Categotry Archives: food for thought

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Questions I Have Been Asked as a Pastor

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Categories: food for thought, fun, What the heck was THAT?

  1. “____ [insert child’s name] has a temperature. What should I do?”
  2. “I was thinking of going to the theater to see ________, which opens today. Is there any bad stuff in it?”
  3. “Which pizza place is offering the $5 medium pizzas?”
  4. “Can you watch ______ [insert child’s name] for a few hours?”
  5. “Would you rather lose your thumb, or would you rather lose a foot?” (asked by an 11-year old boy)
  6. “Is it supposed to rain today?”
  7. “What would happen if I dropped this on the floor?” (asked by the same 11-year-old boy)
  8. “Who started McDonald’s?” (asked by the same boy–he’s very inquisitive)
  9. “Our ride ditched us, and it’s a half hour until curfew. Can you come pick us up?”
  10. “I can’t get my email to work. What’s wrong with my computer?” (asked via telephone)
  11. “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” (not really–I just threw that question in for humorous effect)
Apparently, among other things, a pastor needs to be a weatherman, a doctor, a childcare provider, a business historian, a technical support representative, a movie reviewer, a late-night taxi service, and an expert in theoretical scenarios. (Do they teach these things in seminary? I’ve never been.)

Actually, if I can remove my tongue from my cheek for a moment…there we go. When I get questions like these, it’s a sign to me that the people in my community of faith are comfortable enough to ask them–and that makes me happy. It’s a sign to me of genuine community, and by being in that kind of relationship, I think a pastor can do much more to help people.
It’s not without risk. I’ve been hurt, and I’ve hurt others by my own brokenness. But no one said this walk would be risk-free. I was trained as a pastor to keep a safe distance from people, under the excuse of maintaining credibility and the ability to lead. But ultimately I think that’s a form of self-protection, and not only does that attitude keep us from genuinely helping people, but it does NOT protect us from pain. I’ve done it both ways now, and I think the risk is worth it. And I also think it better reflects the way Jesus, the Good Shepherd, walked it out with His disciples, and even with us today.
I heart my job.

It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. (Oh wait, that’s an old US Army slogan. But still.)
“No, I’m sorry, I am not trained to perform tooth extractions.” (Tongue back in cheek now.)

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Debris

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Categories: food for thought, Meanderings (look it up)

I’ve often been known to refer to Tulsa as “the other Windy City.” (A collective groan: “MORE about the weather??”)

Well, sort of. But not quite.

What I get tired of is not the wind itself, but all the debris that it blows into my yard(s).

My front door faces north, and sits in a sort of alcove. So when a cold front blows through, the neighborhood litter likes to collect at my front step. As I write this, the latest cold front has scattered something brown and raggedy in my front yard for me to go pick up. I haven’t decided if it is shredded cardboard or dead cornstalks. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

What really confounds me, however, is the south wind that blows debris into my back yard. Why? Because there is this high privacy fence surrounding it. I do not know how many times I’ve let the dog out and seen a plastic bag or empty potato chip bag or candy wrapper blowing around the yard, and wondered, Where the heck did THAT come from? The wind is obviously blowing this stuff all the way from the main road at least 300 yards away, across an open field and over the fence. Nice.

So…because I haven’t said anything overtly spiritual in a couple of days (although we know now that everything is sacred for us Jesus-followers)…let’s see what spiritual truth I can extract out of this…hmmmmmmmmm…..

We all have debris blowing around in our lives. (How’s that?)

No matter how hard you work on the yard that is your life, or how clean you try to make it appear…eventually you will see more debris blowing around it. And when you look at your neighbors’ perfectly manicured lawns and shrubbery and make comparisons to the weeds in your own…you need to remember that they have debris, too. It might be hiding behind their privacy fences, but it’s there. This is because we are all of us works in progress. Every one of us is broken in some way, every one of us sustains wounds from the war of life, and every one of us is, in some way, a pile of rubble and debris. Not only that, but because we’re always rubbing up against each other, we litter other people’s yards with debris, too.

We are all in need of restoration, and I believe Jesus the Healer is always seeking to clear away the debris, clean us up, rebuild us. But my experience is that healing of this sort comes in layers. And that’s why just when you think you have your yard all cleaned up…sooner or later you find more debris. And that’s also why we can never take pride in our own sense of righteousness.

Thankfully, God’s love for us has nothing to do with the debris in our lives. Jesus meets us in our broken state and embraces us just as we are…and as we walk with Him, His love works in us the healing and debris-cleaning we so desperately need.

Just checked…it’s cornstalks. Or at least something leafy and dead. Good thing it’s garbage night.

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Note to Tulsa Drivers

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Categories: food for thought, Rantings, What the heck was THAT?

Dear honorable drivers of Tulsa….

Remember “SNOW?” It’s that powdery white stuff that sometimes falls from the sky in winter. We don’t get as much of it as they get in, say, Nome, Alaska or upper Minnesota. But we do get it, usually a couple of times each winter. Enough that by now we should all know how to drive in it. So as nicely as I can, let me remind you of a few basic principles of driving in snow:
  1. Snow is slippery. That means it takes longer to stop. It also means that you cannot turn as abruptly as you normally would, or you will begin to slide sideways. Smart people accommodate for this by driving more slowly, and allowing more distance between them and the driver in front of them. Simple, huh?
  2. If you start to slide, turn your wheels into the slide rather than against it. It feels weird at first, but it helps your tires regain traction.
  3. Gravity still works when it snows. This means if you approach a hill that hasn’t been treated and you do not have enough momentum when you start to drive up it, you will slide backward and hit the car behind you. It also means that you must be extra, extra careful going downhill. Don’t slam your brakes; pump them gently.
  4. Better to arrive late to work or school than not to arrive at all. Take your time.
  5. You are not the only person on the road when it is snowing. This means if you want to drive like a moron and ruin your own car, that’s one thing, but you do not have the right to ruin other people’s cars around you by being stupid. Be aware of others.
Thank you for your rapt attention. I’m sure the entire Tulsa metro area will now be a safer place because you all have read my blog.

P.S. To the guy who broke all these rules this morning and almost ran into me at the corner of 91st and Aspen: Please pay special attention to rule number 5.

P.P.S. To the road crews who plow and salt the roads: While I certainly appreciate everything you do…it does snow in Tulsa from time to time. Perhaps you should all get together and have a meeting to discuss how not to be taken by surprise and leave main roads untreated during rush hour. Just a thought…

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Third Place? (Sunday Summary)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought

In our house church gathering yesterday, we borrowed a page or two out of Michael Frost’s book Exiles and talked about “third places”.

We began by discussing four Scripture passages, incidents in the life of Jesus: The wedding at Cana, the Samaritan woman at the well, the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus, and the time when Jesus taught the crowds by the sea by getting into a boat. By talking over these Scriptures together, we extracted a lot of insight, and we could definitely see the incarnational nature of Jesus’ ministry–that He was truly dwelling among us as He lived, taught, and healed people.

We noted that all of these incidents took place not as staged meetings or “crusades”, but they happened as Jesus just walked through life. We noted also that these all took place in public gathering places–a well, the beach, along the road, and even at a party. These places are what we call “third places”.

The “first place” for us is our home; the “second place” is our workplace. In our culture, these places are on the decline as far as having meaningful conversations with other people. With the exception of things like house church, most people, even believers, only tend to have people over to the house that they already know and like; and most people restrict the content of their workplace conversations to preserve proper decorum. But our “third places” are the places we gather to socialize, to interact, to relax, to let down our guard. Third places can take a variety of forms–a local restaurant or coffee shop, the gym, the bowling alley, a special interest club like scrapbooking–any place people get together casually outside of work or home. Third places are the most likely places to meet new people and form new, meaningful relationships.

We noted how much of Jesus’ recorded ministry took place outside of the temple and synagogues, out among the people, in third places. We talked about how third places are great places to walk out Jesus’ love among people. And we talked about how so many Christians today simply “don’t have time” to hang out in third places because the institutional church has become their third place, keeping people so busy with ongoing church-related activities that they become isolated from the very people Jesus wants us to bless.

As we talked about this, several people began to get stirred in their hearts and started brainstorming about how we could even create meaningful third places, places for meaningful interaction with people other than just ourselves. We ended by challenging one another to find ways to be present now in the existing third places around us. This is what Jesus modeled for us, and this is what He wants for us.

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Re-thinking Evangelism (and lots of other stuff)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, Rantings

I’m looking at the top of the page, and I notice that “re-thinking church” is in my blog title. But the truth is…I’m in a season right now where I’m re-thinking everything. Doctrines, beliefs, and practices I’ve taken for granted for most of my churchy life are getting taken off the shelf, dusted off, and looked at to make sure this is really how Jesus wants it, or really what He meant when He said _________ (fill in the blank). Some stuff is getting reaffirmed, and some stuff is getting reworked. It actually feels very healthy.

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BUT WHAT ABOUT…Assembling Together?

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Categories: BUT WHAT ABOUT...?, changing mindsets, church, food for thought

(Continuing the “But What About…?” thread…in this series we’re discussing various concerns people have about the growing number of people exiting insitutional churches for more organic forms of expression.)

When I was deeply entrenched in institutional Christianity–especially as a leader–I would categorize someone who migrated away from “church” in one of four ways:

  1. They are backsliding.
  2. They are deceived.
  3. They are rebellious.
  4. They have their own issues.

In my mind–and I believe in the minds of many within institutional churches–leaving the church is essentially breaking a cardinal rule of Scripture. Many of us know the Scripture by heart…

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An Open Letter to People From My Past…

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Categories: food for thought

It seems there are more people from my past reading this blog than I once thought.

Last night I received a comment from someone who attended the church where we had been worship pastors, someone who was apparently quite hostile….well, I should just let you read a little bit of what this person said:

“…it is interesting that you feel so totally victimized by the “system” and the people that were a part of it. Yet, you seem completely at ease with the fact that you were part of the system that abused our family….Why do you get to play the victim card…but evidently you were the only victims, right? What a hypocrite! What a double standard! Our son ___was a boy who loved to worship and attend church…This young man will not even go in a church. If you ask him why, he credits you…..next time you want to blog about how bad the system is and how your heart is your ultimate accountability blah, blah,blah GAG….look at your own past, if you dare, and blog your hypocritical heart out.”

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BUT WHAT ABOUT….Accountability?

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Categories: BUT WHAT ABOUT...?, food for thought

This is the first installment of what I hope will be several entries called “BUT WHAT ABOUT….?” These probably won’t occur on consecutive days, but they’ll be categorized in the sidebar, so it will be easy to find them. In this set of entries, I hope to address some common concerns people have about the idea of leaving institutional churches for more organic expressions of faith.

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What Is Church? part 2

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Categories: Broken machine, changing mindsets, church, food for thought

This is the rest of the chapter from the book I’m working on, “I Grew Up In Church”. (If you missed the first installment, click here to read it.) This excerpt is copyrighted material, so please do not copy it without my permission. Any comments are welcome.

When Jesus said “church”, He meant only one thing. It was really, really simple. “Church” was the collective group of people who believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and chose to live in that truth and put their trust in Him.

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Christian: Noun or Adjective?

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, Meanderings (look it up), Rantings


Hmmm…something going through my head lately. Something I read in Velvet Elvis (which I finished by the way–no further heresies to report). But in the book, Rob Bell remarked on something that I found interesting, and am still chewing on and grappling with….

The word “Christian” was not intended to be used as an adjective.

In Scripture, it is always a noun, referring to a person who follows Christ.

Now, forgive me if this offends your religious sensibilities–just being honest here–I have grown less and less comfortable using the word “Christian” to describe myself, although by Biblical standards I certainly am one. I love Jesus and attempt to follow Him with my life, and I’m not ashamed of Him. But the word “Christian” in our culture has become so loaded that people attach to it any of a number of stereotypes and misconceptions every time it is used. It isn’t that I am trying to avoid hostility by non-Christians; it’s just that I want them to be hostile toward me for the right reasons. (?) So when possible, I try to gravitate toward terms like “Christ-follower” or “disciple of Jesus”.

Anyhow…I think that this idea of using the word “Christian” as an adjective rather than a noun has served to complicate things even more. We use “Christian” to describe a type of music, or a type of book, or (forgive me again) even a type of nation. But in the Jewish mindset (out of which most of the Scriptures were written), there is no differentiation between sacred and secular (or in our vernacular, Christian or non-Christian) when referring to these things. In the Jewish mindset, everything is sacred if God is in the center of your life. As such, everything is redeemable under Him. But we so categorize things using “Christian” as an adjective that we Christians start getting paranoid about what’s okay for us, and what’s not okay.

Here’s an example: someone says, “I only listen to Christian music.” I get that we aren’t to just fill our minds with garbage, but show me chapter and verse to show where we are supposed to use the Christian tag to identify something like music. What makes it Christian? Is it that a Christian is singing it? Or that the message has to be specifically talking about Christ? Does that mean typical romantic love songs are not Christian? What if a Christian wrote the love song? Are Christians not allowed to be romantic?

Can you see how this way of thinking imprisons us–let alone alienates us from unbelievers? Do you see how we’ve made “non-Christian” a code for “unclean?”

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