Some of the Best & the Worst

Pam and I were raised in and the boys spent their early years in hurricane country and yet last week was the first time I have ever had a house substantially damaged by a storm. Last Saturday we had straight-line winds that reached around 90 mph (which I now know is called a Derechos wind storm) and they tore down a healthy 75′ white pine which thought it would be a good idea to plop down on our garage and house. White pines are not known for their wisdom in finding places to lay down. So basically the garage is destroyed, but thankfully no one was hurt, the house itself is barely damaged, and we have insurance.

Noah and I blame the whole incident on the fact that we were watching “Boss Baby” on Netflix while the storm was going on. Darn you Alec Baldwin!!!!!! I can’t help but think that if we had been watching “The Outlaw Josey Wales” this would not have happened. The lesson here is never watch Boss Baby.

I’ve been a part of friends’ lives who have had similar, and much worse, situations, but I have never been through it personally. This past week I was reminded of how good my friends are. The day of the storm we had people just come over and help us. This doesn’t include the people who called and offered to help who Pam and I also very much appreciate. Nor does it include the people from out of state who reached out to make sure we were ok and even said to let them know if insurance didn’t cover something. We are surrounded by amazing friends and we are very thankful for y’all.

Thanks to those that showed up Saturday everything that could be moved by non-professionals was taken care of before evening came on the day of the storm. One of my neighbors had hired some landscapers to clean up his trees (he lost 6) and debris and I talked with them concerning coming over when they were done. There were 6 of them and they were charging $60/man hour (high but fair for the circumstances). We had so much help that I went back over to the landscapers and told them I wouldn’t need them, all the work they would have done was completed by friends who had come over to help us. Some of these were “threads” (Eric G is a beast with a chainsaw) and some from other churches. I know of many “threads” helping in other places and if you are interested I know of another spot in which we can help this week.

An inside view. Those are rafters resting on Pam’s car.

Unfortunately I also know of some circumstance were people tried to take advantage of the damage the storm caused. Unless my interactions in the near future change dramatically I will begin to steer people away from one local company because I don’t believe they have acted ethically. Charging 5 to 6 times your normal rate might be capitalistically good on the short-term but you probably lost one customer who would be using your service for the next 5 years and who loves to refer people to services he believes in.

Unfortunately we don’t have video of the actual fall. Just right before it and then later.

Since last Saturday, and for the foreseeable future, we are now on the storm tourism tour. People stop in front of the house and take photos to send to others to convey what the storm was like. I get it because I have done it. I’m fine with it. Take your photos and be in awe of the power of God’s creation. Just please don’t pull into our driveway while we are working and stop us from working by trying to ask us questions to satisfy your curiosity (yes this happened). I’ve got work to do. If you would like to ask me about the storm I’ll gladly answer your questions if you put on a pair of gloves and start helping. Otherwise, just dry by slowing, pause briefly, and take your photos. Sorry, my grumpy old man side is peaking out.

Anyhow, as I said above, Pam and I have great friends and we are very appreciative for all of y’all.

The Threat of Resurrection – Parker Palmer

Pam introduced me to the thought of Parker Palmer a while back. I am really glad she did. Awhile back at Tapestry I referenced a seldom discussed story of Lazarus the disciple whom Jesus raised from the dead.  After Jesus brought him back to life there were some who viewed his continued existence as a threat. John 12:9 records.

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

Lazarus was breathing, walking, and talking proof that Jesus had power of Death and therefore Lazarus was a threat to the powers that be. Life in the land of Death is a threat to power. In the video above Parker Palmer does a great job of discussing the threat of resurrection.

I am so Proud of You

This post has nothing to do with Mr. Darcy or Colin Firth but 1) it was the first image that popped up in my Google Photos when I searched for “pride”, and 2) I figured I would get bonus points with Pam for posting an image of Colin Firth, who, thanks to her, I know to be the best Mr. Darcy adaptation.

I know I have mentioned this before at church and I believe I have mentioned it on the blog before – I am a world class eavesdropper. I think I get this from my mom, who is a world class snooper/stalker. It may be creepy, but I enjoy listening to other people’s conversations. Ok, so it is  little creepy when I think about it.

Anyhow, the two guys beside me at Emy J’s right now are pretty easy to listen to because they are loud talkers. So it isn’t even really like I’m trying to eavesdrop on them. 🙂

It is a young guy and an older guy talking about pretty deep issues. The thing that has hit me is how often the older gentleman has told the younger one that he is incredibly proud of him. These haven’t been throw away lines. The older gentleman has said specifically why he was proud and what has impressed him most about this young man.

“I am so proud of you” is an incredibly powerful statement and one that I believe many people long to hear and unfortunately don’t very often. It was such a pleasure to hear this older gentleman tell this younger guy how proud he was of him. Without even having to try very hard to eavesdrop I could tell that it was also meaningful to the young man.

Not Cool Futon Cushion Taker

Earlier this week I posted a much loved futon as a CURB ALERT. A Curb Alert is a post that basically says “hey this is free and on the curb so come and get it”. It is a great way to let someone else use something that you no longer need. They get a benefit out of it and the item on Curb Alert avoids going into the landfill. Curb Alerts give the earth a hug.

So I posted the Curb Alert on Facebook and Craigslist. Here is what it said:

I put the Curb Alert on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Mr. Cushion Taker seems like a Facebook guy.

The best of all worlds.

First, it is free! Can’t find a better price than that.

Second, it is only comfortable to sleep on for a day or two at most so your guest won’t stay for the third day because it will hurt their backs by the third night. It is actually comfortable to sit on so if your friend sleeps sitting up then three day guarantee is null and void. Make sure and don’t invite people over who sleep sitting upright.

Third, my basset hound Clive would regularly lay on it so it has been covered in basset hound comfort and there is no greater comfort than a comfortable basset hound. Seriously these dogs know how to relax .I’ve included a photo of him so that you can see how relaxed he is. You want to be this relaxed.

First come, first serve. If the listing is up it is still in front of my house so there is no need for you to message me. If you message me asking if it is still here I will probably be snarky. I’m in training to be a grumpy, old man. STAY OFF MY LAWN! 🙂 Just come and get it. 

I was excited about someone else getting the futon rather than just taking it to the dump. So today I saw a person in a white Grand Caravan get out and look at the futon for a minute or two and then get back into their minivan. I couldn’t really see them from where I was in the house but I could see the edge of the futon so I knew they hadn’t taken the futon. Later on I walked and discovered that Mr. White Minivan had actually taken part of the futon. He took the cushions and left the frame.

Not cool Mr. Cushion Taker. There is an unwritten rule of Curb Alerts – you don’t make things worse for the person doing the curb alert. Well at least that is the unwritten rule that I live by on Curb Alerts. Mr. Cushion Taker you made it where I still have to deal with the futon frame and now no one else is going to want the frame. So I have to deal with getting rid of the frame. Really not cool Mr. Cushion Taker and you were driving a Grand Caravan, I thought we minivan guys looked out for each other.

Faithful vs Religious

Sunday morning at Tapestry I spoke out of Luke 22:47-53. In that passage three people/groups performed actions that looked one way but actually lived out the opposite.

  • Judas looked like he honored Jesus with a kiss, but he actually betrayed Jesus
  • Peter thought he was defending Jesus, but he actually did the opposite of what the Prince of Peace wanted.
  • The leaders thought they were protecting Israel from a rebellion, but they were actually delivering Israel into the moment into darkness.

Looking or sounding pious is much easier than actually being pious. Faithfulness is the result of lots of small choices that point toward the One you have faith in. It is always easier to make grand proclamations than to actually live out the commitments that those proclamations concern.

I recently heard a on a podcast or read in an article (I can’t remember which) that every choice has pain and reward within it, and whichever comes later (the pain or reward) is usually the greater. So If I chose to abstain from donuts in the morning I face the pain of not enjoying the deliciousness that is a cream dunker, but I receive the reward of better health. That reward lasts longer than the brief pain of not tasting that little piece of deep fried heaven. Or if I chose to not cleanup after myself I receive the reward of a little rest, but the pain of a bigger mess to clean up later on. It is the old delayed gratification thing, one of the most valuable lessons any of us can learn.

I believe this fits into faithfulness:

It is easy to say something is most important to you, it is different to actually live like it is important to you. For example:

  • Many people say family is most important to them …. few make the daily decisions to put their family ahead of themselves.
  • Many people say they have found the love of their life … few make choices that actually put that love first.
  • Many people dive into hobbies … few people put in the years necessary to actually become good at the hobby.
  • Many post memes and images reflecting that they care deeply for a cause … few actually make choices that reflect that care.
  • Many say they faith in Jesus shapes them … few actually let that faith shape their daily lives.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

None of this means that the proclamations aren’t good, just that they aren’t really the goal. The goal should be faithfulness. Proclamations, bold gestures, symbolic activity, and specifically religious actions are good when they help us to be or become faithful. The good ones do this, when they are used properly.

Our cats are pretty good when they hang out with Clive. It is when they are on their own that they revert to their natural evil selves. 🙂

I think faithfulness is partially why I like dogs better than cats. You know that cats would be all about bold proclamations that only lasted as long as the proclamation was helpful for the cat. ‘I love you when you scratch my chin. NOW STOP!!!!!!” Whereas a dog is going to be faithful. “You’re going to walk over there? Oh okay I’ll wake up and walk over there too.” Don’t get me wrong, I like our cats. I probably just don’t like your cats. Whereas I probably love your dog.

Anyhow I hope I make choices that lead to faithfulness. I know I usually want to do so.

Podcasts I am Listening to Right Now

Those who know me know that I listen to a fair amount of podcasts when I drive, run, or doing other activities.  Between driving for chaplaining, walking Clive, and running I listen to a fair number of podcasts during the week.

Mockingcast – Started listening to this one because of Conor H. Great discussions of faith and everyday life. 

White Lies – Great one off podcast series concerning investigating the 1965 murder of Rev. James Reeb in Selma, Alabama.  The format is very similar to Serial and S-Town.

Code Switch – podcast on race and identity issues.

The Uncertain Hour – Their tagline is “Because the things we fight the most about are the things we know the least about.” So each season they take a subject that is often argued about and explore it. 

Make Me Smart – Podcast by Marketplace concerning the economy, technology, and culture. Best interview question around, “What is something you thought you knew but later found out you were wrong about?”

Stacking Benjamins – Personal finance podcast, my second favorite one after the Clark Howard Podcast.

A Good Morning

It is a pretty good morning. Thanks to Fawnda I scored a free chocolate, caramel, pecan scone at Ruby Coffee and thanks to a conversation with Noah last night I am listening to the Talking Heads at the moment (BTW it is a parenting victory when your 22 year old son knows who the Talking Heads are and knows specific songs to recommend – in this case Psycho Killer) while trying to deal with my vision insurance to get reimbursed for my eyeglasses, answer some chaplain questions, and consider Luke 22:47-53 for Sunday’s message at Tapestry.

Also it isn’t raining, which is a pretty big thing in Wisconsin recently.

I hope your morning, dear reader (or more accurately Mom), is as good.

God is the Subject

I’m going to paraphrase Jesus a little here.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “There was a refugee with his family running away from a dangerous situation in a neighboring country. He ran with his family to the country that proudly displayed a great monument of liberty with the following cast within it:”

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“So he ran to this country of liberty in hopes of saving his family and was detained at the border.”

“While he was detained there a pastor walked by the detention center, but closed his eyes and hummed out loud so as not to see or hear anything from the center. The pastor blamed the other side of the political landscape and walked by, and the man and his family were left in the detention center.”

“Then a once great Evangelical leader toured the facility were he was detained. The Evangelical leader thought to himself and sent to his newsletter subscribers “These people are different from us and will destroy our culture. They probably have lots of criminals. They will take us down so we can’t help them.” Then the once great Evangelical leader walked by and the man and his family were left in the detention center. “

“Then a person with no power and no prestige saw the man and his family in the detention center. She went up to him and said “I’ll get beds for you and your family. I’ll help you make a new life that is safe from the danger that you have faced. I know you want to be able to work and fend for yourself so I will help you do that. You might not be able to stay here because our immigration system has been messed up for awhile now, but I will make sure that the enforcement of our law doesn’t put you in jail or use your children as leverage against you merely for you trying to apply for refugee status.” Then she contacted her representatives, and gave to charities that would help, took action herself, and remembered the man and his family”

And Jesus said to the man “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man detained at the border?”

The man seeking to justify himself replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Obviously Jesus didn’t tell the parable of the Good Samaritan this way – If He had told this parable about immigration the “Samaritan”, or in my case the woman with no power or prestige, would have been someone that Americans seemto despise, rather than just someone without power or prestige. For example, in some circles, someone from Iran. Also Jesus would have told the story with much braver actions by our heroine. I can be whimpy in my writing. Jesus isn’t.

Anyhow the reason I paraphrased the story above is because I hear and read many people who profess Christ as Lord responding to immigrants and refugees seeking asylum by worrying about their own status. What will the immigrants and refugees do to “our” country and “our” culture? What will immigrants and refugees do to “our” resources? What will they do to our crime rate, etc. etc? After all we think we are the subjects of our own story and therefore why wouldn’t we be concerned about how immigration affects us.

But if you profess Jesus as Lord then you are saying that ultimately we are not the subjects of our own lives. If we profess that Jesus is Lord then we are saying that the story of our lives is actually all about God. HE IS THE SUBJECT, we are merely objects that point to His greatness, mercy, and love within our stories. Therefore, the way we respond to events HAS TO BE about what best tells the story of God as the Hero of the story. The way we treat refugees and immigrants (two very different groups) speaks of the God we proclaim to be King. We can disagree (and probably should) on how to handle things politically and how to change the system (just talk to an immigration attorney and you will hear that the system has needed to be changed for a long time, regardless of what party is in control, if you need one follow my friend and college roommate Scott Hicks, he’s wonderful), but we can’t allow those political disagreements to lead us to treat the individuals who are refugees and immigrants in a manner that doesn’t glorify God because the story of our lives is about Him, not us, not our country. If you don’t profess Jesus as your Lord this doesn’t apply to you, but for those of us who do we gave up the right to focus on how something affects us.

He is the Subject of the story. Our part is to be examples of how wonderful and gracious He is. That’s why we have to be good neighbors, our actions reflects upon the Subject of the story. So go and do likewise.

Remembering an Upside-Down Example

Yesterday at Tapestry I spoke about the upside-down values of the Kingdom of God. When I got home Pam told me she was surprised that I had talked about the example of Stephen Scott, a Senior Vanderbilt baseball player. I didn’t mention the story because I had not heard it. As usual Pam was better informed that I was. Here’s a photo of why Stephen Scott would have been a good example for the upside-down values we talked about yesterday.

That’s a different set of values in action. You won the NCAA National Championship an hour ago and then you clean the dugout. Those are bizarro values in action.

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. Luke 22:25b-26

The reason I titled this post “Remembering an Upside-Down Example” is because of a friend of mine for whom English is her second language. When talking with this friend if you say something that she wants to agree with with she will say “I remember” instead of saying “yes”. I LOVE WHEN SHE SAYS “I REMEMBER”.

The reason is that I know tons of people that will verbally ascent to something. Saying “yes” is just affirmation, but remembering implies action. When we remember the milk it means we purchased the milk that we were supposed to, not that we just thought of milk. When we remember our friends we bring them into whatever present moment we are experiencing. When we remember the bizzaro values of Jesus it means that we serve, we forgive, we love our enemy, etc. , etc. We don’t just ascent to the fact that Jesus’s kingdom has different values, we live out those values. We remember and remembering involves action.

Stephen Scott just lived out a good example of upside-down values. Now I need to remember that Christ’s kingdom involves such values. I must remember.