Tuesday, August 31, 2010

still me

During breakfast one day this week I had a candid conversation with my daughter Mercedes.  Sharing the morning while the rest of the house slept with this beautiful young woman was surreal.  There she sat, eyes focused, mind sharp, slight grin on her face...amazing.  I left the house still feeling as if I were having an out-of-body experience, and spent most of the bus ride trying to re-anchor myself to reality.  Who was this person sitting at my dining room table?  It wasn't that the conversation was all that heavy.  It was just the experience.  Somewhere between 19th street and I-240, I realized that the source of my disconnectedness with the experience was that I had expected someone else to go through these types of things.  I wouldn't have imagined it would still be...well...me.  But it was.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

music games - Jack Glue

When I was music minister at GLC, we used to play a creative game with the team.  We'd do word association with two different people saying the first thing that came to mind, and then one person would be required to write something (anything) creative that week based on the two words.  It could be a song, or a poem, etc.  Alvin (lots of love, bro) brought it to the group as something he'd picked up from Nickel Creek.  It was a blast and really made me stretch.  I ran across some of the crazy ones I came up with at the time.  The song below was written to use the words "jack" and glue".  For your enjoyment, the "Jack Glue Song".  I wish I had written down the music.  lol

Thursday, August 05, 2010

back in my day

"back in my day" I heard my 13-year old daughter say. Really? What day was that? Yesterday? I laughed at first, but then I began to think about the changes she's seen in her life. I think about the changes I've seen in my life. Back in my day, there were no cell phones, no public internet (forget about accessing the internet from a cell phone...crazy), what content was stored was stored on magnetic tape, and 4 to 5 local channels were the norm. Now that much change must surely be distinguishing enough for me to say "back in my day".

Then I think about the generation before mine: limited travel, limited news, one-room schools (dad attended the last one-room gradeschool in Missouri), outhouses, black and white television, etc. And those are just externally-observable differences. The sea of cultural and societal changes besides these are enormous! Desegregation, two-income households, single-parent households, on and on. Now that's a "back in my day". One generation further back is suffrage, prohibition, emancipation...the velocity of change is dizzying. Things have (seemingly) changed so significantly and rapidly over the last few centuries that it's part of our ethos to say "back in my day". But has it always been the case that one generation says to the next "back in my day"? Can you imagine the conversation four or five centuries ago?

"Back in my day, we were hunter gatherers" or "back in my day we were agrarian."
"um...yeah, dad, that's been the case for all the generations in our known history."

Of course, there were innovations and socioeconomic shifts, but did it shift the culture enough for the average man for there to be a "back in my day"? Maybe it's part of the human condition, but is it possible that it's a more recent inflamed condition? Maybe it's aggravated by technological change because technology does change the way we communicate. The renaissance (encyclopedic knowledge), the industrial revolution (mechanized capacity), the information age (universal access), etc. definitely increased the velocity of change as well as common awareness of it. Perhaps it's this common awareness that itself contributes to rate increase. Regardless, I wonder if it has become more of a built-in mechanism--and a not necessarily positive one at that. I wonder if we have such an expectation of change that we yield too much of our life to it. "Things have got to change." Really? Upon what is that assertion based? "Things were better back when..." Really? Or is it the assumption that things have fundamentally changed that causes us to romanticize the past and bail on the present? But has anything important really changed? Does being able to track trivialities on social media really change the core nature of human relationships? Or have we allowed the velocity of change to deceive us into focusing on non-core things? We expect change. We pine for change. Many are junkies of vain and pointless change: television, facebook, twitter, etc. Many are just waiting for the right ________ to come along. I have the feeling that we're listening to the music without considering our course. It's change for change's sake. Maybe we're blaming the changes rather than embracing them as tools and opportunities (escapism). Maybe we're (perhaps worse) putting our hope in change rather than in the unchanging One (nonconstructive optimism). Maybe (perhaps even worse yet) we're looking at "change" as an improvement in our basic human condition and holding that as some sort of absolute good.

Are we holding our breath for "change"?

Monday, August 02, 2010

butt overdraft

Everything--especially everything crass--seems funnier when you're 12. That was probably about the age I was when I first heard someone say, "Don't let your mouth write a check your butt can't cash." Taken literally it's nonsense. But most people in the U.S. can quickly infer the meaning given enough context. And those of us with juvenile senses of humor no doubt still find it a witty way to say don't talk bigger than you can act. But isn't that, in some sense, one part of the call for those who follow Christ? My faith (and therefore the entirety of my life) is based on assertions that are more than I can accomplish. Impossibly more than I can a accomplish. "I will overcome." In what universe can I make that happen? Not this one. "I'm going to be the kind of person who can say, 'imitate me. look at my life and do what I do.'" Are you on crack? There's no way I can live up to that. But, as the late Walter Hawkins said, "That's the kind of life we ought to live."

Well, my mouth has no problem writing checks, and fat ones at that. Sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're wrong, but they're almost always more than I feel like paying once they've left my mouth. A number of years ago, a good friend of mine was on pastoral staff at a church I had previously been very active in. I had resigned my ministry position partly because I was disillusioned with the direction of the church. Without going in to details, I can summarize by saying they were like a company that makes decision based on (speculative) market reaction rather than on product quality. In other words, it seemed to me they were more interested in, and measured their success by the number of people--"cool people" specifically--that came in the door. I was working my way through a Watchman Nee book at the time; so, I was all keyed up about some stuff, and I pointedly asked him, "What do you do with your time all day? How much of your day is spent in the ministry of the word and in prayer over the people that God has already sent? Is it the majority of your time, or is most of it spent figuring out clever marketing campaigns?" Yeah, ouch. "How do you measure success? If you were doing what you believed God told you to do as far as strategy, presentation, etc., and no growth happened for 3 years, would you think something's wrong?" Yeah, this is where the music gets creepy and there's a close up of the unusually attractive starlet putting her hand on the door knob as everyone in the theater screams, "Don't do it!" You can almost hear the divine paddle swooshing through the universe to make contact with my rear end.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I had not only conceded the ministry call (something I said I'd never do), but I had accepted a position to lead an alternative ministry that met on Saturday nights (beta ministries) in our church. We had great leadership--the best, actually. Some are now in Mexico as missionaries. Some are with us at True Vine. Some I'm praying will be with us soon ;) Great people that I assured when no one showed up for first service that we're just getting started, etc. "People will come." um...no, they didn't. After the years of conversations about what church was supposed to be, late-night sessions discussing stripping away all the junk so we could focus on what's really important, etc., almost nobody came. We were in that ministry for several years, but the attendance didn't change. People told us they loved us, loved our ministry, etc. They told us we were doing great, but they apparently didn't think it was great enough to come. As time continued, their supposed desire for change contrasted increasingly to their continued declination to the invitation for change, and it polarized our relationships. We were "them" and they were "us". The check my mouth had written in conversation with my pastor friend years earlier slammed into an insufficient fund and my butt was overdrawn. Were we doing what God told us to? The answer was yes. Where we doing vain or wrong things? While executed by imperfect people and therefore imperfect, the answer still came down to no, we weren't doing vain things--in fact, we had weekly opportunities for painful soul searching about our motives and execution. Why weren't people coming? Why wasn't it taking off? What's wrong (yes, I'd like to make a withdrawal on the check my mouth wrote years earlier). NSF--insufficient funds.

Psalm 105:19 says that the word of the Lord tested Joseph until it came to pass. That's where we were. God had told us to say yes to ministry. We could see great things happening through it. Probably, there were even greater things accomplished that we couldn't see. But it hurt. Letting your mouth write a check that your butt can't cash in the natural is just plain stupid and usually hurts. For example, if you were to walk up to Brock Lesnar and say, "hey, 'roid boy, MMA is for wimps and I can mop the street with you any day", it's going to be the kind of hurt that involves a hospital co-payment. However, letting your mouth write a check that your butt can't cash in faith is different. Oh, it will probably hurt (definitely if you're brash like I am), and an overdraft is likely--it's called the discipline through which God teaches you that it isn't about you. --but the end result is that He develops in You that which He desires so that you are ready for His work. He allows you seasons of soul-searching so that when it comes time to do something even crazier...say start a church or maybe take up that interpretive mime ministry that's been on your heart...you have the seasons of Him covering the overdraft witnessing that however imperfect you may be, it's about Him--not you. As a perquisite for opening an account, there's also a huge toaster full of motives that have been vetted, purified, and solidified. You don't to worry about what you'll do if people talk negatively because they already have. You don't have to worry about what you'll do if it isn't popular because you've been there, done that. You can say, "I died once. It was very liberating." No sir, I have no idea how I'll cover that check...now who do I make it out to?