Talking to Myself… sort of

A couple days ago, I was having a discussion with a student who was working on a paper. She was writing about malnutrition and starvation in the world and about Compassion as a response to poverty. She presented her introduction to her teacher and was prompted to reconsider her topic. The topic wasn’t outside the bounds of the assignment, but the teacher suggested that when she presented the paper in class, the other students might put her down for it.

My response to her, in encouraging her to do the paper as well as possible, was that it doesn’t matter who rejects us when Christ has already accepted us. I hope she’ll do well. I hope she opens some eyes to how Christ (active in our actions) is the answer to this issue.

As I thought about what I’d said, I realized that I need to hear that, too. It really doesn’t matter if people reject me because Christ has already accepted me. I’m a peacemaking type of person. This is great in helping other people resolve their conflicts, but it also leads me to a severe concern with how other people see me. I worry too often about how my actions will be perceived or misperceived. I don’t need to. I’m loved by God. I have His acceptance. There’s no need to present a mock up of myself. (There’s a book by Brennan Manning called Abba’s Child that digs into this idea much more deeply.)

Walk This Way…

A couple years ago, at a conference full of people on the campus of Colorado State University, I heard someone call out my last name. I turned around to find a friend of my dad’s looking at me with a puzzled look on his face. He apologized and said he thought I was someone else, but then his synapses began firing a little more quickly and he realized the truth. I wasn’t who he thought I was… I was the son of who he thought I was.

“You walk just like your dad.”

Umm… thanks, I guess. I have to admit that I’ve never paid particular attention to my gait or that of my father. To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty apathetic about the mechanics of walking. I just do it. I’ve never examined the similarities, but apperantly, I step like he does.

My dad never told me how to walk. He just walked and I watched.

Someday, someone’s going to call out to somebody and tell them they sound like Mike. I hope I live my life in a way that makes that a compliment to those who follow the curious steps I take.

Willing to take a risk?

I got this in an e-mail from Gary Zustiak of CIY with the quotes. Great reminder!

“Bottom line—ministry is not about staging or lighting or MySpace or contemporary worship or dynamic programming—important as those things all are. Ministry is about loving students, loving them with the love of Christ. Sometimes we forget that in the details and pressures of each day’s responsibilities. However, in loving students, sometimes you get your heart broke. There are no guarantees. That is just the way it is. When that happens you might read the following quotes and be encouraged.”

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.” –Louise Erdich The Painted Drum January 10th, 2006

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell.” –C. S. Lewis

What will you risk for the sake of loving someone else with the love of Christ?

What a bunch of garbage.

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Phil. 3:8-9).

I wonder what kind of garbage I’ve been collecting? What is it that I need to dump out of my life in order to gain Christ?

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of dependence on ourselves. But we have to, because what we really need isn’t something we can provide on our own. Paul recognized that his high regard for following religious law wasn’t enough. He needed something more. Something he couldn’t produce on his own. He needed Christ.

And everything he’d held so dear for so long was garbage compared to knowing Him.

Here’s to taking out the trash…

Chugga Chugga…

My kids love trains. My boys, especially are enjoying living in town with a lot of train traffic. I hate that line in Polar Express that says something like, “The important thing about trains isn’t where it’s going, but choosing to get on…” Of course it matters where you’re going!

Anyway, I’m preaching tomorrow – here’s the train of thought my mind will take… more or less.

Grew up moving… Dad changed jobs (actually entire career fields)… Once as we loaded up the U-haul at the house we’d just sold, we didn’t know where we’d live when we got to where we were going…

When I got married (right after HS) we had nothing (no jobs, no money, no great career path plotted out), had to sell a wedding gift wok to buy enough Ramen to make it to the next (first) paycheck…

Worked as a waiter @ Perkins after graduating college while looking for a ministry…

God provides. He always gives us the tools to do what He’s asked us to do. (Doesn’t mean it’s all good, all the time.)

Just ask Job. Had it all. Lost it all. Had it all again. It wasn’t a cakewalk, but God did provide. Our obedience doesn’t guarantee ease… but it does guarantee Presence.

Abraham… Isaac, the son of promise (Gen 21)… Moriah (Gen 22)… obedient choice. Heb. 11:17ff – he expected Isaac’s resurrection! (Even in Abraham’s day, resurrection was pretty, um… rare!) Why would he have expected that? “God will provide.”

Moriah is later where Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem. Same area where God did exactly what he saved Abraham from doing. Sacrifice of his Son.

Rom. 12:1ff
Micah 6:6-8
Rom. 8:28ff

This will be my first time speaking to the whole congregation here… hope it’s not a train wreck! hehehe (Don’t worry, I’ll use complete sentences tomorrow.)

Martin Luther King Jr.

Not just a great civil rights leader, but a man of faith in the indiscriminant love of Jesus Christ. He believed in the power of the church to bring about societal change. In his 1963 letter from jail in Birmingham, he challenged local clergy –

“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

That challenge still echos to us today. We can’t just stand around and tell the world that it’s messed up. We must do something to bring people to the Healer.
Here’s an interesting article from Relevant’s website.
More MLK links:
Audio & text of “I Have a Dream” (with some video excerpts)
Text only of “I Have a Dream”

A Generous Orthodoxy…

One of the early slogans of the particular branch of the church in which I’ve grown up and served is “We’re not the only Christians, we’re Christians only.” Though some of the people in our movement that I knew as a kid seemed to have forgotten this statement, I always suspected that there really were genuine Jesus following people in other church groups (like Methodists and Lutherans and Baptists and Catholics and…) Our movement began as an effort to unite Christ followers of all stripes by seeking and cherishing the deeper truth of God that had become buried in centuries of differing opinions. At our best, we have done just that; at our worst, we have become one more exclusionary group defining who’s in and who’s out.

As I read McLaren’s book, I couldn’t help but think of my roots (and future) in the Christian Church. Much of what he says echoes the simple plea to follow Christ. But instead of cutting out any extra faith labels, he wants to hold on to all of them. (The subtitle for the book is “WHY I AM A missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished CHRISTIAN”) He looks into the histories of these groups, which often have little but scorn for each other, and points out valuable insights that each can bring to the table of the church in the post modern world.

I think his best thoughts were contained in the final chapter, where he describes this generous orthodoxy as one that is constantly in development. ‘We’re not finished yet.’ There’s been a lot of criticism of the emergent church that I think stems from this underlying current in the conversation. It seems that many in the church are afraid to acknowledge that we’ve not yet ‘arrived’. But Paul did so – and proclaimed that he would “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

I may not agree with everything McLaren advocates, but I am eager to ‘press on’ into what is ahead. This is a thoughtful, challenging book that shows many beautiful aspects of various ways of thinking in the church. May Christ followers of all varieties be able to bring our divergent colors together into a rich portrait of His Body.

Repainting the Picture

Some recent events and shows and public reactions have got me thinking about how most people view the church. (I mean people who aren’t a part of it.) If you think about portrayals of Christians and the church in film and tv, you can get a picture of how the public views the church – or at least how someone wants them to view the church. With a few exceptions (none of which really are coming to mind), we are drawn in a pretty ugly light.

Narrow minded bigots who are really no different than the guy on the next barstool – except he isn’t pretending he’s got no problems. Thoughtless answerers of questions that nobody’s asking. Self righteous moral police (as well as judge and jury) with the depth of character of a mud puddle in the desert. Pat Robertson’s, condemning everyone for everything we imagine they’ve done against God.

I don’t want to be painted in those colors. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing the Bride of Christ acting in this world as His Body should. Doing what He calls her to do. And that whole word ‘doing’ is key. James 1 talks about hearing the word and doing it. And about caring for orphans and widows who need our care.

In Batman Begins, Bruce is told something like “It’s not who you are inside that counts. It’s what you do.” It doesn’t matter how right we think we are, if we don’t care about the people around us. What we really are is reflected in our actions.

I know that ultimately most will stand against the church just as most stood against Christ, but I wonder… when will they look at us and see the love of God poured out on people who don’t deserve it? Where is that happening now? What happens when the church we think we are truly is the church people see?

Some Challenges Just Shouldn’t Be Made…

Check out this article.

Not that bank robbing is a really bright idea anyway, but add a vanity plate that says “FINDME” to the mix and you just have a recipe for instant jail time.

Dakota’s Comment

OK, I said last week that I’d comment more about Jeremiah, and Dakota’s comment that sparked some thinking, so here’s the story…

We were sitting in services at my parents’ church in Cody, WY on Christmas morning. The pastor had promised a brief service, but several kids in the congregation were a little, ummm… ‘restless’. (Ok, most of the restless kids happened to be mine.) As we sang the song of communion, Dakota (he’s our 3-year old son) leaned over to me and whispered, “Dad, I’m running out of quiet.”

As I stifled my laughter, my mind started to work. Here’s this three year old boy, trying his best to be quiet in the quiet of the moment he sensed happening, but knowing that he was just about to ‘run out of quiet’. There was some noise inside him that just had to come out.

I was reminded of Jeremiah “If I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

My prayer for our students and my own kids and self is that we would be so filled with the presence of God that we can’t possibly keep quiet about Him… That His Word would be in our hearts, like a fire that can’t be contained… That we would become courageous followers who have ‘run out of quiet’…