Thursday, June 9, 2011

Caught Saying the Wrong Thing

I recently had a disagreement with a parent. It was over a camp and how important it was. At the end, I think I ended out looking foolish, but even worse than that - I don’t mind looking foolish so much anymore cause I do it so often - I know that I made some inadvertent statements about myself, youth ministry, church, Christianity and even Jesus.

The first statement is that "____________ is more important than that." At fist glance you look and say. What!?!? But first I want to follow a train of thought that’s going in my head. In this instance the choice was, “You have to choose between camp and your college registration day.” (Let me say here how foolish this is. This argument will never win a battle with a parent, especially lost ones. It doesn’t even matter that there might be an equally good registration day down the road, this is still a bad statement) Some of you may say, why is that a bad choice. Because either choice reveals bad priorities. What I’m really saying (and they are hearing) here is: You have to choose between church and college. That is resoundingly what will be heard, and I think that’s the statement we DO mean to make if we really think about it. Church events are more important than anything. If we’re doing something, we believe to an extent that the world should stop for us and take notice of the great _________ we’re doing. This can go so far as to the little things we do. Even paintball. It sounds so silly when I type it, but I know that many of us have thought, “Why would you go to __________ when you can go to paintball with THE CHURCH. We believe that anything church does is more important than anything else. And here’s the largest problem with that. What we’re really saying on an even deeper level is “you have to choose between Jesus and college.” Because we equate Jesus and the church too often, this is almost always that statement others will here and sometimes we mean to make that statement too! Jesus is not the Church. We may be the body of Christ...we may be disappointed that people choose different things...but if you choose something else over camp, that doesn’t mean you’re rejecting Jesus. Or anything else Jesus is not ___________: fill it in with your events: Wednesday night Bible Study, Sunday School, Church time, Fundraisers, Camps, Service Project, Christian Concerts, Paintball, whatever. Jesus is Jesus and we do not show our love and devotion to him by making anything a war that doesn’t need to happen.

The second statement and just as damaging is “We know better than you do what’s good for your kid.” You may think, “I don’t believe that,” but you may accidentally say it loud and clear. If a parent or student chooses something else, then we can very easily be saying that they chose that over us. Which follows the same progression: you chose that over church or Jesus. What I was saying was that camp is more important than her child registering for college on that particular day. I know what’s best for your child because I see them for 2 hours a week. Don’t you care about the money/opportunity for growth/whatever that’ll be lost? The answer is, no, they don’t. And by saying those things we make ourselves an enemy. We are supposed to be a support to families, but we fall short so easily. It’s hard for a parent to understand when we walk in with unsolicited advice. “This is what’s best for your child,” we inadvertently say. I know I get mad when someone in church with good intentions tries to tell me how to raise my kid. But then I have to look back and see what their intentions were and that they are just trying to help. But that’s a learned filter. No regular parent comes equipped to take your advice as anything other than criticism, and they will take it that way and be offended! We have to learn to talk in the language of support.

Lord Jesus, may we not confuse you with the “stuff” that the church does. You are the head of the Church. You are something other than us and we are just the body trying to act out your will. But we are not a substitute for You and I pray that you put us in our place. Help us to love families and to remember that we all came from a screwed up family. Let us get to building relationships so that we have the right to offer constructive advice that will be listened to rather than the alternative. Amen.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Today I came to the ultimate realization that I do not like reality.  I love fantasy much better that reality any day....Whoa!!!! Hold on there before you explode at me, and try to catch my meaning. I'm not talking about some trash that would have me fantasizing over another woman. If I read of a relationship in which there is perfection, I merely know that there are things to strive for in my own relationships; the answer is never: replace your wife. I have lived the lie that living in fantasy and being overly drawn to its more dangerous sides...therein are only lies and death...(ominous sounding....duh duh duh)
That being said: I love fantasy, but I very much love the magic and mystery. I get drawn up in these characters who find that or live in a world that is not what it seems. That there is magic swirling around them and they get caught up in its throes. Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Susan, Eustace, and Jill; Harry, Ron, Hermoine; Edward and Bella; Drizzt, Tanis, Raistlin, Neo, and so many others...they live where I would most long to...where magic is possible. Honestly, it makes my life look ordinary, and I hate that. I hate being ordinary...I'm mostly like everyone else...I procrastinate, go to work, sleep in, watch my kids, hang out with friends, love my family, do the chores over and over, worry about bills and money and everything just seems so endless...I hate ordinary...I long for magic and find that there is a whole other world out there of talking animals, wizards, even monsters. I read the Bible and it just gets worse for me. Littered through its pages are stories of healing, plague, miraculous defeats, clouds of fire, the ground swallowing people whole, angels, unclean a whole other world is present in conjunction with ours. But do I see it? No...I so I sit and "live" and wait. I feel ordinary..not powerful or having any mystery around me... I feel my senses dull and aching...I long so desperately for more...

Someone at this point would remind me that all the people that these thing happened to were special people. It's not like it happened or happens to everyone. God only spoke to a few. There's usually a whole world of people who are oblivious to the truth of this other world...well thanks, but no thanks! Am I doomed to be that? To have a world of mystery so close but I can never touch or perceive it? I long so desperately to interact with it, to see if I fit there to..maybe just to see it, but I never am able because I'm just ordinary. I don't want to just wait until I die to see this other place that's promised me...some people talk like it's here and now and I so desperately want in on the mystery. I want to taste, touch, and interact...not just imagine.

But then...ah then...I'm reminded that I have, on rare occasions seen things that I cannot explain. I have seen the wonder and magic and mystery when a magical community comes together - in it there's healing and refreshing, even if we don't get all the answers. I've seen people healed. I know those who have come into contact with darker things. I know what it's like to pick my head up and realize that I'm on the verge of waking up...that maybe this world, this life is a sort of dream. I've seen others wake up and heard clear calls to wake even more people. I feel like I've known things that I shouldn't or even been told things in dreams...but then it fades...

Clarity is so hard to come by, seems that it only enters our minds for a short while...and then we can see so clearly. We understand the mystery and what it's all about. Those of you that have awakened, if only briefly, know what I'm talking about. And after it's all over, sometimes we drift off and wonder if that reality wasn't just the dream and our normal lives are all there was all along... it fades so the way you can so quickly forget the voice of a loved one that you've would know if they spoke again, but you can hear it no elusive...but oh, how I wish they'd speak again...

And so I with my fantasy and reality; sometimes not knowing which is which. I know that true reality is out there, waiting to be awakened (or us awakened to it, if you prefer), and I, for one, am waiting expectantly. I know what happens when the dead wake up and rise...I've read the promises and seen glimpses of of it...oh how I long for it nothing else I can imagine...when, oh when will Narnia come into our lives again and sweep us up in it's story...I hope it's not long hope rising...or even a lark ascending...

Thanks (all of you who'll never read my thoughts) for trying to remember the glimpse with me. I know I can't describe it for it's too hazy now...but I know you understand...let's pray it comes again soon...that Aslan will wake us and send us to rouse others...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Review (maybe a renewal)

I think reviews make me sad lately...sometimes they make me see things I've done in my life lately but are not happening now. Then again, maybe that's the see things I've done but still need...I know that I'm going to cover more than a year here, but who cares, I don't think anyone other than me reads this anyway...

1. In 2008 we gathered a small group of disconnected and slightly disillusioned college students in our home.  We had an absurd notion in our head that there was more that what we were getting; that by getting together and being completely honest about our life, our struggles, our faith, that we would be doing something mysterious. We thought that we could heal, that redemption could be had, and that maybe we could even push back The Fall, if ever so slightly. I think few who were there on those nights would disagree with my assessment. We don't meet anymore. I don't talk to many of them, but I hope that they cannot unlearn what we did there on those nights.

2. In May of 2008, we embarked on a crazy journey of being restored to Ministry of some kind. We thought we planned to start a church because we were still so disillusioned by what we had experienced so far. I think God had to get to us with that one...I know He still is. I think we were probably a bit arrogant. Like we had some deep and amazing insight that makes us better and completely more alive than anyone else. To use someone else's words "We weren't joining a movement, we were rediscovering the Jesus that everyone else had lost." I know... I know...
After a long journey of prayer, searching, hurt, rejection, judgement, depression, we knew what we were built for: We strive to serve in existing churches...I maintain that there are lost within our old established churches just as much as in the world. Both must be reached and connected...

3. March of 2009 began our most recent journey: We accepted the call of FBC Big Lake for me to serve as Youth Minister. It is not easy. Getting into the thoughts and lives of students, building trust, tyring to connect with parents, trying to be a good father, a hard worker, not an over-worker (I've seen too many pastors now who have sacrificed their family on the altar of "Ministry" and I find it unacceptable), trying to live life after basically leaving normal life for's been very difficult, something closely akin to culture shock. I feel acutely the pain of having to rebuild, of my closest friends being absent and silent due to distance, being far from family - even if they are crazy and unhealthy sometimes, the lack of significant relationships (though I have yet to find the strength to stand up, be awkward, and ask all the hard questions again, even if it means people being confused or appalled by me, just for the hope of finding one who responds). To be honest, I find myself fighting deep depression because it all seems so's hard to find the strength to get up and bother to move some days. I'm working, though. I began this war in earnest over 2.5 years ago now and I'm not about to give up.

4. We finished our first full semester here. It's still hard to get to know all the students. I'm constantly haunted by the desire to be different. I wish that students really understood's so difficult to be different. To not succumb to expectations whether perceived or real, to be different from everyone else around you or those who have come before (not that I'm better or extra-special or something), to define my life and ministry around something different than the normal or around entertainment...Our first semester has still had some great moments: We've made some good relationships with leaders and students. We have some students who seem to like us very much, though we still have to teach them to think for themselves. I see glimpses of understanding and leadership in a few, others will not rise no matter how hard you prod them...time will tell. We've had some fun things and good times. Here's to something amazing.

5. More than anything else, I realize that I've been too silent. I vowed to break silence and I've not lived up to myself. I need to find some new ways to push the envelope. I don't think I'm truly happy if I'm not saying hard things...maybe I should do it in some songs, too...

Here's to a New Year full of a loud, obnoxious faith that is at the same time infectious and challenging; full of life, growth, change, freedom, restoration, healing...and who knows, maybe can push back The Fall, if ever so slightly. Here's to mystery...I don't think we in America believe in that anymore. I want to believe in magic and mystery and wonder...I know God has it!

To conclude, some lyrics that have been haunting me today:

I can't keep a straight face and say that this is not the end
Not if you want it its upon us and I wanna say it's sinking in
If I was hasty maybe I was rushed along
I won't move into little boxes and then not get the itch to move on

So think real slow
Don't forget that yes is yes and no is no
Melting prints of grass and snow
Means I may forget the way to get back home
Cause this is the end if you want it
This is the end

You're not the first thing in my life I've loved and lost
Yeah I've thought worse things that I might be less inclined to merely just shrug off

You'll take me home
Like my family did my father did I know
You'll think real slow
But don't forget the speed that I can go away
Cause this is the end if you want it
Yeah this is the end

I've been convincing myself that I'm worthwhile
Cause I'm worth what I'll convince myself to be
I've been convincing meself that I'm worthwhile
Cause I'm worth what I'll convince myself to be

I me the devil and I stared her in the eyes
Her hair had scales like silver serpents
I a statue, stood there mesmerised

I took the fire escape and made it out alive
Yeah I still burn from time to time but I've a healing hand against my side

Blisters on my feet I crawled back home
Frozen from the sleet burned sand and stones
Nourished back to life by life alone
With one shake of the mane regain the throne

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Turning Away (or more appropriately, the offensive gospel)

I wonder what people thought when Jesus said repent? I mean, if he's really talking about a life different from our own, what did they think? I've been told that the Jews were waiting for Messiah, the one who would lead the rebellion and crush Rome, regaining all the former glory of their Kingdom and way of life. The expected that he would begin by rebuilding the temple to its former glory. That sounds amazing...I can almost imagine the end of their exile and the rejoicing that would come when all those things happened, God and His servant stepping in to Judge all the oppressing nations and hold his people up...
I don't know about you, but that's not what my Jesus did...instead, he said he was greater than the Temple (put murderous thoughts of the priests here). He told all the rebellion leaders to "Repent" turn from their rebellion and choose God's way (there goes the zealous people) And that the biggest places in the Kingdom that God had in mind look like losers; meek, poor in Spirit, servants/slaves (top it all off with some hacked-off Pharisees)
There are times when I wonder why people get mad when I have an opinion that is contrary to theirs, but I really wonder if there's a way to say "Repent" in a non-offensive way. Not that we should try and offend people, but no one likes to be disagreed with, it makes us mad, because you're saying we're wrong. But I guess it's funny how Christians are the most easily offended sometimes too...we've got a lot of work to do...I don't think that we can turn this ship around on our own...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Journey of Redemption

So, I think about this road I've traveled sometimes and I wonder why I would invite others on it. This space in which I write is about the process of me changing hands: taking my life out of my own hands and giving away to someone who knows how to use it better. The word I choose for this process of changing hands, this road I travel on, is Redemption. And you know hurts!

I truly wonder sometimes if someone had told me what I would go through because of my life choice, all this pain and sorrow and scubula (go look that's Greek), I really wonder if I would have chosen this road. You hear stories of weighing out the cost of our journey before we make a decision, but I wonder how much we can really when someone tells me that they are 'ready to get married.' I really love to hear that because it's worth one of those really good laughs, you know, so deep from your bowels that the laugh itself either hurts your abs or makes you need to vomit or poop.

I don't know that it's really possible to understand marriage well enough to know that you're ready to get married. I don't think our senses can truly comprehend what marriage is truly about until we are knee-deep in it. You, Mrs. Singleville, have the tiniest glimmer of and idea of what it is like to give yourself so completely to someone that you share your existence with them? Bah Hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!! (that's that laugh I was talking about!)

I think it's the same with Redemption. We think we're ready and understand the journey, but then we look back one day from a WayPoint high in the hills. We see where the road led through loss and love and fire and rain. We know that we never ever want to be any place else than on this road, but we cannot see how we ever would have come this way on our own...

This is where I am tonight...I hope to see you on the road sometime...I wouldn't trade it!

by Jars of Clay

We made it to a strange town
Going down the wrong road
Like any story retold
Couldn't find a common ending
We're way gone, be gone, looking for our own way

We needed a distraction
You said you were redemption

We knew it as a wrong turn
We couldn't know the things we'd gain
When we reach the other border
We look out way down past the road we came from

We're looking for redemption
It was hidden in the landscape
Of loss and love and fire and rain
Never would have come this way
Looking for redemption

We were looking out past the road we came from

Looking at redemption
Hidden in the landscape
Of loss and love and fire and rain
Never would have come this way
Looking for redemption
In the eyes of sorrow, eyes of rage
What a sordid histories they played
The drama of redemption