My buddy Paul...on his wait to Kuwait...

The day I've dreaded for a while is now here.

My buddy Paul--an officer in the United States Army is enroute to Kuwait, and then to the supposedly safe "Green Zone" in Baghdad.

I'm not happy about it at all...Paul wanted to go to this assignment, and even volunteered.

I've known this for several months now...but that doesn't make it any easier.

I'm wiping tears from my eyes, even as I write this post.

With the failures of the current administration in the White House, I'm just praying for God's protection around my dear friend, and that he will come back to the United States alive, in one piece, and in sound mind.

I'm just not sure what to think right now. He and I have talked about this for a long time...he and I are very close friends...and I love him dearly.

So does his wife, his son, and the rest of his family. He's a brother to me.

Please pray for him. Please pray for every military service personnel who is serving any where in the world right now.

My buddy, Jonas...

I have a good friend...his name is Jonas...and it was by the providence of God that we met almost a year ago.

Here's the story:

I was walking out of the lobby of the Marriot Hotel (on the Magnificent Mile--Michigan Avenue) last Spring. These two young guys were looking at a map, and looking very, very lost. I offered to help them find their way to wherever they were going. This was about 3 p.m.

One of those guys was my now-friend Jonas. So instead of just giving them directions to where they needed to go, I offered to show them a thing or two here in the Windy City, since neither of the guys had ever been to Chicago before.

They took me up on my offer. We had a grand time for the next 5 hours. That was the beginning of a very special friendship with this 19-year old Real Estate agent--Jonas.

We've stayed in touch ever since that time. He was living in Madison, Wisconsin where he grew up. His parents divorced many years ago, and his dad now lives in the Bay area of northern California. Jonas moved out there last November, to be near his father.

Therein lies part of the heartache that my friend is experiencing. Jonas' mother is a diagnosed, legal schizophrenic--something no 19 year old dude is able to wrap his mind around. From what he has told me, she is very, very controlling and almost destructive when he is around her.

His father--who has been mostly an absentee dad for the better part of his life--is a real "play boy" womanizing just as much as he possibly can fit into a 24-hour period.

This has been a real disappointment to my buddy. Jonas is not a Christian. He has been severely turned off by "organized religion", or so he tells me. But now, he has a tender heart.

Last night we were talking about his relationship with his dad. Jonas moved to the Bay area (at his dad's behest, I might add) so he could be near the man he calls "father." Sadly enough, his dad has paid little to no attention to this gracious and charming male who calls him father. Jonas has been so tremendously disappointed in his biological father, and I can understand that feeling oh so well.

While talking with Jonas, I felt like just bawling. I remember how disappointing my relationship with my own biological father has been--a man with whom I've had no contact for almost 15 years now. I don't even know if my "dad" is dead or alive. And right now, it just isn't an issue for me.

But I learned something a few years ago--you can call it a "prophetic word" in my life. One of the most godly and loving people I know called late one night just to tell me: "Phil, remember your Heavenly Father is nothing like your earthly father. Your Heavenly Father always keeps His eyes on you, and loves you more than you could ever love yourself, or expect anyone else to love you."

In the nick of time last night, I sensed that God wanted me to share that with Jonas. Even though Jonas would never make any pretenses of being a Christian, he did understand what I was doing my best to convey concerning the Heavenly Father.

This 19-year fella needs the Lord. He needs to know that Christ will love him more than anyone else ever could love him. He needs to know that Christ will never forsake him, or go "schizo" on him.

Jonas is my buddy, and I love him dearly. He knows that he can trust me. I just want him to know that he can trust the Saviour whom I love so dearly.

Please pray for Jonas.

What do you look for in a "church"?

I've been part of what the post-moderns call "organized" religion since I was six years old. I'm quite convinced that God established the "church"--imperfect though it is, and that His Son gave His life for the "church." The "church" is God's idea--not humanity's.

But I've also wondered, and still wonder "What should someone look for when making the search for a local church?"

Some things are obvious:

A clear commitment to the infallible Word of God.
A clear commitment to the Triune God.
A clear commitment to Jesus as the ONLY WAY to God the Father.
A clear commitment to the present ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the "church."

But what do you look for when you are in that search for a local church?

I must confess that my criteria has changed/altered/adjusted over the last many years.

When I was in college (1980-1985), pursuing the undergraduate degree, I was a member of one local church--and never even remotely considered finding another congregation.

When I entered the United States Air Force, my choices for corporate worship were somewhat limited, depending on where I was stationed at the time.

When I re-entered civilian life in August 1996, my choice was pretty clear--or at least I thought it would be. And then I changed local churches.

When I moved to Chicago, I came here with a "church plant" that didn't work out, and so I became a regular worshipper at The Moody Church here. I was very active in a few ministries, and only left when I felt the Holy Spirit pushing me elsewhere...

I returned to The Moody Church in November 2005 after being part of a congregation that I loved for three years--but sadly felt that I couldn't trust those "leading it" and knew the best thing I could do would be leave, painful as it was.

I hope I never have to look for another "church home"...not any time soon.

But what do you look for in a "local church"?

The Problem with Pain...

My friend Kevin Bussey ( in his blog "Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee" asked a very profound question last week. One of his posts was entitled "What Happened to My Brady Bunch World?"

And now, more than ever, that is a very real and relevant question.

As the events of recent days have so drastically have reminded us, this world (and those of us who still inhabit it) have a problem with "pain." I can't begin to imagine what the people connected to Virginia Tech must be experiencing now--and the level of pain they must endure.

I can't begin to imagine how those families who lost loved ones and friends in the Twin Towers tragedy (almost 6 years ago now) must have felt then, and must still be feeling.

But I can say that I have not been immune to pain in my own life. I have known the pain of being abandoned as a baby, and being raised without parents. And even though I wasn't aware of the pain at the time, I did feel it's realities some years later.

I have known the pain of being betrayed by family members, and being abused by those whom you trusted. It's no fun, but that didn't stop it from happening.

I have known the pain of being betrayed by friends whom you knew would be there--and for some reason they weren't. And I've been guilty of doing the same thing, sadly enough.

But, as I look back on the incidents of "pain"--I'm reminded of what the Apostle Paul said to the Christians in Corinth, when he referred to all the "pain" in his life and ministry as "these light afflictions."

I'm very thankful that "this world" is not all that we have, or can look forward to in the future. I'm eternally grateful for the promise that we can indeed hold a title to the "City Whose Builder and Maker is God."

The writer of Hebrews tells us of God's people who endured all kinds of things (Chapter 11), and he/she ends that particular thought with these profound, sobering words: "of whom the world was not worthy...."

Oh, that my life and moreso, my outlook on life, would be like that!

A marvelous hymn that I learned many, many years ago has these precious words:

"Some through the water
Some through the flood
Some through the fire
But all through the blood.

Some through great sorrow
But God gives the song,
In the night season
And all the day long."

It's those very precious "songs in the night" that reminds me that God knows, feels, and understands my pain.

Even when it's self-inflicted (but that's an entirely separate post).

But any pain that I might feel could never compare to what a miracle-working, humble, generous man felt one day more than 2000 years ago when he stood on a lonely hill outside Jerusalem and cried. He was on a Cross. He felt forsaken and alone.

But even in His pain, He took the criminal on one side of His cross to Paradise that very day.

He never denied His own pain. But He never let it stop Him from doing what had to be done.

That man, Jesus Christ, made a way for me to endure the pain, by enduring His own pain. He made a way for me to see "beyond the pain" because He saw beyond His own.

The words of John the Revelator says it so well..."I John saw the holy more pain, nor sorrow...."

I look forward to that time. Really, I do.

But until then....

When it doesn't make "sense"

Like the rest of this nation--and indeed a large part of the world--I was horrified by the needless slaughter of 32 people at Virginia Polytechnical University in Blacksburg, VA yesterday.

The gunman, a young 23-year old Senior, killed 32 people before ending his own life. How terribly tragic!

Even now as I am watching the "Convocation" on television, I am profoundly saddened by what has happened almost a thousand miles from me here in the Windy City.

Last night, Charlie Gibson (anchor of World News Tonight) just about brought me to tears. He always ends his "half hour" with the words: "I hope you've had a good day." But last night he couldn't end his broadcast that way. He simply said, "I wish it had been a good day, but it wasn't.." He seemed to choke up, and so did I.

The Governor of Virginia flew back from a trade mission in Japan just to be with "his people" in Virginia. In the broadcast a few minutes ago, he practically preached a gospel message in the midst of all this unspeakable sorrow. He reminded the gathered students, faculty and friends--along with the rest of the world--that the pain felt in this community and in this nation, reminds us of the pain of God's Son who cried from a lonely hill, "My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?"

What a powerful, powerful reminder.

Let's keep this nation in prayer. We desperately need it.

This is EXACTLY how I feel...

Thanks to CNN for posting this commentary. And this is pretty much how I feel about the whole "world of politics" right now....and how Christ-followers should relate:
Editor's note: Roland Martin is a CNN contributor and talk-show host on WVON-AM in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith."

NEW YORK (CNN) -- When did it come to the point that being a Christian meant only caring about two issues,­ abortion and homosexuality? Ask the nonreligious what being a Christian today means, and based on what we see and read, it's a good bet they will say that followers of Jesus Christ are preoccupied with those two points.

Poverty? Whatever.

Homelessness? An afterthought.

A widening gap between the have and have-nots? Immaterial.

Divorce? The divorce rate of Christians mirrors the national average, so that's no big deal.

The point is that being a Christian should be about more than abortion and homosexuality, and it's high time that those not considered a part of the religious right expose the hypocrisy of our brothers and sisters in Christianity and take back the faith. And those on the left who believe they have a "get out of sin free" card must not be allowed to justify their actions.

Many people believe we are engaged in a holy war. And we are. But it's not with Muslims. The real war -- ­ the silent war ­-- is being engaged among Christians, and that's what we must set our sights on.

As we celebrate Holy Week, our focus is on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But aren't we also to recommit ourselves to live more like Jesus? Did Jesus spend his time focusing on all that he didn't like, or did Jesus raise the consciousness of the people to understand love, compassion and teach them about following the will of God?

As a layman studying to receive a master's in Christian communications, and the husband of an ordained minister, it's troubling to listen to "Christian radio" and hear the kind of hate spewing out of the mouths of my brothers and sisters in the faith. In fact, I've grown tired of people who pimp God. That's right; we have a litany of individuals today who are holy, holy, holy, sing hallelujah, talk about how they love the Lord, but when it's time to walk the walk, somehow the spirit evaporates.

A couple of years ago I took exception to an e-mail blast from the Concerned Women for America. The group was angry that Democrats were blocking certain judges put up for the federal bench by President Bush. It called on Americans to fight Democrats who wanted to keep Christians off the bench. So I called and sent an e-mail asking, "So, where were you when President Clinton appointed Christian judges to the bench? Were they truly behind Christian judges, or Republican Christian judges?

Surprise, surprise. There was never a response.

An African-American pastor I know in the Midwest was asked by a group of mostly white clergy to march in an anti-abortion rally. He was fine with that, but then asked the clergy if they would work with him to fight crack houses in predominantly black neighborhoods.

"That's really your problem," he was told. They saw abortion as a moral imperative, but not a community ravaged by crack.

If abortion and gay marriage are part of the Christian agenda, I have no issue with that. Those are moral issues that should be of importance to people of the faith, but the agenda should be much, much broader.

I'm looking for the day when Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Joyce Meyer, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, James Kennedy, Rod Parsley, " Patriot Pastors" and Rick Warren will sit at the same table as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Cynthia Hale, Eddie L. Long, James Meek, Fred Price, Emmanuel Cleaver and Floyd Flake to establish a call to arms on racism, AIDS, police brutality, a national health care policy, our sorry education system.

If they all say they love and worship one God, one Jesus, let's see them rally their members behind one agenda.

I stand here today not as a Republican or a liberal. And don't bother calling me a Democrat or a conservative.

I am a man,­ an African-American man ­who has professed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that's to whom I bow down. If you concur, it's time to stop allowing a chosen few to speak for the masses.

Quit letting them define the agenda.

So put on the full armor of God because we have work to do.

Does John MacArthur like anyone?

In his current volume The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, Pastor/teacher John MacArthur (Grace Church of Sun Valley, California) goes after the "Emerging church" folks this time.

Let me recap for all those who may not be familiar with John MacArthur's past publications:

In the late 70s/early 80s, he wrote a book called Those Charismatics. In this volume, MacArthur (who pastors a mega-church in Southern California) basically blasted, with skewed information I might add, all those in the Charismatic/Pentecostal circles with whom he disagreed. He went after practically everyone...few, if any remained unscathed.

In the mid-1990s, he republished his book (with some much needed editorial revisions) under the title Charismatic Chaos. This effort didn't even deserve a yawn--much less a read.

Now he seems to have nothing better to do than go after Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis fame) and anyone else who dares to reach people with Gospel of Jesus Christ using methods other than what he has used over the last forty years.

He really should be ashamed of himself. Really, he should.

Confession time here.

When I was in college, I absolutely LOVED John MacArthur's daily broadcast "Grace to You." As a matter of fact I have several of his books from way back then, and I still enjoy re-reading them. His commentary series has been very helpful in many ways as well.

But, my question remains. Does John MacArthur like anything or anyone that doesn't "do it his way"?

I'm not sure. But I wish he would document why he doesn't like all these people?

What will MacArthur say when he gets to glory and see all these people who have come to saving faith in Christ because of these ministries?

Best Barbeque Sauce I've ever tasted!

I first encountered the wonderful, wonderful food of McClard's BBQ about 14 years ago when I was visiting friends in the Little Rock, Arkansas area. Brad and Jennifer (my hosts) decided that we needed to go camping over near the lake. We did...and we also stopped at McClard's for dinner that night.

Without a doubt, it is the BEST barbeque I've ever put in my mouth...hands down!

Fast forward some 13 years, and one of my students came in for some academic advising one day...and mentioned that he was from Hot Springs, Arkansas...and I mentioned McClard's. His jaw just about hit the floor!

I went online, and ordered several bottles of their wonderful BBQ sauce, and it was delivered via UPS less than a week later.

Oh the joy those bottles of barbeque sauce brought to my soul! And my stomach!

I've just re-ordered, and this time I bought a case!

I also called the owner of McClard's and told him of my great joy in his products. He was delighted to hear of my satisfaction and glee with their "family tradition."

Please check out their website, and visit their online store. Order some of that BBQ sauce, you will certainly be glad that you did!

It's worth ever delicious ounce.

Rosie O'Donnell...just be quiet, please!


I must confess that I loved your show some 13-14 years ago. I thought you were funny, informative, and very entertaining.

I even defended your right to publicly proclaim your status as a "lesbian" in an interview with Diane Sawyer some four years ago on a Primetime Special. I do not agree with your "stance", but I defended your right to be an adoptive parent, and to provide the safety and security for children whom you have chosen to give a home.

But you have obviously crossed the line over the last year or two.

You have singlehandedly managed to offend every military person in this country--active duty and veteran. You are entitled to your opinions concerning policies coming out of Washington, just like every good American is entitled to theirs.

You are not entitled to insult people of faith with whom you disagree. Those same people are not entitled to insult you either. They may vehemently disagree with you. And most of us do.

But please, be quiet for a while. Take a long vacation.

A very long one.

Dealing with "abandonment" issues.

For those of you who may not know me, I want to divulge a small part of my personal history. I was abandoned by my parents, shortly after I was born. My biological mother and father abandoned each other (eventually divorcing) and thus, abandoned me. I was less than a year old.

Even though my wonderful Grandmother Hoover raised me--and did a marvelous job--with lots of help from the "village" I still feel "abandoned" at times.

These feelings/issues/emotions are not constant...but they are recurring, and usually at the most "inconvenient" times. But when is "abandonment" ever a 'convenient' emotion?

In doing a self-analysis, I am beginning to think that my subconscious fear of being "abandoned" is one of the reasons that I've never married, nor even seriously dated (in a long time). It's not that I don't trust anyone--I just don't want to put myself into a place where I could be abandoned again--by anyone.

I've read and am re-reading Gordon Dalby's marvelous book Healing the Masculine Soul realizing that my own soul does need some "serious" healing. The sooner the better.

And when I think about what "abandonment" really is, and all the "issues" involved, it can be pretty overwhelming. Some of the "issues" are intimacy, relationships, finances, stability, productivity, and even spirituality. And I'm beginning to believe that I've not even scratched the surface.

My saving grace is that Christ has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. I can count on that. Even when other people have.