Halloween 2006

My goals for Halloween 2006.

  1. I will not eat my son’s candy.
  2. I will not eat my oldest daughter’s candy.
  3. I will not eat my youngest daughter’s candy.

Not that they care. They usually offer it to me. The stupidity is when I take it. My grandfather had late life onset diabetes, so does my dad. Jill said she saw an article about how Halloween starts the season of gluttony. Nope, not gonna do it.

Join me in celebrating the good creation but not processed sugar? Just one simple goal for me: Don’t eat candy this week; look around at the color of the leaves instead, and be satisfied with God’s sweetness. I know that may sound corny to some of you . . . reminds me of candy corn. No!

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized

It ain’t about the golf

Ten or so friends, brothers, cousins meet once each Fall to play golf, but it ain’t about the golf. It’s about brotherhood and being together in the struggle to stay married and loving our wives and children and keep laughing through middle age. We’re mostly in our 40s now and greying and balding and hip-replaced and knee reconstructed, but nothing can keep us from falling over laughing on the tee boxes and fairways.

The trip for us is laugh therapy and there’s usually a roadtrip component for some of us. We’ve been to San Antonio, Northwest Arkansas, Dallas, Nashville, Little Rock, and several other sites, and on the road we bond and talk, though this trip we listened to the World Series on the way and mostly slept, talked college football, or listened to Bruce Springsteen on the way back.

We try to openly and honestly talk with each other about our lives, our failures, our families. We check in with each other about our marriages and children and encourage each other to stay pure sexually, to be good dads, to keep focused on what matters in life as we lead in various ways in business, church, community.

Next year will be our 10th anniversary of the golf trip that ain’t about the golf. We’ve been talking about doing something other than golf on one of the trips. But we’ll probably still keep playing each year. There’s something about golf that makes us realize our hip hurts and we see each other’s limp, like Jacob’s, and that we’re all hacking out life, and that we need each other to make this scramble and that we all miss putts but there’s much joy and laughter and a few solemn moments along the way.

Súbete Chevy

If you’ve been watching the World Series (Go Cards), and if you’re like me, you were standing at the kitchen island eating pretzels dipped in sour cream and sipping a Diet Dr Pepper at commercial break and your head popped up and you stopped crunching because on your FOX English broadcast of the classic-not-since-1968-dual-between-Cards-and-Tigers-game came a Spanish voice and music, and you tried to read the screen and all you could make out was Roberto Duran, 1980 welterweight champ, and you cocked your head and wondered if FOX had run the wrong tape, but then you got intrigued at what GM is doing and what is happening in America, the changes in culture, and you were mezmorized by the Latin sounds and the beauty of language and music, and you waited till the next segment and saw the same commerical translated for you in English.

Ben Langford, missionary in Jinja, Uganda, one of the relievers who came in the seventh inning to replace us there, came by to visit with Clint Davis and me and finish planning the United 4 Uganda gathering. He and Kym and their son are in OKC on furlough right now and will attend the U4Uganda  meeting Nov. 3-4. See details in last post.

Thought I’d tell you some of what we talked about as I showed Ben around Garnett, specifically related to “projecting our faith” in reaching out and being reached by Hispanics in our community. We don’t simply reach out to Hispanics. They also are reaching out to us and will make an incredible impact on our world in the next several decades. I believe, somehow, God is bringing Hispanic people to us, and what I mean by “projecting our faith,” an phrase I first heard from friend Monte Cox, is that we in small ways are putting a faith foot forward in places we don’t feel adequate but we know God seems to want us there:

  • Just spoke to Heather Hodges, Wade’s wife, who helped start the Garnett Bilingual Pre-school two years ago. With 40 students, many Hispanic and others Black, White, and Asian, the school instructs in both Spanish and English and has teachers who are bi-lingual. Families with children in the school are mostly not currently part of the Garnett church but some show interest and have visited and some have joined our journey.
  • We host here in one of our classrooms three times a week an English as Second Language (ESL) class taught by two Union School District teachers. The class is mostly–OK, all–Spanish speaking moms, many with lap children and it’s fun to watch them enjoy speaking English phrases and to show them that I know about as little Spanish as their English but we’re both trying and meeting in the middle.
  • We’ve put up Spanish translations on most of our signs in the building, including prominent “bienvenito” (welcome) signs on our front doors. Here some might say we are false advertising since we don’t have Spanish language worship, but we are doing Spanish readings on occasions such as Christmas eve services and some Spanish songs.
  • A Spanish-speaking church has met here for several years. Redemptive Word is a charismatic church that has grown steadily and meets in one of our large rooms. We partner with them in several areas and foster an environment of non-competition and invite appropriately to each other’s gatherings. For instance, if a Spanish speaker wants to know where Spanish worship is, we tell them Redemptive Word. On the other hand, we ask that they encourage toward Garnett Church of Christ those transitional Hispanic young people who might want English worship, classes, interaction.
  • Twice a month we have a food pantry and many of those who come speak Spanish. Now, I’ll keep saying this till you get tired of it, but when we think of “reaching out to Hispanic people” we ought not think “handout” or “we’re going to help them” because we view our Hispanic community as an asset and of high value in God’s creation and in this neighborhood and in partnership with our church. We sit down with, again, mostly Hispanic women to pray in our prayer center. I often ask for one of the bilinguals to translate. I am slowly learning phrases but not enough to banter and pray yet. Perhaps I’ll get a Spanish Bible before the year end. Someone want to tell me a good one to buy?
  • We’re changing the conversation. As my friend, Ben, said, we must run counter to the kind of political conversation on the surface that vilifies immigrants. Instead, what does God say about justice for the “alien among you”? We’re not going to cave to the rhetoric that certain political powers that be promote about immigrants. Instead, we’re going to love the diverse humanity that God created, acknowledge that we are aliens in a strange land ourselves, and celebrate the beauty of cultures and invite a transitioning neighborhood into our midst and seek to be hosted in our neighborhood by diverse people who can add much to the body of Christ or be served by the body.

United 4 Uganda

Garnett Church of Christ is hosting November 3 – 4 a gathering called “United 4 Uganda.” The purpose of the gathering is to put supporters of Ugandan missions together in one room to discuss how we can do a better job of supporting missionaries and projects in Uganda.

Those attending have interests ranging from AIDS treatment and education, business as mission, short-term missions, team missions, church planting, eye clinics, video production, supporters of missionaries, and missionaries on furlough from Uganda.

We’ll kick off at 7 pm Friday with an African dinner prepared by Chef Roy Victory. Shawn Tyler will be the dinner speaker and during tea time we’ll hear from Clint Davis and Ben Langford on “the mission of business” and the “business of mission” respectively. Sam Shewmaker will then lead us in a time of focused prayer for all the ministries represented at our meeting.

Saturday morning we’ll hear from Anna Griffin and Shannon Russell, who are concerned for and doing much for the education and treatment of AIDS in Africa. The Garnett missions team and the Kibo Group would very much like to partner with Shannon Russell to see her go to East Africa and do AIDS relief work after she completes her nursing degree at Duke University.

I’ll be speaking about short-term missions and we’ll have a time for table talk where people can go to various tables to talk about certain missions they are interested in. Mike Schrage will wrap up our day with an inspiration word and will bring information about the excellent video work that Good News Productions is doing in Uganda, East Africa and worldwide.

If you can come, you are invited. The cost is $20 and covers the African meal and seminar. For more information, email me or call. This is a unique event where we who are doing similar work in a common place can put our heads and hearts together, get on the same page with the important things, partner and synergize missions. This is the wave of now and the future, to have micro-events that cover a particular place so that people who are interested can get on board and share resources and help inspire and train each other and learn from each other as we reach out and love our neighbors worldwide.

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized

Christians unite to call U.S. to help Sudan

Several evangelical Christian leaders have discovered a profound unity on the crisis in Darfur. Believing this is a time and an issue that transcends other political differences, a number of us began talking about how we could respond to this enormous moral challenge. Those conversations have led us, in partnership with the Save Darfur Coalition, to create Evangelicals for Darfur, an effort that brings together the voices of evangelical Christians to call for an end to the incredible suffering in Darfur.–Jim Wallis

A sermon about Halloween?

I know, I know, I can’t believe it either, but yes I preached a sermon about Halloween. It’s 18 minutes long and you can hear it on your iTunes. Type “Garnett podcast” in your iTunes search.

Subscribe to Garnett’s Podcast and you’ll also get sermons from one of my favorite preachers and friend, Wade Hodges.

Putting the hallow back in Halloween

Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in America. We spend $6.9 billion. What is it about Halloween that draws us in?

We’re called to be light, even on culture’s darkest days. How do we live October 31? How do we prepare for it? How do we respond to our culture’s celebration, whether we boycott it or participate redemptively or mindlessly in it?

How often we separate sacred and secular: Halloween has become a secular celebration that we many Christians either boycott or cautiously or emphemistically participate in. How can we more effectively join our sacred and secular lives in such events as Halloween?

Our Ugandan friends are curious about other cultures such as ours, as we were curious and learning their culture. We found it difficult, however, to explain Halloween to our Ugandan friends. In fact, we were awakened to the fact that any holiday that glorifies gore and darkness is suspect at best and can lead to sin at worst.

Yet there we were, ironically, “celebrating” a holiday in Uganda, where we were trying to move Ugandans out of superstitions and belief that evil controls them, that evil spirits reign above the earth, that God is not in control; we were trying to preach Christ as more powerful than the evil one or evil spirits that most Ugandans very much believe in (Jn 4:4). We would talk about fetishes and charms they wore on their arms, under their clothes, put in their houses. We’d warn against curses they’d put on others to hex them and win power over them. We’d frown and condemn the spirit mediums who would dress up in cowry shells with a shepherds crook, get drunk, wear a leopard skin, dance around, smoke a pipe, and divine the nature of sickness or death in a village, trying to determine what was the cause, animal sacrifice, even human sacrifice . . .

And we were Americans come to “show them the way” and we were glorifying a holiday where we dress up as spirits and gools . . . or maybe fools. We weren’t parading in the streets, mind you, but our neighbors saw some of our festivities.

Were we wrong? Did we send a wrong signal? One tailor named Charles Oneka even sewed costumes for our children. Our close friends understood . . . but perhaps others didn’t.

But I tell you that story because when we got out of our culture, we learned something about ourselves that we otherwise might not have learned.

Like many other Christians recently, we’ve helped our children avoid dressing up as blantantly evil characters. Events have been changed from Halloween to “Fall Festivals,” and trick or treating has become “trunk or treats” at churches.

For example, churches like ours do Fall Festivals, Pumpkin Patches, or dramas about the Fires of Hell.

What is the biblical principle that guides us here? Should we join culture, celebrate with, revise events with Christian emphasis? Shouldn’t it concern us that we celebrate rightly as Christians? Do we celebrate outside of our Christian faith? Should there be secular and sacred separations in our lives?

Do we keep the porch light on the very one night of the year when our neighbors come to meet us, when we might meet our neighbors or do we turn the porch light off in protest and sashay to our “holy” events?

Our family chooses to leave the light on and be in the neighborhood on Halloween night. We celebrate with our culture and intentionally meet our neighbors as we trick or treat or receive trick or treaters. I will usually come home and write down the names of neighbors we’ve met.

The night is holy to us as a way to be good neighbors.

Haiku and prayer

Remember haiku from grammar school? You thought it was corny, right? OK, you were partly right.

But consider this: haiku is a way of sabbath ceasing for any moment of the week. It’s a way to jot down, reflect upon, and capture a moment in time. Turned toward God, it becomes another form of prayer.

Here are two examples I wrote from early this morning.

It’s not only about the exercise

Forty degrees out
I’m running with my daughter
Still dark the morning


God of Seasons

Refreshing morning
Leaves still cling tight to branches
Praise God of seasons

A few reminders:

  1. The syllable pattern is 5-7-5
  2. Pick seasonal word(s)
  3. Seize a moment by reflecting on a part of nature or humanity

The Porpoise Diving Life

I told you a few weeks ago about the incredible Gary Smith article in Sports Illustrated about Pat Tillman, the former NFL linebacker turned soldier who died in Afghanistan. In the recent issue of SI someone wrote a letter in reference to Tillman’s “purpose-driven” life.

For all those who critique the “purpose-driven” language, particularly of Rick Warren’s book and church, he is still one Christianity’s best current spokespersons, and Calvin Miller told me recently in an interview that what he says when national magazines ask him questions about religion or politics or world events are typically precient.

But for the subversive who enjoy panning popular phrases and concepts, here is The Porpoise Diving Life web site

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized

Praying the Bible with your family

Praying the Bible with your familyI really like the series of books David and Heather Kopp have produced, for their focus on prayer practiced in families and home life. One of their books, Praying the Bible with your family is a great resource for family devotional times.

Here is an example of the format:

Quotes Job 38

Brief meditation on Job

Two questions: What do you think is the most amazing thing God has ever made? What does it tell you about God’s character?

Biblical principle

Prayer from the Bible: “God of hippopotamuses and hailstones, Lord of rainbows and coconut trees, Maker of snowflakes and snails and parakeets, Father of every living person–especially in this house . . .”

I was sold on the book while standing in the bookstore reading that prayer. I smiled and tucked the book under my arm and headed to the checkout. We soon began using it in our family times.

Sabbath in O’Hare Airport

Delayed seven hours in O’Hare in Chicago and read most of the time a new book by Norman Wirzba, Living the Sabbath. Wirzba focuses on the Hebrew idea of menuha of God, the Sabbath rest, beauty, tranquility of things as they ought to be, an idea connected with Shalom. God created menuha by taking delight in his creation and showing us how to delight in God and his creation.

I also read this excellent collection of essays put together by a group called “Practicing Our Faith.” Robert Kruschwitz is lead editor of this July 2002 issue of “Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics” that features essays on the topic of Sabbath keeping — including an interview with Dorothy C. Bass on “Opening the Gift of Sabbath.”

The collection also includes an article by Blaine McCormick, who wrote an article on Sabbath in his home a few years ago in Wineskins. I really enjoyed working with him on the article, and the one in the collection above is an update on how things are going with Sabbath-keeping in his family.

By Greg Taylor Posted in Sabbath

Lauren Winner

winner-lauren.jpgLauren Winner is coming to ZOE this Thursday and Friday.

I interviewed her a few years ago by phone and have enjoyed and been moved by her story and her courageous writing style and content. She is a daughter of a Reform Jewish father and a lapsed Baptist mother. During her freshman year at Columbia University, she converted to Orthodox Judaism. She studied in England, receiving a master’s degree from Cambridge University, and during that time she was baptized into Christ.

If you were thinking of coming to ZOE, haven’t made reservations, but you really want to go, see if you can shift some things around and come. I talked to Eric and the Leadership Conference and Worship Conference registration both total around 1,200 but there’s still space and you can register here.

Go to Wineskins to read an excerpt from her recent book, Real Sex.

Can eating locally be frugal?

I’ve been watching local farms around me and slowly finding ways to buy locally and support sustainable agriculture in Oklahoma. Your state likely has an organization for local growers.

Oklahoma Food Coop

Made in Oklahoma

Have you ever wondered or cared where your food comes from? Do you care if the person who picked your McDonalds tomato was paid so little to do that work that they live below poverty level? Do we just plain eat too much at the cost of other human beings and animals?

In Uganda Jill’s main cookbook was a Doris Janzen Mennonite cookbook called More with less. The problem with eating locally and organically is that it’s expensive. The Mennonites combine the ideas of frugality with locality. They also just came out with a new book about eating in season called Simply in season.

Where does your food come from?

I’m beginning to wonder about the land around us that we could use to grow food rather than grass, such as the acres of grass our church has mowed for decades. Could we plow under some sod and invite our neighbors to help us plant a community garden? In Brooklyn, these teenagers have done just that.

A farm grows in Brooklyn