Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zoinks!


It is no secret that Hollywood is out of ideas. For all the money exchanging hands out west, we are still presented with reality shows involving Vanilla Ice and Amish people. You'll have to search for that yourself as I refused to do that to my search engine. 

But I am actually okay with this when it means that a classic gets remade into something genuinely awesome. Of course, being who I am, I didn't discover this while it was actually happening. But back in 2010 a new version of Scooby Doo was being made. 

Scooby doo mystery incorporated poster.jpg
My kids just recently discovered Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporateda series that takes what was most laughable from the 70's version and combines it into something that is actually watchable. This version gives us a lot more information about Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby, perhaps more than we ever wanted to know. Instead of each show being a stand-alone, this series connects and has overarching themes and plots. 

And the villains seem to be mysteriously attracted to Crystal Cove, where the gang resides. In fact, we were about 10 episodes in when I noticed something I probably should have noticed 30 years ago. First, every Crystal Cove villain seems to have found good sales on ghost costumes and zip line equipment. Seriously, every ghost in town can fly and looks creepy. 

But every villain is also easily caught by this ragtag group of sleuths. And immediately upon being unmasked, they all seem very eager to tell why they did it. Each one has their own back story and they all have to do with some past hurt, real or perceived, significant or ridiculous. 

It struck me that if anyone in Crystal Cove had listened to their pastor and reconciled with their neighbors, the Mystery Incorporated gang would have had a lot more time on their hands. If each character had practiced open communication with a heart towards being reconciled, the crew would have had better things to do in the Mystery Machine, like eat more Scooby Snacks.

In case you're wondering, yes I did make Scooby-Doo a teachable moment with my kids. The fact is each villain just wanted to be heard. Their plots were ill-conceived and easily foiled, though they probably would have gotten away with it...if it hadn't been for those meddling teenagers. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

From Faux-Hawks to Faith


People might look at me and laugh.
-That's the point.
But I don't want them to laugh.
-But they won't be laughing at you. They'll be laughing with you.
No. 

And that's where the conversation with my 6-year old ended that day. A stubborn refusal to stand out and an unwillingness to be laughed at. Or with, as I was trying to convince her. 

This was Crazy Hair Day at their elementary school, meaning the choice had no long-lasting implications. I did encourage her to not worry about what other people think. In this way, it is interesting to note how different three children can be, even when they share the same mom and dad. 

On a day when crazy hair was the goal, our oldest daughter still strove to stand out and be noticed. Our son, always a bit quieter in crowds, went halfway. A couple of faux-hawks adorned his melon, something crazy but replicated by several boys. But the 6-year old would not be coerced into being a stand-out among crazies. 

That's fine. But it did get me thinking about how we stand out in other ways, most notably for our faith.

Some are like my daughter, attempting antics to be noticed above the rest of the noise in our world. It's possible to see this done in positive ways. Just imagine any number of colorful ministries, bloggers or pastors. Unfortunately, this is also done in harmful ways. The misguided actions of Westboro Baptist come to mind. 

Some are more like my son, seeing a style they want to emulate, but wanting to do so in the context of relationships. I believe this works, as Jesus used this process when He sent disciples out in pairs to do ministry. 

The biggest danger that any of us face is a refusal to stand out at all. Read the Apostle John's letters and you hear the idea repeated over and again that Jesus' followers would be known by their obedience to His commands and by their love for one another. You get the impression that this behavior would have stood out in contrast to the non-believers. 

It doesn't take more than a glance at the media in our modern society to see the same thing at work today. If we are truly following Christ, it will stand out as being different. So if you are willing to be noticed, try two things. Love one another (1 John 3:11). Obey the commands of Jesus (1 John 3:24). 

Oh, and it might be a good idea to read all the rest of the verses in 1 John 3 as well. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rick's Rants: Travel Ketchup

A while I ago I ranted about the speed of ketchup. You probably figured I got that out of my system and was done pointing my ire at the ketchup industry. I know they hoped so.

But I'm not.

After all, they don't just put ketchup in bottles now, do they? Nope. When you want to be somewhere and feel less like home, they give you these travel packages of ketchup. Think fast food. Fast being the key word.

You're at the fast food restaurant for speed and convenience. It's not for your health. It can't be for your health. So when it comes to ketchup distribution, speed and convenience should also be of primary concern. This, of course, is why they don't use the bottle.

Most packets have a perforation. This saves you time in knowing not only where to tear, but in being able to tear. But I have seen an increasing number of ketchup packets that have no pre-perforated tearing point.
This must not be tolerated. Ketchup packets that have no perforated ripping point? What are we supposed to do, choose anywhere? Are we supposed to guess? Should we start bring scissors along to alleviate our stress in this process?

I don't know if this is simply the latest stressing point in an economy that is looking for relief somewhere, but we do have to stand up to the Man and let him know we have standards...and needs. These fries won't stay hot forever. They must be dipped in ketchup...now!

I realize I have only offered more questions, and perhaps more angst, by shedding light on this uncomfortable topic. It is my hope that perhaps if I stand strong, other will join me. If we remain stringent on this issue, perhaps our children can someday enjoy a day where there will be no condiment frustration.

Dare to dream!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Firsthand



"Who wants some pizza?"

Since the dawn of time, every youth pastor has proclaimed these words to their youth groups. But once the dodge ball game was over and the pizza was gone, the youth pastors would say something else.

"You must own your faith!" To be clear, this probably originated when Aaron the priest said this to Joshua. 

"You will have to own your faith, Josh. After all, Moses goes along with too many things that his brother and sister do. It's gonna get him killed."

Every youth pastor has said things like....
  • Your parents can't believe for you.
  • Someday you will move away from home. Then what will your faith look like?
  • Your childhood Sunday School answers won't suffice for real life.
Any youth pastor could have written a book about this. But it was Ryan and Josh Shook who did write this book. And they did a great job of making the case for a firsthand faith, which is where the title comes from. 

Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own

The title really does say it all and sum it up well. Ryan and Josh banter back and forth, sharing their real-life stories of doubt and finding their faith. They describe the benefits of this faith throughout the course of the book. But they do better than that. At the end of each chapter, they share the mic, in a manner of speaking, and offer many quotes from other people who have been in the same place. 

I feel like a bit of a voice-over for an infomercial, but that's not all they have done. They offer follow-up discussion questions which, admittedly, have become the norm for many recent releases. Ryan, besides authoring this book, is also a blogger and filmmaker. Using those gifts, he has provided several videos that can also serve as follow-up and facilitate small group discussion. 

They couch all of this seeking and finding in a setting of relationships. The other thing every youth pastor has said, forever, is that the best way to do all of this seeking is in the context of relationships. They have done more than just say it, ensuring that this book is set up perfectly for a small group setting, really of any age group. 

So while I could have written this book, I'm glad that somebody did. If you have the setting, or lead a group, I would recommend this book. I was not held at gun point to write something positive, but I was give this book by my good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah. 

You can find the authors here - Firsthand Facebook page for authors Ryan and Josh Shook. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Body Double


This is not so much a fellow blogger's post, but a sermon illustration provided to me by one of the many newsletters I receive. Many of them I file away for a sermon yet to be prepared, but this one fit the main thrust of my blog, I wanted to share it directly with you. 
Woo!

Matthew Eldridge has appeared in numerous high-profile movies, but you'll never see his face or hear his voice. That's because Eldridge serves as a "body double." Recently, for instance, his hands, feet, and body were used as stand-ins for the actor Jason Bateman in the film Identity Thief. But Eldridge doesn't mind that Batemen gets most of the attention and fame. Here's how Eldridge explained how he sees his role:
Bateman has become a household name, growing up a child star and moving on to lead roles in Arrested DevelopmentJunoHorrible Bosses, and others, but you've certainly never heard of me, Matthew Eldridge, though you may have seen my hands on screen. How many of us know the names of anyone behind the scenes in Hollywood? The directors or the directors of photography? Camera men? Great films rely not just on acting talent, but a team of talented individuals who work in lighting, gaffing, sound, special effects, painting, props, and so on. And that's just production.
While close to 100 crew members tirelessly work 15 hours a day so Jason Bateman can shine, they have an understanding that their work will be underappreciated and likely go unnoticed by those watching the show. But they do it anyway. Why? Because they love being a part of the creation process. There's something magical about creating something collectively larger than ourselves.
That's how it is in ministry. Ministries are built with the hands of capable individuals who may never receive recognition for the work they do …. They do what they do for the glory of God. Their satisfaction comes from knowing they help to build something beautiful for God's kingdom …. They are being the hands of Christ.

Matthew Eldridge, "The Hands of Jason Bateman and the Hands of Christ," Christianity Today (3-18-13)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

That's Going To Leave a Mark

This one goes out to all my youth worker friends out there. It seems we share a common problem. No, it's not too much pizza. That's not a problem for me. It's not late nights and teenage drama. That's what we signed up for.

It's our desire to see teens get interested in the Bible. The problem, clearly, is not our desire. We want to see teens open up God's Word and actually be excited about doing so.

Solutions abound, from teen Bibles and devotionals to reading plans and even prize motivators. But I have an idea that I think trumps them all. You won't need to plan an entire lesson around it. You won't need to make it a special focus for a month. Just plan what looks like an unintended tangent in an otherwise normal lesson. Oh, and use the word 'emasculated'.

That's right. Emasculated.

Intrigued? Here's how it works. I was teaching on healthy relationships when we started talking about the unhealthy examples we see around us and portrayed in the media. I mentioned that too many wives emasculate their husbands' spiritual leadership. (Agree or disagree, we can save that topic for another day.)

The hook was set and you know what happened next. One of the teens asked what emasculated meant. And I defined. This isn't a children's blog, so I'll clue you in as well and save you the trip to dictionary.com.

Back in the day, when kings would conquer countries and want the young men of the defeated nation to serve his wife and his daughters, he had to make sure they wouldn't try and do what men often try and do with women. So they would remove temptation by removing the man's....er.....stuff.

I said this and every guy in my group winced as one. Then I named some examples of eunuchs (guys who have been emasculated) in the Bible. Among them, Daniel and Rack, Shack and Benny (of Veggie Tales fame).

I only wish I could have taken a picture of one junior high guy's face in particular, as his jaw was left dropped for the next ten minutes. See, the Bible is very interesting. We just need to point out some of the finer details.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Comparisons to This Guy Always Fall Short


But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. ~Philippians 3:7-10

It would be really easy to get my preacher on and just take off, ranting about all the things in this life that we find value in. After all, who doesn't enjoy their stuff and look for an opportunity to add more to their stuff total. 

But...

I believe Paul is talking about more than simply physical and worldly items here. After all, context is everything and he did just get done listing all of his spiritual stuff that makes him awesome. Or at least made him awesome before he compared it all with Jesus. 

I'd like to point out that Paul wasn't the last person to walk around strutting his stuff while he thought about his spiritual stuff. I'd like to somehow wax eloquent and tell you how it all amounts to nothing when compared to Jesus. I'd like to encourage you to seek after Jesus more than you chase after stuff. 

But it's already been said. Quite honestly, it is hard to say it any better. All things are worthless compared to Jesus.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Digital Manners


When reviewing a book such as Manners in a Digital World, I want to be careful not to be rude. But you may be, like I was, wondering who Emily Post is and why she gets to write about manners. That is, you'll be wondering that if you are among those born after 1960, the year Emily Post died.

But as you can find out here, Emily Post made a name for herself by writing books on etiquette. This book on digital manners takes that same spirit and brings it into our new digital age. Daniel writes about manners on all things internet, including social do's and don'ts with cell phones.

He tackles Facebook, Twitter and the myriad of dating websites. But he doesn't stop there. Daniel approaches large portions of this book for people who are, not to put anyone down, clueless. He walks people through the expectations, both for them and from them.

At points, this made the book a bit slow to work through. Overall, however, this is a good resource. Manners are an important detail in our world. It is what helps us get along. That has not changed, even though much of our interaction has moved from face-to-face to screens of all sizes.

Many thanks to my new friends at Open Road Media. You can check out more about them at http://www.openroadmedia.com/ You can also check them out at a few other places around the world wide web. Just be sure to use your manners when you do.

Here is a YouTube video: http://youtu.be/BTzW4EzCPiE
Here's an excerpt.: http://bit.ly/10W2BLE

If you would like to engage with Dan Post or any of the Emily Post team, you can do so here. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thump, Thump, Thump

Except for the grace of God, I would have been a single father. I'm not trying to be melodramatic about this, but upon this realization, I had to stop and praise God. Then I instantly felt the need to share this story with any who would listen.

My wife went to a conference last Thursday. She took 4 co-workers along with her. From point A to point B was a bit over two hours. No more than thirty minutes from home, they heard a thump, thump, thump. Being somewhat near a guy they knew could help check for things, they made an unscheduled stop.

The guy, a dad of one of the co-workers, checked it out. They checked the tires. It wasn't a flat. He took the truck out for a spin and couldn't hear anything. Perhaps it was just 5 ladies hearing things. (Just kidding, ladies!) With the thumping gone, they continued on.

As they continued on, the thumping came back. On Saturday, the thumping grew worse. Thinking it was engine trouble, they decided to trek on home and figure it out then. Thump, thump, thump for two and a half hours.

On Sunday, I took out the truck so I could adequately describe the problem to a mechanic without sounding like I normally do...a complete moron as regards mechanical matters. The thumping was consistent and loud. But as I drove, I could tell quickly the sound came from the driver's side, so I adjusted the mirror downward and what I saw...freaked. me. out.

The rear wheel on the driver's side was moving left and right. In case you're mechanically challenged like I am, tires aren't supposed to do that. If you recall preschool at all, the wheels on the bus go round and round. Not left and right.

I pulled over to discover 1 missing lug nut and 4 loose lug nuts. For those of you scoring at home, that would add up to the 5 lug nuts that would normally hold a tire on. So for the better part of 5 hours, my wife had been driving, on highways, mind you, on 3 tires secured properly to the truck and 1 tire being held on by, what I now believe, was a very tired angel of God.

Replacing the lug nut and a broken lug nut bolt cost me about $30. What I received was a miracle from God, who clearly loves me and my wife and still has plans for her. Except for the grace of God, I would have been a single father.

Thank you, God. I am reminded once again of Your grace and how You alone protect us, sometimes from ourselves, sometimes in spite of ourselves, sometimes without us knowing or realizing. But still Your protection is there, much like Your love. I pray that when other things go thump in my life, that I would look and see just how much You got this.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Truth That Divides Should Unite

We are divided over so many dumb things. I think The Office is still funny. I know many who think the show died once Steve Carell left. And if I so desired, i could find a thread somewhere where we could argue over this forever, all the while degrading one another's intelligence.

It matters that much.

Or we could discuss our need to divide over many others things in fandom. If I root for one sports team, it necessarily means the fans of the opposing team are morons. Men vs Women, Star Wars vs Star Trek, DC vs Marvel, PC vs Mac, Catholic vs Protestant, Republican vs Democrat, Alien vs Predator. Okay, clearly some of those are more important than others.

But the point is that we seem to enjoy drawing up the battle lines and standing divided. It's kind of stupid really, but acknowledging our penchant to divide doesn't automatically bring us together. It's merely one more way of noticing our differences and trying to decide who is better at..well, anything.

For Christians, this is extremely problematic. I've argued over the past two days, here and here, that truth matters. It certainly does, which is why we Christians have found many, many things to be divided over. And it's not a new problem.

My fear is that we will take the many issues, many of which can be interpreted with careful readings of Scripture and we will elevate these stands to something more than they were ever meant to be. The Apostle Paul said it most succinctly when he wrote this;

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. ~1 Corinthians 15:3-8

We need to realize that only Christ matters. This means that nothing else matters. We nod along with those last two sentences. But it means that no other human standard matters, not even just the one I think matters. This doesn't take away the importance of truth. It simply makes us all more civil toward one another as we all search for the truth.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Truth That Matters

This high profile bloggers says one thing. That high profile blogger says another. But what are we (including me, the non-high profile blogger) supposed to think?

Every once in a while, my kids and I will have the same thought at the same time. You can accuse me of thinking like a child all you want, but I believe this is a direct result of great teaching, from me to them. Anyways, we may end up saying the same thing at the same time. This inevitably leads them to declare that great minds think alike.

Whenever I hear this, my memory recalls my college Saturdays when I, of course, was watching One Saturday Morning on ABC. It was a collection of cartoons and shorts, one which included the Genie from Aladdin. Still voiced by Robin Williams, someone would spout some common thinking with the adage that 'great minds think alike.' Then the Genie would appear and declare, 'No, great minds think for themselves!'
I couldn't agree more.

We come across so many ideas and opinions in any given day, it is enough to make us wonder what God actually wants us to believe. I said yesterday that I think we link to way too many stories without first verifying the truth in those stories. The same could be said for Christian pastors, authors and bloggers who share their interpretation of scripture.

Whether the topic is views on marriage, the war, politics, freedom of speech or anything else, there are going to be differences of opinion. So what are we to do?

Instead of choosing sides based on superficial characteristics, we should choose to investigate the truth ourselves. We can't simply choose which presenter of opinions is better looking, more schooled, from the West coast or East coast, has fancy rimmed glasses or if their church is bigger than another.

Since all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), perhaps it is valuable enough for us to read it for ourselves.

Our sole interpretations should not be based on the interpretations of any other single person, no matter how much we like them or want to agree with them. We do those who have gone before us a great disservice if we rely only on those voices speaking out today.

So this is going to involve some time on our parts. Not everything can be found out on snopes.com. Not everything is a simple Google search away. In fact, much of what we are going to believe will need to be researched and thought about.

After all, it is the truth that matters.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Truth of the Matter

It's a regular day at work. You're cruising through your normal sources for the latest in news, Facebook, Twitter and various blogs. One does have to wonder how much more we might accomplish if it weren't for sites like these. But I digress.
You're scrolling through for news when you come across a picture linked to a story. Possibly about a missing dog belonging to a veteran or a spider that eats dogs. But the story that really gets you is the one warning of impending changes in the law that will force us all to have chips implanted in our hands.

Share. Like. Retweet.

Off the story goes. A comment here, indignation there and the fears are spread. It only really gets my attention when someone warns of impending doom to my Facebook account, because of recent changes made that will cause all of us to unwillingly share our favorite colors and our first dog's name. All we have to do to stop the madness is change all of our settings and share it with everyone.

The real issue is the under usage of snopes.com or sites like it. A simple search would have revealed the claim to be false, along with several others.

Today is not the day McFly went to in the future in Back to the Future 2.
Those photos of Tom Hanks posing with a drunk person. They're not what you think.

KFC didn't stop using 'chicken' in their name because they are growing mutant chicken meat.

Besides, there are other reasons you should second guess eating at KFC, or any fast-food restaurant.

But the real issue is even worse than what we believe on Facebook. It's what we believe in any area of life. Someone quotes someone they heard quoted by someone else and we accept what they say as actual truth. Not everything is two clicks away on snopes.com, but we do have sources of truth that we can access.

The question is whether or not we will take the time to stop scrolling and take the time to investigate the truth for ourselves. This has implications for Christians in more important matters than whether or not the secret formula for Coke is kept by two people, who each only know half the formula.

I'll stop here for today, as you clearly have some things you need to snope out. Have fun!

Friday, April 12, 2013

This Can Last! Can This Last?

It's no secret I enjoy reading books. There are always books lying around my office and home. There are stacks by my side of the bed and on shelves throughout the house. There are even a couple usually on an end table in our living room.

All that to say, the kids are pretty used to seeing books lay around. In fact, this has modeled a love of books on their part. So they normally have stacks lying around their bedrooms.

Every once in a while, a cover from one of my books intrigues them enough to ask about its' contents. The most recent was Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook. (I'll have my review coming on that book soon.) The simple explanation of the book that I gave my two oldest, 11 and 9, was that the book was about owning your faith.

I explained that teenagers often come to a point of skepticism. They will even, sadly, leave their faith behind. But the positive message of the book is that we need to have a firsthand faith that we own, rather than to simply mimic the answers given to us by our parents.

After explaining this to my kids, I awaited a response. They just sat there...confused. Why would someone reject what their parents are telling them? Why wouldn't they believe in everything their parents taught? They found it unfathomable that someone would hear about the good news of Jesus Christ and somehow come to doubt God's love.

If parenting is a game, then I am owning it. It dawned on me that my kids still trust me. This can last, right?

Okay, I am not o naive to think that this is a sign of calm seas ahead, but what am I to think and how am I to deal?

First of all, I assured my kids that doubt can be a good thing as long as we search out the truth. I believe, as parents, we should encourage questions. Questions lead to answers. When we silence doubts, we also silence the opportunity for great conversations ad we stifle growth.

Second, I think parents need to be encouraged to continue to teach at every opportunity. My kids parrot a few of my favorite sayings. For instance, when I ask them about making good choices, it is not uncommon for them to say we do the right thing for the right reason. This is a favorite of mine. They may, at times, roll their eyes while they say it, but they are hearing me.

Finally, I realized that I should not assume that my kids will question everything, go experiment with drugs, find all the worst friends and play out the typical pastor's-kid nightmare. I also should not expect them to be like any teenager I have ever been a youth pastor to. After all, all of my teens have been unique, so why shouldn't these tweeners carve out their own path.

Parents, be encouraged. Teens, like all of us, will need to own their own faith as they grow into adulthood. But how they do that will look different as we create opportunities and embrace the questions as they come. Oh, and keep reading books. There's all sorts of good things we can learn.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

God First, Man Second: Distant Second

You can look through the historical documents now known as my previous blog posts and see a long-standing series of posts in which I demonstrate, using scripture, how God should come first and man should come second. But in today's post, I will show why man should probably slink away from receiving any second place ribbons.

It is very much like what is taught at the Cobra Kai Dojo, made famous from the Karate Kid. Put simply, second place is no place.

It doesn't seem so bad at first. Take a look.

“I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more. ~Isaiah 43:25

At first, this sounds like it is about us. Our sins get wiped out. Hooray! But it says it is for God's sake. Now it sounds like something from this blog. God didn't do this because of us. He did it because of Him. For His sake. And let's keep in mind the action happening here. God, for His own sake, is removing our sins. In case you've forgotten, those are the bad things attached to us that have caused death. 

So our involvement in this blotting out of sins isn't all that great to begin with. But it gets worse. Here are the verses just before verse 25. 

 “Yet you have not called on me, Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel. You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me with your sacrifices.I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense. You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.But you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses. ~Isaiah 43:22-24

And here are the verses just after verse 25. 

Review the past for me,
let us argue the matter together;
state the case for your innocence.
 Your first father sinned;
those I sent to teach you rebelled against me.
 So I disgraced the dignitaries of your temple;
I consigned Jacob to destruction
and Israel to scorn. ~Isaiah 43:26-28.

God goes to some pretty good detail telling us how much its not about us. Because it's not. It's silly to think that it ever was. But second place, even a distant second, is still a good place to be. 

The Cobra Kai were wrong. When God is in first place, second place is the only place I want to be. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cruisin'

I've had a series of rants recently, arguing for those much needed improvements in life, such as a new car horn that really communicates, stores that collect too much information and the study of ketchup. Yes, ketchup. Yes, it's the major things in life that motivate me.

Well, I've realized that there is a need for being thankful as well. And there are many things that people are overlooking. So, once again, I will raise the bar and go where others feel is a waste of time.

So, where to begin?

Since I've recently taken a couple of trips, my mind wandered to cruise control. 

Seriously, when I can drive for hours on end using less limbs than all those other poor saps out there on the highways. This also frees me to be less patient when that car with the inferior driver speeds up and then slows down and then speeds back up. They can look at me all they want with their irritation, but my cruise control is set. I'm a constant. I'm a rock. You, my friend, are the waffling driver, not knowing exactly how heavy you want your foot to be.

I can focus more energy on cruising the radio stations, since only the country stations appear to have strong signals. I could plug in my iPod, but I seem to have run out of DC connectors, due to the use of GPS and my kid's DVD players. Honestly, how did parents handle children and long car rides before this?

This also leaves me better ready to flee the vehicle, should the need arise. Consider this, would you rather have to sprint with a foot that has been used for hours or one that has been at rest?

If only we could come up with some technology to make it possible to drive hands-free, then I would be set.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reckless


Raising your hands in worship is something like a toddler running recklessly to his mom or dad. You've seen this run. They are running at breakneck speed. That is, breakneck for a kid. Which is to say, faster than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter.  

They may fall along the way. They look very goofy. And invariably they begin to stumble and are about to fall.

But they don't fall, do they? No, because their parent catches them. Just like our Father catches us when we worship with reckless abandon.

But more often than not, our hands are not raised in this way. No, our hands are somewhat raised, or halfway raised, or in some other controlled state of being raised. 

But I don't believe this is what our Father desires from us. If being a father has taught me anything, it's that I enjoy my children depending on me. And as much fun as it is to watch people fall, that humor ends when it is my own children. 

Your children? Sure. Mine? Not so much. 

Not only do I know I am capable of caring for my children, I want them to know I am capable. It's hard for me to believe God would enjoy this any less. But when we choose to go in with only half of what we have to offer, that's not reckless. 

The run to our Father should be reckless. We should be out of control, certain to fall unless He decides to catch us. We should be awkward, not caring what we look like along the way, satisfied only with the destination of falling into our Dad's capable arms. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Just Kill Me Now


There are many things that makes me less than thrilled with life. Dare I say there are times when death would seem like a welcome rest from life. Some of those times would include;
  • Snow days once Spring has officially begun.
  • When the 6-year old asks to play I Spy for the hundredth round while waiting for the wife to come out of the store.
  • Watching an entire season of My Little Ponies when that same 6-year old is sick.
  • Actually, watching any of the number of TV shows made to entertain children.
Thanks to over-acting and and a seemingly endless supply of money funding these child actors, I have several times uttered, 'Just kill me now.'

Numbers 11:15 tells us of a time when Moses asks to be killed if he has found favor in God's eyes. It seems like an unusual request of someone who likes you.

Moses: Hey God, You're my friend, right?
God: I Am.
Moses: Well, then could You just off me? Seriously, and make it quick and painless please.

I've asked God for some pretty crazy things, but I'm not prone to testing my faith by asking God to end my life. But Moses' reason was so that he would not come to ruin. Moses was so concerned about living a pleasing life in God's eyes that he was willing to go out early. Sort of end the party before it goes bad. 

If we want the God-life, we must be crucified in Christ. Left to our own will, we will be ruined. That would not be pretty. Of course, understand that sacrificing your self for the sake of Christ living in and through you could become quite messy as well.

So God, if I have found favor, kill anything within me that doesn't reflect you.

Friday, April 5, 2013

What It Is!


Yesterday we reviewed a post from a year ago, talking about what significance isn't. Today, let's discuss what it is.


Just what is insignificance?

Insignificance is understanding
The dictionary definition of insignificance is lacking in importance or consequence. Sounds kind of dreary, doesn't it? I can almost hear you asking why we would be searching for this. In the interest of full disclosure, I heard you in the voice of my young son, who asks why he has chores and why he can't just play video games all day. Yeah, it's kind of a high, whiny voice, but I felt like I needed to be open with you.

While I'm not going to attempt to redefine the word, I think we put too much emphasis on being important and having consequence. If we understand our real role in this life, then we will understand that we do not need importance or consequence to fulfill it.

Insignificance is accepting
What are we accepting? We're accepting our secondary role. And when I say 'secondary', I mean desperately, hopelessly in second. As in, can you tell me who finished second behind Michael Phelps in any of his 8 gold medals of the 2008 Olympics?

I'm pretty open about the fact that I believe God has to come first in every area of our lives. This only leaves us with second place. In my mind, this is a second place that doesn't need a medal and does not have room to stand next to first in the trophy presentation.

Can you accept that?

Insignificance is longer lasting
This might perhaps be the easiest part of the definition. After all, people seem to grasp that fame only appears to last for 15 minutes. Yet we all still reach out to try and grab for these 15 minutes. Why? My theory is that we are hoping that, in those 15 minutes, we can do something that will lead to another 15 minutes.

Maybe you can. Most likely you won't. But you can go ahead and try. But if we find insignificance, I can almost guarantee that it will last longer than 15 minutes. And that's a good thing. Because if we're going to search for treasure, I sure want one that lasts.

Since you're considering this journey with me, is there anything I missed in this definition that you'd like to add? Oh, and are you ready to go?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What It Isn't

Every once in a while, it is good to review your purpose. Here is a post from last year where I defined what I was focused on.

 I started talking about the purpose of insignificance and this blog and how I can both achieve and fail at my goal of finding insignificance by building a bigger platform for this blog.

And I was just about to sell you on joining me in this journey when I decided you'd read enough of my words for one day. So here we are now, and you're ready for some more words. Words of what? I'm not sure yet. I'll write some words, you read them. Then you can decide and tell me what kind of words they are. Then, if necessary, I'll cry myself to sleep.

If I told you I was on a journey for some big treasure, you might wonder what kind of treasure. You might ask me questions about how long the journey would be, what we need to take along, or if I'd been watching too manyPirates movies. These would all be great questions.

But I'm going to start by telling you what insignificance isn't.

Insignificance is not obscurity.
This might be a huge load off of your mind. After all, you may already feel invisible to many people. You may not want to be the life of the party, but it's not like you don't wish to be invited either.

Insignificance is not being worthless.
There's already enough voices in your world, trying to weigh your worth. Whether you are at your job or at school, with friends or with smurfs (who am I to judge?), or listening to voices of knowledge or just the voices inside your head; you should never equate being insignificant with being worthless. Totally. Different.

Insignificance is not lacking purpose.
I'm not going to go all Rick Warren on you and give you 5 purposes in 40 days or anything like that. But don't be fooled into thinking that when I say I want to pursue insignificance it means I want to crawl into my man-cave and spend all my time playing video games and eating pizza. My job as a youth pastor can give enough of those opportunities...sort of, but not really.

Well, I would like to start sitting back in my chair, gaze into your soul and ask you if you're ready to journey with me. You might be thinking that it's nice to know what insignificance isn't, but it'd be even better to know what it is. Touche, my friend, I am one step ahead of you. Or, at least, next Tuesday's post is one step ahead of you.

If you've been searching for insignificance as well, what else would you say it isn't?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Customer Service Matters


Oh my family of five, how you cause me such pain! Before you start to wonder why I would call out my loved ones, keep in mind that it is the number I struggle with, not the individuals themselves. Is that better? No? Allow me to explain.

Much of this world seems created for a family of four. Tableware and silverware are sold in sets of four. Vacation packages are sold in groups of four. My scooter can hold….oh wait, never mind.

Anyone with a third child has learned how irritating booking a hotel room can be. Jennifer and I learned this again as we looked to book a room for our recent trip to the Creation Museum. The room rate for four people was decent. The room rate for five people was not as nice. A phone call to the hotel caused more frustration.

They told me the extra charge was for the extra person.
~But the extra person is really small and hardly takes up any room.
Sorry, that’s policy.
~But she’ll probably sleep in my bed?!?
 Frustration
A few transfers later, I found my blood pressure rising and my patience wearing thin. I asked the assistant manager why my rate would change when the space I would need was still the same. But unlike the other answers I was given, this lady understood common sense. She assured me there was no problem booking a family of five. She also explained the confusion with numbers had to do with people booking for extra adults.

Ah, finally! Thank you! The room booked at the rate I wanted, I hung up. I realized the number one issue with customer service is making sure that everyone from the CEO to the janitor is able to give the same answer. Did this hotel finally get their customer served in a satisfactory way? Yes, but not everyone would have stayed on the phone and explained the dilemma to four different people. Not everyone would deal with the frustration in attempting to explain logic.

The same goes for us in our church. People come to us with needs. The greatest of those needs is truth.

From how we treat guests at our services to how we answer skeptics when they question, answers matter. Ask any customer who has recently had an unresolved issue with a company. But let’s ask God about this as well.

In this age where every answer, no matter how ridiculous, is given equal merit, one might wonder what difference an answer really makes. After all, we don’t want to offend anyone, do we?

Actually, I do.

It seems that whenever Jesus identified Himself, people got offended. Just read the Gospels and count how many times it says people plotted for ways to kill him. Jesus used black and white descriptions for Himself. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. He is the gate. Jesus made it clear He is the only way. Choose another road and you won’t make it.

When is the last time you told someone they couldn't go a particular path or do something in their own way? It doesn't usually go very well. As Christians, we can err on both sides. We can sugarcoat the truth, leaving God to disappoint. Or we can hold the doors closed, leaving God to reveal how much more He loved than we did. Either way, when we avoid the truth, customer service suffers.

We’re told in the Bible to ‘always be prepared to give an answer’ (1 Peter 3:15-16). But we’re never told to make up an answer. Let’s make sure that our answers line up with the answers our Boss would give.

The Truth matters. Customer service matters.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Behind the Mask

A friend reminded me recently that what I endorse is connected to other things. Things, perhaps, that I would not wish to endorse. She understands the difference between accepting the truth found in something and accepting everything else. But it is with that thought in my mind that I comment on this latest book I read, Behind the Mask: Adolescents in Hiding by Dennis Rozema.

Dennis is an adolescent therapist and crisis counselor and he has a ton of stories to share. In this book, he shares mostly about the stories that are still in the midst of struggle. He discusses teens who, like most of us, wear masks to protect themselves from the realities they don’t want to face.

You might not want to face it either. This book could probably be given the same disclaimer that we give the Bible. It’s full of truth, but not everything on the page sis pretty to look at. Dennis shares from the pages of journals of teens he has worked with, with permission of course. And since these teens are in the midst of struggle, what they write about, and the adjectives they use to describe it, are not exactly family friendly.

If it sounds like I am trying not to fall of this balancing wire to the side of appearing prudish, allow me to pull off the mask. While I do believe that many who sit in church pews need to be exposed to what a hurting world actually looks like, I fear the message may be lost because of all the debris. It seemed, at times, that Dennis enjoyed including the most graphic of journal pages.

From what I have read and learned about the counseling process, the steps and solutions this book offers are solid, with one caveat. The book lacks any mention of God, aside from a mention of higher powers. Since I am coming from the perspective of a youth pastor who would use this, I would be wary of handing this to any hurting teen or family, praying that it would lead them to true, lasting hope, which can only be found in Jesus Christ.

After all, if we are going to encourage people to remove their masks, it should be so they can see clearly into the face of the One who created them.

Monday, April 1, 2013

God First, Man Second: Easter Edition

Getting to Easter Sunday is not an easy thing for pastors. Clearly, our focus, even as pastors, should not be racing to the finish line that is Easter. Our goal should not be to survive it, get through it, look past it or even forget about it until next January. (Yes, that's when pastors begin thinking about Easter.)

But Easter Sunday was never intended to be an end.

It's a beginning.

It's new life, it's the beginning of the Church and it's the reason we have hope as Christians. And, as with anything that is important, it's all about Jesus.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~Ephesians 3:17-19

Get it? Jesus loves. We grasp. God does all the work and simply asks that we try to keep up. 

You can pack up the plastic Easter eggs and throw away that grass that kids know is just 'filler' to make it seem like they're getting more. But don't move past the fact that God loves you and has only begun to show His resurrection power.