Thursday, October 30, 2003

a sad, sad day

mike yaconelli died in a car accident last night. who's that? yac was the founder and heart of youth specialties, probably the leading, certainly the most forward-thinking, youth ministry organization in america. i have had the opportunity to hear him speak a couple of times and his books, messy spirituality and dangerous wonder have had impact on my life and the way i think about faith and life and God. mike embraced the emerging church long before it became "ok" to do so and because he did, i found my way into the conversation through articles in youth specialties youthworker journal and opportunities to interact with some of the leaders in the conversation at a YS conference in st. louis is 2000.
even though i never met the man, my life is different because he was here. thanks yac for the laughter and the tears and the stretching and the struggle and the right words in more than one right moment in my journey as a youth minister, a follower of Jesus, and a man. your spirituality is messy no longer.

tearing up

here's a sample of yac
"A Terrible Prayer"
By Michael Yaconelli

I have always been terrible at praying.
I forget. My mind wanders. I fall asleep. I don't pray enough.
I don't understand what prayer is or what prayer does.
If prayer were school…I would flunk praying. But prayer isn't school.
It is mystery. Maybe the mystery is… Jesus loves terrible prayers.
Maybe… when I can't think of anything to say, he says what I can't say.
When I talk too much, he cherishes my too-many words.
When I fall asleep, he holds me in his lap and caresses my weary soul.
When I am overwhelmed with guilt at my inconsistent, inadequate praying he whispers, "Your name is always on my lips."
I am filled with gratitude, my soul overflows with thankfulness and I find myself saying over and over again, "Thank you." Praying the mystery.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

random thought from big church

i was sitting at bridgeway sunday morning and this family sitting a few rows in front of us caught my attention. mom was holding this little guy who couldn't have been more than about a year old. she was raising her hands in worship and as i watched, he started to raise his and point up at the sky. he was obviously mimicing what he saw mom doing, but as he did it he was looking up at the ceiling to see what they were pointing to. i've seen things like that several times and it leads me to wonder a couple of things about what we teach our kids about worship as we worship.

how much of what goes on in worship should we explain to our kids? no matter what your tradition or "mode" of worship is, there are things that probably don't make sense to kids. if it is a more "active" worship setting, do they understand why people raise their hands or jump up and down or dance or yell? i wonder what it looks like to them. is it scary? wierd? silly? i see little ones acting out the same things they see mom and dad do and i wonder if it is because they are caught up in God too, or do they just think that is what you are supposed to do when you go to church.
on the other side, what about in a traditional, more restrained setting? do the kids there wonder why no on ever seems to fired up about this amazing God they are hearing about? do we teach them by our action (or lack of it) that God is quiet and boring? it seems like every generation takes the things we teach it and part of it reacts against it and the other part adopts it and magnifies what they have been taught (think about the progression of capitalism and greed over the last 30 years). what is that going to mean for worship in the church in the next generation? should we be explaining the "why?" of our worship to our kids? not just talk about the God that we worship, but help them understand the "mode" of worship that we choose. will that help them be wiser and more "real" about the way they worship, whatever it looks like? seems like a good idea to me.

the other thing it brought to my mind is what my kids are learning from me as they watch me in worship. it seems wierd in a way to be thinking about them when i "should" be focussing everything i have on God, but at the same time, if teaching and training them is my responsibility then shouldn't i be concerned with what they are learning and seeing in that context? so does that mean that i should act in a way that might be contrary to what i have in me at that moment so that they learn the appropriate responses? can't do that. as always, it seem like it comes back to being honest in front of God and my kids and then taking the time to walk with them through questions and issues and thoughts even when they don't bring them up.

i don't want my kids to learn to worship like i do. i want them to learn how to worship like God would have them to. in our very different situations, that should be an interesting ride.

i need to stop looking around so much in church

Saturday, October 25, 2003

happy birthday nathan

two years old today. wow. cake, ice cream, family, 1000 cars for gifts, a good night for a little man. i'm thinking tonight about your first moments in the world, the first time i held you, the first pictures i took, the first time i kissed you, when you met your brother and sister, the day you came home, those early days of rice cereal, rolling over, crawling (well, ok, scooting), first steps, first words, first teeth. crazy monkey, buddy booya, monkey man, big man, little man, silly man. baths and your obsession with duckies giving way to riding around and an obsession with cars. a million smiles and giggles and scowls and tears and diapers. and now you are sleeping in a big boy bed surrounded by friends, dreaming of who knows what, sleeping off a sugar high from the icing you ate.
all of the things that are facts in your life. the cubs are always good, the sooners never lose, the world is yours to run, "W" is always in charge(?), daddy is always home, we go to church in different places, there has never been a world trade center, everyone loves you, nothing bad ever happens. i wish i could keep that true forever.
i can't wait to teach you to ride a bike, play catch in the yard, cheer you on from the sidelines, help you learn to read, teach you more about Jesus, baptize you. . .i can't stand to think any further than that.
i love you. i love who you are already and who you will be one day. happy birthday little man.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

and in other news

the following newsstory appeared on channel 9 in OKC a couple of nights ago. the school in question is where my daughter, hannah goes to pre-K. i'm sure this woman is a good person and a fine parent, but i will never figure out how she got from point a to point b and how in the world channel 9 was so bored that they felt like this should lead the 10 o' clock news. wow.

Woman unhappy with school's anti-drug tools
By Kirsten McIntyre


In his hand, a red bandana - the symbol of a particular gang in the metro.

Watch this video

Mother's first thought was that her child had come in contact with gang members.

But, when she found out he got the item at school, she starting seeing red.

The scarf was sent home with her son as part of Red Ribbon Week.

As you can see on the sign behind me, it is Red Ribbon Week here at Kingsgate Elementary School in Moore. Students are learning all week to say "no" to drugs.

But one mother believes the wrong message was sent home when her child received a red bandana.


Jennifer is concerned about this: he red bandana her son was carrying as he got off the bus from school.

He was given the handkerchief as part of Red Ribbon Week.

Gang members often identify themselves by the colors they wear. "Red" is most often associated with the gang known as The Bloods. Jennifer says instead of just teaching her child about the dangers of drugs, she was forced to give him an education in gangs.


Jennifer says she contacted the superintendant's office, but didn't get the response she was looking for.


Superintendent Bonds also says the school would never promote gangs or put children in danger. He says the activities were meant to teach anti-drug lessons

you can see the full video from channel 9 here for the next day or so. i need to go lay down, this is all too much for me

i wish i was kidding

ok, i bring in the mail today, i'm sorting through it and i see this local little community newspaper kind of thing called "fyi". i have no idea why these things exist or who does them, but that's beside the point. the headline (?) of this thing reads "Moore Author leads 'Left Behind' spin-off". LEFT BEHIND SPIN-OFF? surely this has to be some kind of sick joke. as i see this, the twisted thing in me (we all have it - you know, that thing that makes us watch "When Animals Attack 17" on fox) caused me to read the rest of this article and now i can't decide if i need to laugh, hurl, or make a sign that says "the end is near" and go sit outside of the nearest "christian" bookstore and wait for jerry jenkins to come true.
the "spin-off" is called apocalypse dawn (which i'm sure has no connection to apocalypse now or red dawn, but anyway) and it is (i guess) the military version of the left behind series. sort of like tom clancy meets hal lindsey. the main character is a guy named goose gander (yes, go back and read that again, that's really the guy's name) and the story revolves around him fighting the wars that begin after the "rapture" occurs. ok that's as far into this thing as i can get, but if i may vent for a moment (or 10)
why in the name of all that is good does the world need this? i mean, really, trees died for this? the best two reasons i can come up with are 1)there is still about $50 in the "christian" world that this franchise hasn't sucked up and so they found a new way to go after it and 2) after they finish with the 27 left behind movies, they can switch to this series and keep kirk cameron employed for another 10 years or so. it will be weird for him to switch from being "buck" to "goose", but quite honestly, is anyone who actually watches these things going to notice?
i think what bothers me the most about this is not the insipid writing or the questionable theology (does the word "rapture" appear in the Bible?) or the blatant fear-mongering (with war approaching in Iraq and the release date of book 11 looming, the good folks that market this stuff sent a mass spam email that asked "will war in iraq lead to armageddon?" and the left behind web site encouraged people by stating, "What better time than now to take advantage of uncertainty and fear and get your friends, neighbors, and family to buy a copy of the book!"), no what bothers me the most is the obvious attempt to suck every cent out of this dead horse that they can possibly get their blessed waiting-to-be-raptured-so-they-won't-be-left-behind hands on. anyone who thinks this is about ministry or helping people understand the Bible or even helping people find Jesus so they won't be "left behind" needs to send me their phone number because i would like to talk with them about my new line of "left behind" barbies that i would love to sell them. this is about the real "god" of "christian" media / retail - $$$$$$$$$$$$$. what jim and tammy faye were to the 80's, tim and jerry (lahaye and jenkins for those keeping score at home) are to the early 21st century. and let's not forget to thank (blame?) tyndale house publishing for encouraging and promoting all of this helpful material. a quick glance at the left behind website (click here if you dare) will hand you the opportunity to purchase any and all of the over (you ready?) 90 left behind related products including t-shirts, audio CDs, 30 "left behind: the kids" books and greeting cards (no i'm not kidding). i don't want to over-humanize God, but i think that sound you just heard was divine retching.

i'm going to have to finish this later, but while you wait you can preview the left behind "political series", coming soon to a mardel near you. i have to go work on my sign.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

a milestone was acheived today. . .

or maybe two.
1) after weeks of futility, Caleb's soccer team finally won a game! (6-0 thank you very much)
2) in said game, Caleb scored his first ever soccer goal! in a related story i just happened to be filming at the moment he kicked it in (so if you would like to....never mind)

Thursday, October 16, 2003

reflections on 9-6

some random thoughts as i watched the last out of the NLCS tonight.

well, that means i can go to the OU game saturday
"wait 'til next year" hurts a lot worse in october than in june
i'm really, really glad i'm not steve bartman
at least i don't have to watch anymore baseball on fox
it's a good thing harry's dead, this would have killed him
i wonder if the pirates have any good relief pitchers we could pick up next year
looks like hell has warmed up considerably the last couple of days
i wonder if that champagne has been on ice since last sunday
i've only waited 25 years, still have 33 to go
man, this season has been fun
baseball absolutely is the greatest game around
i wish pop was still around, he'd have loved this

off to pick up my heart

Friday, October 10, 2003

ok stay with me now

a few days ago we decided it was time for nathan (my 23 month old son for those keeping score at home) to move from a crib to a big bed. actually he kind of decided it for us when he climbed out of his crib and dove rear-first (thankfully) onto the floor of his room. so we went through all of the rituals necessary to prepare him for the trauma of moving from his safe, barred sleeping accomodations to the wide open spaces of a real bed. we moved the special things (silky, blanket, puppies, bears). we had a big "going-to-bed" party with his siblings and K and me. we put him in and covered him up and prayed with him and left on tons of lights. . . we did it all -- get the idea?
anyway, he's done great over the past few nights. he doesn't get up (except for the morning we woke up to find him sleeping with the dog in her bed) he doesn't give us much grief about going to bed, and he's sleeping well. the wierd part though is that when i go in to check on him between the time he goes to bed and i do, he is always in some odd position with covers everywhere but on top of him. sometimes he's sideways on the bed with his feet hanging off the side, sometimes he's "upside down" with hi feet on the pillow, sometimes he's curled up at the foot of the bed around one of his "friends". the only place he never is is sleeping the "normal" way with his head on the pillow and the covers over him.
so last night as i was putting him back the "right" way for the fourth time, i got to thinking, "why doesn't he sleep on the bed like 'normal' people?" then it hit me - maybe he doesn't know that there is a right way to sleep in a bed. maybe he thinks that since he had freedom to spin around all night in his crib, that's what he's supposed to do in the big bed, except there is a lot more room in which to do it. maybe i'm driving him nuts because he keeps waking up on this pillow thing when he'd rather be sideways with his feet hanging off. maybe he is doing bed the right way and i am the one causing him all of the trouble.

get ready for the leap - stay with me now.

so as i'm thinking about my son and his sleeping oddities, it hits me that maybe nathan and his nocturnal gymnastics are a picture of something bigger. as i was thinking about making him conform to the normal position of sleeping, i thought about how much of church (almost any church) is about causing people to conform to the "normal" (read: their) way of doing life and faith and church and God. this church thinks they are the way because they _________________ while the other church is misguided because it doesn't. not so much saying that those people "over there" aren't going to go to heaven, they are just going to be in for a real shock when they get there. most of my church experience (until recently) has been less about giving individuals space to be who God created them to be and more about shaping individuals to be conformed to the image of the particular church in which they happen to be hanging out. in fact, it seems like a lot of the church marketing stuff that goes on today is about helping people find out why they would fit in to abc hope community church of life of faith in God in Christ as opposed to downtown baptist church. most churches don't just push for conformity within the walls, they actively seek and recruit those who conform to their image to come and join them and further solidify wht they are trying to create. most christians don't help things either because they move around during their "seeking God's will for a church" phase looking for a place where they "fit in" -- more conformity!
ok , so what am i saying - all of this stuff is bad? not really. i do think we should have a level of comfort in our church surrounding. i do think there is a need for different kinds of churches for different kinds of people. i'm just wondering if maybe within our individual church communities and even more so in the greater Church commmunity, we can give each other some space to spin around in bed a little bit. i mean really, as long as we stay within the bounds of the "bed" of christianity, does it really matter if we have hymnals or screens, ties or sandals, bands or organs, homilies or talks, . . .?
thinking about our church, i want to make sure that each of us feels the freedom to be who we are in Christ (or out of Christ for some of us). i would love it when the time comes for someone to talk about the "kind" of church that jacob's well is if all they could say was, "they teach the bible and follow hard after Jesus, but they are all so different it is hard to characterize them". i pray that my kids grow up in a church sulture that allows and encourages them to be who they are and helps them see how God will use that for his kingdom.
so there you go, for what it's worth. go to church and be who you are and when people ask you what you think you are doing, just tell them that a two-year-old is teaching you how to be yourself. as for me, i'm just going to keep covering nathan up with a blanket and let him put his feet wherever he pleases.

sleeping with my feet off the side.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

i'm so glad

that the bible goes out of the way to tell us how much like us Jesus was. it has been good to know today that he felt anger and loneliness and loss. i'm glad that i don't have to explain myself to him, he's been there.

i think i have found my calling

driving around the other day i decided that i want to be the guy that designs the giant inflatable critters that get parked out in front of (or on top of) car dealerships. (drive down i-240 if you don't know what i'm talking about) think about it. sitting around all day deciding important things like, "should i put the neon green bathing suit on the giant gorilla with the surfboard or the giant dog with the sunglasses?".

where do these things come from? why do they exist? do they really make people want to buy cars? from what i can tell, the primary purpose is to cause kids to scream from the back seat, "LOOK AT THAT GORILLA OVER THERE!!!!" believe it or not, that will cause you to whip your head around and wonder what they are talking about, which in turn could lead to you have a wreck, which would lead you to need a new car, which would lead you to... hmmmmmm.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

an open letter to all churches with marquees

note: all of the marquees quoted here were sighted in the oklahoma city area in the past 6 months

ok, i've had it. in recent days i have passed churches (which shall remain nameless) with marquees that went everywhere from worthless ("school days, school days, drive alert not in a daze") to insulting ("the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits" and "everyone has the right to be stupid, some people abuse the privilege" -- from the same church) and from theologically argumentative ("when was paul saved, when he repented or when he was baptized?") to the one today that launched this rant ("the bible is God's weapon of mass instruction"). ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!? the only marquees that seem to be worse are the ones where pastors advertise their weekly homiletical offerings ("why the lost have no hope", "stay out of hell, find out how sunday", and "let God put your money to work for you").
is it just me or does it make no sense to use the one part of a church that is guaranteed to be noticed by every person who drives or walks by the place to post this kind of garbage? think about it. if a person knows nothing about your church, but every week they are assaulted or insulted by the sign nearest your driveway do you think they are ever going to pull in and "see what this incredible place is about"? what does it say about a church that fires off the word stupid to the public twice in a month with a stop in between to remind the lost world to "pray for our students at falls creek this week"?
face it, no matter how much the secretary or janitor or pastor (or all three) chuckles at the latest witticism from the margin of guideposts or reader's digest or wherever this crap comes from, the world outside of your safe office is NOT GOING TO THINK IT'S FUNNY. all you are doing is insulting them and making yourself look like your picture belongs on the marquee mentioned above.
in general marquees are a bad idea for a lot of reasons. let's be honest, most churches don't have a clue in the world how to interact with the world around them, so it is safe to say that they have no business splashing something in front of their building that advertises that fact in big bold black sonic special looking letters. i've also noticed that every marquee falls into one of two categories, they are either on a stand with the church name in lovely script letters (somewhere there is one company who is making all of these things -- please for the sake of the kingdom, STOP! ) or they are the grounded version with the light bulbs all around that look like they should be in front of a) a biker bar, b) a used car dealership, c) a cheap motel, d) a strip club, or e) all of the above.
so here i am calling for all churches to tear down their bastion of self-promotion and move into a marquee-free world where people only think we are brain-dead because of what we say and do, not what we post in the front yard. i know, i know. dear departed sister so and so gave the money for your lovely marquee and it has tremendous sentimental value. your pastor's name has been proudly engraved on the bottom of it for the past 18 months. it gives your janitor something to do. i am not completely cold-hearted. i feel your pain. so here is a compromise. until you can muster up the business meeting majority vote you need to get the thing turned to scrap, simply use your marquee to advertise things within your church to the people of your church and other church people like them ("awanas meets here wednesday", "life training institute every sunday night", or "breaking free seminar saturday and sunday") who knows, you may just find some good church folk who drive by and decide to hop on over to your place because they have an untrained awana who needs to break free.
thanks for your time and your kind attention. feel free to head back to chuckling over reader's digest. if i can ask one last thing. please, whatever you do, if you must use names when the marquee gets updated, be wise ("thanks for 15 great years pastor bubba")