The MAGIC of Bing (and pure imagination!)

So many of you have been following the story of our adoption, and the journey of the Howerton clan embracing, and being embraced, by Duzi. I thought I’d share another moment of PURE MAGIC (giggle).

After traveling for 26 hours, we were delayed on the tarmac in Atlanta, waiting for the final leg to Seattle to begin. Duzi had a window seat, I was in the middle, and sitting next to me was a really friendly Microsoft Employee named Brian. He asked me some questions about our adoption process, and was insightful, articulate, and kind. When I mentioned that our faith was a major motivator for us, he was respectful and affirming, even though he indicated that faith normally wasn’t his thing (I forget how he phrased this exactly, but he was cool.) He asked me if I had shown Duzi anything on Bing Maps.

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The Book of Eli Makes the Cut

Last week, I took my wife away for an afternoon date. We watched the Book of Eli. After the movie, I spent the drive home trying to gather my thoughts about the whirlwind that is Denzel Washington, as Eli, on the big screen, a man of violence who longs for peace, a man who doesn’t “want any trouble,” but who brings trouble on all sorts of violent men, a man of simple faith in a world where nothing is simple, and faith isn’t even a memory. I spent some time processing why I was moved by this film.

Without seeking to be a spoiler, I want to mention two scenes that I think might be on my all-time favorite list:

1.    There is a scene where Eli prays over a meal. In normal circumstances, this sounds completely mundane, and unworthy of screen time. But in the ultra-barren landscape of a post-apocalyptic desert, both spiritually and verdantly, this scene almost brought me to tears. There was something so completely holy about a man, a man of violence and faith, teach a young girl, entirely post-christian, completely post-faith, how to pray to God. The prayer is one of astounding simplicity and gratitude. My own mealtime prayer carried greater weight that evening.
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I saw an angel this morning.

Maybe it was our conversation last night at dinner. My daughter Alex was convinced that as she watched the trees swaying in the wind, she also saw an angel, waving at her, bringing her peace.

There has been a lot of un-rest and non-peace in the world lately. I’m like many, I’m sure…watching the news from Haiti, emotionally wrapped up in it. My brother’s family is adopting from Haiti, and his wife Kristen was over there visiting with her eight month-old baby, Karis, when the quake struck. She was evacuated safely with Karis, but the little boy they’re trying to adopt remains there…and it’s breaking my heart.

It’s more than just hearing of the numbering of the dead. It’s the story of a mom, lifting a blanket and discovering that the still form is indeed her son.

I Pray for Miley

Today, in honor of her Concert at the Tacoma Dome, I confess that I listened to Miley Cyrus on my wife’s ipod. Through my daughter, Miley, or Hannah Montana, has invaded our home, via Disney TV, cd’s played in our car, and merchandise like cups, nightlights, and toothbrushes. Miley is a big deal around here. So I thought I’d write Miley a quick note. You are welcome to read it, too.

Dear Miley,
I pray for you. I invite others to pray for you as well. I bet that might come across sounding hard, or meanspirited, but that’s not my heart. It is offered with compassion and grace. Here’s what I mean:

Miley, you have achieved the kind of stardom and wealth that very, very few people ever achieve. I’m talking Solomon-like wealth. Flipping through an issue of Time, I read that last year, your merchandise net alone brought in 1.3 billion dollars. Bring in the way Disney has packaged your TV personality into a product. Add in the CD sales and your 3-D concert movie. Remember that you can sell out a stadium concert faster than anyone ever has. There’s a lot of gravy flowing, and Billy Ray’s little girl is riding that train at breakneck speed. Since wealth is power, I pray that you’ll steward yours well.
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Rainbow Sandals (Theologically Observed)

Most surfers and California beach-wear aficionados know what Rainbow Sandals are. They are a light-wear, leather sandal that forms to your foot, virtually indestructible; rather like wearing twin slices of heaven on your feet.

I like to think of them as the sandals Jesus wore.

Whenever we are back in San Clemente, Ca., we stop by the factory to pick up a pair or six. This last visit, the chief architect running the construction of the sandal manufacturing empire gave us a tour, and it was absolutely fascinating. Fashioning the leather straps, cutting the layers of rubber sole, applying the patented glue…you could tell this guy LOVED making Rainbows. Each one was special to him. And like Jelly Bellies, whose factory we also visited, even the flops were items of love and care. (Try purchasing bags of belly-flops the next time you’re passing through Fairfield, Ca.)
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Divine Justice

For vacation this year, I traveled over to the Big Island with my family. We were set to stay in my Parents time share, plane tics were buddy miles, and we were humbly aware that without the generosity of others we wouldn’t be able to rent a car, enjoy a place, or get fare over to the Island. So when we realized that our plane seats were the very last ones on the plane, you know, the ones that don’t recline right next to the bathrooms, it wasn’t a big shocker to us. We’re just happy to be on the plane.

When we landed, and the plane halted at the gate, the stewardess made an unusual announcement…for some reason, we would de-plane from the rear. Being in the last row, we would be first to set foot on Hawaiian soil. (Cue Monty Python voice: A blessing! A blessing from the Lord!) I thought, amused, this is at least one parable of how sometimes the last shall be first.  

Arranged Unions

My daughter Alex and I were at a wedding last week. I performed a portion of the ceremony, which Alex watched from the back. When my bit was done, I turned it over to the Father of the Bride, who was also a pastor, and he officiated the vows while I took my seat.

Suddenly I discovered Alex has slipped into the seat next to me, because she carefully took my hand, and kissed it. “I love you, Booger,” I whispered. “I love you too, Daddy,” she whispered back. Then I look back up to watch the ceremony, where the Father of the Bride is choking up a bit as he recounts his personal joy over his daughter, and her choice of a husband.

For the briefest instant, I saw myself in that role (a blubbering mess) and I saw my baby girl standing with joyful pride next to her man. In that moment, I prayed silently the same prayer that I’ve prayed hundreds of times: That God would guide my daughter and protect her, that He would ground her in wisdom, courage, and graceful strength; that He would carry her to that day when she leaves my care and enters the adventure of covenant. And I pray for that special, God-favored man, that he is growing even now in wisdom tempered by grace, strength tempered by gentleness, great joy tempered by great responsibility. Most of all, I pray that He knows God and pursues Him with all his heart.
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A Well-Scrubbed Version of ME

In today’s world, technology offers us a unique view of one another. I’ve recently been wrestling with this. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I seek to live my life consistent with the beliefs that I hold from Scripture. There are times when I live incredibly empowered by God’s Spirit. There are times that I stumble and fail. I try to keep short accounts with my wife, short accounts with my brothers, and short accounts with Jesus.

None of this is really where the rub is, hopefully none of this should land as a surprise. Here’s where I’ve been wrestling lately. On my Blog, on my Facebook pages, in my messages, I’ve been offering the “well scrubbed version of me.” So, while I believe that today’s technology offers a clearer view of KNOWING one another from a distance than has ever been possible before, I also recognize the potential for hypocrisy that exists. That’s why I’m calling it out. And because confession is good for the soul.
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Grace City

This morning I hit the trails with Scout (my shelter-mutt), and just about every part of my body froze. It was oddly beautiful, however, this frosty winter morn, listening to inspiring songs of praise to our vast, creative God, and I forgot my discomfort almost entirely (or simply became numb, I couldn’t tell which).

As I crested a large hill, I ran beside some wide open horse meadows, and suddenly I could see the whole of Seattle in the distance. Downtown standing official and industrious, an emerald skyline, with the Space needle off by itself looking smallish, and rather left out of the party.

And the image that came to my mind was one used by my friend Judd to describe the city he lives in and loves, Las Vegas. Instead of Sin City, Judd refers to Vegas as Grace City. The biblical truth being thus: where sin abounds, grace abounds more. Since most of my body was experiencing some form of frostbite at this moment, this image of God’s grace was entirely unexpected.
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Losing my Religion AND Loving God’s Church

I just read another article about how the church is missing it. Last week I read a book about how the church is failing. There are quite a few blogs (in the hundreds of thousands) that carry the same sentiment. (Inhale deeply). Since my Blogs are consistently titled “Killing Churchianity” or “Losing my Religion,” you’d think I’d be thrilled.

But I’m not. In fact, I’m done for a while.
Reading blogs, books, and articles about how the church is missing it, I mean. I’ve had my fill, at least for a bit. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pastor, and I love my church. Wow. There it is. I love my church. I said it out loud. I love my church. It feels like I’ve come out of some kind of theological closet. I LOVE my church.

Now, I don’t love her in a completely unqualified way. I don’t love everything about her. But I’m trying to love her in a completely unconditional way. In other words, I’m trying to love this Bride of Jesus like I imagine Jesus loves his bride.
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I love Jesus. I hate "churchy." I love my neighbor. He's never darkened the door of a church...churchy isn't going to cut it for him. I know Jesus loves my neighbor as well. So we're forming a church family that isn't churchy, but loving.