28 December 2008

27 December 2008

More Soren Quotes

I still haven't read any of Kierkegaard's books, but I always enjoy coming across his words. Some Soren Kierkegaard quotes:

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.

If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.

It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.

Once you label me you negate me.

One can advise comfortably from a safe port.

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.

The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.

The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you.

The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.

08 December 2008

Communication w/o Static

. . . communication is itself an emotional phenomenon, rather than a matter of the intellect that is influenced by feelings or the emotions, and . . . [communication] depends on three interrelational rather than “mental” variables: direction, distance, and anxiety. Whether you are a parent, a minister, a healer, or a CEO, your communicant’s capacity to hear you depends primarily on the emotional variables of direction, distance, and anxiety. Others can only hear you when they are moving toward you, no matter how eloquently you phrase the message. In other words, as long as you are in the pursuing, rescuing, or coercive position, your message, no matter how eloquently broadcast, will never catch up. And as for anxiety, it is the static in any communication system and can distort or scramble any message. It cannot be eliminated simply by turning up the volume, since that invariably also turns up the static. Messages in families, . . . or in organizational directives come through less because of the quality of their content than because of the emotional envelope in which they are delivered.

The above quote is, again, from the book Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman. As I've been reading his book, I keep recalling Scripture references to anxiety, so then I did a quick search on Heartlight.org and pasted a few below:

Do not worry . . . (Jesus, Matthew 6)

I want you to be free from anxieties. (Paul, 1 Corinthians 7)

Do not worry about anything . . . but . . . prayer . . . and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Paul, Philippians 4)

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. (Peter, 1 Peter 5:7)

Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time. (Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:16)

Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up. (The Wise, Proverbs 12:25)

Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. (The Questor, Ecclesiastes 11:10)

When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." (Jesus' parents, Luke 2:48)

28 November 2008

Seeds of Life

Many years ago, seeds of faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ were planted in fertile ground throughout the Bible Belt region of the United States and throughout rural America. I have enjoyed the fruit that has cropped up there and grown from it. It has made me want to die to my own self-interest and live as Christ. It has made my family and me more integral and wholly God's possession. It has made us realize we are blessed to be a living blessing!

So, numerous partners are sending our team with bare seeds in order to sow them on fertile ground in Wollongong, Australia. We believe many beautiful plants will grow up because God has already prepared the ground for the harvest and Jesus is the light that enlightens and enlivens everyone. We're so excited to be his workers. Pray with us that we can present a new crop to God as a pleasing offering to Him. As Paul said, "I’m doing this because God gave me the gift to be a servant of Christ Jesus to people who are not Jewish. I serve as a priest by spreading the Good News of God. I do this in order that I might bring the nations to God as an acceptable offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit." Romans 15

With another thought in mind, somewhat related, we are not going as church-planters per say, but as seed-planters. As Jesus said, "Go and make disciples . . ." and it was God who has always added to the church and created new communities.

So, what is this seed? It's often difficult to distinguish the seed from the fruit, message from the messenger. On one hand, it is a seed that can only grow properly in one kind of soil: the fertile kind. On the other hand, it is a seed that can grow all across the earth wherever people are found; and that is what it is meant to do. In fact, a preview of this "seed" was given to Abraham: "Through you all the people of the world will be blessed." In this very seed is the truth that it is for every tribe and subculture in the world. God loves the world.

Of course, in addition to the purpose in the seed itself to fall across the universe, is the deep and central life and story of Jesus. Though outwardly the world is wasting away due to sin, inwardly it is being renewed day by day through whom none other than the Resurrected One. The redeeming, resurrection power held dormant in the seed will not be exhausted until it has transformed every tribe and club and destroyed all present powers including the final power: death. Life overcomes death.

So, if I were being extra concise about describing this seed, I would say that 1) it must be planted in every tribe and language and, 2) it is universal life through the only one who can defeat evil and death. It must be planted to the ends of the earth, but its roots must be deep in the indestructible life of Jesus.

I didn't include other essential beliefs (e.g., One God) or related core practices (e.g., one baptism), though there aren't very many of these. I wanted to be too concise and just say what, latently, the seed is in four english words: ONE FOR ALL LIFE.

24 November 2008

New Frontiers into Reality (Some quotes)

"As every school child knows, the belief that the equator defined the end of the world limited the spirit necessary to produce reality." Edwin Friedman, Failure of Nerve

"The equator served as an emotional barrier, . . . a belief born of mythology and kept in place by anxiety. Such beliefs exist in every society and take hold to the extent that society is driven by anxiety rather than adventure." Edwin Friedman, Failure of Nerve

"That which does not kill you will make you stronger." Friedrich Nietzsche

"The ship is safest when it is in port. But that's not what ships were made for." -Paulo Coelho

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." -Paul, the apostle

"We can only live changes: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create." -Ivan Illich

" . . . take note of those who live according to the pattern . . ." -Paul, the apostle

"A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution." - J. Oswald Sanders

" . . . mission is . . . God's initiative . . . to restore and heal creation." -Darrell Guder

"No song, however satisfying, is ever satisfying enough." -Jason Whaley (me)

17 November 2008

Imagination with Nerve

. . . extraordinary changes in form and perspective for painting, sculpture, literature, and architecture . . . the Reformation led by Luther and Calvin . . . the invention of the watch . . . observations of space, the creation of the telescope . . . the newspaper . . .

In seeking a source for this "Renaissance," the culmination of which began in 1492, Edwin Friedman writes:

It is appropriate that this "rebirth" of the human spirit has been referred to as the "Renaissance." But the tendency to attribute the Renaissance to a renewed interest in learning may, despite its origins, be the same kind of academic bias that focuses leadership training programs on data and technique rather than on emotional process. It certainly has not been my experience in working with imaginatively stuck marriages, families, corporations, or other institutions that an increase in information will necessarily enable a system to get unstuck. And the risk-averse are rarely emboldened by data.

Columbus's discovery was the catalyst for the quantum leap we call the High Renaissance. So, getting a gridlocked relationship system unstuck requires not a cognitive phenomena, but imagination and curiosity. Friedman names this spark, if you will, "nerve."

He says, ". . . I believe that the catalyst for those other imaginative breakthroughs was the "nerve" of the great navigators who led the way."

In the midst and wake of Columbus' voyages to the New World, Michelangelo sculpts his David . . . Leonardo completes the Mona Lisa, and Shakespeare! and Galileo!

And I love what he says here to name the history lesson:

The effect of America's discovery on the European imagination was as though God had been hiding a piece of land bigger than the known world since the dawn of creation. The great lesson of this turnaround is that when any relationship system is imaginatively gridlocked, it cannot get free simply through more thinking about the problem. Conceptually stuck systems cannot become unstuck simply by trying harder. For a fundamental reorientation to occur, that spirit of adventure which optimizes serendipity and which enables new perceptions beyond the control of our thinking processes must happen first. THis is equally true regarding families, institutions, whole nations, and entire civilizations.

But for that type of change to occur, the system in turn must produce leaders who can both take the first step and maintain the stamina to follow through in the face of predictable resistance and sabotage.

O Lord, let me never discourage leaders who have this "nerve". Let them teach me imagination and curiosity. Wake me up to their imitation of Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. Amen.

13 November 2008

Character Visa

I'm applying for a Religious Worker Visa to Australia. Here is what has happened recently:

While traveling through Atlanta, Georgia, we stopped in to get my lungs X-rayed. Done. Went upstairs to Dr. W's office and gave urine and blood and got a physical. Dr. W said I'd probably live to 100. Great. Now I feel like I should take extra care of the body God gave me.

Then, Dr. W tried to contact us yesterday. He's been very helpful. Last night I was thinking, "Maybe he wanted to tell me that, on second thought, I'll live to 110," but we called him back and found out that the radiologist thought my lungs were too full of air or something. So we took a lateral X-ray and expedited it to Dr. W who, as I understand it, will pass the X-rays on to the embassy in D.C. This was already an expensive, bureaucratic process. Thankfully, we knew someone in Memphis who took X-rays for a steal of a deal.

So, as perplexed as we are, I can't imagine what Mexicans feel like trying to legally work for a few years as migrants in America. The difference between us and them is, they are trying to survive. To be as resilient as many Mexicans, it seems I need to reframe how I see this process.

At this point, all I can see are the pains of the system in process, but I know there must be some excellent and praiseworthy things in this process. Let me try to name these . . .

Dr. W said my lungs were probably so full of air because I'm athletic and fit. That was quite encouraging. He also said my heart is super healthy. So, I'm not as worried about the number two highest risk of death--heart disease. The number one cause is iatrogenesis. See Journal American Medical Association July 26, 2000;284(4):483-5

I suppose this process could work to make me more perseverant. Perhaps I'll become more able to complete tasks thoroughly in the future. People will trust me with greater responsibilities than they have in the past. Perhaps I'll be able to help someone else through a similar trial.

. . . Well that's a start. Maybe I'll notice some other excellent and praiseworthy things in this process as it goes along. And, at this point, it seems like it will keep going along until my 100th birthday. Surely by then I will have become a character.

28 October 2008

21 October 2008

In a Word? inaword

To accept this nomination, I have to answer the following questions with one word answers and nominate 10 other blogs for the "I heart your blog" award. Here goes...

1. Where is your cell phone? THERE
2. Where is your significant other? THERE
3. Your hair color? BROWN
4. Your mother? ENTHUSIASTIC
5. Your father? CALM
6. Your favorite thing? ELLA
7. Your dream last night? FORGOT
8. Your dream/goal? INFLUENCE
9. The room you're in? DINING
10. Your hobby? FITNESS
11. Your fear? SHARK
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? WOLLONGONG
13. Where were you last night? EDMOND
14. What you're not? BORED
15. One of your wish-list items? MICROBOUNCE
16. Where you grew up? STILLWATER
17. The last thing you did? VIEWED
18. What are you wearing? BOARDIES
19. Your TV? NEVER
20. Your pet? MAYBE
21. Your computer? MacBook
22. Your mood? EVEN
23. Missing someone? YEP
24. Your car? CAMRY
25. Something you're not wearing? GLASSES
26. Favorite store? NAMCHE
27. Your summer? AUSTIN
28. Love someone? MUCHLY
29. Your favorite color? HALLOWEEN
30. When is the last time you laughed? TODAY
31. Last time you cried? JULY

Okay, here are my 10 nominees - IN ORDER AND LIMITED TO:

- B

me, 4-ish

10 October 2008

Notable Conversations

One of the young women who works for our apartment complex loves to see Ella (who wouldn't?), so when we take Ella for a walk we usually go by the main office. The woman, I'll call her "Grace", came out yesterday to see Ella and talk with us. We spoke for a few minutes out by the big water fountain the Ella likes so much.

So, Nicole talks about how we're missionaries about to move to Australia and Grace listens and inquires curiously. The conversation had almost come to an end when I say, "So, Grace, what's your faith background?" She talks a little bit about how her fiance's family are from a particular religious group and they tried going along with them, but it just didn't take. Then, with genuineness and enthusiasm she says, "I believe in God. I thank Him everyday. I have a relationship with God." I take the message as, "I'm good. I don't need more religion. Everything's fine. Don't bombarde me with information." I just say, "Well, good," but I wonder whether I should invite Grace to church services with us or have she and her fiance over for a meal. How could we possibly fit a meal in with them and what does she need our church for if she's so satisfied and enthusiastic without an organized church?

So, today I am walking around with Ella by the fountain and Grace comes out. I'm thinking, "I should invite them to church services, I really should." She greets Ella as usual, but then asks confidently, but without direct eye contact, "So, where do you and your wife go to church?" I say, "Round Rock church of Christ . . . and . . . [a little bit of an awkward stutter] we'd love to have you and your fiance join us some time." She says, "Yeah, for a while now I've just really felt like . . . GO!" She inquires further about what time and where the church meets and we go to her desk where she can write directions, and Nicole's phone number and I get to show Ella off to other staff.

What did I learn? I learned the same thing I always learn: God is at work in human hearts and lives. Not that I have an unessential role, but my role is secondary to His.

It is certainly true that, " . . . he commands everyone everywhere to turn to him and change the way they think and act."

But it is also true that, "He has given them the seasons of the year and the boundaries within which to live. He has done this so that they would look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him. In fact, he is never far from any one of us. Certainly, we live, move, and exist because of him."

He is never far from any one, even one away from church. Yet, there is something we are missing if we don't have the "God's people" connection.

In fact, I would say this "God's people" connection is in the three most core beliefs that I hold:

I believe there is one Creator God, meaning Lord over and Redeemer in all things.
I believe He raised Jesus from the dead, a sign of God's ultimate authority and re-creative power.
I believe the world needs to be connected to God's people and vice versa because God has the highest stake in them for His new creation.

03 October 2008


Radiohead - Reckoner - by Clement Picon

You can't take it with you
Dancing for your pleasure

You are not to blame for
Bittersweet distractor
Dare not speak it's name
Dedicated to all you
All human beings

Because we separate like
Ripples on a blank shore
Because we separate like
Ripples on a blank shore

Take me with you
Dedicated to all you
All human beings

29 September 2008

Is There A Christian View of Politics?

If you click on the title, you'll be linked to an article I recommend on the topic, "Is There A Christian View of Politics?"

In brief, what I believe about politics?

I believe in God's revolution. I believe he manages activities and affairs through Wisdom by whom he creates all things, bringing all things into order. But in the face of God's original creation and bringing life to order, human rebellion messes the order up. So, through the Word, God began a new creation, a new order. Jesus came back to life, so he is King of the new order, God's Kingdom breaking in. Those who reject all kings but this resurrected King may outwardly waste away, but inwardly they are renewed every day. This inward renewal will soon become whole. He says, "Look, I make all things new!" I want to join this revolution of God making all things new, starting with me, but not ending with me. This revolution, this salvation, ends of the worlds or it has no end. I believe America, like all other nations, is special to God, but he also scoffs at her because she is not the rightful heir of sovereignty. So if I act or vote or govern as an American, I want to do so in a way that is totally submissive to Christ, acting and voting as if Christ is above every government official. However, I don't think my governance through voting or management has nearly as much influence for God's sake as my own way of life has when it is bowed before God and imitating Jesus. God's Revolution will eventually topple every government and nation in history.

27 September 2008

Corey Loves Syrup

You know, Corey just loooooves syrup!

Romans 11:28-36

While visiting my family in Abilene, I went to just a couple of things at ACU's Summit Lectureship. The theme was "The Righteousness of God" in Paul's letter to the Christ-followers in Rome. I love this doxology of praise to God. It was enriching to reflect on God's mercy to the people I usually refer to as "they" as well as God's mercy to "me".

The Good News made the Jewish people enemies because of you. But by God’s choice they are loved because of their ancestors. God never changes his mind when he gives gifts or when he calls someone. In the past, you disobeyed God. But now God has been merciful to you because of the disobedience of the Jewish people. In the same way, the Jewish people have also disobeyed so that God may be merciful to them as he was to you. God has placed all people into the prison of their own disobedience so that he could be merciful to all people.

God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep
that it is impossible to explain his decisions
or to understand his ways.
“Who knows how the Lord thinks?
Who can become his adviser?”
Who gave the Lord something
which the Lord must pay back?
Everything is from him and by him and for him.
Glory belongs to him forever! Amen!

15 September 2008

Prophets and Countries, Taken Captive for Christ

It's hard to find someone who just doesn't like Jesus, someone who easily ignores him thinking he is unimportant and irrelevant to the greater human race. I find people in my local church who like Jesus, people in my apartment complex who don't go to church, people who follow Muhammad or Abraham; they all like Jesus. Jesus is alright; Jesus is my friend; Jesus is a prophet; and Jesus is my savior. But, is Jesus Lord?

I even run into a lot of people at my chiropractor's office, in restaurants, and in nice neighborhoods, people who claim that Jesus is both their Lord and their savior. One says, "I follow the prophet Muhammad and I believe in Jesus." Another says, "I am a patriotic American and I believe in God's Kingdom." Another says, "I am a shopper and I believe in God's economy." I'm one of these people who lives with tension between lords and kingdoms. I make this claim of Christ's supreme lordship verbally and I even think about it on the way as I follow my intentions and inclinations and initiatives to various occupations, vocations, and hobbies.

I am among people everyday who claim Jesus as Lord, but who of us lives in such a way that it is clear that Jesus has a claim on us and everything we think about, feel, and touch? Which of us is obedient to His lordship? How can I tell if I am truly submitting to Jesus' lordship?

I heard a young man, Patrick, talk about how running consumed his life. His thoughts, his feelings, and his feet always carried him, in every "free" moment, to running on the trails. He ate, slept, breathed, and dreamed the Western States Ultra-Marathon. He made the 16% cut for the 2008 race--what an accomplishment--but when fires required the race to be cancelled, he came face to face with Jesus. He had invested all his passion in a burned up trail. He wondered whether his trail passion had rivaled God's passionate desire for His creation. As an amateur philosopher of religions, I often ask, what is God's will for every trail? or Do all trails lead to Christ? But, presently I'm distracted by the personal question, What is God's will for every lone trail runner?

When you are passionate about something, are you necessarily denying Jesus' ultimate lordship as Christ? Are you forfeiting one race because you're too involved in another?

It seems like there are two good responses to coming face to face with Jesus no matter which trail you find yourself on.

Using the metaphor of ultra-marathon running, one good response is: There's nothing wrong with running; it's one of life's healthiest pleasures. I will run with the attitude of Christ to God's glory. I will take every public or media opportunity to say something for God, especially, "I couldn't do this without Christ in my life" and "I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".

Another good response is: There's nothing wrong with running; it's one of life's healthiest pleasures. But I will translate all my passion that burns so naturally for running into a passion for knowing Christ and spreading the knowledge of Him. I will run, but only as it improves my knowledge of Christ and aids in spreading the knowledge of Him.

It seems to me both these responses are good. Of course, I don't think all choices are so clearly contrasted or so easily separated, but these responses, I think, represent two ways of opportunity in which I might be taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10)

That's my problem: taking every thought, feeling, and thing captive and making it obedient to Christ.

If I am a Muslim, taking my passionate belief in Muhammad captive for Christ and letting the Christ reveal Allah to me.

If I am an American Christian, making my passionate zeal for my country obedient to Christ and raising his Kingdom above my own.

Is this how you make Jesus Lord? But, I don't know that lowering other false gods like Muhammad or America is enough, though. I just don't know. But how would you know anyway whether you really are pressing your competitive thoughts, feelings, and practices adequately lower than THE prophet or THE nation (I mean Jesus of Nazareth and the Kingdom of God)?

If we take everything captive and make it obedient to Christ, just how captive and obedient must we make it in order for our running to match our claim "Jesus is both Lord and Savior"? How do we decide whether to reject our trail completely or just to see it in a different light?

01 September 2008


YES, I have a truck;
NO, I will not help you move.

Ironically, I was following a pick-up truck with this bumper sticker just a couple of hours ago. Doubly ironic, I think. First of all, there was an "ichthys" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichthys) Jesus fish emblem just about the bumper sticker. I assume the driver is a Christian, yet, perhaps, he doesn't see the responsibility of sharing as one that is Christian. I don't know, but it is definitely ironic in light of some parts of Scripture like, "All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other."

I remembered hearing about a group of Christians living in the same general neighborhood. One bought a lawnmower, which he shared with the other three or four Christian friends. Another of them bought a weed-eater, also shared among them. Another bought some other purposefully shared tool, and so on. Imagine how much less expense and clutter for them. Imagine how much more interaction and encouragement they received from one another.

I also remembered something that happened only just today. Yesterday, a man and his wife, in tears, told our Bible class that their home would be foreclosed this week and that they must move out. So, today, a group of us showed up and loaded a moving truck and shared out other items: lawn care equipment and bicycles to one friend's house, washer, dryer, and refrigerator to another's. There was a fair amount of laughing and teasing each other even while we were sweating. One friend was prepared share and be generous with water bottles. Every bit of help was done in love and even joy and gratitude. Working together with the particular men and women I was working with today made it seem less like work and more like . . . a sense of communion.

25 August 2008

Prodigal Love and the Eyes of Faith

by Joey Swofford, one of our elders

The word "prodigal" means lavish, without restraint, or no boundaries. We remember the story about the prodigal son and his lack of self-control and personal restraint (Luke 15). But also in that story, we see a father, who is also prodigal, in a different sense. He was prodigal in his love. He had love with no boundaries, no restraints, no conditions. He had an undonditional love for his undeserving son. Do you realize his love came from an unlimited source? It was God! God is love and He is the same place our love should come from. Our Lord and Savior has this kind of love for us. He is the God of the lost, hurt, and undeserving. He not only welcomes us back home but He comes searching for us when we have gone astray. In Luke 15, we see that our Father looks for us like a shepherd looking for lost sheep, like a woman looking for the lost coin, like a father for his missing son.

God is a loving, searching, giving and forgiving, and restoring father. You may be thinking that you've "sinned away" all the grace you received from God, but please know that you have not. God loves you and will not stop loving you every day of your life. I believe that it is a good time to ask yourself this question: How am I responding to the Lord's love for me? Do I truly believe and accept His grace and understand what that means? It is His gift. Ephesians 2:8-9

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On a slightly different note . . . I sometimes hold Ella in my hands while we look into each other's eyes trying to understand each other. I know I'm trying to do two things: 1) to understand what she is trying to communicate and 2) to communicate my love for her in ways she understands.

In some ways, she is more limited than me with regard to communication. She can smile, let her lip quiver, sigh, squeak, cry out, swing and kick, . . . but she seems to do most of her communication with her eyes. (secondarily, I would say she uses her mouth a lot, too, especially to signal her hunger to me, although sometimes I think she does it just to tell me that her favorite thing to do his feed.)

I can't see what my eyes are sending her, but I imagine they can only tell the truth as far as what is in my inner being. It almost worries me. Don't I believe God is powerfully able and generously giving? What if Ella sees in my eyes that the real truth is that I believe God to be selfish, lacking, and stingy? That He only helps people who help themselves. That He only gives to the ones who deserve it.

I don't believe any of those things--I believe all power, wisdom, and beauty belong to God and that He shares it like there's no tomorrow. But when I look at Ella I wonder what my eyes reveal to her. It makes me wonder whether grace and generosity and faith are welling up inside of me or if it's greed and selfishness and scarcity. There's a song that says, "There's love enough for the taking . . ." I hope that Ella will see that when she looks into my eyes because it's true--there's more than enough love to share and oh, what a joy to share it with her. God knows that she is a gift of love to us and of that generosity we are truly grateful.

22 August 2008

20 August 2008

Triple Post: In Love with Ella, Jesus and the Religions, and Heavenly Embarrassment

It's been so long since I've blogged and Ella's sleeping peacefully, so I thought I would do two blogs posts in one. The first one's short. The third one's probably confusing. The second one, I'm sure, is just right. ;-)

In Love with Ella
For me, having a daughter is like falling in love for the first time again. I look at her and think "How can someone so beautiful want to be with me?" I look around at other girls and ask, "Is she really the most valuable girl in the world?" and I decide, "Yes, she is, but I don't deserve her." Ella certainly doesn't take Nicole's place in my life. I am still madly in love with Nicole, no less now than before, but even more. But, I find myself longing to come home from work or wherever to see her and look in her eyes and express my love for her.

Jesus, the Heart?
I heard a statement a few weeks ago that is still bothering me. I was in the gym working out and conversing with two new friends. One is a Muslim originally from Chicago, but his parents are from the Middle East. The other guy is a Christian and Latino from Dallas. There was a slightly awkward point in our conversation when they found out that I am preparing to be a Christian missionary, but we naturally began discussing various theological questions. We talked about common misconceptions about Muslims and stereotypes. Then, we talked about anti-evolution and creation and human inability to fathom what God has done. Through everything, we either agreed or at least learned something from going back and forth on what each of us believed. Then, I was stunned a bit. The Christian said, "Well, I believe Christ is at the heart, right? And other religions are different veins, but each one flows to the heart, right? So, everybody's okay, right?" Well, I couldn't say I agreed, so I just said, "That's interesting." The Muslim went on to say that he believed in Jesus and that he figured he was closer to being a Christian than, say, a Jew, or someone who did not believe in Jesus. I thought, "That's great that you believe in Jesus. But what does that mean?" But, it was the first question, by the Christian, that has been bothering me almost constantly. Yes, of course, I believe Christ is the heart of life. I believe other religions point to Christ as much as anything else in creation. But, that it means everybody's okay just doesn't seem congruent with the way Christ and his earliest followers acted. They seemed to believe that Christ should be Lord. He was the One, whether they understood what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah or not. They surrendered to Christ as the ultimate authority above all rulers and powers visible or invisible. Any religious or political figure must give up all power to Christ. Perhaps a better image for Christ is the head. The brain sends signals to all religions and cultures and politics in order for them to submit and be healed. As individuals and groups perhaps we drop to our knees realizing the he is Lord, Master, Boss, CEO of the Universe. We give him permission to heal us. Like someone with a broken leg that heals, due not to the surgeon's scalpel or the pharmacist's drug, but due to proper relationship between the brain and the leg . . . people of various religions that submit to Christ will certainly receive help and salvation. Those who consider Christ as an equal or lesser option will go the way of destruction.

Going to Heaven
That being said, . . . "What does one have to do to go to Heaven?" is a question that bothers me to no end. Along with that is the equating of "salvation" with "heaven". It bothers me in two points that I'd like to mention here on my blog so I can look back on them and see what was bothering me. 1) I do not find this interest as one of the hotter topics in the Bible. No one came to Jesus saying, "Rabbi, am I going to heaven?" Paul never said, "Your works don't get you into Heaven." Jesus never said, "Blessed are the meek for they get to go to heaven." I could go on and on and on of examples where God's early servants could have used the phrase "going to heaven", but didn't. 2) People teach and act like the only thing that matters is going to heaven. If you ask a Christian, "What's the most important thing?" I imagine they would say, "Going to heaven." If I then said, "What in the Bible gives you this idea?" I can't imagine what they would say, but I would certainly be curious. 3) The Christian's understanding of heaven (and hell) doesn't seem any different at all to what pre-Christian Greek philosophers or what popular Americans believe. Or another way to put it, The Christian's understanding of Heaven (and hell) seems void of Scriptural images and narratives and words. Doesn't that startle anyone else?

My irritation is not arrogance. I am not proud. I simply feel alone. I am embarrassed to ask the questions, "Isn't Jesus the only way?" and "Where do you get 'Going to Heaven' information?" I've been reading the Christian Bible my whole life. I meditate on the words almost constantly. I'm not proud of that; it's just that Scripture tastes like honey to me. I'm not necessarily good at understanding Scripture, though. Perhaps I read things into it or miss "weightier" distinctions. There's also a possibility that my obsessive irritation with these questions grows out of my own avoidance of taking the claim of Scripture seriously for my own life. My weakness, perhaps, is that I don't look inwardly to see what needs to change in my life if I do indeed believe Scripture is authoritative and "heavenly".

28 July 2008

Our Baby Girl

Ella Rhys Whaley,
Born in Austin, Texas,
July 28th, 12:22 PM,
6 lbs. 4 oz., 19 inches long,
Beautifully made!!!

Ella: foreign, . . . torch, bright light
Perhaps the old German meaning “foreign” is appropriate since Ella is the first child of parents who fell in love while both were foreigners in a strange land. Perhaps also because of a sense of affinity with Abraham and Sarah in the Bible who both lived as sojourners and waited for a child through whom God would bless all foreigners. May she seek by faith a lasting city.

Perhaps the Greek meaning torch gives the sense in which we hope Ella will be a witness to the The Way. Perhaps she will testify concerning the bright light that is Christ.

As popular a name as it was in the 1880s . . . “Ella” is back again!

Ella Fitzgerald was an African-American jazz singer with a beautiful gift for music.

Jason likes the name because Ella has the “El” sound, which means “god” in Hebrew. For example, the Bible begins with “B’reshi’t barah Elohim . . .”, “In the beginning God created . . .”

Rhys: enthusiasm for life
The English word, enthusiasm, comes from Greek—breathed-by-God—but the name Rhys has a Welsh origin and is popularly used for boys’ names in Wales after some strong rulers in the country’s history. Jason’s ancestors were from Wales, hence the family name, “Whaley”.

Perhaps “Rhys” is more commonly a boy name, but don’t be confused; let her first name make it clear since “Ella” also means “she” in Spanish. ☺ And, Rhys is a girls name according to one of our baby names books.

Another Welsh meaning has been used for this name in recent times and applied to girls as well: a stream. Of course, we hope this is a reminder of the natural power and grace of the Holy Spirit, sometimes thought of as a stream of pure water.

Other meanings include . . . ardent, fiery, zealous . . . eagerness, love, and passion . . . We have confidence that she will be a zealous doer, not merely a hearer of the Word . . .

Reese Witherspoon is a famous actress, but apparently “Rhys” seems to be an unpopular spelling for girls. It gives a unique sense to “Ella”, which is a much more popular name.

Ella Rhys . . . both names seem to fit together well and fit our daughter and give her lots of room to grow as well. We think Ella is going to be a sweet name for one sweet and joyful little girl who will grow into a woman with a sweet disposition and a joyful heart. May she seek a lasting city by the light of the Son of God.

Scripture that has Ella Rhys Whaley in it:
Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning Elohim . . .”

Hebrews 11:8-16, “Faith led Abraham to live as a foreigner . . . Faith enabled Abraham . . . and Sarah . . . [They] were longing for a better country—a heavenly country. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them.”

Galatians 3:8, “ . . . So Scripture announced the Good News to Abraham ahead of time when it said, ‘Through you all the people of the world will be blessed.’”

Ephesians 5, “ . . . Live as children who have light . . . Light exposes the true character of everything because light makes everything easy to see . . . ‘Wake up, sleeper! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ . . . be filled with the Spirit by reciting psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs . . .”

Isaiah 66:12, “This is what the LORD says: I will offer you peace like a river and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream. You will nurse and be carried in Jerusalem's arms and cuddled on her knees.”

Amos 5:24, “But let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Micah 4:1, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD's house will be established as the highest of the mountains and raised above the hills. People will stream to it.”

Habakkuk 3:4, “His brightness is like the sunlight. Rays of light stream from his hand. That is where his power is hidden.”

20 July 2008

Justice Wears a Heart

I really want to see the new Batman movie and hope I can find time and a friend soon to see it with me.

I remember just before Batman Forever came out in 1995, they showed the movie trailer and one of the lines was, ". . . but justice wears a mask . . ." referring to Batman who wears a mask and fights crime. Does God care about justice? What does/would he do about injustice? Would God wear a disguise and slaughter bad guys?

Recently, I got the chance to be in class with a group of recent high school grads and college freshmen. We read Leviticus 19:1-37 and asked, basically, four questions and took notes as to some of what they all said. (Nicole chimed in, too.)

What does God do?
brings people out of oppression
saves people
delivers people

What is at God's heart? What does he care about most?
Sabbath, reverence, holiness,
caring for the poor, justice--fairness,
the stranger in the land,
worship (not to false gods),
life, supporting life,
compassionate (e.g., the deaf and blind),
honesty--don't steal

What information or knowledge is God most eager to share?
about himself--"I am the Lord"
"be holy"

What's the use of the Old Testament?
we're not slaves to the law . . . but it shows us what's right/wrong
it teaches us to care about what God cares about

There's a lot I would probably add in answering the last question, but that's another post.

19 July 2008

I've Always Loved Tusken Raiders

Rescue from Diabetes

I copy/pasted part of an article from www.mercola.com. If you are like me, pre-diabetic, perhaps you can adjust your lifestyle according to some good sense. My good friend Song Sun died a year and a half ago due to type 2 diabetes complications. He found it very difficult to change his lifestyle in order to reverse things before the dominoes began to fall on his organs. I hope that you and I are able to change ours. God, bless us.

. . .
Why is Diabetes Such a Dangerous Disease?

Diabetes has become so common that many don’t even bat an eyelash anymore. It’s almost as if diabetes has become “ok.” Just take your meds and you’ll be fine.

Not so!

Aside from the potentially deadly side effects of diabetes drugs, which I’ve covered in previous articles, the additional health complications that diabetes fosters are multiple, and quite serious, including:

Heart disease and stroke – Death from heart disease and risk for stroke is two to four times higher among people with diabetes
High blood pressure – 75 percent of diabetics have high blood pressure (130/180 mm Hg or higher)
Blindness -- Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20 to 74 years
Kidney disease – Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. In 2005, more than 45,700 people began treatment for end-stage kidney disease in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and another 178,700 were living on chronic dialysis
Nervous system disease -- About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage such as: impaired sensation or pain in hands or feet, poor digestion, carpal tunnel syndrome and erectile dysfunction
Amputations – In 2004, 71,000 lower limb amputations due to diabetes were performed in the U.S.
Dental disease -- Almost one-third of people with diabetes have severe periodontal disease
Pregnancy complications -- Poorly controlled diabetes before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy among women with type 1 diabetes can cause major birth defects in 5 to 10 percent of pregnancies, and spontaneous abortions in 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies
Putting a Price Tag on Diabetes

There’s yet another updated study that warrants mentioning here: the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) study on Economic Cost of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2007.

The total estimated cost of diabetes in the U.S. in 2007 tallies up to $174 billion. This includes $ 116 billion in excess (read: unnecessary) medical expenditures, and $58 billion in reduced national productivity.

Having diabetes not only plunders your health, but your pocketbook too. People with diagnosed diabetes incur an average medical expense of $11,744 per year, almost 2.5 times higher than those who do not have diabetes.

Follow the Bread Crumbs

The concept that diabetes is NOT a blood sugar disease is one that I keep striving to make well-known. As you can see by the numbers above, understanding the TRUE underlying cause of diabetes has the potential to save hundreds of thousands, even millions, of lives.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease caused by insulin resistance and faulty leptin signaling, both of which are regulated through your diet.

Until that concept becomes well-known in both the medical community and by the public at large, the misconception about what diabetes is and the appropriate way to treat it will continue to be promoted.

Conventional treatment that is focused on fixing the symptom of elevated blood sugar, rather than addressing the underlying disease, is doomed to fail in most cases. Treatments that concentrate merely on lowering blood sugar while raising insulin levels can actually worsen rather than remedy the actual problem of metabolic miscommunication. It just trades one evil for another.

Since most treatments for type 2 diabetes utilize drugs that either raise insulin or lower blood sugar, the tragic result is that the typical, conventional medical treatment for diabetes contributes to the additional diseases and the shortened lifespan that diabetics experience.

For the last 50 years or so, Americans have followed the dietary recommendations of a high complex carbohydrate, low saturated fat diet.

As an example, WebMD; one of the most visited medical information sites on the web, states that people with diabetes, who also have abnormal cholesterol levels, would be well advised to follow a diet that calls for 50 to 60 percent of your daily total calories to be in the form of carbohydrates.

That’s absurd.

They also state that table sugar is okay, as long as you readjust your medications to compensate appropriately (i.e. take more drugs to increase your fat cell storage capacity). Using toxic artificial sweeteners in lieu of sugar also gets the green light.

Folks, many of these recommendations are not based on what’s nutritionally healthy. They’re based on industry lobbying – just like the USDA’s Food Pyramid, which is fraught with industry conflicts of interest.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, and concomitant with the standard nutritional recommendations the incidence of diabetes and obesity has skyrocketed, and has become one of the worst epidemics the world has ever seen.

Eating a high "complex" carbohydrate, low saturated fat diet for health and longevity has been shown to be wrong. Minimal common sense would say to try something else.

How to Avoid Becoming a Statistic

Getting appropriate and regular amounts of exercise, and adopting an eating plan that emphasizes good fats, and reduced non-fiber carbohydrates and starches as outlined in my Total Health Program, can place you on the right path. Doing so will greatly improve and even reverse type 2 "insulin resistant" diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, many other chronic diseases of aging, all without the use of potentially dangerous drugs.

Excerpted from www.mercola.com.

08 July 2008

God and Country

A good friend and leader in the Park Ave church of Christ in Memphis wrote an excellent, I think, short essay in July 2006 on patriotism. So I thought I would share it:

I always look forward to the Fourth of July. It means good food and good times shared with people I care about.

Expressing one's patriotism is the thing to do on the Fourth! And I have no trouble doing so. I am glad to have lived in a country that grants me the freedoms that this one does. I acknowledge an inestimable debt to those who have sacrificed, some ultimately, to preserve the freedoms I hold so dear. I root enthusiastically for our Olympians. I get as riled as most when I hear the U.S.A. unjustly maligned. My response to such is this: How many people are doing everything they can to get out of it, preferring to live elsewhere? I rest! And finally, I'm a Viet Vet! Convinced? I hope so, for I don't want to be misunderstood as to what follows.

I get a little nervous at this linking of God and country. There are all sorts of "good Americans" who are not "God's people" in any way. And, of course, there are believing English, Russians, Japanese, and such. Don't we share something with them that is far more significant than a mere common citizenship?

And though there is much in our country that is good by virtue of the influence of Christian values, this country can by no stretch of the imagination be accurately described as "Christian". A quick look around should convince you of that.

One can be both a "good American" and a Christian, but they are entirely separate things, the latter being of infinitely greater significance than the former. God is God. He is not the representative of any particular nation, not even such a wonderful one as ours. We Christians would do well to remember it, even on the Fourth!

- Tank Tankersley, July 3, 2006

Also, there are these words at the close of an essay by Charles Marsh, © Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company :
. . . I am certain that it would be better for Christians to stand in solidarity with compassionate atheists and agnostics, firmly resolved against injustice and cruelty, than to sing "Amazing Grace" with the heroic masses who cannot tell the difference between the cross and the flag.

- Charles Marsh

I wonder if anyone has additional or critical thoughts about this subject they'd like to post as comments here.

05 July 2008

Holiday Weekend

4th of July at the Abuzeide's house, the guys outside with the hot grill, one of the kids, and a puppy dog. At the time telling basic training stories and how we got to be in the Round Rock church of Christ.

Chuy's, the King of Tex-Mex.

Nicole and our friends, sisters Sammie and Abby.

The only pillow I've ever loved.

04 July 2008

1 Peter 1:13-21

Therefore, your minds must be clear and ready for action. Place your confidence completely in what God’s kindness will bring you when Jesus Christ appears again. Because you are children who obey God, don’t live the kind of lives you once lived. Once you lived to satisfy your desires because you didn’t know any better. But because the God who called you is holy you must be holy in every aspect of your life. Scripture says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” So if you call God your Father, live your time as temporary residents on earth in fear. He is the God who judges all people by what they have done, and he doesn’t play favorites. Realize that you weren’t set free from the worthless life handed down to you from your ancestors by a payment of silver or gold which can be destroyed. Rather, the payment that freed you was the precious blood of Christ, the lamb with no defects or imperfections. He is the lamb who was known long ago before the world existed, but for your good he became publicly known in the last period of time. Through him you believe in God who brought Christ back to life and gave him glory. So your faith and confidence are in God.

01 July 2008

Good 'Ol Søren

Maybe you've heard of Søren Kierkegaard. A Christian philosopher, he was a critic of the Danish church. It just so happens that his country is now mostly atheist--at least that's my impression. We met a couple of exchange student girls a few months ago in Memphis. They came to church with us and one night had ice cream with a group of us and our friends. Corey and I, fans--is it fair to say?--of Kierkegaard asked the girls if they had heard of him. One of them had. Neither girl believed in God, but one of them really enjoyed the singing in church. They were very polite and open to friendships with Christians. Corey and I got a big kick out of the Danish pronunciation of our admired philosopher's name.

Anyway, here is a little reflection on Kierkegaard in Overhearing the Gospel, but Fred Craddock:

[Kierkegaard's] charge was that the clergy and the professors did not trust the word of scripture, but were constantly building around it the scaffolding of eighteen centuries of dogma, tradition, ecclesiastical machinery, and claims of authority. Whenver he had opportunity to preach, invariably it was an occasion for sharing the promise and judgment of a text of scripture. Quite unlike the sermons and lectures of the church, the Bible for Kierkegaard had the quality of a conversation, between God and God's people.

Here are a few neat quotes from Kierkegaard's writings regarding what I would call the risk of faith:

If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.

It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.

During the first period of a man's life the greatest danger is not to take the risk.

27 June 2008

Condoning, Condemning, and Cardboard

I thought these devotional thoughts from Eugene Peterson go well with the Cardboard Testimonies video I found on my friend's blog.

Condoning is the way of the sentimental humanist, the person who cannot bear to see others suffer the consequences of his own actions and wants to make everything all right with Mercurochrome and Band-Aids. Condemning is the way of revengeful barbarians, people who cannot bear to face themselves and who want to make everything all right by getting rid of the offense. Condoning and condemning are both wrong for the same reasons: they refuse to take seriously the integrity of the other person, and to accept the fact that personal choice has personal consequences; they refuse to accept children as persons in their own right and not just extensions of the parent; and they refuse to take seriously the promises of God, to believe that God is capable of bringing good out of evil, healing out of suffering, peace out of disorder, resurrection out of crucifixion. They refuse to believe in Jesus Christ.

Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?"
"No one, Master."
"Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin."
- John 8:10-11

Cardboard Testimonies video:

18 June 2008

A Planet that Groans

"As long as we continue to croon romantic ballads about God as a heavenly sweetheart . . . we're going to have difficulties facing a planet that groans under a curse." from page 10 of Jim McGuiggan's new book, _Celebrating the Wrath of God: Reflections on the Agony and the Ecstasy of His Relentless Love_

I just thought this was a though-provoking teaser from a book I'd like to read.

15 June 2008

What Did You Expect?

What Did You Expect? (a version of a sermon preached today in Round Rock, Texas)

Can Jason really go to grad school? Surprise. He did.
Can anything good really come out of Oklahoma? Surprise. Braum’s.
Surprise, indicated by sudden raising of the eyebrows, usually leads to one or a blend of three responses: fear, joy, or confusion. Joy is the response that comes from finding the surprises that God has in store.

I was trying to make sense of something. A widow, Luisa, and her family. Grief. Depended on God for every handful of flour and every drip of olive oil. I sensed God saying, “Get up, and go,” so I finally went over there. I said, “Here, I thought I would bring you some oranges.” I gave them a big sack of oranges. They were too sour for me so I was glad they started cutting them up and sharing slices around to several of her children—the youngest, a 10-year-old. I wanted to see if they really were hungry enough to eat these sour oranges. So I found out that not a single person out of that whole sad-faced house could stand to take even a second bite of the oranges I had brought. Except, one granddaughter. She started sucking on a half orange held by her mom and every time her mom would pull it away, the little girl who could hardly stand on two legs would scream, “Aaah!” And momma would hold that sour orange back up to her mouth and, “Suck, suck, suck.” We kind of laughed for a little while because the oranges were so ridiculously sour and because of this little girl, but then, we went back to grief and for a few more minutes we sad there depressed, tears streaming down the ten-year-old’s face. I thought, “Well, the oranges didn’t really count for bringing something to encourage them. What else can I give them?” And that’s when I thought of this story in 1 Kings 17 where God does something remarkable. It began to make sense of my life and what I was experiencing.

1 Kings 17:2-16
Then the Lord spoke his word to Elijah: “Leave here, turn east, and hide beside the Cherith River, which is east of the Jordan River. You can drink from the stream, and I’ve commanded ravens to feed you there.”

Elijah left and did what the word of the Lord had told him. He went to live by the Cherith River, which is east of the Jordan River. Ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and in the evening. And he drank from the stream.

But after some time the stream dried up because no rain had fallen in the land.

Then the Lord spoke his word to Elijah: “Get up, go to Zarephath (which belongs to Sidon), and stay there. I’ve commanded a widow there to feed you.”

He got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the town’s entrance, a widow was gathering wood. He called to her, “Please bring me a drink of water.” As she was going to get it, he called to her again, “Please bring me a piece of bread, too.”

She said, “I solemnly swear, as the Lord your God lives, I didn’t bake any bread. I have one handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I’m gathering wood. I’m going to prepare something for myself and my son so that we can eat it and then die.”

Then Elijah told her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home, and do as you’ve said. But first make a small loaf and bring it to me. Then prepare something for yourself and your son. This is what the Lord God of Israel says: Until the Lord sends rain on the land, the jar of flour will never be empty and the jug will always contain oil.”

She did what Elijah had told her. So she, Elijah, and her family had food for a long time. The jar of flour never became empty, and the jug always contained olive oil, as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

So I thought about that story and thought, “God must have commanded this widow to give me something! That’s it! What is it?” She had all these kids around and I thought, “Well, they don’t have a bunch of CDs like I have. They probably know how to sing.” So while everybody was silent and sad-faced and exhausted looking, I said, “Could you all sing me a song?” They looked at me with a little surprised, but not too surprised and Luisa said, “Well, can you sing us a song?” So I tried to think of an appropriate song to sing. I had just made up one a couple weeks previous and it was short and sombre so I sang it:

Make me humble,
Make me grateful.
Make me laugh and make me cry;
Bring me to my knees.
You’re so merciful and I’m so in need—
To be what you created me to be.

Well, it took about 15 seconds for the family to come up with the first of several songs to sing. The kids began leading praise songs around God and Jesus. We had church right there in the middle of that. I realized, with surprise, that God brought joy to me through a widow and her family who seemed on the surface not to have anything to share with me. But they did. How did they have something I needed?

And who is the Lord of creation? Who is the Ruler of rulers and CEO of the universe, but Jesus, son of Joseph of hometown Nazareth, the Lamb of God who looks like it’s been slaughtered? Would we ever have thought that he had something we needed? I don’t know that I would even have noticed him walk by.

Isaiah 53:2,
. . . He had no form or majesty that would make us look at him.
He had nothing in his appearance that would make us desire him.

And yet, he is the King of all ages. The indescribable and ultimate gift to humanity and the only hope for all creation. All wisdom, power, honor, and strength belong to him! The Lamb—surprise!—has everything we need! As the song goes, “Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men?”

And what are his people like? Who follows this Lamb?

Matthew 4:24,
. . . People brought him everyone who was sick, those who suffered from any kind of disease or pain. They also brought epileptics, those who were paralyzed, and people possessed by demons, and he cured them all.

Are you one who is being brought to Jesus?
Or, are you one who is bringing others to Jesus?
I think we take turns, don’t we? Sometimes bringing, sometimes being brought. Sometimes we’re ravens, naturally obedient to God and not even surprised by our own dependence on him. Sometimes we’re Elijah, trusting God confidently enough to ask the first widow or street kid we come across for something we need. Sometimes we’re the widow or her son, good-hearted enough to let faith grow and all we really need is a friend whom we can serve with our last handful of flour and last drip of olive oil. We take turns at these different characters, but let’s never take God’s turn. Never get tired of expecting God to surprise us—taking care of us and letting us take care of others in the most unfamiliar circumstances.

One time there was a house with a woman standing on its front porch with a cigarette and a scowl. She cussed at people who walked by. She would go inside and slam the door if you tried to say, “G’day,” to her. But if we hadn’t gone inside, we wouldn’t have realized that her husband (I can’t remember his name) was taking the best care of her that he could. And inside that house he had a small gathering of whoever would come. And he was preaching the Good News to them and leading them in praise songs. That’s where we got to hear the Good News. That’s where the Kingdom came—in the least expected place.

Good Father, please give me the ‘get up and go’ to seek your providence in the people and places I least expect. In the name of the One who is much greater than what we expected, Amen.

14 June 2008

Human Microbiome

Six Tribes of Bacteria Live in Your Inner Elbow

The crook of your elbow is a special ecosystem that provides a bountiful home to six tribes of bacteria. Even after you wash, there are still 1 million bacteria living on every square centimeter.

These bacteria are what biologists call commensals, helpful rather than harmful organisms. They moisturize your skin by processing the raw fats that it produces.

The bacteria were discovered as part of the human microbiome project, a study researching all of the various microbes that live in people. The project is in its early stages, but has already established that the bacteria in the human microbiome collectively possess at least 100 times as many genes as the 20,000 or so in the human genome.

The bacterial cells also outnumber human cells by 10 to 1.

Humans depend on their microbiome for essential functions, including digestion, leading microbiologists to conclude that a person should really be considered a superorganism.
New York Times May 23, 2008
Genome Research May 23, 2008
Science May 22, 2008

(Were You Aware… 80% of Your Immune System is Located in Your Digestive System?
So, to effectively promote your immune system health, you need to look no further than your intestinal tract. Probiotics (Greek “for life’) can be a great way to start promoting your digestive health and overall health as well.)

Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Isn’t it wonderful that your body is its own living ecosystem, teeming with beneficial bacteria?

Well, for some it may prompt you to grab a bar of antibacterial soap and run for the shower, but you couldn’t wash all the bacteria off your body if you tried -- nor would you want to. Unfortunately, modern society is unhealthily obsessed with being “clean,” despite the fact that “commensal,” or beneficial, bacteria play a large role in keeping you alive.

You and Your Bacteria: A Symbiotic Relationship

There are 70 known tribes of commensal bacteria that could be living on your body right now. The word commensal comes from the Latin term “com mensa,” which means “sharing a table.”

Take, for instance, the Nile crocodile and the tiny Egyptian plover bird. The bird flies into the crocodile’s mouth, makes a meal out of the leeches and other debris on its gums, and in turn the croc gets its teeth cleaned. This is a symbiotic relationship at its finest.

Similarly, the bacteria that inhabit your body are serving a great purpose.

Those in your gut, for instance, feed on sugars you eat and convert the hydrogen they produce into methane. The bacteria on your inner elbow, meanwhile, process the raw fats it produces and in turn moisturize your skin.


The Price You Pay for Killing Your Bacteria

There are about 100 trillion microorganisms -- bacteria, fungi and more -- living on and in your body. Despite this magnitude, science is only beginning to unravel their impact on your health.

Most obviously, it’s known that altering the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract can weaken your immune system and cause trouble to your digestive functions. But bacteria have an impact well beyond that. Even the National Institutes of Health cites research showing that “variations in the composition of microbial communities may contribute to chronic health conditions, including diabetes, asthma, obesity and digestive disorders.”

For instance:
The types of bacteria in a baby’s gut may determine their risk of being overweight or obese later in life.
Gut bacteria play a role in fighting colon cancer.
The disappearance of H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for peptic ulcers, may contribute to the obesity epidemic, as it regulates the production of leptin and ghrelin.
A daily dose of friendly bacteria known as probiotics might help treat autism, irritable bowel disease, acne and premenstrual syndrome.
How to Nourish Your Body’s Friendly Bacteria

The healthy bacteria that reside on your body are constantly under attack. The biggest offenders?

1. Antibiotics
2. Antibacterial soaps
3. A poor diet, specifically one high in sugar, grains and processed foods

While antibiotics and antibacterial soaps simply kill all the bacteria in and on your body -- both good and bad -- a poor diet actually feeds bad bacteria. Eventually, the disease-causing bacteria will be able to overtake the good bacteria, and this is when disease results.

So, what can you do to keep your body’s ecosystem thriving and, most importantly, in balance?

1. Avoid antibiotics if at all possible. Only take them as a last resort, and when absolutely necessary. If you do take antibiotics, be sure to take a high-quality probiotic supplement upon finishing the treatment to replenish your body’s good bacteria.

2. Avoid antibacterial soaps. They will cause the production of resistant bacterial strains and are toxic. Plain soap and water is all you need.

3. Eat a diet tailored to your nutritional type. This will give you the foods your body (and its bacteria) will thrive on.

4. Avoid sugar and grains, which feed bad bacteria.

5. Eat organic meat and dairy products, as conventional varieties can contain high levels of antibiotic residues.

6. Eat fermented foods like kefir, unpasteurized sauerkraut, or, my favorite, natto. These foods are naturally rich in good bacteria that will help to keep your gut bacteria in balance.

7. Take a high-quality probiotic supplement, particularly while you get your diet on the right track.

03 June 2008

My Friend's in Australia

My friend and teammate, Shawn, is in Australia at the moment. He's been bloggin' and I wanted to share his blog with . . . you guys. I'm living in Austin, TX now where "you guys" is not a gender-specific call. Nicole and I are experiencing a bit of culture shock of our own here, but it's mostly good.

We're especially excited about getting to know the people in the Round Rock congregation.

Well, here's Shawn's blog: http://everythingshawn.blogspot.com/

29 May 2008

Hosea 4 :1-3; Romans 8:19

The LORD has brought these charges against those who live in the land:

• There is no faith, no love, and no knowledge of God in the land.

• There is cursing, lying, murdering, stealing, and adultery.
People break {my laws}, and there is one murder after another.

• That is why the land is drying up,
and everyone who lives in it is passing away.
Wild animals, birds, and fish are dying.

. . . All creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal who his children are . . .

24 May 2008

What's Fat Got to Do With It?

Here's an excerpt from an article from www.mercola.com, written by Dr. Mercola. I share his desire to encourage people to take control of their health. For me, personally--not that health is a measure of faith--but, I want to "toughen my body with punches and make it my slave so that I will not be disqualified after I have spread the Good News to others (1 Corinthians 9:27)." I don't want God to say, "Jason, you sure could have done a lot more good if you hadn't been so out-of-shape, out-of-energy, and out-to-lunch." Instead of focusing on looking or feeling better, though, I think it is about letting God work on us. I suppose this is an unpopular dream these days, to connect faith with matter . . . alas, here it is:

What’s Fat Got to Do With It?

Contrary to the popular belief that fat cells should be banished, they are an active and intelligent part of your body, producing hormones that impact your brain, liver, immune system and even your ability to reproduce.

What’s more, the hormones your fat cells produce impact how much you eat and how much fat you burn.

One of these hormones is leptin, which sends signals that reduce hunger, increase fat burning and reduce fat storage.

That is, if your cells are communicating properly and can “hear” this message.

If you eat a diet that is high in sugar and grains, the sugar gets metabolized to fat (and is stored as fat in your fat cells), which in turn releases surges in leptin. Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it (just as your body can become resistant to insulin).

And when you become leptin-resistant, your body can no longer hear the messages telling it to stop eating and burn fat -- so it remains hungry and stores more fat.

Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat, sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.

As Sadaf Shadan states in Nature, there are two contributing factors to an increase in fat mass: the number of fat cells, and how much fat each of them stores (their volume).

So essentially, you can have fewer fat cells and still be overweight because each cell is “maxed out,” if you will, or alternatively, you can have more fat cells overall and be at an ideal weight simply because your fat cells are functioning properly and not storing excess fat.

Either way, you’re in control here.

What do you think?

17 May 2008

The Foot, Her Father's Music Gig, and Friends

Here is our daughter's foot--how flexible is that!

And this is how she likes to stick her foot in her mouth, but believe me--she doesn't get it from me!

Wailin' with Daddy . . . at Starbucks thanks to Rusty and his boss, Priscilla . . .

We had some out-of-control guests . . .

. . . but, they were soothed by the music, I guess . . .

These are my number-one fans--I couldn't have better supporters! We made $38 in "Whaley Homemade" CD sales.

Several weeks after Daddy's gig, we had some Aussie visitors . . . Their daughter went through high school with Nicole. John and Sandy have been driving across America, especially trying to stay on Route 66, which is easier said than done.

10 May 2008

The Pattern of Salvation

What will help you see the faith-feelings that the Spirit produces?

What I mean by faith-feelings are things like:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Really, though, these are not only feelings, but activities. Galatians 5:22 says these are the character traits that the holy spirit produces. So how can we grow a garden of these feelings? Raise a harvest of those activities?

I would say,
1. Open your eyes. Every resource in the universe is at God's fingertips and He's generous beyond measure. The earth produces more than enough food for all its inhabitants. The problem of starvation and extinction is a symptom of our broken relationship with God (Hosea 4:1-3). If you can't see God's ability and willingness to pour out more than enough love for the taking, chances are you are squinting untrustingly at the world around you. Open your eyes to God's matchless gift-giving. (Matthew 5:45; 6:22)

2. Suffer. Perhaps your brothers sold you to slave traders. Perhaps your coworkers belittle you in front of clients. Perhaps you've been emotionally abused by your closest friend. Be willing to be persecuted for crimes you did not commit and of course for ones that you did commit. Perhaps you would be willing to die for a good person. Be willing to die for people who are not good. Pray for their forgiveness and your own while they mock you. (Romans 5:1-11)

3. Endure. Suffering usually lasts longer than it's ever lasted before. Just like high school is harder than elementary school. You don't have to do 12th grade all in your first year of school. You just have to last about 12 years. In my first half-marathon race, I had never run more than nine or ten miles on one day before, but that day I ran past the tenth mile marker and kept going--even sped up until the end of the race at 13.1 miles. Run the race marked out for you with perseverance. (Hebrews 12:1-4)

4. Become the character God created you to be. You don't choose your overall character. You receive little prompts along the way--usually from off stage. When you've forgotten your lines, remember, you can use the Bible. It has lots of examples of improvisation guided by Christ's love and spiritual conviction. Like gravity bringing rain to the earth and the sun calling the garden upward, you receive God's character patiently, yet with vibrance. Our part in God's story cannot be proof-texted, only life-tested. (Luke 4:1-13)

5. Confidently hope. You know that after Jesus died, he was raised. He suffered and endured to the point of death. He became the Character God intended for all of us to become. He is our second chance to become that character or at least to become of that Character. After he had learned obedience through outwardly dying and wasting away, God resurrected him outwardly just like he had been doing inwardly day by day. We don't dwell on dying and this "cruel, cruel world" that seems to hate us. We eventually get to the point that we trust God to bring new eternal life from something destroyed by death--even a new city from the ashes of the one we destroyed! (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Revelation 21)

I think this is sort of an order of salvation. I pray our thoughts, feelings, and bodies will be renewed by this kind of pattern. :-)

04 May 2008

Ben Seriously Folds Five

I went to Memphis in May Friday night with good friends, Justin Lewis, Jacob and Lisa Parnell. We were most looking forward to seeing Ben Folds perform, but it rained on and on so they had to keep Ben's piano under plastic tarps (as well as the rest of the stage). It was disappointing not to see Ben. We did catch the last song performance of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts playing the Sly & Family Stone classic, "I Am Everyday People". It was really good. I was impressed with how youthful and energetic Joan was, and of course her lead guitarist who seemed to be in his twenties. After standing in the rain and mud puddles waiting for Ben to play between 9 and 10:30, they packed his piano up in a big box and we headed over to another stage for Sheryl Crow's performance. We caught Johnny Lang's last song there. He was playing guitar like crazy, but you could hardly hear it over the--BASS! I just almost hate whoever was responsible for the sound. Good grief! I realize God created that person, but who on earth are they trying to appeal to? The people who drive around in the bass-mobiles? All you can hear is low vibrations pounding into your chest. As far as I know, most people don't have those kinds of stereos. I have no intention of marginalizing those people from society, but . . . Okay, enough of a rant . . .

The same sound person was in charge of the music playing between the artists' live performance unfortunately. But, suddenly, the rain stopped/slowed long enough for Sheryl Crow and her band to come out and perform. We noticed her friends/family getting back/side stage to enjoy the show from beneath the shelter of plastic tarp. There just wasn't enough tarp to go around, but I'm not complaining about that, just the ridiculously loud level of the bass. Anyway, Sheryl did great. She started with "Shine Over Babylon", which I really like. All the other songs were great, too, but I don't particularly care for the song, "The First Cut is the Deepest," by Cat Stevens, which she covered. Anyway, I felt like I had to watch a couple of Ben Folds performances to make up for missing him Friday night. So I embedded youtubes of Ben playing probably my favorite one of his that I've heard, "Underground". As a side note, an acapella choir from York University performed a version of this song.

Here's another video of the song "Philosophy":

01 May 2008

Time: What the World Eats

Click on the title of this blog for a compelling photo gallery of "What the world Eats". See how much processed food some families have compared to others? Consider cost difference between those who buy unprocessed and boxes packages.

I've been saying it for about a year now. We need to convert our food industry paradigm to one that recognizes the inherent ability of the earth to produce food. Of course it would be a challenging and long-term shift, but presently, multi-national biotech companies are determined to genetically modify and patent every seed so that we get more (supposedly) of less variety (certainly), taking millions of food varieties that the earth produces naturally and abundantly. They are winnowing the myriad of plant varieties down to a single line of corn, a single line of soybean, etc., patenting them.

This leads grocery buyers to eating less variety. We it processed corn products. We sweeten our other foods with corn syrup. We feed the meat and eggs we eat with corn. But, can humans live well solely based on between one and four actual foods?

People like me have a choice with regard to food. We can seek knowledge and mostly reliable information. But what about people from lower and middle classes in america and other western countries? They're mostly eating out of plastic bags and packages. Everything they eat seems cheap because it has so little actual food leftover from the processing. And can it even be considered cheap when so many health problems are unavoidable?

Can anything be done, though?

1. Eat a wide variety of fresh foods. Enjoy the earth's abundant biodiversity in your body, mind, and soul. Be nourished!

2. Avoid processed foods. They will only make you hungry, sleepy, and depressed.

3. Plant as many unadulterated seeds as you can. Grow gardens amazingly!

Look at my friend, Corey's, okra from last summer!

Corey planted this okra in--believe me--not the best soil. There were bicycle parts in it, pieces of rubber, etc. He basically took about a wheelbarrow-full of dirt out so it wasn't so packed in. The soil swell out to fill the rest of the space on its own. Then, he broadcast seed over it--no rows. Then, he scattered a bag of organic top soil over the top of the seeds. He planted marigolds on each corner around the okra and other crops--insect predators are marigold-averse. Corey never fertilized. He merely watered and picked off a few bugs in the evenings. And I've never seen more productive and strong okra plants. It got even taller than what you see--he had to stand on a chair and reach way above his head to pick it. GENETICALLY MODIFY THAT!

But, you're wondering, "How can we do this bio-intensive farming on a grand scale? For those who don't want to grow their own?" If agricultural companies own the seed, they can afford to transport food from the money they make on seed sales and sprays and fertilizers. They can maintain low prices, right?

My answer: I don't know how to make the shift from industrialized food monocultures to all human beings having local access to exuberant varieties. But there are those who have been thinking about this and researching and experimenting for many years.

4. Search "biointensive", "John Jeavons", "Ecology Action", "Southside Community Land Trust". Also, here is a good article on What a fossil-fuel free agriculture might look like: http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/12/5/184641/855. And definitely read about the Land Institute: http://www.landinstitute.org/. Finally, give some money to Healing Hands International, http://www.hhi.org/.