Friday, December 22, 2006

Next Year...

I have a whole lot of fun, musings, and questions to throw out to you next year. Things such as:
my new AA group
curiosity and dialogue
reality church
circus midgets
and one of my favorite experiences in Abilene - an interview I did with a psychic palm reader

Hope everyone has a great holiday!

Type rest of the post here


Digg this

What I Want For Christmas - 2006

“Listen to me play, Daddy!” My kids love playing for me, and they play their best when they think that I am really listening. I know that there are some amazing piano players in the world, but there is nothing like watching my children squint in concentration over the piano, moving their fingers over the keys to the best of their ability, and listening to the wonderful music that comes out. Sometimes, I will sit next to them and we will play together.

Do you know how it feels to wake up in the morning, knowing that your gifts and talents are going to be used, and you feel valuable? That is what I want to wake up to – giving my gifts to something great!

"The Little Drummer Boy" is a Christmas song from 1958 (words and music by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone). The best-known and most standard version is by the Harry Simeone Chorale.

I love this song about a little boy, who doesn’t believe he has any fine gifts that are worthy of this wonderful child that has come to save the world, but he comes anyway. This little boy gives the baby Jesus the best that he has, and when he does, something miraculous happens.

Come they told me, A new born King to see
Our finest gifts we bring, To lay before the King
So to honor Him, When we come.
Little Baby, I am a poor boy too
I have no gift to bring, That's fit to give the King,
Shall I play for you, On my drum?
Mary nodded, The ox and lamb kept time,
I played my drum for Him, I played my best for Him...
Then He smiled at me, Me and my drum.

Friends, I want someone to play for, someone to give my best to!

I hope that over this holiday season, as you give your gift-wrapped boxes and fill the stockings, you remember that there is a light, and it is worth taking the best of what you have and search for it. You may not even think that what you have to offer is worth much, but when you give your best, miracles will happen.


Digg this

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Walter Brueggemann prayer

We would as soon you were stable and reliable.
We would as soon you were predictable
and always the same toward us.
We would like to take the hammer of doctrine
and take the nails of piety
and nail your feet to the floor
and have you stay in one place.

And then we find you moving,
always surprising us,
always coming at us from new directions.
Always planting us
and uprooting us
and tearing all things down
and making all things new.
You are not the God we would have chosen
had we done the choosing,
but we are your people
and you have chosen us in freedom.
We pray for the great gift of freedom
that we may be free toward you
as you are in your world.



Digg this

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bad Christmas Ideas, Part 3

The ultimate white elephant gift - The Star Wars Christmas Album! Yes, yes, I know you are saying even George Lucas has some shred of pride and couldn't possibly have sold out to this extent; just go to Amazon and verify for yourself (you can even listen to samples of C3PO singing Christmas in the Stars, ending with the wookie giving someone a kiss under the mistletoe!)

Sorry, took me a few moments to recover from that scene in my head...

Christmas music in general has had its ups and downs for me, unless you are my wife and it is always the ups for her. In my twenties I had publicly denounced Christmas music as totally worthless. A big confession - I secretly entertained a few songs that I just couldn't let go of and might have even been caught singing them under my breath a few times. Personal favorites - "Little Drummer Boy" (that song just chokes me up) and "Do You Hear What I Hear" (although I picture that scene in Gremlins every time I hear it). And how can you not like Feliz Navidad? Ok, so I know how you can not like it, but you certainly can't help but sing it.

So I decided to come out of the Hate The Cheesiness of Christmas closet several years ago, and then something like the Star Wars Christmas album comes out. Oh, Christmas, you are such a devious mistress!


Digg this

Bad Christmas Ideas, Part 2

Socks and underwear are on the list according to this article:,20089.asp

Now, socks don't bother me that much; occasionally I actually need some new ones. Not the most exciting gift. Underwear should just never be on the Santa list, ever. My nephew actually had a way of publicly humiliating you if you were on the special end of an underwear present.

Josh B is always waiting in special anticipation for the moment. Waiting, searching for the sucker who gets the gift that is not in a box, crumples into your hands, and wallah, yells "LOSER!" as soon as you get it open. Fortunately, he usually gets a pair just so that the Loser tag is spread around.

I have a hard time imagining that special moment when you tear open the paper to find 3 pair of your new undergarments (even if they are boxers with hearts on them), look at your special someone with a sigh and puppy eyes and a "I love you" escaping from your lips.

So what are your "Nice try, but you are terrible at gift giving" moments?


Digg this

Bad Christmas Ideas, Part 1

The list could go on year round, but we'll probably just go for a couple of days (while I'm in the spirit of the holidays).

This first one isn't even funny, it just gets me upset. Check out this article on a new video game tied to the "Left Behind" series of books sent to me by my good friend Mike.

Did someone not get the memo that mowing people down with a gun is not a WWJD kind of act?

Ok, so you lose some "spirit points" if you do that instead of "converting" them. Honestly, I haven't played the game so I am relying on this article and other news sources (my pc admittance for the following rant). But, please, how much worse can an interpretation of Revelation get?

Why do we have to throw in violence just to try to get something Christian in the mainstream? It just seems like that Crusade spirit won't die. I wonder how these same people who came up with the idea and produced the game would feel if other religious groups used the same principles in a game for them?

Once again, it also shows that the categorization of people and the "us vs. them" mentality is a part of the brokenness of humanity that slides in under the gun, so to speak. My new quote from Mother Teresa in the signature of emails says it much better than I could:

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

Give peace a chance this holiday season.


Digg this

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Review of "Jesus Asked."

One of my favorite books that I have read recently is Jesus Asked. What He Wanted To Know by Conrad Gempf. The basic premise of the book is turning the assumption we have of Jesus as the Great Teacher upside down. Jesus the Great Conversationalist pretty much goes by the wayside as well.

Gempf's own assumptions are questioned when a friend points out that, by our usual standards, Jesus didn't impart a whole lot of information or end up with a large following. What information he did pass along was not always clear nor a direct answer. More questions was the standard fare when you got a chance to ask, if he wasn't downright rude to you at times.

Don't believe me? Read the gospels. Really. Don't blow through the conversations; actually take a look. How many people leave a chat with Jesus angry, disappointed, or just confused? These stories in the gospels may just be purposefully challenging and disturbing, not just to the people at that time, but to us as well. Which is exactly what Gempf hopes happens to us - no fence sitting when you have a face to face encounter with Jesus!


Digg this

Friday, December 15, 2006


Well, not in the sense of "they live right next door, on the other side of the fence" neighbors but we first ran across them in our neighborhood. This is the couple that I mentioned in the post from Feb 8 and promised to update, so here goes.

Over a year ago, we met this couple who are not exactly homeless, because they move from place to place (which may include tents, apartments, rooms, etc), but they are not exactly permanent residents at any one location. We first met them when the lady, we will call her Cecilia, asked for money. We gave it to them, thinking it was the "Christian" thing to do. Let's just say we were a little naive, and had much to learn on this journey.

Cecilia came back later, and we gave her food from our garden instead of money this time. She loved the food from the garden, but was upset that we wouldn't give her money. Several days later she brought her husband, we'll call him Carl, to meet us. Since it was afternoon, we invited them to dinner. We had a good time and spent most of it listening to their stories about their growing up, and kids that lived all over Texas. They kept coming, and every once in a while we would give them money for "groceries", a "friend's daughter who was sick", "gas money for a friend", etc. Then came the big night.

Several months had gone by. After burgers one evening, Carl said he wanted to confess something to me while Cecilia was not there. He asked that we speak privately. We went into the house. Carl then told me that he and Cecilia were hooked on drugs and he wanted us to pray for them. I said that we definitely would. I called the family inside, and we laid our hands on Carl and prayed for him. We later found out that Cecilia was not too happy that he had confessed.

We look back now and slap our heads thinking "Duh!" We wanted to think the best of them, even though we knew that they had moved twice in the couple of months that we had known them. It just showed us our gullibility from living in a world that generally ignores, or at best glances at page 12 in the local newspaper, this world.

Cecilia was none too happy because even the small amount of cash that we would give them was now nonexistent. We gave them food coupons from the store, took them to the laundromat ourselves, and provided food whenever they asked; but that was it. Every once in a while we had no clue where they were, but after a month or so they would get back in touch.

Long story now shorted: Carl is rehabing from rehab, and Cecilia is in jail in Fort Worth right now. Carl is coming over to dinner Monday and we'll discuss visiting Cecilia soon. Carl usually goes to church with his daughter now.

Our learning lessons:

1) How much help can you really provide without getting involved, deeply, in other people's lives?
It's scary, and time consuming. Did I ever wonder why so little change and transformation happens?

2) How much "fixin" can we really do to people?
Carl and Cecilia are never going to be "middle class", and is that really the goal? Would that be better than where they are at? Yeah, sorta. Cecilia dreams of sitting in front of a big screen TV.

Weigh in, good people.


Digg this

We're Back!

Is this the longest pause between posts, ever? Many things have changed over the past 8 months, and we honestly just didn't feel like publishing at the time. Now I feel like it.

Just an update on new plans - I graduated (yeah!) and now we are looking for a place to go and a community to make our new home. Is yours the one? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we are looking forward to Christmas in Virginia. If you are there, make room...

Just to reiterate why we are doing this in the first place - we want a forum to discuss, meditate, ponderate, and my own favorite, muse. So hop in and let's have some fun.


Digg this

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Things I never saw while living in Northern Virginia

Since John has been doing his 'musings' I thought I would add some balance to our page and let those of you that read our page know what the rest of the family is up to.

Periodically I will call my sister and tell her something I've seen here in Abilene that I never experienced while living in Northern Virginia. Life in Abilene, as you can imagine, is quite different that suburbia DC. John, Jonathan, and Hunter got to help one of the ranchers at church catch a calf that had gotten out. The boys spent most of the time trying not to get dirty. Hunter and Jonathan were yelling at the cows from the back of the pick-up: sit, cows, sit! A few weeks ago while trying to park at Wal-mart (yes I go to Wal-Mart quite a bit since moving here. We have a NEW Wal-Mart on the north side of town now!) I had to sit and wait for a very large horse trailer, horses included, to move out of the way so I could park. Can't say I ever had that problem while trying to park at the Chantilly or Burke Wal-Mart.

But this one takes the cake for me (at least so far).
The other day I was driving down a fairly major street (South 1st for those of you that are familiar with Abilene). I was stopped at a light and there crossing the street was a motorized wheel chair. Not such a big deal except for the person 'driving' obviously was on a mission and obviously had something wrong with her leg in that it was stretched out staight in a cast. She had oxygen tanks on the back and there hanging from the outstretched leg was a cathiter bag half full of what cathiter bags collect. We were not in a residential or medical area of town. All I could think of was where could someone in this state possible need to go that she left home in a wheel chair like that? And more importatly what if she crashes, turns over or runs out of battery? Some times I just shake my head and wonder why I am here. Can't say I ever saw that in VA.

Somethings are the same though. Red Robin is here now. Logan's is opening soon. Chuck E. Cheese is back in Abilene after having been gone for several years. And I don't think you guys have Jason's Deli up there (too bad for you).

But, all things considered life is not too bad here. The other day we were stuck in rush hour traffic. It took us 20 min instead of 15 min to get home from the other side of town. It only takes me about 8 min to get to work and only about 6 min to get to church on Wed night. (Sunday's John preaches at a small rural church in Eliasville, TX)

The kids are really happy here. Although we've all been much sicker this past year than we were up there. The Texas indoctrination seems to have lessened a bit. Jonathan and Autumn are doing great in school. Hunter loves pre-school. And we are all looking forward to John's graduation in May.

Have a great week. Miss you all.


Digg this

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A New Age Is Dawning

Musings from John:

I'm filling out graduation forms and comprehensive examination applications and it is starting to hit that my family is heading for something new, again. Of course, there is always some sense of trepidation at starting a new phase, some sense of relief, and certainly some excitement. Perhaps for Nancy and I, the best part has been the reflection as we are entering the mid part of our life. We don't want to just keep on doing what we have been doing just because.

I appreciate the Socratic quote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Sometimes asking the right questions may be the best counseling we could ever have. Here are some of my favorites, chime in with yours:

Are our activities reflecting the values that we say are most important?
What are we truly teaching our kids by our lifestyle?
Do we see people as the image of God?
Are we saying No to the good things and Yes to the best?


Digg this

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Musings from John:

Do you pray?

Chances are you do, since most people in the US pray, even if they are not sure if they believe in God. Yet, I'm not sure that people expect that something will happen. Maybe they just do it as therapy; maybe it is an existintial cry of pain; quite often it may be something done because it is expected. When this conversation came up recently, one person in the group said that the only way that God speaks to us is through the Bible. If that is the case, is the conversation one-sided? The Wikipedia article on prayer asks, Why pray? Interestingly, it is generally assumed that it is for a personal reason and it doesn't go beyond that. Or if there is a God and He is listening, is it really necessary? Erwin McManus, in a great talk to a Christian crowd (see Mosaic podcast), points out that people from all religions pray - what should separate us is what we should expect in return.

So chime in: What do you expect to happen when you pray?

Let me personalize this: my family wants to be missionaries, even feel called, but in order for that to happen, some things need to be in place within a pretty short amount of time. Honestly, I am not exactly sure what to pray for, and have prayed for different things to happen; but most of the time, the prayer is a silent anxiousness, a tacit longing.

Oh, I know that we'll be fine, no matter what happens. I am struggling to move my thoughts more often to people around me that need far more help than my family. But if you have a moment to spare, I would certainly appreciate it...


Digg this

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

You behave that way because...

What is a "worldview"?

That word is being bandied around these days in just about any journal or book that tries to make sense of what is happening in the world around us. I challenge you to find a recently published Christian book without the term. It is being used as polemic, as an apologetic, and when they just don't know what to do about people they don't understand - that is their "worldview." But do any of these people really know what they are describing?

It is hard to argue against the observation that some people do things differently than other people, and maybe there are reasonable statements that possibly describe what is going on. Try out this exercise, curious reader: write your own definition of "worldview." Do it on a sheet of paper before reading on. Ask a friend to write their own definition without looking at yours or looking at someone else's definition.

If I had to guess, your definition probably included something that happened mentally. The process probably looked something like this: you know through observation that people behave differently. Your definition tried to say that people who think alike behave in similar fashion. Most definitions fit this pattern. But can we really do that?

Is it possible to describe the mental constructs that are associated with behaviors of groups? We do not know what is going on in the mind of a single individual, much less an entire community. For example, try to acurately tell me the process that happens in your head when you make a decision. Pretty tough, huh? Now try to describe what was going on in your mind when you did something that you knew you probably shouldn't. Now try to tell me the mental picture, or lense, or construct, that was the determining factor for the people that showed up for church last Sunday, just the ones in your church. Every single one of them, for that reason? I don't show up at church every Sunday for the exact same reason, and there are times when I am not really sure why I am doing what I am doing at any particular moment.

Look at Wikipedia at the definition and then the following discussion to see how different people try to categorize how we think. This is important because there are conflicts in this world, on many different levels. When a group or individual categorizes another group as fitting into a certain "worldview" that negatively impacts their own, expect a power struggle.

A great example of this is the upcoming event when SoulForce visits Abilene Christian University. The following is a quote from the President of ACU about the event:

"A religious activist organization called SoulForce will send 30 to 35 young adults on a seven-week bus tour this spring to confront selected religious or military colleges and universities about their perspectives on homosexuality. The bus tour, called Equality Ride, will visit institutions where, according to SoulForce, “bans on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender enrollment force students into closets of fear and self-hate.” The group plans to visit 19 institutions and one national higher education event. Thirteen of the 19 schools are members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, including Abilene Christian University. The Equality Ride has chosen to stop at ACU March 27 as the group travels through Texas. Prior to the Abilene stop, the group will be at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla. From Abilene, they are going to Texas A&M University in College Station. ACU will be the seventh school visited on the bus tour. The Web site for this group states their intentions: “Through dialogue with administrators and discussions with students, the young activists of the Equality Ride will make clear the harmful effects of the false notion that homosexuality is a ‘sickness and a sin,’ and ‘a threat to the nation and the military.’ ” "

Two institutions have categorized "worldviews" and will have a resultant clash. The clash is not necessarily one of physical force, but concerns the power to dictate behavior.

If you cannot judge what is going on in a group's mentality, or someone else's head, but only observe behavior, how would this affect your participation in this event? If we can only make judgments based on behavior, how can you affect change in other people when we think it is merited? In ourselves?

Through second-hand sources, I heard that President Royce Money announced the SoulForce's visit in ACU's chapel. When he said that we could have the group arrested, some in the student body cheered. I find that behavior appalling (despite whatever was going on in their heads). He then went on to say, "but we will greet them with love and respect." Fortunately, there was some cheering for that as well.

I look forward to your comments...


Digg this

Friday, January 13, 2006

Going with the crowd

Alright, due to our own popular demand, here is our world travels:

create your own visited countries map

State travels (we did a little better here, a lot of it because we grew up in families that liked to tavel):

create your own visited states map


Digg this

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More info (but on a lighter side)

Musings from John:

Thought I would just throw up some of my favorite books; I know many people don't read much anymore, but for those that do, I'd love to see your lists:

Life of Pi (a very recent addition)
Catch 22
Lord of the Flies
Ender's Game

Some nonfiction:

Prophetic Imagination
The Divine Conspiracy

Ok, so my list of nonfiction is pretty short. I'm in school and being forced to read so I balk a little at that one.


Digg this

Monday, January 09, 2006

What I Really Wanted For Christmas

Musings from John:

I have learned a lot about about mission work over the last year. I have garnered information about doing research, training leaders, indigenous church planting, mission movements, ethnocentric theology, etc. It has been worthwhile and needed. I have great data from outstanding thinkers. But the moment I step out my front door, I am on my own (metaphorically speaking - my wife and kids are right there with me).

Now I am faced with real people and real situations. Theories look awfully good in retrospect. It's amazing how truly messy life is, including my own. What I would love to find is a mentor who I can follow, learn from in action, ask questions on the go, and try my own version. Even better would be someone who is really good at it.

Robert Springer is amazing at what he does, and is a wonderful coach. If I was going to be in the nonprofit business, I would follow him around for as long as I could. The partner I worked for at PwC was amazing at business and figuring out what had real value, and if you could keep up, you couldn't help but learn as she blazed a trail. Over the years, I've asked a few people, older than myself, to hold me accountable to keep growing. I've tried to help a few people with a few less years and no gray hairs at least think about who they are and what they are about; I hope to grab a few underclassmen before we leave.

When did discipleship become a lost art? What could possbily be more important? Why aren't more Christians asking this question? Brueggemann has led me to believe, in his incredible book "Prophetic Imagination," that most peope really don't want change, and thus grow. It can be painful.

Now my family is sailing off into water unchartered by anyone I know well, except a very few, and none of them do mission work anymore. Not really even local mission work. Churches in Abilene, even with its Christian school and 30-something churches, haven't added to their numbers over the last couple of decades. Those who are already Christians have only shifted around. It's not like every person in Abilene is a Christian - at least 40% of the population doesn't attend ANY kind of church or religious establishment. It's not that people aren't interested. I did survey work in a neighborhood and most that didn't attend church had the feeling that people just didn't care.

I'm usually pretty good about moaning and groaning about these types of situations, but this time we decided we'd try to act to see what could be done. We know others are trying as well, so I can't just lop all of Abilene in my whining fit. My family has decided to pray for, take the Good News to, and help people who live in some apartments close to our home that is not very expensive (read something into that) and has a history of needing police intervention. We met one couple that is usually homeless and has drug problems, which we are at least gaining some trust because they know we care. I've also met some other families that are very nice.

So now what? Well, we will love these people, which we do. The next steps, problems, potential areas of danger, over-reaching, and just being annoying are things that I am unsure about. I handle chaos and uncertainty pretty well, and one of my majors is risk, but people's souls are at stake and my family's time and energy as well.

So here I am, passing along more info. Something will happen, and then I'll fill you in.


Digg this

Monday, January 02, 2006

Wow! What a year...

Musings from John:

Well, the first thing on my mind is that we have gone through some major changes.

I left my job as a minister at Fairfax Church of Christ to go back to school full-time to get a Masters of Missions at Abilene Christian University. To do this, we moved to Abilene, TX, on Jan 3, the same day I started school. Needless to say, Abilene is somewhat different than DC. I took 42 graduate hours in 2005 while working in two part-time jobs and trying to maintain some sanity with my family (the reason why this blog is so far behind).

It feels good to be able to take a moment to think about the past year.

We have sacrificed our savings, stability, and life with friends to learn to be tools to serve others around the world. If nothing else, we have learned some incredible lessons. The most important is that no matter how hard or weird the circumstances, you can get by with the support of friends and family. In fact, our entire plans for the future, trying to make a difference in people's lives and planting communities of faith that are models of love and care is dependent on the vision and charity of friends.

There have been some sweet surprises and some bitter moments. We have made some new friends, but we really miss the ones we left. We came to Abilene to learn, but it has come at a heavy cost, and some lessesons were not really all that valuable. I hope to post some of the best of what we have learned over the upcoming weeks.

I hope that this forum can be a discussion between friends on such topics as what is a missionary (really, a topic for everyone), lessons learned, discipleship, and what is truly important and worthy. That discussion would be worth any price.


Digg this