Monthly Archives: January 2011

I’m Taking A Mulligan


It is January 19th — less than 3 weeks into the New Year — and I am taking a mulligan!


You see, in golf, there is a great concept: the mulligan.  It is a “do over”.

I love golf.  I enjoy playing.  I am pretty bad.  I am also not super competitive about it.  So if I flub a shot — or whiff entirely (still happens sometimes) I take a mulligan — without guilt.  It is that freedom that allows me to actually enjoy playing golf.

“Give yourself a mulligan!” — that’s what I say to those playing with me too.  Much more fun when everyone is feeling good about the game.

Mulligans in life are good too.

The other day I realized that I am almost 3 weeks into the New Year and many of my goals, resolutions and plans for 2011 have already been flubbed.

  • I had good intentions about going to the gym — and then I busted my knee pretty badly.
  • I had good intentions on diet, but haven’t fully followed through.
  • I had good intentions on a Bible Reading Plan, and am now behind more days than I have done.

Part of me feels like, “better luck next year”… but then I realized… we aren’t even a full 3 weeks in on 2011 yet.  “Relax. Show yourself some grace. Give yourself a mulligan!”

So I am.

A do over.

And I am feeling good about it.

I encourage you to do the same — show yourself some grace and give yourself a mulligan!

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Posted by on January 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


Riverfront Family Church in Hartford Courant Today


The Hartford Courant ran a great article about Riverfront Family Church today.  RFC is an American Baptist church plant meeting in Hartford (960 Main Street — the old G. Fox Building).  It has become my home church in this season of my life and it has been a great blessing to me.  I love the vision of the church, I love the pastor of the church (who has become a good friend), and I love the people of the church — many of which have also become good friends.

RFC is rare in that it is both a legitimately evangelical church as well as a legitimately socially progressive church.  Preaching/teaching is solidly biblical; members are challenged to become serious disciples of Jesus through covenant together, small groups, spiritual disciplines, etc; justice is not just a buzz word, a real part of the DNA of the church and its members; and grace and love is lived out in very real, practical and life-changing ways. It is also one of the most diverse churches I have been a part of — which may say more about other churches than this one.  But the truth is that as the church grows, it is increasingly diverse in terms of geography, age, race, ethnicity, etc.  Worship is contemporary, refreshing and spirit-filled..

For me, RFC has been a great place to worship, develop new friendships, have a place to invite friends, use my gifts, and experience healing.  It is a place where I have been loved and accepted for who I am — and that has been very powerful, especially given this season of life.  It is also fun to be part of a church plant that has a similar heart (though very different strategy/focus) as my previous church. 

The church draws from all over the greater Hartford area, including Glastonbury, Manchester, West Hartford and South Windsor. They are members of the Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC) as well.

Here is a clip from the Hartford Courant article…

Raised in an evangelical church, Nancy Butler said she enjoyed a personal connection with God, an intimate knowledge of the Bible and the uplifting music during her early religious experiences.

“But I had problems with the social policy of the church,” she said. “Women couldn’t be ministers, and I didn’t like the attitudes toward gay people and other religions.”

She said she tried to ignore her conflicted feelings until she and husband Greg Butler started a family.

“That’s when I started really looking at it,” she said, recalling how her daughter once reacted to seeing a man in a turban, after a story lesson at church. “She started crying and said, ‘That man kills Christians.’ And I said, ‘That’s it!’ “

You can read the whole article here.

If you don’t have a home church, I hope you will check out RFC sometime!


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Posted by on January 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


I’ve Been To The Mountaintop


Here is an excerpt of the last speech King gave before he was killed.  Not only is it King at his best, but it is also a prophetic speech.  On this MLK day, I hope you will take some time to watch/listen and respond.  Happy MLK Day!


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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Uncategorized


Still Dreaming


This weekend marks the celebration of the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He is truly one of my heroes of the Christian faith.  I hope that in addition to enjoying a long weekend, you will take some time to watch his “I Have A Dream Speech” and pray that increasingly his dream would become a reality (and then ask what part you might play in that.)


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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in Uncategorized


Pitch Perfect


I thought that President Obama’s speech last night was pitch perfect in a challenging environment. As others have said, it is reminiscent of Reagan after the Challenger Disaster, Clinton after the Oklahoma City Bombing, or Bush after 9/11.

I have spent much of the past decade of my life studying great communication and great leadership.  As a pastor with both preaching and leadership responsibilities, studying great speakers and leaders was both my passion and professional development.

As a speaker — and as a leader — Obama definitely has his highs and lows.  His speeches can soar or they can sour.  Sometimes he is a joy to listen to, and other times he gets bogged down in “professorial” mode and gets lost amongst his own thoughts.  I would assess his leadership the same way.  Much of the last two years has been a tale of two presidents.

But last night in Tucson, Obama nailed it.  

I don’t know if it will go down as a speech for the ages, but it was the speech that was needed for that day.

Part eulogy, part sermon, part teaching moment… he intertwined story with spiritual content with wisdom with even the right political tone — all in one speech.

In one sense, WHAT TO SAY in a speech like this is not rocket science.  It is really all about the execution.  And he executed perfectly.

His decision to use so many personal stories of the victims and heroes, his deft and appropriate — but not overdone — use of scripture, his moral call to honor the dead with greater democracy and civility… powerful and well done.

One of the challenges he faced was that (I suspect) he wrote a speech for a somber memorial gathering.  But then he had to deliver the speech to a 14,000 person crowd that was more celebration (pep rally) than memorial.  He had no choice in this matter… it just happened.  I can tell you from speaking and organizing at funerals, memorials, candlelight vigils, etc — you never really know what the moment will demand.  This is what they needed in Tucson.  And he rolled with it… and he rolled with it well.

Certainly the two best moments of the speech were, first, when he was able to announce that Gabby had opened her eyes for the first time.  It was a powerful and healing and hopeful moment.  And second, his closing image of 9-year old Christina Taylor Green jumping in rain puddles in heaven, was a perfect way to end the speech — along with his call to live up to the dreams Christina had for our democracy.

This speech was presidential and pastoral — and exactly what Tucson, and the nation, needed.

Well done, Mr. President.


(If you missed the speech, you can watch it here.)

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Posted by on January 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Palin Fallacy


I posted earlier today my own apology for jumping too quickly to partially blame violent and vitriolic political rhetoric for the tragic shooting in Tucson.  I also suggested that it is a fallacy that because this case may not be directly linked to such rhetoric does not mean that such language does not or cannot contribute to violence.

I wrote the post yesterday and it posted this morning.  Today, Sarah Palin has posted a video message on her Facebook page directly addressing, “refudiating”, and condemning those who have tried to link her or the Tea Party movement to the Arizona tragedy.

First, let me say, I actually think this is the best “speech” I have seen Palin give (anti-semitic reference notwithstanding).  She comes across very well, is articulate and serious.  She almost looks presidential in the moment.  That is all to her credit.

But, there is a major fallacy in her statement that I want to address.  Perhaps more than a fallacy, it represents a specific worldview that I think is incorrect, but also explains much of the conservative approach to life in contrast to other worldviews.

She says in the address:

“President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.”

This is a conservative worldview position.  I want to contrast this view with a liberal worldview and also with a Biblical/Christian worldview.


This statement from Palin represents a classic conservative worldview.  It is all about the individual.  Individual responsibility and accountability are central.  This is true about crimes, but also in other areas of life.  In economics, this is expressed as allowing totally free markets; in social services, this leads to a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality; in government, it leads to a “smaller is always better”.  Society and systems are never to blame — nor contribute to — issues like poverty, crime, illiteracy, etc.  It is all about the individual.


In contrast, the liberal worldview is very different.  Liberals pretty much believe the opposite.  For liberals, individuals are products of systems and societies.  The Watts Riots are not the result of a bunch of violent and evil individuals; no, the riots were the result of a complex set of factors including anger, frustration, poverty, racism, etc, all embedded in a system that inevitably would explode.  Where conservatives say “acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own,” liberals say that often such acts are the products of systems and society.  This is why liberals believe that good government can make significant changes and improvements to society.  For liberals, fighting crime is often about improving education and safety nets; for conservatives, it tends to be about tougher sentences and enforcement.  A very different worldview!

In Palin’s worldview, her rhetoric (and that of others) cannot be blamed for anything, because everything stands alone.  However, from a liberal worldview, the culture that is created by the language and rhetoric contributes to an environment conducive to such evil acts.


The Biblical/Christian worldview is neither liberal nor conservative.  The Bible insists on individual responsibility, but also believes that sin and brokenness pervades all the “powers and principalities” and systems.  The Bible teaches that we are each accountable for our sins, but also that we are to love and encourage each other in intentional community (“it takes a village!”).  And even in the Biblical worldview, there are limits on individual accountability — God holds the broader community responsible sometimes (see Ezek 3:16-20, for example).  The sense of corporate identity in Biblical thought is central.  The idea of the individual as primary unit is much more American than Christian.  Much of the Old Testament law is about creating a society and culture and environment conducive to righteous living.  This mindset, perhaps, is somewhere between the Liberal and Conservative worldviews — a both/and approach.  And one that I think makes sense.

(For a more complete explanation of the Biblical worldview in relation to Palin’s comment click here — Brad Boydston does a great job with it.)


Palin’s claim that “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state” is only true if you hold a conservative worldview.  It is not valid in either a liberal or Biblical paradigm.

Perhaps, less than being political opportunism, the strong reaction from the left is actually a demonstration of the different worldviews we hold.


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Posted by on January 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


Apology & Fallacy



In the immediate hours after the tragic shooting in Arizona, many in the media and on the left started implicating the political vitriol, especially on the right, in the shooting. Many quickly jumped on that with additional finger-pointing.

I was one of those people (with some Facebook links, tweets, etc) — and for that I apologize.

First, it seems increasingly obvious that the shooter in this case is mentally ill and has no real political association or coherent worldview.  He is no Tea-Partier-Gone-Bad, but rather a very sad and tragic case of how mental illness destroys.

So, again, I apologize for jumping on the bandwagon that angry political rhetoric was to blame in this case. I am sorry. Please forgive me.


There is a fallacy to beware of here.  Just because this particular case is not an example of extreme political rhetoric influencing the shooter, does not mean that extreme political rhetoric does not contribute to a culture of violence and increase the likelihood of violence.

One of the reasons, I believe, it was so easy to jump on the “angry political rhetoric” bandwagon is because many of us have been holding our breath and just wondering when it would happen — in our culture it seems inevitable.  After all, how surprised can we be when after months of being called “Tiller the Baby Killer” on national TV, someone chooses to shoot Dr. George Tiller while at his home church?

Simply because this tragedy cannot be attributed to angry and extreme language does not mean that angry and extreme language does not have consequences.

Some have said that this dynamic has always been true.  Perhaps true, but of course in our history politicians used to rely on gun duels to solve our differences — not something we want to return to, I would think.

So let us not lose this opportunity to point out the obvious: an increase in civility would benefit everyone!


Everything about this situation is tragic.  It raises many issues that I hope we address as a nation: security for elected officials, common-sense gun control, how we treat and deal with mental illness… and the prevailing rhetorical tone in politics today.

I also expect that, if as we suspect, it turns out that mental illness is the main contributor here, that (a) we won’t hear terrible protests from people if Loughner is found “not guilty by reason of mental defect or sanity”; and (b) that the death penalty should be off the table as we don’t execute the mentally ill (or at least, shouldn’t!).  

Continued prayers for all the victims and their families… and for our nation. 


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Posted by on January 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

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