Tuesday, December 30, 2008

my 2008 blogroll

After a few months away, it's been good to be back in "blog_land". And as 2008 comes to an end, just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone out there who puts their ideas, insights, fears and emotions on the line week after week. You encourage me. You challenge me. You inspire me.

Here's just a few of the posts I've read this year that I'll want to remember...

Biscotti Brain: Swaziland:Bhventi
So much to choose from… the whole Advent series challenged me, the $8 hot dog convicted me, but Wilsonian’s Swaziland posts opened my eyes to a whole new world.

"How are you?" I ask
"I am fine."
"I am fine."
"I am fine."
They all answer the same way...

Don’t Call Me Veronica: The Problem with Indifference
I’m a contrarian… I like to do things my own way because, well, because I know better. So this post from Tony hit home and demonstrated how even the little things can make a difference.

Eye for Redemption: Facing Down Fear
In a year where I have been trying to figure out what holds me back, Kansas Bob provides ongoing insight and encouragement.

I think that God is amazing in the way that he uses
a wounded man's courage to heal him
when he returns to the battlefield and faces down his fear.

Faith and Family: Witness to History
I’m pretty sure Matt voted for John McCain… but his recap of Kennedy endorsing Obama back in January has stayed with me.

… it struck me at one point that he was somehow
lifting the crowd from their seats and from the floor
and symbolically putting them on the stage
next to him so that they were all looking
in the same direction: towards the future.
He even got me, the skeptical gray-haired Republican,
to move up on the stage with him.

Julie Unplugged: How Pro-Life Voters Like Me Justify an Obama Vote
Long-time Republican Julie worked tirelessly in support of Barack Obama this year. Here’s one of many well-penned essays.

The Republican party has acted as though
"believing in a plank" called pro-life is
the same as actually fostering a culture of life,
as being those who see others as valuable.

One Hand Clapping: Make Something Day
For my wife, Black Friday is an annual social event. I tried it one year and was back home by 6:30 – without the computer on my list. Here, Julie provides some balanced thinking on the alternative.

I like it and I don’t like it.
If it works for you, really works for you, great.
But I’m uncomfortable with it being
the only “just” alternative out there.

PoMoXian: What I Did for MKL Day
It was tough to pass up Dave’s live-blog of the Super Bowl (Go Giants), but when someone steps out of the e-world and actually does something, it’s worth a second read.

Ragamuffin Rambling: A painful, and embarassing, confession
I need to be challenged, and Steve’s hard-hitting Advent post is one I’ll need to come back to time and again.

This is my confession to you all - that I have
lived a life of excess, while others have starved.
And this is my first step at redemption.
I don't know that I will ever live long enough
to make amends - but it starts now.

Sacred Vapor: Tuning In
This beautiful metaphor may be one of my favorite posts of the year.

Sublime Transitions: it is like this
With NaNcY, it’s hard to pick just one. This one captures a lot of what it means to write out in the open about our zig-zagging journeys with Christ.

i want to hear God speak to me,
to know what He is saying,
and to understand what He wants…

Texas Chilly: Wheee!
We were created to discover. Here’s a fun reminder from Missy that we all need to be trying something new.

TSSO: When a hand of the Body is smackin’ your face…
Some people find themselves hurt in church situations… but what is one to do? Karen offers wisdom beyond her years.

I think that we have to walk in the Truth and
stop being doormats for the Body.
God loves us to serve, like Jesus served,
and to be loving and loved, but surely
He doesn't want us to be hurt repeatedly.

This Walk: No Really, WOW.
When you need a quicker-picker-upper, try this post from FLYAWAYNET.

I cannot complain. I've nothing to
complain about. God's been good.
And the best part is, I actually mean that.
Trying to Follow: Christians and Homosexuals: Love’m or Hate’m?
We have not seen the last of post-Proposition 8 protests. Here, Ariah sees to that.

Rather, I’d challenge you to ask every homosexual
person you know, who will answer you honestly,
if they have ever felt themselves
at the receiving end of hate from Christians.
Happy New Year to you. And you know of any blogs that I might want to add to my list in 2009, please let me know in the comments section below.

Monday, December 29, 2008

that guitar man

My wife and I did a weekend in NYC this past October. On Saturday, we spent the day in the park (translation: Central Park) and during a walk from 59th up to the reservoir and back again, we heard music playing as we approached Strawberry Fields.

We've come to find out we were listening to David Ippolito, "That Guitar Man from Central Park". We sat there for nearly four hours, listening to rock classics and folk songs written by David... a time that ended only because the sun set over the Lake. (We've since gone back to hear him play again).

David describes himself as "probably the least religious man you’ll ever meet.” But he also claims to have "more faith than anyone you’ll meet." The combination is a welcome blessing.

We went to his annual in-door concert this past month. As he started on one of his own songs, he ducked as if he was about to be hit by lightening. This tune is called "The Religion Song", and if you listen to the music he certainly takes aim at organized religion, but you'll hear words being sung by someone who has been touched by the grace that is God.

Any God small enough to understand
can't be big enough to help.

Interestingly, David came into my radar later in December via the religion pages on the New York Times... a touching Christmas-time story that again captures the simple truth that "the most real things in this life are the things we can’t see".

So I sit here thinking... there are a world of Davids out there. Men and women who have been touched by God. People who feel His amazing grace. With insights into His truth. But who have been so turned off by the walls created by religion that they can barely say His name.

And I wish I had an answer. A way to go up to people and say, "forget about what you've seen in the papers and on TV... I would like to introduce you to the real Jesus... he's like you in so many ways. I think he has something special for you... a gift... a gift of joy, peace and love... greater than you've ever felt before... "

But like the church, I am an imperfect messenger. Flawed and broken. Inconsistent.

So I take comfort knowing that while I don't have an answer today, God does. Even if it's too big for me to understand.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

in the year 2001, i will...

Over the past few months, I have re-awakened from a long slumber, and I think that it’s no coincidence that during this same time frame I have had the joy of participating in a small group led by TK.

This past week, our group listened to Erwin McManus talk about his newest book and teaching series, wide awake. And we spoke about our dreams – or, should I say, the fact that most of us couldn’t think of any dream we were currently living to achieve.

So I am creating a “dream list”. I know that Wilsonian is working on her list for this year – and it’s pretty sad that we all don’t have one. I promise to post more on this in the weeks ahead (I am sure there are some dreams stored up inside me somewhere!)

But in the interim… as I have no dreams to speak of today… this current thought process led me to pull out a piece of paper I wrote eight years ago. Now just for context, this was a period in my life when I attended the Church of the Holy Convenience and didn’t realize I was on a journey. Preamble aside, here’s a list titled “In the year 2001, I will…” with my 2008 commentary in red.

In the year 2001, I will…

Weight less than 180 pounds.
Got down to 185 in 2003. Back up to 220+. I like to tell people it’s because I quit smoking in 2005, but actually it’s because I eat too much and don’t exercise enough.

See a sunrise and a sunset.
This one stays on my list most every year. I like them both.

Get a new job.
Left the comforts of corporate America and helped a friend start a company in 2001, so accomplished this one. Five years later I started my own company (which was a 20-year dream in the making.)

Break 90 on the golf course.
May 2007. Long Island National golf course. 89. Yes, I have witnesses.

Save a life.
Haven’t run into any burning buildings, but I’ve come to learn that you never know when your actions can make a difference. Let’s say this one’s a work in progress.

See my name in the newspaper.
Not sure why this one was on the list. Been there, done that. No so thrilling after the fact.

Get a promotion.
See “get a new job” above.

Learn to play the piano.
Dabbled a bit, but never put in the time. I can learn a song if I practice it enough, but sadly still not a piano player.

Read the entire New Testament.
Not in 2001, but not too long after. Little did I know then that the real secret is reading it over and over.

Publish a short story.
I wrote a full screenplay in 2006, so I’ll cheat and take credit for this one.

Bungee jump.
Did not happen. Not sure this one would make the cut this year.

Teach each of my children something special and unique.
Oh how I wish this were true. Maybe it is. They are amazing and wonderful and a joy to be with all of the time. I think they learned all that from my wife, though.

Make my wife laugh at least once a day.
I had a joke for this one, but I’ll keep it to myself. I do better on some days than others. This one definitely goes on this year’s list.

Spend time with Nonie once every month.
My grandmother passed in 2006. I did have the honor of speaking at her funeral. Sadly, I don’t think I got down to see her once a month. I wish I had.

Volunteer at least four times.
We’ll have to raise the bar a little for ’09.

Make at least two new friends.
Looking back, it seems that making new friends means doing new things. Joining a church in late 2001 definitely led to many new friendships. Starting to blog here last year opened new doors, too. Think I am going to have to find a new activity next year.

Communication with two old friends I didn’t speak with in 2000.
Have been more intentional about this in recent years. Email helps. Facebook, too.

Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
This one stays on the list as sadly, je n’alle pas a france (or something like that). Let’s see, trips planned but not taken include: 1985, 1992, 1999, 2008. That’s four. C’est la vie.

Put up a website.
Oh, that’s soooo 2001.

So... what are you dreaming about these days? If your dream came true, would the world be a better place? Let's all dream.

if i loved you

In 1986, my then-girlfriend turned to me and asked, "do you love me?"

She found my response a bit odd. Certainly not romantic. And not what she was expecting. I turned to her and said, "If I loved you, I would have asked you to marry me."

The fact is, if I was in love at that time, nothing could have stopped me from marrying her. I would have done anything she asked. No obstacles could have been to great. Love would have conquered all.

That memory came to mind this morning as I was reading the Book of John. It is the last supper, and Jesus is spending his final hours with his disciples with these words...

If you loved me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

In both situations, it is clear that LOVE preceeds ACTION. When you truly love, there is no thought involve. No advance planning necessary. The actions are natural. They flow freely. They bring great joy.

When you are in love with Jesus, no one has to TELL you to obey his commands. You go out of your way to do just that.

Too often in the American church, we get that backwards. We teach people how to ACT. We condemn those who act badly. But we don't spend as nearly as much time helping people fall in LOVE. Hi. Let me tell you about Jesus. He's funny, smart, good looking. A great dancer. Thoughtful, considerate. He listens very well. He brings peace and joy to everyone he meets. And I think he would like you a whole lot.

No. Sometimes the American church you see on TV or read about in the papers doesn't spend a lot of time introducing people to Jesus. Or so it seems.

I can understand why from my own experience. I spend way too much time condemning myself for my misdeeds. My indescretions. My thoughtless moments. And way too little time falling in love with Jesus.

But there's hope. Remember that then-girlfiend from 1986? Well, we did fall in love. And after being married for 20 years, the love is even stronger now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

nary a light

christmas day is two weeks away

but you would be hard-pressed to tell around our house.

no tree
no wreaths
no decorations
no outdoor lights
no holiday cookies
not a hint of christmas

everything still packed away
up in the attic
all boxed

now... we'll have a dozen+ guests in our house two weeks from now, so i imagine at some point we'll get a tree... and surely we can't be the only house on the block without christmas lights outside... but for some reason, neither my wife nor i are interested in going through the whole decoration hoo-ha this year (and believe me, we have boxes and boxes of cool stuff).

we've passed on our annual dinner party, and we've scaled back significantly on gift shopping, too.

so what's new in december? for the first time in many months, i feel like i am moving again, back on this amazing journey with my creator. i've been reading the bible again... spending quiet time before god... more conscious of his kingdom... purposeful in life. instead of giving many gifts this year, we will be making additional donations to the local shelter and an international reflief fund. we've engourage people who normally gift us to do the same.

despite the lack of "christmas" this year, i feel no shortage of christ.

Monday, December 1, 2008

sunday morning

sunday morning

no alarm clock

rolling over to see my wife

the first stretch

light peeking in from behind the window shade

sunday morning

the family arises

we hit the car before breakfast

we are greeted as we enter

sometimes by a kiss

the hall fills
... with people
... with music
... with laughter
... with life
... with His love

for moments

perhaps longer

everything is as it should be

we are one

sunday morning