Wednesday, May 30, 2007

the death of me

If it's not Ira, it's Sophia. Laura went to pick Sophia up from daycare yesterday. I was at home getting some work done for a wedding I'm officiating this weekend. Ira was chilling with his nurse. My phone rings.

"Joe. They won't let me get to Sophia. There's been a shooting in her building. I can't get to her. The SWAT team is all over the place."

"I'll be right there."

I run as fast as I can...which isn't that fast these days. When I get there they have much of the block taped off. I make my way through the crowd - oh how New Yorkers love a little drama in their lives! - and find Laura. She's heard that the shooting wasn't in Sophia's building but two buildings down. We ask the cop if we can go get our daughter. He wants nothing to do with us. He shakes his head and without looking us in the eye but somewhere beyond us he says, "This is a crime scene. Can't let anyone through."

We call the daycare's number. All the kids are fine and have no idea that anything is happening outside. (That says something about how often these kids hear sirens roaring outside their homes, daycares, etc.) One of the daycare workers says she'll escort Sophia outside. They come out and the cop is immediately incensed. Doesn't matter at this point as Sophia is running toward us happy to see that both parents are picking her up. My heart stops pounding and gets back to its regular routine of keeping the body calm and collected. And Laura and I take a deep breath relieved that Sophia is fine and oblivious.


This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. It was a Sunday when churches all around the world celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit. Churches re-read the story from Acts 2 and listened in as Paul had instructive words about what the Spirit does for us when we no longer have words to pray.

Or was it Pentecost Sunday? From what I hear, plenty of churches skipped over that little important fact of Christian history and instead sang nationalistic songs while giving witness to the American flag. Wow. Seriously folks, what exactly are churches for? I can get behind a prayer of thanksgiving for where we live and the freedoms we have but any more than that and we've shifted our allegiance and that is not a good thing. A wiser, older minister has something good to say about that here.


Laura and I are off to Jamaica this weekend to take part in our neighbors' wedding. I'm officiating and Laura is singing. (She's singing this song. Yes, she's playing her ukulele and yes, she's sounds incredible!) It's been hard getting up for this trip as Ira's been sick - double ear infection - and this will be the first time we've left both he and Sophia. Laura and I are a bit anxious but hoping that we can find peace so as to make the trip worthwhile. Do you mind lifting up some positive thoughts and prayers for the kids and for us? Thanks.


Monday, May 28, 2007

date night

A while ago Sophia and I had a date night. We got all dressed up and went into Manhattan. We ate good food, saw Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, had ice cream and chewed gum. Sophia can't stop talking about it. She was the perfect date: the conversation was riveting ("Dad, do I have to eat my broccoli at school tomorrow?"), Sophia looked wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed the show. (Um, okay, Sophia was a bit scared of the Beast and spent quite a bit of the first act with her head buried in my chest but other than that, the show was great!)

I'm fully aware there will come a day that Sophia would rather be dead than be caught seen with me so I'm going to take full advantage of her willingness to go on date nights. Next up, a Yanks game. Hey, we Yankees are fans even in the midst of struggle!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

i just don't get it

Hot drinks on hot days. Okay, I'll admit that I don't even get hot drinks on cold days but it makes a bit more sense to me than hot drinks on hot days. When I see someone walking around in shorts and a t-shirt while holding a cup of coffee I wince. I just don't get it.

While we're talking drinks, I don't get drinks with no ice. Sorry my European friends, I just don't get why you like warm or barely cool water. Throw some cubes in there and let's get this party started!

Bette Midler? Seriously. Someone tell me how she made it big cause I just don't get it. Did anyone else see her pitiful performance on AI? What's up with the flapping of her arms? Yikes. I just don't get it.

Fancy dining. I really don't need four forks, three spoons and two knives. Really, I don't. I just need a fork, spoon and knife. Between courses, I'm fine with just licking my utensils clean. No need to waste time on the other 43 utensils you want so desperately for me to use. I get good food but I don't get the pomp surrounding the dining experience. I just don't get it.

Smoking. And I probably should be specific here: smoking cigarettes. Smoking makes the smoker smell bad, gives them funky breath and diseases the lungs. Who wants to walk around smelling bad with funk breath? I don't get it.

When people refer to golf as a sport, I just don't get it. Sure, it takes incredible hand-eye coordination and strength is now en-vogue for golfers but playing the Nintendo Wii also takes hand-eye coordination and strength is an asset when waving that goofy remote thing. Are you gonna argue that video gaming is a sport?

People who sleep late. Dude, the sun is up and the daylight hours are ticking away. There are things to do, people to see, places to go. Get up already!

Yankee haters. I don't get why the Yankees are hated so much. It's time to have a Come To Jesus moment, Yankee haters: You hate because jealousy lives deep within. Am I right? Sure I am. You will be a much more complete person without all that hate and vitriol. I don't get you, Yankee hater. But I am here for you when you want to make that confession of jealousy so that you can become a whole person.

Finally, I don't get judgmental people. People who make sweeping comments and broad generalizations about whole segments of others are just downright mean and nasty. I just don't get it. :)


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


from the pen of Laura

I know there are many of you out there that love Ira and have followed his story for a couple of years now. Some of you have actually met him and others of you only know him through this blog. Recently you have seen pictures and vlogs of him eating and walking.

Well, I think it is time for you to meet the real Ira.

One of the very best words to describe Ira is stubborn. I have never met a more stubborn individual...aside from his dad. If I want him to work on a puzzle and he is not in the mood, forget it. He will do everything he can with the puzzle piece to avoid putting it in the actual puzzle. When he works with his therapists, he often sets the agenda for the session due to what suits his fancy. Every now and then our PT takes him to the stoop to sit on the steps. Yesterday it was raining but that didn't stop Ira from throwing a fit at the door insisting they go out.

Yes, that's right. Ira has begun throwing fits. On Friday when our speech therapist arrived, Ira was not in the mood to work on eating/swallowing. The books and toys were not incentive enough. He threw the biggest tantrum in his high chair and it took at least five minutes to get him calmed down and distracted. Unfortunately for Ira when he trows a fit, he begins to cough and choke and usually ends up throwing up. Nice.

And then there is the hitting. This child loves to communicate with his hands. Unfortunately it's not usually with the sign language we've worked on but rather a slap on the arm or leg. When he wants to sit on my lap he slaps my leg over and over until I get his point. He loves to grab his sister's hair or pull on her shirt (and his grip is out of this world). When I tell him no, he hits me instead. This is definitely a problem.

When Sophia was young, we used to say, "Your hands are not for hitting. They are for helping, hugs, and high-fives." This worked really well until her little brother started whacking away at her. Now at any given moment they can be found having a slapfest which inevitably ends with someone in tears.

Needless to say, Ira feels a lot of frustration and doesn't have the tools he needs to properly communicate. Plus, he is old enough to know what's to be had on the other side of the front door and runs to the window every time one of us leaves. He hates being left behind and yet this is still his reality.

Of course there's more to Ira than hitting, crying and throwing fits. But, he's two. I think he's right on schedule.

Ira has a pajama shirt that says "Mommy's little monster." That's my Ira in a nutshell.


Monday, May 21, 2007

a good road trip

You're either a road tripper or not. There's not an in-between designation on the road trip scale. You either love loading up the car, stopping at endless gas stations and fast food joints and driving mile after mile on interstates or you don't. Me? I love a good road trip. Being from Texas, I didn't think twice about driving eight hours from home to college. And when I met Laura, we made many trips up to St. Louis. For me, road trips are a chance to sit still. They are a chance to think. They are a chance to talk. They are a chance to dream.

The last road trip we made was moving here to NYC four years ago. I've had a hankerin' for a road trip ever since. And this summer we're going for it.

We're loading up the family, all of Ira's equipment and we're setting off for St. Louis. After spending time there, we'll drive down to Tahoka, Texas. Then we'll head for Abilene to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. (Her husband's name was Ira.) We'll make a few other stops here and there - Ashflat, Arkansas anyone?

I look forward to being with Laura, Sophia and Ira. I look forward to the long drives. I look forward to sitting still.

What about you? Do you like road trips?


Friday, May 18, 2007

women on TV

My friend, Casey, laments that women characters on TV are "not allowed to be bright and indepedent, and capable of having other people in [their lives]." It's a very well written post examining the season finales of Gilmore Girls and Grey's Anatomy. Check it out here.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

a holy kiss?

We were living in Ft. Worth. I was a minister at a small congregation. A new couple started attending the services. She was a native of D/FW and he was originally from Long Island. Laura will never forget the day when he greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. He immediately pulled away. His face turned bright red. He said, "Sorry!" and walked away quickly.

The memory is vivid in Laura's head but only because of his awkward reaction. We get a good laugh thinking of our friend turning bright red and scampering away so quickly. What we didn't realize is that he was reverting to what he grew up with - greeting others with kisses on the cheeks.

This is, of course, a northeastern thing. In the south, we hug it out. (Don't you just love Ari?) But up here, it's common to exchange kisses on cheeks. It's taken us a while to get used to that but we're working on it.

I say working on it because it's not as simple as it seems. Some people like to just touch cheeks while going through the motion of kissing. In so doing, one is really just kissing the air while touching cheeks. Some people are very particular about actually kissing the cheek. And most often, the exchange of kisses is all in one motion - as in, you're both kissing each other at the same time. And then there are the people who give you no clue as to whether they are a hand shaking kind of greeter, hug kind of greeter or kiss the cheek kind of greeter. It can get awkward really quickly. As a minister, I play it especially safe. If the one I'm greeting gives me no clues, I opt for the simplest and most non-evasive.

But back to the kiss. I kinda like the practice of it. It definitely steers clear of any sexual overtones but has an intimacy about it that expresses care and concern. And care and concern, in my book, is just downright holy.


speak up

Any SA Spurs fans out there? Are you absolutely embarrassed to be associated with them at the moment? Don't you want Bowen and Horry to just go away and quit ruining the reputation that Duncan and Robinson worked so hard to establish? Speak up. Are you out there?


Sunday, May 13, 2007


I discussed this question with some friends on Sunday evening over dinner:

How will our culture change in the next 100 years?

Some answers were optimistic some not so much. What do you think?


Wednesday, May 09, 2007


New York City is a city of millions of people. There is hardly ever a moment when one is not surrounded by hundreds or thousands of other people. Even in the inner most sanctuary of apartments one can feel the presence of others through conversations taking place on the sidewalks or the clanging feet of neighbors upstairs or the baby crying in the apartment next door. One is hardly ever alone.

However, I've come to know through conversations with others that loneliness is dolled out in plenty here in New York City. One guy said it clearly and sadly, "I'm not sure how in a city of millions I can feel so alone."

My heart aches for those who sleep next to loneliness. I'm saddened for those who eat breakfast with loneliness. I hurt with those who watch movies on Friday nights snuggled up on the couch with loneliness. This city, while wonderful in so many ways, devours those who are lonely with a single gulp.

This is yet another reason why I so deeply love God. It's cliche and it's trite when spoken at the wrong time but so true and at the heart of the gospel - We are not alone. Never. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of age. - Mt. 28:20


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

an account

Jeremy does a great job of sharing the details of our 42 mile ride through New York City. Go over to his blog and check out his post titled, 42 miles of sheer pleasure...and some pain.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

the BQE and Me

Jeremy, a friend from Golden, Colorado; Ryan, my brother-in-law from College Station, Texas; and I rode in the Five Boro Bike Tour today. It was awesome. We shared the road with 32,000 other riders. The ride was supposed to start at 8 a.m. but there were so many of us that we didn't start peddling until 8:45 PM. It took us about four hours to complete the ride and that was with a bathroom/banana stop. Despite freezing our butts off early in the morning, we had a blast! It was very cool to ride through all five boroughs with no traffic with which to deal.

Seriously, you should definitely join us next year as we plan to make this an annual event on our calendars. Are you in?
So the Yankees have won five of their last six, Wang recently had a perfect game going into the 8th and we signed Roger Clemens. Suddenly, things are looking up for the struggling Yankees who have started ten different pitchers since the beginning of the season. Oh how I love the Yankee brass who will spend just about anything to make things right! :)
Ira is doing so good. So very good. I put together a vlog this past Thursday so that I could, in person, tell you some of the specifics of his situation but I got tired of looking at and listening to myself during the editing process and figured that you, too, probably get tired of seeing and hearing me. I made myself sick to my own stomach. Anyway, the vlog was all about how well Ira's doing and how much better we're all feeling about his future. In fact, being able to speak so freely about the future excites us. Maybe I'll put the vlog up but in the meantime, please know that he's doing wonderfully. The air, the vibe, the atmosphere (whatever you want to call it) is lighter in our apartment these days.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

a very important matter

I don't always catch American Idol but I did tonight. And I gotta say, it was a fun episode to watch. The contestants singing Bon Jovi? How fun is that? With the exception of Jordin and Chris, everyone was spectacular. Holy Cow! Based upon tonight's episode (I know the results will also take into consideration last week's performances but I didn't see those) who do you think goes home? I'm thinking Jordin and Chris. They just didn't do what the others did which was rock the freakin' house!


the measure of a church

How do we measure the effectiveness of a church? It's an age old question that will never go away. And I'm guessing we'll keep coming back to the same 'ol answers: size of the congregation, size of volunteer staff (core members), budget, collection each Sunday/month/year, commitments made to Christ. But even of these, it's usually narrowed down to one: size of church. Numbers. Effectiveness is all about numbers. We don't know of any other way.

In a society in which numbers are thrown at us from every angle we naturally carry this into the life of the church. It's inevitable that if you throw two or three pastors into the same room the conversation ultimately turns to talk of numbers. We don't want to go there because in our hearts we know better but we can't help ourselves. We. Just. Can't. Stop.

I write this, of course, from a perspective of a church planter whose church is losing some of its members this summer due to geographical moves. We've seen some new faces over the past year but the moves this summer will be felt. Now if you were to press me I would say that our mission at Christ's Church for Brooklyn is being fulfilled. We are a church taking care of each other in this difficult city. We are reaching beyond our church walls to proclaim Jesus through hands and feet projects and I, along with others in our community of faith, talk openly to friends about who I am and what I do. But, if you were to walk in to our service on Sunday afternoon and simply take stock of our numbers, you wouldn't be impressed and would wonder about our mission.

So it's got me to thinking, What is effectiveness in a church? If it's all about numbers then CCfB is failing. And failure indicates that God is not liking what we're up to. I'm not ready to concede that. Not even close.