Categotry Archives: Things that Will Probably Get Me In Trouble


Reflections on the New Year

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), moments of truth, Things that Will Probably Get Me In Trouble

good-year-1911507_640Happy New Year!

Like many of you, I get particularly reflective at the dawn of a new year. It’s really just a date on the calendar, nothing particularly spiritually significant about it from my perspective, but it is a time to take inventory, in a manner of speaking–to take a breath and get ready to go again.


On Coming Back to Life

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Categories: religion, Things that Will Probably Get Me In Trouble

He is risen!

He is risen indeed.

The past few years, I must admit that Easter has been something of a bittersweet thing for me.ย The church buildings are packed with people (many of whom don’t attend but once a year), and for over 30 years, I was an integral part of putting the church’s best foot forward to receive them, in the hopes that some would actually return the following week. Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, as some prefer to call it over its more pagan moniker) is supposed to be a high holy day for the church, bigger even than Christmas. After all, the reason the Church exists–the reason we can have relationship with God–is that Jesus rose from the dead.


Struggles With Injustice


Categories: Rantings, Things that Will Probably Get Me In Trouble

Can I be honest? (I’m going to anyway, so you might as well say yes.)

As much as I try to keep a good attitude about life in general, sometimes I still chafe at injustice.

I don’t like when injustice happens. I don’t like it when it happens to others, but especially not when it happens to me. (‘Cause like most humans, I’m selfish that way.) I understand the phrase “judge not,” and I understand that justice delayed is not justice denied. That’s what helps give me the grace to leave vengeance to the Lord, and to be (mostly) gracious when something unjust happens. I truly do believe that God is just, and He is fully capable of making sure everything settles out in the end.


Normally On This Day, I Post a Picture of Dancing Mexicans…

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Categories: Things that Are Amazingly Awesome, Things that Will Probably Get Me In Trouble, Things the Mexicans were doing when I was born

As long-time readers know, my birthday is an anomaly of the universe. For some inexplicable reason, the lovely people of Mexico take to the streets and dance and celebrate in my honor every May 5. ย It has been this way ever since I was born. You don’t try to explain such things; you just embrace them.

Normally, on May 5 each year, I post a picture of these wonderful people celebrating me. But this year, a friend of mine posted a picture on my Facebook wall that was just too good not to share. So, dear blogger friends, I give you…Cinco de Mayo.


The Hunger for More

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), Things that Will Probably Get Me In Trouble

In a famous Dickens novel, a young orphan, Oliver Twist, has just been transferred from the orphanage to a work house. Shortly after his arrival, he is turned out of the work house.
His crime? He went up and asked for seconds at mealtime. He wanted more.

That one scene in the book could provide plenty of raw material for several rather poignant blog posts. ๐Ÿ™‚ However, for the moment, I’ve been thinking (rather randomly, not prompted by anything in particular) about man’s hunger for “more” in general. It seems like most of us have this trait. It expresses itself in many different ways, and we use a lot of different terms to describe it, with both positive and negative connotations (e.g., passion, dissatisfaction, obsession, drive). But this urge is too prevalent in mankind for us not to at least wonder if this hunger we have for more (whatever “more” represents) is really inherent to our nature.

Regardless of why we have this drive for more, it seems to be a double-edged sword of sorts. It can get us into a lot of trouble…but it can also be the very thing that propels us to great accomplishments. For that reason, it’s difficult to make a case either way as to whether our hunger for more is a good thing or a bad thing. It really seems to depend on the context, and even then there can be some mixture.
Let’s illustrate this a bit. Let’s imagine someone whose list of accomplishments is long and impressive. He/she has built great buildings, or composed beautiful symphonies, or won the Nobel prize for scientific research–maybe even dabbling successfully in several disciplines. That kind of thing doesn’t just “happen” to a person; it requires work, commitment, and perseverance to achieve those kinds of accolades. We could say that a hunger for more was what moved that person forward–a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a desire to do something about it. This is a very positive application of a drive for more.
But that very same drive that brought the person into success can also be a sort of curse. Perhaps that person is haunted by a voice of the past, or a deep trauma, and the long list of accomplishments brings that person no sense of satisfaction–which is why there must always be another accomplishment. That person does many good things, but like a classic overachiever, can never stop and rest. The hunger for more is in overdrive, and can ultimately drive that person into depression, illness, or an early grave.
Then there are those people for whom the hunger for more translates to little more than an insatiable lust, and they try to fill the hunger with a long line of self-indulgences: drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. This can happen not only for those with a lazy streak or a low moral compass, but also for people who have been successful. An overachiever with no constructive project in front of them can find their drive for more leading them into self-destructive activities. Many stories have been written about the classic American male who “has it all”–a fine wife, great job, great kids, lots of toys, and plenty of leisure time–who runs off and has an affair and loses everything. We marvel at why that person would throw it all away. This story line is common because it is common with us. We might have it all–but we still are unsatisfied. We want more.
I suggested earlier that the hunger for more is an inherent characteristic among us–something we all have. Yet we all know exceptions. Most of us know someone with loads of potential who seems to be completely passive and indifferent–no passion whatsoever. Then there are whole cultures that strongly discourage and suppress the longing for more: your place is your place, and you should never try to move past it. I find that religion in general has this effect, whether religious Christianity or other religions. In these cases, a person’s longing for more might be a very healthy, positive thing–but it is inevitably going to get that person in trouble with the powers that be. For me–I can really relate to Oliver Twist. My hunger for more (more of God, more authenticity in faith and the church) has gotten me into hot water with plenty of people, and has even gotten me turned out of some places.
This is strictly opinion and conjecture, but I still believe that even though many people seem “satisfied” to the point that they do not press on for something better, this hunger for more is something inherent in mankind. I personally believe it takes some sort of external force (e.g., personal hardship/trauma/abuse, or an oppressive culture) to suppress that hunger in us. I think when that happens, even though we might seem okay on the outside, we become a shadow of what we could be.
This urge of ours, as I said, can both spur us on to greatness or get us into trouble. One might even conclude that our hunger for more is actually dangerous. But that does not make it bad.
There is a belief in Hebraic/Jewish thought that “sin” is simply a result of misguided, misdirected passion. While many Christians seem to lean toward the belief that passion in general is a part of our sin nature that should be “suppressed” or “crucified,” Jewish thought is that our passions are God-given, and simply need to be directed toward God rather than away from Him. I understand the concept of self-denial in the New Testament, but I tend to think we’ve over-interpreted this idea. I don’t think God intended self-denial or death-to-self to mean a suppressing of natural passions He built into us; I think it has more to do with crucifying the selfishness within us that is definitely a root of sin. In other words–I think this is an area where the Hebrews have it right. The battle each of us fight over our sin nature is much better fought, I think, by aiming our passions in a more life-giving direction, rather than trying to shut them down.
So all this rambling is to say that I think our hunger for more is a good thing, because I think God created it in us. We simply don’t seem to reach our full potential without it. I think it is one of those things that God created good that the enemy tries to hijack and corrupt for evil. Yes, it can be difficult to handle, it can be painful, it can get us into trouble. But I think the healthiest thing we can do with it is not to shut it off, but to aim it in positive directions. If our hunger for more propels us toward God, toward significance, toward making a positive difference–it’s definitely a good thing.
That’s what I think, anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚


A Fresh Coat of Paint on a Broken Machine

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Categories: Broken machine, church, food for thought, Things that Will Probably Get Me In Trouble

Near the very beginning of this here blog, I wrote a couple of posts about The Chocolate Button. I related a story I read once in a newsletter about a man who asked for a chocolate shake in a fast food restaurant, and received a vanilla one. He returned to the counter, and the teenager helping him proceeded to pour him another shake from the machine–this time, also vanilla. When the man continued to come back two and three times complaining that his shake was not chocolate, all the teenager could say was, “But I pushed the chocolate button!” His logic could not move past basic procedures–he seemed unable to rationalize that something was wrong with the machine.

I used this story as an analogy for the institutional church system, and years later, it seems to me like it’s still appropriate. How many times, and in how many ways, do we Christians keep doing the same things over and over again in the name of Christ, church and evangelism, not realizing that we’re bearing little or no fruit from our efforts, and when someone asks why we’re doing it, we say, “Well, this is how we’ve always done it!” Frankly, it comes from the same kind of mindlessness as the teenager who kept pushing the chocolate button. At some point, someone needs to speak up and admit that the machine is broken–otherwise, we’ll spend from now till Jesus comes spewing out vanilla shakes and magically believing that they’re actually chocolate.
But that’s not the worst of it.
I worked in McDonald’s as a teenager (which is perhaps why the chocolate shake story is so funny to me), but I can tell you, when I go into a McDonald’s today, the whole thing is different. Yeah, it’s still a bit of an assembly line, but the way they prepare food, the procedures, even the machinery is vastly different from when I worked there five or twenty-six years ago. What I’m trying to say is–even McDonald’s keeps up with the times. They employ new technologies, they offer new products, they replace their old machines with new ones. Even if their teenage employees sometimes don’t use their brains, the higher-ups seem to know when it’s time to change.
But what about the church?
You know, I think there are a lot of people out there who are sincerely trying to renovate. You can spot them because they’re the ones who use catch words like “relevant” and “real” to express what they are doing in church. I’ve used those words quite often myself. But I still have to take issue with a lot of what we’re passing off as “relevant”, because in fact, it’s not very relevant at all. If you look at how we “do church”, at the heart we’re practicing the same methods we’ve practiced for centuries. I’m talking specifically about things that really have no backing in Scripture–they’re not necessarily BAD things, just things we do in a certain manner because we’ve ALWAYS done them that way.
The problem is, when those things stop bearing fruit, and we keep on doing them for the sake of our tradition, we lose sight of what we’re here for in the first place. We’re not here to perfect our practices–we’re here to partake in the mission of Christ. The mission of Christ is to help as many people as possible become partakers in the redemption Christ has offered us all, but what we’ve done is basically reduce that mission to trying to get people to come to our gig, hoping that in the process they will “get it.” To put it another way, instead of genuinely reaching out to people where they are at, we seem to spend most of our time simply gussying up our practices, hoping to make them attractive to people. We might try to use different words to make them sound more hip and “relevant”, but in the end we’re just splashing a fresh coat of paint on a broken machine.
Now, I realize I might make a lot of traditional folks angry with words like these; let me be clear–I’m not dissing the traditions of the church in and of themselves. Many of our ancient practices carry deep meaning–especially those deeply rooted in Scripture–and I respect them and draw from them like any believer should. What I’m saying is that preserving traditions and fulfilling the mission of Christ are not necessarily synonymous. When we are reaching out to a generation that has no grid for the value of our traditions, we have to learn to think like they think–not try to get them to think like we think. (Especially when the way we think has in so many ways become mindless–see analogy above.) We cannot hope to convince anyone of the value of an ancient tradition unless we can help that person make contact with Christ in the here and now–right where that person lives. Christ is not kept in the past. His mission continues in the present, and that’s where we must live, too.
The bottom line, imho, is that there are a lot of methods we still use–in how/when we meet, how we evangelize, and many other things–that if we would open our eyes, we’d see they just plain aren’t working anymore. I’ve spent a lot of time personally looking at some of these methods, and when I can’t even find a solid Scriptural basis for many of them, I have to ask why we’re still doing it that way when it’s obvious we’re not getting results. This driving question has informed my own journey for several years, and is continuing to inform my journey into mission today. And for anyone who truly wants to partake meaningfully in the mission of Christ–that is, they want to bear fruit, not just belong to something–I think these questions have to be asked.
It’s gone way beyond whether the chocolate button still works. It’s time for some new technology entirely.
I’m actually going somewhere specific with all this–this was just groundwork. ๐Ÿ™‚ More in the next post.