Pastor, Writer, Contemplative

Archive for Houston

When It’s Time to HALT – (When you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)

"Take a pause for the cause..." and reflect

HALT. (when you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) Read the rest of this entry »


#GODonFILM: Making Sense of KUNG FU PANDA

I was really embarrassed to announce that as part of our GODonFilM series we were covering Kung Fu Panda 2. But there are some merits:

  1. The theme of technology vs. spirit (i.e., Kung Fu being outmoded by the cannon – the precursor to the gun). So the question is, can something as spiritual / mystical as kung fu stop a speeding bullet? Is technology a contaminant to the purity of spirit? Should we all stop blogging and abandon twitter? Alas, I don’t go here in my talk.
  2. It IS the first movie directed by an Asian-American woman. The perspectival change is already evident between KFP 1 and KFP 2.
  3. Themes of predestination and fate: Evil Lord Shen is told a panda would one day lead to his demise. So the question for you thinkers is; would befriending or eradicating all pandas alter his destiny at all? Is it in any way avoidable / redeemable?
  4. Biblical genocide in true Herodian fashion. ***SPOILER*** of course, Shen, being consummate evil (because he is played by Gary Oldman) goes the genocidal rout. Destroy all Pandas… but of course one survives. How original.
  5. Po wrestles with “daddy issues” (or lack of)

So how did I whip up a sermon out of this?

I chose to look at another family drama played out between two brothers, Joseph and Judah over the course of 14 chapters in Genesis 37 to 50. I wouldn’t say the parallels are precise, but the unfolding family dramas in KFP2 hearken to some of the dysfunctionalities in Israel’s line. I know that’s overreaching but – well worth exploring.

What resulted was a sermon inspired by Robert Alter‘s (Berkeley) narrative critical approach to the Judah / Tamar story wedged in between the larger Joseph framework (what some technical folks call framing, or inclusio, or sandwiching). Here’s a link to the talk.

What delights me is that this sets us up for next week’s talk on the Tree of Life perfectly. So get ready for Joseph / Judah part II this upcoming Sunday.

#GODonFILM: Exegeting X-MEN

I really enjoyed our talk on X-Men: First Class for the new GOD on FILM series at Harvest Houston Church; preached my heart out and felt a connection with the audience, especially as we have a spike in attendance over the summer due to incoming high school graduates and returning college students.

As an unrepentant nerd, I’ve followed the X-Men comics long before the movie hoopla and even the cartoon television series; I was nurtured on the classic storyline of the “freaks” ostracized by society; deported to apartheid-like islands (Genosha), running from mob-like discrimination (the Sentinels) and struggling with identity and seemingly unlimited and uncontrollable power (the Phoenix). A powerful concoction every pubescent 13 yr old can relate with, yes.

So naturally I find deep themes to draw out here.

And I narrowed in on the deep themes of rejection, foreignness, freakishness, being the Other, the outcast, the reject, the carny, the misfit, the person with the huge scarlet letter emblazoned on their chest. In short – I think X-Men touches a nerve with so many because YOU (and me too) are ALL FREAKS. And we need some solace. Some meaning, something that speaks to our inadequacy to fit into society; in many ways, the X-Men story is the modern-day Kafka narrative of angst and existentialism.

So in the end, what did I think of the movie? I don’t know; I haven’t watched it yet.

GOD ON FILM – coming to Houston, TX – JUNE 2011

GOD ON FILM series – June/July 2011!

You heard right; I’m pretty stoked about our upcoming new series @ Harvest Community Church starting the first week of JUNE 2011. For seven weeks, we’ll be covering the summer blockbusters and looking for “God on Film” – as portrayed through culture, media, and the lens of the movie camera. So take a look @ the schedule below, grab your popcorn, watch the film, and come out to a discussion on Saturday / Sunday!


JUNE 4/5:  THE TREE of LIFE – musings on childhood, complicated fathers, the lost soul in a modern world, the origins of life and the existence of faith. Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn – need we say more? Great way to kick off this series.

JUNE 11/12:  MIDNIGHT in PARIS – a romantic comedy by Woody Allen. We’ll be discussing delusion, misanthropy, fear, groping for meaning all with a Woody Allen-esque sense of humor.

JUNE 18/19:  X-MEN – talking about themes of the “Other” / the outsider / the alien. This present-day action movie re-plays older themes of Kafka-esque alienation experienced by so many of us.

June 25/26:  WAITING for SUPERMAN – the centerpiece of our series, we will be hosting a free screening followed by a public discussion involving local Houston-area educators. We will also have the principal of International high school in Sharpstown as a  special guest sharing his thoughts on how to move forward in educating ALL of our children – including the “least of these.”

July 2/3:  SUPER 8 – Anything produced by Spielberg and JJ Abrams has got to serve up good suspense, mystery, and deep philosophical questions about life today.

July 9/10:  TRANSFORMERS – We’ll be considering the universe-wide clash between good and evil. Starring Optimus Prime.

July 16/17:  HARRY POTTER – while it has taken a darker twist of late, this series speaks profoundly about good and evil, childhood and innocence, tremendous yet unbridled potential, and the portent (or tremendous hope) of this thing called destiny.


We hope you will join us for at least one of these looks into “GOD on FILM.” See you at the movies – and then @ church.

Arcade Fire in the Woodlands Pavilion – Lyrics that Matter

I really enjoyed my first concert in Texas @ the Woodlands Pavilion north of Houston – the headliners? Arcade Fire. Rockin out with a few buddies last night was a great way to embrace Houston as my new home. Ironically, it seemed everything Win Butler sang about was leaving Houston, and yet in a strange way serenading his love / hate relationship with it (kind of like the “I Hate Winnipeg” song that has endeared so many Canadians to the city); I understand. I’ve often felt that way with NYC and more recently the Pac NW – I love all these places – but “home” is somewhere I used to live, but not anymore.

I think that’s why Arcade Fire strikes such a chord with me.

Being a blog about faith | PLACE | race, the issues of places of dwelling, living, building, working, playing, dying – reach deep into my tri-coastal experience; so here are some of the lyrics that have struck a resounding chord with me and echo as a serenade to my new city, or as an encouragement to start a revolution, or as a slap-in-the-face rebuke, or as a vision of heaven on earth – right here in the suburbs of Houston.


The king’s taken back the throne.
The useless seed is sown.
When they say they’re cutting off the phone,
I tell ‘em you’re not home

No place to hide,
You’re fightin’ as a soldier on their side
You’re still a soldier in your mind
Though nothing’s on the line

You say it’s money that we need,
As if we’re the only mouths to feed.
I know no matter what you say,
There are some debts you’ll never pay.

Working for the church while your family dies
You take what they give you
And you keep it inside.
Every spark of friendship and love
will die without a home
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone”.

I can taste the fear.
Lift me up and take me out of here.
Don’t wanna fight, don’t wanna die
Just wanna hear you cry.

Who’s gonna throw the very first stone?
Oh! who’s gonna reset the bone?
Walking with your head in a sling
Wanna hear the soldier sing:
“Been working for the church while my family dies.
Your little baby sister’s gonna lose her mind.
Every spark of friendship and love
will die without a home.”
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone.”

I can taste your fear.
It’s gonna lift you up and take you out of here.
And the bone shall never heal;
I care not if you kneel.

We can’t find you now,
But they’re gonna get their money back somehow.
And when you finally disappear,
We’ll just say you were never here.

Working for the church while
your life falls apart.
Singin’ hallelujah with the fear in your heart.
Every spark of friendship and love
will die without a home.”
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone.”
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone.”

City With No Children

The summer that I broke my arm
I waited for your letter
I have no feeling for you now
Now that I know you better

I wish that I could have loved you then
Before our age was through
And before a world war does with us
Whatever it will do

I dreamt I drove home to Houston
On a highway that was underground
There was no light that we could see
As we listened to the sound of the engine failing

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside
Of a private prison

You never trust a millionaire
Quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them
But I’m beginning to have my doubts
My doubts about it

When you’re hiding underground
The rain can’t get you wet
But do you think your righteousness
Can pay the interest on your debt?
I have my doubts about it

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside
Of a private prison

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by and by
As I hide inside
Of my private prison

Sprawl I (Flatland)

Took a drive into the sprawl
To find the house where we used to stay
We couldn’t read the number in the dark
You said “let’s save it for another day”

Took a drive into the sprawl
To find the places we used to play
It was the loneliest day of my life
You’re talking at me, but I’m still far away

Let’s take a drive through the sprawl
Through these towns they built to change
Then you said the emotions are dead
It’s no wonder that you feel so strange

The cops shone their lights
On the reflectors of our bikes
Said “Do you kids know, what time it is?”
Well, sir, it’s the first time I felt like something is mine
Like I have something to give

The last defender of the sprawl
Said “Well, where do you kids live?”
Well, sir, if you only knew what the answer’s worth
I’ve been searching every corner of the earth

Suburban War

Let’s go for a drive and see the town tonight
There’s nothing to do but I don’t mind when I’m with you

This town’s so strange they built it to change
And while we sleep we know the streets get rearranged
With my old friends it was so different then
Before your war against the suburbs began

Before it began

Now the music divides us into tribes
You grew your hair so I grew mine
You said the past won’t rest
Until we jump the fence and leave it behind

With my old friends I can remember when
You cut your hair, I never saw you again
Now the cities we live in could be distant stars
And I search for you in every passing car

The night’s so long
Yeah the night’s so long
I’ve been living in the shadows of your song
Been living in the shadows of your song

In the suburbs I, I learned to drive
And you told me we’d never survive,
So grab your mother’s keys we leave tonight

But you started a war that we can’t win
They keep erasing all the streets we grew up in
Now the music divides us into tribes
You choose your side, I’ll choose my side

All my old friends they don’t know me now
All my old friends are staring through me now
All my old friends they don’t know me now
All my old friends they don’t know me now
They don’t know me now
All my old friends, wait…

Easter Sunday Service in Houston (I-10 & Hwy 6 77084)

This Sunday Harvest Community Church of Houston will be kicking off a new 6-week series titled, Thinking About… FOREVERMORE. Aptly, we begin with the resurrection of Christ, but continue on with a discussion about our resurrections –> (what does that look like?), about life in the hereafter (what does the church throughout history have to say about that anyway?), about those who’ve already crossed over (and maybe never got a chance to receive the memo…? about Jesus???), about the nature of (a Trinitarian) God (lots of messages about what God is like, but few about who God is), and some other stuff.

But we’re talkin’ about Easter.

And frankly, this is THE important day of our faith (although I contend, that Ascension Sunday is just as important, but you’re just gonna have to wait a few weeks for more on that…) so come on out and join the celebration. Y’all are more than welcome.

What to expect

  • An earnest discussion about faith that tires of the religious cliches, but is looking for answers that are deeper, harder, more somber, more flippant, more free, more binding to the cross.
  • A church striving to grow in diversity, at all levels, in ethnicity, in gender, in class, in generation, in leadership.
  • A family community of all ages. (childcare is provided for young ones, toddler through pre-school – we are currently working on expanding Sunday school for youth).
  • An imperfect community. If you are looking for the complete package in a church that doubles as a shopping mall catering to all of our consumerist urges, then we’re probably not for you. But if you’re looking for something genuine, we’re striving for that too.
  • A church that looks forward and backward. Simultaneously at the post-modern, post-church landscape, and yet is in touch with a rich Christian heritage going back to the first century. We are also looking forward and backwards in the sense that we are historically an immigrant church – and we will never forget – nor turn back on – our roots.

What not to expect

  • The Easter bash to top all (other church’s) bashes. Nope, not gonna do it (in the voice of a late 90’s comedian).
  • An amazing service that is so elaborately designed that you walk out feeling a sense of the holy – but made no personal contact with anyone. Our service is less than perfect. Our band is pretty good. But where we try hard is in reaching out to get to know folks.
  • Lots of sugary stuff – I’m sorry – not to be a miser at all – the kids need to be motivated (trust me I know) but we just don’t have the bandwidth to go out on a limb and concoct the coolest, hiphopitty-est Easter replete with a mountain of peeps and bunnies and hidden eggs.

I think you get the message. All this to say:

we are a church


to walk the way of the cross

in the city of Houston, Texas,

enjoying our freedom in Christ but at the same time

bound to the cross –

and working out the implications

of what that means in our common society today.

Sojourner’s Night: Discussions in a bar about predestination, tsunamis, and daycare tragedies

Last night we had our first Sojourner’s Table Talk night where we discussed – yep – predestination, tsunamis, and daycare tragedies here in Houston (to name a few topics of discussion). It was refreshing to hear from multiple perspectives, not your usual “church” talk, and the venue was also refreshing (no pun intended).

The purpose of Sojourners Night is summarized by one of the convos I had with a friend last night, who was troubled by the insularity of Korean churches he had attended in the past. A “bubble” effect had been created, keeping churchgoers insulated from the goings-on in the outside communities, the pressing issues, the real hurts around us. I am convinced the micro-society of the Korean church will – and has already been tested, strained, and needing new wineskins to both honor this thing called heritage – and yet at the same time, reach outwardly with arms and fingers stretched out – to the community around us. But I digress.

(btw, Sojourners is not a Koreans-only night)

Sojourners is a great venue to share our stories and beliefs, and in doing so we knock the feet out from under our prejudice, fears. As the conversation is guided by a skillful facilitator, some of the most heartfelt things come to the surface that usually get brushed under the rug @ church – this is the intersection of life and belief – and it has to be openly and honestly discussed – even if the person is not coming from the same frame of reference as you. Of course, I hope that anybody I meet comes into a deep relationship with Christ. But I believe that relationship is a work-in-progress in different ppls lives, and am ok with being a listener, observer, and joyful participant in a friend’s journey.

Oh and appetizers are on us. Drinks are up to you.

Sojourners is a moveable meeting. It’s not fixed to any particular location, but is held at locations accessible to ppl after work. It is not held in the church (attractional), but rather the church going out to the locales, the third places, the cafes, the pubs, the places of gathering (incarnational). What’s great is that people love to gather. People like to eat. And occasionally have a cold one. And what better to do those over good conversation.

For next month we’re thinking about meeting in the inner loop TBA

Sojourners is once a month. We had a good group of just shy of 10 last night – and I think everyone had fun. I think a small crowd of regulars will continue to show up, don’t be shy to be the first. It’s open to all, religious, areligious, agnostic, atheist, or whatever stripe you are. We won’t preach at ya’ but as one gal described last night: “y’all are non-judgmental – I like that.”

Hit me up if you’d like to know more, or, if you’d like to attend the next Sojourners.