Archive for January, 2012

Tim Tebow has quickly replaced Rebekah Black, Justin Bieber, and a few other “notables” as the person about whom everyone has to have an opinion.  We read and hear responses all over the map – from deep respect to deep disgust with lots of bad theology, nonsense and bandwagon jumping thrown in.   This phenomenon has provided a wonderful opportunity to think and talk about faith in the public arena.  It has exposed some of us.  And it has provided some fascinating insight into our culture.

Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent Youth Understanding posted of discussing Tebow in his class through the grid of Rienhold Neibuhr’s five approaches to culture.  I don’t know about you, but I would have enjoyed sitting in that class.

One insight I enjoyed came from a brilliant professor at Southern Illinois University who is a good friend.  Part of his insight was to suggest that Tebow’s appeal comes from the fact that “Too few of us are willing to take the risks associated with invoking God or Jesus unless it’s a safe environment (e.g., church, family). As a result, many Christians live vicariously through people like Tebow and lay claim to his boldness by singing his praises.”

What do you think?  About Tim Tebow?  Sure that’s fair game.  But even more, what do you think our reaction to him says about us!?!

I’m in my youth ministry classroom at Oklahoma Wesleyan early this morning, waiting for students to begin arriving.   Actually, I was…but here they come…I’ll finish this later.

I was reflecting again on one of my favorite passages to preach on – Psalm 78.   It is a great passage about passing the faith to the next generation. 

Toward the end of the Psalm, King David is referenced as a shepherd who shepherded with skillful hands and integrity of heart.   Skillful hands.  Integrity of heart.  

What does that mean to you….and what should it mean to these young, aspiring youth pastors? 

I’d love to hear your wisdom…and I will share it with them!

In worship this morning we used this video using the image of the family mealtime from Fuller Youth Institute.

Our college minister, Peter White, posted on his facebook :  “At the great banquet in the Kingdom of God, there is only the kids table.”   I love it. What are your thoughts?

‘Nuff said!

Posted: January 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Beware of posing as a profound person – God became a baby.” Oswald Chambers

Everybody is home right now. One daughter is home from overseas, another from college, and basketball season is not quite in full swing. That means LOTS of talking, laughing, some quarreling and of course, eating together.

One of the strongest staples of my childhood was the family dinner table. Not only did we eat together twice a day, but it was rare for us to have a mealtime without someone….or many someones…in attendance. We learned to laugh, discuss big ideas, tell stories and honor one another by listening to every age. When I was a boy, I heard it said that no missionary or visiting preacher came to Wilmore, KY who did not eat at my parent’s table.

I thought about this as Annamarie and I walked tonight. Last night, it was just our family. We were silly and laughed until tears came. Tonight we had young friends join us around the table. They listened and joined in as we told stories, passionate and hilarious, again wiping our eyes and gasping for breath. It’s not always this way. Sometimes we quarrel and misunderstand and even hurt each other. But that is a privilege too.

Some of my favorite people (yeah, there are a lot of you!) are Kara and Brad over at Fuller Youth Institute. Check out this quote on family dinners and the article it comes from. “Teens who have infrequent family dinners AND whose families dinners are pervaded by cell phones, laptops, and video games have even higher rates of risk behavior. They are three times more likely to use tobacco and marijuana and 2.5 times more likely to use alcohol.”

If I remember right from family systems class, since the 1950s up through 2009, there has been very little research so clear on the impact of a particular family behavior. I seem to remember that a minimum of four family meals a week was key. And I know I remember that you did not have to be a blood relative to benefit from a given family system’s mealtimes.

Many, many people have been around my dinner table at some time or another. In the late 90s we estimated almost 1,000 a year. in this season of our lives, the numbers are much smaller. It’s never been fancy….lots of biscuits and gravy….and chocolate chip bars…..and pizza, but lots of love and laughter, stories and schedules, and of course, prayers. I wonder if they became family mealtime “converts”…if that was something they held onto for themselves. I hope so.

Did you….do you…have family mealtimes? What did you learn…and hold onto? What are you sharing together besides the food?

Yesterday I watched the movie Inception again.  A masterful movie on many levels!

I was struck by how little responsibility Cobb takes for the problems he creates. Although deeply wounded, he is talented, driven, confident in his own ability….and so any problems he encounters must be someone else’s fault!  I found myself wondering if people younger than me saw that as a real issue….or if they saw it as normal and appropriate. I started to ask my college kids, but they were not interested in waxing philosophical in the middle of a movie!

Of course, I resonated with the mantra (repeated at least three times) of “taking a leap of faith or becoming an old man, full of regret, waiting to die alone.” Who would ever choose the regrets?!?   I made a few current applications in my head about my own life and remembered with pleasure the mantra my friend David B. and I had in college: “Has this been done before? Let’s do it. College is made of memories!”

But mostly, I got caught on the interplay of what was dream and what was the real world.  And caught by the picture of those who daily escaped the real world to dream…and the one old guy who appears to say that dreams are reality and who are any of them to say differently.

What is real? Where is the “real world?”

I grew up in a very small town. My peers couldn’t wait to get out into the “real world.” I went to a Christian college. Many chafed and complained about being in a bubble and not in the “real world.”  I went to Seminary with professional students while I worked blue collar jobs. I definitely felt many of my classmates were in an ivory tower and not in the “real world.”  And for the last 26 years, I have worked with students and families that are often happy to compartmentalize their faith…to spend an hour a week to get recharged before going back into the “real world.”

But I agree with C.S. Lewis, that we are living (at best) in the shadowlands. That which is real we do not yet fully experience. And I believe living in the Kingdom is reality….the rest is a dream state, or even a voluntary sedation that keeps us from reality.

Do you agree? If you do, how do you keep connected to the real world. How do you help others experience reality?

My friend Mark Riddle asked my staff the other day, “What have you postponed saying no to so that you could say yes?”  Chew on that one a little bit.  I have been for about three weeks.

The question was a catalyst for me.  I won’t bore you with all the details, but over the break I began to prune.  I chose an area of my life and began.   No more basic cable (why do I need local channels?), no more home phone (time to join this century!), no more station wagon (that extra vehicle costs even when you are not using it) and so on.  I’m just getting started.  I expect to be pruning for awhile!

What do you think?   I’ve lived all my life a kind of Carpe Diem kind of guy…only I like to think it has been Carpe AEternitas!  I grab the opportunity….move strategically ahead…not really in a type A ambitious sort of way, but to genuinely invest in others.  But I don’t think I have developed well the skill (or is it a spiritual discipline?) of saying no.  And I am beginning to suspect that all my yeses have in fact resulted in more nos than I have realized along the way.

I look forward to saying some powerful “Yes”.  But first, I have some catching up on “No” to do.

Last night we dressed in orange.   I ran to Radio Shack to buy the HDMI cord that would connect my laptop to the TV.  Hannah drove home from Dallas in time to see the big game with her family.  Mom bought orange soda (yuk) and made homemade pizza.  Our emotions swung back and forth until Oklahoma State kicked the winning field goal in overtime!

To tens of thousands of people in Tulsa, that was absolutely normal for last night.  But what was striking for me is that a year ago, none of us cared.  I have always been an SEC fan.   All of our orange clothing is new.  What happened?  And what can I learn from this conversion for (forgive me, OSU fans) for things that really matter?!?

We have lots of friends that are OSU fans.  They are not shy to talk about their allegiance.  They are quick to throw parties, invite others to join them, and have a blast.  The game schedule shapes their fall.  Being a fan is a major part of their identity.

The school really welcomed my daughter (currently a freshman at OSU).  They wanted her, they pursued her, they made things easy and fun to get oriented and become a part.  They did the same for us as parents.  When asked how she chose OSU, my daughter replies, “It’s more like they chose me.”

OSU fans are friendly.  They have that reputation and we have seen it lived out.  I’m a lifelong KY Wildcat basketball fan.  No one is more loyal than Big Blue Nation, but we can be snobs.  And argumentative.  And have to be right.  And know it all.  At Rupp Arena in Lexington, the crowd reacts as one voice faster than the referee can blow the whistle.  To go tailgating at OSU was to be introduced to a different kind of fan.

We had a good time last night.  I think we have a new allegiance….a conversion even.  What do you think?  Is there anything to be learned?

A new year! You’ll get no romantic rhetoric from me today about clean slates….nor wistful nostalgia of a year gone by. But I am feeling introspective. Sorry about that. Maybe you should check back next time….

Two years ago, I had a blog. It was kind of like an on-line book club. We read a youth ministry book and discussed it online. Readership was high until I pruned my schedule and put the blog on hold.

For the past couple of months, I have run around in my miind in predictable circles. Should I restart my blog? Maybe. Am I being narcissistic? Probably. Do I have something genuinely helpful to offer? I think so. Do I read other’s blogs? Only a few. Who would want to read mine? Who knows?! Is my schedule any better this time around? No.

In the end, I have a core value that drives me. Passing the faith to the next generation is the job of the whole community of faith. Not in a superior, top-down kind of way. But in an intergenerational partnership to fulfill God purposes in our time. And while I wrestle with abiding and achieving (and yes, I do know which one Christ commanded), I am compelled to offer whatever I can, however I can, for as long as I can, to this end.

I have more questions than answers most of the time. I know that unsettles many who find security in answers and are threatened by questions. But if you are okay with questions….and conversation….and my idiosyncracies and blind spots….maybe we can learn from each other….and spur one another on!