Tuesday, November 30, 2010

As I Drove Out This Evening...

THIS WEEK'S Pic: Farm land in Virginia near Rt. 17
Today my son is 11 weeks old.

Next week his daycare adventure begins as Kim and I return to work.  It will be a busy week and I'm sure there will be some tears as we mark a milestone for lil' Gabe.  I'm not looking forward to heading back to work.  I've enjoyed spending time with my wife and son as a family unit; watching my son grow over the first weeks of his life.  The transformation has been amazing as he's already beginning to transition from the tiny, sometimes cross-eyed newborn, to the very active and demanding happy little infant boy.  Experiencing our little man's early morning happiness is a sure fired way to brighten our day.

We've been wrestling with trying to get some stuff done as our time away from work comes to an end, i.e. replacing an exhaust fan in the downstairs half bath and the 'root canal like' experience (as Kim calls it) of trying to purchase a new vehicle that Kim has been diligently researching via the web ever since we test drove a couple of rides last week.  A lot of effort has gone into it, but I think we're reaching pay dirt!

Today we both had time enough to get out with friends. Kim was able to have to have lunch and some girl-time with a close friend of ours who is also a new mom and I was able to this evening meet a good friend from our men's group for some tasty Thai food.

As I drove out this evening I was reflecting on something I read today as I was listening to some new music.

The music was a band named, 'Fistful of Mercy'. I heard a track playing in the local chain bookstore from their debut album 'As I Call You Down' and it caught my hear; that doesn't happen often these days.  Great vocals and acoustic guitar.  There's obvious 'Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young' influence, with a dash of 'Misty Mountain Hop', 'Led Zeppelin' sprinkled in.  But the 'Fistful of Mercy' tune heard hear (see the link below and enjoy) is strikingly original and haunting.  For you musician types out there, apparently, Jim Keltner was the guest drummer/percussionist for the entire offering.  Keltner teamed with Ringo Starr in 1970 at George Harrison's 'Concert for Bangladesh' and most recently drums on the Elton John and Leon Russell duet album.  Oh...and by the way...did I mention that one of the members of FoM is Dhani Harrison...George's son!  I just realized that as I was reading the credit/liner notes! That explains the Beatle connections...wow!  Enjoy!

Anyway...the reading that stuck with me was from the new men's ministry book, 'Bond of Brothers' by Wes Yoder that I'm currently reading.  As I re-read this now as I post it, I'm thinking about a couple of  good friends, one a great front porch storyteller and the other, a committed 'can't sit on this gospel Jesus Follower' who I can both see nodding their heads in agreement.  Wes' words remind me of conversations I've had with them both.  These are powerful words to consider:

"Men are dying at parties, wasting time in dead churches, consumed with busy routines and driven insane with small talk.  In the space vacated by healthy friendship and conversation has come the fast pace of the new West, remote controls, and instant global access to the inventive and addictive genius of amusement and entertainment.  We can sail through a day, a week, even years, without reading, without a moment for quiet reflection, without having an original thought, without a single authentic conversation.
"Blame it on whatever you like--your father who never talked with you, goofy churches with goofy rules not even God would obey and which can do absolutely nothing to make a man spiritual or human, or the cold architecture of greedy contractors who stopped building porches on homes fifty years ago and did their part to destroy conversations with neighbors.  Or take responsibility for your own shallowness.  Becoming efficient and utilitarian has destroyed our beauty.  Mega-everything just isn't fun anymore.  Churches have missed the point about men because our life together isn't really about celebration but about making us look good." 

"The world is falling apart because of bad parties and bad churches--an overstatement, but barely so.  Of course, our issues go much deeper than that, but a few men interested in friendship with brothers who have something worth celebrating can change them both."

I think about the good time of meaningful conversation and fellowship with my friend Marty earlier this evening; we didn't talk once about the weather or sports!  I also think about how much I've been reflecting on what it means to be a father in the 21st century.  It's words like those above that serve as poignant reminders of how awesome my responsibility to my son is and how honored, humbled and  blessed I am to be his father.  

Do you suppose our Creator thinks about all of us, his children, in the same way?


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Ultimate Medal of Honor

Near Naked Mountain Winery, Markham, VA Nov 2010
 "I would suggest our culture has become so feminized that we have become squeamish at the thought of the valor that is expressed in killing enemy soldiers through acts of bravery. We know instinctively that we should honor courage, but shy away from honoring courage if it results in the taking of life rather than in just the saving of life. So we find it safe to honor those who throw themselves on a grenade to save their buddies."-Bryan Fischer
Bryan Fischer, is Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association

The above quote is from an opinion piece written recently upon the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta for heroism while serving in Afghanistan.  He courageously took a bullet to save his comrades.

It's so sad that so many men and women are giving of their lives everyday.  They are to be commended and remembered for their sacrifice.  Unfortunately, society is becoming numb to it and it's just becoming a footnote.

So, if I don't agree with the the above statement from the opinion piece, does that mean I'm not a man, and if I am a man, is it only in a feminized squeamish sense?

Should we honor killing as valorous; even of our enemy?  Is human life; mine or that of my enemy, of equal value in the sight of the Creator?  Does God rejoice in the death of an enemy?  I wonder where the direction to pray for our enemies fits into the equation? 

If as a culture we begin to focus primarily on the taking of life rather than celebrating the saving of life, do we not stoop to the level of the enemy?

I agree it instinctual and right for us to celebrate acts of courage, but I contend it a much more courageous act to give one's life (i.e. taking a bullet; falling on a grenade for your buddies) in order to save life.

Didn't people present at the Crucifixion question why Jesus just didn't use his power and connection to God to come down off the cross and be the military warrior leader the Jewish people had been waiting for?  Here's an interesting question to ponder: would coming down off the cross to save the Jewish people from the oppression of the Romans been seen as an act of courage?  Did he have a choice?  I'm glad he didn't come down.  Thanks be to God that he suffered and sacrificed through the agonizing pain and suffering of death to regain and celebrate the promise of everlasting life; the ultimate medal of honor for humanity.

Call me feminized or squeamish, but I believe celebrating life rather than killing is an act of true masculinity and love. 

What's your opinion?


PS- Gabriel turned 10 wks. and he's lighting up our lives everyday.  What a special Thanksgiving for us this coming week!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Fall foilage on campus of Lynchburg College (Lynchburg, VA) Nov 2010
"You will be hated by all because of my name.  But not a hair of your head will perish.  By your endurance you will gain your souls." -Luke 21: 17-19.

The above verses were part of this past Sunday's lectionary study.  Our pastor reminded us of how we neglect to focus on the last verses of Luke 21; a final exclamation of optimism that all to often is ignored.

In reflecting on this idea, I began to think about how a certain man was persecuted and ultimately put to death because of his teachings regarding commitment to his fellow man, the advancement of peace and God's gracious forgiving love. 

We've all seen or heard about those WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets.  I wonder if we're not asking the wrong question.  Would WWYD (What Would You Do?) be more appropriate?

'What Would You Do?' Say you were approached tomorrow by someone with a radically intriguing spiritual presence; a presence like none you'd ever encountered before.  What if you were asked to give up your life and follow this person, becoming a close confidant?  What if this person became your mentor?  What if you began to feel a strong personal commitment or spiritual connection to this new person in your life?

Soon your friends, neighbors, acquaintances and co-workers begin to question what it is that you see in this person you look up to and admire.  Snickers and behind your back whispers eventually turn into public ridicule and personal attacks upon your judge of character and overall reputation.  You're warned that your association with this person jeopardizes your job, your family, everything you hold dear.  Even family members begin to question your reasoning for hanging around with someone who dares to question the status quo.

Although your mentor is gaining a devoted following and becoming a topic of conversation throughout the community, authorities and power brokers are beginning to public condemn and privately threaten your mentor with violence. Would you speak out in defense of your friend or would you publicly deny your friend to save your own skin? 

Would a man named Jesus fair any different today than he did 2000 years ago?  WWYD?  Sadly, I think he'd meet the same fate today as he did then.

We must act with endurance against the ridicule and persecution today just as Jesus' followers, his disciples, did then.

Jesus' teaching of peace, love and promise of gracious forgiveness is the optimism we must strive to hold on to in a broken world; a world working to bring us down.  The world bringing us down thrives on us living out a life of pessimism and fear, but we have a choice.

As Christians we should already know the answer to the question of WWJD.
The question that needs to be asked is WWYD?


PS- BOOK RECOMMENDATION ALERT: 'Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment', by J. Brent Bill.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Men's Group

Tonight was a busy evening so today's post is late and will be sparse.

I'd been looking forward to tonight's men's group.
For over 2 yrs. now our small men's group has been consistently meeting weekly for a time of fellowship and discussion.  The group was an outgrowth of many of the men coming together to participate in a drama presentation during the Easter season; a recreation of the famous DaVinci's Last Supper painting.

The group kicked off by reading together, 'Get Real: A Spiritual Journey for Men', by Derek Maul.  This book grounded the group and set the course for other book discussions.  If you have a men's group at your church I highly recommend this book. 

Tonight was a special night for our group...no deep discussion, just some downtime for fellowship.  A couple men in the group worked on getting and then preparing some nice fresh New England style clam chowder. What a treat!  Thanks to Ralph for getting them and Ed for cooking them up!  Great eats were had by all.

The friendship and commitment these men have to coming together weekly is great.  We have varied backgrounds and opinions on all sorts of topics and issues, but we always learn something from one another.  We have a great respect for each other and enjoy the gatherings.  It's a great way for us to recharge and unwind; whether it's with an in depth discussion of a spiritual nature or talkin' shop about football or work we all have a great time.


PS- Son Gabriel turned 8 wks. old today.  He had a great visit yesterday with his Nana and Poppa.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm Very Thankful

Greetings everyone!
I begin this blog post as my son Gabriel is in his swing sleeping after his afternoon mealtime.  The wife's away at a doctors appointment so I'm holding down the fort.

I was able this morning to catch-up by phone with a good friend.  We talked about my son and the excitement it's generating in the lives of my wife and I.  We also talked about the excitement of  his adult son being home and finally, we shared energy and ideas for a future men's event we're working on together.  We shared laughs, smiles and joy throughout our conversation. 

Civil discourse, something I mentioned in my last posting did come up in our conversation.  I've been thinking about it a lot lately.  Interestingly, I saw a video piece on one of the network morning shows today.  I also shared with my friend about how recently at the Disciples Men of West Virginia retreat gathering the presenter prefaced his remarks by explaining that he was going to probably ruffle some feathers with his weekend presentation, but that as men of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) we always come together for fellowship with the knowledge that there's as many varied opinions and views regarding a particular topic of discussion as their are men in the room, but that as 'followers' we all understand what it means to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our attentiveness to diverging opinions.  The speaker's topic was indeed thought provoking and as I engaged a few of the men outside during our first break that Friday evening I sensed some quiet discomfort with a question the presenter raised.  As I initiated conversation with those men milling around outside the door, I felt their respect and civility shining through.  A true sense of shared value and growth potential permeated within the circle of discussion I had joined; the quiet discomfort was giving way to thought provoking civil discourse.  Imagine that!

I'm very thankful that both my wife and I were raised in homes that taught civility and respect for ourselves and for others. Both Kim and I are committed to sharing these traits with our son as he grows into an adult.

I've got serious questions regarding how civil discourse has in my lifetime dissolved into hate speech and disrespect for our fellow man, i.e. what is the role of politics and media in all this?

I'm prayerful that with the emerging political swing coming to Washington that civility will be able to be observed by those newcomers to public service.  Sadly, if the rhetoric and actions of some of their campaigns are any indication of what we have to look forward to in the way of compromise and mediation, then we're all in for more disrespectful vitriolic talk; talk for entertainment ratings at the expense of those who easily believe everything they read or don't read on the Internet, see on television or hear on radio.  As people of faith, it is our collective duty to walk the pilgrim's path of civil discourse and shine it's light on those promoting and walking in darkness.