered together. There have been some easy times and some harder times. We have enjoyed great meals together, slept in cramped quarters together in a hostel, been a bit overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Amsterdam culture. We have done it together, and it is a great privilege for me. Thanks, team!

02 June 2011

Amsterdam Trip - Day 3

We have had a great first day of Serve the City. Our team divided into two groups and painted two people's apartments.

01 June 2011

Amsterdam Trip - Day 2

Life is a blur at the moment, due in part to jetlag and feeling "foggy" in my head. We have had a great first day in Amsterdam. This afternoon we visited the Corrie ten Boom house in Haarlem and afterward met as a team to discuss shalom.
       It's a spectacular day here in Amsterdam - sun is shining, people are out in numbers at cafes. I am meeting a good friend for a coffee at Leidseplein in 20 minutes, then the team will be with Brigitte (Serve the City coordinator) for dinner. Projects begin tomorrow. We will be painting two people's homes/apartments all day.
       More later ... with photos, as soon as I can get them downloaded onto my computer.