Monday, July 30, 2007

Adios, Anders...

Several people have been yelling at me (lovingly) for the past week because I blogged four chapters of Anders. The concern is that someone will "pirate" the unprotected copy. My feeling is that God will do with it what He wants, so I'm not too concerned about it. To appease the person yelling the loudest (I won't mention any names but his initials are JWO), I'm removing it from my blog. Thanks for your comments and e-mails. Still don't know where the project is going... but your feedback was so appreciated.

Serving Friends & Strangers

On separate occasions with friends recently there was mention of the sad irony that sometimes the people we think will "be there" for us are nowhere to be found when we need them. Surprisingly, it's sometimes people who are not the closest to us--even strangers--who come through for us, instead. It prompts me to wonder why this is. Could it be that we would insulate ourselves and shrink wrap within cliques and clans if our needs were always so neatly and predictably met by a chosen few? Maybe God mixes it up a bit so we never lose sight of Who is really behind all of our eleventh hour rescues...

These talks prompted me to ask of myself, am I a true friend to friends in need? And am I also one who surprises strangers? I think we're called as Christiains to be both... as God leads.

I know in my life there are times I've let others down. Sometimes this is a function of carelessness or selfishness on my part. Other times it's a function of unreasonable expectations on the part of someone else. Maybe I wasn't meant to charge up the hill that time. But if I was... and I didn't... that becomes a burden for my conscience... and I am accountable to God for these faliures.

There are also times I've tried to be everything to everybody. Good intentions aside, this is the recipe for burnout if not disaster. There's one and only one entity that has the power to meet every single need... and that's God.

So, how do we decide, given our resources and time and talents, who to help? I believe that God sometimes gives us very clear direction. He convicts us, sometimes powerfully,when we need to step up to the plate. And He restrains us when we shouldn't. He also puts upon us, whenever we assume a role of leadership, an accountability for the groups we guide, both within and outside the home.

I've been sensitive lately to how often I pray for God to intervene in someone's life... in hopes that someone else will provide... when, hey, it could be me. When someone says "Please pray for me!" it could be that I have a role to both pray and deliver! Sometimes what we deliver would be considered sacrificial. Other times it's as easy as penning a quick e-mail networking someone who has lost a job with someone who could help, or doing a "google" search to help someone learn more about a doctor, or picking up the telephone to make a friend aware of another friend's new business. Then, again, sometimes our role is exclusively to pray, and we must never lose sight of how potent and pivotal prayer is in and of itself. As we think of deliverables, it is an essential "tangible."

If we determine that we are meant to help someone, how do we know what to do? We can't always count on those in need to be clear about what is is that they need. I've found that sometimes people can be so overwhelmed that they can't articulate or even understand what help they could use. This is the point at which we must become detectives. Having someone sleuth out what would be helpful then help provide it can be like manna from heaven.

I'm reading The Biography of Anne Frank (not the diary, but someone's researched account of events surrounding her life and death). I'm struck at a gut level... haunted, really... with the contrast between goodness and evil.

Though the Holocaust stories are familiar, every time I encounter them it's as if I'm hearing about them for the first time. The visage of unrestrained evil nearly takes my breath away. In reading this book, however, I've been equally taken by acts of kindness on the part of protectors and fellow prisoners who also inhabited this unthinkably horrendous moment in time. People who risked their lives to shield persecuted Jews... and those who were also hungry and thirsty and crushed who committed to share what wretched little they had. All in all, I'm prompted to wonder if I'm doing enough today to help those in need. I'm challenged to pray a little differently, perhaps. Less of "Dear God... please find a way to help them!" And more of, "Am I meant to do something here?"

Question: Are you a true friend to friends in need? Are you also one who surprises others with your no-strings-attached love and generosity?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On Prepositions, Prayers and Enemies...

I was researching something I wanted to share with my Monday morning group the other day and took a side road into the book of Job. I found myself suddenly off topic, but riveted by one word in this verse:

After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 (NIV)

We were taught in Bible Study Methods, among other things, to isolate key words in a verse then seek to better understand the meaning of those words as they were originally written and in the context of the time and occasion. As you seek to identify key words, you're usually looking most closely at nouns and verbs... sometimes adjectives. Then there are times words that might seem otherwise utilitarian, even bland, take on significance.

I was glued the other day, actually, to a little, vanilla-flavored preposition: after. I put on my grammarian hat and began to look at the place it holds structurally (subordinating conjunction if anyone cares) within the NIV translation. It struck me as a critical word transitioning from something (prayer) to something (prosperity).

But when I consulted an English translation of the original Hebrew text, the word "after" was nowhere to found.

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. (KJV + Strong's Hebrew from Online Parallel Bible)

I could spend the balance of my middle age, I believe, going back and forth between these two versions wondering if a subtle shift of emphasis--if that's what you'd call it--is meaningful. Is there something in the nuance of the KJV/Hebrew version that is important to our understanding? Or this a how-many-angels-can-fit-on-the-head-of-a-pin-sitch -- i.e., practically speaking, we catch the drift so who cares?

No matter how you read it, though, it seems we have "cause" and "effect" going on. After or when Job prayed, the Lord blessed him. (Interesting to note that Job wasn't praying for the blessings... he was praying for his enemies!)

But before we close the text and try to imagine what's happening in isolation, we'd be remiss if we didn't try to glean a better sense of the situation. What's going on around this verse? Going all the way back to the beginning of the chapter, we gain a richer understanding of the "plotline." We learn that Job's presumptuous, fickle friends are in a pickle with God and He has told Job to pray for them so that they might be spared the consequences of His wrath.

After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 (NIV)

So we learn that Job's prayer not only renewed and super-sized his prosperity, it also spared his friends some dire punishment from God. This happened, as told in the NIV version, after he prayed.

So is there a lesson to be extracted here for those of us living today? Are we challenged, perhaps, to think rather deeply about a desired end state with respect to our enemies. What is the after we hope for in regard to relationships that challenge us?

Job obviously proved in the most actuely painful, unthinkable ways that he was a righteous man whose prayers carried gravitus. He serves as the epitome of one who has suffered and endured. In the last chapter of the book, he also serves to show us how God, perhaps, might want us to prayerfully consider those who challenge, frustrate and anger us.

What might happen in the aftermath of our prayers? Could mean people be rehabilitated? Could our own sufferings be mitigated? Could we see a better picture of their "side?" Is there a "win-win" scenario possibly in the wings for those who can subordinate pride and bitterness and appeal to God to help their enemies?

Prepositions aside... it's a hard gig, isn't it? But certainly worth our prayerful thought.

Question: Matthew 5:44 tells us explicitly to pray for our enemies. As we think about Job's "friends," are they enemies of Job? Enemies of God? Enemies of both? How about your enemies? Are they also enemies of God? Or not? And should this have bearing on your response to them?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sonrise Update

Sonrisers... time change this week only... 8:30-9:15 on Monday morning.

Topic: when the going got tough... the psalmists got real... prayerful... and always turned to praise. Let's pray for our friends on Monday and talk about experiencing the goodness of God in the midst of our trials.

Also, don't forget to check our other blog for updates! See you Monday! Love, Sarah

p.s. is this too... green?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge. "Watson" he says, "look up in the sky and tell me what you see."

"I see millions of stars, Holmes," says Watson.

"And what do you conclude from that, Watson?"

Watson thinks for a moment. "Well," he says, "astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meterologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignficant. Uh, what does it tell you, Holmes?"

"Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!"

A funny one from Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar... Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein. I picked this one up in the library the other day and couldn't put it down. It's a light-hearted romp across the waterfront of classic to New Age-and-beyond philsophical thought. All-around irreverent, but funny in parts and a surprisingly good surface-level primer that may encourage retention of basic terms & concepts.

(Photo by deadeyebart a.k.a. brett's; see for restrictions)

On my iPod... Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Steam (I know, I know... a classic example of what some of us old folks still groove to on occasion...)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Getting from There to Here...

My dog, Ruthy, is a rock star. No, she doesn't win blue ribbons for anything. Her repertoire of tricks extends to getting a daily dog bone without taking my hand with it. And the only pedigree I'm aware of in relation to Ruthy is the brand of dog food she eats on occasion. The woman we acquired her from said, "She's a dog of questionable quality."

But there's something utterly charming about Ruthy. She is a pure and gentle spirit. Just this week, a grandfatherly man in a jeep missed his green arrow, much to the chagrin of those behind him, as he craned his neck and grinned and waved wildly at Ruthy. Yesterday, we got the megaphone yell for holding up traffic at Camp Thurman when a group of counselors and campers literally stormed the car to try and pet her. She's a source of much joy to our family. I regret that I didn't have a camera to capture the time she jumped into Daniel's car seat for the ride to school. Ninety-two pounds of big, old dog in a booster seat.

On the way to camp this week, John said, "Mommy, can you believe that someone actually dumped Ruthy on the streets of Dallas!" You see, Ruthy had been abandoned four years ago with a litter of pups. She was malnourished and had sores all over her body. Mercifully, someone rescued her. Her next stop would be a place that sheltered dogs. While Ruthy was let outside twice a day and well fed, she spent the balance of the day and night in a crate. Her third and final stop was our home where today I firmly believe she lives as well or better (sadly) than many toddlers in America.

Reflecting on all of this, I said to John, "It is unbelievable. But if Ruthy hadn't been abandoned, we never would have found her."

Several friends from my Monday Sonrise group got together yesterday. Between financial and health concerns, some of my friends now have serious issues. I pray that God will carry them and guard their hearts and show His mercy in tangible, restorative ways. I also know firsthand how hard it is to believe that the sun will ever shine in the midst of a storm.

For whatever reason, I was thinking during my time spent with friends yesterday about Ruthy... and the fact that her adversity was part of the path home. In all of our lives, there are valleys... times in which we feel all but abandoned... isolated, rejected, lonely, even cursed. But we must never lose sight of the fact that God is alive and at work in our times of uncertainty and pain... shaping our hearts... molding our character... changing our perspectives... defining our purpose. Our scars are sometimes the seeds of bountiful spiritual harvest. Keep the faith and hold tight to the hope we have in Christ... and know no matter what... that you are loved.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

On my iPod... Bring the Rain by Mercy Me

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is This Bad News or Good News?

This headline from yesterday:

Dietary hopes dashed for breast cancer patients: Extra servings of fruits, veggies fail to prevent disease's return, study finds

What I'm Having for Dinner Tonight: Chocolate cake

p.s. I visted a local mostly homeopathic doctor a while back who put me on a costly proprietary vitamin powder regimen with four times the RDA of folic acid. I choked it down like a good doobie for about seven months. I was consuming so much folic acid I qualified for my own symbol on the periodic table. Come to find out studies now suggest that excesssive amounts of folic acid may feed the growth of microscopic colon cancer cells. Um... isn't that, like, what I'm trying to avoid here? (Of course, someone will come along and reverse this next week.) The study looked at people who have already had colon cancer, and, obviously, adequate folic acid consumption remains critical for women who are or could become pregnant! As for me, I have officially returned to One-a-Day... and an occasional fist full of chips.

My new diet regimen: Chocolate... lots of it.

(Pic by princess of llyr's; see for restrictions)

Thanks to my friend, Angela Gilliland, who submitted this photo from a family trip to Disney World. Angela is now in the travel business and can secure wonderful low rates (typically anywhere from $10 to $400 per person) for airfare and transportation... as well discounts on tickets for local events, flowers, tee-times, etc. Works just like Orbitz... you do your own thing. Check it out:

About to come off my iPod... Silent House by Crowded House. OK, I really wanted to love the new album (Time on Earth)... especially in light of the rowdy howdy-do the band received in California recently. Rumor has it someone actually pinged Neil Finn onstage with a flying bottle! (Tsk, tsk to whoever had the goofy notion to have them open for a group of anarchists.) At any rate, I'm having a bipolar response to this album. If you visit iTunes, you will see that I am basically an island on this one; the reviews are overwhelmingly good. Silent House, originally performed by the Dixie Chicks, had me baited at first listen. Subsequently, I had to spit out the hook. I double checked my speakers to make sure I hadn't blown something. There's this grating drone from the base that swells and won't relent giving this track all the stirrings of a midnight propoganda broadcast. I'm thinking if we could find a way to play this on continuous loop on the border where Pakistan meets Afghanistan, we could end the war. Oh, I don't know. Maybe I've been smelling too many paint fumes to be clear on this one. Let me go and listen to the rest of it...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

hidden away

here in my heart
i've stowed the truth
sunk and buried
my treasure of hope
you can't touch it
you can't see it
it's mine
ever mine
if i'm alone one day
when the promise has come
what will i know?
will i care?
that something was hidden
that could have been theirs
will they know?
will they care?
when truth ignites
shadows abandon
and my heart is made bare

"Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (Mt. 4:19)

(Photo by scene's: see for restrictions)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Don't Try This At Home...

I penned this one last week. The sun is now shining in Texas and the professional painters are on the way. Can you imagine the color of this font... on my walls?

The Texas rains have kept us inside for much of the summer. So I came up with a bright idea for productive indoor fun. Why don't we paint the walls in our kitchen and great room? I ran this good idea by Todd who is working exhaustively this summer (16 days, four hours, and 32 minutes of madness to go, but who's counting?).

His response: "You've got to be kidding."

I took that as a challenge. So off we went to the nearby home improvement store for a full array of painting essentials. I picked out a couple joy-and -peace-invoking colors by manufacturer's swatch. My goal was to replicate the hues and spirit of pure, frothing esprit in that memorable painting scene from Bridge to Teribithia. I picked a chestnut brown with subtle flecks of gold and a cheerful shimmery lemon... along with four rollers and brushes for my crew and me.

Taping the baseboards and molding was our first obstacle. This was all the fun of wrapping two seasons of Christmas presents... without the gifts. The spot where the molding meets the ceiling was totally beyond reach. So I went off in search of Todd's fancy schmancy new ladder. I learned it has incredible safety features. It simply doesn't open. So if you can't use it, you can't get hurt! How's that for a winning product feature! I stood on it anyway... just leaned the thing unopened against the wall and went for it. (Todd: well, er, ahem... did I happen to mention this?)

So we're now taped up with a semi-functional ladder system in place. We begin to pour, dip and roll our dreamy paints. But somehow the dream turned frightful. Can someone tell me how it is moral, ethical, even legal in America to sell people paint that doesn't resemble the swatch? So much for sparkling chestnut and lemony shimmer. The chestnut looks like 16-year-old mulch and the lemon resembles pea soup that has sat crusting on the stove overnight. (My compassionate paint supplier assures me the color disparity is attributable to variances in lighting, not his swatches. That makes some sense, but doesn't help us get from pea soup to lemon shimmer...)

So, now I have pulled something in my neck, Colin has a quarter cup of pea soup mushed into his golden locks, John has dripped mulchy gunk behind the tarp and it has oozed onto our slate, and I am three-and-a-half seconds away from Hoover Dam busting waterworks.

And for all of our effort, the walls look like death!

I've been praying for clarity of purpose. One thing I know for sure... I was not created to paint.

(My very encouraging friend said, "How bad can it be?" My response, as showcased in the above photo is, that bad! The wall on the right is covered in primer (as were we) and the little swipes of green pea stuff were supposed to be shimmery lemon. Todd is too gentlemanly to say "I told you so," so I'm saying it for him!)

On my iPod... King for a Day by XTC

Friday, July 13, 2007

Coastal Beauty

These pictures were taken by my brother, John Kennedy, from his home on the Oregon coast recently. How astounding is God's handiwork! Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Classic U2 Re-Visited

A very thoughtful album review of U2's The Joshua Tree from Michael Jensen...

I recently purchased the CD version of U2's 1987 classic The Joshua Tree. I bought the vinyl version the day it became available 20 years ago. I was 17 and already a fan of U2, so I was not coming to it cold. But I don't think this album has ever been surpassed in all their catalogue.

It has what the truly great albums have, and that is a thematic and musical continuity. What I mean is that you have to listen to the songs as a collection of songs: they inform one another, echo each other. U2 badly wanted for this in The Unforgettable Fire, but spoiled it by overdone production and a couple of their lamest tracks ever ('Elvis Presley in America,' 'Indian Summer Sky'). They missed again with Rattle and Hum, a tediously long album with at times all their tendency to self-righteousness and pomposity ('Silver and Gold').

None of that is here, though there are 'issues' and 'issue songs.' America is the theme, but so are death and loss and grief. The people in the songs express longing and don't yet see the way to answer it. The ambiguity of faith and doubt in 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' is matched by the love-hate of 'With or Without You'. And so on. Morever, it is an album with a landscape: it seems to refer to places so often...

Here are eight album highlights for me:

1 - Bono's hope of meeting his dead friend again 'when the stars fall from the sky' in 'One Tree Hill'. Here is a man in his mid-twenties realising he is mortal. It hurts. But it's a song with an eschatology. A song about grief in a major key.

2- Edge's major 7th note in the guitar part of 'I Still Haven't Found What I Am Looking For' - this one note sums up the whole song.

3 - The Helicopter drums in 'Where the Streets Have No Name'.

4 - Bass line in 'Bullet the Blue Sky', my favourite all time U2 song.

5 - 'Fighter Planes' guitar effects, same song.

6 - 'Running to a Stand Still' - how can something so sweet be made of so few components.

7 - The major key and brightness of 'Red Hill Mining Town' which is talking about the end of generations working in the same place. There is something left to hold on to...

8 - Bono's talking in 'Bullet the Blue Sky'. The cheesiest moment on the album, perhaps? But it works.

Australian theologian Michael P. Jensen is pursuing a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford. Check out his truly stellar blog here:

Monday, July 09, 2007

Scenes from Route 66

Photo submitted by my friend, Evelyn Adams, from her recent trip to Arizona! Cool cup, huh?

Best Live Earth performance... Crowded House playing!
Worst Live Earth performance... Crowded House swearing!

Coming soon: Michael Jensen reviews U2!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Submissions, Anyone?

I retired from blogging for 2 hours and 48 minutes this morning... then someone talked me out of it. I love God. I love writing. I love you. But writing and even thinking this summer is a major challenge. Todd has had two days off since Memorial Day... big project at work. And I have a rainy day house full of raucous little men. So, it will be Blog Lite until September! Unless... you submit some articles, nature pics from your vacations, thought-provoking quotations, deep ponderables, not-so-deep ponderables, music reviews (new Crowded House out next week) favorite recipes, questions, comments, musings, etc. We have a modest but growing international audience. The floor is yours! Somebody take it, please!

Send your ideas to:

OK... the sun is out... we are going to go catch a ray before it goes away!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

You, my brothers, were called to be free. (Gal 5:13)

Eleutheria in the NT means "freedom, the state of being free." True freedom is not for oneself or for one's own needs; rather, true freedom is the freedom to obey God and to serve others. (Source: Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words)

(Photo of fireworks over Grapevine Lake 2004... will we have waterworks this year?)

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Wonderful Post Script on Grief...

"This heart isn't breaking... it is just getting bigger."

(Words and art by El Oso ( used with permission. All rights reserved!)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Healthy Grieving: Final Post

We've come to the end of our series on grief with Kathy Padgett from 121 Community Church in Grapevine, Texas. Kathy graciously answers two more questions for us below. Thanks so much to Kathy for her willingness to share her knowledge and expertise in an area that's difficult to contemplate and endure, and widely misunderstood. The series began several days ago so you may want to scroll down to Monday's post if you're just joining us.


Two more question, Kathy: Question #10: Should grieving people seek out others in pain? Or does this potentially keep people depressed and more focused on loss?


One of the very best things a grieving person can do - and this has been proven over and over - is to go to a grief support group! So, yes, the answer is: seek out others in pain! But do it in a healthy environment. Nobody can understand you like someone who feels like they are you! Don't be afraid of support groups. Many hospitals and churches offer grief support/recovery groups. There is a "brotherhood" among grieving people that others can't understand. When I led grief support groups at the hospital, very often I didn't have to say a word for over half of the discussion time! They helped each other more than I helped them and that's the point!


Question #11... your final thoughts on getting through grief...


This may sound like a "churchy/minister-y" thing to say, but cultivating an intimate relationship with your Creator now is really the only weapon you have for getting ready for loss, and for surviving it when it hits.

It will hit. God will be there. If you know Him now, you will be more able to feel Him then. The four "tools" I described the other day are extremely helpful (THINK, WRITE, TALK, WEEP) and staying connected to people who love you is vital. Don't shut others out. Even if they say stupid things (people never know what to say to someone in grief), know that you are loved and that people have something to offer you. Eventually, you will notice that you don't hurt as much as you did.

I'll end with another quote by C.S. Lewis: "There was no sudden, striking and emotional the warming of a room or the coming of daylight, when you first notice them they have already been going on for some time."


Good, hopeful concluding thoughts, Kathy Thank you so much!

Kathy Padgett is the Women's Lifegroup and Pastoral Care Minister at 121 Community Church in Grapevine, Texas. Prior to joining 121, she served as a hospital and home-care chaplain. Kathy is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).

(Photo by FreeWine; see for restrictions.)

On my iPod... Show Me by The Pretenders