Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pirates and Ninjas are Like the Gospel


I shared this following story with my youth group on Sunday to demonstrate the idea that fair is not an issue in the Gospel story.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
We can read verses like Romans 5:12 and be pretty bummed. We didn't choose Adam to represent all of us. What's Adam's deal, anyway? Isn't he kind of stupid for screwing it up for all of us?

But then we scroll down to Romans 5:18-19 and we read about Jesus taking all the bad stuff away.
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
That happened a long time before we were born as well. We also didn't choose Jesus or know what He was thinking. So, the sin and the solution happened long before we came along.

It's like getting home to hear your parents tell you this crazy story about how your room was ransacked by pirates who traveled way too far inland. They took all of your favorite things. Your parents would have stopped them, but the pirates had swords.

Just as you're starting to be really angry and confused (who wouldn't be?) they continue. Apparently the pirates were stopped by this amazing ninja who happened along. The ninja took care of the pirates and returned all your stuff, plus he left some cool new things as well.

You weren't home all day. You couldn't stop the pirates or help the ninja. But this was done. For you. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

I know I haven't been alone in my thinking when some whack job does something wacky. There's plenty of these people out there. But then it's made so much more enjoyable when said whack job gets a microphone shoved in front of himself and they claim the reason for their wackiness is they are a Christian.


Well, Dave Burchett was thinking the same thing when he wrote When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. As he said early on, 'this book is for everyone who has been disgusted by the hypocritical arrogance of a church congregation or its leadership. It is also for Christians who inflict the wounds.'

I thoroughly enjoyed Dave's style, as he didn't mince words, but readily acknowledged that all Christ followers can be both the offended and those who offend. He spoke openly with Christians about our style and approach to all sorts of topics. But he also spoke about the expectations of non-Christians.

Some of these arguments have indeed been made before. But the honesty in which Dave approaches this topic doesn't leave one feeling chastised. Rather, it is more like a good conversation one knows he needed to hear.

As a pastor, I can see this being a great small group resource, so that perhaps whole pockets of people could begin to enact change within their churches. Let's face it, when we get together in large groups, we can do some pretty dumb and awful stuff.

On the other hand, we can also grow and learn together how to accomplish this great mission Jesus has called us to. This way, when the next microphone gets shoved in front of one of us, the rest of us might not wince with expectant doom.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

If you want to check out more:

  • More Info
  • Read Chapter One
  • Author Bio
  • Tuesday, February 26, 2013


    Yeah, how annoying was this commercial after the first time you saw it?

    I have had too many conversations. Period. Seriously, people can be so annoying.

    Alright, I don't mean that. But there is a particular conversation of which I have had too many. The main topic can be about a diverse number of things, but somewhere along the way people ask what they are thinking, what they are doing, when they will get around to it.

    This would be fine if we were talking politics, something I try to avoid. It would be okay if we were discussing sports, something I enjoy a lot more than politics. Alas, this conversation is happening in the Church. It's not just in the Church, it's about the Church. Indeed, it's about the particular church where I serve.

    Are you confused? Let me clarify...

    Nondescript person #1: So tell me more about this decision made by them. What were they thinking?

    I leave it as a nondescript person, because this seems to be a habit of many, dare I say them.

    It is an odd occurrence to me because I am one of the leaders helping make decisions in this particular community of believers. Oh, and I'm not new here. My tenure can be measured in decades now. (Honestly, just 1 decade, but still.) People should recognize me by now.

    So I have tried to figure out the reason for the use of they.

    • They could be trying to spare my feelings by removing me from the center of a decision they dislike. 
    • They could be trying to avoid the use of 'ya'll' or 'yous' guys. After all, we're not in Kentucky. 
    • Or they may even assume nobody is letting the youth pastor make any real decisions. 
    I'm not sure any of the answers above is reason enough.

    Guess what? In the Church, they is we! There is no passing the job off to someone else. There is no assuming that there is this magical group of they somewhere out there fixing things and planning events and making it all happen. Sometimes I wish there were.

    But the Church is a community, meaning all of us are lumped in with the rest of us, for better or worse. So, as annoying as it may be, we all need to be like the little pig on his way home. Let's yell weeeeee!

    They is we!

    Monday, February 25, 2013

    Words...So Many Words!

    Jacie, my 11-year old daughter, was shocked to hear that girls use 5,000 words more than boys. (I actually made up the number.) Here’s how the conversation went;

    Jacie: Girl use 5,000 words every day?
    Me: No. Girls use 5,000 more words than boys every day. So if boys use 6,000 words in a day, girls use 11,000.
    She was shocked and and spent many words detailing how shocked she was. Of course, whether the numbers were made up or not, she was making my point. But her need to use up her daily quota of words clearly knows no boundaries, as the next night, she was found talking in her sleep. Clearly, if she doesn't get anyone to listen to her during the day, this will not keep her from talking.

    She is not the only female in my house who talks in their sleep, but for reasons of safety, I cannot reveal the name of the other female. (Read: My wife would kill me if I told you it was her.)

    This got me wondering what the actual number is for average words used per day by men and women. It appears there is no immediate link to a study done, as numbers vary from men using 2,000-4,000 a day while women use 6,000-8,000. On the more extreme side, men are said to use 15,000 compared to women using 30,000 every day.

    Urban legend, it seems to be commonly accepted that women talk more than men. When I looked for reasons why, a good authority told me she would use fewer words if she didn't have to tell me everything twice. On the other hand, this seems to be a widely held notion among men;

    "Once I didn't talk to my wife
    for six months," said the comedian.
    "I didn't want to interrupt."

    All kidding aside, this did get me thinking about words. They are very important. They help us to convey emotions. They communicate our needs. They connect us with God through prayer. They give voice to our praise, our wonderings, our dreams, and our fears. They fill the blogosphere with thousands of thoughts read by dozens of people.

    Words help us to build relationships. When used carefully, they can also help us restore those same relationships. In the right combination, they help us to think, laugh, cry, cringe and consider many things we wouldn't otherwise reflect on. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but actual words give feet to our knowledge and wings to our expressions.

    The writers of Proverbs understood the importance of words. From warnings of foolish talk to commands to guard words, they never underestimated the power found in speech.

    For I too was a son to my father,
        still tender, and cherished by my mother.
    Then he taught me, and he said to me,
        “Take hold of my words with all your heart;
        keep my commands, and you will live.
    Get wisdom, get understanding;
        do not forget my words or turn away from them. ~Proverbs 4:3-5

    However many words I use, written or spoken, this is my prayer;

    May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Maybe BECAUSE All Your Friends Are Doing It...

    Conventional wisdom isn't always that smart. There are many things my parents spoon-fed me as a child that I now know the truth about. For instance, eating cookies before a meal does not ruin my appetite.

    But, in case my mom reads this, they also taught me to question logic that makes no sense. And that brings me to a comic-writing blog I would like to share with you, my readership.


    You can find this, and many more like it over at


    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    Engaging the Media 2.0

    We are mostly passive in our choices of media. This is because we too often choose media for the sake of entertainment. What will this do for me? The positive or negative comments that follow are based purely

    And since we are each inundated with media in today's ocean of technology, I believe it is important to take a disciplined look at our choices and make a concerted effort to make the right decision. Ryan M. Blanck has given us just such a tool to assist in that endeavor. It's a book titled Engaging the Media 2.0.

    As you may guess, Engaging the Media 2.0 is an updated tool from the original. As technology grows, so does our need to educate. I believe this is a great tool to use in that education.

    The premise, no matter the form of media, is based on 3 questions.

    1. Is this good for me?
    2. Is this in its proper place?
    3. Is this a stumbling block for others?
    After laying a solid foundation, Ryan tackles all forms of media, always bring it back to these 3 questions. With great focus and clarity, Ryan provides exercises and tools for teens to come to their own conclusion. While he doesn't come across as judgmental, he is unapologetic in his belief that the Bible holds the answers, despite the fact that words like television and internet are not found in its' pages. 

    It's written for teens, but I think this book would be best used in a small group format, where teens could hold one another accountable to the exercises and have plenty of time and space for conversation.

    I received this book from my good friends at Salem Publishing and YouthWorker Journal. They don't force me to say anything nice. They just ask me for my opinion, something I love to give. You can check out this resource here.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Rick's Rants: Ketchup

    Yes, sometimes I have to get some things off my chest. Like John McClane in any Die Hard movie, if there was someone else to do the job, I would let them do it.

    But. There's. Not.

    So I am doing what nobody else will, hopefully signalling the clarion call to bring this mad world back to some semblance of normalcy and intelligence. I recently found the following:
    "Burger wie noch nie"

    An article in noted that ketchup flows out of a glass bottle at a rate of .028 miles per hour. That's slower than a Galapagos tortoise, which, according to the San Diego Zoo, zips along at a blazing 0.16 miles per hour, or almost six times faster than ketchup.

    But impatiently tapping your ketchup bottle soon might be a thing of the past. Dave Smith, a PhD candidate at MIT, and a team of MIT mechanical engineers and nano-technologists have offered a posible solution to this ketchup flow problem. After months of research, Smith and his team developed LiquiGlide, which they define as a "kind of structured liquid [that's] rigid like a solid, but lubricated like a liquid." The researchers say that coating the inside of a bottle with LiquiGlide will cause ketchup and other sauces to slide out faster than a Galapagos tortoise. Smith claims that the sauce industry, which rakes in $17 billion a year, would love to get their hands on the invention.

    The article concluded:"Let's hope some big [ketchup] companies bite. I'm tired of waiting five minutes for ketchup to land on my cheeseburger."

    I had so many thoughts upon reading this, in this order...
    1. Has nobody heard of the squeeze bottle?
    2. Who is taking time to measure the speed of ketchup? 
    3. Were there too many people measuring the softness of toilet paper?
    4. We haven't cured cancer yet, right? So why is there a team of doctors, engineers and nano-technologists spending their time on sauce? 
    5. Will cancer patients die happier if they got ketchup on their last burger more quickly?
    6. How does the Galapagos turtle feel about this comparison? I picture him somewhere asking how he got dragged into this conversation.
    7. How good do the people working on this feel at the end of the day? "Honey, I think we've almost got this ketchup debacle fixed! When people see how blazing fast their ketchup comes out, they'll think of our names..."
    So many questions. I haven't even gotten into issues about the size of the bottle. After all, if this LiquiGlide is going to be taking up space in the ketchup bottle that could be filled know...ketchup, are we going to see a larger bottle?

    I suppose these questions will have to wait, some until Heaven, when well have plenty of time to wait for ketchup to spill onto our burgers. Maybe this is just one more reason to look forward to Heaven.

    What about you? Do you hate waiting for sauce?

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    God Does Get a Choice

    I had a discussion with our college group recently on the book of Romans, specifically how we solve the riddle of God's choosing versus Man's choosing. Don't worry, several hundred years of great minds have not come to any solutions which answer all the questions, so you won't find that here. But it did get me thinking.

    "In God We Trust" - landscape format

    What is the point of this discussion?
    I believe God’s sovereignty shows just how much God loves us. The detail God goes to, in leading all of world history to the point where Jesus was an amazing revelation to the world, shows us, even beyond the Cross, just how far God was willing to go to draw us all back to Himself.
    God calls a man by the name of Abram. He called him, knowing the guy would stumble along the way, because God knew it would lead to Jesus.
    God calls a man by the name of Moses. He called him, knowing this guy had blood-stained hands and would question Him every step of the way, because He knew it would lead to Jesus.
    God allowed a Pharaoh to rise to power. God did this, knowing the evil intentions this Pharaoh would pursue, enslaving and oppressing an entire nation. God did this because He knew it would lead to Jesus.
    I think if we take a look at the stories a bit closer, we see just how much God extends His grace to people who imperfectly lived out God’s calling. One example would be Jonah, who took his sweet old time doing what God wanted, only to sulk when it was all done. Since we know that God values contents of a man’s hearts far more than his outward actions, this had to be painful for God.
    Why does God go through all of this? It all led to Jesus, the living, breathing, walking declaration of His love for the world.
    What does all of this mean for us? It means we can remain content in our situation, good or bad, having a peace that God is in control, no matter what our other senses tell us. I believe we are each called to gaze upon the cross of Christ and understand, once and for all, the immense love God has for all mankind. “For God so loved the world…”
    We can begin to look beyond the choices we make and the significance we think we have and center our attention back to the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
    John the Baptist said it well when he said, “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30)

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Monday Morning Blahs

    Phuong legs
    There are moments when I am just so very tired. As a pastor, I believe it is fairly common for those moments to come on Mondays. It is a common day for taking a day off. The previous week was a long one. The Big Show, known more often as Sunday services, is over. 

    And if the prayers weren't immediately answered...
         And if the challenge wasn't instantly accepted...
              And if the next week looms very large...

    It can leave a pastor in a post-Sunday haze of doubt and fatigue. This is not unique to pastors alone. I am sure all people get like this, within the context of their own schedules. A break comes in the work schedule only to give enough time for one to realize that it will soon have to be done all over again. 

    Perhaps that is why I read these verses as a beautiful promise.

    The righteous perish,
    and no one ponders it in his heart;
    devout men are taken away,
    and no one understands
    that the righteous are taken away
    to be spared from evil.
    Those who walk uprightly
    enter into peace;
    they find rest as they lie in death. ~Isaiah 57:1-2

    Don't misinterpret me. I don't have a death wish. Perhaps I'd like a few more 3-day weekends. But as Isaiah refers to the righteous, I consider again what it takes to fulfill that description. The righteous are those who seek after God with all their heart. They look for God's heart and His will in all things. 

    And rather than look at death as a loss for them, we should look at as the goal attained. After all, if we remember that this world is not our home...that we were created for another world...that we are just beginning a forever-relationship with God...

    Then we will understand that being tired is part of what we should expect in this world. We will comprehend that bad things will continue. Fatigue and depression (sometimes) will come, but someday...peace and rest will be ours. 

    Yeah, it's Monday again. But I encourage you to look to God and consider this day, and your life, as His. Righteous living leads to peace and rest.

    How do you approach Mondays?

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Is There Anything We Can All Agree On?

    I have been in youth ministry for about 15 years now. I think, in all that time, there has been one week where there wasn't some drama going on. I can only imagine what that week would have been like had all the days been together.

    Alas, one day was in 1997, the day I began. Another would not come for a few years and I daresay it's been at least a couple of years since the last drama-free day.

    Through it all, one of the things I have learned is that life is better when I shine the attention on someone other than myself. Which is why I am returning to the series where I link to what someone else is doing and say 'Woo!' As in, Wooooo, that's fantastic stuff.

    There are a group of Chartists over at I Love Charts that amuse me. I am not endorsing everything they do. They are often quirky and off the beaten path, but at times they hit the truth square in the center. Such is the case with the chart below.

    - Ben Greenman, via McSweeney’s

    In case you're wondering, this is why there continues to be drama.


    Thursday, February 14, 2013

    Be My Valentine

    The irony of writing a post directly to one person is not knowing if that one person will get the message. Case in point, today's post. I would give up all dozen readers to know that my wife still knows she is very much my Valentine.

    Valentine Party Cups - Love Birds

    We do ministry together. It's not always pretty. We have 3 children which often feel like 6 or 7 children. Definitely not an easy task. Then we have to relate to each other. While we've gotten better at discussing problems (read: I've gotten better at not being a big stupid-head), after 16 years of marriage, we're still not perfect.

    But through it all, there is no other girl whose attention I'd rather have. There's no other lady that I want to impress and work out and work hard for than her.

    She is my love. She is my muse. She is the ear who listens to my rantings. She is my opus. And even though I can't sing a love song the way Bon Jovi believes it's supposed to be sung, I want her to know how I feel about her.

    But as I mentioned at the beginning, irony can be a funny thing. Jennifer does not come to my blog. She has the posts emailed to her. Of course, she might not read her email for a few days. So, if one of you could alert  her to my declaration of love, I would be grateful.

    Because if I did it, it would just be self-serving. And that's not very Valentine's Day-ish of anybody. And if there's some girl out there you want to be your Valentine, go ahead and steal some of the mushier lines I've used here. I've heard chicks really dig that kind of stuff.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Gun Control

    I have seen a lot of talk about guns and gun control. I know it's not an issue that's going away anytime soon. I know this post will not end it all. But I did like this and so I offer it my Woo of Approval.

    by Matthew L. Kelley

    The issue of gun control in the United States is once again at the forefront of our national conversation due to last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut—one of many similar incidents whose frequency is on the rise.
    A lot of people are giving passionate and articulate cases for their particular position, and as I am neither a constitutional scholar nor an expert on firearms or public safety, I will leave those arguments to those that speak on them with authority.
    I do, however, believe that the church has a significant role to play in this conversation, and I believe that the biblical witness and our theological heritage give us reason to support restrictions on firearms such as those currently being debated by the President and Congress.
    I do not cite these scriptures as “proof-texts,” nor do I claim that this is the only understanding one has to arrive at to be a true follower of Jesus. I also want to state at the beginning that while I am not a gun owner, I support the rights of people to possess firearms in their home for protection and for use in hunting or other recreation.
    With those disclaimers out of the way, here is what I believe to be a biblical and theological case for gun control: I have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful.
    I have the freedom to do anything, but I won’t be controlled by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12
    Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up. 1 Corinthians 10:23
    Twice in his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul talks about the intersection of freedom and responsibility. Long before Enlightenment philosophers spoke about the autonomy of the individual, St. Paul recognized that while a person has the freedom to do whatever they want, not everything is necessarily a good idea. This is particularly true if one is in a covenant relationship with others.
    Paul’s immediate context in making these statements is sexual behavior and eating meat sacrificed to idols, respectively, but he is also talking about a broad approach to one’s life.
    I can go where I want, when I want, spend every cent in my bank account and pick up a lady for a one night stand. But if I want to stay married to my wife and be a part of my children’s lives, I’m going to choose not to do those things. They trust that I’m going to be responsible with our shared resources. They trust that I’m going to live by the values that we as a family have agreed on. I choose to be faithful to this covenant because that web of relationships is more important to me than acting on every impulse I might have.
    I have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful.
    I have the right to buy a plane ticket and fly wherever I want without anyone asking why or wanting to see what’s in my luggage. I’ve never done anything that would make anyone suspect I had intentions to harm my fellow passengers or anyone else. But I take off my shoes and put my laptop in a separate bin in the security line, go through a metal detector or full-body scanner, and accept that someone from the TSA might mess up my nice, neat stack of undershirts. I gladly accept this because I value the safety of the general public more than I dislike the few minutes of inconvenience this causes me, even though I have done nothing to warrant such screenings.
    I have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful.
    I have the right to buy a gun, and I have done nothing to suggest any ill intentions. But I consent to a background check because I value keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people more than I dislike having to wait a few days to complete my purchase. I have the right to buy an AR-15 assault rifle and hunt deer with it, but I choose to use a lower powered rifle with a smaller clip of ammunition because I value lowering the chance of someone walking into my children’s school and killing several dozen kids in a matter of seconds more than I value my right to squeeze off a hundred rounds a minute and feel like Rambo.
    I have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful.
    At the core of many of the arguments opposing any gun control measures is the concept of “freedom.” I put that in quotes because it’s a word that means different things to different people. Some define freedom as “doing whatever I want whenever I want,” which I have just argued is not helpful for those who wish to be in covenant relationships with others.
    The question becomes, is there a better definition of freedom? Christian theological tradition would say and emphatic “yes”.
    J├╝rgen Moltmann sees the true definition of freedom in the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity. This relationship is summed up in the term perichoresis, which means mutual interdependence and indwelling. Moltmann sees God’s Trinitarian life as a model for human relationships of loving community: true freedom.
    I am free and feel myself to be truly free when I am respected and recognized by others and when I for my part respect and recognize them. I become truly free when I open my life for other people and share with them, and when other people open their lives for me and share them with me. Then the other person is no longer the limitation of my freedom; he is the expansion of it. In mutual participation in life, individual people become free beyond the limits of their individuality, and discover the common room for living which their freedom offers. That is the social side of freedom. (The Trinity and the Kingdom, p. 216)
    I willingly give others the space to feel free by agreeing to place a formal societal limitation on my “right” to own an assault weapon because, though I will not walk into a school and start shooting, other mentally disturbed people might. So for the good of the whole, I agree to a legal prohibition of certain guns and ammunition clips. This is the same reason I agree to speed limits, seat belt laws, and blood alcohol limits in the use of my car. This is the same reason I agree to only being able to purchase small amounts of certain cold medicines, so as to help stop the spread of meth.
    We are not so naive as to believe that all of our fellow citizens will go along with these societal agreements. That is why we elect representatives who will pass laws to enforce these agreements for the good of the whole.
    We do not naively assume such laws will guarantee there will never be another school shooting, any more than we assume there will never be another drunk driver or that meth labs will suddenly disappear. We do believe that such actions will reduce such incidences enough to help us be safer and closer to that true freedom whose full realization is yet to come.
    I believe that this is a solid biblical and theological case for gun control laws. May we all open ourselves to the possibility of limiting certain individual liberties for the greater good and progress towards our true, God-given freedom.

    Matthew L. Kelley

    About This Author

    Matt Kelley is Pastor of Arlington United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn. He has written about preaching, worship, and youth ministry for numerous publications, and blogs at The Truth As Best I Know It.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Breaking News: Religious People Sometimes Do Nice Things

    Toaster sculpture, 1993?

    Religious people are more likely, statistically, to perform altruistic acts. That's a fancy way of saying the people with a moral standard are more likely to do something nice for someone than a complete jerk.

    But, of course, it's not a given.

    Anyone who has ever been to church knows that religious people can also possess a complete ineptitude to do anything nice beyond shaking hands during the greeting time. The fact is that as long as sinners are allowed in the church, and they should always be allowed, altruistic acts will always be something which may or may not happen.

    James was right to challenge the first-century Christians. "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" ~James 2:18.

    If religious people are found to be more likely to perform loving deeds, it can only be due to their proximity to the Creator of loving deeds. A person closest to the fire is more likely to get burned than those not even at the campsite. But even the person close to the fire will have to jump in if getting burned is the goal. 

    Perhaps you don't like this word-picture. After all, you've been warned to avoid the hot stove since hanging around your mother's knees as a kid. But don't miss the point. We're talking about the likelihood that you will perform altruistic acts. It won't happen simply because you enter a place of worship.

    After all, there's a really good chance that someone at church will be a moron and you will be left with a choice as to how to respond. Someone will sit in your pew, or take your parking place. Someone won't stop talking and give you a chance to share an intelligent thought. Your favorite songs won't be sung, or worse, your faves will be sung poorly. 

    Let the surveys and statistics say what they want. Bread is more likely to be toasted if it's placed in a toaster. But action is still required.

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Playing Peek-a-boo With Jesus

    Babies are stupid. Let's not sugarcoat this any longer. In case you need proof, take the game of peek-a-boo as the perfect example. You put your hands in front of your face and then remove your hands. That baby will be surprised every. single. time.

    They're not smart enough to be faking it. They are genuinely surprised to see you show up in front of them. So, I guess it's a good thing babies generally have very strong hearts. Because I would play peek-a-boo for a long time and my babies would just keep laughing with delightful surprise. 

    Now, perhaps I was a bit strong when I opened up by saying babies are stupid. Because, truth be told, I am dumber. Don't laugh, because you might be right there with me. The Apostle Paul wrote the following to the Church in Colosse;

    For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. ~Colossians 3:3

    If it's not about me, I'm supposed to remain hidden in Christ. It's kind of like a divine game of peek-a-boo. God's is the face that should be seen, but I continue to take the hands away from my face and scream out. 

    LOOK AT ME!!!

    But, in my most honest moments, I realize that it's not simply that this life is not about me. It's not supposed to be about me. So, I'm going to try again and seek out insignificance, so my life can be hidden with Christ in God. 

    What about you?

    Friday, February 8, 2013

    Pardon My French

    Pardon my French, but I don't know any.

    I'm not exactly sure why the French seem to be so unpopular. I imagine politics has something to do with it. I'd love to go back in history and find out how they rank among most hated countries. That would be a fun study. The French versus the Romans or the Huns or the Philistines. 

    French Pastry

    The only French I know and use is sacre bleu. It feels like a mix between something religious and something involving salad dressing. But I looked it up. It's normally associated with saying oh my gosh in English. I say it simply because it's one of the only things I can say with a French accent. And what better way to sound snooty than to use a French accent?

    But I actually have a problem. It's pardoning your French before you swear. Do the French all speak like this? Are they all a bunch of potty-mouths? And if so, are they all pardoning their language before they even speak up? Is this like hello for them? 

    French-speaking person #1: Pardon my French, but how is your day going?
    French-speaking person #2: Well, pardon my French. I am doing great. How are the kids?

    My real problem comes with the intention behind the phrase. Does asking for pardon make it okay to use French? Consider this; French is normally used without much thought. You stub your toe, say a French word. Someone scares you, say a French word. 

    While I do not think it's okay, there is something worse, a trend I have been noticing more and more. You write a song, say a French word. You write a book, say a French word. 

    Why is that worse? Because it's thought out. 

    When someone uses French in the spur of the moment, they will likely regret it. But when someone writes a book, there is thought, writing, editing and then we do it all over again. So it's no longer a word used without a lot of thought. 

    Speaking of thought, I considered ending this post with a French word, to help make a splash. Then I remembered the point. Using French never makes the difference. However, if you're reading this and you are French, then please, pardon me for using you and your countrymen to do this. 

    Thursday, February 7, 2013

    Hooray Words!

    I recently took my teens on a retreat where the speaker talked about imitating Christ. We are going to choose to imitate something, so it is on us to decide what that will be.

    Allow me to offer an example not to follow. This is a link to the ad, where it would seem we all want to use expletives, but are still forced to purity by petty man-made rules of propriety.

    If you can't see the video, click here.

    Now, I'm assuming a few things. First, the ad wizards knew what they were doing. And they knew that we would know what they were doing. Right? Because the goal is primarily to get us to use their product. And we might do that if we think they're funny. At least, that's the goal.

    Secondly, the ad wizards are fairly confident that their tongue-in-cheek dance with the f-bomb will not turn off any potential customers. And they are very probably right. Because we, very generally, no longer see a problem with the use of vulgarity. From movies and music to everyday situations, bad language is no longer whispered in back alleys. Rather, it is shouted from just about anywhere.

    And, as this ad has put on display, it is no longer seen as shameful, but as something comical. What does this say about our culture? What does this say about our own minds?

    More importantly, what does this say about our attention to the holy? Paul gave us this encouragement in his letter to the Colossians, "Let your conversation be always full of grace,seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 1:6).

    There is an opinion shared by many that foul language is only used by those who lack the creativity to better express themselves, or by someone is great need of a thesaurus. That may be true. I think the more important factor is remembering who we represent, both here on Earth and in Heaven.

    I'll probably rant more about this tomorrow. Before we get there, what would you offer about bad language and hinting towards bad language?

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    Cookies and Milk? Yes, Please!

    chocolate chip cookies

    One night I allowed my kids to have cookies and milk. As it was getting late, I only allowed for 1 cookie. That's my soft side meeting my stone cold side. I offer good things, but only. so. much. 

    After all, I can't go letting the kids think I'm on their side. They'll go around telling their friends about how I'm their cookie source. I have a reputation to protect, plus I need to make sure there's plenty of cookies left for me. 

    I digress. 

    But my oldest didn't hear me, with bedtime prep being a bit of a crazy time at our house. So after the other two were done, I found her with a stack of cookies and a glass of milk. I informed her I had limited to the others to one cookie. She put the extra cookies back, without complaint, but then asked me, "What am I going to do with all this milk?"

    She's a smart cookie and poured an amount of milk that would be proper to soak up the stack of cookies she had. Of course, she heard what she wanted to hear and acted accordingly. 

    All ended well, but like most interactions with my children, my learning increased. 

    My children hear dessert and they won't blink twice before indulging in as much as will be allowed. I imagine I used to be like that. But somewhere along the way I, we, all of us, look for the catch. We hear of cookies being offered and we wonder about the cost. If it's not monetary, we'll come to realize it's the calories. Sure, have a cookie now, as long as you're prepared to punish yourself at the gym. 

    While there is the reality between eating cookies and needing exercise, this is a worldly economy. Our real problem isn't with our metabolism. It's with us connecting this way of thinking with God's promises. We look for the catch. We assume there's a price. But that isn't the way God works. 

    It seems to me that when God makes a promise, we should come ready to engage and enjoy. My girl was prepared for cookies. That's much better than the alternative of coming to a table full of promise, asking for permission for what's already been given freely. 

    The invitation to the table has been given. There's more than plenty. So pour yourself a tall glass of milk. You're gonna need it. 

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Ridiculous Nonsense

    While some of you may assume that Ridiculous Nonsense could be the title of just about every post I write, I have chosen it for this one because of a fun little book I just read. It's called Armed Gunmen, True Facts, and other Ridiculous Nonsense: A Compiled Compendium of Repetitive Redundancies.

    If you're not catching on based on the title, the book takes a light-hearted look at tautologies. Since I tend not to use very many fancy words around here, here's the definition from

    ~needless repetition of an idea, especially in words other than those of the immediate context, without imparting additional force or clearness, as in “widow woman.”

    But rather merely list tautologies and help us correct our use of the English language, Richard Kallan has gone the next step and given new definitions for these tautologies. For example:

    • Serious Crisis: Not to be confused with all those whimsical crises.
    • Today's Soup du Jour: Fresher than yesterdays soup du jour.
    • Raining Outside: Less surprising than when it rains inside.
    • Holy Bible: One with religious overtones

    I have to admit that last one got me thinking about, unfortunately, how Christians often live a tautology. We say one thing and do another. We criticize one thing while turning a blind eye to another. We too often become the fulfillment of a ridiculous tautology; Hypocritical Christians.

    It's the truth that shouldn't be.

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    Woo the New Year: Excerpt 5

    I am part of a blogging for books program at Waterbrook Multnomah. With keen insight, they realize that this time of year is often used for reflecting and planning. So they have offered five excerpts from books that can help with that process. This is part 5 of 5. Enjoy! 


    Resolve to Love by Kerry and Chris Shook

    Right now, there are three relationships in your life that trouble you. Perhaps a good friend said something to you yesterday. It felt critical, but you’re not sure what she meant. The two of you used to be so close, but lately you’ve been drifting apart. Something’s not right. Oh, and your mother called. There’s that. You know you should return her call, but you haven’t. Why? You know there are things you should have said before, you avoided them, and now you feel it’s too late. It’s always so hard with her. Always messy. And then…your son has been missing. Not missing physically, but he’s been distant, quiet, silent. Missing emotionally. What’s that about? What’s going on in his life? You want to reach out, but he pushes you away. It worries you.

    Maybe the relationships in your life aren’t exactly like these, but I’m guessing these remind you of someone close to you, a problem relationship in your life right now. Maybe it’s not your mother but your father, perhaps not your son but a daughter-in-law. It could be your best friend. Whoever it is, he or she is someone who matters to you—or else the relationship wouldn’t trouble you, gnaw at you on the inside, make you question and grumble, or even bring you to tears.

    So take a moment and think, who are these three key people in your life? Which meaningful relationships are troubling you? Relationships you wish were closer. Relationships you’d like to be deeper and richer. Relationships that trouble you, bother you, even make you a little crazy right now.

    Seriously, think about it. Who are they? And now take a moment to name these three key relationships out loud.

    Trust me, this is important for you. In fact, this may be the most significant thing you do in your life right now. Why?

    Because life is way too short. At the end of the day—at the end of The Day—in this all-too-short life we share, all that really matters is relationships. Our relationships with the God who created us and with the people we love. Compared to these relationships, the job or career goals we set now aren’t really so important, the ladders we try to climb don’t matter so much, and the objects we long to own and possess seem utterly trivial.

    What really counts in the end is that special knowing look you share with your spouse, the arms of your child reaching up to you, or the quiet comfort of a friend who stands by your side in a difficult time.

    The award-winning animated movie Up contains some profound truths about relationships. In a breathtaking sequence early in the film, we see the entire arc of the life of Carl, a balloon salesman, as he meets Ellie, falls in love, and gets married. They share a dream to travel to South America and save every penny for their big trip. But there’s something familiar about the way their savings are constantly being used for the urgencies and emergencies of daily life. Before Carl and Ellie know it, they’re in their seventies, and although they have a beautiful marriage, they never realized their dream adventure.

    Ellie dies, and Carl is overwhelmed with regret about the trip they never took. In a desperate attempt to escape loneliness and recapture memories of Ellie, Carl attaches a bunch of balloons to his house and sets out for South America!
    You begin to realize as the movie progresses that this dream trip they were saving for, this object of their future plan together, wasn’t really that important after all. The real adventure was the life they shared along the way.

    The same is true for us: the adventure of a lifetime is right in front of us. It’s just cleverly disguised as a familiar face.

    Think about the possible loss of the relationship with one of those three people you named. You can’t do anything about death and the physical departure of one of them from this earth. That’s in God’s hands.

    But you can do something about your relationship with them in life.

    Much of what you’ve been told about relationships is upside down and wrong.
    Researchers tell us that a baby sees everything upside down for the first few days of life until the brain can adjust the visual picture to right side up. Most relationships today are stuck in this same infant stage; we tend to see relationships upside down, and our culture only reinforces this view. The concept of love at first sight permeates our music, movies, television, and books. What we learn as children and continue to believe as adults is that a fairy-tale relationship somehow just happens. Now, I’m not bashing romance, but meaningful relationships depend on seeing other people as they are and looking at them right side up. Real love—whether romantic love, a close friendship, or a family relationship—happens long after first sight. It shows up as people get to know each other more deeply and often after they work through tough things together. Real love in relationships isn’t a magic act; it’s a journey.
    When people say, “It was love at first sight,” what they really mean is “I was attracted to that person the first time I saw them.” There is nothing wrong with being infatuated with someone at the start of a relationship. The real question, however, is, do you have a love that is growing stronger and deeper every day?

    I don’t believe in love at first sight; I believe in love at last sight. Each of my relationships has the potential to be better the next time we’re together than it was the previous time so that the last time we see each other on this earth we’re closer than ever before.

    I’d like you to join me in the Lasting Love Relationship Challenge. The book One Month to Love is the challenge, and you can do it on your own. Just read a chapter each day. There are thirty chapters, they’re short, and you can probably read one a day pretty easily. At the end of each chapter you’ll find the Lasting Love Relationship Challenge, which is designed to help you take the insights from that day and apply them to your key relationships. Also you can log on to each day to access our personal coaching and get extra encouragement and advice or share your story. Our goal is to come alongside you to help you create the very best relationships possible. Let’s resolve to love this year!

    Adapted from One Month to Love by Kerry and Chris Shook with permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Friday, February 1, 2013

    What Are You Calling Me?

    This chart doesn't mean much to you.

    Until you read the following, gleaned from Relevant Slices. Then you might see why I'm a bit concerned about #8.

    Psychopathy—which is, in its most basic definition, a lack of emotions—isn't just something that serial killers have (although it's a pretty common trait of serial killers). Psychopaths are, all around, just living normal lives and not really having much in the way of emotions. But there are some places where they're easier to find than others, and Kevin Dutton has written a book called The Wisdom of Psychopaths to help you know where to look for them. Certain careers lend themselves to psychopathy, and Dutton's made a handy side-by-side comparison of professions with the highest preponderance of psychopaths (CEO is number one) and professions with the lowest number (care aides). As the chart shows, psychopathy is technically a "disorder," but it's not necessarily a terrible thing. Certain jobs require quick, clinical decisions that aren't encumbered by messy feelings. Of course, psychopaths are also drawn to jobs with authority, which is telling ...

    All in all, I've been called worse.