Archive for September, 2005

Clean Hands

Posted: September 27, 2005 in Everything


Does it bother anybody else that we live in a world where employees have to be told to wash their hands before returning to work? I mean, come on. If you go to the bathroom, wash your hands! Don’t we all know that? As a matter of fact, I have noticed that some restaurants have taken the hand-washing instructions to a deeper level and have posted “how-to” instructions in the restroom.

How-To instructions!? Don’t most of us wash our hands and don’t most of us know how?

Probably not.

I say that because I frequently go to the restroom and see people walk out without washing their hands. You would think that even if folks didn’t usually wash up after a trip to the toilet, they might succumb to peer pressure and strange looks in the men’s room and wash…but they don’t. Recently, I saw a man in the restroom at church. He did his business, straightend his pants around his waist, hitched-up his trousers, looked in the mirror and walked out. No wash!

You’ve guessed it: I haven’t shaken his hand since!

But I suppose that I should slow down my criticism about non-hand-washers. I should be the last person to talk about being dirty and not knowing it. For the last few weeks I’ve been reading and re-reading the book of Isaiah. It’s an amazing story–both in Isaiah’s immediate context and the prophecies about the coming suffering-servant.

Isaiah chapter 6 has continued to leap of the page at me. It’s where Isaiah receives his call and commission to serve God. Isaiah, like me and those guys who don’t wash their hands after they go, is dirty and doesn’t know it. Well, he discovers it when he is given a hems-glimpse of God and he is forever changed. The prophet exclaims, “Woe to me! I am lost, for I am a man of unlcean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of host.”

Wow! When Isaiah sees God, he realizes that he has forgotten to wash up. He had been–like so many of us–going about his busy day, doing his thing, but then God steps in, calls him out and says “go to work, but first, you gotta get clean.” Next in the story, a seraph flies to the prophet touches his lip with a live coal and Isaiah’s guilt departs and his sins are blotted out.

I suppose there is something of authenticity in Isaiah’s call. Not the kind of authenticity that says, “I’ll be different just to be different and call myself authentic,” but rather an authenticity that realizes who we are and who God is. It’s an authenticity that acknowledges that we are the desperate ones, we are the sinful ones, we are the ones with dirty hands–hands that had other people realized where they had been, no one would ever shake them–we are stained, we are tainted.

The restroom may be a strange place for theology, but now every time I see someone walk out without washing, I think to myself, “You know Sean, you’re dirty too.”

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Uncommon Grounds

Posted: September 25, 2005 in Everything

I’m blogging today from Uncommon Grounds, the lone coffee shop in Salado, TX. Believe it or not, Uncommon Grounds closes at 2:30pm everyday. Can you imagine a coffee house in a city staying in business long if they closed at 2:30. Not only that, but Grounds will be closed all next week because the owner/operators are headed out-of-town. Can you believe that? If you were to do that in Houston, you’d have no customers to come back to.

Small town life in interesting.

Salado is three hours from Houston-usually–and where Rochelle and Malia headed while Hurricane Rita was still a category 5 hurricane headed toward Houston. I was in Denton so I met them here Friday morning. Luckily, Rochelle and Malia got out early and only spent 5 hours in the car.

I suppose the traffic heading back into Houston will be much like it was leaving. I’ve got my laptop and a ton of books here with me, so my work hasn’t suffered. In fact, I spent 5 hours last night and 2 hours already today working on an Isaiah study I will be doing for our church’s women’s Bible study.

It’s a good thing to have a job that you enjoy. This week I’ve spent time at a planning retreat, met with a group of youth ministers in another city, read about early Christian hermeneutics, read and reread the book of Revelation, put together Keynote (that’s Powerpoint for those of you who don’t speak Apple) presentations, and worked on classes. I would have done all these things had I been in my office but I did them away from the office just because I like to do them.

I love to seek God, both experientially and academically. I’m blessed that the end of the weekend can bring the words, “Thank God it’s Monday” to my lips. I hope you can too.
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Please continue to be in prayer for those who have lost loved ones and precious property in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.


Hurricane Rita is presently bearing down on my home. The family is on the road and pretty prepared for times like this. I times like these, when you have to look around your house and decide what to take and what to leave, that you have to face up to what it is that you believe is truly important. Some things that seem valuable lose their value when you start thinking about the necessities of life.

My wife and daughter got out and that’s all that I care about. If they’re safe then the world is right. Recently, the three of us were flying back to Houston from Philadelphia. The plane was flying high and faster than usual and we were experiencing a lot of turbulence and it felt like the plane might go down. Rochelle looked at me with a worried expression. I looked back at her and said, “Everything important to me is on this plane.”

They are the most important people in the world to me and their safety is all that matters.

May God bless and protect us all as we endure this coming storm.

The Weight of Glory

Posted: September 20, 2005 in Everything


Whenever I begin to feel a spiritual lull I know that I can always return to the thoughtful commentary of C.S. Lewis. This winter my wife, Rochelle, and I are teaching a class on the life and teachings of C.S. Lewis. I think we might call it “No ‘Ordinary’ Life” taken from Lewis’ “Weight of Glory”. Here’s a thoughtful little quote from ‘Glory’ concerning God’s expectations and sin.

“Our temptation is to look eagerly for the minimum that will be accepted. We are in fact very like honest but reluctant taxpayers. We approve of an income tax in principle. We make our returns truthfully. But we dread a rise in tax. We are very careful to pay no more than is necessary. And we hope–we very ardently hope–that after we have paid it there will still be enough to live on.”

See Ya Soon

Posted: September 13, 2005 in Everything

A Note: I’m going to be out of pocket for a few days so I will not likely be posting.

I’ll leave you today with this quote from Thomas a Kempis:

“The devil sleepeth not, neither is the flesh as yet dead, therefore cease not to prepare thyself for the battle, for on thy right hand and on thy left are enemies who never rest.”

The Blame Game

Posted: September 9, 2005 in Everything

I posted this a few days ago on the Emergent Houston blog.


It’s amazing what you don’t care about when something as shocking and amazing as Hurricane Katrina happens. Just a few weeks ago, the news was filled to overflowing with Cindy Sheehan’s campout/protest at Crawford, TX and her bus ride to Washington, D.C. You have to look hard to find any news about that right now. Katrina has stolen everyones headlines.

Every so often something happens–something out of the ordinary; something so magnificently terrible that the moment defies words. It’s not that people don’t try though. Just flipping on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX News will let you know that people can throw around words.

Interestingly, so many of those words have been about blame. “Where was the aid? What took FEMA so long? George Bush doesn’t care about black people! The local mayor and Governor wasn’t prepared” On and on it goes.

The real blame belongs to me–and people like me. People who are too busy with their own jobs, families, interests and pursuits to notice people in desperate physical need. As I watch TV and visit with evacuees here in Houston, I’m struck–not so much with the level of need they now have–with the level of need they had BEFORE Katrina. I’m embarrassed that it took Katrina before I went through my closet to see what I no longer wear, or look through my wallet to find what was excess. What went wrong in my own spiritual formation to be so busy with ministry that I have forgotten to help people?

My prayer is that through this horrific happening God will raise up in me and His church an awareness if the least of these. May God so invade our hearts that when we see people without the basic necessities of life that we would be so moved as to take the blame.

Reading the Text

Posted: September 8, 2005 in Everything

Over the past year or so, I have been rethinking the way I read the Bible and how the Bible “should” be read. Like many of you, I suppose, I was raised to view the Biblical text as God’s answer book or a book of laws. If there was a question about life–any question–there was some surefire proof-text to tell me what to do.

I can flip to “right” text concerning baptism, music in the church, polity, you name it. However, as my life, and the lives of the people around me started to become more complex and complicated, I began to realize that the Bible doesn’t really unravel itself as a rulebook. I guess if you live long enough you will find that there are no easy answers on a checklist, but rather Scripture tells the story of God and his interactions with His people. It is through these interactions that we come to know God and understand what it is that he asks of us.

Tom Olbricht’s book “Hearing God’s Voice” put it better than I can. Olbricht writes, “I was brought up to view Scripture as God’s handbook of rules and private channel of information…I came to believe that, in fact, the Old Testament as a whole did revolve about the mighty acts of God and their interpretation…the opening of the Red Sea did not disclose its own meaning. The raw event may have been a freak accident of nature; no more, no less. Only because of the interpretation of the event–also an act of God–do we confess that it was Yahweh, coming to the rescue of His people (Exodus 15.1-5), who parted the sea. The Scripture is a report on the mighty acts of God and what they mean. Scripture discloses and act-interpretation event. ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 5.6). The law of God which follows is based on God which follows is based on God’s prior love and its concrete form. The proper interpretation of Scripture, therefore, first identifies God’s loving action for His people and his profession of why He acted. Only then does the focus shift to the manner in which God’s action is to be translated into human action.”