Friday, June 30, 2006


"The gospel tradition is full of conflict. Often the conflict is violent. All three synoptic Gospels begin and end with conflict, the most prominent being the crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans, followed by his vindication in the resurrection... . Far from avoiding or transcending such conflicts, however, Jesus himself enters into them and even exacerbates or escalates them" (Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine, page 156).

Against the prevailing popular myth that Jesus as the Good Shepherd wandered around Galilee, Samaria and Judea with a Breck Girl hairdo and a laid-back, peaceful, agrarian demeaner, Robert Horsley, who has paid a lot of scholarly attention to the violent socio-politico-religious environment of the "holy land" during the time of Jesus, paints a far different picture. Horsley compellingly presents a Jesus living in, facing, and standing against the terrorist realities of his day. Jesus, in a sense, woke up every day to the sound of bombings, not to "soft favorites all the time, all day long."

When the angels sang about "peace on earth" at Jesus' birth, they didn't see a gentle Bethlehem stable with soft snow on the ground and bright stars twinkling. They saw blood running in the streets of Jerusalem. They were aware of the hate-driven plots of many, many Jews to retaliate against the inhumane oppression of Rome. Not too long after Jesus was born, the blood of infants flowed in the streets of Bethlehem as Herod viciously sought to kill the new rival "king." John the Baptist was capriciously beheaded. Jewish dissidents were crucified by the hundreds yearly. Assassinations of Roman soldiers and Jewish compromisers with Rome by Jewish sicarii during the Jewish great feasts in Jerusalem were common and expected.

Reading our own culture's "separation of church and state" into the Gospels is one of the most blatant hermeneutical (interpretive) errors of our time. Every "religious" thing Jesus did and said was highly politically-charged with resistance to the Roman oppression and the Jewish abandonment of their hope in God. The Temple in Jerusalem was equivalent to the White House or the Congressional Building in Washington, DC. Can you see Jesus whipping his way through the White House? Violating the Sabbath in Jesus' culture was equivalent to "burning the flag" in ours. Baghdad today is more like Jerusalem was than is, let's say, Grand Rapids, MI, or Wheaton, IL or Colorado Springs, CO.

Jesus as the Good Shepherd walked in the valley of the shadow of death everyday of his life. Green pastures and still waters were a national memory and a desperate hope, not a daily option.

In the midst of all this, the Essenes chose a cottage village by the lake (escapism). The zealots chose the bloody sword. The Herodians and Sadducees chose traitorous compromise "with the powers that be." The Pharisees narcoticized themselves on endless religious minutiae. Rome chose intimidating military power. Wading neck deep into it all, Jesus chose love.

The love of God in Jesus Christ is the greatest threat to terrorists and escapists and compromisers and religious bean-counters and empirial power brokers. And God's love is their only hope. And our only hope. My only hope.

Monday, June 26, 2006



If you have watched the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks, then you know the 'character' Wilson. Hanks plays a FedEx executive, Chuck Noland, who gets stranded alone on an isolated South Pacific island for four years. He learns to survive and one of his survival mechanisms is his imaginary friend Wilson--a soccer ball.

Some of the most humorous moments in the movie are conversations "Chuck" has with "Wilson." One of the funniest is when the Hanks character is making some rope out of vines and he suddenly turns to Wilson with a quizzical expression saying, "What?! What did you say? (pause) You just won't let it go, will you?"

Julie and I think that our Bee Balm plant has flowers that resemble Wilson. We call them our "Wilson!" blooms (said with urgency--"Wil-SON!" If you've seen the movie you know the urgency intended).

You may be wondering: does John have imaginary conversations with his "Wilson" flowers? That, my friend, is a mystery submerged in the deep waters of my soul. . . . . .

[some time later on the Frye deck]

"Hey, Wilson, I wrote a blog post about you. Do you want me to read it to you?"

"You don't? Why's that?"

"Get out of town. You're shy? I didn't know you were shy. What are you shy about?"

"Oh, the hair. ---Yeah, I understand. Really. I understand."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Well, hello, Mrs. Robin.../ Jesus loves you..."

We are delighted to announce that we have a new resident at our home. Mrs. Nesting Robin has made a home for herself above our front porch light-fixture.

Some days ago we noticed a mess of grass on our porch and hanging weeds from the light. We left it alone wondering if we might be taking on some boarders. Indeed, we are. A nice rounded nest sits in the middle of this otherwise hairy-looking abode.

According to Robin custom she has laid her traditional four stunningly blue eggs. We watch her sitting on them. Julie read that robins have a place on their chests that have no feathers, just warm skin that the mother uses to warm and hatch her eggs. I caused her to fly away as I was photographing her and her babies. Thankfully she didn't come and peck my eyes as I photographed her eggs. (She came back a little while later. I didn't touch the nest in any way.)

She is an intelligent bird in choosing the front light fixture. We have noticed in the back yard a number of robins which, having built their nests in the evergreens, must chase off pesky squirrels intent on getting to the eggs. Julie and I were on the deck early this morning sipping coffee and helping the robins by shooting at the squirrels with a pellet gun.

We have a mezuzah on our front doorpost with the Jesus-expanded Shema (the Jesus Creed) in it. We like to think the robin feels like the sparrow and swallow in Psalm 84.

Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

-- Psalm 84:3

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Ruckus of Color!

What a ruckus! A few weeks back I promised you a "ruckus of day lilies." I can see 5 of our at least 12 plants out my window, each one as prissy as can be with blooms. "Look at me! Look at me!" they seem to be shouting, appearing like an explosion in a butter factory.

Their buttery yellow flowers are so sumptuous that I would like to put them on my pancakes and drench them in Grade B pure maple syrup. But, alas, you can't eat 'em (though I've been known to eat my share of petunias in the past).

If their color were sound waves, we would be listening to the "Waltz of the Flowers" played by the band Delirious.

Julie and I are eager to show you our "Wilson!" flowers. They are hinting that their arrival is imminent. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I Have P.R.C.O.T.S. Syndrome

Shhhhhhh. Quiet.

I have a severe case of PRCOTS syndrome.

That's Post Roller Coaster Overkill Traumatic Stress Syndrome, commonly known in the medical community as the inevitable and painful "Theme Park Headache" (TPH).

Yes, we rode the Millennium Force (the if-you-don't-pee-your-pants,-you're-lucky ride), the Top Thrill Dragster (it lasts 28 seconds but each second your whole life passes before your wind-blown for me it lasted 1624 years), the Sky Hawk (developed in some dark, steamy 3rd world country to torture silly Americans), the Mantis (a stand up roller coaster whose sole purpose is to pummel you like Mike Tyson at his best), the Raptor (where, at the exit, care-giving psychiatrists are lined up yelling "Next?!), and the Power Tower (which propels you to the top of a 316 story (so it seemed) skinny metal frame and drops you so fast to the bottom that you're just a pile of skin in the seat because your skeleton and inards are still on the 316th floor).

Now you know why I have P.R.C.O.T.S. syndrome. Lord, have mercy.

Shamar and Evan are fine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

May I Be With the Force...Millennium Force!

I'm at a father-daughter (and boyfriend) dance today...sort of.

I'm at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio with my daughter, Shamar, and her friend Evan. I'll be riding the world's top-rated roller coaster "Millennium Force" (not to be confused in any way with Tribulation Force of the "Left Behind" series of books). This thing is real!

It's my Father's Day gift from my daughters and Shamar's 23rd birthday gift from Evan. Her birthday is today.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


This is my Father's World.

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him, Alleluya!

The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show:
O praise Him, O praise Him,

Friday, June 16, 2006


What skill desperately needs cultivation these days in the followers of Jesus?

I think it is the ability to see.

Jesus said in Luke 6:40 "A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." The verb "fully trained" is κατηρτισμενος (katertismenos) which we know more familiarly as "equipped" (see, e.g., Ephesians 4:11-12).

What equipping or training or acquired skill does Jesus have in mind? Thankfully the immediate context helps us. Think of verse 40 as the juicy, hot-off-the grill hamburger patty and the previous verse (39) as the top half of the bun and verses 41-42 as the bottom half of the bun. Chew on these verses a while.

Note verse 39: "He also told them this parable: 'Can a blind person lead a blind person? Will they not both fall into a pit?'"

This has to be one of Jesus' shortest parables! It's composed of two simple questions that incite the imagination. Think about the answer to these questions? What is the issue? The dangers of blindness.

Now note verses 41-42: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to that person, 'Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your friend's eye."

Again, Jesus speaks about seeing or not seeing ("look at," "pay no attention to" and "fail to see"). This time it's a little humorous, yet with a sober message as he contrasts the "speck" and the "plank" in human eyes.

We must cultivate the ability to pay attention, to see. Jesus, our Master, wants to open our eyes, not just the eyes of our hearts (Ephesians 1:18), but our physical eyes to see what he sees. "None are so blind as those who refuse to see." Our culture, for all its image-based, video orientation, is flat out blind.

I saw a video today titled "Educate the Girls" produced by the Evangelical Covenant Church in the Congo. Women and girls are "nothing" in that culture; if they are anything, it's "property." It was tough watching the video, but there is hope in the holistic gospel of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ! Followers of Jesus who see will change the Congo and women, not too long from now, will be its doctors and lawyers and teachers and pastors.

I don't want to be in that group that Jesus speaks about: "...and having eyes, they do not see."

God, what are the planks in our eyes?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Time-Released Fireworks: Our Day Lilies

One of the joys of summer is the blooming of our many yellow Day Lily plants.

As you can see in the picture, a number of other buds are about to bloom. We must have about 12 Day Lilies around our home...the front, by the mail box, along side, and in the rock garden.

For me Day Lilies are time-released, botanical fireworks. Their green blades bursting out of the ground now exploding (in slow motion) their yellow flowers in radiant brightness.

In a few days I'll post another picture when the Day Lilies are making a loud ruckus of color with their gorgeous blooms. I think they'll bring a smile to your face.

The purple-blue Clematis, on the other hand, is an only child. We have one plant by the deck. But what the Clematis lacks in quantity it makes up in sheer, simple beauty. A botanical "blue star" shining in the daylight.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Stories Stitch Us Together

STORIES are the real stuff of life. I think God lives in (and loves) our stories more than he lives in finely-crafted, exegeted sentences about the Bible.

LAST evening Julie and I were with a posse of friends for a potluck dinner with Curt, our host, doing his famous (new grill) turkey-that-disguises-itself-as-pork loin specialty. Curt sticks a digitally-ramped up probe into the meat to let him know its inside temperature. Go figure. Curt eats Copper River salmon on the Copper River, salmon he's caught himself bare-handed and cooked over an open fire. Curt is very, very cool. Curt is a Renaissance man.

GREG and Christine were there as well as each of their parents. Jim and Sue (from Colorado for a few days) told stories on Greg while Ken and Marilyn were discreetly quiet about their lovely daughter Christine. Justin was there with his delightful smile and wonderful ability to play the piano, and Micah showed up, an artist who writes subversively powerful songs and plays them on his guitar. Erica, Micah's wife, came later with their little son Asher. Erica is a passionate pursuer of God and God's mission in the world. Josh, who pilots the oldest boat on Reeds Lake, told stories about his novice knowledge of boating. Josh is a builder. Andi, who works with troubled teens, was missing Ben who's in Oregon as a newly ordained youth pastor (they get married in August). Wayne and Vicki who are earning their MPT--masters of parenting teens with its joys and agonies. (Wayne is our resident theologian-philosopher and well-grounded guru). Matt told stories of working as Teaching Cashier at a corner store in the city. He's senior executive cashier. We enjoyed Lydia whose knows Greek flawlessly because she is Greek. Curt and I carried a box-spring, mattress and bed frame up 3 floors for Lydia a few days back. Her apartment is so high I get a nose-bleed. Kristin, Lydia's friend, came and blessed Christine with a bouquet of flowers as a belated birthday gift. Karen, a clone of Martha Stewart, was our supremely welcoming hostess, who will not eat cheesecake from the box (like I will) but must put it on a raised cake plate.

CHRISTINE, who had been to a conference on Whidbey Island in the Peuget Sound, led all of us through an exercise about telling our stories; an exercise she recently experienced at the conference. She said, "Your stories are like your fingerprints. They are yours alone." As followers of Jesus we have stories to tell and our stories shared together in community point amazingly to and are part of God's grand, sweeping story of redemption and love. Christine had us list by category "Funny stories," "Stories I tell often," and "Stories that have shaped me." We then shared a few stories together.

JULIE told about our dinner time experience when our girls were little. When one of the girls had a particularly important story from her day, she not only told it to us, but got up beside the table and dramatized it. We had so much fun hearing (and seeing) the girls' stories. Greg told about his first meeting of Curt and how that led to the joyful experience we were all having around the table last night on Curt's deck.

CURT told about his brother, Doug, who recently spent an entire day with their grandfather. Doug told Curt, "Grandfather spent the whole day telling me stories and I'd never heard one of them before in my life." The grandfather is 95. What a treasure.

FOR GOD so loved the world that he didn't preach sermons; he told stories.

THANKS, little community, for your stories. Julie's life and mine are richer because of your laughter, tears, dreams, hurts and love. Because of your stories.

[for a great story by Bob Greene, click here]

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Sometimes beautiful things surprisingly converge leaving us feeling the ineffable brush of the goodness of God.

This morning a few simple things suddenly took on a depth and a joy that stunned Julie and me for a moment.

In the cool morning with its magnetic blue skies and new day sunshine, we were on our back deck and I had made a breakfast for Julie. (I had a later breakfast appointment.) Julie was enjoying her cheese omelette, sausage patty and cantaloupe. We both were sipping good, hot coffee and listening to a CD of James Galway playing the flute. I read the daily prayers from The Divine Hours (the Saturday nearest June 8) for us.

Suddenly we heard the fluttering of two yellow finches as they were darting in and out of our trees. Were they playing tag, were they in a mating ritual, or were they (as we wanted to think) aerial dancing to the music of the flute? To watch their play washed us in deep joy.

Then, continuing this God-sponsored, free concert, we saw a heron flying slowly over with a mobile symmetry almost beyond belief.

What was going on? What was this sudden amalgamation of simple things? A few daily pieces of life joined into a breath-taking picture of a glimpse into eternity. Instantly, little things became priceless. We wanted it to last forever. Alas and anon, the moments moved along leaving us limp from surprise.

Because Julie was there, my joy was doubled and likewise for her. We would like to imagine God, a very good Father, saying, "O.K. finches, nice show. Thanks for helping Me out this morning. Heron, you were just maaaaavelous. Angels, what do you think of the blueness of the sky and the brilliance of the sunlight? I'm good, aren't I? Alright, let's move on. More people need the brush of My goodness today."

Then the CD stuck, oops, and the flute became repetitive,and the coffee was gone. That, too, is life. Just like life.

Friday, June 09, 2006


I'm thrilled.

"Why?" you ask.

Because my friend, Scot McKnight, over at Jesus Creed is doing some posts on my book Jesus the Pastor: Leading Others in the Character and Power of Christ (Zondervan: 2000).

Check out Scot's review installments beginning today.

Again, thanks, Scot.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"Saved and Drawing Interest"

Years ago as a student in a well-known Bible school, I was being trained to do evangelism. Efficient evangelism. Clean, neat, tidy evangelism. Because big busy streets were near-by and because the part of the city we were in was somewhat of a slum at the time, bums and beggars were our favorite targets for evangelism.

I was locked and loaded. I remember approaching one such bum and asking him, "Are you saved?"

He responded with a grin, "Sonny, I've been saved so many times I'm drawing interest!" and he gave a hearty laugh. Grimey face, but dancing eyes. I remember being stymied, a little insulted that this guy didn't know the stakes; that he'd toy with something as valuable as his eternal soul. But I've learned that a cheap question really does deserve a cheap answer.

That poor man's words came back to me recently as I was pondering exactly what is the gospel that Jesus announced, lived and died for and rose again to make a reality in this world.

What if I had approached the man with "Have you been loved?" Or, "Have you had a decent meal today?" Or, "Will you tell me your story?"

But, no. The man was not a person to me; he was a project; an assignment; a target. I had an evangelism model that allowed me to anonymously do a speedy Bible verse "hit and run" and swagger back to campus telling my friends that I had done it: "Shared the gospel."

Jaded by the undoubtedly numerous times he had been "hit on," the old bum had developed a sense of humor. "Save me again, Sonny. Get your assignment done. I know it's not about me, but about you and your obsession to 'win the world.' Skedaddle back to the school and fill out your report."

I wonder if when I face Jesus in the judgment, Jesus will point to an angel and say, "Remember, John, that Chicago bum with the really good sense of humor? That was him...there, the shining one. He really had a story to tell you. But you never asked."

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Journey into Enduring Prayer: Praying With The Church

Welcome to this blog parade! We're celebrating the release of Scot McKnight's new book, Praying With The Church: Developing a Daily Rhythm for Spiritual Formation (Paraclete: 2006). For a "map" of the blog parade route, click here.

Dr. Scot McKnight is a new kind of scholar. He combines a skilled mind for scholarly research with a down-to-earth, passionate heart for walking with God and a quest to see the church unified in God's grace and love.

Rarely does a book about prayer motivate me to pray. Julie, my wife, and I have read bunches of books about prayer as we for many years directed the prayer ministries of the church where I was teaching pastor.

Scot McKnight’s new book, Praying With The Church, invites me and inspires me to pray. Julie, who is half-way through the book, also confessed, “This book makes me want to pray.” For this benefit alone I highly recommend Praying With The Church. The Foreword is by Phyllis Tickle who compiled the 3 volume The Divine Hours.

Scot introduces us to the enduring discipline of “fixed-hour prayer” or “the daily office.” Scot’s story about how he searched for and discovered Francis of Assisi’s “little church” (the portiuncola) while on a trip to Italy with his wife, Kris, and why it relates to his book Praying With The Church I’ll leave for you to explore.

The title of the book is the theme of the book. We need encouragement to move from private, personal prayer which Scot affirms is a very good practice. He describes personal, private prayer as praying in the church. Scot urges us on to praying with the church, joining with others in prayer as an expression of the “communion of the saints.”

Why develop this discipline? Because God’s people, Israel, practiced fixed hour praying; Jesus, himself a Jew, practiced his daily office and creatively expanded the Hebrew Shema and gave us “The Lord’s Prayer.” If you haven’t read Scot’s The Jesus Creed, now’s the time to do it. You can get a FREE copy---see below. It’s a great forerunner and foundation for his Praying With The Church; the early church practiced fixed hours of prayer, and praying at regular hours has been a Christian practice through the centuries.

Scot, in a clear, accessible and friendly style of writing, presents several excellent chapters about Jesus as the supreme model of fixed-hour praying, defines the basic structure and purpose of a “prayer book,” and then examines four traditions that promote fixed-hour praying. The four traditions are: The Manual for Eastern Orthodox Prayers (including the “Jesus prayer”), the Catholic The Liturgy of the Hours (with appreciation to The Rule of St. Benedict), the Anglicans’ The Book of Common Prayer (with a word about Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and a tip about the BCP’s confusing fuss of colored ribbons), and finally Phyllis Tickle’s relatively recent The Divine Hours, a delightful 3 volume compilation of the previous three traditions. The Divine Hours is the “most user-friendly” book for ordered prayer.

Spiritual formation occurs in a life moving to sacred rhythms. Scot welcomes us onto the dance floor where the saints of all ages become our partners in learning to pray and live the Jesus Way.


FREE Copy of The Jesus Creed at
Purchase Scot McKnight's Praying with the Church and McKnight's best selling book The Jesus Creed and you will receive your copy of The Jesus Creed for free! Reference coupon code PRBLOG and call 1-800-451-5006 or order on-line. (when ordering on-line you must enter both books on the order).

Friday, June 02, 2006

Enneagram Type 0

My friend, Greg Mutch, claims that there are no losers in the Enneagram. By that he means the Enneagram types are 1 to type 0. I beg to differ.


My alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, has joined in the conversation about the "emerging" or "emergent church movement." This according to Andrew Jones (aka "Tall Skinny Kiwi"). As a grateful graduate, I offer mucho kudos to D.T.S. for this decision.

Andrew Jones writes, "I have just listened to a conversation (3 podcasts) on the emerging church by an American theological seminary. And I was impressed BIGTIME. It was a fair, reasonable, humble, well balanced dealing with the American emerging church - yes it leans on the academic and biases of the emerging church AUTHORS rather than practitioners, but these are Seminary professors and books are their language, the icons of their world. But its good, dang good, and i wish all seminaries would take this learning posture towards the emerging church" (emphasis added by me).

"Dang good." That must be one of those cross-cultural UK expressions. Getting a little edgy there, Tall Skinny Kiwi.

To listen to the 3 podcasts of Dallas Theological Seminary on the "emerging church movement," click here.