A few things I don’t get about the Christian subculture

I don’t get our infatuation with youth. Let me say, youth is awesome and I wish I were younger but stick with me here. Like you, I get industry magazines one which is specifically designed for those who plan religious gatherings and meetings. On it’s cover was, “Top 40 under 40.” 

Now maybe I reacted negatively because I’m quite few years north of 40 these days. Maybe I’m jealous because I never made anyone’s list like that. But I want to believe my visceral reaction came because this mostly Christian focused publication shouts, “We’ve bought into the same things everyone else has; new is better than old, shiny is better than worn, and the talent of youth is more valuable than the wisdom of the aged.” 

I look back at what I did by the time I was 40 and there are a couple things I’m very proud of. I planted a church with some wonderful people. It continues to impact a community that I love. I also did a pretty good job as a dad. I had two teenage boys and an 8 year old daughter by the time I was 40. But I also look back on those days and realize I didn’t know jack squat compared to what I know now. And the things I thought I knew…I’ve changed my position on most of them. Looking back, I didn’t belong on anyone’s list! 

I don’t get our fixation on the phrase, “The Word.” That can almost always be translated, “Bible.” Whenever I hear someone say that in an authoratative insider tone of voice, I want to ask, “Are you talking about the written words or the living Word that John talked about…you know the Word that was in the beginning, the Word that was with God and is God, the Word that became flesh and lived among humanity?” I don’t say that though because I was brought up to be polite and that would be nasty so I smile and nod.

I don’t get what people mean when they say, post, tweet, “I just want to see revival break out.” The statement comes with a lot of assumptions…like we all know what revival means and what it looks like and what will change if it comes. The more I hear it the less I get it. And the more it’s left to one sentence like that, the more confused I am. I’m not against revival (whatever we decide it is). It sounds really good, but on this Friday I need to confess something. In spite of going to revival services and even helping to plan semi-annual revivals (wow that sure seems weird to see that in print), I don’t really know what you’re talking about.  

If you’re still reading…and I hope you are…there is one more thing I don’t get. It is something I plan on writing about all next week.

I don’t get why we so uncompassionate with ourselves; the negative self talk, self hatred. A friend shared an old hymn with me a while back entitled, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” by Frederick William Faber

Here is verse 1 and 11
1. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

11. But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Have a great weekend

Letting Others In

Tip of the Iceberg

This image makes me think of our lives. There’s the part that people see, that we promote on Facebook and Instagram, the image we craft and protect. That which is above the surface is only just a small segment of the whole at best, and a total projection at worst. There’s a lot about us that people don’t see.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions this week. Today’s maybe the most important.

Who knows what lurks beneath the surface of your life?

* If you got really bad news from your doctor, where would you turn?
* If you did the worst thing imaginable, who could you share that with?
* Who would you call if you felt like you were having a crisis of faith?
* If you were worried about the choices your child was making, what would you do?
* Who could you talk to if you thought your marriage was in trouble?
* If you were offered your dream job, who would celebrate with you?

I am fortunate to have a few in addition to my wife. I have them not because I’m anybody special. I have them because they are loving, trustworthy, wise, and I believe God has placed them in my life to speak into my life. There are people like that in your circle too. Not everyone in your circle but certainly one or two.

I also have people who know what’s beneath the surface because at some point or another I took the risk of sharing one or several of the things above. I fought off the idea that they will betray me like someone else did, or that I’d be bothering them with it, or disappointing them, or what they would think…and said it.

The questions I’ve asked this week are all good to think about and answer honestly, but lasting change comes when we let someone else in on the answers.

Does your attitude suck?

As I wade into the blogging pool again, I need to begin with an honest confession: My attitude sucks. If you work with me or only know me socially you may not detect it. I can fake it for short periods of time but those who live closest to me know my attitude sucks.
So why does my attitude suck?

It sucks because I’m short sighted.

  • Humanity in general and western culture in particular is short sighted. If we don’t see results in three easy steps we want our money back. If there is no evidence of change – in an often unreasonable amount of time – we jump to a different track. We don’t do well with the in-between times of what was and what will be. Historically, I’m talking 600 BC  historically…not the 1950’s, the people of God had a very long view on things. Their songs of praise and cries of lament were anchored in the day of redemption that would come whether they saw it with their own eyes or not. My sight is so short it usually lands on me. Their sight was long enough to focus on us.

It sucks because I’m forgetful.

  • Not only am I forgetful of the heritage that I was adopted into, I’m forgetful of God’s activity in my own life. If I would stop stewing for one minute I could fill pages with stories of when God came through. Places to live. Jobs. Conversations that changed our family’s trajectory. Checks in the mail. Opportunities that superseded my hopes. And on and on. If only there was a way to remember…oh wait…that’s part of the purpose of gathering on Sunday…that’s part of the point of quiet reflection in the morning…that’s part of the point of expressing gratitude before I eat. Maybe if I started to remember on purpose my attitude wouldn’t suck so bad.

It sucks because I think I’m alone.

  • I lived alone for a long time which I now realize was a blessing and a curse. Blessing in the sense I learned to be alone and not be lonely. Curse in the sense that my first instinct is, “It’s up to me to figure out, make happen, and do.” When I got married this summer that instinct didn’t switch off. I see my challenges through the lens of being alone and not through the lens of community. My wife is so good at echoing the sentiment of God, “We are a team. It’s not just up to you.” And yet I act as if I were alone.
This morning I read a passage that I’ve read hundreds of times, shared it with others dozens of times, and even taught on it a few times. But today it pulled all these threads together.
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes! (Ephesians 3:20, 21 MSG)
Hopefully your attitude doesn’t suck as bad as mine but if it does (and chances are some days it does), pray with me that…
…our sight will focus on the life that is and is to come
…we will remember God is always near and up to something
…our default will begin to be reset from alone to accompanied

Maundy Thursday Memories

Today is what some call Holy Thursday, Great Thursday, and Maundy Thursday. It is the day the Christian church commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified.

Image

Today confronts me with how much I’m like those men in that borrowed room. I often don’t get what Jesus is up to. I drop the ball. I charge off ahead of him and at times lag behind him. I fail him. I’m not aware of His presence in my midst as much as I should be.

Today also brings two other important things to mind. First it is the second anniversary of my friend Greg’s death. It was sudden, tragic, and left a hole in our hearts and in our small community. He left a legacy of smiles, harassment, loving others, cheering them on, humor, failure, redemption, intensity, service, and running. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought and written about what a great friend he was to me…and many others. I didn’t deserve him. He was gracious when I was too busy to hang out. He consistently checked in on me when I left the ministry. He wanted the best for me and would do anything I asked. I miss him. But I think I miss the chance to respond to his kindness even more.

The other thing that happened on this day was when my friend Joel burst into our living room and washed my feet in front of my family. The church he was serving in had a tradition of having a foot washing service every Maundy Thursday night. We had talked earlier that day about what a challenge it was. I knew he didn’t really want to go and participate. I knew I didn’t either and was glad I didn’t have to. And then I forgot about it until all of a sudden the front door was thrown open. In he came sloshing a basin full of water while juggling a bar of soap and a towel. “Since Jesus did this for his friends, I want to do this for you.” That’s all he said. I sat motionless other than moving my feet at his direction. My children’s eyes unglued from the tv and were fixed upon Joel. We were all stunned. Humbled. Amazed. It was one of those moments that you never forget. It was one of those gifts you can never repay.

God has used many of people in my life but today I specifically thank God for Greg and Joel. Two men who are as imperfect as me yet were willing to be the presence of Jesus many times in my life. They showed me pictures of a different kingdom. They gave me glimpses into a reality that exists right in the middle of the world we’re living in.