Tuesday, August 31, 2004

'Phrase' the Lord

  • Article from New Man Magazine Online :: America's #1 Christian Men's Magazine

    I am usually the one in the crowd trying to go against the flow in order to help the flow, from within the flow and interconnected with those in the flow as one who's also flowing. This article on the phrases we use as Christians and how they might be reflective of our sleepiness and ineffectiveness as voices in and for the kingdom, is really good in that vein.

  • There's a Storm? Really? Can I Still Surf?

    You see them all over the Weather Channel - people surfing while the "storm of the century" passes by. Actually, it's calm - the storm is well to the north, and the breeze is taking the humidity away, for now. Very relaxing afternoon, thank you very much.

    Yahoo! Weather Photos

  • Pictures of Hurricane Frances

    I'm back at the hotel, after the company let employees leave at noon in case of high winds and rain and flooding in the low-lying areas of the island. Schools had already let out, too, so there was very little traffic on the way back - not that it kept me from getting misdirected in traffic again. Ay caramba.

  • Surf's Up

    ... and that's about it for Hurricane Frances as it passes north of Puerto Rico today. I don't know that I was ever worried, but I was concerned about the possibility of losing a day of work and having to hunker in the bunker at the hotel. But all's well, and the clouds and waves were gorgeous this morning. Not as humid either, so today was the day to wear the one long-sleeve shirt I brought - not as hot, only 86F today (whew!). Hopefully I'll get some time to watch the storms and the tropical rains today, as long as they hold off until after lunchtime.

    I am meeting and working with wonderful people. Jorge allowed me to set up at his workstation all day yesterday, today and probably tomorrow. Luis does his best to make sure I've got what I need. Susana's got her hands full with servers and stuff, but I'll have time later today and tomorrow to train her a bit on the system I'm here to install. Of course, being on the island is a treat, too - even if I get misdirected every time I drive because of the spanish signage. But at least back in the states, I can understand the chat going on over the cubicle walls - ain't happenin' here.

    It's no fun being lonely, and that's not an emotion I experience often, nor do I take it lightly. I think the hurt and boneheadedness of the last couple of weeks is adding a bit to the feeling of isolation, frustration of being virtually alone. I really enjoyed talking to my kids on AIM-Talk last night, but they were fighting over who's using the microphone and who's typing more than just wanting to say HI to Daddy (I don't take it personally, trust me :) - they're way to sweet to yell at over the internet!). And my wife is very kind and gracious, and way too far away right now. Conversations on the phone are wonderful, but don't take the place of sitting on the couch and not having to speak, you know? And I've pushed away friends - and I don't know what the forgiveness will look like yet. I've left a few emails - they don't check very regularly, but I'd hoped they would have responded. Of course, there's one "deep" email I haven't responded to yet, either. Probably both of us unsure of what to do next. But I would normally be sharing with them and with the email list what's going on here on the high seas.

    Jesus spoke to the storm in Mark 4:39 (kjv) - "Peace, be still". Why did he have to say basically the same thing twice? Jesus wouldn't have to command the storm to stop twice. One thought is that the "peace" was for the disciples, and the "be still" was for the storm, or vice versa. That sermon will preach. But my thought right now is that the "peace" was for the storm - and that real godly peace might not do anything to calm the rain, wind and waves. Just speaking "peace" might not soften the physical experience of what's going on, but the peace in the midst of the storm will be deeper and more real even as it continues to rage. And "be still" was to the storm, too, and the waves inside calmed down while the storms inside the souls of those present continued to fight against what they were seeing and hearing from the Messiah. And yet there was still "peace".

    I'm probably safer here on the island, relative to the hurricane, than I will be when I get back to the States. Relative to relationships, I'll be safer back home - harder, but safe together.

    Monday, August 30, 2004

    Just Thinkin'

    I was reading in Luke 4 this morning (while sweating out on the patio of my hotel room), where the story is told of Jesus entering the synagogue on the Sabbath and reading from the scroll of Isaiah. After basically claiming to be the Messiah, the people are amazed and thrilled - and then remember that He's one of their own, someone from Nazareth who maybe played with their children growing up, or goofed off on the bus after school on those same streets. Maybe they were thinking about all the notoriety and the boost for the local economy that would come from being "The Boyhood Home of The Messiah". Somebody might've been planning "Six Flags over Nazareth" and a new Hard Rock Café already. Starbucks was thinking of putting in a WiFi shop around the corner.

    I was also reading in the Daily Dig that these people were possibly amazed at what Jesus had done and that He'd come from Nazareth. And then, as He told them that He knew He wouldn't be accepted in His own town, they took offense and wanted to kill him. This article said the cause of the change-of-heart might've been the realization that Jesus was coming to declare a year of jubilee - a time when debts are cancelled and people are generally "set free" from being indebted to each other. That's bad for business - and these people wanted to dash Jesus on the rocks below the cliffs before any of this foolishness got out of hand and people began defaulting on their home loans.

    I don't know about it being that specific, since Jesus was probably speaking more generally about the kingdom of God that was at hand in their midst. I had a different thought as I conversed with this passage this morning (reading the Bible like a "conversation", where you try not to have pre-conceived notions of what the other person might be about to say). To me, it looked like they were all for being townspeople in the home of Jesus - like Memphis still smiles big about Elvis. But when Jesus said next that these people might miss the very blessing they were now counting on to build and multiply their expendable wealth, it was too much. It sounded more like He was telling the crowds, "It doesn't matter where I've come from, because you're not open to receiving what I'm bringing - release and forgiveness and reconciliation - and because of that, the blessing just might have to find someplace else to call home".

    Working in San Juan

    10am: I'm blogging a bit from the office, loading software to the customer's server and running some tests. It's hot here - really hot. I stepped outside this morning onto my patio @ the hotel and started sweating before getting the sliding door all the way open. I took one photograph of the beach - no good, since the glass surfaces all fogged up immediately on the Kodak. I can't complain, though. It's the tropics, and it's supposed to be like this. It's just not the place for a shirt & tie workforce - am I right?

    11am: Don't know what temperature they keep the a/c at in the building, but it's fairly comfortable in here - until I drank a cup of very strong and very rich coffee from the deli across the street. Their first complaint to me: "Remember when we had the coffee makers on each floor? Those days are gone. Either drip out of a vending machine downstairs, or we can get the good stuff from the cafeteria when they open at ten." It was good, hitting just right with the cuban toast, buttered and steam-press-toasted just right. But now I'm sweating again and looking for a diet coke or bottled water.

    11:30am: Wow - just started raining. You forget that "tropical" often means "rainy" this time of year. The sun is shining, but it's also raining at a pretty good clip. The hurricane is expected to miss the island fifty to one-hundred-fifty miles to the north - that's from Susana, who can listen to the morning newscast and understand what the weather muchacho is saying better than I. Great people here, but now we'll (hopefully) wait for the rain to stop before walking to lunch with Luis - who's bringing me DVDs tomorrow ("You've got to see this one...").

    2:20pm: Lunch was good and very filling. We had pizza at a grotto-like pizza place around the corner. Very good, with an appetizer of fried green plantains, french fries and wings. Now I'm hot and sweaty and way too full - with nowhere to take a nap. I just realized that this entry is reading like a play-by-play, so I probably won't do this again this week - tomorrow would be just "ditto" with a new place for lunch. I do need to find a store on the way home to by a new notebook and some pens. Such the unexperienced business traveller. I've got a plate full of things to do, but I think I can get everything done by end-of-day Thursday. If I don't have to come into the office on Friday, that'll be one less tie I'll have to wear.

    4pm: I hear that there are tourists here, too, doing touristy things - like going to the mountains, enjoying the beach, and generally not working. I haven't seen any downtown. Don't think they could dodge traffic.

    5pm: Why is there a Spongebob toothbrush in my briefcase?

    Sunday, August 29, 2004

    San Juan, PR - Trip & Arrival

    Well, that was a long long day. I've been flying or waiting in a terminal since 6am, and it's now almost 6pm - and I've got to find something to eat before calling it an early night. I was surprised I found the hotel so easily from the airport - not easy when all the signage is in Spanish.

  • Photos from Todd & Tracy's wedding last night
  • Photos from home last night, airplane window today

    My right ear is fairly clogged from the plane ride, but it should clear up by morning. Right now, I'm looking for weather forecasts - it looks like PR is going to miss the brunt of Hurricane Frances, but I might still be on the hook for flying back Friday. Hopefully there won't be any hangups - or at least I'll get some good photos, huh?

    Update - Monday Morning 6am: Well, I'm feeling better after a way-too-short night's sleep. My ear is unclogged - or the other one clogged up to balance my head. I won't be sure until I have to order from a bilingual waitress while a salsa band plays in the lobby.

    Saturday Night Wedgies - woo hoo:

    Rainbows, as all of God's promises, are way cool:

  • Flying

    I'm blogging from a hi-speed internet kiosk at CAE - how cool is that? - and my plane's not supposed to depart for another hour and a half. It's really quiet on the streets this time of the morning, fairly busy in the terminal coming in, and then quiet again in here as folks just wait for their planes. I don't know where anyone's going - some planes are flying to the one-stop destinations, others are heading one place in order to catch another flight to somewhere completely different. I saw the hook-up and knew that I needed to boot-up and see if the folks in Puerto Rico had written to tell me to hold off because of the hurricane. No emails, and the latest trajectory shows that it'll probably make for a wet & windy day Wednesday, but no more than that. Hopefully I'll get some photos of the Weather Channel guys on the beach outside my hotel.

    Time to find my gate and drink my sweet tea.

    Saturday, August 28, 2004

    Pre-Trip Schtuff

    My daughter... this can't be good [PhotoFriday: Modern contribution].

    I'm feeling a bit better today, getting over the nasty three-week-long cold I've been dealing with, just in time for my flight/s to PR tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it - getting over it, coming back next week, missing the hurricane in the process - all that. Today's pretty full, but I think we'll have a decent amount of downtime to vegg out and get some extra rest. Oh yeah - and pack.

    We're going to a friend's wedding tonight. He's been through quite a bit in the past two years - found out his wife had been cheating on him, that she was tired of trying to make it work, that all he'd done as "a good devoted husband" wasn't enough to be worthwhile. Honestly, it's her loss - he gave his life for her, but evidently she wasn't willing to give that much back to make it work. Marriage is hard - but it should be. On the other hand, it can't be all that hard if there are people able to actually love each other for decades... or for over thirteen wonderful years in this family.

    I trust that he's making the right decision for him now. His fiance sounds like a wonderful woman, and they'll both be bringing the "stuff of life" to the ceremony today. They'll need prayer and each other, and God will grace their lives in His provision and love.

    Meanwhile, I'll be packing, getting an extra afternoon nap perhaps, and making sure this daughter-on-the-phone of thing doesn't get out of hand.

    Friday, August 27, 2004

    Hurricane Frances

    I joked with our customer that I wouldn't want to come to Puerto Rico if there was a problem with impending hurricanes. Since then, three storms have come through fairly close to South Carolina. Now, as I'm getting ready to fly down (business trip, installing software - woo hoo), of course they're looking forward to a hurricane passing north - hopefully way north - of the island.

    My mom loves when I do things like this.

    Thursday, August 26, 2004

    Inflight Reading

    I'll be flying out of town Sunday, spending about nine hours in transit to San Juan. If I am reading the Delta airline website correctly, the inflight movies will be chick-flicks - not that there's anything wrong with that. But methinks I'm going to need some extra reading material, or I'll be snoozing and drooling on the person lucky enough to sit to my right.

    Any suggestions for reading material? I'm partial to fiction right now, but anything inspirational and/or non-fic is good, too.


    After yesterday's rest & recuperation day, I really needed to get back in the office today and tomorrow before heading to San Juan. If I had been in yesterday, I would've taken today off - still feeling crappy, but there's too much to get done. At least the emotional and mental outlook was looking better - until I had a "discussion" with my son over whether or not his teeth were going to get brushed, and then the wonderful travel mug of coffee decided to jump out of the cup holder and douse my Message bible (but it didn't spill on me, just my son's lunch box - another "discussion" as he's getting out of the car), and then about half-way to work as I'm drinking the last of the non-spilled coffee still in the cup, it finally decides to "get me" and dribble down my cheeks and onto my bright yellow shirt.

    It's cool though. I wasn't trying to be a non-coffee-stained fashion plate anyway, and it's drying fairly invisible as the morning progresses. I'm having network problems with my laptop connection this morning, too, but at least that's not just me - which has happened before and is frustrating on its own - but it appears to be everyone having problems getting to email and servers this morning. Why is it easier to go through shared troubles than to go through troubles alone?
      Be straightforward and honest about your true feelings. Rather be too rude than too smooth, too blunt than too kind. Rather say an unkind word that is true than one that is “nice” but ungenuine. You can always be sorry for an unkind word, but hypocrisy causes permanent harm.
      - J. Heinrich Arnold, "Be Genuine"
    Lots to chew on there, I'm sure...

    Wednesday, August 25, 2004

    Prayer & Forgiveness

      "To forgive for the moment is not difficult. But to go on forgiving, to forgive the same offense everytime it recurs to the memory - there's the real tussle."
      - C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcom
    I feel rotten physically this morning - the sinus trouble of the past few weeks is making my throat hurt, and the drainage isn't helping my stressed-out tummy. But I'm decent emotionally. Had a really nice visit from friends last night, and it definitely helps in our journey through this ebb-and-flow tidal experience of the past week. We're really grateful for relationships and conversations, over the years past and those sure to come.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2004


    (1) I received an email from an old friend Friday, after all the stuff that occurred Thursday. He used to work here, right across from me more or less - but he's been gone for about two years or so. He wrote to ask: "Can I send you a religious question? Let me know if you've got time." Real encouraging, thinking about making an impression years ago that makes him think of me when he's looking for an answer. It turns out it was about the Trinity, "what's with all the Jesus, God, Father, Lord stuff?". I wrote back, asked if my answer brought any more questions out, and found out about his newlywed life, going back to school, new career pursuits. Cool.

    (2) I'm on a team here at work for this week's divisional scavenger hunt. I'm working with people who I've never really had an interaction with before - and they're stopping by my cube to let me know what they've found, what we can count on at the end of the week, etc. Again, very cool in a relationship-fostering kinda way.

    (3) Just had a phone call from my buddy, Scott. I needed that. After all the people I've hurt this past week, it's good to know that friends are still there - confused and bewildered and dealing with their own hurt in all the fallout, but still there.

    Just me...

    I hate email.

    I just got back from lunch. I don't recommend crying and driving, but it has usually worked for me - just getting away from the pc, from the office, from the phone and turning up the radio and driving in some direction before turning around at a halfway point to turn back.

    I feel the weight of the world in the middle of my heart. I've hurt so many people. It's not fair that I sent that email last week, and it's not fair that it was so hurtful. I am so sorry. In trying to be "noble and honorable" on the outside, I took everything way too deep inside - and when it came out and was accidently sent to the world, it was too much to hold back, too much to forgive, too much for which to apologize. I cried and cried, driving east on I-20, headed nowhere except through a place where I could cry and cry out and not disturb anyone else... not hurt anyone else.

    It's not fair that one email has done so much irreparable damage, or that it's torn open so large a wound. I hurt, and I have hurt others. I am so sorry.

    Monday, August 23, 2004


    Wow... wow... wow.

    Too Soon

    I don't feel like blogging on what we found yesterday. It was a nice church, but the circumstances surrounding the whole experience ... hurt too much. I've inflicted pain & damage, and I'm not really feeling shame and guilt - wouldn't want that as a part of my life. But I do hurt in the midst of this junk. And I don't want to move too fast & ignore it either, making assessments of this and that in the midst of just dealing with the whole thing.

    Love & War

  • CNN.com - U.S. soldier weds Iraqi love - Aug 22, 2004
    God's so cool.

  • Sunday, August 22, 2004

    Journaling the Journey

    I need to preface all of the forthcoming posts regarding our search for a new church to call "home". I don't want any of this to be construed as anything remotely opposed to the church we are leaving behind. I want to word everything just right, you know? We loved and worshipped there, together with friends as family, for over seven years; we've known and loved many of the people there for longer than that, and I hope we can continue in kingdom-fellowship for some time to come. I'm not looking to tarnish the community reputation of the church, or to bring any division or derision to anything still moving forward there. Our prayers are with them as they go into the upcoming events: end-of-the-month eKIDS Extreme Outreach next weekend, Marriage Conference 09/11, Cleansing Streams ministry starting off tonight. We would still be a part of all of that, and we wouldn't want to be hindered in ministry by bitterness or whining offsite. I brought pain and hurt into the equation - I don't want to add to the mess, but move on and learn from it.

    {The only "pain" and "hurt" I wish to inflict from here on is in kicking tail and taking names in the fantasy football league set to kick-off in a couple of weeks. Are you listening, boys - Scott, Andre, Danny, Carlos? Bring it on!}

    Having said that, anything I write about any of the churches we visit from here on out is also not going to build one up in order to tear the former down. If anything, we're looking for a church home that'll be just as welcoming and just as alive as what we've left behind. "I like this about this church" should not be taken as "I like this so much better than over there" - it's a simple "I like this", and that's all. There's no comparison - if there had been, we wouldn't have been there. It's a great place to grow - if you live in downtown Columbia and want to be a part of a place that's ready to minister healing to your family with the work of the Holy Spirit and the study of the Word of God, I'd point you to CWO.

    Many people are looking for churches, or looking for new churches, for whatever reason. That's why I want to share our journey, so that we might be able to shed some light, and so others can comment and share their insights back on us. We're not letting bitterness or despair have its time in us; this is just something we need to do as committed followers of Christ in the kingdom-life we've been called to. We need another place to be planted, to grow, and to bear fruit.

    I moped most of the weekend, and slept through most of it, too, in a daze of sorts. But I realized that I needed to move on, not hold back in looking for a new church to connect with. So Vicki and I went online over the course of the past few days and found a few young churches we'd like to check out. I'm not putting out applications - to be honest, any ministry to come will come from within a church body as it has before. But I'm sure we'll find a place to serve with our gifts, and to be ministered to by the body. So we're not looking for a "place that needs us", but like I said, for a place that's probably alot like our former church home. Over the coming weeks, we'll share what we find, and we appreciate any prayers or feedback from anyone else who's just journeying alongside.

    Search Through Relationship

      We probably have wondered in our many lonesome moments if there is one corner of this competitive, demanding world where it is safe to be released, to expose ourselves to someone else, and to give unconditionally. It might be very small and hidden. But if this corner exists, it calls for a search through the complexities of our human relationships in order to find it.
      - Henri Nouwen
    [quoted via Aelki]

    Waking From The Dream

    I fell asleep last night - hard, at about eight o'clock. My wife was wonderful, letting me sleep, knowing I needed to vegg out for a time (and I tend to sleep hard). As you might imagine, I've got some major confidence issues going into "the future". The biggest hurdle to overcome might be this: if I hadn't sent that email Thursday, none of this would be happening. For better or for worse, I wouldn't have hurt my friends like this, and I wouldn't have to part with folks at all - at least not yet.

    My first objective in all of this over the course of months has been to not bring division and divisiveness into the church body. As far as I can tell, I succeeded until that email went out. No one at church knew that any of this was going on. I tended to vent "off-campus" with other ministers who know that it's good to let off steam and then be able to still work hard and be, not just pretend to be, a team player.

    I packed up my books from the office yesterday. A couple of couples were there, leaving for a daytrip to Carowinds - Pastor Danny and Carlos Jr and the wives and kiddoes. I hadn't expected to see anyone, but I'm glad I saw them. They understand, at least as far as that goes, that things happen and that they happen for a reason in God's ultimate purposes. Unless you're in ministry, I think it's harder to fathom. Pastors are the same as everyone else, but they're also a different population, and these things happen. I really appreciated their hugs and conversation in those few moments before they left for the amusement park, before I left their weekly schedules.

    Saturday, August 21, 2004

    What Next?

    Did I mention that I love my wife?

    This morning, I'm heading to the church to pack up my stuff. I didn't have much there, but one of the first things we really appreciated when the building was complete was that there would be a place to store some of my library. That's what I'm bringing home with no idea of where they're going to go: books from all over the spectrum of pomo-christianity, evangelical stuff, worship-related, service-related, bible-study related and some christian fiction. I think that's about it, though I might find a coffee cup or two. There some other big-ticket items we'd donated to the body over the years, but they can stay as long as they're useful. I'd rather they stay and still somehow serve the church that's been our home for so long, you know?

    I spent some time last night surfing the web, looking for churches I'd like to visit. That's a new experience - I've been the real/active/participating member of just three churches since moving here in elementary school. While I definitely need time to pray, re-focus, look for what God's doing and then join Him in it, I think it would be good for all of us to go to church Sunday morning. With Cammi taking it so hard, I'd like for her to feel like a part of the process, too. I don't know what the long-term looks like, but I think we've got a working model for the weekend.

    Friday, August 20, 2004

    "Self-Awareness" - Chambers

      Come to Me . . . — Matthew 11:28

      God intends for us to live a well-rounded life in Christ Jesus, but there are times when that life is attacked from the outside. Then we tend to fall back into self-examination, a habit that we thought was gone. Self-awareness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of our life in God, and self-awareness continually produces a sense of struggling and turmoil in our lives. Self-awareness is not sin, and it can be produced by nervous emotions or by suddenly being dropped into a totally new set of circumstances. Yet it is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs our rest in Him must be rectified at once, and it is not rectified by being ignored but only by coming to Jesus Christ. If we will come to Him, asking Him to produce Christ-awareness in us, He will always do it, until we fully learn to abide in Him.

      Never allow anything that divides or destroys the oneness of your life with Christ to remain in your life without facing it. Beware of allowing the influence of your friends or your circumstances to divide your life. This only serves to sap your strength and slow your spiritual growth. Beware of anything that can split your oneness with Him, causing you to see yourself as separate from Him. Nothing is as important as staying right spiritually. And the only solution is a very simple one—"Come to Me . . . ." The intellectual, moral, and spiritual depth of our reality as a person is tested and measured by these words. Yet in every detail of our lives where we are found not to be real, we would rather dispute the findings than come to Jesus.

      - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, August 19th entry
    This was the devotional yesterday, something I tend to look for when big-deal-issues run through my life. I don't tend to just read things like this. They tend to read me.

    Everything Changes

    Usually, where there's no change, there's no growth. That might be why I feel like the next steps into the future will be positive ones, because there's going to be plenty of room for changes and for growth. I'd been stagnated, over this/that/the-other-thing, and it's time to move on.

    I had an issue yesterday morning - venting to a friend over email, and accidently sending it to the whole email list. It was hurtful outside of the "processing my thoughts & venting" mode, but it was out there for all to see. I don't believe in coincidences, though - it forced me to deal with the situation at hand. And the overriding view is that I was not on the same page with the rest of the staff at church. As we've preached and lived, there's no way you can have two visions of ministry and life - that's di-vision, having different viewpoints on things that matter. So we've parted ways with our church, family members who've been friends for a long time.

    It's really deeply sad. I had a tough time last night, telling Cammi that we're going to be going to a new church. She cried - and cried and cried and cried. I don't handle female weeping as it is, but this was really rough. But I think she'll weather it well. We're not going to get out of the habit of going to church, even if I'm not looking to jump into membership or anything quite yet. Maybe we'll start a new thing, or be able to bring a new thing to an old thing. I don't know. As sad as it is to be leaving, there's a release and a relief that I'm not internalizing the whole deal anymore.

    I'll miss the people, all of them, deeply. Especially Pastor and his family. We've grow up together - our kids will still get time to play together, and we'll need to make time to share coffee together. I hope the fellowship isn't harmed irrepairably. There are others, too - like I said, family members who've been a part of our lives for a long time. I knew the repercussions going into this transition, but that doesn't make it any easier.

    Watch This Spot

    I don't know what's coming next, but I'm looking forward to the adventure. Hopefully I'll be able to move some of the stuff from the old site over here. For now, this will grow much like the other, much like myself - seeking God and journaling the adventure, for what it's worth.

    Thanks for stopping by.