Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The last day of 2008

I was so busy this morning with my 6am meeting and getting to work where things were already happening that I had forgotten this was the last day of 2008. I mean, I new it was New Year's Eve but it didn't really register that this is the last day I will officially write 2008 on anything.
I've been reflecting on the year and overall its been pretty good. It is hard to believe that it is gone and another starts tomorrow. Of course the older I get the faster they do seem to go. And thinking about this year, I can honestly say its been a positive one for me overall with some bumps in the road.
I have made a lot of new friends through civic functions, this blog, and I am also on Facebook (as my real self and not NPP) for the first time this year. I got to spend a lot of time with my family. Went to Galveston Island before the hurricane hit, went to Boston MA which I enjoyed alot, went to San Antonio Texas and to SeaWorld with the kids (you may remember my post about that little trip), Austin a couple of times where I always visit with my brother-from-a-different-mother Rick Diamond who is pastor of JOURNEY Imperfect Faith Community in Austin Texas We were blessed with good health overall and enough food and finances, which was more than a lot of folks.
I witnessed a truly historic presidential election which shows how far this country has come in race relations. I got a new senior pastor after my numerous petitions to the Lord and after a long wait in the desert He finally delivered.
It has been a while since I blogged anything but I wanted to do so on this last day of 2008. I felt like I should have at Christmas, but you know what? I actually tried to just slow down and enjoy it and not feel pressued to have to do anything. And it worked for the most part. So I didn't blog. Didn't have anything useful to say.
I have some thoughts for 2009 that I have already jotted down to blog about, so I will start working on those.
Wishing all of you a Great New Year and many of the Lord's Blessings,

Friday, December 19, 2008

night and day

i have a new senior pastor. as you recall, the former senior pastor and I had differing opinions on, oh, just about everything that dealt with people and ministry. He left and we got another.

and thank GOD for that. this guy is total opposite of the last guy. humble, mild, personable, not pious, people person. Like i said, total opposite of the last guy was was passive/aggressive, control freak, arrogant and condescending... and some other descriptors i won't put here.

and you can tell it is more than just me. the whole church has a different feel about it now. the staff are actually smiling. people i haven't seen in ages are coming back. their is laughter.

so last saturday night myself and one of the associate pastors take the the 6th grade confirmation class to the Catholic Cathedral to attend a mass service. The new senior pastor goes as well. he went with us as we visited the jewish temple several weeks back. after the "fun" of doing that, we take all the kids to CiCi's pizza to eat...

and the senior pastor looks right at me and says....

"I'm sorry that I couldn't make it to your sunday school class' christmas party". Kinda caught me off guard and I replied, "I didn't know anyone had invited you". Not mean like, just off comment. He responded "well, no one did". So i was honest with him. Told him "well last time we invited a senior pastor to the christmas party - they showed up!" He laughed. He got the joke! wow! i was impressed.

I told him we like to actually enjoy ourselves at our socials and we have some adult drinks and a little wine and lots of great food and he said that was fine with him. Didn't bother him if people drink or not in social settings. So we got into the moderation topic and a whole lot of other stuff, like divorce and forgiveness (we had just come from the Catholic church so guilt came up as well). and i actually enjoyed the visit. Sat there for an hour with them while the kids ate pizza and played video games.

finally. maybe, just maybe, we have a pastor again.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wisdom from Kung Fu Panda

Well I got the all clear from my Cardiologist. There is nothing wrong with my heart. Yes, for about two months I was having chest pains and was thoroughly convinced that I was having heart problems and that the doctors were going to crack my chest open and do bypass surgery and I would never be the same again... I had stressed myself out so much about it that it actually made things worse.
Now, to be quiet fair about it, I was under a lot of stress at work and other places anyway, so that brought on the chest pains to start with, but was not the underlying cause.

But for some reason I could not put it in the hands of God (as many suggested) and continued to stress and worry. Not so much about dying over it (well, maybe a little) but leaving behind a family and kids and whatever. I also have "whitecoat syndrome", which is a fear of anyone wearing a white coat who says they are a doctor. Can't stand medical stuff.

When faced with real, scary medical stuff, I crumble. I can't just give it to God and go on. I worry. And I also live in the past at times. If I had done this or married her or said that or went into that occupation. And I stress about the future: How do I afford college for the kids, when can I retire, Will we have enough income, blah blah blah.

So I'm watching "Kung Fu Panda" with my family last week, and in one scene the Kung Fu Master (wise old turtle) says, "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called a present". Wow. Such wisdom from an animated movie. And its pretty funny on top of that!

Yes indeed. Today. Its all we are assured of. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow, or heck, even the rest of the day the way some of us drive. And I started appreciating each day even more. And I tried to not worry. And the words of Jesus in Matthew came to mind (Mt. 6:34). "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Sure enough, he knows what he is talking about. It certainly does have enough troubles all its own.

So I am trying to take things more leisurely. And to put the past where it belongs (behind me), the future where it belongs (wherever) and just enjoy the day I have. It'll be hard to do. Harder than writing this post, but I'm giving it my best.
Thanks for listening, today, to this.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

something about prayer this week

I haven't been blogging much lately due to some health issues that came up. though i am not in the clear yet, I am feeling much better. Some of that has to do with some nice little pills the doctor gave me for stress. The other has to do with getting over the lil' viral bug that has been going around

but something else is also in the mix. a little peace of mind. maybe the pills are working or my irrational fears of the uncontrollable are diminishing. Either way, I'll take it.

I noticed something when I was praying about all of this and for others that are going through whatever life is throwing at them: I was always praying to God for Him to be with me. You know, "God be with me as I go through this test" or "God be with _____ as they go through ______". And I did this for a couple of weeks before I realized something: God Is Always With Us!. I know, not much of a revelation, but I was praying for Him to be with me during this or that and it just seemed stupid after I thought about it. I was praying for something that already exists. And I realized I've been doing this my whole life, even in church when I do the closing prayer, "Dear Lord, please watch over us and guide us and keep us..." and He is always watching over us.

So I changed my prayer this week. It now goes something like this: "God, please make me aware of your presence during these times of trouble and stress". I acknowledged that I do not Practice the Presence of God (to steal a book title from Brother Lawrence). I was asking Him to be with me when I needed Him, OR when I felt like I needed him, and was ignoring His presence the rest of the time.

Now I don't ignore that fact all of the time, its just i forget. And I think we all forget at times. Its hard to practice the presence of God at all times. Heck, if we actually did that we would probably not behave as we do at times. hmmmm. So there it is, my revelation of the week. I have been praying for something that I already had. Now I pray for awareness. ~npp

Friday, November 7, 2008

44 Things about the 44th President

I was tagged by journeyrick at to be a part of something involving writing 44 things about the 44th presidentelect, Barack Obama. After reading his 44 things, I am hard pressed to do anything different. I actually do not know enough about him to list 44 things. There are too many unanswered questions for me, too many unknowns, too many variables at play. I am a bit cycnical by nature, especially when it comes to politicians. Or preachers for that matter. I don't trust folks very deeply becuase most have proven themselves untrustworthy.
For those who know me, and really know me well, there is a certain amount of "wall" that I keep up for defensive/safety reasons. I don't know where that trait came from by I have it. I'm sure some of it is part of my profession, some just me. BUT BUT BUT if you get into my confidence and friendship, I am too loyal. Fiercly. I trust you all the way. And will defend you to the best of my ability. Its hard to get that close, but once you do, its a done deal.
So politicians have a really really really long way to go to gain my trust. Actions speak louder than words.
That said, here are some thoughts on the 44th without trying to repeat what rick said:
1. He inspires by his oration skills.
2. He is to be admired for his accomlishments.
3. America should be congratulated on this milestone from where we have come to where we are.
4. He is statesmen like.
5. I pray for his safety. There are stupid people in this world.
6. I hope he does such a good job he is reelected.
7. I hope he gains the trust and the confidence of the USA.
8. I hope he gains the trust and the confidence of the world.
9. I hope that he is more than his words.
10. He seems to think outside of the established box. That could be good.
11. I think he needs to communicate with our enemies as he proposes. Communication and understanding might solve problems instead of postering. Just don't be too naive about it.
12. I hope he picks the most non-partisan people to help him.
13. I hope his own party doesn't turn on him if he rules as a centrist.
14. I hope the republicans and the media and others do not tear him down constantly as others did Bush.
15. I hope they pray FOR him and not AGAINT him.
16. I hope he makes wise choices for all of the people. He talks it, lets hope he can walk it. So many of the politicians don't.
17. He knows the issues we face. Lets hope there are good answers to solve them.
18. He has brought people together. Lets hope others don't tear that apart.

Thats really about all i got for now. Most of it is HOPE for him and his presidency. I want him to succeed. I would have wanted John McCain to succeed. But I am to wary of the world, and the media, and the partisans to have much faith they will let him, or any president for that matter. He will have his work cut out for him if he is to maintain the image of the campaign.

I am hopefully optimistic for this president. I am pleased that America seems to be past its racial issues. Even if he is not a good president, America has passed a major test of its abilities in regard to people. I think maybe this election says more about the American people than it does Barack Obama. Maybe we should list 44 things about America as well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Wish

"For all things hoped for, and nothing feared for".

Friday, October 31, 2008

another political season comes and goes

I was watching a young friend's facebook yesterday and she was excited that she was going to vote for the very first time. And she makes it very clear that she is a fan of Barak Obama. I remember my first time to vote and how excited I was about it. I am not so excited this time.

The bulk of the comments were from her friends, both sides of the political spectrum, who were saying this or that about her choice of candidate and she became very defensive, very fast. And the name calling and labeling began. Stupid Republicans, dumb democrats, sarcasm, the country will go to hell if you elect so and so... and I just sighed.

I wanted to tell them that this stuff has been going on since I first voted. The claims that if you vote for the democrats the country will go to hell and if you vote for the republicans they will starve little children. I wanted to tell them that the personal attacks and fear mongering from both the left and the right means nothing. I wanted to tell them that in my lifetime, both parties have held all the power (executive and legislative) at some point and we are all still here. I wanted to tell them, but I didn't. I think this is something they may have to find out for themselves.

In my spiritual growth over the last decade, I have learned a few things. Democrats are not evil. Republicans are not always right. That if you vote out of some misguided party loyalty, then you are doing yourself and your country a disservice. I have learned that liberals and conservatives and moderates and independents all have something to say. I have learned I don't have to agree with any of them. I have learned to value all of them. I have learned to "agree to disagree". I have learned that if you honestly believe a certain thing and can back it up, you should vote your beliefs. YOUR BELIEFS. Not something someone else has taught you. Something you have come to believe yourself out of your walk. It is important. It is powerful. It might make a difference.

I wanted to tell them that neither party is going to solve any of the problems we face. They are not interested in that. They both have agendas and power trips that they are fueling and feeding. Meanwhile, the issues we face are still present. Poverty, terrorism, the economy, health care, crime, life, whatever. And four years from now they will still be present. But no one will remember the promises that were made. No one will hold them accountable.

Don't get me wrong, I do have my own convictions, beliefs, theories, preferences. I think there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong, certain policy approaches that are better than others, and I will vote that way. But not because I think one party or one person is going to descend from the heavens and establish Utopia on earth, but because I feel that is the right thing for me and my country. Jesus tells us in Matthew that the poor will always be among us, and that is true. He also says whatever you do for the least of these... So we have our work cut out for us. We need a sense of balance. We need statesmen who will stand on principle. We need a government "of they people, by the people and for the people".

Hopefully the fear mongers and haters and nasty pundits will go away for another four years so we can get back to doing what is important: Loving one another.

Now go vote.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"dad, you are soooooo shallow"

These are the words spoken to me by my oldest daughter at dinner. She doesn't know I'm the wise nonprofitprophet. To her, I am just dad. And one of my jobs of being "just dad" is to annoy her.
My daughter is 15. She is very beautiful, both inside and outside. Both her mother and I wish we could have been more like her at that age. She is very confident and comfortable with who she is. I was miles away from that at 15.
So she has a boyfried. Okay, she is into recycling because this boyfriend was her original boyfriend from 8th grade. They broke up, she got another boyfriend, they broke up, now she's back with the original. Like I said, recycling.
And we are eating dinner and she tells us that another girl friend of hers from youth told her that one of the boys at youth really liked her... and the story goes on. I hear said boys name. Said boy comes from wealthy family so being my typical dad self, I say "what's wrong with that boy". And she just looks at me. I say, "hey, have you seen his grandparents checkbook?" and something to the effect that you can love rich people just as easy as anyone.
She just looks at me. Yep, that look you are imagining is the exact one. Like "what are you saying too me?" look. And she utters the words: "You are so shallow".
Of course, I say "what?" like a good dorky clueless dad should do to his teenage daughter and she just huffs and says something.
Secretely however, I am very pleased on the inside. Somehow, somewhere along the way, she has learned that money isn't everything. To follow your heart is important and not to like someone because of status. She hates labels and mean people as well. Just like her dad. And I like to think I had a little part to play in that. You know, as much as a dorky uncool shallow dad can.


It has really been busy and stressful for me the past several weeks. I quit a job a long time ago for many reasons, one of them being too darn stressful. For some of you who know me, I have stuggled for about a decade (and if I had been listening better probably my whole life) a calling to ministry. Its not something you really want to happen to you. I mean, you don't wake up one day and say, "Hey, I think I want to be a minister!". Who would want that. Good grief.
So I try this occupation or that job and it seems to work for a while, and then this little, uh, i don't know, pestersome feeling nags at you ... kind of taunting actually. "so you thought this would fill that void I created?"... etc.
and its frustrating. i am getting too damn old to change occupations. i actually did the official process in my denomination twice, got hired once, but had to turn down the position because, can you believe this, they lied about the salary. Some very wise pastor friends of mine gave me great advice, and i declined. Truthfully they told me the church would starve you if they could. Kinda crazy I know, but it was true. They also said you had to have the calling and you would know it. Well I do and I know it. What to do is the problem.
I live each day wanting the best I can get out of it. Doing something I am passionate about. And guess what? Its ministry. I envy those folks with jobs that don't feel like jobs. They say they love what they do and it doesn't feel like work. That'd be great.
so I ask God each day to just either help me get through this day or show me a path to take. it isn't always easy. sometimes I think god is waiting on me to get over whatever it is. leap of faith? trust? timing? who knows.
whatever it is, its frustrating.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

made for work?

I found myself the other day listening to a preacher who said that "we are made for work". I don't exactly recall how he backed this up, but his premise was that God made us for work. We were designed for certain functions, gifted in various ways, made for work. I guess being responsible, productive citizens was a large part of it as well. And casually listening I guess it sounded okay.
But for some reason it has stuck in my head, we are made to work, and I can't let it go. Are we made to work? Really? The more I thought about this the less sense it made to me. I guess God raises certain people up for what the moment calls for, like Churchill in WWII, Ghandi in India, and others... But is this what we were really intended/made for?
So I go back to the creation story. I play back the creation of man/adam and woman/eve and the garden scene and walking together, and I just can't see where one would gather that "we were made to work". It seems too me that we were made for relationship. God created us. God cherishes time with us. Just because we screwed it up doesn't change the intent of why we were created. I didn't create my kids because I wanted them to work, or get a profession, or whatever. They are created to be in relationship with their Father/Parent. Yes, they will work, but thats not why we are here.
I don't really know why this is bothering me so much. Maybe its because I am understanding that this, this life we live, is not what God intended at all. We are tied to systems and cultures that expect this or that and we dutifully comply with in order to survive the nightmare we created. And it didn't have to be this way. It could have been so much more. It could have been what God intended for it to be. And that makes me sad.
But man has created these systems for himself. To accomplish things himself. To put himself in a system where he can measure his worth. Where he can measure others worth. And sometimes we just don't measure up.
I wonder what God thinks of all this? And the older I get the less I think of it. God is working something within me all the time, its just hard to hear what it is. I get the impression, however, that he is trying to instill in me another way to view work. Possibly as a calling. To shed the old definition of work as a means to survive, or whoring out for a paycheck as I like to say. And work toward being a positive influence or helping others, not just to make money. But that goes against our system we have created doesn't it.
Created for work? I think not. Do a good work? maybe so if its relational centered. I'll have to give this some more thought.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

God of Wonders

This week has been busy. Really busy. With work and life and sick kids and stuff to do, you just get overwhelmed with it all. And on two separate occasions this week I have looked up to the heavens and saw the awesome wonder of God's expansive creation, and it brings me a temporary peacefulness. One was late at night when returning home from a meeting and the other was early this morning before 6 a.m. There is a certain crispness to the air, a clearness of the stars, and a fall-like coolness that seems to awaken something deep inside that says to me that I am part of a great and ever developing creation, an ongoing love song from God. And, well, the lines of the song "God of Wonders" echoes within me. And I catch myself singing the words of the song, rising from somewhere inside, to voice my adoration of it all. I have placed most of the words here for you.

Lord of all creation
Of water, earth, and sky
The heavens are Your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on High

God of wonders, beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy

Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
And as I stumble through the darkness
I will call Your name by night.

This is my 100th post on this blog. And it seems like a significant moment. In relation to it all, I am still humbled to try to understand that I am significant to God. Me, an ever so small being, whose time will be measured by years, which are but a blip on this current we call time which exists in the great unfolding universe.

Go outside. Look up into the heavens, and marvel.

God of Wonders.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cigarettes, Soda Water and Jesus

I grew up in the 1970s basically. Those early formative years before reaching puberty and being distracted by girls wearing jordache jeans and coming into their womanness. It was a time of playful innocence, where awareness of things of the adult world had not yet raised its ugly head, and we were allowed to explore the limitless adventures our young minds could conjure up. Cowboys and Indians and Army and Bonnie and Clyde (I will not mention who was forced to play bonnie some times due to the lack of any girls in our group!). Little did I know of the world of sex, drugs and anti-war sentiment. For me, it was Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo and Saturday Morning cartoons. It was 3 channels on a TV with a manual dial. Life was good.

And in the summers, I would be transported into another country for a week or so at a time to visit my grandparents on my mothers side. They lived in Southeastern Oklahoma and this, though only a few hours away from my little town, seemed like an entirely different universe. And they were poor, but I didn't know it. As a kid, I never really noticed that some people lived in big houses and some didn't. Some lived in brick homes while some lived in trailer houses. And I was family and friends with them all. My grandparents lived in a four room house. Literally. If you take a perfectly square box and divided it equally into four parts, that's the house. And you can see each room from the other room by leaning this way or that.

My grandfather was German and my grandmother Native American. We don't know which tribe due to records being burned up in a fire of some sort. But if you look at her photograph, she looks just like Geronimo, but with boobs.

And grandfather was an alcoholic. Not a mean one but one nevertheless. He amused us as kids, with his wisp of white hair piled up on his head, he was a sight to behold. He was a logger in his early days and a tree fell on him. He walked with a cane the whole time I knew him and drew a disability check from the government. And they always had the best butter, cheese, peanut butter and honey. I didn't know that it was food subsidies. It tasted great and they always let us have all we wanted.

And he drank and cursed the whole time I knew him. And I didn't care. He and I would wait inside the house as my parents left, watching through the screen door their Chevrolet Caprice station wagon with the wood grain sides traveling down the limestone road, creating a dust trail that wouldn't settle for hours, and he would tell me to get me and him a beer. He drank Miller High Life in the bottle and man they were cold. He would then roll a Prince Albert cigarette, and then feign he couldn't get it to light. So he would have me light it for him then go ahead and smoke it with my beer. Man, that stuff was so tasty to a 10 year old, and it was our little secret, our little rebellion against the good wishes of my parents. And I loved it.

One day he ran out of beer, wine and whiskey, so he asked me and my cousin of the same age if we wanted to "go to town". Going to town in those days was a big deal because Grandad rarely left the forty acres he lived on. We loaded up in his old ford pickup and headed down the dirt roads to town, where he would buy us a "sody water" and a snack. City boy me would always ask for a Coke and a Snicker Bar, while my Oklahoma cousins would opt for a Orange Pop and a Moon Pie. And of course we would have to eat and drink it at the gas station so we could leave the bottle and not have to pay the deposit!

and somehow, we ended up at the liquor store. Now me and my cousin didn't know it was a liquor store, as grandad told us he was going in to see his girlfriend and get us some Arkansas Soda Pop, which sounded pretty good to me. He returned with two huge bottles of what can only be described as the best tasting grape juice that had to that point touched my lips. Now grandad made us drive back home while he sat on the passenger side and drank. Okay, he didn't really make us, we eagerly agreed to his arrangement. Anything to get to set up on the Sears Catalog and shift that 3 speed on the column. While one of us drove, the other drank. Then we switched places. I can't tell you how many peanut crops were ruined that day, but I'm sure somewhere there was one unhappy farmer.

Luckily, we made it back. Glory hallelujah. I went into the bedroom and fell out under the swamp fan on the bed and passed smooth out. As luck would have it, mom and dad returned a few hours later and found us all passed out. Jesus, the stuff hit the fan and off we go, me in the rear of the station wagon, bouncing around the back roads of Oklahoma, sticking my head out to rid myself of the contents of my stomach.

I'm not sure mom ever forgave him for that. I still can't believe we survived that and many other episodes. Every visit after that, I noticed that mom would make us go to the little baptist church that was close to granddad's place on Sunday morning, even though we didn't know anyone there. I would listen to the old time preacher screaming about sin, and I would think he had me and grandad pegged. And the best part is that the pulpit had a box in it, like a diorama box, with a three dimensional Jesus in it that would stare holes through me, no matter where I was setting. It was kind of creepy. Did Jesus know about the cigarettes? the beer? the Arkansas soda water? I'm sure he did.

I miss those moments. They come and go in an instant. Those experiences that are "once in a lifetime". Those people who loved you in their own way are also gone. And I miss them deeply. But I have those memories, memories of cigarettes, soda water and Jesus.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

whatever you do for the least of these...

My last post was about going to a "Leadership" retreat for two days and, of course, I was a little apprehensive about it. I'm really not exactly sure why, but there are certain categories of folks I just don't feel comfortable around.

One of those categories is Superficial. I don't really care for superficialness or casual conversation about the weather or politics or designer clothes or cost of gas. I can talk about it with folks, but its boring. Those topics to me are just facts of life that you deal with and not get you down. There are enough worries for the day, so why focus on the trivial.

And I was wondering what God had planned for me on this path, this retreat, this spending exclusive time with what I feared would be superficial. You know, how to be a good leader according to worldly standards, making business contacts, which fork to use, blah blah blah. None of this I care about. So I was wondering what on earth I was doing signing up for this and participating outside of my comfort zone.

God has a sense of humbling someone just at the right time, doesn't he.

It was a reminder to the nonprofitprophet to not prejudge people. It was a reminder that all people, no matter their walk, socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, position, whatever, have their own story. Their own crap they carry with them. Their share of burdens and concerns and life experiences that they bring with them to their daily walks. That no matter what we look like, or the appearance we wish to display to the world, there is an inner person, a soul, that is aching and seeking something larger. God. A community. A fellowship. An understanding. Someone to say, "hey, you are not alone in this mess!".

and I was glad I went. It was similar to my Emmaus Walk experience in a sense. It was an exercise in trust building. This group of 35 folks opened up in ways I never imagined would happen. People with addictions, breast cancer, alcoholic families, homelessness, poverty, welfare moms, race issues, expressing themselves and where they have been and where they are today.

And a common thread emerged throughout the weekend. Its not all about me! I was shocked. Many spoke of when they realized life is not about them. It was like listening to people talk about when they got saved. Some had a date and time moment. Some have a lifelong experience with this. Some stories had the tissues passing around. And we all have a desire to give back to the community, the world, in some fashion. So this experience, program, dare say fellowship, is helping each person explore ways that they can do this.

and I was wrong. Its not superficial. It was real. Very real. And I was glad I was wrong. And I am glad I am a part of this. It is the hands and feet of Jesus at work (okay, there is one Muslim in the group that bunked with me so I guess I need to include God/Allah in there as well) because, despite the perceived differences that I had assumed seperate us, I learned, no, was reminded that there are more things that bring us together. And to know that others have recognized a broken and hurting world gave me hope. And perhaps, a renewed sense of goodness in people.

So I am humbled and reminded by an awesome God that we are all children, stumbling our way through this world. And sometimes, when least expected, one of them well reach down and help you up when you stumble.

Whatever you do for the least of these my brothers, you do it to me. Matthew 25:40

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today I leave for a 2 day retreat. Its not a spiritual retreat. Its a Leadership retreat. In certain cities, large or small, there are organizations which call themselves "Leadership (fill in the blank your city name)", and is affiliated with civic, government, nonprofit, and the business community, to promote leadership and future leaders in the areas listed above. Its about giving back to the community, being a civic leader, and, uh, I imagine networking overall.
And somehow I got accepted. You actually have to fill out a 3 page essay and go before an interview board comprised of former Leadership CITY class members. Each class has its own number, like Leadership CITY Class of 12 or whatever. And their is an alumni association and on and on. Regardless, I passed and was accepted.
and why am I posting this? I'm not sure.
I think its because this is so out of my comfort zone. I don't really know what God is up too with this because its something I would normally make fun of, poke fun at, sort of like I do with Junior League stuff sometimes. Not that they don't do good stuff, its just how they do it I make fun of. But hey, at least they are doing something. So what is God up too? Is this another door I am going through that will lead to something else? Has it got anything to do with me or maybe I'm supposed to affect someone else on their walk. You never know.
So off I go with 34 other people to a ranch where they have hired a chef to cook and we get to work on this and that. Should be interesting - for them or me at least. I can be quite entertaining when I feel like it.
So I shall see you fellow bloggers and readers later.

Friday, September 5, 2008

for those who have ears...

I have always found that bit of scripture a little weird. I know what Jesus was saying, it just sounds weird to me. I get a mental image of someone with and without ears and its just unsettling.

And I wonder, do we actually see or hear what we think we see or hear?

I have read a few blogs today, a few news articles, and listened to a few reports via radio about both conventions. And I wonder, "what were those people listening too" when they talk about what they saw and heard? Because what they saw and heard is different than what I saw and heard. I have friends on both ends of the political spectrum and I can ask them what they thought about X's speech, and they give me two completely different responses. Now I know the speech they heard wasn't altered in any form or fashion - so they both heard the same words and got two totally different things from it.

For the first time in my life, I actually watched both conventions. Not out of nothing else to do, but because I was not thrilled with either party nor their candidates, and I really wanted to hear what they were proposing. The Democrats had control of congress for 40 years and the white house off and on during that time, and did absolutely nothing that they say they want to do now, which begs the question "why didn't you do any of it when you had the chance?". So the Republicans promise that they will change politics as we know it if they can just get control of the white house and congress, and it happened. And then they acted just like the democrats before them. And the American people were once more left out to suffer.

So I am approaching this as a clean slate. They both sucked in the past in their own egotistical, selfish, and power hungry ways. And I heard John McCain say that during his speech. He blamed both parties for their failures. I did not hear that from the other side. I do hear both saying they are the agent of change. Am I seeing and hearing what I think I am?

My theory is people are going to see and hear what they are predisposed to think about one side or the other. So those listening to hear how the democrats/republicans are going to save the world because they are so much better will hear that. Those listening to hear how the democrats/republicans are going to ruin the world will hear that. Because the same words are being heard by different audiences and what each person hears (based upon their own notions of how things should be) is what they believe the other party is saying.

And for the first time in a long time, I think the swing voting, truly independant people will decide this election. Because maybe, just maybe, they are the only ones who can truly listen. For those who have ears...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

so bad we called in the national guard

In my area of this tiny planet a big ol' nasty hurricane named Gustav came blowin' and howlin' up through the gulf of mexico threatening to knock down anything and everything in its path. As a species, we learned a lot from Katrina and Rita and were much better prepared this time. Evacuations were quick and effective, relief areas were set up and transportation was no issue.
and the National Guard were deployed effectively and early.
and they set up shop in my church. Yep.
so i get the call saturday night that we were expecting 80-85 national guardsmen who were setting up opps from my church and were going to be using various rooms to muster in, sleep in and whatever else they do.
So sunday morning they are everywhere. and it was cool watching them give selflishly as their country called on them, even though i knew many of them probably had families of their own to take care of, but were instead protecting and assisting all of our families.
so we made coffee for them and tried best we could to make them as "at home" as possible.
another class had no room so they joined with us, giving a total of 42 folks in our room. it was kind of fun to have that many folks discussing the topic. And I wasn't teaching, which was even better, and the guy who volunteered was shocked when he walked in the room! I told him everyone heard I wasn't teaching so they showed up.
and the senior pastor had his last day before moving on to ruin another church. some of the class folks went to see him off, the others said they went to make sure he left. either way, its all good.
but before he left, he had to send out a bye bye letter. he thanks this person or that person and this group or that group for whatever reason, then he added "and the little groups in the church with axes to grind who find themselves the center of the universe". I got 2 calls that evening from folks laughing and saying "Hey, isn't that you and your little group!". Oh the joy of notariety.
So on his last day, the National Guard is here, my center of the universe class has 42 folks in it, and he is getting sent to the eye of the hurricane area where devastation is expected... Metaphor?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

my thoughts on current politics

I am perplexed.

Donald Miller gave a decent prayer at the DNC. I was suprised by sanctity of life comment given the audience. Admittedly, in political arenas and policy matters, I am conservative. Regarding social issues I am a bit more moderate, to a point.
Oh yeah, and I love "Blue Like Jazz".

First off, I found it odd that there would even be a prayer/benediction that addressed a God, especially a Father God. The ACLU Liberal Wing has found its home in the DNC and are consistently pushing the anti-god agenda in all public arenas, and scream "separation of church and state" out of context to the reality of where that clause is located and its intent.

Then he goes on to invoke poor folks and fatherless children and single moms and corporate greed. Was he pandering? Does he feel this is the only political party that addresses these issues? Would he feel comfortable giving the same prayer at the RNC if asked? Does he really think that any party really cares or is the answer?

Now admittedly, the RNC would probably ask a more evangelical type like billy graham or rick warren in the first place. Cameron Strange is a cool guy and a great editor of Relevant Magazine (of which I read and was an original subscriber) was an odd choice anyway.

I guess i really felt that maybe this new emerging church movement would not be taking political sides and would, instead, be focusing on solutions and holding both parties accountable. Because neither one has delivered on their promises and people are still hurting while the bureaucracy moves right along.

If, somehow, this is going to turn out to be the other end of the spectrum, you know opposite of the religous right, i.e., the religious left, its not going to be helpful.

It is difficult for me to digest that anyone proclaiming the good news of the gospel would put their faith in a political party as some sort of solution. The religious right did it with the Republican Party and it got christianity nowhere really.

Can we quit throwing the stones? I am hoping we are bigger than that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Shack by William P Young

I have just finished the book titled "The Shack" by William P Young.(
Now I can't tell you much about the author. He was unknown to me before reading this book, but apparently was not unknown to God as it is evident that some message is being spoken here, through this fiction, that isn't fiction. I won't tell you about the books content because that will ruin it for you. I can tell you its worth hours of your time.

Originally my best friend Ricky D called me and said "you have got to read this book" and delved off into its content and coolness and read me an excerpt over the phone. Now Ricky D is one of the most interesting thinkers of modern jesus stuff I know, and is always reading this or that and getting entangled in something or the other. I, however, can't keep up with him for the most part and have to selectively figure out which book to read or movie to watch. But in less than a week, our associate pastor came up to me and asked, "Hey, have you read The Shack?"...

so okay, I get the message. No, not The Message bible, the message from the Holy Spirit or God or whatever it is that reinforces that you should do something. So I buy it. First my spouse gets it and is completely enthralled in the content. This is fascinating because she typically doesn't read much and especially theological/spiritual/christian dominated stuff. But she read it all quickly and liked it.

Back to my opening paragraph. I just got through with it. And though it wasn't a total eye-opener in my terms of how and what I see Christianity as being, it was presented in a way that evoked emotional responses from me. This guy Young has some really good insights on the nature and interactions of man and god. Parts of the story forced me to deal with some of my own stuff, reminded me of segments of my own spiritual journey dealing with tragedy and understanding and anger at God and questioning... and the list goes on.

So, if you have the time, I would recommend "The Shack". Go to WalMart or Sams or wherever and get a copy. Its under $10 bucks. Do it today after work. Go soak in a hot bath and start reading. The first part is hard to get through - but totally worth it. Kind of like life. ~npp

Monday, August 18, 2008

clean or used

I used to sell books on ebay. I had a ton of them. Everything from college books left over to novels to non-fiction to whatever... I had too much. So a friend told me about, part of ebay, and I would list the books there and sell them around the country, and pocket a little money.
This book selling thing had guidelines on how to judge the condition of the book. A "like new" copy would have no writings, cover in great shape and show no wear/ useage. It would be, for all appearances, new, hence, desireable and bring more money. Then the categories and values decreased from there. This many writings in it or highlights or notes or worn cover or messed up binder or whatever. The more visible usage, the less value it commanded. So for a long time, I would read a book, being careful not to hurt the dustcover or bend the binder and never, ever write in it. It would look as good as new when I was finished with it, and I could get a good amount of money for it.
But as time has passed, I no longer find value in "like new" condition. I like to see a book thats been appreciated, read, writings in it. Some highlights for emphasis. I will now underline those points I find interesting in my books... will make little notes to the side of what my response to a certain statement was. And I keep those books. Years later to pick them up, reread, and enjoy my thoughts for the moment.
And sometimes, I see people like this. I think I used to judge people like I did a book. If they looked clean, had no visible wear and tear, no rough edges, no "highlights"!, then they must be "like new". Valuable. Desireable. You know, clean cut, nice suit, polished appearance.... kind of like a pharmaceutical sales rep or executive of some sort. My hometown banker always looked like that. But over time, I have developed a fondness for the used books. I like the way they feel, their binders giving just a bit to the pressure I put on it. Maybe a few wrinkled pages from some earmarking, noting something interesting has happened here. They take on a character all their own and seem to gain in a value something can only receive from being used.
and I wonder.
I wonder if that's how God sees us. Does he see us as valuable if we are neat and presentable and have that "like new" appearance? Many I see dressed up in their "Sunday Best" give me this impression. Its like showing off for God. Maybe he'll thing more of us if we look presentable! But I really don't think so. I think that God sees us more like a used book. Something that has been handled, a little rough around the edge, maybe an earmark here or there or some lines have been drawn under the words for emphasis. Maybe he sees our worn cover and bent binder and understands that we have been bent this way or maybe not handled with care sometimes. And all this God sees, and God enjoys, because we, like a good used book, have gained in value to Him, because we have allowed ourselves to be used.
I hope someone picks me up one day, thumbs through my worn and written in pages, and finds some comfort, and value, there.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Is Church It?

Saying Goodbye to Guilt Ridden Christianity
was the topic sunday morning. If you go to the link and read it, it pretty much boils down to the motivation of why you are doing what you do.

Are you motivated by a passion for Jesus Christ? God? Your own ego? Are you motivated by guilt? Guilty that you should attend weekly services or guilty that you should either tithe or tithe more? Guilty that you are asked to be on a committee or other such venue and you really don't want to and you say "yes" anyway because you feel bad telling people, especially church people, no?

So this was the topic and it was a good discussion. From the discussion came the following. There are two stages we christians/church goers experience:
1. Churchyness - Encompassing doing all the stuff that falls within expected social norms: attendance, tithing, serving, whatever. Stuff that has to be done for the organization to accomplish its goals/mission. I fondly dubbed it "trying to DO IT right!". Meaning, doing church right.
2. Spiritualness - This I dubbed "trying to GET IT right!" meaning that at some point your motivation changes. Your awareness changes. The process of church may not do it for you anymore. You are aware that, as the old saying goes, "going to church makes you no more a christian than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger". You actually have to live the christian faith, not just take part in its process. Get your spritual side in shape!

I also think many people are stuck in #1, either blissfully or just unaware that there is more. Not everyone mind you, but more than one thinks. So my thought is - is church attendance more important than feeding the poor? obviously not. But do we feel personally guilty for not going out to feed the poor? Many do not. Because we are part of a larger organization that we give money too and "they" (whoever they are) go out and do that stuff. We donate fans in the summer, blankets in the winter, food all year long, and someone else distributes those needed items. Its christianity from a safe distance.

But many think of christianity and church attendance/service as synonomous. And it is not. You are a good christian because..... "He is always in church". "She is always serving on committees". "He teaches sunday school". "She is always dressed nice and so are her children". But why?

If your answer is "because I have a passion for people and God has called me too serve in this capacity" then you are coming from a place of positive motivation. If your answer is "because I feel like I have to" or "I just couldn't say no" then that is not a healty place of motivation.

Even worse, however, would be this answer. "I do not know, I guess its just expected" or "because I was brought up that way and I am bringing up my kids that way". If church has become a social norm for you then please, reconsider what you are doing and why you are doing it. In the new testament, Jesus wasn't really all that concerned overall with the processes or then social norms of the day. He knew them.. as a boy he participated in them... but he always challenged them. He always put them in the proper place, which was beneath the needs of the people. People always had more value than rules and processes to Jesus. Still do.

So, say Goodbye to Guilt Ridden Christianity. Say Hello to passionate service. Oh yeah, and how do I come to these conclusions? I was in stage one for oh, so long.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

my years of wandering in the desert are over

Five years ago the United Methodist Church felt it necessary to send a narcissistic, passive/aggressive manipulative control freak to my church as senior pastor. Now I am not one of those folks that can't get along with clergy. Good lord. I have known pastors for 40 years in the UMC and other places, and have gotten along, dare say are friends of most of them. But this guy, hmmmmm...
Shortly after arriving, this PhD. Titled Senior Pastor began alienating everyone around him in his quest to "straighten this church out" and membership and activity plummeted.
Now, as you can surmise either from earlier writings or just if you know me, I could not set by quietly as this guy ran everyone off and ruined what spiritualness was there. Now to be fair, he didn't run "everyone" off. About five people rallied around him and his authoritarian management style and took over the church, in a manner of speaking. Of course, I noticed that they tended to possess the same character qualities. Many others simply refused to fight, preferring "nicety and civility" and stood idly by as it became a mere ember of its former flame. This made me even angrier. I recall Revelations, "I would rather you run hot or run cold. But this lukewarm is going to cause me to spew (read vomit) you from my mouth".
Now, if a church is on the wrong track and a pastor has been tasked by God to make it shake up and ship out and get too moving, then that's OKAY with ME!!! Who am I to argue with God? But let me assure you, this was not the case.
So each year in May I have prayed that he would get reappointed by the Annual Conference, and each year nothing. So this past May came and went and I resigned myself that the UMC is actually trying to commit a form of membership suicide if this was the best they could do.
So today, I go to teach my little group and first thing I hear is that "the Senior pastor is being moved to...". My heart skipped a beat. I felt like Moses looking at the promised land. My wandering in the desert has come to an end.
Then I thought about it. This guy just lost his father this week in hospice. His daughter has registered for college here. His son is due to start his sophomore year in three weeks, and now the official UMC has decided to move him. And I don't really think its fair to his family.
of course, my grandfather always told me "never look a gift horse in the mouth".


we donated $75 to help in the moving expenses.

blessed be the name of the lord!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I sometimes miss childhood

If you are like me, you now have a greater appreciation for what your parents pulled off in raising you. I never knew there was x amount of money or bill deadlines or adult crap that stresses you out when I was a kid. I was fortunate. I was allowed to be a kid. I grew up in little town texas, with lightening bugs at night and playing tag in the yard. Hours on end hanging out with my friends just playing.
Playing. That seems to be a concept that is lost to us adults. I would ride my bicycle forhours all over the place, march through fields and forests with my bb gun, or go riding dirt bikes down trails. And I mean all day long. Not 30 minutes here or there. All day! My mom would have to yell for us to come in the house in the evening.
Times they are a changing. I long for those days when these big decisions were someone elses and all I was responsible for was playing. But alas, I have arrived at the world of adults. Where following rules and deadlines and profits and power plays are the rule of the day.
one of my favorite quotes is from the movie Luther.
"When I was a child,
I thought like a child, I was a child,
I played like a child.
And now, thanks to the adults,
I've had to join
the world of adults.
And I am appalled..."
It seems we could do better as adults at being more childlike. Whats the busyness all about anyway? making another dollar? getting the latest pair of jeans? trying to raise our kids perfectly and smothering them to death? not letting them be kids?
buying them everything the world says they need? I am amazed at how many 10 year olds have cell phones and text messaging and video games and dance classes and ... the list is exhaustive.
And as a kid, my relationship with God was simpler. A child like faith is spoken of in scripture. I think Jesus likes us coming to him in a childlike manner. Eyes wide open and trusting. That seems like an impossibility in the adult world with its own set of rules and demands.
I sometimes miss childhood.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

the lesson today is...

I am discussing today with my little fellowship group an interview with Eugene Peterson, the author of "The Message" bible. In the interview, he is discussing what prayer is and our idea of how to pray correctly, and why this culture is so "enamored with knowledge" and is afraid of mystery.
The short version?: prayer isn't something you do, it is continual relationship with God. He recalls as a kid asking a missionary "how do you pray" and the missionary responded, "I haven't prayed in 40 years". This really impacted him years later, when he realized that the missionary was living a kind of spiritualness that kept him in continual relationship with God. A "pray without ceasing" concept like Paul talks about.
Peterson also contends that this current culture resists the mystery of it all, because it is much harder to live a spiritual life than not. Not really a discipline of sorts (though if a discipline helps you on your daily spiritual walk then that is good), but a continual relationship with God and the mystery of life that surrounds us every day.
And I was thinking about this and have come to some conclusions:
1. I have difficulty living the secular life.
2. I think others do as well.
3. Its not because we are any better than others, but there is something that will not allow us to be comfortable with what the world has to offer, what it is selling. That makes us restless.
Now, for those who are not this way, I would think life is easier. Less complicated. I would not say Life is Better for them, just cleaner. No messy spiritual stuff to clutter up a cookie cutter existence. Makes getting up and consuming whatever the world has set before you easier. Whether it is money or hobbies or vices or whatever your distraction of choice may be. Your distraction may even be the church.
So go ahead. The devil is counting on it. Tune in to the noise of the world. Get enveloped in its business. You will not have time for God.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

whats with this hatred of Christians?

Today I've been working and goofing off a bit as well. Somehow I got off on a yahoo chatroom about religion (yeah, go figure) and I never really get on those forums. But some reason it caught my eye so I said what the hell (not literally), I'll give it a whirl.
It was amazing too me how many people do not like christianity on these things. They literally go to name calling and labeling and foulness. There were a few on there that would discuss in a normal discourse the topic, and they were kind of fun. But overall, there is a hatred of christians and a dissing of God. Of course for the most part they were picking out wierd stuff from the Old Testament (I don't think any of them actually quoted anything about Jesus from the New Testament) and how God was this or that and people who believed the bible were that and this. Basically saying its all a bunch of crap and people who believe it are stupid.
I saw the same type of stuff yesterday about Intelligent Design after the Governor in Louisiana mentioned it on some show. Good for him. The blog-o-sphere went crazy over that, calling ID unscientific and there position (big bang) plausible and using all sorts of cras labels and language to describe the governor. Of course, they loose me there because it is much easier to believe in ID than "oops just happened" but whatever.
Now my question is this: If they believe that God doesn't exist, uh, why do they spend so much time denouncing it and trying to prove that it doesn't? I mean really, I don't believe in the Easter Bunny but I don't go around bashing those who do or making fun of his ears. So why the hatred? Why do you hate something so much that you don't even believe in to start with?
If there is no God - then what do you care what others think? Does the message of Jesus upset you so that you want to throw fits and insults? Yeah, I can see that. Love one another. Love thy enemy. Blessed are the peacemakers. Big Time Threatening stuff. Has spawned much misery, with all the relief aid being sent to disaster areas, red cross, salvation army, food pantries, missions... i could go on and on with the stuff christians are doing in the name of Jesus.
I know! Why don't we form an organization so we can put a stop to all of this nonsense. Teaching kids right from wrong and 10 little basic rules like not killing each other, not to steal from each other and respecting their parents, just where do we get off doing this? This has to end....
huh? whats that? oh sorry, just informed there already is some organization doing that. ACLU.
Well good for them. We need to end this practice of teaching good stuff and making the world a better place. Cause heck, if its good enough for the easter bunny, its good enough for me!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Do you ever feel disconnected? I am feeling that way today. Well, I'm expressing it today, but I feel like that alot.

I feel disconnected from God, my spouse, occupation... just life in particular. Okay, I'm not usually so much drama. I am usually on target and tuned in and on step and whatever term describes on my game. I think this is why I recognize that I'm off somehow. I am not doing my devotionals. I haven't made time for God. I have spent a lot, and I mean A LOT of time with my family lately and that hasn't helped bring down this wall that has gotten between us. I have been traveling and going and doing and ... I just got exhausted.

I haven't spent my energies on getting myself healthy. Been doing too much for the sake of whatever. Relationships, entertainment, my own ego, you fill in the gap.
Pink Floyd (the music group) has a song "comfortably numb" that resonates with me alot. sometimes i get "comfortably numb" to life. Ironic thing is that its not "comfortable" to me. I don't like numb. I like life. I like living on the edge. I like chances. I like spark. I get restless.

I emailed Endlessly Restless at his blogspot about a quote I read in Christianity Today magazine over the weekend. It spoke of being restless, and I am.
I want that "walk to emmaus" experience again or that annual church camp experience of my youth back. I need some authenticity in my christian relationship. Oh hell, lets just put it out there - I need authenticity in my marital relationship as well.
I need to connect. I need it on more than a superficial level. I need to connect to my world like a comfortable t-shirt that has been worn over the years, with enough stains and paint on it to make it unique. Mine. No one elses.
I need to do this. I am not quite sure how to approach it.

maybe this post is like the AA thing. The first step is acknowledgeing I have this problem. I just need to take step two. maybe i should re-read Brother Lawrence's "practicing the presence of God" and see if that inspires.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My daughters Birthday is today

I just read two blogger friends of mine. and and interestingly enough they both hit on memories of the past. With today being my youngest daughters 6th Birthday and the preparations we are making for that, I wonder what memories she will have of this event? Other than pictures, what will rekindle thoughts of growing up in her later years?

We allow our kids to pick where they want to go eat on their birthdays. Well, today my 6 year old decided to dine at the culinary and cultural delight known as Chuck E. Cheese. Yes, a pizza place that features a huge rat as its mascot. I have no idea whats behind that marketing strategy, but it seems to work. So that is what we shall do. Go eat so-so pizza and they play games with tokens.

I do not recall my 6th birthday. I do know that it wasn't at a restaurant. It was at home, like all of my birthdays. My mom would bake a sheath cake (usually strawberry with strawberry icing, all homemade of course) and put those hard sugar decorations on it with corresponding number of candles. I would get to invite the 4 or 5 kids in the neighborhood (one whom happened to be an older girl who I had a crush on and she became a cheer leader and later got married before I could wow her with my charms) and we would eat cake, ice cream, and open whatever presents I got. Then we played in the backyard most likely.

Now we take kids to indoor play places, nice restaurants, trips, whatever, and spend hundreds of dollars on the event not counting the gifts. And I wonder, what memories will they have of this?

Mine are fond. I know my mom took time to make that cake. My favorite cake! To put just the right amount of icing on the top. To put the candles on it, light them, and have my dorky friends (except for the girl) sing Happy Birthday to me while I blew them out while making my wish.... (okay, yes the wish was about the girl).

It took time and effort.

Taking my kid to Chuck E. Cheese does not. But I wonder, will it have the same affect on her as mine did? I think probably so. Of course, we have ten thousand cameras at these events now, with video and still cameras, so it will all be recorded somewhere.

Thats one thing I do not have much of. Pictures of us kids, my sisters and I, growing up. No videos that I'm aware of. So the absence of those resources make my memories even that much more important to me, as they grow cloudier and dimmer by the year. Even so, they were good memories that I'm sure some kids did not have. I took them for granted, as I am sure my kids do presently. But hopefully, sometimes when a familiar smell or sight or sound or even someone else's blog, triggers these memories, after I am long gone, they will look back on these days with fondness... and say mom and dad did okay. ~npp

Friday, June 20, 2008

in a wierd place

I am in a wierd place right now. Lets just say it has been a stressful several days for many reasons that I can't really put my finger on totally. I work for a passive/aggressive person, who for the most part is okay and we get along, but there are times when his behavior is, well, assholeish. Excelling at making molehills into mountains and being the paragon of all wisdom, he drives me insane at times. More than that, he likes doing it. Its some sadistic pleasure I cannot understand. When I say Teamwork, I mean that I benefit by helping each member of my team. When he says Teamwork, its "the Team Works for me". Huge religious hypocrite as well. Doesn't walk his talk. Funny, we eat lunch at the office almost daily for the most part and we don't pray before eating. We go out to a restaurant and he feels like we have to pray before eating. Show.

So all the above and the inherent stresses of the job have me on edge a bit.
Then my spouse picked some movies to watch. Thats cool. The Bucket List one night where the guys are dying of terminal diseases, then P.S. I Love You where the guy dies young as well. Uplifting. Then I talk with some friends and this person is dying of a brain tumor. A 38 year old mother suddenly died of blood clot. A single mom of three has leukemia. It goes on and on. On top of all this, I work with troubled youth. One we have been working with for about 3 years took his own life this week. 15 years old. And I get home tonight to find out some friends of ours are getting a divorce, or at least splitting up because he is unfaithful and she is an alcoholic and their 10 year old daughter is here when I get home.

It seems there is dysfunction all around me and I can't get a break from it. My perspective on life is intense, and this stuff really bothers me. The crap that happens and the high priority people put on the B.S. we have created makes me want to scream "DON'T YOU PEOPLE KNOW WHAT REALLY MATTERS!!!". It echoes in hollow chambers.

It is begining to weigh on me. I can feel it in my shoulder muscles and in the muscles around my eyes. My sleep patterns have off once again. Stress and depression seem to raising their ugly heads once more.

and my damn motorcycle is in the shop so I can't ride off into the sunset.

and I'm trying to find something to say for Sunday. To teach about. And its just not coming to me. I wanted to utilize the scene from The Bucket List where they are on the plane talking about God and Faith. Yeah, Faith is what I want to talk about. The Faith that things will get better. Personal life, occupational life, relationship wise, health, ...that things will turn out okay. But I lack Hope. So this is difficult for me right now. Faith, Hope and Love. The greatest being...Love. If only.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where Stupid Collides

I was with my wed morning group today and we were cutting up as usual. One is relaying the story of going to a local fast food joint to pick up some lunch. He is second in line behind a lady who is ordering for three separate "to go" orders. The girl behind the counter gets one of the orders wrong (murphys law) and has to get a manager and all that jazz.
now, more than likely you have been in this situation somewhere. Mine usually occurs at Wal-Mart. I'll scan quickly for the shortest line and get myself in it. Unfortunately, the reason the line was short is because other exasperated customers have decided to find another due to the incompetency of the cashier and/or the customer in line. I'll look up and the little "i need assistance please" light is flashing. Now this only occurs in direct correlation to the amount of time I have remaining prior to another obligation. The less time the more frequent the occurence.
Which leaves me with this: If you put two certain variables together, the outcome will not be desirable. Hence, Stupid people should not work where stupid people order. Its a recipe for disaster I'm telling you. I'm not sure their shouldn't be IQ meters at least on one end of the deal. Either the worker or the shopper. Would make things go a lot smoother.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

just so you can na-na-na-na-na-na!

This website allows you to leave messages for those who get "left behind" after the rapture. Assuming you are going and they are not (seems a bit judgemental too me, but hey, evangelicals are really good on this soooo....)'

would be cool too leave those folks some "na-na-na-na-na-na's". That'll freak 'em out when your gone and their still here looking down on, well, whoever the hell is left. (no pun intended)

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Okay. Off and on the Prophet has Word that should be heeded. It is often emphasized at the end of a post by the singular line "Word". So here's one.
I took my lubberly little family to Sea World San Antonio this past week. They love it with all the cute little animals and sea life and rides. They also love the water park as well with its wave pool and lazy river.
There are, however, a few "attractions" we could have done without.
Ladies (and gentlemen if you find yourself being described here thought I'm not sure how), would you please pass this on to any of your male friends if you find them, ummm, tempted or currently doing this: Men wearing banana hammocks/speedos is not attractive. Guys, let me put this another way: Its Gross. NO one, Absolutely NO ONE cares to see your package. No matter how proud you may be of your little friend, I can certainly affirm that others do not share in your enthusiasm. There are times when discretion is the better part of valor, and dude, some discretion would have been great!
Okay ladies, when I say this please nod your head in the affirmative. Unless you look like Fabio, there's some stuff us guys just should not do. If your torso looks like one of those Budweiser Kegs we used to abuse in college, please refrain from walking around the neighborhood without your shirt on. Yes, really.
Windshorts. They are not for guys. Please refrain from jogging in them. Especially if they have words printed on the back.
Bald is beautiful. If you are experiencing hair loss in an unappealing manner, shave it off. Dude, grow a goatee and shave your head and get a tattoo and a Harley and your wife will thank you while flushing the toupee'.
and just too be fair - ladies, while you are beautiful in your own ways, sometimes I like to leave just a bit to my imagination, which can be to your advantage. Okay, if you are Angelina Jolie then go ahead and flaunt. But if your butt checks are hitting the back of your knees - PLEASE NO THONG (yes, I actually saw this).
and yes, that hummingbird on your left breast is cool for now, but in about 40 years it will be an Ostrich. Think it over.
If you are in the above categories and are totally comfortable with it, I implore you too consider others and how this may affect their mental capacities. When I recall these images in my head, I close my eyes really tight and shake my head violently. Its called "mental etch-a-sketch" and sometimes I can erase the image. Sometimes not.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

a one, a two, a many licks will it take?

If you know what the subject line above is in reference to, then you are probably around my age. "A one, a two, a many licks will it take" referred to a tootsie-roll lollipop and the commercial featured a kid who sought out a wise owl and asked how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll lollipop. The wise owl takes the lollipop and licks 3 times and then just bites into it.
Enter politics.
I was watching both McCain's and Obama's "speeches" the night Obama clinched the Democratic nomination by delegate count. McCain said this and that and Obama said that and this. I will concede that Obama is a much more inspiring orator than McCain. And I'm listening to what each is promising to do if elected President of Our United States of America.
I, my friends, am a left over Reagan Republican. I listened over my young adult life to the promises, the hope, the inspiring message that I got from him in my impressionable days and loved it. I waited for the days that the Repubicans (i.e., the conservatives) would finally straighten out our screwed up world and put things "right" (pun intended). Well, it finally happened and the Republicans took control of the White House and Congress and great things were going to happen. Lower taxes. No more pork barrel spending. No more interpretive judges on the federal judiciary.
They didn't.
The Republican's took office and for the most part - acted just like the democrats, just a different label. Nothing got solved for the most part. I felt let down. Still do.
Now in fairness (or for disclosure purposes for my liberal leaning friends, of which I have many) I am not a Republican. I would claim to be an Independant but I see so many people from both sides of the isle claiming that position that I hesitate to do so, and I can't say that I have actually voted independently in the past. Moderate carries such a bad label now I hate to use that either, and I'm not very moderate really. I am passionate about what I believe. I believe anyone who is passionate about their belief systems should vote and act accordingly. I have no problem with conservatives or liberals as long as they actually believe their own rhetoric and act on it and back it up with intelligent thought.
Which brings me back to my subject. I don't know that I believe the rhetoric of either Obama or McCain. Obama with his "I don't know my friends very well obviously" stance on all of his drama and his hope-inspiring messages (Which I like the sound of but wonder how in the hell he plans on carrying all of this out since he hasn't given any plans on how he would do this, but he sounds good) and McCain with his "I can be a conservative or a moderate when it suites me" and past performances where its hard to figure out what he might do.
So my question is: How many licks will it take to get to the center of these two. One, Two, Three? Like the lollipop, they are in the selling political season and have been polished and wrapped in a way that they hope will appeal to consumers to purchase them.
I just wonder what the actual product will be once I bring it home.
A one, a two, a three... the world may never know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Somewhere in Time

There is a great movie titled "Somewhere in Time", starring the ever beautiful Jane Seymour and the late Christopher Reeves. Rent it sometime and watch it with your spouse. However, this post isn't about that movie.

This weekend I went back to where I was born, raised, and raised hell. It was Memorial Day weekend, and like most American families, we had our big cookout saturday at the home of my sister. I am so proud of my sister. She made a lot of mistakes growing up (choices of boyfriends, husbands, careers, teen pregancy, financial struggles, poor self image) but has really turned her life around in the last decade. Has two great daughters and her husband is a good guy. They just built a nice pool and are doing well economically, so she had the whole family come over and enjoy the day.

Her daughters are in college and all their friends came as well. It was quite humorous when they started drinking lite beer (yuck) and I pulled out my Shiner Bock. They didn't even know what kind of beer it was. They were smoking cigarettes or swisher's, and I pulled out my Punch Primo cigar, lit it up and kicked back like the wise dude I am. When querried about my brand of beer and smoke, I told 'em I'm getting to the age where I don't know if I got minutes or years left, and by god I aint' gonna be caught dead with cheap beer or cigars. They just laughed. And kept laughing even after I drank 'em under the table with Padron Agave Tequila shots. I told 'em I have had more practice so it was kind of unfair.

Anyway, before all of this, I awoke at 6:15 a.m. My great aunt was celebrating her 95th birthday at her church some 20 miles away from where I was staying, at 8:30a.m. with a breakfast (I guess as this age they didn't want to chance doing it at lunch time in case she didn't make it those next few hours of the day). So I got up and left everyone sleeping at the house and took off.

This is where I grew up. My hometown area. Lots of memories. The quietness of the countryside and little east texas towns was striking. Locals cautiously watched me pass with a kind of who-is-that-look and a glancing wave. I was driving a "fur-uhn car" as they call it in their East Texas venacular. Its a Toyota Camry. You don't see much of those around that part of the country. Fords, Chevys and Dodges dot the landscape. Trucks mostly. Old Union yellow dawg democrats still control the mind set of this area, and the lack of ecomonic development and the dying steel mill does much to reinforce this. The slogan "Buy American" carries a whole different meaning here. I don't have the heart to tell them their Fords have over 20% of parts made in Mexico.

I stopped by the graves of my great grandparents, my great uncle, and others. I drove to my grandparents old place just outside of town. They have passed on now, but it is still amazing to me how these sights and sounds and smells can trigger long forgotten memories. I looked over the house and the pasture (which had grown up, as young folks don't tend to keep them up like the older generations did) and then drove backroads I haven't been on in almost 20 years. I had the window down and my left arm hanging out while just driving slowly, taking it all in. The old houses I had forgotten about. Some new ones that were placed here or there over the years. The smell of cows and cut grass met my nose in a familiar, comfortable way. I turned a corner to find four or five horses walking down the road toward me. It was an instant game of chicken. They weren't budging. They just looked at me like "dude, your on our road". They finally stepped aside and let me pass. I stopped by my mom's gravesite. It is always sobering for me. I had no words.

I make it to my aunt's breakfast at 8:15 a.m. and am greeted by people I haven't seen in decades and they still remember my name. Amazing. I know I'm supposed to know them, but time and distance has darkened my memory some. They were here when I grew up. They are still here. They are the earth of this place. They came from it, toiled it, live on it and someday will return to it. I feel like an outsider, mainly due to my own self consciousness. But there is some comfort in the familiar, and it is hard to shake. I felt relaxed. Safe.

I visited, shook some hands, hugged some others, told 'em what a big success I have become away from them and they seem so proud that someone actually moved away and is fairly successful. For them, time is standing still. They do not get out much, being content with what the lord and the land has provided them. The times are tough there, but so are the people.

You can still see the past in the present. It is haunting to me. And my memories linger....somewhere in time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I have absolutely no idea why this thought came to me while watching American Idol. Some lyrics from the song George Michael sang triggered the thought.
Church is a Noun. Christianity is a Verb.

From what I recall of grammer, a Noun is a person, place or thing. It really doesn't do anything. It just is. A Church is a Noun. It a place. Its a group of people if you like the sunday school song version. Its a thing where organized religion keeps itself together. It in and of itself really doesn't do anything.

Christianity, on the other hand, is a verb. A Verb is an Action word. A Verb, according to my dictionary, "expresses an act, occurence or mode of being, that in various languages is inflected for agreement with the subject, for tense, for voice, for mood..." A Verb does something.

And for some reason this struck me: I am a member of a Noun. Not a Verb. If we define ourselves as Christian simply as a result of the fact that we attend or belong/support a Church, then our self definition is incorrect. We are a church member. A church is a noun. It doesn't do anything. It is simply practicing Churchianity.

If I were a member of a verb (that being the hands and feet of Jesus), then I would rightly define myself as a Christian (one who follows Christ) only if I "express an act or mode of being that is inflected for agreement with the subject", the subject being Christ's teachings to love one another, feed my sheep, and whatever you do for the least of these you do unto me.

And I openly admit I fall way short on this. For am I more of a Christian if (1) I am working at the food bank once a week or (2) setting in a pew once a week? Is it motivation for one or the other that separates the issue and defines it more clearly? I suppose an atheist could work at the food bank and not claim to be a christian - BUT - that person would still be doing the work Jesus called us to do. Could I conversly claim to be a Christian and attend church, but never take time to help those less fortunate?

I think at times we (the church) schedule the once-a-year Habitat House or take the youth to the Food Bank just to make ourselves feel good. Yes, it is helping, but there is not intentional consistency. We are intentional about Church attendance, but I can't find that in the teachings of Jesus. We are to be about being intentional toward loving one another,
Yes, Church is a Noun. Christianity is a Verb.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I had to enable moderator mode

Sorry guys and gals, but I had to enable the moderator thingy on this blog due to some idiot who decided to post a comment about making money to get you to click on his site ...
It sucks there are idiots out there like this but then again, its not a perfect world.
So, please continue to comment as before because I will approve all posts - just have to screen out the idiots. ~npp

Monday, May 19, 2008

well sunday didn't go as planned

if you read my really cool and inspiring post from sunday morning, you knew what i was going to talk about. of course, not all things work out. I got to church and had forgotten that there was a guest speaker from the local college talking about college ministry and that it was a sunday school wide thingy... Of course, everyone else in my group knew it, because only 7 people from our group showed up. Anyone think there's a message there somewhere?
So, I didn't want to waste such a brilliant lesson on just 7 folks, so we listened to the boring presentation. I will wait for a larger audience to dazzle with my brilliant intellect and spiritual insights.
however, the day wasn't totally a waste. I went and saw IRON MAN. Took the whole family and it was a pretty good movie. some IRONY however, as Tony Stark upon returning from being held captive says, "I want a cheeseburger. An American Cheeseburger!". Next scence shows someone handing him a Burger King paper bag from which he produces a cheeseburger and commences eating. Irony being that Burger King is a United Kingdom owned company... so he still didn't get an American Cheeseburger. Oh well, I imagine Burger King paid enough $$$ to get that little spot in the movie, they'll call it whatever they need to call it. The IRON MAN CHEESEBURGER complete with action figure. Hey, that sounds pretty good.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This mornings time with God

I awoke at at 7:30 this morning to sunshine and 64 degrees. As is my custom, I get up, throw some shorts and a t shirt on, grind some Eight O'Clock coffee beans and brew a pot of java. I get my materials together that I am teaching over and either set at the dining room table or go outside to the patio table.
This morning was a patio table morning.
I am going to talk about what "authentic" worship is as opposed to what we have made it. I am using an article from "Relevant" magazine for info, and also Isaiah where he talks about people "professing with their lips while denying with their lifestyle" and Jesus' reference to this in Matthew.
So I'm reading the bio of Isaiah, about how the prophets (so you see why this interests me) are placed by God but no one listens (sound familiar?). Isaiah, turns out, didn't seek to be a prophet either, but hey, God doesn't always seem to care what one wants to do. So off goes Isaiah, propheting away and no one listening. But generations later, lots of folks are listening. I guess its like an artist whose work isn't appreciated while they are alive and penniless, but sells for millions years after their death. Go figure.
So I am setting there, in my shorts and t shirt, drinking coffee and reading about Isaiha, when a gentle breeze envelopes me, surrounds and comforts me and causes me to feel the presence of God. It was a sustained breeze that searched me out, covered my ever contour and brought me into communion. I closed my eyes and took it all in, thanking God for the moment.
The breeze stopped as it had started. Slowly and completely. I had my time with God, now I'm going to go share it with others. Like Isaiah,they may not listen, but I'm going to speak it anyway. ~npp

Friday, May 16, 2008

What if...

I was thinking, what if God operated like the government? I know it seems silly, but just what if? I have come up with a few things I think it would be like, and if you'd like to add yours, please join in the fun! (Just keep it light and no political party commentaries please.)

1. God would have sent a committee instead of Jesus.
2. You could not longer send in 10%, but instead would need to fill out complicated forms, although you would receive a tithing credit (not a full refund mind you) if you did improvements to your soul for better insulating against heat.
3. Instead of just 10 commandments that we can't seem to follow anyway, he would create a regulatory agency to oversee christianity and make sure we were in compliance. (or maybe Man already did this in the form of church)
4. Sampson would not be able to kick some major ass with the jaw of an ass as military regulations require a "high and tight" haircut.
5. Jesus would be required to secure a liquor license prior to making and serving alcoholic beverages at any party.
6. Armageddon or The Second Coming would be seen as dangerous to the environment, and a "environmental impact study" would have to be conducted prior to the event.
7. God could no longer feed 5000 people with a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread without first securing the proper permits for food handling and prep.
8. Jesus would have set on death row for 10 to 20 years, thereby delaying salvation for countless thousands.
............ ~npp

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Love me like a river does...

If there is a basic underlying theme or pulse to humanity, it would be love, or the lack thereof depending. Nothing inspires humanity more than this. From poetry to literature to film to music to intimacy to passion to compassion, nothing grasps hold of the human heart, soul and mind more than love. It ignites and stirs feelings that words are not adequate to describe, and causes us to respond to its calling in ways we never would otherwise. To reach beyond our mortal selves and touch the soul of another, a lasting legacy of who we are and who we strive to be. Love carries risks. No, love makes it possible for us to take risks.

Love can be awesome and devastating at the same time. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so with this also comes the negatives of rejections, loss, frustration, guilt, anger, resentment, which plays out through the same venues listed above. But at its core, it is Love that defines us. Love of others, ourselves, our neighbors. The absence of this love can also define us.

Thanks to endlessly restless at for introducing Melody Gardot, a beautiful young lady who has a very sultry voice which stirred me when I watched the video link. It is very passionate. My favorite video with her singing "Love me Like a River Does" is Very stirring. Very beautiful. Very passionate. So pull up a chair, have a glass of merlot and enjoy!

I think I could actually live a major part of my life off of the philsophy of the words of this song and the words of the video.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

I'm Back Ya'll

I didn't hear "ya'll" much in Boston. Of course you knew that already. Just got back and am relaxing. Ate breakfast in Boston MA this morning, lunch in Atlanta GA., now dinner in Dallas TX.
I really liked Boston. It was my first trip to the east coast and I was a bit apprehensive. But it was all good. The people watching was the best. Little Italian folks buying their produce and fish in the street markets, twalkeeng like dis' here ya know... "when's its gonna be summuah..." and the like.
I did the tourist thing of course, cause why else would you go to Boston anyway? I highly recommend the Freedom Trail which consisted of such historic places like Paul Revere's home, Fuenial Hall and the Union Oyster house where the sparks of independance got started. The Old North Church where the two lanters were hung to warn the red coats were a comin', the USS Constitution tour was awesome ...
my absolute favorite tour was (drum roll please) ... SAMUEL ADAMS BREWERY! yes sir ladies and gents - it was a great tour and lots of free beer. It was an excellent research project if I say so myself. The hops. The barley. The wheat. The explosion of fantastic proportions of beer tantalized my taste buds and quenched a longing for something that would connect me with my country.... Samuel Adams. It was very patriotic! ;)
The Boston Red Sox were playing at Fenway Park but we didn't have a chance to go. Okay, we had a chance but it was in the 30s and we whimped out. It was also raining off and on. Beautiful Bwastun weaduhr. We took a day and drove up to Maine through New Hampshire and back to Boston. Very pretty country up there. Not what I was expecting really. I had heard that the folks in the area were sorta, well, by southern standards - rude. I did not find that to be the case. There were rude folks just like where I live, and nice folks just like where I no biggy. Talked to a fellow that looked like a godfather and had the heavy Italian accent... was interesting.
I'll blog more of my thoughts on this trip later! I'm beat.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

goin' to bwaston

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am forageing into yankee territory this week. Taking my first trip ever to the East Coast. Boston Ma., leaving tomorrow and not returning until first of next week.
Pleasure trip. Free trip. My beautiful cousins take myself and spouse somewhere almost annually. It started as a way for them to express love to me after the tragic death of my mother. First we went to New Orleans (they thought I needed the bourbon street experience), then to New Mexico where we went to Albequerque(sp), Santa Fe, and Taos. Then we went to San Francisco. There is somewhere else but its not coming to me right now. Writers block.
Anyway, this time its Boston. I picked it. I like history. We are going to do the Freedom Trail (consisting of Revere's house, the Old North Church, Bunker Hill, The USS Constitution, etc) stay at the Marriot on the Wharf, eat some great seafood, and just hang out. We will have drinks and some nice cigars and watch all those yankees walk around with their wierd accents.
I think I'm wearing my boots. By golly I'm from Texas and we wear boots here. Of course there is a lot of walking involved, so, maybe not.
My first stop after landing, however, is for my research project. I research micro-brewerys. I like to compare them. So I'm paying a visit to Samuel Adam's Brewery. Its totally a scholarly endeavor so its all legit. wink wink.
Anyway, will not be checking the internet for about 5 days. I am trying to quit. Its an addiction.
So I shall return back May 5th and give an update.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

stupid christians

We finished up the Bill Hybels' "Just Walk Across the Room" book today. Though my group really didn't "get into it" overall, it brought up some interesting topics. (This book could have been condensed into a 15 page 'what not to do' guide for dummy's thing, but Bill probably couldn't have bragged on himself so much).

One of the topics centered around 'putting people first'! What a novel idea. I'm glad Bill pointed this out to us. Actually, its sad that he needed to point it out to christians, but truth is we as a group sometimes do a lousy job of putting people ahead of agendas or personal stuff. The pastor at my church hasn't even gotten this concept down, so obviously its not a lay person only issue.

One story was of a waitress that went to Willow Creek Church and she wrote Bill a 5 page letter detailing how the wait staff rotated on Sunday's having to wait on the Christians so no one got stuck with them all the time. They, as she said, are demanding, rude, and lousy tippers. Go figure.

So today after church, we go to a McAlister's Deli (where we go every sunday) and I am ordering this and that. The young girl taking my order says something to the Manager who responds 'well just do your best', and she replied that she had already gotten griped at. I asked her if the customers were giving her a hard time and she smiled and said someone was griping at her because the restaurant was low on straws or something that she had no control over. I look around and its obviously a church crowd in there, and this is beginning to look so familiar to the story Bill Hybel's spoke about. I responded "whats wrong with those christians anyway?!" She just smiled, leaned over the counter and whispered "Sundays are the worst".

Now, for arguement sake, it may not have been a Christian. Let me rephrase that: May not have been a person who claims to be a christian and attends church. But given the time, day and crowd I'm pretty sure it was. And I hope this girl doesn't judge Jesus by His so called followers.

So my question to you fellow Jesus freaks is this: When you are out and about town, when you see a cashier, public servant, custodial staff in your building, do you see them as a valuable child of God, a person on a journey in life? Or do you not even really see them at all? Do you know any of them by their first name?

Show me a parable where Jesus didn't have time for these folks. Tell me why you don't.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Introduction to Christ

I would love to go to church and see this, either in person or on the big screen:

Monday, April 21, 2008

random thoughts

I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Literally. Two highways intersect there to form a four-way stop. If not for that you would pass right on through. Its one of those little towns you think of when listening to a John Mellencamp song. I lived within four miles of where I was born, including my residence, my entire 1st through 12th grades of public school,and my church. My entire universe was centered around this part of the world.

I can still recall my best friend John and I (we were neighbors) riding our bicycles from our houses to the downtown area, and riding all over the sidewalks and secret trails behind buildings that only we knew. We would walk the streets some days, picking up coca cola bottles or dr. pepper. You could take those to the local grocery store where they would pay you a dime for each bottle you brought in. We absolutely could not figure out as 12 year olds why someone would just through them out the window, but we were glad they did. We would collect enough money to buy us a coke apiece, a package of gum and maybe some of those pop rocks that we heard if you drink with coke your stomach would blow up and you would die. My friend John was a tester of life. Not afraid of anything. I still remember him eating three packages of those things and chasing them down with an entire coke, just daring the damn things to do anything. I set on the bench next to him in front of the store, waiting for his stomach to explode. Nothing. I was sort of disappointed, but a little glad all the same.

I went to the small United Methodist Church my whole life too. My whole perception of God and church was formed there. It wasn't too bad. It was small town values and routine that formed some of my personality. You could count on the Doxology, the same three or four hymns, and the newest out of seminary pastor trying to get these old people off their asses and do something for Jesus. It was amusing. I recall my confirmation class, which consisted of exactly two of us. And we weren't really willing, we were forced. Yes, forced religion on the two of us by our mothers. So we went, did the thing, got baptized, and moved on. Didn't seem to make any difference to either one of us, but it did our mothers. I was the youth leader, and for a while I had some kids coming to it. Not really for spiritual purposes, but the church in their wisdom had given me a key, so I set up a pool table in one of the non used classrooms (there were many of those) and we put a stereo in there and hung out. Seemed safe enough, hanging out playing pool in God's house while listening to Black Sabbath on the turntable.

I was fairly content there. My world was safe. Everyone knew everyone. Andy Griffith could have been our sheriff. But sometimes, when I was alone, I felt as if something was missing. I was not quite complete. That for whatever reason, this life I was in wasn't really who I am. It was hard to explain or even internalize. I felt, even though I was okay where I was, I wasn't okay with WHO I was. I felt out of place, like I just didn't fit in. The things my friends were obsessed with really didn't interest me a whole lot. I hung out, went to concerts, drank beer on the Dairy Queen parking lot, cruised the streets, all that jazz, and still something, out there was calling to me.

I got that same feeling again last week at work. I was standing in front of my office building watching people come and go ... and I thought "who am I?". Who is this person I have become with a nice tie and slacks and title? What will it all mean in 50 years anyway? And I wonder if others have this thought as well, or are most people content with the roles they play in life? I'm convinced there is more out there, just beneath the surface of our facades we call life. Just past the daily routines and golf games and business deadlines and rules and regulations, there is something stirring just beneath the surface of humanity. Something wanting to scream out "This is not who you are supposed to be!", and there is more too all of this than what you have made of it.