Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Warrior-Poets....

"Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, 'Aha!' He catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry." -Job 39:19-25

I watched Braveheart last night with Destiny and Micah last night. I had to edit some for Micah but decided to let him get a bit more reality to sword play than Oblivion or "Runescape" gives. They both had reactions that I didn't expect. Destiny said she felt the "love story" was underdeveloped, leaving her feeling like that plot line didn't give much energy to the motive of the movie. Micah said he thought William Wallace was too much of a murderer.

I can see their points and have pondered the truth in Micah's perception of the man, William Wallace. I was tender towards his innocence at seeing the movie in light of his child heart and mind. Kids have a gift at seeing issues more simply and often more truthfully. Having a childlike heart is representative of Kingdom life...but so is learning to leave childish thinking and things behind. It's a path of maturing that hopefully produces a man with a good heart, a wise mind and hands of action.
But I imagine that fine line of solider and murderer is hard to define in battle...a fact, that often leads to so much Post Traumatic Stress for warriors. The glamorization of war is a fixation in our culture. There is a tough line between gladiatorial blood lust and the value of upholding heroes, patriots and men and women of valor who have fought for justice, truth and righteousness. Instilling a proper value for defending the weak, standing up for the oppressed and fighting for good is a challenge as a Christian father.

I saw this video the other day, that shows a bully provoking a kid who didn't want to fight and tried to get out of it but ends up having to deal with the situation. It's a scene I've seen countless times and been in myself, more than once.
Kid Teaches Shirtless Bully a Lesson

I've thought a lot about the process of raising young men and where the line is between being a battle thirsty warmonger or a spineless, cowering pacifist. Outworking the obvious masculine propensity for strength, action, risk and a deep inner sense of justice...the whole cocktail of traits common to a bloodstream coursing with testosterone.

At the end of the movie, Gibson, quotes these words in reflecting on the journey of his people and their battle against the English:

"In the year of our Lord 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen and won their freedom." ~Braveheart

I looked up that phrase: Warrior-Poet, because it captured a tension that I thought represented what I was struggling with. Here is the definition:

"The Warrior-Poet is the several thousand-year-old tradition of dedication to developing the body and the mind as one. The bushido warrior code of ancient Japan, the Shambhala teachings of Tibet, the chivalrous knights of medievil Europe, and the ancient Greek warriors are all examples of this proud tradition. The Warrior-Poet retains a myeriously ancient auora, a member of the leadership class who guides with wisdom and courage. They are defined by their dedication to their crafts of warfare, and intellectual study and reflection. The Warrior-Poet learns to develop the mind and the body as one, using each to guide the other. The Warrior-Poet is also a spiritual warrior. The warrior-poet understands their true relationship to the heaven and the earth. They understand that they embody the heavenly representation to the earth, and the earthly representation to the heavens. In other words, it is up to the warrior-poet to balance the cruel realities of the earth, while living by the standards of the heavens." (from: wiki.answers.com)

The other day, i was faced with a situation where I had to go talk to someone and I knew the subject matter was probably volatile. I didn't want confrontation or drama but I knew that I had to face the person for the benefit of others. I found myself praying for grace as I attempted to deal with the injustice of the situation. I swallowed my fear of the unknown outcome and moved forward in the same posture of a warrior...no bloodshed but a victory was one and it required courage. It was no epic Braveheart battle but it was a situation that required a brave heart.

"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from My sight cease to do evil,
Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless,
defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
-Isaiah 1:16-17

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Existential Ape...

My favorite comic for today in light of the doozy of a week that I have been through. It seems like lately there's been a massive proverbial dumping going on and a lot of it has seemed to land in my corner of the world. I think it was most serendipitously experienced the other day, when I was going outside to sit in the lovely sun, while accompanied by the mornings counsel-lee. As the sun hit my most Freudian, congenial self...I stepped in a pile of dog crap. Nothing like spending an hour counseling in the deep matters of interpersonal drama with doggie poo on your shoe, pants and foot.

So after a week of dealing with child abuse, depression, suicide threats, inconsiderate, pain in the butt christians, marital infidelity, on one hand...all while wading through angelic fornication, forbidden and banned books of the bible, 450 foot man eating giants; and on the other hand, dealing with local money grabbing christian hucksters, swooning & juiced up jeezuz, gyrating charismaniacs, and the doe-eyed, perma-grin, modern gnostics...all on the tail end of a couple weeks of family sickness...I'm feeling like a mad ape myself.

I found myself reading Psalms 43 this morning and the words that stood out to me were simply:

O' God. -Psalms 43:4

O' God...what a fitting prayer, meditation and mantra for the start of the week....Got to love David, he knew poo.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The "Harlequinized" Jesus....

I think there has always been a "Romancing Jesus Movement" going on in the history of the church, but I think it might be picking up steam. The early mystics (St. John of the Cross, Madame Guyon, St. Teresa of Avila, Boneaventure, even more modern folks like Meister Eckhart, George Fox, Gene Edwards etc...) built or build upon, a type of devotional "Bridal Theology" and its sacred fragrances and tinkling sonata's are in full bloom these days.

I think there is merit in some of the sacred romance side of spirituality but I think too much of it and one's spiritual compass point becomes dangerously "me centered" or "Jesus is my boyfriend" type of Christianity.

The worship movement has promoted a lot of this "Jesus is my lover" imagery. I think in a broken and isolated culture, where individualism has eroded a sense of community and the home front has suffered a relational hemorrhage....people turn to God in ways and on levels, that is understandable, but almost idolatrous. The prophet Ezekiel was outright lewd in his descriptions of this fully grown, type of idolatrous and self focused faith (Ez 16); so much so, if I typed it here...some of your internet filters would block this site!

But another more tragic but real issue, is the lack of godly men. Let's face it, most of us married men are spiritual blocks of wet wood.

What Christian woman wouldn't be tempted to start turning to Jesus more and more to meet her marital needs. Many women are left cold by their spiritually disinterested mates and alot of that hunger is projected onto the Heavenly Man called Jesus...who of course is every woman's perfect husband.

It all starts feeling really weird and plenty of men have caught their wives in what feels like some spiritual affair with an unseen Man...who is always there, never hurts them and practically never talks back, at least audibly. He's always "listening" and they usually get to tell you what He is saying to them, because no one else can hear Him. They generate songs to Him, write poetry about Him, chatter, tweet and blog about Him and live in an ever growing bridal anticipation of His coming to rescue them from the evil dragons; and sweep them off to His castle in the sky. Who wouldn't fall in love with Him?
It's from that sincere, but often "Harlequinized" version of Christianity, that the first picture above, can sometimes grow out of.

Now I know I run the risk of offending or even hurting some who would read this, by even hinting at some of this type of stuff. Understand, I'm trying to address the over-emotional, gushy stuff that is hanging like a cloud of bad K-Mart perfume over many churches and believers lives. I reconginze that there is a legitimate place for single people to "devote themselves" to the Lord:

"The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord." -1 Corinthians 7:34-35

The key word that my thoughts revolve around is that word "appropriate" in the verse above. I think if husbands were honest and men in general spoke openly about it...many would either admit the inner sense of jealousy, guilt or competition or on the other hand would confess that they have abdicated the role willingly, because Jesus is just so much better at it than they are. Both situations fail to nurture that healthy married or single lives God desires us to be moving towards.

In the end...I think some women need to end their emotional affairs and do the hard work of loving the men they can see, instead of the One they cant. And a lot of men need to reengage their spiritual lives, strip off that lazy outer man garment and become the God lover their ladies crave.

Thank God, I found a women who has beautifully discovered the healthy balance of devotion to Christ and love of her husband. God increase her tribe...the men and women of this era need a godly splash of cold water.

Oh, and no disrespect to the artist who drew the first painting, Im sure it came from a sincere place, my thoughts are meant to cast like on the subject matter I dealt with.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Hero's Journey...

Like an ice axe to my heart....

"If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a first hammering on our skull, why then do we read it? So that it shall make us happy? Good God, we would also be happy if we had no books, and such books as make us happy we could if need be, write ourselves. But what we must have are those books which come upon us like ill-fortune, and distress us deeply, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us." -Quoted by George Steiner, "Language and Silence"

The picture is me reading a book on Knots...not necessarily a life altering read but tying knots is a challenging endeavor if you've never learned any worth tying.

The consumer church....

"If we have a nation of consumers, obviously the quickest and most effective way to get them into our congregations is to identify what they want and offer it to them, satisfy their fantasies, promise them the moon, recast the gospel in consumer terms: entertainment, satisfaction, excitement, adventure, problem-solving, whatever…We are the world's champion consumers, so why shouldn't we have state-of-the-art consumer churches? There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way in which God brings us into conformity with the life of Jesus and sets us on the way of Jesus' salvation. This is not the way in which we become less and Jesus becomes more. This is not the way in which our sacrificed lives become available to others in justice and service. The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of a sacrificial, "deny yourself" congregation. A consumer church is an antichrist church. We can't gather a God-fearing, God-worshiping congregation by cultivating a consumer-pleasing, commodity-oriented congregation. When we do, the wheels start falling off the wagon. And they are falling off the wagon. We can't suppress the Jesus way in order to sell the Jesus truth. The Jesus way and the Jesus truth must be congruent. Only when the Jesus way is organically joined with the Jesus truth do we get the Jesus life…The operating biblical metaphor regarding worship is sacrifice – we bring ourselves to the altar and let God do with us what He will. -Eugene Peterson, "The Jesus Way"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Eternal Judgement....

For further reading i’ve linked to two small essays that speak about some of the issues brought up in this last Sunday's message at
Jacob's Well, regarding Eternal Judgement:

General Rules for Mental Improvement
An essay that helps us develop the mind of a student and how to logically and reasonably look at issues of controversy.

A short paper that looks at the word Jesus used in his teaching on “Hell”.

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
-Jude 1:3

This week we taught on the Eternal Judgment (crf: Hebrews 6:12) based on these passages in Jude:

-1:4: "this condemnation"
-1:5: "subsequently destroyed" 
-1:6: "kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the Judgement day"
-1:7: "undergoing the punishment of eternal fire"
-1:11 “perished”
-1:13: "black darkness has been reserved forever"
-1:15: "to execute judgment upon all"
-1:23; "save other, snatching them out of the fire"

As a church, we teach from the Bible (primarily expository); and discipline ourselves to work at building our understanding of biblical truth from the whole counsel of God’s word. That means we stick to the passage and try not to bring arguments or controversies from outside the passage into the passage. We want the scripture to speak for itself.

The issue of Hell is a very important subject. Whenever you are dealing with the subject of people’s eternal destinations; you better handle it with fear and trembling. In this spirit I have chosen to maintain the solid ground on the issue that has been historically professed in the creeds, primarily the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.

These documents, though not inspired, do historically represent the Christian churches agreement on what is considered of first importance regarding doctrine. In affirming the creeds, we stand on solid scriptural ground and yet, allow room for differences on secondary matters.

We aim at interpreting the unclear passages of scripture by the clear passages in matters of speculation.

These creeds affirm a “Resurrection, a Day of Judgement and Immortality or Eternal Life” and we feel this is a good middle ground to maintain. To go too far beyond these words leads one to eschatological speculation and the possibility of mishandling the character and purposes of God.

This theological navigational process has been succinctly summed up by two famous Christian theologians:

"In Essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, love"        
-Augustine (354-430 AD)

“The faith preached by the Apostles, attested by the Martyrs,
embodied in the Creeds,
expounded by the Fathers.”
-C.S. Lewis

The Apostles creed: Appears to have been the general creed of the Christian Church, in a form very similar to that which it now bears, from the close of the second century. At that time and afterwards it served not only as a test of Christian doctrine, but was also used by catechists in training and instructing candidates for admission to the Church. The original germ of it is to be sought for in the baptismal confession made by converts in the reception of that rite. The primitive confession may have contained no more than “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,” but we have evidence within the New Testament itself that it soon became enlarged. Paul speaks of the “form of teaching” delivered to converts (Romans 6:17), and reminds Timothy of “the good (beautiful) confession” he had made in sight of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

the Maker of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
 born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

Nests...as signs of the Kingdom

"The kingdom of heaven is like aa grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” -Jesus (Matthew 13:31-32)

You know that the Kingdom is arriving around you, when the little birds find you safe enough to build their nests within. Birds are skittish fellows. They keep their distance and watch you. They come close when you are not around and pick and poke at things. You can hear their songs for free but forget making them sing on command. Birds are jumpy and flee in response to any sense of danger, mistrust, ulterior or malevolent motives. They are really good "knowers".

Nests are symbols of trust.

A bird that has built a nest, is saying that they have decided that this is a place where they can sleep. It's a home to raise their most valuable hope...eggs. A nest is a sign of life and belief. I look for nests to tell me if we are being the prayerful people of Jesus. The kingdom is coming if the nests are being built.

It takes time for something safe to grow or be built...but when its happening, you will find little symphonies of new creation being sung all around you. If you have eyes to see and ears to hear...you can witness God among men in such displays of gentleness.

When I see a little bird start to build its nest among us at church...my heart swells with the deepest and most rewarding sense of joy. When I catch a glimpse of a little bird peeking his head up over a newly created haven; I am able to see beyond all the questions, problems, strategies, visions, administrations, preparations, complications, argumentations, dissertations and a host of other soul crowding machinations...that can accompany this pastoral life.

In those moments, the tiny chirps are like heavens lullabies....they soothe me and I find I can close my eyes and fall into a restful sleep.

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. -Jesus (Lk 12:32)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hanging with friends...

Last Saturday we hung out in an ER, not knowing what was going on with
Lee's body and this Saturday we celebrated the birthday of a good
friend. What a rollercoaster this life is.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Church work day...

A huge thank you to the many folks who came out today. You all worked
so hard and got a lot of things done.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My thoughts on the health care reform debate....

I'm tired of the health care reform debate. To be honest I regrettably feel at the mercy of others to tell me what to think on much of this stuff and I hate that position. I am not an expert on any of these issues. I cannot speak with authority on many of these subjects. I wish I could. I hear one group and I think they make sense....I listen to another and they almost convince me. It seems like both sides involve fear and extreme cases to bully their point. I never, ever, ever feel like I can get a non-partisan, truthful, perspective. I dont have the time to do a masters level research project on the subjects either. I feel the same way I did in the season of choosing a President....grid locked.

My political posture has always been to be as educated, bi-partisam and open-minded as possible. I want to hear debate not spin. I want facts not dreams. I want to see a country that is faithful to the past, the constitution and the spirit of the American experiment...but I also want leaders that can navigate the realities of this century too.

As for healthcare....we have had our kids in State programs for health care since they were kids. Our ability to provide healthcare for ourselves has not been a reality until the last couple years. I went through almost 3 decades without healthcare...the cost was outside my ability as a pastor and churches rarely feel that pastors should be concerned about stuff like healthcare, retirement, dental, etc...your often left on your own to figure out how to take care of yourselves, family and the future...."Hey God will provide" is the mantra. So I have a bit of an acquaintance with the poverty side of this discussion. I've been to the "free clinics" and sat next to the toothless, meth addict waiting for their care. I know about generics, samples and medical coupons.

Even now I'm on the pay off your medical bills path....even with the coverage we have, the deductible level, really means, we pay most of everything and they get to collect monthly premiums. It seems like a extortion program based on fear of the unknown. What a deal for them: "You pay us every month and you pay for your medical bills every month and "IF" you get into some catastrophic medical situation...we might cover that."

It seems like a sweet deal...for someone.

On the other hand, my kids wouldn't have the health they have, had it not been for the generosity of our local hospitals and the state coverage. I am indebted to them for their care. Many times, I wonder why this "system" can't expand somehow to help in some way to include older people in the mix of coverage. Options, sliding scale, cooperatives, match funding, some sort of savings plan...I dont know, we can send men and women into space but we cannot figure out viable options for health care...? It seems crazy to me.

I have a hard time believing that the Canadian-European "Take most of your money" option is the only one available to us?

In the end, my Christian posture towards the poor always roots me in the camp that has the underprivileged, unborn, fatherless, neglected, disabled, elderly and the working poor in their hearts and minds. Scriptures like these ones below have always kept me tethered to a perspective of social responsibility that seems to resonate with liberals more than conservatives.

"Do unto others as you would have them do to you." -Matthew 7:12

"And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." -Matthew 10:42

"When the son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 'for I was hungry and you gve Me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'"
-Matthew 25:31-40

Unfortunately, we have gotten to where we are as a country, as a result of both political parties...so my trust in all of them at this point is really low.

I am not sure where that leaves me now...other than in debt, paying medical bills and making choices about what to pay for and not pay for as a result. When you have to be talking about how much money you have to pay for your kids lunches and if you have enough...something has to change.

But, even changing leaders, appears to not make a difference....go figure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ultimate Fighter: Heavy-Weights

This is why God created DVR....won't miss one episode. I got to see some of the premiere last night...i'll watch the rest tonight...fantastic line up...this season is going to be a riot.

SPIKE - The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights - Awesome video clips here


Two weeks ago on Sunday morning, LeeElla woke up with some tingling in her left, face, arm and leg. Over the course of the morning that increased into a feeling of numbness on her left side. We were obviously concerned but she went to church and did worship and came home and slept. It didn't leave.

She called our advise nurse and they told her to set an appointment or go to ER. She chose to set an appointment with her doctor. After sleeping, it seemed to subside. But she still didn't feel normal. The doctor appointment was inconclusive, he ordered neurological imaging to see if there was any of the "big stuff" going on, like MS, stroke, tumor etc. So we waited until Wednesday for those tests.

On Monday-Wednesday she improved, not any numbness but a slight tingle and extreme tiredness. After the imaging was done, we didn't hear from her doctor with the results, we called and someone at the office looked at them and said they were labeled "normal" but she could not guarantee that and of course the doctor wasn't in. It was a tad frustrating to say the least.

On Saturday, LeeElla woke up with the tingling again and the numbness came on her left side again. She was pretty scarred. We still had not told anyone about the situation, not family or the kids. LeeElla didn't want to scare anyone until we had conclusive answers. We still had not heard anything from the doctors about what to do, the imaging results or anything like that.

I told the kids that we had an appointment.

In the ER, Lee looked and felt terrible. I was getting pretty anxious. I started realizing that the kids were home alone and if something happened, they had no clue and if I sent someone over to hand there, like family or something, they would hear the news from them. I decided to call Christian, my oldest and tell him what was going on.

That was tough. He took it well, but Destiny didn't. Then I realized nobody, friends or family knew. So I began the work of informing everyone for support and prayer. It was a hard moment, realizing that the unknown of it all. I was not having a good day.

We were at the ER most of the day, going over the test and taking some more. During our time there, LeeElla went from lethargic and disoriented and unable to stand on her toes in the reflex tests...to all of a sudden she started feeling better. It was as if a cloud lifted and she came out of a groggy sleep. She went from sluggish to chipper in a matter of 10 minutes around hour four in the ER. It was strange. I was feeling like I was on a roller coaster ride.

Finally, after waiting for what felt like eternity...all the the results and the main doctor came back.

The doctor said everything was normal.

He said it appeared to be some sort of migraine anomaly. She was a bit anemic, that could accentuate the symptoms but other than that it was unclear and the situation was put in that category. We were relived.

We went home and Lee has been recovering slowly. She slept most of the beginning of the week but has been regaining her strength and spirit. She saw he normal doctor yesterday and he confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed some Imatrex.

So, she isn't back to 100% energy wise, but she is improving....we hope that we are through the woods, we will see.

Thanks to everyone's prayers and support during this time.


Monday, September 14, 2009


So I am sitting in the ER at our local Sacred Heart Hospital waiting for some tests results concerning my wife who is laying in the bed and I hear something mechanical sounding coming down the hall. I turn and look out the door and there roaming the halls is Rudy. I was almost overwhelmed with a rush of 1977 giddiness. I snapped this picture to forever memorialize the moment when I first saw a real life robot at work in my day to day life. My inner sci-fi Twig was gushing with an overwhlming sense of history being made.

Sure it wasn't:
...but it was a Robot nonetheless...I have offically lived to an era that I lived only within my early child fantasies.

Now if I could only get ahold of a M41a Pulse Rifle....

8 Bit Trip....

KHQ News and Destiny

My daughter Destiny's music was featured on the local news in connection with the YMCA's 9-11 rooftop concert benefit for local Emergency Service Providers. A big thank you to Spencer Koonz (on the left) who is the Teen director for the Spokane YMCA; he has provided many opportunities for Destiny to get out and play her music. She is my retirement plan... ;)

Strokes, Nipples and Adventures in missing the point...

A week or so ago, I posted a picture on a post about the following verse:

"O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever. -King David (Psalms 131)

That post didn't receive any comments on my blog...but it got 43 comments generated on my facebook page....all revolving around the "nipple" that was visible in the painting.

The conversations and the experience reminds me of a quote from the great and polarizing Tony Campolo:

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Yes, we Christians are prone to adventures in missing the point. We major on the minors and minor on the majors. Not one person had anything to say about the point of the post, the scripture or asked about the story behind it. All we could do was dance around the nipple issue. Now, maybe thats a lesson in the distracting nature of image and message...but thats another post.

I wanted to give some background to that original post.

I had just experienced a scary day. My wife woke up and started getting a tingling sensation on her left side of her body. Her leg, arm and face started going numb. We finally ended up at the doctors, doing neurological tests and spending time in the ER doing tests to try to determine if she had MS, a tumor, a stroke or what. She couldn't stand on her toes, she was lethargic and the symptoms came then receded and then came back again over the next 8 days. We didn't tell anyone for the first 7 days. She played through the worship service the first weekend with all of this taking place in her body. She didn't want to frighten the kids or make it public until she had some answers. It was a scary week to say the least.

The Lord used this verse to minister peace to my soul in the midst of this trial. I clung to it and shared it to hopefully encourage someone else in a tough place of anxiety, fear or worry.

What I got, is what most people experience in the church....a lot of opinions, judgements, religiousness, scripture quoting and slightly antagonistic interchanges...all stuff that is typical for the internet and unfortunately for Christians.

During this week, sandwiched between two Sundays of heartfelt and passionate delivery of the word of God; I was knee deep in defending myself from: accusations of mishandling the scriptures, not understanding the biblical narrative, not meeting parishioners needs, leaving a sheep to die alone in his sin, neglecting people, inducing potential sinners to lust...all while working through the fact that my wife might be having a life altering stroke that could reshape all our lives.

Good times...

So here I sit...all the test came back normal, no tumors, MS, lesions on the brain or signs of any stroke. Good news indeed...but my wife is still in bed and wont be going to work today because all she can accomplish is about an hour of activity before she has to sleep again.

As I ponder this verse again and practice the spiritual work of encouraging myself in the Lord...I really find the whole series of interchanges this week to be painfully reflective of how far we all have to go in walking out a type of Christianity that isn't going to repel the world.

(pic: http://www.andreatyrimos.com)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A guide from beyond...

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

This last week was packed full of some really tough personal trials in my world. There were some moments where I stood on some promises of God in the face of some unknown paths ahead...in naked faith. These are pivotal places that expose your inner life and the material that is built within it. In this trail, I was comforted by the revelation of God's will and grace in some new ways. I found a place of acceptance of the uncontrollable and the energy of the possible that is only realized by stepping into the place of surrender. When you let go...you discover something that you were holding but couldn't truly see until you surrendered what you thought you had. Does that sound like something Yoda would say...I know, but its true, if you've been in that spot, you understand.

I don't believe that the way of Jesus is simply an art of letting go, or a denial of reality or a path of personal renunciation. Becoming some unfeeling block of ancient stone isn't Jesus spirituality...it Buddhism. God is a God of Justice...and that means compassion isn't going to disengage and put on a straight jacket of acceptance...but instead true freedom is found in becoming an instrument of transformation. God isn't meditating...He is saving.

But, there is a mystery in this outworking, that involves embracing the darkness of God that illuminates the soul...until darkness and light become alike to the seeing pilgrim. A calm, settles into the frantic prone, jittery leaning heart...a slumber soon descends that allows one to sleep in the storm.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28

Friday, September 11, 2009


9-11....We can choose to forget...but some never will.

I am glad that today I took the opportunity to shake the hand of an EMT worker and personally thank him and the Chief of the Fire department for their service to the community. They endure hard work that deserves our gratitude.

The picture above grips me...it was taken in NY at the 9-11 memorial service.

YMCA 9-11 Rooftop Memorial Concert

My 15 year old daughter, Destiny, was one of the featured artists at the YMCA 9-11 Rooftop Memorial Concert tonight. She was awesome and had the privilege of playing for and meeting the Mayor. She was also invited to participate in a local city fundraiser concert that raises money for the homeless. It's hosted at the luxurious Metropolitan Performing Arts Center in Spokane and should be a great opportunity to serve with her music and get some good artist exposure as well. We are proud. Great job YMCA!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Band of Brothers...Why We Fight.

This episode in the Band of Brothers series, hit me like an emotional ton of bricks. I think it was more powerful than Schindlers List for me. I found myself truly getting angry at various points during the episode. The scene in the Cheese and Bread shop after the Allied Forces discovered the concentration camp was most visceral to me. Knowing that many of those German towns people knew of the atrocities outside their city got me wanting that solider to pull the trigger on the baker who was throwing a fit because the soldiers were taking food for the victims. I also felt the anger of the soldier cussing out the captured SS soldiers that were being marched down the highway. I felt the horror of new recruits discovering the houses of dying and dead in the camp...over and over, it was a emotional ride. What a hard hitting series, I dont think anything compares to it.

On a negative note...I was disappointed by the sex scene that came out of nowhere in this episode, no chance to edit or turn...just in your face...that was over the top. I understand the desire to explore the complex relationships between the conquered and the conquering and the ecstatic liberated people, the divorcing homeland spouses and the soldiers loneliness and the abuse of it all...but this scene was tackless. Other than that and the rough language throughout the film...I give this series 5 stars, two thumbs up etc..etc...it is the best war movie/series that I have seen.

And "The Pacific" looks like its going to be an excellent follow up to Band of Brothers, I cant wait to see it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

My conscience is free...

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)

This the freedom with which Christ has set us free, not from some human slavery of tyrannical authority but from the eternal wrath of God. Where? In the conscience. This is where our freedom comes to a halt; it goes no further. For Christ has set us free, not for a political freedom or a freedom of the flesh but for a theological or spiritual freedom, that is to make our conscience free and joyful, unafraid of the wrath to come (Matt.3:7). This is the most genuine freedom, it is immeasurable...For who can express what a great gift it is for someone to be able to declare for certain that God neither is nor ever will be wrathful but will forever be a gracious and merciful Father for the sake of Christ? -Martin Luther (LW 27:4)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Ahhhh, so true....

Jesus...and the line of priests from Sodom

In the NT Jesus is identified as the High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. This priest was part of the confederate of kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities(Genesis 14:17-24). Did someone forget to tell me that in Sunday school? The Lord Jesus is identified as High Priest of a bunch of wild west, pagan towns that got toasted with a deluge of heavenly fire and brimstone; because of their wanton luxury, laziness and outright disregard for the poor and their rabid gross immorality (Ezekiel 16:49-50 & Jude 1:7).

Strange group to be identified with...not your typical Focus on the Family endorsed organization.

It seems strange to me that in a culture war concerning homosexuality; we never have heard anything about Jesus' identification with this priesthood. It amazes me that in our attempts to biblically maintain the scriptural boundaries for godly morality, marriage and healthy sexuality...we somehow forget the very people Jesus chose to embrace as His priesthood clan. I believe the scriptures are clear in defining Homosexuality as a sin of the flesh...but, Jesus's method of redemption scandalizes me and challenges my rightwing, conservative, fundamentalist upbringing. I imagine Jesus wouldn't fit into my approved demographic of righteous and moral priests, if He showed up on the scene today in San Francisco. Would I move to that city and follow such a man? Would the ministry and priesthood of Jesus be a stumbling block to me?

Jesus...is a radical and subversive teacher...but I wonder if we truly have even grasped His teaching...

It reminds me of how the locals used to say of Jesus" "Can anything "good" come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46).
I dare say...we would probably say the same thing today if He came again.

Can a godly priesthood come out of Sodom?
Can we dare follow a priest from such a place?
What does that say about Jesus?
What kind of reputation does that give Him to be bearing such a title?
What priesthood does that make us part of now...?

It sure makes me look differently at this scripture: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." -1 Peter 2:9

Can anything good come out of Sodom....apparently, Yes.

If I lust...is it your fault...?

But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. -1 Cor 7:9

Upon reflection on my conversations over on my facebook account about the "nipple" pic..(which has been a good one, the convo's not necessarily the nipple)...I thought of this above verse.

I find it sad that women are constantly forced to bear the consequences of men not being able to "control themselves". Freedom isn't determined by sin...but gospel. Now freedom can be set aside out of love; but it's always the choice of the one seeking to love. If a brother is a porn addict, given to lust and unable to grow in the fruit of self control...he needs counseling. He doesn't become the standard or judge of what is proper or right...he is the sick man not the healthy man. Drunkards must learn moderation...the moderate must not be guilted for the man of excess. Put out your own fire...don't tell everyone around you to stop being attractive or beauitful or alluring. Burkas can cover a womans body but they can't change a mans heart...only the gospel and the Spirit can do that.

Quiet my soul...

"O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever. -King David (Psalms 131)

This is a gentle reminder that I must take advantage of the peace providing work of embracing God, as He embraces me in these times. A weaned child doesn't need the breast anymore but is still on the chest...out of love. Resting in Him, no matter what is or may come ahead. He is suffecient for all that we will face. He is the God who sleeps in storms. That's not indifference...it's a promise of a path of peace to walk upon in this earth. It's an invitation, a hint, a dare...to trust him so completely that we could chose slumber over panic.

I choose to quiet my soul today...He is able and willing to carry us.

Painting is "Mother & Child" by Gustav Klimt, 1905

Monday, September 07, 2009

A legal spirit...

“Some people are full of talk against legal doctrines, legal preaching and the legal spirit. Yet they may understand very little of what they are talking against. A legal spirit is far more subtle than they imagine. It can lurk, operate, and prevail in their hearts even while they are inveighing against it. For as long as a man is not emptied of himself and of his own righteousness and goodness, he will have a legal spirit. A spirit of pride in one’s own righteousness, morality, holiness, affection, experience, faith, humiliation or any other goodness, is a legal spirit. It is even possible to have a self-righteous spirit about one’s own humility and to be self-confident about one’s own abasement. But he whose heart is subject to Christian humility has a very different attitude
Christians who are real saints and the greatest in the Kingdom, humble themselves as a little child. They look upon themselves as children in grace.
- Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

Halo: ODST

I must confess...Halo 3 has me hooked like a 4 year old with a first time fishing rod...all line, hooks and no hope of escape. And now this is coming out...I dont think I will sleep for a good 8 hours for a few more years.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Not worshipping the Tummy Totem...

I love this conversation and hope that these discussions lead to more sanity in the image conscious, idolatrous and oppressive fashion industry. Most women have become slaves to body hating self talk. They pummel themselves with a stream of corrosive self talk that forms a mindset that ferments oppression and legalism. They suffer in silent or they become obsessively conscious about their body at the exclusion of the many other wonderful gifts in their lives. We most often worship what we think about...and that becomes painfully convicting when people realize that they love their thighs more than the Most high.
The fashion and health industry have built altars that women self sacrifice themselves upon and the self depreciating blood letting is viral....they get rich and we become poorer by the day.

Jesus came to set the captives free and that salvation, restoration and renewal extends into the life of the mind, will and emotions too. Abundant life is a gift that begins to transform the inner life of the soul and a beauty emerges that renews the mind. We can be at peace with ourselves. A joy that embraces our true selves and can laugh in the face of the future, despite wrinkles, rolls or gray hair is the evidence of grace at work.A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. -Proverbs 17:22

As a pastor I've witnessed the ugly results of our cultures fascination and idolatry of all things thin. Sometimes I wish we could go back in time to when a curvy woman was considered more attractive than the half starved, carrot nibblers we prance around as examples of the so called "beautiful woman". I hear pregnant woman complaining about their growing bodies and how they cant wait to get back into the gym where they can regain their boney bodies...and yet, the husbands are actually loving their new found lumps and bumps. I thought LeeElla was in some of her most beautiful and sexy moments when she was pregnant. It's simply a lie that a woman is only desirable between certain socially determined numbers. I pray we can learn to truly celebrate the glory of God found reflected in all of His creation...no matter what the size.

A truly liberated woman...is one who can embrace her tummy....but not worship it.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Skunk Stink & Prickly People....

There is a ton of relational collateral damage in the church. Some of it is just the flotsam and jetsam that is part of fallen human reality and some stuff is just viral, chronic dysfunction,that has taken root in the broken and wounded places of our souls. The process of exposure and healing can be a messy and often painful process for the person with the brokenness and the people around them, who suffer through the path towards wholeness.

It's much like tangoing with a Skunk or Porcupine...

Skunk people are the ones who when you get to close, press to hard, touch their idols or prick their consciences...they raise their tail's and if they perceive a provoking coming on...they spray a stink of hellashish proportions into the relational air. They often prance around with their tails half cocked...always eyeing you with suspicion. They are night dwellers. They like the shadows and the background. They love to be anonymous. They are often given to gossip. They have sharp teeth and a nasty disposition if confronted or cornered and God have mercy on your sweet little soul if you get a full dose of their noxious poison doused on you from their ass like defense mechanisms. You will suffer...long and hard. You can always tell when this person has been around...their stink lingers on everything and especially on people. Many a church or relational community has been evacuated and determined "uninhabitable" by the presences of these anti-social malcontents.

Other folks are like Porcupines...
Both Skunks and Porcupine people are cute. They often have a charm and sweetness about them that can deceive you from the distance. Masters of the art of perception...they lure people into close proximity with their qualities of genuine approachability but will turn on you once you pass their predetermined safe zone. Porcupine People meander through their lives with a pace that seems harmless...they are often jovial and humble and would never seem to want to harm a gnat.

But if you cross them...look out! A shower of soul piercing quills will be let loose upon you that will make the Persian's projectile attacks on the Spartans look like a fresh spring sprinkle! You can end up plummeted in a mass of prickly, penetrating, persnickety pins that will easily sink into your sensitive heart but resist removal, even by one with the strength of Atlas! Once stuck...you will suffer. The church is bleeding profusely from these relational wounds.
The Apostle Paul knew full well of our proclivity to such cannibalistic tendencies when he warned and admonished the Galatian believers:

"But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you are not destroyed by each other." -Galatians 5:15

In another letter to a chaotic group of divisive people, he laid out a small quote that sheds painful light on our often dark temperaments:

Love is not irritable -1 Corinthians 13:5

The simple truth is hard to face...we all have a long way to go. Some people are like lemons, when life squeezes them, they pour out a sour response. Some are more like peaches: when the pressure is on, the result is still sweet.

I pray the church of Jesus can once again be known as a safe and fragrant place of love and service. But, in order for that to happen...some of us are going to have to be radically changed from the inside out...and that means having our "stink glands" removed and our coats of chaos shorn...to become the inter-related people God desires us to be.

That is a difficult endeavor indeed...but the grace of God is present to change us. Love is a powerful tool of transformation. We all need one another to help us see and respond to the process of growth that the Spirt is outworking among us as a community of faith. Together in time...we are forced to face the issues within us. It is one of the blessings and hardships of walking in community. Grace provides space to face...our crap. It then empowers us to accept what is, has been and could be and move towards a healthier life.

That is the rough road of discipleship...some people embrace it...many run from it...spraying and shaking with uncontrollable defensiveness.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Is Sigourney Weaver a babe...?

So Austin, my 13 year old son wanted to watch the Alien series of movies, so him, Destiny my 15 year old daughter and Tlyer her boyfriend and Christian my 17 year old son and I watched the first one last night. The 3 younger all gave it an OK...me and my eldest give it two thumbs up. The naysayers felt it was too slow and didn't give them enough beastie on screen. They squirmed at a few parts; the tv version of the director's cut was edited, a bit too much I think...but they still got caught up in the suspense. Overall I loved it...especially the added few scenes...the one of the Alien looking down from the dark, wet chains, was awesome!

But then came the Ripley underwear scene....every action flick has got to have a heroine fighting the monster in her skivvies right...it makes perfect sense...well, at least to the money makers. But I digress...that scene unleashed a whole discussion afterwards about the beauty or lack of it, of Sigourney Weaver. You see, Christian has been pretty vocal over the years about his Sigourney crush. So the kids got a up close look at her in this film and all of them were giving him a hard time. Austin was going on and on about her grandma looks etc...Christian defended his ground, even though he admitted that she had a butt that was about as attractive as a sheet of plywood.
For the love of Zeus's Beard, lady, eat a few Big-Macs and give those underwear something to hold on too! Oh and wash them in cold water, then they wont shrink so much! So in the end (no pun intended), we were all divided on whether she was worthy of babe status or not...Christin and I were in the yes camp and the other three were in the "no" zone. Not sure what that all means..but it was a funny discussion.

Interesting note: The director originally wanted a darker ending. He wanted the alien to bite Ripley's head off in the escape shuttle then sit in her chair and start speaking with her voice in a message to Earth. Apparently, 20th Century Fox wasn’t down with that.