Tax exemption

Jill and I are driving down the highway on a recent trip, discussing her paperwork for tax exemptions related to her teaching paychecks.

G: “Did you take any exemptions on your paycheck?”

J: “One . . . that’s what you sa–”

G: “I said one to three.”

J: “That was your opinion but I wanted facts.”

G: “You can’t handle the facts.”

J: “You don’t really understand what tax exemptions are, do you?”

G: “No, but just because I don’t fully understand doesn’t mean I can’t partially explain.”

Wry smiles on both our faces, we love to make each other laugh or smile.

Later, when we arrived at our destination, we queried two accountant/businessmen friends to explain tax exemptions on paychecks, the point system where you take one to whatever number of exemptions. Too many factors, they explained, to really say what an exemption really means.

Business people and accountants: I have a free copy of Dennis W. Bakke’s Joy at Work for whoever writes the best explanation of a tax exemption. Be sure I have email or some way to contact you for mailing address.

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized

Poverty scared his pants off

Sauti and pantsRobert Hamm is one of the most Christ-like persons I know. He was my preacher when I was a kid. He modeled over and over how to love God and others in our little church in Dewey, Oklahoma.

So I was pleased when he came to visit us in Uganda a few years ago. Robert and his wife, Loretta, visited the village churches we worked with and showed much love and goodness to many families in the villages, including our friends Cathy and Wako Wilson, Moses and Zipora Kirya, and a man named Sauti.

When Robert saw Sauti’s shredded pants dangling from his waist, he decided to give the man a pair of pants right then and there. Was there a market close by? No. We were nearly two hours into the bush and had driven the last hour on dirt roads.

“I’ll bring him a pair another day,” I said, brushing off his suggestion. But Robert insisted.

Robert is a compassionate and kind man. Robert would give you the shirt off his back . . . or his pants. At first I thought Robert was kidding when he suggested going to the pickup, slipping off his trousers, and giving them to Sauti. My thoughts bounced around, wondering whether Robert was wearing briefs or boxers.

Did he remember that we drove two hours out here, and that driving in one’s underwear tends to make two-hour trips seem like ten hours?

He went to the truck and took off his trousers and handed them out the window to me. He stayed in the truck until we left a few minutes later, and as we drove off, Sauti was grinning, a proud owner of Robert’s breeches.

The thirty onlookers were as amazed as I was, that a respected elder American man such as Robert would serve a poor village man by giving him his pants on the spot.

Ten years from now, someone will ask Sauti, “Remember that white man who left here in his drawers because he gave you his pants? Where are those pants anyway? What? Those torn up pants are the ones he gave you?!”

Then Sauti might say, “The pants didn’t last, but I’ll never forget what Robert did for me that day . . . that will last forever.”

By Greg Taylor Posted in poverty

9 meaningful foreign films

  1. Hotel Rwanda – I felt deep sorrow, for this was the time we lived as neighbors to Rwanda . . . we hosted a “Hutu” for seven years after that.
  2. Most – a powerful Czech/Pol short film about the love of father and son.
  3. The Constant gardener – set in Kenya, about corruption in the pharmeceutical industry and testing of innocent AIDS victims that does them harm, and one woman’s quest and finally one man’s sacrifice to stop it.
  4. Chocolat – characters rich as the chocolate that Juliette Binochet doles out in the town during lent.
  5. Babette’s feast – beauty and sacrifice in the heart of a woman who shows gratitude by cooking up a feast for the entire village.
  6. The mission – a classic that will always stick in my consciousness.
  7. End of the spear – one of the best “missions” stories of the twentieth century, but the screenplay was not well written and executed, but still worth seeing (not saying I could do better, but it just wasn’t the quality of story that it could have been).
  8. Pride and prejudice – best dialogue in a movie I’ve seen in quite some time.
  9. The gods must be crazy – hilariously eye-opening and world view shifting.
  10. What’s one of yours to fill in the 10th?
By Greg Taylor Posted in Movies

Stephen Colbert – “His kingdom is not of this earth”

“I love my church, and I’m a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals who were very devout. I was raised to believe that you could question the church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That’s totally different from the Word, the blood, the body, and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this earth.”

Stephen Colbert, of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Source: Sojourners, who quoted from interview in Time Out

The kitchen is open and so is the conversation

Here’s why I love the Wednesday night kitchen at Garnett.

We gather informally around 5:30-7:00 pm and eat. Tonight Roy Victory barbecued bologna, hot links, chicken . . .

Like Elvis, I love that BBQ bologna but more than that I love the conversations, the banter in the food line with the guys (and its mostly guys and one or two women who cook) about who came up with the spelling of the word, B-O-L-O-G-N-A, my Balderdash-sounding yet true explanation that Bologna is a town in Italy and the “gn” combination is truly an Italian word formation and sound, like lasagna.

The beauty of the table time is that we sit with others in addition to your own family, and talk. We sat down next to Denise, whose daughter and son-in-law are both in the military . . . in different places. Her son-in-law, she just told us at the table, lost a good friend–a roadside bomb. The man sitting across from Denise said he’d supported the war but as the years drag on, his mind is changing, he said.

There was that tension in the air when people talk politics, war, and peace, and that particular kind in religious circles that assumes a Republican bias, but Denise broke it when she said, “I don’t think Christians have to be Republican . . . I’m a Democrat . . .”

Last Sunday I had wrestled with how to say something publicly at Garnett about the military men and women we list weekly in the bulletin–one of the troops had come home, and someone wanted me to announce it and everytime we do, a standing ovation using follows. So I asked that instead of sentimentality, that we do something practical and said, “Our calling, regardless of our politics or opinion about the war, is to pray . . . and not to act sentimentally–affect and no action–but to do something like Denise does: she and several other ladies pack boxes for dozens of military personnel . . . every Wednesday night.”

Back at the table Wednesday night, Denise admits that packing those boxes has nothing to do with her support of the war. It’s for those young men and women we’ve sent over there. She said her daughter’s tenor of “you don’t know what good we’re doing” is changing to “we need to stay out of the world’s business.” Denise had said this before but it means more coming from a soldier, her own daughter who was seeing first-hand what’s going on.

The conversation moved to Islam and Elaine (name changed) says, “My husband is from Baghdad . . .” Like Denise who actually does something for military regardless of her politics, so too Elaine has more credibility by her close association to those in harm’s way: “My in-laws still live in Baghdad,” she says. “My husband started practicing Islam after we got married . . . ” We talked about Islam, how humans corrupt religion, how even Christians can be radicals and start wars and violence. Does Elaine want the violence to stop? For us to pray for peace. Absolutely.

Two days earlier I sat across another table from a Marine and said, “I respect and appreciate what you’ve done for our country. I don’t know how to express my admiration.” Then he told me his thirty-year journey of coming to grips with war, with Vietnam, with current conflicts, and one conclusion he’s come to is this: as Kingdom people we are called to peace, to pray and work toward it, not just posture and talk a good game, and that’s the very thing I wanted to say but could not with the same credibility of a Marine, or Denise, a mother who sends care boxes not only to her two loved ones but hundreds of others, or Elaine, a woman who’s husband is a Muslim from Iraq but is trying to live her Christian faith.

The kitchen is open and so is the conversation open during the table fellowship at Garnett on Wednesday nights.

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized


I’ve been sadly mistaken about the Sabbath. I’ve often waved off this commandment when talking about the 10 Commandments . . . that all others are ones we can continue to keep but we Christians don’t keep it . . .

Perhaps it ought to be phrased, “we Americans are clueless about how to keep it.”

Walter Brueggemann says, “the sabbath commandment functions as the center and interpretive focus for the entire decalogue.” Majorie J. Thompson, from her book Family the Forming Center, continues “The Sabbath is an affirmation that God’s sovereignty and governance are to be trusted absolutely. After all, God is so secure about the order and goodness of creation that God can rest; and if God can rest, who are we to try to improve on God’s example?”

As my seven-year-old says . . . “Busted.”

Perhaps Sunday is your Sabbath? Practically this is my family’s Sabbath, but I don’t take it seriously enough at this point, but I want to learn more. My good friend, John Ogren, has written and we have talked much by phone and personally about family traditions and Sabbath-keeping. He wrote a piece in Wineskins about it, A Call to Inaction. If you can’t access the article, link Wineskins from your site or blog, then create a Wineskins log in, then tell me by email, and I’ll comp you one year subscription.


Check out my friend Fajita’s blog. Chris Gonzalez (aka Fajita) is a man in transition to a new job in Minnesota, his old stomping grounds, and he’s been hanging out at Solomon’s Porch. He’s a very honest, authentic voice and he has been sharing his writing with me over the years both publicly in Wineskins/Fajita and behind the scenes, and I appreciate him as a fellow journeyman with Christ who wants to share that in faithful writing. He has a flair for metaphor and can turn a phrase like a potter spins a pot, and before you know it something emerges that’s beautiful. Thanks, Fajita, for what you do and who you are, and I wish you well in your new life and work in Minnesooooota.

Business as Mission

What if business could become a mission? Can you have more than a profit motive for starting a business? Yes and Yes.

Clint Davis wrote an insightful piece for Wineskins. See the home page for the story that is featured now. He, Keith Brenton, and I have been working on this piece for several months, and I’m happy to see it published. Great job, Clint, and thank you for keeping these important ideas and our awesome friends in Uganda in our minds and prayers.

Also, Clint’s blog is about business as mission, and links are on my blogroll and in the Wineskins article.

You’ll also find links for, a non-profit Clint helped set up with Mark Moore. The Kibo Group partners with people in Eastern Africa to help develop businesses and holistic programs in health that in turn help lift families out of poverty so they can live and work with joy and dignity.

Rochester College student retreat

Just back from helping facilitate at the Rochester College Oasis, a student leader retreat.

Stayed in the home of dear friends, John and Sara Barton and their two children, Nate and Brynn, and Mark Moore, his son Benjamin Moore, and Mike Cope also stayed, and we had a lot of fun catching up with each other.

Sara does a great job as director of spiritual life and assembly (chapel).

One activity we did in the retreat that Sara led was what Charles L. Campbell calls “dislocated reading.” We were given two texts–one was the Good Samaritan–and instructed to break up in groups and go to 8-9 different locations around Detroit metro area. We went to places as diverse as urban poor neighborhoods, Eminen’s street, and Somerset Mall. At these and other locations, groups either read aloud or silently the passage of scripture and “saw” that text in a new way. We returned to tell our experiences, and it was a unique and moving afternoon for the group of 70 college students and for us who facilitated.

School starts

My three children started school this week. Often, I reflect on what life was like for me when I was in second, fourth, and seventh grade. It helps remind me about what they are going through and to be more aware.

Second grade–I remember my teacher getting angry with us for bringing the wrong materials for shrinky-dinks. This was the first time I remember a teacher getting upset with a class I was in.

Fourth–got caught passing a health book under a desk and was asked to bring it to the front. Several of us boys had discovered the anatomically correct illustrations inside. Mrs. Holiday explained to the whole class that our interest in the human body was natural. One of my early embarrassing moments.

Seventh–Ripped my pants leaping up on a retaining wall around the school and had to pull my “Wild and Crazy Guy” T-shirt down low to cover up the rip.

These remind me that my children, too, are going through embarrassing, funny, and formative moments these days.

By Greg Taylor Posted in School

The Shaping of Things to Come

I want to encourage you to read The Shaping of Things to Come, must reading for, as the sub-title says, “Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church.”

Many authors are done with their point by the middle of the book, but not Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. They keep getting in your face till the last of the 230 pages.

I’ll jump around some and won’t go directly through the book, so I want to start with something I marked on page 168. They first quote Ephesians 4:1-16 then say this:

The Pauline logic that asserts the church is gathered around one Lord/faith/baptism is the the same logic that says God has specifically and deliberately (and with purpose) placed this pattern of ministry/gifting in his church. We therefore claim that this text is grammactically, theologically, and thematically indivisible. There simply can be no other conclusion. One cannot break the text into compartments without destroying its total meaning and force . . . the mission is here directly related to its ministry structure.

The authors speak boldly with little concession for the church that structures itself differently, but chapter ten does not give great examples of this in practice. They mention that Alan “has been involved in a similar organizational reconstruction around the APEPT idea for his denomination both at state and international levels in the form of a nornformal, very talented, trinational body called the International Missional Team (IMT).”

It occurs to me here that those without large denominational structures, such as the locally led and “autonomous” Churches of Christ, are in much better position to transition to this kind of structure. The authors repudiate in this chapter the “pastor” system of many evangelical churches. We in Churches of Christ have already done that, but we should not congratulate ourselves too quickly: we still have three things they also pinpoint that New Testament speaks little or nothing about: ministers, buildings, focus on a “service.”

I found this one word analogy of what Hirsch and Frost call APEPT, helpful:

Apostle = Entrepreneur

Prophet = Questioner

Evangelist = Recruiter

Pastor = Humanizer

Teacher = Systematizer

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized

Take away three things . . .

Hirsch and Frost in their incredible book, The Shaping of Things to Come ask this penetrating question:

What would your experience of church be like: (1) if you no longer had a building? (b) if you could no longer meet on Sundays? (c) if you had no pastor or clearly identifiable leadership team?

OK, if that’s too much, then just take one at a time. Some of you have lost identifiable leadership before. What did that do for your church in how it functioned?

Others have met in a rented facility or in homes. How did architecture change how women prayed, spoke, interacted? How did it impact the way you lived “church”?

The questions, the authors say, force us to think biblically and radically about our experience of church. Christendom, they say, has always associated itself with these three: buildings, Sundays, and clergy. “Yet the New Testament church had none of these.”

The Parent Trap by Rick Reilly

This is another great Rick Reilly piece. My favorite two magazines are Sports Illustrated and Wineskins. You ought to be subscribed to both (less the swimming suit issue, and I’m not talking about Wineskins swimming suit issue). You’ll need to be a subscriber to read this article in full online but, here, read the first few lines. It’s in the July 31, 2006 issue with Tiger at British Open on cover.

The Parent Trap
By Rick Reilly

I went out to get my paper this morning and found my neighbor Dalton instead.

He was slumped on my stoop, looking as though he’d slept under a marching band. His eyes sported five-pound bags, his right hand was bandaged and bloody, and his face was sunk like a bad soufflé.

“My God!” I said. “What happened to you? You look like a 20-car funeral!”

“Youth lacrosse happened to me,” he grumbled. “The Competitive Elite Lacrosse League. My little Ashley made one of those ‘travel teams.’ Pray it never happens to you, dude.”


Here’s another moving piece by Reilly: Making up for lost time

Flag Football

Went to sign up Jacob for flag football yesterday and he balked.  Why? I couldn’t get the answer out of him as he blubbered. We returned home with application in hand and Jill took him aside. Why did he not want to play? Cheerleaders. And no pads for football. We told him he didn’t have to interact with cheerleaders. Not sure what he imagined cheerleaders would be doing in the middle of practices and games, but we assured him they wouldn’t really care about football and be on the sideline. He agreed, and we’re signed up for flag football.

By Greg Taylor Posted in Sports