Friday, October 31, 2008

CT- How to Pick a President

I have seen some very poor and very good arguments during this campaign for why people are voting the way that they are. Christianity Today, who I believe has tried to remain neutral and truthful in it's reporting, published an article late spring that laid out the main reason we should vote for a candidate- virtue. Here is an excerpt from the article's closing argument. I hope to add some thoughts before election time.

The issue is not that candidates have failures, but how they have dealt with those failures. For they are certain to have public failures while in office. If in private life they run from failure or cover it up or rationalize it, are they not likely to do the same in public life? The goal of seeking virtuous people for high office is not to find perfect people, but to find people with the greatest potential to provide, despite their acknowledged limitations (humility being a prudent quality in a leader), the kind of leadership a community needs to flourish. We are not looking for saints to lead us, but we should be looking for people trying to live virtuously and largely succeeding.

It matters little that people will not agree exactly on a list of key virtues. The question of what virtues are most important, and how they should be defined and expressed, should be a fruitful part of an ongoing discussion. But it matters greatly that such a discussion take place. Recent polls indicate a broad recognition that we have a virtue deficit in this country and in its leaders that makes budget deficits pale in importance.

When we are choosing someone to lead us, we do best to look for a "good human being." Such a person is not likely to be moralistic or pious or politically correct. But he or she needs to be virtuous. Because, over time, nations flourish only to the degree that their collective virtue sustains.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wired NextFest

I headed downtown via the train to catch Wired NextFest and it didn't disappoint. It was everything that I had hoped it would be- fun, informative, entertaining and inspirational. The creativity that was harnessed in the outdoor exhibition tent was palpable. From the interactive CG Dwayne Wade who commented on your shooting ability to the other end of the hall with the next generation People Movers, ingenuity was not in short supply. Curt and I played Pong with our fingers (he won), brain ball with...our brains (I won :-) and interacted with robots and computers all day long.

But the highlight of our time was the time spent with...humans. Yes, good old-fashioned communication with people as there were several of the inventors on hand to answer questions. And one person in particular was gracious with his time and inspirational with his words. He is Charles Greenwood, the inventor of the Human Car.

Charles has spent the last 4o years (since the year I was born) designing a car that could generate electricity simply by human power. And his dream is soon to become a reality with the Human Car, a car that can go up to 60mph powered by humans in a sort of "rowing" motion. Each passenger also can join in the fun, or just sit back and switch to all-electric power, your choice. Charles has been featured on CNN as well as Discovery Channel and Wired magazine to name a few.

But Charle's is much more than an entrepenuer out to make a buck. And it isn't about saving money from high gas prices. "When I started this project, gas was 32 cents. This wasn't about gas." He says that what fuels his passion is the human condition and what he calls "a broken infrastructure." He spoke with us at length about his desire to do something that lifts the human potential. This desire at first was from a purely humanistic view, but he later came to a crisis of faith knowing that there had to be something bigger fueling this passion. This led him to became an ordained minister. While our theology wouldn't match, our love for people and creativity was a perfect fit. Here are some of his thoughts...

On Ideas (after I mentioned the term "Big Idea":

"What we need are a lot of little ideas chaneled in one direction. For example, with the future of cars, we need all different types sharing information, brainstorming about lane sizes, regulations, technology etc."

On American Creativity:

"Some of the internationals who have come to visit my shop have asked themselves in my presence why their country is not as creative. I'm of Swiss decent and back in my home country there is a term that is common over there that means 'fit-in', or 'keep your head down and don't make waves.' I think in America there are number of factors that fuel our creativity. One of the best is humor, especially self-depracting humor. We laugh at ourselves and do not take ourselves too seriously. This allows us to take risks. And "different" is OK in America if it is connected to ingenuity."

He left us with quite a bit to think about. And if that was the goal of NextFest, then mission accomplished. Our heads were full of thoughtful, creative inspiration to fuel our next Big, I mean little idea that might just move us forward.

Bite-sized Proverb

Reading a Proverb a day has been a relatively consistent part of my routine. I will read a Proverb on the corresponding day (there are 31, how convenient) and then chew on one verse or two throughout the day. Starting a day with Godly wisdom is always a good idea. Here was the verse that stuck with me today ...
A tenderhearted person lives a blessed life;
a hardhearted person lives a hard life. (proverbs 28:14- the message)
my 2cents...

We live in an age of protection- from pollution, from crime, from terrorism, from STDs... from pain. We learn to build walls to protect, even around our hearts. A wall around the heart keeps everything out, the good and the bad leading to a lonely, shriveled up heart/life.

Stacey and I saw a funny movie on this very topic this past weekend called Ghosttown about a man (played by Ricky Gervais) who had been hurt so much in the past that he did not want to risk the pain again. The man lives a lonely, uncaring and unfeeling existence until something happens that opens a crack in the door of his heart. The result (spoiler alert) is that he not only allows love into his heart, but he then opens his life to love others.

And that sums up this Proverb- when we are loved and love others, we're blessed.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pruney Hands

No these are not the hands of my great, great grandmother. They are of my 6 year old after some serious bath-fun. She's normally pruney after a bath, but this time she was beyond pruney.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Franciscan Benediction

I just stumbled across this again and felt it was worth repeating.

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God’s creations
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.



Stacey was in top form on planning a party that was exactly what I had hoped for- a casual event with lifelong friends and family with some of my favorite foods (La Rosa's Pizza, Graeter's ice cream and my mom's delicious cakes).

There was a time of "honoring" that was as much a roast as anything. I loved every minute of it. Although, when you hear those stories about what you did as a child, it makes you wonder "what was I thinking?"

Stacey got the ball rolling with her self-proclaimed "deep thoughts" as only she can write. Here's a sample of her strong closing...

You’re the coordinates in my GPS…the music on my iPod…my life-long facebook status update. In other words: Let’s do this for at least another 40 years.

To the man who laughs at most of my jokes…keeps all of my secrets…and thinks I’ve got the best singing voice on the planet.

From the woman who laughs at most of your jokes…keeps all of your secrets…and can’t wait to see your handsome self bald (if such a day arises).

I love you with my whole heart…forever and ever.

Wow! That started the "sharing" time and then it was all downhill from there. Actually, it was all very fun and even a bit enlightening. And it was a humbling to have so many of the people who have shaped my life in the same room. I shared with them (and I say this to those reading this blog who have impacted me), thank you all for being an important part of my story and for sharing your story with me. I have no idea what the next 40 years holds, but the older I get the more I realize that it is the relationships that matter most.

And to have an amazing wife who loves me deeply, incredible children who daily bring me joy and new lenses to view the world, wonderful family and friends who love me and keep me tethered to what is important and God who makes all of it happen, makes me one blessed, 40 year-old man!

Thursday, October 23, 2008





Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Race" to the finish

It seems that race is now beginning to be talked about more on the campaign trail. We are living in an age of tension between the ugly side of racism and the beauty of racial barriers and stereotypes being broken. I loved David Andersen's talk a few years ago about the beauty of diversity looking at Acts 2 and how all of the different tribes were speaking different languages and yet unified because they were all declaring the wonders of God.

2 stories recently show both sides of race as the campaign winds down.

Ugly election incidents show lingering U.S. racism

Surging Obama campaign suggests US racism on the wane

Which article is right? Probably both. Let's pray that whatever the outcome of the election, that the church continues to function in it's unofficial cabinet position of the minister of reconciliation.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Election Roast 2008

Now here are a couple of clips from the Al Smith Dinner where we finally see some humor from both sides. Enjoy, it will be the last moment of levity until election time.

This is Your Brain on D...igital

Ever wonder if your lack of memory is from the fact that you are getting older or because we live in such a fast-paced world? How about, are people not as good at social skills like listening? What about attention spans? And have you had the thought that maybe all of that time spent on a computer, or looking at screen after screen of information might be having some sort profound but unknown affect on our lives?

As a pastor, I have wondered about this a lot. It seems that the more we get into the digital era the more I see changes in behaviors and even to some extent belief systems, or how we come to believe something.

Newsweek has a story on this called "Are You a 'Digital Native?'" that is somewhat inconclusive but highlights a study by UCLA that is beginning to shed some light on where our brains might be headed.

And long before the digital era were these words...

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unbeatable- My friend's new book about her struggle with cancer

While I was in Cleveland last week, my friend Laurie Frey and her husband Don came to hear me speak at Oak River church. At the end of the service, she hands me a signed copy of her just released book called Unbeatable. The book is a VERY honest look into her struggle with stage-3A invasive breast cancer.

Laurie wrote the book after the musical she created of the same name opened in Arizona and Houston. Unbeatable, the musical, is a story of Laurie's yearlong struggle with breast cancer but also a look into her fix-it, control everything personality that affects not just her outlook on the cancer but her relationships as well.

The book takes the story a step further and delves deeper into her issues during her struggle. It really zeroes in on her relationship with Don and her faith. I love how the book has a journal feel to it and how Don responds in his own words about what he was feeling at the time.

I was on staff at NewSong in Cleveland at the time and I turn up in the musical and in the book. I can still remember the day, 5 years ago from last month when Laurie told me that she had cancer. It hit me hard and I instantly felt God-sized compassion. It is interesting to see the events and our interactions through Laurie's eyes in the musical book. She writes about it beginning on page 28. This is right after she got off of the phone with her doctor who told her that she has cancer.

So who could I tell? I had to tell someone. I was heading in the general direction of the church office. Good. That'll do. Mark. Mark was the executive pastor.

We had been friends since he moved to Cleveland, and Don and I served as leaders for the youth group with him and his wife, Stacey. Mark's encouraging. He laughs a lot, he's athletic (I really didn't tell her to put that in), he's a "team" guy and he's encouraging. He's got to be in. He's got to. He is.

"Hey Laurie, what's up? Did I forget a meeting?" He was smiling. Of course he was smiling.

"No, I have breast cancer." Just like that. No plan. No clever phrasing. Right out of the mouth.

Now it was Mark's turn to be frozen in time. I was right there with him. His eyes staring into mine, concern flooding to the edges, mouth open a little.

"Wow." He paused. How long? A second?"... "When did you find out?"

"I just got a call while I was driving. I had a needle biopsy, and the tumor was as hard as a rock, so I thought there was a chance I had cancer. But you just never really think it could be possible."

I remember smiling. Smiling. And there it was. The first tear. Mark hugged me. Not a pastor hug. A brother hug. A truly human hug of another human being.

More moments passed, and I started to pull away, wiping my eyes. His hand was on my shoulder, and he began to pray, "Father God, You know everything that Laurie is facing right now. She needs You. I ask that Your arms come and wrap around her as You comfort her and guide her."

I know he kept praying, but I couldn't remember the words to save my life. I do know that when he was done, I could breathe. I remember breathing.

If you know someone who has gone through cancer (and who doesn't), this is an excellent look inside the world of someone who has been there. Cancer is a devastating disease, but there are stories of amazing inspiration from those who have fought against it. Unbeatable is one of those stories.

And since this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are some links about unbeatable and how we can beat back cancer.

Unbeatable- the whole story-

Unbeatable- the musical

Livestrong- Lance Armstrong Foundation

Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation

Monday, October 13, 2008

Miller Time...out

The schedule has been a little crazy. Will catch up on the blog this week.

But to make it up to you, I have a little gift, actually a re-gift from my brother-in-law. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Our Growing Debt

This is a blurb from an NPR story. The above image was taken just before the numbers grew too large.

It's official, the national debt clock has run out of numbers. The giant sign in New York City changes constantly as the federal debt increases. It was put up years ago by a real estate developer horrified that the debt was approaching $3 trillion. Some years ago, the clock stopped when the U.S. started running a surplus. But now it's running again, and when the debt struck $10 trillion recently, the owners had to improvise an extra number one.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What Would Jesus Say?

The last couple of weeks have shown us what a mixture of greed, fear and panic can do to the world. I was watching CNN at lunch as a famous psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz said that now is the time for everyone to take a step back and reprioritize their lives and ask questions like "what is really important to me?" and "can I live on less?".

The Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune had a front page article about how happiness is not dependent on wealth. It went on to give suggestions on how to have "psychological wealth." They were-
  1. Invest in relationships
  2. Take care of your physical and mental health
  3. Embrace spirituality (connect with something bigger than yourself)
  4. Be engaged (in what you do or find something to fully engage in)
  5. Adjust your attitude (it's not about the benjamins)
Great advice, and not really new. It made me wonder "what would Jesus say?" As I have been reflecting on this financial crisis and studied for a couple of messages I've given, I have turned my focus to Jesus' famous sermon on the mount in Matthew 6. It gives us timeless truth about taking a temporal versus eternal perspective on our possessions.

After Jesus teaches us how to pray, he turns to money and anxiety. Cliffnotes on what he says-
  1. "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (vs. 20- it's the best return on investment and you can't take money with you)
  2. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (vs. 21- He knows that our weakness is consumption which will not last and will wear away at the soul)
  3. "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (vs. 22-23- how we view "things" is important. Do we see them as blessings from God to bless others with or more stuff that we need. The former gives light to us, the latter shuts it out causing an eclipse in our hearts.)
  4. "You cannot serve both God and Money." (vs. 24- In God we trust? Or is our trust in our bank account?
  5. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life" (vs. 26,27- worry does a body BAD and it reveals our lack of trust in God)
  6. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (vs. 33- it's all his in the first place, we're just taking care of it)
Ancient wisdom for modern this is how to live The Good Life even when times are bad!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Rich Young Ruler

I am speaking tomorrow on consumption as we are in a series called "The Good Life". A few weeks ago Stacey, Raegan and I heard the song "Rich Young Ruler" live by Derek Webb and we can't get it out of our heads. It's been out a while, but with all that is going on in the financial markets, it just hit me fresh. I don't think he has a video on the song, but here is a video someone put together and posted on youtube.