Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Head. Feels. Stuffed.

The average human head weighs eight pounds. At least that’s what the kid said on Jerry Maguire.

Right now mine weighs about 37 pounds.

I feel like a bobble-head version of myself.

There are other descriptors that I might use, but honestly, they’d put you off your lunch. And who wants to hear another whine about “I’ve got a cold in Seattle?” A better question is, “Who DOESN’T have a cold in Seattle?” I thought that was one of the selling points of the Northwest. Constant nose drippage and Dayquil on tap.

So it may surprise you, (it certainly surprises me) that I’m choosing joy today.
As in, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I’m taking a few moments this morning and rejoicing over all the wonderful things that I can identify as a blessing. I love my wife, I love my family, I love my church, and I love my life. All these are gifts graciously given from the hand of a Loving Father.

I don’t know where you are today, nor what you’re struggling with.
But Jesus does. And He loves you.

And if you spend a few minutes to look, you’ll find that the evidence of His love is all around you. This is another one of His gifts, this day.
Let’s be glad in it together.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Last week I traveled to Oklahoma to do my Grandma’s funeral. It reminded me of the Summer a few years ago when I still had three grandparents. Now I have none. The grief this time around feels hollow, like I’m losing a bit of my mooring to history. So I’d like to share this bit about my grandparents. Maybe it will encourage you to call yours…drop them a line…or just to thank Jesus for the gift of a couple of people in the world who love you unconditionally…who spoiled you every chance they got. Enjoy them. They won’t be around forever…

My Lord Jesus,

I’m in tears today as I write, having just come from the hospital.

I visited my grandma today, and just “visited” as my grandma and grandpa shared their lunch. They are so beautiful.

So beautiful.

My grandma with her thin skin, her shaky hands, her words that stumble over a mini-stroke she had a few years back, and her gentle brown eyes amplified by her coke-bottle glasses I’ve never known her to be without. Wearing those, a visual world is opened up to this wonderful lady, Ellen Soft, my grandma and one of my favorite people on the planet. Beautiful.

And if that isn’t beautiful enough, there’s my grandpa too, mouse-like thin and hunched, with strong brown hands bent with years of a painters trade; his hair white, well oiled and combed the same way I’ve seen it all of my life; his smile quick, with dentures that mostly stay where their supposed to. So beautiful.

A myriad of wrinkles between them.

And as they share a meal, slow, slower than most people retain interest in a meal, they forget that they are sharing a meal, and instead share memories. Today they shared how my grandma was sleepwalking during her recent visit back to Kansas, so now when she gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, my granddad goes with her. Making sure she stays indoors.

What amazes me is how well they know each other. They both traverse across the years to share stories that the other knows exactly…they track to the year, the situation, the significance…with just a few words.

I was telling them how Alex kicks the covers off in bed, and my grandma said, “Well, Nancy and Janet used to come in bed with us…Chester, what did Nancy say that one time?” To which my grandpa replies, “Oh, shoot.” Which is just a filler statement, and all he needs to get a handle on the framework of the story. He then tells the tale of a Christmas past, of how he had purchased a wrist-watch for Ellen, no doubt a major purchase for this humble painter. The gift was wrapped and under the tree, waiting impatiently for Christmas morn, as were two little girls, both very excited about this gift. And as they were all in bed one morning, my grandma asked, with honest intent, “I wonder what time it is?” Quick as she could, a giggling Nancy replied, “If you look under the tree you’ll know what time it is!”

At the punchline of the story both of them erupt in laughter, and I laugh right along, because they are just so dang beautiful.

They are the salt of the earth.

The righteous poor.

My grandparents lost their first boy, Jackie, when he was five, and it seems that this devastation haunts them mildly, like the smallest of pebbles rattling in the toe of a walking shoe. They have such great memories of this joy-filled, amazing boy, and a true confusion about the illness that stole his life, that most days, I’m sure, Jackie makes his way into their waking thoughts.

They discussed the assisted living home that my mother had taken them to, in hushed tones…it’s just so big…a mansion…it does have a big room to watch Monday Night Football in (grandpa grinning)…two meals a day and you order right from a menu…not just a cafeteria…a reading area and sitting room to have people over. But it’s just so nice! Rich people live there. It would probably cost more than two thousand dollars a month, and we just couldn’t let your Dad pay…we don’t deserve…surely we couldn’t…

What these humble, beautiful people don’t realize is that they deserve the best there is. They will probably be embarrassed to discover, on that day when the Lord calls them home, that the largest Mansion on the top of the hill is theirs, bought and paid for far in advance by their Christian kindness, painted and maintained by those hundreds my grandparents served in this lifetime, visited daily by their friends, robust and dear, and by their beloved Jackie. The joy that they will dwell in for eternity the best of our writers can only hint at.

“I thank God everyday for my family,” my grandpa said today.

So do I grandpa. So do I.
For my beautiful, beautiful family.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


When the sun shines on the Eastside of Seattle the world sparkles in newness and glory. You can see the golfer's white shoes from a mile and a half. The shadows become sharp enough to cut your fingers on. The folds of the lawn roll down with a halo glow. Rainier smiles as a silent sage crowned in wisdom, playing the role of foundation, the role of permanence, like a pillar holding up the sky.

It’s a hooky-playing day, a day when the real work of the day ought to be kite-flying or a game of Frisbee golf created on the go (“that mailbox looks like a par 4”). I have an urge to grab my kids and roll around in the park with them, like so many dogs. We opted instead for the Dog Park, taking our mutt out for a romp with hundreds of other, unleashed joy-hounds. The naked trees all stand excited, wishing that the bath of sunlight means that springtime really is coming, and wondering if it’s time to start unfurling their inner beauty. TS Eliot said that April is the cruelest month, because of the illusion of hope as the world wraps itself in newness, but when you get a golden day in January, there is nothing cruel at all about it…hope is no illusion, rather an obvious dream, a known and fleeting angel, a memory of warmth even at full noon. There is no expectation for greatness as the day dawns, only an understanding that greatness is upon you. Light has such power over the souls of men: poetry dark and brooding comes from the cloud, introspection is exalted in the rain, but in the sunshine, the vision is cleared, and the life song lingers with a sweet reverb, humming all the way back to the office after being blinded with a lunch hour. So how broken am I that I hope for just a little cloud on Sunday, so a few of my seattle-sun-freak-brotherhood will join me in church?

Lord, as I proceed, would you shine your grace upon me, so that I might live the light you call me to be, to reflect, to embrace. Allow me to shine like your stars, amidst the midnight black that exists all around me, and within me as well…Wrap me in the arms of your light like a surprise January day. Make me golden as well. And let your sun shine…

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Sitting at Tully’s, I’m fighting back tears as I listen to Matt Redman wail on about how the cross of Jesus makes us whole again, how Jesus is the one who wipes us clean of sin, how Jesus is the one who sets us free, heals our hearts, and makes us friends of God.

Thoughtful and thankful, I’m sort of ruminating on all sorts of concepts, having just finished Study, and preparing myself to tackle this week’s topic of Debt and God’s desire for us to live unburdened. I’m thinking about how there is always a tension between things…economic fear versus generosity. A tension between trusting God or shouldering my own burdens. A tension between longing for the “good old days,” and hoping for a “bright future.” A tension between remembering my sin, and remembering my forgiveness. At our EPIC Men’s Event, Mike Erre pretty much rocked me with this clarity…that God wants me Alive and Thirsty. Fully Alive and yet Thirsty for Him. Content with His Love and yet Longing for More of His Glory. On this side of eternity, there will always be a tension…probably stemming from the Now/Not Yet nature of the Kingdom of God that Jesus came to announce.

I finished Erre’s book, Why Guys Need God, before church on Sunday, and he rips off what he says is the greatest chapter title that he’s ever seen, and I’d like to rip him off, ripping it off, because it is absolutely where I am. I imagine I’m not alone. Here is the title:

Truly Changed, Truly Changing, and Still at War.

Welcome to the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Our Daily Beard, part the fourth

This is the expression I make when I know that soon I get to shave the bristles off my face. This is the look I make when I realize what that means in terms of my marriage.
This is the face I make when I contemplate the hundreds of dudes who have signed up for EPIC, in small part, I’m sure, to this facial hair challenge on Our Daily Beard.

I’ve actually talked to probably dozens of guys (a bunch last night at First Wednesday) who are planning to come, but who haven’t signed up yet. Ok, here’s the deal. EPIC is tomorrow night. As in Friday. Like the day after today. We can take walk-ups, of course, but without your sign-up, we won’t know how many of Mike Erre’s books to buy, and you might not get yours. All that we could offer you is some of the leftover clippings from my freshly shorn face.

So sign up. And I’ll see you Friday.
I’ll be the guy without a beard.

P.S. I realize my blog this week has been VERY local, entirely OCC…next week, I promise…I’ll get just a bit more regional with my musings…

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our Daily Beard, part trois

You can probably tell that I’ve been shaping.
It’s much less “Grizzly Adams.” It’s just a tad “Brett Favre.” I actually got a compliment on it today, “It makes you look older.” Oh…thank you?

What you probably can’t tell from the picture is that the softness quality of my facial hair resembles that of a wire brush. I kiss my kids goodnight and their soft cheeks start bleeding. My wife kissed me on the forehead two days ago. That was the last time I’ve received what could loosely be called “affection.” I have a feeling that when I went into the bookstore yesterday, they thought I was casing the joint.

So, please sign up for our EPIC Men’s Event at Overlake. Men, you are Hairy, Hoary, Holy Image Bearers of the King of Heaven and Earth, and this weekend will unite and inspire, liberate and motivate, challenge and assure.

My friend Mike Erre is coming up to bring the WORD.
He’s the author of the book, Why Guys Need God, which our EPIC gentlemen will all receive, but I also wanted you to know that Mike has written two more books as well. I haven’t read Death by Church, but if you were around for the Revolution Series two years ago, you’ll catch glimpses of Jesus of Suburbia sprinkled throughout (point of note: I routinely use Mike Erre as inspiration, thought-provocation, and research, or what some of the more anal among us might call “plagiarism.” When I have an original thought, you will know, because I will mention it. Often.)

You can sign up by clicking the word HERE in my last post.

I really can't wait to shave.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Our Daily Beard, part deux

Here is my face. It’s getting more and more nappy. That means you must sign up for our Men’s Event: EPIC. Ladies, you must sign your men up. It’s just going to get increasingly vile.

You can sign up here.

I just got off the phone with my bro, Pastor Mike Erre of Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa California…and he’s fired up to spend the weekend challenging our men. This will be so much MORE than a Superbowl with a cross above it. I know God is going to use this weekend to transform the way we see Jesus and ourselves.

Here is Mike’s book, Why Guys Need God. Every guy at the conference gets one.

Seriously, you need to sign up. I want to shave, and start kissing my wife again.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Our Daily Beard

Hairy. Hoary. Image Bearers of God.
A Happening that must be participated in by Men. It's Epic.

This Friday night we kick off our second EPIC Men's Event, and if you are a man, then I expect you to be there. I am growing my beard as a walking Billboard for this event. A dear sister at Overlake said to me last Sunday, "I will pay you not to grow a beard." To which I replied, "Don't pay ME. Just get your husband to Epic." So really, I guess, the beard is a form of spiritual blackmail.

I know the man-growth is unattractive. I know how my wife feels about it's scratchy-ness. I'm only doing this so that you'll sign up for EPIC. Sign up. Now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Day

I know that it’s three day’s into the New Year, but it’s never too late to write a blog celebrating that fact. Actually, there probably is a time when it’s too late to celebrate the new year…like around Thanksgiving, but we’re still on the front end of this puppy.

On New Year’s Day, we watched an old U2 concert that took place in Ireland around the start of this decade. The one at Slane Castle. We were watching with family, and one of the songs they sing happened to be titled: New Year’s Day. I think there are a few ways to listen to this song, but one of them is through the lens of Jesus’ love, hearing His Voice singing the words “I will be with you again.”

And what struck me as I listened was, this is HOPE…that tomorrow will be better than today, that someday true righteous justice will reign, all harms will be healed, and God himself will live with us. This all seems to turn on a dime around the new year…there is incredible optimism that 2009 will be better than 2008.

Even in the Bible, in the middle of the Book of Lamentations (which is mostly describing the worst year EVER for the Israelites), we find this incredible HOPE:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22,23 NLT

Maybe it’s my own innate optimism, but I absolutely believe this is going to be a year of great adventure. I believe it will be a year of great selflessness. I believe it will be a year where heroic acts are done by all sorts of wonderful, ordinary people. A year of fresh mercies. And I believe that this will be a year in which Jesus is honored. At least, that’s what I’m excited to go after.

And I’ve got some personal goals, too, which I’m refusing to call resolutions. These I actually want to work on all year long:


Happy New Year!