What do you do with this?
"Stay loose…" -Jesus
Really? Well, yes and no. There’s no doubt that the impending election and the current financial crisis is on all our minds. Today the Fed is deciding whether or not to drop the interest rate [again] and we are a mere 7 days from an historical presidential election. Combine that with the crude oil mess, war in the MIddle East, a dysfunctional Freddie and Fannie….depressed yet?
While the government scrambles to stop the bleeding and politicians spin their platitudes and platforms to tell us what we want to hear, there is good news. REAL Good News, in fact.
Yesterday I was reminded of the words of Jesus (Matthew 6:25-33) from his famous sermon.
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (TNIV)
Don’t worry about what you wear. Don’t worry about your clothes. About your retirement package. About having to ‘cut back’… Stay loose.
Tonite when I put my kids to bed, I know that we still live in the greatest, wealthiest country on the planet. They will have eaten three meals today, with snacks in between, while thousands of children go hungry.
Tonite, my boys will bathe with soap, play in the tub in clean, fresh water, use all the electricity they want, and have ample access to dental hygiene. Thousands of children die each year in other countries from the simple lack of clean water.
In the morning, when my kids get dressed for school, their clothes will be clean, relatively new, and hanging in their closets, just a few feet from a cozy bed, and a floor full of toys and books and video games, while children in other countries only have those things in their dreams.
Tomorrow when I head off to work….well, let’s just say I’m blessed to have somewhere TO work. Some place that enables me to minister the Gospel and yet feed, clothe, and shelter my family.
This is not trite. This puts everything in perspective.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So stay loose.
Recently I’ve made a new friend. Let’s call him ‘Gary’ (not his real name, of course).
Our kids are in the same class, so we got to hang out together on a field trip last week. I’ve seen Gary many times before, we’ve made small-talk waiting for the school bell in the afternoons. But last week, he asked me to ride with him to an out-of-town field trip our kids went on.
On the surface, we have nothing in common really. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing except our love for music. As the product of a mother who’d married seven times, he’s lazily working on his third marriage, smokes a little dope now and then with his adult son, plays guitar in a band alongside another adult son, and has plans to go spend 14 days in jail at the end of the month rather than pay off his DUI charges via fines and community service. He’s a semi-retired mechanic, drag-racer and blues guitarist with hard-worn knuckles and an infectious laugh. His crooked smile rolls off f-bombs easier than Rosie O’Donnell ranting about handguns.
Underneath, however, we are desperately alike. Our 6-hour conversation was like flipping through late night television: parenting issues, marriage, religion, Carlos Mencia, politics, guitar amps, Heath Ledger, text messaging, and ‘that chick who plays Maya on Just Shoot Me’.
“Can we whip in Starbucks on our way back? I’m buying…” I asked.
“That’s cool…but I don’t want anything.”
Silence. (Imagine my disbelief!)
“That’s one vice I don’t have.” he said. “Dope, drinking, women, swearing…sure. But I just never got into coffee..”
“Well, you’re not dead yet…you still got time.” He laughed.
“You probably don’t even drink do you? I mean, have you ever done anything bad?”
So I began to share with him some more of my story. (He already knows I’m a ‘preacher’). In fact, I shared things with him I haven’t shared in a long time. Things I’m too ashamed to admit to here. Things that I’m still amazed are covered by Grace.
“Seriously? I would have never f’—in’ guessed. Geez. God, maybe there’s hope for me, too…”
Hope. It is the good news. That Hope has come. That restoration and redemption is coming and has now already come.
We talked on some more. I told him that Jesus is always ready to offer hope. That anything good in me wasn’t me, but Him. That anything fallen and jacked up in me (which is a lot) was the real me. Jesus is the Hope.
At 53, he’s seen enough hypocrisy to make him wary of Jesus Freaks. He’s been the victim of more than a few bait-and-switch gospel presentations. And he could use an honest, agenda-free friendship.
So could I.
He invited me to come hear his band play at Antone’s next week. He said that after the show, maybe we can hang out and talk some more about music, the blues, marriage, women, parenting, and Hope.
We’ve got a lot more in common than people in the school parking lot seem to think.
A few weeks ago David Zimmerman graciously sent me a copy of his latest book, Deliver Us From Me-Ville. Right away I began to devour it but, for reasons that will become apparent, I realized I needed to slow down and digest it thoroughly.
I have to say upfront that I absolutely love Zimmerman’s writing style. His wit and sometimes snarky storytelling make for an easy, comfortable read. He begins with exposing us, not to suburbia, but to Superbia (Latin, ‘ego’), the strong-but-subtle suburb of the City of God he calls Me-Ville, and then offers escape routes out of the neighborhood towards our true home in the City.
In Me-Ville, our self-absorption is not only killing us slowly (or even not-so-slowly at times), but also setting up our entire world for a tragic collapse. Thankfully, Jesus not only comes to meet us in Me-Ville, but He also leads us out of it.
One warning (praise?) about the book: Zimmerman is not only wry, but brutally honest at times about his own self-aware existence in Me-Ville. Or, maybe he’s just been reading my journal at night. In either case, it’s a book that deserves a deliberate reading, pencil in hand. It’s packed with humor, scripture, and great quotes from some of the wisest dead people I’ve ever read (as well as movies and musicians you MUST know.) You will find yourself in the pages of his stories and the securities of superbia. I suggest participating in the Escape Routes offered at the end of each chapter and ask God to give you insight.
Ben Patterson says to read Me-Ville and ‘get over yourself.’
I’d take it a step further and say ‘move out’. The great theologian Tyler Durden once said, “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are not your job. You are not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your khakis.” We have the tendency to perceive our culture and way of life as secure and safe and prosperous. But what if this image-obsessed, plastic culture is very, very hard on our souls? It’s not only a matter of getting over ourselves, but a matter of getting on to living in the City in intimacy with Jesus. And, as with any move, part of the joy is cleaning out all the useless, unproductive junk you’ve stuffed under your bed, in the back of the closet, and in the garage. Leave it on the curb as you drive away and start anew in The City.
I can’t say it enough: I loved this book. It deserves more than a casual reading. Originality. Brutal honesty. Wit and humor. All make it something to put on your ‘must read’ list. I give it nine out of ten tacos! We live in a world overrun by iPods, iPhones, iTunes, and iLife. It can’t even spell ‘we’ without two I’s (Wii)! Deliver Us From Me-Ville is one of the best, most refreshing books I’ve read in a long time. Buy Deliver Us From Me-Ville.
In one of the most bizarre cases of idiotic legislation I’ve seen in a while, ‘children’ are being abandoned, i.e. ‘dropped off’ at Nebraska hospitals because of an ineptly written law.
The law was written to make sure an unwanted baby can find a healthy home where he/she can be cared for, as well as protect the unwilling parents from repurcussions of abandoning their child.
Enter in some hastily-written legislation and some irresponsible and/or exasperated parents and this is what you get.
A single dad who leaves nine children at Creighton University Medical Center (story), among others, totaling at least 15 older children who were dropped off by a weary parent, aunt, or grandmother.
The main interest state Senator Arnie Stuthman cited for the law was ‘that it gives the mother or parent another option of what to do with a child before they do something drastic." And since the law doesn’t specify, it allows anyone, not just a parent, to legally surrender custody of someone all the way up to 19.
Now, I’ll grant you that some parents are dropping off kids because they are at their wits’ end. But is this the solution? To hand off unruly teenagers because of tough economic conditions, worry, stress, etc.? I don’t know. I can see parents getting overwhelmed and seeing this as a viable option.
Regardless, it’s much like our current political landscape. I’d love to see the government step out and the Church step in. I commend teh Nebraska legislators for wanting to protect all children (not just potential Dumpster Babies) from harm, but IMO this smells a little bit like the $700 billion bailout we’re trudging through.
If you haven’t seen Mark Riddle’s piece titled Not Making It Happen, it’s definitely worth reading and discussing. Riddle, a long-time student minister/author, wrote the article for YS a couple of weeks back aimed at youth pastors, but IMO it’s great for all of us in ministry.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve bought into the lie that our job is to ‘make things happen’. To build programs, to attract people in the name of ministry, or to build the Kingdom. We’ve believed that our success or failure is tied to our ability to motivate people and move them through our self-erected plans and dreams in the name of vision. (I’m paraphrasing Riddle). The bottom line is we are infatuated with visionaries who can make things happen.
He’s right. Part of the reason I love being a Youth Pastor (and love worship, for that matter) is to see creative ideas take form and feet. The problem is that the vast majority of us are evaluated by how efficiently you bring others on board with your ideas and visions…and how well you produce results. After all, you’re only as good as your last camp, right?
But this understanding of leadership is deeply flawed and destructive, with unintended consequences including isolation, entitlement, and passivity that enables the congregation to abdicate their God-given responsibility to staff leaders…who gladly take it.
We have to understand something.
You aren’t called to make things happen in your church.
Of course, you may get paid by your local church to make things happen, but God’s not calling you to build it all, sustain it all, and convince others to carry it all out.
I can’t help it. You have to see the Jesus is My Friend video by Sonseed. And pay very close attention to the lyrics of the last verse at 1:46 or so. Wait for it….wait for it.
You may now return your tray tables to their upright position. We’ll return to more serious matters soon.
I recently got to attend a field trip with our 5-year-old and my long-time friend (now our Children’s Pastor), John Woods to a local Dino Park. John was talking to Dylan about his upcoming birthday party when Dylan popped off with the announcement, "I’m having a baby."
"Really?", John replied, laughing. "I’ll have to tell your mom about that."
Without missing a beat, Dylan replied, "She already knows."
And, yes, Woods and I both laughed hysterically.