Dangerous Play

Posted by on Sep 1, 2013 in Community, Fear, Redemption, Significance, Transcendence | 8 comments

“What did ‘play’ mean for you as a boy? What does it look like now?” Those were the deceptively profound, seemingly innocent, questions posed to me, and a group of men, at a Brotherhood Adventure last week in the Poudre River Canyon, west of Fort Collins, CO. By the end of the conversation I thought, I wish Beryl and every woman I know could have heard what I just heard. We were men from all over the country, meeting as board members and advisers for Restoration Project, a wonderful partner men’s ministry with Peregrine, started by Chris Bruno and Greg Daley. The question posed by Chris, opened up surprising responses, including my own. My responses: • Play was initially about dirt and mud. When I was 5 my dream career was to be a ditch-digger. I longed to be just like the men I saw tearing up dirt and laying sewer lines in the countryside of Glenview, IL in 1958. That eventually got “civilized” out of me. Boys in the northwest suburbs of Chicago aren’t supposed to get dirty. • Play became about sports—dodge ball, softball, cannonballs in the local swimming pool, touch football, and “Red Rover.” That eventually got trained out of me. Sports became less about play and more about competition, performance and winning. I still wrestle to redeem the “play” of competitive swimming. Other responses courageously offered by the men present: • “In Junior High play with other boys was full of bullying and embarrassment.” • “I learned that other boys aren’t safe. And, eventually, that men are dangerous.” • “When I compete with men, I want to kill them.” (This from a guy who brought a handgun that afternoon to a 4-wheeling jaunt. Judging from past observation, we knew he was comfortable using it.) • “I’m not sure I know how to play any more. Something got lost.” There were more, deeply honest and revealing, comments from a room full of men who, by appearance, age range and by geography from across the country, looked like a typical male sampling. Almost invariably the comments revealed pain, embarrassment, uncertainty, loss, fear and shame. And we were talking about play, for Pete’s sake! Of course, on the surface we all know how to play Texas Hold ‘Em (except for me; I re-learn the rules every 5 years, or just say, That’s OK, I’ll watch.); we all know how to recite the expected familiarity with the NFL, NASCAR, the NBA, NHL or MLB. We all have our selected few sports in which we will confidently engage. But just beneath the surface “play” reveals the emotions mentioned above, and one more even deeper thought, “I’m not sure I really measure up as a man.” That’s what I wish women could have heard: the subtle, competitive, pain-tinged, and sometimes abuse-filled memories that the word “play” brings to honest men. Even a sport as typically innocuous as golf is filled with both longings for the joy of nature and male brotherhood, along with abject fear of how that first drive on the first hole is going to go. Men, does it do that for you? Me, too. One of the men, whose “play” is both adventuresome and safe, more so than just about any other man I know, is my college friend and sister’s husband, Mike Anderson. Mike helped re-introduce me to “dirt” on fishing expeditions in Canada with our kids a number of years ago. I’m indebted to him. Take a look at the pictures included here. They are of this same group of men mentioned above, having the time...

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Speaking Truth to Power

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in Character, Courage, Fear, Heroes, Legacy | 0 comments

In 2002 TIME magazine’s Persons of the Year were three women who spoke truth to power: Sherron Watkins, the Enron vice president who wrote a letter to chairman Kenneth Lay warning him that the company’s methods of accounting were improper. Coleen Rowley, the FBI attorney who caused a sensation with a memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller about how the bureau brushed off pleas from her MN field office to investigate a man who became one of the 9/11 disaster Cynthia Cooper who blew the cover off WorldCom when she informed its board that the company had covered up $3.8 billion in losses through phony bookkeeping. More recently Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission during the Sept. 11th assault on the US embassy in Libya has been speaking truth to power by describing a series of events other than what we have heard before. The first documented time the term “truth to power” was used was in a series of papers, “A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence,”developed by the Quakers in the 1950’s as they urged alternatives to violence in the conduct of the Cold War. Considering the consequences a truth-teller might experience, speaking truth to power epitomizes genuine conviction that something is wrong, and genuine courage to do and say something about it.   Every now and then doing the same might place us in disagreement or even outright conflict with those in positions of authority over us. As we see in the news on a regular basis, conflict with those in power happens in the workplace, in ministries and the church, and in the military.   Authority gets potentially abused or blind in just about any place we might work. What do we do about that? I propose, we speak truth to power.   Scriptural examples We can begin with some history. Though the term may be only 60 years old, the practice of speaking truth to power goes back quite a bit further.   1. The example of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego The book of Daniel tells the stories many of us learned in childhood of four young Israelites who defied the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar, their political authority, to bow before his idol and to cease praying to God.   When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were confronted with the threat of death they refused to obey. They spoke truth to power.   Similarly, when Daniel was told to stop praying to his God he didn’t. In fact he prayed three times a day. In his room where the window faced Jerusalem. He engaged in civil disobedience that Martin Luther King Jr. would have been proud of.   2. The example of the Peter and John After Jesus’ home going, Peter and John were told by the Sanhedrin, their spiritual authority, to no longer preach in his name. Acts 4 describes their encounter with power in verses18-20: “Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” This was not the meek response the keepers of the Law were expecting.   3. The example of Jesus Countless times Jesus stood before the pious Pharisees, the stoners of women, the condemners of healing, the pompous legalists, the spiritual authorities of his day, and spoke words that silenced and condemned them. He got in their faces so frequently...

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When We Encounter Accusations

Posted by on Jan 18, 2013 in Character, Courage, Fear | 0 comments

“Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.’ At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!'” Acts 23:1-3 Speak courageously Follow your convictions Some will resent you Leave vengeance with God

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Discovering Community

Posted by on Jul 12, 2012 in Community, Fear | 0 comments

I can think of one benefit of the recent firestorms in Colorado Springs: we’ve reconnected with friends from around the world who have emailed or called to ask how we are. In relating Colorado’s tragedy to friends in Chicago I discovered that there are many layers to a disaster like this. There is the layer of statistics: 18,500 acres scorched, 32,000 evacuees, 1600 firefighters mobilized, 346 homes destroyed, hundreds saved, 2 lives lost. But there is a deeper layer: the emotional toll. Those whose family members died and those who lost their homes experienced the greatest tragedy, but all of us who love this city lost something in those hours on June 26th when a seemingly distant fire burning on the other side of a ridge of foothills, turned 90 degrees at 65 mph and came roaring downhill into the city’s west side. It was like 9/11 on a much smaller, more personal scale. I realized that there is an attachment to certain community factors that are the reasons half a million people have chosen this region as home. The tree-filled front range that provides a magnificent backdrop to the city; the highly acclaimed 5 Star Broadmoor Hotel, the awe-inspiring Garden of the Gods park, Glen Eyrie and its beautiful castle, the Air Force Academy that produces men and women of outstanding character year after year. All of these places on the west side of the city were directly at risk, and for a few very uncertain days, their survival was in question. Steve Tucker, a counselor at one of our local hospitals said, “We’ve all lost, to some degree, our sense of security and who we are as a community. It’s a change of feeling about our community, and that creates a sense of loss.” Thankfully, all of these landmarks of Colorado Springs survived (except for the Flying W Ranch, visited and loved by thousands over the years) and the city is proudly proclaiming, “Welcome back!” to the tourism business. We get attached to our home towns; especially when we specifically choose to move there because we love it. In Boston it would be the possibility of losing Park Street Church and the historic cemetery right next to it; in Chicago, losing Wrigley Field and the Water Tower; in Seattle, losing Pike Place Market and the first Starbucks. These are places their inhabitants love because they have deep significance; they define a resident’s sense of identity and community. Is there one place in your city that its citizens love? A place that defines Community? What is it? Comment here and let the rest of us know. Enjoy it and celebrate it while you have it. Maybe we’ll come...

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Man vs. Nature. No Question Who’s Boss

Posted by on Jul 2, 2012 in Culture, Fear, God | 7 comments

“A firestorm of epic proportions.” So spoke the Fire Chief of Colorado Springs, a man who has seen many fires in his career. What started as a relatively small smoke spiral at noon on a Saturday in a popular hiking spot in the foothills west of town, quickly expanded to a 3500 acre blaze moving first south, then west. 3 days in, everything changed. On Tuesday, June 26th, the highest-ever recorded temperature in Colorado history, combined with 2 years of drought, caused a growing conflagration driving in from the forest on the west-side foothills of the city. Suddenly a rainless thunderstorm blew in from the west at 65 miles per hour. The perfect storm of conditions brought about Colorado Springs’ worst nightmare. The blaze exploded over the ridge, burning downhill and eastward, through canyons leading into even more parched land, grass and forests– shared with some of the most scenic neighborhoods in the city. It fast became the most destructive fire in Colorado history. Fire commanders in the middle of their afternoon media briefing turned to look at the unfolding scene. The stunned look of disbelief in their eyes said everything the public feared: the unimaginable was happening. Walls of flames and exploding trees rolled downhill into the city. Immediately 2 neighborhoods in its path were put on mandatory evacuation. One of those, Peregrine, is where my family and I lived for 6 years. 32,000 people suddenly had their lives turned entirely upside down. Cars, vans, pickups and trailers formed a gridlock caravan leaving their homes, fleeing the flames they could see in their rear-view mirrors. It took a terror-stricken three hours for some to drive the three miles to escape to the interstate. Many of those folks are friends and former neighbors we contacted by text or phone calls. The sound of stunned horror and disbelief in their voices was visceral. We agonized for them; how easily that could have been my family and me. Within those three hours, homes in the path of the blaze caught fire. Exploding trees threw ash and embers at manicured landscapes and onto the roofs of well-maintained houses, which themselves began exploding into an inferno that eventually took two lives, destroyed 18,000 acres, 346 homes, and damaged hundreds more. One of Colorado Springs’ most attractive communities, Mountain Shadows, was turned into a scene looking more like a nuclear holocaust.  The national fire commander on the scene, with nearly 30 years of wildfire-fighting experience, pointed to a map showing the swirling footprint of the fire and said, “I’ve been fighting fires for a long time. I’ve never seen fire behavior like this before.” This stunning video shows the awful nature of this fire in time lapse photography. When you can, watch it at least through the perfect-storm turn of events on Tuesday afternoon and evening (marks 6:40-8:00). Given this perspective, it’s a miracle that there was not more damage. It’s a testament to the round-the-clock effort of the firefighters. Still, it will take many years to restore that community into a liveable and hopefully safer one. Modern mankind likes to think it has control over nature. The hydro-electric dams, nuclear power plants, skyscrapers and space travel of the past century have given us in the developed world in particular, a sense of power, invincibility and control beyond reality. The truth is becoming more evident. In just the past year, we have seen earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and wildfires that have individually set records for destruction, and collectively impact the earth like nothing before experienced. In the U.S. alone 2011 broke...

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Feeling Grief; Choosing Joy

Posted by on Sep 12, 2011 in Character, Culture, Fear, Hope | 2 comments

Yesterday was the third birthday I began with tears in my eyes. The first was when I was spanked by the delivering surgeon. The second was the “original” 9/11 ten years ago. In the years immediately following that awful day, it wasn’t unusual for me to receive a raised eyebrow, a grimaced face, or even a muttered apology, when asked by someone when my birthday was. In recent years, others don’t really pay attention to it, nor do I. Until yesterday. As I watched the 9/11 commemorative events from Ground Zero in New York, I found myself once again encountering a familiar grief: Grief over the overwhelming loss of innocent life in one day Grief over the still-unimaginable image of airplanes intentionally crashing into   buildings filled with people at work Grief over the still-unimaginable sight of two buildings collapsing on top of them selves Grief over the loss of a former ease of security with which many of us lived life Grief over the hole in the heart carried by many mourners who lost family that day Grief over the unbelievable escalation of violence in Afghanistan and Iraq Grief over the loss of many thousands more innocents in those nations Grief over the fear known by so many whose children stand in harm’s way Grief over the unpredictable global changes that still hold fear for so many Grief over the continuing injustice that defines the lives of so many And the tears flowed. In Romans 8:22 Paul writes: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Groaning? Yeah, we get that. We see that more and more these days. In the pains of childbirth? What kind of birth might that be? The birth of a new Creation. II Cor. 5:17 promises a personal new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The raggedness of life without Christ is made new. Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21 promise an earthly new creation: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” The raggedness of our world will be made new. What do we do in the mean time? Our choice is to remain in Grief, or to choose Joy. The hope of our personal salvation and the coming redemption of our fallen world are just enough for us to decide to be joyful. Joy only makes sense if we believe in what is to come: “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Psalm 126: 5-6 “Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalm 30:10-12 “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19 Even so, Come, Lord...

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