The Bells  

Posted by BT

If any of you are interested, I'd like to read (hear) your thoughts on the thirteenth chapter of Romans. Thanks, Brandon, for the articles you posted. They are helpful. If anyone else has any thoughts they'd like to share, please post them on the comments section on the previous message.

Now, a new topic...

Last Friday night, to celebrate our anniversary, my wonderful wife took me to Kemper Arena to hear Steven Curtis Chapman and MercyMe in concert. We have heard SCC before, and we think he is a gifted songwriter. MercyMe we had not heard, and I was really only familiar with a couple of their songs (primarily the overdone "I Can Only Imagine"). Here are some highlights from the concert:

  • Steven Curtis making fun of himself by playing bits and pieces of some of his older songs, including "The Great Adventure" (can't you hear that first line? "Saddle up your horses...")
  • MercyMe singing "I Can Only Imagine," which was incredibly worshipful and ushered the crowd into the Lord's presence quite nicely
  • The two artists talking about Shaohannah's Hope, the adoption and orphan care ministry started by SCC and his wife
  • The two artists sharing about some time they recently spent with soldiers who were wounded in battle in Iraq. Bart, the lead singer for MercyMe, said that when he asked two of the critically wounded soldiers how he could pray for them, their answer was so simple: Peace. Pray for peace.
  • Listening to MercyMe's original song, "Joseph's Lullaby," off their new Christmas album, "The Christmas Sessions." This song is amazing and has even more profound meaning than ever since I now have a son. An interesting, not-oft-seen look at the Christmas story from young Joseph's perspective. I recommend it.

And then this...Bart told the story of the lyrics to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." This song was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War, and learning the story behind the words gave the song incredible new meaning. Apparently, when the bells were rung on Christmas day during the Civil War, there was a cease-fire for the day. There was peace for the day. Christmas day.

Here are those lyrics:

I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familar carols play. And wild and sweet the words repeat of "Peace on earth, good will to men."

I thought as now the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom had rung so long the unbroken song of "Peace on earth, good will to men."

And, in despair, I bowed my head. "There is no peace on earth," I said. "For hate is strong and mocks the song of 'Peace on earth, good will to men.'"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with 'Peace on earth, good will to men.'"

Amen. So be it. And, in the words of my friend Kyle, "Do it."

Interpretation, and a note from Sojourners  

Posted by BT

Not trying to start a firestorm here (but recognizing that I may do just that), but I was wondering if some of you would enlighten me (I don't mean that as sarcastically as it sounds) with some interpretation of Romans 13, which I read this morning.

On a separate note, I read this in my weekly email from Sojourners and was moved.

One man, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, faces execution Tuesday, Dec. 13, at San Quentin State Prison in California. With him our belief in human redemption also sits on the gallows, pending a decision in the clemency hearing conducted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.Williams, a founder of the notorious Crips gang, is charged with the murder of four people in the Los Angeles area in 1979. At the time of the trial, he proclaimed his innocence, a position he maintains today. A jury convicted him wholly on circumstantial evidence; in other words, no eyewitnesses or incontrovertible material evidence linked him to the murders, according to attorney Verna Wefald’s appeal.

In one of the robberies that led to a murder, an accomplice was given clemency for pointing his finger at Williams for the murder. Beyond the self-interest involved, the accomplice's reputation as a truth-teller was less than stellar. The prosecution produced a shell casing tied to the murder weapon found at the motel where Williams was staying. But the science that matched the casing to the weapon was speculative and its results have not been revisited in the intervening years, the Los Angeles Times reported.

I revisit the facts of the case because Schwarzenegger's decision to grant Williams clemency will depend more on the possibility of his innocence - or at least the uncertainty of his guilt - than it will turn on the contribution that Williams has made to society over the last two decades.That's tragic, because Williams has become a major figure in the gang peace movement. He has co-authored 10 books from Death Row. The message is clear: Violence is never a solution. He urges young gang kids to get out before it destroys them and the lives of their family members. That's a powerful message from one of the founders of the Crips.Williams first made a public plea to hundreds of gang members who gathered at a Los Angeles hotel in 1993 for a summit called Hands Across Watts. He did not hide his early role in the Crips, but on a prerecorded videotape filmed for the summit told the young gang members that he lamented his history. Recounting this first public event to the San Francisco Chronicle, Williams said, "I told them I never thought I could change my life, that I thought I would be a Crip forever. But I developed common sense, wisdom and knowledge. I changed."

Williams has gone on to build on this witness. In his 1998 prison autobiography Life in Prison, he directed young people to seek an alternative life beyond violence. Prison, he stressed, was no place to spend a life. Two years later he launched the Internet Project for Street Peace. His memoir, Blue Rage, Black Redemption, and the movie, Redemption, came out in 2004.Williams has a bevy of supporters calling for his clemency. They argue that he has changed thousands of young people's lives, and if allowed to live will continue to be a force for good. His street credibility with gang kids is high, so he can reach them in a way that a teacher or social worker cannot.

In the eyes of the criminal justice system, a redeemed criminal is simply another criminal. I recall my first visit to a federal prison back in seminary when starting a prison chaplain residency. The warden of the prison came to the orientation I shared with other interns. His message was clear to us: "I want you to remember that the prison system today is not about reforming criminals. We are here to punish them."Redemption, in other words, has no place in our justice system. We do not offer a path for conversion. Once marked for condemnation, an offender's destiny is fixed.Elsewhere in the world, four Christian Peacemaker Teams members are marked for execution by a radical terrorist group in Iraq. The circumstances are dramatically different, so I hesitate to make the connection. We are appalled by the blind ideology that drives the terrorists and leads them to cheapen the value of human life. In this ideology, the individual is a tool for political expediency.

Don't we want to offer our citizens more in a democracy?

Now reading: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis
Colts: 12-0

A Charlie Brown Christmas  

Posted by BT

Last night, Kari and I snuggled up by the Christmas tree and watched the 40th anniversary special presentation of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." I've always been fascinated by "Peanuts," Charles Schultz...the wisdom of Linus, the mean streak of Lucy, the carefree Woodstock. A few years ago I picked up a couple books, "The Gospel According to Peanuts" and "The Parables of Peanuts," both of which contained fascinating insight into the spiritual life of Charles Schultz. (Incidentally, in a totally unrelated matter, I also learned a bit of trivia yesterday...the three dead people who earn the most money each year: #3 was John Lennon at about $24M, #2 was Elvis at about $48M, and #1 was Charles Schultz at over $60M.)

Anyway, I found it interesting that Charlie Brown and Linus were complaining about the commercialism of Christmas. It never registered with me that this was created in 1965...So Christmas has been "commercialized" for that long? Then I started to wonder, how much longer than that has it been commercial? The '40s? The '20s? Who knows...

But I always rejoice when I hear this dialogue:

Charlie Brown (screaming): Doesn't anyone know what Christmas is all about?
Linus: I know, Charlie Brown. (walks to center stage and clears throat) Lights please. "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone 'round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. " (walks back over to Charlie Brown) That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

From the lips of babes...

May we not forget it Linus. May we not forget it, Lord.

Now reading: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis
Colts: 12-0

An article...  

Posted by BT

...from the Ashland (KY) Daily Independent.

"There is hope for faith yet" by John Clarke

Last week was the 30th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald on Lake Superior. There were 29 souls aboard her.

The shipwreck inspired Gordon Lightfoot to write a song about her called "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald."

I love the sea and I love sailboats. I've had the opportunity to sail in about eight and even was allowed to take the helm for a while aboard a schooner on Puget Sound.

Each time aboard a sailboat was a magical experience. After purring out to sea there comes the moment when the sails are raised, the motor is shut down, and, aside from the occasional sound of the line whipping against the mast, it suddenly becomes conspicuously quiet.

But as much as I love the sea, I can imagine no greater fear than being held captive in a vessel in 30-foot waves and a bone freezing spray blinding my eyes and awakening the fear of my own mortality.

There is a line in Gordon Lightfoot's song that says, "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" My agnostic friends have often used this argument to defend their position. They ask, "How can a loving God allow bad things to happen?"

My argument in return is that free will is no gift. It is a burden that carries terrible responsibility and consequences. I somehow feel that the granting of this free will is very much like that of a parent letting go of a child.

As my father slipped away from me, I made a deathbed promise that I would seek faith. Little did I know the burden of that promise.

I have no difficulty in seeing the hand of God all around me. I feel his presence in the stars and in the wind, I hear his voice in the whispering pines along the lake, I witnessed his majesty during the birth of my two sons.

I have no difficulty in belief. I just can't seem to find faith. I have attended Protestant churches off and on for my entire life and have studied the Bible, as well as the history of the Bible. Best I can tell, Jesus was all about love, acceptance, and forgiveness. If the goal of organized Christianity is to become more like him, I see little evidence of it. I cannot see the good works of the Church because I am blinded by hypocrisy.

The Protestants have Robert Shuller in a scuffle on an airplane, Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker's indiscretions, and more recently, the apparent insanity of Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of the Venezuelan leader.

The Catholic Church is plagued by its own troubles of priests molesting children.

Whereas Jesus accepted the whores, the lepers, the children, the tax collectors and almost anyone else, Christianity so often seeks to exclude. They exclude people from communion who do not share their own beliefs. They also exclude homosexuals and sometimes couples who have been divorced. It seems as though organized religions ponder more on whom to exclude than to include. As far as forgiveness and acceptance, I can't see it.

But the most unsettling thing by far is how so often churchgoers abandon their humanity in return for church doctrine. They would rather convert a soul to their faith than feed a hungry person. They would rather goad their children into their spiritual life than have a frank discussion with them about contraception or drugs.

I drive around our area and see millions of dollars worth of church buildings, parsonages and vehicles, and wonder how much goes from these churches to help the poor, the tsunami or hurricane victims. One church had a flashing sign that said, "Anyone can honk. Tithe if you love Jesus." They had a nice building, too.

My mother would say that I should place my faith in God and not in people. Little wonder Jesus talked about faith the size of a mustard seed. I was beginning to think faith is like chicken's teeth: a rare commodity.

But then, on a dark moonless night, as I was walking down the drive to my mother's home, I spied her through the lighted window. Before retiring to her lonely bed, I saw her kneel in prayer.

There is hope for faith yet.

ONE Big Noise  

Posted by BT

What if you or I wanted the opportunity to earn a good living, or could grow something for less money, and we weren't allowed? Right now, poor farmers and poor countries in Africa and other parts of the world can't do that because of unfair trade rules.

Together, we can change this. Please sign on to the ONE Big Noise letter today and ask our leaders to make trade fair.

We need to help small farmers, here at home and abroad, but with the current trade rules, it's a game no one could win. Their cotton could compete with anyone's, except that governments around the world give so much money to some big farmers that they can actually then sell their cotton all over the world below cost. Those payments make other cotton farmers poorer everywhere else, and keep people from being able to use hard work and the opportunities given to them to make better lives for themselves and their children.

We called on world leaders to do more at the G8 Summit to fight extreme poverty and global AIDS. They heard us, and now this is the next step in helping the world's poorest people. In December, the world will sit down at trade talks in Hong Kong to consider rewriting these unfair trade rules. We'll need a global deal to address a global problem, because no one will change these unfair policies unless all rich countries agree, at once. Our leaders need to know that we're still watching and want real progress.

Add your name to the ONE Big Noise letter today and ask President Bush to take this opportunity to fight extreme poverty by making trade fair.

This isn't about handouts, it's about giving people who work hard and play by the rules a hand up so they can take care of themselves. Together, we can make ONE Big Noise that will be heard around the world.

Thank you,The ONE Team

Two Years  

Posted by BT

Two years ago today (in fact, right about now), Kari and I exchanged vows and were married. These two years have held more than I ever dreamed they would hold:

  • My ordination
  • A move from Cincinnati to Kansas City
  • The arrival of Braden
  • Another move, from the senior girls' dorm to the freshman/sophomore girls' dorm
  • Leaving behind one community of beloved people, only to discover another

There is so much more I could include in a bulleted list, but the most important event of this time (save Braden's birth) has been a transformation in the way we live, in the way we talk, in the way we see things (life, Jesus, the Church, each other). It has been and continues to be a marvelous journey, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather share it with than my wife. One thing I've learned through some struggles in the past week (see previous post) is that Kari is the one I want to experience all of life with. We've had lots of joys and not much sadness, but we know the cycles of life will take us to those places, too. I'm glad I have Kari for when those times come.

She is full of grace, mercy and understanding. She is selfless and lovely. She is tender and loving. She is warm and sweet.

I love you, Kari. Happy anniversary.

Urgent Prayer Needed  

Posted by BT

This is a tough one.

Several years ago, the father of one of the guys in our small group tried to kill himself. He overdosed on pills, but someone found him and he was revived. Well, due to some events and circumstances of late, this same guy had been really battling his depression again. As of 9:41 central time on Thursday night, no one has seen him for seven hours, and heavy doses of his medication are missing. The family has basically given up hope already.

He is the father of two kids, a father-in-law, a husband and a friend to many. If you all could just pray for all of them, that would be great. Thanks.

Yuletide Merriment  

Posted by BT

Yesterday, on my sister's blog, she posted how excited she is about Christmas. I don't know if it's a family thing or what, but I can hardly wait. It's interesting how we change over the years...Basically, I can't wait to go home and spend a couple weeks with our families. We have so much fun playing games, sitting around singing, eating way too much (but it's so good), etc. Kari and I already have one of our trees up, and we'll be putting up my sports Christmas tree tonight. I'll try to post pictures (no promises). Anyway, Merry Christmas.

Sis also posted the lyrics to one of her favorite Christmas songs, which I thought was a splendid idea. Here are the words to my favorite Christmas song, "Hand of Sweet Release."

Come thou long expected Jesus,
come illuminate the mysteries of life.
Come redeem us from the refuse,
bring an end to endless suffering and strife.
Be the star that shines so brightly
that it draws our weary eyes to the sky,
to Heaven's sky.
Dearest child of new beginnings,
be the start of something beautiful, I cry.

There's an end to all the waiting,
there's an answer to the "who?" and "where?" and "why?"
All the years anticipating, are surrendered to a tiny baby's cry.
There's a dawn to follow darkness,
there's a face to fill the title, "Prince of Peace."
What he promised, he delivered...
I am saved by the hand of sweet release.

In this war I've been a captive,
just a sinner seeking life and liberty.
But these hands that hold me tightly
are the hands that set my shackled spirit free.
Blessed Jesus, meek and lowly,
you have come into my life and made it new,
now I'm new.
Out of bondage into everlasting light,
I owe everything to you.

There's an end to all the waiting,
there's an answer to the "who?" and "where?" and "why?"
All the years anticipating, are surrendered to a tiny baby's cry.
There's a dawn to follow darkness,
there's a face to fill the title, "Prince of Peace."
What he promised, he delivered...
I am saved by the hand of sweet release.
What he promised, he delivered...
I am saved by the hand of sweet release.

Now reading: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Colts: 9-0

Send an Email  

Posted by BT

Congress is in the midst of important budget negotiations right now, and one of the items on the table is $100,000,000 that could possibly be used to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria. These diseases, especially AIDS, are devastating third world countries.

One, an organization that is linked to the right under "Sites," has pre-written an email for you. All you have to do is fill in your personal info, and they will send it to the proper parties. Please take a moment (literally, a very brief moment) out of your busy schedule to click here and send an email to your representative. When the Constitution separated church and state, it wasn't so Christians would sit on their hands when they could take meaningful action.

One's philospohy is simple: If the richest nations in the world would dedicate 1% of their respective budgets, we could eliminate poverty. If you believe in their cause, sign the declaration at their website, and then you'll get updates like these in your email.

Now Reading: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Colts: 9-0

End of the Spear  

Posted by BT

Today I was privileged to attend a special screening of a movie that tells the remarkable story of Nate and Steve Saint, Jim Elliot, and other missionaries who landed their tiny airplane on a sandbar in the Amazon River basin in Ecuador to share the Gospel of Christ with the Waodani tribe, the most violent society known to man. You may or may not be familiar with the story, but I was introduced to new aspects of it which were fascinating and inspiring. The film, "End of the Spear," opens in theaters January 20.

Now Reading: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Colts: 7-0

A Flare for the Dramatic  

Posted by BT

Those of you who read the story of the faculty/staff's comeback victory last week may remember that the championship game was last night. And what a game it was.

I'll spare the extended details I used in telling the last story, but this game was just as exciting. Both teams played fairly well throughout the game, and as we entered the last inning of play, we trailed by a score of 6-4. We held them scoreless in their half of the 7th, and we came to bat trailing by those two runs.

Our team strung together quite a rally, and the most exciting play of the inning was when Barb, our 70-year-old pitcher, slid headfirst (well, "slid" may not be quite the right term) into third base safely. Steve was walked, which brought up the top of the order. By this time we had scored once and had runners on first and third, still with no one out. Our leadoff hitter, Yort, came through with a big double to left-center, scoring Barb to tie the game, and sending Steve to third. So, the winning run was on third with no one out and Luke, our second hitter coming up. It looked like the championship was in the bag. But alas, Luke hit an innocent pop-up to first base, and there was one out. And BT was coming to the plate. As I approached the plate, I thought they may walk me intentionally to set up a force play, but as they positioned their outfielders it became apparent they would pitch to me.

The stage was set. Winning run on third, one out. All I needed was a fly ball of medium depth, and we would win the intramural softball championship. Steve looked in from third base and clapped his hands, saying, "Just a fly ball, Bradley."

As the pitcher toed the rubber, I looked for something I could drive fairly deep in the air. With the first pitch, I got it. It was belt high, not a lot of arc, and I seized the opportunity. With a mighty swing, I sent the ball hurtling toward the left field foul pole. For a moment I feared it may go foul, but the hook straightened out, and it sailed over the fence for a walk-off, championship-winning three-run home run. It was my childhood dream come true, albeit on a smaller stage than I originally imagined. I rounded the bases with my fist raised high and was met at home plate by my teammates, jumping up and down and patting me on the head. It was the first intramural championship for the MNU faculty/staff in any sport. We won 9-6, having gone through the regular season with only one loss, and sweeping our way through the playoffs without losing a game. I was named the MVP.


Posted by BT

A friend of mine that is involved in ministry at Eastern Nazarene College posted this on his blog today:

"We will never become people of change, until we (as white Americans) become aware (awareness is the key term) of the racism within our traditions and religions and confront it. For example, when white people were going to church, praising God during days of slavery, they probably didn’t see themselves as racist people. We have never seen ourselves as racist people, mostly because we think we have had God’s blessing for acknowledging Jesus as his son. Let me share an example of this in 2005. We have many opportunities to share and take care of others, meeting their basic needs. Through OXFAM alone, $20 buys enough maize to feed a family of four in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia for six months. $30 Buys books to help 10 girls in Afghanistan learn to read and write. Apparently, there are wealthy churches that don’t know this, or maybe they choose to ignore it. I know of several churches that have spent hundreds of thousands, even a million dollars to upgrade the “comfort” of their church, or to install advancements such as big screen projectors. This amount of money could have fed 25,000 families in Ethiopia for one year. When Churches spend money to enhance their comfort, and we as individuals buy cosmetics, excessive amounts of clothes, video games, etc., while 30,000 non-white children starve to death everyday or go without basic education – we are perpetuating inequality - this perpetuation of inequality is racism – meaning, we are still racist, just like we have continued to be throughout history. We turned away those in need, for our own excessive comfort, security, and lust. We hung them with the noose of hunger. Until we acknowledge our ignorance and repent of this sin, reconcile with all those we have oppressed and are oppressing, there will be racism, and this racism trickles down to ENC - however, some of the White People will still deny it, they will say that the non-white people are making an issue of racism where there is none, as if they pulled it out of thin air. Only through brutal honesty and confrontation can there be healing and reconciliation. We must open our eyes, look at inequality and racism in our past, and acknowledge it in the present, and thus begin to be a people of change by humbling ourselves, embracing the concerns, experience, and suffering of all other cultures, backgrounds, and religions that differ from our own."

Another friend, involved in ministry in Columbus, posted this recently:

"Ayedefer, his wife and daughter moved to the United States about three years ago from Ethiopia. We talked about Africa and he told me that he had been a teacher in Ethiopia and with his salary was able to afford three meals a day and rent an apartment with electricity, but no running water, for his family. He said that 70% of the people of his country eat one meal a day, which consist of some fried grains. They get their water from holes they dig in the ground that collect rainwater. He said that usually he was drinking after dogs and cows and that they also cleaned their clothes with this water. Ayedefer works hard and sends much of his money back to support a minister who would not eat without the money he sends. He said that one US dollar a day would make for a very good life for an Ethiopian. I asked Ayedefer if life in this country is one of constant frustration for him. He clutched his chest and said, “yes”. I told him that within the last year I have become very aware of the tragic circumstances in Africa with poverty, hunger and AIDS. I told him that I try to tell others and help them realize that when Christ told us to love our neighbor he intended no geographical limits on that love. He told me that when he moved here he began working at a PetsMart. He said that in his time there he realized that Americans spend millions of dollars on dog food for their pets. Ayedefer told me that he would look at the pet food and think that it would be a nourishing meal for people in his country who were dying of hunger."

I recently led a church through a multi-million dollar building program. I make more money in a week than most third-world men will make in their lifetime. What am I doing about it?

God help me.

Shed a Little Light  

Posted by BT

Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the earth,
Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood...
That we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong.
And we are bound together by the task that stands before us, and the road that lies ahead...
We are bound. We are bound.

There is a feeling like the clinching of a fist,
There is a hunger in the center of the chest.
There is a passage through the darkenss and the mist,
And though the body sleeps, the heart will never rest.

Shed a little light, O Lord, so that we can see.
Just a little light, O Lord,
Wanna stand it on up,
Wanna walk it on down,
Shed a little light, O Lord.

Can't get no light from a dollar bill,
Don't give me no light from a TV screen.
When I open my eyes I wanna drink my fill
From the well on the hill,
Do you know what I mean?

Shed a little light, O Lord, so that we can see.
Just a little light, O Lord,
Wanna stand it on up,
Wanna walk it on down,
Shed a little light, O Lord.

There is a feeling like the clinching of a fist,
There is a hunger in the center of the chest.
There is a passage through the darkenss and the mist,
And though the body sleeps, the heart will never rest.

Oh, let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King,
And recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the earth,
Ties of hope and love,
Sister and brotherhood.
--James Taylor

Now Reading: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis
Colts: 7-0

Well, if the RedBirds can't win...  

Posted by BT

Last night was a game for the ages. And I'm not talking about World Series Game 3.

The Faculty/Staff intramural softball team at MidAmerica has had their best season yet. We went 8-1 in the regular season, our only loss coming by one run to juggernaut Love Potion #9. They went undefeated through the regular season, so they clinched the top spot in the playoffs, and we got the two seed. Both of us won our first two playoff games (double-elimination format), so we faced off last night for the chance to play in the championship. The winner would move directly to the championship, while the loser would have to face an elimination game immediately following last night's game.

As the lower seed, we were the visitors, and we put up two quick runs in the 1st. They tallied one in their half, and the score stayed that way until the 4th. During that inning, our pitcher (a 70-year old woman; each team has at least two girls) gave up her first walk of the season, and they strung together a few more hits to take the lead, 5-2. In the top of the 5th they shut us down, then added a bases clearing double to the gap in left-center to make it 8-2. Our season was crumbling before our eyes.

In our half of the 6th we pushed two runs across to make it 8-4, and had a couple nice defensive plays in the bottom half to keep the score that way headed to the final inning. The 70-year old woman was leading off, and she dinked a single over shortstop. Our best hitter, Steve, was next, and he rung one to the wall in right-center, but because Barb (the 70-year old pitcher) isn't exactly fleet afoot, it was only a single. Next was the leadoff hitter, Yort. He reached on an infield single to load the bases, with no one out, and the 2-3-4 hitters coming to the plate. Luke was next up, and he popped up harmlessly. 1 away. Then came me. I strode to the plate with one thing on my mind: Tie this game. I took one pitch, then drove the next one deep to left field...but foul. The next pitch was a beauty, and I took a mighty swing, but I got under it. Flyout to the warning track in left, and, with Barb on third, she couldn't tag and score. 2 outs. I walked slowly back to the dugout and buried my head in my hands. Paul, the clean-up hitter, was our last hope. I looked up from my sulking just in time to see him drive the first pitch deep to right-center and GONE! A GRAND SLAM! WITH TWO OUTS IN THE LAST INNING! I couldn't believe what I had seen. Our next hitter, Rus, hammered a double into the left-center field gap and scored on two throwing errors. We had taken the lead in the last inning, but we still had to hold them.

Heading to the bottom of the 7th with a 9-8 lead, they had the top of the order up. The lead off man hit a single to take a little momentum back to their side. After a grounder to third forced him out, the next man got a single, so they had runners on first and second with one out. The cleanup hitter popped up to me in shallow center, and the runners could not advance. Two down. Alas, there was more softball to be played. The next man singled, scoring a run. They had first and second again, this time with two outs, and now it was a tie game, 9-9. Their next hitter got a single to left, which was scooped up by our left fielder (who has a torn rotator cuff in his throwing arm). They were sending the man from second...there was going to be a play at the plate. Steve launched the ball and it dribbled across the infield in perfect line with the plate. The catcher scooped it out of the dirt and tagged the runner..........OUT! He threw out the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the 7th. Huge. Extra innings.

With the 9-9 tie, we had Steve, our best hitter leading off, followed by the top of the order. Steve doubled to right-center, but the leadoff man lined out to short for the first out. Luke singled Steve home and advanced to second on the throw. I was next, and I doubled to left, scoring Luke. Paul, the hero from the 7th inning, was behind me, and he homered again for his seventh RBI of the evening and a 13-9 lead for us. We tacked on one more before heading to the bottom of the 8th. We retired them in order in the 8th for the victory!

So the Faculty/Staff team advances to the championship game next Tuesday. Love Potion #9, the most dominant team in the league all season, was clearly disheartened by our dramatic comeback victory. In the elimination game that ensued, they fell to the Ducks in the Hole, 10-7, ending their season. We will meet Ducks in the Hole next Tuesday for the title, and they'll have to beat us twice to win it.

I think ESPN Classic has already called for the footage.

Four Words:  

Posted by BT



Posted by BT

Kari, Braden and I had a really nice weekend. We flew to Columbus on Friday morning, where her family picked us up at the airport and we all drove to Kentucky. Sis had flown in earlier in the week, so the whole family was together (except for Brian, Sis's husband, whom we missed a TON) for the weekend. We played games and talked and ate and hung out. Sunday I got to preach at my home church. But the best part of it all was that we dedicated Braden Sunday, and I had the privilege of doing the dedication. I never dreamed I'd dedicate my own son, but that's what I was able to do. My Dad, Kari's Dad, my Grandfather and I sang a song for Braden and then we dedicated him. It was so special. Pictures to come later, over on Braden's blog (linked to the right).

Sis took several wonderful pictures while we were home, and one of them is posted on her blog. He's a pretty cute kid.

Check This Out
By clicking here, you can read about a victory for Sojourners. If you're not a subscriber, their email is free and it will help you know how to conscientiously object when government is about to make an anti-Kingdom decision.

At Church
I mentioned that I preached while I was home. I wouldn't call myself a preacher, but I hope the Lord gave me something worthwhile to say to those people who have meant so much to me over the years. I talked to them about the Kingdom, and how it is both a present reality and a future hope. The text was from Matthew 10: "Tell them the kingdom is here."

I used a quote from Nouwen that I think is amazing: "The Church is not an institution forcing us to follow its rules. It is a community of people inviting us to still our hunger and thirst at its tables." I talked to them about the reality that we need to open our doors and our arms to homosexuals and terrorists, to genuinely love them. Sis said my message was controversial. I think I think I'm glad for that.

Anyway, thanks to those of you who prayed for me this weekend, and thanks to all of you for helping me, in some roundabout way, formulate the message that I spoke, that the Kingdom is here, it is present reality and future hope, and that the Church should be inviting people to our tables.

In Other News
The Cardinals are in the process of letting me down again, I'm afraid, although Albert came through with a mammoth home run last night. Now it's back to St. Louis for Game 6 (and hopefully Game 7) for the right to play the White Sox in the World Series. Here's to the RedBirds.

Now Reading: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy
Cardinals' Magic Number: 6

The Kingdom Comes  

Posted by BT

My God, thank you for the physical sight to see both light and darkness around me. Thank you too for insight that comes with the vision to tell the difference. I know that my perception of reality, my vision, determines my ability to respond to life, and that the greater my vision, the more fully alive and fully human I can be.

Still I confess that sometimes the smallness of my vision limits my perception of myself, my neighbors, and the world, so that I treat others as less than human and not fully alive--personally, politically, economically, socially...

I need the vision that Jesus gives, that sees no difference between sacred and secular, sexual identity and personhood, ethnic group and worth, economic position and dignity, education and value.

I need the vision to ask the hard questions and to change my attitude and the structures of society where I can. Because of the sensitivity of sight you give, enable me to stand in awe and wonder at life and its possibilities. Help me kneel in humility to worship you and not myself. Lord, hear me as I say, "Let my eyes be opened." Amen.

--From Visions of a World Hungry by Thomas G. Pettepiece

Now reading: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy
Cardinals' Magic Number: 8

Costanza's Wallet  

Posted by BT

Friday night my wife and I had dinner with George Costanza. Well, not really. At a Japanese Steakhouse in Overland Park, we sat at a table with another couple, and they were quite unique. When the check came, the gentleman stood up and began wrestling to get something out of his pocket: His enormous, cantaloupe-sized wallet. This thing was amazing...It made Costanza's look puny. If I were to guess the contents, I would include money, credit cards, receipts, car keys, a pickle spear, the Yellow Pages, and pictures of their grandkids, among much else, clearly. He set it on the table, unzipped it (yes, it had a zipper), and chose a few bills, placing them with the check. But he wasn't done. After the waitress returned with his change, he proceeded to remove a calculator from his fanny pack (that's right), along with the checkbook. At this time his wife got up and left...didn't just go to the restroom, but left the restaurant entirely. We began to wonder if they were perhaps just on a date, but this seemed unlikely, as they had to be in their 60s. So he opened the checkbook and the calculator, and began crunching some numbers there at the table. He must have had 20 receipts folded up in the checkbook, and he added the one from dinner. After working with the calculator for a while, he folded up the checkbook, closed the calculator and returned them to his fanny pack. He then struggled mightily to return the gargantuan wallet to his pocket. Kari and I had to wonder why he didn't keep the humongo wallet in the fanny pack, too.

The Playoffs
The Cardinals begin the Playoffs this afternoon, hosting the San Diego Padres in a best-of-five series. I can only hope for a happier ending than last year. But, should the RedBirds make it back to the Fall Classic, Dad and I will once again make the trek to St. Louis in hopes of not having our hearts broken in person, again.

...are in order for my friends, Doug and Molly Wharton, who were wed this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Doug and Molly live in Honduras, where they work at a place filled with hope for children with HIV/AIDS. It is called Montana de Luz, which means "Mountain of Light." I invite you to read a speech Molly gave at their wedding, which was posted by my friend Eric Stetler, here. If you feel led, please support this mission in any way you possibly can.

And finally...
...this from Sojourners.

Now Reading: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy
Cardinals' Magic Number: 11


Posted by BT

I had a remarkable conversation today.

A man named Don called Headquarters today (I have no idea how he managed to get patched through to me) and asked me if we could talk about his faith. "Sure," I said. Then he told me some things...He wasn't "raised" to believe in the Bible, he doesn't believe Jesus is the Son of God, he doesn't believe in Satan, but he has some friends who have been talking to him about sin and the need for forgiveness, who have told him what Jesus did for him (us), and who gave him a Bible. He asked if we could read some of it together.

Amazing. We've been praying in our small group for encounters with people who don't know the Lord, but rarely have I had one fall into my lap like this. Don and I had a wonderful conversation. He was (is) afraid to say the name "Jesus Christ," and he was afraid to say words like "repentance" or "forgiveness." (I had asked him to read some from the book of Mark aloud, and that's when he encountered these words and asked if he could skip them.) We talked for over an hour before he said he had to go, but I told him I was going to share his story with my small group and post it on my blog so my friends could pray for him. He begged me not to do this, saying he knew that he had been feeling guilty and was afraid that would make him feel more guilty. I shared with him that Jesus did not want him to have a spirit of fear, and that God wanted to free him from his guilt. He asked me what I believed about Jesus, and when I got to the part about the crucifixion, he wanted me to stop. When he read aloud the description of Jesus' baptism in the first chapter of Mark, he wept when he came to the part where God's voice proclaimed Jesus as His beloved Son, with whom He was well pleased. I told him that was also God's message for him, should he choose to accept it.

I prayed all throughout the conversation that God would give me wisdom and courage, and I believe He did. I told Don that I was going to pray for God to pursue him. I'd like to invite all of you to do the same. I told him his life would never be the same, but that it would be richer than he could ever imagine. I told him I loved him (which he didn't understand) and that that God loved him (which he didn't believe).

Please help me pray for my new friend, Don.

Now Reading: Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
Cardinals: NL Central Champions; Magic Number: 11

Newest Projects  

Posted by BT

I've been excited the last couple days to learn about the new projects I'll be working on. Yesterday I received a call from Barefoot Ministries, the youth publishing company for the Nazarene church. They asked me if I would edit their teen curriculum based on the lectionary. Very cool. They're sending me a contract.

Then, in my email today, I received my next proofreading project for Youth Specialties: you can see it by clicking here. It's a re-release of a book, but it's one I've been wanting to read. I'm especially interested in one of the authors, Brian McLaren. I haven't yet had the privilege to read anything of his yet, so I'm anxious to get started.

Now reading: Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller.
Cardinals: NL Central Champions; Magic Number: 11

Blue Like Jazz  

Posted by BT

Kari and I are reading this book together right now, and we both are really enjoying it. The subtitle is so true: Non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality.

At the end of his chapter on grace is this wonderful statement: "In exchange for our humility and willingness to accept the charity of God we are given a kingdom. And a beggar's kingdom is better than a proud man's delusion."

Now Reading: Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
Cardinals: NL Central Champions; Magic Number: 11

A Growing Transparency  

Posted by BT

I'm looking out my hotel window at half of the Gateway Arch...Quite a lovely view. I sure do miss my wife and son, though.

My time here in St. Louis has been good. I am here working for Nazarene Headquarters at the USA/Canada Nazarene Youth International District Leadership Conference (what a name!). But the best of my time has been spent in worship and in sharing my heart with a friend, James (his blog is linked to the right). Last night in the worship service we sang a song that repeated the line "Less of me and more of You," clearly sung to God. But, the worship leader threw us for a loop when he told us to sing it to each other. "Less of me and more of you, Brother." I was moved when James came from the complete opposite side of the room to hug me and sing it to me. And I sang it to him. And I so sincerely hope that I meant it.

Much was stirred up (and has been stirred up for some time now). James and I went to Starbucks this morning for breakfast and began talking about where we are, what we're doing, what we're thinking, what we're dealing with. James told me (very) briefly about his community, and I told him (very) briefly about ours. We talked of the existing church and the emerging church, friends and their thoughts, worship styles, pastors...We talked and we talked. We hardly even mentioned our two precious kids, Halle and Braden, both 3-4 months old, which gives you an idea of how prevalent these topics are in our minds.

Ultimately, James helped me come to a conclusion that I probably have needed to confess for some time: That, especially during my most formative years in college, I mostly lived my life to meet the approval of certain people. Jesus was typically not one of them. Some of these people I felt never approved of me, and some I felt I managed to "win over." Only now do I see (admit) the silliness in it all. Sadly, though, I find myself still longing to meet with the approval of some of these people. Most of them are far ahead of me in this "post-postmodern" way of thinking, and I read their blogs and wish I were as "spiritual" as them. Sad. I think most of them would call themselves my friends (perhaps simply "acquaintances"), so is it my insecurity? Maybe there's a better word than approval...maybe it's respect. I want them to respect me so badly...My pride is clearly in the way. Funny how insecurity and pride so often go hand in hand.

There's a lot more rolling around in my head about the role of the existing church in this emerging church paradigm...but I don't know how to articulate it yet. I'm working on it.

If you have read this and are afraid you may be one of the people I mentioned earlier, please don't worry. I don't think those people are even aware I have a blog. (One of them stumbled upon a mutual friend's blog not long ago and talked about how happy he was to reconnect with him, and that he would be frequenting his blog as a place of refuge...I found myself undeniably envious of him, who clearly had been approved by one whose approval I had [have] so long been seeking...I apologize to both of you, if you read this and know who you are.) Either way, it is a change in my heart that needs to be made, not in yours.

I am tempted to skip all the evening activities and go watch Chris Carpenter pitch, but it's almost sure to rain, and I am at "work."

Now Reading: "Reflections on the Psalms," by C.S. Lewis
Cardinals' Magic Number: 2

A Guest  

Posted by BT

We Taylors have been privileged to have a special guest with us this week:

The Durek is Here Posted by Picasa

Bryan drove out to KC last Sunday to begin his in-service master of divinity degree at Nazarene Theological Seminary. He is staying with us and becoming acclimated to life in a girls’ dorm and life with a baby boy. Holly even flew out over this past weekend, and we enjoyed some fellowship with them before she flew back to Ohio on Monday morning. Bryan will be finishing up his first module course this week and heading back to Marysville Church of the Nazarene, where he is youth pastor, on Friday.

As we've been hosting our friend and Kari has been reading this fabulous book, we've been thinking a lot about hospitality. This from Nouwen in Reaching Out:

"Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left…It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit…The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave…Hospitality is not the subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own…Reaching out to others without being receptive to them is more harmful than helpful and easily leads to manipulation and even to violence, violence in thoughts, words, and actions."

No one says it quite like Henri. I've been moved by reading the thoughts of several of my friends in the wake of the terrible tragedy taking place in Louisiana and the surrounding states. I'd like to find a way to go there and help, too. Kari and I will contribute to the cause of Heart to Heart International, which has established a presence in New Orleans and is assisting refugees. Heart to Heart was founded by a gentleman at our church here in Olathe. If you are reading this and don't have a way to contribute, may I suggest this fine organization? By clicking on their name above, you can read about their core beliefs and find out how you can contribute.

May God bless those so profoundly affected by this awful event.

Now Reading: "Reflections on the Psalms," by C.S. Lewis
Cardinals' Magic Number: 11

Football Time in Tennessee  

Posted by BT

Well, the Vols managed to win their opener today, but, from the looks of things, they're going to have a mighty tough time at Florida in two weeks.

Here are a couple quotes from the book I'm proofreading that I found interesting and appropriate:

"The Scriptures are devalued when they’re used only to affirm and bless our culture and its characteristics. When the Bible becomes an “amen” to selfish politics, consumerism, individualism, the American way, and our many other cultural agendas, its radical message is silenced. The Bible becomes a weak-voiced pastor sitting at the cultural head table and offering a meaningless invocation—just happy to be in the room. But the Jesus who shakes up the religious authorities by healing on the Sabbath, scandalizes the norms of his day by conversing with a Samaritan woman, frequents the table of tax collectors and other marginal persons, and says we meet the eternal God in the faces of the poor—this Jesus is silenced and excluded."

"Yet the preeminence of systematic theology carries with it the danger that we may read the Bible for affirmation of our favored system, strip-mining the biblical narrative for verses, illustrations, and smaller segments that fit a prescribed theological package. The marvelous contours of the narrative forest are lost or ignored as we remove individual trees to be used as pillars of a theological system."

Just some food for though, I suppose.

Now reading: "Reflections on the Psalms," by C.S. Lewis
Cardinals' Magic Number: 16

Different Freedom?  

Posted by BT

Deep within, the heart has always known that there is freedom
Somehow breathed into the very soul of life
The prisoner, the powerless, the slave has always known it
There's something that keeps reaching for the sky

And even life begins because a baby fights for freedom
And songs we love to sing have freedom's theme
Some have walked through fire and flood to find the place of freedom
And some faced hell itself for freedom's dream

Let freedom ring wherever minds know what it means to be in chains
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
We can be free, and we can sing, "Let freedom ring"

God built freedom into every fiber of creation
And He meant for us to all be free and whole
But when my Lord bought freedom with the blood of His redpemption
His cross stamped "pardon" on my very soul

I'll sing it out with every breath, I'll let the whole world hear it
This hallelujah anthem of the free
That iron bars and heavy chains can never hold us captive
The Son has made us free, and free indeed

Let freedom ring down through the ages from a hill called Calvary
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
You can be free, and you can sing, "Let freedom ring"

Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
You can be free, and you can sing, "Let freedom ring"
You can be free, and you can sing, "Let freedom ring"

A New Book  

Posted by BT

Some of you probably don't know that, in addition to my regular job at Nazarene Headquarters and several part time jobs around the campus at MidAmerica (mostly pertaining to sports), I also am a freelance proofreader and copy editor. I primarily work for Youth Specialties, and many of my previous projects probably wouldn't be books I would normally pick up and read (for example, check this one out:

This week, however, I enjoyed a serendipitous moment as I opened my most recent project. You can see it by following the link above (nothing I've worked on is out yet...I think January is the earliest release date of anything I've done). It's called "The Church in Transition," by Tim Conder, and it is unbelievably, almost frighteningly, apropos for my current state of mind. It strongly addresses how we (1. Dare I include myself in the "emergent church?" 2. I think I think I'm not sure about that name) can share life with the existing church, regardless of how disillusioned we may be with it.

I'm really enjoying it so far. I hope some of you will read it when it is released in January, not because I worked on it, but because it's just pretty cool.

Now Reading: "The Bible Jesus Read," by Philip Yancey
Cardinals' Magic Number: 17

This morning...  

Posted by BT

I was reading this this morning by Philip Yancey, and I thought it spoke well to much of the current discussion/thought process.

"Is it possible that God permitted the entire tragic experiment of Israel's nationhood in order to prove a point about the visible kingdom--about any visible kingdom? Solomon, with every advantage of wisdom, power, and wealth--all good gifts from God--led his nation to destruction. Did God grant Solomon those advantages in order to put to death illusions and thus prepare the way for a new kingdom? Kingdoms of this world are built on intelligence, beauty, wealth and strength. Yet even at their best, their Solomonic best, such human attractions fail. Has not history born out that truth again and again, world without end?

A later king--one greater than Solomon, he claimed--established his rule instead among the lame and poor and oppressed and ritually unclean. He belittled Solomon's glory by comparing it to that of a common day-lily. He offered no rewards other than the prospect of an executioner's cross. Solomon's kingdom succeeds by accumulation; Jesus' kingdom succeeds by self-sacrifice. 'You must lose yourself to find yourself' was Jesus' most-repeated proverb. The world was still not ready for Jesus' kind of kingdom. Even when he returned to earth after resurrection the disciples did not grasp the difference: 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' they asked, still yearning for the visible kingdom of Solomon.

The kings of Israel who followed Solomon did not learn, the disciples who followed Jesus did not learn, and what of us? I can envision the Teacher of Ecclesiastes standing before the magazine rack of a modern newsstand. 'All these body-building magazines--Shape, New Body, Muscle and Fitness--do you think flesh lasts forever? Have you no thought for the grave? These business magazines--Success, Inc., Entrepreneur--what are you scrambling for? Do you truly believe you will find satisfaction there? Mad, Lampoon, Atlantic, Harper's--I tried folly as well as wisdom, and both lead to the same place. To the grave.' In Jesus' cryptic words, which could stand as a summary for the message of Ecclesiastes, 'What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?'

Ecclesiastes has an eerily modern ring to it because we have not learned its most basic lessons. We too chase the allure of the visible kingdom."

From "The Bible Jesus Read," by Philip Yancey


Posted by BT

Truly, it is time for Pat to go.


Posted by BT

Inspired by a number of my friends who regularly practice this odd, public journal/soapbox, I thought I'd start a "blog" of my own. I don't know if this will work for me, but I'll give it a shot.

For starters, if you're wondering about the title, check out Ephesians 3:16-19. It is my "life passage," if there is such a thing.

Some of the things presently percolating:

1. The Old Testament is gaining meaning to me as I read Yancey's "The Bible Jesus Read."

2. I am thoroughly intrigued by the conversations that have been taking place among my friends (I hope they would call themselves my friends) regarding the emerging church (at least I think that's the buzz term these days). Also piquing my interest is all the political/religious right/anti-war talk. I have a few thoughts about this:

a) I have a friend who is considering a career as a navy chaplain. What place does chaplaincy have in the military?

b) My grandfather (Pops, hereafter) was in the navy and served in the second world war. I have a profound respect for Pops' faith journey, and am troubled by the anti-war sentiment (which I agree with, incidentally) and how his military involvement reflects on his faith. Any thoughts?

c) The "allegiance" discussion is what first drew me in, whether you can have allegiance to both a temporary country and an eternal Kingdom. I'm still wrestling with this one, but, suffice it to say, I'm further from the "religious right" than I've ever been.

This is a good start.