Lament: When It Is Not Okay and That Is Okay

Lately, I have found expression for my own frustrations and disappointment in the Psalms of Lament. The thing about these Psalms is that they are honest and emotional while acknowledging the reality of God. I find this an incredibly healthy way of interacting with God. I decided to write my own modern lament patterned after Psalm 3.

Lord, where can I find dedication to your Son!

Why do the once faithful seem to move away from you the first chance they get?         Why are they so weak in the face of personal difficulty or challenging social situations?

Many say, “I once believed, until this happened.” Should a few poor situations really push people away from you?

But you have given me an assurance of your faithfulness to me.

Even when I have faced my own bad situation, at church and otherwise, I have never wanted you more Lord.                                                                                                     You have been with me and others through Wilderness times.

Don’t let your church be sullied by unbelief, modern sensibilities, controversies, reduction of the mission, or scandals.                                                                                       Give no one ammunition to bring down your name in response to your church’s example.

From you comes blessing, living water to sustain us, peace, and direction for the future. May your blessing be on your people.

The Uniqueness of the Ordinary

No one in our culture likes the ordinary. Nothing ordinary goes viral or gets likes or gets copied. The ordinary is often shunned as if it is wrong or terribly mistaken.

The church in American has picked up the aversion to the ordinary. No church highlights their willingness to meet the ordinary people, provide tools for ordinary situations, or celebrates the purity of the ordinary.

But the ordinary is the most important aspect of our days. How we manage the ordinary is how we manage life. Who we are in the ordinary situations is who we are. If we don’t stress the ordinary in our days then we are ignoring 95% of our existence.

This is where Growing Up comes in. Becoming a mature follower of Christ means that every moment, every situation, and every encounter is an opportunity to live my life in the way that Christ would if he were I. My mornings are not just the preparation for the day but an opportunity to commit that day over to God. Driving is not just a point A to point B thing but a mobile prayer closet. Dinners are not just communal necessities but a chance for thankfulness and unity among loved ones. My work is not just routine but my God given tasks that require my God given abilities.

The ordinary is everything. Christ was ordinary yet he changed the world and offers us an ordinarily extraordinary life.

Embrace the ordinary.

I Am Not Very Observant

Most of the time, I am too distracted, too busy, too worried, too anxious to notice all the good and meaningful things that are around me.

I recently picked up Eugene Peterson’s book Practice Resurrection. This book is Peterson’s conversation on Ephesians. I had read this book, or portions of it, several years ago, but never knew it was the better written, and more deeply thought out version of what I am trying to do here with this blog. For example, this section from page 2:

The most significant growing up that any person does is to grow as a Christian. All other growing up is a preparation for or ancillary to this growing up…The human task is to become mature, not only in our bodies and emotions and minds within ourselves, but also in our relationship with God and other persons.

The rest of the book is like this. Peterson is reading my mind and heart and illustrating it in a very thoughtful and profound way. His subtitle to the book is, “a conversation on growing up in Christ.”

The thing is,  I have read this book before and remember nothing about this talk on Christian maturity and Growing Up.

observation

hitchster/flickr

How much truth, how much meaningful content, how many messages from God just pass us by without us paying much attention?

It worries me that Peterson was addressing my own key message and purpose and it barely registered for me. Maybe one of the first steps in maturity is fewer and fewer of these moments and messages pass us by unnoticed. A sign of maturity may mean that we are in a state where we are more spiritually observant and receptive to all God is throwing at us. Our distraction levels are lowered and the Holy Spirit has more room to work.

What is it that you have let pass you by unnoticed? Do you need to read that passage of scripture again? Can you find that sermon online that you should have been paying attention to? Can you take your time with your next book long enough for the words to soak in? Or do you just need to approach the next thing with more receptivity to God’s work in your life?

He is present and he wants to connect with us. Are we listening?

Re-Growth: My Letter To God

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: 

(December 5, 2016)

Dear God,

The life I want most for myself is a God-breathed life; a life where those that know me, know a little of Jesus.

I want decisions I make to have a hint of the special and holy and divine. I want to be inspired daily and not live a hum-drum existence. Without you in my life, my life is full of limits and boundaries and roadblocks. With you in my life, I can accomplish many things I couldn’t accomplish on my own. I want to lean into that reality and watch you work. I want to be as amazed by your work in my life as everyone else.

I have seen so much in the last few months. Your presence has been there, moving me to the next thing. I can’t believe I am here in my life right now. I wouldn’t have predicted this scenario. I need you Lord. I need the best of me to be all of you. I have so many questions and concerns. Please don’t turn those into worries. Worries are no friend to growth, they try to stifle it. I put my worries behind me and your transforming power in front of me.

Come Lord Jesus.

Your indwelt and loved child,

Scott


I encourage you to write a similar letter to God. And don’t misplace it. Returning to the letter a year from now should be a keen reminder of what God has done in your life and how you have Grown Up.

https://c2.staticflickr.com/2/1472/23638288124_2ffcdc7678_b.jpg

photo credit: Lukas.bO

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.”

Image result for political donkey and elephant

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.

Image result for servant leadership

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.”

lossy-page1-480px-San_Fernando,_California._Hitch-hiking._This_Civilian_Conservation_Corps_boy_is_returning_to_camp_about_thirty_miles..._-_NARA_-_532087.tif

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.

kelly

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.

Image may contain: food

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.