Manic Monday: hello.

I’m fascinated by recent discussions on whether or not churches should have greeting times. I’m fascinated at the awkwardness and plastic nature of it. Many are averse to such things, especially introverts.

Perhaps we need to get back to basics, shall we? Introverts only need a few good friends. But that has to start somewhere. Initial greetings are often awkward, especially those that end in marriage. (My wife thought I was completely and obnoxiously extroverted. We have two incredibly boyz now. Clearly, we got over awkward. Though, she does say I still have to work on the obnoxious extroversion.

Another basic we need to get over is community. Church is a community. As we out it at my church, we’re one happy dysfunctional family. We got issues, and that’s ok because of what Jesus did. Our mistakes are covered. One of the things we value is the individual, not just the church at home. So, we make it a point to say Hi! Hospitality doesn’t mean we change who we are. Being polite and civil means saying hi.

One last thing we need to back to. The idea that something ritual isn’t authentic is absurd. Spontaneity does not equal authenticity. I read the inside of my wedding ring each time I out it on. I pray with my boyz each night. Is that inauthentic because it’s routine, or is the authenticity of those relationships what drives the ritual? Ritual matters and it’s a beautiful language that can serve communities well.

Saying Hello! may be awkward or plastic at first. Then you get to know the person. Hello suddenly carries weight and meaning because bodily language is often unique to each person. The sudden aversion to Hello! has a flip side. Perhaps it can also be a cynical attitude based on an increasingly shallow culture for those who loath it. Or perhaps the ritual of saying hello is really the training ground for true authenticity.

So. Hello. How are you?

Politics: What I am FOR

DSCF0820Political discussions are often interesting. Too many try to avoid them, which is why we have the mess that we’re in. An informed populace is essential to a free country. Sadly, many are not informed or have not thought through things. Often people try to pigeon hole: Oh, you’re a liberal. Oh, you’re a conservative. (Hysterically, even the no labels crowd does this.) As today is voting day, here is what I am FOR:

I am for individual soul liberty.
I believe one is answerable directly to God and that no religion should be forced upon them. This means people may live according to their conscience. Galatians says that it is for freedom’s sake that Christ set us free. Freedom is no small matter. This also means that religious views and discussion have a place in the public square, especially in matters of life, liberty, justice, and privacy.

Free markets
The beauty of business is that it’s a free exchange of goods without coercion by a government. Central control, central planning, crony capitalism end up being inefficient and tyrannical. Free markets also opens up opportunity for anyone. Prices are determined by the market, not by government interference.

Rule of law
Rule of law limits tyranny. Rule of man is it ends up in tyranny. Many of the issues we struggle with today is because of rule of man either by executive order or by oligarchy of the current judicial system. Deference should be to the people, not to judicial whim or executive fiat. Both the executive and judicial branches have assumed too much authority.

Government promoting good, restraining evil
I believe the role of government is to promote good and restrain evil. This obviously requires rigorous discussion on what is good. This also means governing with the reality that evil exists. When government steps beyond this, I believe it steps beyond it’s God ordained role. I believe that higher levels of government should be limited, with deference to lower lower levels. This means a limited federal government, robust state governments and vibrant local governments.

Pro-family, pro-fathers
While exceptions exist, the rule is that things are best with healthy, intact families. Family dysfunction creates massive loads of stress and the problems associated therein. Laws, safety nets, etc should consider the nuclear family as a primary concern. Many of our safety nets undermine fatherhood. There is a direct correlation between fatherless homes and crime, poverty, etc. This also means we view children as life not as an inconvenience, including the unborn.

Conservation, compassion and responsibility
We should leave things better than what we find them. I believe that a country that has safety nets is compassionate. I also believe that compassion also means helping people achieve their personal responsibility. These ideas bring out the best in people by promoting the good that they can offer, while also restraining the evils of laziness, irresponsibility, and exploitation. Natural resources are for our good and should also be cared for. This includes people, which is society’s greatest resource.

Cautious foreign policy
Government should act with the understanding that evil exists. A robust military is essential. At the same time, intervention in other affairs should be done with caution for the reasons stated above. A more prudent course of action in foreign policy would do our country well. Both isolationism and over assertiveness is unwise.

Civility and vibrant debate
I think in all matters we can be civil. We can and should have robust debates about critical issues. The current oligarchy nature of the judicial branch, over reach by the executive branch, and the polarization by two political parties and media undercuts this ideal. We have a bigotry and civility problem in our country. We are all share the blame.

To my pastor friends!

To those who work hard at making disciples, not your own kingdom,
To those who love their sheep as the foundation to reach the lost,
To those deeply wounded by church, but hold firmly to the resurrection of Jesus,
To those who faithfully teach the Bible, not just self help tips,

Dust your boots off at night, and put them on again in morning,
Rest well, and work hard,
Rest in the grace of God and comfort of the Spirit,
And when you’re frustrated or think you can’t do it, you can!
Why? Cause Jesus rose from dead!

Happy Pastoral Appreciation Month! You can do it!

Love,
Pastor Ty

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!)