October 2009

Did you read what Philadelphia Phillies Veteran Pitcher Pedro Martinez said to reporters the night before he was to pitch against the New York Yankees in game two of the World Series?

This is what he said about how the New York media has treated him over the years:

“You guys have used me and abused me,” he said. “I remember quotes in the paper, ‘Here comes the man that New York loves to hate.’ Man? None of you have probably ever eaten steak with me or rice and beans with me to understand what the man is about. You might say the player, the competitor, but the man? You guys have abused my name. You guys have said so many things, have written so many things.

“There was one time I remember when I was a free agent, there was talk that I might meet with Steinbrenner. One of your colleagues had me in the papers with horns and a tail, red horns and a tail. That’s a sign of the devil. I’m a Christian man. I don’t like those things. I take those things very serious. Those are the kind of things that the fans actually get used to seeing, and actually sometimes influence those people to believe that you are a bad person, that you are like an ogre.”

As a long time Phillies fan, I was not sure that I wanted our pitcher going all “vulnerable” before a game.

Others will say Pedro was just playing head games with the Yankees.

But what if there is something bigger than baseball involved in that quote?

Pedro’s words should remind all of us of the damage that we cause when we demonize people with our rhetoric. We must find ways to disagree, even compete, without losing the humanity of the other person or calling them the devil.

May we be people who respect the humanity of the other team, whether that is in politics, religion, or even baseball.



It has  been some time since I gave props to our fair city.

I have been too busy enjoying the city to write posts about it!

I am sure that I will have time catch up on writing posts when it is -10 outside.

However, before we get to winter (I actually do enjoy the first 2 months of winter.), we have autumn.


Autumn in Milwaukee is outstanding.

Quick visits to nearby apple orchards and pumpkin patches.

 Electric yellow, orange and yellow leaves.

A new school year’s excitement.

Crisp air.

Octoberfest (When in Milwaukee do as the Germans!).

Running and playing in piles of leaves.

Many of my friends who are native to Wisconsin claim autumn as their favorite season.

I am not there yet (Summer rules.), but autumn in Milwaukee sure is grand!



The spirit of much of our current public discourse reminds me of one of Jesus’ best known and most often misunderstood stories.

One day a religious leader, who wanted to prove that he was righteous, cornered Jesus.

The two of them agreed that the most important things in life were: Love God with every ounce of your being. Love your neighbor as yourself.

The religious guy wanted more affirmation (Insert smug grin.). He asked about the qualifications of a neighbor.

Jesus answered with a story.

A man was walking though a tough neighborhood. As expected, a group of thugs mugged him. He was left for dead on the side of the road. In the next few hours two religious leaders walked past him without offering help.

That last line surprised the religious guy. He was normally the hero of stories.

Jesus continued.

Then a Samaritan, the religious, political and cultural enemy of the Hebrews, approached the man. He stopped his trip to help the injured Hebrew. He brought him back to heath, even at great cost to himself.  

This plot twist shocked the religious leader, and anyone else who was listening. They did not tell stories in which their enemies were heroes!

Jesus solidified his point by asking the painfully obvious question, “Who was the neighbor to this injured man?”

The religious leader (Remove smug grin.) stumbled to answer Jesus and still save face, “The one who helped him.”

His answer made Jesus’ point even more clear.

The religious guy could not bring himself to say that the “Samaritan” was the hero, because he hated the Samaritans.

Jesus’ point was not “help out an injured person.” That was a given.

Jesus’ point was “Everyone, even your enemy, is your neighbor. Love them.”

Our current public discourse, including religious, reflects the hate that Jesus confronted.

When we are unwilling to acknowledge any good in a person or a group, we are guilty of hating them.

When we hate any person or group, even our enemies, we do not love our neighbors.

When we do not love our neighbor, it does not matter how right we think we are or how smug we feel, we miss what Jesus says is important in life.

Greeley reading magazineTwo weeks ago I wrote on the Golden Rule of InterpretationTreat the words (or work) of another person with the same care and respect that you would want them to treat your words.

That post focused on understanding the context of the other person’s words or other communication content. We often misinterpret the author, speaker, or artist because we do not consider the context of their communication.

Last weekend I was struck by another principle at work in our communication – our own context as recipients of the words or communication content.

Last weekend I was at a workshop where we were given magazines, poster board, glue, scissors and told to make a collage of our life story. This was way out of my comfort zone! I decided to give try. I would simply flip through the magazines and cut out any words or images that sparked a connection to my story.

To my surprise, there was a lot of cutting!  Magazines which had nothing to do with my life were full of things that caught my attention and connected with my life. Advertisements, stories, images, and words sparked my thoughts and feelings that day, and my memories of my past. That connection generally had nothing to do with what was intended by those on the other end of the communication event.

How often does that happen, at least at some level, every time that we read or listen or watch something?

We all receive communication through the lenses of our experience, environment, presuppositions, and personhood. Our filters make a tremendous difference in our reception, and even more our interpretation of words and other communication content. No human being comes to communication neutral or objective.

I do not believe that means that we should give up on communication!

The fact that we all receive communication with our filters simply means that we have to work at our perceptions and interpretations.  We must recognize our own filters in order to test our interpretations.

We test our interpretations because we want to: treat another persons communication piece with the care and respect that we would want others to treat our communication.

GuatemalaCityDump Kids

Let’s buy a house together!

We can can buy a house next to the Guatemala City Dump for only $4,000.

Not interested in living there?

OK. We can give it to one of the thousands of families who already live there without a home.

Worried about giving a hand out that might harm do more harm than good? 

Do not worry – this will be the smart kind of gift

The church that I am a part of, Elmbrook, has a long standing partnership with an organization in the Guatemala City Dump. Potter’s House is a Guatemalan Christian Organization committed to ministry to the 11,000+ people who live around the city dump. Potter’s House has history and relationships in the city dump neighborhoods. They will work with community leaders to identify the family that should receive the house.Potter’s House will then continue to their holistic care for the family.

I have seen how a house can change the future for a family in the Guatemala City Dump. A house obviously provides the family with shelter from the natural elements and some of the crime in the community. The house also gives the family the stability needed to break the cycle of extreme poverty. I have even seen families use their homes to launch innovative businesses so that their survival is no longer dependant upon picking through the city dump.

If you would like to help me buy a house for a family living in the Guatemala City Dump, please print out, or copy, the section below and send it with your contribution. Checks can be made out to Elmbrook Church, as they are coordinating the effort. Please include the code 99gu36 on the memo line of the check. Do not include my name on the check.

Thank you for partnering with me in this life saving gift


ELMBROOK CHURCH: Guatemala City/ Potter’s House Mission  (99gu36) 

Refered by Jim Vining

Gift Amount:


Mailing Address:

Email Address:

Mail to: Attn – Elmbrook Church Finance Office   Elmbrook Church 777 S. Barker Road Brookfield, WI 53045


Mountain_climbing_with_ropeI get pretty excited at the thought of changing the world. I love the thought of seeing things that are not right in the systems and structures of society being made right. It sounds so exciting, so needed, and so big!

It is a little more sobering to realize that an important piece of societal change is individual change. Societies are afterall made up of individuals. The world will not be changed without more individuals being changed. I am one of those individuals who needs to be changed.

That does not sound nearly as exciting as changing the world.

Over the past few months, I have had a number of people confide in me that they are taking steps to make needed changes in their lives. Some of them are facing the damage done by other people. Some of them are owning up to their own long string of destructive choices. Some of them are not even sure of what the roots of the problems are, but they recognize that there are problems that need addressed. They are moving toward healing.

I will not name names, and I am sure that there are many more out there, but I do want to applaud my friends who are on the difficult journey to wellness. I admire your courage and strength.

Thank you for making this world a better place.


The author of a popular book recently spoke at our church.
He has received a lot of criticism about the book (We got complaints for inviting him to speak!).
Some of the criticisms were based in honest differences in opinion. However, many of the criticisms of the author were based on statements from the book taken way out of context.

An honest and thoughtful look at the quotes in context would have eliminated most of the conflict.

Isn’t that true of many of our conflicts in life?

Think about the realm of politics, and even more so the news media’s “reporting” on politics.  Have you ever taken the time to learn the context of a politician’s controversial sound bite that is played on the news?  My observation is that many times the true meaning of the quote is twisted and lost in the midst of the controversy. 

To get a little closer to home, or work, think about the interpersonal conflicts that we have.  How often do we stop and really understand what the other person is saying, what they mean and why they are saying it?  If we would make that effort some, of our conflicts, certainly not all, would be resolved.

In communication – context is king.

  1. Look at the statement in context of the entire written or spoken work.
  2. Consider the statement in light of the person’s background, including the other things that they have said and writen. 
  3. Consider the audience and setting in which that the statement was given, including the culture and history. 

Those things are crucial to show us the context and therefor the true meaning of a statement.

In a class called  Cultural Hermeneutics, Dr Kevin VanHoozer encouraged us to apply the Golden Rule to Interpretation. VanHoozer called us to interpret another person’s words with the care and respect would have them interpret your own words.

In our polarized culture of sound bites and short fuses, we could use a lot more of the Golden Rule.