Aug 31, 2010

We All Need a Psalm 23 God

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages of scripture.

Who wouldn't love a shepherd who leads us beside still waters and guides us in paths of righteousness? Who doesn't want their cups to overflow or to be comforted by God's presence?

But there are a couple of things about this psalm that I don't think most of us realize.

Look again at where God says he will guide us with his rod and staff so we will fear no evil - through the valley of the shadow of death.

Look again at where God promises to anoint our heads with oil so that our cups are overflowing - in the presence of our enemies.

You see, the promises of God are not some poly-anna, pie in the sky, feel good garbage. God knows that there are days when we are surrounded by our enemies. God knows that there are days when we find ourselves in the valley of the shadow of death. And it is in those days that I need God's protection and promises the most.

Friends, I don't know where you are in your life today, but I know that I go through days when it's dry, and worse yet, when I feel like I am in the middle of the valley of the shadows of death. And should you find yourself in one of these valleys where you are surrounded by your enemies, know this: God is with you. His rod and and staff will comfort you. God will lead you in paths of righteousness.

Thank God that we have a God who is there not only in the best of days, but especially when all else fails and the world is crumbling around us.

Go ahead. Go read Psalm 23 again and remember again how awesome our God is.

Beautiful Seattle

Our friends Sam and Lilly are here from Dallas visiting us for the week.

Today, we took them up to Seattle to see the sites. It was a picture perfect day to see the sites. And did we ever see the sites. Here's a highlight of all we saw:
- Pike Place Market
- Waterfront
- First Starbucks
- Space Needle
- REI Store
- Ballard Locks and the salmon making their spawning run
- Dicks Hamburgers
- Uwajimaya and the International District
- Alki Beach and the world famous Fish and Chips

We could not have asked for a prettier day.

Even though I live here now, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest still takes my breath away. I am not sure if people ever get used to the beauty around here. I sure hope not.

Aug 30, 2010


Here is the story from Laura Jeanne Allen I ended yesterday's sermon with.

My grandparents were married for over half a century, and played their own special game from the time they had met each other. The goal of their game was to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving "shmily" around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more.  

They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal.  They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio where my grandma always fed us warm, homemade pudding with blue food coloring.

"Shmily" was written in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear bath after bath. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "shmily" on the very last sheet.

There was no end to the places "shmily" would pop up. Little notes with "shmily" scribbled hurriedly were found on dashboards and car seats, or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows.

"Shmily" was written in the dust upon the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture.

It took me a long time before I was able to fully appreciate my grandparents' game. Skepticism has kept me from believing in true love – one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted my grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their flirtatious little games; it was a way of life. Their relationship was based on a devotion and passionate affection which not everyone is lucky to experience.  

Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word jumble. My grandma whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was, how handsome and old he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew "how to pick 'em."

Before every meal they bowed their heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and each other.  

But there was a dark cloud in my grandparents' life: my grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As always, Grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that way so that she could always be surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go outside.  

Now the cancer was again attacking her body. With the help of a cane and my grandfather's steady hand, they went to church every Sunday morning. But my grandmother grew steadily weaker until, finally, she could not leave the house anymore.

For a while, Grandpa would go to church alone, praying to God to watch over his wife. Then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma was gone.  

"Shmily." It was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet.As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members came forward and gathered around Grandma one last time. Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky breath, he began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief, the song came, a deep and throaty lullaby. Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I knew that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty.  

S-h-m-i-l-y: See How Much I Love You.  

James <><
check out what God is doing at
Twitter @jameskimlcop
Sent from my iPad 

Aug 28, 2010

It's Not the Parts of the Bible That I Don't Understand That Troubles Me...

I believe all scripture is inspired by God.

I believe that the Bible is God's word.

Having said that, there are passages that scare the daylights out of me. There are passages that make me scratch my head and wonder, "What was that about?" There are sections that make no sense to me.

Now, don't get me wrong. Most of scripture is crystal clear.

Most often what is most difficult is not the passages that I don't understand, but the passages that I do understand because I am so unlike what the scripture calls me to be.

In my daily reading, I've come across one of the most frightening passages for me in Scripture. I think I understand what it says. And that's what scares me. I am not sure what to make of it all.

So as part of my meditation today, I will post it here and ponder it with you all.

At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.

"Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him he will die. Since you did not warn him he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself."
Ezekiel 3:16-21

Aug 27, 2010

The Injustice of Rev. Jane Spahr's Decision

I don't get it.

The Rev. Jane Spahr is found guilty on 3 of 4 charges by the Permanent Judicial Commission of Redwoods Presbytery - I get that.

The Rev. Jane Spahr is rebuked by the PJC of Redwoods Presbytery for having been found guilty as charged on 3 of 4 accounts - I get that.

In the narrative section of the PJC of Redwoods Presbytery, they speak of the Rev. Jane Spahr and her actions with glowing terms and esteem - I even get that.

Then what is it that I don't get?

I don't get how these things come together. I don't get how you can find someone guilty, censure, and rebuke them and then at the same time praise them for their actions. Try doing that when disciplining your children.
- Johnny, it is unacceptable for you to talk back to your daddy.
- You will be disciplined by losing your privilege of eating sweets for talking back.
- But you were awesome for standing up for what you believe to be right. I love your independence and your resolve.

That would never work in the real world. And this decision and the explanation of the PJC doesn't work in the PC(USA) world.

This ruling and explanation is a slap in the face to everyone involved.

Church, either have the guts to stand with Rev. Spahr and find her not guilty and praise her for her actions.

Or, have the guts to stand with your judgment of guilty and rebuke her for her actions.

BUT YOU CANNOT DO BOTH. That is both cowardly and unfair to everyone involved. It's not fair to Rev. Spahr and her cause. It is not fair to those who find her actions worthy of rebuke. This decision and the justification for the decision of the PJC is an insult to everyone involved.

I do not blame the PJC for this ruling and its explanation. The fault lies with a denomination that can't make up its mind. The current Book of Order allows for both the judgment and ruling of guilty AND the the praise for Rev. Spahr and her cause. We made the Book of Order what it is today. It is our ambiguity, our cowardice, our ethos that is expressed in this decision.

Marriage Saver

Marrying my wife was one of the easiest decisions of my life. She is beautiful. She is fun. She's a great cook. She can make you feel like a million dollars. Who wouldn't marry Helen.

Having said that, staying married to my wife has been one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my life.

And I know she says the same thing about me.

This could be said about every single married couple out there.

When Helen and I first got married, one of my mentors told me something that has saved my married. I want to share it with you because I know it will save your marriage as well.

Because we're all sinful and selfish creatures, we will hurt each other. This is not a matter of if, but a matter of how many times we are going to hurt each other on a daily basis.

So, the next time your spouse hurts you, I want you to say the following three things: 1) I know you love me, 2) I know you didn't do this intentionally to hurt me, 3) So I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

1. I know you love me - This is where we start. All marriages start here. We get married because we love each other.

2. I know you didn't do this intentionally to hurt me - most of the time, your spouse will hurt you and they will have no clue that they hurt you. You will be hurt just the same, but you need to know that your spouse did not intend to hurt you.

All couples get to a point where they are so mad and so hurt that they will say and do things to hurt their spouse. That's what sinful people do. All couples do that at one time or another.

However, if you find yourself in a relationship where this is the pattern, please listen. Get counseling. Your are walking on thin ice. If you and your spouse regularly hurt each other intentionally, you are not far from breaking your marriage. Please get counseling right now when you have the chance to fix it.

3. So I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt - Listen, if you jump on your spouse every time they hurt you, you are going to fight all the time. Because we are all sinful and selfish creatures, our relationships and marriages will need some breathing space.

When your partner hurts you, give them grace. Know that 1) they love you, 2) they didn't do this to intentionally hurt you, so 3) give them the benefit of the doubt.

This is huge. If you do this, you will both save your marriage and a ton of heartache.

It's worked for Helen and me for the past 16 years. I dare you to try it!

1. I know you love me.
2. I know you didn't do this to intentionally hurt me.
3. So I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Aug 25, 2010

More than We Can Imagine or Hope...What a Mighty God We Serve

When Moses was standing at the Red Sea, he had no idea that the seas could open up and become dry land.

When Moses and Joshua stood in the wilderness, they had no idea that God could rain down manna from heaven on a daily basis to sustain and nurture his people.

When the Israelites were routing the Amorites and needed a few more daylight hours, they had no idea that the sun could stand still.

Elijah never knew that a dead boy could rise again as he prayed.

Elisha had no inclination that an iron ax could float in water.

Mary never knew that virgins could conceive.

Peter had no idea that he could walk on water.

Whenever we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we put our faith in the God who changes the molecular structure of water and turned it into wine to redefine what is and what is not possible.

If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you serve a MIGHTY, AWESOME, AMAZING God!!!

Worship him.

The Joy of Parenting Boys

For a great portion of my parenting career, I never knew the joy of having a boy. I was a profession dad of girls. So this whole boy thing has been a new experience in the last five years.

I had always known boys are different than girls. After all, I was a boy myself for many years - still am sometimes according to my wife. I just never knew and didn't remember how different boys are.

So, in order to let the rest of you non-boy parenting people in on the joy of parenting a boy, allow me to share a couple of experiences.

Picture the scene: a four year-old boy tearing across the house. A few seconds later, his 12 year-old sister chasing him through the house.

A few moments pass by and there's a "WAHHHH! She hit me!"

At which point daddy goes to make sure there's no blood and then begins investigating.
  • Fact, 4 year-old boy yelled, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!"
  • Fact, 4 year-old boy punched 12 year-old sister.
  • Fact, 4 year-old boy crying because 12 year-old sister didn't like getting punched even though she was supposed to get what she got and you don't throw a fit!" 
  • Apparently, 12 year-old sisters do throw a fit when they get punched in the arm by 4 year-old boy and will chase down 4 year-old boys and punch them back.
Why a 4 year-old boy would do that? You tell me.

Picture the scene: a four-year old boy comes out of the bathroom after having spent some time in there and joins the family eating lunch at the table and begins eating his sandwich.
  • Mommy asks, "Did you wash your hands?"
  • Boy replies, "Yes."
  • Mommy asks, "Did you remember to wipe?"
  • Boy replies, "Yes."
  • Did you remember to throw the toilet paper in the toilet?"
  • Boy says, "Toilet paper?"
  • Everyone at the table grossed out.
Why a boy would ever do that? No idea.

Our girls never did that!

Boys! You gotta love em!

The joys of parenting boys...

*P.S. No names have been used in this blog to protect the identity of the boy. ; )

Aug 21, 2010

If the Apostle Paul Were to Come to Our Church, Would He Know It Was Church?

As I sit at my desk going over the sermon for tomorrow, a thought crossed my mind.

I know. That can be scary sometimes.

But here's what I am wondering. If the Apostle Paul, Timothy, or any of the first century Christians were to come to church tomorrow, would they recognize what we were doing in church as church? Would they know that what we were up to was a worship service?

What would let them know that? Our hymns? Our contemporary praise music? The band? The powerpoint? The liturgy? I think these things would clue them into us being Christian, but I don't think they in and of themselves would let the first century Christians know that what we were doing was worship.

Whether you worship in a church with the latest fog machines and lights, or a quiet little church in the country, or a church out in the bush in Uganda worshiping under a tree, what makes church, church? What makes what we do on Sunday mornings worship?

The obvious answer is Jesus Christ. It's Jesus Christ who makes what Christ-followers do on Sunday mornings worship. It's the church gathered proclaiming, worshiping, adoring, praising, listening, obeying, following, Jesus Christ.

Now then, here's another question: if what ultimately matters about worship on Sundays is Jesus Christ, why do we repeatedly do the same things over and over as if that was the only way to worship Jesus?

Shouldn't we be asking first, how can we best help our people and our neighbors experience the risen Christ? And then once we've answered that question and discerned it's perhaps through pianos and organs, or through the sermon, or the liturgy, or whatever else we then go ahead and do that.

But if we discern that perhaps, it's through living out the love of Christ, shouldn't the church consider reading God's word and then asking God how he would want us to put that into practice, and then (I know this is crazy - but I like it) actually going out in groups to do what the Bible said for us to do so that we can experience the presence of the risen Christ among us and live that out in the communities we find ourselves in?

Or perhaps, instead of listening to a 30 minute exposition by a so called expert, the best way to experience Jesus is for people to gather in smaller intimate groups and read the word and share with one another how they can best live out what God is teaching and then covenant with one another to do what Christ asks us to do that week.

Or, we draw, paint, dance, etc.

I think there are a bazillion different things we could do to help our people experience the glory of the risen Christ. And I find it somewhat limiting that we insist on worshiping God in the same exact way we've always worshiped week after week. As if our way of worshiping Christ is the only way of worshiping Christ.

Oh the possibilities.......

Aug 20, 2010

Lessons for the Church from the Nexus One Failure

Google's Nexus One was supposed to change the way people bought phones. Instead of being enslaved to the four major carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile), Google was to free people to purchase phones as they wanted.

That was the theory anyways.

But the reality was that because Google decided only to sell their phones through their website instead of opening up their product to as many people as possible through as many means possible, Google's Nexus One is dead.

While Apple, HTC, Samsung and others have sold millions of units of their comparable smart-phones, Google has barely sold 100,000 units. This is what you see when you go to Google's Nexus One site:
The Nexus One is no longer available for purchase. And when you click onto the help center, you find out that there are only a limited number of units available to registered developers.

Who cares? Why am I even writing about all this?

There are some really important lessons that leaders of churches and organizations can learn from Google's failure with Nexus One.

First, a superior product without a superior distribution scheme will lead to failure. Very few people would argue that Nexus One was not one of the best smartphones on the market. But because Google insisted on limiting its sales to only its website, it was a colossal failure.

Second, by only selling their product on line, this decision eliminated the touch factor. People couldn't touch it and play with it like they can with any of the other phones marketed through retailers. This was a huge mistake on Google's part.

Third, Google tied their product to the least attractive carrier. Although people could purchase the Nexus one through Google, if they wanted the discounted price, and if they wanted the phone to work right out of the box without the extra step of unlocking the phone and voiding the warranty, you had to sign a two year contract with T-Mobile.

So what can leaders learn from this?

1. Without a doubt, Jesus is the greatest answer to the all the problems that ails our society. No question. But if the church and her leaders do not plan and have a strategy for telling the world about Jesus, how will anyone know? The problem wasn't the Nexus One: it was their distribution strategy. The church has to be intentional about how best she can maximize the reach of the good news of Jesus Christ.

2. Don't forget the touch factor. The product becomes real as people come in contact with it. They need to touch it, play with it, hold it in their hands. The same is true for Jesus Christ. People come into contact with Jesus Christ through her followers. Here's what this means: if all the church's activities and programs require non-Christians to come to church, that church will fail. Jesus must be taken to where the people are. There needs to be intentional programs and activities that regularly takes people with Jesus out into the community so that people can come in contact with Jesus through Christ-followers.

3. The message of Jesus can be shared in a way that is less-attractive, and the person of Jesus Christ can be shared in a way that is more attractive. And it is the leaders' task to discern the difference.

Although I never owned the Nexus One, it's sad to see it fail. There was so much potential.

Leaders, may those words never be said of the churches and organizations we lead.

Aug 19, 2010

A Shout Out to Nurses

Before my heart issues, I never spent a single day in the hospital except for other people (my wife, dad, kids, church members, etc). But since my heart issues, I've had more than my share of spending extended time periods in the hospitals.

I appreciate the work that doctors do - after all, God saved my life through the work of doctors. But there's a group of health care professionals who don't get enough of the credit - nurses.

I have to say, I have been so impressed by the care and help provided by the nurses. Doctors will come by and see you for a few minutes every day or two. But nurses are there 24/7. Nurses are not only taking care of your health care needs (making sure you get your meds, checking your vitals, etc.) but nurses are helping with all kinds of stuff that don't have anything to do with medicine (i.e. bathing you, cleaning up your messes, getting you a cup of water, making sure you're comfortable, and yes, right after my open heart surgery, nurses even help you after you take care of business). 

I am not sure if all nurses knew that was part of the job description when they signed up for the deal, but I sure am grateful. 

Doctors may get most of the glory and credit, but in my book, nurses are real-life heroes and heroines. 

Thank God for nurses.

Aug 18, 2010

Feeling Good

It's only been a couple of days since the stents were placed in my heart and I am so impressed by how much better I am feeling.

People would ask me if I noticed any difference after the bypasses and I really couldn't tell. But after the two stents were placed in my heart, I notice a huge difference already. It's amazing how much better a guy can feel when there's better blood flow to his heart.

You know how you feel after a good nap? You're alert, your senses are wide awake, and everything seems clearer. That's exactly the way I feel right now.

The last couple of months, I've been tired. No matter how much I slept and how much I rested, I always felt tired.

The latest angioplasty has done wonders for me.

I am feeling better than I've felt as long as I can remember.

Thank you Lord! And thank you all for your prayers.

The plan is to be back in the office tomorrow!

God is good!

Aug 17, 2010

Heart Lessons from God

Thank you all for your prayers and words of encouragement as I have been resting and recovering from having the two stints placed in my heart. Your prayers and support has been awesome.

What is God really up to? That’s a legitimate question. What was all that about? Why now? Why the heart thing?

The First heart lesson I’ve learned is that God loves me, but he’s not quite ready to call me home yet because there’s still lots of ministry for me to do for him both in my family and in my church family. It would not have taken much to call me home. The only reason why I am still alive is because God wills for me to be alive.

18 months ago, I had no symptoms, no warnings that out of the four main arteries in the heart, two were 100% blocked and the other two were 90% blocked. I was barely alive and didn’t even know it.

The only reason why I am still here is because God’s not done with me yet.

Since God’s not done with me yet, I need to be a better steward of the life God has given me. While I certainly don’t fear death, that doesn’t mean I don’t need to do my part to manage the life God has given me. Here’s what that means:
·      I will lose 30 pounds by end of February 2011. That gives me six months to lose 30 pounds – five pounds a month.
·      To accomplish that, I will be exercising five days a week, and eating a low-carb, low-fat, and low-sodium diet.

The second heart lesson is that every single day God allows me to be alive will be lived to the fullest for the glory of Jesus Christ. I don’t want to waste a single day doing things that won’t make a difference for Jesus. As someone once said, life is God’s gift to us but what we do with our lives is our gift back to God. I want my life to count. I want my life to make a difference.

So then, what is the heart lesson for the rest of us? You don’t need a heart incident to learn these heart lessons: the only reason why you’re alive is because God’s not done with you yet, and every single day is a gift from God and you don’t want to waste it.

This is what the Psalmist had in mind when he penned these words thousands of years ago, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life” Psalm 39:4. Because it’s with the end in mind that we will be able to live lives that matter today.


James <><

Aug 16, 2010

Heart of the Matter - Update on my Hospital Stay

I am writing this blog from the hospital room at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma.
Sunday morning at around 3am I started feeling a tightness in my chest that then spread to my left shoulder and arm. I was hoping that it would go away on its own but after an hour the tightness and pressure only got worse.
My wife drove me to the hospital at around 4am. I went to the ER in my Sunday clothes because I was still holding out hope that I might make it to church by nine.
To make a long story short, I have been at St. Joe's since early Sunday morning. I did not have a heart attack. But the reason why I was having chest pains is because two out of the four bypasses from last year are not functioning.
I now have two stents to go with my four bypasses.
But the good news is that this will help me to feel better.
Thank you all for your prayers for me, my family, and the Little Church. God loves me, but He's not ready to call me home yet. God has me here because God is not yet done working through me. There is still much ministry and life for me to live for the glory of God.
James <><
check out what God is doing at
Twitter @jameskimlcop
Sent from my iPad

Aug 13, 2010

The Four "S"s of Healthy Leadership Teams

One of the best leadership lessons I've learned was from Bill Carl, the president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. We were lecturing together in Russia at the Moscow Presbyterian Seminary and we were talking about leadership lessons we've learned.

Bill shared that he and his staff practice the four "S"s.

  1. No Secrets
  2. No Surprises
  3. No Subversion
  4. Lots of Support
Since then, I have been incorporating these same four "S"s in my leadership.

No secrets, no surprises, no subversion. These things destroy team chemistry and trust. Healthy teams discuss things openly. Healthy teams do not hold "meetings" after the meetings - the meetings where colleagues get together to blast the leadership. If there are questions and disagreements, they are discussed openly and without repercussion. The leader must create an environment where differences of opinions and ideas can be shared.

Then once the team has come to consensus, everyone agrees to support the decision of the group and there is lots of support.

In healthy leadership teams, there are no secrets, no surprises, and is no subversion, but tons of support.

These are the four S's of healthy leadership teams.

Aug 11, 2010

Kids Are Not Born Bigots - We Teach them to be That Way

The diverse people groups Jesus interacted with included, but were not limited to men, women, children, shepherds, wise men from foreign countries, fishermen, synagogue officials, the diseased, the demon-possessed, those prone to seizures, the paralyzed, lepers, centurions, the blind, the mute, zealots, Pharisees, Sadducees, hometown citizens, teachers of the law, physicians, tax collectors, the rich, the chief priests, soldiers, governors, thieves, widows, prostitutes, beggars, kings, wedding guests, public officials, Jews, Cannanites, Samaritans, and Syrophenicians. 
(Sarah Cunningham "Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation).

Jesus never had issues with multi-culturalism or diversity. Jesus practiced multi-culturalism and diversity long before we ever had a name for them. To Jesus, people are his children in need of grace, forgiveness, and new life. Nothing more nothing less.

Why is it that we have such a hard time practicing what is so natural.

I relearned this truth on my recent trip with my kids. We spent a weekend with a few family friends. On a beautiful afternoon, all the girls were sitting on a log watching the tide roll in (Kaitlin, Katie, Ava, Kianna, Kailey, Karis, and Karis). Coming upon this scene one of the adults started singing, "Which one of these things is not like the other? Which one of these things doesn't belong?" And she asked the kids. To which the kids replied, "All the kids name start with a "K" sound while Ava starts with "A".

But what the adults were thinking was that all the kids were dark-haired and of Asian descent while Ava is a blond, blue-eyed, as white as you can get white kid.

What looked so obvious to the adults was not so obvious to the kids. They didn't see the color and racial difference until the adult mentioned it to them.

Multi-cutural diversity is built into human beings. Children don't see color. They see people.

It's so sad, but the truth is bigotry and racial profiling is a learned trait, and our society is too good at teaching this trait to our children.

Is it any wonder that Christ says that unless we all become like children we will not inherit the Kingdom of heaven.

God, may our churches reflect the beauty of all your cultural and racial diversity found in your created world.

Aug 10, 2010

To You (including me), From God

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Isaiah 58:6-12

Aug 8, 2010

Truth of the Bible is Meaningless Without the Truth of Our Actions

I shared with the congregation this morning an excerpt from a book I am reading called, "Dear Church: Letters from a Disillussioned Generation". The author, Sarah Cunningham, is exploring the question of why so many 20's-30's find themselves at odds with the church. This book is written from a person who loves the church, believes in church, and hopes that the church becomes who she was created to be.

In the opening chapter, Sarah Cunningham is interviewing 20's-30's unchurched folks about their views of the church. Here's what I shared with my church this morning:

The comments from a woman working in connection with the local justice department summarized the feelings of many. "What do you think churches could do to improve their relationship with the local community?" I asked.

"Churches?" she repeated, almost as if she thought she might have heard me wrong.

I nodded and repeated the question.

"I don't see anything that churches could do." She wasn't being mean, but rather to-the-point. "We've already got tons of churches. Look around. There's a church on every corner. I bet you could count nine or ten within three blocks of here," she reminded me. "An nothing has changed, has it? Did you know the that three or four of these churches have been here since the town was on the map? But some of the social issues just keep getting worse and worse."

She paused for me to write things down. "People don't have enough job training or employment opportunities. Drunks wander the streets. The same homeless people have been circling in and out of the shelters for the last fifteen years. Kids don't have anything to do to keep them out of trouble. Meanwhile, the churches keep right on existing, holding their services every Sunday. And it never changes anything. It seems pretty obvious to me that churches are not the answer."


If we believe that the local church is the hope of the world, then we must engage. We can no longer ignore the social issues of our day while preaching a "pure" gospel. The truth of the Bible must be accompanied by the truth of our actions otherwise the truth of the Bible is totally irrelevant.

God, help our churches to engage.

Aug 1, 2010

The Bike Situation

So here's the deal-e-o. My motorcycle is broken.

I was reading late in the office on Wednesday evening. I decided to go home around midnight and went out to start the bike and nothing. Tried popping the clutch and nothing. So, I called Helen to come pick me up at 12:30am (she didn't even complain! She's such a trooper). We both finally got home around 1:40am.

My motorcycle is a 1995 Honda Magna. It's a great bike, but it's 15 years old and even if I were to fix whatever is wrong with it right now, there are lots of other things that are going to need fixing in the near future (front shocks, rear shocks, electrical, brakes, etc.).

I love riding. But more than that, the issue is that the roundtrip commute to church and home is about 45 miles.

On the Magna that costs me around $3. But since the bike's been down, I've been driving my Suburban. And that beast gets 14mpg. So a roundtrip to church costs about $9, and I go to church a lot! Like everyday, at least once a day.

Helen and I have been talking and dreaming about a bigger motorcycle for a while. The Magna is great for commutes and short rides, but it would be a nightmare on a long road trip. And one of the things that Helen and I want to do is to go on a road trip on the motorcycle.

So, we're very much considering getting a bigger bike for the two of us to tour on. Here are the choices we're thinking about.

Honda NT 700 - This is the smaller version of the classic ST 1300. This bike has been a huge hit with the Europeans and has been made available State side for about a year. There is a demo model selling for $10k. I think I can talk the dealer down since its a demo with a few hundred miles on it.

  • Great gas mileage. It gets 50-60mpg. (about $2 for RT to church)
  • Great commuter bike
  • Honda reliability
  • Small saddlebags
  • Not as comfortable as a true touring bike
  • Same size engine as my current bike
Honda ST 1300 - This bike is the big brother to the  NT 700. This bike is a classic sport touring motorcycle. I found a used model in the Seattle area with 6,000 miles for $8k.

  • Decent gas mileage - 40-45mpg ($3 for RT to church)
  • Honda reliability
  • One of the most comfortable and smoothest bikes around
  • It would be a used bike and I don't know the history of the bike's care
  • Older design. Hasn't been updated in about 8 years
Kawasaki Concours - This bike is a beast. It was completely redesigned in 2008. This is the consummate sport tourer. I found a 2008 bike on ebay from a dealership in Wisconsin selling for $9k.

  • One of the most powerful engines around
  • Extremely comfortable. Helen and I could tour the country with this one.
  • Huge saddlebags
  • Worst gas mileage out of the bunch - 35mpg (about $3.50 per RT)
  • Would have to have it transported to WA
Or the last option is for us to keep the 95 Magna and fix it. The Magna is a great bike. It's fun. It gets decent gas mileage (40mpg). And the best part is that it's paid for. 

But it's old. And it's beginning to show it's age. If I am going to keep this for the long haul, it will need some major work. Plus, it is the least comfortable bike. It's fine for commuting but any ride longer than an hour is a killer on the butt and back.

So, there you have it. 

For now, my bike sits in the church parking lot until Helen and I can figure out what to do with the bike situation. In the meantime, I am commuting in my Suburban and the gas mileage is eating my wallet up (I get about 14mpg on the Suburban).