Re-Growth: The Politics of the Good

I have been writing this blog in earnest for one year now. There are some interesting things we have discussed over this time and hopefully some of you have gotten half as much out my postings as I have in writing them. This week, I will be highlighting some of my favorite posts as a year in review. Thank you for reading and lets keep Growing: 

(January 30, 2017) So apparently we can’t call things like we see them anymore.

The social media political environment forces one to double down on ideology instead of being considerate of the reality. If I am on the right, I can’t call injustice for what it is, I have to point out that the left also practiced injustice. It is like we are 7-years old and screaming, “I know you are but what am I?”

Maybe, we, no matter what side we are on, need to get off of our high horses and humble ourselves. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

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Jesus didn’t die to make me right politically, he died to make me right spiritually. Are we exploiting Jesus in our pride to win an argument or appease Twitter followers? Instead, lets humble ourselves and let God make us Grow Up. May the Grown Up person we become- indwelled and charged by Christ – dictate our beliefs and actions. May we move, speak, and respond out of our Christian maturity not out of our religiously sprinkled yet immature need to win or one up someone on the other side.

Our world, our intermingled lives, are not a game. We have to live together. We have to promote the good. Jesus, when he healed a demon possessed man and was accused of working for the other side, said, “A good man brings good out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

May we all, including me, check ourselves and see what good is coming out that is indicative of the good that is stored in us.

“Lord, may I lose every argument but gain your goodness. May that goodness be evident in my thoughts, my words, and my actions. I don’t want to be right in my peers eyes; I want to be right in yours. Make me good Lord and help me work for all the good you are bringing to the world no matter what side that is on. To live for you and die for my own gain.”

Re-Growth: Why We Need To Grow Up

I have been writing this blog in earnest for one year now. There are some interesting things we have discussed over this time and hopefully some of you have gotten half as much out my postings as I have in writing them. This week, I will be highlighting some of my favorite posts as a year in review. Thank you for reading and lets keep Growing: 

(June 13, 2016) Unless you have been under a rock, Christians have been portrayed in many different ways over the last few years and most of these ways have been negative. Let me list a few: hate mongerer, backward, ignorant, radical, extreme, hypocrites, irrelevant, and crazy.

Sadly, it wouldn’t take me long to give you examples that would testify to the description above. And I have no axe to grind or get any joy from pointing this out.

Whether this portrayal is fair or not, it is obvious that the Christianity that is on display in our country is lacking in-depth, humility, gentleness, kindness, self-control, and love.

One reason this is happening  is that American Christians have tried to use the tactics and strategies of the secular world to advance the Christian faith instead of the tactics and strategies that have been the most impactful for the past 2,000 years.

We point fingers when we should be doing pointed personal spiritual inventory. We double down on our biases when we should be seeking to understand others that are also made in God’s image. We think that the goal is a happy life when what we really need is a self sacrificial life.

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So Grow Up and show others around you that you aren’t perfect but you possess a wisdom and a strength that doesn’t come from normal methods. Grow Up and show others the path to fulfillment is not found in worldly shortcuts but in the person of Jesus Christ. Grow Up and show others that what changes the world is not bluster and brow beating but genuine love, service to others, and spiritually transformed people.

The world needs mature Christians. Join me as I try to do my part to Grow Up and be a guide to others to do the same.

The Night I Learned What It Meant To Be A Dad

Our first born will graduate from High School on Saturday. She is bright, hard working, mature, and brave. I am amazed at her growth and maturity. She is going to be a great adult.

My most vivid memory of Grace as a toddler involves the moment I feel I first became a Dad. Sure, I was a dad by function and circumstance but it was this incident that showed me what kids can do to you and how they can teach you profound lessons.

Grace was two years old and a pleasant kid despite the age. My wife had a weekend commitment and that meant that I was in charge of Grace for the night. I would have to feed her, get her ready for bed, and make sure nothing seriously went wrong.

I was, and still am, an incredibly self focused individual. All of this responsibility was incredibly inconvenient, hard, and was removing me from my own agenda and preferences. I was feeling sorry for myself and bitter towards my wife for leaving me alone for hours on end with this bundle of demands, irrational behavior, and diapers. As the evening progressed, my plan was to do what I had to do and then get her in bed as soon as possible so I could be free of all of this annoying responsibility.

We lived in a duplex at the time and our neighbors had a toddler size play set out front complete with a slide. They were kind enough to allow us to use the play set whenever we liked. After I fed Grace, we went outside and she started to play and slide and slide and slide. At first, I thought this was a great way to occupy her before bed and I wouldn’t have to entertain her and I would soon be on to my own agenda. But something changed in the course of a few moments.

GRace

I think I first noticed her smile. Each time she went down that little slide, she had the most joyful grin on her face. It was infectious and I started to smile along with her. I began to notice everything, I noticed her joy, her beautifully cute hands and feet as she went about play. I noticed the way she completely lived in the present. Then I noticed the incredibly perfect night that enveloped us. West Texas sunsets are the best in the world and this night’s sunset was a masterpiece. The coolness of the early spring evening was so pleasant I wanted to soak in it.

Slowly, I began to live completely in the present myself.  This moment was beyond anything I could have ever concocted. This little girl was mine and she was planted on this earth to show me a side of love, compassion, and sacrifice that is unique to parents. I became a Dad that evening because there was nothing I wanted more than to have a thousand more moments like that night. To share a bond that only a parent and a child can experience. To recognize what family means on a heart level and not just a surface level.

I am grateful for that little girl teaching me this lesson and for the lessons she has taught me the following 15 years. Hopefully, I have taught her a few lessons and given her a few priceless moments along the way as well.

Picking Up Hitchhikers on Mother’s Day

Aaron was young, a little bit bigger than I was and wore a cowboy hat and carried a backpack and one suitcase. I had never picked up a hitchhiker before and wasn’t planning on it that day. He was on his way to surprise his mother for Mother’s Day when I met him.

I had stopped to get gas and was just 40 minutes away from seeing my own mother for Mother’s Day.

He had already traveled hundreds of miles from Fort Riley, Kansas and only needed about 70 more miles to go. He wanted to know if he could catch a ride with me for part of the way.

When Aaron approached me, it made some sense for me to give him a ride but what was I getting myself into?

I had seen him get dropped off by someone else as I pulled into the Truck Stop. That told me that he was actually working on getting somewhere and not out for some carjacking spree. Second, he went straight from being dropped off towards me to make the request. I try not be one of those “everything is a sign from God” type people but out of the 12 people getting gas at that time, wasn’t it kind of weird that the Christian guy trying to live the Jesus Way in a very intentional matter is the first person he talked to? Also, I have been around enough homeless types with addiction or mental problems to recognize when someone didn’t quite fit the profile. So, I gave Aaron the response of, “Yeah, but hold on one second.”

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U.S. National Archives

I still needed to pump my gas which gave me more time to think and pray things over. Quickly, I thought, I am by myself, I am a decent person, I have been reading a lot about compassion, and it is Mother’s Day for crying out loud. But most of all, I thought about a Dallas Willard quote that has stuck with me for years:

“The world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”

Willard’s idea is that Jesus, who is living out of the power of the Kingdom of God, had no reason to be frightened or worried, his Father was in control and that was all that mattered. If that was good enough for Jesus, why can’t it be good enough for me?

I don’t know if Aaron made it home in time for Mother’s Day. When I dropped him off, he still had about 40 miles to go. But, I prayed that he did. I wish I could have seen the surprise on his mother’s face when he showed up.

The whole thing was kind of surreal, like something was happening that involved me but where I didn’t have much say over the matter. I just filled a role I felt like I needed to fill at that particular time. Was I uncomfortable? Yeah. Was I surveying every move he made while in the car? Yes. Did I try to think of scenarios where I could call for help if I needed it? Sure. But it was about as normal a conversation and time as could have been had on a warm Spring day when we were both just trying to get home to see our mothers.

Will There Be Christian Robots?

We are handing more and more of our human duties over to machines.

My phone is basically writing my texts for me because it is learning my patterns of communication and use of words. Human chess players are already competing in tournaments, not against machines, but with the machines in what is known as freestyle or advanced chess. Does anyone know anything anymore or do we just know to see if Google knows?

This isn’t just the stuff of movies but a reality to what will be present in 20 years. We are starting to get to the point where we will have to think about where the human ends and the machine begins. The next step will be a human-machine mashup that is something all together different.

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If we haven’t already, we are going to have to start thinking about what is a human and how should it live in the age of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and transhuman technologies. There are already Transhuman theologies popping up. What will be the Church’s answer to this?

Maybe my machine hasn’t fed me the right articles, but I have seen very little written or talked about that tries to provide a Christian response to this rise of the machine. But I have read Kevin Kelley’s The Inevitable and I have listened to this podcast and read this article from secular minds trying to come to grips with this near future. Christians seem to be behind the curve on this.

Too many Christians want to have bullet proof beliefs to take into debates with Atheists or Buddhists or Muslims, but what we really need to be focused on is demonstrating how Christianity is the best way for humans to live.  To present a Jesus Way of being human that has traits, characteristics, and values that humans would be foolish to lose in the age of machines.

It sounds absurd, but there will be serious discussions and thought being paid to what makes a human and how that is different, and should be different, from artificial intelligence. What a great time for Christians to exemplify that the best choice for human existence is a life taught, inspired, transformed, and developed through Jesus Christ. Our goal shouldn’t be to win some debate but to demonstrate that Christ’s way is the future of our existence.

The Miracle of What We Don’t Want, Part 3

I have discussed the situation I found myself in here. I have also discussed how God directed me to lead with Spiritual Formation and Discipleship in mind.

Now, I will tell you about a few of the things we tried and how they worked.

Daily Prayer. Everyday at 9:30, any staff that wants to meet gathers for prayer. I will usually read a few verses and we will discuss it briefly.  Then, we will take prayer requests. When you have a fellow colleague who dies during the semester, there was no shortage of the need to pray. When another librarian loses her father and another one has a daughter with cancer, we have spent many of these daily prayer times crying, sharing with one another, and connecting in powerful ways.

Staffing With a Mission. We had many positions to fill. Our first priority was a part time person who could run our Circulation Desk. This person would be working closely with a large team of student workers. I wanted to find someone that could be more than a supervisor but could invest in and mentor our student workers. I needed someone with a minister’s heart. We found a Doctoral Student who was a former children’s minister and loved connecting with others. She could do the ins and outs of the job but she also could show love, care, and compassion for our student workers. She was an answer to prayer.

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The flier for Nuggets and Knowledge

Nuggets and Knowledge. I wanted to find ways to connect with our student workers beyond work. I had hoped to help develop what are known as soft skills with our students. And, I wanted to demonstrate and discuss how Christ changes how I work, parent, listen, and lead. I knew that I could meet with our male student workers and our new Circulation supervisor could meet with the females. I purchased a 30 count platter of nuggets and invited our guys to come to my office for lunch. I called it Nuggets and Knowledge. We were able to meet one time but I plan on making it a monthly occurrence. Our first meeting was a great opportunity to get to know each other and for me to share a little of my story.

The Value of Service. I couldn’t tell you how many times on our campus, I have heard people talk about experiencing something different when they arrived, the presence of God even. I have heard it so many times that I don’t think it is hyperbole. It is my desire that people have the same experience when they walk into the library. YES, the library. I want people to have a sense that something important is happening in our corner of the campus and that God must be a part of that. One way we can make this a reality is through our quality of service. We are training our student workers to smile and look up, to take extra time with our patrons, and to take their tasks seriously for the betterment of those they are serving.

I have only been Interim for one semester and I really don’t know what the future holds and I am not too concerned by it. I know that God has called me for this time and place and I want to honor that calling. The rest is out of my hands. No matter what happens, I can know that I did what I was asked to do and I did it in a way that fit with who I am and who God has made me.

The Miracle of What We Don’t Want, Part 2

When I was asked to be the Interim Director of the library I had a problem. I mentioned this at the end of the last post.

Why had God allowed me to pursue something like the Apprentice Experience, why had I gone through the effort of trying to start a ministry, why was I passing myself off as Spiritual Formation expert through blogging and mentoring if God’s plan for me was to have a management position full of paper work, budgets, staffing headaches, and limited resources? What was the point of all of my efforts to help others Grow Up if God had something unrelated in mind. This is not what I asked for.

Still, I was willing to be obedient, I was willing to fill the role and fulfill my obligations, but I couldn’t see past the drudgery and the administrative aspects that I knew I would hate. One evening after a day of work and trying to ride the wave of all that was going on, I was walking to my car and it hit me. In a revelatory way that is a Godly mixture of surprise and perfect sense, it was laid before me that, “why can’t you do both?”

Yes, I could do both. I could bring all that I have learned through the Apprentice Experience, through my years of studying and caring about issues of Spiritual Growth, and my care for other people’s spiritual life and blend it into my role in running a library.  I was at Dallas Baptist University for crying out loud, it wasn’t like I would be barred from bringing the spiritual into the workplace? I began to envision a work environment where our staff could connect and care for one another, where our student workers could grow and develop as adults, professionals, and believers, and our student patrons could be inspired, invigorated, and blessed by our work. God helped me see a library that could be a beacon of light and learning on the campus.

Just minutes before, I was dreading the next to-do item, the next crisis, the next urgent moment of overwhelm. Now, after God told me I could do both, ideas started flooding into my mind. I had inspiration after inspiration for ways to develop our staff, to enrich our spiritual lives, and to serve our students. I went from being just a person with added responsibility to a leader who had the inspiration and the Spirit-led direction to change things up, to try out new things, and to attempt to be who Christ would be if he were name Interim Library Director.

What did I have to lose? So I gave it a shot.

Find out what I have tried and how God has worked in Part 3 on Monday.

 

The Miracle of What We Don’t Want, Part 1

I had hoped and knew something new was happening. There was a stirring, a combination of incidents, and a level of uneasiness. I thought God was providing something new in my career. Not a new job but maybe a new side gig or teaching opportunity.

I just couldn’t shake this interest and even calling I had for helping people grow spiritually, for helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ. Last spring, I began to pray that God would make it clear to me what he wanted from me, that he would provide a way to something that matched my longings and interest.

I took a few matters into my own hands.

First, I signed up for the Apprentice Experience. I wanted to scratch the itch I had to learn and experience community among like-minded individuals.  Also, to chronicle my experience and to help raise a little money, I started this blog. I had grand ideas that this blogging and learning would morph into a ministry. I wanted to go into churches and lead workshops on Growing Up in Christ or be a retreat speaker. I wanted to be sought after as an expert on gaining spiritual maturity. And I kept praying that God would bring these ideas into fruition. That my ministry, even my career, would see a change.

I felt that it was time. I never expected this.

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Shannon Kokoska via Flickr Creative Commons)

In the matter of a week back in December, a colleague of mine resigned, the Director of the Library announced that she would be stepping down at the end of the month and I was now being asked to be the Interim Director. Remember that I had been praying for some kind of change, for God to make it clear to me what new direction he was guiding me towards.

But really God? This is what you came up with? A managerial job in the midst of a wave of turnover and upheaval? We were already losing one librarian, one was stepping down soon, and another was in the hospital just weeks away from her death. This is not the smooth, well-organized chance to do ministry that I was counting on.

This was going to be drudgery and really, really hard. Thanks a lot God.

Read Part 2 on Wednesday.

Why I Am Not A Dad Blogger

I am a parent but I hardly write about parenting. I am a husband but I hardly write about marriage. I hold a managerial job but I haven’t mentioned leadership on this blog. I am a member of a church but I barely mention church. I am a citizen of a democracy but I avoid political discussions and social commentary.

What is my problem? Am I avoiding these things?

This blog is about the maturity, wisdom, character development, and renovation of the heart that comes from the transforming power of Christ. My whole point of writing this blog is so that other people can find ways and methods and inspiration to be the Jesus they would be if Jesus were they.

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If individuals reading this can find growth in love, in compassion, in service, in sacrifice, in perseverance, and humility then their marriages will be improved and their parenting will be less selfish and their work will be more excellent and their participation in church will be more intentional.

I could make every post on this blog a listicle on how to have a great marriage but the heart of the matter wouldn’t change. I need the transforming power of Christ in my life in order to be the person, in all of its states and phases, that blesses others and makes a real difference.

I have a lot of work to do and so do you but the surest way to reach stronger, healthier, and blessed aspects of our lives is to follow Jesus, do what Jesus does, and be like Jesus is.

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:28-29

Vulnerability Is A Game Changer

Vulnerability has been a theme running through many of the readings we have done through the Apprentice Experience.

My friend Kris has taken vulnerability on as a calling and has seen great progress in his own life and among others willing to do it. He encouraged me to be more vulnerable on the blog and I have tried to tell more of my story instead of just passing along nuggets of expertise.

But what is vulnerability?

James Bryan Smith discussed the book The Cure with us at Gathering 2. He addressed a section called “Living With Nothing Hidden.” This section had this to say about vulnerability: “Instead of pretending we are “doing fine,” give others an opportunity to love us…and they will.”

I know that I would much rather tell people I am doing fine than have to get into the complexities of my Dad’s battle with Cancer or the stress of being an Interim Director of a College Library. I have this fear that if I do give people the opportunity to love me, they will blow me off or give superficial responses or barely listen or quickly move on to themselves.

I have to realize that the benefits of being vulnerable far outweigh any rejection or lack of validation that might come from taking the vulnerability risk.

I have tried being more open, I have tried to tell more of my story, I have tried taking responsibility for my failures as well as my successes. And I have received back true connection with people, true encouragement, and opportunities for growth in my own life.

Most of all, I have felt closer to the will of God. Vulnerability has led me to take risks and to let God guide me instead of me trying to manage every circumstance. This has brought deeper friendships, rewarding ministry opportunities, better blogging, and a deeper understanding of myself.

Are you willing to give others an opportunity to love you and to give God a better chance to work through you?

Then try a little vulnerability.