Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Note to all: if you plan to shake my daughter's hand, give her High-5, or have her hand-feed you a various assortment of foods, please proceed with caution. You just might encounter a substance or smell that is not meant to be on human hands...consider yourself warned.

Shiloh, my 2-year-old princess, has this unique curiosity with taking her hands and placing them down her diaper. I don't think it's a readjustment. I don't even think it's related to anything positive (like scratching an itch, etc.). No, it's just sheer exploration, and wouldn't ya know, it never really happens when she's got a CLEAN pull-up.

Several days over the past few weeks have started with a similar routine. Shiloh enters our bedroom, nearly ready to lovingly pat on my side of the bed to wake me up...when by some Sixth Sense, I instantly rise with the awareness of a puma, the smell of a bear, and the speed of a cheetah. I ask her the question I already know the answer to, and we rush off to her bedroom, all the while trying not to stir mommy.

After the cleansing of booty + hands/fingers, I redress her and do my best attempt at eye contact for what I'm about to say; "Shiloh, we don't put our hands or fingers in our diaper, okay?" She blinks, nods, and responds with a loving "okay" followed by a hug. Sometimes I wonder if my efforts to correct, redirect, and instruct her in things like this really matter. Like, do they really get through to her, or are they a redundant lip service which is to continue until she's 3 or 4?

Today, my daughter amazed me. I'd love to tell you that we have magically arrived at a place of perfect potty-training, and finger-less diaper activity. I'm sorry, that's not the case yet. But Shiloh did manage to set her plush Elmo friend down and instruct him that he did not need to put his hands in his pants. And to that end, his diaper. The red fur ball needed to be informed that this was a no-no.

When my laughter ceased, some strange feelings came over me. Yes, one of the first emotions was a sense of pride in that I realized that my daughter not only listened, but also remembered our instructions to her. In fact, she nearly recited them word for word, applying them that very same day to one of her closest celebrity friends. Ah, I was doing my job, folks.

Then another thought crept into the front of my mind, and it was one that threatened to squash my sense of joy and wonder at Shiloh's reprimand of Elmo. Why did my daughter feel so compelled to listen and know what my desires were for her, yet did not do them? Furthermore, she bypassed herself from responsibility and moved straight to someone I had clearly not cared a lick about their hands in their pants.

Scrambling for understanding, my thoughts turned instantly to a famous quote and a famous verse from Scripture. In one of my top 5 movies of all time, The Matrix, Morpheus lays this statement at Neo's feet: "There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path." I love that. I love it even more when I reflect on James 1:22: "Do not merely listen to the word, but do what it says." This is the insight from God that was given me through this most bizarre event with my precious daughter.

So may we all come to obedience with God's desires and instructions for our lives. May we pour out action from our understanding of the great truths of His word. And may we keep our hands out of our poopy diapers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Panera Bread

I'll never forget the first time I was introduced to Panera Bread. It was Wednesday, November 15th, 2006. That morning, tragedy struck our church and Christian School family. One of our students, Grant Zeinert, a 16-year old sophomore at the time, was found dead in his room. He was an accidental casualty of the choking game, or some form of it.

It was an incredibly rough morning. In the driveway outside his house, I huddled with several of his friends & various adults, and we just cried. We stood there speechless at times just crying. Other moments we hugged, and then we circled up and prayed. We prayed a bunch from what I remember that morning. It seemed to help the time pass.

After a few hours, I was able to go in the house and see Grant's mom, Paige. There's really no words to describe the storm of emotions tossing around inside her...her husband Randy was actually being located in a remote section of Idaho at the time, and a close family friend sent a chartered jet to retrieve him immediately.

A couple men and I went up into Grant's room, and that was an experience. Of course the police, firemen, doctors, etc. had already been there...but simply to hover in a space where he had just been--gently examine various parts of his room, desperately hoping to find some kind of lead or answer as to why this all happened, ya know...what motivated this whole event. We didn't find much. I do remember looking into the closet though, and my heart just sank. A part of me is still up there in that room, looking for the young man I had the privilege of baptizing just a few short months before @ Harding Uplift.

Lunch was where things took an interesting turn. I met several of his classmates, some of which were in our youth group @ Panera Bread, and I'll be honest, I didn't know what to expect. I guess I was always working under the impression that this was just another cousin of my arch-nemesis of restaurants--La Madeline, Cafe Express, etc. Boy was I wrong.

I devoured one of their zesty sandwiches and treated myself to a Cinnamon Crunch Bagel for dessert. I was stuffed but oh so satisfied. And yet sometime during the feast one of the students explained to me why they had chosen Panera for lunch on this horrible day. They told me that this was Grant's favorite place in all the world--and that we showed him honor by eating here on the day of his death. And ya know...Panera Bread has meant a whole lot to me since that day.

Every Friday my wife and I have a date is truly wonderful. We begin by dropping our amazing daughter off at pre-school, which sort of serves as the best free babysitting we could ever hope for. We then head to an incredible place for our breakfast, and yes, you're brain might be predicting's Panera Bread. We pig out on Cinnamon Crunch bagels, mess around on their wi-fi, and have a grand 'ole time. We conclude the day with an early movie at AMC Willowbrook for only $5 a ticket--nice! (sometimes we snag lunch after that, depending on the cravings)

I blog about all this to say that every time I step foot in a Panera Bread, I feel at peace. I feel a home. I feel like someone who I treasured, someone who has departed me now to go begin with God, is close to me. I believe I can just sit forever in one of these booths, and just eat, type, drink aqua or Dew, and on and on...

Grant, I miss you everyday, buddy. I promise to remember you everyday for the rest of my life. Thanks for showing me something of God's heart during your years here on this earth. I will see you again...but not yet. Not yet.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I remember in the mid ‘90’s when the NBC drama E.R. burst onto the television scene. It was such an enormous success because of the incredible storylines of hope, rescue, and deliverance amidst the varying degrees of medical situations and difficulties. Over a dozen years later, the show is still going strong, and I’m guessing the attractive doctors and nurses who comprised the cast during that time haven’t hurt the ratings either.

What about the church? In the middle of our busy lives, have we ever stopped to make sure our church is a place of hope, rescue, and deliverance? Abigail Van Buren, the pen name for the “Dear Abby” column, had a very intriguing quote a while back concerning this whole idea of the identity of the church in relation to the medical field. It was this:

“A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”

The image of the hospital is a little disturbing to me, because the first place my mind wonders to is certain smells, over-priced taste-challenged food, and germs. I confess that those things may have held me back from frequenting hospitals as much as I probably should. But the marvelous thing about the church as a hospital is that a hospital never sleeps, never veers from its mission and purpose. Hospitals seem to attract the full range of emotions, miraculous moments, life-changing experiences, and intentional prayer. There are a large number of people working toward the same goals of healing, treatment, hope, rescue, deliverance…well, you get the idea.

I believe Jesus was onto this concept as well, his words customized for his Pharisee audience: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) Jesus led the charge for His followers to meet “sinners” where they are, and not be afraid to eat with them, to know them, to love them, to guide them to His Father’s healing grace.

Imagine a place where a sick patient, after receiving the treatment needed for their illness, immediately began working in the ER…or maybe as a nurse…or maybe as a doctor. Imagine a church that never rested because it was driven by its mission. Imagine a people that traded the blessings of ritual Christian fellowship for the bottomless well ministering God’s grace to “sinners.”

May we all commit to be apart of "Hospital Church", and may our actions and prayers be directed towards this mission and purpose.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hard Rock Cafe

I am simply fascinated by the Hard Rock Café. It’s not so much the food, although it has its tasty moments. It’s not really the cool merchandise they sell at the gift shop. It’s not even the 30+ locations all over the world that anyone can visit. Two things stand out to me above all: their theme and their slogan.

Every Hard Rock Café is completely lavished with musical décor, memorabilia, and historical treasures. How do you even put a value on the stuff in there? A typical dining experience at any of their locations would leave little doubt as to what Hard Rock Café is all about, what they stand for, what they are passionate about. The music, the lights, the walls, and the service are basically directed at you remembering your experience there.

At first glance, the slogan of the restaurant is one that seems a bit “hippie-ish,” but hear me out. “Love all, serve all” just strikes me as incredibly simple, profound, and clever. I read somewhere it is a minimalist version of an Islamic prophet’s teachings, yet it captures my attention. Maybe it’s because my love for others is limited to those I choose. Maybe it’s because I am incredibly selective and selfish with my service for Christ.

I saw a church on Louetta that displays a sign of their vision/purpose, and it’s a variation of the Hard Rock Café slogan, with some spiritual direction: “Love God, Love all.” Why does all of this get me so excited and sound so appealing? Perhaps my heart and my mouth long for a simple explanation as to what Church and being a follower of Jesus means in this day and age. With all our theologies, dynamic ministries, and super facilities, is it possible for the most basic elements of love, grace, and service to become invisible?

Just like we recognize what the Hard Rock Café by their theme, slogan, and experience, I read Jesus’ desire for us to stand out in a profound way. John 13:35 – “…all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This plea of Christ, added alongside loving God with all that we are and a service love for humanity truly shape a vibrant Christian faith at its core. Imagine a group of believers sold out to that mission over comfort levels. Imagine a church family as such pivotal presence in the surrounding community. Imagine a campus designed, decorated, and dedicated to living like Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but what’s to stop us from turning imagination into reality? Love God, Love All, Serve All.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


A few weeks back on our family vacation, I went through a blitz of movies during our down town in the beach house. I mean, it was pretty much B-movie fest (Smokin' Aces, Underworld 2, Mr. Brooks) until I got to an interesting new Jim Carrey flick. I had missed it in the theaters, but heard mixed reviews on it.

The movie was THE NUMBER 23. I warn you, if you have not seen it, and would still like to, thus avoiding my synopsis with spiritual application, then TURN AWAY NOW.

The whole movie is based on this lowly humane society dog catcher guy (Carrey) who reads a book he received on his birthday from his wife. It sends his entire world into a frenzied state, because he thinks that the book was written about him-I mean to say, that the author based the book on him. It is a quite a disturbing piece of fiction, and Carrey is a little shocked at the graphic nature of it all.

As the movie progresses, and Carrey dives deeper into the mystery and horror of the novel, we learn that the novel wasn't just written by an author about him, HE WAS THE AUTHOR & THE BOOK IS HIM. Meaning, he actually did all the events in the story--murder, obsession, malice, insanity, etc. That was quite a weird twist, I must say, but the real kicker was the final 4 or 5 minutes. You see, now Carrey knows the evils he did (side note-a murder of a young girl where the wrong man was sent to prison for life because Carrey did it), he has a CHOICE.

He can continue on with his life, vowing to never commit the same mistakes, with no real consequences for his actions in the book, The Number 23. Better still, is the tough choice, perhaps the forgotten one amongst humans today. Carrey chooses to take responsibility for his actions. He turns himself in, he admits to the crimes, he goes to jail, the innocent man is set free.

And yet, as the movie closes, there is this brilliant and eerie reminder from the Bible. It is a warning and statement about our sins really never being that secretive. And the creepy thing is, it's found in Numbers 32:23: "...and be sure your sin will find you out." Oh, man! That's just intense.

All in all, not the greatest movie I've seen, not the best Jim Carrey I've seen, but truly a dazzling reminder of our choices. There is nothing hidden from God's sight. Even when we thing we've "gotten away with it," it's simply not the case. And it's not that God is this all-consuming evil eye of fire (see LOTR), always watching our every step to record our failures. Rather, it's more the principle of you reap what you sow. Things, choices, decisions, words, sins...have a way of cycling around to us--much like a planet on its orbit, or a boomerang returning to its thrower.

So may we learn to confess our sins sooner, seek God's grace earlier and more sincerely than when we're already in the MUCK & REPERCUSSIONS of our actions...thank you for your love and mercy, Father God. I repent of my spiritual procrastination and deception.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Let me be the first to say, I never quite knew the whole story about Hosea, Gomer, Israel, and Jehovah. There must have been some omission in Sunday School when we learned this part, or I was just absent that day. All I really grasped was that Hosea had a scandalous wife.

The Christian band Third Day has a Fan Club whose members are called Gomers. They are always encouraged to wear orange to every Third Day show to let the band know who they are. Again, I never grasped just what the goal or aim of this was, but simply thought it some cool Biblical reference-club-thing.

I read Donald Miller's "Searching for God Knows What," and a quote he listed in there from St. Augustine really sparked my curiosity about the story of Hosea. He said that, "The church is a whore, and she is my mother." I was floored. So, I dived in and read the book of Hosea.
Now my first glance at the book scared me, because there is so much expressed of God's disappointment, frustration, and anger for His people because of how they disobeyed Him. It is a very chilling thought for God to say that you are no longer His people and no longer loved by Him. I would have to say that would get my attention.

Yet, there is a glimmer of hope offered in Hosea, and it is that of love, redemption, and celebration. The Lord offers a vision of renewal and restoration for Israel, but it is not immediate--they must put their past behind them. When they have done this, God can resume His DJ/Host/VIP role in the party which is their life.

This is illustrated in the direct marriage of Hosea to Gomer, a prostitute. The Bible says she bore him 3 children (2 sons, 1 daughter), and it's not clear who the father is. Yet Hosea buys her back with the specific intent of loving her in a way she has never been loved. In fact, in Chapter 3 he instructs her to leave old life behind by not having sex anymore with strange men. He also takes it one step further stating that even he as her husband will not have sex with her for those "many days."

This is so symbolic and glorious about God's love for us. Here it represents Israel's period of time it must endure without God's blessing, basically until she cleans up her ways. For a person today, it is a parallel with forgiveness and new life. Each of us is that Gomer, that Israel, that prostitute who have sought so many different lovers than our one true love. We have bore many consequences from our actions, and we all need a Hosea to love us like we've never been loved before.

Yes, the church is a whore, and she's my mother. And the church so desperately needs the love of a Hosea God. But don't just accuse the masses...I am that same promiscuous sinner--and I am in good company with the Gomers of yesterday and today.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


This was written a few weeks back while I was on Wilderness Trek...hope ya like it.

As I write this I am at High Camp of our Mountain Journey. We are up at 11,000 ft. in the beautiful Colorado Mountains. This whole business of mountains being shaped and formed is truly a spectacle to me. It is like God sculpted whole mountain ranges with the corner of His pinkie finger and we all behold His majesty.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a Psalm which fascinated me. Psalm 97 speaks of God's enormous power, and how much He is exalted over every single outstanding thing we know and can see. Verse 5 is especially stirring to me because it describes an image of God melting the mountains like wax.

I love candles. I realize that's probably an unusual thing for a guy to admit or enjoy, but I do. There's just something about the way that wax melts and gives off unique aromas & scents that I just really find neat. I think I would much rather have a house full of candles in a storm than a bunch of flashlights. Candles create mood, ambiance, romantic flair, religious presence, and so on. Yet at the end of the day, they are just hardened wax.

When I compare the candles fragility of wax and the Rocky Mountains, which seem solid, my mind is awestruck at God's power. Elohim could melt these gigantic land masses like I can melt a candle, except I'd have to speculate He could make it happen much faster if He wanted to!

Now, if that same God gave us wax candles to melt and can obliterate the most gargantuan structures the world has ever seen in the same way, what can He do with our hearts if we choose to let Him?

We sing a song in our student ministry called, "Break my heart." It is a beautiful song about restoration and renewal. In the song we ask God to gently break our hard hearts so that we can become His again. I love this song a lot, as it has moved me closer to God through the years. Yet in light of Psalm 97, maybe the break image isn't enough. When I was a youngster, I would often get very upset when one of my toys would break. It was as though "break" had a negative connotation, as it most often does. I would cry and plead with my father to fix it. And really through some fancy superglue, tape, or device he would restore my toy and my happiness.

But when something is melted, it has lost its shape completely. It cannot be repaired with almost any contraption that has been invented. And so God melting our hearts is an incredibly powerful image. In fact, Scripture uses this image in a few select places. Psalm 22:14 communicates the despair that David feels, and it is very personal and heartfelt the renewal he seeks from the Lord. The same Hebrew word is referenced in Joshua 7 when because of Achan's sin the small army of AI kills 36 of the Israelites. Verse 7 of that chapter states that their hearts and their courage melted away.

I realize it would not sound right to create a devotional song that asks the Lord to melt us and our hearts...and yet that is exactly what I am suggesting we ask God for. To take a melted object and restore it to its new state again, well, that would be special and magical. And when God melts our hearts, like He melts the mountains and we melt candles, that is truly special and magical, too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I am reminded of a children's song which I remember singing as my Sunday School class traveled from destination to destination. It was a song designed to keep us quiet and respectful, and even the synchronized movements complimented the jingle. It went something like this:

"Tiptoe, tiptoe in God's House...

"Tiptoe, tiptoe in God's House..."

I remember wanting to be the best tiptoer in my rise up on my toes and delicately move from point to point without disturbing anyone. It was as if our little bunch of kiddos were not to let anyone know we were there.

And so you'd think that I had abandoned this concept of tiptoeing. You would hope that as I grew older and stronger in my faith, I would have put an end to all that sneaking around. But I am still singing the song. I am still trying not to make a sound. I still don't want people to know I am there. That is really the truth.

Why do I do this? How can I truthfully be a Christian, husband, father, minister, leader, servant, friend, and tiptoe my faith around this world? Why don't I want to show Jesus' love to every single human I encounter?

I want to make noise. As I look at my Savior, he did just that. Jesus disrupted the routines, traditions, schedules, habits, practices, and lives of those He encountered. To the proud and organized, He was a nuisance. To the broken-hearted, He was what they had been looking for. And it wasn't like He didn't enjoy the essentials of life: people, family, food, faith. He just bypassed the additives of life. Jesus cared so much about God and His love for people that He refused to care about what people thought of Him. This is so difficult for me and a great reason I continue to tiptoe.

I am not sure all the elements involved in the process of relieving the tiptoeing in my life. Maybe it involves courage. Maybe it involves intentionality. Maybe it involves a secure and humble spirit. All I know is I'm done prancing around like a child. I don't want to wake up one day an old man and weep for how I could have lived. I desire the noise and action of a Jesus faith. And not just in "God's House," but His entire creation. Maybe the new words of my song would go something like this:

"Make noise, make noise in this place...

"Make noise, make noise for His sake..."