October 31, 2003, 7:38 am
Filed under: uncategorized

People seem to be breaking out of the daze they’ve been in around here for the past few days. The fires continue to burn to the east of us, but some favorable weather has helped a lot. We’re actually getting some light rain in some areas.

I was running around yesterday looking for a missing horse. There are several hundred of them being temporarily housed at the county fairgrounds. I also went to the doctor yesterday – it seems I have developed a case of the shingles. That sucks. I think I have a mild case, because it’s not as painful as I’ve heard it can be. It’s just uncomfortable and annoying at this point.

Sounds like the people who are trying to buy our house are wanting to play hardball with us since we pulled out of escrow. That’s annoying too.

I’m working to maintain perspective in all of this. Things to remind myself of:

a) Even in the middle of all of the devastation, I live in a ridiculously wealthy and comfortable place where needs are easily met.

b) I have innumerable opportunities all around me to extend grace and love to those who are hurting.

c) These are situations in which Jesus can have the greatest impact on people. I get to help just by hanging around him.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning. I get to get out of town for a few hours with Jason and Eddie. We’re going up to OC to hang out with Josh Dulaney. It’ll be good to clear my head a little. Plus, it’ll be good to see Eddie again before he leaves SoCal to be a part of the Jesus folks out in Columbus, OH.

On another note, I was thinking the other day about how incredibly devastating September 11, 2001 must have been in New York City. Here we’ve had over 1500 homes destroyed by fire, so that’s at least a few thousand people directly impacted – it seems like everyone knows at least one or two people who lost something. But these are just homes. Thankfully only a few lives have been lost. September 11, though was so much worse – image bearers of God himself were destroyed. Those lives cannot be replaced.


October 29, 2003, 3:00 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

Michelle and I returned to the ashes of the house where she grew up yesterday. The air all around San Diego county was dense with smoke. It’s kind of like being in thick fog, except with a dirty yellow tint. Michelle walked around, sometimes crying, sometimes laughing when she’d see some random object that didn’t burn. I realized how incapable I am of relating – my family moved at least 11 times before I was 18 years old, but Michelle had never moved once until she married me.

We’ve received so many phone calls, e-mails, etc. from people wanting to help. Right now we’re just trying to figure out which end is up. It’s really cool the way everyone is there for us, though.

O.k., here’s an experience I had the other day. When I returned home late Sunday afternoon and saw the blackened ground all around my house, a crew of about 25 people from the California Department of Forestry was sprawled out on the corner of my property taking a break after having saved at least 20 houses. I went down to them to thank them and see if they needed anything – ice water, a restroom, anything. I approached a lady who looked like she was in charge, and began talking to her. Then I looked down at the uniform she was wearing – the embroidered badge on her shoulder didn’t say “California Department of Forestry,” it said “California Department of Corrections.” Then I noticed that all of the people hanging around her were women, and that some of them looked a bit rough around the edges (even more so than firefighting would have made them look). My home had been saved by convicts, not professionals. The freedom and comfort I enjoy was in some way made possible by those who have willingly forfeited their own through their unlawful behavior. It gave me a new take on grace and servanthood.

++Jesus, I am a lawbreaker also. Please give me the grace to serve others in a way that draws them toward you.

October 28, 2003, 12:05 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

These are challenging days. The fires of Southern California have altered many many lives – ours among them. The blaze that swept through my neighborhood has now consumed over 200,000 acres. I contributed one acre of my own. The flames came to within 20 feet of our house, but the structure was saved. We were evacuated on Sunday morning. We got the cats and a few items of value, and went to Michelle’s parents’ home, about 10 minutes away. Witin a couple of hours we would be evacuated from there also. Before leaving our house, my sister offered for us to come there, about 20 minutes away . . . she too would eventually be evacuated.

We were more fortunate than many in that we were allowed to return home by the end of the day. Coming here was amazing. The whole area is black and gray, with only the off-white and beige stucco of the houses to add color. Only one home was lost in our area. It was a fitful night of sleep – getting up every couple of hours to look out at the hill immediately to the east of us, less than half a mile away, which was still on fire.

Yesterday morning Michelle, her dad, and I drove down Highway 67, to see if we could get to their house. The California Highway Patrol had the road blocked. It was frustrating for her dad because the house is only about 2 miles down from the road block. After talking to the officers for a few minutes, they agreed to let us go by their barricade on foot. So Matt (Michelle’s father) and I started walking. All around us on the hillsides that had yet to burn we saw smoldering embers in the bushes, sometimes catching fire, sometimes just creating smoke. We had walked to within about half a mile of the house when some Sheriff deputies came driving the other way stopped us and told us that we shouldn’t be there because the whole area was about to light up. They agreed to drive us the rest of the way to the house because we had a vehicle there that we could drive out. We turned down their street off of Hwy. 67 and saw a couple of houses, and then nothing but rubble. We got out of the car and walked up to what used to be home for Matt, his wife Marge, and my wife.

Nearly 30 years ago they moved into a tiny two bedroom home. Matt and his brothers had built onto the house in different phases and made a totally different house out of it. The chimney is the only verticle structure left. We were only able to stay for two or three minutes before the deputies told us gently that it was time to go. We haven’t been able to go back yet.

I drove us out (they had parked a vehicle in an open area, so it was salvaged), not knowing what to say. The whole area looked roughly like a mountainous version of the moon. Barren, gray.

Life has changed radically in a very short period of time. We have pulled out of escrow on our house sale in order to allow Matt and Marge to move in. They will live here with us as long as they desire. I’m glad to be here for them. I wish I could do more. It seems that they are going to learn the discipline of simplicity in a radical new way.

As for us, this may mean a change of venue for the new church start. It’s unlikely that we will be moving to the area where we thought we’d be starting. Many unanswered questions.

My sister, her husband, and their three kids were able to go back to their house yesterday evening. Over 300 homes in their immediate area are gone.

There are thoughts and lessons here. They will come out over time. God is still good. His power and glory are unchanged. I have the opportunity of learning how to live the Kingdom life in the middle of chaos. Following Jesus and inviting others to walk with me will take on new levels of challenge and blessing.

I do not grieve for the loss of structures or possessions. I do long for God’s Kingdom to fully come on earth as it is in heaven.

October 25, 2003, 10:13 am
Filed under: uncategorized

I’ve admitted before that I’m a pop culture geek. Thus, how could I not like the two new VH1 series – “I Love the 70s” and the follow up “I Love the 80’s Strikes Back”? That’s the show where witty celebrity types remember and then mock the cultural products and people of a given year within those decades. They talk about clothing styles, television shows, movies, you name it. Fun stuff.

As I was out mowing weeds on our property this morning, I was thinking something like this: “Hey, what if VH1 did a show called ‘I Love the Christian Ghetto?'” What things would they remember with fondness? What would they mock? What would they have serious disdain for?

I haven’t put much thought into what would be on my list, but it would probably include Focus on the Family, Davey and Goliath, WWJD, Jabez, the Gaithers, Left Behind books, those quilted Bible covers with zippers, Bullfrogs and Butterflies, and Stryper. Let’s start a list and see if maybe they’d put it on TBN. If you have any suggestions, pop ’em in the comments thingy.

October 23, 2003, 5:04 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

Whew! Busy week around here. Mostly busy with the right stuff, but still not 100%. Something happened a couple days ago that pleased me, though. I worked at the coffee shop early in the morning, but business was slow and we were overstaffed, so I got off work early. I had another meeting scheduled for later in the morning, so I just hung out at a table outside and read. I had my Bible out, and was reading a book by Thomas Merton. I was there for about 45 minutes. During that time frame I had something like six or seven decent conversations with different people – all of them were regular customers that I have gotten to know by name since I’ve worked there. In almost every case, they asked what I was reading and we were able to talk about life.

Now, let me just say that I suck at evangelism (and wouldn’t you know it, none of them “got saved” while we were talking). Also for the record, I didn’t have my Bible and the other book out there so that I could be noticed. But because of the relational connection I’ve already had with these folks, I was able to talk to them openly and freely.

I’m pretty happy about that situation because it somehow proved the value of getting the job at the coffee shop in the first place. Sure I could be making much better money somewhere else, but I’ve been able to get to know dozens of people – maybe not enough to know the names of their kids or what their favorite flavors of ice cream are, but enough to be able to trigger a decent conversation when the opportunity presents itself. This is a big deal for me, in part because I suck at evangelism (or at least what passes for it). Hopefully I’m increasingly in a position to take customers and make friends out of them.

October 20, 2003, 12:29 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

Well, that didn’t take long. We signed a contract to sell our house yesterday. Escrow opened today. Heck, the realtor didn’t even have time to put up one of those silly signs in front of our house. We now have 45 days to figure out where the heck we’re gonna call home. Sofas, spare bedrooms anyone??

In preparing to put the house on the market, Michelle and I each arrived at a price for the house. We approached the price from different flows of logic, and came up with the same number. When the buyers made their offer, it was the same number. It’s a good thing. We’re still really bummed about leaving this place, but we know that our home is with one another, and not simply located in a physical building.

It’s a lot like church. So many people are hung up on the notion that the life of the church resides in a specific building at specific times of the week. But the community is something far more significant, and cannot be (or at least shouldn’t be) contained in those parameters.

October 18, 2003, 2:23 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

Michelle and I made the difficult decision to put our house on the market the other night. Even as I write, there are people walking through the place, evaluating it for its worth to them. I want to tell them to go away and not come back – even if they come back with a wheelbarrow full of $100 bills. We love living here in so many ways. And yet we know that it’s time to go.