Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'm going back...

on 20 mg of Prozac (or its generic equavilant). 

I started taking Prozac about 6 years ago.  I did it because I was having trouble sleeping.  My doctor's solution was to take a sleep study but with an HSA that would have cost me about $1,500 out of pocket.  I asked him to try me on Prozac (at $4 a month).  That's what having to pay for your own healthcare does to your willingness to do expensive tests.

I found myself sleeping better but I also found that I was mellowed out.  I had a higher tolerance for stuff that others did.  I would rather have had a close group of persons who would have walked with me through the process of discovering the root cause of my frustration.  But I lost that when I left Theotherapy

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What would (blank) do?

I've always wanted to be immersed in the culture that finds no time for church.  So many have given up because of the inconsistencies they have seen in those of us who profess to be followers of Christ.  So many people feel condemnation from the church because they are unable to live a perfect life.

I had a sobering encounter a few weeks ago that reminded me how carefully we are watched...those of us who proclaim Christ.

I live in a house with seven other economic refugees in Bowie, MD.  One of my housemates recently moved out.  Just before she did we had a of many short chats about life.  She had been raised in a Presbyterian home if I recall correctly.  She had drifted around a lot and ended up in a Unitarian church.

We have shared stories along the way while living in the same house.  I've had opportunity to tell her about the healing the Father has brought to my life and the lives of my wife and children.  We've even laughed about the fact that Unitarians don't have much to sing about except rocks and trees.  She admitted to missing the old hymns that she was familiar with.

On occasion I've had chances to bless her by taking her to WalMart before she bought her car and helping her out with a few other things.  I love doing that kind of stuff...not out of obligation but because I love to bless people with cooperation.

Shortly before she moved to another location she was milling around the house and complaining to herself about how some of her housemates didn't clean up well after themselves.  She began relating the story to me after sharing that.  She said, "I looked around at the mess and then I thought to myself...what would Rick Murphy do,"  and she was quick to add "Not what would Jesus do, but Rick?"

Pretty scary, huh?

Reminded me of how often I wouldn't want my behavior to be the only model someone has of Jesus and how he would react in a situation.  Made me think of why I react to people who have fish symbols on the backs of their cars...and then drive like hell.  Or at least a son or daughter of hell.  I've written that I think each fish symbol should be sold with a bumper sticker disclaimer that says "Don't blame Jesus if the driver doesn't act like a follower of Christ".

While in the navy, sailing around the world, the US and many other countries were experiencing what was called the Jesus movement.  People were getting saved, baptized in the ocean and leaving behind the hippie lifestyle and a whole bunch of other lifestyles to follow Christ. 

We were experiencing that same revival on the ship where I served.  There were about 15 of us who regularly got together to worship and share our faith.  I remember standing in the chow line one day, chatting with a guy that I didn't really know that well.  He asked me for a Bible and said that he had been watching me for about 6 months to see if my faith was what I said it was.  He was convinced enough to want to know more.

People are watching you and I every day.  In too many cases our faith has only been expressed in words and hasn't touched our lives and certainly hasn't touched our belief systems, out of which we live.  People are looking for a genuine faith.  Not a perfect faith or perfect people who live sinlessly.  But real, authentic people who struggle with the same things they struggle with but seem to have found a joy in the midst of it from following Christ.

I am the first to admit to anyone, including the housemate I mentioned above, that I am not the ideal example of righteousness.  I am a sinner saved by grace and remade by the Spirit on a day to day basis.  I fall but He is there to catch me.  I sin and He is there to forgive me and welcome me back into His arms.  I don't have perfection to offer anyone.  I have grace.

That's what the hurting world is looking for...a real Savior who understands the dilemmas they face every day.  A Father who will love them when their earthly father didn't.  Someone to nurture them and comfort them in their pain as the nurturing Father will do.  They want our Savior.  They don't always want our dogma or arguments.  They want a life they can relate to that knows the grace of Jesus.

They are watching us daily to see if the Savior we profess, the God we follow is real and really impacting our lives.  How would you life stand up to the question, "What"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Where have you gone church?

I haven't written for a while.  I wasn't sure I had anything to I didn't.

A few weeks ago I had to step away from facebook.  I got so tired of all the political jabs going on by my Christian friends.  Some are liberal and decidedly Obama fans and others are radically right and fearful of how the US is going to hell, at least while there is a Democratic president in office.  Funny, my liberal friends say the same about what would happen if a Republican were elected.

I think we're missing something.  Something big.

My allegiance is to Jesus Christ.  Let me state that clearly.  I don't believe it is the role of the government to provide healthcare for all Americans.  I don't believe the government has been called to feed the poor, house the homeless and provide for everyone's every need.  I don't believe the government will ever have enough money to make up for the power of the Spirit to touch people's lives.  I believe we need less government.  I believe we need fewer taxes to be spent by people with a different agenda that the followers of Christ.  Sounds Republican, right?  Or maybe liberal Democrat.  No, that's the sound of a follower of Christ.

Why?  Because the church has been called to heal the wounded, provide for the orphan and widow and bring wholeness to the brokenhearted.  The church is not the government and the government is not the church.

I've observed how government works first hand in the last 15 months.  We have duplication.  We have rules and regulations to prevent corruption and yet it happens every day.  We have incredible waste of the hard earned dollars that are contributed by all levels of tax payers.  And there are some in sectors of the government who want to tax us more because they believe they know how to spend our money.

Don't get me wrong.  There are a lot of good things being done by our government but I believe we can do them better as the church.

The government is not directed by a moral compass in the same manner that we as followers of Christ are bound to a morality that is based on the absolute truth of the One True God.  There are people who spend the government's money like it came from an abandoned bank somewhere.  As followers of Christ we are held to a much higher standard of stewardship and a more liberal sense of giving from our heart out of love and not an obligation.

The government got involved in the business of the church because the church stopped being the church.  We have drifted so far from what the Scriptures tell us we are supposed to look like that we don't even see the difference when we look in the mirror.  That's because we have adapted to our version of the church and left the Biblical one behind.

Who told us we were supposed to get involved in the real estate business?  Didn't the early church meet in the marketplace or homes or right in the main stream of the culture?  Like Paul up on Mars Hill telling the great philosophers that he knew the One True God and he'd be glad to introduce them.  He didn't invite them to his church.  He went to them.  When was the last time you knew one of your Christian friends to make that statement to someone in the local Barnes and Noble store?

The real estate business...I'm sure if I did a Google search I could find out how much property is owned by all the religious groups around the world.  How many hunger people could you church feed if they sold all their buildings?  How many homeless could they house in property they bought for that purpose?  Or what about taking homeless into our homes?

When Jesus gathered the multitude to teach them what did he do when they all got hungry?  Call on the food bank subsidized by the government?  No, he took what he had, blessed it and fed 5,000 on one occasion and 4,000 on another.  What do we do when faced with hungry people? (They actually opened several schools in Chicago this week during the strike just so the kids could get their regular breakfast and lunch courtesy of the government.)

Can the government heal the brokenhearted?  Can the government raise up men to be leaders in their communities, faithful husbands to their wives and fathers to their children?  Can the government teach our children abstention from premarital sex?  Can they capture all the men and women who are sexually and otherwise, abusing children from positions of authority?  Can they solve any of the problems that are sapping the strength of our nation right before our eyes?

We have gotten away from our place in the culture, being salt and light, and withdrawn to our buildings with our safe friends and avoided confronting the needs of the world.  We run from the mentally ill and emotionally broken.  We overlook the families that are falling apart around us because ours aren't very strong either.  We have left all these issues up to the government and they've taken up our mission.  That's how we've gotten lost in the political battles and begun sniping at each other.

We think, as Christians, that the solution is in whether we elect a Democratic or Republican ticket in a few months.  Believe me that's not the critical issue and the monumental decision we face.  And blasting each other about the different candidates is not going to get the church back on track.

No, the critical decision is are we going to return to being the church, the Body of Christ, the disciples of the Son of God or are we going to continue to blend in to the culture?  Are we going to continue to look to the government to do the mission we have been called to do or are we going to take it back?  Are we going to rely on the Spirit of God and His resources to help us with the monumental task before us?  When are we going to embrace our spiritual mandate and begin to be the Church again?  May it be soon.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


My capacity for change has drastically changed over the years.  I'll tell you why in a few lines.

This week was about change.  I relocated from my friend's house to a geo-bachelors' house.  I moved my stuff into the living room of the big house I share with 10 others.  Its in a great neighborhood and my ride to work now includes the opportunity to hit deer.  I saw three this week.

Pat and I delivered my furniture down there on Sun and I finished the move in on Mon.  I got used to the doors rattling, the heater kicking on and hearing my housemate above get up at 4:30 am so he could go to work too.  I made room in one of the two refrigerators for my cold foods and stuck a few things in a cabinet they vacated for me.

When I walked in on Thurs evening I was met with one of my housemate's comments...I hear you're moving to the basement.  News to me.  After a discussion with my landlord by phone (she is in Chicago) I resolved that money won out and I lost (not really).  So I spent the evening moving to the basement room.  There I share a bath with only one other person who is hardly ever there.  I have a small kitchenette to use and a more quiet atmosphere.  Believe me, my housemates were closely watching my reaction.

This week I also had my computer upgraded at work from Windows XP/Office 2003 to Windows 7/Office 2010.  I was feeling really smug until I realized that I couldn't print to our printer in the office because it wasn't Windows 7 compatible.  By Thurs I had found someone to assist me in doing a workaround which I shared with one of my office colleagues who is also adapting to Windows 7...and couldn't print.

One of the things all of us try to do is find a comfort zone, a normal that we can adapt to that will reduce the stress of change in our lives.  We want things in the same place so we can find them.  We want our own bed, our type of soap, etc to make us feel at ease and at home.

I used to really be like that.  Surprises were not a fun thing for me.  I was so used to protecting myself and not having anyone who had my back that I lived in tension and fear of another change.  Pat could set me off by moving my favorite chair to the other side of the room (which she did often as a creative person).  One of the funny stories Nissa like to tell on me is how she capped an empty two liter bottle and then knocked it over.  I bolted and thought for sure we had spilled soft drink everywhere. 

My lack of comfort was sad.

It took a long time to get over it.  That's because the atmosphere I was raised in was one of constant tension and alarm.  I was always poised for a fight.  I had to grieve the lack of safety I felt as a child...and adult, allowing the Father to show me that He is always with me.  I knew that intellectually but not deep in my heart.  There, fear still resided and controlled my life. 

It took a long time until I could trust my Father.  He had to gently show me that He was going before me and was always by my side.

The fruit of that transition is one where I am no longer debilitated by fear when change comes into my life.  There is nothing that will separate me from the assistance of my Father.  He will help me face anything that comes my way.  In that place of peace I can think more clearly for solutions rather than being frozen by the awareness of my lack.  I have become a problem solver.  I can work through most any challenge because the Father has contained me with his enveloping arms.

One of the weaknesses of the Body of Christ today is the fear of change.  We are afraid to change from hymns to scripture songs.  We are afraid to reach out to others who are hurting because we don't know how to find healing for our own hurt.  We have been lulled into immobility by the fear of change.

But the Holy Spirit is a dynamic being.  He facilitates change in us, teaching us, leading us into all righteousness, taking us to the frontiers of our lives and world.  If we are afraid of change, we are going to resist the movement of the Holy Spirit.  Don't mean to disturb you but that is sin.  Really, I do mean to disturb you.  I want to shake you from your artificial comfort zone and get you to the real comfort zone of reliance on the Father.

How many changes have we missed that the Holy Spirit has attempted to bring to our faith walk?  Is it possible that "church" shouldn't be meeting on Sun morning any more?  Is it possible that we need to give up scripture songs for another form of music that brings people to the feet of the Father?  Is it possible that we need to move from the country to the city?  Is it possible that we need to fight rather than become complacent?  Are we being led from our comfort zones to the battle front so that we can bring the world to Christ?

If you are afraid of change, the Father wants to heal you.  He needs you to be comfortable with change because that's what growing in Christ is all about...changing from glory to glory.  Changing from brokenness to wholeness.  Changing from hiding to being revealed.  Changing from an intellectual faith to a heart faith that allows us to move mountains.  Its time to get out of the sandbox.

Monday, January 30, 2012

New terms

The city is a world of its own.  There is so much to learn and so many ways that people have adapted to the way of life there.

This week I learned two new terms: slugging and geo bachelor.

No slugging is not what you do with your fists.  It isn't what you do when you use a piece of metal rather than a token to catch a ride on a bus or train.  But it does have to do with transportation.

In the evenings when I have been heading home I am traveling north.  The main bulk of the traffic is traveling south...or rather they are sitting in cars, idling and hoping to be moving at some time in the next week.  That depends on the accidents caused by people who aren't paying attention or who are trying to weave in and out of traffic to save a nanosecond.

There is also another couple of lanes of traffic that seem to be moving rather well--the HOV lanes.  Another acronym meaning High Occupancy Vehicles ONLY or else you'll get a hefty ticket.  To travel in those lanes you have to have 3 or more people in your car.  You get to move with less traffic and if its possible, go 65 MPH on the way home.

There are lots of people who live in Stratford, Woodbridge and Fredericksburg, VA who travel daily to DC.  They don't want the Metro or trains.  They skip the buses and vans.  They want to drive their own car.  There are also people who will take their lives in their hands and ride with someone who they don't know.  Thus, people wait at prescribed places (not posted anywhere that I know) for rides with persons who want to drive in the HOV lanes.  No cost...except the possibility of your life.  Some of them like to drive 80-90 in the 65 zones.

Gotta get home.  Or drive out my frustration with work.

On the way back you can meet in lines at the Pentagon for a ride home.  That's slugging.  Sometimes there are more people waiting than cars.  Sometimes there are more cars than people waiting.  There are also places in the city where you can catch a ride to other destinations.  It used to be called car-pooling but with a little bit of an unknown twist.

I have been a geo bachelor for the last six months.  I live somewhere to be able to work but my permanent home and wife are somewhere else.  There are many others like this in the DC area.  In fact, I just moved into a house with 5 other geo bachelors (one of whom is a bachelorette at 61).  They are from NC, NV and other places I'm going to learn about.

Private room, shared bath with one other, common area, plenty of refrigeration space, full kitchen with privileges, laundry, street parking in a very quiet upscale neighborhood and an in-ground pool out back when the weather gets warmer.  Not bad.

I found it on  We saw a story on TV about this type of lodging.  It's a way that many are paying for houses they can no longer afford or they want to give someone the opportunity to supplement their income and utilize some of their home.  You can stay around the world for a night, a week or for months (6yrs for one of my housemates).  The price is right and the options are incredible.  Check it out sometime.

God has now moved me from Alexandria, VA to Bowie, MD, into a house with others.  It will be interesting to see how this changes life and what new opportunities it opens up.  I've got to say it's better than the homeless shelter I lived in for a month back in 1991.

Subcultures.  There are lots of them in a city.  Most of them are off the radar.  I had never heard of geo bachelors or slugging.

I want to start writing a series entitled "I dream".  One of them will relate to community.  I wonder how this community will develop. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Things don't just happen.  I believe the serendipitous things that occur in our life are an indication of the Holy Spirit at work right beside us as Jesus promised.

I picked up a book a couple of weeks ago titled The Street Lawyer by John Grisham.  If I had looked at my list of books that I have read I would have thought I had already read it.  Maybe I did but there wasn't anything in the book that registered as if I had been there and done that before.  But now was the time I was to read it.

The title character was a high priced lawyer in a big firm in DC.  He found out a story about some homeless people who had lost their lives, partly through the unethical behavior of someone in his large firm.  He left the 400 plus colleagues and became a street lawyer helping those without advocacy to get the benefits and other legal issues resolved.  The settings of the story were familiar to me from my time in DC although I haven't been to any of the shelters.

I work two blocks from the White House but every morning in walking the 3 blocks back and forth to the Metro station I pass homeless people.  One multi-racial couple begged on the corner right across from the Metro station "Can you help a disabled man?" one named Tim (I just found out his name) asked every morning.  I've seen others tucked in the alcoves of the buildings under piles of blankets and moving pads.

Others sold water during the hot days of summer.  Several made their home in a park at the corner of H Street, stashing their belongings in the bushes and occupying the benches.  It was obvious from their interaction that they knew each other and interacted like a small community.  And of course, there are those who are obviously mentally unstable, wondering around with their carts full of stuff and speaking out their "wisdom" to those who weren't listening.

One of the regulars used to sit under a tree on the curb, in any weather, with a sign begging for help.  He often mumbled incoherently, was without personal hygiene and ate his meals perched there on a plastic crate.

Recently I passed his spot, only he wasn't there.  Neither were his belongings.  Just some flowers.

Yesterday I stopped the water salesman, who is just begging now and asked him what happened to the guy.  "He died," was his response.  He abused alcohol, got drunk, fell hitting his head on the curb...and died right there in the park.  Gone.  I wonder who is missing him?  I wonder who attended his funeral?

I've gotten to know Lorenzo, another of the street regulars.  He asks every afternoon with the same deep, gravely voice "Change, spare change."  I've sat down and talked to him some to find out that he isn't always homeless.  He works in construction but isn't having luck right now finding a job.

I stopped to asked him about the fellow under the tree to confirm the story.  (The other messenger had tried to hustle me for some flower money so I wanted to verify the story)  Lorenzo confirmed his death and told me that Tim, the disabled man, had also died.  The one who sat on the corner with his woman every day at the Metro station.  He also suffered with alcohol abuse, in and out of the hospital and the effects of it finally killed him.  Believe me, he wasn't that old.

Two in the same block in the last month.  How many more are there in DC?  How many more died recently...and weren't missed by those who walked by them every day?

Now what to do with all of this.  I don't know yet.  I do know that I intend to get to know Lorenzo better and find out more about life on the streets of DC.  Is there enough food available?  Are the shelters full (as some of the placards of beggars state)?  Are there resources for those down on their luck?

Oh, did you know that I spent a month living in a shelter for homeless men in Baltimore a number of years ago?  Interesting to see who ends up there.  They aren't always criminals.  Some just lost it by playing too close to the edge.

While we have the oleo going here, let me just mention that the Department of Veterans Affairs has vowed to end homelessness among the veterans by aggressive goal that seems unaware of the desires of some who like being on the streets without all the responsibilities of life.  Will putting people in shelters solve all their problems?  How about their mental illnesses and broken hearts like so many of the rest of us have?  We feed the body and not the soul.

As a community of faith what are we to be about in regards to the situation of those without homes?  I'd be interested in your feedback.  And you'll hear more from me as I get to know more on the streets and more about what their support network looks like.

Saturday, December 31, 2011


One of the benefits of staying where I am in Alexandria, VA with my friend is that he is a book addict.  His collection of over 5,000 books gives me plenty of variety in reading material.  Just before Christmas I found an interesting title and decided to enjoy it during the season...The Battle for Christmas.  It was written by a Jewish professor of history from MA.  Very interesting.

Where I pastored I used to ask my congregation "Why do we have Sunday School?"  Believe it or not, Jesus didn't have perfect attendance at Sunday School.  In fact, it didn't even exist until about 175 years ago.  If we are supposed to be living in a dynamic life daily with the Holy Spirit, what would He be suggesting to us is the 2012 version of Sunday School?  Alas, that is for another blog.

Good pastor that I am with leanings toward being a prophet I ask you, "What are the origins of Christmas and why do we celebrate that holiday today as we do?"  Consider this stepping on your toes.

You might reply, "Jesus is the reason for the season."  Ummm, let's look at that carefully.  First thing, Jesus probably wasn't born around late December.  In fact, it was probably earlier in the year, maybe sometime before October.  Why?  Because the shepherds wouldn't be out in their fields tending their flocks in late December.  It was too dang cold.  Oops!  Where did all this hoopla come from in late December?

Christmas celebration as we know it today had its roots in Europe but let's look at the history from the 1600's in America just to keep it short (400 years short).  Christmas celebration in late December actually was banned in early New England.  That's because it was a time of intense rowdiness, drunkenness and free sex.  Yes, in New England in the 1600's.  In fact, the birth rate climbed pointedly in September and early October.

It was the end of the harvest when there was an abundance of food and drink.  A time to relax and let it all hang out.  Certainly not the type of celebration that would focus on the birth of Christ.

Without giving away the whole book, let's just say that even in the 1700 and 1800's there was a move to clean up the holiday, de-liquor it and rein in the rowdy gangs of young men and women.  Santa Claus got brought into the picture first as St Nicholas.  But he was too "bishopy", which the real St Nicholas was.  So he morphed into a jolly, old man made famous by the 1800's story of the night before Christmas.

And yes, back then, the commercialization even got its start.  It got promoted as a great time to give gifts by the merchants who wanted to survive (and there is a history to that that doesn't tie directly to the Wise Men).  The Christmas tree got added, children got included.  But so were the servants and slaves as important parts of feeling good about treating those fairly who had been taken advantage of the rest of the year.

Well, now that I have burst your bubble, where do we go from here?  As followers of Christ in 2012 and beyond how do we refocus our celebration on the birth of Christ?  As the prophetic voice of a new Kingdom, how do we speak into our culture and put the focus where it belongs? 

The argument could be made that we should continue to celebrate the real reason for celebration...the birth of Christ...observing it in the more likely time it actually happened.  Problem is our holiday (read holy day) wouldn't be sanctioned with a day off by our bosses.  People might even look at us as weird (remember the prophet going through the streets naked?  Or wearing an ox yoke?).  We might even be celebrating it in August.

Or we could start by doing Christmas differently during the season that everyone is focused on it.  Or we could not do Christmas at all.  (Discuss this in your small groups or maybe at Starbucks)  Should we focus all our goodwill (and that is rooted in the 1600's way of doing Christmas) just during the latter few weeks of the year?  Or as Christ's family should we be generous year round in His name?  How are we as followers of Christ to interpret His kingdom for those who need to hear the Good News?  Do we live like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, splitting our personalities between acting righteous during Christmas and acting like...(can't think of a good word here that won't offend) the rest of the year?  Isn't it time for us to celebrate Christ's birth year round?

Let's try it this year.  De-emphasize Christmas during the latter part of the year and heavily emphasize it the rest of the year in the way we treat others, the way we spend our money, the way we do our jobs and the way we relate to the world.  We're supposed to be trend setters and that's because we are followers of Christ and not the world.  Can we start a new trend that has roots beyond the 1600's back to a little town in Bethlehem?