Category: restorers


shame

recently saw a TED talk with monica lewinski…yea that monica lewinski. very interesting piece on shame & our on-line culture.  here’s the link to that talk if you’re interested; it’s worth the watch [22.5 minutes of time].

as i was watching i was reminded of how much our world has changed & the way shaming plays such a huge role in our culture; not american culture but human culture.

in today’s world if you & i do something wrong, even at a low level of “no harm, no foul” kind of wrong; chances are someone is going to hear about it.  the post, tweet, pic, ‘gram can happen in an instant & the world can know right now.  this can create an angst in us, especially if we’ve been burned by the social media machine before.  we will be tempted to live ordinary, uninteresting lives; unwilling to stretch & try new things.  fearing that someone will find out if/when i fail & land on my face.  caveat – this can create a different kind of response; with a desire to be famous for the sake of fame alone…but that’s a conversation for another time.

the way we use the inter-webs is an interesting one.  we can learn almost anything we could even think of, and learn of some things that we did not even know existed.  i recently needed to change the brakes on my vw & wanted to make sure it was within my abilities; and that bar is pretty low.  turns out, there are a number of videos to walk me though the process with lots of helpful commentary.  but one thing that continues to happen is we’re all to willing to use it as a way of propping ourselves up as the expense of others.  shaming someone else because of the way they live, vote, dress, whom they love seems to be be a very common thing right now.

and this really is the hing-point of this writing…IDENTITY

how we identify ourselves is key to weather or not we see the thoughts & opinions of others completely guide our lives.  the immediate response to that statement is, “well, i never let anyone’s opinion completely guide & rule my life.”  but to suggest that it doesn’t have influence & impact simply isn’t true; we care what others think of us.

there are a number of different conversations we could have at this point, but the thing that struck me as i watched monica lewinski is that conversations are so much more important than judgements.  as a follower of Christ my first job is that of love.  love always leads to conversations; and that’s what i’m trying to choose.

this, in fact is the path that Jesus chooses.  john 4 is a great example of this “love first, conversation matters” approach to life.  check that out if you’re not familiar & be aware of the social tension that exists in with that situation.

love first – choose conversation…

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listen-1g4cw1srecently i was confronted on a decision i had made that hurt a friend.  this friend of mine couldn’t have done this any better; he was hurt & wanted me to know that a choice that i had made affected him in a personal way.  he didn’t confront in an accusing or hateful way, he didn’t threaten the end of our friendship, he simply pointed to the value of our friendship & said that it mattered so much to him that if he didn’t say anything then he’s not being a good friend to me.  wow, that’s some good self awareness there.

so as he said these things; things that, by the way, are all true; i had a decision to make: am i going to give rebuttal or sit there and take it.

that’s what it feels like right?  when someone comes at you with a hurt or something you may or may not have done the defenses go up, & “i’ll tell you why…” – fill in the blank with whatever you’ve said in the face of hurt.  after all, “you’re not just going to sit here & take this are you?!”  that’s a voice that runs in my head, your voice might be different.

so i could do that, OR, i could just listen & hear the hurt in his voice.  and like i said before, this guy couldn’t have been more genuine & put a great deal value in our friendship.

important point: this isn’t me telling you how you should act, this isn’t instructional; this is a confession.  truth is, i can be a better friend.

there are times when it’s important to defend your actions & speak up, but i’m finding that there are many more situations that require me to be quiet first & just listen.  in the case of this friend, who continues to be someone i can trust & will continue to lean on; i had acted a little selfishly.

again, really important here…this isn’t instructional, it’s confessional.

i can always do better & there are some people that God has put in my path to help me do so.  and if i’m always talking i won’t be able to hear it very well.

james 1:19

this issue has been brewing in me for a while now…bill-of-rights there are a host of difficult issues at play with the activation of the religious freedom act.

 FEAR

both sides of this issue have fear as a motivating factor.  for those that believe on one should be with-held services because of their sexual orientation through the lens of religious belief the fear could be placed at the feet of the question; “what’s next?  who are they going to bar next?  don’t i have the right to eat & sleep where i want?  isn’t this a free country where no one shall be unfairly judged or mistreated because of their nationality, creed, etc.?” the fear coming from the other side of the issue may sound like this; “if we, who morally object to this lifestyle, are forced to set aside our beliefs what’s next?  what will they take away next, our right to freely gather, our right to worship our God without mistreatment & persecution?” for the follower of Jesus the conversation, for me, begins in the wrong place. Jesus tells His disciples [and us] to not be afraid.  to let go of our fear, to trust in Him.  i kind of wonder, as one who is a follower of Christ, that our fear [Christ-followers] is a simple lack of faith that God has all things under His control.

 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

-mk.4:40

 something’s that at stake here for us all, is the answer to this question:  will you & i live in fear with what might happen if…? if we get under the surface at all that’s much of this is all about.

“are we headed back to segregation?”

“what will the government make us do next?”

“is this the end of religious freedom?”

“is this the end of my personal freedom?”

WORRY

are you, am i [as a follower of Christ], willing to trust in God that He has it under control? Jesus was very explicit that if we followed Him it would get tough [putting it lightly – He actually said we could die].  but that struggle, difficulty, persecution doesn’t mean that God had let go of the wheel & mayhem is on the loose.  it simply means that the struggle continues & government, no matter it’s form or goals, does not have the last word. “but what about the WORD of God standing tall?  don’t you want that?”   of course i  do.  but judgment is best reserved for God and God alone. accountability for actions is served best in the context of relationship.  picket lines & petitions don’t allow for any relationship & draw lines of one side against another; and i’m just not that interested in doing that.  i’m more interested in the love i show & how it reveals the work of Christ in me, broken & hypocritical as i can be.

 LOVE

as followers of Christ we are continually walking a thin line between demonstrating the love of Christ & doing whatever we want.  i saw a facebook post earlier this week from a friend when he simply reminded us that Jesus hung out with the prostitutes, tax collectors & those who partied too much.  and in the eyes of the religious elite, ruined His character. Jesus’ time here on earth was spent with those that the “church folk” didn’t want to have anything to do with.  and all Jesus does is spend time with them, offering them a chance to have a relationship with God. a God they may not have known. 1283-Indiana-Religious-Freedom-Restoration-Act-Frequently-asked-questions a God they may have felt abandoned by. a God they were not invited to know. we all have a tendency to get our rights all mixed up in all kinds of things.  as a follower of Jesus my rights take a back seat to the real call on my life; to love well.  Jesus tells us that how we love communicates whom we follow, so He says love others in the same way He has loved us.

 there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. the one who fears is not made perfect in love.      

1jn.4:18

 so our worry & fear stand in the direct path of God’s working in the midst of the muddy, murky water of life.

 FINALLY

the whole truth of how this all plays out is yet to be determined, but i have said this for a long time.  i believe that it’ll be settled by the wallet & not much else. we like money more than we like almost anything.  and this decision will have a financial impact on indiana more than the religious or LGBT community. when our wallets are affected we become different people, almost entirely regardless of our beliefs & convictions.  we have placed a great deal of importance on money & the false security it provides…

…but that’s probably a topic for another time.

so in the mean time love well, in the manner that Jesus loved. lay your worry to rest; and don’t let you fear be your spokesperson.  that guy gets enough air time.

so i have recently have been surrounded by a number of conversations about community & our involvement/connection to the community.  God has placed something inside us, at the root of who we are, to desire connection with others.  and we know this is good for us.

within community we realize that we’re not alone in our struggle.  in community there is a shared love & support.  within community we have the opportunity to see new parts of God & what He has in mind for us.  by the way, this part about seeing God in community, this is true in communities that celebrate God and those that don’t.  togetherness is a Godly pursuit weather we recognize it or not.

[but that’s probably another discussion]

broken community

a couple of observations about what we want from community & what we’re willing to do for community

we want the community to mostly come to us

“well, why didn’t let me know about…”

“i don’t feel included.”

here’s a hard truth, & saying this carries with it some risk of you not liking this, even that you may stop reading.  but here it is:  it’s not my job to make sure you come to & are connected to a church that you say is your home church.  if the church isn’t communicating an upcoming event or dates & times are very last minute that’s on the church.  but if you don’t know about something simply because you haven’t been around; i’m sorry, but that’s on you.  if you’re connected to the community then you’re going to know what’s happening because you want to know what’s happening.

no church worth it’s salt is going to beg you to be a part of what it’s doing.

we don’t always want to exert effort within the community

let’s be honest.  it’s easy to walk into a place that has everything just hummin’.  when the programs are awesome, when the crowd is big enough that no one will notice when i’m not there.  when nothing is expected of me.  when we’re honest with ourselves we should be able to say, “yea, that’s easy.  slip in, slip out.  get my church-fix & move on with the week.”  on the other hand it’s hard to join a community that doesn’t have all its ducks in a row.  a group that’s in process on a number of fronts.

now let’s be additionally clear about something.  i know plenty of pastors that are leading big churches & the problems, issues & hang-ups are present as well.  so i’m not bangin’ on the big church at all.

the larger, more important truth to all of this is about us, it’s not really about the community itself; large or small.

we know that community & connection to a healthy group of believers is good for us.  there are times in our lives when, for a variety of reasons, we simply don’t engage in it like we should.

but let’s track back to the beginning of this writing:

we’re not alone in our struggle

this, i think is one of the biggest lies that satan tells us: that we’re alone in our struggle.  “surely no one would understand this about you.  if you talk about this kiss goodbye any influence & trust you have.  you’re alone in this, and that’s the way it should stay.”

we know this is a lie simply reading the dysfunctional, broken, jacked up stories in the bible.  men & women who are called by God but seem to choose to mess up the response the call at almost every turn.  go ahead, check it out, i can’t do your homework for you.

shared love & support

when community is right, and there’s not shortage of communities that aren’t doing it right.  but when it’s right there is a sense of shared experiences & joy, as well as hurts & walking together through tough times.  but the bond that’s forged in tough times is a bond that lasts.

seeing new parts of God

something my wife has said, & have stolen it & now say it: “being part of a church forces me to spend time with & get to know people that i may ordinarily never have known…and that’s a good thing.”  when i’m with people that i may not have chosen to be with lets me see God in new light.  i end up hearing the stories of God activity in different ways.

community is a part of our holy dna

several years ago a group of us were having one of those highly spiritual conversations; what would you do if zombies really attacked?  how would you survive?  would you try and get together with a group of people, try and create a civilization?  or take off into the woods & try to make it on your own?

the answer from someone whom i have loads of respect & love for surprised me.  they said, “i’m out!  gotta’ go off, just me & my spouse; try to get as far away from people as possible!”  now the truth is that i don’t know if this person, who is very funny, was making a comedic comment or not.  and it could have been just that; comedy, not to be taken seriously.

but it did get me thinking about how God created us to NOT be alone.  God put a desire for us to be together, to be stronger when we come together.

“a chord of 3 strands…”

“a son shall leave his father & mother…”

“do not forsake meeting together…”

and here’s the beautiful thing about community, it’s never too late to join, to re-connect.

so if you made it all the way to the end of this article, you didn’t stop and swear off reading anymore from this author, and you’ve recognized that your connection to a local church community is waning…it’s not too late.

God has things for you to do, but some of those things are tied to your connection to the community of God.  so get plugged. the community needs you in a similar way that you need the community.

neuroscience

i was just reading an article in leadership journal, it was from summer 2014 [i’m a little behind in my reading!] & the cover story caught my eye.  it’s one of those God-moments that you best-not ignore!

recently i’ve been drawn back to some thoughts & next steps for the churches i lead & it’s all been revolving around the issue of discipleship; & the question “how do we do this better?”

that question really is at the heart of it all is related to size & depth.  i have no interest in leading a church of 100, 150, 200 or more if we’re spiritually shallow.

have you ever tried to carry a cookie sheet [one with short edges; you may have to go back to your grandmother’s cupboard for it] filled with water?  not easy, darn near impossible!  it’s not a lot of water, but it’s so spread out on the cookie sheet that the smallest mis-step spills the water all over.cookie sheet & water

 

that’s a picture i’ve had with me related to spiritual depth of a church for a while now.

the health & impact of a church on its community is largely tied to its spiritual depth & health; not just its size.  it’s true, size matters, but depth matters more.  we could be a mile wide & and an inch deep; and with that you’re not getting anything of significance done!

 so back to that article i was reading…

it was written by john ortberg & entitled “neuro ministry – how brain science informs discipleship

we now understand more about the brain than we ever have in human history.  we understand the way the brain works & categorizes things, creates patterns in thinking & doing tasks.  and these understandings can have profound impact in many facets of life…if we take note.

here’s one of the big take-a-way’s i had from this article as john was talking about patterns & habits that we form:

 “a habit is a relatively permanent pattern of behavior that allows you to navigate life.  the capacity for habitual behavior is indispensable…learning to type or tie shoes, drive a car is hard;

so many little steps.  after you learn, it becomes habitual.”

 these patterns of doing the little, everyday things neuroscientist call “chunks”.  we operate, largely out of chunks of info. & patterned behavior.  this has a huge spiritual dimension to it as well.

ortberg  goes on to reference paul in romans 12:2

“…the renewing of your mind.”

he suggests that paul; without really knowing precisely what he was talking about when he wrote that phrase, but informed by the Holy Spirit; hit the nail on the head!

when we allow God to renew our mind we are, in effect, allowing God to “re-chunk” our habits & patterns.  surrendering those bad habits, destructive relationships, poor decisions & the like to God.  replacing them with habits that honor God, tap into the health of a deepening relationship with the Creator.

coming back to that God-moment of recognition, as God is calling me to till up the ground of discipleship, it’s paramount that we understand that we’re heading into a time of re-working our physical efforts & drawing people into intentional conversations.  but there is some serious “brain work” that’s going to happen as well.

so the big question for us is actually quite simple:  are you willing to allow God to do some “neuro-work” in your brain?

the decision to remain the same & not change is an easy one; your brain doesn’t have to do anything new.  the decision to experience change & shift requires new thing; new “chunks”.  the question is, will you allow new neurons to fire & then change the course of your life & the lives of others?

relational currencylately there have been several things that have been swirling around in my head & conversations i’ve had…

being a sports fan & originally being from indiana i’ve been watching the nba playoffs & in particular the pacers.  my, how they’ve fallen.  back in february they made a trade of players in an attempt to shore up their line-up & make a run at a championship.  in short, it’s not working & they’re in jeopardy of getting bounced from the playoffs.

in other conversations with teachers & parents the gist of the discussion has been surrounding the struggle of budgets & programming offered at public schools along the lines of, “we can’t afford to do what we once did.  oh, and we can’t pay for the labor force to teach what we once did.”  this issue has far reaching implications beyond what i can discuss here & beyond what we even currently know.

a lot of times when we’re confronted with a problem or a difficult situation we’re tempted to “out-think the room.”  believing that the solution to this problem must be complicated; at least as complicated as the problem itself.  i believe that at the root of the issues we face begins with something relatively simple, and it almost always begins with the same thing.  true, when things bloom & become this complex hairball of difficulty the problems then are complex; & fixing them takes time.  but i’m going to assert that the root issue is just one thing…relationship with people.  here, we’ll call it relational currency.

with the pacers the problems with how they’ve slide seem to be many & getting out of the hole they’ve dug is going to take time.  but i believe that it all began with a particular player being traded away; danny granger.  he seemed to be the glue of the locker room that’s now gone.  he was the guy that could remind everyone what they were supposed to be doing.  true, he didn’t get a lot of playing time, but he was greatly respected by the players & he was a voice of maturity for that team.

this basic premise of relational currency plays out with schools as well.  there has been a recent move in michigan with an animosity toward teachers in the name of dollars & cents.  so many things are veiled in “we can’t afford to…”  and those that primarily suffer are the students & their teachers.  i’ve been saying for a couple of years now that there will be a day, probably when my kids have kids, that we’ll all look back at this time in history and wonder aloud, “what were we thinking, treating kids & schools & teachers that way?!”

when people aren’t valued & relationships aren’t seen as the primary asset of an organization weather that be a school, a team, a church or any number of other places to be a part of, to work & make a living; when people aren’t valued, the system is about to crumble.

relational currency also shows up in the life of Jesus.  when Jesus gives “the sermon on the mount” [mt.5, 6 & 7] He’s talking about how there are 2 kingdoms that overlap right now.

one kingdom tells us that we’d better look out for us.  that if we don’t meet our needs, then no one is going to meet our needs.  that life is about you & you need to grab all you can before it’s all over.

the other kingdom tells us that people matter; people other than us matter.  that God has something in mind for us, and that we find that “something” when we give our lives to others.

so ask yourself some questions today:

am i living in such a way that truly values other people?  not valuing them in terms of what they can do for me.  not in terms of how they benefit my life & make me great.  but do i value them as sons & daughters of God?

am i pouring my life into the lives of those around me?  or am i content to take care of me & my needs while ignoring those around me?

THE LEAK

leaking-faucet

i have to give credit to whom i think these thoughts came from.  i believe i first heard this idea of the leak from ron martoia a bunch of years ago at a conference.  much thanks to him for first putting this into my spirit.  i then took the basic principles of that teaching & condensed it down for a student leadership camp & added a few extra pieces

“we teach what we know, we reproduce who we are.”

                                                        -John Maxwell

The Leak Defined…

The Leak is the thing that flows out of us when we are not looking…

IMMUTABLE LEAK LAWS

#1   we all leak [it cannot be contained]

#2    leaking cannot be faked or fabricated long-term

#3    the leak of one can have impact, but the leak of the group impacts more

“the leak is more profound and pervasive than anything we teach.”

-ron martoia

“those positive attributes, actions, or attitudes that you model in EXCESS, those who follow you will perform in moderation.

conversely, those negative attributes, actions, or attitudes that you model even in moderation, those who follow you will perform in EXCESS.”

-Kurt & Lori Salierno

“remember your leaders, consider their way of life & imitate their faith.”

                                                                   -Hebrews 13:7

this is an issue of discipleship & leading others.

so, what are you leaking?
        is it worth following?
                are they following?

good, short conversation from jon acuff & his wife.

Quit trying to turn lead into gold. – Jon Acuff.

so this past sunday, as the Advent Conspiracy continues, we worked around what it means to “give more”; that is, giving presence, your time, your humanity.  and no, we didn’t talk about a piece of the traditional “Christmas story”; instead we focused on an experience & a story from Jesus while at a banquet [luke14].

Jesus correctly reveals that party He’s attending is really a “privileged” party.  it’s for those that can afford to be there, that truly appreciate the finest of things & can invite you to their own “high society” party.  Jesus says this is no way to do things.  then Jesus tells a story of a man hosting a banquet & those that had received invitations simply were too busy to attend.  then those that were not on “the” list were invited & the party raged on.

what’s interesting & note-worthy here is the relational quality of the entire interaction.  He points out the depth of their relationships with one another & says it’s only about how you look to your friends & that’s no way to live.  part of the purpose of your life here on earth is the relationship you have with others & the way you point them toward Jesus.  so He’s inviting them to invest in the lives of others, not just in their own life.

AC_Give_ICON

that’s a hard thing to do during this season especially.  sure we have little trouble giving our spare change to the the bell ringers, and making sure that families that have enough for the season.  but what are we really doing?  are we truly investing in their lives?  or are these things a way to ease our minds with “well, at least i’m doing something.”

i do believe part of the challenge of this time of year is not to just “do a little more”.  i really think the challenge is to become the kind of people that God had created & called us to be.  to step into a place that we can truly give more.  to find new & better ways to give ourselves away.  and not just to our families.  there is a bit of an expectation to giving to our families.  but to give to those that aren’t expecting it.  to give to the ones that are easily overlooked.  give to those that don’t seem to “deserve it” – whatever that means.

so how ’bout it?  can we give more of ourselves away this year?  can we find ways to exemplify the life of Christ but giving more?

AC_Give_WORDmaybe, we’ll see when the bills show up in january.

god-alonerecently i was talking with a friend about  difficult situation they’re walking through & they confessed that they are carrying a lot of guilt.  guilt about how things have gone sideways & the affect it’s having on the family, etc.

now to be fair, when there are difficulties in relationships there is usually equal parts of blame to pass around.  it’s a rare circumstance when one person in a relationship just goes off the rails on their own…although that does happen.  that’s not what this post is about though.

here’s the gist of what i thought about later that night:

guilt is a powerful “prevent-er”.

as we move through this advent season, this week focusing on what it means to “worship fully” if we are carrying around guilt it prevents us from doing the things that we were made to do, the things that God is calling us to do, the things that we were made for.

when we carry around guilt it distracts us.

i wonder: “isn’t guilt a kind of motivator?  doesn’t guilt move us off of doing things that don’t please God?”

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

 –  2cor.7:10

the difference between what God does & what the world does is literally life & death
guilt keeps us from fully worshiping
guilt prevents us from seeing the future God has in mind
guilt keeps us in a state of sorrow & loss
guilt prevents restoration from taking place

make sure that this season isn’t over-run with guilt & a sorrow that you don’t need to be carrying around.  be willing to lay down the things that you were never meant to carry.  let go of the heavy burden of past mistakes, seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness, search out true repentance with God.

may the God of this season truly be the greatest thing you experience this Christmas.