Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Failure to Thrive

Failure to Thrive (FTT) is a condition most often associated with infants, simply defined as inadequate growth.  A variety of factors from medical to environmental can contribute to FTT.  One of the most common contributing factors is a lack of touch, stimulation and love. 

We were created for relationship; for touch and love. When love and touch are absent we won’t grow.  We might survive but we certainly won’t thrive and that’s unacceptable because we were created to thrive.

Jesus said that He came so that we might:

may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

Too often we miss out on that abundant life.  We survive, but we fail to thrive.

In happens to individuals, in friendships, in marriages and even to churches.  It happens because touch and love are absent.

Too many churches today are experiencing inadequate growth – they are failing to thrive.  Just as with infants there are a range of factors but perhaps most simply it’s the result of a lack of touch, stimulation and love.

We spend a lot of time and energy devoted to church growth.  I recently pulled together from my bookshelves all the books I’ve acquired over the years.  It’s quite a stack.  They have great titles (and many are great books).  My favorite title (and one first and best books I’ve read on church growth) is Bill Easum’s Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers.  Each author offers great wisdom and insights and practical things we might try, but there’s no “silver bullet” answer (though a few will try to sell some).  Perhaps, its because churches, like the rest of us, thrive when there is touch, stimulation and love.

What would happen if we focused our time and energy of sharing Jesus’ love with touches of grace – not just with the world around us but also with one another?  It just might lead to life in the fullest!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The work of the critic is easy

There’s this great monologue at the end of Disney’s RatatouilleAnton Ego, the food critic, thinks about criticism:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talents, new creations. The new needs friends…. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.

Ego is right, it really is easy to criticize and I fall to that temptation far too often.  I’m guilty of criticizing directly, discreet and most often through my “suggestions” for improvement. 

The work of the critic is easy…  the new needs friends.

Those are good thoughts as I continue into this week.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Yesterday, my daughter Kelli and I attended the matinee performance of Wicked.  It was the fourth time for me (over a few years) but the first time for Kelli (and it was really fun to see it again for the first time through her eyes).

I love the story on so many levels.

I love the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda.  I love the way “loathing” is transformed to “for good.” 

I love how Elphaba evolves from wounded to hopeful to defiant to wicked and finally to peaceful.

I love how Glinda eventually finds herself.

I love the music and the costumes and the set design.

Every time I see Wicked I leave a little more inspired to defy gravity!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Train Wreck

Earlier this week I made my facebook status:

Train Wreck: a metaphor to describe something disastrous yet inevitable or distasteful yet morbidly fascinating and possibly taking place in Minneapolis this week...

The “train wreck” is a reference to the 219th meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  As the meting of the General Assembly closes this morning I can remove the word “possibility.”

In a variety of actions this week commissioners recommended changes that if approved by a majority of our 173 Presbyteries would:

Remove the “fidelity (within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman) or chastity (in singleness)” requirement for those seeking to be ordained as deacons, elders or pastors.  The intent of this action is to make it possible for sessions and presbyteries to ordain individuals who define themselves as part of the GLBT community.  This recommendation narrowly passed 373-323-4. 

This will be the 5th time in the last 15 years the GA has asked the church to remove this requirement.  It's not that they haven’t heard our answer on the previous occasions – they simply haven’t liked our answer, so they keep asking.

Approve a new Form of Government (nFOG) that is intended to be more flexible than our current Book of Order.  The commissioners overwhelmingly approved the nFOG 468 – 204 – 6.

Add to our Book of Confessions the Belhar Confession written in South Africa in 1986 as a call to resist injustice, specifically racism. 

The commissioners also took actions that do not require the approval of our Presbyteries.  Of particular interest they:

Asked the Board of Pensions to extend health benefits to same-gender domestic partners and their children.  The commissioners also rejected a proposal that the Board of Pensions no longer provide coverage for abortions (expect when necessary to protect the life of the mother).

Asked for a retranslation of the Heidelberg Catechism specifically to address a condemnation of homosexuality, which appears in the current translation but apparently not in the original German.

Approved a controversial Middle East Report after lot of changes to remove what many consider to be a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli bias.  The report did retain language denouncing Caterpillar for continuing to sell products (i.e. bulldozers) to Israel.   The commissioners always stop short of divesting from Caterpillar – perhaps because the denomination has $12M invested in Caterpillar stock.  Commissioners also aren’t pleased with Motorola, ITT, United Technologies and Hewlett-Packard but Caterpillar always gets singled out (probably because bulldozers knocking things over makes better video that checking email on a HP laptop). Maybe we should also denounce 3M because the Taliban uses Post-It notes… just saying.

Some of the most troubling actions surrounded the work of a committee on civil union and marriage.  After rejecting three overtures that asked to reaffirm a Biblical and historic understanding of marriage the commissioners voted to send us two reports expressing differing views on marriage.  Essentially one report holds marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, the other as a covenant between two people.

By approving both reports and commending them to the church for study the commissioners “side-stepped” debates on:
  • Changing the definition of marriage from “between a woman and a man” to “two people”
  • Allowing pastors to perform and sessions to approve same-gender unions in states where they are permitted. 
It was a brilliant parliamentarian move – but it wasn’t easy.   The vote to set aside debate on redefining marriage was extremely close (348-324).  The result is, as of today our constitution still defines marriage as a between “a woman and a man” but we are split on whether or not that “works for us” so we are studying.

Bottom line:
  • We will again be voting on removing standards for ordination that were placed in our constitution in 1996 and affirmed four times.
  • We will continue to provide health coverage for induced abortions.
  • We will extend health coverage (for non-ordained staff covered by the Board of Pensions) to same-gender domestic partners and
  • We are gong to spend some time thinking about what it means to be married.
That’s what happened in Minneapolis this week.

It was disastrous yet probably inevitable.
It was distasteful yet somehow morbidly fascinating.

It was a train wreck.

btw – The PC (USA)’s GA web site is a great place to read details about each of these items.  Another good source is the Presbyterian Outlook.

If you want a slightly irreverent but hilarious perspective check out the blog by Grace elder and GA Commissioner Doug Gleditsch, Chief Among Sinners or his Twitter feed presbyoptic.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Praying for Amelia

On New Year’s Eve 2009 I received a call that a young couple at Grace had taken their 10 week daughter, Amelia, to the emergency room.  Amelia was diagnosed with acute myocarditis/dilated cardiomyopathy – bottom line:  she needed a new heart. 

Last March, at Texas Children’s Hospital, Amelia was given a Berlin Heart – an absolutely amazing device that has sustained her as she waited for the donation of a new heart.

That is happening as I type this post.  Just a little after 8:00 this evening surgeons at Texas Children’s began a 12+ hour heart transplant.

The gift of this new heart required a donor and I love what Amelia’s parents posted on their Caring Bridge page:

Please be in prayer for the precious family who is selflessly giving Amelia and our family the best possible gift. We pray that God give them comfort and peace in this most difficult of times. My heart aches for them, and I am just so humbled that we can give Amelia a second chance at a life because of this gift.

Tonight I am praying for Amelia and for the family that gave this gift.  As I do, I am reminded that every gift we receive comes at a price to someone.

Thinking about that makes grace all the more amazing.

You can follow Amelia's story and join us in praying for her at Caring Bridge Amelia.