Archive for February, 2009

This year I’m trying something new for Lent. Rather than something consumable, I’m giving up something more destructive: Harshness. The reason? As I’ve said many times, my family is in the middle of a huge transition. We’ve changed churches, the type of ministry we do, the school our daughter attends, the way our very lives are structured.

With all that transitions comes a lot of stress. Just making dinner is stressful when you don’t know where all your pots and pans are. Plus, our moving company, Movers USA, was and is absolutely horrible. No one anywhere should ever use them for any reason whatsoever (that’s not me being harsh, just truthful, and having a desire for my good readers to not go through what we are going through). Anyway, all that to say this; in the midst of these monumental changes and their accompanying stress, it is easy — for me at least — to be short with people and say some things that later I will wish I hadn’t said. So, I’m committing to being a person of ever-increasing gracious speech.

As I’ve written before, speech-acts are important to the way we imitate Christ. Colossians 4.6 reminds us to “Let y(our) speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt…” for example. Therefore, we can’t say any old thing to anybody in any way we want. In Colossians this is particularly important to “outsiders” of the faith.

I’m learning this Lenten season that as I focus my words around not being harsh, I’m noticing more the full spectrum of other things I should not say. In the midst of conversations, I’m mindful of whether what I’m about to say may be hurtful to someone not in the room, or blasphemous or slanderous or gossip. Sadly, I’m coming to terms with how lose my tongue is. James was right, the tongue is hard to tame. And my sense is that there is something lost in my being when I say , “I love you,” to my daughters at night with the same tongue that was harsh to someone else that day.

Yet while all these revelations are painful, this is what Lent is for; to help shape our lives after our master, Jesus.

It took seeing Vice-President, Joe Biden, on MSNBC donning ashes on his forehead to remind me that today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Over the past five years, I have formed a deep appreciation regarding Lent. As a boy, I was tacitly taught that it was some strange “Catholic” practice, and as such should be rejected on that basis and that basis alone. Fortunately, some good people showed me the deep benefits of engaging these deep and highly spiritual practices. I know that some of you — especially those with my American Restoration Movement tribe heritage — are somewhat skeptical about Lent, but you needn’t be.

Here’s what Lent is all about: Lent is a forty-day liturgical period of fasting and prayer before Easter. (I think we can all agree that fasting and prayer are Biblical. And 40 days is certainly Biblical!) The forty days represent  the forty-days Jesus spent in the desert where he was tempted and tested by Satan. Not only does Lent engage us in some sense of Jesus’ fast, it also prepares us for Holy Week and Easter, as we encounter sacrifice as Jesus sacrificed. In addition, Lent is designed to teach us that we are dependent on God and God alone to provide for us. Though some practice differently, Sunday’s during Lent are not generally considered as part of the 40 day fast.

In previous years I’ve given up red meat, caffeine and a host of other things for Lent. Each has been difficult, but each has been as blessing. I find this season of the liturgical year both inspiring and challenging. In Lent, I’m reminded about how desperately we need to experience sacrifice. Sacrifice is a terribly important way to imitate Jesus. Indeed, without sacrificing we can never truly imitate Jesus. And for those who question the legitimacy of Lent allow me to tell you about a wife who was horrible deceived by her husband about the family’s personal finances a few years ago. This came as part of several instances of disruption and heartache. Fortunately for him, his house of lies came crashing down just before Lent. In response his wife gave up thoughts of divorcing him as her sacrifice for Lent. You guessed it. The marriage recovered and she remained with him, working through pain and forgiveness and saving their family.

Trust me, this season can reshape, reform, and renovate our lives. So I encourage you to engage Lent this season. Some of us need to start slow, others need to dive in deep, but I encourage you to sacrifice as our Saviour sacrificed and use the next 40 days to share in the lifestyle of Jesus.

Acclimated

Posted: February 20, 2009 in Apple computers, change, family, friends, iPhone, life, ministry

Our family has been in the Bay area for 2 full weeks as of right now. Friends both here and across the country keep asking what differences we see between our new and former environment. At this point I’m not sure what the major differences are. We spent most of our time working; me at the church office and Rochelle trying to setting up house and getting Malia squared away for school next year. I really enjoyed living in Houston, so I don’t want to set-up a good/bad  or better/worse scenario. Nevertheless I thought I would list some of the things I’ve observed  about our new life in Redwood City.

1. My commute is 352 steps. I’ve moved for 20 miles and 50 minutes one way to less than 5 minutes and I don’t even have to get in the car, even when it rains. I eat lunch at home with my wife and girls and I haven’t cranked the car in over a week.

2. Cali is laid back. I’ve been wearing jeans and tennis shoes to work for two weeks (partly because we’re in boxes still and partly because our washing machine is broken) and no one seems to have noticed. For a T-Shirt and blue jeans kinda guy, you gotta love it.

3. I really miss the Houston 10:00 news. Because of the time difference, the late night news doesn’t come on until 11:00 — like it does on the east coast. Though I grew up with film at eleven, I’m too old for that now. By 10:30, I’m out!

4. There are Apple and Mac stores everywhere. Here’s a list of companies I’ve driven by in two weeks: FaceBook, Apple, Yahoo, Intuit, and a few others I can’t even remember. Homeless people in the Silicon Valley have iPhones, it’s crazy! 

5. I can see the mountains when I take out my trash. Already I’ve stopped noticing the beauty of God’s creation and I really hope to put a stop to that. This area is gorgeous. I hope to not be in too big a hurry and miss it!

6. There’s more Christian presence here than some people would have you believe. California is not Texas, but so far the difficulties faced by churches in California are the same as Texas. 

7. No drive-thrus. Land is expensive here, so some places (I’m particularly thinking about Starbuck’s) don’t have drive-thru’s. That’s already a pain.

8. The cold here is a wet, penetrating cold. The temperature may say one thing, but not being acclimated, I’ve found that it takes me a while to get warm here.

Anyway, since so many people had asked about things I thought this might be a good way to get the word out. Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Loving Well

Posted: February 16, 2009 in Bible, church, equality, missional

I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly because our family has been so busy setting up office and house. In addition, I had to hit the ground running here in Redwood City. It seems that life doesn’t wait for you to get settled.

On the preaching front, this past Sunday we began an 8-week study of the book of Philippians. I thought a good while about what to preach in these early days and I landed on a prison epistle. I can’t yet articulate all the reasons, but I do know this: How people treat one another is terribly important to Rochelle and me. We believe that Scripture bears this out. At the heart of the Bible is God’s deep concern for how people treat one another. In many ways, it is at the center of Jesus’ teachings and it is clearly at the root of much of what the apostle Paul writes. As Christ’s disciples, we are not free to treat one another just in any old way. 

I’m sickened, but rarely surprised, when I hear Christian folks — especially leaders — compare their treatment of others with how non-Christians treat one another. This has become especially true lately as I’ve seen any number of clergy -men and -woman “eliminated” or “downsized” or have their “support ended” or “decreased” in the face of our national economic down turn. Supposed Christian leaders have said, “Well, at my work, they would give you 15 minutes to gather your things and leave.” Another friend was told, “Well, ministers don’t get severance.” The list of the absurd goes on. 

I’m not saying that these kind of things happen. People get dismissed or fired. What I take exception to is the idea from Christians that extending even the smallest kindnesses during a difficult circumstance is somehow above and beyond their call to duty. 

Which brings me back to Philippians.

Philippians calls us  “to consider others as better than ourselves.” In plain terms this means we should search ourselves concerning how we would like to be treated and then go beyond that.

A friend of mine has a child with long term physical difficulties and he was recently released by his church. It took some friends to step up and say, “Hey, we’ll help cover your medical expenses,” which is a beautiful gesture, but one that shouldn’t have been needed. My friend’s church was willing to support and “love” him until times got tough, then Christianity went out the window in order that the budget could be met.

Now a smart person is saying, “Well, this gesture by his friends is Christianity. It is what Paul is talking about.” I say, “Yes, you’re right.” But I also say that as long as our churches continue to count on small confederations of people of good will to do the right thing, then most of what we do will be small. And, I say, Christian institutions should be more Christian than institution.

I once wrote, “How a church treats it’s most “insignificant” member is an indicator of how it will treat anyone. Paul is calling us to more than that. He is calling us to embark on a journey wherein how we treat one another holds primacy in all we do. In short, relationships matter. And as much as we like to talk about theology and ecclesiology, we might have missed this business of “doing unto others.” 

My prayer is that I can become the embodiment of treating people well. And I pray that those I worship alongside can treat others well too.