Friday, August 29, 2008

Doing Good

I am part of the Church of the Nazarene--one result of the heritage of John Wesley and his emphasis on "spreading scriptural holiness throughout the land."

He encouraged, in one of his more famous sayings (quoted by Hillary Clinton no less), every follower of Jesus to "do all the good you can, wherever you can..." Whole quote is here.

Holiness can be so off-putting, at least on the surface. It conjures images of holier-than-thou, out-of-touch, irrelevant people.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Holy people (and everyone Jesus touches is holy), are the lights of the world, they are an alternate city on a hill that everyone looks up to and admires. They are the kind of people you like to be around. They make the world a better place with no strings attached. They do good. And who doesn't like that?

Jeremiah 29:7 is a mantra to them: They seek the welfare of the city they are sent to, working for the common good, not running away from it into some sort of protective religious enclave.

To wit: Last Saturday, we linked arms with Capital One (HQ here in Richmond) and sponsored a Beautification Day at Reid Elementary--Richmond's largest elementary school working to educate kids under the burden of 75% of its students on free or reduced lunch.

Capital One even footed most of the bill to the tune of $6K (we know what's in their wallet.) All this for the good of kids who begin school at a serious disadvantage. Get this. One criterion used in constructing new jails is current 3rd grade reading levels!

Those kids matter to God. Their situation matters to God. The quality of their education matters to God. The trajectory of their lives matters to God. So it matters to us.

Want to see God at work (as in, working through a company that charges what could be considered usurious interest to care for people he cares about)? Move toward the poor.

Here's a short video we'll be showing this weekend about the day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mother Teresa's Secret

How did this pint-sized nun from nowhere rise to such heights of influence? (Bill Hybels revolutionary take on that can be found by listening to the talk available here.). Try this on for size.

BlockquotePut yourself completely under the influence of Jesus, so that he may think his thoughts with your mind, do his work through your hands, for you will be all-powerful with him to strengthen you.

Her vows that formed her rule of life:
  • To refuse him nothing.
  • If God should give us all of himself, should we only give him part of ourself?
  • To do his bidding without delay.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Once in Lifetime Opportunities

Life is meant to be an adventure, so I (usually) jump on opportunities that come only once in a lifetime.

On June 10, 2004 I heard that Ronald Reagan would be lying in state in the Rotunda of the US Capitol Building. One of the greatest of American presidents was being given honor and the American public was invited to pay their respects.

June 11, 2004 was going to be a Friday (my day off), so at 6pm on the 10th I proffered two 2 friends with the opportunity of a lifetime. Two hours later we were on our way, and at 10PM, we joined the last group of people allowed into the queue on the National Mall.

If you've been to the Mall, picture a serpentine line (think an amusement park style queue) zig-zagging halfway across the width of the Mall and stretching 4 blocks from the Capitol Building (4 DC blocks are a long way).

7+ hours later, we walked into the hushed Rotunda where a serviceman from each branch of the military stood silent watch over Reagan's casket. I'm not much of a politico, but you could literally feel the respect, dignity and honor in the air. Even in death, the man had serious gravitas.

All around us in line were people in full military dress (including one female Air Force officer in heels who literally hobbled away from the Capitol 7 hours later) and in suits and ties. The entire time in the queue a certain dignity hung in the air. Some parents were even pushing kids in strollers (hello! It's 12am, do you know where your children are?). Once in a lifetime opportunities will bring you to do things out of the norm.

A great moment for me personally. I wouldn't have missed it. Some once in a lifetime opportunities are obvious (like this one). Some aren't. So how do you know a once in a lifetime opportunity? What's it look like?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: Wild Goose Chase

Free is good.

I recently happened across the offer of a free book for the willingness to review it here (this is part of a "blog tour"). I was even given two copies so I could give one away on the blog.

I just got the book the other day, so here's some info about the book and author until I can read and review.

Summary from the Intro (which is weird because the copy I had didn't have a section labeled intro)
BlockquoteMost of us have no idea where we’re going most of the time. Perfect. “Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something….Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.”

Author Bio from the Publisher
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station (my note: A great coffeehouse. I've been there several times to work for a day. Very high quality.). More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger ( He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jesus or Cletus

My wife is a big Country Music fan, Carrie Underwood being one of her favorites. Her meteroric rise to stardom really is a remarkable story...that you just knew had to spawn some spoofs.

One of her bigger hits involves Jesus, who takes the wheel. Here we meet Cletus, who takes the reel. If you like that song, you'll enjoy this. You may not burst out laughing like I did, but you'll certainly smile.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

There's been a bit of buzz as of late about how the internet is dimishing our capacity to think.
Some people don't think so, some do.

Ken Meyers, who produces the very insightful Mars Hill Audio Journal, recently wrote about this with reference to the recent article Is Google Making us Stupid?. Meyers seems to be arguing that it is changing not only how we think, but that we think. This, he says, does not bode well for our humanity and our ability to pray. And Eugene Peterson, the great Christian sage, reminds us that prayer is our primary means of intimacy--first with God, then out to the people around us.

So here's the equation as I am reading it:
The google-ization of writing=inability to think for long periods of time=inability to focus=inability to pray=inability to connect in any meaningful way with God=loss of ability to be truly intimate with other people=loss of our humanity=destruction of human race as we know it (okay, I'm being a bit dramatic).

But maybe he's right. I do find myself agitated, at least when I'm online, when paragraphs are more than 4-5 sentences. I just scan them or skip them altogether. I've even found myself doing that (yikes!) with books.

Consider this quote (Which is long and definitely more than 5 sentences. See if you can stand to read it to the end):

BlockquoteEverywhere we are confronted by advertising that attempts to force upon us
things we neither want nor really need. We are constantly lured from the important and profound to the distracting, 'interesting,' piquant. This state of
affairs exists not only around but within us. To a large extent man lives without depth, without a center, in superficiality and chance. No longer finding the essential within himself, he grabs at all sorts of stimulants and sensations, he enjoys them briefly, tires of them, recalls his own emptiness and demands new distractions. He touches everything brought within easy reach of his mind by the constantly increasing means of transportation, information, education, and amusement, but he doesn't really absorb anything. He contents himself with having 'heard about it', he labels it with some current catchword, and shoves it aside for the next. He is a hollow man and tries to fill his emptiness with constant, reckless activity. He is happiest when in the thick of things, in the rush and noise and stimulus of quick results and successes. The moment quiet surrounds him, he is lost."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Simple Requests

Each week our staff meets to pray for our church family and community. Cards are filled out in the services each weekend with a place for people to right down the things in their lives that they would like to pray about.

This card came in from a child. The simplicity of the request is just beautiful.

Here's what she wrote:

BlockquoteDear God I would like a rabbit real alivz.
If you got the rabbit put it in my room.

PLEASE can you give me the rabbit. Please!!"

She wants a rabbit, so she asked God for one. Since we are a part of the way God does his work, we're going to get a stuffed rabbit and put it in her room.

Ask and ye shall receive.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ten (or Eleven) Things to Implement in Leadership This Year

I scored a free ticket to the local simulcast of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit held on the campus of St. Pauls Baptist Church.

I was going to "live blog" the event, but for a number of reasons didn't.

So instead of detailing the notes from each speaker (a few others did that here, here and here), following Kem Meyer's lead, I'm putting down my top ten (okay, eleven) takeaways (in no particular order), the things I want to live into in the next year.

Bill Hybels
1. Make your decision in a trial way and then walk around to see if life and peace and exhiliration come...if not, you can still make a different decision.
2. If it goes well, thank everyone. If it goes poorly, blame no one and take full responsibility.

Gary Haugen
(everything Gary said was pure gold. He should actually have his one top ten list). He is doing incredible work through the International Justice Mission.)
3. Just because I am leading and people are following doesn't mean I'm leading in things that matter to God. Are Jesus and I interested in the same things?
4. What is God's plan--in the face of immeasurable suffering--for showing the world that he is good? We are the plan.
5. He gave staggering stats about injustices in the world and then said: We can hear these stats and feel bolted to our seats. (doing something about this) can seem hopeless, scary and hard--but this is where leadership matters the most. People will pretty much take care of themselves when things are happy, safe, and easy.
6. He challenged us to avoid "the mediocrity of safe bets" and not live in a "Christian cul-de-sac" but to "take our strengths on a more demanding climb."

Bill George
7. 21st Century leaders empower. To empower means to help them unleash their power, not follow me!
8. Bill Hybels interviewed Bill after his talk and asked him: Why do leaders fail? Bill George: They failed to lead themselves--they weren't well-grounded--they weren't themselves.

Bill Hybels
(his closing session focused on the life of Mother Theresa--how a "pint-sized nun from nowhere"--became a world-shaping leader. He said it was because she gave God "carte-blanche yieldedness."
Her vows: "to refuse him nothing" "If God imparts himself fully to us, should we give him only a part of ourselves?" "Do his bidding without delay."
9. Commenting on 2 Chronicles 16:9 - Strength and power comes on them and tremendous resources are unleashed by God.
10. I meet many leaders who want to lead a bigger deal more than they want more of God.
11. If you were God for a day--seeing everyone--wouldn't you pick someone whose heart was completely surrendered to you? And wouldn't you take great joy in elevating someone who was a nobody? So if you were God for a day, would you pick you for more power and influence?

Once Every Four Years...

I am big fan of the Olympics (picture from the opening ceremonies above). Something about them stirs a place deep inside me every time i watch. My wife and I sit and watch the beyond-belief performances of the athletes and routinely turn to each other with tears in our eyes. It's almost unexplainable where the emotion comes from. It mostly certainly comes from at least the experience of beauty and unity that is the Olympic Games.

These "Go World" Visa Commercials narrated by Morgan Freeman capture some of the spirit of the Olympics (I couldn't find the one that had Morgan Freeman intoning "we cheer for them because they are human...and so are we. And when they succeed, we succeed.")

Some of the 14 member olympic delegation from Malawi, the country of my birth.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

How to Be a Chick Magnet

Step 1. Have the name Hudson.
Step 2. Wear this shirt.
Step 3. Walk past chicks.
My friend DJ took this with his iPhone while we were meeting our mutual friend Scott Simmons at Richmond Hill for lunch following noon prayers. It's one of my--and Hudson's--favorite places in the city. A true respite and source of healing for the city.

Be Careful How You Age

We have quite a few kids roaming around our main church campus.

A preschool, a school, and a non-profit Community foundation that reaches out to at risk students all use our main facility. So there's a lot of yelling and screaming (and that's just the staff) all in the name of play and fun.

I was walking through the Atrium on my way to
lunch when I spotted a lone kid--probably 8 or 9 years old. He was in his own world; spinning on the floor, making up some game, singing a bit of a song. He was in his own imaginary world. It was beautiful.

So I wondered, why don't we adults do that? I mean yeah, maybe we all sing in shower or when our car is stopped at a intersection (until the guy in the car next to us happens to look over). But why don't we use our imagination more?

Brain science has determined that physiologically, the young live out of their imagination while the old live out of their memory.

Now would we want a world that's all imagination? Or a world that's all memory?

Obviously, no. But as we age, are we "stuck" living only from memory--as in reminiscing about the good old days, the way things "used to be", etc?? Do we become captives of our past? Do we stop being able to dream?

Without getting into the details of brain development (not my area of expertise), there is a period of brain development during the Junior High years that in laymen's terms is known as "use it or lose it." The brain is determining which connections to use so quickly that the ones that aren't consistently encouraged through repetition are lost. Use it or lose it.

So if you can't spell as an adult, chances are you either (a) smoked something illegal for a very long time or (b) didn't lay down the neural pathways for spelling via repetition when you were in Junior High.

But here's the thing. The brain remains "plastic." We can still shape it, encourage it, send it in down new pathways, expand it. Age does literally bring some calcifying of the brain, but we can resist that. We can keep imagining, like that 8 year old, that everything is open to us. Everything is possible. There isn't a song we can't sing, an enemy we can't fight, a game we can't make up. I personally sign up for putting 8 year olds on advisory boards everywhere.

BlockquoteIn the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."
Acts 2:17 (quoting Joel 2:28)

Wisdom from Yoda

The people at GraphJam are on to something. There's a little something for everyone.
Very funny.