Love Me Stupidly

Last Christmas, I bought my wife several different gifts.  None of them were really needed, but I wanted to get them anyway.  Nothing really extravagant, but the total was… uh… more than necessary.  We were already getting a computer as a family gift, so money was a little scarce.  Still, I’d been paying attention and noticed a number of things she wanted in the months leading up to Christmas.  LuAnn has a knack for using her ‘Christmas money’ to buy herself whatever I have wrapped up for her, so I figured this year at least I’d have some backups!  But that wasn’t really what motivated me to buy so many things, despite the many reasons not to.

Even though we didn’t have enough money to buy these things ‘comfortably’… 
Even though LuAnn’s not all that into getting things…
Even though I know that she already knows I love her… 
Even though no amount of gift giving is adequate…
Even though the sum total of my efforts may look a little stupid…
I bought gifts for LuAnn because I love her.  I love her in amounts and ways that look stupid.  But she loves me back, and I don’t mind looking stupid.

As I was reading Margaret Feinberg‘s the Sacred echo last night, I came across a perspective on the widow who gave her last bit of money to God that opened my eyes just a little wider.  I’d always read the story and thought of generosity, making God priority, trusting God to provide, etc.  Maybe the simple fact is that this widow was so crazy about God that she did something stupid (at least stupid in the eyes of the people around her).  It makes no sense to give away your last few cents when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.  Widows of that day were
 basically at a fixed income of ZERO + whatever the people around would part with.  She wasn’t just trusting God, she was extravagantly, stupidly in love with Him.
Even though she didn’t have enough money to give ‘comfortably’… 
Even though God’s not all that into getting things…
Even though she knew that God already knew she loved Him…
Even though no amount of giving is adequate…
Even though the sum total of her efforts looked pretty stupid…
She gave because she loved God.  And she knew God loved her back, so she didn’t mind looking stupid.

Francis Chan hits on this same chord in Crazy Love.  He contrasts the profile of ‘the lukewarm’ with that of ‘the obsessed’.  It makes me wonder if I’ve been loving God as I should?  What is my love for Him pushing me to do even if it looks stupid or crazy?  Am I really obsessed with knowing God?
Maybe it’s time for you to wrestle with these questions as well?  Are you loving God stupidly or from a safe, comfortable distance?  Do you dare to give your last dollar just to tell Him you love Him?  Do you dare to dive deeply into the center of His heart, no matter what you may find you’ll want to sacrifice there?

A Coldwater Mission

Exciting things are happening in our student ministry. God is motivating leaders and students alike to reveal His kingdom to those around us. Reading through Matthew 10 this morning (thanks Jimmy), I noticed something that really got me thinking. Jesus was sending His disciples away from Him on a mission. He gave them some pretty amazing authority to back up the message they were carrying: that “the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

The thing that sparks my curiosity this morning is how he sent them out with no provisions aside from the mission itself and the ability to carry it out. They weren’t supposed to just go shout on the street corners – they were actually to do useful things to benefit the people of the region: things like getting rid of demons and illnesses and bringing people back to life (pretty useful if you’re dead, I’d say!).  They were not to take extra money or clothes or shoes, etc. because “workers are worth their keep.” They were to rely on the hospitality of the strangers they’d be serving!
I wonder today… There are those of us who are still tasked with the mission of proclaiming that the kingdom has come near. (Just in case you’re a little unclear, that’s you church!) How are we benefiting the people we’ve been sent to? What are we doing to reveal the kingdom of God here on earth? What are we doing to deserve the hospitality of our communities?

Weekend Movies…

Friday night, while my dad was in town, we headed to the theater to see Star Trek…  One of the first movie-memories I have is of going to “The Wrath of Khan” with my dad, so this was a little bit of nostalgia to witness the launching of what will presumably be another generation of the franchise.  Unfortunately, the tickets were sold down to 1, so we went to Wolverine instead.

I couldn’t help but think of my own brother as I watched the drama unfold between Victor and Logan.  Especially with lines like, “No one kills you but me.”  Growing up, my brother and I fought like crazy, but if either of us was ever ‘in trouble’ we always defended each other.  I got in more fights defending my brother than about anything else in our earlier school days.  He was small (as was I) which made him an easy target, but had a mouth that wouldn’t back down.  I often found my brother face to chest with some bully that he wouldn’t cower to, or some perceived enemy that he’d slighted.  I was always compelled to come to his side and de-escalate the situation – often verbally, but sometimes we just had to smack some sense into those other guys!  I wish it was still that simple.  I still know, though, that my brother and I (as well as the third of the trio who came a little too late to fight with) would still stand up for each other in any given situation.
Anyway, the movie was pretty good despite a few lines that felt really awkward.  I expected the comic book dialogue, but a couple times I just wondered which writer let his 5 year old write the lines…
Sunday brought better luck.  A friend and I ditched our wives and kids on Mother’s Day to go see the new Star Trek (which unexpectedly had some great maternal moments).  [Before I am castigated too intensely, I’ll just say that our wives got together and hung out at our house and had no problem whatsoever with being without us for a couple hours – BECAUSE WE LOVE OUR WIVES AND APPRECIATE THEM ALL YEAR LONG.]
I really liked Star Trek and hope it is only the beginning of another incarnation of the bold exploration of humanity and our place in the universe in the face of uncertainty.  It’s still a great story, and this rendition is well told.  I don’t want to ruin anything, but I love the thought that runs throughout the film: “I don’t believe in a no-win situation.”  Faced with their own mortality and great peril, the crew is forced, time and again to find solutions – sometimes impetuously, sometimes with pure logic.  But because Kirk refuses to give up – great things happen.
It’s interesting to think of how a leader gathers his tribe, and sets course into ‘strange new worlds’.  It leaves me asking, who is my tribe?  What makes me worth following?  And where am I leading them?
After helping a friend move a couple large items into an apartment, I spent a couple hours watching “Bedtime Story” with LuAnn.  She had already watched it with the kids, but I hadn’t got to see it yet.  It was pretty much hilarious – all the way through – and another reminder that convention isn’t always the best way to where you really want to be.
I haven’t been watching many movies lately, but went 3 for 3 this weekend!

I wish…

A couple weeks ago, we did an exercise with our Jr. High and High school students to get them dreaming about ‘what could be’ in the church.  Each person received an index card with the words “I wish WestWay…” printed across the top (beautifully printed by Missi & a blue marker I might add).  

There were no boundaries – just wishes.
I anticipated some pretty good responses (we have some pretty sharp students) sprinkled with a few less helpful thoughts (they have a sense of humor, too).  We’re in the process, over the next couple weeks, of breaking these thoughts down and sifting through to determine some next steps.  Here were the responses of our teens:
I wish WestWay…
-and the community would become one
-would bring more members to the church
-would awaken from her slumber and move to change the world
-could have a heart for God and reach out to the lost instead of waiting for them to find us
-would be able to get our church to go out and speak to the ghetto because the Mexicans are cool in school and if they will be with God then everyone will
-would have some sort of a “good deed group”
-in the future would be able, under some circumstance, convert millions of poeple to God – and may God have it happen
-would grow bigger out to the community
-could travel out of town to minister to other teens in other towns
-would do more mission trips – save the whole world
-could help a person to have a healthy life and we could support that one person for 2 or 3 years
-could stay strong and get more people to fill the seats that are empty on Sunday mornings.  I also wish we could get mroe students to come Wednesdays
-would do something.  I don’t think anyone has thought about the Spring Thing message.  I want people to take it to heart
-would have more opportunities to reach out by community service
-would be able to bring people to Christ
-would make more things for teenagers to do
-would get a bowling alley
-would grow more spiritually and closer together, and that we would grow more as a body and not just keep going on through life without stopping and looking at what God is doing
-would make more things for teens to do
-had a pet chimp named Joe
-had a youth ministry on Sunday, not just an adult one and you children
-would only change in a good way
-would have a time where we can connect with others, I used to feel on the outside until I started feeling comfortable in front of everyone here.
-It would be cool if we had a prayer altar where we can go pray humbly in front of Him like in one of the side rooms.  People need to listen and learn
-no hypocrites
-could be more of a free talking place, like discussing personal things
-would expand its members and we would gain more people
-would come with me to college or I could bring some of the rest of the church back when I visit
-would get more one on one with each other
-would have more youth Sundays maybe
The bold answers are the ones that groups of 4 or 5 students selected last night as priorities out of the list.  I love where this is pointing.  God is at work in our student ministry – calling students out of themselves and into Him, where He is shaping a mission oriented work force with more energy than GE could ever imagine!  There’s a ton of potential energy that’s about to go kinetic!

Links on a Thursday

I just wanted to share a couple links to some stuff I read recently.

The first is a concise little summary of Perry Noble’s optimism.  I can’t help but be excited about the future of the church when I think about these things…

Also, Knotter offers some thoughts about CatalystWestCoast here and here on his blog.  I really like the quote from Dan Kimball about the missional church not recalibrating theology, but recalibrating how we talk about theology.
If you missed it, by the way, some of my ‘processing notes’ from Catalyst are here and here and here and here and here.  (Each ‘here’ links to a different page, but you can also just scroll down on my main page and find the entries from the end of April.)

Don’t run away from me…

Lizzy is 2.  Very 2.  She has a stubbornness that I suppose we have to blame on genetics: it seems to be a dominant trait all the way around in our household!  Lately, she’s testing the limits of her own free will and figuring out how that plays into relationships within the family…  “I CAN say no to Siah – I CANNOT say no to Daddy.”

Yesterday, she had told me “NO” very emphatically when I told her to do something, then immediately realized her stubbornness had very deep roots – in me.  She knew she was in trouble before I said anything else, so she ran.  (Actually, this scenario played out a couple times yesterday.)
As she recovered from her *cough, cough* reprimand, I brought her face close to mine and said “Lizzie, when you know you’re in trouble, don’t run away from me.”
Immediately, I wondered how often God has longed to pull me close and tell me to stop running…  How often do we hide from God as we struggle with trouble that only He is able to handle?  Burying ourselves in work or play or even relationships that let us distract ourselves from the Truth that is waiting for us… Let’s stop repeating the folly of Adam and Eve, hiding in the garden, and run to our Father, who is more than able to correct us, heal us, and rebuild us for service in His Kingdom.