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Category Archives: Stories of God

Aspen Grove Santa Fe New Mexico, originally uploaded by carlmc.

I’ve been a big fan of Ken Burns since the beginning, we are soul brothers of sorts. We are both intrigued with the Civil War and Baseball, and now nature. I’ve been patiently waiting and now his new series “The National Parks” begins this Sunday on most PBS stations.

I was reading local coverage in the Austin American Statesman today and was floored at the title of the first episode “The Scripture of Nature”. Brad Buchholz states in his article,

“…Burns sees the national parks in a spiritual realm….He explains the distinctly American notion, espoused by Emerson and Thoreau, of seeking and discovering God in nature.”

I doubt this to be a uniquely American experience, but I don’t argue the validity of the statement for myself and my brother Ken. I also like the following quote from a park ranger in the film,

What could be more cathedral in feel than the Grand Canyon or Yosemite Valley? When I think of Sequoia National Park, I think of a cathedral or a mosque, or a church, a place where you’re not necessarily worshiping the name of something, but the presence of something else. When you’re in a grove of giant sequoia, there’s no need for someone to remind you that there is something in this world that is larger than you are, because you can see it.

It is in these moments that I too find myself connecting with something larger than my ability to comprehend, but not too large for my soul to embrace. No words need be spoken, no thoughts entertained…
just to be in the moment. My brother Ken explains it better than I can,

The underlying theme of all (my) films is love. It’s an impossible word to actually enjoy in any intellectual discussion. But at the end of the day, what these people are — whether it’s Abraham Lincoln and his ultimate sacrifice; whether it’s Jackie Robinson and the load he carried; whether it was Louis Armstrong and the message he delivered; whether it’s John Muir and the ecstasy he described — at the heart of this is love. And every single person we interviewed — and many of the people we quote — always talk about the larger kinship. They say: You’re part of it all. You’re connected to everything and everything else. And that love is the ingredient of the universe. It’s so hard to talk about it, because love is (so often narrowly defined) as romantic love…or parental love…or sex. But love is all these other things. Love is the heart of religion. The Scripture of Nature: Is it not but the highest love there is?

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Waves by David Sifry

Waves by David Sifry

The post-Christian world has been proclaimed in Europe and is certainly making serious inroads in North America. I hope the prognosticators are correct, I am hopeful that “Christianity” as we’ve defined it in the west for the last 500 years is dead (or dying) so that it may be reborn, resurrected, redeemed for God’s purpose instead of ours. I have to keep reminding myself that the church is not the creation of man, that we are only here to participate in what God is already doing. We are here to provide witness to the beauty of the church and to seek justice…to practice love of God and each other.

Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of what it means to be the church in ways that don’t disrupt my sensibilities (I was not brought up in the church and I still get the creepy, heeby jeebies when church is being done as a proposition to be bought).  This week in Austin, I was fortunate to see the church being what I believe the church should be. A group of people who cared not for themselves, but instead cared only for others who needed them.

Tragedy struck an apartment complex in a consuming fire that left many families homeless. During times like these it is often the burden of family and friends and the Red Cross that provide most, if not all the help available to victims. This time was different.

I was checking my twitter feed that evening after work and noticed a lot of chatter about this fire from some local church leaders, Brandon Hatmaker from Austin New Church , Michael Stewart from Austin Stone, as well as  Justin Lopez.

From what little I know, Austin Stone ,who is moving into this St Johns neighborhood in northeast Austin, teamed with Ebenezer Family Church (Iglesia Centro Familiar Ebenezer) and stepped up to the plate to take care of these neighbors in a time of deep vulnerability. This is to be commended, but this is to be expected of neighbors.  But, what’s really cool is Austin New Church and my tribe Journey Imperfect Faith Community, and probably many other churches I’m not even aware of joined in this effort with volunteers and basic necessities. (If you are part of one of those churches or know of them, please leave a comment to let me know.)

I am not speaking as a church leader, and I’m not speaking for others and I can’t speak to how this help mobilized in other faith communities, but for us it was a couple of emails and a commitment by the group to provide clothing from our stash at the church and an agreement to go shopping for other needs. Wham! Just like that, less than 24 hours later our small community of people delivered on our promise to help. The power of people with the willingness to ask how can we help is I believe the unstoppable power of love. Like waves crashing the beach in succession the very earth is transformed!

And you came upon me wave on wave,
You’re the reason I’m still here.
Am I the one you were sent to save,
when you came upon me wave on wave.
The clouds broke and the angels cried,
You ain’t gotta walk alone,
That’s why he put me in your way,
And you came upon me wave on wave. –Pat Green

“I’ve never seen Austin churches partner in such a unified effort.It’s been amazing to see” -Red Cross Volunteer

But, I know this is the exception, not the rule. Otherwise, why would the Red Cross Volunteer be so amazed at the effort? I think we’re like the lost robot in this video; we need the kindness of strangers to help us get back on track, to help us find our way back into the journey we’ve been called to by our maker.

Once again, I’m speaking as just a guy who has not bought into any leadership or church model to redeem the world. I’ll leave the details to God. But, I will continue to ask questions of those who will listen. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

In the meantime, thank you to all my new friends and may we continue to bless those who need blessing. The seasons will change, but the needs will continue; so, may we commit to watch over each other, to listen, to love without condition.


This picture is taken from a site established by the State Department who commissioned one of their photographers to find these stories and document. I want to capture these stories, but I also want to use celebrities and business leaders to help bring awareness to the general public, to the victims, and to the corporations and governments that we the people will not stand for this, will not buy their products, will not support their leadership unless they do the right thing.  Please help me with this idea by voting for my project at http://www.nameyourdreamassignment.com/the-ideas/carlmc/27-million-slaves/

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A 9-year-old girl toils under the hot sun, making bricks from morning to night, seven days a week. She was trafficked with her entire family from Bihar, one of the poorest and most underdeveloped states in India, and sold to the owner of a brick-making factory. With no means of escape, and unable to speak the local language, the family is isolated and lives in terrible conditions.

Photo and text courtesy of Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department. http://www.gtipphotos.state.gov/

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[clearspring_widget title=”Animoto.com” wid=”46928cc51133af17″ pid=”492030c291da3319″ width=”432″ height=”260″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”] Took these pics in early spring 2008. It’s fun to remember days like these when the kids are still young enough to show immense joy in the simple discoveries of a day in the park.

You’ll have those days, when nothing seems to be right, and that you can do nothing right…

But, those days will pass and if you need to talk, call me or come by and see me…

 

Dan Uggla makes another error in 2008 All Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

Dan Uggla makes another error in 2008 All Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

This guy in the picture (Dan Uggla) had a really bad night on the biggest stage (2008 All Star Game) in the “House that Ruth Built”. He made 3 errors (2 on consecutive plays), grounded into a double play to kill a rally, and struck out 3 times.

 

He had a really bad night, but if you ask him 20 years from now about playing at Yankee stadium, he’ll only remember the dreams of his childhood growing up in New York to play on that field.

You will have days like that, but just know that they will pass, and that as you look back on those times they are often days that help form you into the person you have become. So, be careful and use your failures to learn and remember you are loved by me, your mom, and God.

If you learn to trust that you are beloved, regardless of what you do, you can return from even the worst of decisions. Soon I’ll share with you the story of Josh Hamilton, who has learned to love himself, his family, and his God. He had a great night in Yankee stadium the night before Uggla had his nightmare.

I was just thinking about how you’ve changed my life, who I am, what I will become, and I know that you have made me a better person, and in the future you will continue to challenge me to be what I can’t begin to imagine. I thank you for the days past and the days to come, you are truly the greatest gift that I certainly did not deserve.

One thing I do want you to know now and in the years to come, is that God loves you more than even I, and that He also is made better because you are His beloved. Just as I am fortunate to develop my relationship with you, God is even more fortunate to know you and to

love you. I rest in that assurance, and when times are tough I will be there when I can, but He will always be there even when I cannot.

As I read about the struggles of one friend, I am often saddened at what he went through, but I’m hopeful he is in the midst of finding his way to a people that will love him for who he is, because he is quite remarkable.

I, too have struggled with many of the same frustrations as my friend, but I’ve been fortunate to find a new tribe that is about honesty, even when, no especially when it gets messy and has no particular place to go except towards one another. I missed worship this past week, but my friend Bob wrote the post below on the day. And, as I read I was saddened because I wasn’t there, but excited that such a place and a people exist for no other reason than to celebrate who God is and what he has done for us. So, anyway enjoy Bob’s reflections on “midnight at Denny’s”…

midnight @ denny’s

yesterday was powerful for me in our faith community

thru a fluke of acute viral nasopharyngitis (usually known as the common cold), I taught Bible study.  we talked aboutDeuteronomy 2, when Moses muses thru mementos of the journey all around the desert.  I blasted thru 8x as many media references as Scriptural – as usual, I could have really used an editor.

it felt really meaningful to stand in that space, among people of a journey, and to just start.  it did not have a plan or an outline or even a point.  it was as close to jazz as a non-musician like me will ever know.

and it’s still there – even after the boom & staying far away, at all costs.  no clue what to do with that.

worship was ragged & fluid and just a smack between my soul.  stories shared, a preacher crying, communion shared in small groups.  it touched me so that tom kimmel, an artist I’ve come to know & adore thru journey, played softly & tenderly

dave madden shared about a new idea – a stuffuary, where you could check out what other folks in the community had & borrow it.  simple idea, but it really clicked.

after worship, a group of us grabbed lunch at  phil’s ice house.  we all came to a shared conclusion – our faith community s hard to describe to people who have never been to it.  the labels & short-hand just do not bound this community, so we struggled & stretched.

then it came – one of our friends said that Journey IFC is

midnight @ denny’s

that’s it – a setting that is messy & gorgeous, a time that is just between then & now & tomorrow, a grab bag of journeyers who gather to drink (bad) coffee and just breathe.  all kinds of folks, taking a break in their journeyers, sharing food & their troubles and an encouragement.  splitting the bill & sharing a ride to where they are off to next.

midnight @ denny’s – it was a powerful one for me.

http://thecorner.typepad.com/bc/2008/05/midnight-dennys.html

It’s a little after 6am on a Sunday morning…

As the thunder started rolling in about an hour ago, I knew I would be up for the duration. I just waited as the waves grew louder and brighter, knowing that any minute I’d here footsteps upstairs headed down to the safety of my bed. Sure enough, after the sky lights up like a sparkler and the loud clap of thunder that follows I hear the sleepy feet making their way down the stairs. They always pause at the door of our bedroom, to give us that, “Is it okay?” look. Knowing the answer to that question, they continue the approach into the warmth of mom and dad. However, we have a queen size bed and the kids keep growing (as does my midsection) so it’s a tight fit. Of course, I’ve been awake for sometime so now coffee sounds good, so I let them “spread out” as I go get the paper and make coffee. Another loud clap, and the dog retreats from her chair into my bedroom and now they all are again fast asleep, and I sit here drinking coffee, reading the paper, and thinking about how I love the little things a father does for his children, even when that means giving up my warm bed. I think God does the same thing for me and that’s a nice feeling.

I’m sitting here taking a break from my morning in the yard. Been hard at work trying to take out unwanted grass from under our big oak tree and move to another part of the yard. My muscles ache from digging and pulling and raking, and it’s hard to type this, but as I sit here listening to the birds chirp and the gentle morning breeze whisper through the open windows I reflect back to when I was a child.

 

I hated working in the yard! Mom and Poppy were always out there tending to the flowers, the grass, and the garden and I couldn’t understand why they worked so hard on their days off from the real world. I think I now have a glimpse into why this was and still is so important to them. This is our opportunity to work alongside God in His creation, to be conspirators with Him in real, honest, tangibly productive ways. We don’t have to say anything, we just have to be quiet and enjoy the earth as we encounter it and Him…even if we don’t recognize what’s happening.

Now I as an adult I can thank my parents for introducing me to the garden. And, now I know it is because of them that I now enjoy my time in the garden. 

Check this out…http://obama.senate.gov/speech/060628-call_to_renewal/