29 June 2010

Gong Alien alienates old blog

I started yet another blog because it's more user-friendly. I simply e-mail photos or posts to an e-mail address to publish on it. It's like this blog, but in my opinion better! Here it is: http://gongalien.tumblr.com/

I already have a bunch of posts on it. Please enjoy and subscribe and ask questions. :-)

11 May 2010

To Care: with a Breath and a Moan

[Below is something like what I hope to say this Saturday at Greenhouse Park--the former builders' tip/landfill, now a bush regeneration site. Volunteers like our little house church and our friends are coming to demonstrate our care by planting 400 native plants--trees/shrubs/ground covers/grasses.]

Welcome to bush regeneration! And you thought only human beings needed to be born again! (You know, regeneration means "born again". LOL)

It’s amazing this gift we humans have--to be born again--but there are some other gifts I want to talk about.

The first gift: SEEING THE FUTURE. It's the joy of sending oxygen into the future. It's harvesting water and micro-organisms in the soil. It's making a promise to your family--"For better or for worse, I will be faithful." It’s a vision of promise and hope for the future. It's seeing the unseen--everything from the unseen nutrients and living things in the soil to the unseen spiritual nutrients in our souls. In Christian terms, it’s THE KINGDOM OF GOD. It's a welcoming of Heaven home to Earth. And by faith we pray in working clothes for its coming, taste it, and rejoice! Did anyone taste it today?

Another amazing gift: BREATH. We simply inhale/exhale and we live. Yeah, I know lizards and sheep do this. But we know that we’re doing it and what a blessing it is! (Which leads some of us to imagine and trust the most Blessed Giver!) Our discoveries led us even to see oxygen and photosynthesis under a microscope! And our breathing is potentially so incredibly efficient and useful! Of land mammals, none can inhale as much oxygen as we potentially can! "Get up and go breathe, says the Lord!" As I aspire to trust Jesus, I also aspire to breathe.

Enough about “breathing”. That’s nothing. The next gift will push you over the edge: POWER. Humans have power over the whole earth. I can abuse my family, friend, neighbor, planet or I can bless them whether or not they can pay me back. Here’s a Proverb [12:10]: The just ones are kind to their animals, but the unjust? Even their compassion is cruel. I'd say even the very soil on which I tread is a "neighbor." Here’s another example: I have the power both to leave a footprint of waste or create spaces for life! . . . Let me put that in cornbread English: I can consume the land like a locust or I can use my power to GREEN THE DESERT, so to speak. [I’ve seen the desert "greened" on YouTube, literally. These permaculture people in England went to a place where the earth was as dry and barren as a parking lot and they created a space for life in it . . . and violá! In months this desert was producing figs and pomegranates and citrus like crazy!] So, that’s the gift of power that God and/or evolutionary convergence gave to human beings. In Christian terms, it’s "Dominion" and “The meek will inherit the earth” and “In Christ, anyone is a new creation”. Resurrection knows no bounds.

I know this is an incomplete list of gifts that humans share, but I want to say what I believe ties these gifts together--CARE. The proper bond for VISION and BREATH and POWER is “care”. It's care that brings green to the desert and gratitude to the one who breathes. It’s illustrated in the Bible. This is Romans 8, written nearly 2,000 years ago by Paul who followed Christ from his own people, culture, tradition, and beyond into those of Arab, Greek, Asia, and Rome. Paul said:

For all of creation is waiting, yearning for the time when the children of God will be revealed. You see, all of creation has collapsed into emptiness, not by its own choosing, but by God’s. Still He placed within it a deep and abiding hope that creation would one day be liberated from its slavery to corruption and experience the glorious freedom of the children of God. Everything created by God, including every bird, every beast, and every plant, is moaning in unison with birthing pains up until now. And there’s more; it’s not just creation--all of us are moaning together too.

When the groan in me meets the vision in you, I begin to see what care can do. When I feel anger for the mess I see or feel joy at the possibilities, I begin to care with you. I just can't sit for this slavery so I'll stand in the image of a God who cares.

I’m a born-again or maybe I should say, I aspire to be a born-again. I aspire to be a man of regeneration, "bush" regeneration included. I also aspire to practice this moaning. This moaning isn't because we're stuck; it's because we're waiting for something. We’ve moaned together today by planting natives, waiting for oxygen in the air and habitat for trillions of "neighbors." If you breathed a little more than usual or feel like your power was put to good use today, go home, take a deep breath, and let out a joyful groan!

Many of you aspire to care,
To really care.
You breathe blessing in and blessing out,
Without lack.
You don't need dirt to pay you back.
You aspire to care like you breathe fresh air.

Most people aren’t like that most of the time.
They breathe in blessing and breathe out a little less.
They take others' needs and try to horde breath.
How do you teach someone to aspire to care,
How do you make room for others to bless?

Others, I don’t know
But here's my promise, for better or for worse
I will care more today and start to rehearse it
I'm starting with a breath
And then a moan

By the way, we'll be doing this Natives Planting again in November.

20 December 2009


I'm usually thinking about free will, especially when it comes up at Men's Group or with my church friends. Just the other day the same person said, "Hey, if you're gay, you're gay. You can't help it," then later, "Well, you do choose what you do with your body." This guy's main point is, "There's a purpose for every person no matter what circumstance they're born into."

I used to think it doesn't matter at all whether you believe everything is already determined or whether you believe in free will.

Then, over a year ago another minister told me, "It doesn't matter what you believe on this subject . . . [etc.]"

I thought, "Wait a minute; it probably does matter," because I was born antagonistic. (I also was told, "Don't read the Old Testament," by someone I highly respect. So, I started reading the Old Testament more and eventually took 12 hours of graduate level Biblical Hebrew.)

Since last year when I was told it doesn't matter, the question has really interested me and I've discussed it with several other people online and in person who are interested in it as well, although it's almost always them who brings it up. Recently, the movie 21 Grams brought this question into focus. Interestingly, the movie was recommended by an atheist friend of mine.

I believe, though, that another question is much more significant than this complex one of What is determined in life and what is up for grabs?

How can I live in integrity?

I think that's THE question. You can use your answer to the question of whether you believe everything is determined or whether everything is open either to seek integrity or to avoid it.

Seek integrity . . . even if you think it doesn't matter.

Truth Ironically

We drove into Port Macquarie for the night on our way up to Brisbane and I experienced a three-pronged irony:

A tasteful sign listed the praiseworthy attributes of the city, namely, IDEAL CLIMATE.

Seconds later we passed huge sign on which was written in gigantic letters, SEVERE WATER RATIONS--HIGH ALERT!

A moment later I realized that it was RAINING RATHER STEADILY. I laughed out loud.

I realize that truth can be complex. In fact, it's impossible to know all the facts about anything and even the facts we know might seem at times in conflict with the others. How can an ideal climate have both severe water rations and what seems like plenty of rain?

I'm reminded of the mixed messages Christians often send non-Christians. We say, "Christianity is the best climate in the world." Other people think, Well, of course, you think that. It helps you cope with the hard things in life to think that you live in the best religion already and don't have to search. But there are varieties in any religion. There's not just the religion-makes-me-feel-good-in-the-face-of-death option. In the same way, I can't just dismiss religion or God just because hundreds of priests molested boys or because numerous church organizations oppressed the weak. I accept mango as a delicious food even though I discard the seed and skin. I also accept Christ and follow him even though many people associated with him inspire me to anger or apathy.

Some of us Christian types say God provides for our needs, but our lives are often like a giant billboard exclaiming, YOU GOTTA HORDE THINGS AND PUT YOUR ENEMIES DOWN TO STAY ON TOP!

Meanwhile, God's sun shines and his rain falls on both the just and the unjust.

God doesn't play favorites. I might make all kinds of claims about how good I am and how bad others are, but--and this applies to both Christians and non-Christians--my perception of Reality is often poor and yet I live in dependence upon other people whether friends or enemies and on God whether I believe God to be the Author of Reality or not. Some things are true despite my lack of comprehension. In fact, perhaps it's the irony that best bears witness to the truth.

29 November 2009

Worthless Prayer

I heard Stafford North say one time, "Sometimes prayer is just meditating on a thought with God." Maybe that's what I was doing for a couple minutes tonight.

I haven't blogged much lately.


I've always got blog posts buzzing around in my head. Things happen I think are worth sharing and I put the experience into words in my mind as I'm going about the day.

But every night our son, Noah, is crying. (Ironically, his name means settled.)It's hard to think straight and clear in an environment where someone is screaming their head off and our coping abilities are at their 24-hour low. Even if Nicole is the one holding Noah and trying to calm him, I seem to just check Facebook statuses or something aimlessly.

Tonight, Noah seemed inconsolable. I say, "Give him to me." I put him in the sling my Mom made. I head out the door a few minutes before 9 PM. He relaxes and goes to sleep, quiet the entire way to Woolworth's--where I buy eggs, milk, and yogurt--and back (except for his screaming at the checkout).

On the walk back I'm thinking about something I've observed in myself lately. The other day I'd caught my mind saying, "You're worthless!" to myself after dropping the butter dish lid on the counter. I thought, Something's wrong. I realize I've said similar messages to myself many times over my life.

What to do? I said, How can this false message be countered for the sake of redeeming my mind and my self?

Tonight, while I'm walking back up the hill in the peaceful night with Noah in the sling and a bag of basic groceries, I repeatedly say aloud and with conviction:

Lord, even though I sometimes call myself--"Worthless!"
I still love and accept myself
Because YOU do already.

It was a prayer that just really made sense tonight as I looked up at stars in the sky and heard distant pets and insects and carried my son and felt blessed. I don't know that I've ever really doubted God's love for me (even me), but it seems like I need some extra help to see us as we really are, lovable and acceptable. After all, Jesus said, "Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself." I don't want to call anyone "Worthless!" even if it's just in my head and to me!

And by the time I got home, Noah was so relaxed and quiet that I had a chance to type this post in peace.

04 November 2009

New Family Member

I wanted to introduce our new son, Noah Kai, so here are some meanings that might go with his name as well as some video footage of the beginning of his new life.

Psalm 96:11

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad.
Let the sea and everything in it roar like thunder.

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are those who make peace.
They will be called God’s children.

Genesis 1:2
The Spirit of God was hovering over the water.

Genesis 5:29
He named him Noah [Relief], and said, "This child will bring us relief from the work and painful labor of our hands since the LORD has cursed the ground."

Genesis 6:9
Noah had God's approval and was a man of integrity among the people of his time.

Genesis 7:7
Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives went into the ship to escape the floodwaters.

Genesis 9:20
Noah, a gardener, was the first person to plant a vineyard.

Luke 17:26
"When the Son of Man comes again, the situation will be like the time of Noah.

Noah means peaceful and settled. I also think of the Noah whose family was saved by water. And I think of that Noah as being a gardener of sorts in a new creation. He previews Christ who is actually the preeminent gardener of the new creation, not only ultimately, but also now through people like, I hope, my own son. [Genesis 6:9, 9:20; John 20:15]

Kai means rejoice or ocean. We hope he will rejoice in the Lord. May God’s Spirit, which hovered over the waters also hover over our son. [Genesis 1:2; Psalm 96:11]

18 October 2009

Words to Ella

Things I've given to Ella since she was born last year . . .

I haven't said it every day, but sometimes when I hold her and she's calmly laying on my shoulder I say,

Your Mama loves you,
Your Daddy loves you,
And God loves you,
No matter what.
And no matter what happens in your life,
We'll always love you
And we'll always tell you the truth
And you can always tell us the truth
No matter what.

Most days we sing to Ella. I'll share the words to my favorite, which is sung in a minor key:

Create in me
A clean heart, O God,
Let me be like you
In all my ways.
Give me your strength;
Teach me your song;
Shelter me in the shadow of your wing,
For we are your
If we die to ourselves
And live through your death
We shall be born--
Again to be blessed
In your love.

I'm not trying to show off how good we are to our daughter. I'm sure plenty of people love on their children in various ways and even sing to them.

I want to make a point, though. Someone once said, "Every parent sacrifices their children to their values." I believe it's true, which is why I'm not afraid to tell my daughter that I believe God, though I can't see him, and that God lives in her and loves her and loves the world.

Another reason I sing these songs and say these things while I hold her is for my own sake. I believe I desperately need God. He's given me life, but if I don't take the time to say thanks in a song once in a while I start acting like I think God and the whole world owe me something. I want to be accountable to God, too, concerning my care for Ella. I've known a few people who don't believe in God, yet live in integrity. I've also known Christians who simply used God to justify their unrighteous and unjust living. I believe my integrity is my responsibility, yet in need of reform that only God can handle.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is compelling enough to me that I appreciate the Christian faith that flowed from his story. I not only want to share that story with my daughter whether she one day believes it or not, but I want to live in integrity with that story no matter what.