Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why our schools still don't get it.

Four students are suspended from school for stopping in the hallway to imitate Tim Tebow's prayer stance. School officials said the kids could have started a riot by bowing to their knees in the hallway. Students can say hateful things to others, they can be bullies, they mock kids who have a visible religious faith without so much as a getting a warning. But if students bend a knee and bow their heads they get a day off from school. Once again, school administration and teachers focus on the wrong problems.... maybe they can become politicians.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Marathons and Giving Birth

Carol Burnette once said, "If you want to understand the pain of giving birth, grab your bottom lip and pull it over your head". These words of wisdom came to Bill Cosby during the birth of his first child when he recalled being supportive and encouraging to his wife. As his words of encouragement only caused agitation to his dear wife he says, "She stood up in the stirrups, grabbed my bottom lip, and waited for one final contraction...."

I guess misery loves company sometimes more than it loves empathy.

There are just some things that you have to experience to truly appreciate and if the best you can do is observe from afar, your best efforts to empathize will fall flat.

In just a week my wife will run in her first marathon. She has been extremely diligent in her training, she has improved in her ability to run long distances, and has even been able to improve her time per mile. Last week she asked me to join her as she completed a 20 mile run. By join her, that meant to hop on my bike and ride while she ran. Do you know how hard it is to ride 20 miles at runner's pace? After 10 miles I began feeling the pain in my back side, 15 miles led to sore wrists, and by the time my wife casually ran 18 miles, the sun was beating down on me and was causing great discomfort. Throughout the process I tried to keep encouraging my wife as she ran but for some reason, each mile she ran she was less interested in hearing me talk and even less interested in hearing me say something encouraging like, "You only have 5 more miles to go" or, "That first 19 miles went by like a breeze." No matter how much I tried to be encouraging, it was met with indifference. This made me recall the process of sitting with my wife while giving birth (while she gave birth). No amount of, "you are doing great", or "just a little more" can help the situation. The best I could do was to sit there in silence knowing that this is not the time for empathy, it is the time for silence. Without ever experiencing the process of giving birth, one cannot relate unless he pulls his bottom lip over his head. Running a marathon is very similar and that is why when WE completed OUR 20 mile training run I told my wife how great she did, she leaned over to me bringing her lips close to mine, and then she gently put her hands on my face, grabbed my bottom lip and pulled.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Occupy Movement on Wrong Street

They "occupy" movement that gained ground over the past month is an interesting study in human psyche. This movement contains thousands of people gathering in locations across the country (and the globe) protesting something. I use the word "something" because it is unclear what that "something" is. Some say it is about the distribution of wealth, some say it is against corrupt government, others are protesting jobless rates, and many are just looking for something to do.

The slogan used is 99% vs the 1%. At its core, the protest seems to be about the inequality of the wealthiest 1% of people vs the 99% of everyone else. The reality is that this is just fancy jargon that ignores many other percentages that, in the end, will accomplish nothing to help distribute wealth among all people.

This use of fancy jargon puts the emphasis in the wrong places. Sure it is hard to believe that some people make so much money but how many of these protesters are using their wealth to distribute to the biggest percentage of the 99%? Over 64% of the world has wealth less than $10,000. 92% of the world possesses wealth less than $100,000. This is not income, this is the entire value of assets. So if you own a car, have a little equity in a home, and an annual income that adds up to more than $100,000 you are in the elite 7% of the wealthiest people on earth.

In my family, we are in the middle of the pack for American income but we are in the elite 7% of the world's wealthiest people.

Because of this fact, we share some of our wealth to support kids in poverty, to build wells in countries with no access to safe and clean water, and to feed the hungry in our community. We never say things like, "we are broke" or , "we are poor". We do not have much compared to the rest of our community in Orange County, but we are wealthy.

I am a strong supporter of taking care of "orphans and widows", of feeding the hungry, and of defending the oppressed. I believe that those who are blessed with more should be willing to take care of those who do not have enough. If the occupy movement wants to make a difference, the protest needs to move from Wall Street to Main Street. We need to create a culture where we are content with what we have and do something good within our abilities. If we want to protest, we can tell congress to get to work or we will vote them out , we can take our business away from organizations that are greedy and unethical, and we can bring our business to those who do positive things with their wealth. (Ironically some of the most charitable companies such as Wells Fargo Bank are being protested by the occupy movement).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Created in the Image

According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian Old Testament, mankind was created in the image of God. This is a unique idea to the Ancient Near East where the gods typically were thought to be completely separate from humans. In fact, in the ANE culture, humans were created so they could serve the gods. They would harvest food and offer sacrifices so the gods could be nourished without having to do the work themselves. For the Hebrews and Christians, God created humans to represent His name and His character to the rest of creation.

I always loved this unusual action by God to allow humans to represent His name but I have also always questioned it. Frankly, I think God could've chosen something more reliable than humans to represent Himself on earth but that is just me. Now, the question we have to face is "Because we represent God's image to creation, what image are we projecting?"

Do you project an image of God as a disinterested, self centered being? Do you show the world that God's image is one that is a jerk to others and unwilling to forgive? Perhaps you reflect an image that is gracious, that is loving, and that builds others up. Whatever image you project, as a follower of God you are representing His name so lets be lead lives that are mindful of the true character of the Creator.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Aroma of Adventure

When we returned to the country less than 3 years ago, we re-entered life in our former town and in our former neighborhood. I had a new job, actually two new jobs, a new dog, and an altered view of the world. A sense of adventure encompassed me as excitement and uncertainly filled the path as far as I could see. I would be in the same town I had grown to love, but everything would be different. My schedule was different, our friends were different, even many of our neighbors were different.

One new routine I had to create was walking our dog. As many dog owners realize, this daily ritual leads to some great time of reflection, maybe some prayer, and of course some exercise. For me, I found an open space at the end of my street were the cold damp air from the ocean could creep along this valley towards the mountains. (Yes, we have mountains over 6,000 feet and cold air here in Orange County). The great thing about this open space other than the fact that it borders my backyard and that it contains a host of bunnies for my dog to chase, is that the cold moist air would mix with the pine trees and tall birches creating a refreshing scent. In fact, in the early morning if you closed your eyes you would be convinced that you were somewhere high in the mountains away from the 4 million people who live in a 20 mile radius.

This aroma of fresh air and the sense of adventure that greeted me each day created a deep impression somewhere inside that God was doing something in my midst and I did not want to be unaware. Now, less than three years have passed and my boys are on "a kick" where they like to go to this open space to dig for fossils, crystals, and artifacts. When I meet them there, the aroma of adventure fills my lungs and I am brought back to that place where much was unknown but where much was expected. It is appropriate because once again, I am at a crossroads awaiting the next step in life. I am not sure what that step will be but for now you will find me slipping away to catch some fresh scented air and a glimpse of the adventure that God has mapped out ahead.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


After less than 3 years our local gathering of followers and seekers of Christ has decided to "scatter" into the community and into other congregations. We did this at a time when our gathering was not "dying" off but at a time that seemed to be right. Due to our mix of gifts in the leadership that prevented us from accomplishing some things we deemed essential for our style of church and the fact that many of our people were moving from the area and traveling long distances to remain involved, we knew the time was now to change focus.
From the beginning our desire was to engage in scriptures in a way that was challenging and life changing. We wanted to hear the call of discipleship and to never be a gathering of people who became ingrown and useless. As Francis Chan puts it, "Christians are like manure. [When they scatter and bless others they are useful, when they all pile together they just stink]".
We never want to be people who "stink" so we worked to engage in our community and to be an organization that benefited our neighborhoods. We hoped that we would one day "multiply" into new local gatherings but this year we decided that our best plan was simply to scatter into already established places. We want to take what we have learned and the new habits we developed and influence others in the ways of Jesus.
Some would look at our church and say that we failed. We did fail at establishing a large, well funded organization but we did not fail at being a church for nearly 3 years. We worshipped our creator, we engaged in each others lives and walked beside each other when needed, and we blessed others locally and throughout the globe.
As a seed must die in order to "scatter" and bring new life to infinitely more plants, our small local gather had to "die" in order to spread life. We are launching online teachings and discussions next month and will continue to encourage the body (Soma) of Christ to live out the ways of Jesus everywhere, all of the time and we will stand beside other local gatherings in the process.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fish and Loaves

Today the church I have been a part of held our once per month food distribution to families need. Because our church recently decided to discontinue our weekly gatherings (more on this in the next post), we are also ending our regular food distribution.

As I left the neighborhood where we distributed food the past 2 years, the finality of the event stirred unexpected emotions within me. As I drove the streets of this community I recalled the first months of this ministry when we walked the streets and knocked on every door informing people that we would be there if they ever needed help. We were a a new church community taking a step with very few resources and with little knowledge of what would come of this adventure.

I remember our first food distribution when no one came out to receive food. I told our members, "Don't worry, these things take time. God can still use us". Inside I thought, "This is a huge failure. What are we doing here?"

The next month, much to my delight and surprise, we had a line 40 families long. People needed food and heard that we were there for them!

Over the next 2 years a young couple in our church coordinated a monthly distribution and fed hundreds of people in the process. Most months our food ministry fed twice as many families than who attended our gatherings. Somehow our small experimental community found the means to do something positive and God always used the few "fish and loaves" that we could provide and multiplied them to feed a hungry community.

As we move to a purely online presence as a church we will still offer help to anyone who is in need but I must say that I am sad to see this chapter close. We set out with the mindset that "church should exist for the benefit of its non-members" and today I can look back and say we fulfilled this desire. The people of Soma Church of Orange County were able to join in a movement of living the ways of Jesus everywhere, everyday. When Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is at hand", he was telling us the time is now to join in the order of the King and His kingdom. It is a Kingdom that gives food to the hungry even if it is just a few fish and a few loaves. The King always has, and always will, take care of the rest.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

All things New

Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus lives and that his life means all things can be made new. For our church community, we remember Jesus' life, death, and resurrection and the fact that Jesus gives us second chances and hope for a new life. We commit to bringing this message of offering hope for new beginnings to all we encounter. The message of Easter is hope. Hope that says "nothing is beyond the reach of God" and comfort knowing all things are made new in Jesus.

My family enters a new chapter today and we are grateful for the work of Christ in our own lives and we celebrate knowing that new beginnings bring many great surprises and exciting things down the road.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Beginnings

As cliche' as it may be to use the beginning of the year to consider the opportunities and changes we hope for, or expect, in the year to come, I find myself at a point of unknown and great expectation.
Changes are once again coming to the life of my family with new horizons and opportunities. The full extent of those changes are yet to be seen and will unfold in the weeks to come.
As for the little things:
2011 will hopefully bring.... A 6th grader, 3rd grader, and 4 yr old. A trip to Greece so my wife can run a marathon (and hopefully a quick jump over to Turkey so I can be a nerd and study some history). Yosemite and some cabin in the mountains somewhere. Different job. Wine and food nights at the house. Continue to progress with German and Hebrew. Finish cleaning my garage.... oh yeah, and win the Lotto.
What about you?