Family Memorial Sunday

The canceled Beirut trip had a happy consequence: We were here for the visit of Donn, Susan and (most happily) Elizabeth. David, Samantha, Nicole and Joy arrived Saturday afternoon as scheduled. The surprise was Cyndee’s Saturday noon telephone call saying they had kicked her out of the Cannon Beach Conference Center dining room, so she was on the way home. So we enjoyed Nicole and Joy while David and Sam had their date night. We all got together for much of the day Sunday.

Elizabeth is almost seven months old now. Despite her miraculous conception, unnoticed presence for 38 weeks, and terrifying first month in intensive care from meconium aspiration, she’s fully normal and totally charming! She’s quite the traveler, having made three long airplane trips already. She even has her own passport now! You can see more of our pictures here.

My cellulitis continues to improve slowly. The pain is largely gone and the redness is much reduced. The antibiotics are doing their job. But I’m still staying at home. With electronic communication such as it is, I can do almost as much here as in my office.

One happy development is that this morning, I sent in the last bits of the third book Mark Driscoll and I are dong: Vintage Church. Book one, Vintage Jesus, is selling remarkably well. Book two, Death by Love, pastoral letters to tragic situations based on atonement themes, is due out at the end of September. Mark is already preaching the series that will be book four: Doctrine: What the Church Should Believe. We’ll start writing soon. I seem to remember saying I’d never write a book!

I saw a strange development in the news today. Animal rights advocates are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to declare a 26-year-old chimpanzee named Matthew to be a legal person. If this "person" were living in California, he could marry a human male or female. The state’s supreme court found a right long invisible right in the state’s constitution that any person should be allowed to marry any other person. What a weird world!



This is why I’m confined to home and mostly to the couch. The doctor described it as a wildfire infection that settles in somewhere and spreads. So in the first visit he used a Sharpie to outline the extent. You can see that four days later, it’s not spread much. There is major pain when I go from laying down to putting my foot on the ground and especially when I stand up. The swelling from the inflammation impedes blood flow, so the blood can’t get out of the lower leg. After a couple of hobbling steps, the pain begins subside. But if I stand still, it comes back quickly. Now imagine what getting up to go to the bathroom is like. And then think brushing my teeth.

As of this morning the fire red color appears to have quieted down some. Every step on encouraging.

I hate being sick!

Grandgirls appear tonight so stay tuned for some pictures!

Climate of Trust

We didn’t go to Beirut last Friday. The airport closure made that impossible as you see in the previous post. So we were checking on a revised date, leaving this Sunday, perhaps. But I managed to contract some creepy awful. I spiked a 102.5 fever Sunday night, shivering harder than I’ve even shivered. That includes the time that I got hypothermia during an hour long motorcycle ride from Biola to Pasadena in 35 degree rain.  The fever was over 100 Monday, closer to normal Monday evening, but I had no energy and my head was spinning all the time. Tuesday morning I discovered some swelling and a major rash on my lower right leg. My leg was way painful, and walking was nearly impossible. So Sherry, with quite a bit of concern, took me to Kaiser to see what was happening. The doctor was impressed and the nurse more so. He said it’s a major skin infection, cellulitis. He put me on dicloxacillin, an oral antibiotic. If it doesn’t improve, he said it could be hospitalization and IV antibiotics.

So the Beirut trip had to be canceled. That’s really sad but that’s wisdom. Being there unable to do any teaching and no clarity on medical insurance coverage, would not be good. As of right now, there is no change in the infection. My temperature has been normal since yesterday evening, which is good.  So it’s back to the doctor today at noon to find out about my immediate future. Who knows when I will be home!

One question is what is God’s role in this. Perhaps He protected me from being this ill in Beirut. Being sick at home is always a better way. I have to admit that it’s impossible for me to believe He would initiate the whole Hezbollah uprising for my sake. That He would work good in the middle of an evil situation makes sense biblically. He can and does work in very complex situations.

Or maybe the cellulitis is punishment for my lack of faith to go where He’d called me to go. He worked so that the airport was open before my scheduled arrival. But I didn’t trust Him, so He sent a punishing infection so I’d learn to trust.

The first explanation is the protective Father scenario; the second the punishing Dad scenario. The facts are the same, but the explanations totally different. Which is correct? It will be your basic picture of God. Do you approach Him in a climate of trust or not?

I’m working with some situations where trust is the real issue. Where there is a lack of trust, every statement is exegeted for betrayal, with every ambiguity taken negatively. In a trust climate even a discrepant statement is taken to be a mistake or misunderstanding. Explanations are requested, given, and received. In a non trust climate, mistakes are taken as intentional. Apologies are taken as manipulative or cover ups.

When trust breaks down, be it with God or human, it’s impossible to deal with issues. It’s the trust that must be handled. How to restore that? I honestly don’t know. I’ve seen it happen, but only when the trust issue is addressed openly, sin on the part of all humans is confessed, the pain around it talked and prayed about, and God’s Spirit empowered reconciliation is pursued on both sides. It’s where Isaiah 40:31 comes in: Wait actively for the LORD’s moment.

I am in many trusting relationships, some very deep. Sherry and I have it. It’s a huge gift, one to be protected with truth, even when the truth may be initially quite painful. Not doing truth only betrays and kills trust. It’s a gift to invest in.

Flexibility in Frustration

The Beirut trip isn’t going to happen, at least not this week. The airport is still closed. Hezbollah has promised to remove the blockade on the airport road and "normalize" the country when the government reverses its decisions (1) to declare the Hezbollah private phone network illegal and (2) to reassign the director of security at the airport. He apparently is Hezbollah connected. The decisions were power shots against Hezbollah and an attempt to end the "civil disobedience" actions of Hezbollah that have paralyzed the government. Well, the government has reversed the decisions, mostly, but Hezbollah has not removed the road block. Who knows when or if it will happen.

The good news is that when I called Lufthansa, they offered a full refund of the airfare as their first option. The Seminary in Beirut cancelled the class as starting Monday, May 19. It’s still an outside possibility that it could go as of May 26. But that would mean finding seats on flights that will be filled with Lebanese who could not get home as well as visitors who want to do their vacations. Ellie Haddad, the provost at the seminary in Beirut, was out of the country when this all happened. He will go to the Toronto airport today and depart for Beirut or Damascus (for a long, potentially dangerous car trip to Beirut), or Frankfurt (for a conference he’s supposed to be at next week). I don’t have that kind of flexibility!

5-1 f A good side of us not going (as I’m assuming at this point), is that we will be here when Donn, Susan, and Elizabeth come for their Memorial Day visit. David, Sam, Nicole and Joy will be in our home whether we are here or not. The idea of playing with grandgirls in the early morning hours is a strong draw to be here!

I have been without our Previa for a long time. The cylinder head cracked so the engine is toast. The mechanic found a low mileage engine for a reasonable price, so it is getting a complete change. It is expensive, but cheaper and much less hassle than getting a new vehicle. It has both excellent memories and a good future.

The time Sherry and I are not in Beirut will have some time for us as well as time dedicated to writing. I will finish the last bits of book three and begin doing the questions for book four. It will be good to get ahead of deadlines for a change!

Going to Beirut?

beirut_600 We have no idea if we are going or not. This is the road to the airport as of this morning. It continues to be blocked by Hezbollah as an expression of their power along with the demand for more. The political situation is far too complex for any Westerner to figure out, though I read a lot! One interesting source is the British reporter living in West Beirut. He’s not a fan of American policy, but has a lot of insight into the life. Read him here at

Today’s New York Times has two articles that give a perspective on the very conservative side is Islam. One is "Love’s Rules Vex and Entrance Young Saudis," a portrait of romance in Saudi Arabia. It’s here and tells of young men marrying women they’ve never seen prior to the wedding along with their commitment to protect their women. It shows well the strengths and challenges of the society.

The other is a reminder that under strict Islamic law, Barack Obama is Muslim because his father is Muslim. It’s here. His mother’s Christian background is irrelevant. His own decision to become Christian and live his particular version of Christianity only makes him an apostate Muslim. His conversion with its connotations of rebellion and treason against Islam is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder. Under this strict Islamic law, the sort promoted by Hezbollah, he should be executed. That same strict interpretation prohibits punishment for any Muslim who kills any apostate, and effectively prohibits interference with such a killing. If he were to become president, it could complicate relations with conservative Muslims as they become aware of his conversion.

One point of significance of Lebanon continuing to be a multi-religion democracy is that it is the only Arabic speaking country were a Muslim background believer can study in a Christian school. Christians have a lot of freedom to practice their religion in many Muslim nations, but open conversion is not one of those freedoms. In more strict areas, it risks ostracism and in some cases death. One well known example was in Iran in 1994. Pope John Paul II and others won a Christian convert a last-minute reprieve, but the man was abducted and killed shortly after his release. This is extreme, but a real risk in these areas.

lebanon_beirut_030 There are as many varieties of Islam as Christianity, ranging from very liberal, to quite secular, to very mystical, to fundamentalist. It’s no more fair to judge one group by what another does than to judge all Christians by the practices of fundamenalists who refuse to take their sick children to physicians. But Hezbollah is a conservative movement. Their victory in Lebanon would make major changes in the freedoms Christians have observed for centuries in this beautiful place.

Uncertain Future

Lebanon 1 The pictures of the fighting in Beirut is a very scary thing for us since we are scheduled to depart for that fair city in a week. I missed the war by two weeks when I was there two years ago. Hizbollah’s rise to power, based on their ability to stand up to Israel, is the basis for the year long stand off in selecting a new president. The political situation has been a powder keg for months. It only takes a spark . . . Now it’s here.

So we have a week to see what happens. If the airport remains cut off, then we won’t be able to go, I assume. I can’t imagine trying to walk this road as many are doing these two days. If the situation eases  and the fighters go home, then the decision will be very tough. Will we be able to trust that they will stay at home for the two weeks we are there? We are probably safe at the seminary itself, but airport is in the area where the fighting is. Getting trapped by fighting is not a good picture. So lots of prayers!

I was speaking at the Campus Crusade staff retreat at Sun River Sunday through Wednesday. It was a lot of fun to meet new friends who are committed to spreading the news of the Jesus they enjoy immensely. I not only spoke the three times, but spent a lot of time talking with folk. And I did some writing on the Vintage Church book. That’s book #3. Book #4 is being preached right now. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The brochure for Sun River has a most intriguing picture, as you can see. The little boy mesmerized by the butterfly is just too cool. A friend returned a couple of pictures of me as a four year old in Missouri. I could easily imagine that little boy doing exactly this, totally entranced in the wonder.  Beauty is something that has always captured me. The little boy would immediately want to find the little girl so they could share the beauty. If she weren’t available, he’d be sad, but never try to make anything happen. The exquisiteness of the butterfly is still a picture of the power of God, a power that connects souls.

That same God of Shalom is the one to whom I trust an uncertain future even when I don’t really understand Him or the situation.