Friday, October 31, 2008


Every year, I know that a ton of followers of Jesus struggle through the Halloween holiday, not knowing how to approach it in a Christ-honoring way, and not wanting to just pull away from the fun entirely. Parents of grade-school kids struggle with this the most, for obvious reasons. Because of the pagan/pre-Christian roots of Halloween, many Christians do choose to boycott the day entirely.

A couple of problems I have with boycott:

1. The 31st of October happens. We have to deal with it. Even staying in bed all day you’re doing something. So the question is, how to spend the day best?
2. Yeah, pagan roots. I get it. But how is it different from the pagan roots of bringing a pine tree into your home around the winter solstice? How is it different from celebrating Easter on the Sunday when they tell us to, which also has roots in the pre-Christian/pagan past? Native Americans were at the first Thanksgiving, and we know they had a pantheon of spirits they prayed to. Shall we boycott Thanksgiving as well, and everything that once was tinged with some belief system not our own?
3. We are called to be a LIGHT in a dark world…and if this night of Halloween is as dark as some theatrically skilled Christians say it is, then we better figure out a way to bring the light.

Here is the way my mind currently leans…towards redemption. Just as a pine tree can be redeemed from the pagan past, and brought into the present as a way that I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ…that is a picture of redemption. Just as we honestly celebrate the resurrection of Christ every year at Easter, we redeem what once was popularly used for pagan practice, now bringing all the honor and the glory to Jesus. I say we do the same thing for Halloween. Let’s use it to honor Jesus.

Now, I’m not totally sure how to do this. Our church hosts a HUGE carnival in our building…inflatables, games, candy by the dumptruck-fulls…and thousands of kids show up in costume, because kids love to show up anywhere in costumes. We do ask that the costumes be non-frightening, and non-violent, which is basically what the public schools ask, and it’s for the sake of the little, little kids that come to party.

Maybe Christians get more pro-active on hosting themed Halloween Parties. Maybe instead of letting people show up in any old costume, we take the lead and host parties with a theme: Come as your favorite Athlete, come as your favorite Historical Figure, come as your favorite inanimate object. Maybe that’s lame, or maybe it’s brilliant. I say that about a lot of my ideas.

All I know is this: Jesus specializes in taking things that once were used for shameful things, and redeeming them for His glory. Chances are, He’s done it in your life. Personally speaking, I know He’s redeemed THIS ween.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I think I'm hanging out around the top of my chaos threshold.

I don't need to go into examples, I'm sure your life is chaotic as well.
I feel like my life is triple booked. No bad things, but too many things. I just counted, and by next Tuesday, I will have been out 15 of the last 16 nights. Last week, Jodie and I got a new dog, a new car, and a new bank. We're consistently stacking things up in the same night (host an afternoon soccer party, then hit piano lessons, then rush to the church for this nights particular activity). I'm not complaining. I'm sitting here, however, thankful that God is near, closer than my breath, caring for me, even in the chaos.

I'm reminded that He has always played this role. We read:
The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2 NLT

Today, this verse speaks to me. Do I feel that I'm in the dark, and that I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel? God is here. Do I feel that I'm drowning in waters cold and deep? The Spirit of the Lord is here. God reached out in Jesus, Jesus is God reaching down taking my hand, assuring me that He is here, loving, carrying, bringing wisdom and sanity, ushering in peace.

He is still hovering over the chaos. Out of chaos, He still creates beauty.
More than anything, today, I'm thankful simply for His presence. I breathe deeply.

Now off to the next thing...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Eastside Beauty

The last two mornings I've gone for short runs training a new puppy that my family has adopted from a local shelter (I'm sure he'll be the source of future blogs--both my kids want to blog about him first). But as I was running yesterday, with the morning crisp and clear, I thought of a bit I wrote for the local newspapers the fall I first moved to Washington. Enjoy.

"How in the world has the glory of the greater Seattle region in autumn gone unnoticed by the American population in general? What veil of secrecy has been erected to keep the hordes of traveling wilbury’s from tooling around the wooded hills and leafy lanes of King County? Who conspired to keep all of this beauty a thing hushed and hidden?

I’m the new kid on the block, living for the first time through a fall in the great Northwest, God’s backyard, and am amazed daily. I’m not a runner, but I’ve been running lately, two or three mornings a week, just so I can get out in it. There are trails around my neighborhood, and they connect with the Tolt Pipeline, and when I hit that thing right as the light lifts, it’s as if fireworks set off inside of my skull, the colors of fall exploding before my eyes. The rush is endorphin, beauty breathed deep, a connection between the beauty that dwells somewhere within me and the beauty that dwells all around me, the source of which is the same. Whether the fog clings to the trees like my grandma’s fuzzy white shawl, or the sky is high and the mountains are singing; either way the pulse is firing. Anyway, I can’t figure out what to do with it. I find myself amped like a triple espresso, in love with everything I see, joyfully ready to tackle the giants in the land, and it’s a hard sell to come back home and shower up for the rest of my mature, responsible, adult, crossing the “i’s” and dotting the “t’s” day. Oh, there is a different kind of passion that comes with a clear work road to travel, a challenge and a purpose to pursue that makes things better in the world as well as providing some basic necessities for my family, and I’m lucky in that I choose to do what I do from a deep sense of conviction, but it’s still not the same as being in love with life.

It’s not the same as seeing the deep mystery peaking out from behind each leaf.

Which is why even at my office I find myself looking out the window at the row of poplars that are shimmering their way towards a blond greenish gold. Which is why I almost run my car off the road as I’m looking at the snow capped Cascades, or the majesty of Rainier thrust forth, emergent and free. There’s too much going on to merely focus on the road. Obviously, safe driving has its merits. I’m just saying, the extravagance of beauty demands attention.

As you drive home today, notice things. Listen to a song that breaks your heart as you marvel at a nature so abundantly wasteful that it would discard its multi-colored foliage, most of which is currently covering my front yard. Translate the beauty around you into beauty in action…love somebody tangibly however you’re inspired to by the assault of glory that swirls about. But for crying out, don’t tell anyone about it, especially not anyone living outside of Washington. The last thing we need is more people moving into the area, telling us how great this place is…"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Arranged Unions

My daughter Alex and I were at a wedding last week. I performed a portion of the ceremony, which Alex watched from the back. When my bit was done, I turned it over to the Father of the Bride, who was also a pastor, and he officiated the vows while I took my seat.

Suddenly I discovered Alex slipped into the seat next to me, because she carefully took my hand, and kissed it. “I love you, Booger,” I whispered. “I love you too, Daddy,” she whispered back. Then I turned back up to watch the ceremony, where the Father of the Bride choked up a bit recounting his personal joy over his daughter, and her choice of a husband.

For the briefest instant, I saw myself in that role (a blubbering mess) and I saw my baby girl standing with joyful pride next to her man. In that moment, I prayed silently the same prayer that I’ve prayed hundreds of times: That God would guide my daughter and protect her, that He would ground her in wisdom, courage, and graceful strength; that He would carry her to that day when she leaves my care and enters the adventure of covenant. And I pray for that special, God-favored man, that he is growing even now in wisdom tempered by grace, strength tempered by gentleness, great joy tempered by great responsibility. Most of all, I pray that He knows God and pursues Him with all his heart.

I realized as I was praying that my daughter probably didn’t know as an eight year old that her mommy and her daddy were praying for the man that she would someday wed. So I decided to tell her. “Baby,” I lean down and quietly whisper, “I want you to know that your mommy and I are already praying for the man that you’re going to marry.”

She leaned her head forward and eyed me from over her glasses. Her expression was curiously skeptical, serious, and I could tell in this matter, she didn’t completely trust my judgment.

Deadpan, she asked, “Who is it?”
Even at eight, it seems, arranged marriages don’t land on receptive soil.

My son Caleb informed us last night that he has found the girl he’s going to marry. “She’s everything I ever wanted.” My six year old tells us. “She’s blond and she knows God.” Cool, bud. So that’s done.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guy's Night

My wife Jodie and my daughter Alex were away tonight.
Caleb and I had a Guy’s Night.

He has school tomorrow, so we still needed to pull off the basics of normalcy, with regular bed-time, homework, bathing, brushing teeth and all that goes with the everyday responsible side of life. But since it was Guy’s Night, I opened it up to some elements of fun. I told Caleb that he was in charge, and we could do whatever he wanted until bedtime.

So, when he was finished with Piano practice, he grabbed my hand and said, “Come on!” He led me up to the computer, where he wanted to play games with me for a half-hour. Then he chose Caramel and Apples for dessert, and he helped me cut the apples. Then he wanted to watch a twenty minute Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show with microwave popcorn. Then he wanted to read in bed together…my bed, of course…and have a sleepover.

So right now I’m in bed, typing on my laptop, and listening to his steady breathing beside me. I’m struck by the joyful way Caleb crashes into life.

Earlier today, when we were on our way to soccer practice, he told me that he had a pet moth, and that he kept his pet moth on his Bible, so the moth would have good dreams. He said, “Dad! You can get a pet moth too! All you need is a moth! And a Bible!”

The only punctuation my son is familiar with is an exclamation point. It’s all that important.

The Bible says this about kids:
Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Psalm 127:3,4 NIV

I only have one son, and one daughter, both of whom I love very much.
So I don’t know if my quiver is full or not.

But I know my heart is.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

When Church Works looks something like this:

-revealing a grace so vast none can fully exclude themselves from it
-a discipleship so rigorous none can fully include themselves in it
-a love so close, so overwhelming, so mysterious none can begin to explain it, save this:
-that Jesus is present here, enticing a spiritually starving, junk-food generation to His banqueting table.
-that Jesus is present, wooing an adulterous and lust-sick people to His satisfying intimacy and our deep fulfillment.
-that Jesus is glorified here, leading a stumbling through the dark, lost, alone, and frightened humanity into the warmth of his illuminated embrace.

When it works, it is light for the road.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Porn and Church

This weekend, we’re launching into a Hot Topics Series…in fact, you probably got a postcard invite in the mail. We’re kicking the whole thing off with a Porn Weekend! That is probably the exact opposite of what it sounds like.

HERE is the schedule of EVENTS: Friday night, October 10: PORN AND PASTRIES. For women only…how the porn industry dehumanizes and literally creates a cycle of dependence on substance, shattered lives and money…testimonies from some whom Jesus has saved…the rising amount of women who are getting hooked on porn, and the hope of Christ to bring freedom.

Saturday morn, October 11: PORN AND PANCAKES. For men only…tangible help for creating structures of freedom, friendship and accountability…how the church and Christ can help on the journey to wholeness…and the joy of living clean.

Saturday afternoon: PORN AND PARENTS. For moms and dads who are looking to create a porn-protected home, where the issues of lust and pornography are dealt with in a Christ-honoring and biblically based way, focusing on protection and freedom, and not shame.

You can sign up on the events page at These three events are held at Eastlake Community Church, which is pastored by my very good friend Ryan Meeks. The events themselves are run by the xxxchurch guys…you can find them online…

Sunday, all three OCC Services will address the topic of Porn…and Jesus.
We truly are praying that the love of Christ will come right into the heart of this issue, bringing freedom and wholeness and life. It will be a FREEDOM-Fest as we experience the cleansing grace of Jesus together.

Since we know that our topics in the HOT TOPICS Series are, you know, hot, we want to provide the following two special considerations:
1. During our 11am service every Sunday during the Series, Pastor Gary will be hosting a Q&A in the gym, and even drilling down a bit deeper on the issue that we discuss in the message.
2. Not all of our topics will be equally hot, but they all will be hotter than normal. So, for safety’s sake, I want to rate them all M for mature content. That means if you have children, this would be a great series to have them check out our World Class children’s ministry! (I don’t want your toddler’s first word to be “porn-a-graffy.”)

So, you’ve been warned.
Is it HOT in here?

And exactly where Jesus would want to be…
Don’t forget to BRINGVITE a friend.

Love you. Loving Jesus.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Overlake's New Hot Topics Series begins Sunday, October 12th when we will be talking about Porn...and Jesus. Be sure to check it out.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Do NOT go to my wife's blog today.

Do NOT go to

If you do, because it truly is a great blog, do NOT watch the Yatta video that she posted from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show.

And if you do watch the Yatta video, and the song, with it's accompanying visuals get stuck in your head all day, do NOT say I didn't warn you.

You're probably wondering, is this blog for real?
Not half as real as the Yatta video you're about to watch.

Just Courage

I was reading Gary Haugen this morning, from his book Just Courage, and he was describing the general listlessness that he sees in much of what passes for Christian practice. He’s not condemning or saying that it’s bad, he instead argues that most of it feels like the movie Groundhog Day, where Christians are stuck living out the same inconsequential day and boredom is really what saps life. The big unspoken question is, NOW WHAT?

Haugen writes, “This is, I believe, a voice of divine restlessness. This is a voice of sacred discontent. This is the voice of a holy yearning for more. This is the moment in which we can see that all the work that God has been doing in our lives and in the life of the church is not an end in itself; rather, the work he has been doing in us is a powerful means to a grander purpose beyond ourselves.”

I am simultaneously stirred by these thoughts, and proud of my church. Not proud in an arrogant way; proud like a parent is pleased over a child who displays compassion. One immediate example: Our Women of Purpose group has organized a Charity Golf Tournament that takes place tomorrow. My friend Marisa has been one of the chief movers behind this thing. All of the proceeds of this event go directly toward the issue of human trafficking, specifically in the South East Asia region where the sex industry is the biggest culprit, enslaving hundreds of thousands of young girls.

Here’s why I’m so proud.
Marisa went to Thailand last year, saw the need, interacted with women who were in the industry, who were being saved from the industry, women who were in the half-way house learning a trade and being taught the life-skills to be able to take care of themselves and not re-enter a horrid cycle. As Marisa prayed and served in Thailand, God broke her heart. Now she’s come home, and stirring up a hornet’s nest of activity to make a difference. It took her hundreds of hours of blood, sweat and tears to pull this Tournament off, thousands of prayers, and at the end of it all, God receives His glory, and girls will be changed for eternity. And I would argue that as Marisa has allowed her life to be impacted by this issue close to God’s heart, that Marisa herself has lived more fully, more abundantly, because she has followed God on this adventure.

Live courageously.
That’s the loving call on all of us.
It is the gentle call of a graceful Father to really LIVE.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I’ve been traveling a ton lately, and when I travel, I miss my kids like crazy. I get homesick. I truly can’t imagine how my buddies do it, living out of a suitcase and spending their weeks in three different time zones. For me, there is something that is simply missing when my family isn’t connecting in life and love.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had a great, productive time on this trip. I have. My wife Jodie and I were in Colorado Springs on a leadership retreat, being challenged to implement an intentional leadership development process in our church context. It was convincing. I’m excited to see how this can impact our staff and leaders at Overlake.

Jodie and I connected. It’s always good to remember why you married one another, and this was a couple days where we looked at each other and said, “I really LIKE you.” We watched a movie in our hotel room and ordered room service, and laughed a lot.

I ran both mornings in the brisk Rocky Mountain high, and I remembered again how beautiful and how majestic God’s great world is. Yesterday I came across a doe with white tips on her ears. I stopped and she stared at me for a full minute, with her gentle eyes, chewing flowers, and then walked on. Later two red hawks landed above me and eyed me for a meal. Today I ran past five elk, and I wondered if I was in a Disney movie.

Now I’m on the plane home.
The sickle moon is orange, and dipping low in the west.
The last of the twilight fades.

And I can’t wait to be home. I can’t wait to tuck my toothless boy in bed and hear how his time was this week, what adventures he had today that need telling, and feel his strong, wiry boy arms around my neck. I can’t wait to snuggle next to my warrior princess and pray for her, and tell her again how much I love her, show her with my presence that I’m here for her.

There is an excitement about heading out on a trip, winging away for a new adventure.
But there is nothing like coming home.