When you have it all...what then?

As I was watching some late-night political television this week, the Holy Spirit seemed to drop a thought in my heart. What I heard in my heart was, "When you have it all...what then?"

Let's see if I can simply this in writing, as well as I have simplified it in my head...

In my short 43 years of living, I have:

1) Graduated high school, college, and seminary.

2) Traveled 34 countries on 4 continents, seeing much of the world that I would have never seen, except for the blessing of God.

3) Served honorably in the United States Air Force

4) Been blest with scores of wonderful friends, just about everywhere!

5) Never gone naked, hungry, or homeless. Even bought my first home one month ago!

6) Almost always had a decent job

7) Acquired musical, writing, speaking, and other skills that can be used for the betterment of my environment (hopefully), and for my own enjoyment.

As one close friend said not long ago, "Phil, you have done more in your 43 years than most people will do in 82 years."

While it was meant as a compliment, I found it be more sobering than flattering. It was Jesus who said, "for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15).

Looking at all that I have, I can only ask, "what now?" Or better yet, "So what?"

While there are several entrusted people who keep me "in check" and "grounded," the "heart of the matter" becomes very quickly, and very succinctly "the matter of the heart."

I remember hearing a lady who was dying with breast cancer say (many years ago) that "the only things we can take from this life to the next are 1) our relationship to God the Father, and 2) our relationships with other people." And thinking about it, those two elements fulfill the "Great Commandments" as taught by our Lord Jesus.

I'm often reminded of the "elder brother" in the story of the Prodigal son in Luke Chapter 15.

The most convicting, heartbreaking part of the elder brother's whole paradigm was the fact the he obviously never "came to himself."

The younger brother had insisted on taking what was not rightfully his (yet), squandering it on hellish living, eating from the pig's pen (a good Jewish boy, now...), and then "coming to himself" and returning home...

The elder brother--who never left--had it all....but what he didn't have, sadly, and many of us fall into this trap, was the "heart of his Father." Oh yes, the Father cared about him deeply, but the elder didn't take on the "heart qualities" that so defined his Father.

I've often wondered if I am possessed of the "elder brother" syndrome? We never found in the Scriptures where the "elder brother" came to himself and realized that he had everything at his disposal.

What about us? "When you have it all...what then?"

"Weatherproofing"--not a good idea.

Taken from Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff Richard Carlson, Ph.D. (New York: Hyperion, 1997) pg 105-107.

The idea of weatherproofing as it pertains to peaceful living and friendships is a metaphor to explain one of our most neurotic, ungrateful tendencies.

Just as we can weatherproof a home for the winter by looking for cracks, leaks, and imperfections, we can also weatherproof our relationships, even our lives by doing the very same thing. Essentially, weatherproofing means that you are on the careful lookout for what needs to be fixed or repaired. It's finding the cracks and flaws of life, and either trying to fix them, or at least point them out to others. Not only does this tendency alienate you from other people, it makes you feel bad, too. It encourages you to think about what's wrong with everything and everyone--what you don't like.

So rather than appreciating our relationships and our lives, weatherproofing encourages us to end up thinking that life (and our relationships) isn't all it's cracked up to be. Nothing is ever good enough the way it is.

In our relationships, weatherproofing typically plays itself out like this:

You meet someone and all is well. You are aware of his/her appearance, personality, intellect, sense of humor, or some combination of these traits. Initially, you not only approve of your differences with these people, you actually appreciate your differences. Often, you have an affinity for the person because of how different you both are. You have different opinions, preferences, tastes, and priorities.

After a while, however, you begin to notice little quirks about your new friend(s) that you feel should be improved upon. You bring it to their attention. You might say, "You know, you sure have a tendency to......" Or , "I've noticed you don't ......very much." The point is, you've begun what inevitably turns into a way of life--looking for and thinking about what you don't like about someone, or something that isn't quite right...at least not in your eyes and by your all-wise estimation. And often it's not very wise..

Obviously, an occasional comment, constructive criticism, or helpful guidance isn't cause for alarm. It's even welcome most of the time. I have to say, however, that in the course of working with thousands of people over the years, I've met very few people who didn't feel that they were being weatherproofed at times by their friends. Occasional harmless comments have an insidious tendency to become a way of looking at people...and life.

When you are weatherproofing another human being, it says nothing about them--but it does define you as someone who has an insatiable need to be critical of them.

Whether you have a tendency to weatherproof your relationships, certain aspects of your life, or both, what you need to do is write off weatherproofing as a very bad idea. As the habit creeps into your thinking, catch yourself and seal your lips. The less often you weatherproof your relationships, the more you'll notice just how super your life really is."
A very wise person once said, "Pick your friends....but not to death!"

So what do you think?

It "rocked" my world....


I received word last Saturday morning that a dear friend of mine (two years my junior) died suddenly last week from a Brain Aneurysm. He was only 41 years old, and had no previous health problems of any type. He thought he was suffering from a sinus headache--until he collapsed on his kitchen floor and had to be carried to an emergency room.

His wife Susan, and their three precious daughters are now coping with this horrible series of events in their lives. Let's keep them in prayer.

And by all means, see your doctor. I plan to see mine tomorrow.

Update on Janet Paschal...Please Pray

Thursday July 7, 2005


Hey Everybody,
It's Thursday morning, I'm sitting in the screened porch with coffee, laptop, and today's newspaper. Life can be so good sometimes.

As expected, you all proved an invaluable source in response to my last newsletter. As a result, I've been in touch with oncology specialists from every major cancer center in the nation - MD Anderson, Mayo, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, to name a few. I've spent days poring through websites and forums; I've had continual sessions in prayer - both praying and listening; and have decided to go ahead with the additional chemotherapy.

I had my first of twelve weekly treatments yesterday and I have felt no effect from it whatsoever at this point; in fact, John and I played a game of tennis earlier and I felt as strong as ever. John cautions me not to get my hopes up (I lean in that direction) thinking I'll sail through this without some discomfort, but, so far, very, very good.

My probing has shown that most people do not have permanent side effects with the medicine as long as it's monitored closely. I guess they have to give you the worst case scenario and hope you are pleasantly surprised.

I also discovered that the reason I need this additional treatment is because my particular brand of cancer "overexpresses" the Her2 protein. (My friends had a chuckle at that.) It is also considered high risk for recurring and metastasizing. Once I jump through all the hoops (Taxol, Herceptin, radiation) I'll have a less than 8 percent chance of recurrence. Those are odds that make sense to me.

The worst part of this is that we've had to cancel our concert dates until next year. That means I won't have an opportunity to thank you in person and to hear your stories as soon as I'd hoped. I guess that also means it will be even sweeter when I do get to tell you what you have meant to me.

We continue to see the Lord in the details. My oncologist reminded me that had we not done the original chemo before the lumpectomy, we wouldn't even know that my cancer had not responded to it. I also think it is not coincidental that the Taxol/Herceptin combination was announced in May - and is considered the biggest advance in breast cancer in 50 years. I also know that God has been listening; maybe Mark Lowry was right when he called to say that God was getting so inundated by prayers on my behalf that He likely turned in frustration to Michael and asked, "Janet who?"

Thank you for your encouragement, and your stories of how the music has made a difference in your lives. That still overwhelms me.Thank you for writing. Thank you for praying. Thank you for forwarding my letter to friends, relatives, medical specialists, and prayer warriors. I have heard from them all, and have appreciated every effort spent in getting information and experiences to me. They have all played a part in my decision.

I'll keep you updated as we progress. I'll also keep you posted on what I'm learning through this as a way to repay your kindnesses, although it will surely fall short of that.

You are a gift to me - and I am deeply grateful.

We love you - we'll be in touch.


Please continue praying for my good friend Janet Paschal. She is such a wonderful minister in so many ways.

Worship and "Higher" Politics...

From the July issue of Christianity Today:

Worship as Higher Politics

Political priorities for citizens of the kingdom.
A Christianity Today editorial posted 06/23/2005 09:00 a.m.

George W. Bush is not Lord.

The Declaration of Independence is not an infallible guide to Christian faith and practice.

Nor is the U.S. Constitution, nor the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights. "Original intent" of America's founders is not the hermeneutical key that will guarantee national righteousness. The American flag is not the Cross. The Pledge of Allegiance is not the Creed. "God Bless America" is not the Doxology.

Sometimes one needs to state the obvious—especially at times when it's less and less obvious.
Say What?Understandably, megachurch pastor Rod Parsley (World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio) has had enough of America's moral confusion. But in his newly published Silent No More: Bringing Moral Clarity to America … While Freedom Still Rings (Charisma House, 2005), he writes (not so understandably), "I can be silent no more. Not until the land of our fathers' dream arises. Not until we become the truly kind and noble society we were fashioned to be. Not until the commitment of our fathers truly does become the calling of our times."
And here we thought the Ten Commandments and Sermon on the Mount held the key to a "truly kind and noble society."

Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, spoke recently about the serious problem of judges legislating from the bench. He also said: "We want to return to a nation governed by law, rather than a nation governed by judges. This is a major issue to us. We know for evangelical Christians to function, we need the rule of law."

The remark implies unintentionally that the church needs humble judges who submit to "original intent" if it is to function. Tell that to the church in Africa and Latin America, where corrupt judges and wild dictators reign, and where church growth approaches the miraculous.
Family Research Council (FRC) Action is a lobbying arm of FRC, and as such it is not explicitly religious in its public presentation. But it is known far and wide as an outpost of the Christian Right. So it can only reap confusion when it posts this endorsement from former U.S. Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire: "Just beneath our superficial prosperity is a moral and cultural center that is in serious disrepair. We have the tools to fix it: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution … and a people whose hearts, courage, and dedication have never been questioned."

As important as the Declaration and Constitution are to the political health of our nation, surely nobody at FRC Action believes that these documents are the key to fixing the "serious disrepair" at our nation's "moral center."

And for some time now, we've been hearing from David Barton, Peter Marshall, and James Kennedy, among others, about "renewing the vision of our founding fathers, as expressed in America's founding documents," and the need "to defend and implement the biblical principles on which our country was founded."

The not-so-subtle equation of America's founding with biblical Christianity has been shown time and again to be historically inaccurate. The founding was a unique combination of biblical teaching and Enlightenment rationalism, and most of the founding fathers, as historian Edwin Gaustad, among many others, has noted, were not orthodox Christians, but instead were primarily products of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, we should recall, has never been much of a friend of biblical Christianity.

Political PrioritiesIn the heat of partisan politics (out of which many of these overstatements and misunderstandings arise), we are tempted to forget that the most potent political act—the one act that deeply manifests and really empowers a "kind and noble society"—is the worship of Jesus Christ.

In worship we signal who is the Sovereign, not of just this nation, but of heaven and Earth. In worship we gather to be formed into an alternate polis, the people of God. It is here that we proclaim that a new political order—the kingdom of heaven—has been preached and incarnated by the King of Kings, and will someday come in fullness, a fullness to which all kingdoms and republics will submit:

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. … The city does not need the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the Earth will bring their splendor into it" (Rev. 21:2, 23-24).

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, just as the Religious Right was blossoming, Richard John Neuhaus put it this way: "Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final assertion Christians make about all of reality, including politics. Believers now assert by faith what one day will be manifest to the sight of all: Every earthly sovereignty is subordinate to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. The church is the bearer of that claim."

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas, no political ally of Neuhaus, extended the point in a recent interview: "Christians' first political responsibility is to be the church, and by being the church they should understand that their first political loyalty is to God, and the God we worship as Christians, in a manner that understands that we are not first and foremost about making democracy work, but about the truthful worship of the true God."

Let us be clear: The Christian citizen of every nation has a moral obligation to engage at some level in that nation's political life. We do not recommend withdrawal from the political arena. We admire especially those whose calling falls in this area—mayors, councilmen, senators, representatives, presidents. Theirs is as noble a calling as that of a plumber or pastor.

But Christians who enter that calling, and those who pray for and work with them, must not forget one thing: where hope for this nation, and the world, really lies, and where that hope is most manifest Sunday by Sunday.

Copyright © 2005 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
July 2005, Vol. 49, No. 7, Page 16

Sandra Day O'Connor: Retiring from the Supreme Court

This morning, Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to ever fill a seat on the United States Supreme Court (nominated by President Reagan in 1981) announced her intentions to retire, pending the nomination and confirmation of her successor. Justice O'Connor has left quite a legacy in her ilustrious career. Read more about her:

Perhaps no other jurist could have come to the Supreme Court under greater expectations and scorn. When President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981 to be the first woman justice to sit on the Supreme Court, he did so out of an obligation to keep a campaign promise. O'Connor's nomination was quick to draw criticism from both the political left and right. Conservatives derided her lack of federal judicial experience and claimed she was lacking in constitutional knowledge. They considered her a wasted nomination and suspected her position on abortion. Liberals, on the other hand, could not deny their satisfaction at seeing a woman on the High Court, but they were dismayed at O'Connor's apparent lack of strong support for feminist issues. In time, however, O'Connor has come to answer all these criticisms. O'Connor has emerged from the shadow of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the Court's conservative bloc with her own brand of pragmatic and centrist-oriented conservatism. Even those liberals who branded her a "traitor" in her early years for compromising on abortion rights, now appreciate her efforts to keep the "pro-choice" message of Roe v. Wade (1973) alive.

O'Connor's success should come at no surprise. From her rural childhood to her career climb through a profession dominated by men, O'Connor often resorted to practical solutions as she worked within the system. This tendency to moderate, in turn, enhanced her importance in an often-splintered Court.

Sandra Day O'Connor was born March 26, 1930, in El Paso, Texas. Her parents, Harry and Ada Mae, owned the Lazy-B-Cattle Ranch in southeastern Arizona, where O'Connor grew up.

O'Connor experienced a difficult life on the ranch in her early childhood. The ranch itself did not receive electricity or running water until she was seven. Since their nearest neighbors lived 25 miles away, the family spent their days mostly in isolation. Her younger brother and sister were not born until she herself was eight years old, leaving her to spend many years as an only child. To compensate for the loneliness, she befriended many of the ranch's cowboys and kept many pets, including a bobcat. O'Connor read profusely in her early years and engaged in many ranch activities. She learned to drive at age seven and could fire rifles and ride horses proficiently by the time she turned eight.

The isolated ranch made formal education difficult so O'Connor's parents sent her to live with her maternal grandmother in El Paso. Sandra attended the Radford School, a private academy for girls, from kindergarten through high school. Suffering from extreme homesickness, she withdrew and returned to Arizona for a year. Still, she graduated with good marks at the age of sixteen. O'Connor attributes much of her later success to her grandmother's influence. She credits her grandmother's confidence in her ability to succeed in any endeavor as her motivation for refusing to admit defeat.

After high school, O'Connor attended Stanford University where she majored in economics. She chose economics originally with the intention of applying that knowledge towards the operation of a ranch of her own or even the Lazy-B Ranch. A legal dispute over her family's ranch, however, stirred her interest in law and O'Connor decided to enroll at Stanford Law School after receiving her baccalaureate degree magna cum laude in 1950.

O'Connor only took two years, instead of the customary three, to complete law school. Along the way, she served on the Stanford Law Review and received membership in the Order of the Coif, a legal honor society. She also met her future husband, John Jay O'Connor, a fellow student, at this time. O'Connor graduated third out of a class of 102. (First in the class William H. Rehnquist who would become chief justice.)

O'Connor faced a difficult job market after leaving Stanford. No law firm in California wanted to hire her and only one offered her a position as a legal secretary. Ironically, a senior partner of that firm, William French Smith, helped O'Connor's nomination to the Supreme Court years later as the Attorney General. Failing to find suitable work in private practice, O'Connor turned to public service. She accepted a job as the deputy county attorney for San Mateo, California. When O'Connor's husband graduated from Stanford a year later, the army immediately drafted him into the Judge Advocate General Corps. John O'Connor served in Frankfurt, Germany, for three years with Sandra by his side. While in Germany, Sandra served as a civilian lawyer in the Quartermaster's Corps.

When the O'Connors returned to the U.S. in 1957, they decided to settle down in Phoenix, Arizona. They had their three sons in the six years that followed.

O'Connor again found it difficult to obtain a position with any law firm so she decided to start her own firm with a single partner. She practiced a wide variety of small cases in her early days as a lawyer since she lacked specialization and an established reputation. After she gave birth to her second son, O'Connor withdrew from work temporarily to care for her children. She became involved in many volunteer activities during this time. She devoted much of her time to the Arizona State Hospital, the Arizona State Bar, the Salvation Army, and various local schools. She also began an involvement with the Arizona Republican Party. After five years as a full-time mother, O'Connor returned to work as an assistant state attorney general in Arizona.

When a state senator resigned to take an appointment in Washington D.C., Arizona Governor Jack Williams appointed O'Connor to occupy the vacant seat. O'Connor successfully defended her senate position for two more terms and eventually became the majority leader, a first for women anywhere in the U.S. In 1974, O'Connor decided to shift gears and run for a judgeship on the Maricopa County Superior Court. State Republican leaders urged her to consider a campaign for the governorship in 1978, but O'Connor declined. A year later, the newly elected Democratic governor nominated O'Connor to the Arizona Court of Appeals. Not quite two years later, President Reagan nominated her as the first woman to Supreme Court as a replacement for the retiring Justice Potter Stewart.

The Senate confirmed O'Connor's appointment unanimously. As if in anticipation of her arrival, the Court abandoned its formal use of "Mr. Justice" as the form of address, opting for the simpler and gender-neutral, "Justice." Early in her tenure on the Court, most observers identified O'Connor as part of the Court's conservative faction. The public often associated her with Rehnquist since they shared common roots and values. However, after a few Terms, O'Connor established her own unique position on the Court. Although she commonly sided with the conservatives, O'Connor would frequently author a concurrence that sought to narrow the scope of the majority's opinion.

To this day, O'Connor's core legal philosophy remains difficult to define. She approaches each case with individual treatment and seeks always to arrive at a practical conclusion. Her moderation has helped her role as the centrist coalition-builder, which has consequently enhanced her influence on the Court.

What a great legacy, what a great American!

God bless Justice Sandra Day O'Connor