Thursday, April 28, 2005

Art Isn't Easy

One of my favorite musicals is Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. In the first act we see the main character, an artist, putting together his masterpiece. He speaks some words that I think of often as I struggle to release control of my own life's painting to the Creator of all good things.

"White. A blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony."

Pretty good description of what God wants to do in our lives. The trouble is, so many times I think I can do better. What a joke, the clay trying to mold itself! Or I'm convinced that my painting is finished and it's horrible, but permanent. God is also very good at recycling old canvas and making it fresh and new again.

Let go and let the ultimate Artist have control. The paints are His anyway and He knows brush strokes and techniques that will astound you. Be warned however, God is not a paint by the numbers kind of guy. His studio is a beautiful mess! But hey, art isn't easy any way you look at it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

35 x 2 = 70

For the one and only time in our lives my father is exactly twice my age. Dr. John turned 70 on April 21. If you don't know my dad, he has done many things in his life, but in this act of his play he is Indiana Jones armed with dental equipment instead of a whip. He spans the globe pulling teeth, fixing smiles and healing hearts by introducing people to Jesus and encouraging Christians living under difficult circumstances to persevere.

From what I've seen, God is doing a bit of heart surgery on the good doctor as well. He returns from his adventures physically exhausted, but immediately begins planning his next trip. He's addicted to giving a cup of cold water to thirsty people. I've heard about the underground church in China, Dr. John has been there. I've seen pictures of the poor in India, he has fed them. I have a bit of understanding now about the destruction a tsunami can bring upon the earth, he has handed out food and blankets to victims and sat with people who formally made their living from the sea, now afraid to go too close to the water. I've heard the stories on the news of children and husbands whose bodies were never even found after the storm. Dad has heard those stories from the mouths of their mothers and wives.

I made a comment recently to my parents that I thought was a radical assessment of spirituality in Western civilization. I zinged my words at them and spouted off how I thought that what I was saying was true and revolutionary but I couldn't preach it in our churches for fear of being stripped of my American citizenship. My mom smiled and said that what I was saying sounded a lot like what she had heard another man say 35 years ago. Dad simply grinned and went back to reading his paper.

I hope that means I am following in his footsteps. I hope that means God is molding me the same way He has molded, and is molding my father. I hope that means in another 35 years I will be as spiritually mature, as loving and as sold out for Jesus as he is. I hope.

Monday, April 18, 2005


I lost a few days somewhere. Craig is now almost 100 days sober. Sorry for short changing you buddy.

Craig the Paranoid-Schizophrenic-Alcoholic-Legalist

In my last post I mentioned my friend Craig the paranoid-schizophrenic-alcoholic-legalist and curiously enough, some of you have asked about him. Go figure! I met my friend Craig the summer after my sixth grade year. He is a year older than me, but was being transferred to my school the next year to repeat the seventh grade, so we would be classmates. Our parents thought it would be a good idea to send us to a summer camp in New Mexico for two weeks so that Craig would have a friend when he started at his new school.

I had never met anyone quite like him. He and his parents arrived to pick me up for our drive to Love Field where we would fly to Amarillo before taking a bus to New Mexico. He had a burr haircut. I think I was sporting a mullet with a punked, spiked look on the top at the time. He wore red, white and blue framed, mirrored sun glasses and he carried a back pack with treasures inside. On the plane he reached into his bag of tricks and produced fake dog poop that he set in the middle of the aisle for our flight attendant to find. He didn't say anything to me about it. He just did it for his own amusement or maybe because in his world, that is simply what you do on a plane.

We did become friends during those two weeks and remained friends through Junior High before he was kicked out of school our Freshman year. He'd been put on probation so many times they finally had to quit threatening and actually expel him. It was a sad day. The beginning of the end really. Craig was crazy, but he never really crossed the line into the danger zone. He dipped, he skipped a few classes, he smarted off to authorities. I smoked my first and only cigarette with him. He was funny and smart and a good athlete. He was the life of the party without the aid of drugs or alcohol. He had tons of potential.

Anyway, he went back to his old school and his old friends and before long he had crossed that line. He was soon selling drugs and then using them on a regular basis. Long story short, that road led to a few stints in jail and then to a life on the streets.

Over the last twenty years I have tried to keep in touch with Craig. But it is difficult to communicate with people who live on the streets. Whenever he was in jail we would correspond through mail, but when he got out I would lose track of him again, sometimes for months at a time. Then I'd run into his parents and find out how to contact him and we'd start up again. This last connection was the result of seeing his mom at the grocery store. She said he was living in a house, but had no phone. She gave me the address and I showed up at his door. That's when I met Brian (see previous post). That was ten months ago.

Craig is a Christian. He grew up going to church and was baptized as a kid. He believes in God and the Bible, but he is very confused. He has been diagnosed with paranoid-schizophrenia. He is an alcoholic, but we are praying for him as he approaches 90 days sober after over twenty years of drug and alcohol abuse. It's sad, after all he's been through he is one of the most legalistic people I've ever met when it comes to religion. Because of that, he has a difficult time accepting God's grace for himself. In his mind, he's doomed. Please pray for my old friend Craig. He has a lot to overcome, but he is on his way and I believe he's going to make it. I believe he still has tons of potential.

And when you get to heaven, look him up. He'll be the life of the party.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Brian the Non-Practicing Buddhist

Several months ago I went to see my friend Craig the paranoid-schizophrenic-alcoholic-legalist, but when I knocked on the door his roommate answered. I had never met Brian, but from the looks of him, he was neither happy nor was he nice. I wasn't frightened, but I did think to myself, "O great, this guy is probably taking advantage of my friend Craig." Thus began what has now become a strong friendship.

At the time, Brian described himself as a non-practicing Buddhist. He had spent several years studying the teachings of Buddha and living in Buddhist communities, but something was missing. We started meeting every week and talking about the similarities between the things he liked about Buddhism and things that Jesus taught. One day Brian told me he wanted to become a Christian. I probably should not have been as surprised as I was. The thing is, I hadn't really been trying to convert him. I was learning a lot from him. He challenged me and I enjoyed being with him.

I was privileged to baptize him and now we ride to church together on Sundays and meet almost every Thursday. On April 1 he decided to quit a two pack a day smoking habit. He is two weeks in and his world is changing. He feels better, his senses have sharpened, he's sleeping better at night. But it is still difficult, especially after meals.

I love Brian and I hold him in highest regard. He needs your prayers as God makes big and rapid changes in his life. One of the changes God has already made is Brians name. He is no longer Brian the non-practicing Buddhist. He is now Brian the non-smoking Jesus follower. Pray for him today.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Fat Little Brother

When I was born I was sort of a little chunk. My brother J. was almost 8 years old when I was born and when he saw me he began preparations for a lifetime of protecting his fat little brother. I was referred to as the Buddha child because of my round little stomach which was often rubbed for good luck. Eventually, I grew taller and thinner. In fact by my freshman year of high school I looked like I'd just been released from the hospital or some prison camp. I was painfully thin.

I don't think J. had to protect me from being made fun of which is a good thing because I think he is only slightly better with his fists than I am with mine and that's not good (I'm a lover not a fighter). However, he did teach me some valuable lessons that have served me well over the years. Here are just a few in no particular order :

1. Humor can be a great equalizer. It can put people at ease or cut them to the core. Be careful.
2. Don't make quick judgments.
3. Don't date a smoker. It's like kissing an ash tray.
4. It's fun to sing along with the car radio even if you don't know all the words to the song.
5. Telling people the truth is the most loving thing you can do.
6. When attempting to hit a golf ball, keep your head down. Let someone else watch where it goes.
7. All the worlds a stage.
8. When you are performing in public, the audience is not nearly as aware of your mistakes as you are.
9. Not ALL lawyers are evil people.
10. Our dad is a wonderful resource of wisdom, knowledge and lawn equipment.

J. turns 43 today and we have truly come full circle. He's managed to keep himself in better shape than me and last week he gave me a belt that was too big for him. That's right, I am once again the fat little brother. But, I'm okay with that. It worked out alright the first time.

Happy birthday J. from your fat little brother.