Monday, April 30, 2007

Confronting uneasiness

this morning, i read this quote in a daily devotion i subscribe to:

It is not what happens to us in any day that gives content to our lives, but whether or not we let its experience sink into us. ... It is one of the highest powers given to anyone. In reflection I come upon feelings that I had been too afraid to experience in the moment. In the quiet of reflection I take the risk and the time to let censored thoughts as well as feelings into consciousness, to discover what is causing the uneasiness in me. - Elizabeth O' Conner

when she writes that in moments of reflection, she comes upon feelings that she was too afraid to experience in the moment...well, that resonates with me. i think there are things we go through...conflicts, temptations, challenges, memories, or even simple life events...that are overwhelming. sometimes it's just for the moment and other times those feelings seem to linger forever!

have you ever had censored thoughts? those things that you push down and away from your daily consciousness so that you don't have to deal with them. i think we all have. that's why daily quiet and reflection is so important. if we don't slow down, if we don't listen, if we don't take time to stop talking and doing and running and planning and chasing the experience, we will never hear the whisper of god.

it's only in the whisper of god that we can confront the uneasiness we live with. it is only in the quietness of listening that we can truly be honest about what hurts and scares and concerns and belittles and depresses us. and without that honesty, we will never know the joy that god breathes into our existence when he whispers.

why not carve out some time to be quiet so you can listen. i think i will.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Church membership...again

i can't stop thinking about this church membership thing...

on sunday, i said that church membership (at least as we have come to know and love it) is not really talked about in the bible. amazing. something that important and it's not addressed in the book?

well, that's not entirely true. even though church membership is not talked about specifically, there is enough said indirectly that we can get the picture...

when paul says in the roman letter that, as members of one body, we belong to each other, we get our most vivid glimpse of what god intends. we belong to each other. you belong to me and i belong to you. you're mine. i'm yours. we're stuck. or at least we should be if we are members.

i guess that's why the church as a family means so much to me and why we have to get our understanding of church membership from that image. if we don't, we run the risk of creating a faulty expectation for membership. paul talks about the church as a family in his letter to the ephesians:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19-22

households (or families) are complex, but it doesn't take a degree to understand what god expects! members of families belong to each other. they don't run away. they work out their problems. they share the responsibility. they own up to mistakes. when the dust settles, they are for each other, with each other, and connected to each other.

the church better wake up.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Some more thoughts on college life

we have a really good college group. i am really proud of them. they are hard working and have really begun to understand god's calling to a servant lifestyle. they are spiritually aware and have a deep awareness of god's presence and kingdom priorities. they have had good modeling and are well taught in the fundamentals of christian discipleship. and i like them. but i am painfully aware that they are not necessarily the norm, nor does having a good college group ensure that new kids will follow in their footsteps in years to come.

the college years are difficult and navigating through them is a treacherous journey where many, even most, fall flat on their face after they leave the protective womb of adolescence and the safety of the church youth group they have grown accustomed to. did i say treacherous? yeah.

there are a number of possible reasons for the drop off in church attendance (or the abandoning of christian lifestyle) once a kid enters college:

the new-found freedom is tough to handle... there is no question that adulthood and the post-high school lifestyle is one full of amazing opportunities for both good and danger. with freedom comes responsibility. unfortunately, that new-found freedom usually lacks the component of accountability. nobody even makes you get up on sunday mornings anymore!

new social circles... the high school youth group is a pretty cool entity. you don't have to think much. you don't have to plan much. you don't have to initiate stepping outside your comfort zone. it's full of familiarity, fun, tradition, and a ready-made group of safe, similar friends...even for the most edgy of kids. trips are planned. meetings are planned. friendships are orchestrated. spiritual experiences are blueprinted. life is good. when a kid goes to college, it is full of new possibilities and new friends and new circles. and nobody scripts out spiritual experiences.

the tidal wave of education... if high school kids think their faith is challenged now, just wait until their first philosophy or ethics class! or what about the first microbiology lecture? biblical faith is assaulted from the moment a kid sets foot on the campus of most any of our nations institutions of higher learning. defense of the faith can only be done by those that have built a defense. that leads to the next problem:

our youth ministries are not necessarily preparing our young people for what's ahead... kids are all about having fun, hanging out with their friends, pursuing their own dreams, developing strong and nimble digit motor skills (for effective computer gaming), and, did i already say...having fun? it's incredibly easy to play to the lowest common denominator when it comes to attracting a crowd of young people. just ask them what they want to do! often, church youth groups are nothing more than glorified boys and girls clubs with a spiritual veneer...and then they are left to face that reality as they naively wander off to college.

finally, our kids have watched the adults at church for years (often, their own parents) and have concluded "what's the point?"... they see adults who claim allegiance to christ and loyalty to the kingdom and, at a minimum, are confused. they see adults who are consumed with their own lives, their own homes, their own vacations, their own money, their own time, their own reputations, their own rise up the ladder, their own petty jealousies, their own unresolved anger, their own legalism, their own abuse of freedom, their own worries, their own fears, their own inconsistencies, and their own empty spiritual lives. what do we expect our young people to do with that?

what will you do to help change this trend?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Some thoughts on easter sunday

some thoughts on easter 2007...

i really liked the change in our service times! it was awesome to have nearly 70 people in our first service. i think we have something to build on now.

it was great to have my whole family together for easter. even tho wanda couldn't eat (don't ask), we enjoyed our traditional easter foodfest at baja fresh anyway.

i loved seeing all the new faces.

watching the logjam at the rear doors between the two services was very cool.

over $5700 was put in the kingdomsales jar. wow.

i know there are always going to be people that are in a hurry to leave right after the service is over, but they are really missing something by not hanging around and experiencing the expressions of friendship that go on...long after the band has packed it up and the lights have been turned off. even tho it was easter, it was business as usual for a lot of people...

the band sounded really good. and the new song ("by his wounds") is a winner.

there is no topic better to preach on than the resurrection of jesus. nothing.

the warmth of relationship in our building was powerful. i wish you could have seen what i saw during our welcome time. it was genuine. it was moving.

i hope people feel as convicted to invite a friend this coming week as they did yesterday. our responsibility is to offer the invitation. it the holy spirit's job to do the rest.

it was a good easter, but now i am really looking forward to this sunday. and i'm not even going to baja fresh.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mexico, again

it is good to be home. the older i get, the harder it is to be gone. don't get me wrong, though. there are not a whole lot of things more fun, more fulfilling, more revealing...than spending five days with a bunch of men. really.

i love our men's mission trip to mexico. i'm so impressed with the group of men who choose to take time away from work and family and house chores and making money and recreational pursuits to join with other men to build a house for family in mexico. it's hard work, time consuming, costly, exhausting, and risky.

the work is painful. especially for the old guys. like me. two long days of mixing cement by hand in wheel barrows. sawing lumber with hand saws. gripping twenty-eight ounce hammers and swinging them until our forearms burn. for some of us, that's about fifteen swings and a whack on a thumb. pulling wire. shoveling sand and gravel. lifting plywood on a roof. lifting five gallon buckets of water. stretching chicken wire. mixing and spreading stucco. the hardest physical labor that i do anymore is mowing the lawn and running the snake through my plugged plumbing.

the men have to pay $275 to go on the trip, plus all of their travel money. that's not chump change. i'm sure that money could go for a lot of other things. but it doesn't. it goes to giving a family a new house. amazing. a whole new house. for about the cost of a new car stereo or a new callaway driver or new power spray washer, a family gets a new house. did i say amazing?

the best part of the trip, though, is where the greatest risk is. it's not the long hours of travel. it's not crossing the border. it's not drinking the water. it's being trapped for five days with other men and having to be honest and open and real. and having to talk. oh, there's a lot of groaning and whining and sarcasm and suspicious story telling. but, more importantly, there is good conversation. we get to know each other. we become better friends. we have been in the trenches together and we are deeper and stronger because of it. and god is pleased.

sign me up for next year.