Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Demands of Living Seriously

By Thomas Merton (hat-tip to Inward/Outward)

A great deal of virtue and piety is simply the easy price we pay in order to justify a life that is essentially trifling. Nothing is so cheap as the evasion purchased by just enough good conduct to make one pass as a ’serious person.’

And when you come to look more deeply into our present condition you find that many forms of ’seriousness’ and ‘achievement’ come to this in the end. In our society, a society of business rooted in puritanism, based on a pseudo-ethic of industriousness and thrift, to be rewarded by comfort, pleasure, and a good bank account, the myth of work is thought to justify an existence that is essentially meaningless and futile.

There is, then, a great deal of busy-ness as people invent things to do when in fact there is very little to be done. Yet we are overwhelmed with jobs, duties, tasks, assignments, “missions” of every kind. At every moment we are sent north, south, east and west by the angels of business and art, poetry and politics, science and war, to the four corners of the universe to decide something, to sign something, to buy and sell. We fly in all directions to sell ourselves, thus justifying the absolute nothingness of our lives.

Some make it their business to cover their own emptiness by pointing out the fraudulency of others, but always the emphasis is on the fact that others have nevertheless done something, even though it was a matter of perpetrating a fraud. They have perpetrated something. And so the myth prospers. No matter how empty our lives become, we are always at least convinced that something is happening because, indeed, as we so often complain, too much is happening. There is so much to be done that we do not have time to live.

But it is precisely this idea that a serious life demands ‘time to live’ that is the root of our trifling. In reality, what we want is time in which to trifle and vegetate without feeling guilty about it. But because we do not dare try it, we precipitate ourselves into another kind of trifling: that which is not idle, but dissimulated as action.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a writer and Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. This piece is from his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.

~ Keith

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How Will They Know We Are His Disciples?

I'm sitting on the couch watching the 2008 Presidential Election Coverage on PBS. Jim Lehrer just announced that California & Florida have just been "called" and it appears Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.

But I'm here to tell you why, in a very real way, it doesn't matter who won.

I've never thought of myself as "centrist" per se, but I find myself in the unique position where about 1/2 the people I know and care about have been supporting John McCain. The other half have been supporting Barack Obama. That is no big deal to me. What floors me is this: the McCain supporters have been saying really mean-spirited things about those who support Obama. The Obama supporters have been saying arrogantly smug and hurtful things to and about those who support McCain.
It has been the most divisive time I've seen
especially amongst people who say
they are followers of Jesus,
and this saddens me.
As we move forward in one country on one planet, here are some thoughts on why it does not matter who won: we are all still called to (a) support the government, the authority under which God has placed us, and (b) defer to one another in love, promoting unity instead of division. For more on that, I refer you to Paul of Tarsus' letter to the followers of Jesus living in Rome. If you read chapters 13-15, the message is clear: our call is to love one another and support one another and find places of unity instead of spouting vitriol.

Are you someone who had been supporting Obama? Rejoice in his victory, yes. But mourn with those who mourn and show respect and love for your brothers and sisters who supported McCain. Please don't say "I told you so" or anything like it and hurt those whom Jesus loves.

Are you someone who had been supporting McCain? Mourn his defeat, yes. But rejoice with those who rejoice and show respect and love for your brothers and sisters who supported Obama. Please don't grow bitter or say malignant things about those whom Jesus loves.

In his concession speech in Arizona, John McCain said of President-Elect Obama: "I pledge my part to do everything in my power to aid him. I urge all Americans who supported find ways to come together...whatever our differences."

The world is watching and it would be a tremendous shame if we as followers of Jesus living in America allowed the current divisiveness to get any worse. Rather, wouldn't it be wonderful to see unity and love for one another reigning in our hearts. After all, Jesus Himself said
"They'll know you are my followers by this:
when you love one another."

~ Keith

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Miles & Stones

Today's blog post is a milestone. This image calls to mind a story of the ancient people of Israel. They were crossing a border together for the final time before settling in a new land. They took stones and stacked them to form a monument -- a milestone. When future generations saw the stones and asked about them, parents would have an opportunity to tell the story of how God provided and led them to a safe place in a new land. This blog post marks a special day in my story, and is an opportunity for me to give credit where credit is due and thank God for enabling me and leading me safely into a new land, figuratively and literally.Today is a milestone day. It is not my first birthday back in Oregon, but it feels manifestly more significant for some reason. Perhaps because it is my first birthday after really settling in here.

Today is, in fact, my 43rd birthday. I mention the number because to some people (not me!) that seems old. =O) I began celebrating this morning by going for a long run before sunrise.

About 10 weeks ago, I blogged about the Interval Training Program I have been using to reach my short-term goal of getting into better shape and my long-term goal of developing a lasting habit of regular aerobic exercise. I've now been running 3 times a week for the past 20 weeks! I've lost 19 lbs and have learned some things about myself and about running. Yesterday I finished the 10th week in the 2nd series, and am looking forward to beginning the 3rd 10-week series on Monday morning.

Today is also a milestone day in my physical fitness level. When I was in my late 20s (back when fewer people than today thought I was "old") I had begun to run after school, and while I never really enjoyed it per se, I did it. My main route at the time was around 3-4 miles, and once during that season of my life I went for a "long" run and went just under 10 miles -- or so I remembered until today. Here is my route from that day back in 1992:

View Larger Map
According to Google Maps, that route is only 5.8 miles. Still a good run, but not quite as long as I had remembered.

This is significant to me today because my intent in going for a run this morning was to do another 10 mile-run, 16 years later. Here is my route from today:

View Larger Map
According to Google Maps, it is 10.1 miles.

This means I am in better shape today than I was when I was 27 and in college. I've weighed less than I do today, but right now is the best physical condition I've ever experienced in terms of stamina and stick-to-it-iveness.

Another year has now passed. This birthday holds a special feeling, having come home to Oregon. Running has become a good habit, and I ran more than 10 miles today (making more than 25 miles for the week!). No surprise to me, then, that today is the 1st of November -- long seen by celtic cultures as a liminal day; a crossing-over day.

~ Keith

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why I Do What I Do

The company I work for, Willamette Valley Hospice recently completed a project called "Faces of Hospice" which was written up in Salem's newspaper. I'm including the link below, and hope you will take a moment or two to read the brief article. There is also a short video. Together these offer a glimpse into the incredibly rewarding world I've been working in for the past year.

Since he gave his permission to publish his name I can also tell you one of the featured patients (pictured above), was Mr. Walter Bowden,a man I had the honor of caring for in his last 6 months.

To read the article and view the video, you can click here. I've also inculded the video here:

I'm so thankful for the encouragement so many of you have given me in my work and the move to Oregon to begin this next chapter of my career.


~ Keith

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What Does "Pro-Life" Really Mean?

What does the term "Pro-Life" mean to you?

For a long time now, there seem to have been only two camps: "Pro-Life" and "Pro-Choice" (or, depending on which camp you're in, those translate to "Right-Wing Religious Wacko" or "Baby Killer"). I think, though, that being "Pro-Life" is a much more far-reaching term...or should be!

Some years ago I decided to leave the world of Two-Party Politics. I was tired of the dichotomies I see in each party on this issue of valuing life. The Republican Party says "Abortion is murder" but out the other side of the elephant's mouth comes the phrase "Capital Punishment is OK!". On the other hand, the Democratic Party says "We have to defend a woman's right to choose!" but out the other side of the donkey's mouth comes the statement "Capital Punishment is murder!"

Today I give a respectful hat tip to one of my heroes, Rose for this (pdf) link to a wonderful synopsis of what "Pro-Life" really means. I encourage you to go read that link, then come back here and read the poem I was inspired to write this morning. I also wonder what you think of it all? What does "pro life" mean to you?
Seed splits open;
life sprouts from within;
mystery becomes mystery.

We are,
all of us,
powerful beyond measure;
able to achieve so much
on behalf of
those who are voiceless
No matter what age they are,
no matter what they've done,
no matter what:
we all matter.


We are,
all of us,
valuable beyond measure;
unique and irreplaceable.
No matter what age we are,
no matter what we've done,
no matter what:
we all matter.

Seed falls to the ground;
death becomes life;
from mystery to mystery.
~ Keith

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Autumn at The Orchard

Autumn is here with its crisp cool mornings and early twilight.

I think of Autumn as a season of nesting and readying for hibernation; of pruning back and storing up. In order to store, one must harvest. Autumn is about bringing in the fruits of the year's labors, to sustain one's family through the winter. Autumn is for gently removing bulbs from the ground and placing them in warm safe pots so they can be replanted and bloom again next spring. Outwardly, autumn seems a dormant time. Inwardly, preparation work teems at the cellular level.

Recently we received our official release paperwork, affiliating The Orchard with the AVC. We'll be applying for our non-profit status in Oregon, and Federal 501(c)(3) status, speaking with potential board members, figuring out by-laws, State & Federal regulations, trademark agreements and liability insurance.

All of this is necessary work, but it is also secondary -- the deep, cellular work of formation is continuing right on schedule. We're not driven onward by goals and agendas and two-year plans. We're drawn forward gently by the Voice of The Master Who speaks to us of purpose and potential; of hearth and home.

Autumn is here with its golden-leaved changes, layered-warmth walkings, and hope-filled ponderings.

~ Keith

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Honorable Anniversary

25 years ago today I joined the United States Navy. Can you find me in this picture?19 years ago today, I was handed one of the most important documents ever -- it even says so right at the top!~ Keith

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Discipline of Self-Denial

I've blogged a few times re: my fitness level. Usually I do this after overeating and feeling depressed, or just before I start some new diet or exercise program. Then I feel bad when I don't follow through.

This time I waited until I was done!

For the past 10 weeks, I have been following an interval training program I found online:It has been a very challenging time, but this morning I finished their introductory program:As a graduation present I am going out tonight and buying new running shoes!

The cool thing is, while I have lost weight and do feel better, my motivation was not to lose weight or feel better -- those were really just byproducts.

So why am I doing this? I am doing this because I love Cathy and I want to take care of myself for her sake.

It is also, therefore, an excellent exercise in self-denial and discipline. You see, I don't really like running. I would much rather stay in bed and sleep. But in denying my own desires, and instead intentionally doing something for someone else, I am putting myself in touch with the attitude Jesus has. Maybe my self-denial in this area will help me put others first in my neighborhood, or my workplace, or in other areas of my life as well. That is my hope.

And in looking back at the last 10 weeks, I see I have reached a new level of discipline. When I was in the Navy (25 years ago!), "Boot Camp" was 8 weeks long, and it was the hardest physical activity I'd ever done. The endurance test at the end of the 8th week was running 1.5 miles in 15 minutes or less.

As of today, I have been exercising aerobically for 30+ minutes, first thing in the morning, three times per week, for 10 weeks straight! In fact, for the past 3 weeks, I have run a full 5k every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!

Aside from feeling good physically, I feel good emotionally -- about the ability I apparently do have to become more disciplined. I honestly didn't think I had it in me, and have surprised myself. What has kept me going is my love for Cathy and as I set out on my warm-up walk each time, I reflect on the self-denial aspect and ask God to strengthen me to be more like Jesus. If the past 10 weeks are any indicator, He does answer prayer and He does what He says.

Now -- do you think I am jinxing myself if I tell you that on Monday I plan on going to the next level?~ Keith

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Summer Ride

Here is my route from today's ride.

View Larger Map

And as an added bonus, I rolled 15,000 miles -- that's 4,300 miles since I bought her in Nov '06!

~ Keith

Saturday, August 02, 2008


My blog as a wordle. ht to Jon.

~ Keith

PS -- I love how the words-in-proximity say:

"church sharing love models leadership" and how "ouch" is so close by.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vulnerability Trumps Insecurity

Some time ago, I had reviewed my bogging practices and noticed I had been way too revealing (of my and my wife's private life) in a public setting. I think blogs are a good way to share a bit of one's private life -- but I also think there is a limit. Some stuff just goes in my journal -- other stuff can go on a blog. There is sometimes a fine line between which goes where. This line is determined by each individual blogger. I contemplated my own fine lines in No More Blogging In My Underwear.

This morning I read the following in Celtic Daily Prayer:
It is because of the refusal to be vulnerable that, far too often, instead of enjoying friendship and intimacy with those around us, we find ourselves fencing with each other, using our talents, achievements, and strengths as weapons. To be vulnerable in the true sense does not mean that someone must become a doormat, a weakling, devoid of all pride, going out of his way to let others know all of his faults and weaknesses. Nor is vulnerability to be confused with the idea of 'letting-it-all-hang-out', or any other form of psychological strip-tease. To be vulnerable is to be strong enough to be able to present ourselves without false props, without an artificial display of our credentials. In brief, to be vulnerable is to be strong enough to be honest and tender. Like Jesus, the person who is vulnerable is a person who cares enough to let himself be weak, precisely because he does care.
~ Ronald Rolheiser, The Restless Heart
This was refreshing for me to read and reflect upon.

In the past, I am sad to say, my vulnerability was tied to my insecurity and desire to be liked. I thought perhaps if I was transparent enough people would be impressed by my vulnerability and therefore respect me as a very spiritual person. I wore my vulnerability like a badge of honor for others to see -- in a weirldy ironic (and oxymoronic?) borrowing from Rolheiser's imagery, it was as if I used my ability to be transparent as a weapon for fencing.

In Rolheiser's comment I see a new and better way. Since the time of my previous post mentioned above, I like to think I have begun to emulate this; that I care enough about the person with whom I am sharing that I will actually share the real me. But not in an attempt to prove anything or win any awards. It is not about me being liked by them: it is not about me. It is about the other person being cared about enough by me that I am able to, for their sake, not hide myself.
~ Keith

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Bee on my Belly

I took a ride today with a friend from work. We cruised from Salem down some back roads to Albany, where we had a great burger at the Callapooia Brewing Company. Then we headed East of Hwy 5 and went North through the four "S" towns: Scio, Stayton, Sublimity, and Silverton.

About 5 miles before Silverton, I felt something smack my neck, and it hurt bad enough I wondered if I'd been hit by a rock. My glove came away dry (yea, no blood) so I blew it off. About 2 minutes later, I felt a pinch on my belly. Thinking a belly-hair was being tweaked by a fold in my shirt or something, I used my left hand to shift my jacket around. More pinching. That was when it dawned on me -- OMG A BEE FLEW DOWN MY JACKET!!!

I quickly got the (lame!) idea to try and kill the bee by smashing it against my belly. I know, I know, it was a lame idea. I already acknowledged that. So now I've got pretty much constant pinching as this stupid bee is waging a solo war against my belly flab (yes, yes, you can call it a battle of the bulge, ha ha, aren't you funny to have thought of that -- hey, I"M IN PAIN HERE!!!).

It settled down a bit and I thought maybe it had finally died. Just in case, I tried to keep my body as still as possible. But every bump (ouch) and turn (ouch) that made my body move (ouch) at all (ouch) brought a new onslaught from little Mister-I-Refuse-To-Die inside my jacket. As we pulled in to Silverton it had been a few minutes since the last sting and I thought the miniature militiabee had finally gone on to the great bee poppy-fields in the sky. Dave was in front, having no idea why I blew past him at a stop sign and made a quick turn into the nearest safe parking spot. I quickly got my gloves and helmet off, and got my hand ready to catch the bee as it fell.

No bee. Or so I thought until


The very much not-yet-deceased tiny titan wasn't in my jacket -- it was under my shirt, and he was angry as ever! I quickly untucked my shirt and out dropped the smallest bee I've ever seen. Seriously, the thing was small! I swear to you an adolescent housefly could've kicked this thing's butt. It was this miniscule bee and as he fell, he put out his wings...and flew victoriously into the afternoon.

I took a few deep breaths and let the willies subside, then we mounted back up to finish our ride. On the way home, we passed (no lie) Bee Road. And as we did, I remembered getting a txt from Cathy this morning before I left, which said "have fun, and beee safe." I had chalked that up to a typo before. Now I think maybe God was trying to warn me or something.

Word to the wise: if you think you have a bee in your jacket, stop as soon as safely possible and deal with it -- or you will suffer its wrath.

Still and all, it was a good ride. I went a little under 103 miles, and filled my tank with a little over 2 gallons -- 48+ mpg. Not bad for a 20yr old bike that needs a tune-up and is battling a slow oil leak!

If you are interested, you can view our full route on Google Maps here.

~ Keith

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Saucer full of Leadership

Over the years, I've done a lot of thinking about, and been involved in various levels of leadership -- in a variety of settings, from military to the workplace, to the church. I'm no expert, but I had an "Aha!" moment this morning as I was reading and it made me want to journal my thoughts on leadership, and then finish by sharing with you the quote I read which was so great.

In the church, a typical model of leadership, borrowing from corporate structure, looks like this:Since this model implies dominance by those "in charge of" or "over" other people, and since Jesus exemplified and taught a different model, another example is this:
Either of these images make sense within the context of a growing organization but, while the second is certainly different from the first on paper, it does not always look different in practice. In either model the more people there are in the organization, the more pressure there is on the pastor to be-all and do-all. For health, both models need to follow the advice Moses received from his father-in-law.

But in the Pastor as Servant Leader model, even with various levels of leadership, the heaviest weight still rests squarely on the shoulders of one person, requiring the mythic strength of Atlas.In describing the influence of leadership, noted Leadership Expert John Maxwell uses this word-picture:
"A gentle leaf drifts slowly to the waters surface - it gracefully steps on the tranquil pond and as if timed by a masterful conductor, ripples radiate from the leaf across the water. Such a gentle touch - but noticeable, felt results. A leader's touch - no matter how small - yields the same effect. Like falling dominoes, the effect of a leader's influence creates a chain reaction which reverberates throughout an organization."
While that analogy is valid (and certainly picturesque), I disagree with his sound-byte assertion: "Everything rises and falls on leadership".

I think a more apt paraphrase of Jesus' message about leadership would be:
Everything rises and falls on Love.

You can lead without loving,
but if you truly love people
then as a natural result
they will be led to Me.
I still think the advice Moses got from his father-in-law was right though: as an organization grows, more structural support is needed.

Cathy & I have set out together on an adventure of starting a community of faith called The Orchard within the greater context of our experiences in the Vineyard movement (so, yes, you could say we are "planting a church").

But what if I don't want to start and grow an organization? What if, instead, I want to foster the growth of an organism -- a living breathing changing thing that has a life of its own? I believe this is how communities of faith -- how churches -- are supposed to be. When a child is conceived, it starts out very small; just a couple cells. As the child grows, the various structures grow and stretch and transform in exactly the ways they need to in order to support the overall life of the child. Bones thicken and harden; tissues lengthen and stretch; organs and body systems become more complex -- yet lose none of their simplistic elegance in actual functionality.

A few years ago I became more and more unsatisfied with the shortcomings of both the models for leadership given above. I began seeing instead a new image as a way to help me understand this idea of growth combined with a leader being the starting point for a foundation of loving leadership:
As the organism (or organization) grows, there is still influential leadership which supports the overall life. This is not a "leaderless" system. But unlike "Pastor as CEO", this model does not set the Pastor up as an autocratic, albeit benevolent, ruler of his/her own small kingdom. And unlike "Pastor as Servant leader" this new model does not see the Pastor bearing the crushing weight of trying to fill a be-all end-all savior/messiah role. Instead, in the model of "Pastor as Start of Foundation", any and all organism growth sees the Pastor naturally sharing more and more with a growing foundation of loving people among whom the overall weight of responsible leadership is distributed.

This has been my view of the kind of leadership I want to exemplify. As a leader I want to foster growth in others of whatever God has planted within them so that as a community we can each/all then give away those gifts to the world around us as a way of expressing God's love and care to everyone with whom we have any relationship or passing contact.

Here was my "Aha!" moment:

This morning I read something which moved me beyond the triangular, pyramidal models I've been talking about so far. I love this quote from Celtic Daily Prayer:
Too many of our models for authority are ones of hierarchy or domination. We think of rulers and leaders as those who are over other people and supported by them. Instead of a pyramid model where the few dominate the many, in God's Kingdom it is more helpful to picture a huge saucer into which is thrown all the people of God in all their giftedness, from the least to the greatest. Those more strongly gifted for ministry will not rise to the top, but sink to the bottom where they may undergird and provoke the rest of the people of God.

One true example of Christian humility was King Oswald of Northumbria who himself willingly worked as an interpreter for Aidan so that his people might receive the gospel."
As I shared this with Cathy, she pointed out to me how King Oswald had been a living example of Jesus Himself, who willingly set aside His Kingship and in order to faithfully translate the good news into incarnational language we could understand and receive.

May I be fortunate enough to be counted among those who let go of what the rest of the world sees as important in order to reach for the fullness of whatever God has placed inside me to give away to Him and to those He loves so dearly.

~ Keith

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Truth is There is No Spoon

Néo (Matrix) : 79%
Maximus (Gladiator) : 73%
James Bond : 71%
Tony Montana (Scarface) : 71%
Batman / Bruce Wayne : 68%
Indiana Jones : 67%
Yoda (Star Wars) : 63%
Forrest Gump : 63%
Schrek : 58%

Which Film Hero Are You?
~ Keith

Saturday, April 19, 2008

House Pictures -- at last!

When we moved to Oregon in August of 2007, we rented a duplex for a few months. We bought our house in mid-December and received the keys just in time for Christmas. We took some time to have some painting and floor refinishing done (by professionals, not by us!) and we moved into the house in early February. It took some time to get settled and hang pictures, etc. The dust still hasn't fully settled, but we're as close as we're going to get for awhile. So, for all those who've been patiently waiting, here are some pictures of the our house. For the detail-oriented, it is a 2700 sqft 4BR/2BA, built in 1950, on 1/3 acre.
To see these in a slower and/or larger format, you can click any photo, or for a larger slideshow just click here.

~ Keith

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Homelessness and Being Like jesus

When I grow up I want to be like my friend Jon Reid, because he is like Jesus -- specifically the way he loves the people most of us wouldn't even want to get close to. In his blog he recently posted two articles about his interactions with homeless people. Homeless Adventure #1 and Homeless Adventure #2.

~ Keith

Spring Brings Life

Yesterday was the vernal equinox.

Now it is Spring.

The world around us is alive with color and sound as buds open and small birds move in for the season. Amidst this activity it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of the world around us, and bow to the tyranny of the urgent.

This morning I was reminded of a better way:
The world gives itself
up to incessant activity
merely because
it knows of nothing
The inspired man
works among
its whirring wheels
also; but he knows
whither the wheels
are going,
for he has found
the centre
where all is

~ Paul Brunton
~ Keith

Saturday, March 01, 2008

So I Stay Near the Door

I stay near the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
The door is the most important door in the world—
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside, and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men.
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it . . .
So I stay near the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door—the door to God.
The most important thing any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And put it on the latch—the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter—
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it—
live because they have found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him . . .
So I stay near the door.

Go in, great saints, go all the way in—
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics—
In a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture a little farther;
But my place seems closer to the opening . . .
So I stay near the door.

The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving—preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for them, too,
I stay near the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not even found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply, and stay in too long,
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.
Where? Outside the door—
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But—more important for me—
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch,
So I shall stay by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
‘I had rather be a door-keeper . . .’
So I stay near the door.

~ Samuel Moor Shoemaker

~ Keith

Friday, February 08, 2008

Why I Might Say I'm Not A Christian

There are people living on the island of Mindanao in The Philippines who are followers of Jesus, and they hold worship services in a mosque. They don't call themselves Christians. They instead call themselves "Muslim followers of Issah" because if they identified themselves with the term "Christian" they would be persecuted or killed. They are not afraid of this: they are not ashamed of Christ; they are ashamed of His followers who have ruined His reputation.

In America there are people who follow Jesus, but they don't call themselves Christians. They are also ashamed of those who ruin Christ's reputation and so they instead call themselves "Followers of Christ" because if they identified themselves with the term "Christian", they might not be persecuted or killed, it could be worse -- they might get ignored.

Jesus' followers are called to (among other things) act as change-agents, offering a new life and hope to those who are trapped and weary. Problem is, in American culture the word "Christian" has become loaded with so many negative stereotypes. Its literal meaning is "Christ-like" or "Little Christ" but so many people have come to see "Christian" as synonymous with (at best) namby-pamby, goodie-two-shoes, irrelevant prudes or (at worst) hate-filled holier-than-thou hypocrites.

I heard an old song this morning that re-captivated my heart for what it means to follow Jesus:
Multiply Your Love
by Andy Park

Multiply Your love through us
To the lost and the least
Let us be Your healing hands
Your instruments of peace

May our single purpose be
To imitate Your life
Through our simple words and deeds
Let love be multiplied

Multiply Your love through me
To someone in need
Help me Lord to freely give
This grace that I've received

Let my single purpose be
To imitate Your life
Through my simple words and deeds
Let love be multiplied

Let us see Your kingdom come
To the poor and broken ones
Let us see a mighty flood
Of justice and mercy, O Jesus
Let love be multiplied
Let love be multiplied

Multiply Your church through us
To the ends of the Earth
Where there's only barrenness
Let us see new birth

Use us as Your laborers
Working side by side
Let us see Your harvest come
Let love be multiplied
Then this afternoon I stumbled across some videos. The first 6 are parodies of the Mac vs PC commercials. As a person who uses both Macs and PCs but prefers Macs, I have to confess I see myself in both halves of these commercials -- and sadly I see myself in both halves of the below videos as well. The last video is not a parody of the commercial. It is somewhat similar, but more hard-hitting and direct, like quickly tearing off a band-aid (or getting sucker punched in the gut).

They are all funny because they hit so close to home. They are also poignant for the same reason. (ye be forewarned)

~ Keith

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Letter from Birmingham Jail

A friend recently eMailed me a portion of Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail. In preparation for Monday's celebration of Dr. King's life and work, reading this letter has made me more aware of the world and how best to live.

On April 3, 1963 Martin Luther King called for all lunch counters, restrooms, and drinking fountains in Birmingham to be desegregated. Some called the city the most segregated city in the country. Its bombings and torchings of black churches and homes had given it the name “Bombingham.” That day sixty-five African Americans staged sit-ins in five stores, and the Police Commissioner dragged twenty of them away to jail.

On April 13, 1963, Good Friday, King and his team refused to follow a court injunction that forbade peaceful marching. King met the barricades and knelt beside his friend Ralph Abernathy, and was taken to the Birmingham City Jail. This was the 13th time King was arrested.

He was put in solitary confinement without mattress, pillow, or blanket. His situation improved when Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked why he was in solitary confinement. On Tuesday, April 16 he was brought a published letter signed by eight white clergymen of Alabama, criticizing King and the peaceful movement of demonstrations. King felt inspired to write a response.

What came from his pen is today called Letter from Birmingham Jail. It has been called “the most eloquent and learned expression of the goals and philosophy of the nonviolent movement ever written.” (Let the Trumpet Sound, Stephen B. Oates, 1994.)

The white clergy had all said: Be more patient. Wait. Don’t demonstrate. He wrote in response:
Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your 20 million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she’s told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “Nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are for ever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” -- then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
Finally he delivered a powerful call to the church which rings as true today as it did 40 years ago:
There was a time when the church was very powerful—in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. . . . But the judgment of God is upon the church [today] as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century.
You can download the whole letter as a pdf from Stanford here or read more online here.

~ Keith

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chased by Promises

Eighteen hours ago I was driving home from a Vineyard Pastor's Retreat. It was raining really hard, but up ahead there was a break in the clouds. So I was driving in pouring rain, but looking at blue skies. In my rearview mirror I noticed something cool - a rainbow was there. Right. THERE! Like, the picture above, only all I could see was rainbow out my back window. And it was travelling with me -- chasing me. I don't know how long it was there before I noticed it.

The bible says the rainbow is a promise that God won't wipe us out in another flood (which was comforting, considering the amount of rain I was driving in!).

At the retreat, God really met me and reminded me of some promises He's made to me over the years -- promises I think I'd largely forgotten but, like the rainbow, they've been chasing me down all along.

As I type this I've had only 1 hour of sleep. I was on-call from midnight to 8 am and was out caring for families whose loved ones were dying. I saw three patients: one who did not die, one who died while I was there in their home with them and their family, and one who died before I arrived. I think that completeness of possibilities is poetic somehow.

On very little sleep, and on foggy roads, I was kept safe -- I was not wiped out by a flood or anything else. And now I'm going to sleep.

As I head to dreamland, the sun is out. I can't see the rainbow anymore but I will rest well, knowing I am still
chased by promises
~ Keith