Speak for yourself

Next time you try to tell someone something, but dress it in “some people have told me…” or “everyone is saying…,” we know you speak only for yourself.

Own it! Your opinion is worth something.  Really; everyone’s opinion is worth something,

I mean it.  I’m not just bloviating generalities.  Your opinion matters.

In fact, it matters more when you can actually express your opinion.  When you pretend you speak on behalf of others because you think it will carry more weight. Ok, it may not carry more weight, but it will be honest, and honesty carries more weight.

I care what you think, but when you throw down the intimidation factor of trying to convince me there is a groundswell of support behind you, I am more than likely going to blow you off.

I mean all this especially in the context of church work.  The church has not always been good at being honest with one another.  In fact, we’ve got some pretty horrific time-honored practices of putting people in their place and keeping them there. Of silencing minorities we don’t want to hear from.

But we are Jesus’ people.  We claim him as our Savior, and say we want to follow him. We believe Jesus listened to individuals; if we follow him, it is a good practice for us to develop as well.

So, from now on, if I have something to tell you, I won’t try to crowdsource it.  I hope you’ll do the same for me.

Changing Your Mind

Are you at the mercy of whatever happens to enter your mind?  Sometimes this becomes an excuse we make.  It is one tool we use to justify a lack of transformation in our lives.

Now, you may (or may not) want any transformation in your life, but people of God are promised, offered, commanded it.

So here we go. Can we, indeed, change our minds?

I did so last night.  I am still surprised that it happened, and the degree to which it succeeded.

You see, I had a particular song in my head.  It doesn’t matter what song it was, but you know how this works.  Sometimes you get a song in your head and it just stays.  (I once had the theme from the A-Team in my head for over a year, but don’t hold that against me)

I was tired of this particular song, whatever it was, so I set to thinking of a different song.  I hoped to replace one song with another.

It worked.  I don’t mind telling you, either, that, for whatever reason, the new song, that I now cannot get out of my head is Shine, by the Newsboys. (Thank you, Glen Lake Camp, for making sure that song was in my recall files.)

Changing what is in one’s mind is not always this easy, but it IS possible.  More than that, perhaps it will help you to know that God is interested in changing our minds (Romans 12:2 & 2 Corinthians 10:5, for example).

Give it a try.  Start with something little, like a song in your head.

God’s it for it. Are you?

Favorite Commandment?

ten_commandmentDo you have a favorite Commandment?  I am thinking of the Ten Commandments, but you might choose from the two greatest that Jesus and “the legal expert” both cite as summing up all the rest.  Or you may choose from among the 613 Commandments of the Torah.

You may, perhaps, even cite some other authoritative source for the purposes of this post.

This thought arises after having heard, again, adults suggest to children that the “most important one for you” is to obey your mother and father.

Huh.  Now, I’m not going to disagree on this in front of a roomful of children.  But sometimes I wonder if we have told children THIS commandment often enough that we begin to think it is for them.

I don’t think there is any credible biblical scholar who would support the idea that the other 9 are for everyone, but that one is for children.

Another possibility of your (or my) favorite commandment would be the one that we have the least likelihood of offending.  Kill?  No, that’s really not me, so I’ll jump on that one as the most important.  I’ll engage in discussions (actually debates) about how this commandment is the most important and work tirelessly to get other people to stop breaking it.

Least favorite? Well, that’s easy.  It would be the one over which we stumble most.  That whole covet thing gets me daily.  Did Moses have any idea how materialistic our culture would be?  Don’t covet anything?  How about nothing over $100?

What do I mean by favorite?  Favorite one to toss at others?  Favorite one to celebrate?  Favorite to stand awestruck at God’s goodness?

Your choice.  After all, it’s YOUR favorite.

 

Idol or Offering?

In the same week that I was engaged in a discussion about online worship, I came across this:Image

I was struck at the cultural contrast in this image. The altar setting appears very traditional to me, the LCD television sitting upon it the opposite.

The first thought I had, honestly, was that this symbolized our present-day worship of electronic imagery.  Is the television itself a “graven image,” or are the multiplicity of images we look for on it “graven images”?

Or could it be that an altar is exactly where Jesus Followers ought to place their televisions.  What we put on the altar, after all, is what we give to God.  Dare we give our use of the screen to God?

ALL of our use of the screen? EVERY screen?

If indeed our employment of screens is given over to God, what might this mean about our openness to worship, fellowship, other experiences we have that involve screens?

You don’t know… You CAN’T know…

Bill Cosby, in the interest of helping men understand the agony of giving birth, likened it to “taking your lower lip, and pulling it up over your head.”  I’m not sure how close a match that would be, but I know it is closer than  this:

Rachel was in the hospital the day after giving birth to our son Liam.  I had gone down to the first floor for something and got onto the elevator to return to the Labor and Delivery section.  I rode with a man and a woman, who I quickly identified as a father and grandmother of a newborn.

The man mentioned that his back was hurting. He had not slept well on the pseudo-bed the hospital provided for partners of those giving birth.  Then he said this, “my back hurts so much I know how my wife must feel.”  (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP)

No, sir, you don’t.  You can’t

My own wife had, the day before, gone through a rather brief labor.  She delivered Liam without any pain medication, in less than 3 hours.  I think I would rather pull my lower lip over my head.

His wife, he explained, had endured 36 hours of labor and then had a C-section.  I don’t care what kind of mattress he slept or tossed-and-turned on; it didn’t match what the mother of his child had just done.

I know we are wired to make comparisons.  Sometimes, when motivated by empathy and compassion, such comparisons may be helpful.

I don’t think this man’s was.

There are things men don’t know, and can’t know, about being a woman – including giving birth.  Even if you (or a comedian) offers us an analogy, we will not and cannot really grasp it.

There are also things women don’t know, and can’t know, about being a man.

Categories are now flooding my mind of all the possibilities of limits on comparison here.  We are all humans, but not a single one of us is *just* a human.  Every one of us is identified in multiple other ways, too, that limit the ability of some to really grasp everything about us.

And vice-versa.

However many hyphens this adds to your self-description, I believe it is incredibly helpful for us to humbly acknowledge not only what we *all* have in common, but how very much we don’t.

 

Fear of Neither Future nor Past

Someone shared this with me in an email titled: Church Services of the Future. (It can also be found at places other than FreeRepublic.com.  Slide1I believe the idea behind the email (I was among a  good number of recipients) was to engender discussion of the ways technology is, or seems to be, or threatens to be, infringing on worship.

My first thought was that this was posted by a traditionalist, strongly opposed to any technology in worship.

Of, by that I mean (or the traditionalist means) opposition to any recent technology in worship.  I assume, anyway, that there is not widespread opposition to the use of electricity – whether it be in the lights or sound system.

(I don’t know if distribution of cassette tapes of sermons is more acceptable than downloading digital copies.  Find a traditionalist and ask.)

FYI, I am not, at least in the technological sense, a traditionalist.

Neither am I one who insists that proper, relevant worship of God must be on the cutting edge of technology.

So here is my response to the email discussion of this alleged “Church Service of the Future”: I do not believe worship (at least Christian worship) should be about technology.  By this I mean Christian worship is about Christ and not, specifically and clear NOT about either

  • the use of the latest technology

or

  • the avoidance of technology.

God has no more (and no less) issue with your being distracted from worship by your smart phone than by worrying what that other person is looking at on her smartphone.

When I was a youth, we sometimes passed notes to one another during the sermon. Offering envelopes served well for this.  When caught, we were admonished that we should be paying attention.

I don’t remember whether or not the notes were ever related to what the preacher was saying or not.

I know people who taking notes on their phones or tablet computers during sermons.

Is writing notes on by hand more worshipful than writing them electronically?  Not a chance.

Worship is about worship – worship of God. It is not about technology – whether that means for technology, or against it.

What does your sign say?

Several leaders of my church and I attended a Stewardship Seminar this weekend led by Dr. Clif Christopher of Horizons Stewardship.  It was a very helpful, informative event; and a trip well worth taking for the group I went with.

One of Dr. Christopher’s points that I particularly enjoyed was that a cross, a sign by which most every church represents itself, advertises changed lives.  In this context, he told a story of stopping for food on a long drive.  Hungry for chicken, he found a KFC sign and pulled in. He ordered Extra Crispy and was told they were out.  He asked, then, for original recipe, and was told they were out.3089365994_e562bf09c0_o

This KFC (stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken) had no chicken.

The implication was clear: churches that have a cross anywhere in their signage that do not offer changed lives are as nonsensical as a KFC with no chicken.

I love his point!  Churches are about following Jesus, and Jesus is about changed lives.  What could be simpler?

Oh, yeah, then there’s this: unchristian and the Rise of the Nones (Pew Research Center Study) rather conclusively show that the cross does not mean changed lives to everyone who sees it.

Just like words out of our mouths, the intended message is not always the one that is received.  Is it entirely the responsibility of the speaker, or the one (church) with the sign to  perfectly articulate in ways that cannot be misunderstood?  Hardly.

On the other hand, the first step towards returning the message of the cross to the understanding we Christians intend it to have is to be in the process of having our own lives changed.

Let’s try this for a while and see how it works!