26 November 2007

The Table

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.” Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk (pg. 52)

* * *

Yesterday, in one of our church gatherings during family communion, we asked the church to write the names of those who are hurting during the beginning of the holiday season on a large sheet of paper in the front of the sanctuary.

Some wrote their own names. Others wrote the names of women and men experiencing Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time as a single mother/father. One person wrote the names of homeless women and men he'd been working with the last several months, while another person wrote the names of people undone by the loss of a spouse. One young person prayed for their grandma; at least I deciphered the writing, "Mimi," as the work of a grandchild.

In a time of systematic, commercial frenzy--the church is a place that offers healing, relationships, and listening ears. We do not offer "air-tight" answers for most people need a person, not a clever diatribe on suffering, angels, and God's activity in the world.

24 November 2007

Lazy Saturday

This is a great time of year to live in Michigan. The fall/winter is upon us, and though the sun will disappear for a few months, it is a time to catch up with old friends for life's pace seems to lessen.

We are here, to borrow from Annie Dillard, "as witnesses," nothing more, nothing less.

Today, I watched my alma mater battle the University of Detroit in basketball. RC gave them a good game but came up short down the stretch. I watched the game with my brother and a few former teammates. Conversation and stories hold friendships together. If God never gives me another blessing, I have been overwhelmed with the amount of genuine friendships in my lifetime; relationships that shape and sustain.

As 2007 starts to come to a close, I am anxious to see what 2008 has in store; namely what God will be up to this go-around.

2007 had its interesting trips. Denver, Fresno, Lubbock, NYC, Tulsa, Malibu/L.A., Orlando, Atlanta, Nashville (twice), and Abilene were all on my destination list this year.

I also learned that my wife loves two things about Detroit: the homeless community and Detroit Tigers baseball. BTW—yesterday is the one year anniversary of Professor Jack’s death. To read about Jack, click here.

Kara and I also made new bonds, reconnected with friends of old, and said good-bye to others: some because of job loss, and relocation. At least two friends were lost to death.

If age 0-25 marks the spring season…
If age 25-50 marks the summer…
If age 50-69 marks the fall…
And, if age 70 marks the winter…

I’m going to enjoy this “summer season,” for even though I know the thermometer reads 30 degrees in Detroit, this is a great time to be alive.

I think it was Irenaeus who once wrote, “The glory of God is a person made fully alive.”

21 November 2007

Prophetic Thoughts About Giving

Full of Thanks . . .

Thankful for a wife who loves me without conditions.

Thankful for a family who accepts me.

Thankful for a church that I can challenge; a church which also loves to return the favor.

Thankful to serve alongside such a talented and hard-working ministry staff.

Thankful to work with young adults and college students who love and worship Jesus.

Thankful (most days) that the Pistons did not trade for Kobe Bryant.

Thankful for great friends and mentors.

Thankful for a warm place to sleep at night.

Thankful for my friends in Cass Park.

Thankful for a great job.

Thankful for another great job.

Thankful for friendships with Christians all over the United States.

Thankful for friendships with Christians all over the world (here and here)

Thankful for God becoming the main character in his own story.

20 November 2007

Tuesday Vision

There is Paul coming to pieces in his jail cell.

His hands are clasped in front of him. His face is buried in said hands. The vein that runs down the middle of his forehead is bulging, preparing to burst.

He’s weeping now.

He remembers all of the defeats: ship-wrecked, abused, mocked, chased out of town, career implosion, scourged, beaten, imprisoned, defamed, ignored, spit upon, disorientation, dislocation, and public shame.

As he sits in his jail cell he can’t help but wonder if it was all worth it.

Was it really worth it to leave the life of religious and social power for this? Was it really worth it to leave the respect of so many for this kind of life, traveling all over the known world for only a small number of converts? Was it really worth it to endure the hardships of being a teacher who bases his life upon a reality (resurrection) he cannot possibly prove?

It’s in this moment that I desire to put my hand on Paul’s shoulder and simply say, “Paul, you do not know the abundance of fruit that will be harvested because of your labor. You have no idea what God is going to do with your fumbling attempts. You cannot possibly imagine what the Divine has in store for your meager stack of bread and few pieces of fish.”

Then I hear the Voice speaking to me. “Let your ears hear what your lips are saying.”

And I know it is I who stands in need of hearing the Voice of the One who speaks about truth, justice, spirituality and beauty.

19 November 2007

Sunday in Motown

Yesterday was a great day in the kingdom.

In a class I’m teaching at our local church, we discussed the life and contributions of Desmond Tutu and his work with the TRC in South Africa following the demise of apartheid.

Near the end, we told stories of needing forgiveness and stories about experiences in which we were convicted to do the forgiving. It was a holy and special moment.

* * *

Our time in Cass Park was fruitful yesterday. Despite the fact that Detroit is, once again, considered the most dangerous city in the United States, we were hosted with love and respect by the women and men who make their home in and around Cass Park. One friend, Anne Harvey, is so excited to be in her own house after living in Cass Park for three years that she came yesterday to “bear witness” and catch up with her friends.

I’ll write more about Anne in the future. Suffice to say, she’s taught me more about hospitality than any exegetical study from the New Testament.

* * *

Last night, our small group/life group met in the home of Dr. Craig and Stephanie Kline. Craig is a doctor who lives and works in Detroit. Stephanie is a former missionary to Honduras now studying social work at Wayne State University in Detroit. They have brought such a special dimension to our group—their passion for the city is contagious. Our time of table, worship, discussion and prayer, was exactly what I needed.

It might sound heretical…but our life group often feels more like church than Sunday mornings. What does that say….hmmm…?

16 November 2007

Running low

My brain is fried and my creative juices are low.

Have you seen any good films lately? What are your favorite TV shows? And, as always, I want to know if there are any must read books out there that I don't know of...?

Update: for one of the best teaching times on suffering click here and scroll down to the one with Adam Langford listed as the presenter. Adam is a missionary in Uganda where he works with two families which our church supports.

14 November 2007

Bisons, Oil

Here's how we do it in Lipscomb Land (no retreat, no surrender). This is from the AP. Should I be proud to be an alumnus?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Lipscomb came within a point of setting the Division I women's record for biggest winning margin with a 123-22 rout of Fisk on Tuesday night.

With the 101-point victory, the Lady Bisons were a point short of the mark set by Grambling against Jarvis Christian on Feb. 12, 1986.

Valerie Bronson scored 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Lady Bisons (1-2), who shot 57 percent from the field. Cree Nix added 14.

Tia Williams had eight points to lead Fisk (0-2), which was 9-for-54 from the field.

Lipscomb out rebounded Fisk 67-19 and led 61-10 at the half.

* * *

Can someone, with more industry savvy than me, explain why gas is rising and will rise to $4 a gallon this summer? I'm going to start riding my bike--even if it is twenty degrees this winter.

11 November 2007


Saturday was a highlight day for me. Every year the Rochester College Men’s Basketball program hosts an alumni game for those of us who…well…played basketball…hence alumni. It way obvious that many of us are a step slower, a few pounds heavier, with increasing receding hair lines.

Getting to see Coach Pleasant is a highlight. If you don’t know, he has the most wins of any active coach (I believe he’s currently at 620 plus) in Michigan men’s collegiate basketball. Click here to read more about him.

As a young man, eighteen years of age and green to the top, he took me under his wing (along with Coach George Evjen) and made a man out of me. Spending my college years under his leadership, wisdom and mentoring was perhaps the single greatest reason for entering ministry and for wanting to teach at the college level.

Little known fact: I was an all-state basketball player coming out of a large Greater Detroit public high school. I wasn’t convinced, at least as not as much as my father was, that going to Rochester to play basketball was the best decision. Ten years later, I can say that God’s hand was in this decision.

I owe Coach more than I’ll ever be able to repay.

Wednesday of this week, I had lunch with Coach Pleasant. We traded funny stories, like the time on our annual Florida trip I convinced everyone to get wet at the bottom of large water ride, only to ditch the scene at the last moment. While everyone on our team jumped around soaking wet, I calmly re-entered the scene pretending I’d shared in their suffering. The only problem: One of our coaches taped the entire thing.

Coach must have replayed that clip ten times in the hotel room that night.

Or the time a referee said to me at the onset of the second game of a back to back: “Must have been a tough game last night against Northern State.” We’d just played Northern State (where legendary and former Lipscomb University coach Don Meyer now coaches) the night before. Our second game, which began only twelve hours after the first had ended, was against one of the top NCAA D2 schools in the nation (they were ranked #5 at the time).

“What do you mean,” I asked?
“Well, looks like you got your tooth knocked out.”
“Oh…no, that’s just how my teeth look. I have a crooked tooth.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, son,” replied the ref.

Coach Pleasant heard the entire conversation and laughed all the way through the first give minutes of the game. Incidentally it was about the only thing we had to smile about the entire trip. Let’s just say that Thanksgiving in South Dakota is not all it’s cracked up to be.

There are dozens of stories I’m thinking of right now…I’ll save them for another time. For these pivotal years, these young men and coaches were my community. We were a church. We were a brotherhood. We were dysfunctional (not all of us made the best decisions). We were family. We were each other’s best friends and greatest critics.

06 November 2007

Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts on a Tuesday morning...

  • When the weather turns cold in the motor-city, the first thing I think about are my friends living on the streets and in the shelters of Detroit and Cass Park. I'm grateful for a roof, warm bed, and fridge full of food.
  • Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick, gets the "the pot calling the kettle black" award for the week. Unreal. This guy has some nerve.
  • If you died tomorrow, would you want to be cremated or buried? Do you think there's anything wrong with cremation? FYI: Did you know that in the State of Michigan, it's estimated that nearly 40 percent of all people are now requesting cremation? That's up significantly--fifteen years ago, the percentage of cremation requesters was somewhere around twelve or fifteen percent.

05 November 2007


Christ Church: Macomb is an outreach attempt of our church to reach those who are cynical, jaded, over-churched, under-churched--whatever you want to call it. People who are not connected to a vibrant faith community growing into the image of Jesus.

People who live in Macomb County.

Here's a blog that will tell you more. Ashley did a great job on the video.

Here's a little piece from our church website.

It's been a great joy and blessing to work alongside the CC:M leadership team for the last ten months or so. They are women and men of great passion, enthusiasm and conviction!

One of the greatest attributes of churches in our emerging culture: risk-taking.

Christ Church

A group of leaders from the Rochester Church are starting an extension of our family-- Christ Church: Macomb . I'm so proud to be associated with the leadership of CC:M; they are women and men of great character and passion.

Click here to read more. Click here for the CC:M blog.

04 November 2007

In both public and personal conversations, I've been telling people that the Lions have no chance to make the NFL playoffs.

Like Peter, I may become known as the disciple with the "foot shaped mouth."

Hats off to the Lions. They've surprised everyone in Motown.

03 November 2007


In my Introduction to the Christian Faith class, we've been discussing (among other things), the biblical notion of lament. Bringing one's doubts, frustrations, and anger to God is a sign of great faith, despite what some in American Christianity teach(because of her loyalty to "opitimism and denial").

Lamenting before God is a sign of faith because:

...It assumes God exists.
...It assumes God is interested and/or cares.
...It assumes that God might actually do something about one's plight.

Yesterday, I had the students construct a contemporary lament. Here's one the prayers that came out of our great dialog. Here's what Gary, Wayne, Priscilla and Emily constructed.

Hey, Dad. I know I don’t normally talk to you like this, but where the heck are you man?

For years you promised the Messiah . . .
This guy that would change the world
And Jesus came and went
And the world doesn’t look much different.

You said our weapons would turn into plows
But around the world, wars still harvest innocent lives.

You said the lion would lie down with the lamb…
But last time I checked, lions still eat lambs.

The meek ain’t inheriting anything…but social rejection.

If the Prince of Peace defeated sin and death,

Why isn’t there peace?
Why am I still sinning?
Why are people still dying?

Where is your kingdom?
When is your kingdom?
Who is your kingdom?

Make us your kingdom.

God, make the change
Make us your change.

02 November 2007

NBA, Money

The NBA season is underway, which means my ongoing struggle with addiction to pro basketball is “ever before me”—to quote David from Psalm 51.

Here are my picks:

Detroit vs. Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals

San Antonio vs. Dallas in the Western Conference Finals

San Antonio vs. Detroit in the Finals.

Detroit over San Antonio in seven games. My loyalty knows no bounds.

Thiss weekend, I’m teaching on Paul’s troublesome phrase in his letter to Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

Do you believe that? Was Paul speaking in hyperbole?