Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Golden Compass

I am not a part of that movement of Christians who are telling folks not to go see the Golden Compass. Really, I don't care. I know that the author of the book is an Atheist, but I figure that the folks who made the movie, an interpretation of the book, are all atheists. I don't fear the movie and I imagine that the themes of the movie will shoot over the head of the folks watching it. I saw Grease as a kid...and I caught none of the innuendo...the hot dog jumping into the bun escaped me. So, Grease did not turn me into a dancer, I don't expect The Golden Compass as a movie will turn kids into atheist. If it does, the spiritual formation in churches needs an overhaul.

My review:
Great special effects.
Great story, but it is no different from any other story. It is good vs. evil. How do we overcome evil through violence.

In the stories of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis Christian stories of myth. Good overcomes evil through violence ultimately. Friendship and sacrifice lead to community overcoming through violence. The movie here is the same. The story is not new.

The image of God and religion as closed minded, anti-freedom, and corrupt. I agree that religion is in need of destruction. The god of that tribe needs to die. So, why defend that god?

Somebody give me a narrative where violence is not the way to good overcoming evil.
This is Gladiator, Braveheart, and the Karate Kid. There is nothing fresh to the story, but it is a story that sells. It is good, but not great.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

5 things I will miss about JP

Today, we made a decision that JP/ Joepa was going to be put down.
He has a mass near his spleen and his platelet count is abnormally low that could cause danger in a surgery. For the last 5 days he has not eaten and is not even his bothersome self around our oranges. In honor of having been able to care for him and for him trusting his life with us...I have put down the five things that I will miss about JP.
1.) Halloween 1999, JP consumes 2 bags of Tootsie Rolls and 10 Milky Way bars. Then JP hurls at the kitchen door...the floor slopes right there. The slope leads to the door that heads to the basement. We have to clean up Tootsie Roll vomit and let me say I have never seen so much vomit in my life.
2.) Cousins give us a Harry and David basket. I come home and the whole basket is gone. I wonder where the 9 pieces of fruit have gone. Clueless I am until I find a small piece of Royal Riveria Core on JP's bed.
3.) We have a friend Laura S. who stays the night at our house to keep watch on JP. JP spends the whole night gnawing on a Cow knee. He eats the whole cow knee in a week.
4.) I would entice JP to play by acting long Long Duk Dong from 16 candles when I would yell, "Oh, Sexy Girlfriend!" Upon hearing these words, he would get up and be ready to play.
5.) Laying on the ground, JP would come up and laydown next to me. We would spoon.

Bonus story, because he was that damn good of a dog.
The night before we move to Garland. We get a babysitter who knows beans about dogs. She lets him out and he gets away. Somebody finds him and we have to go to the bad part of KC to get him. WIth police back up, I pay a finder's fee to get him back.

JP was the best dog in the whole world. Our family will miss him.

Fearless Joy,

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ryan Shay

I was tremendously bummed on Saturday. Amy had asked me about that guy who ran in KC at the Hospital Hill. Ryan Shay. After Hospital Hill I met Ryan. Ryan had finished an hour or so before me and got money. I got some cheap medal. However, for a couple of minutes we talked about running and Hospital Hill. He was personable and gracious. I followed his career after that. We raced at NYCM together. Again, he finished hours before me.

It was great event on Saturday. Ryan Hall, Rithz and Brian Sell did great. It is just sad, we lost one.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Beyond my cognitive ablities

Moving has introduced me to a new communities and one of those are the folks who run in Visalia. They are fewer than the Dallas folks who I joined at White Rock every Saturday for years. They run faster and longer. This past weekend, two folks I know ran the Javelina Jundred. That is a 100 mile race. Now, this ain't no marathon it is 100 miles. To the left is Marcia who is sporting a devil costume, because the JJ has costume contest to go with the race. I figure, you get beyond a marathon and folks can do anything they want. Behind her is a more traditional ultra runner.

It is pretty incredible. One guy told me all you have to do is run 5mph for 24 hours. It sounds simple and I guess that is a way to get my head around it. However, after 20 miles in Chicago...I thought, no ultra in this body. Who knows?

I got other friends who moved from the 5K to the marathon and are now beyond the marathon. They may coax over the threshold. So, as we were chatting one early morning. The 100 miler is now the new marathon. Everybody is doing them.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stepping into 3

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood him."

Those words are brutal words and probably the most hopeful words ever uttered.

To turn our will and our lives over to God.

Do you know how hard that is for me? For me, I will only speak of my experience, this step in life is critical and crucial. As I am starting to plant a new church, I must get out of my own way and let God work through me.

Earlier this week, I had come to the conclusion that I was using food to handle anxiety. That is not healthy. I was seeking comfort or pleasure from food. I was not trusting that God would take care of me. I had been heading down that path for awhile, but I decided that I needed to stop. Earlier this month, I had a diabetes scare and found out that everything was alright. However, I do have elevated cholesterol. I workout three to four times a week, my cholesterol should not be that high. So, I need to change my diet. However, that is hard to do when food is not fuel but a tool and means for handling anxiety. So, I just said to God, "This hunger that I feel is really about my hunger for you. I will seek you." It has been hard but in two days I feel healthier. That is good. I am not going to get into the details of how. I am not sure how, but I keep knowing that my hunger pangs are mostly hunger pangs for the divine.

As a church planter, I must rely heavily upon God to do it. I must conform my will to His will. I must trust that God will use me. At times there are moments of self doubt, but I work through this step daily to remember that I must turn my will and life over to God.

Working on Step 3, that is where I am. I don't progress beyond this step...I stay here and do it everyday.

Your will, not mine.
Your will, not mine.

Sometime in the midst of those words, I began to quit trusting myself and trusting God. It seems so foolish to say this that is hard. Do I trust that God will get me through? I only do that by moving into those places of discomfort and realizing that God is there with me. I really wish the gospel was not about salvation but comfort. Yeah, but we all would be numb and bloated.

Fearless Joy,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ministry why?

I think one of the things I have learned is that why do I want to be a minister. One thing is that I really like people and when I trust myself and not give into is much better. There are those fears of insecurity rumbling inside me. So, I must constantly be vigilant on trusting God and myself.

The key to me is that I believe that Jesus has the power to transform lives. Why? My own life has been transformed. Not transformed at baptism, but transformed later. It took awhile before I allowed myself to experience grace and forgiveness.

Where has that transformation taken place in my life. The shame and dread that isolated me from family and friends and the self loathing that kept me from hearing from people who loved me, friends, family, and acquaintances that I had gifts to share is gone. Not because I thought good about myself. Not that I heard the stories of Jesus' love. No, when I finally believed them and allowed them to rumble in my bowels (good Hebrew word) that was when I was able to see that I am a child of God and my sin was not so great that God could not forgive me. My seperation from my God could only be breached by Jesus who connected with me God. A God who loves me and that allowed me to trust God, myself, and others. It allowed me to connect.

My task in life is to help people get connected. First with God, then with themselves, and then with others.

I know you believe that God loves you...but do you live like an agnostic? Do you live like God hates you? If you do...I pray that you will hear the words of grace and that you feel that love that is found in a god who leaves heaven to come to earth to be with you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Losing my daytimer

Last week, I lost my day planner. I had gone the way of Franklin Covey and tried to organize and focus my life. Since graduating from seminary, I had tried many paths to organization. In Seminary, my uncle gave me a Day Runner that has been very useful, but it was a little too small. So, I looked a day planner that used 8 1/2 x 11 paper. That was too huge. Then I went electronic using a Palm. The Palm was laborious. Then I used Outlook that was like the palm, but a little easier to use. However, it kept my day planning tied to the computer. Then I had my computer stolen or I had to reformat the C: drive. So, I went for a couple of years without any real organization.

Then in the summer, I decided that I was going to need a better mode of organization. I decided that I was an old school person, I needed paper. I bought "7 Habits for Highly Effective People" to get the philosophy about this program. I agreed with a great deal of it. Created a mission statement and bought into the system. I bought the year of daily planning pages, put all my information into the my day planner, and I had decided to use the Classic size. A little too bulky, but large enough to get the information. I lost the day planner last week in Costco. I was loading groceries and forgot my day planner in the grocery cart

This really sucks. So, I went to Depot de Office and bought another simulated leather binder and am beginning another attempt. I was asked how my week was at church and this moment of losing my day planner tops the week's memories. I think part of my frustration is that losing a day planner is a reminder how finite my organization skills are. How scattered brain that I can be and a great way for shame to creep in. That voice in my head that tells me that I am a failure. However, I decided to quit dwelling on that voice and buy a new planner. Re write my mission statement and come to the realization that keeping my life totally organized is the defining point of who I am. That my salvation is not dependent upon it.

So, I try to be organized to be helpful and useful. I am not working on my organization as way of being perfect. Got to remember that and losing my day planner helped me remember why I am doing this.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Chicago Marathon

What a brutal day last Sunday was.
The runner's reports are not overly exagerrated. I arrived at the first two water stops and there was not any Gatorade. The water was low. It took 90 seconds to find water at each stop. At that moment, I realized that I would need to readjust my time. The temperatures were excrutiating with it being 88 degrees and 86% humidity.
Three thoughts.
1.) Volunteers are incredible. Those folks who arrived to hand out water at the aid stations were pretty much screwed. They had a race organization that did not prepare them for the day. They had runners who were jerks. We runners can be very self centered, because well, the whole day is about us. However, I did not meet any volunteers who were bitter, angry, or anything but helpful. Chicago bravo!
2.) Quitting is an option. At mile 14 I was pretty much done. Anything else that was going to happen that day was going to be slow and painful My feet hurt and I was cramping. I quit sweating once. Sometimes it is better to quit than to push on. I was telling myself during the run. My measure as an athlete, person, father, and pastor did not lay upon my ability to run this thing. So, I quit running at mile 15 and just was looking to finish.
3.) I prayed that morning and my prayer was basically, "God I am not asking for a great time, because I am supposed to prepare to run. I am not praying for a day free of pain. Just let me accept the day as it is." That was a hard prayer to live into as the day came about. As the day ended, I met a Nigerian cab driver who said, "I was inspired by you all. I saw 70 year old man, running. I sit on my butt. THere was a 300 pound guy doing 26.2 miles. I can't get around two blocks. You all are heroes, you changed my life."
No Cabbie, you changed my life. It takes perspective to understand life and sometimes it is best seen outside of myself.
Fearless Joy,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Waiting for salvation

For my devotional time, I use a book called "A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants." I have had the book since 1995. I bought it, because it looked cool and simplistic to me. A leather book with a cross on the front. Yeah, I am bit of simpleton...I have bought CD's because of the cover art...oiy bad mistakes.
It is a book that is divided by weekly topics. I have picked up the book off and on throughout my ministry. It is a good friend who does not need constant attention.
Today, the reading was Psalm 25. The Psalmist said this.
"You are the God of my Salvation
I wait for you all day long."
I have been thinking about that. Here is this guy who is has this faith that God will save him, but it has not happened yet. There is no proof, only faith. In my own life, I have thought how I have kept faith even when my salvation has been very far away or even at times when I did not know if I would ever be saved. However, I kept believing and living as if it would or had. Does that make those of us who believe that faith is important hypocrites? I believe in God's goodness even though I have no proof.
In the midst of my own addiction, I prayed for salvation. I preached and believed, but was never assured. I would pray, "You are a good God, and I am waiting for you." I think those who struggle with addictions of all sorts have that feeling of waiting. This is destroying my life, but God is not present. I think what I have learned on this side of my life is this, 'I need to say that God will save and I need to live as it has happened.' Faking it until you make it.
So, I just wanted to share what a friend, a leather bound book shared with me today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Somewhere this life of faith is about courage in the face of fear.
I have had a great deal of fear. Fearful about failing. Fearful about reaching out. Fearful about what others will think about me. Yada Yada. Somewhere in Garland there is a box of courage that I left behind. I felt it was a courageous move for me to go work at Jos. A Bank. It was admitting that life had gone astray and that I was rebuilding myself. I felt courageous in CPE. I felt courageous in accepting the move.

So, I was at an open 12 step meeting and one of the guys dropped 46 f bombs and basically said, "To be sober is not to be phony. You can fake it and go smoke weed, but I am not one of those folks. You have to find God or you will be in the same f###ing place you are now." It was one hell of a sermon and it convicted me. I have to remember how far I have come. I have to remember that I am doing this for the gospel and that Jesus walks with me. I have to remember that it matters not what anyone thinks, but it matters what Jesus thinks. I have to give this all up, so I can gain serenity, courage and wisdom.

So, as my 12 stepping friend said, "Quit f---ing around if don't want to f----ing do this get out."
I am in, all in.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Witnessing grace

Last night, I got a picture mail on my phone. I have a new phone number, so I have been getting odd calls. I looked at the number and realized that I did not know anybody who would send me a picture mail. I left the picture unopened. Amy and I just went back to working on the household budget.

A little while later, I get a phone call from a girl or young woman who asks if I got the picture and she realizes that she does not know me.

"Did you get the picture?"
"Yes, but I did not open it."

"Will you please delete it?"

"Please delete it, oh my God it is embarrassing."

I hung up the phone and went back to the budget. Upon finishing, I pondered opening up the picture to see what it was. My curiousity had really gotten to me. What is so bad? Then I decided that I needed to do thing of grace. If I made a mistake in my life, would I want a do over?

So, I deleted the picture.

I think that was the graceful thing to do. Opening it...there may have been something that would have disturbed my well being. So, I just deleted it and that was grace. I pondered sending a text back to her...defining this as a grace filled moment. Felt a little too creepy. A phone call, a little too intrusive. So, I let my actions be the last words...I don't know if that was the right thing to do or not, but it is all I had.

Fearless Joy,

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What a day

This morning I got up to run 12 miles on the Yokohl River road. It is a road that goes up into the foothills of the Sierra Madre. It is a hard run from a flat land runner like me. We started in the dark and the sky was filled with stars. More stars than I had seen in awhile. Then dawn broke upon the golden rolling valley. At the turnaround, I could hear off in a grove of Oak trees, the yelps of pack of coyotes. Awesome.

After I got home, we got the family into the car for 2 1/2 hour ride to the beach. The night before, I bought Samuel a boogieboard. So, we went to Cayucos and hung out for a few hours. Samuel was a natural on the board, riding waves all the way to the shore. Dad, not so much.

A road trip with the the fam from hills to beach in a day. That is one of the reasons to live in California.

Fearless Joy,

Monday, August 06, 2007

Beginning again

I had begun grieving the move from Dallas to Visalia for awhile. I cried a couple of times. When we handed over the keys to our house, I cried. Garland is not garden of Eden, but that house was the place where much of our life happened. It was the house that welcomed Nathan to our family. Perhaps, that house saw me have a bit of transformation in my own life. I cried a bit when we left SpringCreek Church. I cried a bit when I ran for the last time, but I felt good about that. I had spent a great amount of energy and sweat...there were friends there. That is good. I cried at Korean camp. Finally, I was done crying and was ready to move.

So, Amy, Samuel, Nathan, my brother Cody who was the helpler, and myself left Dallas to head to Visalia. A three day journey. When we crested over the mountains on I-5 and saw the San Joaquin Valley, I felt relieved. We were almost there.

We have unpacked the boxes and began enjoying life in Visalia. Thursday night Farmer's Market, Friday night Bar B Q in downtown. Tri Tip is the speciality, not bad. In n Out Burger. A box full of fruit. Running in the foothills of Sierra Madre. Cool Mornings and Hot Afternoons. A city that is 15 minutes across by car.

Sunday was awesome. The people were very welcoming. The adventure begins. I knew and believe even more that getting to Visalia was going to be the easiest part.

fearless joy,

Monday, July 02, 2007

grace and courage

Two quick points.
Smoking done, Barbecue done. Flavor was good, but I did not master the trimming of the brisket and to be honest trimming the brisket is key. We went marbled instead of lean. A little disappointed with how it turned out, but I have learned...pork butt that is where it is at.

Party was good from my perspective. Friends checking out the house before we leave. I really appreciated seeing folks who mean a great deal to me and if they felt that as they left then my goal was reached.

Now, cool thing that happened.
Today, as I was running at the lake. Got finished and was psuedo stretching. A woman walked up to me. "Are you Niel?"
I paused and wanted to know if I should stick to Guido, "Yeah."
"You knew me when I was in seventh grade."
"Did we go to school together?"
"No, you were my youth minister in DeSoto. My name is Blythe."
"Yeah, I remember. Cool how are you doing?"

Man, I remember Blythe and that small youth group that taught me a lot helped me learn about church. Her family was great. She hand an older sister and her mother helped me through a great mission trip to San Antonio.

It made my day. What it reinforced in me was why I do this thing called ministry. It is about touching people's lives. As I was packing, I came across the book that youth group had given me as a parting gift. She had some personal words to me about that mission trip to San Antonio. I was eating lunch with another young person who I have ministered, she is consider a call to the ministry. She was a little discouraged and I told her the story of Blythe. "That is the reason to be a minister. You do things and you hope that they have made a difference. The funny thing is that you never get the joy of knowing how much of an impact you made. You trust that God is using you."

So, I pack the house today and get ready for the mover's to arrive. I do that knowing that God can use me. He has and I trust that he will.

Who are the folks who you hope you touched?

Fearless Joy,

Saturday, June 30, 2007


One thing that I enjoy doing is smoking meat. In the Midwest, they call it Barbecue. In Texas anything that goes on a grill is called a Barbecue. But, let's just move back to the smoke, the coal, and the challenge to bring a smokey flavor to meat. I just love the process.

It takes a great deal of time, and the risk is that the adventure fails and the meat winds up tough as leather.

Today, I got a brisket on the smoker and it has been on the smoker for about five hours.

It is a slow go, and I think I need to leave this world to go back to the world of smoke.

Fearless Joy,

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Resolution Rant

One of my frustrations with our tribe's biennial gathering is the business sessions. My first GA was in Tulsa, 1991. It was a blood bath of a GA over the issue of leadership and homosexuality. Both sides were foolish.

Over the years, I have voted against many resolutions, because I vote against the resolutions unless I am personally willing to live out the resolution. So, even if I think the resolution is good, unless I am willing to live my faith into it... I feel hypocritical or irrelevant. Both are not what I want to be. Maybe this is just my West Texas perspecitve, of the individual of critical importance.

What gripes me most about the business sessions is this. We have these debates where a person gets a couple of minutes to put together a opinion. So, the debates are nothing more than sound bites. That is what sucks about public discourse. We become nothing more than Ann Coulter's and Bill Maher's very shallow and very strident.

This Campbell-Stone movement cut its teeth on debate. It grew through dialogue. It champions itself as a reasonable faith. We lift up the head above the heart, most times. Our practice as a body to make decisions is the worse of public discourse, the sound bite. Not a reasoned argument, a well-formed opinion, and one cannot come with an open mind and be persuaded. There is not enough time.

I think that is what ails these gatherings. Liberals and Conservatives can't have a dialogue, can't learn to appreciate the gifts that each has to share when we are reduced to every two years of sound bites. We squabble over issues that really are not essentials. Homosexuality is not an essential. It is a non-essential issue. I think Jesus takes people as they are not as they should be.

So, I really wish we were resolved not do this anymore...we won't be. I told a friend that I could be found at the Flying Saucer, a FW pub, during the business meetings. Maybe over a Shiner, I can have a conversation with a person who has a different opinion and through that dialogue my mind and heart might change. So, if you are in FW, I will be at the Flying Saucer in the afternoon and Starbucks in the morning. A seat will be open for you.

Fearless Joy,

Monday, June 25, 2007

To give a moment of grace

For some reason beyond my own fathoming, I get up at 5:00 AM to go workout at White Rock Lake. We are doing a workout with an acronym that I cannot remember. It involveds push ups, squats, lunges, etc. Things that are best done in the early morning hours when few people are around. It is a tough workout and I usually feel it for a couple of days.

Today, on my last 800 meter run, a woman was walking. It was the familiar walk of one who has been beaten by the workout and is just trying to finish. I know it well. I passed her as I was doing my cool down again. I thought, "Guido, you have been there, give her a little encouragement." As I finished up, I walked back down to meet her.

"Are you OK?" I asked.

"Yeah, tough workout for a Monday."

"I know. Remember, your worth as human is not defined by one workout, one race, or one hobby you pursue."

She chuckled, "Yeah. What's your name."

"I am Guido."

"Oh, I heard about you."

I am not sure if that was helpful or not. However, it was a moment when I had a chance to make a difference and perhaps it did. I am not a superhero for doing such a thing, because there were selfish motives in my sharing that knowledge. It helped me. It made such an impact that I blog about it see how self centered I am.

But to live out my mission, I had to do it. This is what it will take for me to be effective as a church planter, more interactions of this kind. It only took me five years to develop enough relationships to get credibility to share such words. Oiy!!!

Fearless Joy,

Friday, June 22, 2007

Marathoning for a cause

This January, Rev. Keith Stewart from Spring Creek Community Church began a sermon series on Africa focusing upon the AIDS and debt crisis. He focused his energy on a Kenyan Village in Katito. Keith was asked by World Vision, who sponsored his trip to Africa, to run the Chicago marathon in efforts to raise funds for Katito.

As a marathoner, I just sat stunned. I had planned on running the Chicago marathon this year and had secretly thought in my head that Keith could benefit from the experience of running a marathon. Never told anybody about that secret, not even Amy. Just had that one inside.

When Keith said that...I just sat in stunned silence throughout the service. I took up the pledge to join some Spring Creek Church folks to run this marathon and raise money for Katito.

I am asking you to make a donation to World Vision. Here is what you need to know.

Amy and I are financing my trip, so all money raised goes directly to World Vision. 100% goes to World Vision.

My goal is to raise 500.00 from folks like you and Amy and I will match the donations to $500.00.

All the money is going to Katito.

For more inspiration check out these sermons by Keith. "On a mission from God," the January series.

Thanks for your support,

Levi in Mark

I just caught this in Mark, thanks to the Recovery Bible.
Mark 2:15 "That night Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collctors and many other notroious sinners."

Levi invited his friends meet Jesus. A new convert to the faith, to the following, invited folks to meet Jesus. What did Jesus and 'the boys' do? They met them and had dinner and witnessed grace.

Mission-to be in the mission field will send the faithful to places that are a little uncomfortable. I recall being in some people's homes that were a little wild. That is part of the business of faith and following Jesus.

Fearless Joy,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Getting to Bonhoffer

There are books in my shelf that are what I call my 'should' books. That is an awful title for a book. I dread when somebody gives me a book and says, "You should read this" or "You must read this."

I have a couple of books like that, "Crime and Punishment" by Dostevsky, anything by Kierkegaard, Douglas John Hall's systematic theology, and Bonhoffer's "Cost of Discipleship."

I feel that my life is a little less than complete for not reading these books. Today, after having Cost of Discipleship on my shelf for almost 20 years, I picked it up again. Today, 'cheap grace' made sense. I got it.

"the only man who has a right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ." (pg 55)

As I begin to sense the enormity of the task ahead in Visalia and how difficult that will be. Those lines began to make sense. I think my life in the faith to follow Jesus has been fairly easy. Church camp was paid for. A few classes to get baptized. TCU and Seminary were paid by gracious folks. However, this last year of walking away from ministry to rebuild and redefine myself and coming through to a calling has been a step of faith. I am not sure how enormous, but it has been a more serious adventure than began in years preceding this one.

Now, I am beginning life anew.

Grace is a gift and we must respond to that gift. Grace for grace to be transforming, we must live as we are forgiven and in deep need of grace.

In recovery, I am freed from my habits and addiction by my willing ness to do anything to stay sober. That means praying, reading the big bood of AA daily, making phone calls and being rigorously honest.

As a Christian, I must reorient my life through loving God fully and serving others wholly. (The great commandment.) I must also be willing to go and help others in this world who are in need of grace. (The great commission.) That is a difficult prospect, but it is the way of Jesus.

Thanks DB for being patient and knowing that I would pick up the leaves that you left behind.

Fearless Joy,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I like this image, because it is a good reminder of faith. I begin this ministry with faith. I am not saying that I am vast resevoir of faith. I sometimes have moments when I have deep fear. Financial fear. Fear of my own limitations. Fear that I will not adapt and be able to reach the people that God needs to be reached. All those at times, cause me to pause.
But, faith overcomes those fears. I move with fear and trembling up the wall. I trust that I have put on my harness right. I trust that I have connected the rope to me well properly. I trust the one who holds the other side of the rope will be capable of holding me as I move up the wall.
Faith. As I think about the core value of this new community. It is faith. It is faith for me to come. But, the first step of faith was their's. They were the one's who had the faith to start. They were the one's who have faith to see gifts in me that will be useful. They are one's of tremendous faith.
So, I am in the harness. I call out "Belay On"...I hear the call out, "On Belay."
I am stepping to the wall and searching for my first hand hold and foothold.
"On Climb" and the voice that calls us has yelled, "Climb On"
I am going to step off the ground this weekend and put my faith in the rope and the belayer who holds me.
Fearless Joy,

(Photo by David Eppstein)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lessons from Cane Ridge

In my tribe and its splinter groups, the folks out the Stone-Campbell movement, Cane Ridge is a birth place. It is an old meeting house/church on the Kentucky Frontier where in 1801 a large revival was held. 25,000 people across the frontier gathered for a revival and about 3 to 4 thousand became Christians.

I made my first trip to Cane Ridge a couple of days ago as part of a New Church Planters Peer Group. They told the story and history of the building and the revival. The interesting point about Cane Ridge is that the revival took place outside of the meeting house.

The building was not used for the revival except as a place for the preacher's to sleep and get rest. Cane Ridge provided me with a powerful lesson.

In a church, it is not about the bulding, it is about the mission of reaching out. If Cane Ridge church would have kept to themselves and stayed inside...then nothing would have happened. It took the church reaching out beyond itself.

We have preserved the building, but to me the greater message is that there are stumps outside where preachers hopped up on a stump and proclaimed the gospel to a people who came searching for God and community. As part of the Stone-Campbell movement, I will carry that image with me wherever I serve. I am a Disciple...meaning my mission is outside the walls of any building.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Emerging Churches are lame, my take.

As I am packing my books, I have come to the conclusion that I am no longer going to support Emerging Church Authors. Doug Pagitt, nice guy, but his book is an odd size.
I think the Emerging folks are trying to be cool and hip, so they make books that are not traditional.
A dozen emerging books are a pain in the butt to pack. I can pack the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post Nicene fathers with ease comparted to the emerging folks.
So, I am going to make my theological and ecclesial decisions based upon the packability of the books.
So, folks at Youth Specialities...I am going to wait for the podcast.
Anybody have any Alexander MacLaren books instead of Brian's?
Fearless Joy,

Monday, May 07, 2007

The key word: Mission.

Why do we as Christians and as a church do the things we do? Why are we who we are?


Ultimately, the church exists to care for the one's who are not there. I am a Christian not for my own salvation, but to use 12 step terminology, 'to carry the message.' To help folks who have not been touched by grace, because I know what a life apart from God is.

Angie came to me after worship and said, she had a vision of a junior high ministry. "Niel, you know what is running in my mind. Blues Brothers. 'We are on a mission from God.' I feel like I am on mission from God." It was a mission and for three years, Angie was the catalyst for youth ministry. It was cool. Her mission was generated by listening and watching her daughter's friends. She had passion and calling. She did not have many skills, but those can be learned. We had little money, but passion can overcome dollars or generate dollars.

Why is this church in Visalia being born? That is the question that will drive the life of this church. What is Jesus calling us towards? What message or experience to we have to share that will bring grace, healing and life to one's who are in need of grace, who are wounded, and who are dying?

Being the church is not about being the coolest church in town. It is not about great music. It is not about a great atmosphere. It is not about any of that outside stuff. It is about what is on the inside of the church, the mission.

The churches that decline and die are those that have no sense of mission. They do not know why they exist. Also, those churches that die are those who existence lies in being inward looking and care for one another as the primary mission.

Over the last couple of days, I have been thinking about that. My conflicts in the churches that I have served have been on this issue. People may complain that I do not visit them enough. I have not heard anybody tell me in a church, 'You are spending too much time with us. We need you out doing your mission.'

As I think of the folks, I admire, Herb Kelleher president of Southwest Airlines, I am reminded that on day before Thanksgiving, Herb, as the story goes, would go to work with luggage handlers. That was the place that needed the most help. In my life as a pastor, I have found myself scrubbing toilets, cleaning floors, carrying dead babies, and counseling difficult folks because that was where I was needed. I did those things out of sense of mission. I found myself visiting folks because I cared about them. My frustration came when folks complained about their needs were not being met. I recall telling a young man in prison who had not received a visit in awhile. "You are important to me and I love you. If I have not come to see you, it is because there is one who is hurting more than you. If you could pray for me during the in between time that would be helpful."

My personal mission is this. I am a Christian to bring encouragement to those who fear. To bring out the child of God that lies within every person. To remind folks that Jesus is their friend. To bring folks hope who suffer isolation of shame and regret.

These words by Mary Chapin Carpenter from her son "The Calling" have really been speaking to me.

"Deep in your blood or a voice in your head
On a dark lonesome highway
It finds you instead
So certain it knows you, you can't turn away
Something or someone has found you today

Genius or Jesus, maybe he's seen us
But who would believe usI can't really say
Whatever the calling, the stumbling or falling
You follow it knowing
There's no other way, there's no other way."

What is your mission?
What is your calling that will not let you go?

A new call

Yesterday, I received a call to be a pastor of a new church in Visalia, California.

My posts have been sporadic as this movement to a new church has been a large part of my life that I did not want to process while it was happening. Those discussions were private between my wife, the search committee, and myself. So, those are people who I have an intimate relationship, more intimate than a blog.

However, with this new call, I am going to use this blog to communicate this transition. I am stealing from my buddy Pastor Bruce Frogge who chronicled his journey to Naples, FL.

So, what have I done. I began painting my house. I quit my job at Jos. A. Banks. I am coming to the conclusion that the next few weeks, I need to get myself spiritually around what I am being called towards. I want to invite you on the journey to help in that transition.

So this Texas boy, one who grew up in the Republic of Texas is moving to the Republic of California. My prayer is that I may have courage to be who I am and live faithfully to what God is calling me to become.

fearless joy,

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My Nano

Got a nano for Christmas.
Really not a person who ever wanted a Nano or MP3 player. I hate listening to music while working out. Catch that I hated listening to music. Running a treadmill with headphones only lead me to a deeper despair. However, Apple and Nike teamed up with the Nike+ Nano system that is a pedometer and MP3 player.

It is cool. The pedometer is not that accurate, but today I finished a run and Paula Radcliffe congratlualted me. "That was your longest run so far."

It was a surprise, a moment of grace. I know it is not geniune and it is impersonal, but her voice reminded me of my purpose of running. To run with her, Meb, Deena, Ryan, and all the others who lace up the shoes and toe the line for a marathon. It is fun.

Fearless Joy,

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gotcha Day

Today was Gotcha Day for Nathan.

A year ago today, I got off the plane in Dallas with Nathan in one of the most gruelling 10 days of my life. I remember that week in Seoul as I waited alone. It has been a year and has grown.

Catch this great picture of us as we got home.

I remember Amy telling me that I stunk when I got in the car. I smelled of Kimchi and clothes that had been for three days.

Today, we celebrated him being here for a year.
A great year.
I smoked a pork butt today. It was awesome.
More about that story later.
Fearless Joy,

Monday, January 08, 2007

death of taylor

Taylor is my son's fish. A betta. Taylor came into our family in August. As part of growing up and showing signs of maturity, my son was granted his birthday wish to own a fish, to be a steward of a life. Samuel took the work seriously and he provided care that was exceptional for a seven year old. He enjoyed the fish, but he did not tap on the glass or put his hands in the tank. Following the rules was a key part of the maturing process.

Over the last week, we noticed that Taylor was not eating his food. His movements slowed and most of the time he would hang out on the bottom. We cleaned the tank and that seemed to perk Taylor up. On Friday, Taylor seemed to be slowing down again. I came to the conclusion that he had the dreaded ich. We treated him with drops and then we added a snail to help keep the tank cleaner.

Today, I went to his room before he came home from school. The gills remained still and Taylor would not move when I put a finger in the tank.

When we got home, I took him to the room and shared the news. I let Samuel confirm the diagnosis. Amy had left for airport. This meant that I was alone to handle this issue and over the last few weeks, he had turned to mom for most of emotional support.

I had come to the conclusion that this espisode was going to be my son's first real link with death. He has been with me to funerals and visitations before. However, he rarely knew the folks who had died. Even when one of his beloved Sunday School teachers died, we were out of town unable to attend the funeral, no finality.

This time would be different, he would have to start dealing with death. We knew that would be one of the die. I killed a dozen in my life. I felt for him, because I remember when I raised my sheep for 4-H. That first spring evening when I had to send my ewe to the truck to the butcher was tough. I cried. I gave him decisions on how we would dispose of Taylor. He decided that the flush was not a satisfactory choice. I guess he is right, the fish is more important than poop or pee.
So, we buried the fish in the flower beds. We prayed and I hugged him.

Difficult day for my son, and I hope that I led him through this rite of passage with a monicum of grace and hope.

So, I pray that Taylor is welcomed into God's Kingdom.

Fearless Joy,