Thursday, September 27, 2007

"There is a way to be good again."

Alli and I are at the Willow Creek Group Life conference, and so far it's been great! Too much to go into detail here (plus... I'm still processing)... but one of the "gifts" from the conference was that we got to go to a special screening of the movie "The Kite Runner". It's based on a book by the same name and is about a boy from Afghanistan. It's one of the best, most impactful movies I've ever seen. Not "best" or "impactful" in bright cheery ways.... the story line is very sad and some parts are hard to watch. But it seems to paint an accurate picture of the changes that have taken place in the Middle East over the last several decades. Watching it filled me with a desire to visit the Middle East, to somehow learn to interact with people in that culture. To be used by God to bring true freedom and peace. And in an odd way, the movie is also story of redemption.

The movie isn't being released until November, but I highly recommend see it when it does come out. It's excellent.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I think I know why Jesus walked...

Forget cultural or historical reasonings, I'm being strictly philosophical here. There's something intimate about walking with a person. It's not like going to the movies or even going to dinner. Movies and restaurants offer distractions that allow people to be together without really being together. You can sit at the same table and still be miles apart. Your conversation could extend no further than comments on food, beverages and dessert.

But walking... walking invites conversation. It invites the heart and mind to slow down and enjoy a person's company. The best conversations I've ever had have been while I'm walking with someone. In part, it's because I think better when I'm moving. Physical activity - even something as mild as walking - helps me process. But mostly because walking, by it's very nature, allows for real, unhurried communication.

A dinner can be cut short. If things aren't going well, you can quickly eat and leave. But when you walk with someone, you're committed until you reach your destination. It's uninterrupted time together; and I like that. It gives us opportunities to truly hear each other, and to be truly heard.

I sometimes wonder why Jesus was born when he was; he could have come at any time. But I think there were things about that culture that set the tone - that He used to set an example - for what our relationships should look like today. I think walking is part of that example. It's a statement about the intimacy we should seek, the genuine attention we should give, and the benefits of slowing down enough to get to know one another.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

All Things New

A thing, if lasting, is not born in a moment.
A turning of the tide can't be controlled or contrived.

For the heart is slow to open
The eyes are slow to see;
A singularity of time
Cannot permanently impress these.

To be agreeable is agreeable
But difficult to attain.
Better a kind regard for one's neighbors
Than indifference or disdain.

Far better to see the soul
Than to never look beyond the skin.
Better the hand of friendship be extended
Than one finger accusing of fault or sin.

My heart needs to open
My eyes - learn to see.

"Behold, I make all things new"
Don't forget. You promised me.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"...and one of them wanders away..."

Friday was my first night out with an organization called StandUp for Kids.
The mission of StandUp is to go out in search of homeless and runaway teens. The statistics on runaways are frightening, sad, and downright horrible:

  • Within 48 hours of being on the street, 85-90% of adolescents will engage in sexual behavior, either forced, or for money, food or a place to sleep (still technically 'forced').
  • 80-85% of teens runaway because their home life really is that bad. They have a parent who's either abusive, an addict, or a prostitute; or they're in some other way being abused or severely neglected.
  • Contrary to popular belief, most teens don't runaway to get back at parents who won't buy them an iPod or let them stay out past curfew. They run away because they genuinely believe that life on the streets will be safer than life at home.
  • At any given time, there are over 1 million adolescents living on the streets in America.

As we walked last night, looking for places where runaway teens might hangout or live, we came across some areas that broke my heart and made me sick to my stomach. Most teens are only able to survive by prostituting themselves. They do it for money, drugs, a place to sleep, or something to eat. Last night we found a place where lots of this kind of activity happens. The area was very secluded, strewn with clothing, condoms, lighters and homemade drug paraphernalia. It made my soul sick to think of what goes on in a place like that. Of the kids who have every shred of their innocence taken by people who know they're easy prey.

I couldn't help last night but think of Jesus' parable of the lost sheep. "If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine... and go look for the one that has wandered off?"

To the best of our ability, we're trying to find the "one"s who have wandered off. But we can only do so much. We need help. I hope that some of you who are reading this will consider joining in the search.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We still remember

Six years ago today I was working at an audio-visual company. I had just started my day when our Logistics Manager walked in and said "plug in one of the TVs. My wife just called and said something hit the World Trade Center in New York City." Being an A/V company, we had tv monitors everywhere. So we grabbed the nearest one, plugged it in and turned it on.

And sure enough...

We watched the whole thing. Watched the second plane hit the tower. Watched both towers collapse. Everything. Most people left work shortly thereafter. Who can concern themselves with videowalls and lighting systems when faced with such loss of life?

On my way home, all I could think was that I wanted to help. I wanted to do something. I kept thinking of all those people. The ones who were trapped, the ones who would go in to find them, and the family and friends who would anxiously await their return. So much destruction. So much death. There had to be something I could do to help.

My friend Aaron and I ended up going to a Meijer where the Red Cross was collecting food and boxing it up to ship to NYC. We worked until well after midnight boxing up food, writing notes of prayer and encouragement on the boxes, and loading the boxes on trucks. It wasn't much, but it was something. I kept looking for ways to help because it was all I could think to do. Finally, about a week later, when it seemed there wasn't much left for us to do, I finally broke down and cried. Months later, when the clean-up of "Ground Zero" was pronounced finished, I cried again.

Today there were no tears. At least, not from me. But I am certain that, around the country, many tears were shed. Thousands lost their lives that day and I can't fathom how many friends, co-workers and family members must be left behind to grieve. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to them all.

In the weeks and months that followed 9/11, we saw something of this country's great - but often latent - character. We have an unusual ability to stand in the face of destruction and devastation and boldly proclaim that we will neither be divided nor defeated. If only something less traumatic could move us to such unwavering unity. For brief moments we realize that, truly, all men are created equal, and that - regardless of differing faiths, cultures, skins colors, or socio-economic backgrounds - we cannot stand without each other.

Would that we could embrace this truth more permanently and through less painful circumstances.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

the D

Sunday night I went to the Detroit Jazz Festival with some friends. I always enjoy Detroit but especially when something 'big' is happening. It's exciting to see people out on the streets, enjoying the sights and sounds of our beautiful city. Detroit is the kind of place that's best viewed through the hustle and bustle of pedestrians and cars, with music or noise from a sporting event providing the soundtrack. Just seems that's how the city's meant to be.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

the joy of discovery

I have to admit that one of the things I love about being so close to downtown Royal Oak is that I'm within walking distance of the Salvation Army. I don't do much clothes shopping there, but it's a fun place to go looking for random things. Today I was looking for a wallet (which I ended up buying elsewhere), but instead, I found this:

a hand made, hand decorated Italian crystal wine glass.
It's absolutely beautiful and cost a grand total of $7. It now adorns one of the glass shelves in our dining room.

Truly, there is joy in discovery. Discovery of treasures like this, discovery of people, of places. So many treasures in our world if we'll take the time to seek them out.

I think there's a hint of explorer in us all. Something inside that is awakened and enticed by thought of discovering something new; even if it's new only to us.