Saturday, August 25, 2007


Last Sunday morning I was sitting in the Covenant class when one of our ladies tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could help a gentleman who was in the lobby. I walked out to the lobby and saw a guy sitting on the couch. He appeared to be around 40 years old, and was not dressed like most people at Skillman on a Sunday morning...

I sat down next to him, told him my name, and asked how I could help him. He said his name was Jerry and that he had a job at a laundromat a couple of miles away. He had ridden to Skillman on his bicycle. He was supposed to get a better job driving a delivery van for the company that owned the laundromat, but his wallet had been stolen and he needed some money to get his drivers license replaced.

The easy thing to do would have been to give him some cash and send him 'gratefully' on his way, but it so happened that I was not carrying any cash that day. I asked him what time he had to be at work on Monday. He said he was supposed to be there at 10, so I told him that if he would meet me back here at 8 o'clock Monday morning I would take him to get his drivers license before he had to go to work.

He said he would try, but could I give him some money for food, so I took him to the grocery store and bought a couple of bags of groceries. We got back to the church building just as class was letting out. He loaded his grocery sacks onto his bicycle, thanked me, and rode off, and I went in to church. Afterwards, I arranged with one of the ministers to take him and get his license if he showed up Monday morning.

Monday morning, no Jerry. But around 8:30 Wednesday morning I got a call from the church office that he had called to see if I could pick him up at the laundromat and take him to get his license. I actually had some unscheduled time that morning, so I went and picked him up and took him to Dallas City Hall to get his license. I asked him what ID he had so that he could get his license, and he didn't have any. He had lost his birth certificate some time ago, and his social security card was in his stolen wallet along with his license. He said that a police officer had told him that it wouldn't be a problem, because he was in the computer...

It was a problem. I got a glimpse of the frustration faced by people without the resources to navigate the systems of government regulations - regulations that are in place for the common good, but often significant barriers for the poor among us.

There was a short line at the drivers license window, but a large group of people who had been through the short line and were waiting to be called. When we got to the window, the lady asked Jerry for some identification, and he told her that the officer said he wouldn't need any because he was in the compter. She handed him a sheet of paper with a list of acceptable forms of identification and asked if he had any of those. He told her his wallet and IDs had been stolen and asked what was he supposed to do. Her response was "Come back when you have one of these on the sheet".

One of the forms of ID on the sheet was a birth certificate, and there is also a birth certificate office at City Hall, so we went there next to inquire about getting a copy of his birth certificate. The lady there said it would be no problem to get a copy as long as he had a drivers license or some other valid form of identification. He told her that he didn't have any, and she said that if he had a parent or sibling with ID that they could get a copy. He told her that it would be to hard for his mother to get to City Hall, and she gave him a form that his mother could send in by mail. He said that his mother could not afford the $22 fee and I told him that I would pay for it.

Jerry was still a bit frustrated, but out of excuses at this point. We took the form, and I took him back to the laundromat. I handed him the $22 to pay for the copy of his birth certificate, and told him that as soon as he got it to call me, and we would go and get his drivers license. He hasn't called yet, but I'm hoping that he will....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Coors Field vs Fenway

This morning as I was driving to work, one of the morning crew on the Ticket (sports radio station in Dallas) was describing his visit to Fenway park the previous week. I couldn't help but compare his experience at Fenway with our own experience at Coors Field in Denver last week. I've been to games at 1/2 dozen major league stadiums, and Fenway is on my list of places to visit, but so far, the closest I have been to one of the great ball parks was a snowy early March tour of Wrigley Field.

As the radio host was describing his experience at Fenway, it lived up to and even surpassed expectations. I can't really say the same about Coors Field...

The stadium is in a reviving area of downtown Denver, and it looks good in its setting. We spent our first night in Colorado in downtown Denver, and were within a free shuttle and a few blocks' walk of the stadium. Denver, while a mile above sea level, sits on the plains at the edge of the Rockies; it was 96 degrees the afternoon that we got there, but the Cubs were in town and we decided to go to the game.

Games in Colorado start at 6 pm, and having never been to the stadium before, I requested seats that were not directly in the sun. I was assured by the guy behind the window that our seats would get only indirect sun. We ended up sitting about 2/3 of the way down the right field line, facing directly into the sun, and just sat there sweating and downing bottles of water. The seats are angled slightly towards home plate, but if you sit back in your seat your line of sight reaches a point just beyond the pitchers mound. So we sat sweating and leaning forward craning our necks in an effort to see the whole field. The crowd was lethargic, the game presentation was bland, and there seemed to be more Cubs fans than Rockies fans. Overall, easily the least enjoyable major league game that I have been to, although we were treated to a very fine sunset as the sun finally sank behind the mountains in the background.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rocky Mountain High

Just back from a restful week in Colorado. I had planned to go to Colorado since my Jr High days when I heard John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High every morning on the school bus. (AM radio stations in the 70's in Wheeling, WVa were somewhat predictable in their play lists) - I just never imagined that I would be nearly 50 before I actually got there. I had been to Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy several summers ago when I was coaching Lauren's off-season basketball team, but I spent most of my time with basketball and chaperoning a dozen girls...

Barbara, Taylor, and I spent last week in Estes Park, at the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. We white-water rafted, drove some scenic routes, did some hiking - it does not take long to become breathless at that altitude - and Taylor and I rented ATVs one afternoon. We spent one day at the Planet Bluegrass Folks Festival in Lyons. While the high temperature in Dallas topped 105, we enjoyed highs in the low 80's and lows in the 50's. We also rested to the sound of the Fall River just below our deck, and caught up on some reading.

Ironically, coincidentally, or perhaps providentially, one of the books I was reading was Daryl Tippens' Pilgrim Heart. Two of the chapters are entitled Resting: The Day Sabbath Becomes Joy and Resting: More Blessings of the Sabbath. He speaks of the rhythm of creation, the rhythm of nature, and how they reflect the nature of the creator. He talks of rest, sabbath, as being an integral part of that rhythm, and focuses on God's resting on the 7th day, of David's solitude as a shepherd, and of Jesus routinely withdrawing from and then re-engaging the crowds.

Being made in the image of God, it is within our nature to need and to benefit from regular rest. Unfortunately that's counter to the busyness in our lives. While it is not pragmatic at this point in my life to spend much time in Colorado on a regular basis, it is imperative that I 'rest' regularly.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


During the month of August we are meeting on Wednesday nights for a meal and a time of prayer. This evening we practiced an abreviated form of a practice called Examen. Generally attributed to Ignatius sometime in the early 16th century, Examen is a daily exercise that has been a regular practice of Jesuits ever since. The Examen is a methodical prayer designed to help you recognize and receive God’s presence and action in the routine of daily life.

In churches of Christ we have a long history of rejecting practices that originate from within other denominations, and particularly from within Catholicism. I'm becoming convinced that we have sometimes cut off our nose to spite our face. It does not necessarily imply agreement with theology to adapt practices that can be helpful in spiritual formation in either a corporate or an individual sense. The more I learn, the more I discover that I don't know...

American Catholic Update describes these five simple steps to the Examen:

Recall that you are in the presence of God.
We are always in the presence of God, but in prayer we place ourselves in God’s presence in an especially attentive way.

Look at your day with gratitude.
As you move in gratitude through the details of your day, remember that every single event has been God’s gift. As you take stock of what has been given you this day, take special care to notice what you received and what you gave. As you complete the review of your gifts and the particular gifts of this day, pause briefly to thank God for all these.

Ask help from the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit will help you understand the mystery of your human heart, and at this point you ask to learn more about your actions and motivations. This is not a “beat up on yourself” session, where you will grind at the core of your being in sadness over things you have done wrong. Rather, it is a gentle look with the Lord at how you have responded to God’s gifts.

Review your day.
Here you review your entire day, watching it like a little movie that replays in your mind. Be sure to notice the details, the context of what happened and how you acted. As you look through the day, notice especially your interior motives and feelings. Examine just how conscious you have been of God’s presence and actions in your life.

Reconcile and resolve
In the first and second steps, we ask the Spirit of God to guide us as we look at our day with gratitude. In the third and fourth steps we ask the Spirit of God to guide us as we review our actions. The final step, our heart-to-heart talk with Jesus, is the fruit of that repetition.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tom Landry and Faith

Taylor and I are going to the Cowboys' first preseason game this week. I have not been to a Cowboys game since Jerry Jones bought the team, and Taylor has never been. Since he will be spending their last season at Texas Stadium in Heidelberg, this may be the last opportunity he has to attend a game at the stadium with the hole in the roof.

While I grew up far from Texas, I have been a Cowboys fan for as long as I can remember. I think it goes back to the very first time I became aware of a football game on television, and the Cowboys were playing the Redskins. In my young mind, the cowboys represented the "good guys", and I have followed them ever since.

I have long since abandoned the notion that the Cowboys are the "good guys", but there have been some truly good Cowboys, and the best was Tom Landry. He set an example for millions by living according to his faith. This is what he had to say about faith...

I realize that a lot of people think the idea of a "personal relationship" with God sounds disturbingly exclusive, some-how presumptive, and more than a little pious. I thought the same thing before I read what the Bible said and decided to become a Christian. According to the Bible, this idea of having a personal relationship with God isn’t at all presumptive. It was God’s idea. And it’s not at all exclusive. It’s available to anyone who accepts God’s offer. It’s that belief, that faith, more than anything else that enabled me to last 29 years on the sidelines of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s that faith that has allowed me to keep my perspective and not feel devastated or bitter about being fired. And it’s that faith that gives me hope for whatever the future holds for me . . . Landry: An Autobiography

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Some Quotes on Prayer

Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle. ... C. S. Lewis

Prayer is not a way of making use of God; prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest we wait in silence for God's voice to us; we linger in His presence for His peace and His power to flow over us and around us; we lean back in His everlasting arms and feel the serenity of perfect security in Him. ... William Barclay

Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer as a means for getting something for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself....Is the Son of God praying in me, or am I dictating to Him?....Prayer is not simply getting things from God, that is a most initial form of prayer; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God. If the Son of God is formed in us by regeneration, He will press forward in front of our common sense and change our attitude to the things about which we pray. ... Oswald Chambers

Friday, August 03, 2007

Old Words to Think About

Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by these who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion....

The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. - Augustine