Archives For April 2009

Rice U. Sidewalk Thoughts

Mike —  April 8, 2009 — 4 Comments

I’ve been reading “The Blogging Church” from Brian Bailey and Terry Storch and came across a great architectural anecdote.

He mentions the unconventional way the architect planned out the sidewalks.  He “decided to open the campus without sidewalks and see where the poeple naturally traveled.  After a couple of weeks, it was obvious where the sidewalks should be poured.”

I’m really not satisfied with the way our student ministry functions right now and have been working through some possible ‘re-construction’ ideas.  I don’t know all the implications of this analogy, but I’m liking the idea: see where the work is needed by observing the patterns already established in the lives of students.

I have to recognize, though, that there were some set destinations (Point A & Point B…) that students were walking to on the campus.  While the students essentially established the routes, the university determined the destinations.
The first question then is, “Where do we want students to go?”

Banquet Recap

Mike —  April 8, 2009 — Leave a comment

I’ve never really been too big on celebrity.  The idea of a person being famous for being famous is really annoying.  I can understand being famous for doing something special or important, but I’m the last guy to go out of my way to see someone famous.  It drives me nuts when every conversation degenerates into breathless banter about the latest star.

So I wasn’t as gaga-excited for last night’s banquet with Bobby Bowden as some may have been.  I was impressed, though, that he had practice yesterday morning, flew from FL to NE to speak at a dinner for free, then flew back to catch a few hours sleep before another practice this morning.  And this is at like 79.  I also really liked that they brought out the fact that he’s been married for 60 years – though, I’m not sure I would have gotten married on April Fool’s Day!
Overall, it was a good night hanging out with some students, eating good food, hearing some nice stories with a great southern drawl.

Vince Antonucci, who is planting a church in Vegas called Verve, had a great post this morning from a verse most of us tend to fly right by (especially those of the male gender and those who are a little bit squeamish). You should read the post.

It’s the verse that talks about when Paul circumcised Timothy. Ouch!

Vince hit on the thought that in order to serve God, Timothy had to do something that was, uhh…. “less than comfortable”. Then he moves on to how often “Christians today ask certain questions and make a lot of objections before they’re willing to serve” We gripe and complain and want conditions to be met before we’ll serve God. (You really should read the post – he has some great examples.)

Not only was Timothy willing to put himself on the chopping block, he showed an extreme amount of trust in Paul. “Paul, can’t we just tell everyone it’s done? Do we really have to do this?” Timothy submitted to a leader he trusted (Paul later called him a son). There was more to this than “I’m the boss and I said so.” I wonder if Timothy would have trusted Paul so intimately had Paul not shown an interest in investing in Timothy. Paul believed in Timothy’s capacity to serve God. It was his idea to take Timothy with him on his journey.

The church needs leaders today who will call people into painful/irrational/unthinkable things. Our young people need mentors who show enough faith in them to call them to cut off what hides them – to tear away the shells that separate them from deep service to God – and walk with us on our journey.

Where’s My Future?

Mike —  April 5, 2009 — Leave a comment

Sitting in the kitchen today, my youngest son stopped whatever he was playing (he lives inside his own head, so we’re never quite sure where he is) and asked me “Dad, where is my future going to be?” I may not be the most observant father on the planet, but when a teachable moment walks up and smacks me in the face like that, I usually notice!

“Where is my future going to be?” At first I thought he was maybe asking a Heaven or Hell type question. “Does Jesus love me/Am I OK with God” type of thing. Quickly I realized he wasn’t thinking about anything post-mortem, but about his life here and now (which is pretty much what you get with any 5 year old). It’s easy to tell where we’ve been or to tell someone where they are now, but there’s no wall map that says “You will be here.” What is a 5 year old concept of the future anyway?

I told him it was wherever he makes it. Every choice we make shapes our future. Had I made different choices throughout the years, I’d be living in a very different present than the one I’m in now. A person can really get messed up with the “What if I’d just…” queries of life (I’ve spent way too much time in the land of second guessing), but at 5 years old I love this question.

“Where is my future going to be?” It’s like the beginning of a book. That first sentence eliminates all but a handful of options. Before that first sentence, the book could go anywhere, but as soon as it begins – the field narrows. With each decision of our lives, the field narrows. The book is being written. This makes every choice more weighty than we may have thought it was yesterday. We have to decide where we want our future to be and make the decisions that shape the world around us to create that future…

Where do you want your future to be? Are you choosing to go there?

– I wonder how the fish felt about the Boston Tea Party…

– I like helping people, but I’m terrible at asking for help.

– It’s a blizzard outside, my kids have been running around the house in their swimsuits all day, I don’t really know why, and I don’t have a problem with it. Does that make me an unfit parent?

– I wonder how people feel when they Twitter and no one follows.

– I think the Broncos will be just fine.

– I bet those early blooming daffodils feel pretty stupid now!

Light for Everyone

Mike —  April 3, 2009 — 2 Comments

Have you ever noticed how someone calling attention to some good that they’ve done just doesn’t seem appealing to us?  “Hey, look at me, I fed homeless people, helped an old lady cross the street, AND rescued 6 kittens today!”  It just seems to take the breath out of the actual acts themselves (no matter how good they may be).  We’re generally repelled by someone bragging about the good things they’ve done.

Contrasting this spotlight attitude is the humility of many who will fend off any type of praise whatsoever.  “Oh, it’s no big deal… it’s really no trouble…”  Some people will even go out of their way to keep secret some positive thing they’ve done.  But is it healthy humility, or something else?
In Matthew 5, Jesus called his followers the “light of the world.”  He called their attention to the way they’d light a lamp and put it on a stand (not under a bowl) to give light to everyone around.  Then he said “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
In Matthew 6, however, Jesus warns us to “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them.”  I think this is largely a concern with motive.  The key here isn’t in hiding or spotlighting the good that we do.  It is in the good we do pointing people’s attention to God.  It’s ironic that the act of serving can so easily become a source of pride.  Obviously in the Mt. 5 passage, Jesus isn’t telling us to go around calling attention to ourselves and the good things we do for others.  He’s calling us to live a life that is so radiant that the people around us can’t help but notice – and so ‘other’ that the only explanation is God.  When our lives call attention to Him, then we’re giving “light to everyone in the house”.

Gravity of Familiarity

Mike —  April 2, 2009 — Leave a comment

What is familiar often goes unnoticed.  We can tend to take for granted those things that are most commonly present to us.  Blemishes and annoyances that may be very irritating at first can even fade into oblivion with time.  And sometimes, the same can happen with certain passages of the Bible.  Even the words of Jesus can become so familiar that we stop noticing what He really said.

Matthew 5 begins a section of Scripture that is, and should be, very familiar to most in the church – and even many outside it.  But as I was reading this morning, it struck me that these words were so familiar that I was reading without even thinking about what I was reading.  I wanted to do something to slow myself down and really notice what Jesus was saying, so I inverted the sentence structure within the passage – escaping the traditional cadence of “Blessed are those who… for they shall…”.

When I was able to shed the weight caused by the gravity of familiarity, I noticed again how revolutionary Jesus’ words really are.  Everything he said in this passage we religiously refer to as “The Beatitudes” (whatever that means), shakes the very foundation of worldviews throughout time and place.  He turned value systems upside down.  If you’ll allow me a little license, here is a look at the passage from a less familiar angle:

The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in Spirit.
Comfort will be given to those who mourn.
The earth will be inherited by the meek.
Fulfillment will be given to those who insatiably seek righteousness.
Mercy will be shown to the merciful.
God will be seen by the pure in heart.
Children of God is the name given to the peacemakers.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to the persecuted righteous.

Pain inflicted on us because we align our lives with Jesus will result in great reward in heaven.

The reward really is great to those who live according to the worldview that Jesus offers in this passage.  Let’s slow down and notice how these values can be fleshed out in our lives…

The Fool’s Errand?

Mike —  April 1, 2009 — Leave a comment

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” -Epictetus

In any group of people working together, inertia can make us blind to needed change.  We get to going a certain direction, doing things a certain way, that we stop seeing other possibilities.  So when a needed change is suggested, the person suggesting the change may seem like a fool.  A proposal that doesn’t fit the status quo is not likely to be met with open arms by those who have settled the group into the status quo in the first place.  Because of this, many ideas never get brought out into the daylight, where they can shake us out of our lethargy.  Who wants to be thought to be an idiot?

Seth Godin argues along this same line of thinking as well in Tribes.  His thought is that groups are waiting to be gelled together under the leadership of heretics, men and women who are willing to jump the tracks and break free from the status quo.  Who will those people be?

Maybe the church needs more idiots.  (I am fully aware that there are many who would argue that the church is already full of idiots, but that’s another issue.)  We need people who are willing to risk looking foolish for the sake of improving our capacity to work out God’s mission.  The church was still a new venture in the world when Epictetus made his statement.  I don’t think he directed his comments to the followers of Jesus directly, but I wonder if they heard it and took it to heart.  They were certainly willing to be thought of as fools, as they swore their allegiance to Jesus – at any cost.
 
Our student ministry is in a rut.  We’re stuck in a pattern that allows students to appear to have things pretty well together, but live most of their days disengaged from God.  They can regurgitate the proper answers, but how close to the heart of God are they really living?  It’s time for some foolish ideas…