02 December 2008

The Problem: Chris Baltzley

I had the opportunity this year to speak the first weekend of Advent. The lectionary passages I spoke from are: Isaiah 64:1-9 and Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19.

Torture yourself. Click here to listen.

A poem of exile...

I am old sorrow and past predicament.
Now, without identity in a street
nameless to me, I am a stranger:
I am longings, I am fears.

The past is years dissolving into memory.
The past is emigration, flight;
the present: yearning and homesickness
dissolving into years.

I am the wandering child
longing to belong to his lost
childhood and not be outside the present,
always withdrawn, apart.

I am the homeless child
who grew up in displacement
living in homesickness
and sickness of the heart.

Blerim Kasneci
(1977- )

Blerim was born in Tepelenë, Albania in 1977, now he is living in Toronto

04 November 2008

The Big Story, Another Version

What I like about this version of the story is that it naturally leads into an explanation of the mission of the local church as part of the story. With the story in mind, it leads right into why we are striving to create a community of meaning and belonging, to give more and more people exposure and access to Jesus, and to transform as many people as possible into passionate and productive followers of Jesus.

"Won't you join us?"

28 October 2008

Lencioni on selfless leadership

True leadership, the kind that results in the greater good, requires a level of selflessness and vision that most people simply don't have. We forget the loneliness and sacrifice and great personal risk that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln endured during their times, and that the personal benefits they received for their sacrifices were minimal, if not non-existent. But that is what was—and is—required of any truly great leader, which explains why leadership is a rare trait in society, and always has been. -- From Pat Lencioni's POV, October 2008

24 October 2008

A word from the prophet... bono

“When America looks outside of itself, its view of itself is never clearer. Its faith in itself is never firmer. Its purpose is never stronger. Today, at a time when America, again, is tempted to turn inward, turn away from the world and its troubles, it is more essential than ever that you look outward.” -- Bono (last night)

18 October 2008

Son of Rambow

"Son of Rambow..."
"Yes, Colonel."
"This has been my best day ever."

17 October 2008

I knew it all along...

'Stayin' Alive' has near-perfect rhythm to help jump-start heart

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- "Stayin' Alive" might be more true to its name than the Bee Gees ever could have guessed: At 103 beats per minute, the old disco song has almost the perfect rhythm to help jump-start a stopped heart. To read the article CLICK HERE.

Eboo Patel interviews Rick Warren

Rick Warren at 2008 Clinton Global Initiative from Speaking of Faith on Vimeo.

11 October 2008

04 October 2008

The Prophetic Imagination

“The prophet engages in future fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented… The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing… Every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep conjuring and proposing alternative futures.” Walter Brueggemann from The Prophetic Imagination

01 October 2008

The Memorial Service of Robert T. Kidd

We buried my father-in-law yesterday. Lots of laughter and tears. I read these verses at the graveside:

This is not final. This is not the end.
For as the scriptures say,
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” (2-Cor. 5:1)

We have hope. For the scriptures also tell is that the day is coming when:
“God will prepare
a great feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

At that time he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;

God will swallow up death forever.
He will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the people's disgrace
from all the earth.

In that day we will say,
"Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us." (Isaiah 25:6-9)
Here is what I said at the memorial service:

We gather here today to celebrate and remember the life of Bob Kidd. While we grieve this tremendous loss, we also find comfort in remembering Bob’s life and the impact he had on each of us. I think he would have wanted us to smile and laugh and share stories about him.

A scripture that Tara and I prayed for Bob, during these last few weeks was Psalm 23 (an ancient Hebrew song). There are several parts of it that seem fitting. It begins,

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

When I think of Bob, and peaceful streams, I can’t help but think of fishing. I think he was happiest when he was fishing.

The song continues,
Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.

Bob walked through that dark valley with the same dignity and courage that he displayed his entire life, and we believe it was God’s mercy that he did not allow him to suffer in it any longer.

The song ends with,
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Goodness and faithful love were found in Bob’s character and family life. And it’s our expectation that Bob has now found a more permanent dwelling, where he’s fully at peace in a green meadow, dosing off, with his line in some peaceful stream.


I’d like to share a personal recollection. And there are many more; as I’m sure there are for you.

There’s a quote I came across that reads,
Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn.
This could have been Bob’s mantra. When I met him, the back yard was all pool and iceplant. The front yard was cacti and volcanic rock. To visit him, Tara and I would make the long drive out to Indian Valley Reservoir.

Nearly 20 years ago, I pushed myself into Bob’s life. As a couple of firstborns, Tara and I have always been rather independent. As I remember it, Tara and I were already engaged when Bob and I met. Nevertheless, Bob was gracious and kind, always giving me the benefit of the doubt. He even paid for lunch that day (the first of many).

Even though it took awhile for the verdict to come back on me personally, my arrival brought a sigh of relief. Tara had been talking of doing missionary work in far off places like the Soviet Union or the Middle East. “At least now,” I’m sure his thinking went, “whether we like the guy or not, she won’t be traveling the world alone.”

Even though Bob didn’t share all our motivations for living in Kyrgyzstan, and then, New Zealand, he supported us in everyway possible. Even though he mat not have been thrilled that I had taken his daughter and granddaughters to live on the other side of the world, he encouraged us in everyway he could.

Bob didn’t always share his feelings in articulate words, yet he expressed them all the same. Immediately after getting married, with the plan to eventually move to the land of far, far away, we quit our jobs and moved to Oregon. Nevertheless, a couple years later Bob and Denny graciously bought us a new set of suitcases for our travels. Maybe to Bob, it was just luggage. But to us, it was blessing. It was his favor made tangible. Which meant the world to us.

Packaging can trick and confuse us. Something we buy online can look so good, but then when we open the package. Wow, what a disappointment. It wasn't like that with Bob. With Bob, you got what you paid for. And what you always got was a man who was kind, faithful, reliable, unassuming, honest, and gracious. No surprises. To the finish line.
Tara's poem about her father:

I look into your clear blue eyes and I melt.

At once, I am again a little girl,

standing beside you at White Pines Lake,

after dinner,

just the two of us,


You cast out your line,

a distance that awes me,

then the click of the reel

and you begin to draw it back in,


tugging a fly gently across the top of the water.

I stand at your side,

maybe just a little behind you,

and make small talk --

like a little bird,

dabbing around the shoreline,
looking for worms.

You would never have dreamt of leaving me home,

though this is your favorite time,

your time, really

but you're always willing to share it with me.

Sometimes, I have my own rod,

you patiently untangle my line,

without disdain.
Sometimes we catch fish,

but that is never the point.

The point is the lake, the trees,

the gentle rhythm of casting and reeling in.

And me, standing in your long, strong shadow,

looking up and worshiping.

25 September 2008

Are there bass boats in heaven?

This past Sunday evening, Tara's father, Bob Kidd, passed away. He was born September 14, 1930 in Montreal, Canada. He and his wife Denny relocated to Martinez/Pleasant Hill, California in 1961. He worked 38 years for Shell Oil, rising to the position of Plant Maintenance Manger. He loved the outdoors and was a devoted fisherman, from trout in Alaska to large-mouth bass in Arizona.

He will be remembered as a faithful, loving husband and father. He was also a great role model for the younger men in his life.

He leaves behind his wife of 50 years, Denny, his two daughters, Tara and Melanie, and their families, including four grandchildren.

Thank you for your prayers over the past couple of years. We asked many of you to pray with us as we made the difficult decision to return to the States from New Zealand last year. And again, the past two months have been a real challenge, but God is good. Despite the difficulties and Bob's eventual passing, there have been evidences of God's presence, grace and mercy throughout these past days.

25 August 2008

The Life Model

Our couples life group is working our way through The Life Model: Living from Heart Jesus Gave You. I've read a few books in my life that I wish I had memorized so that I could make their truths life-tangible; The Life Model is one of them. I first read it about five years ago while living in KGZ, and it has haunted me ever since. In my present role as a pastor of a new believing community, I not only want to work it out in my own life, but I strongly desire to help create a community that bravely lives it out.

I'll let you know how it goes.

16 August 2008

Darren 'Bo' Taylor has died

Darren "Bo" Taylor, a former Los Angeles gang member who became a peacekeeper respected by street toughs as well as by law enforcement and community activists struggling to reduce inner-city violence, has died of cancer at 42.

After the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Taylor founded Unity One, a grass-roots organization that attacked gang violence through life-skills training as well as through conflict resolution on the front lines.

Taylor was a consummate mediator, whose years as a Crip gave him credibility and insight into problems that had divided the community and law enforcement into warring camps.

When the Los Angeles County jails were roiled by race riots five years ago, Taylor quickly assembled the gang leaders responsible for the violence and persuaded them to call off the fighting that left dozens injured.

He later led a program in the jails that reached 3,000 inmates with sessions to increase cultural awareness and impart concrete skills for managing anger and resolving conflict nonviolently.

Bo joined a gang at age 14. He graduated from Los Angeles High School and at 18 joined the Navy. After four years, he was honorably discharged and returned to the city but drifted back into criminal life when he could not find a job. Involved in drug trafficking, he recalled being shot at seven times in one month in the same phone booth.

After repeatedly dodging death, he had a spiritual awakening and decided to change course. He figured he had attended 200 funerals of victims of street violence and, as he told National Public Radio last year, he "couldn't cry no more."

Text taken from an article by Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 13, 2008

05 August 2008

baptize it!

According to coffee lore, the spread of coffee's popularity was due to the influence on Pope Clement VIII (1536-1605). His advisors wanted him to declare coffee a drink of the devil because of its popularity among Muslims. Pope Clement VIII said: This devil's drink is so good we should cheat the devil by baptizing it. ('Gleaned' from Ebenezers Coffeehouse, National Community Church, Washington, D.C.)

03 August 2008

Piha Beach, poem by Maia (January 07)

Piha Beach

First I run with my jandals onto the sand, because its hot.

Then when I get to the cool sand, I take off my shoes.

The sand is cool, Im so excited, I dig my feet into the sand.

I run into the water, and its warm.

Soon Grandma and Grandpa come in too.

Little waves splash at us.

There are little holes on the ground in the water.

I fall into one.

A big wave splashes at us this time.

Asia and Morgan come in now.

Asia right away starts boogie boarding.

She starts catching big waves.

Morgan gets farther out than us.

We walk a little farther out.

I fall into another little hole.

I get back up onto high ground.

Im still in the water.

A big wave is about to splash at us.

I quickly turn around.

I face Grandma.

I put my face on her shirt.

She puts her arms around me.

The wave splashes us really hard.

I almost fall over.

I get pushed back into a hole.

This time Dad comes.

The waves get way bigger.

I decide to go back,

so I do.

29 July 2008

Carried to the Table

This summer, we've been speaking through the book of Leviticus in a series entitled "Welcome to the Neighborhood". For over 400 years the family of Jacob (Israel) was immersed in Egyptian culture and spirituality. After which, a God, they didn't really know, redeemed them and moved them on to a new location -- one where they would be surrounded by various forms of extreme paganism. Through the law, including the book of Leviticus, God was introducing himself to this people: "Hello, my name is Yahweh, and this is how it's done in my family."

I gave a brief message on the basic sacrifices found in Leviticus 1-7. Take a listen. You can download it on iTunes, if that is easier, at Lakeside Church, Folsom. While preparing, the words of the Leeland song, "Carried to the Table" kept coming to mind. Great song.

01 July 2008

The Edge of Chaos

"There's a very interesting scientific insight which says that regions where real novelty occurs, where really new things happen that you haven't seen before, are always regions which are at the edge of chaos. They are regions where cloudiness and clearness, order and disorder, interlace each other. If you're too much on the orderly side of that borderline, everything is so rigid that nothing really new happens. You just get rearrangements. If you're too far on the haphazard side, nothing persists, everything just falls apart. It's these ambiguous areas, where order and disorder interlace, where really new things happen, where the action is, if you like. And I think that reflects itself both in the development of life and in many, many human decisions." -- Dr. John Polkinghorne* on Speaking of Faith

*Dr.Polkinghorne is an Anglican priest, the President of Queens' College, Cambridge University, and former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge. Polkinghorne resigned his chair in physics to study for the Anglican priesthood. After completing his theological studies and serving at parishes, he returned to Cambridge. During the same time period, he wrote a series of books on the compatibility of religion and science.

17 June 2008

God's Presence

Two people that I find very fascinating, Martin Luther King Jr and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, held similar views of God.

“You know, neither of them could speak about God totally being in control of events in the world. How is King going to believe that God is running the show when there is slavery for hundreds of years? When there is Jim Crow? When there is racism before his eyes, when those who are struggling for justice are being persecuted and hosed down in the streets? How is Heschel going to speak of God's dominance of the world in light of the Holocaust and all the other suffering of humanity? And yet both of them spoke of God's presence in their lives. I remember a sermon that King gave where he spoke about his fear when it became known to him that people were out to get him, when his house was going to be bombed, and he wondered how he could face up to this kind of tragedy, this kind of threat of his own death. And he writes that it was the presence of God that came to him one night that enabled him to bear with the bombing that did, in fact, come. So it wasn't that God had colluded in that bombing, that God had given permission to the bomber, that God was supervising things and, as it were, folding God's hands and allowing the bombing to happen. King did not pronounce on these mysteries of divine provenance. What he did do was testify to God's presence in his life as a source of hope and courage.” Arnold Eisen on Speaking of Faith, 06/05/08

"Divine Provenance" -- meaning basically, originating from God.

06 June 2008

A Simple Conversation

Despite two root canals and the painful infection that followed, I enjoyed bringing the word last weekend (May 31/June 1) at Lakeside. Check it out HERE. Using the story in John 4 of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, I hoped to encourage folks to get out there and create a few simple spiritual conversations. Jesus was our inspiration. I offered, at no additional cost, a few practical suggestions. :-)

23 May 2008

there's always ESPN

As we prepare for our presentation on Supporting Muslim Students, we come upon a slide with a photo of a bomb exploding in Baghdad. She averts her eyes. With her face turned away, all I can see is her headscarf. “I can’t look,” she says.

What can I say? I do the same thing every time CNN, Fox News, Sky, or BBC turns to news of Iraq. I even avoid reading the headlines as they pass from right to left across the bottom of my TV screen. I switch over to ESPN.

A reference to The Pottery Barn rule: “You break it, you buy it” was earlier attributed to Colin Powell. Well, we broke it, and now we don’t want it. We blame the store for not taking it back. Shattered to pieces -- 1 million refugees, 2.5 million internally displaced, constant civil conflict, and chaos -- little hope of normalcy. “But we have the receipt. It’s in its original box.” Shattered. Scattered. Beyond recognition.

Is it twilight for the Empire? The shocking 9/11 tragedy handed the US a lottery winner-sized check for “Millions and billions in Moral Authority.” Immediately afterwards, we were stopped in the streets of Middelburg, in the Netherlands, by Dutch offering condolences. The Friday after 9/11 I stood at the second-floor window and listened to three minutes of silence followed by the tolling of the bells of Middelburg -- church bells, school bells, the bells of city hall -- all in support of America and its suffering.

Weeks later, home in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, even the Muslim Kyrgyz could feel our national pain and understand the need to scour Afghanistan in search of bin Laden and his accomplices. “In order to bring them to justice,” they would say.

However, like a stereotypical trailer trash lottery winner, our leaders quickly squandered their newly acquired fortune in moral authority. Behind the mask of patriotism and democracy, hides a toxic combination of fear mongering, blind vengeance, patronizing bullying, deceptive spin, fierce nationalism and personal greed.

Following our leaders, we blundered into Sadaam’s Iraq, without anyone’s blessing but our own. Which is all we thought we needed. “Won’t everyone else be sorry when we win.” How exactly does one win this sort of war?

What becomes of the Empire? History confirms that they don’t last forever. Egypt. Persia. Greece. Rome. England. Will this blow, this stumble, keep us on the canvas?

During the presentation, maintaining a pleasant voice, she comments on the slide. However, I notice that, like a frightened woman who senses a stalker, she fastens her eyes forward, afraid to glance back.

She may never go home. Her family got out because they could, 12 years ago, when George H. W. Bush invaded Iraq. Like so many, sown to the wind, left to take root somewhere else in the world. Who will bring them justice?

Cartoon 'gleaned' from www.ohiomm.com/blogs/bok/2006/12/page/2/

21 May 2008

as they say in russian...

I'd like to make, as they say in Russian, a рекомендация. I am really enjoying the most recent release by Telecast, entitled Quiet Revolution. Modern sound. So much Christian music has a subtle, or not too subtle, pop country sound, which I can't take. (Sorry, all you Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flats fans.) This group has more of a European sound, like Keane or Travis, someone like that. Good lyrics. Thoughtful. Hopeful. On sale at iTunes for only $7.99.

20 May 2008

I appreciate the additional hair

While speaking at IKON last night, an unknown artist (of some skill, I might add) drew a sketch of me. (I just realized that I'm wearing the same clothes today. How come you guys never tell me these things?) I deeply appreciate the added hair, as well as, the generous introduction (It was mentioned that I was a former NBA player).

19 May 2008

my boyfriend, the bible

A reminder for my friends at IKON...

Imagine the bible as your boyfriend or girlfriend. Describe your relationship.

A little rocky? Communication breakdown? A long distance relationship?

In theory, we might all agree that the bible's really important. Christians talk about it. Speakers illustrate their messages with it. You can find little bible verses on everything from calendars to In-and-Out Burger wrappers. A few of us even have bible verse tattoos.

Realistically, how much do we read it? Even when we try, do we understand it? Find it inspiring or confusing?

Here are three ways to approach the bible:

1. Read the bible as a STORY
The bible is 'the story so far' in the true story that God is still busy writing. When we begin following Jesus, he writes us into the story.

2. Read the bible with PURPOSE
Verses like Ephesians 2:10 and 2-Timothy 3:16-17 tell us that the scriptures have a specific purpose: to commission and prepare us for good works that God has designed us to do. As NT Wright say, "It's about becoming agents of God's new world -- workers for justice, explorers of spirituality, makers and menders of relationships, creators of beauty."

3. Read the bible with a Central FOCUS
Passages like Luke 24:13-32 and 36-49, 2-Corinthians 1:19-20, and Hebrews 12:1-2 help us see that the key to interpreting the bible is the person and accomplishments of Jesus. We take two laps around each passage we read. First, we ask "What did the original readers get out of this passage? What did it mean to them?" Second lap: "What does this mean in light of Jesus, his teachings and works?"

NEXT STEPS Get into the story. Read Genesis, beginning to end, Exodus 1-20, the book of Mark and the book of Acts. These books are the foundational stories that the entire bible is based on. While reading, ask yourself: 1) God, what's the story? 2) God, what in the world are you trying to accomplish? 3) What's my part in it all? 4) What will it look like today for me to follow Jesus?

Society offers us many competing stories. The way of Jesus, as spelled out in the bible, offers us an alternative story to live by. Let the story of Jesus begin to "in-habit" your life. It's a life-long, continual conversion.

08 May 2008

July 8th. It will be 19 years.

At the end of a crazy day of work, Tara called to debate with herself out loud, with me listening over the phone, about what to make for dinner. Together we decided on pizza for tonight and tacos for tomorrow, since both evenings require quick and easy dinners. Finally escaping the office, I pull into Papa Murphy’s, rush through the door and… Then it happened. I felt the urge to buy a container of chocolate chip cookie dough. I’ve never before bought cookie dough at Papa Murphy’s before.

The lone customer, I call out, “Two pizzas for Tara,” to the guy behind the counter.

As he’s grabbing my pizzas, he calls back “That’ll be $23.70.” (or something like that)

“Did you get my cookie dough?”

“Yes, she preordered that too.”

“Wow, we’ve been married to long. We didn’t even talk about the cookie dough. We’ve never ordered cookie dough before. But we’re both thinking: ‘cookie dough’.”

“That must be a nice feeling: knowing that someone else is thinking just like you”

“Yeah, it is. It really is.”

Of one mind. At least when it comes to cookie dough. That’s a nice feeling.

06 May 2008

the spirituality of brokenness

An email from my friend, Maribeth:
Yesterday a man offered to buy the oven we had at the garage sale. I told him 100.00 and he didn’t reply. Then I asked the Holy Spirit what He thought. Immediately the Spirit prompted, 50.00 dollars. I turned to the man and said, “Well for you sir, 50.00 dollars!” The man said, “That is interesting because I was thinking if you said 50, I would buy it.” He pulled out a 50 and handed it to me and said his girlfriend would pick it up in a couple of hours. Two hours later, his girlfriend showed up in a beat up pickup truck to load it. I told her how nice her boyfriend was and she laughed sarcastically and said he really wasn’t nice. In fact she said he wasn’t very kind at all. I was sort of shocked but then I got mad. “If he isn’t respectful to you, you should kick him to the curb! I am serious, sister, you are a princess, daughter of a King, and your boyfriend should treat you accordingly”, I told her.

But it wasn’t until we were struggling to load the oven into the back of her truck, that I noticed her scar. It was the deepest scar I have ever seen running vertically down her chest. “Hey have you had open heart surgery?” “I was shot in the chest. Gun shot wound.” That is when I got seriously straight with her. I looked into her eyes and gave it to her straight. “Listen sister, God does not bring someone back from the dead without having a big plan for their life. He brought you back because He knows you by name and has a plan for you.” Then I quoted (more like a pretty good paraphrase of) Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I asked her if she went to church, gave her my name and number and Lakeside’s website. Now I am not sharing this because I think I am all that. Most of the time I am praying that I don’t mess things up badly in people’s journey of faith and that Jesus will repair the bridges I burn. Because in my pride and self-righteousness I mess up all the time. I am telling you because she matters to me. She matters to me. And she matters to Jesus.

I am comfortable around people whose scars are visible, because even though mine may be hidden to most, I have many. People who are “messed up” or “not popular” or “socially unacceptable” are the easiest to be with for me, because in their presence I don’t have to hide anything or have it together or pretend anything. I am free when I am looking into the eyes of a homeless person on the street. I am free when I am grieving with someone whose husband has left. I am free when someone shares their struggle with pride or jealousy or anger or distrust, because it gives me breathing room. Breathing room. Breathing room. Even though I don’t welcome being broken, I am at my best in my brokenness, because then Jesus can do what He does best. Where my capacities end, His begin. And nothing is better than when God shows up.

Thanks for showing up yesterday, Jesus. You are my best bud. And I am so grateful for all that You do. I can’t believe You love me like You do. It makes no sense to me, but I will take it.
Check out her blog, follow her adventure: http://www.acts3.org/blog/sheriff.php

01 May 2008

The Danger of More Shiny New Things

by Patrick Lencioni (from Pat's POV: April 2008)

I‘m sure it‘s natural for people to be fascinated with acquiring new things. Whether we‘re talking about physical possessions like homes or cars or toys, or more conceptual assets like knowledge or technology or business strategies, we seem to highly value what we don‘t have, especially when it is novel.

I suppose this is understandable—even good—in a society that values progress and innovation. However, there is a cost to overemphasizing and over-valuing all things new, a cost that goes beyond obvious concerns about greed and over-consumption. When we are in constant pursuit of acquiring more of the latest and greatest, we usually diminish or dilute the power of what we already have.

My twin boys turn ten years old this month, and as I ponder what gift to give them, I realize that what they probably need more than anything is more time to play with the things they already have, things they haven‘t begun to fully use or enjoy. Giving them something new may not make them much happier, and may actually cause them distress. You‘ve seen this dilemma on Christmas morning as your children sit in the midst of their own FAO Schwartz store, slipping into a toy-overload coma, overwhelmed by the choices they have and seemingly unable to process it all. If you‘re like me, you probably chastised yourself and vowed to your spouse that “next year we should give them just ONE present.”

This same phenomenon affects us as leaders of organizations too. But rather than toys, the objects of our desire usually involve knowledge or information. Most leaders I work with grow bored easily, and are in constant pursuit of strategies, ideas, trends—even employees—that will somehow transform their organizations. Unfortunately, they haven‘t come close to fully tapping the strategies, ideas, trends or employees that they already have, and yet they discard those untapped assets in exchange for new ones.

On a personal level, I‘ve experienced this phenomenon too. I‘ve recently come to the conclusion that I should stop reading so many new books and magazine articles. Instead, I should go retrieve the top ten books and articles that I‘ve already read, and start re-reading them again and again. After all, I‘ve forgotten most of what I‘ve learned in those books, and I‘m certainly not using or tapping into more than a fraction of what they have to offer. Instead, I‘m pursuing more and more new material, which only crowds out the space in my brain to recall and put to use the tried and true goodness of what I‘ve already learned.

Why do we do this? Perhaps we want to stay current. Or we don‘t want to feel out of touch. But I think it is based more in pride of knowing things than in real pursuit of excellence, integrity and discipline.

Don‘t think that the irony of all this is lost on me, an author who writes a new book every few years and who wants people to buy and read them. But I cannot deny that one of my favorite quotes comes from the author Samuel Johnson who said that “people need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” I suppose what he really meant was that we already have plenty of information. We just need to use it.

At the risk of going a little long, let me provide another example of the power of resisting all things new. This one is grounded in the world of corporate strategy.

There is a regional chain of quick-service (a.k.a. fast food) restaurants on the west coast called In-N-Out Burger. If you‘ve never lived or spent much time in California, Nevada or Arizona, you might not know about In-N-Out, but it‘s a sixty year old company that has a cult-like following among people who like fresh, delicious hamburgers.

What‘s amazing about In-N-Out is that during their history they‘ve almost never changed their menu. All they serve are cheeseburgers, hamburgers, french fries (one size only), milkshakes (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, one size only), and soft drinks.

Imagine the temptations that the executives at In-N-Out have felt over the years to add something new. In addition to wanting to take advantage of trends and fads, they very easily could have decided they were bored offering the same menu. Why not add a chicken sandwich? Or a shamrock shake in March? Or a Mexican-pizza-melt? Every other restaurant is adding new items to keep customers interested. Weren‘t they worried they‘d fall behind?

They‘ve always said ‘no’, and kept their focus on making the freshest, most consistent high quality hamburger in the world—or at least in this part of the world. And they‘ve never been willing to dilute their focus on that by chasing something shiny and new. They believe that there are plenty of people out there who want great hamburgers, and they‘re okay with those people driving to another restaurant when they are craving something else. That requires great restraint and a real appreciation for what they already have.

I should end this now so that it doesn‘t go too long. Besides, I have to go buy my boys a birthday present. Maybe I‘ll get them sweaters.
Copyright © 2008 The Table Group Inc.

03 April 2008


I listened to a wonderful podcast from Speaking of Faith this week -- an interview with John O'Donohue. Here is one of his well-known poems of blessing, which he wrote for his mother at the time of his father's death. It's called, "Beannacht," which is the Gaelic word for blessing.

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought (currach=a small boat)
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

*To hear it read by the author with accompanying slideshow, click here.

28 March 2008

message from muslim americans

I was deeply moved when I saw this video entitled "A Land Called Paradise" on YouTube. I saw in those American Muslims many of the Muslims I know and have met around the world. The song is by Kareem Salama, an American-born Muslim of Egyptian parents.

25 March 2008

easter aftermath

If you haven't seen the videos our church produced for our series entitled The Aftermath of Easter, check them out at www.easteraftermath.com. We got a mention in the Sunday Sacramento Bee, as well as being chosen as a featured video on MySpace. The comic has nothing to do with the videos; it's thrown in for free.

17 March 2008

:: practice resurrection ::

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry

14 March 2008

but does he?

Translated: "Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live."

There was a great version of this painting in the building where we used to play tennis, of all things, in Kyrgyzstan. I always thought of it as the Lenin Super-Hero Pose. I reget that I didn't try to buy it off the owner of the building. Chances are he would have parted with Eternal Lenin: Super Hero, if the price would have been right.

be the train

I've been in conversation lately. A bit with people I know -- my friend Brian, and, as always, those little podcast people, who live in my iPod. Brian and I got started after he recently returned from the re:create conference. He was all fired up after hearing Jon Tyson from Origins Church in New York City. Jon's message: “As Christians, we’re not called to change the world, we are called to create culture.”

Too often, as Christians and Christian organizations we are no more than cultural karaoke singers, mimicing already dated, middle of the road, pop culture. Music for example. I love music. To learn that WalMart is the largest music retailer in the United States distresses me. (Warning: I now plan to sound like a music snob.) WalMart does not have good music. As I heard a writer from WIRED magazine say today, "That means that people who hate good music buy the most music." If the available music was restricted to what is available at WalMart or what one finds in the Curcuit City ad in their Sunday paper, the world would be a very, very, very musicly poor place. (And I wouldn't struggle with an iTunes addiction) It appears to me that the majority of Christian "artists" and leaders are floating down that very same mainstream, yet often a few minutes behind their non-Christian counterparts.

As well, just taking the name "emergent" or "missional" in an attempt to find the "hip factor," isn't cutting it either. Listen to this:
My problem with many of these emerging church projects is that they are still attempting to bring church up-to-date by “trainspotting” some aspect of culture and making church fit it. I want to argue that in the Emergent Church the emphasis will be on being the train, rather than trainspotting: rather than trying to import culture into church and make it “cool,” we need instead to become ‘wombs of the divine’ and completely rebirth the church into a host culture.
Kester Brewin, Signs of Emergence (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 2007), 92

I have a question for you:
how do we begin creating culture? Or, in other words, how do we "Become the train?"

People, be the train.

04 March 2008

spring has arrived?

Wow! We have had a marvelous month of February, and, if the weather predictions for this week hold up, March isn't bad either so far. We can see signs of spring everywhere, from the blossoming trees to the appearance of 'billions and billions' of cedar waxwings. At the church where I work, they have arrived in-force. When you look closely into the trees, you become aware of dozens, at times, maybe hundreds, of them perched, ready to dart away to the next tree if you get to close.

Maybe we're a little desperate for spring. Having come over from New Zealand in mid-November, we feel like we have been in winter-like conditions for 'billions and billions of years' (I love mimicking Carl Sagan, may he rest in peace, as I type it :: "Billions and Billions of years.")

Living in this area of N. California, I always wish for a long spring and a long fall. Compared to other parts of the country, I risk sounding like a whiner, but winters here can be too wet and cold, not ice cold, but like getting caught in an unanticipated damp cold, unprepared and under dressed. Summers can, or should I say, are, too hot and dry. I've nearly killed myself by attempting to jog or play basketball in the middle of the day. However, spring and fall can sometimes be one perfect day -- not too hot or too cold; not too dry or too wet -- after another. I find myself just wanting to sit outside, stare at all the beauty around me and get creative -- write poetry, take photos, draw pictures, or write stories -- Walt Whitman-like.

All this to say, I'm pretty happy right now. Sunshine can do that to a soul.

26 February 2008

book recommendation

I'm reading a book that I'd like to recommend to anyone who's job it is to be a communicator: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dad Heath.

The authors lay out the critical elements of a sticky idea. They are--
* Simplicity: the idea must be stripped to its core, and the most important concepts should jump out.
* Unexpectedness: the idea must destroy preconceived notions about something. This forces people to stop, think, and remember.
* Concreteness: avoid statistics, use real-world analogies to help people understand complex ideas.
* Credibility: if people don't trust you, they'll ignore you. In some cases, they will be openly hostile, which means they'll actively try to dispute your message!
* Emotional: information makes people think, but emotion makes them act. Appeal to emotional needs, sometimes even way up on Maslow's hierarchy.
* Stores: telling a story [gets] people into paying closer attention, and feeling more connected. Remember the Jared Subway commercials? ('Gleaned' from Brian Bex Huf's review on Amazon.com)

Very interesting reading, I just wish I could've finished it before preparing the message that I gave last weekend... No worries. Always room for growth.

he had a PRESENCE about him

I spoke at the gatherings this past weekend at Lakeside Church. It was the second installment in a four-week series on the Holy Spirit, entitled, "The Advocate." It's my hope that people went away with a better understanding of the relationship between the work of the Spirit and the task of following Jesus. For the Spirit continues the work of Jesus in the life of the believer, and through the active presence of the Spirit, we continue Jesus' work in the world. It's available on-line if you are interested.

14 February 2008

forgiveness, Henri Nouwen

"Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive aperson, the memory of the wound might stay with us for along time, even throughout our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing. When we forgive our parents for their divorce, our children for their lack of attention, our friends for their unfaithfulness in crisis, our doctors for their ill advice, we no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over.
Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let
these events destroy us; it enables them to become events
that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed
heals memories."

Image "gleaned" from http://www.burkhartstudios.com/burkhart/religion/forgiveness.jpg

05 February 2008

this I believe... we all need mending

by Susan Cooke Kittredge
February 3, 2008 ·

Like most women of her generation, my grandmother, whom I called Nonie, was an excellent seamstress. Born in 1879 in Galveston, Texas, she made most of her own clothes. Widowed at 43 and forced to count every penny, she sewed her three daughters' clothes and some of their children's, as well.

I can knit but I cannot sew new creations from tissue-paper patterns. Whenever I try, I break out in a sweat and tear the paper. It clearly requires more patience, more math, more exactitude than I seem willing or capable of giving.

Recently, though, I have come to relish the moments when I sit down and, somewhat clumsily, repair a torn shirt, hem a skirt, patch a pair of jeans, and I realize that I believe in mending. The solace and comfort I feel when I pick up my needle and thread clearly exceeds the mere rescue of a piece of clothing. It is a time to stop, a time to quit running around trying to make figurative ends meet; it is a chance to sew actual rips together. I can't stop the war in Iraq, I can't reverse global warming, I can't solve the problems of my community or the world, but I can mend things at hand. I can darn a pair of socks.

Accomplishing small tasks, in this case saving something that might otherwise have been thrown away, is satisfying and, perhaps, even inspiring.

Mending something is different from fixing it. Fixing it suggests that evidence of the problem will disappear. I see mending as a preservation of history and a proclamation of hope. When we mend broken relationships, we realize that we're better together than apart, and perhaps even stronger for the rip and the repair.

When Nonie was 78 and living alone in a small apartment in New Jersey, a man smashed the window of her bedroom where she lay sleeping and raped her. It was so horrific, as any rape is, that even in our pretty open, highly verbal family, no one mentioned it. I didn't learn about it for almost five years. What I did notice, though, was that Nonie stopped sewing new clothes. All she did was to mend anything she cold get her hands on as though she could somehow soothe the wound, piece back together her broken heart, soul and body by making sure that nothing appeared unraveled or undone as she had been.

Mending doesn't say, "This never happened." It says instead, as I believe the Christian cross does, "Something or someone was surely broken here, but with God's grace it will rise to new life." So too my old pajamas, the fence around the garden, the friendship torn by misunderstanding, a country being ripped apart by economic and social inequity and a global divide of enormous proportions — they all need mending.

I'm starting with the pajamas.

Independently produced for Weekend Edition Sunday by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.

Image 'gleaned' from http://www.explodingdog.com/dumbpict51/mending.gif