A Quiet Verse

About a month ago we started offering a GPS in our weekly worship guide.  GPS stands for “Grow, Pray, Study.”

Today’s scripture reading is Philippians 2.  I preached on a passage from this chapter yesterday, but today, reading the entire chapter, it got real for me as a reader and student of the bible, not just as a preacher.

This is what really caught me this morning: Philippians 2:13 says

God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.

I am stuck on this verse because at the moment it seems to me to unlock the very future of the church in the US!

Ask any pastor, and he or she will likely tell you that one of the greatest frustrations for pastors is the general cultural attitude most succinctly represented by this bumper sticker

The frustration is NOT that this doesn’t convey some truth about God’s grace. The frustration is that so many use this as a cop-out to miss out on the transformative power of God that is available with and by grace!

Sure, Christians aren’t perfect. Fine.  No argument.  But if you find yourself using this line as an excuse to refuse to change your behavior, that’s a problem.

If you claim the “Christians aren’t perfect” bit to fight learning to forgive others, that’s a problem.

If you throw down “Christians aren’t perfect” to justify the fact that you are no better a person, no more like Jesus, than you were a decade ago, that’s a problem.

This change God offers – God promises – is not on you!  It is on God, and God is stepping up to the plate.

And God will deliver. God will enable you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes!

Yes, you will have to make some changes, but God provides the lead and the power, the direction, and the ability.

And the God who offers this, provides this, is the God who made you and who breathed life into you.

Let this singular, quiet verse soak in for a while today, and see what God can do with it!

Do you really want what you want?

snowroofAfter a few fleeting moments of playing in the snow this morning, the kids were inside, warm, and dry. And ready to watch something.

Hello, Netflix!

Eliza wanted to watch Annie.

Liam wanted to watch Mater’s Tale Tales. Then Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

It turns out it was Liam’s turn to choose, so two things happened:

1) we started Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and
2) Eliza threw a small fit.

It was a very small fit: actually fairly worthy of the moment, and quickly left behind.
Within minutes – no more than 10 – both of them were enjoying the movie.

This is how it often goes with our kids.  Loudly (and proudly?) claim your preference.  Get louder if someone else claims an alternative preference.

Stand your ground

Raise the stakes

Refuse to listen, negotiate, or compromise.

Throw a fit if you don’t get your way.

I realized yesterday that we don’t necessarily unlearn this pattern as we grow up.

We don’t always want what we want. Sometimes we just don’t want to let someone else have a say.

It’s hard to listen when you are shouting, “My way or the highway!”

While this is worth considering for anyone, I particularly hope my church, the United Methodist Church #UMC, will give it thought.

We’ve not been listening so well to each other lately.  On some things, we have dug in for decades and refused to actually listen.

We want what we want. Or do we?

My Belated Apologies, Paul and Art

darknessYesterday I cracked open Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark.  This is the July selection for our Summer Book Club.   Here’s how the Introduction opens:

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.  – Isaiah 45:3

Immediately, this memory surfaced from more than 30 years ago.  As a young Christian in high school, I reacted strongly and arrogantly against a musical duo that performed at a Midwinter Retreat because they performed Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

Near the pinnacle of the phase of my life when I knew everything, I was utterly certain that the line “Hello darkness my old friend…” was (bot so) subtly conjuring up the Prince of Darkness Himself at this unsuspecting Christian event.

Oh, the horror!  The Horror!

Then, today, I crack

HOW CAN IT BE!?  In scripture, no less, a positive reference to darkness!

I had no idea, as a 16 year old young Christian-who-knew-everything, that this could possibly be from the same source, the Bible, as all my outrage at the reference to darkness.

So, I didn’t actually know everything then.  I don’t know everything today. It hasn’t taken me all these years to realize this. But it is not every day that something from my past is brought so clearly back into focus.

I am sorry, Simon and Garfunkel, for being so arrogantly presumptuous and condescending.  I am sorry, duo who sang at that Midwinter, for all the attitude a 16 year old Christian-who-knows-everything can muster.

I am looking forward to reading this book.

I am also looking forward to giving others the benefit of the doubt.  It turns out I didn’t know everything at 16.  I still don’t.

Accepting Change

I finished my run this morning, and had time, according to our normal daily routine, to catch a solid half hour of reading before the rest of the house would awaken.  Standing at the refrigerator, drawing cold water from the dispenser in the door, I was suddenly aware of a person staring at  me.  I had heard NOTHING.

Thankfully, it was Eliza, our nearly 3 year old daughter.  She recently graduated to a  “big girl bed.” She had not, prior to this morning, gotten up and out of bed on her own.  Today, though, she got out of bed and came downstairs in near darkness.  Apparently, the intent was to scare the _____ out of me.

Mission Accomplished!

I maintained a game face, and fairly quickly and smoothly moved into being proud of Eliza for growing up so much to get herself up and come downstairs.

Then I realized that, perhaps, the days of going and getting her out of bed have passed. I looked forward to that!

Children grow up.  Sometimes it happens in small steps, sometimes in bigger steps.  The goal for parents, at its most basic, is to get them grown up and on their own.

I began to wonder this morning what it means to be “on one’s own.”  Is this what we mean by the word “independent”?  If so, how independent do I hope she is someday?  And when?

Does independent mean I never hear from her again?

I read somewhere recently that if we really did not like change, no one would ever have children.  I suppose there is some truth to that.  I remain convinced that the change we (usually) have the most difficulty with is the change that comes without warning and not from our own decisions.

Do we like change or not?

I’m in required training today.  At MCH we have to re-certify in CPR every year.  Or, at least we used to have to recertify in CPR every year.  This has changed recently to once every two years.

Every five years the American Red Cross updates their training and requirements. Our instructor isn’t sure she likes the changes.

Every time Facebook updates or makes changes, someone cries foul.  Facebook’s changes even make news.

The other morning as I was out on my run I realized I get bored with running the same route day after day.  I’ve been rethinking my playlist for running, too.

Sometimes we say we like change that is within our control.  I think it is beyond that.  Sometimes we need, and like, change because it brings freshness or new perspective.  Sometimes we dislike change because it upsets the stauts quo into which we find we ahve fallen comfortable.

Chip and Dan Heath point out in Switch that if we just didn’t like change at all no one would ever have kids.

Do you like change?

(Not) Dealing with Change.

Randall Lee Church couldn’t take life “in the free,” so he set fire to a house to get put back in prison.

He had been released from prison 96 days before, having served 26 years inside.

Compare/contrast this with the woman who approached me last Sunday following worship. She felt the need to report to me that she found gum under a pew. “Maybe it’s my Christian upbringing,” she said “but this really bothers me.”

I am deeply concerned that the thing this woman brought into adulthood from her “Christian upbringing” was a prohibition against chewing gum in church.

I don’t recall Jesus addressing chewing gum. Yet, with all the issues there are/we have working with at risk adolescents, this is her issue.

I don’t know where she’s spent the last 26 years, but perhaps she would like to go back there.

Can One Change without Changing?

I just read what Slate says is Tim Cook’s first email to Apple’s employees as the new CEO.  He said, and they choose to pull this thought for their headline of the piece, that “I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change.”

I expect I know (partly from reading the context of the statement) what he meant, and I expect that he didn’t really mean that Apple won’t change.

After all, one of the things that has made Apple the “most innovative company in the world” is it’s ability to change.  Change products, change delivery methods, change the way you and I think about computers, the list is long and impressive.

If Apple is to continue to be the most innovative company in the world, or even one of the most innovative, Apple will indeed continue to change.

On the other hand, in a line not chosen by Slate for the headline, but one at least as important to Mr. Cook’s gaining (or retaining) the confidence of his employees, is this:

 I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA.

Apple’s “principles and values,” which operate at a level analogous to DNA, are what Cook means won’t change.  Whatever change and adaptation is called for in response to the world, to the market, etc., will occur within the same framework that Apple has established.

These days, however, we know that even DNA may not be as fixed as we once thought.  Genes now open or close – adjust – depending on circumstances, surroundings, trauma, etc.  The old (modern) dialectic of nature and nurture is a relic. The two cannot be separated.

We all change; sometimes in an effort to remain the same change is necessary.  As I look back at younger and earlier versions of myself (currently I am on Steve Heyduck 47.10), I can see some stability lying beneath an immense amount of change.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I hadn’t changed over time I would hardly be recognizable as the same person.

But, alas, as Chip and Dan Heath point out so clearly in Switch, we are not opposed to change – we are opposed to change that surprises us or is outside our control.

Apple will change; and so will we all.  What interests me, especially with regard to leadership of and through change, is upon what foundation(s) does one stand to face change, or to bring it about?