Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why You Wish You Were Lebanese

First of all, the food is great. Like lamb? Hummus? Taboolie? Such flavors!!

But, not to be outdone by Adam Sandler's Hannukah ditty, here is a list of some my fellow Lebs. Prepare to be amazed!

Paul Anka, Dick Dale (King of the Surf Guitar), Danny -and Marlo-Thomas, Jamie Farr (Cpl. Klinger of MASH fame), Salma Hayek (need I say more?), "Tiny Tim" (real name Herbert Khaury), Kristy McNichol, Kathy Najimy (Rat Race, Sister Act), Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, Stripes, SCTV), Keeanu Reeves (this is a cheat because he was born in Beirut but is of Chinese, Hawaiian and American roots), Neil Sedaka, Shakira, Tony Shaloub (Monk), Omar Sharif ("Dr. Zhivago" - born Michael Shaloub to Lebanese parents in Cairo, Egypt), Tom Shidyac (Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor), G.E. Smith (Bandleader of Saturday Night Live house band), Tiffany (teen singer), Frank Zappa (that's right!), Casey Kasem (America's Top 40), Jack Hanna (Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures)

Sports Figures include: John Elway, Doug Flutie and Bobby Rahal.

And don't forget Wendy's Hamburger man, Dave Thomas, pollster John Zogby, heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, fashion designer Joseph Abboud, Mansour Farah (clothing manufacturer), Joseph Marrion Haggar (also in clothing), William Peter Blatty (author of The Exorcist), Gibran Khalil Gibran (poet, writer, and friend of my grandfather).

And, oh yes, ME!

For a far more exhaustive list and for many other things Lebanese, check out:

And, one more thing: My wife, of decidedly British descent, makes the best dang baklava you ever ate!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Film Review of "Crazy Heart"

"Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try..."

I'm not sure how I would feel if I were a reporter and I had to watch an attractive and much younger fellow reporter sleep with the somewhat charming but rather burned out older has-been country singer during her second interview with him. Did I mention she has a four-year-old son?

Okay, let me start again. Imagine a film about a burned out older has-been country singer who finds redemption after meeting a much younger woman who is also the mother of a young son. Oh -- and it has Robert Duvall in it, too. But wasn't that the main plot line of Tender Mercies which starred Duvall as the burnout and Tess Harper as the woman who stops his free fall?

Okay, let me start again. Imagine a film about a burned out older has-been country singer who gets involved with a much younger woman with a son named Buddy with a soundtrack by T-Bone Burnett and, yes, Robert Duvall plays a role in this film, too.

It's kind of hard to imagine the attractive Maggie Gyllenhaal falling for a man who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and somewhat resembles the aged love child of Nick Nolte and The Dude (or, maybe, Kris Kristofferson - you decide). But that's what happens and, dang it, he actually is a likeable sort when he's not clutching a bottle of whiskey or emptying the contents of his stomach into a trash can -- but, I digress...

The fact is that Jeff Bridges does give a whale of a performance in this movie. And the music is really good, even if the mythical "hit" songs are ones we've never heard before as performed by mythical pick up bands (including one called "The Bum Steers"!) who sound amazing with next to no rehearsal time with the star of the show. Yes, there's a lot to like and a lot to swallow in Crazy Heart which manages to treat us to some pretty wonderful New Mexico landscapes along the way. The supporting cast, including Maggie G, all turn in nice performances and, hey, wasn't that piano player guy the radio broadcaster in Duvall's "The Apostle"? And, what can I say (speaking of Duvall): he has been my main man ever since I first saw The Great Santini. Once again, he does not disappoint though the director doesn't give us tons of insight into exactly what is going on in his relationship with Bridges' character.

Still, I am bugged by the reporter who makes and re-makes up what is best for her son as she goes. Grab a babysitter at one a.m.? Sure. Turn the little fella over to her charming but alcoholic lover (who has already rolled his Suburban after a short doze on the blacktop) for the afternoon? Why not? After all, he's a lot of fun and he makes good biscuits. Like Renee Zellwiger in Jerry McGuire, we are once again treated to a mommy who makes grand leaps of faith into a relationship that has huge implications for her little boy while we keep our fingers crossed that everyone will come out alright.

But, by the end of the film, there is redemption. We are informed that the turnaround has taken many months but we see only a fraction of the process. Okay, it's just a movie but, somehow, Duvall's redemption in Tender Mercies made more cinematic sense.

If it sounds like I'm sour on the film, I'm not. I actually enjoyed it. I even thought Colin Farrell pulled off the role of "young buck Country Music star" pretty well -- so well that it was a little hard to understand why Bad (that's the first name of the Bridges character - yep) is so mad at his adoring protege'. But all will be well before the end credits role.

There was a crazy side bar in Crazy Heart about another son -- this one belonging to the has-been singer himself, though he hasn't seen him in 24 years. A phone call is placed. A conversation ensues. You'll have to watch the film and decide for yourself what can be gained from exploring this sub plot.

I guess, in the end, I like Bad Blake enough to want to know more about him and, because the film brought me to that point, I wish it would have helped me understand the man better. Nevertheless, Crazy Heart has some five star performances, some good music and some nice scenary as it takes us to bowling alleys, motels and bars we would otherwise zoom right on by.

And when it is all said and done, The Dude most definitely abides.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Some of My Favorite Simple Church / Organic Church Empowerment Quotes

All these can be found on our website at (you can also try

"Instead of bringing people to church so that we can then bring them to Christ, let's bring Christ to people where they live. We may find that a new church will grow out of such an enterprise, a church that is more centered in life and the workplace, where the Gospel is supposed to make a difference. What will happen if we plant the seed of the Kingdom of God in the paces where ife happens and where society is formed? Is this not what Jesus intended for His Church?"

Neil Cole in Organic Church

"I'm unlearning the American church's traditional focus on a superstar speaker, worship leader, educator and shepherd, which serves mainly to attract spectators rather than igniting the power of everyone else.

I'm learning that being "glocal" (engaging the church's mission in both global and local ways) means decentralizing power, decision making, information, all of it. The Kingdom of God means ministry opportunities are available to almost everyone."

Bob Roberts, Pastor and Author of Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World.

"Luther reformed the content of the gospel, but did not change the basic structure of the 'worship service'. This reformed-Roman Catholic-Jewish meeting pattern was baptized by the Baptists, anointed by the Pentecostals, misused by the cults, renewed by the Charismatics, put into uniform by the Salvation Army, dry-cleaned by the Quakers - but was never radically changed.

The 'services' were essentially still performances, audience-oriented masses... where many spectators and consumers observe a few very involved religious specialists perform for them and with them. (Today's churches) have too often become 'fellowships without fellowship'".

Wolfgang Simson in Houses That Change the World

"I believe there are thousands of emerging apostles that have gifts within them and they are not being released because we don’t have fathers that understand the apostolic calling and the [need to] release them like we should.

I believe we do have many young ministers with apostolic callings who struggle to develop on their own because there is no one in their region that they are connected to that has a heart to train and disciple them into their gifting.”

- John Eckhardt, founder of Crusader Ministries, Chicago

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What if the "Visitor" Was You?

Just got back from a great pow-wow with our Western Regional Leadership team of the Vineyard, held in Temecula as the rain fell and the waters rose. While there, one of the pastors remarked that -- despite the fact that their church had moved to new meeting space -- he was encouraged to see that they were still getting "visitors". Something about that term grabbed me and I heard it in a whole new way.

It's not that I am not well-acquainted with the use of the word "visitor" to describe those folks who are coming to our church meetings to check us out. They are visitors and the word is appropriate. But this time, a different thought occured to me: what if "we" were the visitors?

In other words, what if we were the ones showing up for a "visit" on the turf of the people in the everyday places of our community? What if we were the ones who stepped out of our church space and stepped into their life space as a "visitor" to their world -- visitors who bear he gospel of grace, the love of God and an openess to connecting with their reality?

I quickly decided that, armed with this new insight, I am going to seek to be the "visitor" who comes to the lives of others. How about you?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Our 700 Club Experience

As you may know, Robin and I were the subject of a video piece broadcast last week on CBN's The 700 Club program (Here's the link. Video lasts about 5 minutes):

The backstory is that our good friends, the Tranes, have a son, Max, who was profiled on a 700 Club piece about his remarkable recovery from a fall and the brain injury that followed. Max's mom and dad told the producer about our family's story and, therefore, both families were interviewed seperately during a week in October of last year. They ran the Trane story in November and our story just a few days ago.

Frankly, I was surprised to see how much I was on camera in our piece due to the fact that they spent much more time interviewing Robin while they were here. Nevertheless, it seems they wanted to approach the story from the angle of a husband and his fight for his wife and family after her tragic accident and, all things considered, we were actually pretty happy with their take on things.

A few of the details of a decade ago when the crash took place came back afresh through the video. In particular, I was struck by Mary Kay Bader's sober reminder that Robin could have died any time without warning - especially in the first week to ten days. I really had forgotten about that. I also appreciated her observation that when a brain-injury patient is surrounded by "faith and family" (as she put it) their prospects of recovery are far more hopeful. Amazing.

Of course, in commenting on the piece, a number of our friends said "...but they left out so much!" True, but -- given the paramaters of the story they had time to tell -- they did a pretty good job of including enough details to acquaint someone unfamiliar with the situation with the miracle of Robin's restoration. All in all, we trust that the presentation will bring glory to God and encourage others to fight the good fight of faith, hope and love for their loved ones.

My book, How Healed Do You Want to Be? (Ampelon Publishing), begins with the story of the crash and launches from there into a much wider discussion of healing grace and what it is that is actually being described by the word: healing. has order information if you want to get a personalized copy from the author (me!).

After I first saw the video, I called the Producer at CBN, Rod Thomas, and told him that -- while I was pleased in general -- I did feel that I've got much more of a George Clooney thing going on than the man playing me in the re-enactment segments. Did they attempt to get George to play me, I wondered? Rod assured me that they had indeed tried to get Clooney to play my role but, sadly, he was already occupied. Well, at least I am reassured that I was not the only one who saw the obvious resemblance between myself and the dashingly handsome leading man, Clooney.

If you've got five minutes, I hope you'll take them and have a view. Please leave your comments on what you think, too!

Friday, January 8, 2010

"He Fights"

During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln went through commanding generals for his Army of the Potomac one after the other. McClellan. Burnside. Hooker. McClellan again. Despite those things that recommended these men to the Commander in Chief, they ultimately disappointed the hard-pressed President again and again. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee, who would have been Lincoln's first pick had he decided to fight for the Union, repeatedly frustrated the Union Army's efforts to extinguish him and end the war quickly.

At last, Lincoln found the man he was looking for in Ulysses Grant. In praising Grant, Lincoln summarized his high opinion of his new commander in two words: "He fights".

Something about Lincoln's brief accolade grabs me. Of course, all his generals "fought" in the broad sense of the word. But what Lincoln admired about Grant was his focus, his determination and his relentless pursuit of victory. It is what he had been looking for in a commander for a long, long time. I confess that I want to go down fighting -- for the highest and best for my wife and children and for the other people and things that God has put within my field of influence.

Who do you know who "fights"? Mark that man or woman. It is a quality we need to see much more of in the times in which we live.

I would like the Lord to say of me: "He fights". I would like to say of each of my sons "he fights", too. Not just in the general sense, but in the noblest sense.