Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dr. Fink Had it Right After All

Back in the 70's, when I was in college (okay, the 90's, but it feels like 30 years ago some times), I had a professor named Dr. Fink. No, really, that was his name. He taught such illustrious subjects such as Preaching 101, Homiletics, and Intro to Theology. Oh yeah, as you can see, it was a laugh riot. We all feared him with the fear only found in 18 year old boys for someone who actually expects them to work. One of his responsibilities was to try to form us into legitimate teachers and speakers. Being 18, we were pretty sure we had it down. It was his job to show us that wasn't true. It was never a pretty sight.

He also was famous for assigning unbearably long compositions for us. Invariably, someone would ask "How much do we have to write?" His standard reply was never far away. "You need to write all of it." "But how much is all of it?" some pseudo-industrious soul would inquire. Those of us in the know would cringe at the question, for we knew the pre-ordained answer. "All means all, and that's all all means." Then the Fink smile.

So, here I sit years later. I owe most of my teaching ability, what there is, to Dr. Fink. It's true. He told every single one of us we would say that some day. And for my part, he was a prophet. But I am learning a new meaning of the "all means all" mantra.

I've been studying and speaking on pieces of Brad's series on Colossians on Sunday mornings. One crucial section of chapter 3 discusses how Christ is all and is in all. That short passage is sinking deeper into my being each day. God is challenging me to wrestle with this thought. I, like every other person walking this planet, have areas of life I run to for comfort and seclusion. But they are not healthy. Actually, they're quite destructive of my soul. They are destructive in the same way that water running over rocks is destructive. They wear small grooves in my soul, that eventually become channels, leaving large portions destroyed and eroded away. But Christ won't have this. It's His soul. I turned it over to Him. And He fully expects me to take better care of it. This is what He has been telling me of late.

So, He is pushing me. I don't need the erosive habits. They haven't worked in bringing me lasting peace or happiness. They are short term bandaids, and only really succeed in causing more harm. Christ wants to see me healed. So, when I am tempted to run to these, He is reminding me that He is all. All I need. All I want. All I can handle. Jesus means all and that's all Jesus means. I really, truly don't need anything beyond Him. The "need" of other distractions is a lie, a smokescreen. He is cleaning house.

So, I guess, my question is, where are you short changing God? Where are you turning to other things to find hope, peace, and happiness that really only He is able to create? Have you got tired of looking and missing it? Maybe it's time for you to become acquainted with Fink 1:1. All means all, and that's all all means. Jesus is all. Just a thought.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who was kissing Santa Claus?

Tonight is one of my favorite nights. Our family has no scheduled events on Thursday nights, so it's just homework, dinner, and hanging out as a family. It's nice after the early week run of youth group meetings, AWANA, and more. After dinner, Alivia was working on homework with Jill, and Annie and I were hanging out. We were listening to great Christmas tunes of the faith (Here Comes Santa Claus, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, etc.) It was a deeply moving time, to be sure. The CD made it's rotation around to "I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus", and Annie began to hum and sing along, without realizing she was doing so in a way I could hear. So, I joined in, and we warbled a crooked little tune along with the kids on the CD. Once we were done, Annie proceeded out of the kitchen, but returned again shortly. "You know, dad, that song isn't really about Santa Claus."

"Really? Who's it about then?"

"The mom is kissing the da-ad!" she replied, obviously enlightening her clueless father.

I smiled the smile of a father playing along with his little one. I loved it when she taught me things, even things I already knew. I smiled a little, smugly about it.

Then the little voice came. The one from my Father. "You do the same with me" was faintly whispered in my soul.

As the thought soaked through my mind, I realized I do. I tell God of things, informing Him of pertinent information that He might be interested in learning. I correct Him when He's wrong. I show Him enlightened views when necessary. He always listens.

But it's just me teaching my Dad something, usually about as worthwhile as who was actually kissing Santa Claus. I'm not sure why I do it. I mean, if Annie stopped to think about it, she'd realize I already know what the song is about. She doesn't think I'm stupid or ignorant. She's just so self-absorbed that she doesn't stop to think about me. She just informs me. She'll outgrow it, and realize that others do know something. Even things she doesn't know. Wisdom comes with age.

God is doing the same with me. He is so patient when I truly believe I know all that I need to. When I tell Him no, when I act on short sighted information, He stands beside me. When it all collapses because it's a house of cards built on my understanding, He stands with me in the fall. He looks at me, knowing one day I'll outgrow it. One day, wisdom will make its way deep in the hard to reach, stubborn recesses of my soul, and I will remember that Dad does know more than me. One day. I'm trusting wisdom does come with age.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I haven't been writing. I've been thinking of what to write. The ideas have bumbled around in my soul for a couple of weeks. But I haven't been writing. Too busy. Too much to do. It makes me important to be busy, you know. A world to save, parties to host, wisdom to expound for others. Busy, busy, busy. Did I mention it makes me important?

Yeah, I buy that lie for quite a while. Then I crash. This week the crash is hitting. I'm not sleeping well, and I am carrying a backpack full of residual stress. My own fault. My own creation. My own choice. Somehow, it hasn't made me important. It's just made me tired. So, today, I put it all on hold. I'm writing. It's my exercise for my soul. I'm like a lame little version of Isaiah, with a message burning in his bones. Only, my message is for no audience, and it's just the stuff God is talking to me about. So, maybe it's more of a smoldering tea candle, than a burning message. Either way, I'm writing. And, in a very strange way, feeling better by the minute.

What are you doing today? Are you busy and important? Is everyone depending on you to carry the day? It's a lie, you know. You really don't carry anything, neither do I. We follow the One who holds It All. But we don't carry it. So, stop it. Do what it is that you are meant to do. Be still. Listen. Pray. Write. Run. But don't try to carry it anymore. You and I, we're just not THAT important. But He is. And that's what carries the day.

Jesus is simple

So, I'm sitting at home last night with my girls. Annie, our six year old, is hanging out, and Jill comes up with a great idea. She convinces Annie to tell me the story of the Nativity. We huddle down on the floor, using one of our chairs as the stable. Annie carries over Mary, Joseph, the manger, baby Jesus, a couple of required sheep, an angel, and some very young, very peaceful looking shepherds, and the narrative begins. She walks me through the angel telling the shepherds some good news about a king being born. The sheep slowly and stubbornly are driven to the recliner/stable, and the shepherds "ooh" and "aah" over the baby just on cue. She tells me how excited Mary is to have a baby, and how Joseph is a good dad, and he's a carpenter. But then, things turn. In one of those rare moments of actually being fully in the moment, I ask Annie why Jesus came to such a poor family. Why be born where animals eat, in a stinky barn? Why didn't God send him to a castle with rich parents?

I watched those small, powerful gears turn in her mind. She was really thinking this one out. Finally, in a somewhat settled tone, she wondered out loud; "It was because Jesus is simple." Partially, the words themselves hit me. Partially, it was her tone. Questioning, but yet sure. I love that about a kid's faith. Jesus is simple. Not simple as in easy to understand, nor the simple that makes you question their abilities. No, she meant that Jesus is humble, not attached to power, fame, or glory. She nailed it. Jesus is simple. Oh so amazingly, beautifully simple.

If only I can be like that Jesus. To let go of my weak clutch on my hopes for fame, power, or glory. I want to be the one born to a king. I want to be the one that everyone adores. Jesus had that, and He let it go. He came, here, simply. Now, today, I have to let it go. It's not mine to hold. It belongs to Him. He deserves it, He has earned it, He is worth coming to see. It is my turn to kneel next to the manger, under the recliner/stable, and be still. To know that there is a hope, an unbearably powerful wonder born in a simple child. The one who came for me. There, in that small, smelly barn, is the good news indeed.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Going to Beautiful

The other day I was reading Acts 3:1-10. It's such an amazing story. It's the one where Peter and John go to the temple following Pentecost, and heal the beggar at the Beautiful Gate. A couple of things hit me. One is, it seems as though the beggar is still underway when we asks Peter for money. How desparate is this guy to beg on the way to begging? Secondly, he's unclean, because he's a lame beggar. Yet, when Peter heals the guy, it's not until Peter touches him that he is healed. Yet, that disqualifies Peter from the temple worship. He is now unclean. Why does Peter still go? I think it's to show the guy off. Maybe, maybe not. But I don't think that Peter can be allowed to worship since he touched the guy. Someone else mentioned that Peter has to tell the guy to look at him. He's so ashamed, he won't make eye contact, but Peter demands it.

It seems that this is a story about recognizing the human value in a worthless person, and the healing power it can bring. I mean, clearly God physically heals the man to help spread the good news to others at the temple. But there is this parallel piece where Peter is healing the man of his belief that he is unclean and worthless. He looks him in the eye, he touches the untouchable, even at great expense. And this man, this beggar, was so desparate for help that even though he believed himself unworthy of eye contact, he asked boldly for money.

Am I ever like Peter? Do I see past the pain and differences to find the person? Surely Peter's redemption on the beach with Jesus ("do you love me?") was still ringing in his ears at this point. Peter feeds this man in so many ways. He heals him physically, spiritually, and emotionally, all in one fell swoop.

But too, am I willing to be the beggar; humbly, desparately asking others for help, when I know I'm not worthy? Or do I instead pretend to be worthy, and not seek help from anyone? Too often, I know it's the second. Clearly, I am not as wise or honest as the beggar. Yet I am nothing more than him, nor less.

Just some thoughts. What do you think?

Monday, November 26, 2007

When you open your mouth to speak...

Ok, so Sunday I spoke on Colossians 2:16-23. Dealt with legalism and judmentalism. It is so hard to lead a discussion on something like this, because I am so incredibly unqualified to speak about it! I am incredibly judgemental and narrow minded. I only realized a couple of years ago that other people didn't actually think about things in the same ways I did! I mean, for pete's sake! That's God's sense of humor and loving kindness. So now, everyone else in church is moving on with the week, and I feel this need to become so much better in this area. I always feel like my sermons that I'm given to teach are actually more for me than anyone else. I have so very, very much to learn. So extremely far to go. It will be an interesting chapter, that's for sure.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Phil and I

I was talking last night with my friend Phil after senior high. We were sharing how each of us is struggling with different issues. Finally, it came down to our love for God. If we are going to beat the sins and issues in our lives, we must first develop a deeper love for God. Not so that He will be impressed or anything, just so that we can move closer to Him because it's where we belong. We both want to do great things for God. But first, we have to pursue falling in love with the Great God more. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Hmmm...

The Crowder Revelation

This morning I came in, and I wanted to sing some songs to God. Just me. So I was working through my song book, and after a while, made my way to "O Praise Him." I confess that I didn't recall the lyrics well, because I have been in slacker mode in worship for a while now. My heart has not been engaging in active worship the way that I should. More on that another time. But as I was singing through the song, I was actually thinking about the lyrics. I wasn't sitting alone singing a solitary, poorly played song to God. I was joining in with the already in progress songs of angels and believers in heaven! Not revolutionary, I realize. But to me, it ignited something. And even as I'm typing this, I realized I was also joining in with the voices of those around the world singing to heaven. And to the voices of nature singing out to the God. That changes something inside of me. It's not a solitary voice trying to convince God that I'm serious. I'm joining the voices of milions, and He is worshipped in a way much more worthy of who He is! That encourages me so much! What a great cloud of witnesses, huh? What do you know, the Bible is right after all! (sarcasm). I want to go farther into the crowd.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Both of my girls decided to get baptized last Sunday. It was amazing in a very different way. I thought I would be overwhelmed with emotions and tears. I usually cry at our baptisms anyway. But this week was different. I was hit by what a different person each of our girls is from me. I don't mean different in personality, but how separate from me they are. They are each equal in God's eyes to me in each and every way. My degrees, my years of service, my pledges of faithfulness, my sacrifices, don't earn me any more love or devotion from God than my nine year old, or my six year old. Hmmm... So many times I think it does. I live like it does. I hope it does. I get in God's face and expect payment from it. But it doesn't do squat. He loves me. My sacrifices are so little. His are so great. My girls getting submersed because mom and dad said that Jesus said it's what we are supposed to do is just as important as me sending some student off into ministry. It's God's love for us that is the miracle, not my small work for Him.

So what? Where does that leave me? Well, I need to rethink why I do much of what I do. I need to get off the merry go around of approval that I like to keep spinning. How? I'll have to talk to Him about that one.

Blue Like Jazz

So, I'm ready "Blue Like Jazz." Officially, it's for the second time. But the first time I read it was years ago when it first came out. I was in seminary, and didn't really pay attention, or even finish it. So, it's my first true read. I've not been the biggest fan of Donald Miller, but his book is having a deep impact on me, despite my best intentions. His story of the confession booth has really got me wondering what I, we, can do here in Shelbyville to re-engage our culture. Is there a high school version of that? I'm not sure. His emphasis on prayer over program is convicting, yet I know it's true. And his letter in his play from a husband to a wife is utterly slamming me right now. How can a single guy teach me about being a better husband? Geez, it must be Jesus again. I have to admit, if you are one of the other three people besides myself in the U.S. who haven't yet read the book, you really should.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pat the homeless woman

Last weekend, when I was at the NYWC, I met an elderly woman in St. Louis begging for money. Michael and I were at a stoplight, and she asked for money. I gave her the $4 I had in my pocket, but then God really began pushing me to talk to her. She had a normal story of pain and mistakes, only hers had put her on the street. She was living at a woman's shelter in town. She had a "permit" to ask for money (?), and was trying to get by. She said she had followed a man into St. Louis, and it had ruined her. Here she was, asking strangers for help. So I listened to her story, kept asking questions, and then asked if I could pray with her. She said yeah, so Michael and I prayed with her. I just prayed that she would know how lovely, special, and beautiful she was to God, and be reminded that she is a princess in His view. It was kind of a weird prayer, but it was what was in my heart. We walked off, with small tears in the corners of her eyes.

Here I am, home, almost a week later. Funny how similar our stories are. I followed a Man into St. Louis, and His plans were different than mine. I went seeking help from strangers, just mine had degrees, and spoke in seminars. As I prayed for her, I realized I was the one who needed to remember that she is a princess in God's kingdom. I have forgotten. The tears that have flowed in my heart and eyes since then are much more than the small ones in her eyes. I am so selfish, prideful, and unwilling to really follow Him. When I follow Him, He tends to ruin my life. At least, the parts that I think I want, that are really destructive.

What will it take to get me to serve, for real, and give? I'm not sure. But I want to get there.

White Washed Tombs

Been listening to a Rob Bell sermon on the "woes" that Jesus told to people. He's discussing how Jesus compares the Pharisee's to white washed tombs. I guess they used to mark tombs so that they would be visible, and wouldn't be touched. It made the Jews ceremonially unclean. So, when Jesus calls the religious leaders white washed tombs, is He inferring that God didn't want to be near them? If so, am I guilty of being like that? I know they were accused of seeing themselves as superior, unwilling to help those in need. I do so little to help those in need. I'll have to keep praying and thinking on this one.

Monday, November 5, 2007

NYWC 2007

I just returned from the National Youth Workers Convention in St. Louis. I always come back with so much to think about and consider. This year is no exception. I really believe I have to continue to figure out this connection between our ministry and the families we try to serve. How can I better help parents? God will show me, but I've got to be willing to put in the time and energy. It will be amazing to see the results as we continue to work it out.