Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is yo momma rich?

A couple of weeks ago, a group from our church went to the 'hood and set up a snow-cone stand and a grill and gave out hot dogs and hamburgers, cold water, snow-cones, and conversation to anyone who wanted any of it.  My son was among the group and came home telling me about his conversation with some of the kids who came around.  He said one little boy was really cute.  Their conversation went something like this:

Boy: Hey. Whacha doin?

Bradyn:  I'm texting my mom.  I'm telling her about when I'll be home.

Boy:  Oh. She give you that phone?

Bradyn:  Yeah, she did.

Boy:  Oh. You play football?

Bradyn:  No.  But I like it.  I play guitar.

Boy:  Oh.  You gotta guitar?

Bradyn:  Yes.  I have three guitars.  Do you play guitar?

Boy:  No.  But I like it.  Yo momma buy you dem guitars?

Bradyn:  Yes.  Do you go to school?

Boy:  Yeah.  I go to Huddle.  Where you go?

Bradyn:  Well, I'm homeschooled.

Boy:  Homeschooled. What's that mean?  Yo momma teach you?

Bradyn:  Yeah.  Some of it.  Then another lady teaches me some stuff, too.

Boy:  Another lady teaches just you?  Nobody else?

Bradyn:  Yes.

Boy:  Is yo mamma rich?

Bradyn (laughing):  Oh, no!  Not even a little bit!  It's a little complicated.  But we aren't rich at all.

Boy:  Sounds to me like you be rich.

I have heard sermons about it all of my life.  Dogging the rich, young ruler who valued his wealth more than following Christ.

Sitting in judgment from the pew, from behind pulpits, from a disconnected, third-party stance--he wears the black cape, rides the black horse, has the foggy shroud--he is the bad man, the antagonist of the story line--he is the object of the tsk, tsk clucking of our self-righteous tongues as we think that if it would have been US, we would have had eternal perspective and would NEVER have made that choice.

The sermon ends and we are asked to respond to what we have heard, and we kneel or go forward, we cry, we ask God to please show us what to do, we vow within ourselves to give more in the missions offering, we briefly, fleetingly wonder what it would be like to live overseas or to work with the homeless or to be known as the friend of the 'hood, but know that is IMPOSSIBLE and that makes us a little sad. 

We may go one step further and consider leaving our homes, our families, our security--but only for a few minutes because we rationalize that it wouldn't be fair to our families, to our children, to our parents. It's not realistic...and that makes us a little sad, but we can do all we can from here and then we tell someone to save us a place at the restaurant, we'll be there in a few minutes.

Besides that, WE aren't rich.  The guy in the Bible was rich.  Really rich.  That sure isn't me. We know tons of people who have more than we do.  THEY are the ones who are rich.  We don't even think about the people in our churches in Asia or Africa who pray for their bowl of rice to come every morning.  Whose teeth are rotting because of the bad water they drink and whose children die young because of no medical care. We have no concept of a grass or tin roof that totally disintegrates when it rains.

My only answer to that is that if you are reading this on your computer or iPhone or iPad, you're rich. Don't compare yourself to Mr. Fancy Neighborhood.  Compare yourself to some of the ones I know who are praying for rice and shoes and some medicine right this minute.  You're rich.

Matthew 19.  He asked Jesus what to do. Jesus told him to sell what he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him.  He considered it, maybe prayed a few minutes, thought about his family, his home, his security...and was so very sad because it just wasn't realistic for him.  He really, really wanted to respond to the GO!  But the odds were stacked against him and that made him so sad.  So, he slowly walked away.

I know exactly what happened.  Because I watch people walk away with him every week.  I have walked with him, too.

I am the rich, young ruler.

Are you?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Heart Mender

The second of two books sent to me by Thomas Nelson Publishers that I was asked to review was The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  I have enjoyed Andy's writing through the years.  I have not had any epiphanies while reading his works nor can I say I have ever been riveted, but they have been enjoyable reads and I eventually get around to reading whatever his latest happens to be.

The Heart Mender does not fit into his normal category.  From the first page I was intrigued.  Actually, his introduction was what hooked me.  He explained that the story was "for the most part" a true one.  A few names and locations had been altered since the principal characters are still alive, but in one word, "yes," the story was true.

Then, the setting intrigued me.  Realizing that the story was set on the beaches of southern Alabama, in and around Foley, Orange Beach, and Perdido Key, Florida, was plenty enough to grab my attention.  I have spent many pleasant days and hours there with my family when my children were younger.  We had access to a vacation home there and the landmarks and locations Andy describes in the book are all very familiar to me.

I am also intrigued by World War II history.  Having toured prison camps in Germany as well as many historical sites in the Pacific theater, I have long been amazed at how the United States seemingly turned its head for so long against the atrocities that were being committed elsewhere.  It was only when our own men and resources were attacked at Pearl Harbor, HI in 1941 that we began to sit up and take notice.  To find out that the evil that pervaded the world during those years was actually right on my back doorstep--off the coast of my own state, Louisiana--is amazing to me.

But it was the actual story itself that wouldn't let me put the book down and forced me to read it in two sittings.  An early morning forced the light out the first night.  The second night, nothing could have forced it out.  I read until 3:00 a.m.  There was no way I was going to save the end for later.  Amazing, mesmerizing, incredible...a story of love, forgiveness, suspense, horror, yet beautiful...

I wish so badly I could meet the characters who are still alive.  I know it would be infringing upon their privacy, but there are so many questions I would love to ask.

Male or female, you simply must read it.  I'm requiring it of my 8th grader in his Language Arts curriculum during the coming year.  I want my husband and college student daughter to read it, also.  I'm giving a copy to my mother.  And I'm calling my uncle, a history buff from Texas, to tell him to get it tomorrow.  It's a book for all ages.

You won't be able to put it down, either.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What difference do it make?

I have discussed the sequel to Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent in the past few posts.  What difference do it make? had some of it all.  It provoked me (to anger, sometimes), it inspired me, and it educated me as to how many of us with a compelling desire to help those less fortunate sometimes just spin our wheels because we do it "our" way instead of "their" way.

This book is not nearly as captivating as Same Kind of Different as Me.  However, that does not mean that it is any less effective.  It is simply different.  The first book is the story.  The second book is the world's reactions to that story.  It challenges us to act upon their challenge and make a difference.

Although not as mesmerizing as the first, I would still definitely recommend What difference do it make?  There are passages that will ring in my ears and that I will re-visit for a long time to come.  It's not enough to be stirred and filled with overwhelming good intentions, we must act upon them if we are going to make a difference.

When I die, I want the world to be a better place because I lived.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cool Christianity?

This article by Brett McCracken appeared on August 13, 2010 on Wall Street Journal online.  It addresses an elephant in the room which does not need to be ignored.  I have not read his book which is referenced at the bottom of the article, but it's one which I plan to read.

'How can we stop the oil gusher?" may have been the question of the summer for most Americans. Yet for many evangelical pastors and leaders, the leaking well is nothing compared to the threat posed by an ongoing gusher of a different sort: Young people pouring out of their churches, never to return.
As a 27-year-old evangelical myself, I understand the concern. My peers, many of whom grew up in the church, are losing interest in the Christian establishment.
Recent statistics have shown an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly.
Statistics like these have created something of a mania in recent years, as baby-boomer evangelical leaders frantically assess what they have done wrong (why didn't megachurches work to attract youth in the long term?) and scramble to figure out a plan to keep young members engaged in the life of the church.
Increasingly, the "plan" has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called "the emerging church"—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too "let's rethink everything" radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity's image and make it "cool"—remains.
There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated "No Country For Old Men." For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.'s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).
"Wannabe cool" Christianity also manifests itself as an obsession with being on the technological cutting edge. Churches like Central Christian in Las Vegas and Liquid Church in New Brunswick, N.J., for example, have online church services where people can have a worship experience at an "iCampus." Many other churches now encourage texting, Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services.
But one of the most popular—and arguably most unseemly—methods of making Christianity hip is to make it shocking. What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before?
Sex is a popular shock tactic. Evangelical-authored books like "Sex God" (by Rob Bell) and "Real Sex" (by Lauren Winner) are par for the course these days. At the same time, many churches are ļ¬nding creative ways to use sex-themed marketing gimmicks to lure people into church.
Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville, Georgia, created a website called to pique the interest of young seekers. Flamingo Road Church in Florida created an online, anonymous confessional (, and had a web series, which featured a 24/7 webcam showing five weeks in the life of the pastor, Troy Gramling. Then there is Mark Driscoll at Seattle's Mars Hill Church—who posts Q&A videos online, from services where he answers questions from people in church, on topics such as "Biblical Oral Sex" and "Pleasuring Your Spouse."
But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie- rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?
In his book, "The Courage to Be Protestant," David Wells writes:"The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.
"And the further irony," he adds, "is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them."
If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that "cool Christianity" is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real.
If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It's because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It's not because we want more of the same.
Mr. McCracken's book, "Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide" (Baker Books) was published this month.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

But I didn't feel led . . .

Since I been visitin a lotta churches, I hear people talkin 'bout how, after readin our story, they felt "led" to help the homeless, to come alongside the down-and-out. But when it comes to helpin people that ain't got much, God didn't leave no room for feelin led.

Jesus said God gon' separate us based on what we did for folks that is hungry and thirsty, fellas that is prisoners in jail and folks that ain't got no clothes and no place to live.  What you gon' do when you get to heaven and you ain't done none a' that? Stand in front a' God and tell Him, "I didn't feel led"?

You know what He gon' say? He gon' say, "You didn't need to feel led 'cause I had done write it down in the Instruction Book."

p. 154 - "What difference do it make?" by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Programs Ain't Gonna Cut It

I will try to leave it after today.  I will try to write about something else.  But you need to hear just one more of Denver's stories:

"George W. Bush walked right up to me and stuck out his hand.  "Denver Moore! What an honor to meet you, sir."

Well, I felt like I had to be dreamin now.  Here was the president of the United States of America, treatin me, a poor homeless man off the street, like I was some kinda important person.  I didn't know what to think.  I don't even remember what I said back to him . . . somethin 'bout bein glad to meet him, too, I imagine.  But I shook George W. Bush's hand and I ain't the smartest fox in the barnyard, but in that handshake I felt like a whole lotta history passed through: croppin all year just so I could pay the Man, passin by water fountains where a colored man couldn't get a drink, and spendin most a' my life bein called a nigger.  Bein dragged by my neck behind horses when I was sixteen years old.  Scratchin and scrapin and bathin in fountains in Fort Worth.  And now here I was, an ol' 'cropper with a prison record, shakin hands with the most powerfulest man on the earth.

Ain't nothin that can do somethin like that but love.  The love Miss Debbie had for the homeless had carried me all the way to the White House.  And while the president still had ahold a' my hand, God reminded me of that scripture where He says, 'Through Me, all things are possible."

Government programs aren't the answer. Just writing checks and handing out rights aren't the answer.  It won't happen without love.

I John 3:17 -- But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

excerpt from What difference do it make? by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Don't Waste Your Burden

Okay.  Moving on.  Let's leave the little offensive "nut ball holy roller" phrase that we talked about yesterday behind and move on to a passage in the book that is a must-read for anyone who loves people and has a burden to make a difference in our world.

This passage is written by Denver Moore, the man who was homeless for so many years and who found Jesus and a better life because of the dedication of Ron and Deborah Hall.  He has a message found on pages 44-45 that may surprise some well-intentioned people who are attempting to live out Matthew 25 to the best of their ability. Here is what he has to say:

Denver Moore

"Most a' the people on the streets know Jesus loves 'em. But they figure nobody else loves 'em but Jesus.  Street people done heard more sermons than most preachers ever preached.  Lotta good folks come 'round the 'hood, talkin 'bout Jesus this, Jesus that.  Tellin us about Him is one thing . . . who gon' stick around and show us Jesus?  See, deliverin kindness ain't the pastor's job.  That's our job.  When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, He didn't go with 'em. He stayed back and laid low, maybe had Hisself a cup a' coffee.

Listen at this: Jesus sent the disciples out. John and Mark and Nathaniel and them went into the villages.  When I was homeless, one thing I just couldn't understand is why all these folks kept tryin to invitin me in someplace that I didn't wanna be.  They'd come out and hand me some kinda piece a' paper, talkin 'bout, 'Jesus loves you! Come fellowship with us!' Now, their hearts was in the right place, and they just tryin to show me the love a' God.  But seemed like they didn't understand that it just ain't that easy.  

For one thing, them folks that invited me was all smilin and clean, and I was all ragged and dirty.  'Sides that, most a' em was white, and I was black as a coffee bean.  Wadn't no way I was gon' show up at their church lookin like I looked. 

For another thing, where was I gon' leave my bags with all my worldly goods, my blanket and my soap and my half-pint and what have you? It wadn't much, but wadn't no way I was gon' leave it in the 'hood with all them fellas ready to split it up amongst themselves. And I was pretty sure they didn't have no luggage check at the church. 

Then they'd say, 'God bless you!' and leave me with that piece a' paper so I wouldn't forget where I was s'posed to show up. 'Course, they didn't know I couldn't read.

See, we don't need to be tryin to drag the homeless, or any kinda needy people, to 'programs,' to 'services.' What people needs is people.

What people needs is people.  

Don't waste your burden.  Spend it wisely.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Don't Throw the Baby out with the Bath Water!

So I told you yesterday about the new book I was reading, "What difference do it make?"  I also told you it was a sequel to "Same Kind of Different as Me."  Make sure you read "Same Kind of Different as Me" before you read "What difference do it make?" because you will get so much more out of it.

These books are true; they tell the story of how an incredible woman ministered to the homeless in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and the fabulous connection her aristocratic, snotty husband made with a homeless black man who lived on the streets.  I have been mesmerized with the whole story for a long time.  The homeless black man was originally from Red River Parish about 75 miles from where I live.  The fact that there are others like him all around him has captured my mind and my heart.  I haven't done anything with it yet, but this story with me isn't over.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  I am now reading "What difference do it make?" and am just as enthralled as I was with the first book.

However, yesterday, I hit a major snag.

Ron was describing how his wife witnessed to him and ministered to him through her prayers.  It is a beautiful description and I was reading along a bit teary-eyed until I came to this passage:

"To tell you the truth, even I felt intimidated when praying with her.  Deborah prayed with such passion -- not like some nut-ball holy roller but with such knowledge of the Father as though He was her daddy and she was His favorite child..."

BAM!  Excuse me?  "...nut-ball holy roller..."  I stopped reading.

I am a Pentecostal.  Pretty passionate about my God and all things spiritual, actually.  The church of which I am a part has been in existence for over 60 years and was labeled in years past "the holy roller church." So, I guess Ron was putting me in the box he labeled "nut-ball holy roller."

I was offended.

I am not a nut-ball.  Most of the times, I pray quietly.  The times I do pray out loud it is a conversation with God and I have never, ever even considered the fact I may be a "nut-ball."  I wanted to stop reading, close the book, and give it to someone who might be spurred by its message to do something good for somebody, and forget about it.

Then it hit me that Ron's whole story is that of a man who overcame his prejudices and propensity toward judgmentalism to love people on the streets who were incredibly different from him.  

He just hasn't overcome his judgmentalism toward "nut-ball holy rollers" yet.  But he will.  God has brought him a mighty long way and he can conquer this, too.

And, in the meantime, I might need to look in the mirror and check out the level of my prejudice and judgmentalism toward people that I don't understand, also.  After all, that's the whole message of this book.  

This whole thing just illustrates beautifully the point that we will never totally agree with an author on every point he makes in a book.  But if there are enough truths there to overcome the negatives, we must learn to glean the nuggets and throw away the rest.  

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Read it anyway.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two New Books

Good morning from the hot place!'s not hell, but the temperature sort of makes you think of it.  It's just a major heat wave in August in Louisiana.  Temps soaring over 100 each day, humidity so thick you can swim in it, and oppressive, smothering heat when you step outside the door to walk the few steps to your car. I'm keeping those pics of the snow from a few months ago very close.  They help.

The nice folks from Thomas Nelson ran across my blog and some of the books I have been recommending the past few weeks.  They were nice enough to send me a couple more to preview and talk about on this blog.  Life's schedule the past couple of months has been brutal and my reading time has been reduced to a few stolen moments here and there when I can make myself invisible behind a door or something, but I'm excited to dive in to the new stuff.

Ron Hall and Denver Moore have another book following "Same Kind of Different as Me."  You just MUST read that book if you haven't already.  It's a true story and will inspire you to live your life more in line with Matthew 25.  The sequel is "What difference do it make?"  I can hardly put it down.  I will be
finished in the next day or two and will write about it here...I hope you will read it, too, and comment about it.  Incredible book, incredible people, incredible God.

The other book is "The Heart Mender" by Andy Andrews.  I love anything he writes, so I can't wait to sink my teeth into it.

While we're on the subject of reading, there is a fabulous blog post on Donald Miller's blog at that discusses the importance of reading and what is happening to the state of reading in our nation.  Please take just three more minutes and go to his blog and read it.  Readers are leaders.  If we become illiterate, we become robots.  Read!