Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I substitute taught for a pre-school class today. And as you might remember, at the height of the day, right after lunch time, the pinnacle of pre-school experience begins: Nap time. You remember it well; laying down on your mat with your favorite disney blanket, laying your head on the small pillow while the teacher puts on meditative music that sound like waves gently hitting the shore, and it all happens next to your favorite stuffed animal. Perfection.
Well, this nap time, I got to see it from the other end. The kids laid on their mats and I suddenly saw the anxiety, the restlessness, the inability to hold still. Nap time was not so restful for some. Being the newbie teacher, I decided to watch what the aids did to quell the agitation in the room. They sat down next to one child, put their hand on the child's back or chest and simply stayed. Within 5 minutes, the child was asleep. Incredible! I wanted to try, so I chose Brian, the kid who was causing me problems all day long. I went and sat right next to him, put my hand on his chest and just gazed into his little brown eyes. He looked back with the resolve of a soldier. As we gazed at each other I could see in his eyes the questions, the fears, the "please don't leave me's." He was starving for attention, starving for someone to be with him, starving for someone to show him how to rest. He didn't flinch, he didn't try to get away, he wanted me with him. He wanted someone, anyone to absorb all of his energy so that he could let go.
And he did. After about 10 minutes Brian let go. Because someone was with him, he could rest.
I wonder if there is a restless four-year old within me. Sometimes I am certain there is. When I anxiously go from task to task to task, when I wander from friendship to friendship, hoping for a different result, when I can't sleep at night because I am so consumed by the future or so haunted by the past; all of these are indications of a restless four-year old. All these are indications that I need someone with me. All of these signal aimless desire for someone to gaze into my eyes and wordlessly communicate that it is ok to rest. How often do I live my life in anxious doing because I fail to recognize the Father's gaze. He is always gazing, but unlike Brian, most of the time I fail to gaze back.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
So a few weeks ago I was bummed to realize that I was bringing un-Christian friends to church to "hear the Gospel." I know that sounds weird, but I was honestly disappointed. You know why? Becasue I started beleiveing the lie that I have to take people to a place, a building, essentially a box with four walls and a professional speaker in order to deliver the gospel message. Since when did the Gospel happen only in a box?
The reality is that the Gospel is a story. Stories are so much bigger than places. Stories can be told whether you're in a building or in your neighbor's front yard. As soon as you start beleiveing that you have to bring your un-Christian friends to "church" to hear the Gospel is the instant you have an anorexic view of the God who is everywhere. If you want to share the Gospel, simply live out your story. I promise you, people will experience the gospel, but it will not be bound by a time or a location.
I play volleyball with a bunch of un-Christians on Saturday mornings. One thing I've noticed is how bold they are when they talk about their sexual escapades and how amazingly stupid drunk they got the night before. One time, a dude named Ty I was playing with turned around in between plays and said, "Hey beautiful, I wanna lick your pussy"' to a random girl walking by. I finally spoke up! "If you ever fucking say shit like that on my fucking court, you're not gonna play Ty. That is so fucking disrespectful." Unbelievably, the guy apologized to me.
Why did it take me that long to speak up for what I believe? Because somewhere deep inside, I am not convinced that God and his story is something that people actually need. The walls of unbelief inside us all, keep us from living the Gospel. If I have not experienced the whole gospel as a freeing, life-changing, counter-cultural gift from the loving God, I will share it with a half-passion or no passion at all. So here's my challenge: If you are not living the gospel, check and see if you actually have experienced the full gospel.
What do I mean the full gospel? I mean the gospel where people get healed of their diseases, emotional wounds are turned to scars that no longer hurt, demons are being exposed and cast out, and your life is one big adventure that cannot be explained apart from a risk-taking God. If you have expereinced this, you will not hesitate to share it. The Gospel will be like a baby that you have actually given birth to, with all it's joy and pain, and now all you want to do is show it off, tell how much it weighs and let people hold it. If you are like me, I have miles on the journey to go in experiencing that kind of gospel. But as I experience more and more, I am further convinced that the gospel is not simply told, it is experienced, lived, and given away. My life is becoming exposed, outside the walls of a building, my story is becoming living, breathing, and transformative because I am experiencing the transformative God. Sharing the gospel is becoming a lifestyle that happens when I'm at the bar, in my home, surfing, watching a movie, reading, getting coffee, and laughing. My story, swallowed whole by the story of Jesus, is the Gospel. My "Gospel in a Box" just became the "Gospel that is Everywhere and Anytime."
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
A couple years ago I used to lead a small group. We had one girl named Ru who was an amazing evangelist. She brought new people almost every week. After a while though, she started going out with a Buddhist guy she was trying to convert. Also during this time, she began to question parts of her faith that she had taken for granted before. She also began sleeping with her Buddhist boyfriend and I think she was a little ashamed of her lifestyle. Instead of coming to the people who she should have been able to trust the most, however, she ran. Our evangelist eventually stopped coming to group all together. As I've reflected on this and other incidents, it seems to me that people do not see the Church as a safe place to air their dirty laundry. People do not feel accepted if they really let people into their messy, doubting lives. And like Ru, they feel that they must leave the Church to explore their freedom! Why, is this the case?
You know why? Because the Church can't handle messy, searching, questioning people. The Church is threatened by doubters and question askers and intelligently searching people. And I think we're threatened because we just might not have asked that question and the foundation of our own faith may be rocked and split in half from the foundation if we do. So what do we do with doubters? We tell them to doubt outside the Church! We tell them to search elsewhere. And when young people asking questions get shut down, "elsewhere" is exactly where they go.
So here's what I say. Let people be messy in the Church. Allow people who've never felt ok cussing to cuss a little, let people figure out how far the purity line is. Let people drink. Let people mess up. Let people fail. Let people explore, question, search, and be messy, and let them do it in the Church!
The Christian life is not about keeping sin out of Christians. When we focus on getting rid of sin, we ultimately focus on getting rid of sinners. And unfortunately we unknowingly send the message, "Don't come back til you're done asking your questions. You can come back when you don't challenge the status quo."
This is exactly why our churches are filled with people who are dull and boring because they are people that never felt inwardly strong enough to ask the hard questions about God and life. If we want alive people, we need to be a Church that invites people who push the line. We need to be ready to pastor people on the edge of failure and unbelief. If we don't, we will not have sin in the Church, but we will also not have many people. So pastors, if you want alive Christians, then pastor the people who make life challenging. Pastor people who with hands in your face are screaming, "Don't come any closer," because underneath is a heart that says, "I'm so afraid to be loved." Pastor this.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Weeds grow naturally. You don't have to cultivate weeds. You don't have to loosen up the soil or make sure you water them, they simply are a fact of life. Why is that?
Part of the Fall was simply the fact that weeds happen when cultivation doesn't. It's that simple. The Fall ensured that if we allow nature to take it's course, we won't get tomato plants and apple trees, you get weeds.
It's the same with our lives, if we let life just takes it's course, we will not get amazing fruit, we will get weeds. Character and growing in the Spirt does not happen by accident. It's a choice. It is a choice to cultivate those things that really bring us life. The reality is that things will grow if we let the garden of your hearts go unkept, but the soil, the water and the nutrients that those plants consume will crowd out any space for fruitful plants. In other words, letting your garden go unkept will get you living plants, they just won't be plants that give you life. These kind of plants are the weeds, the things that take from you. Good plants don't just use up soil and nutrients, they produce a crop.
Friends, let us be people that live life cultivating those kinds of plants that give us life. If we do, there is no telling how many will benefit from our garden.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I've been bothered by the word 'relevant' when it comes to how Christians are to engage culture. It seems like lots of my friends and I myself have been tempted to jump on the relevant bandwagon without even knowing what damage we are doing. The question must be asked, "what is the 'matter' to which we are trying to be relevant as Christians?" Are we trying to be relevant to culture, or are we trying to be relevant to the human heart? If we are trying to be relevant to the human heart, then we would offer what the human heart really needs- God himself. I think we have missed what we are trying to be relevant to. Our desire to be relevant has been focused on the wrong thing. We have been trying to be relevant to culture, but we have missed the absolutely relevant heart of Jesus for the world, and inso doing we have ceased to be relevant to the human heart.
I am worried that we spend so much time trying to stay current with our culture that we miss the relevance that would be ours in Jesus. The same people that are trying so hard to be relevant to culture are the ones who have come to me in secret confessing just how non-existent their prayer lives are. Could it be that we are so focused on being relevant that we have lost touch with the very Source of relevance?
Jesus is the most relevant man alive. He knows exactly what people need. If you are reading more from Dan Brown than Scripture, and are watching more movies than gazing at the beauty of God, then I think you may just have as much to offer culture as culture itself. The world does not need more experts on culture!!! The world needs a dynamic, vibrant encounter with Jesus himself, and if we are spending more time trying to figure out culture than being passionately in love with Jesus, then we have absolutely missed the meaning of relevance.
Friends! Please hear me! The world is not looking for more cool people. They are looking for substance. They are looking for people whose lives are so radically different than anything the world can produce that they have to ask the question, "Why do you live like that?"
If I am at all honest with myself, trying to be relevant is simply a cover-up for having nothing original to say. I really don't think we become more relevant as Christians by being more concerned with what the world has to say about itself. We become more relevant by being more concerned about what Jesus has to say to us about the world. We become more relevant as we encounter more of Jesus. And when we encounter Jesus, the world will encounter Jesus because there is no one more relevant than him. He knows the latest news, and he knows the deep secrets of people's hearts.
If you want to impact someone in a relevant way, try asking God what they need to hear or experience that day and then deliver the message. I can't tell you how many times I have delivered a relevant message from God to a complete stranger simply because I spent time asking what God's heart was for the person. I guarantee you that those kind of encounters would not have happened if I spent my morning catching up on the latest LOST episode. Jesus' words to a person are infinitely more powerful than anything I will ever have to say.
Let's be relevant friends. But let's do it by spending our time with the most relevant Person alive and giving what we have received from him, to the world.
Friday, July 31, 2009
There's a rose called the David Austin Rose. In the early 60's, it was bred specifially to sell at flower shops who were tired of dethorning their roses. Scientists found a way to alter a particular gene that produced the rose's thorns. This wonder rose quickly became a flower shop favorite until patrons began to complain that the roses had no fragrance.
Scientists decided to investigate why. Their conclusion: the gene that produces a rose's thorns is the same gene that gives it its fragrance. To this day if you buy a genetically enhanced, thornless rose, you will smell nothing. There is no way to separate the fragrance from the thorns.
I think the same is true of life. If you get rid of the thorns of life, you also lose the fragrance. In this lifetime, there is no such thing as bliss without pain, love without hate, or life without death. The same gene that produces pain is the one that slows us down to what is. Pain forces us to take deep breaths and to smell the fragrance we may well have missed. So, let's embrace life with all of it's thorns and we will once again begin to smell it's fragrance.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
What is it about busyness that makes life feel so exciting? When I rush from event to event I feel important, needed, wanted. When I have friends around me I feel like I belong. When there are emails in my inbox, messages on my voicemail and mail in my mailbox I don't have to feel how lonely I am.
But the reality is that all this busyness is lifeless. It holds the appearance of life, but it is not life. True life cannot be felt at the speed of an open freeway, it cannot be felt when I am consumed so much by the next moment that I cannot enjoy the one I am in. So, I slow down. I wait. I enjoy. When I can slow down enough to feel what I really need, and not just what I want, I can feel life emerging. So much of my busyness is driven by what I want: I want to feel apart of five different groups of people. I want to be wanted. I want to be needed. I want to feel important and popular. I want to feel excitement.
What I want though, is not always what I need. Sometimes I need to experience how unimportant I really feel. Maybe I simply need to be reminded that I belong to God and not to any one group. What if what I need is to be stopped?