Archive for February, 2008

we are the beggars (part 2)

I spent my last post outlining the various methods by which the homeless beg for money – intentionally a little tongue-in-cheek, though I acknowledge that the root problem is truly not at all funny. As I was writing, an interesting parallel popped into my mind that has proven extremely difficult to get out in words:

The homeless, in the way they approach us for money, are not all that different from us in the way we approach God for salvation.

I think a lot of times we feel spiritually homeless in this world – like we’re in a place we don’t quite belong but we have to do what we can to get by. We call it home, but it’s not quite home.

Those of us who are Christians are quick to point out that our promise of salvation is “by grace, through faith” – that God is the one who reached down to us and offered a way out. And we’re quite satisfied with that, for a time…

But before too long we get wrapped up in Bible studies, and serving at church, and going on mission trips, and working with the youth group, and making sure we’re listening to the right music, and making sure we’re reading the right books. We pick up a new vocabulary, a new group of friends, a new schedule for our week.

And then we start to judge ourselves based on the actions of our week… Did I pray enough? Did I read enough? Did I say the right things?

The answer is always ‘no’.

Of course you didn’t. You did not pray enough. You did not read enough. You did not say the right things… you certainly didn’t think the right things.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us in this awkward, guilt-ridden state where we spend our days conning ourselves into thinking that we can beg our way back into God’s good graces. And so we musicians strap on a guitar and sing another worship song. We wanderer’s sign up for another mission trip and go halfway around the world for a week. We spiritually-insane run from one ministry to the next, spinning our wheels trying to give a piece of ourselves in a youth-group here, a small group there, a devotional study here.

Most of us simply stand by pitifully, motionless as the days and weeks pass by, unable to move out of the guilt engulfed grip sin has on our lives. As Brennan Manning has said,

“We are the beggars at the foot of God’s door.”

As much as we want to believe we are “saved by grace through faith”, we live as though we can work our way in. But we simply can’t. Grace is grace, and as for all our charades and all our antics, He looks past it all and grasps for the tiniest bit of faith that we still show in our hearts, and then pulls us in.

The last post posed the question, “What do we do when we’re confronted with the homeless?” I’m not at all certain of the answer, still. Yet here I am, as homeless and miserable as anyone, and God’s answer to me has been and always will be complete and absolute grace. And I fail to comprehend that. Most of the time I even fail to accept it. But I’m convinced that where He is ultimately leading me is a place of such desolation and helplessness that eventually I will finally realize that the only remaining constant there has been through my 26 years of missteps, mistrust, and mis-faith has been grace. And when I do finally get it, it is going to radically shift my life.

We are the beggars at the foot of God’s door, and he has welcomed us in.

we are the beggars (part 1)

It was pointed out to me that San Francisco has a lot of homeless people… more than many cities, I presume largely because of the temperate climate year round. As I was wandering around downtown the other night, I couldn’t help but notice the different methods by which the homeless would beg for money. There are five main ones that I’ve noticed over time, as follows…

The Musician: Probably the most common, or well known, way to solicit money is by demonstrating talent as a street musician. It’s unobtrusive in that they don’t need to hassle anyone for cash. It’s just a matter of setting up shop on some well trafficked corner, putting out a guitar case (or saxophone case, or accordion case) and making music for hours on end. Sometimes these guys are quite good – there was this one street musician in San Fran who was working a corner by my hotel playing all sorts of buckets as drums… very tribal, I actually kind of liked it.

The Tour Guide: Steph and I ran across one of these in Atlanta one time. We were there celebrating Valentine’s Day, looking for a place to eat downtown, and this nice friendly guy walks up to us and welcomes us to the fine city of Atlanta. He asks a little bit about us, and then inquires if we are looking for a nice place to eat – we say we are – and he proceeds to give us about 8 different, and well qualified, suggestions. Then about five minutes later he moves in for the hard-sell… “Hey, I helped you find a place to eat… can I get a little cash?” These guys target the tourists and travelers who aren’t well acquainted with the city, and generally have a business sense about them that is less abrasive than other methods.

The Wanderer: The Wanderer’s are the few who live with hope. Their lot in life will be changed as soon as they get enough money to board a bus, or hitch a ride, to insert random city name here . For them they believe it’s a location problem… their troubles will be solved in Chicago, or Memphis, or Phoenix, and naturally they have some long-lost relative who is going to help them get their start in random city , and I’m certain that relative is truly looking forward to seeing them.

The Insane: These guys are crazy, literally. They’re on the move and cover more square blocks in one night than most taxi drivers. These are the guys who have a coffee can permanently affixed to their left hand, and with their right arm they are running up and down the sidewalk at lighting speed shouting, waving, and in general, acting extremely animated in attempts to get your attention. You cannot understand a single word they say. I imagine these guys are generally the drug-seekers… you know, the one’s who promise you that all they need to move on in life is to go down to the McDonald’s and get a hamburger… until you offer to buy them a hamburger and suddenly getting food is the worst idea they have ever heard.

The Pitiful: These ones make your heart break. They’re retired Musicians and Tour Guides. They’re Wanderer’s who got to their destination and realized it wasn’t any different than the city they came from. They’re Insanes who have grown weary. If they’re lucky they have a jacket. Their shoulders are slumped, and they don’t move very fast anymore. The coffee can is long gone – they only stick out a hand in silence, their only indication that they need money from you because they do not, or can not, speak.

San Francisco was interesting in this regard. I definitely saw all types, and you always wonder… ‘Do I give him money, or am I just adding fuel to the problem?’ I don’t know what the answer is, even after living in big cities for 10 years now. I will say one thing though… I never saw so many people actually lying down on the sidewalk to sleep on a bed of newspapers. You had to wonder if some of them are even alive.

So now I ask you, fine readers, what do you do? Do you give them the cash? Do you ignore them and walk on by?

Christians are called to help the poor, which sounds good on paper, but when the situation arises, we’re hurrying on our way to some important place, and we don’t have the time to take them down to the local shelter, or buy them a burger at McDonalds… or even just take a moment to treat them like a real human being and listen to their story.

back from visiting the fruit company

Well I got back from San Francisco last night having spent three days out there. It was a really good trip, all in all.

Wednesday I flew out, and we had an all day EMI showcase at a venue just outside of downtown. Got to see Tristan Prettyman perform which was fun – have always liked her. Thursday was spent all day in meetings, which all went well.

Can I just say… the drive from Cupertino, CA to Pleasanton is one of the prettiest I have ever been on… 40 miles of rolling hills and green meadows and red roofed houses. It looks like Tuscany, or what I imagine Tuscany would look like, having never been there.

I got to take some time to stroll around downtown San Francisco on Thursday night… walked all around the port area, saw some really cool architecture. Met a couple seagulls.

San Franciscan’s are officially the gutsiest drivers on earth. First of all, it’s an old city, so the streets are really narrow. Second, the whole thing is build on the side of a cliff, so it’s 60 degree hills everywhere you go. Third, 80% of the roads are one way streets, so you really have to know what you’re doing to get where you’re going. I finally came to the conclusion that in order to accomplish anything in terms of driving in the city, you basically just have to forget every rule and law you’ve ever learned about driving, and just commit yourself to a giant free-for-all. Otherwise, you just get stuck trapped between a trolley car, 5 taxi cabs, and 700 pedestrians. It’s definitely winner take all out there.

So, a good trip – glad to be home though.

random monday update

I’m just going to tell you right now this will be a boring post. If you want to be really bored, keep on reading:

I go to San Francisco this week for a sales meeting with a fruit company. That should be interesting.

Gotta give props to Flash for the great recommendation on the band Stateless… really liking this self-titled album. It’s an interesting blend of Brit-rock, electronic trip-hop, and ambient soundscapes. There are elements of Radiohead, Massive Attack, and a hint of Sigur Ros throughout… all good influences.

While I’m talking about Flash, head on over to his blog to answer his question of the week about embryonic stem cell research. I don’t know what my answer is yet.

Twitter is interesting. I find this strange compulsion to broadcast my rageful inner thoughts on the thing, and somehow at the last second find the willpower to not press ‘send’.

I’ve heard of people having internet addictions. I wonder if I’m coming down with one.

Prison Break is over for this season. I really thought they were going to end it this time around, but looks like we will have another season. I like the show a lot, though the beginning of this their third season was a little far fetched. Oh well, just a TV show right?

Something walloped our house in the middle of the night two nights ago. Like really hard… I thought there would be a dent in the side of the house. There wasn’t.

George Bush Sr. “endorses John McCain” today. Goodie.

I agree with Tim that the Knight Rider movie Sunday night was an absolute travesty. I gotta admit that I was really looking forward to it, and also gotta admit that I couldn’t stand more than about 8 minutes of that horrendous show.

Tim also says piano playing is for stupid heads… yeah, I’m just gonna let that one sit.

the unfortunate character assassination of tim

It would seem that the only way to get Tim to comment on my blog these days is to write a scathing post in attempts to destroy his character and bring him to ruin.

Tim is a terrible human being. For one, he used to hate me. Aside from that he never blogs anymore. In fact, three out of his three last posts have centered around the fact that he never blogs anymore. It took him four months to say this three times.

In addition to never blogging, he rarely comments on my posts, unless of course he’s hungry, and on the way to the refrigerator stops by his computer to burn a couple calories typing. The end goal of this has nothing to do with commenting on my blog, but rather to justify himself for the pizza and beer he is about to consume.

Tim is therefore an awful person, and as such, he is placed in an terrible predicament. He can only do one of two things…

  1. He can comment on my blog in a feeble attempt to argue that he is not awful, or
  2. He can choose not to comment on my blog, in which case he proves that he is an awful person.

The truth is that Tim wrote a post today, and I’d really like to comment on that post because I feel I have some valuable things to say to him… but the fact is, Tim wouldn’t read my reply… in truth he won’t turn on his computer for at least the next three weeks because he is so busy sitting in his sewing room knitting sweaters for Frisbee teams and putting iron-on patches on jerseys.

defining artistic brilliance

It’s so difficult to find artists these days that are truly re-defining in their sound and ushering in a new era of popular music. Hats off to this fine group that has taken a classic hit and reworked it in a truly fresh way while still maintaining a sincere and brilliant retro flavor…

twittle-dee, twittle-dum

I finally signed up for Twitter. If you care to hear my random thoughts as the day progresses you can find me at

what was your favorite superbowl commercial?

There were some good ones, and some less than mediocre ones last night. What was your favorite Superbowl commercial?

reign over me

Steph, Rachel, and I watched the movie “Reign Over Me” with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle last night. It was a fascinatingly good movie, and somehow I let this one get by me when it released to theaters last spring.

The movie is essentially about Adam Sandler’s character dealing with the loss of his entire family as the result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, and shows him as he struggles trough the emotional turmoil of living life even six years after the event happened. It was a really interesting depiction of those events, and I appreciated that the writer intentionally never showed “footage” of the towers or planes themselves, and he didn’t need to… rather he retold that story and the effect it had on so many people through the life of this truly devastated man.

Don Cheadle, one of my favorite actors, was stellar as usual. He plays dramatic roles so well, and the chemistry between Sandler and Cheadle was great. While a somber movie in terms of overall plot and message, it was communicated with humorous overtones (as would be natural for Sandler and Cheadle), which makes this heavy movie fun to watch and at the same time difficult to absorb.

So if you’re looking to get away from an evening of guns, explosions, and CGI monsters, I highly recommend this movie. It is serious, but brilliant, and well worth the watch.