Manic Monday: Gone casual

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Let’s deal with the dinosaur in the room shall we? One issue always rampant in church circles is the matter of dress and decorum. Should one suit up? Should one go casual? Studies and other such things have been tossed to are fro for quite some time. Casualites will say Jesus rocked a toga. Formalites would say we dress up for the president.

Another interesting dinosaur is the issue of respect, but just a little bit. In an increasingly casual society there is an increasingly large respect gap emerging. Formalites will charge that such is the cost of being casual. I think not. John the Baptist rocked a massively blue collar outfit. Ah, but I’m a casualite, of course I’d say that. Hold the “smart” phone…

The issue of formality is people saw through the hypocrisy that was behind it. Yes, you LOOK like you have it together. But do you really? Yeah, thought so. The issue isn’t formal vs causal, it is respect vs disgrace. Now, that is a whole new subject. Still, as society is increasingly casual, respect is really dropping. Why? We don’t play enough. Seriously.

As respect drops and bullying goes up, and kids play video games into their thirties, what also dropped over the last few years? Recess, sandlots, and other things that can cause concussions. I remember child labor laws that would only allow me to work so many hours as a 14 year old. I remember losing my first job of mowing because I was not old enough to operate the lawn tractor I had successfully driven for months. I also remember hearing friends losing their jobs because minimum-wage went up. I remember my first pay raise being from an increase in minimum wage, not merit.

It’s not a matter of formal vs casual that breeds respect, but human decency. Treat people as less human and less capable and you’ll breed disrespect like Ebola. In times past we trusted kids to play. We figured it out. We didn’t need organize sports telling us how to conduct ourselves. We could play with guns and shoot bad guys. We learned to handle danger as one a generation would get hurt on metal jungle gyms. We were taught to respect things, earn things, achieve things. And regardless of winning or losing, our conduct of character mattered most. (We could also hit a bully without getting suspended. These said takedowns also bred respect and positive friendships for some.) We treat kids as less human and that’s gone on for over 30 years now.

Rather than play the formal vs casual game, let’s focus on character and human decency. Let your kids play. Let them take risks. Let them work. In teaching respect you’ll find their character will outshine their casualness. But learning respect is hard if we rob kids play. Play is the secret sauce of how kids learn relationship dynamics, risk taking, and pursuing dreams.

Manic Monday: Another cleaning chore

The “downside” to using fountain pens is cleaning. It takes time. It can be messy. It’s a pain when you’d rather do some,thing else. So, why bother with another chore when life is already busy and Doc says to reduce stress?

My oldest asked what the best pen was. Best discussions happen often. I’m trying to teach my Boyz that best isn’t the best question. Instead, ask what is needed and use the best tool. A hammer is not the best tool to unscrew a bolt, and a wrench makes for a lousy hammer. Ah, but what is the BEST pen?

As I’m cleaning my fountain pen, ink on my hands, water being squirted through the nut and converter to clear them out, I smiled and asked a question: What pen has the best writing experience? A fountain pen, he replied enthusiastically. Which pen is easier to use and maintain? Not the fountain pen.

The bottom line:
The best experiences in life take time and effort. They rarely, if ever, just happen. And while I have the annoyance of another chore, the best writing experience is worth it. And sometimes teachable moments happen along with it.

Euthanasia and the art of dying

The topic of euthanasia is in the news again. The discussions on the topic are quite troublesome to me. It is not really a question of should we or should we not. The issue goes far deeper. As a culture, we lost the art of dying.

The problem with ethics is we try to define right apart from God. The question of whether something is ethical is actually unbiblical. Biblical “ethics” is what we call progressive sanctification. Here we align all things to the image of Jesus, over time, and as the Spirit leads. This includes death and suffering.

How one views death determines how one views life. The issue with euthanasia and its kissing cousin abortion is our view of death and suffering. We as a culture, including Christians, are buying into the notion that inconvenience and suffering are not worthy of life. Such a view dehumanizes us. Seeing euthanasia as dignified or abortion as wise is robbery at best. To view suffering as God not blessing is to ignore the cross.

Long ago there was a nobility and aspiration to how we faced death. It was viewed as a testament to ones character and constitution. The process of mourning and lamenting was accepted, encouraged and viewed with dignity. We need to return to this.

The worst crime in our culture, including Christianity, is suffering. To be in-convinced, to be in pain, to be lamenting is to be an unwelcome burden. In a culture so enthralled with authenticity, we jettisoned a massive part of being human. Many of our churches worship in more hip-hop fashion than in grief. Both are essential. Euthanasia is the symptom not the disease.

I could share stories of people who wake up in severe pain and call it a good day. They get up and live. I could recount people who died, suffering in pain, and did so with dignity. One of the greatest honors in life is to serve the helpless who suffer. Because of this we have lost the value of suffering. Because of this people who do suffer have the added burden of feeling less human.

We are drunk with happiness and it is robbing us all of our humanity, Christians included. Let us as a culture admit that we hide from death. Let us also admit that this means we do not truly know how to live. To suffer is not to be less alive or less human or less spiritual. Sometimes suffering is the most spiritual thing you will walk through or walk through with someone. Let us also admit as a culture that hiding suffering is to also remove compassion and love in one of its purist forms.

In running from pain, Christians, we also lose sight of the Gospel and Jesus’ process of making all things new. God painfully allows suffering for a number of reasons, and often for more than just one reason. But His delight is not in the suffering but in the new covenant whereby all pain, sin and suffering are dealt away with. Sadly, in suffering we see the glorious hope of Jesus’ return and our desperate need of God. We see our need to love one another.

To those suffering, facing death and are tired. You are facing a most noble challenge. Your value is in Him who knit you together in your mother’s womb. When you see Jesus face to face all pain and suffering will pale in comparison with the majesty of God. You are not less human. You are not an inconvenience. We, your fellow humans, need to do a better job of showing love in its purist form. We need to mourn and see that as dignified. We need to sober up. You who are suffering have much to teach, much wisdom to impart. We need you. Rather than hide you, we need to compassionately embrace you.

Manic Monday: On fountain pens

Apparently, I have raise a lot of eyebrows by saying I would prefer a fountain pen over an AppleWatch. Let me briefly explain why, as some who asked had a defibrillator in hand.

They write smooth!
I LOVE the way a fountain pen writes. Seriously, I would have worked harder on penmanship if I knew that a pen could be smooth, elegant and classy while writing. User experience matters (2 Jobs 1:9). The device is so simple, and profound with its understated elegance (Ives 3:16).

Brain science
I noticed a lack of mental sharpness in some areas and reflected back on where it was coming from. I went a year almost exclusively paperless. Nearing the end of the year I noticed a sharper drop. In researching possibilities, I found that the physical act of writing helps lodge things in your brain better than typing. I normally wrote out or sketched before using confusers in the past.

Nerdom
Sometimes being a nerd is being low tech. A fountain pen is to writing what a light saber is to battle: A civilized device of a more civil era. More seriously, it’s a fun hobby built on a technology that may be old but has the ability of tinkering for a better experience. (Ok, Jobs & Ives would hate that, but my computer building Lynux friends will like it.)

The bottom line:
I’m finding a pattern in life that a good “user experience” cannot be rushed. It takes time, sometimes is messy, takes more work, and endures longer. Fountain pens may not be the quickest tool for writing, but the user experience is fantastic. I’m liking things that help me to slow down and enjoy regular tasks instead of ‘quick to finish onto the next thing’ methods. To use a word from my wife: I’m learning to savor things more (chocolate chip cookies not withstanding. I’ll inhale those!)

Church would be better if people thought like and agreed with me!

Coffee-LoveI finally found the solution to ALL the church’s problems! For sure this will be a chapter in my up and coming book “Humility and how I achieved it.” Oh wait! I do have a chapter about that! Let me be frank, cause I love you. Church has a big y’all don’t agree with me issue. Here is what I mean:

Be a cheerleader
That’s right. Start off by trying to encourage people not be a critic. (Yeah, some of you preacher boys should just stop reading right now and focus on this part.) We all have too many critics but not enough cheerleaders. My critics practically killed me! Cheerleading is a choice.

Be loving
There is nothing more comfortable than being around a loving person. That person may even point out where you’re wrong, like a loving mommy saying “you’re not wearing that are you!?” while baking you epic chocolate chip cookies. Seriously, love comforts. Don’t pour gas on a bad situation. Bring about peace and comfort. That’s what I do.

Be a team
You live as a team or you die as a team. Period. Work together. I do believe the Spirit is readily available to help with this. After all, if we don’t row together alike a team… Work it out and be a team. Easy to do when the above is true! So, get in line and be like me!

Be Loyal
We have affection and and sympathy for people we are loyal to. An we even do that for friends of our friends. So, care about the people I care about.

Be one
Here is what it comes down to: You need to have the same mind and love as me. Really. Church would be so much better this way. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this whole thing is be in arrogant. “Oh course everything in church would be better if we thought like you, duh!” “You’re just thinking of yourself! What about diversity all?” My response? You’re just thinking about you. In fact, you think church would be better if people were one with you and not me.

Why I’m right and you should be like me
I could have had the good life, but I didn’t. I sacrificed and worked hard just like you do. But, I did it for you and not myself. I put up with a lot. And frankly, it killed me. You humiliated me and being in this job I got blamed for things I didn’t even do. But hear me out. There is a day coming when everyone will agree that I am right and people should be like me. Mark my words: everyone.

The bottom line:
This chapter is called Philippians Chapter Two. My brother Paul wrote it for me. (If y’all think like and agree with him you’ll be well on your way to being like me.) Humility is the KEY! So, what church to be better? Be humble like me. It’s the only thing that work.

Love you all!
~Jesus

Me, Mark Driscoll & Mars Hill

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Yes, I heard the latest and the deluge of questions that followed. It is an interesting place to be, so here is my response for those asking. Hopefully we are all learning through this:

Be eclectic
A pattern I started in ministry is to follow intensely a local church for a year or two. Mars Hill was one of numerous other churches, and the most recent completed. The reason I do this is to catch the central theme of the church, what lessons I can learn (both from their strengths and weaknesses), and to gain new insights for ministry. It is VERY dangerous to follow one ministry exclusively. A question often asked is who do I follow? Meaning: what big name are you about. My response is I’m eclectic. Some see this as a cop out. Being eclectic is based on advice from an older mentor the national church will never know. Learn from all, but follow Jesus.

Be biblical
The Bible does not give an exemption to biblical peacemaking if a figure is a ‘celebrity’. Much of the mess in the news is slander, gossip and bitterness. I agree with Pastor Mark’s recent statement that the court of public opinion is not the best route to take. Biblical repentance and restoration is a process. Church discipline stops when repentance starts. Further, love does not keep an account of wrongs suffered (1 Cor 13). Dredging up old, repented, and forgiven sins is unbiblical in large measure. It’s what Satan does. The church as a whole dropped the ball.

Be missional
Focus on the mission Jesus gives us. I have read statements to the effect that he glory days of Mark and Mars is over. Such a statement fundamentally misunderstands the Gospel. Is it possible, yes. But, it is also possible that the best years are ahead for both Mark and Mars. I am confident no one wants to declare that once you blow it God will never mightily use you again. Peter, Paul, Samson, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. would disagree. The other side of conflict is worship. This will further Christ’s kingdom and the purifying of His bride, the church. Focus on being a peacemaker.

Be introspective
A healthy look in the mirror would do us all good, especially pastors. Few people, if anyone, can handle all their past failures being thrown out there with every new ‘development.’ The ‘yeah, but he…’ statements do not help. But for the grace of God, you and I could be in a mess too. Truthfully, many non-celebrity pastors damage churches and church staffs as well. I hear about it regularly. We can blame the pastor, but equally to blame is our cowardliness inaction of biblical peacemaking. Our lack to practice biblical forgiveness. The whole situation says much more about us than about Mark and Mars. We can do better.

Yeah, but…
Yes there are issues. Yes I’m confident they are serious. To yeah, but the ‘yeah, but…’ is it our place to deal with this? Is our national attention helping or hurting the local church? Psalm 73 states how we need to be careful how we speak so as to not undermine a future generation. James’ advice to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger is missing on many sides. I’m more concerned with the lack of character demonstrated by Christian media than about the situation. So, yeah, but God has a way of working these things out for good.

The bottom line:
God will use this whole situation to His glory. Jesus will use this situation to purify His bride. My response? I think biblical peacemaking is a critical need in all of us and I think we all need to remove that blemish. My prayer is that from this Pastor Mark and Mars Hill comes back stronger than ever. Why? Because God is cool and able to make that happen. He did, after all, cleanse us from ALL our sin. Christianity is about a relationship, repentance and reconciliation. It is not a religion where once we blow it we are done for good. That is legalism and a false gospel.

Remember where you came from

IMG_1019A piece of advice given by a mentor long ago was this: Remember where you came from. Too often we can forget where we came from, how we got where we are, or lose big part of who we are. This past week I was able to serve at a camp I grew up at. Sitting by a camp fire, it was fun to share this same wisdom with new emerging leaders.

Old fun stories matter
Sharing fun stories can bring about profound thoughts. Play matters as it’s future leadership development. Standing on the side of a hill, I explained a story from the great capture the flag games of the late 1900’s. Today’s landscape differed from the epic days of old. (The stories of ancient camp history differed from my day as well. While played for fun, aspects of play teach. I often asked teams I lead if they wanted to play for fun or play to win. Simple question, but it changes how you perform. Churches need to make that choice too.

Stories matter
The power of story is imprinting spiritual points we already know from Scripture. Some (WRONGLY) say that’s solid preaching. It worked for Jesus, so… A long time mentor shared a story about the importance of jumping. A former NFL player hesitated, didn’t jump, and the ball went to the wrong end zone. Pointing to stories of faith, he made a point God’s people often miss: JUMP! Israel didn’t jump and wandered in the desert for 40 years for a lack of faith.

Interrupting boyz
One of the joys growing up at camp were little kids. They were tag alongs because they were too young for camp. At times this is quite frustrating (even when they’re your own), but they add a dynamic so critical to camp: It’s not about you, there is another generation coming. Being near the top of the discipleship food chain is surreal. Why? You realize that the work never ends. Near the top just means a different discipleship assignment. Little kids are vital to learning that. Taught by every ‘interruption.’

The bottom line:
Remember where you came from. Visit and connect somehow if you can and/or it’s healthy to do so. Listen. Many profound lessons will arise from the experience.