29 July 2012

Moltmann .. on The Crucified God

“God allows himself to be humiliated and crucified in the Son, in order to free the oppressors and the oppressed from oppression and to open up to them the situation of free, sympathetic humanity."

27 July 2012

Aurora ... There Are No Words

I was speaking with someone on the phone the other day and I stumbled over my words as I tried to same something, ANYTHING that made sense of the shootings in Aurora. He responded by saying he did not know what to say. Neither do I.
       And yet the Bible (of all books) has something to say to the situation. One of the 66 books of the Bible is called Lamentations, as in "to lament." The Book of Lamentations has 110 verses; most of them are a stark reminder of the human condition.
       Jeremiah - that weeping prophet - recounts how God has mysteriously allowed His people to suffer so greatly. How the People of God have sinned, have been victims of circumstances, have been in bondage to invading armies. The book is just brutal in its sad realities.
       Kind of like Aurora ... and Columbine ... and Virginia Tech ... and Fort Hood.
       And then Jeremiah, in the midst of his wailing, is inspired to write these absolutely mind-blowing, heart-throbbing words:

    Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.

Let him sit alone in silence,
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust
    there may yet be hope.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
    and let him be filled with disgrace. (Lamentations 3:22-30)
       And then Jeremiah makes a statement that I believe is at the very heart of the gospel:
For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, 
so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:31-32)

       Where there are no words (such as in Aurora), there is THE WORD that is so well captured in Lamentations.

“How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity's song--all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.
       We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God.” ~ Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

26 July 2012

The Need for Civility and Moderation

If you have glanced at this blog over the past two days you will know there have been a number of reactions to my post about banning assault weapons.
       In fact there have been many more readers of that one post than of most of my other posts, due in large part to a reader copying the link of my blog and putting it on a firearms forum website! Woohoo!
       Unfortunately some people have been much less than civil and moderate and I have been forced to delete the comments, report them as spam, and finally to moderate the comments put on the site.
       All of this reminded me of reading Os Guinness' book, The Case for Civility some years ago. His words are so appropriate in today's polarized climate:
"It is time for Americans to reforge a civil public square, to wrest back the culture wars from the domineering pundits and activists who have become the warlords of American public life — and then to debate such important issues as the uniqueness of humanity, the character of life and death, the importance of truth, the relationship between virtue and freedom, and what the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb described as "the collapse of ethical principles and habits, the loss of respect for authorities and institutions, the breakdown of the family, the decline of civility, the vulgarization of high culture and the degradation of popular culture." ~ Os Guinness, The Case for Civility

Timeout! Working Hard, Hardly Working

I usually work hard - a lot of hours over 6 days per week. More recently over the past year I have juggled multiple work-related contexts and I have put in even more hours.
       I learned something incredibly valuable in 1998 when I "hit a wall" because I worked too hard for too long. The lesson was that when I work I work hard and with great intensity. And periodically I need to STOP right in my tracks and NOT work for two or three weeks.
       Today begins that STOPPING for me. Susy and I head to Ireland for 5 days for a much-anticipated 25-year wedding celebration for our friends Marcus and Wendy. It will be several days of fun, relaxation, and laughter with a group of wonderfully life-giving friends.
       We come back to Denver on August 1st and then spend a few days camping with our kids on the Arkansas River about an hour south of Denver.
       And then Susy and I drive to the Los Angeles area (stopping along the way to see sites at the Colorado Monument and elsewhere) to have 10 days of R&R.
       For all of you in Europe, you will not think it too strange or odd that I am taking a three-week break. It's part of the European culture that we enjoyed and appreciated for many years there. For all of you Americans, you probably have raised eyebrows and perhaps  a questioning looking on your face as you read this. You may be wondering how we can "get away with" taking off for three whole weeks.
       I suppose it is one of the perks of: working for a ministry that accepts me taking the time off, running my own company, and working seasonally (umpiring baseball is now done). So, let the fun begin!

25 July 2012

Article by Robert Spitzer of SUNY Cortland

My Alma mater, SUNY Cortland, is not well know for very much, except that it is the site of the New York Jets football pre-season training camp which begins in two days.
       One of the professors at the university, Robert Spitzer, has become a bit more well known around the country in the gun advocacy/gun control debate. He wrote the following article for Salon magazine yesterday.

24 July 2012

Please Ban Assault Weapons

Dear President Obama and Honorable Members of Congress,
     Please ban all assault weapons for purchase, carrying, or use in this country by civilians (non-law enforcement or military personnel). Weapons such as this one:

     And to companies such as Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain, Dick's Sporting Goods, and other shops which sell such assault weapons:
     Please do not sell them anymore. Please remove them from your sales selves and return them to the manufacturer.
     Thank you.

23 July 2012

The Fall of a Giant

Penn State University removed a 900-pound statue of Joe Paterno from outside their stadium over the weekend. Oh how the mighty fall.
       Paterno's legacy as football coach of the Penn State Nitany Lions has been tarnished or possibly decimated due to the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case.
       So how should we respond to this situation, to the unfolding consequences to a terrible tragedy in the lives of so many people?
       Let's first agree how not to respond:
* We must not have a posture of, "Paterno got what he deserved" with the removal of the statue or the sanctions against PSU. That reflects a level of vengeance that I fear causes decay in our own souls;
* We cannot justify Paterno's inaction or culpability;
* We must not lose our compassion toward victims, perpetrators, and bystanders of this tragedy.
       One of the redeeming things we can do is (re)learn crucial lessons about how we should live, how we should relate to collegiate athletics, how leaders should live their lives and carry out their work.
       Here are some lessons I take away and want to apply to my own world:
1. I am no better. I do not know what I would have done if I was in Joe Paterno's shoes. I say this because I believe as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, "The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man." Sorry folks, we are all very, very broken and sinful people.
2. With great power comes great responsibility. (to quote Peter Parker's uncle in Spiderman) Joe Pa had become larger than life in the Penn State world (and beyond). The 900-pound statue depicted that; it became an icon to Paterno's power and greatness. In my opinion, it is just wrong for a football coach (or other leader) to have such stature and power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely - and all the time.
3. The heart of leadership is influence - for good or bad. I am humbled, saddened, and scared by the Penn State situation. Paterno, Sandusky, the university president, the board chairman were leaders who exerted tremendous influence on many people's lives. The very fabric of leadership is influence - exercise it with great potential blessing to people or great potential damage to them. It is a sobering lesson for me.
4. I must choose for my heart to be transformed. Good leadership is impossible without a transformed heart. Transformation in my life has been a slow and arduous process. Perhaps it always will be. Jesus is the only one who can transform us into leaders who lead with integrity, and honor, and dependability, and grace. I look at the Penn State situation and I see people whose hearts were not transformed, and that ultimately leads to a huge fall.

20 July 2012


I feel like this tire today - deflated.
     I lost a team member this week (not "lost" as in the person died or anything like that!). We had recruited the person and she was a top-notch leadership in all sorts of ways.
     Well I got a call a couple of days ago that God was leading her to another organization and to another position.
     It's really tough to argue with the "God is leading me" phrase. In fact, I am now having a taste of my own medicine. Some years ago when I took an executive pastor position here in Denver I had to make that dreaded call to my long-time boss, colleague and friend, Linus, and tell him I was leaving the ministry. I remember saying to him, "God is moving me on."
     Hmmmm .... sometimes I wonder if we should put so much on God! I'm not trying to say God does not lead us. He does. But He does so through people, heart desires, circumstances, and a slew of other ways. It's just too easy to throw out the phrase, "God is leading me." It's a conversation stopper.
     Anyway, I'm having a bit of a "pity party" today, groveling and groaning over losing a team member I had just recruited. Grumble, grumble. I'll get through it. But for today I feel like a flat tire on the side of the road.

19 July 2012

Indifference is the Enemy of Courage

Many people died in Syria yesterday, including three of the most powerful men in the country (due to a suicide bomb attack in Damascus).
     I am deeply concerned that we in the West are largely "yawning" at the civil war in Syria. I am especially grieved that Christians seem to be indifferent.
     From 1980-1988 Iranians and Iraqis slaughtered each other by the thousands in the "Persian Gulf War." Western political powers were concerned about the war in so far as it affected the flow of oil to our countries from the Persian Gulf. The fact that tens of thousands of people lost their lives (some via chemical warfare) did not seem to penetrate our hearts all that much.
     I believe indifference is the enemy of courage, and our indifference or shrugging of our shoulders over Syria is another example.
     I have wondered (some time aloud, which can get me in trouble!) WHY many of us are indifferent about these conflicts. Here is three possible explanations:
1. These are Muslims killing Muslims (primarily Sunnis against Shi'ites). Non-Muslims have a difficult time grasping the tribal animosity between Muslim sects/factions. Our difference is birthed in our ignorance;
2. Some are anti-Muslim because we feel that Muslims are anti-Christian, anti-Jew, anti-West. So if they kill each other that's all the better for Christians, Jews, and the West. Sorry to be so blunt but I think there is some truth in this;
3. We are pro-Israel and generally speaking the nation of Israel is quite OK when Muslims slaughter other Muslims. So in our support of Israel we learn indifference to these other contexts.
     For those of us who are Christians we need to pray for the Syrian people - Shiites (Alowites), Sunnis, Christians. Men, women, and children. We need to pray that God (Yahweh that is) would intervene, would change the hearts of people (as he did with the Ninevites!). And may we not be like Jonah who resented God's mercy being poured out on a pagan people.
     May we have faith, and courage...which leaves no room for indifference.

17 July 2012

The Humbling of an Umpire

Increasingly this year I have umpired higher level games, i.e. 14-year-olds through high school and adult baseball as well. I like the higher levels.
     This week I am working a tournament which I worked last year. Last year's age brackets were 11-15 years old. I worked 12 and 13 year olds. I figured I would do the older kids again this year.
     So when I received my assignment and saw that I was working 10-year-olds my jaw dropped. When you are a 10 year old you have a tendency to do a few inappropriate things in the midst of a game. These things actually happened in the 2 games I worked today:
     - The second baseman had to go to the bathroom and was increasingly "holding himself" in his privates, until his coach got sick of seeing this and took him out of the game. Presumably the boy went to the bathroom;
     - Three hit batters, three boys writhing in pain and crying;
     - 10-year-olds don't tie their shoes much. I think mom does it for them, except during baseball games.
     - Some cry when they miss a ball on the field, although they fake that they are injured so they can cry without shame. "Look, I got hurt, I can have a good cry."

16 July 2012

Magnanimous People


1. generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness;
2. high-minded; noble;
3. revealing generosity or nobility of mind, character.
Magnanimous people are life-giving people (rather than life-sucking people). I have known some of these life-giving folks along the way. They make the journey worth continuing.
     * There is Karl, who was a pretty big-name speaker on the Christian circuit, became a teaching pastor at a mega-church, then left that and started a small community for mis-fits and marginal people. And pours his heart into people;
     * There is Johan, who has served and served and served in quiet and behind-the-scenese ways for years. He's gotten run over by church politics along the way but he keeps on serving;
     * There is Gretchen, who gave herself to people for 25 years in a local church. Rolled out the red carpet for community on Wednesday evening dinners which she whipped up every week. No fanfare here, just heard work and loving people;
     The magnanimous types don't self-protect. They dive head first into the mess of people's lives and their very presence brings hope. They suffer because of their attitude. They get hurt, stumble around, and keep moving somehow. Must be the power of God in their lives.
     To you magnanimous folks in this broken and crooked world, press on in your life-giving, quiet ways. Somehow I think you reflect Jesus a whole lot more than the leaders and preachers who stand proudly in the spotlight.

12 July 2012

My "Jewish Problem" and bin Laden

I want to attempt to give voice to something deep in the soul of many Jewish people. It comes to the forefront when a person such as Osama bin Laden is killed. I might fumble and stumble over my words about this, but I will try to give a "primal groaning" to my thoughts.
       My Jewishness screams out, "Yes, they nailed that mad man!" After all, bin Laden was a man who sought the destruction and elimination of every Jew on the planet, and of the nation of Israel as well (along with many other peoples). It is quite a bizarre feeling to be part of a people group who are so despised. It can cause havoc with your innards! Seriously.
       The "problem" I have is that I follow Jesus, and he does not want me to remain with a "posture of persecution" (my quotation marks, not Jesus'!). That is something we Jews have mastered - we have been persecuted many, many times over the centuries and we know what it is to be victims of mad men and run-a-mok regimes.
       I hide behind that cruel history, and rationalize my desire for vengeance. My friend Dan captured this in a comment he made a while ago: "too many of us have revenge in view with Bin Laden's death, rather than simply allowing our governments to pursue justice." Yes, that's where my heart goes - to revenge and vengeance.
       So back to my dilemma about following Jesus. It's challenging to follow Jesus and to be his talmid (student) on my good days, let alone when I want revenge! His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount blows my away; quite honestly I am undone by his words when I relate them to the situation with someone like bin Laden.
       In my own skin (flesh), I get a sick sense of satisfaction from the thought that bin Laden is burning in Hell. That's certainly not the attitude that Jesus wants us to have.
       At the same time I don't want to have the pendulum of my heart swing to where some well-meaning people would - since God is "making all things new" that means ultimately people such as bin Laden will be saved. That does no justice to the biblical idea of judgement.
       I am caught in my Jewishness sometimes, having a pity party over being a member of a persecuted people. My prayer is that God would supernaturally work in my heart so that  I might somehow, in some ways live the words of Jesus in his sermon on the mount.

11 July 2012

Salam Sounds a lot Like Shalom

The Arabic word for peace is "salam." Hmmm, sounds very similar to the Hebrew word for peace: "shalom."
       My new friend Rani - an Arab Christian from Nazareth who I met at the Sahara Challenge training last month - runs a ministry called SALAM in the Holy Land.
       I took to Rani right away when I first met him at a conference last October. We are unlikely friends. Our personal history does not draw us to each other. In fact, my Jewish sub-culture tells me he is not to be trusted. Perhaps even suspected of something.
       And yet Rani runs an outfit called PEACE IN THE HOLY LAND! Nice name.
Confronting name.
   Challenging name.
      Comforting name.
         Supernatural name.
       Here is what "levels the playing field" for Rani and me: Jesus.
       Here is what allows us to embrace each other as brothers: Jesus.
       Here is what causes us to encourage one another in the pursuit of Salam/Shalom: Jesus.
For [Jesus] himself is our peace [salam/shalom], who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. ~ Eph. 2:14

10 July 2012

Salary Scales and the Moral Fiber of a Culture

I believe there is a direct link between economic equity (not equality) in a society and its moral well-being.
       A recent Wall Street Journal article about CEO compensation in the oil and gas industry gave some startling facts. The article stated, "CEOs of oil and gas companies had the highest median value of total direct compensation at $13.7 million in 2010, up 17.3% from the year before."

         The highest paid Oil exec is R.W. Tillington of Exxon-Mobil. His total direct compensation for 2010 was more than $21 million.
         It seems to me that "liberals" tend to be on the side of condemning this type of inequity in our culture, while "conservatives" tend to say very little about it or applaud it as the way capitalism works best.
         Liberals see this as some kind of moral or ethical issue while many conservatives do not.
       What is most puzzling to me is that many Christians have little to say about this, with the exception of quoting a few biblical passages which seem to say that acquiring wealth is a good thing (there are many more passages in Scripture which warn of the dangers of great wealth).
       I am concerned about what this kind of inequity does to a culture, and why Christians seem to be unable or unwilling to find a voice in society advocating for simplicity of lifestyle. In point of fact, there are Christians who have challenged the People of God to simplicity - Ron Sider, Tom Sine, and Jim Wallis come to mind.
       And yet there are far more leaders in the Christian world who are incredibly vocal about issues such as militant Islam, the tragedy of abortion, and "the right to bear arms" while saying very little about materialism, consumerism, and lavish lifestyle.
       How about we Christians stand up for cultivating simple lives, becoming wildly generous with money and time and energy, and calling our materialism and consumerism what it is - sin.

09 July 2012

I turn 50 in 3 Months

I turn 50 years old 3 months from today – October 9th to be exact. I’m excited, can’t wait really!
Here’s some things I am looking forward to:
1. Becoming a card-carrying member of the AARP with all the requisite discounts.  I’m going to the movies right after getting my card just so I can get the discount;
2.  We’re having a big bash at our place, live music included (that went over so well for Steven’s graduation that we are doing it again);
3. I'm buying 50 cigars (a variety of course) for any and all guests at the party to enjoy as a "toast" to 50;
4. Listening to people who are older than 50 say to me, "50? you're a spring chicken," and people younger than 50 say to me, "you're an old fart now!"
     When I turned 40 years old the great folks at Crossroads Church in Amsterdam threw a surprise party for me on the Sunday before (or after?) my birthday. It was such a blast, one of my best birthdays ever. I'm hoping 50 will be as memorable.

05 July 2012

Christians Can Learn from This Silence

The Navigator's Eagle Lake Camp near Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Springs wildfire of the past couple of weeks has been nothing short of tragic. 346 homes were lost, several Evangelical Christian organizations had property or staff members' homes burned.
     The Navigators - a great Evangelical group 70 years old - had damage to their Eagle Lake Camp (see photo). You can give a donation here to help with the rebuilding fund.
     I am so grateful that people in our society have not been saying that God has brought judgement on these Christian groups by allowing this fire to sweep through part of Colorado Springs. I am proud of the "secular society" which has been mum about such an absurd proposition.
     If only Pat Robertson could have been so kind in January 2010 when a devastating earthquake hit Haiti and Mr. Robertson implied that the natural disaster was due to the Haitian people making a deal with the devil many years ago.
     If only Jerry Falwell could have been so kind to homosexuals who were stricken by AIDS. Instead Falwell chose to say, "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals."
     Christians would do well to learn from the silence about the wildfires. It is a time to grieve, not to place blame.

01 July 2012

A Boy Died in the Neighborhood

Last Friday evening I was heading to our Shalom Village gathering when I came across a line of cars stopped about 2 miles north of my house. I could not see around the bend but a man came running down the street telling everyone to turn around. A boy had been hit from behind about a minute before. The man screamed, "Turn around! Get out of here ... it's horrible ... you don't want to see this."
     I turned around and made my way to Shalom Village another way. I prayed silently for this unknown, un-named person who was hit.

     Later that night I learned that the boy was 14 years old, had moved from Chicago 2 weeks earlier to be with his mom, and his name is Robbie Fehlman. Robbie died on the scene of the accident at about 5pm on Friday, June 29th, at the corner of Garrison and Baltic in Lakewood about 2 miles from my house.
     It so happens that Robbie's family is next door neighbors with our close friends Jim and Rachel, so this hits closer to my heart than other such events.
     So why am I writing about this event on my blog?
* First off, I simply want to pause and grieve and feel sad about the loss of this life. His name was Robbie Fehlman and he is no longer alive. His family is devastated and something of my heart needs to be pierced by this also;
* Second, he had come here and was enrolled in Bear Creek High School, the same school from which Carly and Steven graduated. He was to be a football player there. Close to him once again;
* Third, I am reminded once again that life is so incredibly fragile and I should not take it for granted (although I do).
     The news reports quickly spoke about the person who was driving the car, and the possibility that she was taking prescription medicines, and that she is being charged with a felony, and that she is in the county jail. All of that helps only nominally to me, and it does my heart no good to desire vengeance and punishment for the person responsible.
     "An eye for an eye causes the whole world to be blind eventually." (can't remember who said this)
And so this Sunday evening, July 1 I remember Robbie Fehlman who I did not know. May he truly Rest in Peace with the Lord of all creation.