26 May 2009

a prayer from the depths

"In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the deep,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.

I said, 'I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.'

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.

When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD."

From the Book of Jonah

23 May 2009

MLS in San Antonio: Gooooooooooooal

As part of my ongoing (read: completely worthless) efforts to bring the MLS to San Antonio, allow me to present the best goals from the 2008 MLS season. It is a long weekend, so this is my way of mailing it in. Until Tuesday...

If you are a subscriber and cannot see the video, click here...

21 May 2009

the lost city of z

Among the items occupying the Kindle screen these days is David Grann's fantastic book, The Lost City of Z.

A tale of Colonel Percy Fawcett's perilous journey into the unexplored Amazon in search of a mysterious lost city ("Z") is soon juxtaposed with the author's own fascination with both Fawcett and the Amazon. The author is overtaken with this obsession and chronicles for us his own pursuit of "Z" and his recreation of Fawcett's legendary route.

Brain candy? Maybe. Great summer non-fiction? Definitely.

a question

What are you doing right now that will outlast you?

20 May 2009

of gridiron and the not-so-vacuous void

There was a moment in February of 2004 when a tiny newspaper blurb from The Star, a South African newspaper, allowed me a previously unknown freedom. It read:

American Gridiron: New England 32 Carolina 29

I was living as a missionary in Johannesburg and, for the first time in my life, I had missed the SuperBowl. And then it hit me. I hadn’t really missed anything. Some steroid-enhanced guys in tight, shiny pants ran around chasing a ball and someone was declared winner when a backwards clock read all zeroes.

(Sure is silly when you put it that way…)

But it was true. I hadn’t missed a thing.

I began to reconsider a lot of things in those days.

I began to consider the identity that I had built around other people’s ability. I began to consider how I had sought transcendence in overpaid laundry rather than eternal surety. And, living in Africa, I began to consider that I didn’t need sports at all…especially not to the level that I had previously submitted my life to them.

As a result, I largely gave up the day-to-day following of sports.

The beauty of the process was in the freedom it delivered. Rather than possessing a void where sports once stood, the fullness of the other aspects of life crashed into fill the vacuous space, leaving me with a greater satisfaction than ever before.

I still enjoy sports. I read a columnist or two regularly, as I love reading and I love good writing. I watch soccer every now and then, as it transports me back to Africa and back to a place where I feel connected with my faraway friends.

But it is nice not to be owned anymore. All because of one little line in an African newspaper.

American Gridiron: New England 32 Carolina 29

18 May 2009

the alamodome and bc place: how the mls is viable in san antonio

This is an article I wrote from Crocketteers.com, San Antonio's Premier Soccer Supporters Group.

One of the best innovation strategies in business is to do nothing. Sit and wait and allow those around you to innovate. Sometimes the smart companies pay for the R&D to make incremental changes to someone else’s good idea rather than paying the tremendous R&D to create the idea in the first place.

It is in that spirit, San Antonio, that I invite you to tour Vancouver’s BC Place with me.

As you know, Vancouver is going to begin play in the MLS in 2011. They will be playing home games at BC Place for the foreseeable future.

BC Place is a 60,000 seat stadium, whose current primary tenant is the BC Lions Canadian Football League Team. That is to say, BC Place is a 60,000 seat football stadium. Built in 1983 in part to attract a Major League Baseball team that never materialized, BC Place hosts trade and consumer shows (Boat Shows, Home and Garden Shows) and motorsports events (Monster Jam, anyone?) in addition to the CFL’s Lions. BC Place, though relatively busy, operates at an annual loss.

Sound familiar?

The Alamodome is a 65,000 seat stadium and is currently lacking a regular tenant. Built in 1993 in part to attract a National Football League team that never materialized, the Alamodome plays host to annual football games, trade and consumer shows, motorsports events, and annual marching band competitions. The Alamodome, though relatively busy, operates at an annual loss.

Once upon a time, the MLS had an agreement with the city of San Antonio to bring a team to the Alamodome, much like the deal that they currently have to place an MLS franchise in Vancouver’s BC Place. Politics quashed the deal as the reins of power changed hands.

Then, this spring, we get word that Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E) is interested in bringing professional soccer to San Antonio, provided they have a soccer-specific-stadium (SSS). An SSS would bring in maximum revenue and the group made the statement that the economics at the Alamodome don’t work.

Perhaps we need to introduce our friends at SS&E to BC Place. Like the Alamodome’s long, lost twin, BC Place is not only viable for a profitable MLS team, but it is viable and it is TEN YEARS OLDER. BC Place will be undergoing limited renovations that will create an intimate soccer venue from a 60,000 seat barn. As you can see in the photo, BC Place would limit the seating to the lower bowl, integrate a centrally hung scoreboard, and project a visually striking image through the use of a translucent canopy that prevents the empty upper bowl from even being seen, giving a fan the impression and experience of a true European-style soccer environment.

The Alamodome could be transformed in much the same way. It could probably be done even cheaper than the work in Vancouver, thanks to the Alamodome’s relative youth. It could be done. And if the economics work in Vancouver, are we really to believe that they wouldn’t work here?

All of this to say one thing: San Antonio could host the MLS tomorrow. San Antonio has the population, the desire, the corporate base, and the facility.

All we need are leaders that will give it a chance. More on that soon…

15 May 2009

of the boogie-man and fearing the silence

We fear silence.

Remember life as a child? Remember night time? Noises that were hidden by the din of the day were ushered to the forefront of our audible awareness. And we became terrified. Creaking was certainly a boogie-man approaching our bed with very bad intentions. A shadow in the corner was a sinister killer’s sure hiding space. The sound of voices from the darkness outside was assuredly burglars plotting their best entrance point. A shirt laying oddly on a dresser and blowing gently under the influence of a summertime fan was a snake or a spider or a murderous thug, depending on just how tired we were.

We became terrified.

We are no less paranoid as adults. We use the TV, music, or even Sounds of the Ocean Tide soundtracks (you know who you are) to help us drown out the silence. We seek to stay entertained at all costs, engaged no matter what the circumstance. We dread being home alone with nothing to do, lest we actually be forced to listen to the voices in our heads.

Why do we fear the silence? And what did you fear in your childhood? Boogie-men, monsters in the closet or under the bed?

14 May 2009

of vicars and the avoidance of living: life as a spectator sport

You and I are up to our eyeballs in vicars. But who are they? And why do we seek them out?

A vicar is one serving as a representative or agent – you know, someone who allows you a vicarious presence. A faith congregation may have a vicar that represents them on a larger level. A government may install a vicar to see to their interests and needs at an inter-governmental organization.

Let me see if I can explain this on a personal level.

When we are kids, we tend to call vicars “idols” or “heroes”. These are people who we genuinely think we can be like when we grow up. My niece and nephew provide perfect examples. My young niece idolizes the Disney princesses and very likely imagines still that her life might one day turn out like such a fairytale. My nephew counts numerous sports stars as heroes and is pretty certain that with enough practice and study, he will one day play for the Spurs in the winter and win the Masters every spring.

At some point, we realize that dreams are often harder to fulfill than they are to conjure and we end up in cubicles and corner offices, playing in rec league softball instead of in the World Series and settling for a suburban tract home over a princess’ castle.

And I think it is at this point where we begin to search for vicars in our lives. We intend to vicariously experience the highs and lows of some superstar lifestyle even while we trudge through our own ordinary existence.

We see that Britney Spears lives a pretty incredible lifestyle and, wanting a piece of that life, we buy in to her full-tilt. We start dressing like her, go to her concerts, and follow her on Twitter. We are crushed when she suffers a personal setback that gets chronicled on ET and we are all-too-curious when we see her in a blurry photo on the cover of The Enquirer that either indicates that she has cellulite (just like us!!) or is an unfit mother.

We see Tony Romo living out our dream on pro football fields (with a famous girlfriend no less – double score!!) and we just dive in. We buy season tickets and an authentic jersey, we weep when he wins and sob when he loses. We experience the highs and lows and take pretty much every critique on him to be a personal attack.


I wonder if it is easier to watch passively while others really live. I wonder if our God-given hard-wiring towards glory just gets perverted by culture. I wonder if we are slowly turning life into a series of spectator sports, paused only for work which will allow us to purchase more celebrity consumption.

Maybe our hopes and dreams are too difficult to reach. Maybe our culture has succeeded in providing enough vicars that we no longer have to reach at all. And maybe that is the greatest danger. In a place where we no longer have to stretch or strive for transcendence, doesn’t the body (or the soul) begin to atrophy?

I think about my niece and nephew (and my own infant daughter), knowing full well that the odds are against them ever becoming pro athletes or princesses. I hope and pray that along the path to that reality, God would make an intersection that would allow them, allow us, a chance to seek the fullness and weight of our own lives rather than simply tuning in to the lives of others.

As Andrew Stanton, director of WALL-E put it:
“We all fall into our habits, our routines and our ruts, consciously or unconsciously to avoid living. To avoid having to do the messy part. To avoid having relationships with other people, of dealing with the person next to us. That's why we can all get on our cell phones and not have to deal with one another.”

Where the world offers surface-level replacements and shallow distractions, I pray we find substantial sources of meaning and deep obsessions. I pray that we might see Truth and chase after it hard. I pray that we might glimpse light and live in such a way to help others get a glimpse as well.

In the mean-time, I hope I can continue to slowly kill off the urge to live vicariously through the Bonos and Beckhams of the world. I have a long way to go…

Do you think our vicarious tendencies are destructive or harmless? Who are some of your vicars? How do we return the focus on the truly meaningful things of this life?

13 May 2009

pastor willie dengler is 60 today

Today is Pastor Willie Dengler’s 60th birthday. Sixty incredible years. We are definitely celebrating today. If it were up to me, all of South Africa would be on holiday...

Willie will be given the following letter on the 17th at a little party thrown for him at the church – so if you know him, don’t go forwarding this to him. Would hate to spoil the surprise. If you would like to send Willie a birthday greeting, send an email to his daughter Bronwyn. - cuenbron@mweb.co.za – To have it included in the letters that will be presented to him on Sunday, send it by 5pm today (the 13th)…

Our Dearest Willie –

First, we would like to greet you in Jesus’ beautiful name. We praise Him today for you and your life.

Where to start…?

It would be too easy to just run down a list of things that you are to us…teacher, pastor, brother, Paul, friend, and father. That would never do justice to the impact that you have had on our lives.

Willie, it was January of 2004 when a puny American kid washed ashore amidst the reeds of what was then called Johannesburg International Airport. You plucked me out of my basket, fed me a Steer-burger, and whisked me away into what would become the most formative 8 months of my life.

In my first 8 months with you, I learned more than I had in my previous 23 years, more than I had in thousands of dollars worth of University education, and more than I had in one thousand sermons. And as much as I love your teaching and preaching, I didn’t learn it in your church pew.

I learned these lessons outside the walls of the church, where you simply lived – and allowed me to come along for the ride. I learned humility and grace at the corner of Nurney and Ashanti, the entrance to Joe Slovo camp. I learned the value of humanity and the I learned to see with God’s eyes. My heart was broken in that place more than once.

I learned on the sidewalk at 106 Nurney Avenue, where Brian, Wayne, Neil, and Peter were shown love beyond what any man deserves. Over and over again.

I learned on Richmond Avenue about mercy and the way that we are to live together. I learned that drunks, druggies, felons and frauds could all be called children of God. And that they were all worthy of a place to lay their head.

I learned. Just by following you.

You taught me how to make lekker braai at Bill Hangar’s house.

You taught me why you should never buy meat from a guy on the street when you grilled up some donkey meat in your kitchen.

You taught me what never to ask for in my coffee when doing pastoral visits – “You’re a liar Pastor Willie! You’re a liar!”

You taught me what a Godly husband looks like.

You taught me that God values the worker so much more than the work.

You taught me that a 37 year-old Kenyan goat is going to taste very much like a 37 year-old tire.

You taught me that a turkey from a dead-man’s freezer (that expired 8 years ago) can still be provision from the Hand of the Father.

You taught me that anyone can teach – but that it takes a whole different element to preach.

You taught me that sorrow and sadness were sometimes right responses to the things of the this world.

You taught me that hope and joy were the weapons with which Christ conquers all.

You taught me that no man can outrun his sins.

You taught me that while kittens may be born in a biscuit tin, they certainly were not biscuits.

You taught me that there was no cost too great to give a man dignity.

You taught me that no one is beyond redemption.

You taught me that there was no cost too great to offer a man salvation.

You taught me that God was real and could be lived for in a broken world.

You taught me that fatherhood was a moment to be cherished and loved.

You taught me that Christ was enough and that there is no greater honor than to lose one’s life in pursuit of Him.

And that was just our first 8 months together.

Sometime in 2005, I brought you a group of rag-tag young Americans. They came hopeful but completely unaware. And, to this day, they all talk about you and your impact on them. Yes, they speak of your people. And yes, they speak of your church. But more than all else, they speak of a man who changed their lives, opened their hearts, and taught them a brand new way to love the poor and broken.

For me, that trip cemented a calling in my heart. These were to be my people. You were to again be my Paul.

So sometime in 2006, Stefani comes to me and says that for three straight nights all she can do is dream of Africa, of Willie and the children of Joe Slovo. She tells me that she believes God wants us to move to Johannesburg. Knowing that she has just given life to my deepest dreams, we begin preparing to move back to you. We sell all of our stuff and give away our dog. We buy plane tickets and quit our jobs. And in July of 2007, we sit down on a plane to return to you.

Willie, just glancing up the page, it is obvious how great an impact you had on me in 2004 and 2005. It was hard for me to believe that our time with you in 2007 and 2008 was even more profound. And yet it was.

The way that you poured into Stefani is something for which I will forever be grateful. The days that you allowed her to weep in your office, the days that you stood in as a father for her, the days that you gave her a hero again… It was the perfect picture of the life that I had witnessed before – only this time with a personal twist. I only hope that I can be for my daughter what you were for my wife. I only hope that men might see the light of Christ in me the way that so many do in you.

Your life has never been easy. It has never been comfortable. It has never been smooth. Yet, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you show up every day ready to be the representation of God’s grace and strength, His mercy and love, His endless compassion.

I cannot thank God enough for you. And I cannot thank you enough for being faithful to live the life you were called to.

Without a doubt, you have had more influence on my life than any other person.

To know you has been my life’s greatest pleasure and to follow and serve you has been my deepest joy.

From myself, Stefani, and Bella… We love you. Happy Birthday. Well done good and faithful servant.

Your friend and Timothy,

12 May 2009

of late-night feedings and sleepy smiles

There are very few moments of my day that I can count on, that I know will be there waiting for me. Even fewer are those that help give life its fullness.

One such moment occurs around 11pm every night on a sleepy San Antonio street named West Huisache.

Every night, while she sleeps, I sneak into my daughter’s room and slowly start preparing her room for one last feeding and a night of sound sleep. I clip on the little lamp and lay out her last diaper. I set out her bottle and medicine and wind her little ladybug mobile one last time. Then, I lean over her crib and watch her sleep for a long moment, inhaling the sanctity of a moment that is quickly passing me by.

Her tiny little body rests in complete harmony, 4 months of development in a state of total relaxation.

Slowly, I unwrap her blanket and she stirs, wondering why I would be disturbing her in the middle of a dream about rattles or bubble bath or her far-off wedding day.

Keeping her as asleep as possible, I cradle her and take the two steps over to the rocking chair where her bottle awaits. In my arms, she eats her late-night meal, usually in a zombie-like state. Her eyes rarely open until she finishes the bottle. Only then does she whimper as I have to pick her up to burp her and change her last diaper of the day.

Laying on her changing table, she often fights through the sleepiness and smiles at me. I wonder if she knows how that melts me. I wonder if she is aware that such little smiles mean so much to me.

I guess I am lucky. Stef lets me feed Bella every night. It is a gift that I cannot thank her for enough. Longing for them all day in my cubicle, I am allowed a few sacred moments every night.

Every night, I am the last thing that my Bella sees before she drifts off to sleep. Every night, I lay her down, kiss her forehead, and whisper a few secret words to her. Every night, tip-toeing out of that darkened room, I feel a little more like the most blessed man on earth.

11 May 2009

returning from blogging hell

Anytime I post 19 videos and 12 links over 4 days on the blog, you know that my writing tank is probably nearing empty.

Sure enough, such weeks happen.

I have to admit to being mad at myself for it all. I feel like I just preached a terrible sermon. I didn’t think it would be bad going in, I don’t really know how it tailed to out-of-control so quickly, I can’t take it back, and I am pretty sure that the pews will be empty next week.

I think I started last week with a definite urge to make known a little more about the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan. I planned on letting that marinate for awhile, only to find out that Amazon was revealing a new version of the Kindle mid-week.

So, I got over-excited and somehow allowed the week to become a train-wreck, such that the important things got lost in the shuffle and the unimportant things made you pretty sure that I had put the whole thing on auto-pilot.

I am not completely sure what we’re doing in this space over the next few days. I can only say that I am avoiding videos and links for awhile. Brood of vipers...

Here is what I do know: I know that we just got to do Mother’s Day for the first time as parents. I know that this week my cousin/brother-in-law turns 30 and my main man Willie Dengler turns 60. I know that Jesus and soccer and Sudan have grabbed my imagination. I know that Amish friendship bread is pretty wicked. And, maybe most importantly, I know that I am not going to Kansas this week.

Stay tuned.

10 May 2009

just the way you are

Scott MacIntyre...

Uh, Happy Mother's Day? Who am I kidding? This was for me. :-)

09 May 2009

more kindling: a review of kindle 2

The Kindle: Good Before, Better Now

While the changes in the new Kindle are fairly minor, they’re exactly what was needed to turn a very good electronic book reader into an even better one.

Click here to read the story...

the big-screen kindle

Looking to Big-Screen E-Readers to Help Save the Daily Press

Several companies are on the verge of introducing devices about the size of a standard sheet of paper, which could carry updated news and ads in a format similar to that of a newspaper.

Click to read the story...

08 May 2009

my friend greg

I have this friend named Greg. Pretty incredible guy, actually.

Greg has a story that is in some way like all of our stories. Broken and defeated by the things of this world, Greg found himself in a place where his only hope was in something bigger than himself. His only chance was that rescue was coming from a place beyond us all.

Greg found himself on the wrong side of an addiction. Just like you and I have found ourselves on the wrong side of so many things – relationships and addictions of our own…pride and lust…idolatry and destructive self-righteousness.

What makes Greg incredible is not that he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and made everything alright. What makes Greg incredible is not that he engineered some great recovery or repaired himself with perseverance and discipline.

No - what makes Greg incredible is that he allowed something bigger than himself to step in and make him whole again. And then he stepped away from the brokenness and claimed no credit, instead choosing to use his life to point back to the Source that saved him.

Today Greg plays music and tells his story, God’s story, pretty much wherever anyone will give him a microphone. I don’t have a microphone, but I do have a blog. I can only hope that I've even begun to do the story justice. He would smile, say something about God and glory, and then he'd get this distant look in his eye and he'd look away. That look always makes me believe that he is remembering the depths he was pulled from. He is reliving his rescue all over again. It's that look that means so much to me. It's that look that makes me love my friend Greg so much...

So I hope you’ll click on the video (in HD if you so choose) and see my friend in action. Check his website and, if you listen to any of his songs, listen to the song “Coming On Again”. An anthem of our shared hope and promise if there ever was one…

(If you are a subscriber and can't see the video, click here...)

07 May 2009

can you tell it's proust?

With Kindle, Can You Tell It’s Proust?

The publishing world is all caught up in weighty questions about the Kindle and other electronic books and readers.

Click here to read the story...

the empty bookshelf and how to make anyone fall in love with you

Confession time: In high school, in search of the greatest manipulative power possible, I read a friend’s copy of a book called “How to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You.”

Good news: The principles of the book generally worked. Any high school boy with a full set of teeth and a touch of discipline could SOFTEN his way into any girl’s heart.

Bad news: I now have a daughter.

Lest you think I stopped at romance in my quest to be able to analyze and manipulate humans at a whim, in college I picked up a book appropriately entitled “Reading People”. It was equally enthralling and equally enlightening. The basic point of the book was “PAY ATTENTION!!”

So instead of daydreaming when in a person’s apartment for the first time, I learned to pay attention to little details – decorative flair, ethnic accents, quality of materials, and…wait for it…the books on the shelf.

Ah, the bookshelf. A gold-mine of snap-judgementalism. Back then, a guy rocking sci-fi novels was not likely going to be included in the night’s party plans. A guy with books on sports and history – now there was the guy to go have a beer with...

Well, today, there is no bigger evangelist for the Amazon Kindle than me. And yet there is no bigger killer of snap-judgementalism than the Kindle.

I love the e-reader. I love the paperless society. I love the barren bookshelves…

Or do I?

The New York Times featured a great piece not too long ago about the way that the Kindle masks our public persona and our private image.

Think about it… One guy is reading Chaucer on a plane and another is reading Anne Rice. What can you tell me about them just from that tidbit? With a Kindle, no one would know the difference. One woman is reading the Financial Times and another is reading USA Today. What does that speak to…? The papers are both available on the Kindle every day. And the Kindle gives away no clues.

Check back later today for the article and links…

FYI: SOFTEN = Smile, Open Body Position, Forward Lean, Touch, Eye Contact, Nod

06 May 2009

save darfur: we are responsible

Tired of the Save Darfur videos around here?

Imagine living in the reality that exists there.

To learn more, please sign up at Save Darfur – then let the world know that you will not allow genocide on your watch by telling them via the comments section here on the blog, by Facebook, by email, or in whatever other way you might like.

We Are Responsible.

voices from darfur

If you are a subscriber and cannot see the video, click here...

05 May 2009

we have suffered enough

If you are a subscriber and cannot see the video, click here...

04 May 2009

our government is killing us all

If you are a subscriber and cannot see the video, click here...


The night contains but two elements
And the heart is consumed therein

Sometimes it feels as if the whole thing really is vapor
Striving after wind

And it isn’t a test
But it feels like a test so much of the time

The process is the purpose
But the purpose is the processor

So what to do with the days
When the days are evil

And what to do with the night
When the night brings no relief

We burn as so many distant embers
Luminous in potentiality or the past

The parched masses groan
For what they cannot identify

To be washed in the water of the word
When the ears that would hear have been closed by design

The path ambles ever onward
Narrowing on the horizon’s edge

03 May 2009

homeless soccer team roots for new life

Homeless Soccer Team Roots for New Life


Shelter residents embrace a sense of purpose through the team, the newest in a nationwide league for the homeless...

Click the above link.