Archives for the month of: August, 2013

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It’s an epic day. I’m not 50, but I know the importance of this day. I sit here in my pink chair writing away, dreaming about covenant-keeping and I wonder, in our schools are our children reciting their dreams? Today of all days, are they listening in to the words of MLK, his dreams, hopes, aspirations and wondering what they can accomplish in 50 years? 

I’m hoping that to be true.

Because from my vantage point, I hope it isn’t a time to ponder what we HAVEN’T yet accomplished. As humanity we have a long history of doing that you know. Finding the holes in our covenant-keeping. The dashing of dreaming. As the Israelites stood with Moses, and he laid out for them in Deuteronomy the simple path: choose life, or curse in chapters 29-31, do you think those that gathered thought about all that could’ve been done differently? I do. I’m sure there were those that took that moment to point out the shotty plans. The messes. The mixups. 

But I’m hoping beyond hope that we are the tenacious ones. The ones that continue to dare to dream that God’s reign will be accomplished. Where all are welcome. Where all become blessed. Where all are fed. Where all have a chance to succeed. Where all have mercy. Where all have justice. Where all, regardless of race, sex, gender, education, technology, nation-state, religion, will gather at the table of God and feast together. 

I’m pretty sure that’s an audacious dream. 50 years from now Google probably won’t have a banner for me with a table drawing. Doesn’t make it any less important. 

God implores us to dream big dreams. May it be so. 

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On my way to Nashville soon to join in the mass chaos that is General Assembly, our version of a denominational party. As I watch Twitter feeds discussing excitement, and some snarky replies, and how we over-work our local arrangement people, I wish I was back in the Smoky Mountains.

It was only a short month ago that I was headed that way. Never been there. And upon arrival (as preached a few weeks back) I was whisked away deep into the forest to watch magic happen. You see in the area near Gatlinburg, once a year, lightening bugs flash in sync. Yep you read that right. Scientists have been studying it for years and it is a wonder to see.

And right now I’m wondering how much efforts we put into worship production, life production, birthday party production, work production…and how that moment in darkness, when all is still and people actually whisper, the trees move and dance to the light of a bug. They land on you, whizz next to you, nestle gently on the rocks near the streams. They just live to light up for the night. No special plans. No massive effort at getting everything done.

I wish today, I was a lightening bug.

Twitter was aflutter yesterday, wasn’t it? Everyone checking to see if they were “left behind” or finding cutesy ways to to discuss being around. Yours truly even got in on the fun. But a serious question remains for me as I wonder about postmodern pilgrim peoples… IF YOU ARE SO CONCERNED ABOUT BEING LEFT BEHIND THEN WHY ARE YOU NOT HELPING COMMUNITY HAPPEN?

Whether or not you believe in the end of days/rapture way of God bringing restoration to the Eden moment again doesn’t really concern me. What does bother me, though, is why we feel we can’t get started bringing the kingdom principles of life, justice, mercy and peace alive today. We have to start working towards an end game that brings everyone to the table, do we not?

So I don’t know what you are doing today, besides muttering about having to actually pay the bill you were waiting to pay (just in case of rapture). But I do hope some of us will use the opportunity to get talking and doing about being a culture of Eden, where we see the goodness and blessing of God, and then get about the world sharing that goodness and blessing.

Just returned from the Mouse House. Had an incredible vacation where I basked in the magic of the Happiest Place on Earth at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Downtown Disney, California Adventure and Disneyland. And here’s the thing about the Disney experience: It. Turns. Me. Into. A. Sap.

I watch little girls dressed up like Ariel and light up with joy when they get her autograph. I watch little boys grab swords and fight in the best swashbuckling way near Pirates of the Caribbean. I watch Tinkerbell fly over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle during the fireworks and I lose all sense of self and am reduced to tears.

When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.

Walt Disney

The above quote by Mr. Disney himself reminds me that belief is absolutely key to everything. I’ve been preaching a series on Doubt and while I was worried about it in the beginning, it has led me to a greater belief in this faith thing we call Christianity. It has made me want to imagine a better world, where smiles are shared without payment. A life where all modes of humanity come together. I see a smattering of it at Disneyland, which is maybe why it’s one of my fave places to go. But the magic of Disney is the future glimpse it gives me into what lies beyond this world for the kingdom of God. Mouse House included.Image

 

So I was driving this week, quite a bit. And over and over I heard a radio commercial that just drove me batty. It seems a national bank that will go unnamed at this point, has endeavored to create a new position for it’s commercial clients. The new position? A RELATIONSHIP COUNSELOR. No joke. This person doesn’t necessarily work the typical 9-4 job, but is available to you outside the normal working routine.

 

I guess I’m wondering if they learned from the church. Or should we be learning from them? In our past, churches were the center of care for townships. The church provided education, solace, counseling, sanctuary. Minister types were considered epic in the community and part of the fabric of the town’s ethical conscience. And now, we have a bank. A BANK?!?!?! Is that seriously where people are finding a human voice outside the “normal working routine” that can help them find connection and build relationships?

 

As a pastor, I’m burned out. I’m tired. I’m worn out. I’m tired. I’m frazzled. I’m tired. But what even sends me into more anxiousness is the thought that no matter how tired I am that the church cannot hold the burdens, joys, concerns, celebrations of her community close enough to be there in a relationship. I don’t think we are gonna see the end of business co-opting terms we thought the church had primacy over. 

 

So, what will we, the church, do as a response? How will we be relationship managers, counselors, cheerleaders, prophets?

Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of…

              Socrates

Nametags. Who ever would have thought that nametags could and would create such a stir that yours truly is still baffled? How does nametags equal authority, anyway? This is the question I’ve been pondering since Sunday night. You see the house band at the worship gathering I’m a part of, gathers together before worship to share in prayer…and if I’m honest, a time for a break before leading. It was at this such gathering, that it was asked/announced that during the next 6 weeks of LENT we would ALL wear nametags, as we were asking others to do the same as part of a ritual to learn the people around you, so that you can pray for them by name.

As they all gathered to pray, share, eat and fellowship with one another, the nametag conspiracy was dropped among them. The thing is, the actions we all engaged before leading worship were the same ones that the early church acted upon. In the account of Acts, we read: “The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying. Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed…they were unified as they worshiped.” (Acts 2:42-45 from THE VOICE translation)

 

Each week we gather as a community, and yet lately, our community has been broken by sarcasm and what seems to be a lack of glad and generous hearts. We have new people among us sharing gifts and talents, allowing us to enjoy each other’s company a bit more. And yet, a simple request that WE, as leaders in a community of faith, take on a symbol of hospitality was met with eye rolls, authority questions and jokes. I wonder what sense of community we are displaying to those gathered around Christ’s table at worship when we have that spirit among us.

 

The young, vibrant church described in the Book of Acts had little political influence. They shared what they had with each other and were grateful to share joy among themselves and with others they encountered. The people in this early gathering valued one another more than any possession or decree. They came together to SHARE LIFE. So I paused and reflected that I know that we know each other’s names. That we’ve raged at each other from time to time. That we joke about and with one another. That we find time to eat together and we pray together weekly. But I also wonder how we share that with those outside of our circle in the “Green Room” in worship, when our focus is about “us” and not about “them.” At the end of the day, we are “them.”

 

My hope during this season of Lent, is that myself and this crazy group of worship crafters and leaders will take the opportunity to be as ONE in the Worship Gathering. Not THE BAND, THE MINISTER, THE WORSHIPPERS, THE TEAM GREET. But one. And when those who journey through worship with us as visitors see us engaging, my hope is that they see the ONE we know as Christ in our midst through love, hope and joy.

“All that I’m after is a life full of  laughter.” Yes, I’m listening to LIFE AFTER YOU–Daughtry. On Ash Wednesday. And popping down to the fellowship hall to check on the bassoon, grand piano, labyrinth, hundreds of candles, imagery and more. From “Miserere” to “Ashes to Ashes”, the classical to the ultra-contemporary, I’m finding my journey starting in Lent through music and her lyrics. What is it about the muse of music that stretches us towards dealing with our mushy messes?

For some reason I’m always more honest with myself when I’m listening to Mumford & Sons, Andra Moran, Mozart, & Martin Gore. Wow. All artists with the letter “M”; gotta be some weird Sesame Street thing in my head!

Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?

           Michael Torke

Is it the minor key? Is it the pain and redemption I’m holding onto that they so eloquently lay at my feet and make me confront? Or is it the constant Spirit of God reminding me that no matter how together I think I am, a whisper of lyric reminds me what I still need to confess, let go of and grab grace in return?

 This beginning of Lent as I dance this evening on a labyrinth in the middle of candles, people, ashes and graveyards, my heart will be pouring out its confession. For the all the things said and unsaid. Seen and unseen. Heard and misheard. For on Easter, I want to laugh. “But God raised Christ from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24)

 

 

There’s currently a quote on my desk: “When I think about my life, I am sure I will not arrive at an old age. But I would rather sing one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep.” (Cecelia Bartoli) It made me think about lions. How powerful they are with their roar. How you can hear the roar almost wherever you are in the Fort Worth Zoo. How they express their roars with their whole body, not being slight about it at all.

 

How are you stressed? In a sheep way or a lion/ness way? How are you in the world?  Do you seem a little snippy of late, and less than grace-giving with one another? Or seem more concerned for the product than the life transformation that happens in spite of us? Are you part of the perfection crowd that are quick to harp on what our personal need is, without regard to the relationship of the whole? If I am honest, I am, at times. I serve with people who are like this at times. It makes me sheepish. It makes me want to hide in the herd, rather than stand on a rock and growl deeply, fully.

 

So last night I turned to scripture to think about what to do. Take a look at Exodus 35:31: “Bezalel is filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship.” Besides being of Godly character, he is also an accomplished artist.  This artist is not only fantastic at what he is called to do, but also is concerned about God’s artistry in his own soul. I recently shared this with my band and stated his example is a biblical standard for what we do. We are striving at The Search for our ministry to be more than music, to be a form of spiritual identity. I want us to be lions/lionesses with our spiritual character long before our musical character each Sunday.

 

This week, how will you stretch your “Roar” to be about the artistic spirituality?

ImageCHOOSE. Usually I like those words. Don’t you? It makes you feel like you have a superpower or something. Having control. Making decisions. Choose. But sometimes, only sometimes, your choices don’t seem good or well or even marginally okay. Then the choice just sucks. Because no matter the choice, it isn’t life-giving, but life-taking. That’s when choosing is just, well, gross.

I guess I’m working with all this choosing nonsense because I’m returning back to my church job after a 3.5 month sabbatical. And I choose to return. And it’s good. Right? RIGHT? My life is blessed with a community of folks at The Search that struggles with finding sacred and meaning in the ordinary life that we lead. They are courageous. They are loving. They are doers. They are meaning makers. Blessing bearers to me, for sure. But on the other hand, returning back to a place that causes me so much stress, anxiety and despair most days feels more like a curse. It’s supposed to be better than this, right?

I wonder who told us that.

Oh yeah, Moses. That guy. Reminding the people of God that they would continue to be blessed among peoples, but that they had to find God’s commandment in their hearts and live life as a blessing. Choose. There’s that crossroads…. taking what God is creating around us and choosing to be intentional about bringing the Reign of God to the here and now. To bless not only my own little world, but THE WORLD that I inhabit.

I think that’s where it all goes a bit wonky sometimes for us. We are so caught up in the minutiae of our own mess, our own failings, our own drama that we forget that our God is a God of love. The end. LOVE. Even when we don’t choose wisely. God loves.

There is a great scene in the first Lord of the Rings trilogy film, where Sam and Frodo are leaving the Shire for the first time. They stop on the edge. Just for a moment. Because when they take that step it will be the furthest they’ve ever been from home. They choose to move forward. It’s movement. It’s scary. But they do it together.

So in the end, I guess the whole blessing thing means we don’t do it alone. I think the cursed part of life would be do HAVE to.