Tuesday, November 25, 2008


A peasant may believe as much
As a great clerk, and reach the highest stature.
Thus dost thou make proud knowledge bend and crouch
While grace fills up uneven nature.

This poem, part of a larger work, called Faith by George Herbert struck me this Thanksgiving season.

I met a man who was “homeless” and looked it. His clothes were clean but still the smell of homelessness was around his unkempt hair and scraggly beard. He had the nose of an alcoholic and his weathered hands wrapped around a cup of coffee as if it would keep his whole frail body warm. We sat across each other in a charity dining hall, I was there to serve and he was there to be served and we filled our rolls quietly.

The din of a hundred homeless having lunch and conversation filled the hall as I removed his plate for him and threw it away. I came back with the coffee pot and offered it to him. His hands opened like saloon doors to allow me to fill his cup again.

“Is there anything else I can get for you?” I asked as I withdrew the coffee pot.

His simple response set me back on my heals, “Grace” was all he said and he took another sip. I searched his eyes over the brim of his cup and saw both a tear and a smile.

Grace is an amazing thing. It is something we all need, from the greatest clerk or judge, to the lowest peasant; homeless and smelly. It is something given to all in equal measure to all of us. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, where you are or where you do it; grace is there.

Are you thankful that grace doesn’t depend on your station in life?

Are you thankful that grace doesn’t depend on how much money you have or how popular you are?

Are you thankful that grace doesn’t depend on how good (or bad) you are?
Are you thankful that “grace fills up uneven nature”?

Our Own Sunglasses

Now that the election is over and all the political ads are finally done running and ruining my TV viewing we can take a moment to pull back and look at what just happened. Or can we?

I have had multiple (at least 10) different conversations with people from BOTH sides of the aisle on what just happened and I am finding an interesting phenomenon. I find that people still have their sunglasses on. People can look at the exact SAME event and come out of it with two completely DIFFERENT ways to describe the SAME reality.

It is normal, natural and a part of our human nature. The only thing that is not allowed is the sunglasses that say “I don’t have sunglasses on. I see reality as it really is!” The people who don’t recognize that they are wearing sunglasses that tints reality in one direction or another are the ones that are dangerous.

Remember those cool lenses that came in cereal boxes in the 70’s that were red. You would eagerly dig through the cereal box to find the little package and then use it to read secret messages on the outside of the box. The red lens changed the message and allowed you to read a different colored text beneath. That is us, only we all have different colors reading the same message but it appears differently to us all.

Your sunglasses are your worldview. It is how you look at the world. It is your perspective, you bent on life. Your sunglasses are inherited in part. Your sunglasses are learned in part. Your sunglasses are shaped by your choices in life. Your sunglasses are sometimes beaten into you by abuses in life.

Even the myth of unbiased news reporting is just that: a myth. The best you can hope for in news is the opposite: put BOTH perspectives next to each other and let them present their colored views as best they can according to their sunglasses and let YOU decide who has the glasses with the closest color to yours. Once you realize that everything you see and hear is tainted in some way you are a step closer to reality.

First, recognize you wear sunglasses. Second, recognize everything you see and hear is from someone who also is wearing sunglasses. Third, recognize reality is somewhere in the middle of all that and there is no way we will find it on this side of eternity. Because now we see but a poor reflection, then we will see reality face to face. I have said this before but it is worth repeating: there will be three surprises in heaven. The first surprise is who is there that we NEVER THOUGHT WOULD BE. The second surprise is those who are NOT THERE that we thought would be. The third surprise is that WE ARE THERE AT ALL! What are your sunglasses telling you?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Loss of the Common

I was into one of my magazines, actually an Archeology magazine when I came across something unexpected. A Christian Pickup Line.

This is not something that you would normally find in a magazine on Archeology so it came out of the blue. The discussion was on the ancient city of Jericho and how much of an impact the story of Jericho has on our everyday life. Here’s the line, but you have to understand the biblical story of Jericho: “How many times do I have to walk around you to get your walls to fall down?”

So that got me thinking about what other pickup lines there may be out there, here are a few I found:

“I just don’t feel called to celibacy”
“What do you think Paul meant when he said to greet everyone with a holy kiss?”
“You know, I am really into relationship evangelism!”
“That halo matches your eyes!”
“Before tonight, I never believed in predestination!”
“Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”
“The Bible says to give water to those who are thirsty and to feed the hungry, so how about dinner?”
“Is it a sin that you stole my heart?”
“Excuse me, is this pew taken?”
“Excuse me, but I believe one of your ribs belongs to me.”
“Oh, you’re cold? Maybe we should read Ecc. 4:11?”

There are even Christian break-up lines:

“I’m sorry; it just isn’t God’s will.”
“God loves me and must have a better plan for my life.”
“I think we should just be prayer partners.”
“I do love you, but it’s just agape now.”

Ouch! And more OUCH! Chances are, more than half of you who read this don’t get it. There is probably only a third of you who get most of them. And maybe only a quarter of you who know what predestination is in the biblical sense. For those of you who get these, how about you try to follow the Physicist’s pickup lines:

“You’re more special than relativity.”
“Heisenberg was wrong. I’m certain about what you’re doing tonight.”
“My last boyfriend wasn’t very stable. He spontaneously decayed last week and left me for a neutrino.”
“I’m attracted to you like the earth to the sun. With a large force inversely proportional to the distance squared.”

Wha? While we may understand the surface humor of it and maybe even laugh, but how many of us really know Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal? Or even what a neutrino is? Or why one of your ribs would belong to me? Or what Ecc. 4:11 says? Or what agape is? Or how the walls of Jericho came down?

What we lack is a common connection that comes from a common history but today, common connections are becoming very uncommon. While we may understand the words we cannot understand the context or meaning behind them. While the world is becoming flatter, it is sacrificing its depth in the process. We are losing the “common” in our history and while I can now talk to one thousand of you reading this many of you won’t get the joke – or the message.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I Write

When I was in High School as a freshman I would look at our school paper and the first thing I would read was the column by this ultra-wise senior who was also a basketball player. Talk about a trifecta: wise, senior, basketball. When I became a sophomore I began to think that I could do the same thing, they had no columnist for the Echo (name of our school paper) but I didn’t believe I was quite ready yet. By my Junior year I was on the Echo staff and learn to develop photographs (yes, this was still when we used dark rooms and had to actually “lay out” a newspaper since computers were not yet involved.) Then I submitted my first column. I don’t remember what I wrote about, but it was good enough for the Teacher/Sponsor of the Echo to give me a regular column. So when my first two knee surgeries took me out of any basketball playing I had to rely on my writing to attract the opposite sex. By the end of my senior year I felt I was a seasoned columnist. I wrote because I thought it was cool.

In my college years and in my years in business my writing languished. I had things to say but no format in which to say them. Then came computers: God’s gift to budding writers. I started writing my first book of fiction in the late 1980s and it took about 5 years to complete. It was on 5 1/2 inch floppy drives and was about 220 pages. Only a few have ever read it, it was never published, not even attempted to be published, and I don’t quite know where my copy is right now. I wrote it mainly to see if I could, kind of like climbing Mt. Everest.

Then I became pastor of a church and out of the business world. I was asked to write a Bible Study for Teens and when it was published I had the bug again. (It’s called Workout! And you can pick it up at discount tables or Amazon’s used books for less than a buck). I also started writing a column again in our church’s bulletin/newsletter. Because I was the pastor they let me. Being forced to write a column every week created a hunger in me. First: a hunger for something to write about since you run out of ideas pretty quick, seriously, try it sometime. Second: a hunger for reading things, anything and everything. Third: a hunger for memory helps, since I had the greatest idea for a column that would have changed the world but I forgot what it was – I didn’t write it down fast enough.

Today I write for two reasons. I write because I believe I have a gift of taking something complicated and through stories and weird connections I can make it simple and easy to understand. And I write because it helps me to focus my thoughts clearly and precisely. So here is my advice to you:
- READ, anything and everything. Listen to Books, Lectures, Classes on CD. Magazines, Blogs, and Websites. This will make you a broad, well-rounded, and interesting individual, the life of parties.
- WRITE, anything and everything. Your own column, blog, a journal, or even start your own book. This will force you to focus that broad knowledge you picked up from your reading and give you a conviction in what you believe.
Read to build knowledge and it will make you interesting. Write to build focus and it will make you firm in your convictions and beliefs.