Friday, August 30, 2019

Atheists

For a long time I've rebuked the idea of atheism. Everybody believes in something. They may be agnostic about God but they believe in love. Or they may definitively denounce God but believe in humanity or human greed.

But it wasn't until recently that I noticed how much people actually worship other gods. If you look at someone's calendar and bank statement, you can see what they believe in. Hard work? Family? Social causes? Education? Escape from reality (either through safe or harmful places on the internet or other means)?

That last one hits home. I spend way too much time on the realm of social media. And when I feel like I'm doing better, I'm usually spending an unbalanced amount of time at work.

I love God. I love my understanding of God's grace. I love that my understanding is limited because God is bigger than I can imagine.

But I don't love Him completely. I miss the mark. Often. When I realize that, it stings for a bit. But it also brings me closer to Him. The process of sanctification isn't easy. But it worth it.

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Prayer for the Church

I had a dream last night that I was teaching at the church. Like most dreams, the setting was very different from reality. I was in some sort of old house. A house that was old but familiar. It creaked. It had an old smell. It didn't do any of the things modern houses do but it still felt like home. Just not a home I wanted to live in.

While people came in and out of the home, I would tell them about God. They would be amazed and share what I taught with their friends, but then they'd leave and not come back.

One day we were building something new onto the house. I think it was something for children because they were very excited about it. When the dirt was unearthed it stirred up all sorts of trouble. Snakes and insects appeared and didn't know where to go. Some people killed them. Others took them in as pets and tried to scare other people with them. It worked with me. I was scared.

I woke up ready to be out of my dream. But realizing it was Sunday and I had to go to church to lead worship, I felt differently. I immediately felt guilty and told God how much I love Him. But the dream remains in my head. It haunts me.

God - may we have the courage to do new things and the wisdom to deal with what that unearths.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Intersectional Innovation

Last year I felt a call to do something innovative in ministry. I threw all sorts of ideas on the wall such as expanding our CrossFit Bible Study, opening a coffee shop run by teens and adults with special needs, Dinner Church, online church, and church on tap to name a few. All great ideas. All done before. Few done in my area.

All of my ideation led me to a point where I needed to pick one. Nothing was jumping out so I put it on hold to let the ideas marinate and I took it to God through prayer.

Two things then happened at the same time. 1) My church had a crisis that wasn't going to resolve quickly and I needed to spend my time in areas I hadn't before and 2) I got an answer to my prayers.

Here was the answer. "Your church needs you now. There will be time to innovate later. But you're not thinking big enough. You're not thinking innovatively enough."

That message has been stuck in my gut for months now. The issue at my church has resolved and its time to start dreaming again.

One thing I realized is that all the innovations I thought of before were directional innovations. Ideas that other people had done that were new to me and that I could improve upon. What I really need to do is intersectional innovation. I need to find the place where the church and the world can meet and mix up tow things that haven't gone together before.

The place where the church and the world meet is the call of an ordained deacon in the UMC. And the place where heaven and earth meet is the embodiment of Jesus.

It won't be easy but God doesn't call us to easy. He calls us to be faithful and fruitful. I pray that everyone can find where God intersects with their life and live into it in faithful ways.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Occam's Razor and the BOD

Occam's razor is the problem-solving principle that states "Entities should not be multiplied without necessity." William of Ockham was a Franciscan friar, scholar, and theologian. The principle of Occam's razor has been applied to religion, science, and mathematical theories. It is helpful in developing theoretical models or for narrowing down choices between two (or more) different possibilities.

One justification of Occam's razor is a direct result of basic probability theory. By definition, all assumptions introduce possibilities for error; if an assumption does not improve the accuracy of a theory, its only effect is to increase the probability that the overall theory is wrong.

What if we applied the principle to our denomination? While Christianity is about multiplying the number of people that witness the gospel, the organization of the church may have been multiplied without necessity. Not in its reach but in its structure. Or perhaps the organization has been multiplied contextually for the time it was in but is in need of a more simplified structure in its current time. 

Simplifying however, will cause a dramatic increase in the number of assumptions that the organization's members will have. Who is accountable? Who claims responsibility? How can we maintain consistency? Do we need consistency?

Therefore we sit in paralysis of our own making. We are caught between a bureaucratic multiplication of details and the hope of a streamlined order full of possibilities - even many possibilities for failure. It feels like Sophie's choice multiplied with an infinite number of other choices along with it. 

To be clear, I have my own ideas and thoughts but each one comes with assumptions. So I sit in the Catch-22 of Occam's razor when applied to the UMC Book of Discipline. Its a hot mess. 

But God is in the mess cleaning business. So I pray. I think. I dream. I wait. The Holy Spirit is working. May our eyes be open to it.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, August 12, 2019

Random Dancing

My kids are part of the iCarly generation (well my boys are and my daughter has been raised right). A great show for kids that adults find funny as well.

Every so often while Carly and Sam were streaming their web show, they would break out in "random dancing." I always wished I could have a sound device like Sam so that I could have an applause sound effect or random dancing at will.

To be honest I don't really need a "random dancing" button. I tend to do that on a daily basis anyway. Dancing is Biblical. Its a celebration of life that can't be expressed in words.

If we are to live life as a celebration of abundant life, if we should be praying without ceasing, I'd expect more believers to break out into random dancing regularly.

Dance today like no one is watching except God. And may your day be filled with other random celebrations.

Until Everyone Hears,

Saturday, August 10, 2019

5 Essential Elements of Dignity

People Matter. The complexity of life itself is reason enough to show others dignity. But the soul of a person cannot flourish without dignity for very long.

Dignity is a complex term. It means more than respect. Its deeper than admiration. It is being worthy of something. But that something is often undefined.

To show others dignity it is important to remember the following:


  1. You must first show dignity to yourself. You are beautiful inside and out. In the infinite combinations of genetics and circumstances, there is only one you. You add something to this world that no one else does. Celebrate it.
  2. Celebrate others. Other people are beautiful inside and out. In the infinite combinations of genetics and circumstances, there is only one of them. They add something to this world that no one else does. 
  3. Reflect their passion. What lights someone up when they talk about it? When they see it? When they hear it? Get them to express that and reflect the awe you see in them. This too should be celebrated.
  4. Honor their values. There are so many things in each person that aren't beautiful. If we aren't careful they will over shadow the things that are. What someone values is beautiful to them. It may not be to you. Not honoring their values will do harm to them. Perhaps they need new values. But dishonoring those values will make them cling tighter to what they have if they don't have something else to hold onto.
  5. Show wonder in life itself. The world can be a dark place at times. We see violence, greed, sickness, pain, depression, and anxiety. We wonder why these things happen. But what we should wonder at is peace, generosity, health, wholeness, joy, and well being. How do these things exist in our world? How is God's grace working in this world to let the light shine through the darkest parts of it. And how can we as mere humans work together to magnify that light for all the world to see?
Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Nocebos

I learned a new word yesterday: "nocebo." Put simply, it is the phenomenon in which inert substances or mere suggestions of substances actually bring about negative effects in a patient or research participant. (click here to read more)

The same can be true for words. Negative words can prime a situation to have a fatalistic outcome. 

Words are powerful. We don't often choose them well. But when we do...when they are positive and life affirming, we open up the door to allow our hearts to align with God's will. 

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Toxicity and Determinism

There's a fine line between warning someone of something and living in determinism. Telling someone that there's a possibility of bad news allows them time to think through their plan of action. They can start to process their emotions separate from the shock of surprise.

Reminding someone repeatedly of the possibility of bad news puts them in a state of determinism. At a certain threshold they begin to mentally live in the state in which the bad news is true. At that point it seems as if there's nothing they can do to stop the oncoming doom.

I hit a threshold yesterday. And I pushed back. I refuse to live in a state of determinism. I believe in free will too much to let go of the hope and grace of God.

But pushing back might have repercussions. Refusing to absorb toxicity doesn't remove the toxins. It just keeps it away from you. I'm not sure what will happen next but I do know this: Nothing can separate me from the love of God. And that is always good news.

Until Everyone Hears, 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school in our county. My two oldest children will be headed to college in a few weeks but my daughter started her first day of middle school. I have to admit, I've been nervous about this day since she was born. I've never heard anyone say, "I wish I could go back and re-live my middle school years." Hormones, drama, and excessive homework add to the angst that has started to happen.

None of that happened. It was a good day. She went. Got information. Came home. Processed what happened. And is ready today. No drama. No homework.

I forgot that although there will be times of explosive drama to come, there typically is an on-ramp to these type of things. And for that I'm thankful.

Of course what I'm most thankful for is that I still have 7 years left with a child at home. As hard as it has been to have 3 kids (and the age gap between them), it has been the greatest blessing as well. I would be a wreck as an empty-nester right now. I've got 7 years to enjoy discovering the world through a new generation. I get to see what wonders and innovation they'll discover. Hopefully I'll sow some seeds to make the world after me a better place. And I get to savor this time with my daughter - even on the dramatic days.

I'm counting my days with her so that I can make them count. I hope you're counting your days too.

Until everyone hears,

Saturday, August 3, 2019

My Top 10

What you're listening to says a lot about who you are. A friend asked me recently what my most played songs were. I almost exclusively listen to music on Spotify. So here are my top 10 songs sorted by most played playlist/album:

Running Playlist:

  • Come and Get Your Love by Redbone
  • Superstition by Stevie Wonder
Healing at the Speed of Sound
  • LAirAn an Ghearaltaigh by M.A'SA illaebhAjin
  • Poco Adagio Variation from Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler
The Greatest Showman Reimagined
  • A Million Dreams by Pink
  • From Now On by Zac Brown Band
Rock Party Playlist
  • Back in Black by AC/DC
  • Walk This Way by Run-DMC and Aerosmith
Broadway Hits
  • Finale: Any Dream Will Do from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with Donny Osmond as Joseph)
  • Magic to Do from Pippin (both the original and new cast recordings - I prefer to listen to Ben Vereen but Patina Miller as Lead Player is in a range I can sing along with better)
There you have it. My eclectic mix of sounds. According to this I was born a decade late and still miss being in  high school musicals.

Music shapes our lives whether we know it or not. It embeds itself deep into our brain. It can heal us. Make us cry. And bring us great joy. There's a reason why there are songs in the Bible. Sometimes words by themselves just won't do when speaking about matters of the soul.

Until Everyone Hears,


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