Journey to Oz–1

May 16, 2007 by · 12 Comments 


I know, I know… It’s an old movie. My kids probably don’t have a clue about Dorothy and Auntie Em and The Wicked Witch of the (was it West? Or East?).

But I found myself thinking about the movie The Wizard of Oz this morning. It’s a great story. Dorothy gets “lost” and is trying to find her way “home”. She embarks on a “journey” looking for “answers”, looking for “truth”. It’s a story that evokes a lot of words worthy of “quotation marks”.

Along the way, Dorothy encounters fellow travelers (a Scarecrow, Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion) who— in their brokenness (in fact, because of their brokenness)—join her in the excursion.

You know the story… Because you live the story.

Why am I thinking about The Wizard of Oz? Good question. So…

Check it out, dog (props to Randy Jackson—I have young daughters so American Idol is a big deal in our house).

Like Dorothy, we’re on a journey; we’re trying to find our way home; we’re looking for answers and truth (we are, right? Or is it just me?) Like Dorothy’s pals, we often feel brainless, heartless, and gutless.

This would be okay if I just didn’t have to admit it.

In my 42 years, I have become rather skilled in hiding these deficient traits from others. I am an accomplished actor. I have just enough education to sound smart (although my 12 year old daughter would heartily disagree). I can do just enough nice stuff for people to appear kind, giving, and loving. And I have mastered the ability to take enough calculated stands to come across as brave (at least brave enough not to be called a coward).

But that’s just the outside. That’s just what people see. Here’s the problem…

Problem #1 (how do you like that creative name for this first problem?):

Our outside is not what makes us tick.

Our outside isn’t who we really are, is it? The freshly waxed car can be gleaming, but if the head gasket is blown, it ain’t much of a vehicle (although I am not a “car guy” in any way, shape, or form—I do know about blown head gaskets… see: car, my old cruddy one).

Whether we like it or not, the wisdom of age reveals to us that the inside shapes the outside (see: beauty, only skin deep)—although we often live like it’s the other way around.

Here’s another problem…

Problem # 2:

I read the Bible.

Now before you get your knickers in a twist, I am not saying that it’s bad to read the Bible (see: Bible, The Good Book). What I’m saying is this: When I read the Bible, I come face to face with truths that force me to admit that I’m brainless, heartless, and gutless.

If I read scripture openly and honestly, my acting ability loses its power. Because the Bible is an inside thing. It bypasses the physical and hits the spiritual. It reveals, examines, critiques, uplifts, mends, and dissects the soul.

So what is a brainless, heartless, gutless, journeying traveler to do?

Well, like Dorothy, travel with others…

The Discussion

With all of this in mind, I want to invite you to join a discussion. It’s a discussion I have been involved in for some time and—most recently—a discussion I’ve been engaged in with my friend Scott. Scott and I decided to invite ya’ll to join us. He’s reading this blog (Hi Scott!) in Phoenix, Arizona. I expect he’ll chime in through the “comments” section (unless he is so confused by my Wizard of Oz ramblings that he has no idea what I’m talking about!) But we want you to comment as well.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again—don’t be afraid to participate. In fact, I will remind you of the Rules of Engagement for blogging…

Rules of Engagement:

1) There are no rules.

2) You don’t have to write a lot (just because I ramble endlessly—it doesn’t mean you have to!).

3) You will not be graded. (You may, however, be asked for clarification on something you say—but that’s not a bad thing… see: discussion, a)

4) Limit personal attacks to Boy Bands, the General Manager of the Miami Dolphins, and government officials nicknamed “Kipper”

5) Disregard “Rule #4”—I just thought it was funny… I loved Menudo and I don’t know a politician named “Kipper” (feel free to gripe about the Dolphins though)

6) Remember, you do have something to say—and we actually need to hear it.

7) There can be no more than 7 rules


Okay… Here we go. (You ready?)

Ladies and gentlemen… our first topic. I call it…

The Plight of the Cowardly Lion

Courage is a good thing, right? We honor it, recognize it, and reward it. Ever since we were little kids, we have been enthralled by heroic tales of bravery, guts, nerve, valor, daring, and audacity (man!—I wish I had a computer Thesaurus when I was writing papers in school!).

Cervantes said: He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he that loses his courage loses all.” (You may be wondering, “Who is Cervantes anyway?”… I don’t know—I think he was a shortstop in the Astros organization in the late 70’s—but that’s a good quote, huh?)

Here’s my question: Do you have courage? Are you courageous and brave and heroic?

If you answered “yes”, then how did you get your courage? Where does it come from?

See, I would like to be brave and courageous… I’m just not sure that I know how to be.

The Bible is full of stories about courage and bravery. Heroic characters abound. Perhaps there are some answers there… Yet when I look at the heroes—Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Gideon, David, Nehemiah, John the Baptist, Mary, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Paul (just to name a few)—I see a mixture of character. Heroism and fear. Bravery and cowardice. Victory and failure.

What is the common thread?

I’ll simply start with this: God wants his people to have courage. He wants us to be brave. I was reminded of that this morning when I read Joshua chapter 1 (do you like how I just dropped it in that I was reading my Bible and stumbled across this… My, my, my I’m a spiritual dude, huh?… Truth is I was looking for something on “courage” for this blog and remembered this). This is God talking to Joshua, the new leader of the Israelites after Moses died (I underlined to emphasize my point):

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. [7] Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. [8] Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. [9] Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)

God is pretty clear with Joshua here. And I think he’s pretty clear with us. Be strong and courageous!

So, that’s the “command”… Now, how do we obey it?

Here are the specific questions on my mind…

Where does this courage, boldness, bravery come from?

  • How do we muster it up?
  • How do we get it?
  • How do we hold onto it?

How can we be BRAVE in life?

  • Regardless of our circumstances
  • Regardless of our limitations
  • Regardless of our failures
  • Regardless of the actions or inaction of others

If we can answer these questions, I believe that we can discover a whole new way to live. It will change everything.

So tie an old towel around your neck. Leap around like the superhero you always dreamed about and let the journey begin…

Grace and peace,


Me and Mama

May 10, 2007 by · 4 Comments 

Mother’s Day 2007. It’s here. It’s this Sunday.

One thing we all have in common is that we have/had a mom. We cannot escape this basic fact. Now how we define “mom” may differ. I have been blessed with several “moms” in my life and have learned something from each one.

My mom, Helen, was the most incredible mother to walk the face of the earth. I expect that some of you may question that assertion… go ahead. But I’m right. I know it because she was my mom and she was the best. My mother was a servant in the most dignified and majestic sense of the word. She gave herself away, and in doing so, glorified God. She was a woman of faith and beauty, gentleness and grace.

My mother-in-law, Sally, is the most incredible mother to walk the face of the earth. I expect you may question that assertion… go ahead. But I’m right. I know because she is my mother-in-law and she is the best. She poured her life into her children and family. And, although they are all now grown, she continues to do so. She is a magnificent example that a mother is always a mother. She has loved me and made me her child as well. She is a woman of strength and energy, devotion and dignity.

My step-mother, Cathy, is the most incredible mother to walk the face of the earth. I expect you may question that assertion… go ahead. But I’m right. I know because she is my step-mother and she is the best. She entered a family that had already been established and brought a new kind of love. Caring, giving, encouraging, supporting. We have been blessed by her laughter and her prayers. She loves with reckless abandon is a woman who nurtures and comforts, guides and magnifies.

My wife, Sara, is the most incredible mother to walk the face of the earth. I expect you may question that assertion… go ahead. But I’m right. I know because she is the mother of my children and she is the best. I see her everyday… laughing, loving, caressing, teaching, cheering… She has learned from her mothers how to be the best. She has learned from her mothers how to give herself away. I know that my kids do not realize the blessing they have in their mother… But they will. The biggest blessing, perhaps, is that– for a mom– it doesn’t matter if their children recognize their love and devotion or not. It is not a conditional thing. It just is and always will be. One of the greatest joys in life is seeing someone live out what they were created to do. I get to see that regularly with my wife as a mom. And I get to see the results. And I am grateful, moved, inspired, awed, and comforted in the process…

Motherhood is an incredible gift– to all of us. There is a beauty and mystery in the way God put it all together that absolutely boggles my mind. We get to experience the beauty and mystery every day.

See, you may think that I have been contradicting myself by saying that several mothers were the best. I am not.

In all moms, we see a glimpse of God. His love, His grace, His compassion, His guidence, His mercy… Although moms are not perfect– they make mistakes, they mess up, they have regrets– they are moms… and they are all the best because they allow us to see a love that we would not be able to see otherwise.

So, what do you think of Mother’s Day?

How would you define “mom”?

What have you learned from your mom(s)?

It may not be the easiest exercise to ponder these things… But I think it’s worth it. I know that I am going to enjoy Mother’s Day this year having written this! I gotta go and make some calls…

Grace and peace,


The Open House

May 2, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

Have you ever sold a house? Most of you probably have, so you’ll relate to what I want to talk about.

Selling a house is an arduous process. Because it’s not something you do everyday, there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about what to do and how to do it. Even with a Real Estate Professional, it can be unsettling.

Because of the way God made my mind, I forget most everything that happens in my life (not everything– that is a bit of an exaggeration… I was using a literary device called “hyperbole”… at least I think that’s what it’s called… I mean, I do remember my wedding, the birth of one of my kids, every line in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the first time I had cheese fries at The Outback). I do however, remember one aspect of the home selling process that was particularly challenging… The OPEN HOUSE.

Several Sundays in a row, we had to clean up everything (no small task with three young children), turn on all the lights (the better to see you with, my dear), and vacate the premises for three hours.

At first the OPEN HOUSE was exciting… Maybe today someone will make an offer! Maybe they’ll actually pay our list price! Maybe the journey ends here!… It was so exciting, that– the first week– we drove around our neighborhood and kept looking down our street for any “action”… There wasn’t any. In fact, that first week generated nada (that means “zero”– we were selling a home in South Florida, so I used the Spanish term for literary flavoring).

After our Real Estate Professional assured us that this was not uncommon, we did the whole thing again the next week. Clean, light, dress up and leave. This time we had some really fast walk-throughs (not the best sign), but no offers.

This time our Real Estate professional expressed some consternation (note: you never want your Real Estate Professional to feel consternation) about the fact that we weren’t even generating enough interest to lead to a discussion that may identify some areas we could improve on. So, we did it again… Clean, light, dress up, pray, leave a $10 bill on the floor, leave… Still nothing.

Now, a seller experiences a lot of different emotions during this ordeal. What’s wrong with my house? What don’t people like? Is my decorating distasteful? (Actually, I never experienced any emotion having to do with decor, but I know my wife did). You also start to wonder if anybody is ever going to make on offer– heck, even stay for more than 3 minutes!

Have you ever felt this way? Another example could be planning a party and no one shows up (although that’s happened to me, it wasn’t painful because that just meant more food for me).

What does all this mean? Why is Doug using such an interesting, humorous, and relate-able illustration? What provocative point is he leading up to…

Simply this: You guys need to climb on board the BLOG TRAIN. Blog Train you ask, What in the world is a Blog train… and why must I climb on board?

Here’s why. When I started this blog, I had a vision. It wasn’t a big vision… it wasn’t even very clear. But here’s what it was: To create a place where people could exchange ideas, struggles, discoveries, hopes, dreams, recipes, fears, and thoughts.

Technology has provided a playground for us to run, jump, and play (without getting a stiff knee) and I wanted to capitalize on that. So, I decided to set up a blog site. Then I began to write. I wrote about many different things. I enjoyed the process. Then I sent the site out to my church, family, and friends… And I waited for the intellectual dialog to begin…

The first couple brought some responses about my technical abilities (or lack thereof). But since then… nada (see definition above). I feel like I’ve created an open house and no one has showed. Where’s the interaction? Where’s the contrasting views? Where’s the life experiences to support a discussion? Where’s the discussion to begin with.

Even as I write, I think I may know the problem. I haven’t created an atmosphere of “comments/responses”… Maybe I need more question marks? I should cut down on the exclamation points! Perhaps the generation of my readers is uncomfortable with blogging? Perhaps I don’t have any readers? Maybe I’m just dull and I need to be more controversial and go Don Imus occasionally…

Heaven knows, what I say isn’t really that important (I know this because I have 10 and 12 year old girls) . Anything you add will make it better. And I will gain insights from everyone’s comments (yes, I now realize that this is more about me than you… sorry).

Anyway, what do you think? What do you have to say about that? What were your experiences with open houses (either holding one or attending one– I’ll take anything)?