Calling Phillip Part II – Finding Hope

29 04 2008

In my former career in radio, I was fortunate to rub shoulders with most of the artists who inhabited the burgeoning country music scene of the 90s.  Some were friendly and common as a dollar bill.  Others were stand-offish and uptight.  A couple were dumb as a bag of hammers.  There were those who lived in a bottle, and others who’d been on Willie’s bus, so to speak.  There were many who’d fit in just fine at any of our family events; these were the ones who disdained adulation and preferred slap-on-the-back friendliness.  Then there was that annoying little nasal toned twerp (who has since won at least one entertainer of the year award) who would only give you the time of day if you were an attractive female.

One truism I learned was…

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Calling Philip

25 04 2008

For those of you who are already immersed into church ministry of some sort, you’ve no doubt noticed that there are a mind boggling number of evangelism programs out there.  Books, seminars, flip charts, tracts…  my eyes glaze over just trying to take it all in.  It seems right to me that we don’t need another program.  We need something that those in the world of diet crazes have started to figure out.

The new mantra among diet gurus is that we don’t need a new diet plan, we need a new life plan.  Addressing the harmful and destructive things we do to our own bodies via food intake must be addressed at the lifestyle level.  And that makes sense to me.

To read this article and find out what in the world Philip has to do with this, click here and visit my blog,  www.wherethefishhavenoname.

When Ethan Speaks

22 04 2008

autisticGod bless our kids.  They’ll say absolutely anything.  They have no brakes.  A though hits their brain, and within 2 seconds, it’s sliding off their tongue.  And some kids aren’t’ even THAT restrained.

I love Ethan.  He’s my associate pastor’s son.  When I first came to GFM 5 years ago, Ethan didn’t really talk.  The autistic five-year-old spoke gibberish that his older brother referred to as “Chinese”.  Every night before going to bed, Ethan’s brother would pray,

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Who Would Jesus Vote For?

12 04 2008

Who would Jesus vote for?

That, or something closely approximating it, is the title of a book I saw on display the other day at a Christian bookstore.  I didn’t pick up the book at the time, but later I recalled the title and couldn’t help but laugh a bit.  I’m assuming the title was tongue-in-cheek.  But it did cause me to dwell upon the question and create my own answer.  And the anwer is this:

Click here to read this blog entry at Where The Fish Have No Name.

It’s a Hurt Called Love

3 04 2008

Ever have to shake something hard to get it to come loose?  Perhaps you have something unwanted on the bottom of your shoe, so you smack it hard against the pavement.   Or, you find that an unwanted sliver of cellophane has lovingly attached itself to your hand, and you shake vigorously to cause it to fall away.

I’ve learned that’s how it can also be with us when we give ourselves over to God’s hands.  We would love to stick with the status-quo, so God has to shake us hard to cause us to move.  Barbara and I had hoped to minister here at our present church for 10-15 years.  But God had other plans for us.  We could have sworn that it was His will that we stay here to see through all the visions and dreams we had for the work.  Sadly, financial calamity in a particularly economically depressed area has changed our reality.  I’m not sure how anyone can afford to live here in the Chicago region.  The winters are hard and the taxes are harder.  As gas prices sky-rocket, our days left to serve here are diminishing.

I’m perfectly sure that in my desire to stay beyond our short five year tenure I could have become quite comfortable.  I expect that we would have seen more and more of God’s blessings as we endeavored to serve faithfully.  After seeing our families systematically destroyed financially, it has fatally damaged our church’s already skin and bones budget.  So, we’ve been shaken.  Hard.  Buddy, I mean to tell you, my ears are ringing.  We have been shaken loose.  If it weren’t for the massive medical bills still hanging over our head, we would have found a way to stay.  But the earth has moved, the windows have rattled, and we’ve been shaken loose.

broken heartIt hurts deeply to have to say goodbye to co-workers in Christ who’ve become family to us.  We moved far from our families and God blessed us with…  family!  Christ calls the church His body.  We feel as though part of our body is being ripped from us.  We were made one with these wonderful people, now we’re forced to move on.

Why does God allow us to hurt so?  It’s because hurt is like a thermometer for something wonderful…  love.  The greater we love, the more it hurts to part.  And there’s never enough time anyway.  I learned that the hard way.  When my mother died of cancer, we had several months of warning.  Still, there was not enough time to say goodbye.  As I’ve counseled with grieving individuals who’ve lost family members suddenly, I’ve often heard them say, “I wish I could have had just one more moment with them.”  But there are never enough one-more-moments.  Love is like that.  It is a thick and warm blanket.  Moving away from those we love is like getting out of a warm bed on a cold night.  It just reminds us how comfortable the bed really is.

In a way it is a blessing to hurt this way.  It reminds us of how blessed we’ve been to be a part of this community of love.  And it makes me even more homesick for Heaven.  What a great homecoming that will be.  Love hurts.  Thankfully, love hurts.

Sand Lot Salvation

30 03 2008

Baseball. Love the game. It’s my only game. I’m not a sports fan at all, but I do love baseball.

I first fell in love with the sport when our church group made its yearly treks to Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati to watch the Reds take it to the visiting team. That was the era of the Big Red Machine… Rose, Bench, Morgan, Griffey (Sr.), Foster… and on the list goes. All was right with the world there in the upper deck with a brat, coke, bag of peanuts and my dad at my side. They said that Riverfront was “cookie cutter”, but I didn’t care. To me, the thrill of walking through the gate and into a bowl of humanity and that big green field below was all I needed to fall in love. It wasn’t a field, it was a stadium. And it brimmed with all the mystique and magic a young boy could contain.riverfront stadium

I met Pete Rose a couple of years ago when I was still in radio. He was signing autographs for a record company – one that wanted to position themselves as having all the “hits” just like Pete. It was well after the big ban, but Charlie Hustle still seemed bigger than life. As my turn came to get a ball-cap signed and a picture snapped with the living legend himself, I couldn’t stand it that my 2 seconds with one of my baseball heroes was gonna boil down to a sign, smile, snap and move on. So I blurted out, “Pete, you’ll be in the hall-of-fame someday”. I’m not sure that my opinion on the matter will sway the upper ups of baseball, but there for a second, I had the hit king’s full attention. He looked up at me and said, “Thanks, Greg!”. Then it was over. I was escorted away while a Polaroid picture was thrust at me. As the moment faded, the picture gained more and more clarity.

Opening day is at hand, and life will resume. And this might be the year, it just might be.

There is nothing significantly theological about this, but I can’t help thinking that God gave me baseball as a special gift. I can’t throw a ball two feet, I rarely can put wood to leather when swinging, and if I should catch a line drive I’m likely as not to grimace from the pain. But I can play the radio (or listen online) just fine, thank-you. I might at times get caught in the fantasy and see myself on the field, but I also know that the day will come when I can play with the best and take on any comer. Baseball is a gift because it melds the sweltering days of summer with the yet-to-be sweet summers of Heaven and reminds me that even though I live in mortal flesh, I can also taste eternity. Heaven isn’t a far off thing – God lets us sample from the box every now and then. And it’s called baseball.

The Face of Jesus

23 03 2008

I have often heard the criticism that Jesus is wrongly portrayed as blond haired and blue eyed. I have a problem with that; I have never seen such a picture. In all my studies, in all the churches I’ve been in, of all the portrayals in art I’ve been witness to, I have never beheld such a sight. And it points us to a larger truth.

Despite nattering to the contrary, Christian imagery of Jesus is understood to be art and not photographic evidence. Just as we realize that Charlie Brown, Homer Simpson and Regis Philbin are a cartoon characters drawn with artistic license, we also understand the concept of art as imagination.

Around this time of year, that documentary always seems to resurface about what Jesus truly looked like. I’ve included a picture of a man’s face derived from the common traits of the times and region of Christ. I find it wonderfully interesting tothe face of jesus? view this molded visage and imagine all the what-ifs that go along with such a work. Of course we’re also all grown up enough to know that this scientist never suggests that this is exactly what Jesus looked like. It’s merely an archetype.

Some have suggested that Jesus was black. Some say that there is good reason why we don’t know what he looked like (so we wouldn’t worship an icon – good reasoning, no doubt). Some have suggested that Jesus looks like whatever we want Him to look like (rather post-modern in its absurdity).

Since you’ve stuck with me this far, I’ll tell you what I think. I don’t care. I really don’t. I never have needed an image of Christ to help me worship. I find the crucifix to be a penetrating icon that confronts my pride from time to time, but overall I prefer the protestant empty cross signifying resurrection. Both are just fine, mind you. I simply go with what I know.

Which reminds me of the story (I have no idea of its veracity) of the woman looking at jewelry. She mentioned to the young lady helping her that she was looking for a cross. The erudite clerk asked, “Do you want a regular cross, or one with a little man on it?”

What Jesus looked like really doesn’t concern me as much as what He looks like. Make sense? I want to know what He looks like today. We are His ambassadors, we are His living legacy. Christ-followers are the ones who portray Jesus to the world for good or bad. Too often the latter. Has anyone in your neighborhood seen Jesus today? Has anyone at your place of business or school? How ’bout your own family? Your dog is pretty astute at measuring character… has the pooch seen Christ lately? Those who say they follow are those who are given the task of showing Christ to the world. Has anyone in your world seen Him lately?