What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Today we found out that our daughter in Spain is going to have twins!

Deb and I are both still smiling and laughing. We are looking forward to all the grandchildren we can possibly get - but two at once is beyond our expectations.

More on Miller's book

This morning I'm reading chapter 3 of Donald Miller's book Searching for God Knows What.

P. 38 - "One of the reasons I came to trust the God of the Bible was because He was big enough to explain the imposters. In Scripture, God never gets confused about who is who isn't representing Him. Imposters represent a small god, a vapor in the imagination of a child, a god we would all do well to renounce."

Miller says this after he mentions Shirley McClain swirling around on some beach somewhere saying, "I'm god, I'm god, I'm god." But he also rips Jerry Falwell for his remarks after 9/11. Since Falwell was a great guy in many ways, that was hard to swallow. But Miller's right. Sometimes we preachers get on our high horses and act like we represent God when we don't.

We're as guilty as Shirley McClaine sometimes. Ouch.

Oh I know Shirley doesn't know God (bless her heart... that's what they say here in the south, "bless her heart," and I say that because I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't know God) and Jerry knew Him well, but it is good to evaluate ourselves sometimes on how we represent God to a world that doesn't know Him. Our hope is that we will be salt and light. (See what Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16) Yes, sometimes salt burns and light surprises, but being salt and light should be that about us Christ followers that attract others to know God as we know Him.

Sometimes it's difficult to not speak for God from my own humanity. But I find more peace and joy when I leave the pronouncements of judgment to God. I find more balance when I point people to Him and not to my opinions.

I don't think this means that we shortchange God's truth. Much of it is very hard for people to swallow until they get to know where God is coming from.

I interpret that to be the point Miller makes in this chapter.

Pp. 46-47 - "When I saw myself in heaven...I imagined myself off behind some mountain range doing some fishing and writing a good detective novel. But if the gospel of Jesus is relational; that is, if our brokenness will be fixed, not by our understanding of theology, but by God telling us who we are, then this would require a kind of intimacy of which only heaven knows. Imagine, a Being with a mind as great as God's, with feet like trees and a voice like rushing wind, telling you that you are His cherished creation. It's kind of exciting if you think about it. Earthly love, I mean the stuff I was trying to get by sounding smart, is temporal and slight so that it has to be given again and again in order for us to feel any sense of security; but God's love, God voice and presence, would instill our souls with such affirmation we would need nothing more and would cause us to love other people so much we would be willing to die for them."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Blogging as I read...

I read the first chapter after church and after Deb and I had Sunday dinner at Olive Garden with my oldest brother Richard, his wife Sandy, and their only daughter Rachel who were visiting from Nashville. Then I took a nap.

Began reading chapter two of this book after my respite and wanted to jot a few thoughts down for future reference...then I thought...I will blog some of the stuff that I want to remember.

You will remember Miller for his best-seller Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. I laughed and cried through that one. Then I read his Through Painted Deserts, which was actually his first book, and To Own a Dragon; all pretty good stuff.

Searching was published in 2004, but I just found a copy last week at the thrift store. Our son Brandon will get this copy in Indiana when I'm through because when I asked him what volumes I could find at the thrift stores among other things he said he wanted to read anything by Donald Miller.

Quote, P. 17 - "...we would rather have a formula religion than a relational religion. If I could, I probably would have formula friends because they would be safe. I have this suspicion...that if we are going to get to know God, it is going to be a little more like getting to know a person than practicing voodoo. And I suppose that means we are going to have to get over this fear of intimacy..."

Why that hits me at this point in time - As a pastor I do church in my mind and heart every day of the year, not just on 52 Sundays. One of the huge obstacles to reaching and growing people in Christ is fear of intimacy. That is one of the lures of formal religion. In formalistic religions you can be surface-deep and get by. Yet it is only relational religion - a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus, and growing relationships with other Christ followers - that meets the need of the human heart and mind. It's tough going sometimes - this relational religion whereby we open up to God and to one another and show our warts and blemishes and hurts and habits and hangups - but it is wise although arduous. I long for people to do church with their hands, arms and hearts open to God and one another.

Quote, P. 19 - "I realize a lot of people don't like Jesus, or just ignore Him or have no use for Him, but I think the best thing a person can do is to read through the Gospels in the Bible and really look at Jesus, because if a person does this, they will realize that the Jesus they learned about in Sunday school or the Jesus they hear jokes about or the skinny, Gandhi Jesus that exists in their imaginations isn't anything like the real Jesus at all."

WTHMATPIT - That's good stuff. I won't tell you what he says about Santa Claus in this chapter. You'll have to find a copy of the book and read that for yourself. I cracked up. It was a little like the wry humor of a Janet Evanovich novel. (Yes I read her first novel. Just like I read one Louis Lamour novel and one Stephen King novel...actually I think I've read 3 of his.) Miller does a good job of showing how God is not an imposter even though some televangelists muddy the waters with their half-truths about God in order to fleece people of their money.

At this point Miller begins to get honest about his personal struggle with God's existence because of the misrepresentations of God he witnessed as a younger man.

More later...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Stump

Ever since we moved into the present building we're leasing in which to "do" church, I have been perplexed by an old stump at the very back corner of the parking lot. Most folks probably never even noticed it.

I did for two reasons.

One: I'm a neat freak about church parking lots and grounds. I just don't ever want someone to drive by our facility or into our parking lot and think, "These people must not take their worship very seriously because, if they did, this area would look neater and cleaner." I realize they may not say those exact words to themselves, but that might be the impression they get. And with an impression like that they may never want to meet the great God we serve and the great people with whom we worship.

Two: I hate it when someone doesn't finish what they start. A tree stump is a classic case of not finishing what was begun. Someone cut the tree down and didn't want to to go the trouble and the hard part of removing the unsightly stump.

So ever since we moved in I have been strategizing about its removal. It was encased in a mound of dirt with two large roots protruding off the sides. I didn't want to rent a stump grinder because I'm thrifty. So I've put off doing anything about it until recently. I got out the shovel and little by little took away the dirt. My plan was to have Jeff from the church bring his chain saw and cut it out.

But when I got to the subterranean portion of the stump this afternoon, I was in for a surprise. After years of being left to its ugliness - the stump was rotten below the surface. I applied some torque with my shovel and voila - the stump and its roots were broken into three large pieces and thrown into the dumpster!

My observation about this event is that we often obsess in life about problems that aren't as difficult as we perceived them to be. There's a rottenness to most difficulties in life that make commitment and perserverance pay off. We're often faced with the pleasant surprise that the only thing lacking in overcoming the stumps in our lives is commitment to roll up our sleeves and go to work.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recent Pics of Grandson Andrew in Spain

Thursday, April 03, 2008


So what would we say to the people we love who have preceded us in death if we were able to go back and talk to them with the benefit of our present understanding?

Eli Stone is a new TV series that weighs whether the main character is hallucinating or is a prophet. "Heartbeat" is the title of the April 3 episode in which Eli returned to the past and tells his father goodbye; something he was not around to do when it actually happened ten years previous. His father's health was ruined via alcoholism. His addiction is exacerbated by the fact that he too had a brain aneurysm which may have led to his drinking while at the same time giving him the same sort of extra sensory perception he passed on to his son Eli.

As a dramatic reach its untenable of course, but the underlying premise holds oceans of water.

When we're young we don't understand, and consequently struggle with being able to forgive, the foibles of our forebears. At this stage in his life, and bearing the same physical/psychological/spiritual malady as his father, Eli Stone better understands and forgives his father's battle with the bottle.

My personal identification with the story line of this episode:

1) My father was an alcholic. I grew up broken-hearted and riddled with inner anger over his inability or unwillingness to stop drinking. Later, as I understood more about life's stresses and my father's upbringing I gave up more and more anger and wished so badly so many times I had an opportunity as a mature man to talk to him again.

When we began Celebrate Recovery at Pathway a few months back I began to appreciate the opportunity to talk with men with hurts, habits and hangups not only because it gave me a chance to share healing Scriptural truths with them, but also because I was able to continue my own ongoing process toward recovery from anger and hurt.

2) May my children look on me with understanding. May all children forgive the imperfections of their parents and empathize with the circumstances surrounding their early lives.