I’m Right… and You are WRONG.

(serious sarcasm alert)

There… I’ve said it. It feels good to get that off my chest.

I’ve decided that I’m right about… well… pretty much everything. Which means if you’re reading this, you are probably dead wrong about everything we disagree on. SERIOUSLY LIFE-THREATENINGLY WRONG!

I can take some quotes from you out of context I suppose. That could be fun. Or I could point out your many failings (while ignoring my own… wait… failings? Me? I don’t think so…). Or I could simply compare you to Hitler or… wait… this is good… How about if I just copy and paste something I read about somebody like you on the internet and say that you said it.

That would be fun.

In any case, rest assured. It has been decided. I am right. You are wrong. Dead wrong.

Now… can we just get past that all and be friends?

No?

(Giggle if you think the world needs less of this…)

Christian Maturity

I got in a little debate on the internet about how much you can expect to be “taught” by the preaching in church… I guess I felt strongly enough to share those thoughts with y’all. Most of this is copied, with a couple little edits thrown in for good measure.

If you expect to be “fed” from a sermon that needs to communicate with people across the whole spectrum of knowledge and experience that inhabit a congregation, in my experience, you will forever be disappointed… if not immediately, then eventually… I haven’t found any evidence in the Bible that this is what the worship service is for, and plenty of evidence that it’s for worshiping God and fellowshipping with other worshipers.

[soap box]

I just did the math, and I’ve been a Christ-follower now for longer than Christ was actually on earth!

There is no way that I can continually grow in grace and knowledge and wisdom and love solely from sermons in that time. No way. No matter how often I switch churches under the misbegotten notion that one will feed me more than another.

No. What it means is that at a certain point I, for the most part, stopped reading the popular Christian books and started reading the less popular more scholarly ones that the author cites in his footnotes at the back of the book where nobody goes.

It means, for me, that I actually taught myself to read enough Greek to be able to understand when a preacher is full of beans when he appeals to a unique Greek word or construct in a sermon (in my experience, at least 75% of the time a preacher tells you that there’s hidden meaning in the Greek, he’s reaching).

Most importantly, it meant that, for me spiritual growth stopped getting measured by the junk I just said in those last two ridiculous paragraphs and more by the way I might love God and show that love by loving my neighbor.

And, it meant that I gave up a long time ago on the notion that improving and expanding head-knowledge and becoming theologically and doctrinally educated means squat in the vast scheme of things we don’t actually really understand anyway. (I don’t need another sermon on the trinity… ever… but maybe the guy who is new to the church does…) Intellectual assent to a list of doctrines and knowledge of theological concepts does not equal discipleship. Otherwise, Jesus wouldn’t have called fishermen and laborers and such to start his church.

It means that at a certain point I stopped being fed. I started feeding somebody else, and as for Christ in John 4:34, that work BECAME my food.

As Andy Stanley puts it “We are educated far beyond our obedience.” Amen. I know I am.

Most every time a friend has ever told me he left one church to go to another, the reason was always, frankly, either a bad reason or a smokescreen for the “search for the new” that USAmericans are always on.

In fact, the only times I’ve heard real legitimate reasons for that, it’s because the person moved, or got hired to WORK at a church, or both.

When I hear somebody talk about leaving a church because they aren’t getting fed, especially if it’s a so-called “mature” Christian… I can’t help but to roll my eyes…

[/soap box]

I may have lost some friends now… Sorry if I offended anyone. I’m even sorrier if I didn’t offend anyone.

The Miracle of Todd the Toad

My father (Charles’ grandfather) LOVES to tell the story of when I was really young and caught a frog, and in my glee to bring it home to show to my mom, squished the life (literally) out of the poor thing. I am convinced that because of that, the very first creature I will meet in heaven will be that frog, and we’ll just clear the air and be done with it. “Human, you are forgiven” he will say, and on with eternity. (Yes, I believe animals go to heaven…)

So maybe it’s because of that that I am constantly in awe when something I take care of survives (or, more shockingly, thrives).

The first time my wife and I got a dog, almost 20 years ago, I was stunned to find, every 15 minutes when I’d call home from work, that indeed, the dog was still living, we hadn’t fed it the wrong food or accidentally crushed it or anything like that. Fezziwig wasn’t a puppy, she was an old dog to begin with, and well-trained. An excellent “starter dog” if you will.

I did the same thing when Charles first came to live with us, before he was adopted. I was calling home with a “how’s the boy doin’?” (It drove my wife crazy.) He didn’t break himself or something yet, did he?” Well, 6 years later, despite his choices (good and bad, depending on the day… yesterday was… well… not good… but he survived and went to school this morning, so we got that goin’ for us), and despite our choices (mostly good, I think, except when we let him have seconds on pizza perhaps, or when we give him sugar) he is surviving, and thriving.

So, a few weeks ago, imagine my delight when I saw this huge awesome toad in front of our house, just sitting looking at me, when I took the dog out. When I came back in, he had moved closer to where I had walked. I think he wanted to get a good look at me. As far as we can tell, he was moving in (probably to hibernate for the winter) underneath our steps. No, I didn’t pick him up and squeeze him. We are leaving him alone, even Charles is.

Every night he’d be there, so I named him “Todd the Toad”. Why Todd? Well, silly, because he’s a Toad, of course… He would be on either side of the front step, not too far off, waiting for a bug to come by, burying himself in the mulch, or peeping out the hole that I think leads to his winter “toad-man-cave” (I wonder if he’s stealing my cable…).

Then he disappeared. I looked… every time I went out… but nothing.

Well, imagine my glee when he was back outside looking at me (with what must be reptilian curiosity of course), and he was still there this morning. I know what you’re thinking… “pics or it didn’t happen”… well, then… here, I present to you, Todd the Toad.

Todd the Toad

Todd the Toad

So I wonder if every time I wake up in the morning or survive a bad choice or some such, God does a little dance of glee. “Oh, look, he made it one more day. Isn’t it a MIRACLE!”

I bet he does.

Slave to the Rhythm

I had to go by the Apple store on Friday. No, I did not get, nor did I want, an iPhone 6. But I noticed some really odd things as I walked by the unbelievably long line to buy an iPhone 6 the very very first day. I’m an Apple fan boi for sure, but I’ve never stood in line to buy one of their products.

First off, nobody was smiling. They were about to buy the amazing Widget that would make their lives instantly better, and they looked downright surly. I think maybe they were mad at their own need to have the latest and greatest RIGHT NOW, or maybe they lost their jobs when they told their boss they weren’t coming in today so they could wait in line to buy an iPhone, and the boss was jealous because he couldn’t wait in line with them.

Next, most of them were staring at their phones, and I’m pretty sure most of the phones they were staring at were iPhone 5 or iPhone 4. Seriously… in 6 months, how much will the 2 or 3 new features in the new phone really affect you? News flash: after the first scratch on that beautiful case, it will feel JUST like the old phone. (For the record, this is also a phenomenon that some musicians, mainly guitarists, go through as they buy and sell and trade guitars, sometimes at dizzying speeds.)

You know, these phones have gotten so big nobody even puts them in their pocket or on a holster anymore. They just walk around with the thing in their hands. And they may as well be handcuffed to them, staring at them, constantly…

There’s a chemical in your brain that goes nuts when you buy and experience brand new stuff, I guess (More here).

For me, I’m resisting this as long as I can. Heck I don’t even have ANY smartphone.

Maybe I’ll wait for the iPhone 7 with the screen so big that I need two hands to lift it.

Prayer for Artists and Musicians

A facebook friend on a Worship forum posted this. Worth sharing…

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. -Amen

From the Book of Common Prayer

An Open Letter to Michael Gungor.

I’m sorry.

On behalf of Christians everywhere who don’t seem to be able to get past the fact that even though you don’t believe the universe was created in 6 literal days that you still love God and believe Jesus is who he said he is.

I’m sorry.

On behalf of people who have spent way too much time the last few days debating and arguing until their fingertips are numb (as mine are right now), even though you have never said anything against the historic creeds of the Christian faith.

I’m sorry.

On behalf of people who have to be defined by being right on the internet, or by creating an enemy or at least a heretic where none exists, or who haven’t read about the history of witch hunts and don’t remember how ridiculous and damaging they are, and how petty and stupid they make Christianity look.

I’m sorry.

You are a deep thinker, a gifted songwriter, a tremendous musician, a true artist. We in the church probably don’t deserve you.

Please stay though. Please. We desperately desperately need you.

One of the Guys Who Saved my Mind

It has been said that modern people love the music and culture of their late teens and early 20s the most. I don’t totally agree with that, but it’s probably true that about half of my favorite albums were made during that time of my life. High on the list is an unfortunately almost forgotten gem by a guy named Pat Terry, “Film at Eleven”. I just got finished sitting and listening to this marvel in one sitting (on vinyl, no less).

In the early 80s, when I first found faith in Christ for myself, I was surrounded by a lot of people whose idea of faith was basically turning off the brain and believing whatever somebody else told them, and for a while, I was a little nervous that I couldn’t hang onto something like that, until I was rescued from that way of thinking by a handful of authors (including Francis Schaeffer and Peter Kreeft) and more to the point, a handful of songwriters who engaged their heart, soul, faith and fingers to craft songs that came at faith without avoiding hard questions. Pat Terry was one of those. (The others were Mark Heard, who produced 3 Pat Terry Records in 82, 83 and 84, and Bruce Cockburn.)

This album might appear on CD or iTunes someday, but as of today, all you can do is find an old out-of print vinyl copy. It’s probably in my top 5 favorite records I’ve ever heard (still sounds great to my ears by the way), and unlike all the others of my very favorite albums, might even have TWO of my favorite songs ever (“Christ Alone Will Wear the Crown” and “In My Dream”).

I don’t know why I’m posting this other than to encourage those of you who still have a record player and some determination and curiosity to check it out if you can find it.

No, you can’t borrow mine.

Sorry.

Christ alone will wear the crown
worn by many others
When will mankind lay it down
and join our hands as brothers

I’m the Biggest Wuss in the World

The final night of the National Worship Leaders’ Conference was really wonderful, and the highlight (along with seeing one of my son’s favorite singers, Nicole C Mullen) was seeing the 4th – 6th graders from the Korean Central Presbyterian Church lead us in worship for a while. They had smiles and hand motions and songs and attitude that was absolutely wonderful, and I was smiling and singing and waving my arms and deeply deeply touched…

…but then…

…in the middle of it all, I thought of the families of more than 200 girls halfway around the world who are wondering if they will ever see them again… and I thought, what if I got home and found out that my son was not there and we might never see it again, and there was nothing we could do either way.

And I cried like a little girl…

And I hope all do…

I Need a Death Sentence

So, I’m here attending the National Worship Leaders’ Conference and two of the speakers have completely blown me away.

One is Marva Dawn, the other is Tim Timmons.

Both said exactly what they felt, with great love for Jesus and his Church, and very little regard for what the popular positions are on anything. I found myself agreeing with most everything both of them shared. And they have something in common.

Their bodies are completely under attack. Marva has been deathly ill and spoke from a wheelchair, is deaf in one ear and blind in the opposite eye. And she had a joy that radiated like almost no one I’ve ever heard of or seen in my life.

Tim Timmons sang and talked like a man who believed that God can do anything, and does amazing things in the world today, and means every promise He ever made in the Bible… and Tim is basically dying of liver cancer even as we speak (although so far it is taking cancer a LONG time to take him…)

It makes me feel like if we all had a death sentence, or at least LIVED like we have a death sentence (which in a sense, we do), we might have more insight, more faith, more joy and more wisdom.

I wonder.

All Choked Up

It happened again this morning…

I wanted to bust into tears when I dropped my son off at school (I don’t normally drive him, but it was raining and thundering this morning, so I did).

Maybe it was because my son had been away at Boy Scout Camp over the weekend, maybe it was the rain, or maybe it was because I had tripped and almost fell down stairs (and thought I was gonna die for a split second… but I’m fine…)

Or maybe it was because I’ve lost 3 relatives this last month and one other person I used to know from an old job.

Perhaps it was because I didn’t sleep well.

I prefer to think it was because in moments like those, I do actually realize how blessed I am. How fortunate to have the wife I have, and the son, and even the dog. How fortunate to be part of the community of faith in Jesus throughout history, and the particular group of ragamuffins I work with.

I think I actually do understand how lucky I am to have 3 squares a day and a roof over my head.

Maybe I really do realize how blessed I was to know people I’ve lost for even the short time I did.

Or maybe I’m just tired and need more coffee… No, I’m sure it’s not that.

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