Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I have seen one reporter whom I really loved during the coverage of this tragedy. It isn't the anchors from one network (that I've been told about) who keep complaining that we haven't heard from other countries. Grow up and deal with the tragedy. We're the wealthiest nation in the world. We can probably do without Sri Lanka's aid. The question is HOW -- not IS THERE ENOUGH MONEY? It isn't all the "on-the-spot" reporters who somehow became the story in their own coverage. It's like a competition to see who can stay outside the longest. Anchors back home keep describing them as courageous. Please. Just get out of the wind if you don't have to be there. Quit telling us that lots of stuff is falling apart. It's a hurricane. That's what happens. The one reporter I've liked the most is the young woman who was interviewing a man who lost his wife. He turned loose of her when she demanded that he save their children and grandchildren. The young news reporter began crying and wiping tears. She lost her objectivity. She was caught up into the tragedy. Now THAT is a person I want to hear more from! Thanks for your comments about places to send aid. So much needs to be done. But we're all baffled. It's so bad that no one knows how to get help there right now -- with all the flooding, bridges out, etc. But the time will come. And we need to be prepared to jump in. Our prayers are with all the churches in the area -- not just because they've been impacted but also because God will use them courageously to minister in the name of Christ in the coming weeks and months. We're going to count on them to let us know when and where we can help. As you continue learning of relief opportunities that you trust, please leave comments here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My alma mater, which I deeply love, has re-evaluated its decision to invite Ann Coulter to speak on campus. She is being replaced by Jose Maria Aznar, the former president of Spain. I would like to thank all of you who took time to respectfully express your opinions to Harding board members and/or to the Harding administration. Most of you who did so had the same reason I did: not because Ann Coulter is conservative but because her words are divisive and damaging to public discourse in this country. I would also like to thank those board members who spoke out and those administrators who made this tough--though very appropriate--decision.

These are places we love -- places we've passed through every year in the summer since the late eighties: New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, etc. Pensacola Beach has been an annual vacation spot for us, at least until this year when it's still recovering from Hurricane Ivan. Who knows how much devastation will be revealed in these areas throughout this day? Dee, who comments regularly on this blog, is writing about the impact of the hurricane. Dee, please keep us informed "from the inside." If you know of legitimate relief efforts (in addition, of course, to the Red Cross), would you please post a website in the comments section?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Yesterday at Highland we announced that Dr. Jerry Taylor is joining the Highland staff part-time as the associate preaching minister. What a blessing to us! Jerry is one of the very best preachers you'll hear in your lifetime. Folks at Highland heard me tell this yesterday. When I received the good news that Jerry was going to accept the offer, I e-mailed my buddy Rick Atchley to tell him (knowing that Rick feels the same way I do about Jerry and his preaching). He responded immediately that it reminded him of how excited Drew Bledsoe was when he learned that Tom Brady was joining the Patriots. Moral of the story: beware when the back-up is better than the starter! Oh, well, it's a situation I've learned to get used to since coming to Highland. (Other regular fill-ins who are Highland members include Jack Reese, Randy Harris, Mark Love, and Steve Weathers!) Jerry is a much-loved Bible professor at ACU. For the past couple years, he has also been the preaching minister at the great 10th and Treadaway church, but he decided that he didn't have the time to continue in that capacity. We're going to be blessed under his preaching ministry. He'll preach most of the Sundays I'm gone (beginning October 9 during the Zoe conference) and several Wednesday nights.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Today is my parents' fiftieth anniversary. (I've been around for all but eleven months of it!) Congratulations, Mom and Dad. They decided a couple years ago that they didn't want a big reception. Instead they wanted to take their kids and sons/daughters-in-law on an Alaskan cruise. We cashed in on that decision in June with a wonderful trip.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Last night I got to attend the New Wineskins Reconciliation Meeting in Ft. Worth. Jerry Taylor and Ken Greene, two of the best preachers I've ever heard in my life, began the conference by challenging the ministers to yield to the movement of God in their lives. A predominantly African-American group, this was a hard-praying, joy-singing bunch. I hardly know most of these brothers, but I was struck by their faith and their courage. Can't wait to get to know them better. - - - - A note to Highland folks: I want to beg you to pray for Klint and Rachel Pleasant. They left Highland and Abilene recently to move back to Rochester College. (Most of you know that Klint was ACU's men's basketball coach.) You can read his blog entry called "My Wife Is Sick" at www.klintpleasant.blogspot.com.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My Dear Megan, Tomorrow you would have been 21. Every year since your death we've continued to have a birthday cake on August 26 and to tell "Megan stories." Last week when I was looking for your old percussor, Mom said, "It may be in Megan's toy box." Without thinking, I began digging through the box, and then it overwhelmed me. I was immersed in you: your shoes, a couple of your favorite blouses, the stuffed cat you loved, etc. I could smell you, hear you, even feel you there. All that to say that I've never stopped missing you. It's been ten years and nine months; but in grief-years it's been so much less in some ways and so much more in other ways. You rocked my world, my precious daughter. You didn't enter this world with a bright intellect like your brothers did. You were, we eventually learned, "mentally handicapped." Big deal. There were so many other ways in which you were so precocious: in love, in forgiveness, and in joy. The only full sentence I ever heard you say in ten years was "I'm Megan"--and yet you became my minister who led me further along the way of Christ. Without even intending to, you exposed the shallowness of this world--a world obsessed with externals. You were a jar of clay. It's hard to picture you at age 21. You have remained ten in our minds. Since you died, life has in some ways been easier. You never wasted much of your short time sleeping! Easier . . . yet sadder. We would gladly go without sleep to be able to hold you and sing with you. ("I may never march in the infantry . . ."; "This is a song that doesn't end . . . ."; "Jesus loves me . . . .") We would have loved seeing your joy at Matt and Jenna's wedding. (You never got to meet her, but I think she would be your best friend.) And I imagined you there in ICU patting Christopher's broken and bruised body after the wreck. Your simple faith still guides us. Your love overwhelms and empowers us. Soon and very soon, my dear . . . . Love, Dad

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

No offense to my NY friends, but would someone please stop the Yankees? They have underperformed this year (considering they have the best team money can buy), but that doesn't mean they won't wake up from their coma and win the World Series if they make the playoffs. Keep the Evil Empire out of the postseason. - - - - Tiger won't break Nicklaus's majors record (18). You read it here. Are you out there, Boone? Am I right? (By the way, heard you did great with the Senior PGA for the Golf Channel last weekend.) - - - - We made a trip to the emergency room last night to have Chris's ankle x-rayed. The doctor said, "Well, whatever's wrong, he looks better than the last time I saw him." That was January 16, before he was put on a place to fly to Cook's. This morning we helped him forget about his ankle pain by having four teeth extracted. - - - - ACU pays me to teach 18- and 19-year-old students about Jesus. Go figure. - - - - I don't understand the popularity of Hummers. - - - - Guacamole is my food addiction; Diet Dr. Pepper is my drink addiction. If Jesus were alive today, he'd turn the water to Diet DP. Especially after he read all the stuff on how it wasn't really wine, anyway. On a normal day, I can get by on one can. If I put down a second can, you can tell the stress level is high. (NOTE: Jesus is very much alive today. I mean, "If he were still here in the flesh like he was in the gospels.")

An Open Letter to Harding Faculty and Staff: Two or three years ago, a Harding board member attacked me at a Harding faculty/staff presession. Several of you called or e-mailed to tell me. Thanks. I immediately called this board member. To say he was a bit surprised when I said, "Hello, this is Mike Cope" is an understatement. We had never talked before. It's funny, really, because I'm not that hard to reach. My phone number and the Highland Church number are both listed. But rather than call me ahead of time to make sure he was right, he just went on the attack. I told him that he was, of course, wrong. He had said that I don't believe in baptism any longer. I read to him the part about baptism in our church's "Foundations of Faith" statement. He said that that sounded good to him but I couldn't believe that because I believe there are Christians who don't understand scripture the same way. Ah. It's tough to live with that paradox: a high view of baptism and a belief that God has other followers who don't interpret the passages the same way. But the best of our tradition has always had that perspective. "Christians only, but not the only Christians." Christianity isn't about following us and our interpretation of scripture; it's about following Jesus. Just because they don't fall in line with us doesn't mean they aren't followers of his. It's what I was taught at Harding and Harding Grad. Of course, no apology came. That's fine. I've never met him before and probably won't in the future. But it bothered me that something false had been stated in front of you--especially since I'm an alumnus of the university and the graduate school. And since I preached for seven years at the College Church and care deeply about you and the school. So I wrote the board and the administration, asking for a chance to reply. After all, the public statement about me was made before all of you. I just asked for an opportunity to correct the misinformation. I got a letter from the man who was the chairman of the board at the time. This is an incredible guy; I've known him for a long time and have always liked him. But he said that it would be inappropriate for me to respond because this board member had spoken for himself and not for the board. But someone either invited him or approved his request to speak! Eventually I got a letter from an administrator, telling me that I should be grateful for men like this board member because he's given generously through the years and that money helped pay for my scholarship while I was a student at the graduate school. All right. So I can't come tell you the truth. But here it is. I have a higher view of baptism than I've ever had. Read the statement on Highland's site. Or check out what Jeff Childers wrote about baptism in UNVEILING GLORY (an incredible book all the way through). That's what I believe. But does someone have to agree with me on all the particulars of baptism in order to follow Jesus? No. For too long, we've thought of our salvation depending on getting everything right. But there are devoted Christ-followers who disagree on lots of important things. I appreciate so much what you're doing. My frustrations with my alma mater have nothing to do with your selfless service. Most of you are working for less than you could make at a state university. And you profs are teaching greater course loads (like they do at most other Christian universities) because you believe in the mission of equipping students for the service of Christ. I love knowing that a large number of students come out of Harding excited about mission work--whether that is mission work in Africa or mission work that is around them as they work in Memphis. My frustrations with my alma mater right now -- for example knowing that Ann Coulter can come speak while Jeff Walling (and many others) can't -- are not with you but with the administration. Thanks so much for your selfless work of ministry.

Monday, August 22, 2005

John Kennedy was asked by a little boy how he became a war hero. He replied, "It was absolutely involuntary. They sank my boat." Most of my heroes of faith are people of character who have weathered grief and suffering with honesty and faith. Not "God-can't-wait-to-bless-you" faith. But the deep, rugged variety. The kind that knows what it's like to hang on by a thread. I guess they didn't seek out to be courageous believers. They're like Bilbo: the ring came to him. Then he had to choose whether to carry out his assignment. Kerri Lane, who gave her testimony Wednesday night, is one of my heroes. The words she spoke to us Wednesday night in the midst of her battle with melanoma are among the most faith-full we'll ever hear. On behalf of her two precious little girls (who make me glad to be a minister), I ask you to beg for God's against-all-medical-odds healing.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Remembering three days in Guatemala . . . I want to say a few good words about E. coli: when nothing else works, E. coli can cure constipation. The downside is that you think you're going to die. - - - - Congrats to my brother for being named co-President and co-COO of Liberty Group, a company with 270 newspapers and shoppers. He got the business genes from my dad. I do well to balance my checkbook. Did I miss those genes . . . or was there a less businesslike gene in the pool? (I'm not making any accusations here, Mom.) - - - - Since yesterday I've been hearing from fellow Harding alum and parents of Harding students wanting to know WHY Ann Coulter can speak at Harding but Jeff Walling can't. My encouragement is to call Harding and ask. Start perhaps with the president's office. Also, you can ask for a list of the Harding board members and ask them. Do it politely and respectfully (of course). Just express your confusion that Jeff is no longer allowed to speak there (along with lots of others), while Ann Coulter is. Please keep in mind that this isn't a decision of the wonderful faculty and staff. The decision comes from another level.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Just read where my alma mater is having Ann Coulter come speak on campus. On Greg's blog someone blasted him for hating the school. Some people love their alma mater like a two year old loves his mommy. Others love their alma mater like a mature person loves his or her spouse after decades together. The former group loves because THE INSTITUTION IS ALWAYS RIGHT AND SHOULDN'T BE CHALLENGED. The latter group loves in spite of flaws. Who would have guessed fifteen years ago that we'd be in a place where Ann Coulter can speak at Harding but Jeff Walling can't? - - - - Chris calls him Mr. Incredible. Once you see Joel Quile, you know why. Big guy who looks like he might have a hard time squeezing into a small car. My life has been blessed by Mr. Incredible. He has drawn people into his world of faith and love--especially children, teens, university students. Even more amazing is Mrs. Incredible. I wrote about her sometime last year. She's the voice of ACU--the one who always ends conversations by telling you to have a "blessed day." And from Kim it isn't like "God-bless-you" when someone sneezes. It's an actual blessing. The Incredibles are moving to the Metroplex. (Is there an area called Trophy Club? If so, that's where they are. Or maybe that's the name of the church.) Quile, I'm going to miss you, my friend. Stay in touch.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Two movies I want to see but haven't had a chance: "Saint Ralph" (due to arrive in Abilene in 2008) and "March of the Penguins." Anyone seen these? Are they as good as they look? - - - - Next four weeks: teaching mode. Sunday messages ("Torchbearers" from Sermon on Mount), Wednesday messages ("It Doesn't Stay in Vegas" from Leviticus), university class at ACU ("Life and Teachings of Jesus"), and university class at Highland (parables). After the four weeks, my buddy Randy Harris does his semi-annual three-week gig at Highland on Wed PM. The church doesn't exactly suffer under my absence! - - - - Defeat may serve as well as victory To shake the soul and let the glory out. When the great oak is straining in the wind, The boughs drink in new beauty and the trunk Sends down a deeper root on the windward side. Only the soul that knows the mighty grief Can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come To stretch out spaces in the heart for joy. - Edwin Markham

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Joe and Laura Hays are an amazing young couple, full of faith and a desire to see the work of Christ spread in NYC. Not long ago, they started a church plant in Brooklyn, encouraged and supported by the wonderful Manhattan Church of Christ. But then Ira was born, and he's been in NICU for over four months. When you have time and a box of kleenex, catch up on the story of Ira Hays here. Go back through the past half year of blogs. I think you'll find insights about faith, lament, community, love, and grief that will enrich you. (Laura's poignant words of March 1 are not a bad place to begin. Remember that these are words of deep FAITH -- not unbelief! -- in the tradition of the psalms.) How do you pour your energy into a brand new church plant when your newborn son is struggling in ICU? Also, please check out this site, started by a family in Houston whose son, Noah Whaley, died this spring. There is a simple way to help share in the medical expenses that the Hays family is experiencing.

DOWN SIDE: Have you seen Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man on a tv commercial? He's primed to be a cult hero -- for those who are weary of hearing cell phone conversations in every little corner of life. UP SIDE: Last night as 1700 students sat in the amphitheater with their candles lit, I saw lots of upperclassmen snapping photos with their cell phones and punching numbers to send the pictures. There were parents and grandparents all over the country (and world?) getting to enjoy the moment in realtime! - - - - As of last month, we have a teenager again in our house. So thanks to TIME magazine for their special issue on "Being 13." Don't miss the article on teen spirituality which talks about how churches "have begun to see 13 as a pivotal age for finding God."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tonight, weather permitting, I'll once again get to speak at the amphitheater at ACU to all the incoming freshmen and transfers at the Candlelight Devotional. Other than the message part, it is an amazing evening. I wish every parent could look through my eyes to see all the students holding their lights and to listen to them sing. (There's a picture from last year here.) - - - - I'll leave this alone, but here are three more letters about "Aida" at ACU.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A kind of neo-Calvinism sounds so spiritual -- especially to people who've been burdened down in human-centered, legalistic churches. "God has already chosen your future mate." "God has already selected our new minister." There is so much about John Calvin -- especially the young, bold Calvin -- to love. But what's known as Calvinism is at times just determinism with religious dress. I like these words from Brian McLaren: "Whether it's God who makes us puppets, or whether it is genes, physics, socioeconomics, or psychosexual aggression, it doesn't matter much to me. I have little time for determinism. If it's true, then I can't help but not believe it, because after all, I have no choice." "I do not believe that this universe is a movie that's already 'in the can,' having been 'produced and shot' already in God's mind, leaving us with the illusion that it's all real and actually happening. I find it hard to imagine worshiping or loving a deterministic, machine-operator God." Some, fed up with legalism, have supposed that the hyper-Calvinist understanding is better. That God, the Sovereign One, has chosen who will be saved and who will be lost. That they are chosen and can't lose their election. That he has decided exactly what's going to happen and we're just going through the motions. But that doesn't match up with the biblical story very well. It sounds so spiritual, but it doesn't fit what we learn in the reforming narrative of scripture. There, God in his sovereignty has decided that we are partners, not puppets and that our choices matter a lot. McLaren suggests that the TULIP teaching of Calvinism (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the Saints) should be this to better match the biblical story: Triune love Unselfish election Limitless reconciliation Inspiring grace Passionate, Persistent Saints Now there is a TULIP that fits with the narrative! - - - - For those of you following the story of the ACU homecoming play, here's an excellent piece in yesterday's Abilene Reporter-News from a professor of voice at Hardin-Simmons University. - - - - As of this morning, we have a seventh-grader in this house! Just four months ago, I was pushing him to sixth grade in his wheelchair. We're so thankful for his progress.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tomorrow is the day when we have lots of visitors who are bringing their children to ACU for their first year (either as a freshman or a transfer). Last year, there were some from this blog community who visited and came up to say hello. If you're visiting Highland tomorrow, please come down to the front after one of the services (which begin at 8:15 and 11:00) to visit. Directions can be found at the Highland Church website. I'm going to be teaching the university class quite a bit this semester, but not tomorrow, so I'll be able to hang around for a while.

Friday, August 12, 2005

To follow this blog, you might want to read these front-page articles from this Sunday's and Wednesday's Abilene Reporter-News, as well as these two letters to the editor. Registering to enter the Reporter-News website is free. Here's the story in brief: ACU was planning to do the musical "Aida" for this year's Homecoming. But because a white ACU student was cast for the lead (as a Nubian princess), some people became very upset. As a result, ACU has decided to cancel it and do a different play. Three observations. First, Adam Hester has been a model of Christian compassion through all of this. He had intended to cast an African-American student in the lead--not just because she's black but because he felt her time had come to step into the lead role. But after all the voice lessons (that ACU paid for), it was decided that she couldn't sing the part. The paper quotes an opera singer who did part of the training, but failed to mention that he's an African-American. (I consider that relevant only because some are seeing a racial conspiracy here.) It wasn't prejudice; she just couldn't sing the part--though she's considered a wonderful actor and is deeply loved by the Hesters. She was cast this summer in the part opposite Adam Hester, playing his wife in the summer Shakespeare theater. This man doesn't have a bone of prejudice in him, which is why he wanted to bring this play celebrating diversity in the first place. I think even those who have been critical -- at least those close enough to know what they're talking about -- haven't made that charge. They're just questioning whether Adam's "colorblind" policy is correct and whether the play should have been chosen without an African-American ACU student to play the lead. Some have villified the theater department for planning to put "black face" on the actress -- which was never the plan. They were going to follow the model of the Broadway production of "Aida" where Caucasians, Asians, African-Americans, and other ethnicities are cast. As a statement from the school says, "The Broadway production used special braiding and other exotic hair treatment along with eye makeup for the Caucasians who were playing Nubians. The ACU Theatre Department intended to follow that model. The Theatre Department never planned to darken the skin to suggest the white actress was black or to use an offensive form of makeup such as blackface, which would be offensive to Caucasians as well as African-Americans." Look at Adam's statements in the Wednesday paper. His concern is that the way of Jesus be followed. Compassion and reconciliation are more important than winning an argument. Wow! Second, there have been examples here of where the local media, in an effort to have a BIG STORY, have been unfair and have actually driven a wedge of division in the community. E.g., when Adam was interviewed by KTXS, he spoke often about his appreciation for what the critics were saying, his concern for reconciliation, and his desire to follow the way of Christ. Can you guess? None of that made it into the final edit. That doesn't help the story if you've decided that the story is about prejudice at ACU. Third, it helps us understand that past sins are difficult to put behind. This wasn't, IMHO, a case of prejudice on the part of the theater department. But, there are aches and pains from the past that spill over. Many are rightfully hurt because of all the years ACU and many other Christian universities didn't even admit black students. Others are aware that at times even after those policies changed black students have been shunned or subjected to double standards (again, all over the country, not just at one university). An apology from the school in 2000 doesn't make all that go away. And so to some, this felt like ONE MORE THING. We must hear the criticism with this important context in mind. I appreciate what I learned from Adam: that compassion and reconciliation trump proving you're right. I'm not an organizational man. If I thought the school was trying to pull a fast one, I'd say so. And for full disclosure, Adam and Donna Hester are dear friends, and I feel defensive. Some might decide that the "colorblind" policy is wrong; but if they claim a movitation of prejudice on Adam's part -- well, they're just wrong. But wouldn't it be nice if a day came where something like this wasn't a big deal? Toward this end, I hope to see several of you at the "New Wineskins Retreat 2005" (not related to New Wineskins magazine except in mutual concerns). This year's topic is "Undoing Racism in Churches of Christ and Beyond." The speakers are Doug Foster, Steven Moore, Jack Reese, Edward Robinson (all full-time faculty members at ACU), Ralph Draper, Ervin Jackson, and David Holmes. If someone has a website with more info, please post it in the comments. The program is Aug. 26-27 at the Richland Hills Church of Christ. Also, a valuable resource is the book Unfinished Reconciliation, edited by John York and Gary Holloway. (Check out the insightful, hard-hitting chapters by Ken Greene!)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A year ago today, I dropped a little counter on my blog (guided, of course, by Wade and Matt). Since then, there have been 327,363 "hits." Blogosphere is growing fast. About 80,000 new blogs are started every day, with over 14,000,000 now in existence. Blogosphere doubles in size about every half year. This one started two years ago -- ancient by blogging standards -- and, of course, won't go on forever. But for now, I still have a few things to blather on about: more about baseball, guacamole, grief, joy, faith, parenting, and music. Thanks for dropping by.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A good friend of 14 years leaves town this week, moving to College Station. We've been through so much together: the births of our youngest kids, Megan's death, his divorce. And then we stood vigil side-by-side in pedi-ICU at Cook's, praying that our sons would be all right after the wreck. We've had hundreds of meals and thousands of laughs--along with not-a-few bad times, as well. It's the nature of life in Abilene and probably everywhere. You don't lose the friends, exactly; but they're not right there. Still, as I think of those who've left, I'm thankful for e-mail, phone calls, and visits to Abilene buddies who've moved to Malibu, Baton Rouge, Arkansas, Dallas, Houston, North Carolina, Seattle, and many other places. It must be how our closest friends in Searcy felt when we left. Only with a couple of those families have we maintained really close connections, though we still feel great love for many others. It is the nature of our mobile society, isn't it? Children marry and move. Friends lose jobs, change jobs, remarry, or pursue further education. "Make new friends but keep the others." How true.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I've been reading 3 Nights in August, the new book by Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights. It covers a three-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs in August, 2003. But, of course, it's much more: it's a view of baseball as seen through the eyes of Tony La Russa, the Cards' manager who is about to become third on the list of all-time wins. Here's a wonderful snippet about the Cards-Cubs series: "The rivalry between the Cubs and the Cardinals is probably the oldest and perhaps the best in baseball, no matter how the Red Sox and Yankees spit and spite at each other. That's a tabloid-fueled soap opera about money and ego and sound bites. That's a pair of bratty high-priced supermodels trying to trip each other in their stilettos on the runway. But the Cards-Cubs epic is about the roots and geography and territorial rights. It's entwined in the Midwestern blood and therefore refreshing and honest and even heroic." Ah, takes me back to my childhood listening to Harry Caray ("Cardinals win! Cardinals win!") and Jack Buck on KMOX.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The best active player in baseball? Albert Pujols. Now you know. (And since he's out this year, I'm not considering Barry Bonds an active player.) It's possible that someone may not fully agree. So your nomination?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Part of my fun reading this summer has been catching up on Grisham novels -- the last couple and one I missed several years ago, The Street Lawyer. I especially loved the last one. Years ago I interviewed Grisham for Wineskins Magazine because I loved the way he brought his faith to his writing without turning them into "Christian fiction" (which tends to be pale and rarely reaches anyone on the outside). All right, so he isn't James Joyce. But come on, did you really enjoy having to read Finnegan's Wake? Street Lawyer is a great moral tale -- of a young DC lawyer who's been busting his hump (and distancing his wife) while pursuing the magical dollars that come from partnership. His world was all about bucks: the right car, the right apartment, the right restaurants, the right vacations. And then one day he came face-to-face with death when a homeless man who had been booted on the streets by his law firm took him and a handful of other lawyers hostage. Meeting this man, observing his sudden death by a sharpshooter, and digging into his background introduced him to a world that is not about worshiping dollars. He found an underground where people are seeking justice and working for humanity -- not trying to see how many billable hours they can rack up while charging $50 lunches to their clients. And everyone thought he was crazy. He had been confronted, through fear of death, with the values of the kingdom. And no one -- including his church-going parents -- understood him. (Note: others can meet the radical claims of the kingdom and make radical changes in their lives without switching careers, of course. But they can never be the same.) He flies to Memphis to talk to his parents. He says, "I rented a car at the Memphis airport and drove east into the sprawling suburbs where the white people lived. The blacks had the city; the whites, the suburbs. Sometimes the blacks would move into a subdivision, and the whites would move to another one, farther away. Memphis crept eastward, the races running from each other." Here's the sceen from his golf game with his dad, when he tries to explain why he might leave a job with a six-figure income and astronomical perks in the future for a job defending the defenseless for $30K a year. "Late that afternoon my dad and I did nine holes. He played; I drank beer and drove the cart. Golf had yet to work its magic on me. Two cold ones and I was ready to talk. I had repeated the Mister tale [the story of the homeless man who took them hostage] over lunch, so he figured I was just loafing for a couple of days, collecting myself before I roared back into the arena. "'I'm getting kind of sick of the big firm, Dad,' I said as we sat by the third tee, waiting for the foursome ahead to clear. I was nervous, and my nervousness irritated me greatly. It was my life, not his. "'What's that supposed to mean?' "'Means I'm tired of what I'm doing.' "'Welcome to the real world. You think the guy working a drill press in a factory doesn't get tired of what he's doing? At least you're getting rich.' "So he took round one, almost by a knockout. Two holes later, as we stomped through the rough looking for his ball, he said, 'Are you changing jobs?' "'Thinking about it.' "'Where are you going?' "'I don't know. It's too early. I haven't been looking for another position.' "'Then how do you know the grass is greener if you haven't been looking?' He picked up his ball and walked off. "I drove alone on the narrow paved trail while he stalked down the fiarway chasing his shot, and I wondered why that gray-haired man out there scared me so much. He had pushed all of his sons to set goals, work hard, strive to be Big Men, with everything aimed at making lots of money and living the American dream. He had certainly paid for anything we needed. "Like my brothers, I was not born with a social conscience. We gave offerings to the church because the Bible strongly suggests it. We paid taxes to the government because the law requires it. Surely, somewhere in the midst of all this giving some good would be done, and we had a hand in it. Politics belonged to those willing to play that game, and besides, there was no money to be made by honest people. We were taught to be productive, and the more success we attained, the more society would benefit, in some way. Set goals, work hard, play fair, achieve prosperity. "He double-bogeyed the fifth hole, and was blaming it on his putter when he climbed into the cart. "'Maybe I'm not looking for greener pastures,' I said. "'Why don't you just go ahead and say what you're trying to say?' he said. As usual, I felt weak for not facing the issue boldly. "'I'm thinking about public interest law.' "'What the hell is that?' "'It's when you work for the good of society without making a lot of money.' "'What are you, a Democrat now? You've been in Washington too long.' "'There are lots of Republicans in Washington. In fact, they've taken over.' "We rode to the next tee in silence. He was a good golfer, but his shots were getting worse. I'd broken his concentration. "Stomping through the rough again, he said, 'So some wino gets his head blown off and you gotta change society. Is that it?' "'He wasn't a wino. He fought in Vietnam.' "Dad flew B-52's in the early years of Vietnam, and this stopped him cold. But only for a second. He wasn't about to yield an inch. 'One of those, huh?' "I didn't respond. The ball was hopelessly lost, and he wasn't really looking. He flipped another onto the fairway, hooked it badly, and away we went. "'I hate to see you blow a good career, son,' he said. 'You've worked too hard. You'll be a partner in a few years.' "'Maybe.' "'You need some time off, that's all.' "That seemed to be everybody's remedy." What a great scene. Whenever you wake up from the thick fog of materialism and the American Dream, people think you're a lunatic.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Today, Brody Bourland would have been 12. He died in the January rollover sitting next to Chris P. and Chris C. We are especially praying for his parents and his brothers.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I read where the Travel Industry Association of America just listed the "top 10 American treasures" after an extensive survey. Here's the list of "must-sees": 1. The Grand Canyon 2. The Statue of Liberty 3. Yellowstone National Park 4. White House/monuments of Washington, D.C. 5. Niagara Falls 6. Hawaiian islands 7. Mount Rushmore 8. Redwood forests 9. Glaciers/fjords of Alaska 10. Rocky Mountains Having been to 9 of the 10 (all but Niagara Falls), I have no problem with any being there. Well, I don't know that I'd put Rushmore in the the top 10, though it's very impressive. But doesn't Yosemite have to be there somewhere? What about the trees and mountains of VT/NH? Or the Florida Keys? Let's expand the list a couple more. What should be added to the list of "top 12 must-sees in the USA"?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

After our 10 1/2 hour trip from Colorado Springs to Abilene yesterday, they quickly repacked and continued their journey to Houston. He'll be a 2nd year med student at Baylor; she'll be a 2nd year 2nd-grade teacher. For the past 30 days, I've spent almost every waking hour with my older son. What a great blessing! We studied language together at Christian Spanish Academy in Antigua, Guatemala. And on weekends, we went by foot, bike, van, bus, and plane all around that beautiful country. We hiked up a volcano (Pacaya--still very much active), we biked on the slopes of another one (Agua), we explored the incredible Mayan ruins in Tikal, and we rode lanchas up the Rio Dulce and around Lake Atitlan. It's a joy to connect with your kids when they're kids; but it's a whole other kind of joy to connect with them when they're adults. Now, a note to all those cheering on our language studies. When you first see me, please do not: (1) ask if I'm fluent yet (no); or (2) speak rapidly to me in Spanish. We gained a lot of ground. And with our teachers -- who speak slowly and distinctly within our vocabulary range -- we did quite well. But there is a long ways to go!