Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Applying the Mind

“We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.” – Oscar Romero, a Catholic priest who did some good work in El Salvador advocating the poor


“The past is behind us, and fixed. The future is before us, and unknown. With the past, we can either regret or learn. With the future, we can either be fearful or hopeful. But the present…the present is the only touch we have with eternity. It is always present. It is the moment that escapes time and becomes available for us to actually use. Even with all the very good talk of “learning from the past” and “creating a positive future”, concepts I can very much stay busy with, I wonder if I drown myself in both, allowing eternity to constantly pass me by.” – Yours Truly


“All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun.” – Solomon


Applying my mind is something that I am becoming increasingly addicted to. I’m nervous about it, really, because there is no end. And with each “new discovery”, whether it is very useful in following Christ or not, I begin taking refuge in my enjoyment of learning for (what feels like) the sake of learning.


I have some friends that I get to talk to a whole lot, and I feel safe enough and loved enough with them to allow myself the freedom to “think freely”. It’s usually my verbal attempt to climb higher in my outlook on life, to reach for Heaven’s perspective, to think ideally and romanticize about living out the ways I think. Sometimes it’s a great exercise and it lands me somewhere useful, giving me a gold nugget of reality and truth that I can bring back down with me to earth and actually put to use.


But other times, it’s a desperate attempt at significance, a place I get lost in. It’s not frantic anymore, but it’s continual…my reading, by debriefing myself around my patient friends, my isolation and soul-searching using the tool of mind. I like it there. But I must say that I’m not sure it’s the best use of my “present”.


I’m not trying to knock learning from our past, I love doing that. Nor am I wanting to never think about the future, and do things now that make my future (God willing) more in line with my values. I’m just struggling with my choices…the ones I’m grateful to have…and how to “do something, and to do it very well”, as Oscar said it in the above quote.


I just spent a couple of hours with a woman who is wrestling with the question, “Is God really good?” The sheer honesty was refreshing, the dialogue raw and real, and the elation we both felt as it came to end invigorating. After life on life stuff like that, I never doubt that the time was well spent, and in accordance with the values of God. I grateful for hours like that.


I’m fearful, however, of falling in love with stuff that is “good stuff”, but is potentially diluting the “best stuff”.


I’m not down about this at all, and appreciate the concern some of you express when you ‘check in on me’ after questioning emails like this, but I love this struggle. It makes me feel like the proverbial caterpillar working hard to get out of the cocoon, knowing that the struggle is what is finishing and sharpening an awesome transformation.




Friday, March 18, 2005

Sons of the day

“You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” – St. Paul, to some of his favorite people


“The distance between what we learn and what we teach needs to shrink until it eventually becomes nothing.” – Yours Truly, to the servant-leaders of the Southwest church (some of my favorite people)


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You're playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela, to some of his favorite people in an inaugural speech in 1994


Whenever I exercise the little-used “muscle” of my identity that knows there is nothing real to fear from letting the whole truth about myself be known, I am reminded of how surprising it is to other people. I see it through their reactions.


Some ignore it, acting as if I am speaking some different language that they can’t understand, because they see no usefulness in attempting to do the same themselves. My self-righteousness is what I battle when I sense this, trying to condemn those who “won’t do it” as unenlightened.


Some admire it, acting as if it is a maturity only attainable by an elite few, dooming themselves to a life of never attaining such “internal development”. My pride is what I battle when I sense this, trying to get me to agree with them as if I am something special.


Some condemn it, acting as if I am being “completely inappropriate” or “doctrinally wrong” or “not careful enough” in what or how I share, and my defensiveness kicks in, trying to convince me that I “have a defense” or that I have something to defend.


Some idolize it, acting as if they should walk around feeling less than me, and when I sense this, I must battle the pay-off my ego enjoys if I agree with them in the slightest.


Some are intimidated by it, acting as if they need to impress me with their wisdom, or intellect, or giftedness in some area of their lives, in order to offset how they are feeling. When I sense this, I must battle my desire to exit the conversation quickly, because my self-esteem is far too fragile to handle such a battle of comparison, that I feel (true or not) I will most surely lose.


Some partner with me, acting as if we are on a journey somewhere together, neither better than the other, and neither worthless in the least. This is the largest group of people I deal with, praise God, and I must battle indulging in these relationships, although I don’t battle too hard against it, because something feels right about it and mutually beneficial. The only reason I battle at all is because I don’t want to give up totally on the others just because they are harder for me to deal with. I want to still love all people.


It’s so crazy, when I stop and think about it, because I’ve listed a bunch of reactions in people that I have witnessed when I have simply and purely told the truth. I know that we all “belong to the day” and yet, all of us feel some kind of safety staying in the dark. In the above descriptions, I find my own reactions to others perfectly outlined as well, and once again feel a deep sense of community with the whole human race.


So here’s to our fearful and mutual darkness dwelling, team. May we grasp its uselessness and see clearly the light of day that we are meant to live in. May we let our own light shine without regard to how it will affect others, leaving those glorious things to God? May we cast aside our fear of all the real-but-powerless consequences that our fellow man inflicts on us when we “tell the truth” and lay hold of the real-and-powerful freedom that comes when we do.


Here’s another truth that may be hard to believe, and may summon different reactions from people who find it out…I really do love you.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Here's my card

“One time, there was a huge, huge, huge, big Transformer. His name was Optimus Prime. He was in his big-rig truck form driving down a road when the White Power Ranger (he’s bad) jumped out of the bushes! He used his power on Optimus and flattened his tire. Optimus transformed into his robot form, but was limping because of the damage. The White Power Ranger walked towards Optimus to hurt him some more, when the Red Power Ranger (he’s good) jumped in between them. He beat up the White Power Ranger who ran away crying like a little girl. Optimus Prime went over and thanked the Red Power Ranger and said, “Thank you. If you EVER need ANYTHING, I want you to call me, and I will be there. Here’s my card.” – The story I told my oldest son two nights ago.


At the end of this animated bedtime story, when I said “Here’s my card”, I had used my two fingers (index & middle), holding them together and pointing them towards Shade, to imitate the common way that we give each other business cards. I noticed that Shade, in addition to really loving the story, as we continued to go through our bedtime ritual had kind of latched on to that gesture, practicing it while we prayed and talked. He kept flipping his two little fingers from his fist with a flick of his wrist, but didn’t say anything about it, just kept the conversation going as if the rest of him wasn’t aware of what his right hand was doing.


He knew I was beginning the “departure” part of our ritual when I got up with the nightly “Okay, buddy…”, and he responded with his regular, “Just one more minute!” Our ritual has two paths here: The path I didn’t take tonight goes on with me saying okay, him responding with “2 more minutes,” and our negotiation from there. The path I did take was with me saying, “Sorry, buddy, I want to but we need to sleep.” Right on queue, he reaches for my neck and either gives me or asks for what we call a “moocharonovich” – a ritual within our ritual (and one that my daughter has picked up on with dad) that consists of a kiss to each cheek, the chin, the nose, the forehead, the mouth and ending with a mutual yell that I can’t spell, but if I could, it would read “mmmpwwwaaaahhhhhhh!” with an added smack of the lips at the “p”. We sometimes get in trouble with mom for how loud this is, and so if it’s late, we whisper the yell when we remember.


I stand up at this point, a feat in itself because of Shade’s persistence and my desire to give him what he wants, and we embark on our final routine exchange as I walk to the door, the final two pieces being my reminder to him to “come get me when you wake up” followed by us giving each other a “thumbs up” as I shut the door. But this night, before the thumbs up, the ritual was interrupted with something new.


I failed to mention that Shade began a few weeks ago sleeping in his closet. He likes the “camping” feel of it I think, so, with two perfectly good beds in his room (bunks), he usually goes to the fluffy sleeping bag in this double-sliding-door closet. I don’t know how this started, but its kinds cool in there, and I would probably want to sleep in there, too, if it was my room. His full body is usually out of the sleeping bag and leaning full force out of this closet when he proceeds with the day’s seal of finality.


I tell you that because as I opened the door to his room preparing for my thumb for our final gesture of love, and I hear the “Hey, dad…” that initiates it, I turn around expecting to see that leaning body and that reaching outstretched arm with the thumb, but instead saw something that effectively broke my final determination to leave.


Staying with his body in the sleeping bag, and his head on the pillow, both completely out of my sight, I turn and only see his little arm sticking out the door of the closet. He must’ve assumed I was being faithful to my part in our “evening dance” because without looking, and without a word from me, he proceeds to calmly but firmly say, with a flick of his wrist and flip of his two little fingers, “…Here’s my card.”


I started one of those uncontrollable laughing fits that you try to do silently, you know what I’m talking about? Like when you are in the perfect “hide-and-go-seek” hiding places, but you hear the seeker stub his toe really, really badly and you have to laugh, but you CAN’T give away your position? Yeah, that’s what I was doing so as not to lengthen my stay in his room any longer than it has been already. And while I did that in what was becoming obvious, “ritual breaking” silence, Shade didn’t peek to see my response to this adjustment. He just held his arm there with his fingers pointing, evidently holding his imaginary card.


My control was lost, and I started rolling in laughter the longer I tried not to, and Shade got his few extra minutes. He is awesome.


Underneath it all, I hope that my boy (and my wife and all my kids) always knows that he has my card if he EVER needs ANYTHING. And I also hope that when and if he ever uses it, that I can and will make good on the commitment I feel. One final hope of mine is that all you that read this and make up so much of my life’s joy, also know that if you EVER need ANYTHING, I want to be someone you feel at liberty (and love) to call.


So to all of you who have loved me so much and so well, and to those of you who we have yet to engage in that way…Here’s my card.


No Bible to explain it...

“I must ask my readers to erase from their minds the…very notion of history itself. More especially, we must erase from our minds all the suppositions on which our world is built. We must reimagine ourselves in the form of humanity that lived and moved on this planet before the first word of the Bible was written down, before it was spoken, before it was even dreamed.” – Thomas Cahill


“The voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says do not be afraid.” – the singer of the song I’m listening to right now


I’m sitting in my 2000 Chevy Blazer at the edge of Amarillo, TX watching a sunset. It’s one of those where you can see the last traces of the Sun and the brightly lit Moon at the same time. And it occurs to me in the silence that I am in (I just turned off the radio), seeing the beauty that replays itself each and every day, and constantly is being done at the edge of some city at all times non-stop, how very few people I know are slowing down to do the same thing tonight. It’s a tragedy, really.


I don’t get to feel self-righteous about it, of course. I am only doing so because 10 months ago I somewhat reluctantly became a preacher, and Saturday night is my “time with God” where the lesson I will preach on Sunday morning takes it’s somewhat final shape. Since then, I spend my Saturday nights quite alone, and quite contemplatively, and allowing my longings for usefulness, for peace, joy, and righteousness, for connection, for God Himself to come fully alive. When this happens (I don’t DO this, IT happens), I naturally head for something natural...which makes sense, I guess (Dude, this sunset it beautiful! It changes every time I look down and up from the computer, each time altering itself into a scene that I don’t want to change. Wow.).


Tomorrow I begin a 4 week sermon series focusing on sin. This focus has driven me to ask the question “What is sin?” anew…and that has driven me back to the beginning, back before there was a word to describe sin, before there was something resembling it that needed description, before sin existed, and before there was a Bible to extract explanation from…back to Eden.


I won’t preach my sermon now, partly because it hasn’t fully formed, partly because you can hear it online after tomorrow (at, and partly because right now I’m longing for God and want to indulge myself in the longing as the last bit of sunshine fades away.


I will say that tomorrow’s piece (I think I like that…calling my sermon a “piece” instead of a sermon…much more accurate) will make the connection between sin and the longing I now have and must endure. Two folks, my parents in a way, back in Eden, people who saw the same sunset that I watch die right now, severed their fellowship with God. And I have inherited the results. This makes every human being on the planet my brother in this regard. Sin is not merely a set of rules that some follow and some do not, as I was told growing up. A set of rules outlined in the Bible for me check off a list. No, the voice of Truth tells me a different story.


Sin is a disloyalty that man is capable of, disloyalty that hurts any relationship.


And I have been disloyal to God, like Adam was. And I long for the relationship that is broken with Him. I have sinned and fallen short of His glory. And I was made for His glory to bring me mine, which is life. Sin interrupted that. Sin stole life to the full. Sin is why I sit here, now with darkness in the sky, having to enjoy the longing for God, rather than God Himself.


God have mercy on us.

Monday, March 07, 2005


“The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – The Apostle Paul


I’m feeling a real need to shoot real straight tomorrow morning in my message to the body about financial generosity to the church family. Not because we need to meet our budget (although we do), and not because I want to be a “straight shooter” (although I do).


God is straight about it. Serving God and Money can’t be done. It can’t be done. It just can’t.


This is such a heart issue. Speak the truth about it, pack it in as much love, and people still react with either soft hearted receptivity, or hard hearted opinions that protect their own status quo.


I’m really nervous about it, for some reason. Strange, sometimes, what rocks my boat. I’m not quite sure what it is that’s rocking it this time. I’ve got a huge blind spot here. I don’t think I feel insecure about my own stewardship…I feel like I’m currently giving sacrificially, and striving to position myself and my wife to give more in order to see the limits of God’s provision when we act in faith. I don’t think I’m insecure about what the Bible says on the stuff…I feel like I believe solidly in what I need to say.


What is it?


Maybe I just wish people did their own work on this?

Maybe I’m afraid some soft-hearted people will feel guilty about not “giving more”.

Maybe I don’t want to see the ugly side of folks who hate confronting their own battle with money-centeredness.

Maybe I’m afraid that out of all the Bible has to say about this, I won’t pick the best stuff.

Maybe I’m struggling with asking people to trust God and His appointed leaders more deeply.

Maybe there is something that I feel is deeply wrong somewhere, and this is just scratching the surface of it, exposing to me that I have more work to do here.


Whatever it is, it’s not a requirement for me to figure it out. It’s just a chance to speak the truth and let my speaking it do whatever it will do to me.


If you get this before Sunday morning, pray for me, would you? Ask God to speak.

If you get this after Sunday morning, pray for me, would you? And thank God for having spoken.

Friday, March 04, 2005

It was a life shaking event...

Today is the anniversary of one of the most (if not the most) life altering events of my life. It was traumatic, to say the least. It is one of those things that slowed down the whole world while it was happening…that slow motion thing, you know? I'd always seen it on the movies, but 5 years ago, it happened to me for real…as if my mind knew the moment would be a defining reference point forever.  I wouldn't say it's hard to talk about, but I have to admit that I can not shake the affects of it even after half a decade.

On that day, I became more afraid of death's power over me and how brief life is and how important it is that I stay healthy. It shook me to the core of my being, bringing in depths of emotions that I didn't know existed or exactly how to handle. I became obsessive (as if I wasn't already) and have to confess that my slavery to thinking about it has not decreased over the years, but increased in frequency and intensity. I honestly can not think of one thing that is the same after it happened.

It shook some of what I would've at the time called "fun" out of me, and replaced it with a soberness and sincerity that I think might irritate normal people at times. I occasionally can not hold myself together emotionally because of it, and seriously will end up a blubbering idiot sometimes, feeling somewhat weak when it hits me in front of others. I've talked to numerous counselors, friends, family, ministers, and even total strangers (sometimes they are the easiest to do it with) about it, trying to figure out how to handle myself best in light of its growing affects on me. Most of them listen compassionately, but never seem to even suggest that there is hope of getting over it.

Most of you who know me well know that I believe in a huge God, one that ultimately is out for my good and His own glory (not in that order), and that the former leads to the later, and that if He wanted to, he could spare me the consequences of this event at anytime. And even though there would be a certain freedom for me if He would do it, I haven't ever asked Him to. I know that Paul had an affliction once, and he did ask God to take it from him, but God had plans for it to do a good work in Paul, for his own good and His own glory. I really believe that is the nature of this, and that I get to endure any sorrows it produces under the banner of the greater joy that it delivers. As yet, this has proven true. Every single one of the fears, consequences, and affects that this unstoppable influence has had on me has been my joy. I revel in it every day.

Happy 5th birthday, Shade Canon Mashburn, my son. Five years ago you turned me into a dad, my favorite role so far in this life. You are my friend, fan, teacher, fellow-adventurer, and best buddy, and I honor you today and the incredible job God did (and is doing) in creating you. I love you.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Social Justice

I met a guy named Alvero this past week. Alvero stood in my office telling me about how he has spent the last years feeding hungry orphans in Zimbabwe. He’s having to leave there, now, however because he is white, and where he lives, any black man can come and take any of his possessions that they want at any time they want. Alvero would stay, if it was just himself, and might even with just his wife, but he has a young son and daughter living there, too. In the neighborhood, the black boys taunt his son by saying, “My dad can come take your dad’s house anytime he wants!” The spirit behind it seems to run a little deeper than the “my dad can beat up your dad,” thing we threw around when I was a kid in Houston, TX. 

Alvero must leave, but there are still hungry orphans there. We aren’t talking about a hungry that results from missing a meal, we are talking about hungry that results from not having any food, any day. My pantry is full of luxuries, and there is a child starving. I’m hurting over this today. 

And the racism…we aren’t talking about a community immaturity that results in insulting someone of another race (although this is also horrific). We are talking about a government initiative to run off people of a different race. I’m hurting over this today. 

And the suffering of Alvero from relocation...we aren’t talking about the “suffering” I did by having to leave an incredible community of faith in Houston in order to join another incredible community of faith in Amarillo. We are talking about the heart-tearing that must come with a decision between helping with the suffering of hungry kids and helping with the imminent danger of his own kids. I’m hurting over this today. 

It’s just not supposed to be like this. And I am supposed to be doing something about it.