Things that don’t go together

In the “what’s wrong with this picture” category:

A saying on a post said: “Worship isn’t about hyping up. It’s about bowing down.” Great saying. And it was posted over a picture of a scene from a very hyped up worship service… or at least the kind of picture that churches most of the time would want you to THINK was a hyped up worship service.

But a better one: GQ ran an article about how men shouldn’t be addicted to porn. I still can’t type that without breaking into laughter. It’s actually a good article making great points. Just don’t read ALL THE WAY DOWN the page because you’ll find links to “recommended” articles that pretty much violate all that was said before…

We’re off to a great start in parody this week apparently.

Free me from the tyranny of STUFF

I am in a reading group with Renovare online and we are currently working our way through a book on spiritual disciplines by Nathan Foster, son of Richard Foster.

Nathan is much more raw in his struggle with spiritual discipline. What Richard Foster wrote on always sounded like a glide into tranquility. I knew it wasn’t, but it just sounded that way. Nathan writes like you’ve been shoved off a mountain ledge and you’re hitting every rock, tree, and shrub on the way down.

It’s an honest discussion.

This week one of the chapters is on simplicity. My life is so full of junk and desire for more junk, it didn’t matter how Nathan would have written this one. He wrote with much more calm, but it still feels like a tumble over boulders and shrubs.

“Simplicity is not necessarily about depriving ourselves of worldly things but about being content — content to have or do without, free to give but also receive. It’s about living free from the trappings of society that keep us from following Jesus’s counsel to ‘seek first the kingdom of God.'”

If I am rooted in Kingdom living, I am free to receive things from this world… and free to give them up. It’s that “free to give them up” part that lodges in my throat and chokes. The distractions of stuff keep us from the beauty of the divine center… yet it is so hard to give it up. 

We are moving toward Lent and I know the challenge this year will be on true fasting for me and then giving up a portion of technology. There is a freedom  I need regained in my life. Freedom from the tyranny of stuff. It’s just that the road to that freedom is full of rocks and potholes and downed trees.

Lord, help me be truly free in my walk with you!

The Lobster Story

This weekend we had our annual Leadership Training at the church. It was an incredibly significant time because we are in the midst of huge transitions.

Our church property is for sale, we’re looking at a new property, adding a business… and so much more.

It is a call for transformational thinking. 

I centered my teaching around a great book called, The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community. 

One particular illustration out of the book could not have been better placed or better timed for our situation. It was the story of how lobsters grow. I will paraphrase the thoughts.

Lobsters never stop growing. Every few months a lobster sheds its exoskeleton and this process is extremely tiring and leaves the lobster incredibly vulnerable. In the process of shedding the outer shell it is open to attack. There is no protection. But if the lobster is to grow, it has to let go of the very nice outer protective shell. That wonderful protection becomes its death trap if it would somehow “refuse” to grow.

The inner being outgrows the shell and has to push out the shell joint by joint. The eyes then have to pop out of their holes, rendering the lobster blind for the duration of the process. There is then the slow process of wrenching the body out of the shell. The claws. The back. The tail. Exposed and tired, it’s unable to stand for more than half an hour at a time. It’s exposed and helpless.

The pink we see on a lobster, if we eat lobster, is the beginning of a new shell. The outer structure is birthed out of what was there before. There is continuity in transformation.

Lobsters also become more fertile with age. As the lobster grows, the shedding process takes longer, but the lobster can also continue to produce more offspring. This is also their mating time. The female must shed her shell to become fertile. If she is not vulnerable, the eggs cannot be fertilized.

The authors used the illustration to talk about the vulnerability of a church when change is so desperately needed, but vulnerability is needed in the process. How can we shed our “old shell?” What courage do we need to risk “blindness” and move toward maturity?

I could not have come into a more powerful illustration of where we are currently as a church. And as leaders, we recognized it in that moment.

Lord, help us GROW!

It’s not a harvest problem

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matt. 9:35-38)

It’s not a harvest problem. It’s a worker problem. The problem is not “the church” and all the complaints we can lodge against “the church.” The problem, dear friend, is us. 

We need our eyes UP (toward Jesus, who know our needs and is more than able to supply) and OUT (toward others) so we can see our true Supply, our true Power, and then be a conduit of the Kingdom for those who are hurting. The harassed are all around. Lord, help us to see!

Christ has died, Christ has risen

“The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good. But the modern theory of nourishment — all about the vitamins and proteins — is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was ever heard of: and if the theory of vitamins is someday abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the same. Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Try telling that to a theologian.

Lewis keeps it simple. And on this particular point, I’m thankful.

Moving past regret

In my reflections today I settled too much on past regrets. I could begin to pinpoint mistakes and the results of those mistakes.

In tandem with that self-evaluation were the goals I am challenged with in 2015. One is memorization so I have begun my slow work in the Beatitudes. As I reflected on the Beatitudes and then reviewed past behaviors that have led to imperfect results today, I was struck with a new line of thinking.

There are certain actions that certainly have led to present conditions.

But make today different. The choice for today will help re-write what is ahead.

To live in blessing… or to live TO bless… today… will give the opportunity for a new possibility in the future. To live in Kingdom power… to live in poverty of spirit (as I reflect on the Beatitudes)… will allow THIS day to be different… and my future to be slightly altered in a far more meaningful way.

Make today different. 

Walk with a repentant heart. Keep accounts short.

Walk with an attitude toward blessing… not cursing.

Walk with a view to others and be opened to the Spirit’s work in someone else and how you get to contribute that day.

Move past regret. Make today different.