THIS WEEK, I’m honored to be the featured VIDEO over at CreativeMondays.net! Headed up by the amazing Tim Noxsinz, I got connected to the #CreativeMondays community several months ago and feel humbled to be their first feature of the new year. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of talent and creativity in this crew. You can connect with them via Twitter on the #CreativeMondays open space, or on their website!
Whether you attended David Crowder's Fantastical Church Music Conference or not last week, come join us Thursday, Oct 14 at Chuy's in Austin!
Thanks to @mrcrum for the graphic!
In honor of the 10 year anniversary of Fight Club, I tweeted the question, "If you could pick a fight with any religious figurehead, who would it be and why?" The winner would receive a box of student ministry goodies for their ministry and personal growth.
For those of you who may not know, Fight Club is not really about the physical act of pummeling another human being. It's built on the frustration against the system of a consumerist society, the disillusionment of a generation of men who have been raised by women to misunderstand what it means to be a man. Real manhood, according to the movie, begins with knowing yourself and authentically knowing others in a community of authentic living. The dream of stripping away everything we hide behind, and standing knuckle-to-knuckle with others who aspire to rebuilding ourselves from the bottom up.
When the question rises in the movie, "if you could fight anyone, who would it be?', it's a step towards really knowing yourself ("How can you know yourself if you've never been in a fight?") and really knowing another person.
When I tweeted my question, I got a multitude of answers:
"The Pope (cuz he's old and I think I would win).
Tammy Faye Bakker (she already looks like she's had the crap beat outta her).
And, of course, Jesus.
Each answer was great in it's own right. I'd love to know each of those a little more, for different reasons. I never see eye to eye with anyone of those listed 100% of the time. (Yes, I even disagree with Jesus at times. I don't always like when He's right about everything..)
Jacob wrestled with (the pre-incarnate) Jesus. He ended up being blessed, but he forever walked with a limp because of it. Was the limp worth the experience? I think Jacob would say it was. I have a hunch that the vast majority fight him regularly. I want to know him. I think I know him…but there's always more. And He always pushes me to let go of things, take up other things, and give still more things away. Quite honestly, I expected the winner to be chosen because he/she cited someone other than Jesus. I really wanted to send the box of goodies to someone who had good reasons for fighting and getting to know someone like Osteen or Buddha. Really I did.
After tallying the votes in my super-scientific, quadruple-blind survey, the winning tweet goes to Michael McMinn for suggesting we fight with Jesus. It sounds trite and all Sunday-Schooley, but I challenge you to ask yourself one question: "How would my life change if I stood toe-to-toe, knuckle-to-knuckle with Christ, fullly engaged, fully attentive, and let him chisel me into His image? To spend enough time with Him to be able to know when He would move? How he would move? And the manner in which I should react to his movements?" Ok, that's actually 4 questions..but you get the idea.
Maybe I've been drinking the Fight Club kool-aid too long.
Or maybe I've been fighting with Jesus long enough. And yet not long enough.
Maybe there's still more to come.
Many of you know I deal with periodic insomnia. As aggravating as it may be at times, it's amazing what our bodies can endure without going completely bankrupt. So until it becomes something debilitating, I try to just enjoy the ride and see where it takes me.
Some nights I just can't sleep. Some nights I enjoy being awake while everyone else is asleep–it's by far the quietest slice of 24 hours that I ever experience. But sometimes its just something on my mind. Maybe I've read something or had a conversation I just can't shake. Or a song I'm working on (actually, the song is working on me.) . And my mind is buzzing until almost 3am, I doze off… until @babymakayla wakes up around 4:30. And once I'm up…I'm up for good.
Most recently, it took me back into Fight Club, a movie I’ve seen at least a hundred times. (Happy 10-year anniversary, btw..) “When you have insomnia, nothing is real. Everything is a copy…of a copy…of a copy.” So states Ed Norton’s unnamed character in the movie. He has no name because he is Everyman.
The truth is every one of us was born an original. From our fingerprint down to our DNA, there is no one else exactly like any other one of us. We are each remarkably and wonderfully made. You were born an original.
But most of us will die a poor, pathetic copy. Society’s relentless pursuit of squeezing us into a mold never quits. We look like everyone else. Talk like everyone else. Work the same jobs, eat the same food, desire the same shiny gadgets as everyone else. Color inside the lines. Walk single file. Don’t make waves.
The problem is that we were created to be a receptacle of the Divine. To be ordinary is to be only ‘more of the same’. As a human made in God’s image (eikon), my soul screams out against this with every pore in my being, just as yours does. To be ‘just another one of those’ is deadening agony to me. It has actually driven some people to their death.
But it was never God’s intention for you and I to be a copy of anything…except Christ.
Each of us wants to be extraordinary. We were built to count for something. Anything. Placed in a specific context to count in ways that no one else does. That is our destiny. That is our purpose. To be what no one else can be is to be what we were created for.
So what happened?
Climbing the spiritual mountain is sometimes exhausting. It's hard work. The fact is that very few people will ever climb an actual mountain. Most of us will drive or ride up to the top, get out, and take some nice pictures to show our friends. Spiritually, it’s not much different. Why pay the price to ‘climb’ when we can just ride our way to the Summit. Why not take the short cut?
Maybe that's why Paul tells Timothy (I Timothy 4:7-10) to 'train yourself for godliness'. Literally, 'sweat [gymnopsium] yourself towards godliness'. There are no shortcuts to sweating…
Fortunately I have people in my life that don't take the short cut. They pray. They study the Scripture. They give selflessly. They speak with the sense of having been with God. They are not a copy of a copy of a copy… They are imitators of Christ. And they challenge me to sweat towards that same end.
Some people live life. Others have life live them.
Sleepless nights have given me the time to refocus and evaluate what kind of copy I am. And what I am sweating towards. So, for now I am grateful for insomnia.
I commented via my Twitter a few days ago that the two greatest days in your life are (1) the day you are born, and (2) the day you realize why. I’m not sure where or when I first realized (or possibly, heard) that, but it resonates within me still.
I’m incredibly blessed to know the unending love of my wife, my kids, and many wonderful friends I journey towards Jesus with. But with all the things that compete for my attention and affection, I am easily distracted by the frantic and frenetic pace of living in 3D. One of the new buzzwords of our ‘green’ society has caught me by surprise and slowed me down. Insiders no longer use the term ‘recycled’, as in ‘recycled glass’, but ‘repurposed’.
Which I completely love, but not in a green way.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m all in favor of the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra, of reducing my consumption and my carbon footprint to be a better steward of, and to help liberate, Creation (Romans 8:21). But, if there will one day be a ‘new heaven and a new earth’…there has to be a bigger picture somewhere. The reason I love the reimaging of recycling as being ‘repurposed’ is that it describes me. As someone who follows Jesus, the old things are passed away and my purpose is redirected. I haven’t been recycled into something more useful, something to get more mileage out of before dumping in a landfill, like a mulligan or ‘do over’ on a human scale. Unlike Madonna, I’ve not been reinvented. I’ve been repurposed. And as a redeemed eikon of the Creator, my DNA is still that of my Father’s.
My former purpose may have been self, but I have been repurposed for servanthood.
My former purpose was to acquire things, but I’ve been reformatted for sacrifice.
Instead of fighting for my own freedom, I am repurposed to be a slave to others.
At some point I climbed down from the throne in my own life (it was a short climb!) and was repurposed to worship the One who is worthy of it.
I have not been recycled into something more useful. I have been repurposed.
Sometimes we completely miss it.
At our neighborhood amenity center, we have two pools: the deep, lap pool where the teenagers hang out and old guys do laps, and the shallow, zero-entry pool where the younger (and less serious swimmers) play and parents snooze. On our first visit, the smaller pool was overpopulated with preschoolers and my oldest son wanted to check out the big pool with the ‘big kids’. Although he can swim fine, he quickly found out that it was much deeper than he was comfortable with and that the ‘big kids’ were too…serious. So he returned to the small pool with his little brother. In his words, ‘those kids swam in the deep part too long…I just wanted to play.” Over the next 90 minutes, I watched my oldest son play with abandon in the ‘little pool’. Swimming with his little brother. Splashing. Performing cannonballs and belly-flops. Completely carefree and care-less.
And I realized we missed it.
Most of the time we love to talk/write/blog/tweet about the deep, philosophical things of life. Of spirituality. Of theology. Of anything really. The danger of exploring the depths (swimming deep) for extended periods is that it has the tendency to feed our pride and makes us feel like experts. Dissecting. Compartmentalizing. Defining. Theorizing. But life is not just about the depths. Life is also about the surfaces. I spend lots of time with theologians (conversations, books, blogs), exploring the depths. But some of them seldom come up for the air of communication and relationship and experience.
In his essay on Twitter Theology, friend/creative/theolog Len Sweet says, “Life is a bunch of little things. These little things add up and Twitter reminds me to celebrate the little and the simple.” Depths are good and necessary, but remember Christ calling us to come to him as children. (Since I don’t know any deep 5-year-olds, I feel pretty good about playing in the shallow end of the pool with Jesus…)
While on sabbatical next week, I’m intentionally working on being grateful for the little things. Enjoying the beach, I pray you’ll indulge me while I’m playing in the spray of the shallow.
Holding my wife’s hand. The laughter of my boys. The smile of my little girl. The company of friends over dinner and coffee. Sleeping late in soft sheets. Walking barefoot in the sand while answering questions about why God made jellyfish.
I want to do shallow well.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that a funny thing happened on the way to the guitar shop yesterday.
I was driving in south Austin on my lunch break when my fuel light came on. I noticed an old 7-Eleven about a block off of South Lamar and whipped in to get gas. Within a minute or two, a thin, frail looking young man in his twenties approached me, introduced himself as Gene, and asked me for change.
“Are you the kind of person that would help out a complete stranger? I’m pretty embarrassed about this, but my car ran out of gas a few blocks away and I’m out of money. I sold my phone and laptop so I could get back to Texas to try to find a job...”
How many times have you heard that story?
I offered to give him a few bucks for gas…but I only had a dollar in cash. Noticing the ATM sign in the store window, I stopped the gas pump and we kept talking. As his story expanded, it turns out he had hit up a mechanic down the road who offered to let him use a gas can…but Gene wanted me to give him a lift to the shop to get it, then back to get gas…then out somewhere to get his car.
For whatever reason, I was prompted to do it. He was a nice enough guy and, although it’s rare I ever pick up strangers when I’m alone, there was a peace about him. I asked him to wait to the side of the vehicle while I made room in the front seat for him.
“Ok. Wait a minute. Actually, I don’t really need gas money…”
Ah…there it is. Here comes the pitch. Or the scam.
“I’m sorry I lied. My name is Eugene and we are filming a documentary. My film crew is in the parking over there…and we’re doing a film on how faith impacts a person’s tendency to give to strangers. Kinda like the Good Samaritan thing…is it OK if we interview you?”
My head spins, expecting Ashton Kutcher to pop out from behind the ATM. I’m reeling at how, for whatever reason, I was compelled to help this guy. As we talked, we shared stories of our faith and for the reasons we feel responsible to love others, show kindness to strangers, and to help bring the Kingdom.
And sure, if I’m honest, I was glad I was in a giving ‘mood’. How tragic would it be if the film would have been distributed with clips of me being less than compassionate!
But what about the times when there is no film crew? What about the men and women I pass at the intersection with cardboard signs? When I feel prompted to help, and yet don’t do it, where is my obedience then? Why do I worry if the person will use the money to buy beer or drugs with the money I give? While I am called to be a good steward (and to “be shrewd as snakes”), if the Holy Spirit prompts me to do so, shouldn’t I freely give and leave the outcome to Him? I have freely received. And Jesus commands us to give freely also.
But how far are we willing to go? Like the Rich Young Ruler, I sometimes wonder if we should sell everything and give it to the poor. Sell your stocks. Sell your SUV. Cash in your 401k, withdraw all your savings, and put your new flatscreen on Craigslist (Luke 12:33). Give to those who are truly needy and put your real security in Jesus.
And, how much do I really believe Luke 12:22-34?
Watch the YouTube promo for the upcoming film "Panhandling Faith".
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