Archive for the 'Personal Musings' Category

Back to the UK

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

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Patty and I are living and working out of London for October and November.

Highlights so far include:

  • Living in Camden: Halloween is everyday in parts of this London borough.
  • Being consistently identified as a Canadian. I’m flattered. I’m also learning that it’s a better move to say “I’m actually from California” than to use the word “America.” The latter is not exactly popular in the European scene. Reminds me of that irritating ditty my grandparents used to say: “Oh, for the grace to see ourselves as others see us!”
  • Spending evenings in the clubs and pubs of Soho, Camden and Shoreditch, trying to learn and understand what life is like for the multitude of young, urban, cultural creatives who call this home.
  • Seeing more of the institutional church and why it’s struggling to not only to connect with a deeply secularized, post-modern culture but to actually survive.
  • Trying to get used to those baked beans in the English breakfast and the food combinations that are intriguing to Yankee taste buds.
  • Experiencing rugby mania and being grateful I never played such a bone crushing game. Those guys are huge!
  • Flying to South Africa with a 747 full of South African rugby fans after they won the world cup. Interesting.
  • The folks running the coffee shop were French, the lady next to me on the bus was Polish, the guy dishing up our soup at lunch was from Ghana, the doctor was Chinese, the therapist working on my sore knee was Portuguese, our friend and former landlord who came to lunch was a Turkish muslim, the lady taking my money for groceries was from India, the conversation on the tube was in Russian, and the Pizza Express waiter came from Sardinia. Kind of an aberration when one finally hears a “proper” British accent in this town.
  • A blocked up sewer in our building which meant the little patio in our basement flat became a flooded cesspool with all sorts of floating excremental delicacies.
  • Being told by a London cop, when asking for directions, that “You colonials don’t know how to talk.”
  • Discovering that Westminster Abbey has been a place where Christians have gathered to worship every day for the past 1,000 years.
  • Coming close to meeting my maker several times when I looked the wrong way crossing the street.
  • Trying to grasp how such a society combines lots of rules, understatement, a penchant for the “proper,” moral license, stiff upper lips, ethnic tolerance, resistance to change, no guns, clear social stratification, few orthodontists, and marvelous pubs, all into one cultural stew-pot. Fascinating!

Radicalizing Our Children

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

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“If you really want to keep your kids safe, middle-class, responsible people, keep them away from the gospels which will radicalize them. Don’t expose them to Jesus unless you want them to be martyrs.” —Alan Hirsch to CRM staff, August, 2007

I see all too often: parents who want their children to have enough Christianity to be respectable but don’t want their offspring to go overboard and become too committed.

Where this “enough but not too much” attitude may show up blatantly is when the son or daughter makes the jump into vocational ministry, particularly a missionary calling, and they have to raise financial support. Then the fat can hit the proverbial fan!

“I don’t want you begging for money!”
“Don’t ask our friends to support you”
“What are you going to do about retirement?”
“Can you really live off of that?”
“Do you really think this is a good way to use all that education we paid for?”
“You mean you may move overseas? When will we ever see the grandkids?”

Somehow the real Jesus who makes statements like Luke 9:23 gets lost in the well-meaning but mis-directed scramble to protect and preserve those whom we love from a God we do not really trust:
“If any person would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.”

As much as we may want to sanitize it, the cross is still a cross.

The Power of Modeling

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

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“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

As our good friend, Bobby Clinton so succinctly puts it in his commentary on the Gospel of John:
“Leaders can most powerfully influence by modeling godly lives, the sufficiency and sovereignty of God at all times, and gifted power.”

1. A leader models what he/she wants followers to embrace.
2. A leader should proactively use modeling to influence followers.
3. Servant leadership values are best seen through modeling.


The fact is that we reproduce what we are. The best materials, processes, or presentations have little efficacy if they are not representative of a life that speaks with consistency. Life transformation is not really accomplished through the transference of information. It occurs through in the proximity of authentic relationships.

That’s why throughout CRM we value coaching, mentoring, and doing life together in some form of community as our primary methodology in the development of leadership for the kingdom. It is one of our values that distinguishes us from formal educational settings.

However, I confess that I have two ongoing struggles with this truth.

First, is my own inadequacy and unworthiness to be a participant with the Spirit of God in such a divine process. The older I grow, the more I see things in my own life that cause me to groan. There is so much that I don’t want to reproduce. I cringe to think that my sinfulness, which inhabits every part of my fallen personality, is what others would emulate. Ugh.

Secondly, I sometimes struggle with the intentionality of modeling. If we are honest, I think it is a challenge to say, “Imitate me as I have imitated Christ” without promoting ourselves in an unhealthy way that lacks humility. It can be an ego trip camouflaged by a spiritual veneer. Modeling becomes unhealthy when it is subverted to be more about me getting strokes and being the center of attention verses having the focus on those I am called to serve and the One for whose presence I am but a conduit.

Despite these reservations, I still want my life to exemplify the power of this biblical reality. I find that I do this best informally. Jesus called the 12 “…that they might be with him.” I usually get my best traction in such a process while traveling, over a cup of coffee, in the midst of some mutual activity or recreation, or sharing an adventure or memorable experience. I’m not the best coach, as some are, over the phone or in a structured environment. Knowing ourselves, knowing in what contexts we do this best, and being consciously committed to such a priority are keys to modeling being an effective ministry methodology.

I like how Bobby Clinton paraphrases Hebrews 13:7. My aspiration is to be, in some small measure, the type of leader to whom others can look and to live a life worthy of their imitation.

“Remember your former leaders. Think back on how they lived and ministered. Imitate those excellent qualities you see in their lives. For Jesus Christ is the same today, as He was in the past and as He will be in the future. What He did for them He will do for you to inspire and enable your leadership.”

Bodies of Water CD

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

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This is an unabashed commercial for the new CD that just came out by Bodies of Water, the indie rock group that includes David, our son and his wife Meredith. One industry review said:

“Orchestral indie pop group Arcade Fire is on top o’ the pops lately, and fans of such music would be well-advised to check out the shimmering gospel hymns of Californians Bodies of Waters. The group’s full-length debut, Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink, self-released through the band’s own Thousand Tongues label. Like a less mockable version of The Polyphonic Spree, Bodies of Water has concocted an hour long sermon of peace, love, and pop music with the epic Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink. – wonkavision

The review in paperthinwalls put it this way:
“A different husband and wife team put out a Neon Bible this year, but it’s Bodies Of Water’s David and Meredith Metcalf who really nail the concept of a spiritual album with music so good it glows. Both uplifting and humorous, the Metcalfs take turns helming vocals instead of just a Sufjan or Daniel Smith fronting the choir/band. For every serious moment aimed at higher power, there’ll be another capturing something mundane: “When you bend over into the fridge and try to grab some Tupperware, I’ll surprise you and pour the half and half, onto your newly sunburnt neck.” Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink is also startling in its ability to conjure bits of Pink Floyd, R.E.M. or the New Pornographers for the band’s gospel purposes without soiling any linens.

“Doves Circled The Sky” was inspired by a story of the Holy Spirit coming down from the heavens the form of a dove (John 1:32-24). To reach an appropriate level of grandeur, Bodies Of Water open it with an epic western feel, á la the The Good, The Bad And The Ugly theme, replete with strings and twang. When the vocals kick in, the clouds part over the arrangement, and it burns hot without feeling hymn-y. “Chords rang out warm and clear, sweet major chords, and they were ones and fours and fives,” the choir sings, narrating their own proceedings. Pleasure swells as the males and females bat lines back and forth, leading up to the final stanza: “Now, rehearsal is done, open the gates, let heaven’s floodgates open wide.” At this point, the album is only at the halfway, but it’s already shaking the temple enough to tear it down. Naturally, with plans to rebuild it three days later.”


The record is available now at http://www.bodiesofwater.net/ or at insound It is also available on their myspace page http://www.myspace.com/bodiesofwater and is soon to available on iTunes. An interesting array of other reviews and interviews can be found at http://www.bodiesofwater.net/reviews&interviews.htm

Jerry Falwell’s Death

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

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Jerry Falwell emerged in the last several decades as an imposing figure on the religious and political landscape of the United States. In comments posted on the Sojourners website, Jim Wallace captured my feelings well. He said:

I was saddened to learn that Rev. Jerry Falwell passed away this morning at age 73. Rev. Falwell and I met many times over the years, as the media often paired us as debate partners on issues of faith and politics. I respected his passionate commitment to his beliefs, and our shared commitment to bringing moral debate to the public square, although we didn’t agree on many things. At this time, however, what matters most is our prayers for comfort and peace for his family and friends.

Falwell, in his own way, did help to teach Christians that their faith should express itself in the public square and I am grateful for that, even if the positions Falwell took were often at great variance with my own. I spent much of my early Christian life fighting the privatizing of faith, characterized by the withdrawal of any concern for the world (so as to not be “worldly”) and an exclusive focus on private matters. If God so loved the world, God must care a great deal about what happens to it and in it. Falwell agreed with that, and blew the trumpet that awakened fundamentalist Christians to engage the world with their faith and moral values. And that commitment is a good thing.

Jerry and I debated often about how faith should impact public life and what all the great moral issues of our time really are.
But many conservative Christians are now also embracing poverty, HIV/AIDS, Darfur, sex trafficking, and even the war in Iraq as matters of faith and moral imperatives. It would have been nice to hear on those TV shows that Jerry Falwell, too, had moved to embrace a broader agenda than just abortion and homosexuality. Rev. Falwell, who was admittedly racist during the civil rights movement, was in later years honored by the Lynchburg NAACP for his turn-about on the issue of race, showing the famous founder of the Religious Right’s capacity to grow and change. But two nights ago on television, I saw the pain on the face of gay Christian Mel White, who lamented that despite his and other’s efforts, Falwell never did even moderate his strong and often inflammatory language (even if maintaining his religious convictions) against gay and lesbian people. They still feel the most wounded by the fundamentalist minister’s statements; that healing has yet to be done.

Ralph Reed said that Jerry Falwell presided over the “marriage ceremony” between religious fundamentalists and the Republican Party. That’s still a concern about the Religious Right for many of us, and should be a warning for the relationship of any so-called religious left with the Democrats. But perhaps in the overly partisan mistakes that Jerry Falwell made – and actually pioneered – we can all be instructed in how to forge a faith that is principled but not ideological, political but not partisan, engaged but not used. That’s how the Catholic Bishops put it, and it is a better guide than the direction we got from the Moral Majority. But Falwell proclaimed a public faith, not a private one. And I am with him on that. As I like to say, God is personal, but never private. So let’s pray for Jerry Falwell’s family, the members of his Thomas Road Baptist Church, and all the students at his Liberty University. And let’s learn from his legacy – about how and how not to best apply our faith to politics.

Horror at Va. Tech

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

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I grew up in Blacksburg, Va.

My dad was a graduate of Va. Tech and the first 18 years of my life (except ages 2-4) were spent in this town. I drove by this scene above virtually every day for a dozen years. The town and campus is an incredibly beautiful, bucolic area nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia. It is, from all outward appearances, a most unlikely setting for the horrors of the past 24 hours.

To see scenes of places that I know like the back of my hand plastered all over national T.V. because of this killing spree has been nothing less than jarring. It is surreal to see Peter Jennings against a backdrop that includes the road that goes to my parent’s home.

What an awful, poignant reminder of the reality of evil in a fallen world. It is sadly and admittedly easy to become jaded by such when it’s in Iraq or Dafur. But when such evil emerges in a setting such as Blacksburg, it shatters any illusion that security is possible in our troubled world or that safety is geographically determined.

May God grant his peace and his presence to those who mourn. May his people be conduits of his love and compassion in the midst of such awful events.

Vertigo

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

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I was supposed to be on a British Airways flight this afternoon on the way to the UK and then to the Middle East.

Instead, I’m flat on my back in bed suffering from a severe case of vertigo. I can’t stand. And even taking a few steps results in awful nausea and throwing up. When I move, the room spins. It’s like being seasick. The only complete relief is keeping my eyes shut and lying prone. I’ve never had anything like this before. This is day four and it’s been ugly.

So what do you think about when in such a posture?

Nobody is indispensable. I can cancel all the things on my schedule and have confidence that others can do whatever I miss and in some cases probably do them better.
Such weakness creates some interesting empathy for those who likewise suffer. Can’t imagine what it must be like for those going through chemo or who are bedridden for one reason or another.
It has meant much to have so many friends call, write, email or stop by and pray. Such acts of kindness go a long way. I need to remember this when well.
Instead of groveling in my discomfort, how can I redeem such “down time.” Perhaps using it to pray and enjoy the undistracted presence of Jesus?
I am an abysmal patient. While I may not die, if this lasts too long, my wife will kill me to put herself out of the misery of caring for such a grump. Even her gift of mercy has limits!

Is the “Right” right?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

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For years I have been uncomfortable with the awkward and even unholy alliance in America between the political right and evangelical Christianity.

I think it boils down to two issues that leave me so cold when those who are identified as Christians become uncritically linked with political conservatism.

1. Selectivity. Many of those who are followers of Jesus gravitate toward the political right because there are some views on moral and social issues that are shared in common. But the problem is that the list of issues is rather narrow and selective. It is rare that this strange alliance goes beyond the issues of abortion and homosexuality. There is a whole slew of other issues that people on the American scene who are committed to biblical fidelity need to take seriously and these issues are usually nowhere to be found on the agenda of the political right.

Civil rights, the poor, the environment, social justice, racism and gender bias, business ethics, war and peace, genocide, HIV/AIDS, the treatment of immigrants, human trafficking, etc., are all issues to which the good news of Jesus directly applies but about which the “right” is strangely silent or espouses a position that is shockingly antithetical to the clarion commands of scripture.

Way too many of us who name the name of Jesus are selective in our obedience. We seem to be more intent on protecting our social prerogatives and sticking with our political biases than we are committed to applying biblical truth to every aspect of life.

2. Shrillness. Too often I am embarrassed. I am ashamed by those who may believe many of the same theological truths that I hold dear but in their behavior and speech are shrill and accusatory. I don’t want to be identified with such.

There is no excuse for the incivility that too often oozes out of the unholy marriage between the political right and Christian faith. The language is hurtful, adversarial and repels those whom we should be attracting. What is genuinely redemptive becomes ugly and repulsive. Christians unfortunately get stereotyped as a bunch of culturally marginal, angry, bitter and even bigoted people rather than gracious mediators of the love of Christ.

What results are what many social observers call “culture wars.” The sad thing is that I doubt being victorious in such a battle will make any contribution whatsoever to Jesus’ Kingdom agenda for a lost and suffering planet. Quite the contrary, such fights may actually inhibit God’s redemptive purposes and and do little to help his name be renowned among the nations. How sad.

Conspicuous Consumption

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

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I realize that lifestyle issues can be volitile. Where to draw the line between legitimate expenditures and self-indulgent, narcissistic waste can be slippery and relative to determine in light of a variety of factors.

However, I find it hard for anyone with an awareness of a world in need and even a mildly sensitive conscience not to be saddened and even disgusted by what regularly appears in the Real Estate section that comes with the Sunday Los Angeles Times.

A letter to the editor in today’s paper says it better than I can:

“I was stuck by stories in two sections of the February 25 Times. The first was “Napa Medieval,” the fanciful castle-winery in the Napa area featured in the Travel Section and the second was “Bel-Air Home Has Two Lanes, No Waiting,” Home of the Week.

Any thinking, caring human being must register upon reading about these two huge developments, the extraordinary expense and scope of the projects and what the amount of money could do if even some of it was invested in a greater good. As long as a significant number of people are without decent shelter, adequate food, clean water and opportunity for basic healthcare, it is shocking to see the excess on which people with wealth choose to spend their money.

I just can’t comprehend a house with 20 bathrooms in 34,000-plus square feet or a winery that could hold 50 average sized homes. While even one person anywhere in the world is suffering unnecessarily, it is a travesty to continue building ever-bigger monuments to peoples’ egos.” — Carol Palladini, Santa Barbara

A Man for All Seasons

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

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The Oscars are tonight.

Coincidentally, Patty and I watched one of my all-time favorites today ..A Man for All Seasons. It is a timeless story of conscience, integrity and intrigue as Sir Thomas More opposes Henry VIII’s decision to divorce his first wife, Catherine, in order to marry Anne Boleyn, wife #2 (out of a total of six), an opposition that eventually costs Sir Thomas his head.

The film was awarded Best Picture in 1966 and Paul Scofield, who played Sir Thomas More, won the Best Actor Oscar. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume design and Best Director. Besides Scofield, it starred Orson Wells (Bishop Wolsey) and Robert Shaw (Henry VIII).

Mel Gibson was so impressed by Paul Scofield’s performance in this film that he compared appearing alongside him in Hamlet to being “thrown into the ring with Mike Tyson.” Another huge fan of Scofield’s performance as More was John Wayne, who once called it the best performance he had ever seen.

Design

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

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“Fifteen years ago companies competed on price. Now it’s quality. Tomorrow it’s design.” - Robert Hayes

“At Sony we assume that all products of our competitors have basically the same technology, price, performance and features. Design is the only thing that differentiates one product from another in the marketplace.” - Norio Ohga

“Design is treated like a religion at BMW.” - Fortune Magazine

“We don’t have a good language to talk about this kind of thing. In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. … But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation.  -  Steve Jobs


A few thoughts:

1. We live in an increasingly visual world which is feature of postmodernity. Symbol has been resurrected as a powerful element of communication.

2. Design is not just a matter of “taste.” There is good design and bad design. Value can be placed on design just as it can on art which is a component of design.

3. Good design is not a socio-economically determined value. It is also a value that we see exhibited in every culture.

4. Post-reformation Protestantism (in the West) has been notoriously design (and art) poor, depending rather upon words and literary devices as the primary means of communication.

5. Architecture, graphics, interior space, decor, dress, all are tremendously influential not just in influencing individuals but in shaping movements.

6. Whether Steve Jobs or BMW realize it or not, design is one of the great evidences of the imago dei. We design and our souls respond to such innately because we are reflections of the great designer Himself.

I’ve taken my share of lumps over the years because design, look, feel, and ambiance, are all important to me. I believe the non-verbal communicates more powerfully than what one says or writes. Words may sway the mind, but art has the potential to touch the soul.

The God of Public Space

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

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“God is personal, but never private. Restricting God to private space was the great heresy of twentieth-century American evangelicalism.

Denying the public God is a denial of biblical faith itself, a rejection of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself. Exclusively private faith degenerates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the biblical demands for public justice.

We have been buffeted by private spiritualities that have no connection to public life and a secular politics showing disdain for religion or even spiritual concerns. That leaves spirituality without social consequences and a politics with no soul.”
—Jim Wallis in God’s Politics


I was in college in the early 70s as the university world was being rolled by Vietnam protests and the great social upheavals of the 60s. On the religious scene, issues such as racism, civil rights, social justice, poverty, war and peace were pretty much owned by the left which embraced these causes with great passion but who had given up, for the most part, on the historical Jesus and his reality or relevance in the present. Despite wonderful counter-cultural expressions such as the Jesus Movement, conservative evangelicalism was essentially paralyzed and impotent. All most could do was circle the spiritual wagons and hope the storm would pass.

It was during this time of chaos that I was introduced to Sojourners and Jim Wallis. It was like a drink of cool water in a blazing hot cultural desert. I couldn’t believe that such a magazine, or a community, existed. It combined biblical fidelity with a powerful social/cultural critique that was neither morally selective like the right nor spiritually anemic like the left.

Thirty years later, that same voice has emerged with new relevance and spiritual authority. Wallis’ book—God’s Politics —is a refreshing, comprehensive primer on a holistic, biblical gospel applied to present day American society and politics. It’s one of those books that I read and wonder, “This has the ring of truth. Why are so few who name the name of Christ in the public square saying these things? And why are so few in the Church listening?”

While there are times when his objectivity can get a little carried away by his Anabaptist bias, Wallace’s book is one of the best critiques of our present political context and how followers of Jesus can and must engage.


“God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It” (Jim Wallis)

Mortality …this wretched lump of clay

Monday, February 5th, 2007

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In his “Leadership Prayers”, Richard Kriegbaum writes:

“So much depends on me, yet all I have for this task is whatever health and energy You give me….I eat carefully, rest, exercise, and think positive thoughts, and still this wretched lump of clay fails me.

You have Creator’s rights on my body. You formed every miraculous part. What You take away is Your business. I will do what I can with whatever capabilitiy You give me. It yours….

The days end as the years end, with never enough time for all the good that could be done, only just enough for Your priorities, if I get them right. You created time, and it does not limit You. But I do not have a thousand years today, God. I have only now.

So this day is Yours; I am yours” these people are Yours, the resources are Yours. The challenges we face are Yours, as is anything we hope to accomplish. It’s Yours, God. It ’s not mine.”

The Wearing Out of the Body

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

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My good Brit buddy, Colin Crawley, gave me a new tennis racket for Christmas.

It’s great! But it’s taking some getting used to. I just touch the ball and it zings. And it also means that I have to actually use it. No excuses now.

So the past several weekends, Colin, Tom, and I have given the new rackets a workout. All went well until last week when my age apparently caught up with me as I tried to keep up. Shots I used to return flew by in frustration as I couldn’t quite reach. But most frustrating was that my left knee gave out.

So tomorrow is my second physical therapy session on the bum knee. Never thought it would happen. But the mechanics are not quite what they used to be.

What gave me hope, however, was a front page story in the LA Times the same week about our esteemed governor …Arnold Schwarzenegger and how at age 60, his body is wearing out. Most incredibly was the picture the Times ran of the “terminator.”

Take heart! If that is the epitome of the male physique at 60, there is definitely hope for the rest of us mere mortals!

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Rachmaninoff and the Imago Dei

Monday, January 8th, 2007

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Patty and I had the pleasure of enjoying, as a gift, an evening at Disney Hall to hear the LA Philharmonic perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 It was a wonderful experience in an amazing musical venue.

“Prodigy” would be too mild a word to describe the conductor, 25 year-old Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel. And guest piano virtuoso, the renowned Yefim Bronfman, was remarkable. It was special treat for us to see such giftedness and incredible musical ability firsthand.

As I marveled at the musical and architectural artistry, it seemed that everything around me was silently shouting out powerful affirmation of the Imago Dei. Such human creativity and genius, whether acknowledged or not, has no other source nor any other reasonable explanation apart from the Imago Dei.

Worst-Case Scenarios

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

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One of the better gifts I recently received was a book entitled The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook for Travel. It provides practical solutions to those sticky situations that most of us fantasize, fear or perhaps dream we may encounter such as:

How to:

Control a runaway camel
Stop a runaway passenger train
Stop a car with no brakes
Stop a runaway horse
Crash-land a plane on water
Survive a riot
Foil a scam artist
Survive a mugging
Tail a thief
Lose someone who is following you
Jump from rooftop to rooftop
Jump from a moving train
Escape from a car hanging over the edge of a cliff
Escape when tied up
Ram a barricade
Escape from the trunk of a car
Survive a fall onto subway tracks
Survive in a plummeting elevator
Survive when lost in the jungle
Climb out of a well
Navigate a minefield
Survive a riptide
Survive when you fall through ice
Survive a trip over a waterfall
Survive a volcanic eruption
Survive a high-rise hotel fire
Find water on a deserted island
Build a shelter in the snow
Survive a tsunami
Survive a sandstorm
Catch fish without a rod
Deal with a tarantula
Treat a scorpion sting
Cross a piranha-infested river
Treat a severed limb
Remove a leech

It greatly increases my confidence knowing I now have all the answers to those dilemmas that Indiana Jones, James Bond and Laura Croft have tackled with ease and inspiration.

I’m also sure it makes those folks who tromp around the world with me feel much more secure.


“Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel” (Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht)

Winner of the Runway Competition

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

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I won!

At the Christmas party for the CRM office, we split into teams to produce (in 15 minutes out of wrapping paper) the best Christmas runway model and yours truly beat the competition …hands down.  I think it all had to do with the walk and haughty glare although the design of the apparel was exceptional.

ER and a Thick Skin

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Spicy Fries

It was not how expected to spend Monday evening.

Jon Moore, CRM’s Executive VP, and I were getting a quick bite to eat at a sports bar at the Sacramento, CA airport, waiting to catch a flight home from a day spent in Northern California seeing a financial partner. I was downing some great spicy fries that came with the burger when the itching began almost immediately …first my hands, then my feet, scalp, ears, and within minutes welts were appearing on my arms and neck. Eventually, my whole body was turning red.

Having been down this route before, I knew it was an allergic reaction. Something in those fries was deadly for me, ether in the oil in which they were fried or the spicy dressing. So it became quite the scene in the airport. A cop, paramedics, ambulance drivers, and lots of curious onlookers as they wheeled me down the concourse on a gurney and off to the nearest hospital.

I carry an epinephrine injection with me at all times for such a situation but didn’t use it on the advice of the paramedics who wanted me at the ER and not self-medicating. Besides, that needle looks like something you shoot into an elephant. Jabbing that spear into my leg is not my idea of fun if it can be avoided.

By the time we reached the ER, the medicine given in the IV on the way had begun to work and slowly, the reaction subsided. More meds and the doc released me later in the evening.

The highlight of the experience? As paramedic struggled to get the IV started in my arm, they pulled over to the side of the freeway so he could getter a better jab, and he commented: “Sorry that hurt so much, but you have unusually thick skin!” “It’s a prerequisite for my job” I replied.

So much for spicy fries.

Creativity and Conspicuous Consumption

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

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I’m not a car fan.

A car for me has always been essentially a convenience that gets me from one point to another and is a means of transportation. But that was NOT the prevailing opinion of the thousands that surrounded me this past week when Tom Middleton, my ministry assistant, and I took in the Los Angeles Auto Show.

This event is one of the largest in the world and it was an amazing educational experience. I came away with two conflicting emotions:

1. It’s incredibly difficult to understand and justify such conspicuous consumption. In a world where half of the people alive have never even used a telephone, here I was seeing and even sitting in some of the most exquisite (and expensive) vehicles ever produced. I experienced considerable emotional whiplash being surrounded by such luxury and extravagance while having been in places in the world where people are wondering where their next meal will come from. The mental juxtaposition of such extremes was jarring.

2. At the same time, the design, engineering, and creativity represented at this event was staggering. For those who are really into it, such an experience is like going to a Paris fashion show, an art gallery, or an opera. What is so amazing is that humankind—endowed with creativity as a result of the Imago Deicould produce such machines which are, in reality, works of art.

So how do I put it all together? I don’t know. I’m thinking about it. Regardless, thanks, Tom. It was a fascinating experience!

A Day of Diversity

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

 Northamerica Carnival Alaskaair Tail

The morning started early as I left home about 5:30 am to catch a flight to Portland for a day of planning with Paul Rhoads, CRM’s Ex. VP.

When I got to the Orange County airport, to my dismay the flight had been cancelled. The best Alaska Airlines could do was put me in a taxi to pick up a later flight from Los Angeles International. The next hour I had a fascinating ride with a Somali cab driver—a college student who had immigrated two years ago and was moonlighting as a taxi driver. He was also a practicing Muslim. The conversation turned to Jesus which ended with a commitment on his part to look at the Bible and see firsthand who Jesus claimed to be.

When I settled into a seat at the gate to await the flight, the folks around me were speaking Russian. So, I chimed in with my rudimentary Russian and began interacting with a group who had immigrated from Ukraine back in the 90s and had not been back since. We ended up looking together on my computer at pictures from Kiev and Cherkassy where I had been in September. As the conversation drifted to religion, they were not Orthodox, rather admittedly secular but “who had God in their hearts.”

At the end of the day on the 2-hour flight back from the Northeast, my traveling companion in the next seat on the plane was a Dutch virologist who had worked for the WHO in a variety of trouble spots around the world. We traded stories about cross-cultural venues.

All in a days work.

All fascinating opportunities to let God steer events and conversations.

All marvelous possibilities to simply see what Jesus may be trying to do in people’s lives and how he would want me to cooperate in helping them move one step closer to Him. Domine Dirige Nos.

The Agony of Budgets

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

 Assets Images Budgets Balloon

In the next two weeks, I will be completely immersed in CRM’s budget process for 2007. For me, this is a both a positive and very negative experience.

It’s positive because it gives us an opportunity to put our resources where our priorities are. As Jim Wallis writes in God’s Politics:

“Budgets are moral documents. They clearly reveal the priorities of a family, a church, an organization, a city or a nation. A budget shows what we most care about and how that compares to others things we care about.”

The negative aspect of these deliberations deals with the excruciating decisions that invariably must be made when we have only a dollar to meet two dollars worth of need. Sometimes I feel like I am being forced to choose between cutting off my right arm or hacking off my left. Making choices among competing needs is incredibly difficult, particularly when I know the ramifications on the ground where people live and serve with us around the world.

God, give us the grace and wisdom of Solomon in these several days. And I wouldn’t mind a little of his physical resources to ease the difficulty of painful choices.


“God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (Plus)” (Jim Wallis)

Change

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Change[1]

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” —Woodrow Wilson,

“It is not merely that changes in our world demand new responses from us. The very foundations of society have changed.” —Craig Van Gelder

“A church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling… (we must) play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, and live by improvisation and experiment.” —Hans Kung

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” —Alvin Toffler

“Uncertainty is the only thing to be sure of.”—Anthony Muh

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” —General Eric Shinseki

“If things seem under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” —Mario Andretti

“It is generally much easier to kill an organization than change it substantially.” —Kevin Kelly

“There will be more confusion in the business world in the next decade than in any decade in history. And the current pace of change will only accelerate. —Steve Case

Critiques of the West

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Qutb

Sayyid Qutb is considered the father off modern Islamic radicalism. An Egyptian writer and poet, he was executed by Gamal Nasser in 1966. Yet what he wrote still reverberates throughout the Islamic world and profoundly affects Muslim perceptions of Western culture. About the U.S. (where he studied as an exchange student), he wrote in a famous polemic,
The America I have Seen:

“This great America: What is it worth in the scale of human values? And what does it add to the moral account of humanity? And, by the journey’s end, what will its contribution be? I fear that a balance may not exist between American’s material greatness and the quality of its people. And I fear that the wheel of life will have turned and the book of life will have closed and America will have added nothing, or next to nothing, to the account of morals that distinguishes man from object, and indeed, mankind from animals.”

Compare that perspective and the striking similarities with these passages from Pope Benedict XVI in his 1990 book, In the Beginning:

Pope Benedict Xvi

“The good and the moral no longer count, it seems, but only what one can do. The measure of a human being is what he can do, and not what he is, not what is good or bad. What he can do, he may do . . . And that means that he is destroying himeslf and the world . . . [The question] ‘What can we do?’ will be false and pernicious while we refrain from asking ‘who are we?’ The question of being and the question of our hopes are inseparable.”

Both works are biting critiques of the bankruptcy of Western culture. It is not unlike the extensive treatment that Protestant theologian, Os Guinness, produced 30 years ago entitled, The Dust of Death, which articulately dissected the same spiritual poverty. Or consider the works of Alexander Solzenitzen which do the same.

While intellectually understanding such critiques, the emotional impact was driven home to me on my first visit to Beirut several years ago. Particularly jarring was the visual displays of wealth, materialism, sex and sensuality that were everywhere in the so called “Christian” enclaves. I saw, and actually felt, for the first time what devout Muslims must see and feel when confronted with the decadence of Western culture. It is a decadence that I suspect I have become numb to because it is the social and moral ocean in which I swim.

Perhaps it takes a Benedict, a Guinness, or a Solzenitzen to jar us to reality. Or a Sayyid who helps give us insight into the passions that motivate devout young Arabs to strap explosives around their waists and blow up soldiers from Western nations.

(The comparison between Sayyid and Benedict are based on an article by John L. Allen Jr. in the 11/16/06 Op Ed section of the Los Angeles Times).

Personal Sense of Calling

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Sam Head2 1-1
OK.  I need to come clean.

I need to explain why much of the focus on this blog (and in what I do with my time, energy, and passion) is on apostolic people and apostolic movements.  In my personal calling statement, there are three pivotal elements that shape my role, ministry assignments, and ultimate contribution …all things that CRM works with leaders to help them understand.  Simply stated, my personal calling from God is:

1. To challenge, recruit, sponsor and empower growing numbers of godly, high-potential leaders into apostolic ministry

2. To pioneer, nurture and grow apostolic structures which will multiply leadership for the Church in every nation.

3. To prophetically challenge the Church to holistic obedience and the giving our our sons and daughters to a missional life.


It is through this template that I view life.  It is consistent with my gifts and experience, and determines how my time, energy, prayer, and resources are focused.  To do otherwise would be disobedient to God’s clear leading in my life.  And through this pursuit, I believe I have the best chance possible of making my unique contribution to Jesus’ kingdom purposes.  Soli Deo Gloria.

Hypocritical Morality?

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Stephen Colbert
Comedy Central host, Stephen Colbert, recently did what I thought was a well-deserved number on a politician.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, (R-Ga) appeared on his show and Colbert asked him about a bill he sponsored in Congress to require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Colbert’s question: “What are the Ten Commandments?”

Flustered, the Congressman replied “All of them? You want me to name them all?” He struggled to name three.

Honestly, I’m not sure I could accurately get them all right and in order if I was put in a similar spot. But then again, I’m not sponsoring such legislation.