28 February 2009

lonely tower

From downtown san antonio

27 February 2009

Aish Tamid Or A Kingdom Extinguished

The place lays phased like a warrior slayed
Engraved into the space with his sword still raised
Layers of charcoal sprayed through hallways
Praise relays off the walls echoing all ways

Dirt covered earth lays beneath my rib cage
Giving birth to overgrowth invading on to path ways
Burnt out trees cover streets where children once played
Sown seeds decay through sacred stepping stones in disarray
Where the alter used to be placed inter-changed for bloodstains
Sunrays illuminate the smoke filled haze
Trace of incense the scents of sacrifice stayed

Aish tamid eternally
Fire burns continuously
Wondering where you been
Won't you come to me?

Flash back patches of grass growing wild in fact
Cracked walls burnt black like a kingdom sacked
Memories like artifacts attacked yet still intact
Melodies wrapped in glass and shattering with the impact

Air intermingling ringing with the singing
of songs once sung, flung into the rafters
Catastrophe struck the sound stuck
Disaster plastered
The aftermath a blasted building once standing, like a starved man fasting
the skies expanding clouds passing, dust particles dancing,
in broken bars of light, streaming from a shaft, slashed into the ceiling,
Sshhhh, you could feel the ground breathing.

Aish tamid eternally
Fire burns continuously
Wondering where you been
Won't you come to me?

Daughter of Zion is lying crying in the mist
Morning light slips in, shifting through the darkness
Like a morning wife reminisce having visions of her long gone prince
Memories drip rain drops tip towing emptiness
Intermixed with tears like fears left unfixed
Walls worn thin frozen fortress like dawn waiting for the sunrise of a day that got skipped
Like a life gone wrong wandering wilderness
Lovesick stripped abyss missing once luscious

Aish tamid eternally
Fire burns continuously
Wondering where you been
Won't you come to me?

Ill Paint the scene so you could see, the city's picking up speed
I’m on a bench 14th street, taxi's streaming yellow streaks
Spears piercing through my ears, you could hear the traffic speak
Jack hammers drill smackling through the crackling concrete
Buildings filled with windowsills spilled tangled telephone wires
Signs sparking neon lights flash like wild fire
My insides rise I start to feel paralyzed
Let out a sigh-a melody blew by- like an ancient war cry
the way the sunlight hit the leaves it really caught my eye,
glistening' listening' to the breeze dancing' through the leaves on the trees,
freeze, the city move's in slow motion like a dream

I'm left empty like the temple turned into a fox den
Bus fumes dripping spitting into city summer sun
Sifting through the ash dimly lit vision listening
To the hiss lifting off a nighttime ocean
Shim, shim, shimmering singeing hair on my skin
whispering where ya been

From amidst the darkness set sail with the softness
Breeze traveling across the seas arisen from within Mt. Zion
Wind coming in picking up momentum
Cutting crisply through the thickness riding on a rhythm
A rollercoaster sizzling, twisting down the mountain
ripping rocket ship exploding like a fountain
overflowing spilling through the courtyard of Jerusalem It all begun
I see busting through the rubble bubbling drying up the puddles precision
Uncovering debris lifting up the fallen arisen within
to reach the yiddin even in Manhattan
exposed menorah glowing in the shadows of destruction
trailblazing through affliction
brushing off the branches golden
standing strong flames
dancing like a lion roaring rising out of nothing

"Aish Tamid" by Matisyahu

(Originally a post of mine from Phlebotomic...)

25 February 2009

community as defined by the number of steps you're allowed

What if you could only go to church somewhere within walking distance? What if you had a certain number of steps on the Sabbath - no driving, no bicycles?

Where would you go?

And what would your community look like once you got there? Would you know your neighbors? Would you be "living life" with them more fully?

Our 77 year-old old house is probably 45 steps from an 80 year-old old church. And I would love (LOVE) to go to church there. I would love to walk to church with my neighbors and have lunch after at one of our houses. I would love to have a vested interest in the building in the neighborhood and a greater impetus to know the people around me.

And yet I've never stepped foot in the doors. Never even really considered it. I like the teaching of the church we attend, even though it is 10 miles away. I love our church's push towards getting out and doing faith. I love our community there and the relationships we have. And yet, what if we could have those things in a (much more) local body? But what if we had no choice?

What if like-minded people, rather than congregating together as one massive organism, disbanded and infiltrated dozens (or hundreds) of smaller organisms. Would the potential for change be greater?

I would love to hear from an orthodox Jew on the subject. What are the pros and cons of a system that, in some way, forces community based on regional factors?

Where would you go? Do a Google search on churches near your address and see. I would be interested to know where we would be scattered.

of ironic reading choices, sacred cows, and my hope for a streamlined church

Back when I was a missionary in Africa, I happened across an interesting book. It was called Revolution in World Mission and it (roughly) advocated the end of the practice of missions as we currently participate in favor of an entirely new system.

The irony is that the new system basically would have me train some local people to do what I was doing and then I would go home. Local people would be missionaries in their own lands. The system of sending strangers off for long stints in foreign lands would be curbed considerably.

And I bought into this idea. It helped me to realize that I was a cultural novelty with a limited shelf-life. Eventually, the reality would set in that a local person, given the time and resources that I had, would be able to be much more effective in the mission than I would.

All of which meant that I could no longer be a missionary in Africa. And I loved being a missionary in Africa. And a book I picked up while serving in a place that I loved advised me to stop serving in the place that I loved so that others might do it better than me. Ugh.

The point of the story is that in order to advance an ideal that resonates deeply, we often have to kill the sacred cows that stand in the way of that ideal.

I typically yearn for a leaner, meaner, more efficient church. And yet, when I look at the list of programs, I rarely see one that deserves to be cut. Is efficiency, then, my sacred cow? Maybe the Kingdom doesn't need my stremlining ideas as much as it needs a unified voice? .

Or maybe the real question is whether we trust in the value of the ideal more than our own will - only when the ideal outweighs the cow will the ideal win out...


24 February 2009

of broken models, repeating ourselves, and the size of one's quilt

The model is broken. Because the word "the" is altogether human.

-Robert Lobkovich (from a comment on yesterday's post)

I thought this to be an interesting statement. The idea, as best I can tell, is that there is no one perfect model for anything. Each idea runs into its own circumstances and situations that require refining, re-inventing, and revision.

Yet, there is nothing new under the sun. Everything we are doing has been done before. So we are repeating ourselves in trying to find the right combination for the right circumstance.

We aren't trying to come up with a new uniqueness as much as we are trying to patch together a quilt of best (or most applicable) unique bits of the past as possible.

And that brings me back to the original idea. Which bits of the past are worth taking into the future? What aspects of the current model(s), if any, need to be cleaved and left by the side of the road? Or is a bigger quilt always better? And what of the current model would we call sacred if we had our choice?

23 February 2009

of churchish notions and buffalo wings

Saturday night, while watching a couple dozen buffalo wings sizzle on the grill, a friend and I began talking about church.

We threw around a few issues, from the optimal size of church to church building plans. We talked of small groups and why house churches just don't seem to work anymore.

There was this lingering notion that our model is broken and we don't have the energy or wherewithal to fix it. So we begrudgingly soldier on, hoping to incrementally improve that which is not quite kosher and to ignore or outsource that which is truly missing the point.

I am not exactly sure how to unpack the conversation in this space. So I'll start with a question. Is the model flawed? Or better...where would you change the church if you could only improve one aspect?

in case you have a case of the mondays...

First, there is the shot to the groin that the Bucks mascot had to endure...if only that was the worst part of his day. Say it with me: "Torn ACL".

21 February 2009

pure energy: of childhood memories and 20-minute remixes

(This post was originally my Phlebotomic post for the week...)

I suppose that most people remember some of the songs they grew up listening to as kids. Most people remember sitting in Mom’s station wagon listening to Hall & Oates or hearing Dad blast Steppenwolf in the garage. And I suppose I remember some of that.

My best memories, however, tend to live in my brother’s room. He was way ahead of his time in a lot of ways. He was way too smart for the 80s – that much is for sure.

I can remember sitting in awe as he would break out the newest record he had gotten. I would just watch him in amazement as he would then take that record and a couple of others and make homemade mixes. He would spend hours playing around and I would spend hours just admiring the guy. And he wouldn’t make “mix tapes” like most dorks made – I am talking about original remixes of existing songs, using an archaic mixer, a keyboard with drum pads, and two turntables.

I am still beyond impressed.

His greatest remix was of the Information Society hit “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)”. He took the song, complete with the Mr. Spock sample (“Pure-pure-pure-pure…pure energy”), and created a 20 minute remix that lives on today. It was actually something of an underground hit (well, under-underground as the people who kept asking for it were mainly friends and neighbors). Still, I would guess that there are dozens of cassette tapes of the remix floating around out there.

I love you Jacob. Pure-pure-pure-pure…Pure Energy.

20 February 2009

of transitions, transactions, and the installation of a king: on conversion part 2

My post from Wednesday (On Conversion) started something of an interesting conversation.

One comment suggested renovation may have been a more appropriate metaphor for the process that one goes through when God interrupts.

Another comment took the stance that the "conversion process" is entirely transactional, despite my muted (anti-American) hopes to the contrary.

A common metaphor that was not mentioned is that of political changes. For instance, when Obama was voted in, he was immediately the President-Elect. At the same time, the policies of Bush were still firmly in place. The apparent contradiction was in some way smoothed over by the appearance of the "Transition Team", the group tasked with making the handover of the most powerful job in the world as seamless as possible.

Jesus did ask those who came to Him to repent, which, in context, was a way of saying "Replace your current king with me - I will be your new King."

I tend to think that this kingship would be recognized immediately, but could only be fully honored as the balance of allegiance swept the old out and made room for the new. Or maybe it isn't that involved at all.

Is it then a transition? Only after a transaction? Or does the conversion metaphor hold? Is the whole conversation silly...or are His ways revealed in subtle hints all around us?

19 February 2009

of leaky toilets and proper parts

I fixed the toilet.

We live in an 80 year old house. Our toilet is not 80 years old. More like 4 years old.

Anyway, when the toilet started leaking, I started collecting replacement parts like they were going out of style. Flappers and flush valves, ballcocks and gaskets. I tried them all. Yet there was still leaking.

Eventually, I sought out Ferguson's Plumbing, the holy grail of Kohler replacement parts. The guys there gave me that smile you give people when you know that they were well-intentioned in trying something but you also know that they are a complete idiot for having tried it.

It is probably how a dad feels when his kid asks him to get his football out of the tree. And then his frisbee. And his basketball. And his 9-iron. Dad says, "Nice of you to try and get the football down yourself - but a 9-iron? Really?"

That was the look.

So the experts ordered the correct part from the manufacturer for me. Five days later, the part showed up on the doorstep. Twenty minutes after that, our toilet was again leak-free. And I was cursing myself for wasting all of that time trying to fix it with a 9-iron.

The solution existed before my problem ever did. I just had to break down and apply the proper parts.

Isn't life like that?

18 February 2009

on conversion

As a fan of urbanity, few things excite me as much as a downtown building conversion. Usually, these come in the form of an antiquated, high-rise office building being re-imagined and re-purposed as vintage condos. Walls come down, incredible views are rediscovered, and a structure that was intended for great things again gets the opportunity to fulfill that vision.

The Christian use of the term “conversion” has fallen out of favor with folks in recent times. Somehow, though, it seems more accurate than the others that have risen to take its place.

Let’s think about it. Jesus repeatedly asked people to follow Him, to commit to the new “way”. He invited them on a journey, a re-purposing. There was no signing of a contract or awkward formality involved. It was as if he said, “Follow me wholeheartedly or don’t”. And following meant ascribing to the new way. It meant holding mercy instead of vengeance, grace instead of judgment, and selfless sacrifice instead of self-determined righteousness.

He asked people to make a lifestyle conversion. He asked them to re-imagine and re-purpose their lives. Where they once lived hoping to attain righteousness through religiosity, He invited them to live lives that leaked love and grace, relying on His overflowing righteousness.

We have (shamefully) made Christianity a transactional process. Bow your head, say a prayer, raise a hand, and walk away saved. Swipe the credit card and take home the merchandise. It just doesn’t ring true to me.

So then, if it is indeed a process, what kind of process is it…?

Maybe it is more like a high-rise conversion. An acknowledged history is released and a new identity can take hold. Walls come down. And construction takes place. Years later, the evidence of what the building once was still remains. Yet somehow, it is tangibly different. When exactly it changed over isn’t quite clear, but it is known to have happened. The evidence is unmistakable.

I don’t know, really. Next time I see a downtown building in the process of conversion, I will certainly take a longer look.


17 February 2009

kindle 2 and the value of being lost

The Kindle 2 has arrived.

(Not at my house, mind you. I am still a proud owner of the original Kindle. In addition to the fact that my now-vintage Kindle is still in perfect working order, there is also the matter of the new addition to the family. With the baby’s arrival, my relationship with Kindle has suffered, but it is a trade-off that is more than worth the sacrifice. ~Baby > E-Books~)

But I digress.

Anyway, Amazon recently released the Kindle 2, which is fascinating in that it is so similar to the original. They made what are being described as “incremental” changes, meaning that they incorporated improved technology and decided on a little better button-placement. And that’s about it. It is better. And yet it is still true to the original intent.

My hope is that the Kindle 2 will sell robustly. The Kindle is an incredible product and I believe that Amazon’s obstinance in keeping it a dedicated book-reader (as opposed to an ultra-versatile gimmicky gadget) is the most admirable facet of the whole project.

By eliminating (or at least severely limiting) the functionality of all of the other possible applications (email, phone, games, gps, web-browsing), the Kindle allows us to focus on the content in front of us. How irritated would we be if our book starting ringing or buzzing at us as we sat and read on the beach with the sound of the surf in the background? How frustrating would it be to have the familiar email chime “ding” into our consciousness right as we reached the climax of our novel as we sat and read by an oversized window of a coffee shop with the rain attacking the city streets outside? Talk about Paradise Lost…

The Kindle (and now Kindle 2) allows us the convenience of carrying multiple titles in one small package and the magnificence of still being able to truly get lost in the text.

Sometimes we all need to get lost for awhile.

Long live the Kindle.

16 February 2009


Business travel is interesting. Not that the travel itself is in any way exciting or fun. It is interesting in how much some folks like to actually do it. I am starting to sense that, for some people, business travel is this big esteem-booster. There is almost a tribal connection that people feel when they see other people waiting for a plane scrolling through their blackberry in business attire. Transcendence!!

I guess people feel important during business travel. I feel silly. First, I know that whatever I am doing could be done through a couple of emails and a conference call, yet the realities of business mandate that I shake some people’s hands, eat a few overpriced meals, and sleep by myself in an antiseptic hotel. Some people enjoy this experience. I would prefer my wife and child, but alas…

This week takes me to Kansas. Of all of the states, Kansas seems to be the one state that is dead-set on feuding with me. As a student of history, that should not surprise me.

Some of the reasons that Kansas and I are not friends:

- the band named Kansas was not great

- the last time I was in Kansas, I puked on a co-worker's lawn after a bad steak

- my wife does not live in Kansas

- the last time I was in Kansas, I missed three flights and nearly got stuck in the glorified hallway that is the Wichita airport

- my daughter does not live in Kansas

- Kansas started the Civil War

- the Holiday Inn Express in El Dorado, Kansas happens to be in El Dorado

- the band named Kansas was not great (this is worth mentioning twice)

Thought you should know.

15 February 2009

walking revisited and lyle lanley

The post in the early part of the week reminded me of Lyle Lanley, the fast-talking monorail salesman from The Simpsons. If you know the show, just thinking of him probably made you smile.

So, just to make sure that this blog covers its bases - a photo of Lanley and his greatest quote below. Monorail!!

"You know, a town with money is a little like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it."
- Lyle Lanley

13 February 2009

on reincarntion

“Hasidis explains that everything in this world, everything in this life has an inner essence and an inner soul. And when it started out, before the soul was reincarnated into this life, into this body and time and place that we find ourselves…it was basking above in the rays of Godliness. And it comes into this world for one reason, you know: that it should transform the darkness into light. It should take the darkness of this world and make it light…” - Matisyahu

Now, the word “reincarnated” scares a lot of people. But this isn’t the idea that I will die and come back as a gerbil or a carburetor or something in my next life. This is the idea that our soul was known to God before our physical bodies existed on this earth. This is the idea that somehow, we existed with Him in paradise and that He has hidden that beauty and that “light” deep within us. It is this idea that leads many Christians today to believe that when we encounter “Truth” (i.e. God’s glory in Jesus), we know it to be true not because of some evidence or emotional experience, but because we “remember” it.

So, Matisyahu quotes an idea that says that we are known to God and He sends us into the world in order to bring the darkness into the light, in order to bring glory back to His name.

There are Bible passages that correspond. Check Ecclesiastes 3:11… “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

“He has set eternity in the hearts of men…” That is a really rich idea: That, somehow, we know what eternity is like. That maybe the reason that no amount of money or sex or power or status can please us is because we know of something (somewhere in the depths of our soul) that surpasses all of those things. Somewhere, God has set eternity and its beauty within us. Mysteriously beautiful…

2 Corinthians 4:6 says this: “For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,'made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

God made His light to shine in our hearts. Is that incredible to you? It freaks me out. God did this to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ? I cannot even fathom the glory of God, much less that somewhere within me I possess the knowledge of it. Like I said, mysteriously beautiful…

(part of this original post-karmic post...)

god grew tired of us

A few weeks back, Stef and I sat down with Tiffani and watched the documentary “God Grew Tired of Us”.

It is the portrait of the Lost Boys of Sudan coming to America, to a new world of electricity, abundance, and materialism. It is simultaneously amusing, guilt-inducing, heartbreaking, charming, and deeply thought-provoking.

Among the most poignant are the moments where the boys (men in their twenties, actually) are being shown how to use all of the features of their new apartment. They are shown how to turn a lamp on and off, how to use a shower, and what exactly a refrigerator is for. They innocently question our Christmas traditions, unknowingly shaming us for the circus we have created around a sacred and holy remembrance.

“Who is this Santa Claus? What about this tree? I like this tree. You call it ‘Christmas tree’? It is pretty. And are their stories, stories of Santa and trees, are those stories in the Bible near the story of Jesus Christ?”

If you have 89 unencumbered minutes in the next few weeks, do yourself a favor and rent “God Grew Tired of Us”.

12 February 2009

red jak

So, last week I managed to discuss energy drinks without mentioning Red Jak. How could I not mention Red Jak? The local tacqueria, La Bandera Molino, has a decent selection of energy drinks to go with some of the most amazing tacos in the city.

One day, I noticed Red Jak. I only later found out that it is Big Red's energy drink, which means that if you have to imbibe an energy drink with barbacoa, this is the only acceptable option.

After getting over the taste (which isn't bad - just completely unexpected), the drink goes down really smoothly. It has a nice kick and uses only real sugar, which must matter to someone or they wouldn't have put it on the side of the can. Eh.

So, add Red Jak to the list of regulars on the roster. And just try to find it anywhere north of Hildebrand.

Got any rare finds of your own to share?

11 February 2009

unraveling misapplied labels: cubed oranges part 2

Yesterday, I labeled myself a “cubicle-dweller”.

I suppose there is a difference from acknowledging a label and embodying that same label. While I am a cubicle-dweller, I am most definitely not a cubicle-dweller. Confused?

For example, my wife is an American white woman. She should be boring, without rhythm, materialistic, snooty, and self-interested. She should be a chauffeur, a pleaser, and a huge fan of Brad Pitt. So while she is an American white woman, she is most definitely not an American white woman. She is a selfless musician, humble and servant-minded. And though I have a hard time believing that she would turn down either Brad Pitt or an iPhone, she doesn’t lose a wink of sleep over such things.

The question is then: If we are not what the world would see us to be…If we are not the sum of the expectations of others…who are we? What exactly do we embody?

10 February 2009

cubed oranges

I am a cubicle-dweller. I push papers from one side of the cube to the other. Sometimes I load papers in UPS envelopes and a man in brown socks takes them from me and delivers them to other people in cubes.

We cubicle-dwellers are not people. We are resources or commodities. We have an internal value that must be extracted. Maybe that makes us like oranges.

Yes, we are oranges. We cubicle-dwellers are bright citrus fruit. And we are placed in these cubes, these juicers, in order that we might be squeezed and scrunched until all of the value within us, all of the juice, has been collected. We are then a mound of sticky pulp and rind.

I am a cubicle-dweller.

09 February 2009

idol: of hawaiian tikis, greg brady's surfing accident, and our proclivity to return to karmic lifestyles

(This post is also here...)

In episode 73 of the Brady Bunch, we learn that Mike Brady has been sent to Hawaii to check on a construction project for his architecture firm. The firm allows him to take the whole Brady clan with him, creating an impromptu vacation (and a three-episode journey away from the Astorturf lawn and shared bedrooms of Casa de Brady). Even the maid, Alice, joined in on the fun, although she was surely missing Sam the Butcher while she was gone.

Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, Bobby Brady discovers some sort of ancient tiki idol. All of the boys marvel at the idol and Greg Brady decides to wear it around his neck while surfing. As could be expected, he gets in a serious surfing accident and the beginning of the threads of the story that paints the idol as some sort of dark, magical, bad-luck charm is seen.

The plotline continues to the point that we, the audience, find ourselves in a cave, where the boys have been taken captive by some crazy professor of archaeology, who is convinced that the Brady Boys were out to hijack his latest “find”. Of course it all eventually works out - they have a Luau on the beach for good measure and everyone seems happy (except for Alice, who is most secretly yearning to get home to go bowling with Sam).

Looking back, this story arc was one of the more ridiculous of its kind in television history. It was as if the writers watched a few too many Scooby Doo episodes (nefarious yet well-intentioned professors, kids stumbling into trouble, an implausibly clean happy ending) and suddenly decided that such a storyline might work in live-action TV. Even for the Brady Bunch, the tiki stuff was far-fetched.

And yet, look around. We are awash in our own tiki idols, in our own self-made fantasy of good and evil, taboo and luck. We cling to things that we feel good about and dispose of the things around which bad experiences form. We live like our life is this boomerang, careening back to us with blessings or burdens depending on with what intentions we threw it.

I have a neighbor who wants a new car because the current one has “bad vibes”. Might it simply be a bad driver? I know a few folks who are thinking of trading in their marriage, thinking that some bad karma seeped in while they were sleeping. Maybe marriage is just hard work and no one adequately explained that. How many of our donations to causes around the world are directly tied to some idea that we are going to be cosmically paid back for them at some point. In our society, we give to get. If only could see the reality: We get to give.

Until we take hold of the Truth that Christ ushered us into a post-karmic world, we’re doomed to a life of fantasy – of mojo and karma, of vibes and taboos. We will continue to seek the things that lead to righteousness, while our eyes and ears fail to see and hear that a new righteousness has been bestowed upon us.

Anyway, sometimes a surfing accident is just a surfing accident. No tiki necessary.

07 February 2009


My house is about 2 miles from downtown San Antonio...Together with Cousin Jeff, the decision was made that Saturday would be a good day to take a walk. So we did just that.

We walked. In an increasingly unwalkable city, we walked. And our meandering journey that took us past Shag, the Alamo, and the G&M Steakhouse (home of the $5.99 steak dinner) saw us log 8.5 miles. I think we rested at two bus stops. We also circled a downtown block twice looking for a non-existent BBQ joint, realized that energy drinks do not make good walking partners, and generally just enjoyed seeing the city at 3 mph.

You can check out Jeff's blog for a random photo montage of the day. Also, you can calculate your WalkScore by clicking this link and entering your address. Post them in the comments section. It should be interesting to see how walkable your world is...

My walk score is...

schrute bucks and your weekend

You came here on the weekend!! You get a Schrute Buck.

Dwight Schrute Bucks for everyone!!

05 February 2009

practicing the presence

I am currently part of a 60/60 experiment. Based loosely on Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God, this is a modern attempt (using John Burke’s book Soul Revolution) to find a constant connection with the Source.

The premise is simple. For 60 days, stop every 60 minutes and acknowledge God. Pray. Listen. Whatever. Just connect to the Source. The experiment is a way to cut through the busy, disparate lives we lead and just be still, even if it is only once an hour.

Already, I find my spirit being nourished in the experience. I find myself anxiously awaiting the timer to run to 0:00. I long to be in communion with the Source. I love it in the presence of the Creator.

Maybe you’re doing it too? How is it working out?

Maybe you’re interested in doing it yourself? Let me know.

03 February 2009

my greatest fear: being the world’s most aware (abalone)

(This post also appears here...)

There is a woman who sits outside of the abortion clinic near my house. She has a sign that says “Abortion Kills Children”. And she sits there all day and shames the people going in and out. She is, in a sense, raising awareness. And her sign is correct. But would her life be better used in taking the awareness she has and applying it by volunteering at a crisis center or adoption/counseling hotline? Eight hours a day on the sidewalk and four more hours a day on her knees, fervently pleading for God to move…when all she has to do is put her sign down and move herself.

Her motives are good – she just got stuck on awareness.

When I moved to South Africa in 2004, I had no idea how severe the AIDS crisis was, not to mention the malaria problem and the starvation issue…and over the next few years the world was educated along with me as we learned about the incredible scope of the problem together. Artists and celebrities began to champion the cause of Africa, we bought shirts that donated the profits to Africa, we signed petitions, we even donated money when American Idol took up the cause…we were aware!

Then, a new movement started to rise up. Ever heard of “going green”? All of the sudden, everything was about being green, going green, and doing green (which may or may not be a drug). Africa resumed its position as the world’s alm-seeker and we moved on, figuring that all of our recently-acquired awareness surely helped make the world a better place for Africans.

Did it? Nope.

Tens of thousands of African children will die today, simply because they are hungry and there is no food. 6000 will die from a preventable, treatable disease caused by a little virus known as HIV. 3000 will die because a mosquito carrying malaria bit them.

This is not about activism. It is merely a plea for activity. We spend 90% of our lives becoming more aware and only 10% in any form of activity. Think about. Crunch the numbers. We are a 90/10 people. We ingest unbelievable amounts of information from books, television, radio, and the internet. We get more and more education every year, the baseline standard ever rising. We join causes on Facebook and wear t-shirts proclaiming that some form of awareness will topple the world's injustices. And we never really lift a finger to change anything.

So where do we go? Maybe, we start by praying differently. What if, instead of saying, “God please meet the needs of world’s broken and dying” we prayed, “God use me to meet the needs of the world’s broken and dying.”

We have all of the awareness we need. We now need to be a people that acts upon it.

On earth as it is in heaven...

live energy

My wife is amazing.

I am, embarrassingly, something of an energy drink connoisseur. I love the stupid things. I love NERD, the brain-arousing drink designed by UTSA students. I love NOS, the super-charged drink that has enough caffeine to kill a thoroughbred. I love ESSN, the all-organic pomegranate/limeflower drink.

Well, there is a new horse in the stable.

For my birthday, Stefani bought me a can of Live Energy (among other things). Live is a pretty typical energy drink flavored with Acai. What makes Live different is that 50% of the proceeds go to fighting HIV/AIDS. Energizing indeed...

Got any favorites of your own I should know about...?

02 February 2009

of landmarks and lamentations

Another local church recently completed a massive new auditorium. Church building projects are, at their best, a difficult balance between meeting local needs and remaining mindful of the needs of the global community.

The recent project I am thinking about sits on a high-profile hill next to a high-profile highway. So, for some reason, the church decided to build a high-profile “landmark for Jesus”. A 123-foot 4-sided concrete cross/tower peers over the surrounding community, ominously lit at night a cool blue effects.

From their website:
The building committee for the project was interested in creating a “landmark for Jesus”. This was addressed with a 120 foot tower that will be internally lit and highly visible from the adjacent highway and surrounding area. The cross can be illuminated in over 16 million different colors and will serve as a landmark for Jesus Christ in our San Antonio community.

A friend who I regularly eat lunch with at a neighboring burger joint always invokes a sarcastic moment of silence as we pass the monument. Then we look at each other and silently lament the waste.

Somehow, I think we’ve missed it again with this thing…Jesus is no more served by the concrete tower than he is by any other righteously-constructed symbol. In fact, he is no more served by a concrete cross than he is by towering golden arches. Jesus cautioned against all things religious and said that true religion was in the care of orphans and widows. He said he came to set the captives free and bring light to the darkness. This “landmark for Jesus” brings light to the freeway. And at a substantial cost.

Look, I would be (am) a hypocrite if I pretended like there weren’t places of waste and mismanagement in my own life. There are many, I am sure. But when are we as the followers of Jesus going to learn that our God is not honored by idols or symbols? When are we going to learn that the millions of dollars spent on landmarks and legacies could be better spent feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting the broken of our world? Wouldn’t that be a more appropriate landmark?