Friday, September 30, 2005


I have the Blockbuster movie by mail thingy because going to the movies feels like getting mugged.

I just saw Crash, the good one, with Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, and Matt Dillon. If you can f---ing handle the language (and a couple sex spots), then you have got a good movie to wrestle with. It is everything White Man's Burden and Falling Down wish that they could have been, but didn't have the political or sociological guts to be.

You get a raw feel for the racial tension brewing inside people. Not White people or Black people, or Persian people, but people.

I watched the movie being aware of how people touched each other. Whoa! Try watching with that in mind.

Christians only, but...

"Christians only, but not the only Christians"

Strangely enough, this is a Restorationism I never heard growing up. Seriously, I attended three different churches of Christ in the Minneapolis area and never heard this one. It was only after I went to liberal places, like Harding University, that...OK, my Dr. Pepper just blew out my nose. What is funny is not the irony of calling Harding liberal, but rather that it was liberal when compared to my originination point.

Back on topic. When I first heard someone say, "Christians only, but not the only Christians," I immediately knew, from my childhood training, that this was someone's erroneous, intentionally erroneous, effort to muddy the waters of true faith. I wondered how these liberal people in the South could have strayed so far. I was the ignorant savage from the vast "mission fields" of Minnesota after all, so my ignorance was excusable, but these were people from the South where everyone goes to a huge Church of Christ with more than one front door and have the Bible memorized inside and out. I was somewhat unnerved that these liberals were not taken to task like my friend Terry, a new Chrisitan, who was thrashed for wearing shorts on Wednesday night in July. Man, when you're in Minnesota and it is one of those days you can wear shorts, you just do. It's like that one day in Houston when you can break out the sweater.

So I start hearing this young preacher named Mike Cope who cracked jokes in his sermons and kept me awake as I slouched in the balcony of College Church. He was a good preacher, but kind of dangerous. There was one phrase he said one Sunday during sermon that put me into crisis. Mike was saying that there were many differen kinds of people in this room. "Some people like old hymns while others like newer songs; some people (blah, blah, blah), and in a group this size there are probably some closet-charasmatics."

What the H-E-double hockey sticks is he talking about? And then he did not, as was the custom, go on to shame people who were charasmatics. No, he went on to affirm faith in its many forms. Christians only, but not he only Christians.

I remember being put into a crisis because I had always viewed those weirdo charasmatics as lost. Now there was this preacher I really believed in affirming them. I needed a crisis.

I really like the fact that there is much chummy conversation going on between Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. But the fact that this dialogue seems so momentous is only testimony to the fact that there is so much farther to go.

This is also what I like about some of the ideas coming out from emergent. The idea of a deep ecclesiology is so important. We are one deep down, though we are diverse on the surface.

Of all Restorationisms, this is my favorite. Christians only, but not the only Christians.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Katrina's hate destroyed the coast
Copycat Rita gave a toast
Wake me up when september ends

Oral Surgery came to pass
The ache in my jaw just lasts and lasts
Wake me up when september ends

Here comes the strep again
Got it from my son
Think he gave to everyone
Wisdom teeth pulled from my wife
A little dry socket feels like the end of life
Wake me up when september end

Gasoline 3.35
Got stung twice when I found the bee hive
Wake me up when september ends
My son's new teacher is from Hell
We'll teach him at home just as well
Wake me up when september ends

Although it's Fall
It's been hot as Hell
Been drenched with sweat time and again
Wake me up when september ends

Wake me up when september ends
Wake me up when september ends
Wake me up when september ends

Thanks Green Day

The Death of Death

I was 10 years old when Grampa Zoller died. 25 years later, I remember the funeral. I saw his dead body in the casket, we sang The Old Rugged Cross (was amazed that Lutherans knew that song too), I wept with a deep sadness because I knew this meant I would never see my grandfather again. I also knew my trips to Fox Lake to catch crappies had come to an end.

I remember the casket being lowered into the ground. I remember family conversations that happened in the following weeks. His death required us to take the 90 minute drive to gramma’s house more than a couple times that winter. I remember watching a lot of Olympic hockey – the miracle on ice.

These memories run like powerpoint slides in my mind, each with a sight and a sound, but even more than that, an emotional tone. If I stop and let the slideshow play, I could be moved to tears. In fact, I think I ought to let that happen. That wouldn’t be so bad, would it? I mean, it’s only been 25 years, it’s not like I’ve gotten over his death.

Do you get over the death of someone you love? Perhaps you reconcile with it. Maybe you integrate that reality into your life. Or possibly you now live more humbly and thoughtfully. But get over it? I hope not. I just can’t get over the fact that Grampa Zoller is dead. Call me crazy, but I still wish he was alive.

So, that funeral ceremony, the family rituals that went with it, the songs we sang in the church house that day, the viewing of the body, the food, and everything else surrounding the funeral helped me (and help me even now) to begin the process of integrating the death of my grandfather into my life. I can’t imagine not having done all of that. It would have robbed my memories. The powerpoint in my mind would be nearly blank.

And yet, this brings to mind the current flow of our American culture as it relates to death. The trend these days is to make less and less of funerals. We think it might cause damage to a child to see a dead body, we might not want to “put someone through a funeral,” or perhaps we are afraid someone might cry, so we avoid it. Cremation is favored over burial in many parts of the country and opting out of a funeral all together is becoming more and more common. We behave in such a way that it would appear as if we deny death’s existence.

The death-denying, grief-avoidant, mourning-absent culture we live in is a product of the illusion of individualism and technological infinity we have become addicted to. If we were all truly autonomous individuals without need of anyone else, I could get over my grandfather’s death. It would be no big deal and I could just move on. It would feel the same as when I squish an ant. If technology could ever advance such that we can escape death, that would be something, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. No matter how far technology advances, dead is dead and there’s no other option.

Although we want to be happy and move rapidly, death reminds us that we need to slow down, grieve internally, mourn externally, and take the time necessary to integrate loss into our lives instead of running it through stages as fast as possible in order to “get over it.” If we don’t integrate it, then what we have is a neglected loss which will impose itself on us and demand to be heard. It will scream through the symptoms it invents.

As a people, as families, as friends, as communities of faith, we are connected to each other. When someone in that community dies, part of that community is dead. It is forever changed. This change must be reconciled or it will fester.

We need ways to integrate the death of the dead into the life of the living. We do not have the option of avoiding it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

"Speak where the Bible Speaks..."

"Speak where the Bible Speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent."

I was out for a jog this morning when this quote entered my mind. I have heard this sentence since I was a boy and thought it to be good. This morning, I didn't like it.

Not liking this mantra that I have been immersed in for many years did not come bring any sense of relief or comfort. In fact, my not liking this quote disrtupted my comfort. I have counted on this one for years. It was sure. It was safe. It was right. And if it wasn't right, nothing else seemed righter (righter?).However, my discomfort did not lead me back to embracing this quote full on, but rather left me treading water.

OK, let's take a look at the quote and see what the good and the troubling parts of it are.

1. Safe Bet. If you want to say that what is in the Bible is God's Word, then this quote is safe. If that's all you want to say.
2. Consumable. There is next to no one who cannot understand and digest this simple sentence. Its simplicity is really quite genius. It almost sounds like a Rick Warren slogan.
3. Clear. Its clarity is remarkable. There is no gray area whatsoever. It is so easy to do, at least it is so easy to believe you're doing it. There is only one variable with which to deal.
4. Comfortable. It provides a very settled feeling. There is no more work or discernment that needs ot be done. All of that struggling and wrestling is taken care of. There is so much that does not even have to be thought about.

I am sure there is other good to it, but we'll leave it at that.

1. Reductionistic. Even though Jesus said, in the Bible, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age," and even though Jesus said, in the Bible, "I will send the Comforter," and many other things, "Speak where the Bible speaks..." does not allow for the ever present Jesus, the Counselor (Holy Spirit as I understand the passage) to tell us anything besides, "read the Bible." This quote has effectively muted God for just under 2000 years.
2. Not Biblical. No where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is all there is to God's Word. Oh sure, someone is going pull out, "do not add or take away...," but to say that means the Bible is the sum of God's Word and God does not, will not, and cannot speak in any other way is such a ridiculous stretch of scripture that it would be speaking where the Bible does not speak.
3. Who's Been Talking To Me? I believe God has spoken to me. I'm not one of those people who gets to hear the audible voice of God. I probably don't enough faith to hear it an live. However, I have heard God speak in dreams, in "coincidence," in wise words from friends the people I trust, in circumstance, in emotion, in thought. I have had instance when I spoke words of insight and wisdom to people that I was in no way capable of on my own. I wondered where that came from. Did God speak through me, or am I just that smart? If you know me and heard what I said, it would be easy to understand that it was God and not me. Furthermore, if it is Satan talking to me, why can Satan speak and God can't?
4. Why pray? If God is done talking, then he's done answering prayer. There is no need to pray, just read the Bible. If it's all in there, then what's the point in praying? God's just going to point his finger at the Bible anyway.
5. Inhibits Growth. A people without struggle is a people without growth. When making sense of life, the Bible is helpful, but it is not all there is. In a way, the Bible can get in between a person and God. I am not saying it is wrong, but I am saying that God wants us to love Him more than anything else.
6. Promotes idol worship. That got your attention. :-) The Bible is one of God's creations, ranking in the top 5 of all things created, but any created thing getting between a person and God or viewed by a person as being in the place of God is, in fact, an enemy to God. We make an idol of one of God's creations, the Bible.
7. Return to the Old Law. If we cannot engage with the living God directly, then the Bible isn't true. Jesus came to "tear down the curtain," (a thing separating God and humanity) and make the Holy of Holies available to us all. If we have to funnel all interactions, relationship, and everything through the Bible, then the Bible itself becomes the curtain Jesus came to remove. Although Jesus tore the curtain, we got our sewing kits out an repaired it.I'll stop there, although I could go on.

My point is this: The Bible is some of God's word. This isn't pretty and it is isn't even safe. But "safe, who said anything about safe?"

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Church Splits, Division & Disunity

Here is something I have heard often: 99% of church splits are not over theology, but over personality.

There was a time in my life when this gave me some comfort. Now I think it is just a thing people say to feel better about themselves.

It is as if personality is some kind of blank check for acting like an idiot. Too often, personality is an excuse for not changing. "Hey, this is just the way I am." It's as if personalilty is not a spiritual or weighty issue. Well, we can't just wiggle off the hook that easily, as if we couldn't help it since it was a personality issue.

I don't see Jesus giving us any wiggle room for disunity based upon personality differences. Check out the apostle's personality profiles and you'll see that we can't just play the personality card and allow our guilty consciences to be soothed.

Jesus picked, I think intentionally, a politically diverse group in order to prove that unity is based upon something other than sameness (uniformity).

Sigh of Relief

Thanks to all of you who prayed for my brother-in-law. Rita's northward turn has left my family members in Lake Jackson, Pearland & Houston are all clear without any damage. Very grateful.

At the same time, we're all feeling sad for those who took damage lost everything in Beaumont and surrougnding areas.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Pray for my Bonehead Brother-in-law

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Please pray for the safety of my brother-in-law, Kevin, and his family and employees. They live in Pearland, TX. Pearland is a piece of land wedged between Houston and the Gulf Cost. It is in the center of the crosshairs of Rita.

Kevin and his family and his employees are hunkered down at his house and they intend to ride out Rita.

They have been urged by family members to evcuate, but they are not doing it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Are you postmodern?

For the follwing items, choose either option 1 or option 2 for which one fits you best. Give yourself 1 point everytime you choose option 1 as your answer and give yourself 2 points for everytime you choose option 2 as your answer. Don't get all cutesy and choose both because it screws everything up for the the scoring. Your final score will range from 26 to 52. Any score outside this range means you did not do the test as I want you to do it. That does not mean what you did is wrong, but it means that you wasted your time taking this test.

Following the test is a scale revealing something about you.

1. I seek truth
2. I seek meaning

1. Most things in life are clear-cut, black and white
2. Most things in life are uncertain and gray

1. Being rational makes sense
2. Being absurd makes sense

1. People should be guided by their thoughts
2. People should be guided by their feelings

1. 1+1=2
2. 1+1= ??? I do not have enough information to give you an answer

1. I should look to authority figures for reliable information
2. I find that wisdom figures help me find my own answers

1. I am supposed to be clearly defined
2. I find myself being intentionally mysterious

1. History is progressive and builds upon itself
2. History is a stirring drama with unpredictable twists

1. Optimism is a virtue
2. Uncertainty is a virtue

1. Uncertainty is faithless
2. Optimism is arrogance

1. I own my destiny
2. We sail or sink together

1. I work, because if I do not, I am lazy and broke
2. I work because it matters, it has meaning

1. Competition creates character
2. Cooperation creates character

1. Being aggressive is effective
2. Being passive is respectful

1. Logic and reason over pragmatics and what works
2. Pragmatics and what works over logic and reason

1. Intolerance is discernment
2. Tolerance is virtuous

1. I can be persuaded by reason
2. I can be persuaded by wonder

1. Everything in life has a truth to it
2. Few things are universally true

1. Force of will is power
2. Relationship is power

1. You can trust authority, position, and tradition
2. Trust is wise on a case by case basis

1. Linear makes sense A+B=C
2. Random is reality A+ #--> )*L

1. Proof creates belief
2. Story creates belief

1. Life is comprised of a main plot
2. Life is collection of subplots

1. I tend to be an either/or person
2. I tend to be a both/and person

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck:
1. It’s a duck
2. I can never be completely certain that it is a duck

1. Absolutism gives me confidence
2. Relativism enlightens me

26 Ultra-modern
27-32 Very modern
33-38 Somewhat Modern
39-40 Transitional
41-46 Somewhat Postmodern
47-51 Very Postmodern
52 Freakishly Postmodern

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Emerging Church - Donut Sprinkle Theory

A young boy stood with his face pressed against the glass at his local Daylight Donut Shop. He had his eye on the chocolate covered donut with the multi-colored sprinkles. This little guy got so lost in staring at the donut that he began to daydream.

He imagined that all of the little multi-colored sprinkles of different shapes and sizes spontaneously decided to move toward the middle of the donut. The boy imagined the sprinkles noticing each other moving from places all over the donut toward the same location. Although some moved north and some south, others northeast while still others move southwest, they all moved toward the center. It was beautiful, like a choreographed dance.

Then the boy's imagination went really wild. He imagined that he was one of those sprinkles. He felt this desire to abandon his position on the surface of the donut and move to the center of the donut. He didn't really even know where he was going, but he had the feeling that he could no longer stay at his current location on the donut.

He noticed other sprinkles moving as well, although from the perspective of the sprinkle, it looked more like chaos than choreography. He was tempted to accuse other sprinkles from other locations on the donut of being in the wrong place. Then he, as a sprinkle, also realized that other sprinkles were different colors and different shapes, and was that cause for him to have concern. However, he also realized that they were all indeed sprinkles, just like him. That fact gave some comfort. Furthermore, he took comfort that they were all going to the same place.

Then a gruff voice shook him out of his daydream.

"Hey kids, you gonna buy that donut or slobber all over my glass all day?"

"Yeah, I'll take the one with the sprinkles. I really like those sprinkles."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Incarnational Syncretism

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Syncretism - Reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion.

Incarnation - The doctrine that the Son of God was conceived in the womb of Mary and that Jesus is true God and true man.

When I was introduced to the word, "syncretism," it was a description of the terrible things native Africans do to Christianity if they are left to themselves. They contaminate the true gospel with their ancestor worship, tribal rituals, drums, and immodest clothing. The way it was described to me, syncretism was a horrific practice that should be confronted by all means.

Nothing was said about Western syncretism. It was as if syncretism was only possible with "those people" over in Africa.

Later, lots later, I heard about the word, "incarnational." That was a good word. Jesus was incarnational. He came from perfect Heaven to fallen Earth, not merely to take a little look-see, but to become one of us. TO BECOME ONE OF US. This kind of sacrifice was beautiful and something that we should always follow to the best of our ability.

Does anyone besides me see a huge double message here? To avoid syncretism we must extract ourselves from culture, yet to be incarnational we, must not only engage culture, but in some way, become one of "them."

What I think has happened is that as culture is concerned, syncretism is the accusation used for people doing Chrisatianity differently than the "the group I am in," while incarnational is the excuse we use to indulge in the culture in which we find ourselves. Syncretism is an accusation while incarnational is a self-congratulation.

The obvious American syncretism is the institutional greed of a consumer-obsessed culture. American Christianity has a long history of letting money speak too loudly in the church.It is what kept slavery going for so long and it is what keeps poverty in place right now. Oh, but how incarnational sounding we make our huge building campaigns.

OK, I didn't really want to get into that, but rather than avoid syncretism or to assign that label only to other cultures, why not self-asses when our inescapable syncretism damages the love of God?

With the judicious use of intentional syncretism, we will be nearer to pursuing the incarnational path of Jesus.

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.

I Corinthians 9:19-21

Zoe Conference Blog-meet

The Zoe Worship Conference is just around the corner, October 7-8. Back in July I made an all-call for who might be interested in a blog gathering and there was some good response. I think John Alan Turner promised to appear with Vulcan ears and a phaser. Can't wait for that.

We had several ideas about when to meet, and none of them are simply perfect. So, without a perfect option, lets meet for a light breakfast at the conference site at 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM. Zoe offers a light breakfast as part of the conference fee, according to Eric Noah-Wilson, Zoe's Evecutive Director. Maybe we can meet at a table under the big tent. We could ahve a Blog Tent Revival right there.

Let me know if you want me to add your name to this list or take it off as the case may be. Your name does not have to be on this list in order to participate. Just show up. This will be a somewhat informal meet and greet.

I just had this weird thought. Maybe we could all bring our wireless internet capable laptops and we could get a wifi connection into the tent and we could all blog to each other across the table, look-smile-wave and continue blogging.

OK (deep inhale-exhale-eyeroll of disbelief) so far, here is the list of interested parties.

John Alan
Brandon (or some digital reproduction)
Mae Anne

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Fragility of Excellence

I "ran" 18 miles today. That is what I am calling, excellence. Before I started marathon training, I had never run more than 6 miles. I've tripled that total now. I can now be counted among the idiots who do this kind of thing.

I am learning a lot about myself in this process. You would think that your body is the only real variable in doing something stupid like this, but it is not. There are tones of people whose bodies could do this, but their minds could not.

Miles 1-6, my mind was imagining a conversation between me and my editor at the local newspaper. They are pinching me and I think I need to make some proactive moves with them. BOOM! 6 miles down.

Mile 7 my knees began to ache some. No biggie as I have had this experience before. It did not feel like a threat except that I had 11 more miles to go. "If my knees already ache, how bad will they be in five miles?" My assumption was that I would continue to get worse.

Mile 9, I for got the aches as my legs began to tingle. Naturally this concerned me as I thought that I might be cutting the run short. I never assumed that my legs would tingle, but then stop tingling. I would never have found out that they do indeed stop if you just keep on. Keeping on was the only way to know that. Now I know it.

I was thinking at this point about a cool article on the emerging church having to do with automobile fuel.

Mile 12, the tingling retunred. "Well," I said to my self," if it went away once it will go away again." It did. Also as I run I have a 3 mile loop starting and ending at my house. On the hood of my car are lined 12 ounce bottles of Powerade. With each 3 mile loop I reward myself with a freah Powerade. Today I had 6 Powerades, 5 blue and one red. At the end of mile 12 I had to choose betwen the last two, blue or red. I drank the blue thinking, "I'll need the color red to give me a burst of energy for the last 3 mile loop of my 18 mile run." After running 12 miles, this is the way a mind begins to think - my mind anyway.

Any and every way to perceive an advantage is important in long distane running.

Mile 15, the tingling legs had let up 2 miles earlier, but both arms, more the left than the right, began to tingle. I have never had this sensation crom running. It was like both funny bones on my elbows were bumped. Stroke? Nope! I soothed myself with the thought of the red Powerade.

Mile 16, the little toe side of my left foot began to ache and my calves threatened the go into a cramp. I was fully aware that the position of my big toes would either trigger or buffer against the cramping. Toes up and I am good; toes down and I am introuble. So I thought of my big toes. With each step I lloked for a certaincontour of the ground for my left foot to step on that my ease the aching it felt.

I was very fragile at this point. The slightest hill to go up was emotionally crushing and the slightest hill to go down was exhilerating and relieving. The flavor of the red Powerade biting the tip on my tongue was so good that I said, "man that's good," out loud - to no one.

Today is 4 miles more than I have ever run. For me, it is excellence and proff that I can push myself farther than I could have ever imagined. At the same time it has taught me that there is a fragility, a vulnerability that excellence, accomplishment and effort produce. In short, it is risky to go to the max. There is no fragility in resting in the comfort zone. There is also no joy.

My pain and tiredness today will produce in me a very restful sleep tonight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Rediscovering Our We-ness

Have you heard it yet? Have you heard someone talking about "those people" at the shelter? Have you heard someone concerned about how "those people" are going to "our" schools, meeting in "our" churches, and living in "our" community?

I have not heard it much, but I have heard it enough! I wonder if people who talk about "those people" have ever been in a situation to be considered one of "those people." What I mean is that when I hear someone talk about "those people," there is an unmistakable sense of in-grouping and out-grouping going on. "Those people" are out while the rest of us, the "normal people," are in.

Yes, I remember when in-grouping and out-grouping was popular - back in sixth grade I believe. The preps didn’t like the jocks who beat up the geeks, who had secret fantasies that the cheerleader would go for them because they were helpful with algebra. Yes, I remember those days – with horror. I did my best to get past that as fast as I could. Why? Because all too often I was one of "those people." But even more than that, I knew somewhere deep down that it was wrong. It was not wrong because I suffered; it was wrong because it was wrong.

I wish I could say that we have all grown out of this childish cliquing of people, but we have not. Skin color, religious denomination, income, political leanings, Cowboy or Titan, "Less Filling" or "Tastes Great" and any other kind of difference seems to be a reason to in-group people based on similarities and out-group based on differences. It is like Protestantism has run amuck, desperate for anything to protest against in any and every facet of life. What is so often spoken of as benevolent and corrective is really an attempt at social cloning.

I believe the word, "diversity," has been overplayed by many as a tool to have a blank check on social experimentation, but I also think that the people who cringe at the word have an unhealthy addiction to homogeneity – things just like them. It’s like my great-great grandmother said: "If you’re not Norwegian, you’re not nothing" (Please don’t try to figure out how a guy named, Gonzalez, has a Norwegian great-great grandmother. Seriously, let it go or you’ll hurt yourself).
Did you know her bias was against those terrible Germans? Forget African-Americans and Latinos, she was bigoted against those Germans. Oh, and let’s not even say the word, "Lutheran," because we all know how horrible they are.

It sounds whack to hear a Norwegian dissin’ on a German. Some people might even ask, "what’s the difference?" And yet, even in that question there is a clue into the American zeitgeist. What does it matter if there is a difference? It is as if sameness is a commodity to be protected, preserved, and perpetuated and diversity is to be isolated, segregated, or even extinguished. Is being different really a reason to chop up communities of people into groups of clones who can backslap each other and affirm their own similarities? Is it so necessary to alienate a group of "those people" such that we can then take some comfort so as to say to ourselves, "At least I am not like them"?

Ever wonder what a soul looks like? Do you think souls have a race or a socioeconomic level? Or is there more depth to a soul than race, money, and favorite football teams? I wonder if we could only see the soul of a person what we might think of them. Perhaps everyone would be considered beautiful if we could really see people that way. I wonder if we were to look at the internal beauty of all people, would it reveal the necessity of their external differences toward creating the beautiful mosaic of human community?

Toward this end, there is none of "those people." There is only us.

Cornel West on Race, Poverty and Katrina

Check out this perspective on New Orleans.

Hope For The Green Stained Soul

Whether too abundant or too scarce, it matters not,
Money can stain the soul with its toxic green;
For it is the focus on money that impairs the spirit,
And the attention money absorbs that devours love;
Money is a sponge for spiritual power,
And it longs to be a master.

When it is abundant, it longs to rule,
When it is scarce, it longs to rule;
Its intolerance for servanthood ought to inform;
Its addiction for attention ought to give pause.

Money is a tool who longs to be a carpenter;
A part who longs to be a whole,
A narcissist who will not be ignored,
An unfillable emptiness ever expanding,
A promise perpetually broken.

If money could answer questions, America would be wise,
If it's absence could bestow virtue, Africa would be at peace.

Our hope is to find wisdom and virtue outside of the influence of money and then to use money according to that wisdom and virtue and not the other way around.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


What is more likely to erode your faith, too much money or not enough money?

Oral Surgery Jamboree

Yesterday my wife had her wisdom teeth pulled.

Today, I had a root canal.

I guess we need to hire someone to better schedule our lives a little better.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fetal Attorneys

Why don't embryos and fetuses get the right to a lawyer before being aborted?

Katrina, no longer sexy

Although not all. most of the evacuees are where they are going to be for a while. Some who evacuated, but did not live within the levee system ahve already returned home. People on the west side of New Orleans did not receive as much destruction as others. I am so glad that they get to go home and begin the rebuilding process.

For the rest of the evacuees, news trickles in. Their questions, some of them, are slowly getting answers. Some families are being reunited; some are not. Some never will. Some sigh in relief that their house was on high enough ground, while others live in denial, knowing that their house is in the lowest part of the city, but still hope to hear word that it still stands. Sadly, there won't be anything for them to go home to.

Some people have just wiped the slate clean. They are going to live where they evacuated to. Their life in New Orleans is over.

In caring for evacuees, there is now a feel that the frenzy is over and the long, hard work of service begins. Adrenaline subsiding, there must now be something more than that to perpetuate the care. This is phase two. This is the time when people decide that they are like Jesus or not. Hurricane relief is sexy in the first couple weeks, but what about after that, when the news reporters return to the all important celebrity court cases and documentaries on the history of Dracula?

For those of us who have evacuees in our home towns, do not abandon them. Let's love them until they are out our reach. Let's serve them until they are home. Let's let them know the love that is in our hearts, placed their by a very loving God.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Taking One For The Team

When catastrope like Katrina strikes, you do what you gotta do. Sometimes you go above and beyond - you know, take one for the team.

Tomorrow I have the "horrible" task of delivering pizzas to a group of New Orleans evacuees north of Jonesboro. I also have to eat the pizza with them and eat ice cream cake with them. I also have to celebrate Tyrone's 18th birthday. I have to sing happy birthday.

Man, what a tough life.

Katrina saves the church

If you are a long time reader of my blog, then you know that I have had my challenges to the American church.

I want to take an angle here on Katrina and New Orleans' evacuees and the church.

I lived in Houston for three years and had the privilege of working with the Impact Church, an inner-city church serving the poor and homeless in Houston. I got an inside look at how the wealthy suburban white churches interact with the poor, urban black and Hispanic churches.

Here is what I observed:
1. Most suburban churches do not interact with the urban churches.
2. There are some suburban churches that do interact on a limited basis. Provide a meal about every three months, raise money, etc. Distant, but somewhat engaged.
3. A very few, and more so on a person by person basis, churches will volunteer time on a more regular basis to support reading programs, driving children to programs, etc.

The racial and SES barriers are impossible to miss. People in the burbs tend to stay in the burbs while poeple in the city tend to stay in the city. Pride, selfishness, comfy culture-centrism plague both groups. They ahve their reasons for not interacting.

Well, Katrina just smashed down all of those walls. An entire city is displaced. Whites are exceedingly willing to help blacks right now and blacks are willing to receive it. There is something very different about the "charity" offered and received right now. It is not given or received as a condescending hand down from the rich snobs to the poor shmucks. There is a genuineness about the acts of mercy and kindness being done.

The church is responding with grace and mercy. People have been activated. Stagnate people jst rotting in the pews are donating their time, their money and their stuff. Some are opening up their homes. The church is shingin right now and I hope that it continues to shine. This is what being the church is all about.

The truth is that many of the people in crisis after Katrina were in crisis before Katrina, but with all the assumptions, systemic barriers, cultural barriers, there was little room for Christian exchange. Those barriers have been smashed.

It is amazing how such a catastrophe has awakened love and compassion. I blogged about how Katrina saved New Orleans. Even more than that I believe that Katrina is saving the church.

I fear that this wave of comapssion is probably a temporary window of time until "things go back to normal." But I hope that they do not "go back to normal" if normal means racial and economic walls between people. I hope that this awakening of compassion changes the church forever. That compassion wil not be merely an excited response to disaster, but a new way of living life. I hope that the church becomes displaced from its comfy home of wealth and power and becomes humble and generous on a regular basis.

And the winner is...

John Mazi of New Jersey gets a free copy of my "best selling" book, Homefront. Congrats! The book is on its way.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


"I wasn't the winner tonight, tennis was."

Andre Agassi after winning late night match at the US Open.

Saving New Orleans

New Orleans is a city with a rich tradition of music and food. It has so much culture and history that it must rise again. It will. But it won't be the same. It wil probably be better.

New Orleans also has a dark side. Filled with Voodoo religion, the debauchery of Mardi Gras, poverty, and gangs and thugs.

Is New Orleans a darker (eviler?) place than others in the world? Well, I don't know about that. It might be, but then again, who knew the Catholic Church would protect child-molesting priests? Darkness can be anywhere.

I am not trying to make a case that God punished New Orleans by sending Katrina. No way. I think that so much of what makes New Orleans such a great city is pleasing to God, and that whole line of thinking is weird to me anyway. But then I got to thinking - what if God is saving the city? What if God loves New Orleans so much that he wanted to start over with it?

I know this is not going to fly well with many people because their pain is so immense. At the same time, I have heard so many people say that they are not going back. Maybe I am naive or just don't get it, but I am really surprised at how often I hear people say this. Some people, though they have lost so much, have this sense of escape from New Orleans. Maybe it is a break from poverty. Well, not that they are better off in a shelter, but poverty is not merely about what you do not have, it is about not even being noticed. Some people, for the first time ever, are getting noticed and cared for.

I wonder if some people who were oppressed with poverty will get a chance to start fresh. Maybe they will have access to resources that they would not have any other way. Maybe the wave of compassion from millions of Americans will help them long term.

It is also interesting that many, not all, of the remaining people in New Orleans are criminals. Let's face it, there are people who looted because they needed something and then there are people who looted because it is what they do. They were thieves before Katrina and they are thieves after Katrina.

What if God arranged a situation to separate the majority of good citizens from the small, but dangerous, minority of intentionally and willfully evil people? What if the National Guard (who finally showed up) is their justice? What if God saved New Orleans from its thugs by compelling the people to leave where the thugs are, gather up the thugs, and then return the people to their homes?

Voodoo is not known to be a religion that honors God, at least not YHWH. I wonder if God made a statement to the Voodoo Snake that God is God and it is merely a wicked spirit?

I don't know any of this. But I do believe that God would be more interested in saving New Orleans than killing it. Well, I think He would be more inclined to save the people of New Orleans from the bondage of poverty, violence, evil religion, and debauchery than He would be to just destroying people.

The evacuess who have been oppressed by these powers of evil now have a chance now to do something different. Many, but certainly not all, of the systemic mechanisms that perpetuated their oppressed state in life have been disrupted.

Maybe God is saving New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

National Family Affected by "Water Bowl"

It makes sense that Texas, Arkansas and the non-coastal regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama would take in hurricane evacuees. But this mass exodus is a national event.
This one is even bigger than the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Perhaps tyis is the Water Bowl of the 21st century or something like that. New Orleans has always been know as a bowl. Now it is known as a watery bowl.

Minnesota:Tim Pawlenty (Governor of Minnesota) announced Saturday that the state is preparing to host as many as 5,000 evacuees for a year or longer.

Chicago: to receive refugees.

Connecticut: 100 houses available for refugees

California: The Terminator opens doors of Kahl-ee-forn-ya

Shucking Stereotypes

People not from the South have this idea about people in the South (white people mostly) that they are prejucied, bigotted, and bascially full of themselves. They believe that they are fake, shallow, and say nice things to your face and gossip about you behind your back. I know this becasue I grew up not in the South and this is what I used to believe. Wow, that is a harsh paragraph. I hate that I just wrote that, but I cannot deny what I used to believe. (God has put in Texas and Arkansas for half my life to purge me of my filth).

Sadly, enough of this is stereotype is true in the South to perpetuate the bias. I know this becasue I live in the South.

Now there is this mass migration of people, some temporary and some permanent, to 100's of cities across the South. Most of the evacuees from Katrina are black and many if not most are going into predominantly white communities. This is true of Jonesboro, Arkansas, where I live.

If ever there were a time to stomp out a negative stereotype it is now. With a massive migration like this and the huge need associated with it, there is a choicewhites in the South need to make. Will we love or will we condescend? Will the "best foot" we put forward be connected to a body that looks just as good? Will there be sustained love or will our compassion run out as we realize how different we all really are?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

#20,000 gets a free copy of my "bestselling" book

I will do my best to monitor who is the #20,000th hit on this blog and send you a book.

Post-modern Negro on Racism

Read here for an interesting theology of racism.

Believing Thomas: Katrina news

Believing Thomas has been doing some great reporting on Katrina here.

Foreign aid TO the US?

Why are these coutries giving us help?

Kuwait alone is giving half a billion in aid. Qatar giving $100,000,000.

Don't you find it interesting that Americans are most loved when we are most hurt? It should be a message about American pride and ongoing sense of superiority. We are no better than anyone else. We bleed like everyone elose, we drown like everyone else, we break like everyone else. We need each other all over the world - just like everyone else.

Hurricane Race

When am I going to hear a sane voice on the issue of race? One the one hand you've got Kanye West saying that "George Bush hates black people" and on the other hand you've got the famous pictures of white people "finding food" and black people "looting."

I hear white administration officals saying that "we are doing all we can," while I heard one black male say that he knows for sure that the government intentionally broke the levee in order to drown blacks.

I have to believe that the reporting has to be somewhat responsible for this charicature of the general population. So, in my attempt at sanity on the topic of race, I have to conclude that George Bush does not hate black people and the response to the disaster has been weak.

What most damages race relations in a situation like this is the extremes taken and the huge publicity those extremes get via the media. What is covered as the race problem is not actually the race problem. So, let's think about this, if the percevied problem is not the problem, then the real problem gets ignored. That's a problem that pertuates the problem.

There is really very little overt and intentional racial hatred in America. There is the occasional murder based solely on race, but nothing like Rwandan genocide. However, that does not mean that there is not a serious problem. We're not off the hook. What lies under the surface is what is quite disturbing.

I like what Janet says about race from Larry James' blog.

I have done quite a bit of research on "invisible" racism. It is interesting to me that, as I conduct my interviews, White people continuously say "it's not about race," yet, later on in the interview will make a prejudice comment. I don't believe their comments are intended to be ugly and mean. It's actually acceptable in our society for some of those stereotypical comments to be made--especially when we're around other people who look like us. However, even though those comments and assumptions aren't intentional, they still lack the knowledge of what is truly happening in our society with people who are poor (and Black...and Hispanic). It is one thing to go this weekend and talk to someone and hear the pain of what they are experiencing. I would suggest that we go even further and use this tragedy as a wake up call to build relationships with and get to know people within our communities who are struggling on a daily basis. Perhaps once we know them and hear what they have to say, we will begin to feel the pain of our neighbors and friends and begin to do something more than blame them.

I think that what she is saying is that there is a kind of "accidental racism" that emerges within a population from a lack of diverse personal experience. Most Americans, especially white Americans, have a second hand relationship with "people of color." We see an extreme through the media and then slightest personal experience reinforces the pre-existing (and perhpas unknown) bias.

What needs to happen is for people of all races to become personal stakeholders with people of a race not their own. This is not some kind of charity or hand out relatioinship. I mean a stakeholder - someone who matters in the person's life when it is going great and when it is going badly. I guess the word "friend" would be better than stakeholder.

Transracial friendships are not just a neat idea or some kind of "good deed." It is necessary for healing to come to our nation. There needs to be a redefinition of "us" and "them." When a group says, "us," it needs to mean something other than a racial distinction. There needs to be a multiracial voice to that "us." When that happens, there is going to be a lot less chance of racial offense to the "them" that "us" is talking about.

The problems in New Orleans as it relates to race did not appear with Katrina - but they can be healed in her wake. Well, that's a little optimistic. There can be a healing process beginning in her wake.

Tens of thousands of New Orleans residents have been displaced. 67% of the population is black. Over 70% of Americans are white. This is an unpreceidented chance for racial reconciliation, for racial healing and for the "Great American Melting Pot" to actually do some melting.

However, efforts to "whitenize" (a term I heard once) blacks will only be met with resistance and further widen the racial gap. This huge displacement of epople could be a total disaster on the racial front. It has not gotten off to a good start.

This is going to be one of the greatest challenges in the category of race since the 1960's. We'd like to say we've come a long way as Americans on race, and legislatively we have. But how far have the hearts of people moved since the 1960's? Since the 1860's?

If you havhe a chance to house someone of another race, then do it. If you have a chance to serve, to listen (MOST OF ALL LISTEN) then do it. Enter the world of the stranger and feel their pain. It will be awkward. It will feel strange. It might get uncomfortable, but do it. This may be the one chance you get to connect or make a friend from a vastly different culture.

May God bring healing from so much pain.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Consumer Compassion

The community of Jonesboro is probably like hundreds of communities receiving evacuees. Arms are wide open, wallets are wide open, daytimers are wide open. The help is incredible.

At the same time, there is an undercurrent that is a little troubling. I have heard, more than once, something like this: "We're so glad to help, we really hope it gets used for people who really need it."

Let me translate: "We'd better get our money's worth," or "I better not get taken advantage of or my generosity ends."

It is almost as if people want a 5 year/50,000 smiles warranty on their compassion. But there is no gurantees with compassion.

The problem is that the success of compassion is being measured by the result of the "end user." Did every single expression of compassion have the maximized impact to the most needy person AND did they receive it with maximized appreciation? Then and only then was the compassion successful, and therefore worth it.

Jesus did not measure the success of compassion by end user, but by the compassion itself. The ultimate sacrifice Jesus made, not to mention the hundreds of non-ultimate sacrifices he made, were successful not contingent upon a maximized potential.

Jesus died for all people, but not all people received it. So what is Jesus to do with that?

When compassion requires something in return, it is not compassion. When strings are attached, then it is more like a paycheck, than a gift of comapssion. When compassion requires gratitude, when it requires "proper" usage of the gift, when compassion imposes in any way, then it is diminished.

I hate getting taken advantage of as much as anyone. However, when it comes to giving we need to understand that we are giving to Jesus. If Jesus, disguised as "the least of these," decides to abuse the gift, what is that to you and me?

Compassion is not a consumer item and we do not need a receipt, a promise, or a warranty to come with it. Compassion is not a transaction and it is not fair. Compassion is the kingdom of God coming through in this world.

Building Program Put To Good Use

The Storefront Church of Christ in Pineville Louisiana is 80 members strong and is embedded in a small community of about 20,000 people. 2000 refugees from new Orleans are now living in an old Wal-Mart building.

The Storefront C of C has ambitions of building a building. I've blogged about my dislike for building programs before. No time to link. This little church decided to take $30,000 from their building campaign to help with the operations at this shelter.

That's what I'm talking about, baby!!!!!!

God is doing a massive redistribution of resources in the wake of Katrina. Not only is this happening, it is happneing without coersion, guilt or manipulation. This little church is willing to put their building campaign in jeopardy for people who may or may not be Christian, for people they do not know, and for people who may never thanks them.

This is a Jesus church.

Heart Breaking

I just met a man who was saved from his roof top in New Orleans. He heard pounding from under his neighbor's roof for two days, then he didn't hear it anymore.

Another neighbor had an infant. As the waters rose and their house was being submerged, they literally tied their baby to a pole and hoisted the baby up as high as they could. It was no use. This man watched helplessly as the baby drown.

He was helpless save them because the water is so polluted and toxic, filled with allegators, snakes, and sharks (yes, sharks).

Continue in prayer.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Wonderful Woman

I want to tell you about Adelya. She is the director of a home for developmentally disabled adults and for children with various challenges. She got her crew out of New Orleans - clients, staff, and family of staff, family of clients - on rental vans just before the satorm hit. Rental place was destroyed, so, free van rental I guess. She figured this was the usual routine that they do year after year - big threat and little damage. Obviosuly this was not the case. She was not tempted even once to go to the Superdome as she figured it was a bad place for a shelter. Good thinking. There are 60 total people now living in a camp north of Jonesboro.

Adelya is caring for her clients as well as her staff. She has energy and a great spirit and is going to love these people under her care for the long haul. She is also quite tired.

Please pray for Adelya (thanks God for her) and for this group of very special folks at the camp.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Ash Flat Church of Christ Refugee Site

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee just designated the Ash Flat Church of Christ the refugee center for north central Arkansas as part of KARE (Katrina Assistance Relief Effort).


Hello Jonesboro. Good-bye Big Easy.

Several news stories report people who are hurrican Katrina evacuees deciding that they will not return to New Orleans and other devastated places along the coast.

Jonesboro Arkansas, my hometown, is setting up a command center to help evacuees get their social security set up locally, to get housing and healthcare - and Arkansas registration.

Jonesboro mayor, Doug Formon, has already issued an "arms wide open" invitation to evacuess to stay as long as they need, or even relocate to Jonesboro. It would seem like relocation invitation would be premature or perhaps presumptuous, but the fact that severl evacuees have already mentioned that they are not going back, the open invitation is warranted.

The mayor even mentioned that he would like to see local businesses and manufacturers to help supply jobs for the evacuees.

Weiner public schools, just south of Jonesboro, has waived regular admission requirements and has invited school aged evacuees to school.

The Southwest Church of Christ is feeding people dinner and will show a kid-friendly movie tonight in their Better Life (family life) Center. It is possible that this will become a nightly event.

Offer Housing

If you are someone who would like to open your home to hurricane evacuees, here is a site some people are posting on.

Dumb and dumberer

You might remember some dumb quotes after 9-11 and the tsunami, some of which attrbute the disasters to God's wrath about homosexuality and religions God does not like.

Here are some dumb quotes about the aftermath of Katrina.

Tonight I am getting a 2 hour Red Cross training for disaster relief counseling. I might be busy all weekend. Jonesboro is in Northeast Arkansas, 100 of miles away from the damage, and we will be seeing perhaps 1000's of people flooding our city. The busses are coming.

This city of 60,000 had 100 churches. Let's see what they do. Reports are coming in that many of doing much.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Heroism and blame: America fully exposed

There is a sharp contrast in the news reports coming from New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. It is not that they conflict, as the reporting is seemingly decent. The contrast is in the reporting of how people are responding to the catastrophe.

Heroic helicopter rescues in one scene, looters in another. People working hard to soothe the devastated in one scene, people blaming everyone from the mayor of the city to the president in the next scene.

One thing that a catastrophe does is to expose people for who they are. It exposes me for who I am. I live close enough to the crisis to have 100 (will swell to perhaps 1000) refugees in my city. What am I going to do? I have the option of doing nothing. I also have the option of finding ways, little ways to help. Water? yes. Money? sure. Prayer? of course. But these people are housed in a shelter within a mile or two of my house. Can I connect? Should I connect?

This morning I looked around my house and noticed a washing machine, a shower, a phone, a bar of soap, food, and so forth. Suddenly these are luxuries. I have them and I am really close to some peple who used to have them, but now do not - and might not for more than a month.

Also, I went to work today - I have something to do. What do you do in a refugee situation? No work, no school, no entertainment, no privacy, nothing is easy.

This hurricane is not merely exposing the character of the people directly impacted by the storm, it exposes the character of a nation.

What can the church do? Will the church rise up and love New Orleans, Mississippi, & Alabama?

1. I am repulsed by people who blame other countries for not rushing to our aid. Get over yourself!!! If Bill Gates' house burns down, I'm not springing into action. He can manage. See what I mean? It is not that I don't care, but rather that he doesn't need me. If America cannot use the already available resources to recover, then we have no soul! If the catastrophe were greater than our welth, that would be a different story. It isn't. We have enough. It will take time and perseverence to get the resources to the right locations and time to reconstruct.

2. I am repulsed by people with this apparent "clarity" who feel qualified to assign blame to people for not building better levees, not getting food to this place or that, who chatter on about everything and do nothing to help.

3. I am upset with the fact that there is so much suffering. My heart has been aching for three days now.

Oh God, when tragedy strikes we wonder where you are. In the past you ahve taked tragedy and made beauty rise from the ashes. Can you come again and make beauty rise from the depths?

You have given America greater wealth than any other nation in history. You have already given us what we need to recover in material wealth. But God, give us the hearts of compassion to do it. We have the stuff, but I wonder if we have the compassion. Oh God, come with your spirit of mercy and fill us with it.

When a week passes, give us memories such that we do not forget that people still suffer. When a month passes, give us a reprieve from our attention deficit.

God, let your church speak your words of love and compassion through their rush to help, to heal, to restore people's lives. Mobilize this army of compassion called the church into an active and holy people who know nothing but love. Make a statement, God, please, that you love people.