Thursday, December 27, 2007

Church Innovations

I have this hunch that there are some really creative and innovative things that churches are doing in this world of ours. I would like to get your participation in answering the following question:

What innovative things are churches or ministries doing?

By innovative I do not mean that the innovation has to be something necessarily new, but rather something that might be challenging or risky or require creativity. What I am looking for is outside the box efforts that might be experimental or unconventional. For example, using the church building for a junior high lock-in will fall into the not innovative category. However, using the church building as a service center for the growing population of immigrant workers in the community would be an innovative use of the building.

If it helps, below is a framework for thinking. Use it or don't. But please share as much as you know about the church or ministry you find innovative. Also, if it is appropriate (usually it will be), please provide a url or link to the church or ministry if you have it.

1. Innovative use of church facilities.

2. Innovative service in local community (within 2 miles of the central location of the building).

3. Innovative use of budget or capital campaign (ie not to build more structures for member use).

4. Innovative local cross-cultural outreach.

5. Innovative use of volunteers (not teaching Bible class or VBS).

6. Innovative work or ministry fighting poverty.

7. Innovative ministry collaborations across denominational lines.

8. Innovative staffing.

9. Innovative use of worship arts (praise team and powerpoints is not innovative. Themed art gallery of work by church members or local artists is innovative).

10. Innovative ways of telling the story of Jesus (in any context) outside of traditional use of sermons.

Finally, I would love for you to copy this post and post this to your blog (if you're feeling generous and interested in the topic). It would be really cool to share and learn from each other.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christian Servants

We had a wonderful Christmas breakfast loaded with made to order everything. It was fabulous. Afterwards, all four of us shared clean up duties.

As she was carrying her plate to the kitchen, my 9 year old daughter said, "Sometimes I wish that we had servants." Clearly this was the low point of her Christmas breakfast.

I felt the need to respond to her comment in a teachable moment kind of way. I told her that Jesus was a servant and so serving is being kind of like Jesus.

"Well," she said without missing a beat, "then we need to make sure we have Christian servants."

Clearly she had a teachable moment of her own that she felt the need to impose upon me.

Christians Need Christmas

Garrison Keillor says, in his usual satire and critique, that Christmas is that special time of the year when Christians around the world do good things in order to make up for all of the cruelties they have done throughout hisotry in the name of God.

Christians need Christmas. It is a reminder of the kinds if risks God takes in order to love the people he has created. To entrust himself as a baby to the people who he created is insane - and perfect. To place oneself at risk for the sake of love is beautiful and crazy at the same time. Christians need this Christmas reminder to take risks for the sake of love.

Jesus entered the world vulnerable and found a way to remain vulnerable. He exercised power by being innocent, but wise. He could see the religious and political power structures for what they were and did not allow them to make decisions for him. Rather, he allowed those systems to assist him in his plan - which in no way fit the religious and political agendas of the day.

Why can't Christianity treat religion and politics like Jesus did?

Why can't it be Christmas all year round?

Mike Huckabee

Click here to see me and my good friend Mike Huckabee. We go way back.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007


We had a very cold, windy, snow storm here in Minnesota today. It looked kind of like this picture. Nothing is colder than blowing snow. Today was a hunker down and watch football Sunday.

However, we didn't just hunker down as we attended church this morning with my mother and afterward had brunch at Cracker Barrel. It was a wodnerful time as we were toasty warm enjoying the only good restaurant bacon in the world, french toast, and hash brown casarole.

We had to take I-35 to get home. Snow blew with an angry howl as legions of white snow snakes speedily slithered over the highway. There were plenty of people on the highway. Driving under the speed limit was not only the smart thing to do, but teh only sane thing to do.

I was driving the minivan (without the Peyton Manning fire decal) with half a dozen of us talking about Christmas when a dreadful and disturbing sound from behind us got all of our attention. I looked in my rearview mirror and things couldn't have been closer than they appeared because the out-of-control SUV filled my entire rear view mirror. The unpredictably spinning SUV was so close as it passed behind us that everyone in the van besides me thought that the SUV clipped my rear bumper.

Off into the ditch went to the SUV. We kept on for about a tenth of a mile before pulling off. In one minute, yes, one minute, there was a state trooper on sight and a guy with a huge truck with a chain pulling this crazy SUV out of the ditch.

We checked the rear bumper and found no indication that we were hit. We assessed that the state trooper and the dude with the truck and chain had the situation under control, so we drove on, slowly.

We missed getting into a potentially deadly situation by a measure of inches. My whole life was in that van today. Were I to lose my wife, children, mother and sister then I lose most of me.

I am so grateful for being missed. I am grateful no one was injured as well.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Used to have to pay for this stuff

My favorite e-mag is now completely free.

New Wineskins began as a print magazine back in the early 1990's as an effort to make a difference in a Christian fellowship called Churches of Christ.

It transitioned to an e-mag a few years back as an effort to keep technologically current (and save some trees). But it was still fee based.

Now, New Winesins is free.

This magazine has interviewed some of the leading emerging church personalities, provided excellent, high-quality, thought-provoking writing, and highlights some terrific resources.

If you are not familiar with New Wineskins and are interested in what is emerging in Christian faith, then go and check it out.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thanks, Dan. We'll miss you.

I am saddened to hear that Dan Fogelberg died today. I am not surprised as he was fightng prostate cancer. But I am saddened.

Leader of the Band was a huge song for me as a kid as it found that empty father-son place in my heart and gave me hope, a vision. I still listen to it about every 6 months or so.

I have great memories of listening to Fogelberg one summer as I spent a week in my favorite place in the world, Duluth, Minnesota. I was in college and stayed at a friends' house who were out of town. I was single and longing to find a girl who would soothe my heart, spend time with me, want to be with me. Looking for a Lady spoke to me and reminded me that I am not alone in feeling alone. Souvenirs helped me to know how valuable it is to remember, to save things, and to cry. There's a Place in the World for a Gambler helped me know that love is a risk and that risk is worth it.

When I graduated from college at 22 years old, I felt lost as could be. Wandering Shepherd played on a bootlegged cassette as I drove my 1975 Buick Century to no where specific in Searcy, Arkansas and wept the loss of a college life that had brought me so much fun; I wept for a future that was completely unknown.

More recently, I have relied on Nether Lands to remind me that life is this gift that must be lived, a life void of worship is a life void of appreciation of the wonders of this place in which we live.

Oh, there are many other Fogelberg songs which have connected with me, mentored me, and held me when I was alone, but I will stop here.

Dan, thanks for your trail of gifts. I have picked up so many of them and kept them close. You will be missed.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I would like to conduct a non scientific blog survey. Please answer the following questions as best as you can.

1. What is feminism?

2. What do you believe about feminism?

If I get anyone engaging with this survey, I will disclose why I am asking such questions and I will give my answers.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Meteoric Defiance

Dark night and blackened sky;
Where solar absence cools;
A haunt sets in the souls of men,
And turns them into fools;
Lightline of protest, divide murky ink;
Blaze where these fools grope!
Burn, with defiance, a momentary streak
of Unignorable Hope.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Still Thinking?

Well, we have had one response to the challenge of what you would do with a 5 million dollar, three year capital campaign in your church.

While you're thinking about it, add this to the mix. What do you think the leaders (elders, ministers, deacons, whoever) would do with it?

What do you think a collection of the 10 most influential women in your church would do with it?
What do you think that your youth group would do with it?

What do you think that your unchurched neighbors would suggest that the church do with it?

I am so curious what you are thinking about this one.

I am the King Maker

Shortly after I left Arkansas back in the ealry 1990's, former Governor Bill Clinton became president of the United States of America. I moved to Texas.

Shortly after I moved from Texas, former governor George W. Bush became president of the United States of America. I moved to Minnesota.

I lived there only two years and not during an election cycle. I moved to Arkansas.

Shortly after I moved from Arkansas, Mike Huckabee ran for president and began a pre-caucus/primary surge. Mike Hucakabee will be our next president whether you like it or not. Hey, I am not promoting him or trying to make this happen. I just know that this is how presidents are elected.

From what I can tell, presidents are elected not based on policy, personality, or political prowess. No, presidents become preseident because I leave the state they once governed.

To put it another way, when I live somewhere, the governors from the state I am leaving like me so much that when I leave their states, they still want to govern me. Since they can't just become governor of the next state I move to , they decide that the only thing they can do is to become president.

Thus, Mike Huckabee will be the next president of the United States of America.

Oh, about that stint in Minnesota when it was during an off year election cycle. Be very, very glad about that. The governor of Minnesota at the time was Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Had I moved closer to an election year, he would have been president.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Today's Assignment

OK, your church has just decided that it will launch an ambitious captial campaign. The goal is to raise 5 million dollars over a three year period. The church leadership has asked you to devise a plan for the best use of the money.

Here are the parameters they have given you:

1. The money cannot be used to build a new church building, build or rent any structure for the church use (No super cool teen center), or remodel the existing building.

2. The money cannot be used for foreign or North American missionaries (in other words, all money must be spent locally)

3. The money cannot be used to fund an existing non-profit or ministry (in other words, start something).

4. The end result must be an enduring impact on the local community (within 20 miles of the local of your building, if you have a building).

5. The money cannot staff more than three full time people, of which one must be an administrative assistant.

6. The plan must be structured such that without the volunteerism from at least 10% of the members of your congregation, the plan would fail.

That's it. I can't wait to hear your plan.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Escape From Babel

What if church buildings and denominations were diametrically opposed to God's dream for the world?

What if the hundreds of billions of dollars of financial resources, time, and energy spent on buildings were supposed to go to the poor?

What if the endless emotional and intellectual energy it takes to create and defend the doctrines which define denominations were meant to be spent comforting and healing the broken and grieved?

What would happen if we learned that it was absolutely impossible to please God while using money on buildings and intellect and emotions on that which divides?

What would we do?
What would you do?

How will we ever escape from Babel?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Karon Goodman

Over on my Smart Stepfamilies Blog is an interview with author Karon Goodman. Go over ther and take a looky-lo.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Amazing Radar of Winter Storm

Click here to see how the current winter storm surrounded Minneapolis and then closed in.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Living In My Own Skin

I am awake at 4:18 am because I do not feel well (grumpy stomach) and I had a dream that I had somehow backed into a job as a high school wrestling coach.

I was a wrestler in high school. I was decent, but not state champ material. In my dream, I was an inspiring coach. I could bring out the very most in the kids on my team. In this dream, I was so fulfilled because I was using what I had been given. I knew something that was of benefit to someone else and I was giving it to them in doses they could handle.

In the dream, we were at a wrestling meet and one of my wrestlers was struggling against his opponent. From the edge of the mat I was shouting out all of the right moves. Head position, hip position, balance are all important in wrestling and I was able to shout out what and how at just the right time. I watched as the wrestler struggled into position and then overcame his opponent.

During a practice I recall telling the team that each and every one of them was always at an advantage over his opponent.

You are either stronger than your opponent, quicker than your opponent, or smarter than your opponent, and because of that you have the advantage.

I awoke at that moment in the dream feeling wonderful (besdies my grumpy stomach) - contemplating life. I've got 37 years of of some pretty damn good experience and training stockpiled up and besides parenting (which is a pretty big deal), I have hardly touched my reserves for the benefit of others.

That is something that has got to change. I cannot just spend my life accumulating wonderful experiences for myself.

I have my degree plan sitting next to me and there is a pencil behind my ear.

Yes, something has got to change.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Write Relationship

My 9 year old daughter wants to write a story with me. Wow, what a vote of confidence from such a wonderful young lady. When I am on Christmas break, that is exactly what we are going to do.

I hate that I need to wait that long. School is tough right now and soaking up all my time. Grrrrr!

Two antagonists are already named:

Nefarious Jones and Hubris McCracken.

This should prove to be a great story.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

On Saturation

When a person is saturated, when there is no margin, when there is no room for the unplanned, it takes so little to mess everything up.

It's kind of like filling your house with lines and lines of dominoes leaving no place to step, but then you really have to answer the phone which is across the room or you have to go to bathroom. The chances of knocking over even one domino in an urgent haste to get somewhere else are high - and you don't just knock down one domino.

Rest. Sabbath. There must be time to do nothing. There cannot be saturation.

The key to rest is learning the judicious use of the word, "No."
I could use some no.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wal-Mart BAD

I like the prices at Wal-Mart, but there are problems that come with low prices sometimes. I've had bad service in their tire and lube, I wonder how their prices get so low and which people are getting paid so little for these low prices, and on and on.

But this one "takes the cake."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Spiritual Self-Help?

Since when did spirituality become self-help?

Self-help is an American philosophical ethic that includes a self-focused and pragmatic individualism.

Spirituality has to do with transcendence and getting beyond yourself.

So, why is spirituality and self-help so syncretized together and how in the world are we buying in it it all?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Research Methods

If a quantitative researcher were to study an apple, this person would do the following:
  1. Weigh the apple.
  2. Slice it into pieces.
  3. Compare apples to apples.
  4. Observe apples in many contexts.
  5. Study apples over time.
  6. Find the infinite correlates of apples.
  7. Log all of the differences between kinds of apples.
  8. Discover the effects of apples inside various ecosystems and inside animal's bodies.
  9. Learn what happens when apples are ignored.
  10. Take surverys of people who have had experiences with apples.

If a qualitative researcher were to study an apple, the researcher would eat the apple and tell you how it tasted.

Dan In Real Life: A Movie Review

Do not believe the bad reviews that this movie is getting from some reviewers. They are out of touch - sitting at their laptops wondering why they have a wedgy and are blaming it on Dan.

"Dan" gives us some good surprises, some good tension, and some good laughs - OK, some great laughs. Steve Carell's humor is subtle, sometimes nonverbal, and always timed perfectly. I laughed out loud at least half a dozen times and chuckled frequently.

The plot is surprisingly not totally predictable. But best of all, this movie shows a family that is healthy (not perfect) and good. You might think you could be comfortable in this family.

The plot does a good job of connecting themes and it moves alongs fast enough.

See it. You won't regret it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jesus and the band of frauds

I sat in a local pastry shop (free wi-fi rocks) on Friday working on some school work. I couldn't help but overhear a group of men in an accountability group of sorts - a Christian group.

On the one hand, I really liked their friendship and sense of unity with one another. It was easy to come to the conclusion that they had been doing this for a while. There was a sense of community with these guys and it was good.

On the other hand, their conversation seemed shallow, packed with evangelical cliches ripped off from Joel Osteen. At some points in the conversation it seemed like these guys were trying to show off their spiritual biceps, like it was some sort of muscle flexing contest poorly cloaked in pre-packaged religious rhetoric.

I knew that I could never be in this group. Thinking of being with these guys gave me the same feeling I have had with many Christian men (not all) and Christian men's ministries (most, but not all). It has so often felt like men trying really hard to be men. That gender straightjacket they like to wear hurts me and I get to feeling inadequte so fast - what with my small biceps and all.

Hearing these conversations was so discouraging to me because I wanted to hear something of depth and thoughtfulness. I guess there is a longing inside me for a genuine male spirituality that perhaps doesn't have to me so "male." Hearing these conversations gave me the feeling of spiritual isolation and loneliness. I didn't even feel like I was in the same religion as these guys. Although they seemed like decent guys, I found myself not wanting to be associated with these them - maybe wishing that they were really Hindu or something so I could say to anyone who might ask, "No, I don't believe any of that stuff, I'm a Christian" without having to explain myself any further than that.

I guess what I wanted were guys with more depth, more theologically thoughtful words, with some part of their life a mystery they were catiously stepping into or helplessly caught up in and were trying to figure it out. Nope, there was nothing left for these guys to figure out. I wanted their conversation to make Jesus look like more than a vending machine that works on prayer coins.

I began to despair thinking of who I am yoked with as a Christan.

Ah, but what saved me last Friday was recalling the standards Jesus used when choosing people with whom to associate. He chose some blue collar guys, some rich guys, some educated guys, some unschooled fellows, some political radicals, some politically apathetic guys, some arrrogant dudes, and a whole bunch of women with varying economic, financial, and political statuses as well. In sort, he selected a bunch of people who were in their own ways weak and self-interested. He chose a bunch of frauds.

If these guys sitting around the table last Friday were in some way frauds, there were not any different that the frauds Jesus decided not only to hang out with, but to release portions of his mission to. And even more piercing to me Friday was the self-analysis of this question:

What kind of fraud won't associate with people Jesus has accepted?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Can't say no to this song

I've been taken by the song, "Good Enough" by Evanescence.

I do not know the intended context of the relationship within this song, but I take it as an extremely vulnerable prayer. The piano and strings and vocals are beautifully haunting and dramatic.

Anyone out there know this song or have thoughts on it?

"Good Enough"

Under your spell again.
I can't say no to you.
Crave my heart and it's bleeding in your hand.
I can't say no to you.

Shouldn't have let you torture me so sweetly.
Now I can't let go of this dream.
I can't breathe but I feel...

Good enough,
I feel good enough for you.

Drink up sweet decadence.
I can't say no to you,
And I've completely lost myself, and I don't mind.
I can't say no to you.

Shouldn't let you conquer me completely.
Now I can't let go of this dream.
Can't believe that I feel...

Good enough,
I feel good enough.
It's been such a long time coming, but I feel good.

And I'm still waiting for the rain to fall.
Pour real life down on me.
'Cause I can't hold on to anything this good enough.
Am I good enough for you to love me too?

So take care what you ask of me,
'cause I can't say no

Friday, October 19, 2007

The 3 Signs

There are three ways, three signs if you will, by which I know that I have overcommitted and become consumed with school and work.

1. I have an ambiguous sense of dread. Everything is frightening and I want to crul up in bed more than any other thing. It is ambiguous because when I am in it, I don't know what it is, why it is there or how to escape it. When I am caught within an ambiguous sense of dread, if I cought or sneeze, I have to rule out cancer as a first precaution because I figure that I must be, in some way, near death's front door.

2. My sacred windows close. Sacred windows of time with my family appear to me to be opportunities to get more work done knowing that everyone will understand.

3. I have neither laughed nor caused laughter in a span of three days.

If none of these are in play, I am probably pretty balanced - or am closing in on my ever enlarging capacity for denial.

Foolish Musings on Wisdom

Ever since I was a child, I have been interested in, longed for, intrigued by the concept of wisdom. It is probably the influence of my mother which got me interested in the thing.

Now, I can say by experience that interest in wisdom does not necesssarily correlate with increased wisdom. I have a good bit of stubborn foolishness lodged in me such that any attempt at quick extraction might cause the death of me - or perhaps even something more serious.

And yet, I do not lose heart because I know there is wisdom somewhere and I figure if I live long enough I might stumble across a bit of it - not that I would know what to do with it when I found it. In those rare moments when I detect the presence of wisdom, I regress into the depths of my immaturity. I'm a geeky 7th grade boy struggling to find a word, a single word, to speak to the very attractive 10th grade girl - the girl who actually wouldn't mind haging out with me if I acted the least bit human. Usually I am quiet in the presence of wisdom, but sometimes I crack and rattle off bizarre collections of words that in no way resemble meaning. I can further the window grade in Annapolis skyscrapers like Tibetan Monks...uhm...uhm.. Inconvenient Truth. Grizzly Adams. Spider monkeys farts smell really bad. When I am with wisdom I am out of context.

I find ways, with remarkable reliability, to alienate myself from wisdom everytime she flirts with me. Does wisdom ever run out of patience? If she does, I'm done for because this stake of fools is lodged in my heart and is sticking out of my chest and I have in many ways come to depend on it - kind of a Stockholm Syndrome dependence, but dependence nonetheless. I'm not sure she's willing to wait around for me to realize that I can break off the end of the stake and then go get surgery and actually remove this foolshness from me.

Sometimes she touches the end of the stake with the tip of her finger, cocks her head to the side to let her hair dangle down a bit, smiles, and benignly tries to start a conversation, "whatcha doin?" She doesn't make eye contact immediately, not until I start answering, which ends up being something about the flatulence of spider monkeys. I don't know how to talk to the girl.

When she asks what I am doing, I come to realize that I don't have any idea what I am doing and that I never had a clue that I was actually partiticpating in life in any meaningful way. But her question tells me that I am doing something and that my doings, whatever they are, not only can be noticed, but might even be of interest to someone. Her question is call not only to awareness, but a call to responsibility. Wisdom does not flirt with me becuase she wants to consume me, but rather because she wants to awaken me from my foolish slumber of self-absorbed immaturity, awaken from this love affair with the stake in my heart and be active in this world. She sees my power and wants to motivate me to use it for the benefit of the world.

My prayer is that I can learn to speak with wisdom, converse with her, receive her counsel. Who knows, maybe I'll set and appointment with the surgeon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

100,000 Hits

On Friday, one of you will be the 100,000th hit on th is blog.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


My wonderful, overly observant, creative, and not-afriad-to-say-it-to-your-face, nine-year daughter suggested to me that I should be Dumbledore for Halloween as she made me aware of her awareness of the few grey hairs emerging on my gotee and on my head.

Oh she laughed and laughed, thinking it to be quite funny. And her laughter was not misplaced because just prior to her laughter, she delivered her lines with an innocence (false though it was) that wandered into believability.

I love having children. I know that my own personal entertainment and amusement is not a good reason to have children, but dang, they are entertaining and amusing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Messiah: Stubborn and Patient

Broken bread; broken body,
Hunched under a world's wait
For a Messiah - The centuries
Stumble into each other
Anticipating a hero;

Broken bread; broken body,
Hunched under a world's amnesia
Of a Messiah - The centuries
Push each other over
To be the hero;

Broken bread; broken body,
Holding together a world of wounds,
For this Messiah - the centuries
Gathered together.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hard To Kill: Restoration Movement Version

There are lots of reasons for people to abandon their Restoration Movement church these days. Hypocrisy, irrelevant arguments, out of touch worship styles, some weird theology, and a growing sense of becoming the new Amish. And to be sure, many have left their RM church in the dust.

But larger numbers of people have remained. Oh sure, there are some who remain because they are trying to cling to old traditions and good feelings from the 1950's, but this crew is diminishing. Many people in RM churches, in contrast, are staying as they are slowly re-theologizing their lives in a number of ways. What keeps them from leaving is not so much the same theological adherence as their parents, but other theological, social, and strategic perspectives. Forces other than perfect doctrinal adherence are driving these people.

Here are a few:

1. Network. Their network of relationships is so strong that to leave the congregation would not be limited only to what happens on Sunday morning, it would mean losing deep friendships, a collective sense of direction, and the support of people who "understand." They would lose their "we-ness."

2. Comfort. There is something important about knowing where the blind spots are. Having to learn new blind spots can be very difficult and unnerving once you find them. Lots of these people who stay understand that putting themselves and their chidlren through the kind of change that moving on requires might do more harm than good.

3. Personalized Emergence. Many people who stay in RM churches know that there are flaws and tolerate them corporately; however, they have found other missional, spiritual, or worship outlets not provided by their congregation. Most of these people do thses kinds of things under the radar - under the radar not out of fear for themselves, but that their hearts are so good that they do not want to makes waves for other people.

4. Excessivley Patient: These people have hope and a high view of God and people. They believe that the current "identity crisis" RM churches are supposed ot be having is not going to outlast their dedication to God. They believe that God loves this people called the RM (among many other, of course) and will not leave them to be overrun by church tyrants, spiritual thugs, and the warlords of religion. They believe redemption is in process and in fact works best when things look their worst.

The Restoration Movement is going to be a hard one to kill off. There are just too many people who are truly loving God and exploring new theological realities who choose to remain.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

Philosophy Shifts in a 1000 places

Everywhere I turn, philosophy is hiding behind the door. From theology to theories of family and family therapy, to ideas about how change happens, to research methodology, philosophy is always there somewhere.

Not only is philosophy ever-present, it gathers and exerts a powerful influence people's thinking. Furthermore, people need not be aware that they are influenced by philosophy for it to have influence. In fact, the less aware a person is that philosophy has an influence, the more influence it is likely to have.

Let's look at theology and church. The emerging church is experimenting with a philospohical shift from modernity to postmodernity. It has sparked a huge debate. Many have called the emering church a heresy. The loyalty people have to their denominational brand is threaened with the emerging church. Emerging church people would say that they are just re-thinking church in a way that is truer than what church has become with all of the denominational contaiminations.

In the world of counseling and therapy, there is a shift from modern to postmodern. The big dog model of therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), has been one the top for models of therapy. The problem is that it doesn't work for everyone. New, postmodern, models of therapy are emerging. There is a pragmatic approach interested in common factors more than model of therapy. There are other postmodern therapies emerging as well. CBT disciples cannot agree that anything but CBT could help anyone. Kind of sounds like denominational loyalty to me.

I am now learning about the implications philosophy has on research and research methods. I wonder if similar patterns will emerge here as well.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Diagnosed by Palmer

If you are human, especially an educator or minister kind of human, then you should read Parker Palmer's little book called, "To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey."

The whole book is good, toggling between the philosophical and practical. It relies on wisdom of the Desert Fathers and a saying by Abba Felix.

What struck me this morning on the thrid to last page was this excerpt:

But most of us in our daily lives exist neither in solitude nor in community, but somewhere in between. We sacrifice both form and content of truth. Seldom are we truly alone, and seldom are we truly in relationship to others. This is the vacuousness of mass society and mass education: our lives alternate between collective busyness and individual isolation, but rarely allow for an authentically solitary or corporate experience. In this half-lived middle ground, our solitude is loneliness and our attempts at community are fleeting and defeating. We are alone in the crowd, unable to touch the heart of love in ourselves or to touch others in ways that draw out the heart.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Choking on RESEARCH

One time when I was a kid, I recall eating a large piece of pizza with my mother at the Pizza and Pasta in the local mall. A couple of college students approached us and asked if they could photograph us for a project there were doing. They needed photos of children doing things. They asked me to take a big bite of pizza, so I did.

Cheese and pepperoni drooped between my teeth and the pizza crust in my hand as I pulled my head slowly back from the pizza crust. The thinning cheese strand dangling between my mouth and the remaining pizza supported a single pepperoni, but the cheese was losing a battle to gravity.

The college students snapped photo after photo as I tried to smile with a massive mouth full of pizza. I had literally bitten off more than I could realistically chew.

I now feel like I have done the same thing, only this time it is with research projects. I am involved in varying degrees with 7 research projects. My professors said, "Do some research," and there I went doing research.

But, just like the pepperoni pizza, I really like it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How I learn

One of the things I am learning in doctoral studies is how I learn. Here are three examples.

1. I learn by writing. I knew this already, but I am finding that so much becomes clear to me when I write.

2. I learn by conversing. I need others to talk with. In my conversations with people I am affirmed and corrected. Knowledge and insight are created in conversation.

3. I learn by failing in front of other people. This is in no way pleasant, but it sure does motivate. When I fail publicly and then come to awarenes of my failure, I can feel the blood fill the flesh in my face. The humiliation can get so intense that I want to run away and become a ditch digger in Alaska. But then I come to realization that I have borrowed too much money to avoid graduation - and I stand there and take it, red face and all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I work too much

I knew from the beginning that this semester would be a bear. It's a grizzly as it turns out. I am working very hard, but I am loving it.

Blogging will be sparse, I am sure, through Christmas. However, I will try.

One of the tasks I am completing this semester is called the CRITICAL REVIEW. Basically I am critiquing, in a scholarly way, a patch of literature. It is a daunting and educational task. I have been thinking theories of family, psychology, and communication lately. I bet you've been thinking the same thing.

Of interest at this moment, however, is that HEROES is on. Me time.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

What to do with truth

When you seek truth, truth seeks you,
But be careful, you might meet each other;
When you meet, you will be tempted;
Do not tame truth,
For such violence leaves truth without life,
Do not run from truth,
For such fear scares truth far, far, away;

Join truth and let it join you,
For vulnerability to truth is growth.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Tripped into a murky mess
Brought down, face down
Nearly drown;
Sinking in the Swamp.

Inhaling the sludge of Fear
Coughing, choking, heaving Fear.

Push, push up;
Elbows, now hands,
Knees, now feet;

The courage to stand,
And not bow,
In Fearswamp,
Is the difference.

Sad Loss

I have been sad since Friday afternoon. My heart does not believe what my mind cannot deny.

I received word Friday afternoon that one of the professor's in my department, Wayne Caron, died. That is all I know. I looked in the obit page this morning to see what I could learn. His name was listed, but the obit read that information was to bo released, or something like that. All I learned was that he was only 51 years old. Way too young to die.

I had several conversations with Wayne in my first year of doctoral studies. He was humorous, engaging, and was an outside the box thinker. I recall how, when we first met to discuss research, that he said he was not primarily interested in my research interests, although that was important, but that he was interested in me. That kind of thing matters.

I can't believe he's not going to be up there in the department Monday when I return. It all seems fake, like some sort of horribly cruelhumor. My heart does not accept this reality.

I am not sure how to say this next line, so I am going to say it like this: This loss has agitated other losses in my life, roused their pain nearer to the surface. Pain travels in packs - never alone. When one pain bites, they all bite.

Making sense of pain while it is biting is more than difficult. I suppose for most, certainly for me, it is not a realistic goal. Trying to make sense of it, perhaps. But actually making sense? Naw. Sometimes it seems like life is this process of collecting lots of things when you are young and losing them all as you age - with the gain of wisdom as the consolation prize. It's so hard to make sense of loss.

Today, I am sad. I am sad for Wayne's family, his friends, his students, his Teaching Assistants, for the Department, and the people he served at the Family Caregiving Center. Wayne's death is a significant loss to many, many people.

My prayer is for everyone touched by his death to grieve in a healthy way and to let the influence Wayne has had in their lives to live within them. The world will be better for it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

God and Family 1.0

Let's suppose that, before time began, there was just God. And let's suppose that when the Bible says that "God is love" that such a claim is true - God and love are synonymous.

OK, now let's imagine that God wanted to expand love. I am not exactly sure how God gets bigger or love expands when there is only God. If God is infinite, then how do you get more infinity? But let's suppose that God figured that there is a way to increase love despite the fact that God and love are already infinite.

Perhaps God needed to create a new category of reality which has a capacity for love and it could be filled with love. Perhaps God created a sort of "not-God" whch could become more like God, were it willing to do so.

So, let's suppose there wasn't anything but God when God starting plotting on the expansion and increase of love. So, in order to fulfill the dream of making more love God creates a universe. Let's also assume God could have done it in six days or God could have initiated a 6 billion year process, but that the "how" is irrelevant.

So, now there is God and "not God." The "not-God" kind of resembles the God, but it is clear that two are distinct. We must remember that love is being expanded, not just made more known for what it is already.

God creates humans in the midst of this incredible creation of plants and animals and waters and lands and skies. Within the humans, at least, and perhpas within everything comprising creation, there is an infinite capacity for love. So, rather than a single infinite location for love to exist, there are billions of potential infinite love locations.

Now, God decides to place these individuals in relationship with each other through biological, emotional, and spiritual networks called families. New people are added to the creation not from the dust of the eargth, but rather from the people themselves. Families are formed. Generations are formed. Now there is not merely infinity contained within a person, but infinity shared between two or even multiple people.

So, if this is all true, God has entrusted a capacity for love and by definition a capacity for Himself, to individuals and therefore through relationships, God has entrusted the perpetuation and expansion of love adn even Himself to families.

Step back and think about that for a moment. Why would God do such a thing? Was God naive and think that people would make only good decisions? Did God believe people would actually use that capacity to love and actually fill it with love? Was God wise in releasing such capacity for depth within and between people knoing that there was no promise by the recipients that they would even bother to try?

The risk to release love to the structure of family was huge.

But the risk was not lost on God. The bible clearly says that God knew of the risk. "The sins of the fathers will visit the third and fourth generation." This was no mystery to God. And oh how true it is that these sins pay multiple visits. Children who are abused, children of alcoholics, children of hate-filled marriages, children of liars (the list could go on for quite some time) - they all experiene something ranging from unpleasant to completely debilitating when their parents fail to fill their infinite capacity for love with love.

However, God saw that the results were better when love did fill that eternal capacity. God's faithfulness lasts for a 1,000 generations. Here is what makes it worth the risk. A little bit of love goes a long way. It goes a long way because we were made for it. Love is powerful because when it connects with the eternal capacity within each of us and especially between us within our families, it is making God's dream of the expansion of love come true.

Love entering into new ground is God's dream coming true.

This is why the two greatest commandments have to do with loving God and loving people. It is God's dream come true. The law and prophets hinge on these and rendered utterly useless without them.

God has placed people within families because that is the best and most likely context in which love can be learned. From there, it can spread to friends, to neighbors - to enemies.

Of course it is no guarantee. God is a fan of free will. And yet, God is convinved that people, when given the free will chance to choose love, will choose it. God is banking on families to be nesting grounds of the expansion of love and therefore the expansion of God Himself.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

God and Family: Intro

I am starting a short series on God and Family. This series is not going to be patriotic, as the title might sound to some. It is not going to be a preachy or moralizing about how people should be in nuclear families and people in "broken" families are less. It is not going to exalt one kind of family and diminish another.

Instead, it is going to focus on how God takes a tremendous risk in entrusting family, in its many forms, with the task, responsibility, and beauty to love.

Part 1 will deal with God as love and entrusting Hmself to families.
Part 2 will deal with personal identity related to family
Part 3 will deal with family identity
Part 4 will deal with family as a context for celebration and healing
Part 5 will deal with family as an unfolding story of love

There, that ought to whet your appetite and it ought to commit to me actually writing these thoughts out.

Friday, August 17, 2007

High School Musical 2: A Movie Review

Well, they did it again. HSM2 started with a bang and didn't quit.

OK, there was the totally predictable and the necessary unrealism, but my kids were G-L-U-E-D to it, commenting over and over again that "this is way better than the first one." They were right.

It was fun, set up conflict, resolved it and played on classic high school relationship pettines in order to culminate into a classic for years to come.

Taking the show off the high school grounds was genius. HSM1 took that backdrop about as far as they could. The country club backdrop was fun and afforded them more latitude for developing (OK, developing is probably an overstatement) the characters and moving the cliche into a fresh setting.

The best move was pitting Ryan and Sharpay against each other. There is good cause and effect in relationships and they did a decent job of exposing the consequences of selfishness, showing the seduction of fame, and the value of friendship.
There were lots of bathing suits, but I have to say that they were modest. There was no pushing of the envelope with the dress in ths show and that made a huge differece. In fact, there was no pushing of any envelopes. The classic comparison to HSM is Grease. But I think that there is no comparison. Grease pushed the envelope in order to be cool. HSM looked at the envelope and shrugged. Why? Because classic high school themes are not at the extremes of the adolescent experience, they are at the mean.
HSM2 is a hit and will be for years to come.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

8 Random Things

PHD tagged me, so here goes.

1. My last name is Gonzalez and I cannot speak Spanish.
2. I was the MVP 3rd baseman in the 13 year old Babe Ruth World Series.
3. It took me 2 decades to kiss a girl for real.
4. Once, when I was a youth minister, I baptized a teenager who fainted during the baptism.
5. I have frequent and bizarre dreams and sometimes I think they are trying to tell me something.
6. There is nothing more satisfying to me than telling a story that makes someone laugh, think, or feel.
7. My children still think I am cool.
8. 6 years ago, while driving on I35 with my wife and two kids in Iowa, we had a blowout. One of the rear tires blew out and the van swerved violently and then rolled twice into the ditch. No one was injured - not even a scratch. Later that night, when I went to the van to retrieve our belongings I got a deep gash on my pinky finger from a broken piece of glass. It took four stitches.

Let's see, I will now tag the following people:

Light and Salt
Blog In My Own Eye
Phil Wilson

Monday, August 06, 2007

Some people just don't get it

I had a few conversations with people today about the 35W bridge collapse. A friend of mine had gone down to see the ruin and was struck by the silence of the people there. He said, "I felt like I was at a funeral." People were quiet and somber. There was a sense of "we" there even though none of hte people knew each other. He said there was a colective, but silent, "that could have been me" that was very present, even without the need for words.

My friends is someone who gets it, who realizes that the human condition is such that we must grieve loss, that we must respect pwer that is mysterious and beyond us.

Because of strange power outage on the U of M St. Paul campus, I could not get done what I needed to get done (however, it is possible to use the bathroom by the light of a cell phone if you are really in a pinch) . My next meeting was 90 minutes away on in St. Paul, so I had some time to on my hands. I went to the collapsed bridge site, which is no easy task. The officials will not let anyone get close to it. But I did go down near the stone arch walkway to see what I could see.

There were hundreds of people down there occupying the street of the aparement flats nearest the river and the now collapsed 35W bridge. People were quiet as they carried their cameras and chatted somewhat somberly about their thoughts and ideas.

There were two people, however, who looked to be int heir early 20's who also appeared to live in the apartment complex who were clearly agitated by the all of the people coming down to look, to grieve, to be shocked.

"It's not a f***ing carnival," a young women shouted to no one specific.
"Yeah," shouted a young male brimming with sarcasm and wearing no short, "now playing, Bridge."

No one paid attention to them. They were so collectively ignored and dismissed by the crowd that most people did not even bother to burn a quarter of a calorie to move their neck or turn their head such that they would find out who was being so harsh. The non-reaction was so pronounced that it seemed scripted to make these shouters look like fools.

When you know better, you know better. You don't object to a person's attendance at a loved one's funeral. When a community has suffered loss, the kind of loss that is mysterious and seemingly random, you must process it. You must learn someonthing of it in efforts to make sense of it. There is a need, in large measure, to soak in the death.

Loss creates gigantic holes in people's lives and they repsond in some way such thatthe hole can be filled or at least they go on an effort to make sense of the hole and learn in painful ways how to go on with life now that this huge hole exists.

So, residents who live near the bridge, please allow the rest of us to experience now what you experienced the day after. Our need to understanding wilol require trips into your front yard. we do not mean to be a nuisance, but we do seek meaning.

Friday, August 03, 2007

My Marriage Turns 11 Today

Eleven years ago today I looked down the center aisle from the front part of the sanctuary of the West Houston Church of Christ and saw the love of my life standing there, radiant in white and backlit by the light of the sun, glowing in a glorious display of the greatest beauty I have ever seen. Emotion flooded my body. Her beauty brought me to tears.

When she walked down the aisle, I was so taken by her. I wondered if this experience were really true - this dream. The only way I knew that I belonged there was that I was there and it was our wedding and she chose me.

I recall this day with clarity and happiness.

Eleven years later I have no regrets. We've had some fabulous times togehter. We've had two kids together. We've traveled thousands of miles together. We have our own language and often speak to each other in movie lines.

We've had hard times, but we've had them together. We survived a horrific car wreck, several moves, and some excruiciating situations. We survived them together.

We've both changed a great deal. We've both become more of who we already were. We have served as a catalyst for each other, teasing out those special, but dormant, pieces of each other.

Our marriage is dancing lessons for a couple of amatuers. We've been learning to dance for 11 years. We are slow learners sometimes, but it sure is fun learning.

We're closer to old than we have ever been. We hope that we are blessed with old age and companionship with each other. God willing, we'll have 50 or 60 more anniversaries together.

Prayer in Tragedy

When tragedy strikes, people get praying. People were probably already praying, but when something so obviously out of control of the hands of people occurs in dramatic fashion, many people look to God. Help save the people trapped, give us comfort, calm our fears, show us your love, give us understanding.

It is entirely human to long for trnascendence when the unpreventable and surprise disaster occurs. When something like the collapse of a major bridge in a major city during rush hour happens, it is a reminder that even with all of the power and control we have as humans and with all of the technology there is available to us, we are most certainly not in control.

What we want in times like these is to know that there is a power that exists that is bigger than the disaster. We want to know that we are not just balls of carbon based cells subject only to the whims of probability and chance. We want to know that we are not only loved, but loved by someone or something that can do something in this world.

We turn to God. Not everyone does, but most people do. Maybe God is a human creation as a way of coping with pain and fear. Maybe God is real and listens to what we say in these prayers in times of tragedy. Maybe God created people with the need for God and that we do turn to God as a way of coping adn God exists. It takes faith to believe anything about God since there is no empirical proof solid enough to justify the belief in the existance or non-existance of God.

For most people, their faith rests in the existance and not the non-existance of God - especially when sudden tragedy strikes.

I believe in God. I believe God allows great freedom and intervenes on it at will and that intervention cannot be explained by ideas about how people believe God is supposed to love or care or act. God acts and is justified in doing so.

God is present at every tragedy humanity can create for itself. In all liklihood, most of the tragedies are intervened upon and no one ever knows it because it never happened. However, of the few that are permitted, God is there and willing to flow though anyone, believer or not, to help people.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Know Your Bridge Safety Rating?

When you hear that a bridge has a safety rating of 50 out of a possible 120, your mind automatically equates it educational standards. If you scored 50 out of 120 in math class, you fail - and badly. So, is the same true of a bridge's safety score?

I don't know. It is hard to know what a number assigned to a structure means. Even when the words "Structurally Deficient" are attached to the bridge, it just makes matter more confusing. Such a label, in my mind, is attached to a structure that should not be used at all.

I predict the following will happen:

1. Bridge safety scores will become common knowledge.
2. These scores will be easily accessible on the internet.
3. Billions will be spent on bridge upgrades over the next decade.
4. People will not tolerate bridge safety scores under a certain threshhold - higher than 50.
5. Vocal bridge watchdog groups will form and create websites and hound politicians on poor bridge safety.

One year from today, you will know the bridge safety score of the major bridges in your city.

Why do bridges collapse?


That is the big question today in Minneapolis. Wy did the bridge collapse?

Some people are answering the question with comments about the structural integrity of the bridge. It's 50 of 120 rating strikes fear into the hearts of people, especially when they hear a large percentage of bridges get similar ratings. They fear every bridge is going to collapse even though they have no idea what a rating of 50 means. Words like "deficient" conjure up pictures of crumbling structures.

Other people are answering the WHY question politically, blaming Bush for not funding bridges enough. I am proud to see that Norma Coleman (R-Senator), Amy Klobuchar (D-Senator), Ralph Ellison (D-Rep), and Tim Pawlenty (R-Governor) are all Minnesotans today. Others, however, are already finding a way to blame politicians, namely the president for this.

There are a few coming up with theological answers for this. I am not aware of any theology of bridges that can be derived from scripture, but that does not seem to stop people from making them up. There are going to be some, no doubt, who blame God or wonder where God was. Didn't God know the bridge was going to fall? Could God ahve held it off until 3 AM, when very few people are dirving? There will be lots of God questions here - more blaming of God than anything else. These questions that of course cannot be answered by people will be evidence for doubters to remain convinced of their doubt.

There will be an investigation and that investigation will provide evidence. That evidence will provide approximate answers. Those approximate answers will be politicized at some point. I do have hope, however, that Minnesotans can resist the temptation to blame. We all know that the government is going to throw a bunch of money at this thing and we Twin Citians are going to get us a pretty nice bridge when it is all said and done.

I can't explain why this happened. I tend to think that government is not perfect, structures age and strain, and that God has allowed freedom way beyond what makes sense to humanity. And yet, God does not leave just because freedom has been given. God is near.

35W Bridge Collapse: Eye Witness Report

The following is an eyewitness report of the bridge collapse that I received from a Lori Peterson.

First…I pray that none of you or your family and loved ones were anywhere near the bridge when it collapsed…

I was out running my usual course along the Mississippi river…I had ran underneath the bridge and was a few hundred feet on the other side when I heard this terrible loud explosion and continued creaking…and felt the rumble…I turned and saw the big cloud of dust and water and could only imagine that they were testing dynamite or something…until the dust began to clear. And then it took a moment for my mind to register what had happened…it was eerily still and quiet…like a movie set. The bridge just sat in the river and many cars were sitting on the level pieces of roadway like they had just stopped to park. People began opening their doors and climbing out…then you began to focus on the cars that were precariously hanging…or stopped at a steep angle. Miraculously, many of those people also opened their doors and came out…by this time many of us who were running or biking were accumulating on the walkway…and seemed in shock. Some of the passengers walked over to us as if they had just been out for a walk as well…many were obviously in shock. I comforted a girl in a Twins T-Shirt that had to be a new driver…her entire body was shaking…she was on the phone to her Mom trying to explain what had happened. Another woman described the feeling as sitting in her car and it just kept dropping in intervals…bam – bam – bam…her shoulder belt would put extreme pressure on her each time…like she was being suspended and held in a dropping parachute. A very old woman was led off by a young man…she was smiling and showing us her only injury…a bruised knee.

The silence was eerie…it seemed like forever before a siren could be heard – and then it was a lone police car on the other side of the river. Quite a few men started heading to the huge blocks of pavement that were now resting in the river…as we all realized that not everyone would be so lucky to walk to safety. I noticed several cars were almost totally submerged and could only see one wheelbase.

And then the silence turned to chaos and countless police and fire engines arrived on the scene…fires started and there was a lot of yelling. At first none of the police seemed intent on our crowd which had formed a tight band very near the first drop of bridge…a mix of bystanders and survivors. A terrible explosion and burst of very dark black smoke erupted and burned our lungs and eyes…and soon we were all pushed back another few hundred feet from the destruction. I’m not even sure the police realized there were survivors in our crowd. By this time I was crying…realizing what could have been and thinking of all the people and families that would be suffering. There was a school bus….and it wasn’t empty.

I couldn’t run back home the way I had come…I ran up to Washington to cross 35W and looked back to where I had just been. Again…it was like a movie setting – there were cars up to the point of the break…and many people just standing in the middle of the freeway. The bridge heading the other way had also become a parking lot of gawkers. People had just stopped their cars and were standing on the other bridge in disbelief. I kept running and headed back to the river on the other side – and I couldn’t stop crying. People were swarming to the river…I saw tons of people in Twins garb and realized there must have been a game. I ran to the top of gold medal park by the Guthrie and just tried to take it all in. I kept feeling this tremendous urge to pray…and not by myself. There were about 50 people gathered on top of the hill…I yelled out to the crowd, “Does anyone want to pray for the people on the bridge?” I’ll be honest…they kind of looked at me like I was nuts. Was I? I yelled it again…finally a young woman and her boyfriend (in Twins T-Shirts) raised their hands and said YES! And then more gathered in…we had about 15 people standing in a small circle on top of this hill…we held hands and prayed…

And then I watched and listened for awhile…I listened to the countless conversations of people around me.

“Mom…I’m fine…we had already parked our car.”
“It’s on the news in Texas? I’m standing right here man…you can’t believe it.”
“I’m ok…really…wait, I have another call coming in.”

Suddenly I had this urge to get home and make sure Mark and Travis were safe. I knew neither of them were in that area…but I needed to KNOW. I was the only one running away from the fallen bridge. There were now hundreds gathering all along the shore…people were coming out of the Guthrie…office buildings and the countless condos along the rivers edge. It seemed everyone was on their cell phone…

I turned up 4th and saw Mark coming down the street on his bike…I just stopped and cried. He held me and we just stood for what seemed like a long time. He told me he had just talked to Travis who was on his way to St. Cloud…he was safe. Mark had been headed to a softball game when someone called him with the news. He knew I had left to run…he came back to find me. Nothing mattered at that moment except knowing that we were all safe. And I began the inevitable ‘what if’s’? What if I had been one minute slower? It was really hot when I had stepped outside…I didn’t start running right away as I normally do…I was fiddling with my Ipod and even thought of walking down the one block to the river instead of running and changed my mind.

Life can change in a moment.

Later we watched the news in awe…as I’m sure many of you did. Calls from friends and family came making sure we were ok. And most ended with, “I love you – so glad you’re safe”. And nothing else really matters….

And as my mind tends to do in times of destruction and tragedy…it eventually turned to protection. I thought of how many cars were insured by State Farm…how many lives? Did everyone have adequate protection for whatever their loss would be? Had they spoken to their agent or team member lately? Did we do our job of taking care of them? Advising them? We have opportunities every day to take care of people. And we never know when tragedy will strike. We are confident that it won’t – just as everyone on or around that bridge was last night. But it does…and it’s our job to make sure we advise…and recommend…and most importantly care.

This was an experience I will always remember…I thank God I was that minute slower…and I pray for the safety and well being of all those who were there. And I pray that the closest you and your family were to the tragedy was through your TV.

Thanks for listening….

Bridge Collapse: The Response

Two cool stories of the response to the bridge collapse which I think give testimony to what a great city Minneapolis is.

1. There is a lock and dam just up river from the collapsed 35W bridge. They are using the dam to lower the river level in order to aid recovery work. Someone is super smart.

2. There was a Twins game in downtown Minneapolis, less than 1 mile from the bridge. The Twins ticketing system uses an infrared scanner to scan the barcades on each ticket. What this does is allow the Twins to know who is in the Metrodome. They used this information to locate people as they tried to identify how many people were missing. Genius. Smart cooperation.

Minneapolis Bridge Collapse Links

The 8 lane bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis Wednesday is a horrific reality. Read more about the collapse at the following links:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

The Minneapolis Bridge collapse is every bit as dramatic and horrible as you have seen in the news. It's like the Twin Cities have had a heart attack.

It happened during rush hour. The news is running wall to wall here in the Twin Cities. Fifty or so cars were on the bridge when it fell into the Mississippi River. Seven are dead and dozens injured.

What is amazing is that everyone didn't die in this mess.

Just three hours prior to the collapse, my wife crossed that very bridge to meet me in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota. How grateful I am that she was not there when it happened.

Terror has already been rules out as a cause, but no one seems to know what the cause of the collapse is. The bridge is old, but has passed annual inspections.

The great story is that a bus full of school children that was on the bridge when it collapsed all survived. Amazing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


It has been a year and four months since my father passed away. I am learning the long road of grief. Just over a year is not the long road, but it is long enough to see the beginning of the long road. It is long enough to move through the initial shock and all the firsts.

One thing I am finding about the long road of grief is that there are benchmarks that come by once per year whereby a measurement can be made.

For example, last week at family camp was a very healing week for me. It was good to compare it to last year at camp. I remember last year at camp how strained all of my conversations were with people. I recalled how lacking in humor the whole week was for me. I remember last year's weight of seeing all of those people for the first time since my father died.

This year at camp, nothing was a first. It was lighter and funnier and normaler. I got a chance to prove to myself that I can be in that situation and remember who I am, to some extent. I also got a chance to reflect back and see how far I have come, and it is encouraging. However, it also gave me a chance to realize that there is so much more ground to cover. There are places, little pockets, in my life where I am still not strong. My heart limps sometimes and in certain situations. There are some situations I am just not ready for. Will I ever be ready for them? Time will tell the truth about those.

I have come to believe that losing a parent or someone super close is like a brain injury in which you lose some memory and lose the use of parts of who you are. Recovery comes over long stretches of time, though sometimes in spurts. There is no guarantee that all former memories and abilities will be regained. Life may have taken a permanently new direction without your permission and there is no recourse, no way to resolve it, no getting back on track. There is a new track. The loss is permanent and the hope is that other parts of the brain, of life, can in some way compensate for the missing pieces. There is hope for a mosiac of helps from all over to, in some artistic or even cartoonish way, reconstitue what is lost.

Oh sure, you hear stories all the time of people making it, but you also hear the stories of the people who never were the same again - in the worst of ways. In stronger times it is easy to believe that you are the kind of person who makes it. However, when days come along that the fact that there is just one more day to plow through throws you into fright, it is easy to believe there is no hope. Sometimes the the swing between hope and hopeless is taxing - violent.

There are days when the fact that there is in some way an autopilot function in this human life is cause for the highest gratitude because it is what got you off the pillow and what brought you back to it once again. There are days when the social scripts for polite conversation were essential, and it was good that they were memorized because there was no cognitive reserve for the creation of sense-making words. Laughs were laughed not in repsonse to humor, but to cues for laughter. There are zombie days in grief.

There is another piece to grief that I have learned. It takes more energy to arrive at the same amount of action than it did before. I might be getting older, but I don't think that accounts for all of this experience. Or maybe grief ages people more quickly. Whatever the case, if I do not work harder to get into the day than I did before, then the day might just eat me up and slowly digest me. It's like having 25 extra emotional pounds to carry. I am not sure if I'll ever get to let those pounds go, but I am sure that with effort, I can get better at carrying them.

It might be that those pounds become part of who I am.

Well, it's late and I need to get to bed.

Beautiful and Ugly Conversations

Conversation is essential to relationships. Some conversations are problem solving conversations. Some conversations serve to ease discomfort. Some conversations communicate information. Other conversations are just plain hilarious. There are conversations which are creative, full of discovery, or educational.

And then there are conversations that tear down. There are conversations that waste time, distract, or dismantle. These kind of conversations are better left unconversed.

Conversations are not neutral. People entering conversations leave them different.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blog Off - gone camping

I will not blog until I am done being at this lake. End of July or so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mission Dei In The Crisis of Christianity: A Book Review

Fred Peatross has written a book. Actually, he has written a few books. But the book I want to point you toward is Missio Dei In The Crisis of Christianity.

This is a good book and worth a read for a lot of reasons, but I want to share two of these reasons with you.

1. The book is short. Why is a short book a good book? Well for one, it is digestable for just about any reader. There is good theology in it, but not daunting theology. Books bogged down too much in theology come across as more interested in you reading the book than in doing anything with what is being said in the book.
Peatross has integrity. You get the feeling Fred is more interested in you going out and doing mission than spending tons of time reading the book.
2. The Church Has Left The Building. Peatross gives us the clear message that church is leaving the building. The interesting thing is that while the church is leaving the building, it is not leaving God. This book taps into the current ecclesial zeitgeist of the church shedding its institutional skin for freer and more adventurous way.
There are a bunch more goodies in Missio Dei. Go get it.

Research: Mission Impossible

A cross-sectional study in which data are collected at one point in time.

A longitudinal study is a study in which data are two or more points in time (at least three points is preferrable).

Both approaches have their place in research and have brought us much knowledge. However, it is important to understand their limits and the limits of research in general.

The bottom line is that it is super hard to know something.

Suppose you go to your local Barnes and Noble and pick a novel off the shelf, open to page 152, and begin reading. It's going to be really hard to capture the gist of the plot. You might get a little more if you pull ten novels written by the same author from the shelf, open to page 152 of each of them, and begin reading.

The obvious flaw in your strategy for learning ht eplot is that you are not beginning at the beginning. Jumping into a story right in the middle of it is the way most social research is conducted.

For example, there are tons of studies on teenagers. Most of these studies are conducted when the teenager is a teenager, but have not considered the decade and half prior to the time of the study. I did one of these studies myself. I will probably do more.

You'd do better starting at the beginning and ending at the end.

But that is really hard to do. There are some studies (major projects and datasets) that have followed people from birth and into several decades, but these are super expensive and take tremendous commitment and patience on the part of the researchers. It also takes great forsight. How do you know which questions to ask at birth which will matter in 10, 30, or 50 years?

Research is an important thing in our world and has lead to some terrific discoveries and creations; however, there should be no hope that it will be the panacea, the solution, the end of the matter. Research is the search for truth - the ever-present, ever-elusive reality that refuses to be tamed. We should research this world we live in and at the same time understand that there is no arrival with research.

Research does not bring about intellectual closure, and anyone hoping for it to do so will become disillusioned. Instead, research reveals options, pathways, directions. Intellectual closure is an impossible mission.

If you want to be a researcher, you had better be prepared to walk into a story that is already in progress and do your best to find your way around in it. You enter the story of the lives of the people you interact with and you enter the larger story of research itself.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Deconstructing Your Spouse

What you believe about your spouse and thetrut about your spouse are not the same. Always. The best you can do is gain a closer approximation of who you are married to.

Let's assume I'm right in saying above. If I am right, then some people would be very discouraged by the fact that they can't know your spouse fully. It would feel risky. It might feel unstable or insecure. There might be the fear that not knowing is bad and therefore there can be no trust.

On the other hand, some people would be energized by the fact that they can always, even into old age, learn more about their spouse. There is no cause for boredum in marriage when there is no limit to what you can continually learn about your spouse. These marriages do not get stale or stuck. There is the constant sense of hope, of wonder, of intrigue in the marriage hat can never be fully known.

Going a little further, not only can you not gain a complete knowledge of your spouse, your spouse does not remain the same. So, even if you were to come to complete knowledge of your spouse today, she or he might not (will not) be the same perosn tomorrow.

So, in order to know your spouse as close to the real spouse you are marriage to, you must be willing to challenge your own "knowledge" about him or her. You must deconstruct your beliefs and reconstruct you understsand according to what is happening in real time.

What about the past? Yes, it matters, but we cannot remain there. The past is part of the accumulated present and anticipated future.

You may not be loving your spouse until you deconstruct her or him.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Biblical interpretation for our times

"No greater love hath mortal man than to go to Michael's with his wife."

-My wife interpreting scripture.

YES! She gets it. She has replaced "for a friend to die" with "go to Michael's with his wife."

Michael's = death. It's the perfect interpretation.

Whoa, that really speaks to me. I am getting credit for those Michael's trips. YES!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Brand Loyalty

The Pope reminded us recently that salvation is through the Cathloic Church. It's disappointing. I remember the same message from my church (Church of Christ). I spent years of my life feeling lucky and glad that I was in the right church, that I was saved because I was not deceived like the people in other churches - false chruches.

When I learned that more people than Church of Christ people are "saved," I was mixed in my feelings. On the one hand I was glad that more people were acceptable to God, but I felt betrayed as well. What I counted on to be truth was just a marketing effort to promote brand loyalty. Oh, it was a sincere and naive effort most of the time, but marketing none the less.

I survived. I am okay in my faith. However, that is not the case for some others. What passes for truth, all too often, is an institutional, self-promotional power grab which uses Hell as a wedge against people of the wrong denomination, group, or belief. Lots of people get the taste of this kind of ingrouping and outgrouping and run for the hills.

I am sure the Pope's words about the Catholic Church being the only one's who can be saved are comforting to the faithful, but how can it look like much more than a marketing ploy?

My hope is that people will not be fooled by these exclsuive claims, this cornering of God.

God's not limited to a church, a denomination, a doctrine.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Talk(s)

My wife and I began what is going to be a series of planned and impromtu talks with our children about sex. My wife spent Friday evening and half of Saturday with our daughter and I did the same with our son.

There were planned conversations like the classic, "Where do babies come from?" conversation and the, "Here's what is and will be happening to your body" conversation.

No question was off the table.

"How does the dad give the mom the seeds?" was my favorite question from my seven year old.

Talking about sex with your children can be an intimidating thing to do. There are certain fears that parents have about doing some sort of damage to their kids. And, it is good to be cautious. At the same time, it is important to understand that sexual conversation is upon them already.

My daughter told me about a boy in her 3rd grade class who was always talking about humping. After some exploration of the kind of humping he was talking about, it turns out he was talking about what dogs do. "Humping," as it turns out has not changed in definition since I was a kid - a relief or sorts for me. However, it did alert me to the fact that this kind of conversation and likely a whole lot of others are eching through the school walls in third grade.

Another thing to consider about talking to your children about sex is that young children, unless they have had extensive TV exposure or experienced abuse, is that kids have not been exposed to the misuses and abuses of sex. Sex, when spoken of in appropriate ways, cannot be a dirty thing to a kid. Sex isn't dirty. It's interesting to a kid. It's weird to a kid. It might be gross to a kids, but not in an immoral sort of way.

Biological forces are at work in your child which will lead them to shed their little bodies for larger adult bodies. Sexual development is not something to be left to the echoing voices in school. At some point in school there will be formal sex education. It is good to have laid some groundwork at home prior to this happening in school.

Finally, what I like most about the time I spent with my son (and the time my wife spent with my daughter) was that we can talk. They are not afraid to ask us a question. Since I didn't freak out when my son asked me about how the dad gives the seed to the mom, he does not think that to be a bad question. What awful tihngs can be done to a kid who asks an innocent question. I told him it was a really good question and that he was smart to think of such things.

I want that door to remain open as long as as possible. The longer he feels safe asking me such questions the better chance I have in making a difference in his life. Because, no matter what, he is going to ask these kinds of questions and many, many more as he grows. I'd rather he ask me than someone who gives him bad information. I'd rather I show him how to get good information than to leave it up to the boys in class who "know" about humping.

Friday, July 06, 2007

To Be A Reseacher 2

This is my second installment on being a researcher. The first is here.
The strange thing about being a researcher is that you have to be creative, imaginative, and take risks.

Creativity, imagination, and risk-taking were not words I would have associated with being a researcher a year ago before I entered into my doctoral program. What creativity or imagination does it take to crunch numbers? How risky is a spreadsheet full of numbers?

Oh, but the spreadsheet full of numbers is just the means by which you arrive at something meaningful. The creativity and imagination comes in the questions. Yes, there is the literature search you do to come up with questions, but that is limiting yourself to other people's imagination if that isall you do.

An incurable imagination must be what drives the researcher.

"I wonder what would happen if..."
"Has anyone ever thought about..."
"Is anyone asking ___________ about this phenomenon?"

Taking risks means doing something different in front of other people. It might be using a different method of analysis. it might be asking unconventional questions. it might be trying out a sophisticated method you have never tried before. It is presenting your findings in front of other people at conferences.

There are political risks in research as well. Your findings might get you tagged as a liberal or a right-winger. You might be misquoted or taken out of context. You might get challenged or refuted. You might get completely ignored altogether.

In my first year of doctoral work, I tried super hard to think of the right question. I wanted to do it right. I floundered badly for weeks on end. What I failed to do was get curious, get creative and get imaginative. I failed, in essence, to take the necessary risk which is required in a full and generous use of my own imagination. An imaginative person is motivated to work hard because his or her work is a mission, it is an adventure, and it is fun.

Yes, I said fun.

If you cannot have fun being a researcher, then I wonder why you would want to be one. Change the world? OK, maybe, but even then, change it into what? Even in landmark, groundbreaking research, there has to be a sense of adventure and curiosity. I guess you could bring home a paycheck and that is enough for you, but that is enough to create something that matters to anyone else? Maybe.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is that researchers are creative.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Flowers oF Hastings

Click here to see the flowers of Hastings, Minnesota.

Happy Bithrday, America

Happy Birthday, America.
Thanks for the freedom you have generously given me.
Thanks for the cool holidays like the 4 th of July where I get to watch colorful explosions.
Thanks for prosperity.
Thanks for the opportunity to get an education.
Thanks for plenty of food and clean drinking water.
Thanks for freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Thanks that you have said "All men are created equal."
Thanks for trying to live up to that ideal (and including women in that ideal).
Thanks for a culture that presses toward innovation.
Thanks for the optimism.
Thanks for democracy and giving people a voice.
Thanks for setting up mechanisms of change self-critique.
America, you are not perfect, but you have done some wonderful things. So, today I honor your 231st birthday with respect and celebration.
America, please continue to make every effort to move toward greatness in generosity, compassion, and courage.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

All (?) in the family

You would think that a question like, "Who is in your family?" would yield identitcal results from one family member to the next. Well, it doesn't. Who is considered a family member is subjective and can be unique to each member of the family.

When families blend and form stepfamilies, the answers get even more divergent. Consider the research below.

Stepfamily Living
Family Identity: Children and adults often define family membership differently. In one study, children and adults were asked to identify people they consider their family.
  • Less than 10% of children failed to mention a biological parent,
  • 31% did not include a residential stepparent in their family list.
  • They were also more likely to omit stepsiblings from the list (41%).
  • Just 15% of adults, on the other hand, neglected to list stepchildren.

Furstenburg, F.F. (1987), The new extended family. In K. Pasley & M. Ihinger-Tallman (Eds.), Remarriage and Stepparenting: Current research and theory (p. 42-64) New York: Guilford. Reported in Susan Stewart, Brave New Stepfamilies, 2007.

This is important to understand because it reveals that people in stepfamilies get familied at different rates. You can imagine the potential for conflict when a stepparent who has familied their stepchild tries to assert authority on a stepchild who has not familied the stepparent.

"Who are you to tell me what to do?" is likely to be the response.

So, the point here, I think, is that people get familied at different paces and that familization pricess must be respected.

Peace is like...

There is a future for the man of peace. Psalm 37:37

Sometimes this kind of saying is hard to believe. Wars, small and large, dot the earth. There is violence in all cities and towns. Domestic violence and violence against children occurs at alarming rates. There is much evidence to say that there is not much peace to be found.

But this verse is not saying that there is peace. Instead, it implies a lack of it. It implies that a man (person) of peace is a rare and good thing. A man of peace is patient. It does not say that he has a present, but it does say that he has a future.

Peace is like yeast. It needs some time to make its impact.

Peace is like a tree. It needs time to grow. The more it grows the stronger it is.

Peace is like a river. In appearance it is gentle, but it carves away rock and carries away trees.

Peace is like the wind. It cannot be stopped or killed. It can go anywhere.

Peace is like the sun. Just because there are times when you cannot see does not mean it is not there.

Peace is like ants. Constantly busy toward a goal and undeterred by barriers.

Peace is like a pregnant woman. There is the ever emerging promise of something wonderful that becomes more and more noticable over time. Though pain and sometimes deep fears join along in the journey, the end result is a wonder and the pain and fear fade in to the shadows.

Peace is like kudzu. It grows on existing structures and changes them.

Peace is like blanket of snow. It first blesses with its beauty, but them eventually melts and quenches the thirst of winter dried soil.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Calling Names

I posted previously about the power to name. I took a look at the negative side of naming, which I will call labeling.

There is a good side to naming. Giving or using appropriate names is different than, even the opposite of, labeling a person. Parents name their children. It is a powerful thing to do. It is an intimate thing to do. That name almost always remains for the duration of the child's life.

People who know your name can talk with you. People who know you by a label cannot speak with you. They can talk at you or near you - they might be able to talk (down) to you, but not with you. People who know you by name know more than just the word you respond to. They know you.

You know who the people are who are capable of, who have the right to, call you by name.

The book Watering On Water is a great book that has a lot to say about the power of naming, and the power of labeling.

And then there is God. The ancient Jewish people had a way of referring to God a the YHWH. This has been translated as Yahweh, Jehovah, or Lord. What I like about the way the Jewsih people dealt with the name of God by not actually having the name for God means that they recognize that they cannot name God. Not being capable of naming something means that the thing, whatever it is, defies the container in which a name would place it.

God cannot be named, contained, or defined. God cannot be labeled and cast aside like so many people have been from all times. God names. God names the namers. God does not label.

God has released the power to name to people. There are few greater acts of trust than giving someone the power to name.