Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pastor Appreciation: Randy Elrod

For pastor appreciation month, I gotta give a shout out to "Pastor Randy" -- that's how I met him. Back in Largo, Florida, Randy was creative arts / praise and worship / music / whatever his title was for the season pastor. He refused to be put in a box. Randy was professional, hard-working and genuine.

R was just coming into the season of spreading his wings beyond accepted norms. He pursued life with passion and took some of us along for the ride. He started living life on the "bleeding edge" and took some cuts in that time.

When he got the opportunity of a music pastor's life -- People's Church in Nashville, Tenn. -- we were sad to see him go. Randy had outgrown his fish bowl. After moving to N'ville R really blew off his fetters. He pursued his passions and lived a scary and dynamic life for what the LORD laid on his heart.

But, in all of that, I remember the friend who went with us to watch an R movie when it wasn't allowed; who held my parents' hands as they waited for their paralyzed son to fly back to the States; who took me cruisin' in his Z; who shared Sunday lunch with his family with me; who cooked us homemade pasta when I visited N'ville on the way to DC.

Randy, you've touched so many peoples' lives, including mine.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Islam, Iran, and the World

This morning I took a little time to read from to get some perspective on the news and world events. Listening to stories on Qur'an burning, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the dispute over Israel. You might think it's crazy, but the Islam scripture is not that different from reading the Bible. If you know your Old and New Testament, you can follow along pretty well. Some of it reads like commentary from pastors I've heard on TV. Throw in a newspaper and a world map (like ) and you get some interesting perspective on current events.

Back to my title, I was interested that the Qur'an goes in depth to lay out the covenant the LORD made with his people through Abraham, Moses, and Jesus to make them righteous and their consistent rejection of the agreement. The text in Surah 2.62 even clarifies that anyone -- Jew, Christian, or Muslim -- who truly seeks to live a right life before the LORD will inherit Paradise at the Resurrection of the Dead. It seems to me this can help us come from a good starting point to share our perspectives. Indeed, Jesus even said, "there will be a time when it doesn't matter what city you worship in, but God desires people who worship him in spirit and in truth." The committed Jew, Christian and Muslim have a lot in common.

When I looked up Jerusalem and Mecca on the map, I panned out to see the region. Jerusalem is on the western end of the Middle East (with Egypt as a Afro-Eastern nation); Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, is to the south; Pakistan is to the east; and Iran is in the bulls-eye. Flanking Iran are Iraq and Afghanistan (with Pakistan to the southeast). To its north are the former Soviet states.

Now, the role Iran plays in the region is clear to me. Far from being a rogue player in world affairs, Iran is central to the stability of relationships in the Middle East. This center of Muslim and Arabic/Persian culture is stable and established. While they have policies and practices Europeans find backwards, they serve as a heavy influence on the three nations where the United States has our money and military invested: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the wake of the World Trade Center attack, Ahmadinejad offered his support. We gave him the cold shoulder, alienated him politically, and took out his biggest regional opponent anyway -- Saddam Hussein. With nowhere to go, the Iranian leader became more entrenched and isolated, working to accomplish regional stability as he knew. His government worked in the region with religious leaders and organizations with militias to establish a distinctly Muslim footprint in the region that the U.S. has been trying to westernize.

So, the U.S. took this fight to Iran. We put their leader in a corner and despised his partnership. It is a scary reminder of the Cold War with the Communists. This one has deeply religious undertones that appeal to extremists on all sides. We have mixed guns and God, entering a holy war that was not of our making. The zealots who wanted to bring in a reign of terror and usher in the last days have instigated the nations to senseless conflict. Until the U.S. takes a more humble position and respects the interests of all people in the region -- despite distinct differences -- we will not see the stability we desire. Iran, the Taliban, and other regional players who truly have vested interests in the outcome of a post-coalition Middle East have to be given a seat at the table in the light of day where we acknowledge and work with each other, If the U.S. can work with Pakistan and Mahmoud Abbas, we can work with these others in the interests of our common interest.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

College: Almost done!

I'm putting the wraps on my college program at Kaplan online. For about two years I've been studying website animation for interactivity in the online degree program. While I'm not planning on being a games developer, I've learned a lot from my courses on developing solutions and managing projects.

As I get going along now, I'll be looking for a good job to open my career path. With a background in Psychology and some experience building and maintaining websites, I just need to build a good resumé and portfolio, then APPLY.

So much thanks to Dana for putting up with my focus on school projects the last few months. It has been an investment in our future that we will see pay off over the next few years.

I joke that with a Psychology degree I was on par with every football player out of college. Now, I think my resumé will stand out a little more.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Chasing Lions in 2010

Each winter I pull back and decide on a theme for the upcoming year. As I pondered my new challenges, opportunities and responsibilities I really felt I needed to go after challenges I had ignored for months or years. Dana recommended our pastor's book In A Pit with A Lion on A Snowy Day because it is about this same idea. The book delves into the short story of Benaiah in 2 Samuel 8 who chased a lion into a pit and killed it. This and other courageous acts got Ben a place of honor in the king's service.

Inspired by this story, my wife's example of determination, my dad's challenges, and my own yet-to-be-realized and missed opportunities, I am determined to live 2010 Chasing Lions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Awake Autumn!

Of the things I've dreaded moving to D.C. (and there are few) the cold is the most intimidating. I thought the crowds would get me, but people actually flow pretty well. Sitting in traffic isn't nearly as stressful with the woman I love beside me. The metro has been surprisingly accessible. The dogs get along great. So, back to that cold weather.

I'm thinking 17 years in the sunbelt has thawed my blood too thin for the cold, then a cool snap hits. Don't get me wrong, I know 40s and 50s sounds cozy to some folks right now, but the cold has slowed me down several times. I dreaded the cold, but being outside today has been nice. There's something about summer that just makes me lethargic. Autumn wakes me up. Maybe it's the colors on the Sunday drive to church. Maybe it's the cool air that bites a little when I get out. Maybe it's this transition into a new life.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Looking for Patriotism

This week National Public Radio reported on Somali-Americans recruited into terrorism. It got me thinking why these kids whose parents had gotten an opportunity in the States to start a new life would be compelled to go back to Somalia and fight Jihad. Following up I considered the likes of Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton, popular culture's references to anti-American sentiments, and partisan attacks; all of these are symptoms of the unraveling of our American identity.

Patriots are not ignorant, flag-waving yes-men blindly following selfish old white men who think they know better than everyone. This is the image of a patriot protesters of the '60s and'70s retalliated against. McCarthyism, Jim Crow, the war machine, and Wall Street big shots were the face of America in that era. So many were so very frustrated they rebelled. Consider these lyrics from a popular song:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
Ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail to the chief",
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son, son.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no,
Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don't they help themselves, oh.
But when the taxman comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes,
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no millionaire's son, no.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no.
Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, "How much should we give?"
Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! yoh,
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no military son, son.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, one.
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no no no,
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate son, no no no,
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Fortunate Son"

There is a sad situation, then, where, as John Edwards put it, we have "two Americas." This stratification and sense of injustice and animosity threatens to tear our country apart. Like sectarian violence in the Middle East and immigrant anti-nationalism in Europe, this disparity among Americans is tearing us apart.

Patriotism is the answer. What brings us to the table should be our sense of national identity and the shared values and responsibilities we as Americans have. We will always have economic disparity. We will always have bigotry. We will always have disagreements. We will always have poverty, hunger, crime, favoritism. As Americans we can wrestle through these things without ripping our nation apart.

When someone says, "I'm embarrassed to be an American," or "they are un-American," or even hopes for the destruction of our nation and our neighbors they are chipping away at the integrity of our national identity. The Stars and Stripes, our Constitution, our government, and our national heritage are symbols of our country's greatness. Its values are greater than our differences. Its institutions are greater than partisan manipulation. Alexis de Toqueville is aattributed as saying,

America is great because she is good.
When she ceases to be good, she will no longer be great.
May we never lose that sense of goodness and belief in a good America.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

full plate

The past weeks have been consuming. Yeah, consuming, like take a big plate, fill it with lots of food, and eat it all. I'm not complaining. It's just different for me to have so much to do. The past few years have been fairly easy. Nothing really pressing. Coasting along has been pleasant.

With the full plate I'm worn out, my fuse is short, and my memory overwhelmed. The theme for 2009 is balance and these big life events have put that to the test. Several years ago my boss introduced me to Steven Covey's Seven Habits. There are many good habits he points out and principles to apply to everyday problems (my paraphrase):

  • get off your duff and do something
  • get your priorities straight
  • think it through before you start
  • think of others first
  • handle conflict well
  • work together off each others' strengths
  • stay healthy

When there is so much to do I forget these habits. Okay, I just get lazy. It's easier to look like I have it together than to keep it together. So, time for the absurd analogy. When the plate is full I want to eat it all. But I can enjoy eating all I can at a nice pace while visiting with my dinner companions. Then, I can take left-overs home to enjoy later or leave the rest. Just because It is on my plate does not mean I have to shovel it all down right now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Where Have the Good Shows Gone

I try to keep my must see list of TV shows around five. Coming into summer the list of canceled shows is sad because so many of my favorites are on there! The Unit (like Jericho before it) was nixed by CBS. Terminator: SCC was terminated by FOX. The Unusuals was canned by ABC (as was Pushing Daisies). The way the seasons of Terminator and The Unit wrapped up left little doubt they were headed to pasture, but I really am bummed.

Shows I like that are still running: Lost, NCIS, Bones.

Other shows nixed all too soon: Jericho, Firefly.

Shows I won't miss: Knight Rider, Homeland Security, Wipe Out (oh, wait, they actually brought that back)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good bye to Pontiac

The brand is synonymous with power. Apart from the inappropriate acrostic, I remember Pontiac a a great brand. The Grand Am was the car of the '80s. Then were the Firebird, Grand Prix, and so many other great power cars. We'll miss the cars from the ol' chief.

Read / Listen to a story at

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

yep yep yep yep yep. uh huh.

One of my favorite Sesame Street sketches.

Earth Day Perspective

Today is Earth Day. People across the globe are celebrating our world's natural resources and raising awareness of the dangers humans pose to the environment. It is an opportunity for perspective. Environmentalism has become a strong force in politics (albeit with waning influence at times).

This morning on Morning Joe Bobby Kennedy said the "landscape is the source of our values, our virtues, and our character as a people." I think Mr. Kennedy's perspective is off. Granted we do have perspectives on nationalism that derived from westward expansion and the grandiose rivers, canyons, mountains, plains, shores and deltas. This landscape was not the "source" of our national psychology.

I am encouraged as many Christians become more aware of environmental stewardship as a value of our faith. I would like to see communities invest more in reducing waste that enters our landfills and water table. I look forward to people helping people worldwide. However, when people mistake our national heritage with any agenda I take caution.

Today is Earth Day, but we must remember we are to be stewards of the earth, not worship it.