Archive for June, 2016

obscure giants

June 28, 2016 4 comments


I could hardly believe what I read last week in national headlines. It seems that the Marine Corp misidentified one of the soldiers in the famed Iwo Jima photograph. Looking at the above picture, the second from the last guy in line (rifle on his hip) is where the confusion now becomes clear. For seventy years they’ve had it wrong. Now we’re told that it wasn’t Navy Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class John Bradley in that renowned photo, but Marine Pvt. First Class Harold Schultz from Detroit.

No disrespect to the military for getting it wrong. The article I read mentioned that Bradley had been involved in another flag raising on the same day, at the same location, but there was no photograph of that particular flag raising. There is a good chance that Bradley never realized he wasn’t in the picture.

What is completely staggering is that Harold Schultz never came forward to set the record straight with the Corp. A Marine historian surmised, “Harold Schultz took his secret to the grave.” That is a stunning thought. Schultz died in 1995. Probably the most iconic WWII pictures ever taken, and one of the guys involved never forced his fame or rightful recognition. Wow! How does that happen?

How does a man do such a thing? How does he sit on that kind of data his entire life? Surely it would have profited him to disclose the details, but he didn’t. It’s really hard to get your mind around it.

It challenges me to wonder if we’re too seduced by the sirens of social media. The Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook culture tends to report everything. EVERYTHING. I mean… everything except the stuff we’re too embarrassed to let anyone else know about. Yeah, yeah, I realize that’s our norm now, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re internally tormented by the thought of being unseen, ignored, undiscovered, or an even more horrible possibility… forgotten? Could obscurity be the dirtiest word our current culture has ever encountered? It seems to be a terrorizing creeper that messes with us constantly.

(Yeah, I post as much crap as you do. Probably more. I might be nauseated now. Why is the room spinning?)

Why do we appear to be so anxious about living in the shadows? We’re supposed to be children of peace. We don’t seem to be at peace with what’s not sexy, trendy, exotic, or spectacular. Our mouth-wide-open selfies (OMG! Don’t get me started) more than argue that point. Are we over-stimulated and bored without another super-charged activity to prove to ourselves that we are alive? Or are we that starved for attention?

No, I do not think you are the problem. But I do think we might have an issue here. For real, we might have an issue.

If I’m to be truly transparent, I’d have to admit that I have a fist fight with every blog I write and potentially post. While my heart wants to help people transition out of their religious zombie walks, my head barks, “Who gives a shit about what you think about anything?” It’s always been that way for this old preacher man. Only now it’s not a 5:30 a.m. conversation on Sunday morning. Now it happens on Tuesday morning when I’m about to click the “send” button on my blog site. The internal conversation is savage, I kid you not. The shadows would be much more restful. Evidently every creative type suffers with the same fight.

IMG_1483 (1)I wonder if Pvt. Schwartz ever regretted holding something that powerful, yet so deeply hidden, in only his memory? What were the metrics that composed such a beautiful discretion for 48 years?

Maybe Brokaw was right. Maybe they were the greatest generation. Not because of what they accomplished, but because of how they handled their difficulties, their pain, and even their successes without a lot of drum beating. Granted, they didn’t have the same media opportunities, but I’m not too convinced it would have mattered anyway.

Are we really that far from a long time ago? Social media says, “Yes… definitely. We’re so much further along.” But, if we were going to remain honest, we’d probably have to admit that a lot gets done in this world without much notice or fanfare. Not everyone needs a big social hug or a cookie in order to be enticed to add value to life’s participants.

Every now and then, you bump up against a Pvt. Schwartz. An unknown, a hero, a quiet go-getter who is carrying the precious cargo of valor, sacredness, sacrifice, service and goodwill, buried deep down in their heart. You’d never know it, but he or she knows it, and that is just the way they want it. It could be a hospice aid, or a clerk at the courthouse. Maybe he or she is toting the mail or mowing your grass. Yes, puke-covered mommies totally qualify. They’re everywhere—just doing their thing—quietly.  Well, most of them.

Excuse me for throwing scripture at you, but it feels right to add this in closing:

“Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these nobodies to expose the hollow pretensions of the somebodies?” (1 Cor 1:27-28, MSG).

I don’t think this is about God playing favorites among His children. I think it has more to do with the virtues of humility and obscure dignity. I think those qualities are explosive components for real impact. These people mine where the real gold lays hidden. And when we discover and allow their stories to settle in our spirits, we, too, realize that their impact has made a profound difference in how we experience and see life.

Here’s to the obscure giants who walk among us, wherever you are!

(I’m changing my sign off line. This one is what I care about most!)

Live each day inside of the magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike xo


Categories: Uncategorized


June 21, 2016 8 comments

I’m clueless on the number of weddings I’ve conducted over the past 31 years.  To be more specific, I’ve lost count of the number of weddings I’ve done in the past six years!  That many weddings can only mean one thing: CAKE.  Lots and lots of wedding cake.

I might now be some kind of wedding cake connoisseur.  I’m not kidding.  There might be snacks, finger foods, legit hors d’oeuvres, or a full-blown feast, but before it’s all over, I’m going to eat cake at the reception.  Preferably a piece from each cake: the bride’s and the groom’s.  And let me tell you, from all my vast experience, it’s not all that often that a cake tastes as good as it looks.  They’re almost always beautiful and amazing to look at.  But the same can’t be said for how they taste.  Sorry brides.  I’m just stating the facts here.

wedding-cakeYou would think that what a wedding cake costs would all but guarantee an exotic mouth explosion.  Wrong. Not always.  I’ve had some really good cake, but the sad fact is that you often get brilliance on the outside and dull on the inside. Hold on to that thought for later.

To be fair, I spoke with a professional cake maker.  Sometimes the cake design actually requires a stiffer texture on the inside to support all the fireworks on the outside of the cake.  Simply put, a flaky, moist, and supple texture of an amazing cake often will not hold the weight of all the decorating.  If the externals are what matters—the internals are usually compromised.  Not always, but it’s the Achilles for true baking experts.

One more thing about wedding cake and then I’ll transition to my point: I know the current trend is to use large amounts of fondant (flat-goo) on a cake.  I usually bum out before I even try a bite.  It’s just a weird material for cake. I know it’s popular and trendy, but it usually requires a bit of surgery to remove that layer before you dig in. Then you have this blob of goo on your plate that you’re trying to ignore while eating around it. I’ve broken more plastic forks trying to cut fondant than roast beef. Yeah, I said it.  Again, I’m sorry.  But ladies, stop with the frikk’n cake goo!

TRANSITION (Thank the Lord!)

I’ve preached a few times outside of America.  I’ve enjoyed some of my visits to churches overseas.  But often it hurts my heart when I realize that, somehow, they’ve gotten the notion that their “doing church right” requires them to sing our songs, take on our styles, or emulate Western preachers they may have seen on television or who may have visited their country.

Let me give you one example:

In Uganda, I was asked to preach at an outdoor event.  There might have been 10,000 people that showed up for the meetings.  The African church that was leading the worship sent their version of our version of a praise team to lead the worship, and they were trying to sing old school praise songs in English.  It was horrifying!  Absolutely horrendous!  After listening to the screeching for about 15 minutes, I told my African host, “Dude, you’re killing these people with that crap.” Yeah, I said it. “Tell your drummers to get these people dancing!”  What had felt like a funeral soon turned into a lot of singing and dancing. The cloud of red dirt that rose above the crowd was filled with electricity and hope. They weren’t dancing little charismatic bunny hop stuff.  These people were dancing for their lives. They knew pain, but they were dancing because they were alive.  It was incredible.

I’m fairly convinced we would never have gotten to the dancing, the freedom, and the celebration if they had continued on with something that wasn’t really them.  Why they wanted the worship to look Americanized is still a mystery to me.

It seemed they were more worried about how the cake looked, and not so much about how it tasted.

To be honest, I’m still a little bit traumatized from our recent visit to a church in Cambodia. I’ll spare you the details.


I wonder if that’s a problem here also?  Is how it looks on Sunday more important than how it really is on Sunday?

How much time do ministry “professionals” spend on the icing for Sunday compared to time spent serving cake to wandering or wounded sheep during the week?  I wonder if ministry leaders would care less about Sunday’s affairs if the people cared more about ministry in the streets, their neighbors, and the real needs of a community? What would that look like if out there was the priority?  What would it be like if a church was known for its volume of volunteer servants in a community; not the size of its Sunday gatherings?

What if infrastructure was an afterthought when we mentioned the words worship, fellowship, care, love, giving, and service?  What would it be like if there was no monthly nut that the church had to endlessly stare down?  In other words, money could just flow from giving hearts to needy hearts without performance pressure?

I’ve been there, I know how it works, and I know how I’ve been. I don’t like the answers to some of these questions if I’m going to be honest.

Who is going to change some of what needs to be changed?

When are we going to change it?

Love you all,



Oh, BTW, in the famous words of the beautiful Joey McGinnis, “Eat cake!”

Categories: Uncategorized

rightly disturbed

June 14, 2016 4 comments

I want to show you three photos. I didn’t take them, but my friend, Mike Lynch, did. I want to talk about what so disturbs me in these pictures, and then move us to a couple of prayer directives. I suspect I’ll be done talking about my visit to Cambodia by the time I’m finished with this post. Yes, you’ll probably hope so too.

IMG_9613PICTURE #1 – This photograph was taken in the Poipet trash dump on the Thailand/Cambodia border. Some don’t just go to the dump to find what they’re looking for or discard their waste. They actually live there – in the dump – with their families. In this photograph, the little girl had just been handed a piece of candy (a Dum Dum sucker). It was so overwhelming to her that she sat down and cried her eyes out. She was probably four or five years old. This is the shit I want God to fix… right now!

On the morning that Lynch showed me that picture I had been enjoying my double-shot latte in the hotel lobby. Did you notice the past tense? Uhh… Thanks Mike.

Oh, before you equate this to just Third World poverty, heathenism, and ignorance, you do realize that there are people in America who actually eat out of dumpsters in greasy alleys all over our country? I rarely stop at Jesus Chicken (Chick-fil-A) without having to read a sign about homelessness, hunger, and the need for help. I’ll say it one more time: we just hide our stuff better than they do… or do we?

IMG_5557PICTURE #2 – A beggar mom with a sleeping child in her lap. This is a fairly common scene in pretty much any Third World country. But what I didn’t realize was that there was a good chance this child had been drugged so he would sleep all day. It makes Mom much more noticeable to have a sleeping kid in her lap, and she’s better able to work the gig when the kid isn’t running around all day disturbing everyone’s peace.

I can barely formulate words about this. But again, before you judge too harshly, ask yourself, is there any chance we’ve been just as guilty as her? What have we given to or done with our kids in order to free up time for us to make a living or do whatever we want to do? I’m not picking a fight here. I just want us praying into this situation, not judging.

IMG_9709PICTURE #3 – Again, another familiar sight in Cambodia. The artistry of how they can pile all that stuff on a rickety trailer, and the whole thing be transported by a small scooter or human, is quite unbelievable! You really do want to grab your camera when you see it. It’s totally a tourist treasure, and it’s laughable…

… until you’re told there is the possibility that deep inside that mound of crap on that trailer, there may be layers of drugged children who are being trafficked across the border for either forced labor or sexual exploitation. Oh yeah, there are businesses in First World countries that specialize in children for their paying clients. CHILDREN DAMMIT! Children. Little people. Kids. Toddlers. Babies.

While we fight about our oh-so-important doctrinal or tribal differences, this crap is going on in the world. (Expand that picture and look at that guy’s eyes.)

While this stuff has been in my head for days, writing it down has made it even more difficult to swallow. It’s like it got real when it became a product before my very eyes. So yeah, it’s real. This stuff isn’t propagated by a bunch of sicko misfits or country bumpkins. Very sophisticated and powerful people run the trafficking industry with dark efficiency. Bringing these crimes against humanity unto justice will require massive resources, intelligence, and manpower from all around the world. Call me naïve, but I have hope that we (every nation, tribe, and tongue) can unite at some point in order to stop this most horrible exploitation of the innocent in our lifetime.

Mike, how can you have hope?

We must have hope. That is our job as people who love and know Jesus. No hope means no faith. No faith means no change. Until our last breath, people need to know that God loves them, we love them, and we’re willing to be in unity regardless of faith, race, or creed for the welfare of all mankind.

FIRST, I have hope about these situations in Cambodia because there are Cambodian people of faith who have the ability to hear God’s directives.

I only visited one “church” in Cambodia, so I’m no master authority on what the Cambodian church looks like on the inside. But Christians in Cambodia need to stop looking at American churches for directives and influence on how we do church. I experienced enough to at least make that casual assessment. Christians in Cambodia need to own their own country’s problems and go to work. Take the lead and set the tone for awareness and activation. Spiritual formation is important, but Cambodia has bigger fish to fry. Christians in Cambodia need to awaken to the fact that they are the ones who hold spiritual authority to change their villages, towns, and their country. Their unity, their prayers, and their awareness can signal the fires of change. But as long as they believe that all they need is to do church like us Americans… yeah, I start losing hope.

SECOND, I have hope because God has sent special agents into Cambodia who have their thumbs on the pulse of all corruption in that country. I met some of these people. My God! Their strength of conviction for the safety of every woman and child in that country is staggering. Again, these aren’t smelly backpackers who wander about aimlessly in the country during spring break. I’m talking about highly connected and well-trained leaders who coordinate in the government on all sorts of humanitarian efforts. Fortunately these aren’t overly religious people. Yes, extremely Christ-centric, but without all the churchy trinkets. Real people doing a dangerous job to rescue and restore dignity among the people of Cambodia.

So yes, I have hope. A lot in fact, but it’s a steep climb up a very big mountain.

I met some young Cambodians who have the potential to break out of their ancestral chains, and spearhead national awareness and change. Are they ready for that right now? I don’t know. But, I think they will eventually be disturbed enough to be the change.

Until then… we pray… and be rightly disturbed.

Make is so, Lord!

Love you all,



Categories: Uncategorized

our suffering servant

June 7, 2016 9 comments

IMG_5855I’ve spent a considerable amount of time debriefing my recent stay in a Third World country. The jetlag has been the worst I’ve ever experienced. It probably has more to do with my age than the actual lag. Honestly, it has kicked my butt.

While I did see incredible beauty on my journey, some of what I heard and witnessed was disturbing. I think disturbed should be the appropriate response to anyone who is truly paying attention. Since returning home, I’ve sat some hours in my office staring at the Suffering Servant. I’ve wondered, “Do You see all of that? Do You truly feel and internalize the pain that is for real in this world?”

Oh yeah, I took it further. “How guilty are we Christians of our magical thinking? Aren’t You supposed to fix everything? The innocent, Lord. The innocent…”



More Crickets

“Aren’t You in control, micro-managing all of our lives? If so, You’re doing a pathetic job. If you want to talk about it, I’d be glad to fill You in.”

God’s quiet can be deafening. His nearness so dense. It’s like trying to take a breath under water.

My 83 year old pastoral mentor recently said to me, “Michael, there are just some things we are not to know or understand this side of heaven.” That actually helps some. Maybe, “I don’t know” is a good answer after all for life’s hurtful complexities.

I’ve had a lot of paradigm shifts in my lifetime. Most of them comprised of simple spiritual formation. The first happened when I was 19 years old. I married Patti Cox. I knitted my soul to the woman I’ve always loved. That’s a game changer. I’m still convinced it was the most spiritual moment of my life, and I didn’t know it at the time. The poor girl has put up with a lot of bullshit. It’s quite possible she still does.

The second was when I met Jesus Christ the Nazarene. I belonged to Him before I really knew it, but coming into that knowledge invited a lifetime of metamorphic change. I’ve never really gotten over the relationship and it’s effects on me.

The third happened when my eyes opened to the person-hood of the Holy Spirit. Whoa! That was a wild ride. That one right there changed how I read and saw scripture. Ministry became more about right here and now. Another game changer for sure.

The next major shift happened quite unexpectedly. For years I have worked through a friend’s teachings on the New Covenant (Anth Chapman). That’s when it dawned on me that I had given quite a bit of my spiritual life to dualistic thinking. Everything had been reduced to right or wrong, good or evil, and black or white. Life is much more complex than that. Being good and being right doesn’t always equate to the end we have in mind or what we think we’ve been promised. It’s bad math for living real life. Regardless of what we perceive or feel, God loves us. That is when it dawned on me that the systems of man is where the pressure originates. We are not under pressure from God. We don’t have to perform for His love. You don’t have to (thank God) be perfect to be loved by God. God IS love. Big shift. BIG shift.

Lastly, in 2010 I was introduced to A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr and Paula D’Arcy, and it rocked me to the core. In discovering that material, there was an incredible vitality and invitation to transition to a new land spiritually. I didn’t want to be stuck in my old paradigms. I wanted deliverance from my container of certitudes. For as long as I have been discipled by Rohr, I have always known that he had an incredible influence of liberation. He was comfortable with mystery. I was terrified of mystery. Those teachings softened my hard edges towards pain, hurt, loss, death, sickness, injustice, trauma, and tears. I don’t necessarily like any of those things, but I think I move much quicker now to find God’s quiet when those things surface. In that quiet, our Suffering Servant whispers, “I know. I see. I grieve also.” But that is usually all that is said in the moment. Those words never seem to change the external reality, no matter how horrible it may be. That doesn’t seem to be a part of the deal.

No matter how much we continue to preach a winner’s script gospel, brokenness is everywhere. Even the most devout are afflicted in their humanness.  If we can’t see that, we probably need some sort of serious adjustment. He said, “You’ll always have the poor with you.” My goodness that is such a hard saying! Would it be good for us to get everything in our lifetime just the way we want it? Would it make us better servants of Jesus if we got everything nice and easy? I think deep down we know the answer to those questions. “My grace is sufficient” is the stony path that pierces unsolvable trials. He promises to go through with us. Escape isn’t often on the table. It surely wasn’t for Him, for Paul, or the first twelve.

There is a solid soberness inside of aged wisdom that recognizes everything belongs. Some days I think I’m there. Other days I wonder. Mostly I surmise that I’m a long way off. I realize it’s almost an unthinkable notion to religious folks, but I’m very close to people who live with searing pain, and at times the only comfort I can find are in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” That is our Jesus – our God – and that’s what we have. Like it, love it, or hate it; it must be enough. It has to be enough. I’m convinced it will always be enough.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Love you all,



If you’ve at least reached your forties, you would probably benefit from Rohr’s CD series, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Click to be directed to his website. I double-dog dare ya!

Categories: Uncategorized