Monday, February 28, 2011


Last night I watched the Academy Awards.

I sort feel like the American Indian chief who attended church for the first time. At the conclusion of the service, someone asked him what he thought. Simple..."Big wind...lotta rain."

Now I am no movie critic or cinematographical afficionado, but I do know a good movie when I see one. Last nights award ceremony left something to be desired. It may be because it is the first time I have ever watched the Academy Awards from beginning to end.

Allow me a couple of observations...

King's Speech took home their share of honors
Melissa Leo's speech had to be 'bleeped"
Social Network did well
The Fighter fought its way to several honors
Celine Dion paid tribute to those who had the opportunity to see their life on the big screen on the other side
Inception won, but I am not sure if the award was real or if it was part of a dream
All of the recipients said in one way or another..."thanks Mom and thanks to the academy."
Billy Crystal and Bob Hope both showed up.

However the highlight of the night was a a brief tribute of Lena Horne by Halle Berry. Pictures of the film star rolled behind Berry as she shared a few short words. 

"It's not the load that breaks you down, 
it's how you carry it."

The Academy Awards felt like attending a conference and sitting through lots of presentations that were mediocre and then finally hearing the one "take away" comment that has the power to transform your thinking and catapult you forward. Lena Horne's comment did that for me.

It reminded me that everyone including Academy award winners, those not selected, and you and I carry a load of some kind. There is something that wears us down. The temptation is to focus on the load and not give attention to how we carry it. 

Suffering is an interesting thing...there is no valor in suffering if we have to announce it to everyone. There is the subtle temptation to think we are the only one who has ever carried a heavy load. Horne reminds us that "how we carry" our suffering may be as important or more important than the suffering itself.

I did not have high expectations of the show, but I was looking forward to the PS22 School kids performance. I thought it would be somewhere toward the middle of the show, but sure enough it was the very last performance on the nearly four hour show. It was worth the wait.

It seemed like the perfect illustration of what Lena Horne tried to say. I am sure that adversity, difficulty and challenges could have easily derailed the dream that the kids from PS22 had of performing on the large stage. They made it.

Shutting off the TV, the music from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" continued to play in my head. In the words of Bob Hope, "thanks for the memories."

Sunday, February 27, 2011


We have an automobile that has served us well for over 10 years. It has run flawlessly with minimal repairs and has delivered on the promises made by the salesman when we purchased it. Approaching 225,000 miles it still starts and rides smoothly providing dependable transportation for us.

I was driving it several years ago and without any warning the "check engine" light began to glow on the dashboard. Immediately I made a call to the dealer and described my plight. He instructed me to bring it in at "my convenience." Not knowing about these kind of things, I told him I would bring it right over. 

Lifting the hood, he connected a diagnostic device and told me that my "exhaust fuel sensor reducer capacitor metric overhead cam axle on board computer" was not functioning properly. Well, that is not exactly what he said, but that's what I heard.

He reached under the dashboard and fumbled around, a few seconds later the "check engine" light was off. He said "if the car is not causing you any problem, just ignore the light." Say what?

Now I am no rocket scientist, but that light means something when it is lit on the dashboard. Please don't send me all of your diagnoses because I have done everything the mechanic has said to do. I am pretty sure now it is just a malfunction of the light that leaves a faint glow on the dashboard of the car.

All of this has caused me to wonder....Did you ever have a "check engine" light glow on the dashboard of your soul? Have you ever had a warning that something was wrong on your faith journey? What has been your response?

For many people they ignore these "warning signals" and go on about life as though nothing is wrong. Others take the time to "diagnose" the problem and see what needs to be done. Just because we ignore these warnings does not mean they will eventually go away, often times it means that the matter will only become more serious.

Here is what I have learned from driving a car with a "check engine" light on.

First, something is wrong and it is always important to find out what it is. Sometimes it is easy to find out by ourselves, but often it is something that requires others to help us discover. That's why life lived apart from community will leave us feeling alone and lonely.

Second, when we discover what is wrong, we must make the commitment to get it fixed. To often, people will discover the glitch causing problems in their life but will continue to live with it even though it can be painful and cause them to live life in lesser ways than God intended.

Thirdly, when we make the commitment to get it fixed, it can be costly. The cost may mean that we need to make radical changes in the way we are living. But the costs may be less than the cost of continuing living the way we are presently living.

Is there a "check engine" light glowing on the dashboard of your life? If so, what are you doing about it?

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I am going to go out on a limb for a minute...

Recently I was listening to a pastor who had served his congregation for over twenty years and who has had a remarkable ministry. From the outside looking in, it appears that he has done a lot of innovative things and has reached out in a variety of ways that most churches would find uncomfortable.

He was sharing from his heart about his years of ministry and he said something that struck me...

He said, "I wish I would have taken more risks."

Pausing I thought about his statement and wondered how many risks people take everyday. I wonder how many people take the "risky route" or the "safe way?"

All of this got me to thinking. I wonder what a "risky life" looks like?  I think I have a pretty good idea of a "safe" existence because I have seen its anesthetizing effect on people.  But "taking a risk" is another thing.

Here are my thoughts on "taking risks."

A person who takes risks usually does not look back with regrets. They have lived in the world of "I wonder what would happen if we did this or did that?"  I am not talking about doing foolish things or being unwise, but I am talking about living in such a way that we are always living in "God dependent ways."

A person who takes a risk usually experiences new resources that are never available to those who "play it safe."  I am not talking about taking a risk to see what resources may materialize, but I am talking about stepping out and doing it in such a way that unless God shows up you are going to fall flat on your face.

A person who takes a risk usually experiences an incredible life of joy because they are never satisfied to simply go through the motions.  I am not talking about doing crazy things just to see what kind of reaction it may create, but I am talking about living a life outside of the rut.

One of the reasons we are reluctant to take risks is because we become vulnerable to failure and its effects. That often prevents us from thinking about risks much less taking them.

I do not want to get near the end of my leadership or my life and stand up in front of young leaders and say, "I wish I would have taken more risks." 

Tim McMahon said it best..."Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking."

Take a leap today...take a risk...enjoy the journey! Get out on the limb!

Friday, February 25, 2011


I love doing crossword puzzles. I love words. I love fitting letters into the boxes and making certain that each word intersects with other words. I inherited the joy of doing crossword puzzles from my mother who neatly completes her crossword puzzles in ink.

She does not write a word down until she is absolutely certain that it is the right word. When finished, her crossword puzzles look like they could be the solution page that you find in the back of crossword puzzle books.

Some puzzles are harder than others. Every morning I complete the USA Today puzzle on line. Mondays are the easiest day of the week and by the weekend they become more challenging. Sorta the opposite how we live life.

I enjoy doing crossword puzzles in airplane magazines when I travel. I enjoy doing the puzzles in used newspapers I find in restaurants. I enjoy the Detroit Free Press newspaper because there are usually three puzzles in each days paper. Why? I love words.

In the book entitled, The Lie That Tells a Truth, John Dufresne says, "the limits of your language are the limits of your world." I think he is right. I think many people live their life with a limited number of words in their vocabulary and thus live in a limited world.

Recently I ran across a quote from a person who said, "I was reading the dictionary, I thought it was a poem about everything."  I am not advocating that we read the dictionary cover to cover, but I am suggesting it wouldn't hurt us to go back to the days in school when we had "vocab" lessons and we learned new words every week.

Crosswords puzzles are the way I learn new words. And yes, sometimes when I near the end of a puzzle and I am still missing a couple of words, I yield to the temptation to just fill in the blanks neatly so I can say, "finished." And by the way, I didn't learn that from my mom. But when I succumb to the temptation to do this, I learn a new word even though its not a real word. Know what I mean?

Gotta go...USA Today crossword puzzle is calling... word for the day...Meaning? Person who designs or solves crossword puzzles.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Annie Dillard writes with pathos and power. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a highly descriptive work on nature and its surroundings in the Roanoke, Virginia area.

She traces the meaning of life throughout the pages of her writings and nudges the reader to examine their life and its unfolding story. My favorite quote from her writings simply says...

"How we spend our days, is of course,
how we spend our lives."

To many people live "practice lives." They are posturing and preening in preparation for the real life they want to live someday.  Everyday seems to be a "preparation" for the life they will one day live, but it seems like they never get around to living the life they want to live.

Dillard is so right, "how we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives."

Oscar Wilde penned similar thoughts...."one's real life is often the life that one does not lead."

There are times when it seems like people I meet are trying to get through today because, "tomorrow will be better." There is always a longing for a better day when today is adequate if only they could see it. 

It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to live past today in order to get to tomorrow. It's never to late to stop and be "fully present" in this day. It's never to early to resolve to "inhabit today."

Are you going to experience today or will you squander it because you are waiting for another day to pass? Why not try being a good steward of each moment? Why not treasure each segment of your day and resist the temptation to hurry the day along in an effort to get to a better day ahead? Who knows how many opportunities we have missed because we failed to live in the day that God has given us?

I wonder how many days living like this before it becomes our pattern of existence?  It also makes me wonder if this is the reason so many people are unhappy? 

I resolve to live out every moment today. I am not going to wish away any of them. I want to make each day count rather than counting my days. What's on your agenda today?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


"Too often, we look when we should see, 
we glance when we should gaze." 

In a world that is moving at a dizzying pace, the temptation is to snatch glances at the passing scenery and be satisfied with what we have seen. Admittedly, it takes time to move from "looking" to "seeing," time that we often do not have to give.

Interestingly enough there are some things we miss when we "look," there are some things we pass over when we "glance." It's not because of negligence, rather it is because we are so busy and do not have time to "gaze" at life. We do not take the time to explore.

In The Lie That Tells the Truth, John Dufresne has a section entitled, The Meaning of Life is to See. In that chapter he explores the meaning of "seeing" as opposed to "looking." Reading it, my mind races ahead and thinks about all of the things I will see today. 

I wonder what my busy-ness today will prevent me from "seeing?" I wonder if there are some things today that God wants me to "see" but I will be satisfied with "looking?" I wonder if I will be content to "glance" when He says"gaze."

Salvador Dali, the great artist, said, "to gaze is to think." 

The psalmist David wrote, One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

Here is my prayer as I start my day....Forgive me when I "glance" and you call me to "gaze."

Today is an "Eyes Wide Open" kind of day...can't wait to "see!" How about you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Walker Percy, writing in The Moviegoer tells the story of Binx Bolling and his quest for a life of meaning.  Percy is a brilliant southern writer who tells a compelling story that drags the reader into every word and every page.. 

Bolling tries to escape the humdrum of life by going to the movies which provide him with "treasurable moments" which are absent from his every day life. While at the movies he is able to withdraw from life and attach to the story on the big screen.

Movies have that effect.

William Willimon, Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Northern Alabama, describes his experience with the "moving picture show" in an article in Christian Century on October 22, 1986.

"Though I could not have known it at the time, a momentous event in my faith journey occurred on a Sunday evening in 1963 in Greenville, South Carolina, when, in defiance of the state's archaic Blue Laws, the Fox Theatre opened on Sunday evening. Seven of us--regular attenders at the Methodist Youth Fellowship at Buncombe Street Church--made a pact to enter the front door of the church, be seen, then quietly slip out the back door and join John Wayne at the Fox.

Only lately have I come to see how that evening symbolizes a watershed in the history of Christianity in the United States. On that night, Greenville, South Carolina--the last pocket of resistance to secularity in the Western world--gave in and served notice that it would not longer be a prop for the church. If Christians were going to be made in Greenville, the church must do it alone. There would be no more free passes for the church, no more free rides. The Fox Theatre went head-to-head with the church to see who would provide the ultimate values for the young. That night in 1963, the Fox Theatre would the opening skirmish.

In taking me to church, my parents were affirming everything that was American. Church was, in a sense, the only show in town. Everybody was doing it. Church, home and state formed a vast consortium working together to instill Christian values. People grew up Christian, simply by growing up American. All that ended the night that the Fox Theatre opened on Sunday."

Back to Binx Bolling....

Toward the end of the novel, he laments that every morning he awakes in the "grip of everydayness...and everydayness is the enemy."

I am wondering if the church has anything to say today that breaks the cycle of "everydayness?" I wonder if the church has lost her voice to speak into the lives of people or has surrendered it to the movies, music, entertainment and the like?

My goal in my journey today is to move beyond the "everdayness" of life to "treasurable moments."

Monday, February 21, 2011


It's that day again where we think about what lies ahead in the coming week. Appointments, meetings, dates, schedules and arrangements to be made all face us as we prepare for the next seven days.

Many people play it safe...some take a few risks...others lay it all on the line.

There is an old poem that says it far better than I. Actually there are several different wordings of the same poem, but this one says it best. I am not sure of the author, but I am certain whoever wrote it wouldn't mind its wider distribution.

Life is not a journey to the grave
With the intention of
Arriving safely in a pretty
And well preserved body,
But rather to skid in broadside,
Thoroughly used up,
Totally worn out,
And loudly proclaiming,
WOW !!!! What a ride!

What would your life look like this week if you realized that "life is not a journey to the grave" but a life that is to be "thoroughly used up and totally worn out?"

What would happen if you didn't play it safe this week? What would happen if you "went for it" and enjoyed the ride?

Life is not a beauty contest, but it is a contest to bring beauty to life...I'm just sayin'....Enjoy the ride!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


All of my life I have heard about the importance of being "saved." Growing up in the church the idea of being "saved" was a matter of ultimate importance as it determined where you were going to spend eternity.

Today I am going to think about the idea of "saved" with the congregation I share life with.  I am going to pose the question that has been posed by others in a variety of ways.  The question is simply this, "if you only had the Bible to answer, how to get saved, what would the answer be?"

All of this began in Sermon Lab on Wednesday evening...Sermon Lab is an opportunity for people to gather and think out loud about the Sunday morning message that will be shared. I offer the scripture and then we have conversation about it. Quite simple, yet the results have been profound and have shaped my preaching and teaching in ways that I will forever be grateful for.

Anyway, here is the scripture for today...

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  
not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s 
handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10  

In my preparation for today, I have been re-thinking some of what I have thought for a long time. What if it is easier to get "saved" than we have made it?  What if it really is a gift we accept and not something that we have to get ready to receive?  What if we just receive it and then begin to live as forgiven people?
Here is what I discover as I read the pages of Scripture. People come to Jesus in a variety of ways and every time they do, he forgives their sins. 

My prayer is that people will come to Jesus and experience His forgiveness as they receive the Gift. Thanks to my friends in Sermon Lab for helping me to see the power of His Word!

You can join us for Worship and the Word by going to and click on the Online Worship section. See you at His House or online!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


It's that time of the year again when speculation turns toward spring and warmer temperatures.  In our neck of the woods, we are expecting more snow and cold weather even though this week has teased us with a hint of spring.

It's always amazing to hear people talk about the weather. Some do not make any plans for the day until they have consulted the Weather Channel or the local morning report. They check in as if doing so will somehow alter the weather.

Kin Hubbard said it well, "Don't knock the weather. If it didn't change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn't start a conversation."

Discussing the weather and the forecast is often relegated to old men sitting around coffee shops or barber shops. They discuss the depth of the snow, the depth of snow drifts and the fact that it all had to be shoveled.

Better get ready....the snow is coming and so are the senior snow plowers. Watch for them in a neighborhood near you.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I am not an artist, although I would love to be able to paint creatively.

As a child I received a Paint by Number set for Christmas or a birthday.  I remember looking at the cardboard canvas and seeing faint blue lines with numbers inside the lines. Each number corresponded to a small container of paint lodged in a cardboard palette. I can still remember the aroma of the paint even though it is over 40 years ago.

Admonished to "stay in the lines," I embarked on a career as a "paint by number" artist.  Do you know how hard it is to "stay in the lines?" Kinda takes all of the fun out of being creative.

My finished project didn't even come close to resembling the photograph on the outside of the box. It more closely resembled the work of Salvador Dali or Andy Warhol.

All of this got me thinking about creativity. Although I did not know what to do with the colors in the cardboard palette, I intuitively knew they could be assembled into a masterpiece by the right artist.  

Many of us live our lives in a "paint by number" world and miss incredible opportunities to paint outside the lines creatively.

One of my favorite books is by Gordon MacKenzie entitled, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace." He closes the book with a stunning statement...

You have a masterpiece, inside you, too, you know.
One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be.
And remember,

If you go to your grave 
without painting
your masterpiece, 
it will not
get painted.
No one else
can paint it.

Only you.

So go ahead, hang some signs that say, "Wet Paint" and be creative. After all, you're an Artist!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Recently I shared the following with a group of friends who wanted to strengthen their marriages and relationships with others.  Often times people say things like, "I want to change,but it's so hard." Or "this is just the way I am."

Portia Nelson has written the following, Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a big hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost. I am helpless, It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in.
I can't believe I am in the same place, but
It isn't my fault,
It takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is still there.
I fall in...It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am. It's my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

Chapter 5.
I go down another street.

I have always liked this short narrative.  What street are you headed down today? Watch out for holes in the sidewalk.  If you continue to fall in holes in sidewalks, it's never to late to change streets. Enjoy your steps on the journey today!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I am trying to commit the story and life of the church I serve to a few well turned phrases...It is harder than I realized. It's sorta like a snapshot so people looking for a church will know who we are.

Taking a video is a lot more fun than shooting snapshots.  Recording a video means you press the button, point the camera and record the action. Shooting a snapshot requires you to frame the shot, hold the camera still, hold your breath, pray the subject remains still and shoot the picture.

Writing sometimes allows you to record scenery (video) and other times it demands you record fixed subjects (snapshots.)

I am trying to commit the story and life of the church I serve to a well turned phrases...a snapshot.

Here is what I got...

Welcome to West Flint Church of the Nazarene.... 
A Simple Church

We are a Simple Church made up of people committed to working, playing, living and serving together as pilgrims on the Journey.  Our Mission field is Greater Flint and its surrounding communities. We meet together on Sunday mornings to practice our faith and experience His Presence. We meet throughout the week to experience what it means to be a "community of faith."

In all of this we seek to live out our faith in ordinary and extraordinary ways as we remain faithful to our past, fully present in the moment and preparing for the future.

As a Simple Church...We Worship
We are a Worshiping Community of people who gather weekly to rehearse the narratives of His Story through music and Scripture.

As a Simple Church...We Value the Word and the Story it Portrays
We are a Word Community of people who long to know what it means to be an authentic Christ follower in this world today.

As a Simple Church...We are Called to Serve Others
We are a Community of People who are committed to serving others and using the gifts God has given to improve the story of those around us.

As I said, it is more difficult to do than I thought.... Feedback is welcome...Eventually this will be on the church's website along with a "what we believe" section. If you want to provide input, but are reluctant to do so in a public forum, feel free to send your responses to  I need all the help I can get.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


It has been hyped as the Ultimate Battle between man & machine. Following Monday night's Jeopardy's episode, the two were tied. 

The premise is based on a contest between Jeopardy's two most successful contestants, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings and a supercomputer named Watson.  Rutter, in his career has won nearly 3 1/2 million dollars and Jennings has won 74 games in a row. Seems like they have the right candidates for this showdown.

The computer Watson is named for IBM founder and is powered by 10 racks of computer servers. It is touted as the ultimate answering machine and its designers intend to prove that it is more intelligent than humans.

The result?  At the end of round one on Monday evening, Rutter and Watson ended with $5,000 each. Jennings didn't fare so well and lagged behind by $2,000.

Tune in on Tuesday and Wednesday to see how all of this unfolds...

All of this got me to thinking...I battle a computer everyday....Some days I win...Some days the computer wins. The Jeopardy prize is $1 million. My daily prize is to hit "save" and get a document "saved." A highlight is when I hit "print" and a document comes out of the printer. If I can get on the internet at a WiFi hotspot, it feels like I have hit the jackpot.

I am not sure what all of the hype is with Watson, Rutter and Jennings. 

My prayer is that I will get this post saved before it evaporates into ether space.  Wait a minute, I wonder if all of the documents I have ever lost are somewhere inside of Watson.

Come to think of's the question I think should appear on Jeopardy.  Where are all of my documents, email and pictures I have lost over the years?  

Watson...answer that please, because I am sure that Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings don't have a clue. 

Monday, February 14, 2011


I love good BBQ...that will not surprise you I'm sure. I have eaten at some of the finest BBQ establishments in America...Arthur Bryant's, Gates & Sons, Fiorella's Jack Stack, Corkys, Sonny's, Haywards, Butts on the Creek, Smokey Bones, Gold Rush, Smokestack, Famous Dave's, and Jack's in Nashville.

Late last week I received an email advertisement from the BBQ restaurant I frequent, proudly announcing 6 meals under 600 calories in addition to their regular menu. I read the fine print of the advertisement and it said, when you order from our new menu "get a free 30 day pass to (local gym) and assessment with personal trainer when you order any Citrus Grill platter."

Kinda defeats the purpose of enjoying good BBQ if you have to count calories, points or fat grams, if you know what I mean. Kinda defeats to the purpose of licking the BBQ sauce off your fingers if you get a gym and trainer recommendation with your bill at the end of the meal.

For a carnivorous BBQ lover, calories are not on the diet radar. It doesn't bring joy to your taste buds when you have to calculate the amount of calories you are consuming with each bite of mouth watering BBQ.

So I have made a decision. I will continue to eat BBQ and leave the calorie counting to my favorite restaurant. I am grateful that they are willing to do that for me. When they bring my bill and gym and personal trainer offer, I am not going to take it personal.

All of this conversation makes me hungry for BBQ. Do you think it's too early? I really do need to get back to the gym. Eating good BBQ will give me a good excuse...If I order the right item from the menu. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011


You don't hear it as often as you used to...You would hear it at the beginning of a meeting. Somebody would say, "let's think outside the box," which literally meant "let's explore alternative solutions to longstanding problems or challenges."

It was the standard operating procedure in meetings where creativity was valued. Often people would come up with solutions requiring massive changes to conventional and approved ways of doing things. That's what made "outside the box" thinking such a scary proposition for some people.

I have been to lots of meetings and have heard lots of "outside the box" thinking. I have seen a lot of great ideas shot down because "we have never done it that way before." I have watched "outside the box" thinkers persist and eventually have a hearing on their thoughts.

We are where we are today because someone thought "outside the box." We didn't just drift to where we are in our technologies.Someone did some deep level thinking that prompted them to say, "what would happen if we....?"

That's my question today.  What would happen if we thought long and hard about problems and challenges we face in our culture. What if we resisted the temptation to yield to simplistic answers that on the surface may appear to work and give ourselves to "outside the box" thinking which may catapult us forward into new arenas of effectiveness.

What would happen if I allowed myself to think "outside the box" in matters of faith? What would my life look like as a pilgrim if this happened?

The problem with "outside the box" thinking is once the idea is out of the box its sorta hard to get it back in....Let the creative thinking begin! Kinda exciting!  What do you think?

Saturday, February 12, 2011


My grandmother used this word to describe any type of illness that had flu-like symptoms. The word has its origins in the French languages and is translated "claw" or to "seize" or "grab." 

However you translate it, I have been "gripped" over the last 24 hours...Not a pleasant feeling.

My grandmother had all kinds of tonics and curative remedies that sounded like they could make you worse than the disease they were designed to cure. I have been sick enough that I am willing to try some of those cures. Well, not really, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tomorrow will be better and I am already looking forward to it.

Friday, February 11, 2011


This has been a great week It is hard to believe that the weekend is right around the corner. I have been in  a lot of conversations this week, some that I was directly involved in and several that I overheard.

Before you think that I am being nosy and trying to intentionally overhear the conversations around me, let me assure you that the following comments were said loud enough for everyone around to hear.

Here are the big three from this week...

The Setting:  Barnes & Noble.  
The Conversation: A Person talking on a cell phone.
The Subject:  It was tough to tell but it seemed like some inspectors were at a local business and there were some shortcomings in their findings.
The Quote:  "Do what you have to do to comply and then as soon as the inspectors leave we can go back to business as usual."
Reflection:  I hope they are not inspecting airplane parts on my next flight. I hope they are not inspecting the kitchen in one of my favorite restaurants.

The Setting: Book Store
The Conversation: A Person talking on a cell phone
The Subject: A Person trying to scam his employer and the insurance company
The Quote"Yeah, I slipped and fell this morning on my way to work, I don't think I am hurt, but you never know, so I am going to the doctor and see if he can find anything.
Reflection: I am guessing the doctor will not be successful in finding anything as I watched the guy get up and laugh as he walked out of the bookstore. Now I know why insurance rates are so high and lawyers are wealthy.

The Setting:  Borders Book Store
The Conversation: A Person reading a magazine about opulent lifestyles.
The Subject:  A Person who is lamenting the fact why he doesn't have a bigger share of the American Dream.
The Quote:  "This trailer park has ruined by work ethic."
Reflection: I am not even sure where to go with a comment like that...

It is tough to keep up with the conversations that I am a part of, but when I overhear things like these it is tough to keep focused.

I am going to pay careful attention to my conversations today, how about you?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Every once in a while I run across a part of the Bible that seems like it was just inserted in the most recent edition. It is as though I have never seen it. Oh, its been there all along, I just missed it. That's probably true of anyone that reads the sacred story on a regular basis, but for me it was a startling discovery.

The Psalmist David prayed all kinds of prayers throughout the 150 psalms he composed. They are magnificent examples of honesty and transparency. They are beacons shedding light into the crevasses of our heart, lasers searching the contours of our soul.

Here is what I have missed until yesterday afternoon.

May those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me, 
O Lord, the Almighty;
may those who seek you 
not be put to shame 
because of me, 
O God of Israel.
Psalm 69:6

A word of caution...don't pray this prayer. Really, don't pray this prayer. 


Because God might answer it and then your life will become an open book before Him and others. Not a safe place if you ask me. But it is a place of relief and honesty.

Here is another way of hearing the same scripture...

Don't let those who look to you in hope
be discouraged by what happens to me,
Dear Lord!  God of the armies!
Don't let those out looking for you,
come to a dead end by following me-
Please, dear God of Israel
Psalm 69:6 The Message

Today is a day of "being pretending." In our own strength we can't do this, but with His help He can take the drama out of our stories and help us live out His Story. When that happens, we are "follow-able."

Someone is watching you...Live a life worth watching and following!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


"With every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand." --G. K. Chesterton.

Aren't those encouraging words to start the day with? Isn't it interesting to think how easy it is to misunderstand people and situations?

As you start the day let me suggest some things to keep in mind as you face the day...

1.  Every person that you meet today has a story unfolding in their lives.Watch diligently!

2.  Pay careful attention to people's stories and you might learn what makes them tick.Listen carefully!

3.  Before you share your story, let the other person share theirs. Wait patiently!

Recognize that what you see is not always what you get.

Today you will face many different people and situations. Some you will understand and others will be perplexing, and that's OK. Every step you take leads you into the middle of someone else's story.

G.K. Chesterton writing later in his life said it well..."I had always felt life first as a story and if there is a story there is a storyteller."

Get acquainted with the Storyteller today...let Him shape your life story so that you will be a "hope bearer" and "mercy giver." Keep your eyes and heart open today!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Sir Christopher Wren, one of the world's most famous architects, was responsible for the design of over fifty churches in a career spanning the late 1600's. But it was the design of Windsor Town Hall near London in 1689 that is the most interesting.

Asked by the city fathers to design the town hall the famous church architect designed an interior ceiling supported by pillars. 

The local officials who knew little about architecture upon inspection announced the pillars did not seem sufficient support for the massive ceiling. Wren argued with them and insisted the massive pillars would support the ceiling. The inspectors disagreed and insisted that additional columns be constructed.

Finally, Wren conceded and designed additional pillars. What the inspectors did not know was that the pillars Wren designed when constructed did not reach all the way to the ceiling. They were 1 inch short of reaching the ceiling.

From the floor it appeared the newly constructed reached all the way to the ceiling but it was an illusion. They supported nothing, they were an illusion.

The inspectors came in and were satisfied their additional requirements had been met. Wren knew nothing had changed in his original design. The town fathers were satisfied.

I am not sure what this story means, but I am sure there are lots of applications if you think about it.

Wren designed beautiful sanctuaries and cathedrals across Europe. When he died his son etched these words on his tombstone.

Lector, Si Monumentum, Requiris, Circumspice. 

I love the translation of those words...

Reader, If You Seek His Memorial-Look Around You

What memorials are we leaving to those who will follow us? After we are gone, will others be able to look around and see evidence of our faithfulness?

Monday, February 7, 2011


In 1911 a cathedral named St. Gerards was constructed by German Catholic immigrants in Buffalo, New York. Carrying visions from their continent, it was modeled after a basilica in Rome, St. Paul's Outside the Walls. It was inhabited by worshippers until  2008 when a decision was made to close it due to declining numbers of Catholics in the Buffalo area.

At the time of St. Gerards closing, a growing congregation in the small Georgia community of Norcross was considering the construction of a new worship facility. Fr. David Dye led his congregation through the process of planning and thinking about the new facilities. The result? They were looking to build a new church that looked like an old one.

"I don't mean to offend people who build those [modern] churches, but some of them look like Pizza Huts."

A plan was developed to move St. Gerards stone by stone, with the approval of the Buffalo Diocese, nearly a 1000 miles to Norcross and reassemble it to house the growing congregation. The Diocese officials said in an interview, "Why should a church become a restaurant, or a nightclub?" 

St. Gerards former pastor agreed, "Let's use it for it's intention. It's a holy place, a sacred space."

The relocation plan is in the early stages of fund raising. The projected cost is $15 million. If it were built from scratch the projected cost would be $40 million.

Yesterday afternoon I was in Barnes & Noble reading and relaxing. I picked up the newest edition of First Things and skimmed through its pages. Tucked in the back of the magazine was a couple of paragraphs about the relocation project.

Writing on a napkin, I wrote the last sentence of the brief article....

"A note to those building new churches: No one will ever move a Pizza Hut from Buffalo to Atlanta."

Nuf' said....

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Culture is rapidly changing, I don't need to tell you that. Although time is moving at the same pace it always has, it seems like it is moving more rapidly. A five year old waiting for a birthday party has a different understanding of the passing of time than a family on a weekend getaway trip.

Looking back fifty years, several forces and stages have shaped our understanding of time.

Sci-Fi (Science Fiction) Stage - The simplicity of a story told on a black and white television Saturday evenings challenged the imaginations of couch potatos. Although the story lines may have been complex, the presentation was simple. The world was limited to  one speaker and a screen with its images. The world was small.

Hi-Fi (High Fidelity) Stage - I remember clearly the day my dad brought a Hi-Fi stereo into the living room of the house. No longer was sound coming through one speaker, now two speakers filled the room with high fidelity sound. The world was expanding.

Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) Stage - An invisible signal is everywhere. Instant connections make it possible to get information in a split second. The internet expanded the world again.

What does all this mean?

I am not sure, but I can go into wireless "hot spots" and watch science fiction and listen to high fidelity music on the wireless fidelity signal. Pretty cool if you ask me. 

What is the next technology that will expand the world again? I am sure somewhere in a laboratory someone is working on a project that will shrink the size of the world again and make information more rapidly available.

Here are some possibilities that I have been thinking about...

Di-Fi (Distraction Fidelity) Stage - A sophisticated technology for those suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. It provides a steady flow of information enabling the user to multitask more effectively.

Gi-Fi (Gift Fidelity) Stage -This is an incredible technology for those who are difficult to shop for. It is a gallery of "virtual gifts." There is no wrapping, shipping or the worry of sending thank you's. They don't actually exist in reality, they are more of a thought in the giver and receivers mind.

Fi-Fi Stage - This is not a technological advance, but it makes a great name for a poodle.

Well, I think you get the picture...

Until then, I am going to take time to enjoy the benefits of the technology which opens the world to its users. I am thankful for the flow of information available to me. My prayer is that I am faithful in its use. 

"Gotta go and check my email."

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Last night we had the privilege of having dinner with a young couple that just adopted a baby boy. It was a special time to hold the little baby and to enjoy a meal together. There were stories about how he came to be a part of their family and their hopes and dreams for him as he grows up. It was all spontaneous (except for the meal prep). Incredible!

Just as we were about to eat, my phone rang. It was friends calling us spontaneously asking if we had dinner plans. I apologized and told them what we were doing. "No problem. We'll catch you next time."

Leaving the young families' house, even though it was well past dinner time, I called my friend and said, "we just finished dinner and we can meet you for coffee and desert." Spontaneously, he said, "my wife just put brownies in the oven, why don't you come over here?" Without hesitation, I told him we were on our way.

Spontaneous. No pre-planning. No checking a calendar to see if that date and time were open. No advanced conversations about where to go. No discussion about the time. Spontaneous.

Have we lost the art of being spontaneous?  Have we lost the art of simply inviting others to get together or do we think that we have to have a spotless house and exquisite menu?  

Several weeks ago my wife and I were in Boston to visit our son. He is the King of Spontaneous. Even though we have been to Boston many times, he took us down side streets and through areas of town we had never seen.

Destination?  None in particular. We were just spontaneously taking a drive. How refreshing.

Turning a corner in Jamaica Plain he pointed out a community center that he and many of his friends frequent. It is the hub of all community activities in that area of the city. Going in the front door you could feel the energy of our son and his friends as they prepared meals for Boston's homeless and helpless. 

I immediately fell in love with the name of the center...Spontaneous Celebrations.

How's that for a name for a center?  What would it look like if that sign hung over the front door of your home? What would happen if that was the name of your church?

Last night my wife and I went to two homes. Both could have easily had that sign hung over the entrance to their homes. And, I felt right at home.

Most of us are to busy to be spontaneous.

In the words from an old TV commercial..."Try it, you'll like it."


Friday, February 4, 2011


I love bookstores. Every opportunity I get to go into a bookstore I take it. Sometimes I am thrilled with what I find and other times I walk away disappointed. I have my preferences.

I like Borders...great atmosphere, 
computers make it easy to access their collections

Barnes & Noble is OK...more like a museum rather than an actual vendor of books.

Jelly Beans...a local book store selling used books,
vinyl and posters...great smell inside the store. incredible independent bookstore in Michigan that 
combines great books, coffee and vibe.

Did I mention that I like bookstores?

Jerry Seinfeld says that, "a bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." I agree.

It is amazing how a best seller applauded by critics can find its way onto the 99 cent clearance table within a short time after its publication. Books are being written everyday and some stand the test of time and others are relegated to obscurity. 

"Have you read a good book lately? Who do you read? 

Recently I was reading an article by a voracious reader who was asked for book recommendations. His response intrigued me. He said, "I only read dead people." Upon more careful investigation I learned that he meant that his favorite authors were dead. He felt that books that continued to be published after an author dies must have something to say.

Back to the bookstores mentioned above....I checked it out and I think he is right. The shelves are full of books by authors that have died. The clearance rack is full of books from people who are still alive.

Check it out next time you are in a bookstore.

Here a some books by dead people that have brought life to my mind.

The Kingdom of God is Within You, Leo Tolstoy
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Orbiting the Giant Hairball, Gordon Mackenzie
Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers
Living Reminder, Henri Nouwen

By the way, when was the last time you were in a bookstore?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I have incredibly vivid memories of going to visit relatives in the bayou country of Louisiana. Life was large when we went to the country.  My black and white view of life turned into technicolor when I sat on the porch with Uncle Chester, Aunt Annie and the rest of the family.

Pulling off the black top, it was like walking into a whole different world when we arrived at the big house along the dusty road.

There was a huge garden, there were chickens running wild in the yard, there were empty Prince Albert cans of tobacco strewn in the front yard and there was a huge kitchen.

After getting settled in and exchanging pleasantries I waited for the invitation to go out into the garden to collect vegetables for the noon meal. It felt like I was walking in Cheneyville, Louisiana's version of the Garden of Eden. On a side note, there were always two less chickens in the yard after we left. We sorta took a part of them with us if you know what I mean.

The meal was was plenteous and tasty. I can still remember the smells, tastes and joy of sitting around the large table.

Now all of these memories may not have unfolded exactly as I have remembered, but to the best of my memory that is the way it was.

One thing about the garden was that it had a scarecrow. Not just your Wizard of Oz variety of scarecrow. This was a scarecrow intended to frighten would be scavengers dropping by for a vegetable buffet. Not only did it frighten birds, but it was very frightening to a young kid unaccustomed to things like that.

Who makes scarecrows anymore?  Probably they are a thing of the past. There is not really a big market for scarecrows these days.

Jeremiah writing in the tenth chapter uses a "scarecrow metaphor."

"Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, 
their idols cannot speak; they 
must be carried because they cannot walk." v. 16.

Look for yourself, this scripture is in an obscure section of the book of Jeremiah. Some say the scriptures before verse 16 have been used by people of faith to resist the urge to buy Christmas trees, but I my mind is not on that aspect.

"Scarecrows in a cucumber field" is one thing, but "idols cannot speak" is another. Jeremiah speaks of "idols that must be carried because they cannot walk."

All of this is very interesting to me this morning. It makes me wonder if some of the things we worship (idols) are like a "scarecrow in a cucumber field." It causes me to stop and think. 

If only the birds circling my Aunt Annies garden realized that although the scarecrow looked scary, it had no ability to hurt, harm or hinder the birds from gathering to feast on the cucumbers, corn and snap peas.

I am not sure what all of this means, however have you ever felt like a scarecrow in a cucumber field?


Time...Talent...Treasure... that's the stuff that Steward-ship is often associated with.

But being a "Story Steward" is another thing. 

In my reading yesterday I ran across a thought that sharpened the focus for me.

"If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive." 
Barry Lopez

Story opportunities come to us everyday, sometimes we recognize them and sometimes we miss them. Often times the best solutions to problems lie in the telling of a story. Some of life's most challenging problems do not easily lend themselves to quick solutions, but do lend themselves to a story.

David M. Armstrong has written a powerful book entitled, Managing by Storying Around that sits on the shelf in my library. The premise of his work is that the best leaders tell stories. His last section of the book is entitled, Stories About How To Tell Stories and it is worth the price of the book. 

Over the years I have discovered lots and lots of great stories. I collect them. I have a file of great stories. I pray that I will remember them at the right time and like the rabbi who was asked for advice, I will be able to say, "let me tell you a story."

Here are few words of advice...keep your eyes open for stories.  When you find them, save them.  Make them your own. Nurture them. Look for opportunities to share them. The world can become a better place because of the stories you tell.

I think Barry Lopez is right..."Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive."

I am always hungry for a great story. Do you know any?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I am hearing it more and more everyday. I see it everywhere. I hear it all over. It sounds like this.

"See you at 7-ish." This morning one of the web sites I visit said, "we will publish a pod cast every other week, Thursday-ish."


It's not very precise. Matter of fact, it gives a person a lot of leeway and room for being late or early for an appointment.

There are already some people that live by "ish." I can think of several. Have you ever waited for the cable company to come to your house? They usually say, "we will be there between noon and five." That's an "ish" moment. Doctor's offices? "Ish" moments. "How old is she? Oh, she is 50-ish."


It makes me wonder if it easier to use "ish" than it is to be precise and then hold ourselves accountable to what we commit to? It causes me to wonder if people that live in the land of "ish" are undisciplined. It even causes me to question whether some people use the word "ish" because they are hesitant to commit? 

Have you ever met people who are habitually late for appointments and meetings? They often live in the world of "ish." They say, "let's meet at 4-ish" which enables them to be free from the tyranny of being on time.

I just checked my calendar and it is still blocked out in hour segments. No room for "ish."

I gotta get going, time's a wastin'. Some people would look at my calendar and say, "You have a 9-ish, 10-30-ish, Noon-ish and a 4-ish appointments today." But I am taking the "ish" out and I will be on time today.  How about you?