Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Human Capital

By now, most of us have heard of Ted Williams. The Homeless man with the Golden Voice, who was discovered by a Good Samaritan with a video camera and the foresight to introduce Ted to the world via YouTube. You’ve probably heard about Ted’s rise to fame over the past few weeks. He voiced a Kraft Mac & Cheese commercial. He was offered the announcer job by the Cleveland Cavs (who know what it’s like to fall on hard times). Maybe you even saw him on Dr. Phil as he was confronted by his family to stop drinking.

Suddenly he is a household name and his fifteen minutes are ticking. But his story has gotten me thinking.

One of my heroes is a guy named Larry James. Larry was a preacher for many years, he has spent his life telling the Jesus story. But these days Larry doesn’t do it from a pulpit. Several years ago, he started a ministry some of you might be familiar with. It’s called Central Dallas Ministries,(Recently re-named City Square) and it exists to do something about human suffering in Dallas…specifically about homelessness and poverty.

But what is interesting to me about Larry, is that he is adamant about his approach to ministry. He refuses to do ministry for people. He wants to do it with them.

I like that. Because we have a real propensity to work out of an us/them mentality. And this is where Larry James has helped me out so much. Most of the time we think about helping other people, we tend to think in terms of charity, or tax breaks, or hand-outs. But there is a better way.

I read Jay-Z’s book DeCoded last week, and in there he quoted a Jewish Rabbi about this particular issue. (I’ll let you fill in your own joke about a rapper quoting a Rabbi). This Rabbi pointed out that in Orthodox Judaism, there are 8 different levels to giving. The 7th is to give anonymously, which is a way to give without forcing dehumanizing the other person. But the 8th, and top form of generosity, is to give in a way that makes the recipient not feel like they are dependent on another’s hand-out, but somehow self-sufficient. This way, Rabbi Jay-Z argues, does not take away a person’s dignity. Continue reading The Human Capital

Going Second

I heard at a conference last year a few things about my generation that made me uneasy. They talked about how we were walking away from institutional churches at an unprecedented level, yet how we were more concerned with Justice than most generations before us. But the one that really got my attention was this:

When employers were asked to describe people my age (20-30) the most commonly used word started with an E. The people taking the survey told the younger employees this fact. That they were more often described with one word that started with “E” and asked what they thought it might be. They responded with words like “Enthusiastic” or “Energetic” but they were wrong.

The word was Entitled.

I guess we should have seen this coming. You grow up long enough hearing about your inalienable rights, or having a parent who allowed you to be the nucleus of the family and it starts to sink in. We have grown up experiencing the power that consumerism has to make the world revolve around us, and so I guess it’s natural that we might start to think that applied to the rest of life.

But it’s not a good way to live. Continue reading Going Second

God is Love

So I’m a big fan of the band Gungor. They’re lyrics are prophetic and their music is so creative it gets in your bones. I had heard this song a while back, and it has grown on me. Now I know that this is edgy, and I’ve seen the reviews and heard the pushback from it’s message. I know the call of holiness that God has on His people’s lives. I’ve heard (and preached) those sermons. And I get that. But…

It might be a good idea to think about why the video exists in the first place. In their book, UNChristian, Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman make the point that Christians are seen by outsiders primarily as political and judgmental (specifically to people with same-sex attraction). And if you were to just reverse-engineer this song, you’d probably find relationships that the creeators had with people who had been burned by these very things.

Again, I get that my generation is reacting against extremes that the news showed them often, and that we should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.But  there is a reason the song ends with the refrain, “So please just stop the hating.” But a deeper truth here, one that I think, Gungor is tapping into, is that God is bigger than our labels or agendas. He transcends our politics and skin color. And that at the core this God is love. Continue reading God is Love

Mistaken Arrangements

I stumbled upon this video by Walter Brueggemann a few days ago. He’s describing the kind of prophetic vision of what Justice means in the Scriptures. And he’s doing it for a conference that is all about Justice. Which from looking at, sounds like an amazing conference. But it did get me thinking: Since when did Christians hold conferences on Justice? Since I’ve been around, most of our conferences are on preaching, or church leadership. But then it struck me, this conference isn’t for churches. Not once in the brochure did the word church show up. It’s a Christian conference for Jesus-followers, complete with worship leaders and Christian speakers talking about Biblical Justice. But it’s not for churches.

Because church leaders probably won’t show up.

Several times this week I have had significant conversations, with different people, about what Justice looks like in this time and place. Now these conversations are not new for me to stumble into. Unless someone has their head in the sand, it’s easy to recognize that God is stirring this passion up in the world again. Unfortunately, some (but not all) of our churches are the final ones to recognize this.

But I’ve been lucky. Continue reading Mistaken Arrangements

Living the Dream

So this past November, Leslie and I took our family to see the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The Museum is filled with a history of the civil rights struggle from the emancipation of slavery, to the well-organized boycotts and sit-in’s of the 50’s and 60’s. And it ends in the actual hotel room where Dr. King was assassinated.

It is a Thin Space between Heaven and Earth.

In this museum, you can see the actual bus that Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on. You can see the leather portfolio that Arthur Shores smuggled Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” out with. You can even see the gun that ended Dr. King’s life.

But across the street from the museum, you will see something else. There is a single protestor. Her name is Jacqueline Smith, and she has protested the museum without fail for the last 15 years. Since the museum was opened she has vocally spoken out to anyone who will listen.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, you need to know that Jacqueline Smith is an African-American who is all for Dr. King’s dream, and by no means is trying to desecrate his memory or his mission. But she knows what a lot of us don’t. She knows that when they first started the museum in 1987, the powers in charge had to clear out a lot of apartments to make space for the memorial. The problem was that these apartments were government housing. A lot of low income people lived there, and now they were out.

In order to honor a man who dedicated his life fighting for the underpriviledged, we kicked out the very people his life was oriented around helping.

Or at least that was Jacqueline Smith’s position. Continue reading Living the Dream

Prophets and Heroes

A few months ago, I went with the family to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It’s ingeniously located in the place where Dr. King was assassinated and I plan on writing a blog by tomorrow about that experience. But for now, in honor of Dr. King, I wanted to repost one of my favorite blogs about the man who had a dream…

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Sometime during college I went through a pretty significant transition about how I considered the gospel. I began to see it as good news for the world, not only in the age to come, but also in this time and place.

And that transition, was due in large part, to a dead preacher from Alabama, named Martin Luther King Jr.

About a month ago, I read a book called “Blood Done Signed My Name.” It’s about the child of a white, Methodist preacher who grew up during the fight for Civil Rights in the South. I think for most of the people my age, we view the civil rights battle with a bit of romanticism. Love triumphs, evil loses, hope overcomes…etc.

But this truth is a bit less rose-colored. Continue reading Prophets and Heroes

Swagger Wagon

This is a follow up to the recent post on being a Mini-van Owner. One of my friends showed me this video to help console me. It worked. This was greatness. The creative team behind this was genius…Loved the line: “Every mother’s day proves, I’m kind of a big deal.”

Special thanks to Jim Settlemoir for passing this on.

Civility

This weekend, for the first time since an assasination attempt occurred on Ronald Reagan, an elected official was fired at. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was out at a local Safeway doing a kind of meet and greet with her constituents, when a man armed with a Semi-automatic approached her shooting point-blanke at her head…and then fired off 19 extra shots for good measure.

He even killed a nine year old kid.

Chances are, unless you live under a rock somewhere you’ve already heard about this…a lot. And unless you were actually there you have gotten a lot of interpretation along with the facts. Sarah Palin was to blame, or the Democrats were somehow at fault. But the truth is, I think we are all a little bit complicit. And here’s what I mean by that.

I’ve written hundreds of blogs over the past several years, some of them I no longer even agree with. I tried to ask a lot of questions and listen to the feedback I receive with an open mind. But as I looked over some of my past post, by far the post’s that were the most viewed and discussed were on politics. Something that I am obviously not an expert on. But the most disturbing part to me was the kinds of comments that those posts got. I have questioned things like the Trinity on here. I’ve wrestled with doubt here. I’ve talked about different world religions on here. But the only time I’ve ever got truly negative feedback was when I talk about political things. As a pastor that got me thinking, because where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Why are politics such a volitile subject for Christians to discuss. I doubt most of us would say our political opinions are the most important thing in our lives. Most Jesus followers would agree that who the sitting President is doesn’t deter the Kingdom of God. So why do we get so worked up during these kinds of conversations? Continue reading Civility

Seasons (or the Death of Cool)

I remember when we first had Eden, I was obviously pretty pumped about having a daughter,  but I vowed then to never to be the owner of a Minivan. We would be the cool parents, you know the ones, they just throw the baby in their messenger bag and hop on a motorcycle as they speed off to whatever cool social event they had just been invited to. Obviously showing up fashionably late.

That dream died this week.

I’ve heard it said that owning a minivan is the death of cool. And while that’s true, I never realized how little value “cool” would be to me at this season in life. I remember reading Paul Reiser’s book “Babyhood” in college, and this paragraph has stuck with me through the years:

“The Mini-Van is the last stop down in the ‘I used to be cooler than this’ slide.  Because in a Jeep you can still at least pretend to be cool. When you’re at a stoplight and an attractive woman pulls up alongside you, you can still smile and convince yourself, ‘Maybe she thinks I’m enormously rugged, and the car is loaded up with equipment for that dangerous geological expedition.’ But in a mini-van you’re fooling no one. You’re on a your way to Gymboree, the side compartments are stuffed with diaper wipes, and the interior is all sticky with Apple juice. But you know what…You’re a dad, not Indiana Jones.” Continue reading Seasons (or the Death of Cool)

A New World

There is something about this time of year that has always fascinated me. It seems like no matter what we struggled with in December there is a chance that we can be free of it in January. It’s a fresh start. So we make resolutions, and we break them. But here’s one that I hope Jesus followers can make and keep for this year.

For the longest time, holiness was a buzz word in Christian circles. And rightfully so. It is, after all, what God calls us to be; different, strange. But what is disappointing to me is the definitions that “holiness” has taken on. We started to talk like holiness meant withdrawal, to not be engaged with the world. And that’s a shame, especially since we just celebrated Christmas, the time when Jesus showed what it looks like for God to enter into our mess.

And so maybe it’s fortunate that New Years  follows so closely to Advent. The time when Jesus enters into our world, In a season where most people are deciding to get in shape, or learn something new… Maybe this could point us toward a better resolution. Continue reading A New World