What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Quiet Juxtaposition in the Christmas Story

The part of the Christmas story that always gets me is Luke 1, the build-up towards the birth of Jesus that tells of Zechariah and Elizabeth (who eventually give birth to John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin).

It is Luke's glorious juxtaposition that captures me about these two lesser-known characters in the birth-narrative:
Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
They were both upright and blameless. But they had no children. And they were old. Many women had first children as teenagers In a culture where giving birth to children was the badge and sign of God's blessing, to be barren is to be considered cursed.

For Elizabeth (and to some extent Zechariah) it would be in today's culture like being un-employed your whole life. You would wonder what was wrong with the person.

How many years? How many tears? How much waiting? How many months of not being pregnant? How many friends who became pregnant along the way while she was left behind? How many years of no can one person stand? How many prayers go un-answered?

At some point, for most of us, we turn to other gods. At some point, we'd give up. At some point, I'd give up on this God. He's not doing what I want. What I want is a good thing. Ergo, this God's not working for me, let's try something else.

But these two, they're upright and blameless. Not just as teenagers. Not just through their twenties. Not just through their thirties. Not just through their forties. Perhaps through their fifties. Perhaps, even, into their sixties.

Upright and blameless. Even in the midst of feeling cursed. For decades.

These people, they bless me. And they point me to Jesus. He's the one who's finally perfect, upright, blameless even when I am not. I find myself pitifully falling short, even as I strive to imitate their faith in a much more materially blessed life.

But I'm glad in the one who came to get me, even when I fall short. My life will never be described with this same glorious juxtaposition. But in Jesus, I find myself on the end of blessing any way.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good News About Christmas in Funkland

About ten years ago, I hit a major funk. All fall I was struggling--emotionally, physically, spiritually. And few things are worse than Christmas-time in funkland.

When you're in funkland during Christmas, everyone seems happy. Everyone's telling you to be of good cheer. You just want to shout, "don your own stinkin' gay apparel!" and running and hiding in a quiet place away from away from everyone.

On top of that, I was (and am) a religious professional! Christmas is supposed to be my big day, my prime time!

I had tried everything I knew to do to re-connect with the Lord: reading new books, re-reading old books, Scripture, prayer, journaling, fasting, all of it. Nothing doing.

I remember my wife and I were visiting my parents and we were coming home from a Christmas Eve service where I was once again reminded of how spiritually vacuous I was. I was in the back seat of my parents car (feeling like I was nine all over again) once again disappointed in myself and God who seemed to be doing nothing to give a brother a break...not even at Christmas time.

I remember praying in the midst of my disappointment: "God, I've done everything I know to do to get out of this hard place. Nothing has worked. Do you think that you could come to get me?"

And then it hit me. A bright, piercing ray of light in a dark place. God did come to get me. That's what Christmas is all about. That's what this whole Christianity thing is all about. It's not about performance-management, crisis-management, doing more of some things, doing less of other things, it's not about warm-fuzzies or happy days or sad days. It's not about any of that stuff.

Christmas is the good news of a God who has come to get us when we could not "get" ourselves. We couldn't get ourselves out of the spiritual death that we were stuck in. So God himself has come. He has come to get us.

If you're experiencing Christmas in funkland this year, I'm praying for you, even as I write this note. There's just know way around it: it's harder to be struggling during the holidays...and the holidays can take a hard place and make it infinitely worse.

But know this: God coming to get us, to rescue us from permanent funkland is what Christmas is all about.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Good News of Our Un-Importance

Yesterday morning my son was throwing an epic tantrum. Something to do with who got to turn on the Christmas tree and a host of other (real and imagined) wrongs.

As his fit reached a fever pitch he screamed, "I'm going to knock over the tree and ruin everything!"

In a rare moment of clear-headed sanity I felt like I was able to speak something that blessed him: "No, son, you can't. You can't ruin everything. You don't have that much power. That's a good thing."

I think all but the most wounded of us and the most power-grasping of us don't actually want the power to ruin everything. And, even though we don't always feel like it (as Davis didn't that morning), it's a good thing that we don't have that kind of power.

God has come in Jesus to make sure that we don't have the last word on anything any more. We don't have the last word on culture, the economy, government, politics, on our marriages or our kids or even on ourselves...especially on ourselves.

You don't have the last word on you. God does. Congratulations, you can't even finally ruin your own life. God's arm is not too short to redeem anything. This is important for the "knowing God's will" conversation, among other things.

We can't ruin everything. And part of my job as a dad is to free my son from the burden of thinking that he can do so. To parent him in such a way that he feels that he could ruin everything would be to curse him with way too much power.

And it would set him up for a lifetime of too much pressure. If he can ruin everything, then the inverse could also be true: it's up to him to make sure that everything goes well. This lie could crush him--and actually probably crushes many of you.

This is the good news for all of us: you can't ruin everything. You are not as important as you think you are. Instead, you are loved far more than you ever hoped or imagined.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Moving Past Spiritual Plagiarism

My bro and his family are here from San Fransisco for some quality family Christmas time. When we first moved to Durham, they were just twenty minutes away, it's great to have them back for a couple of days.

Daniel teaches New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, a great place for any of you aspiring seminarians out there. Yesterday he was telling me yet another story about plagiarism in one of his classes.

"Seems like you've got at least one in every class you teach," I said. He paused. "Yep, it averages out to be just about one a class."

And this is at a seminary. I can only think that the average undergrad class has at least four or five students dabbling in or up-to-their-eyeballs in plagiarism. This is a pretty major epidemic in the academy.

To be fair, he only counts one or two of those as pernicious. The rest, he says, are just clueless about what it means to cite a web site, for example, or what constitutes plagiarism versus a summary of someone's ideas.

The irony, he was telling me, is that the students are required to do a fair amount of research. If they cited these sources rather than plagiarized them, they would actually get credit for their work. Instead, they try to pass someone else's ideas off as their own and they get in trouble for it.

I think all of us are tempted to plagiarize in our lives somewhere--to take credit for something that is not ours to be credited for. This is true in parenting (perhaps our kids good attributes are not as correlated to our great parenting as we would like). It's true in our work, in our relationships with one another, and I think it's true in our spiritual lives.

I think the core obstacle for most of us in our spiritual journey is that we would rather imagine ourselves as basically good and decent people who simply need a little boost occasionally than as desperately needy people who must cling to grace because we have no other lifeline.

There are few things in which most westerners are more self-deceived than in our self-assessment of our own goodness. We over-estimate our own goodness and under-credit God for his work of grace in our lives. This is true for those of us who claim to be Christians as well as it is for those who do not.

And the irony of all of it, like with the students in my brothers' classes, is that to live into reality bears life-giving fruit. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," says Proverbs. To enter into a rightly-relating place of understanding our need for grace begins to grow us up into wisdom, and "whoever finds wisdom, finds life" (also in Proverbs).

So here's a New Year's resolution suggestion: stop plagiarizing goodness from God. Instead, let's confess and embrace the reality of his goodness and his grace and love and joy poured out into our lives....and receive that with gladness.

Feel free to quote me on that.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reflections on Getting De-Friended on Facebook

When I was in college, I loved to d.j. dances and house parties. For a people-pleaser like me, it was like crack: you play a song and instantly you know if people love you. Completely neurotic and unhealthy. Ah, the glory days.

This week I got de-friended by someone on Facebook. Almost definitely not the first time, just the first time I noticed as I've been at the same number of friends for a while.

I have no idea who it was. Maybe it was someone who didn't like my take on Tiger. Or someone who got tired of all my shameless self-promotion. Most likely, it's a student who hung out with IV for a while, friended me after a freshmen retreat, then broke up with us along the way.

For a conflict-avoidant people-pleaser like me (healthier than in college, but still working through it), there's some ways that the ease and anonymity of adding friends on Facebook and being broken up with is nice. There's an understanding (at least in some circles) that Facebook is for a vast array of loose acquaintances.

If you get tired of seeing someone's face pop up in your News Feed, you hide them or de-friend them--and they never know about it.

But in the end I wonder if all this is healthy, at least fora conflict-avoidant, people-pleaser like me. The hardest part and the greatest gift of my four and a half years at Carolina has been dealing with a bunch more conflict and criticism than I would like or prefer. Put simply, I've had to grow up.

An anonymous de-friending on Facebook isn't the end of the world. But when my students ask one another out and break up in a Google-chat (which is how I would have rolled if it had been around during my college days), I can't help but wonder about the loss of inter-personal skills and the maturation that comes with having those necessarily hard interactions.

And then you've got all those annoying, think-they-know-it-all bloggers. Good grief, that's a whole different tirade for another day.

All technology has anticipated blessings and un-anticipated curses. I'm grateful for the ability to keep up with so many people who I would have lost track with throughout the years without social networking.

I just need to not allow it to unhealthily prop me up, as I would be tempted to do. Jesus still calls me to wade into conflict, have hard conversations, be okay with not everyone liking me all the time. He gives me a new name and invites that to be enough for me, no matter what else happens. I don't want to replace that great gift with the flimsy-ness of Facebook friends.

In the mean time, if anyone has a holiday party they need a d.j. for, let me know...as long as you're cool with the circa 1988-2005 musical window!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Review: Cutlure Making by Andy Crouch

Many moons ago now, Andy Crouch's book "Culture Making" was released to much pomp and circumstance in my little corner of the world. I got a copy and put it in my "to read" stack, always vaguely aware that I'd probably really enjoy it but not sure if it would live up to the hype.

Upon completing the book last week, I thoroughly declare the hype realized.

It would be enough that Crouch manages to deftly weave Belinda Carlisle, Malcolm Gladwell, Karl Marx, Jimmy Rollins, Rembrandt, a discussion of the evolution of the omelet and a thorough-going summary of Genesis and Revelation all in the same book. That in and of itself would be worth the read.

But Crouch isn't simply putting on a show. He's inviting us to see how thoroughly culture shapes us...and he invites us to enter into the God-ordained call to be a part of shaping and making it.

Crouch does an exemplary job of laying out the history of different responses to culture (condemning, critiquing, copying, consuming) and offers a thoughtful alternative in "culture making." His deconstruction of the whole "worldview movement" alone is worth the price of admission.

All in all, a fantastic read for the person on your Christmas list who is interested in the intersection of Jesus-followers and the world around us. Two thumbs way up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Duplicitous Response to Tiger Woods Duplicity

So I'm a little amused by the media-world's reaction to the Tiger Woods saga.

Here's the deal: if we're going to worship sex as a god, it's going to have consequences. Give most any man the kind of temptations that Tiger Woods would receive on any given weekend and 95.9% of them would do what he did.

The thing that roots my commitment to my wife (perhaps strangely) is theology: what it means to be image-bearers of God, the God-ordained purpose of sexuality, a commitment to following Jesus no matter what the cost, and a growing understanding of what it means that marriage is supposed to mirror Christ's commitment to the church.

Mix in the power of God's Spirit. God's Spirit has worked in me over many years to shape my sexuality, my disciplines, my thoughts, my desires for marriage and to develop in me holy appetites for things more important and more eternal than sexual experiences. I pray that God will continue to develop and keep me. I'm not done battling for myself, my marriage, and my family. That battle will go on for most of my days.

But take all that away, and all you have is meager will-power contra raging hormones. Hormones will win that battle eventually in most cases. See Letterman, David, Clinton, Bill, and on and on and on and on.

I'm not saying that only Christians can be faithful to spouses. Obviously, some who do not hold to the same worldview that I do manage to honor their marriage vows. They would have to speak to their own motives for doing so. For myself, I can only see either the most will-powered, the most conscientious, or the least sought-after surviving apart from a commitment to something greater than themselves. .

Sadly, many who claim to (and some who indeed do) follow Jesus still fall into marital infidelity. For many, that point becomes a significant watershed place of repentance, awakening,and transformation co-mingled with the pain and brokenness.

Such is the power of the gospel, the power of the God who loves us and who offers forgiveness, that he can redeem even the most broken and willfully committed of acts.

I'm just saying that it's duplicitous for us as a culture to condemn a man who simply does what our culture has encouraged him to do for his entire life. It does not excuse what he's done. I believe what he's done is destructive and awful.

But I believe that because of a ton of other things that I believe that our culture en mass does not. On what grounds is the media throwing stones? And what's with all these glass houses everywhere?

Perhaps here, too, I am conflicted. Which symptom of cultural dis-ease would be worse: for the condemnation to rain down (in spite of the fact that there is no actual reason why most do so) or for no one to note or even care? Perhaps the latter would be far worse.

But both options would be indicative of cultural sickness. And perhaps that, in the end, is the point. Let's call it what it is: sickness. And let us, along with Tiger, repent and turn back to the God who made us (sexuality and all) that we might live the life we were made for.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prostitutes, Dr. Phil, Loafs of Bread and Proverbs' Points

I love the book of Proverbs. It kicks me in the butt, reminds me of what matters, and teaches me more about leadership and daily living than anything Oprah or Dr. Phil might try to offer.

Plus, there's some of the best verses in the Bible. Consider: "the prostitute reduces a man to a loaf of bread." Does it get any better than that?

I last read through Proverbs two years ago, after a really hard year on campus. I blogged on it mid-summer, 2007, and what was good for me then is still good for me now:

*My life is about who I am becoming, not what I am doing. This is huge in Proverbs--the issues of character, of becoming a certain type of person, are dogmatically and adamantly asserted as first and foremost throughout the book.

This is radically counter-cultural in a world where the first question upon meeting just about anyone is, "and what is it that you do?" In America, doing is what sets your place in the cultural strata. But Proverbs commends a different way of thinking about life--a life of being a person of depth, integrity, understanding and discernment and of course wisdom. Wisdom is the centerpiece of this, which leads me to the next Proverbial lesson...

*Wisdom is worth whatever it may cost. "Though it cost you everything, get wisdom...she is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her." The wise person is the goal of this life of becoming. To be wise in how I relate to God, to the people and situations around me, towards money and other objects that I'm tempted to worship. This is what the goal of my life is. So I welcome whatever it takes to get me there.

*Discipline is good. Character that lasts can only come about by discipline and trial. Not all of the challenges that I faced this past year were disciplinary from the Lord, but all of them can serve the same purpose as discipline: to refine my soul.

*Delayed gratification. "An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end." The work of becoming a wise person is a slow process. So we must have a long-view of life's purposes. We must persevere through difficulties and trust in the long-term processes of redemption and transformation that are all serving to change and bless us.

*Character infuses our work with power. While "being" takes precedence over "doing" in the Proverbs, the doing part of our lives is not neglected. "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life" is a verse that I meditated on in the weeks leading up to my class last week. I want to become a certain type of person (wise) in part to infuse my work (teaching) with a power that cannot be acquired any other way.

*God knows my heart and holds my days in his hands. This is comforting and refining at the same time. Am I motivated to minister on campus simply out of fear--of failure, of what others might think? I'm supposed to be serving the Lord and serving students, but am I simply using these people and this ministry to prop myself up and to meet my own needs? Do I trust that God put me here both to bless me and to bless the campus? Do I trust his work in my life and in our fellowship to lead us to places of grace and power and peace or do I feel like it's up to me to make those things happen?

All of this has re-oriented me around the thing that Proverbs is most clear about: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Refreshingly clear, simple, true.

Watch out for that bread.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time for More Shameless Self-Promotion

It's been at least five days since my last shameless self-promoting buy-the-book-that-I-helped
-write plug (someone's already selling The Small Group Leader's Handbook used? How is this possible?).

So I figured it was time for a fresh one.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke for the second time at a local church...and afterwards I found out that they record and upload sermons as podcasts.

So if you're sick at home one Sunday and need a sermon fix, check it out: Raleigh Chinese Christian Church. If you click on my name, it links you to both sermons that I've given there (I promise they're both in English).

Or perhaps you're one of those "I don't do church people" but for whatever reason you occasionally check in on these posts...I'd encourage you to check take a listen and let me know what you think. I'm always interested in presenting what I believe to be true in a way that is engaging for people who are at all kinds of different places spiritually.

And for all the already-weary UNC students out there, best of luck as you head into exams!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Cheap Christmas Rings and Living a Life on Loan

I remember one year when I was in elementary school, my mom took us to a craft/trinkets fair at school where kids could buy Christmas presents for family and friends. My mom gave my brother and I some cash and we went and bought her Christmas present.

In the same way, God has given us this thing called a "self" that we might have something to offer back up to him. It is nothing that we earned or created. It is pure gift. And it originates from him and was made to be given back to him.

This is not only true on the macro, hypothetical level of the "self." It's true about everything that we call our lives. Friends, family, money, resources, work, spouses, children, churches--these things have all been loaned to us that we might have something to give back to our good Father, who loves us very, very much.

"Lean not on your own understanding," so says Proverbs, "in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."

Acknowledging him simply means living in the reality that this whole thing that we take so very seriously as "ourselves" and "our lives" and this drive that many of us feel to make a difference of make an impact or be important or whatever...it's all built on so much pomp and fluff and emptiness.

This whole life, every aspect, is on loan for just a short time. It's his, given to us briefly that we might have something to offer him.

I think I bought my mom a cheap, tacky, awful ring with her five dollars that she gave me. She lit up brighter than the Christmas tree--I remember it vividly.

That's how God is, even with our smallest and slightest attempts at living in the reality of his boundless provision and grace as we acknowledge him.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Growing Kids Satan's Way and Perpetual Self-Righteousness Tendencies

Yesterday's post drew quite a number of responses. One comment celebrated being out of college--to her there were a greater number of opportunities for self-righteousness while in school surrounded by Christians.

I've been thinking on this today and on the one hand, I agree. When you get a community full of eighteen to twenty-two-year-olds together, passion is high. That can often get mis-directed into self-righteousness. And Craig Fowler proposes in his 'stages of faith' that we all have to go through a black-and-white stage as a part of our development spiritually, and that's typically where college students are.

But I would argue that self-righteousness is one-hundred-percent a part of the human condition. No matter how old we are or what life stage we are in, we are always looking for something to be our righteousness apart from Christ.

We're incomplete creatures. In our clearest moments we know this. God offers to complete us in Christ. But we reject that (some of us aggressively and obviously, others of us in more subtle ways) and try to find other things to prop us up, to validate us or to give us a sense of worth.

When that gets externalized in clear and proud ways we call it being 'self-righteous' about something. That takes all sorts of forms, and it's particularly ugly when religion gets involved with it, as Jesus' interactions with the religious leaders shows.

When we had our first child six years ago, one question swirling around us was were we going to "grow our kids God's way" (also a title of a book for those of you who aren't a part of my little slice of the Christian world)?

We looked at it and decided no, we weren't--at least, not all the way. Did that mean we were growing kids Satan's way? To some people, it did. That was the way, the only way, to do it correctly.

But then we started looking into the complete polar-opposite approach to parenting: attachment parenting. It has a more hippie, less religious feel to it...but the people on that end of the spectrum were just as rabid, just as "self-righteous" about it as anyone on the more religious end who were growing kids God's way.

The point is that self-righteousness is always our temptation, at every age and every stage of our lives. In this parenting world, both attachment parenting and 'growing kids God's way' advocates were expressing the exact same distorted self-righteousness, just using different outlets or forms.

All of us are tempted to be 'justified,' propped up, validated by someone or something apart from what God has done for us in Jesus: our money, our friendships, our kids behavior, what we think we know about theology or cars or music or the economy or home repair.

For those of us who claim to follow Jesus, self-righteous arrogance should be the last thing that we express. This whole project is built on the fundamental presupposition that we have no such thing as righteousness that comes from ourselves. This whole thing starts with admitting that we're broken, sinful, needy people. That's where we meet grace. That's what this whole thing is about, start to finish.

And all of our self-righteousness must go if we are ever to become fully human. Not that we don't grow in knowledge or experience or have things to offer one another in terms of correction or information or helps. But we offer that humbly, acknowledging that none of it is the "righteousness" that we were actually made to inhabit. None of it actually ever heals our hearts.

Not even if you're growing kids God's way.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Why I Kissed Uhealthily Guarding my Proverbial Heart Good-Bye

Among the many "glad-that's-over" Christian-youth-sub-cultur
e trends that I've had to endure during my time working with college students was the "I kissed dating good-bye" fad.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my quirky part of Americana, 'I kissed dating good-bye' was a book that had several basic tenants that I became very familiar with while boycotting the book itself: dating is not in the Bible (true). It is a product of our culture (also true) and it's loaded up with all kinds of questionable cultural baggage (also true).

Therefore, a more biblical way to approach relationships is through "courting"--here's where I start to question the veracity of the whole deal.

What exactly "courting" was always was a bit fuzzy for me (probably should have sucked it up and bought the book). When students described it to me, it mostly sounded like some healthy principles of dating with some extra stuff thrown in that made it sound like the only thing serious Christians should do.

The concepts themselves certainly weren't all bad. It was just the opportunity for more self-righteousness that concerned me.

Real Christian students didn't date--they courted. Which meant that the guys especially had more excuses to run from relationships rather than engage them. If people were "dating" rather than "courting" there were questions about their commitment to God. Silly, I know, but that's our hearts, isn't it? Always looking for some new way to be better than someone else around us?

The other day I came across an oft-quoted piece of Scripture used to prop up the whole courting idea when I was reading Proverbs (one of my favorite books of the Bible, so glad to be soaking in Proverbs for the next month or more).

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23.

This, of course is true. Jesus leans into this throughout his ministry as he calls people to move past superficial obedience to heart-level repentance.

But there's better and worse ways to guard our hearts.

If we're "guarding our hearts" out of fear, that's not the Holy Spirit. That's not faith, hope, and love. That's fear. Fear is not of God. Fear is our flesh, fear is our own anxiety, fear is a hijacking of our faculties rather than the freeing, glad obedience that we're invited to live into that then causes our hearts and indeed our whole lives to flower rather than be choked out and whither.

If we "court" because we're "guarding our hearts" and that's really just a smokescreen for "I'm scared of getting hurt" that's not holy. Or even worse, if we're courting because "I'm just trying real hard to be more spiritual and really intense all the time" then that's just spiritual arrogance and stupidity. Arrogance and stupidity aren't from the Spirit, either. Proverbs has plenty to say about that as well.

We must guard our hearts. But we must do so not out of fear or self-righteousness, but in a faithful certainty. Some of us are prone to giving our hearts away too easily, foolishly, recklessly. We must learn the discipline of not giving our hearts away in ways that are self-destructive.

But we must not fall prey in this to either fear or pride that would rob us of the real point: trusting God to be both our protector and our righteousness. That's the whole point of all our disciplines.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Putting Christ Back into My Christian Campus Ministry

So you'd think that as a Christian religious professional it'd be easy to keep Jesus in my work.

But it's actually much easier as I meet with students on a daily basis to slouch into giving good advice. After almost fourteen years in this business, I've got some good stuff to say about just about any college student problem.

Boyfriend giving you troubles? No problem! Roommate issues? Go it covered. Family woes? I'm ready to listen. Not sure what to do with your life? Let's talk. The cafeteria giving you some digestive tract issues? Here are some healthy alternatives!

But, as Tim Keller argues, the gospel is not good advice. It's good news. And if it's true that God has come in the form of a person to die for our sins and be raised back to life in order to offer us life, then this news changes everything.

The gospel changes everything. That's a core principle of my ministry and life that I've articulated throughout the years. But I forget it sometimes. And I can get away with it for a short period of time but after a while I find myself tired of the lack of genuine transformational power of good advice.

So I've been turning over a new leaf on campus as I'm meeting with students. I'm either thinking or asking the question: How does the gospel change or apply to this situation right now in real time? How does Jesus speak into this persons life? Or even better--Jesus is already here and at work in this persons life, how do I get on board with what he's already up to?

And of course it's also good medicine--physician, heal thyself. I need the gospel to be changing everything from how I change diapers to how I drive on my commute to how I relate to family, friends, co-workers and students.

The gospel is powerful. If I'm spouting off good advice but not good news, I'm offering people appetizers instead of the seven-course meal that has been prepared for them at great cost to the Lord of Hosts.

So while some Christians lobby to keep Christ in Christmas, for me this year I'm feeling like it's time to put the Christ back into Christian campus ministry....even how I think about digestive tract issues.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

An Open Letter to Baby Boomers

Dear Baby Boomers,

As I traverse the greater Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, I cannot help but notice the rabid construction of retirement homes and communities in anticipation of your arrival.

Forgive me, but I cannot help but think that in thirty-five years when I'm ready for such a facility that the supply-demand curve will have fallen for me in a very pleasant place.

Thank you for yet another opportunity to thrive off of your largess.

Generation X

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What Stephen King is Teaching me About Hope

A number of years ago I read Stephen King's book on writing appropriately entitled "On Writing" (speaking of writing, Amazon just got the Small Group Leaders' Handbook in stock and ready to ship...just thought you should know).

In one part of King's book he talks about the dangers of falling in love with your own work--with each successive page you become more and more enamored with what's developing and your own brilliance at communicating.

Until finally the story comes to it's conclusion and you're intoxicated with this thing you have created. You read it over in a rush of self congratulatory emotion: "Bravo!" King writes in his typically genteel way, "You're f------ Shakespeare!"

King's advice to authors: write it. Then sit on it. In his typewriter days, he would plunk out a manuscript and put it in a drawer for six months. Six months! Then he'd look it over and see if it was any good.

Over the past couple of days I've recycled two talks/sermons that I've given in the past--one of them on hope, one of them on freedom from shame and guilt.

In the past, re-gifting talks was not my forte. I always gave it better the first time because it was fresher for me, I had more energy and more invested in it.

Now, however, I think I'm learning Stephen King's lesson. I'm giving them better as I work with them again. Content-wise, my presentations Sunday morning and Monday night were both more clear and more to the point than they were before.

Blogging does not encourage me to be a more thoughtful communicator--I plunk these posts out in about fifteen minutes usually. But working with a talk, coming back to it several months later, and then re-crafting it has begun to teach me something new about the art of communication.

Bravo, indeed.