Friday, May 16, 2008

The Evangelical Manifesto

You might have heard about the Evangelical Manifesto published this week by some of the stalwarts of USAmerican Evangelicalism. Dallas Willard and Os Guinness in particular are two Evangelical leaders that I could get behind on virtually any topic.

My friend Keith Giles though says the Manifesto will make no difference on the Evangelical church in the US as a whole. Pastors won't preach on it, the document won't be read by many. Oh, I'm sure some will read what Jim Dobson say about it or what Gary Bauer says about it or some other leader, but few will take the time to read and disect it's message.

I hope you'll take the time to read both the Manifesto and what Keith wrote about it.

Listen to your kidneys...

I was reminded this morning that not everyone believes that the heart is the seat of your emotions and will. We English speakers do, and I know that the Greeks in the time of Jesus did too, so it's a long tradition to see the blood-pumping muscle as also the emotion and will-pumper.

But as I was reading Psalm 16, I came to verse 7, which in a direct translation of the Hebrew would say something like this:

"I bless YHWH who gives me counsel; in the night also my kidneys instruct me."

My kidneys instruct me every night, although usually they use the bladder as interpreter. But you gotta listen to your kidneys when they talk.

Go ahead and check me out on this. You'll find it's true. Then I dare you to say to your significant other, "I love you with both my kidneys" and see what the romantic effect is.

It's biblical.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Jesus Prayer

I know I'm posting in spurts, but you take what you can get...

I have been working at practicing the Jesus Prayer in the past couple of weeks. It's been done in the Eastern church for centuries, beginning with the early desert fathers--a bunch of guys who were the predecessors to monks. It's simple to practice, but profound in impact. This is the prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.

Some add "a sinner" after the publican dude's humble prayer in Jesus' parable. But I like this prayer as a way to train yourself prayer without ceasing. Try it like this:

Breathe in and say "Lord Jesus Christ..."

Breathe out and say "have mercy on me."


The desert fathers would begin by trying to say it 300 times in a day, and work their way up from there. I haven't gone that far, but I've had periods of 5, 10, maybe even 20 minutes where I'm praying this prayer. It calms me, helps me focus on God, and has really helped my prayer life in this uncertain transitional times. I hope you'll try it.


"We are on our way to becoming a nation of 'skimmers,' living off the risks of previous generations and constantly taking from the top without adding significantly to its essence. Everything we enjoy as part of our advanced civilization, including the discovery, exploration, and development of our country, came about because previous generations made adventure more important than safety."

Edwin Friedman, A FAILURE OF NERVE

I highly recommend this book. Friedman takes an honest assessment of what is required for true leadership and finds us lacking. More to come.

Despise a vile person

Today being the 15th I read Psalm 15, one of those easily preachable in America psalms because it has ready-made bullet points just like we like 'em.

[in the voice of a televangelist, however that sounds to you] "Who can ascend God's holy hill? Well right here are the 8 steps you have to take up that hill..."

So anyway, one of the steps or characteristics or whatever kind of sticks in my craw. Honestly I'm not sure where my craw is, but I hate it when things get stuck there. About halfway through you get this: "Who can dwell on your holy hill? whose eyes a vile person is despised."

Now there are lots of psalms that get to me. I mean, am I really supposed to pray for my enemies to have their children dashed on the rocks? (yes, see Psalm 137). But I was particularly reflective this morning wondering this--do I let the "softness" and tolerance of my world affect my despising of evil-doers? Am I supposed to despise evil-doing people? defines despise as to regard with contempt, distaste, disgust, or disdain; scorn; loathe. Is that how I'm supposed to feel? I don't, and I hope it's because I am following Jesus. He didn't seem to loathe or be disgusted at evil-doers. Quite the opposite actually.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And now, from our reporter in the field

Yikes, I haven't blogged lately. And the only entries I've written in my journals are where I complain about not journaling. The San Antonio library keeps sending me reminders that the books I have are coming due, and I haven't even started them.

Transitions--even ones that you're enjoying--are difficult.

But, having said all that, I have to tell you that I'm really liking what I'm getting to do at Buckner. As a partner with and extension of local churches, Buckner is making a difference in the lives of orphans and children at risk around the world. And it's not like we're going to run out of those opportunities anytime soon (although that would be nice).

One of the best things Buckner has done lately is Shoes for Orphan Souls (SOS). This is an amazing project that started with a shoe drive for Russian orphans several years ago. Now Buckner has sent 4 million pairs of shoes to orphans around the world and here in the US. Shoe drives are being done by churches, civic clubs, businesses, and all kinds of organizations. Some are small, collecting 10 or 20 or 50 pairs of shoes. Others are going after 2,000 or more! Great stuff. Check it out at

In the meantime, be patient with my blogging, as I figure this whole commuting thing to Dallas. And pray our house sells!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Anybody want a peanut?

How cool is this? I took the "What is your 80s movie?" on Facebook and-----shocker-----

I was "The Princess Bride." My 2nd favorite movie of all time after Lord of the Rings.

Hallo. You killt my father. Prepare to die.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I'm sick of paint

Okay, raise your hand if you've done something stupid...

Not the "we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" but non-sin, forgetful stupid. Back in the youth pastor days I was for several years the director of the EPBA youth camp. There was a couple of years in a row that we used one of my fave youth evangelist dudes from that era as the camp preacher. About 3 months prior to the second year of his speaking he called me up and said something like this: "Arnie, I've done something stupid. Really bad. But I haven't sinned. I can't tell you more yet, but I just thought I needed to tell you that." do I uninvite you?

As it turns out, his description was spot on. He traveled a lot over Texas and Oklahoma as an evangelist, and when he was in the car alone on a long trip he would take a small pistol. One trip he was heading back from Oklahoma, and when he got home he just through everything, included said pistol, into his backpack. He had a week off with the family, then a weekend deal in Midland. That church was flying him out there, so he got the airport, went through security and was immediately grabbed and pulled aside. As the security guys pulled him away he glanced at the x-ray machine and--you guessed it--there was his fully-loaded pistol. It was a good thing for him that this was the early 90s and not post-9/11.

He bounced back from that stupid thing, and I'm bouncing back from mine. But we pay for them, in big or small ways. What was my stupid thing, you ask? Great question...

I through away some important paint last year. Custom paint. That our kitchen and bathrooms were painted with. And now we're moving and needing to touch up...

Have you ever tried to match custom paint with those stupid little cards? We've been to the local Lowe's 45 times in the past two weekends. I'm glad it's only a mile from my house. But I'm sick of paint.

I think we're done. The house should go on the market next weekend. And if all goes well I won't paint a thing ever again.

Yeah right.

Friday, May 02, 2008

If Jesus had a blog

Someday I want to meet Brant Hansen. He's funny. And clear. And like one of my all time heroes, Al Yancovich, he plays the accordian.

You have to read this post about what if Jesus had a blog.


There's a story from the world of women's softball traveling the internet. Perhaps you've read it. A senior player from Western Oregon hit what was later discovered to be her first home run in high school or college, but as she rounded first base, she wrenched her knee. Maybe permanent ligament damage. She fell to the ground, unable to get anywhere but crawl back to 1st base. Obviously her teammates can't help her around the bases. The only legal option for her team was to substitute a pinch runner, count it as a single, and only the two baserunners who had scored would count their runs.

Then a player from the other team stepped in. Central Washington's 1st baseman Mallory Holtman asked the umpire if her team could carry Sara Tucholsky around the bases. He said that there was no rule preventing it, so Mallory and CW's shortstop Liz Wallace carried Tucholsky around the bases, gently letting her tag each one as they passed. Western Oregon went on to win the game. Holtman and Wallace are being hailed as heroes.

By most, anyway.

It's interesting, the first thing I thought of when I read the article was that a team of guys probably would never do that. And USA Today's coverage of the story confirms that many guys have said just that. While most of the conversation is supportive of the women who did this, a few of the responses have challenged their support for the team, calling the act "selfish." Their response has been that they believe many guys would have the character to step up and do the right thing.

So how do you know what the right thing is? Sports can do a lot to teach you about right things. But I for one agree with these young ladies decision and with those who support them--if competition has gotten so out of hand that winning is the only thing important, then character is not being built, it is being compromised.

I'm a Spurs fan. I love watching them play. I stayed up for the entire game on Tuesday night, even though I was staying with friends in Dallas and they had gone to bed. We all had to be up for work early Wednesday morning. But I'm a Spurs fan. I couldn't sleep for a couple more hours after the game because of the adrenaline coursing through my veins after the finish. I'm known to yell at the TV, shout and wake up the kids, you name it. I am a fan.

But in each of the games with Phoenix, there were moments I was pulling for the Suns. Or at least for one of their players. The Diesel, Shaquille O'Neil, is notorious for being a bad free throw shooter. So at various points in each game, the Spurs would put in a player that was less likely to get into foul trouble in other ways to foul Shaq away from the ball just to put him on the line. There are two responses to this: it's part of the rules so take every advantage you can; after all he should make his free throws, he's a highly paid professional OR it's bad form, bad sportsmanship, so don't do it, even though the rules allow it.

I fall into the second response group. The last thing I want to teach anyone is that decisions should be made by conforming to the rules and taking advantage of the loopholes in them, regardless of what character would have to say about the issue. It's a big leap, but the Enron's of the world have learned this lesson well, and people have paid for their lack of character. So I was actually happy every time the Spurs fouled Shaq on purpose away from the ball and he made the free throws. I wanted him to make them. It's just bad form for me, regardless of the rules.

Sometimes character demands doing the right thing even when the rules would allow you to ignore the right thing.