Do you know what you think?

At Euless First UMC we have been on a Long and Winding Road since late August. This has been my sermon series, but it has also been an effort to get people to share their stories with one another.

I contend that coming to terms with one’s own faith story is the best exercise for sharing one’s faith.  Sure, being able to argue someone under the table may convince them you are right (or at least that you are a better arguer).  Being able to recite theories, scriptures, or proofs of God’s existence may also win attention. But unless and until your life offers something deep, lasting, and real about the God you claim to worship and follow, I’m afraid those around you are left with words and ideas, but not life.

On the way to thinking through one’s faith story, I have suggested 4 different forms:

  1. Your Story in 6 words: modeled after that famous short story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
  2. Tweet version: Your Story in 140 characters (or less)
  3. Elevator Pitch: something you can say in 30-45 seconds that leaves the listener wanting to know more, and
  4. Long Form – 300-500 words:  (I know some don’t consider this long) Your Story in a page or two.

I have completed mine, and will be sharing them here over the next few days.

But before we get there, I had this thought as I sat down to begin to share these different versions of my story: until I thought about my life in an intentional way, it wasn’t really a story, but just rambling thoughts.

Which led me to the heading of this post: Do you know what you think? Whether it is your story or a football game you watched over the weekend; whether you tell your story in the context of God’s larger story or not, until you stop and consider what it is you think, you don’t really know.

It might seem obvious that one knows what one thinks – in general, or about any specific topic – until one can communicate it somehow to another person, I am not sure that he or she really does know what he or she thinks.

Do you know what you think?  Could you tell me in a way that I understand?

We’re right there with you, Miley

Here I am, a week after all the other bloggers have had their say on the Miley Cyrus at the VMAs incident. I can’t say I have followed it all closely enough to comment.  I didn’t watch the VMAs and never have.  It’s not that I am opposed to music or music videos; they (music videos) have just never hooked me.

But when I saw this  this morning, I was intrigued, so I read it.  I wasn’t drawn in my the f word, nor will include it here.  The quote that got me, and that sprung “blog fodder” into my head, was this:

everyone does dumb stuff when they are messed up.

Yes, everyone does.  We are all right there with you, Miley.

Of course, few of us have lived most of our lives in the celebrity spotlight.  There are other details about your life that some of my readers will know because they grew up “with” you in a sense.

In the interview you gave, you acknowledge that your life has been very messed up.  While I likely cannot imagine the degree and specifics therein, I can empathize. I, too, have lived a very messed up life.

And here is where some want me to say something like: “then I gave my heart to Jesus and everything got better.”

Well, kinda.

Ok, not really.  Right after I gave my heart to Jesus things did get better.  But the shine wore off and had, for a couple of decades, and life that looked great but was still rather messed up.

What turned it around?  a couple of things, honestly.  First, therapy.  I admitted to myself that I needed professional help and found it is a therapist I could trust. Second, I began to live more honestly and openly in relationship with the community of people I had around me.

These people were my church. So, yes; to those of you who thought I shrugged off Jesus a couple of paragraphs above, I do credit Jesus for the community in which I have, over the past 15 or so years, been learning to deal with and find healing for, all the “messed up” aspects of my life.

Simply put, Miley: we ALL do dumb stuff when we are messed up, and we are all, or at least have been, messed up.

Here’s hoping and praying you don’t wait until your mid 30s to take on the work of finding healing.

A Reason for Hope?

I’ve just finished my latest read for the SpeakEasy Blogger review network.  The book is Bob Seidensticker’s Cross Examined: an unconventional spiritual journey. It was a very enjoyable read; I recommend it.  Because Christian Apologetics is one of the main topics dealt with in this novel, I want to deal with this before posting my actual review.

For the uninitiated, apologetics is not about saying one is sorry, but about defending one’s faith. The word apologia, from which apologetics is derived, means to give “words about;” to answer or explain something.

Many Christian Apologists root their apologetics in 1 Peter 3:15 which says

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect[.]

Many of the debates that Christians enter into with atheists or evolutionists or people of other religions are understood and described by the Christian invovled as being apologetic.  They tend to be logical, rational, or at least rhetorical presentations of evidence and philosophical points.

Here is my question:  how are rhetorical skills and debate tactics equated with giving a reason for  “hope that you have”?  The hope I have as a follower of Jesus cannot begin to be grasped by eloquent arguments or well framed premises and conclusions.  The hope I have, the hope that is “in me” )in the King James version of the 1 Peter passage) is a living, ongoing relationship with God that I have found available through Jesus Christ.

Arguments don’t offer hope.  They may (or may not) offer answers.  Answers are not hope!

What kind of Church is that?

In correspondence with another pastor last week, I read his description of his congregation as “a conservative church.”

While I understood what he meant (I think), this really made the wheels turn in my head.  I could, perhaps, so characterize every church I have served in the past as either “conservative” or “liberal.”  [our correspondence was about American politics, so I am referring to American political labels “conservative” and “liberal.”]  The more I think about all this, though, the less helpful it seems to me to identify a church, a congregation, a representation of the Body of Christ, with one political label or another.

You can argue that this trait of Jesus is “conservative” or “liberal” but these labels as they occur in 2012 do not translate directly to Jesus’ day.  This means that, generally, they are not helpful in doing what we who follow Jesus are called to do, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Except, of course, the one political label that I believe all Christians ought to proudly wear – that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

I hope this, the Lordship of Jesus, is the political message members, visitors, outsiders, and passersby get from the Church I pastor.



Actual or Percieved Boundaries?

I work in Euless, Texas.  I live nearby; my mailing address says I live in Hurst, but my house is actually within the city limits of Fort Worth.

In the four months since we moved, we have found that none of the boundaries between these three cities makes much difference day-to-day.  There are different taxing entities, different access to services (usually based on the taxing entity). There are taxing entities (Tarrant County, Tarrant County College system, etc.) that include each of these.  So far has I have noticed, and I have even asked a variety of people, there is no noticeable preferential treatment or discrimination based on where one lives.

On the other hand, not far to my east is Irving.  I don’t know all that much about Irving, but I have found that the Irving version of some stores or services is closer to where I work than the next closest store or service of the same kind to my west.

Irving, though, is across the county line and on the other side of the DFW airport and highway 360.

Something about the way the DFW metroplex has developed, I have noticed that this perceived boundary between the Dallas side and the Fort Worth side is really quite real.

I am trying to figure this out. At the same time, I realize that I live within other boundaries that are more based on perception than reality.  Architectural style, age of  neighborhood, proximity to a WalMart (among others) that some might perceive as establishing boundaries.

Are you aware of the boundaries within which you tend to live?  Which of them are actual, which are perceived?


Limited Perspective

I recall once, years ago, stepping onto a hospital elevator. Already aboard was a boy, perhaps 8 years old.  To make conversation, in case he was uncomfortable, I asked, “is this elevator going up?”

He replied quickly that “This elevator only goes up.”

I didn’t argue with him, but, rather, enjoyed the perspective of an young boy soloing on an elevator.

Not long ago, Eliza and I were sitting together on an airplane from Dallas to St. Louis.  As we took off, I realized that I am not so different from that 8 year old boy.  I begin each flight with the thought that everyone on the plane is going to the same place I am.  While this is true in a sense – we were all going to the St. Louis airport.

But some on the flight were continuing on to Newark.  Some were traveling to St. Louis not to visit, but to return home.

I don’t think it is naive to begin with thinking that everyone on a plane is going the same place any more than to assume that an elevator that is going up is the “up elevator.”  Naivete begins when this is the limit of one’s thinking.

One of the challenges we face in overcoming modernity is that of perspective.  To a large extent, modernity leads us to believe that perspective is something that can be overcome.

It didn’t take me long to learn that the other man seated with us was from San Antonio, or that the person across the aisle was returning home from a visit to Dallas to see her grandchildren.  With this knowledge, I gained more perspective than before.  Had I taken the time to learn everyone’s story who was on the flight, I would have had a still broader perspective.

Sometimes modernity tempts us to make statements that are not dependent on perspective.  It is helpful to gain the perspective of others, it is even more helpful to remember that we do not ever get beyond perspective.