Monday, April 30, 2007

$45 Tomatoes

I've been dreaming photovoltaics. I've been watching ebay and hoping to buy a good used diesel car to convert to burn Greasel (used cooking oil). I've switched out totally to those curly flourescent bulbs, serviced my bicycle and started using it, filled in our pool, and have my kids trained in shutting off lights when not in use (monetary incentives built into what we save in electricity) but my wife and I made a choice this weekend that flies in the face of all those good intentions. We are planting a huge garden at my dad's house. He lives an hour and a half from us. I figure with all the fuel we suck through our old suburban, all the drinks we buy on the road, all the money we spend on seed, plants, fertilizer, and a decent used rototiller our tomatoes will cost about $45 per fruit. But, (thats the part I play in all these plans-I'm always the but) I got a great photo of my three little ones and my sister's two little ones following closely behind grandpa's old Ford as he rolled huge nightcrawlers and thick juicy grubs from their earthen home. We got to feel the rich black earth with our bare feet, hear grandpa talk about his dad tilling their garden with a horse-drawn plow (my dad still has the plow and a cultivator) and pouring out his farming know-how to my urban gardener wife and my oblivious toddlers. My twin boys each got a turn at 'steering' the tractor. We haven't planted anything yet but we did rescue a couple hundred strawberry plants for a sodden grave and transplanted them to a nursery bed where they can recuperate a short time before we transplant them again into our garden.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What an Awesome Weekend

I'll post pics tomorrow but we had the most precious baby at our home Saturday night and part of the day Sunday. Her mom and aunt are friends of my daughter's. They have had a very rough childhood. The mom, Amber, just turned 17. Faith, her daughter is 8 mos. old. My daughter wanted to treat them (the sisters) to a movie so my wife took the three of them to a movie and when they got back we went and got Faith and they (the sisters and little Faith) stayed the night with us. I got a chance to really connect to the two sisters and played alot with Faith. I'll just say I cannot wait to pour into the lives of this family in any way I can. By the way it sounds we'll get lots of chances, starting with helping them move to another home that has more bedrooms for their mom, step-dad and their 4 step-brothers. Right now they are all living in a 2 bedroom home, well, its more like a barn that has been converted into a home.

I got to connect a little more with the kids across the street yesterday. A couple of neighbors came by to warn us to watch them - that is so awesome. The neighbors finally come outside in the warm weather and realize they've got a houseful of kids (in their twenties) in their neighborhood threatening to do something, well, like they used to when they were that age. It was great that Leslie could let the neighbors know that we know them well enough and we're not too concerned. She suggested they stop in and say hi.

Dancing with Consumerism | Out of Ur | Following God's Call in a New World | Conversations hosted by the editors of Leadership journal

Dancing with Consumerism Out of Ur Following God's Call in a New World Conversations hosted by the editors of Leadership journal

This is a good article and particularly compelling for me was the final paragraph-

The way that I think about engaging it is…well, let’s look at how Jesus interacted with his culture. Jesus used three primary movements in every context. The first movement is towards. So he was incarnational. He entered. People like to use the word relevant for this. But Jesus also moved against the culture, he was resistant. He overturned tables in the temple and said “You brood of vipers.” So he was both relevant and resistant. And third, Jesus withdrew to quiet places. He was also distant, he moved away. So you have three rhythmic movements of toward, against, and away—relevance, resistance, and distance. And none of those can be static. They always have to be happening.

Enter, Resist, and Distance. This I can do as I live out the counter-culture of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Fray - Good tuneage for a friend of mine

Sansa e250 media player

Yesterday I was listening to Bob Seger as I was out surveying and stooped to look into a storm sewer pipe. I was beside a busy highway and couldn't hear anything but 'Beautiful Loser" when my sound went dead. It was only out for a moment and blared again in my brain before ultimately dying again. I removed the buds from my ears and looked in my pocket to see if my battery had gone dead but there was no player. It was then that I realized the other end of the earphone wires was in about a foot of water and had been there for probably 20-30 seconds, fully immersing my player. When I pulled it out the colored screen was black but the backlight on the selector dial was lit and it wouldn't turn off. I took it to our truck and put it in a shaded but warm place on the dashboard and continued to work. It somehow shut itself off or ran out of battery or something while I was working. About six hours after it was immersed I powered it up and the colored screen appeared, it allowed me to select a song and appeared to be playing it but no signal came through the buds. I left it overnight, altogether about 24 hours from when I first immersed it, with its back removed and battery removed. Upon putting it together and attaching it via USB it powered up normally and operated normally. I charged it fully then gave it the final test, I selected a song, raised the volume to max and felt the music vibrate through the buds in my hand. I seldom give reviews on things and I bought this a year ago when it was giving the ultimate bang for the buck but I didn't expect it to be so durable. I've dropped it from 5 feet onto rocks in Alaska, left it on the dashboard in 90 degree heat, sat on it while it was in my back pocket, and used it in 10 degree cold. It has proven the most durable piece of electronics I've ever owned. For the same price I bought mine a year ago you can have 3 times the storage but I'm not disappointed.

Gregory Boyd and some thoughts

If you haven't heard Greg Boyd preach you are missing one of the prophets of our age. Opening statement to this weeks sermon which kicks off a sermon series he's doing called "Beautiful Mess" (I don't know if he knew Rick McKinley had a series by that name or not but who cares, they are both advancing the Kingdom in their own context) is:
"There is a new world order coming and its called the 'Kingdom of God' and it will bring a beautiful order to our normal messes and a beautiful mess to our normal order".
Luke 6:17 is where he started.
Wow, I was cleaning off my home computer and ran across an Internet Messenger log filled with text that had a conversation in it between my son, who is about to turn 18 and has accepted a whopping huge scholarship to University of Seattle and will be attending in the fall, and I. The file was dated from March of 2005, one month before he made the decision to write the Friend of Court a letter requesting his custody be granted to his mother so he could stay in military school.
The text was a long, drawn-out conversation with him giving reasons why he thought he should return home from military school. He asked me why I sent him. I could have cried right there but I finished the rest of it before I had a good sob. I didn't send him. At 15 he decided it would be awesome to take advantage of the $23000 a year the school was going to give him to coax him into their educational system. I was reluctant but couldn't see the harm so I put up the remaining $6000 it took for uniforms, board, books, travel, and he went. He was so strong in his moral convictions, loved Jesus, and basically a leader. When we were messaging back and forth I encouraged him to give it some thought because if he dropped there would be no returning. He asked me, "Dad, don't you want me to come home?". I remember when that message came over. He's my oldest son. We've always been close. We did so much together and now he's a young man and can do just about everything I can and he's gone. I cried when I got that message. Of course I WANTED HIM HOME. WHAT ELSE IN THE WHOLE WORLD COULD I HAVE POSSIBLY WANTED MORE.
He took my advice and thought about it.
He didn't come home.
Within two months we weren't even speaking (his rebellion against my parental control, its complicated but it boiled down to me being an ass and 'insisting' he adhere to my rules whether he was at home or in military school - stupid, as if I could or should put that kind of expectiation out there) and it took a long, long time for us to get the time to actually talk some of it out. That one fateful conversation that began with a desperate kid wanting to come home made men out of both of us. I enjoy the few hours every 3-4 months that we get together - we talk about all the things we've done together and eat and laugh and discuss politics and religion and music. It is rare but so precious.
So God, you've helped me protect and serve one of my six children to adulthood and we're both still alive, very much alive. I hope I can handle your surgery another 5 times, it left me much humbler than I had come. Selah

Monday, April 16, 2007


This morning I got up at 4:00 a.m. intending to make a long day's trip to Indiana but the guy that was going to accompany me called me and cancelled due to illness. I was found with an extra couple of hours to spend with Jesus while I curled up on the couch with my 4 yr. old son and I'll have to say it was edifying. I spent such an awesome day yesterday with my family that I was still bowing before God in thanks as I crawled into bed last night. My wife and daughters went to Battlecry in Detroit (much that I could say about this but culture happens in every stadium as well as every nook and cranny where humans interact -' living' as a human beings, to me, is in the intersection of our lives with those places and people and that includes just about anything you can imagine). My wife had mixed feelings on the event but it instilled a missional directive in my two daughters and for that we are grateful. We did have to compare some of the pro-military speech that one speaker presented with what Jesus says about violence but other than that it was a positive experience until they were headed to the buses. The Ford Fieldhouse is in a mixed-economic neighborhood with gated luxury multi-family housing as well as abandoned buildings, soup kitchens and the homeless. As a group of 200 people that my wife and daughters were walking with passed two homeless guys (they had carts and stuff so they weren't just taking advantage of the crowd, they were homeless) there was a wave created of people swinging wide to avoid the two men who were gently asking for money. The crowd was moving fast and my wife and daughters didn't have much time but they produced all the change that they had and gave it to the men. They were the only ones. None of the rest of the crowd leaving a Christian concert event that cost $25 a ticket could spare a quarter or two for these two guys. What do you do? My wife and daughters had to choose between stopping and showing love to these guys and keeping up with the rest of the group headed to the buses. It tore my wife up and broke my heart to hear her tell the story. What Jesus is it that people are following?

I watched a documetary on Global Climate Change debate done by a guy named Moyer who interviewed Evangelicals from both sides of the debate. I'm hard-pressed to believe anyone that uses scripture out of context like Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla did when Moyer interviewed him really can adequately represent the "Church" on this issue. There are a vast number of Christians that believe good stewardship means getting the most return out of mines, wells, farms, developments, etc. I cannot agree with them when I see God's hand trying to restore as soon as we mess something up. I like it to giving my kids pencils to write with and then going behind them with a 'magic eraser' to get the pencil off the wall. At some point the child either quits writing on the wall or you take away the pencil or you instill in the child that it is your job to wipe pencil off the wall. I don't like the third option but that is what many of the I don't think it is God's job to clean up our messes.

Oh, one other thing. When I read the sermon on the mount I'm not reading it like people have read it to me. I read it alot differently now that I actually view it through the 'metanarrative' or story. Jesus was adressing the crowd as well as his disciples. Christians aren't 'the' light of the world, nor are they the 'salt of the earth', HUMANITY is the light of the world and the salt of the earth so get over the pep talks and share in the life of someone that isn't from your 'church family' because THAT is how hearts are transformed.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Falsani on Idling, the Sisters, and Bruce Cockburn

Jesus is Life

I was thinking last night about how many times God has redeemed his people. I have alot to do today so I'll keep this short, but over and over in the Bible and in our modern story you see God sprouting life (fragile and sweet like a pea sprout through the frozen straws of garden litter) out of death: Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David, Jesus, Paul, the reformation, the Puritans, the 2nd Vatican Council, Vineyard, Pope John Paul II, emergent conversation (obviously not a complete list so sorry if I left our your favorite), and I believe what we are seeing right now is a great number of post-post-modern, generation nexters throwing off the complexity and complication of 'organizations' for the 'no preservatives added' brand of imitating Jesus. Just look toward the whole grains, fresh fruit, and meat and the remarkable disciples of tomorrow will already be there serving the least of us.

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

C.S. Lewis

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Power Under

I was watching M*A*S*H last night with my 16 yr. old daughter. I don't watch much television but I do take every chance that avails itself to move into those intersections that seldom come for a father and his 16 yr. old daughter. In this case it was a scene where Hawkeye was scrubbed and about to operate on a Korean soldier when he noticed the guy hadn't been prepped correctly (his pants were still on). When Hawkeye turned to throw some insults at Klinger the soldier on the gurney slowly removed a live grenade from his pocket. Hawkeye noticed just in time and clamped his hand around the soldier's hand to keep him from letting go of the trigger (he'd already managed to pull the pin). These two men were in a struggle, Hawkeye to keep the grenade from detonating and the soldier to break free of the grip that Hawkeye had over his hand containing the grenade. Klinger was searching for a gas mask, Father Mulcahy for the pin, and Colonel Potter yells, sing to him! Hawkeye starts singing to him softly at first and you can see the confusion in the soldier's face. As Hawkeye's voice gains confidence others in the room join with him and the soldier slowly relaxes and allows Father Mulcahy, producing the pin that had been hidden under Hawkeye's foot, to replace the pin in the grenade. The heavens were filled with a song of triumph.
I have seen real-world examples of just this type of conflict resolution. It can be viewed as great leadership but it really is a simple concept that has been laid out for us numerous times in the Bible. Its Christ's strength made perfect in our weakness. Not in our lack of courage or our willingness to martyr ourselves but the mustard seed of faith required to understand that the powers that we are up against feed on the 'will to power' that Nietzche described and that we cannot defeat that alone. It is defeated by the 'blood of the lamb' and our 'testimony' for we shall not love our lives so much as to shrink from death. Our testimony is our surrender - not against those that we are called to rebuke (our brothers and sisters in Christ) when necessary but surrender to those that would strike us on one cheek, so we can offer another. Those that would steal our paper, we should offer our library. Those that would back-stab us to move up on the power ladder we should offer our face and heart to be wounded as well, as we lovingly support them as they climb to their lofty positions. It could get pretty ugly, this imitating of Christ. Then again, maybe we'd return to something - something before the struggle, something before the labor, something before poverty and disease, something like redemption.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Portrait of a Christian Leader

I just finished "Courageous Leadership" by Bill Hybels. I also got the chance yesterday to sit for an hour and chat with a new friend from Chicago (in Michigan on business) about his involvement at Willowcreek. I was pleased to hear all that he was involved in and he shared his heart openly of his passion for the poor and homeless in the windy city. This post isn't about Chicago, Bill Hybels, Willow Creek or the poor. This is about Jesus. I was asked to help develop some Christian leadership training materials this week. I brainstormed and studied and all I could come up with was this graphic. In Matthew 13:33 Jesus says (paraphrased) the Kingdom of Heaven is like the woman who hid a small amount of leaven in two measures of flour and the whole dough was leavened. She hid it. I think following Christ is like that and so is christian leadership. See a need, meet a need, proclaim the Kingdom of God (with a gentle spirit not as a street preacher) and like the leaven hidden in the dough, the whole world will be transformed. Every single act of sacrificial love does this. In secret, in humility, in surrender it changes the world just a bit at a time never looking back, never to be the same again. And look at the graphic. Look at the 'bud scar'. It costs. As that bud separates and multiplies there is suffering. Yes it isn't prosperity gospel its bearing the cost of turning the other cheek, absorbing violence, people looking at you like you are absurd, yes its scandalous but that is how the Kingdom advances and it doesn't look like some rewritten 'Total Quality Management' program from yuppieville. I find it increasingly difficult to love those who call themselves christians yet claim for some reason they are exempt from hardship as they strive in their prayer life and study life and wear their shawls and wave their banners and then go home in their SUV to catch 'American Idol' on the bigscreen before they throw away half their cookie that they can't possibly finish. Maybe thats the log in my eye. Although Jesus held the leaders of the church accountable, not the lost, but the shepards. Lord help me love and serve those people. I prefer those that don't believe in you. I'd rather be in a slum or village or prison than to go back into the church. At least I don't have to explain to them why my faith is not strong enough to heal myself of asthma.

I'm just ranting. No one from my church reads this anyway. They talk about me not to me.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Small Things with Great Love

My wife and I have been previewing "Intersect Faith and Culture" (The Christian Vision Project), a six week DVD study series on being a missionary in the U.S. (its a little more complicated than that but that is not what this post is about). There is alot of theology in support of moving out of the suburbs and/or rural areas and into the city and we really are yearning to do just that but we have two teenage girls that we don't want to uproot from their world. I know it would probably be the best thing for them but I also have an ex-wife that would disagree and I think, to minimize the drama, my family will wait until my two girls are at least graduated from high school before me make the move. We've lived in the slums before and its not as scary as one would think. The people are real people and respond to love in the same way that wealthy suburbanites do, it leaves them unbalanced and destroys the solid judgements and vows that people have nurtured from their deep woundings.

So what do we do with this overwhelming urge to get busy with something a little more costly, something outside of the small groups, prayer meetings, leadership development, team-building, 40 days of this or that (I don't want to belittle local church discipleship but at some point a disciple has to move into something else and risk something, that is what is meant by faith, not the faith that comes from building each other up to Christ but the faith that comes from trusting Jesus with everything and risk losing it all) and build something real and lasting and firm. We need to do something that pares away the rot of the civil religion most of us have called church and breathe deeply of true self-sacrificial love that finds is source from the one that whispered "follow me" to some dirty, raw-boned, smelly, dark-eyed fisherman.

In one of the sessions the DVD profiles a family of suburbanites that developed a "homework time" at an inner-city apartment complex. I think they eventually moved in to the complex but they started by renting an apartment and offering to help kids with their homework after school. They also played games with the kids and just loved them. I'm thinking this is for me. I'm putting the plan together right now and am going to start a non-profit, buy a trailer in the worst trailer park in the city I work in and start it up this fall. I've offered the idea to my bosses and now they are talking about kicking out the tenant that is in the old theatre that they bought (he just stores antiques in there) and making it a teen center. I think I'm going to forge ahead with the homework/game trailer because I can almost cover that with my own resources (other than volunteers). I guess the reason I posted this is my excitement level is so high I had to tell someone and now I'm thinking I'd really like any readers to be in prayer for this project. I think the right kind of mission not only transforms the person being served but also the one serving.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Lord Help Us

I wonder what Jesus' tracts will look like when he gets them published?

I wonder how the hungry will eat them.

Maybe lepers can use them as bandages.

I guess if you glued enough of them together you could give them to the naked.

Prisoners could write notes to each other on them if he leaves enough space.

TRACTS ARE NOT THE GOSPEL. Love in action is the gospel.

Of course Jesus' blog wouldn't look much like mine either so I'm gonna work on the tree in my own eye right now and serve someone.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"The Myth of a Christian Nation" by Gregory Boyd

I read the book. Then I went to the Woodland Hills Church website and listened to the sermon series that Boyd preached leading up to the writing of this book. Boyd offers much insite on the followers of Jesus in the 'blue states' and I have to admit he changed my way of thinking about the abortion debate. I have been leaning (falling actually) toward a different approach than signing petitions and voting conservative on political issues. Boyd reinforces the position that Jesus has been drawing me to. The book is an easy read, informative, and really does complete his purpose. His main point is that in following Jesus, christians should take a "power under"(love, support, forgiveness, love, etc.) approach rather than a "power over"(conservative laws, conservative judges, military actions, censorship, etc.) to become yeast in the dough. I have posted before that I thought we (as followers of Jesus) should be taking a different approach to engaging the tough issues. I'm pleased that there are men like Gregory Boyd, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Brian McClaren, and others that help us to look at life a different way. I don't always agree with everything I read from these guys but they have helped me discover a new richness in following Jesus. Read the book or listen to Boyd's message if you're feeling the "church" in America isn't quite what you expected the "Church" should be. When in doubt, follow Jesus, be what he was, hang out with who he did, love like he did, give like he did, pray like he did, stand up like he did, turn the other cheek like he did, love like he did.
One of the kids from the rental across the street got locked out of her house and spent the evening with us last night (until her roommates returned home). I thank God for giving us the opportunity to love these kids, they need it real bad, they are all from broken and abusive homes. Oh, I've posted before about the teen center in our town that my friend started. Its not overtly christian but my friend is and he's there alot. Last night 50-60 Goth kids from another city came in with two of their own bands and equipment and took over the teen center. The leaders were a little overwhelmed but all turned out okay. A group representing the 'leaders' of the kids was inquiring as to how the facilities came to be in our backwater town and who funded it. My friend did most of it but he did explain to them that there are four churches in the area that thought the teens "were of unsurpassable value to our community". They were very surprised that churches actually did that. We've got a long way to go but I really feel there is a strange and beautiful breeze blowing.