Friday, February 27, 2009

Signs of the times!

This stuff is impossible to make up even if you hired a genius. I'm amazed at how much easier it is to be just plain 'stupid' than it is to effectively use your amply proportioned brain. Take for instance the following signs:

Okay, so I get the deal about no parking between 2.00am and 5.00am. I personally don't see why, but... whatever! How do you explain the idea that between 8.00am and 5.00pm you can only park for fifteen minutes, but between 9.00am and 6.00pm you can park for 2 hours??? Are they serious??? Did the town council really elect to take hard earned tax payer dollars and put up this sign? "Creature resembling big foot"??? What the heck does that mean? Does the local sheriffs office have a 'mug shot' on file for "Big Foot," so that as the reported sightings 'flooded' in, they compared the eye witness descriptions to their file copy and determined that it was becoming a safety hazard to allow people run around this town without at least being aware of the possibility that 'Big Foot' might be crossing the street?
Okay, this scenario is fascinating. I'm hurtling down the interstate at say, oh I don't know, seventy five or eighty miles an hour (hope no cops are reading this), trying to get to my destination in time for dinner, when I come upon this sign. "Wow" I say to myself, "Self, you know you've always wanted a bathroom tour, and especially a free one! Why don't you let off the gas and take the Boulder Highway exit. I promise you're in for a treat. It's a free bathroom tour!!"

Hmmm, let me see. The car needs alignment, and as I drive towards the shop with the front end of my car looking like I'm turning left even though I'm going straight, I happen upon this sign. I'm super motivated to stop at this shop, it looks like they'll really be good at aligning vehicles so that they work just right. Why don't you meet me at the alignment shop so we can catch up? Better still, meet me at the free bathroom tours right off the Boulder Highway exit on the interstate. Have a frivolous weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stirring the proverbial pot

So I'm really stirring the proverbial pot with these questions, but what the heck, we've got to begin the conversation somewhere, right?! Here are a few questions that I've been pondering lately. What do you think?

  • Is it possible to develop an authentic relationship with God without having heard about or being connected to Jesus first?

  • Are we saved by cognitive acceptance of certain dogmas and the recitation of a rote prayer? Are we saved by the direction of our lives? Are we saved by both these things or neither one of them?

Don't all answer at once now ya hear! I have to admit that these questions (with a little tweaking from me) come from my new, dear friend, Alex McManus of the International Mentoring Network. They are definetely worth pondering so don't look for the easy way out and ask for the answers in advance (Thea take note :))

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Whose House is it?

So, I was watching "House" yesterday, and I must admit that it's by far one of the best shows on TV. I love the dialog, but I especially love the controversial, ethical, and moral questions that every episode seem to raise. Other than the fact that Dr. House is an egotistical, megalomaniac with a Messiah complex, he's a pretty good doctor and quite the genius. Yesterday his team was confronted with the case of a young (13 year old) boy who'd been born a hermaphrodite (having both male and female genitalia). Each one of his medical team had their own firm opinions about how the parents should have handled the circumstance, especially since they'd kept the truth from their son (or is it their daughter) all of his life.

Some made moral judgments about the parents honesty and commitment, while others simply decided that it wasn't their job to second guess parents' moral decisions. My question for you is this: As a Christian, what decision would you make about your child's sex if you gave birth to a child that was a hermaphrodite? Why would you decide the way you do?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Frivolous Friday!

Woo hoo, I'm actually posting Frivolous Friday on a Friday for a change! I really appreciate all of you who send me encouraging notes about my frivolous friday posts. You see, I work really hard to find suitable photos that I think say everything I want to say after a rather exasperating week. ;) Here are a few more 'favorites' that make you scratch your head and go "Huh?"

It's the twilight zone. You can't go forward, you can't go backwards, you can't go sideways, you can't go... What the heck possessed you to drive into this??? Death is imminent unless you have a car full of food until the pizza delivery guy shows up. (I wonder what happens once he gets stuck too? Hmmmm... I think I smell a business plan for rescuing people from the twilight zone!)

Speaking about death being imminent, how's this for a warning road sign to put the fear of God into you?! I bet this is a major deterent to speed in this neigborhood. I wonder how they do it? Do you think they use a sniper, or just put down nail strips that deflate all your tyres while your hurtling down the icy road?

Remember me speaking about experiments in translation recently? Well here's a perfect example. While this may be the most successful restaurant in Vietnam or Korea (or wherever the heck it's located), it would probably not attract too many customers in the USA, the UK, or any other English speaking nation for that matter. Someone might want to notify the proprietors that, if I have to eat anyone's dung, it had better be my own! Have a frivolously delightful weekend. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sayid Abdul Karim

This is Sayid Abdul Karim and his 9-year-old grandaughter. Sayid is 80! In case you're wondering, I am not personally acquainted with him or his grandaughter. I have said a prayer for them today though, and I'm truly burdened for their plight. What you don't see in the photograph (you'd have to see the full version on MSNBC) is the fact that they are in a makeshift tarp tent in a refugee camp in Afghanistan, which is located about three miles from where their village used to be. Today their village is identified by the rubble from their erstwhile homes, and the blank stares of the many disaffected lives wondering aimlessly around. A bomb, rudely dropped on their simple and unremarkable lives, made sure that this is the case. You may wonder why this matters to me, especially since I don't know them personally. Well that's the point isn't it? She could be my daughter, and he could be my dad.

Her look haunts me. His look scares me. Her look suggests that she has seen things that nine year old eyes shouldn't see. His look suggests that she is the only reason he has for wanting to live one more day. Stubborn questions keep resurrecting before my minds eye, such as: Where are her parents? Did they die in the bombing? Does she have any siblings, and if so did they survive? Did she ever get a chance to go to school and learn that there is so much more to life than bombs, shelters, and refugee camps? Does she even believe that it's possible to live in a safe, peaceful world? What's worse is that there are no real, concrete answers to all of these questions. That is why the Church must be the Church! We must love, serve, give, and go, so that the world knows that there really is hope even in the midst of a world struggling to become more human.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Experiments in translation (2)!

Lately I've been thinking, praying, and talking a lot about the Church as an 'experiment in translation'. I'm really committed to the idea of ensuring that the community to which I've been called to serve will experience the love of God through The Well with as little 'religious' fanfare and undertone as possible. I'm expurgating all the 'sacred cows' from our 'doctrines' that get in the way of people seeing Jesus for whom He really is. There is no doubt in my mind that only a very few human beings would maintain a laissez-faire attitude in the face of pure, unbridled, and uncomplicated love.

To observe much of the conversation between the Church and the sorrounding culture, one is inclined to believe that rancor is the strongest sentiment that exists between us. This flies in the face of the essence of the Gospel message, which, essentially is the message of how much God loves His creation (note that I said His creation and not Christians). Many erstwhile Christian leaders have done everything they knew to do, to create a utopian society that was built on 'Christian principles,' with a view to modeling what society should really look like, however culture has always prevailed upon these noble but misguided intentions to "Christianize" society. May be instead of 'Christianizing' our society, the real goal should be that Christianity 'infiltrates' the culture in its purest form so that people become more human, and consequently more Christlike.

In our small corner of the world, we are trying to live out what we preach. One Saturday a month, the worship team from The Well has been invited to perform at the farmer's market in Lake Mary, FL. Now before you begin to cheer and clap and shout "Praise the Lord!" you should know that we play very little 'Christian' music. You see, our goal is not to have people falling on their knees in repentance as others carefully sidestep their prostrate bodies while attempting to find the next best deal at the market. Not at all! In fact, our goal is simply to start a conversation about the things that matter to them, and then explain to them that we just might be able to find the answers together as we embark on the adventure of experimenting in translation through The Well. Last month (at the farmer's market) a sixty-something-year-old man wept openly as he watched our skits and listened to the music, stating: "I've been in church all my life, and I've never felt as impacted by the message of love the way I have been today." What??? that happens when you play secular music and do a few drama skits? Well, come and find out for yourself. You're welcome to join us if you're in the neighborhood!

Monday, February 16, 2009

There's probably no God...!!!

Last week in one of my posts, I alluded to the incredibly popular atheist bus campaign currently running in the UK, Scotland, and Wales. Posted on buses around the country, it states, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” I grudgingly admit that I admire the campaign! What??? I know, I know, many of you ‘religious’ Christian folk are already up in arms that I would make a statement like that. Many of you might even suggest that I’ve become soft, ‘seeker-sensitive’ and unwilling to take a stand for what I believe in. Whatever! I still admire their pluck, creativity, and foresight. So here’s the real story. Last year a comedy writer named, Ariane Sherine, while riding the bus noticed a ‘Christian’ ad which stated, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on this earth?” That quote, taken from Luke 18: 8, inspired her to check out the website listed below the ad, where she discovered that non-Christians were hell-bound in a very literal sense. Now, as true as that statement may be, I’m not sure it’s the overarching message of the Gospel.

Ariane proceeded to write an article on the Guardian’s blog in which she suggested that “An atheist bus campaign would provide a reassuring counter-message to religious slogans threatening non-Christians with hell and damnation.” She further suggested that if atheists contributed 5.00 pounds each, they would be able to cover the cost of the campaign. The fund raiser was launched on October 21, 2008 with a goal of raising 5,500.00 pounds. Within hours they had surpassed that goal and have currently raised over 135,000.00 pounds (I wonder if Christians can learn anything from this?).
Meanwhile the Christian response has been nothing if not predictable. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) have received almost 150 complaints suggesting that the ad is “Offensive to Christians and other religions that believe in a single God.” Wow! What about the campaign that ran quoting Luke 18: 8? Wasn’t that offensive to people who don’t believe in a single God? Why would we advocate such a double standard? Why would we think it’s okay for us as Christians to advertise anything we want, yet deny others the same right?

Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice, argued that the atheist campaign broke the advertising code on the grounds of substantiation and truthfulness. Green further said, “It is given as a statement of fact and that means it must be capable of substantiation if it is not to break the rules.” Why do we as Christians always want to win the battle and lose the war? Since when did the word “probably” indicate a statement of fact? All this complaining simply sounds like we’ve lost focus on what’s important and are merely fighting for the irrelevant. If atheists question God’s existence, it’s “probably” because of the way we have portrayed Him to our world (last I checked God hasn’t been down here recently to represent Himself). When asked why the use of the word “probably” instead of a more definitive term, Ariane responded, “…it means the slogan is more accurate, as even though there’s no scientific evidence at all for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist.”
So what exactly are Christians up in arms against? By her own admission, Ariane cannot say with any empirical certainty that God doesn’t exist. So the only part of the campaign that rings with loud clarity and indisputable truth is the following: “…Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Has it occurred to Christians that this is God speaking through the mouth of Balaam’s proverbial donkey? The only true part of their campaign is overwhelmingly God’s message to His creation. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12: 25)
“Don’t worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him.” (Philippians 4: 6)
If we are ever going to reflect the true nature and character of God to our world, we must learn to have a conversation with people who believe differently than we do without drawing swords and slashing away at everything that doesn’t look, sound or feel like we think it should. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Frivolous Friday! (on Saturday)

Hey, I can't help it if more newsworthy stories show up on Friday can I? Any way here's your dose of weekend humor to ensure that you keep a smile on your face through Monday!You might think we don't know what we're doing posting a handicap accessible sign here, but in reality these are new, space age steps. When you arrive at the bottom, yell at the top of your voice, dance a jig, twirl around five times and then throw a tantrum and the steps will immediately transform into a handicap accessible ramp! Hey, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.I cannot tell a lie, but this bothers me on multiple levels. Since when did standing and relieving myself become illegal? Is that guy praying or barfing into the bowl? Why on earth would I want to balance on the rim of the toilet when I can sit on the seat? Fishing???? No, seriously... fishing??? What are you fishing for? Don't even get me started on the last one, I'll just let you figure it out yourself.
I suggest that you make sure that you bring along company you like. Let me see, at 50 miles an hour, over 416 miles, it'll take you... Oh, about 31 days or 10 speeding tickets. Take your pick! Have a great weekend.

Friday, February 13, 2009

If I'm being honest...!!!

Can I be honest with you? Before I woke up this morning I'd never even heard of Clarence, NY. Before a little bit past 10.00pm last night, I would put money on the fact that possibly you and most other people hadn't either. The spotlight is often a good thing. Drawing attention to your small town can be rewarding. But never when it involves such devastating tragedy. Reports are that 49 people in the plane and one on the ground were killed when the plane carrying 5000 pounds of fuel hit a house in the quaint little village of Clarence. The inhabitants of Clarence will never be the same again. Their lives are forever changed by a common tragedy that will be the topic of conversation around the 'water cooler' for weeks, and possibly months to come.

But, if it's even possible to say so, there is one tragedy that stands out above all the rest. It's the story of Beverly Eckert, an activist for security changes since 9/11, who was on her way to speak at a ceremony. Sadly, she perished in the crash. What makes her story any different than the rest? Well, Beverly's husband lost his life on 9/11 in the World Trade Center plane (missile) crash. Since that time she had devoted her life to actively trying to get legislation passed that would make our country much safer from terrorist attacks. Ironically (maybe almost poetically) Beverly was on her way to speak at a ceremony in honor of her late husband, to be held at their high school where they'd been sweethearts. It would have commemorated his 58th birthday and the instituting of a scholarship in his name.

Life! Often as tenuous as a thread. Five minutes before the crash, if any one had told the person in the home, who was killed in the crash, that he/she had only five minutes to live, what could or would he/she have done differently? I guess we'll never know this side of heaven. One thing we do know though, is that we have an opportunity right here and right now to ensure that we are living life to the fullest so that the inevitable but unexpected end doesn't catch us unprepared. In the inimitable words of the atheist bus campaign in the UK, "...Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." And the first part of that campaign? I admit I've amended it slightly and, instead of the statement "There's probably no God" it now reads, "There is definitely a God"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are you human?

This will probably be my last post on the Human Event conference... until the next one! I know, I know, I sound confused and confusing. The truth is there's still so much to 'unpack' that I'm not inclined to just ramble on and on because I feel obligated to share something I've learned. Frankly, many of the pieces are still falling into place, and like the proverbial puzzle, the picture becomes clearer by the day. So am I going to continue to share stuff from the conference? That's the point isn't it? I don't really know until the next time something hits me and I feel impressed to share it. So just enjoy today's post and hope for the best. :)

One of the big ideas from the conference was the idea that the key question in the 21st Century will be "What does it mean to be (fully) human?" We agreed that, according to 1 Corinthians 15: 20-21 and Ephesians 2: 14-15, Jesus didn't come to 'teach' Christianity, but to make the world human again. That being said, we tossed around a few ideas suggesting what it means to be fully human.
  • To be fully human is to be part of a missional community that reflects God's character to, through, and for creation.
  • To be fully human is to embrace a radical interconnectedness to each other, the natural world, and the future, while using our extraordinary powers to shape them to intention, foresight, and love.
  • To be fully human requires refining and revealing the image of God to His creation.
  • We can't be fully human by ourselves, as, to be fully human requires interaction with others.

How would you define what it means to be fully human?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Conversations about God!

Today I want to continue discussing some of the ideas we exchanged at the "Human Event" conference this past week. Something that struck me as unique and particularly helpful in unpacking many of the ideas offered by the presenters was the format. The presenter would speak for twelve minutes (none of them actually did. In reality they spoke for about fifteen or twenty), then they would end their session with a question or series of questions. We would then break up into small groups of 3 or 4 people, and unpack the ideas and process the questions. Then we would return to the larger group and the presenter would field questions that arose from our small group sessions, and would conclude by moderating a hearty discussion to further expound, substantiate, or debunk their ideas.

One of the presentations addressed the issue of conversations about God with people ‘outside’ of our faith paradigm. Do we just parrot toady catch-phrases that we think make us sound relevant (my words), or do we genuinely look for an appropriate “Starting point for a conversation about God these days?” For instance, Tim Tebow, during the National Championship game, had JN. 3: 16 displayed on his 'eye-shadow'. Between midway through the first quarter and early the next morning the number one internet search on google was for JN. 3: 16. Whatever your view on this may be, Tebow has a mass appeal among college football fans, and he uses his standing in football as a starting point for a conversation about God. No doubt, some people who didn’t know what JN. 3: 16 meant prior to the game, are now aware that it says: “For God so loved… that He gave.” How cool is that?!

Why is this important? Because statistics tell us that in the West we are losing 5000 people a day from Christianity, while China adds 16,000 new Christians daily. Clearly there’s something ‘lost in translation’ between us and the people we’re trying to reach, and it’s imperative that we quickly figure out what it is in order to get it right. Books like The Shack, are beginning to explore these ideas in unique, and sometimes controversial ways, but at least they are opening up a conversation. So here are a couple of questions to ponder for the day:

What’s the starting point for a conversation about God these days?
What part of the gospel message, if any, would you start with?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Frivolous Friday! (on Saturday)

You know how they say it's better late than never, right? Well today I'm counting on that maxim as I 'publish' Frivolous Friday on Saturday. I found a few choice road signs that I wanted to share with you so sit back, relax, and prepare for an ab workout from laughing so hard. I admit to being totally confused by this one. Even if you did serve "grilled timber wolf" is that something you'd want to advertise to the general public? Besides, what if I like mine broiled or fried? Personally I think this is a bit exclusionary. BTW, for those of you coming off a fast, I bet you can't wait to sink your teeth into some good-old, healthy, timber wolf meat. From what I hear, it tastes like chicken!!!

I don't want to come off all judgmental and stuff, but I admit to being rather discriminatory about whose blood I drink. What if tonights 'bloody mary' special is the blood of one of the 3 bandits that rode into town last week and got wasted in a gunfight with the sheriff and his deputies? I can't say I'd be thrilled at the idea of drinking his blood. Any way, regardless of how I feel about it, I bet this town is considered a really politically friendly town by vampires! Equal rights for all!! P.S. Don't make the sheriff mad or you might find yourself on the menu for next week's special.

I wonder if these realtors adversely affect the property prices in the neighborhood. Bad enough that we have to worry about foxes (especially with that chicken coop we have out in the backyard), but now I also have to contend with roaches?! I think I'll just stick with Remax or someone like that, thank you very much. Well, don't hurt yourself laughing so hard 'cos I'd really like to see you back here next week. Have a frivoulously funny weekend!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Experiments in Translation!

I've spent the last two days at a conference in downtown Orlando, overlooking beautiful Lake Eola. It's been amazing, life-changing, challenging, inspirational... shall I go on? Seriously it's been incredibly refreshing and I've begun new relationships that will no doubt serve to further challenge and strengthen me over the next phase of my ministry. The conference, dubbed The Human Event, is hosted by Alex McManus's International Mentoring Network and is a conversation (literally speaking) between the presenters and the participants. I should have realized it would be something special when I noticed that the logo for the conference is a six-fingered hand! Before you get all weird on me and begin to claim the return of the antichrist, the idea behind this is simply being on the 'fringe' and out-of-the-box in your thinking and approach to communicating your faith.

There is so much stuff to unpack with regard to what we talked about, but one of the big ideas that stood out to me is this: The Church represents experiments in translation. What the heck does that mean, you're probably asking? Well, essentially it simply means that we have presumed to always speak authoritatively as the voice of God, knowing fully the mind of God. We have done this regardless of whether or not the things we are saying make any sense, or whether or not they are actually true. Now I'm not saying whether or not we believe that they are true, but whether or not they actually are.

For instance, an immigrant attempting to speak English may be convinced that they are hearing and saying the right thing, when in reality they are not. The word "crop" can tend to sound like "crap" to the immigrant ear when pronounced by an American. If the immigrant, in relaying this word believes that the word used was crap instead of crop, because of the way they interpreted it, it would not make them right but it would definetely change the idea of what they are trying to convey. To communicate effectively you must learn the language of the culture. This means we must possess the courage to speak as a native, but also the humility to recognize that we may be screwing up the words. Translating the scriptures into words, deeds, and rythms that make sense and are relevant to today's culture, is definetely an experiment in translation!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bring it on Baby!

Yesterday was National Signing Day. For those of you who don't have any inkling as to what happens in the world of high school and college athletics, NSD is the day when all the athletes who have committed to participate in collegiate level sports, sign their letters of intent (LOI), officially committing them to a particular school. My son, Demi, had committed to play his college football at University of South Florida (USF) back in June of 2008. I am so proud of how he went about making the decision, then contacting all the other coaches who had offered him a scholarship, notifying them that he would be going to USF. Many kids commit early just to secure a scholarship, then continue to seek 'better' options elsewhere, so that on NSD they spring a surprise on the school they originally committed to, by reneging on their committment and signing their LOI with another college. We are very blessed to have our son's college education paid for in full, and we are in no doubt about the fact that his college experience will be unique amd memorable. In the inimitable words of some beleaguered hip hop star... bring it on baby!!! I'm attaching a few photos of Demi on NSD.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Alpha and Omega!!!

Watch more YouTube videos on AOL Video

This is an amazing rendition of a worship song titled Alpha and Omega, written by a Nigerian (even though Israel mentions that they learned it in Zimbabwe), and performed by Israel Houghton and New Breed. The power of worship is tangible and heartfelt, and I desperately long to experience this depth of surrender in the American Church. If you can, take a few minutes to bask in the sweet anointing that flows through the video.We continue to pray and seek His face for a true revelation of what it means to be completely surrendered to His will and purpose. I pray this blesses your day and sets the tone for the rest of your week.

Instant Gratification

Recently I wrote an article in which I suggested that, if we had any idea as to where we'd be and what we'd be doing in the future, it would inform the choices and decisions we make today. I don't know about you, but sadly, as a pastor I've had the unfortunate 'task' of having to look back at decisions I made that I wish I could take back. Sometimes I listen to old sermons and cringe at what I said and wonder how it must have sounded to those hearing it at the time. I'm convinced that the more in the public eye you are, the more you must carefully guard what you say and what you do, because your words and your life are quotable.

Enter embattled Governor Bill Richardson, Nancy Killefer, Tom Daschle and Timothy Geithner. Richardson was tabbed as Obama's initial selection for commerce secretary, but withdrew his nomination amid a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors. The other three were all 'investigated' for tax evasion. Killefer, an executive with the consulting firm of McKinsey & Co., was nominated to fill the new White House post of Chief Performance Officer, which ironically, would have entailed working to increase efficiencies and eliminate waste in govt. Tom Daschle was Obama's pick for Secretary for Health and Human Services. Sadly, it was ascertained that Geithner, Killefer, and Daschle did evade paying taxes, Daschle to the tune of $128,203.00. (Daschle later paid the back taxes plus $11,964.00 in interest). What? If that isn't sheer greed, I don't know what is. Evidently it only occurred to him to do the right thing and pay his taxes only when he realized it would jeopardize his political future and the publics trust in him! And Killefer? For a paltry $964.69, being taxes for a household employee, she lost the chance to serve in a role that would have made her one of the most powerful people in the Obama White House.

Fortunately for Geithner, despite personal tax lapses that turned more than a third of the Senate against him, he was sworn in as Treasury Secretary in January. So we now have as our Treasury Secretary a man who has a questionable ethic where finances are concerned. The sad and bitter truth is, we all tend to have 'skeletons' in our closets, which may well come back to haunt us when we least expect it. All too often, the gratification of the moment supercedes the fear of potential repercautions, and we gratuitously bask in the apparent pleasure of the moment, until we become the next days headline story. If you don't believe me, ask... I've said my piece!