I Can’t Lose!

Ahh! October. Some argue that October is the best month of the sports year. They have good case. Basketball is about to get started, college and professional football will are in full swing and the Major League Baseball playoffs have begun.

Last night, Rochelle was asking me to catch her up on the past 5 months of baseball. She doesn’t really pay attention until the playoffs, but as the post-season goes deeper, she will stay up late into the night, living and dying with every pitch or hit of whichever team she choose to cheer for in the next few days.

Here is Houston, my hometown Astros and 1 game up on my former hometown Braves. I live in Houston and follow the team all year, but I’ve been a Braves fan from the crib–thanks to TBS, The Super-Station. People frequently ask me who I’m pulling for. My response: “I can’t lose!” Though between the two of us, my heart is still in Atlanta.

Clean Hands Part II

I told you so, I told you so! There it was in the New York Times, which arrives with precision in my e-mail inbox every morning. The headline: Hand Washing Habits Not in Sync with Answers.

The article tells in statistics what I already knew in my heart: “Most people say they wash their hands after using the bathroom. But a study suggests they don’t.” A Harris Interactive poll asked 1,013 adults about hand-washing and then the researchers sent observers into public restrooms to see what actually happened. 91% of adults said they washed their hands after using a public restroom, but observers say only 82% actually did.

Women washed their hands to a tune of 90%, but only 75% of men washed. That means that the nest time you go to church or the office or a party 1 out of 4 men who shake your hand has not washed them after…well, you know. And I suspect, if you are like me you know EXACTLY who that fourth guy is!

But there I go again, focusing on the physical dirt of others rather than the spiritual dirt of my own. Do you ever do that?

Clean Hands

Does it bother anybody else that we live in a world where employees have to be told to wash their hands before returning to work? I mean, come on. If you go to the bathroom, wash your hands! Don’t we all know that? As a matter of fact, I have noticed that some restaurants have taken the hand-washing instructions to a deeper level and have posted “how-to” instructions in the restroom.

How-To instructions!? Don’t most of us wash our hands and don’t most of us know how?

Probably not.

I say that because I frequently go to the restroom and see people walk out without washing their hands. You would think that even if folks didn’t usually wash up after a trip to the toilet, they might succumb to peer pressure and strange looks in the men’s room and wash…but they don’t. Recently, I saw a man in the restroom at church. He did his business, straightend his pants around his waist, hitched-up his trousers, looked in the mirror and walked out. No wash!

You’ve guessed it: I haven’t shaken his hand since!

But I suppose that I should slow down my criticism about non-hand-washers. I should be the last person to talk about being dirty and not knowing it. For the last few weeks I’ve been reading and re-reading the book of Isaiah. It’s an amazing story–both in Isaiah’s immediate context and the prophecies about the coming suffering-servant.

Isaiah chapter 6 has continued to leap of the page at me. It’s where Isaiah receives his call and commission to serve God. Isaiah, like me and those guys who don’t wash their hands after they go, is dirty and doesn’t know it. Well, he discovers it when he is given a hems-glimpse of God and he is forever changed. The prophet exclaims, “Woe to me! I am lost, for I am a man of unlcean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of host.”

Wow! When Isaiah sees God, he realizes that he has forgotten to wash up. He had been–like so many of us–going about his busy day, doing his thing, but then God steps in, calls him out and says “go to work, but first, you gotta get clean.” Next in the story, a seraph flies to the prophet touches his lip with a live coal and Isaiah’s guilt departs and his sins are blotted out.

I suppose there is something of authenticity in Isaiah’s call. Not the kind of authenticity that says, “I’ll be different just to be different and call myself authentic,” but rather an authenticity that realizes who we are and who God is. It’s an authenticity that acknowledges that we are the desperate ones, we are the sinful ones, we are the ones with dirty hands–hands that had other people realized where they had been, no one would ever shake them–we are stained, we are tainted.

The restroom may be a strange place for theology, but now every time I see someone walk out without washing, I think to myself, “You know Sean, you’re dirty too.”

Uncommon Grounds

I’m blogging today from Uncommon Grounds, the lone coffee shop in Salado, TX. Believe it or not, Uncommon Grounds closes at 2:30pm everyday. Can you imagine a coffee house in a city staying in business long if they closed at 2:30. Not only that, but Grounds will be closed all next week because the owner/operators are headed out-of-town. Can you believe that? If you were to do that in Houston, you’d have no customers to come back to.

Small town life in interesting.

Salado is three hours from Houston-usually–and where Rochelle and Malia headed while Hurricane Rita was still a category 5 hurricane headed toward Houston. I was in Denton so I met them here Friday morning. Luckily, Rochelle and Malia got out early and only spent 5 hours in the car.

I suppose the traffic heading back into Houston will be much like it was leaving. I’ve got my laptop and a ton of books here with me, so my work hasn’t suffered. In fact, I spent 5 hours last night and 2 hours already today working on an Isaiah study I will be doing for our church’s women’s Bible study.

It’s a good thing to have a job that you enjoy. This week I’ve spent time at a planning retreat, met with a group of youth ministers in another city, read about early Christian hermeneutics, read and reread the book of Revelation, put together Keynote (that’s Powerpoint for those of you who don’t speak Apple) presentations, and worked on classes. I would have done all these things had I been in my office but I did them away from the office just because I like to do them.

I love to seek God, both experientially and academically. I’m blessed that the end of the weekend can bring the words, “Thank God it’s Monday” to my lips. I hope you can too.
Please continue to be in prayer for those who have lost loved ones and precious property in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Hurricane Rita is presently bearing down on my ho…

Hurricane Rita is presently bearing down on my home. The family is on the road and pretty prepared for times like this. I times like these, when you have to look around your house and decide what to take and what to leave, that you have to face up to what it is that you believe is truly important. Some things that seem valuable lose their value when you start thinking about the necessities of life.

My wife and daughter got out and that’s all that I care about. If they’re safe then the world is right. Recently, the three of us were flying back to Houston from Philadelphia. The plane was flying high and faster than usual and we were experiencing a lot of turbulence and it felt like the plane might go down. Rochelle looked at me with a worried expression. I looked back at her and said, “Everything important to me is on this plane.”

They are the most important people in the world to me and their safety is all that matters.

May God bless and protect us all as we endure this coming storm.