Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dead Cicadas

Several hundred cicadas lie dead on the top of our parking garage at work.  Just a puff of air and they are blown from the roof, down the street, and into the giant hole torn open sevearl years back to create a high-rise hotel which since lost funding.  An awfully big grave for such a small creature.

At 8am I reviewed our finances and realized that we were going to miss our financial goal this month to pay off Kim's care completely.  Discouraged by this I thought through other possibilities that may allow us to succeed yet found none.  It wasn't possible.  Faced with anxiety about this, the scripture "rejoice in the Lord Always" came to mind.  Good timing.

My 10am meeting this morning cancelled, ironically ushering in an opportunity to receive the call of someone I've been following up with for a while.  Looks like he wants to do planning immediately and this will bring in enough income for Kim and I to hit the financial goal we had.  I could claim credit for following up with this person for 2 years in order for him to call me now to do business, but I am beginning to realize the limits of my control and power.  I did my role in the part, no doubt about that, but I'm like a musician who plays a few notes in a symphony performed by a much larger orchestra.  There is something else going on here.  Someone else making things happen.

I'm reading through a book right now...actually I am competing through a book right now as I try to finish reading a book before a friend who can read much quicker than I can.  Inside the book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan describes our existence as mere extras on a movie.  The movie isn't about us, it's about God.  It is His story .  In it, God creates universes, galaxies, worlds, people...He tells the history of mankind and of dinosaurs...discovery of invention, philosophy, and vaccines...of people going places and of coming back.  It has lasted millions of years so far and is a beautiful story. 

And what is our role?  We have a 2/3 second scene as an extra.  Because the 20 or 50 or 100 years we live on this planet is like a specin the wide universe of history and space. 

So, I can't help sympathsizing with the dead cicadas on the parking garage.  Their life exists of birth, burial in the ground for 13 years, then burstin from the earth to reproduce for about a month and die.  A tiny blip on the life radar.  Yet, with their strange lives do they not captivate our attention and turn our minds to questions of them and of He who created them?  Maybe our lives should look a lot like cicadas; a living reminder of the Great Story happening around us and the Great one who makes it happen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Worth Saying

Time is the patient man's friend and enemy of the rest of us.

I had the recent opportunity to spend time with a good friend and the day stopped in motion. 

It picked back up when we left, but at the time, time didn't matter.  We spoke of faith, work, friendship, Jesus and found ourselves breathing in the mysteries of it all...words worth saying.

I'm guilty too often of wasting words.  Of putting to death the power of this precious gift we've been given by speaking too much or too often or with very little substance.  If we want to have power with our words, should we not speak softly and with reserve?  For a soft word makes an ear lean in to listen and a voice not often heard holds the attention of us all.

So, I will be taking on a time of less words both in life and here.  I wish you all well in your journeys too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


It's been a while since I've had a bit of fun on this blog, so here it is!

So, Kim thinks I'm ridiculous for posting this, but I think it is wonderful!  We were talking recently when I mentioned to her...
"It really has been raining a ton lately; but I guess April showers bring May flowers."  To which she replied: "And you know what May flowers bring?  Pilgrims."

Monday, May 16, 2011


A week ago I had a chance to talk to my lifelong mentor Marty (no not the Back to the Future guy).  We were talking shop about how his church is going and what church looks like, should look like, should feel like when it hit me:

Perspective matters.

Because it's not really about right or wrong, but simply perspective.  For instance, Marty is a phenomenal teacher.  He takes difficult ideas and makes them simple to understand yet still hard to live out.  Quite honestly, he's brilliant.  And while talking to him it occurred to me that he needs to be in front of as many people as possible.  So his church needs to be one with lots of chairs that are open to Christians to hear him speak, be challenged, and then go live out what they have learned.

That's not where Kim and I need to be right now, but it is where Marty needs to be.  Put it another way, I really have a hard time reading a whole lot.  Does that make me unintelligent or unwise?  Probably not.  It means I'm not a reader.  So I learn much more by personal observation or stories or music.

But where perspective really comes into play is our daily grind.

Last week a guest speaker from Dallas spoke at our company event.  He told a story about how is son who had cancer fought through life to live it to the fullest.  By age 7 he had his second bout of cancer, had 18 chemotherapies, 9 surgeries, over 1000 hours in the hospital and yet never once complained about it all.  He braced it and lived right through it to the end.  He loved life and especially playing baseball.  So, the day before he died from cancer (again...age 7) he wanted to play baseball.  It was the tournament and his team was tied in the bottom of the 9th.  Bases loaded.  He comes up to bat, so weak that he can barely hold the bat.  Connor hits a single and wins the game.  His dad had to carry him off the field since he didn't have the strength himself.  The next day, he died.

Connor never once complained.  Yet how many times each week, each day, each hour do we?

I found myself every day since then catching myself saying and thinking things like "I have to" or "got to" instead of "get to", forgetting that it is a privilege to live and work and play.  So, today happens to be a knock out day for the me and I can't help but think it has something to do with the change of perspective, the change of heart that comes from thinking I get to instead of have to.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Separating from the Noise

Kim and I have begun working our way through Psalms.  Why, you may ask?  Because it is our desire to find the heart of God over these next 6 weeks of Sabbatical.  And where better to turn the Psalms?

Immediately in just the first chapter of Psalms we are confronted wvith not only our own emotions and desires as humans but also with God's.  We find those who are delighting in the Lord and what is God doing?  He is watching over their path.  The Lord is watching over those who seek Him.  What a comfort, what a hope, what a peace, what a joy to know that the Master of the Universe is concerned with me and is watching over me to keep me close.

And it gets better the deeper we enter Psalms.  In the second chapter we see God willing to let those who refuse him follow their own path to destruction.  He allows us to receive what we seek.  If we seek a life of destruction, He will allow us to follow that path.  "But what a joy for those who take refuge in him."

This is the God we're searching for.  This is the God who we yearn for.  This is the God we know is far and near and here with us.  May these next few weeks allow us to separate ourselves from the noise around us.  From the media, from politics, from religion...May we quiet our lives enough to hear the whisper of our Lord calling to us amidst the noise.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blessing and Curse of High Expectations

At Northwestern we talk about the gift of high expectations.  Essentially, by expecting a lot from people, we get higher results since the bar is set high.  So if I asked you to reach as high as you can right now, then to stand are your tippy-toes and reach, then to stand on a chair and reach, then to go to the top of the building you are in and reach, you'll have higher and higher results given the same instructions of reach as high as you can.  But, if I say, reach 10 or 20 feet in the air, you'll have to find a creative way to hit that goal.

So there is some value at setting high expectations around achievement because it stretches our understanding of what is achievable, broadens our impact, and brings a greater reward.  Great.

But what I have been finding lately is that often higher expectations also have an inverse relationship to thankfulness.

For the last 6 months Kim and I have been doing well financially.  Month after month we're able to make leap after leap at saving, paying down debt, and giving.  And so I keep track of it all and set goals to hit in order to make a bigger and bigger impact.  I'm not satisfied with the same we did last month, let's go a little higher, set the bar up a notch, boost our expectations.

The problem is, I lose perspective and end up not being thankful for the amazing blessings that God has created in our lives.  Time to stop, breath, and be thankful.

Monday, May 9, 2011


In my last blog entry, The Cinnamon Roll Effect, that I stated that I couldn't stand another day of singing "glory to God, glory to God, glory to God, forever."  Guess what was the first song we sang this Sunday?

Kim mentioned to me this last week that she questions whether the bible is for real, if it's true, if it actually happened and how we know.  This is a legitimate question and definitely worth considering.  In fact, I remember asking this very question; since Kim's never had a chance to ask that question, the time is now.

However, I also wonder if in the midst of going to church each week and being taught more and more stuff, do we get caught up on the facts, the figures, the information, and ask questions of fact while missing questions of faith?

I find that often enough the very things that are essential to our faith: loving those who are hated, giving to those who don't have enough to buy bread, living life together with others, challenging each other to know God better, and knowing Him ourselves...often are absent in church.  And so, I feel that if anything, attending and participating in "church" on Sundays leads us to ask questions about facts instead of God.  Because most of the time, there isn't anything truly spiritual happening in church.  We're all singing songs that have lost their meaning, or never had any, listening to someone teach us how to live, and we go home.  And sure, some of us are involved in small groups where we hang out, read a chapter out of a book or the bible, answer some questions (learn how to live better) and go home.  Where is the spirituality of this?

And so we miss out on the Spirit of God and learn stuff instead.  Well, I don't know about you, but I really don't need to learn much more.  I simply need to do what I already know I need to do.  Of course I know I need to love others, I don't need another lesson to tell me to do, or how to do, or why I should do this.  I simply need to do it...

This tension has been gnawing at me for weeks, maybe even months.  It's why my mind has been clogged and I haven't been able to blog.  But now, I feel like the flood gates have been opened (by the way, look out; I have many more blogs coming soon!).  Why?  Because we've decided.

After leaving church this Sunday I looked at Kim and said the very thing she was thinking, "we need to take a sabbatical from church." If anyone needs us Sunday morning, we'll be at home, resting and searching.