Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Tis the Season

Just getting our house ready for the holidays.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fathers and Sons

I really appreciated reading the following article that appeared in the most recent alumni email for Fuller grads:

Slowly but Surely
By Philip Carlson (ThM '93, MDiv '87)

We bring with us into every new day the memories and experiences of the past. For all of us there are parts of our story that are hard to forget: the injustices of life, experiences of being treated unfairly, the times when we were misunderstood, relationships that ended badly with no closure, hurts where no one ever said I'm sorry. How our past impacts our future is largely determined by the way we apply God's grace to our own hearts and the hearts of others.

Emotional healing has come slowly but surely for me through a growing recognition of God's love. The forgiveness I've received and given has helped facilitate the emotional healing that has set me free not to repeat the past. As God gave Carole and me our children, I committed to the Lord that they would grow up in a very different environment than I had. This meant more than avoiding the negative things that can leave lasting wounds in our children, but finding ways to convey the high value I place on each of them and leaving positive memories of a father who loved God by honoring them.

One of the things that I have done periodically over the years is to recite to my children the stories of the days they were born. I describe the events with careful detail, explaining our emotions throughout the day, especially as they were born and we held them for the first time. We may be sitting at home or riding in the car and I will just launch into the story. This is one of my idiosyncrasies of which they have never tired. I love to watch their expressions as I tell their stories. Each of them has favorite parts that I must not exclude. Brendan loves the end of his story the best. As I arrive at that part of the story he gets a look of enthusiasm that says, 'I love this part.' The end of his story goes like this: 'It was almost midnight and I was about to leave the hospital and go home. I decided to go to the nursery to see you one more time. When I got there the nursery was full, but you were front and center and the nurse was taking care of you. A number of people were standing there and several commented on how cute you were. As I stood there I felt so much love and joy that I thought my chest was going to explode and I pointed to you and said, 'That's my boy. That's my boy.''

Years ago I read in Gordon Dalbey's excellent book on the healing of the masculine soul that the thing sons most need to hear from their fathers is not 'I love you,' but the words 'You are my son. You belong to me.'

A couple of years ago, I took Brendan with me to visit someone in the hospital. As we walked holding hands, I said to Brendan, 'I love you, buddy. You are so precious to me. I am so glad that you are my son.' Brendan, who was about six, stopped dead in his tracks, looked up at me and said, 'I love it when you say that.' Now, I had made several statements and wanted to be clear about what he meant. So I asked, 'When I say what?' to which he replied, 'When you say what you just said: 'You are my son.''

'How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!' (1 John 3:1)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Project Runway

Only 4 hours and 30 some odd minutes until the start of Project Runway: Season 4. Anna and I are completely addicted to this show, but unfortunately we will not be tuning into the season opener tonight. This is one place where we really wish we had cable (the other is when college basketball is on ESPN).

But, we do have season 3 at our home currently, and it's all we can do not to watch all four episodes on each disk in one sitting. It's awesome.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Chowdown Town

Below you can read an article that appeared today in the local Owensboro newspaper. Apparently, the Big O is a hot spot for restaurants (specifically chain restaurants). Now, keep in mind that living in Pasadena gave Anna and I something like 430 restaurants to choose from - almost all of those being locally owned and operated (many of them ethnically based). Then, there's Owensboro, which has a handful of local places to eat, and a gazillion chain stores.

What can I say? Some notoriety is damnable - including being told you like to eat in a nation of over-eaters.

One last thing: the same magazine also handed out a "clean plate" award to various restaurants who served an outstanding dish or entree. Not surprisingly, most of the winners on this list were from bigger cities such as Chicago, NY, Washington D.C. and New Orleans. And, much to my delight, Pie 'N Burger in Pasadena made it for a burger and a slice of pie (In 'N Out also made the stingy list for their burger, fries and chocolate shake delights).

I guess it's a question of quantity versus quality. If you want more food than you can stomach, come to Owensboro. If you want a fine meal that will keep you coming back for more, ... well ...

We do have Famous Bistro, Old Hickory, House of Canton, and Skeeter's, which are - truly - wonderful places to eat in Owensboro. But, come on ... Pie 'N Burger. What's better than that?

Survey finds city 'chowdown town'


Owensboro 7th best restaurant market

By Keith Lawrence


The self-proclaimed "Barbecue Capital of the World" -- also known as "Chowdown Town" -- is getting some national attention for its appetite.

Restaurant Business magazine's November issue ranks Owensboro as the seventh best market nationally for restaurants -- right behind Las Vegas.

Myrtle Beach, S.C., topped the list, followed by Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Ocean City, N.J.; and Honolulu.

The Owensboro metropolitan area -- Daviess, Hancock and McLean counties -- has 188 restaurants, the magazine said.

That's the fewest of any of Kentucky's five metros.

But local restaurants will take in an estimated $273.9 million this year -- an average of $1.46 million each, the magazine said.

That's nearly double the $751,704 in sales the average restaurant in Louisville sees, the magazine reported.

Even Las Vegas, No. 6 in the survey, reported smaller average sales per restaurant -- $1.2 million -- than Owensboro. But that city has 4,266 restaurants to share its $4.8 billion in restaurant sales.

"We're about to close two restaurant deals in Highland Pointe," Brad Anderson, a partner in Gulfstream Enterprises, said Wednesday. "Neither is in Owensboro now."

That company is developing Highland Pointe, Woodlands Plaza and Gateway Commons in the Kentucky 54 area.

Anderson said he's working with six to eight restaurant chains now, trying to negotiate deals along that corridor.

"Owensboro is getting a lot of attention already," he said. "And this should help."

Culver's Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers, a national chain with more than 340 stores, opened a Highland Pointe location six months ago.

Work is nearing completion on Roca Bar, a pizza restaurant next door. And a Louisville group is developing a Japanese restaurant in the strip center next to Kohl's in Woodlands Plaza.

"Business has been great," Tyler Shookman, co-owner of the Culver's franchise, said Wednesday. "Our sales are above average for Culver's locations. And we're looking at an even better future with the new hospital, hotel, arena and convention center coming out here."

Restaurant Business wrote: "Owensboro, on the Ohio River 100 miles west of Louisville, is also gearing up for development. Underway is a $40 million riverfront development with a marina and river walk; a $400 million medical center and the $390 million Gateway Commons, with a hotel, convention center and arena."

"That's great advertising," said Nick Cambron, chairman of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. "There's a lot going on in Owensboro."

Cambron, a Realtor, said he's working with several restaurant chains that are looking at the Kentucky 54 corridor now.

"This area is a retail mecca," he said.

The magazine's Restaurant Growth Index studied 363 metropolitan areas, looking at total sales, total number of restaurants, per capita income and other factors.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Life in General

Representatives from a local Christian mission spoke to our congregation last night - trying to help our church understand the needs facing persons with serious addictions or other destructive habits that are ruining their lives. Shortly after enjoying a good plate of ham, potato casserole, green beans, and pineapple upside-down cake, the audience was shown a video with testimonies from people who had used or were using the mission's services. One of the men in the video quoted some advice a staff member had given him as he was in the gutter so to speak: "It isn't that you want to die; you just don't know how to live."

Bullseye. That line lodged itself into my conscience, germinating a number of other thoughts and conversations that lay dormant. How do we live? That is - isn't it - the essence of it all. What path are we intended to follow, what rules are intended to instruct our days?

I also read recently that the Hebrew tradition sought to answer those questions for us. Torah is meant to give instruction for living - all of it. Author A. J. Jacobs - a Jew by birth but not by practice (until recently) - has been making waves by drawing out this conclusion. He literally tried to follow the Bible for an entire year. His sense was that the prescriptions for holy living truly were profitable.

The Christian Scriptures too seek to illuminate a way of life: discipleship or a life-long willingness to follow the pattern of Christ. I have been reconnecting with this reality by tapping into some modern teachers like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster all over again. These two men have put in significant time studying and communicating answers to the question, "How do we live?" Foster in particular has established Renovare - an ecumenical effort to give Christians and churches a deeper appreciation for the long, deep history of others who have sought to answer this question. The resources that Foster and others are producing through Renovare are some of the most helpful and hopeful I've come across in a long time.

Of particular value is the book Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. The simple aim of this book is to present clearly how various traditions have tried to live faithfully God's call to be disciples of Christ. According to this study, there are six streams of thought and action: contemplative, holiness, charismatic/spirit-empowered, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational.

As I work with and minister to people of varying social and economic situations, the knowledge of how to live is clearly missing ... and I say that for my own soul much of the time. Our culture is good at determining how to be successful, how to progress, how to compete and win. But, there is very little awareness of how to live a good life - well, aside from the materialistic, shallow definitions given to us through television ads and billboards.

Those streams of culture - or more likely flood waters - are quick to suggest that meaning comes through acquisition and possession. But, the more I read rich souls and study Scripture, the more I get the sense that the good life comes through a deep awareness of God in all of life and through practices and habits that train us to be more deeply and fully aware of God. There is no easy way around it: living well means a good deal of training and preparing to live well. This - I am aware - flies in the face of what Dallas Willard calls "vampire Christianity" where we willingly take the blood of Christ for our forgiveness and peace of mind but abandon a life of decency, justice and holiness as the cross that it is (click here for more; Willard cites A. W. Tozer as the source of this modern heresy).

This takes me back to the voices of homeless men and women I heard last night on the DVD. When you get to the point of homelessness - of being down and out - there really isn't anything you can buy or obtain that will get you out of the pit. At the bottom is only a long, arduous path of recovery, which includes learning all over again how to live: how to manage money, how to say no to destructive forces and yes to positive habits. That's about it. Well, there are two other critical things - two things the Christian tradition holds dearly:

1. The role of the Spirit in leading our regeneration in Christ.
2. The value of community and ceremonies to help us remember that we are not in this alone.

Without those two realities, our efforts - so others have said - amounts to strict legalism, frustration, and ultimately a return to despair.

So, there it is: we all have a need to know how to live well. I guess that's why Joel Osteen can sell a ton of books and why self-help is now quintessentially American. People are dying to live well. And, if someone can promise to help you in that endeavor (especially with an ivory smile), why wouldn't you want to listen. It is even more complicated because there is a great deal of truth in these self-help methods and "positive Christianity" efforts.

But (and I swear this will be the last thing), there is a problem with that stream ... and to illustrate, I want to tell you about Cool Whip.

Cool Whip promises to have 50% less calories than real whipped cream. The assumption here is that you'll consume less calories, but it denies the underlying problem: people don't need less calories; they need a different understanding of how to eat.

In the same way, we don't need better products (specifically new and flashy ones) to live better. What we need are ancient, proven rhythms and postures. To hand ourselves over to the current best seller is to let in any number of "additives" that may just be counterproductive, if not destructive. So, that's it. I just finally had some pieces of the puzzle fall into place after a long period of looking long and hard at disorder.