The first time I met him, he looked more like a homeless man than my junior high camp counselor. Barefoot and smelling of cigarettes, he wore an old white t-shirt and dirty jeans. I don’t think I ever saw him in anything else. He was a poet, prophet, saint, sinner, and the nearest thing to Jesus I’ve ever met. His name was Rich Mullins, and “to meet him once was to be in his life forever.
Twenty years ago this week, Rich died in a tragic car accident, but his legacy lives on in those of us lucky enough to have known him. Like a seed that falls to the ground and dies, Rich’s life continues to bear fruit. In fact, he’s the reason I’m still a Christian today. As a 14-year-old kid, I longed for someone to just be honest with me about faith, life, doubt, and brokenness. Rich was, and it was captivating. He never wore a mask, never postured, never pretended: “The power of Rich Mullins’ life lay in the power of his brokenness and unblinking honesty.”
As you disciple the next generation, resist the temptation to fool your students into believing you’ve got it all together—they won’t be able to identify with that anyway. Instead, give them your whole self, warts and all. Rich changed the trajectory of my life because he had the audacity to believe in the unconditional love of God, giving him the courage to be vulnerable. As one of his pupils said, “I have sung his songs and read his writings and stood at his grave and am convinced that in his barefoot, quirky, grace-filled wake he left a pair of shoes that no one will ever fill.” May it also be said of us.
So this thought follows right on the footsteps of my last post.
I have a congregant who was sending me some text messages today of some struggles he is having and trying to keep in prayer and keep the faith. And everything that I wanted to say to him, I paused and couldn't get it out... and the reason was not because I thought it was wrong information or anything of that nature. But, instead, what I KNOW to be true and what i want to say to him is something that I am struggling to feel and implement in my own life at the current moment. And so my hesitancy in sharing this is because I feel like a hypocrite with my advice (I am not a licensed counselor - so I do NOT do counseling).
So that got me to thinking about the question: Because the truth does not change whether you feel it or not, believe it or not, and even live it or not... is it still appropriate to share this advice with someone when you are struggling to live it out (or feel it) in your own life? Just a question to ponder... but I'm certainly open to anyone leaving comments about what they think on this topic.
No... this post will NOT be gross, or inappropriate, or crass, or rude, or TMI, or anything of the nature... so it is safe to read on. :-)
Men have some very strange "habits," one might call them, when using a public restroom - especially those with stand-up urinals. Some men will flush the toilet immediately before they even start using it (and most of the time those men do not flush a second time when they are done). Some men will flush in the middle. Some don't even flush at all. But there was one instance I observed the other day that baffled me more than any other. There was one man, when he was finished using the urinal, for whatever reason I am not sure, did not use his hand to flush, but instead used his elbow.
Now, I can understand someone not wanting to use their bare hand to flush at a public urinal - and maybe grabbing a towel or something to use. But here is why this man baffled me. If you get something you do not want on your hand when you are flushing (like germs or cooties... hehehe), you are about to wash your hands and you can wash it off. But this guy used his elbow to spare getting anything on his hand. I wonder if he has paused to think that he is getting the same thing he is afraid of getting on his hand onto his elbow... AND he doesn't wash his elbow until the next time he takes a shower. So, that one really baffled me and made me almost laugh out loud (and definitely did cause a little chuckle while I was standing there). Well... I am glad his hand is safe and clean. I wonder if anyone will ever point out to him (or if he will eventually figure it out) that it is much worse to use his elbow.
Anyway.... that is my random thought that I had yesterday.
One of the things that is challenging in my life surround the whole idea of being real. We are supposed to be real, not fake. Especially as a Pastor, I am supposed to set the example of being real for others. But that is a challenge because there is also pressure placed upon me as a pastor to be strong and set the example of someone who "has it all together."
Most days I find myself in a dilemma of how to do both of these things at the same time? How can I be strong and set the example of someone who has it all together while also being real - especially when I am struggling? And, I often find myself asking the question as well, "Who can I be real with?"
There are times that I want to share with those in my congregation that I am close to what is really going on in my life, or how I am really feeling, but then feel that pressure on the other side that makes it so I do not feel the freedom to be vulnerable. And so I find myself a lot of times feeling alone, lonely, and not able to share what is the "true" me.
Not sure what to even do with this... but decided to share this anyway... for whatever it is worth.
For anyone else who is in ministry... how do you balance these two things? What do you do? Who do you share with, and how much do you share? My inquiring mind wants to know!
Wow... if you look back at my last 4 posts... there is a common thread among them - Time flies, I meant to blog more, I will try to do better.
Hmmm... does that mean I should keep trying or give up? I would ask my readers to respond and let me know their opinion on this, but I think with the infrequency of posts, I may not have any readers left. However, if you are reading this... give me your feedback... should I keep trying or give up?
I swear, the days, months, and years just meld together into one long stream of, "what? Where did it all go?"
In addition to that, the best intentions are just that... only intentions. There are SO many reasons and excuses I could give for why I have not had a post again sooner than this one... but that won't change the fact that it's been so long. So I will just leave it at this... I am truly hoping to get back to blogging on a more regular basis. How regular? Only time will tell. But if it means anything, I do have the best of intentions. :)
You know your favorite drama, where you don't know a lot about the character who you have grown to love, and you are so curious about what happened to make your character the way he or she is? And then, your favorite drama gets even better because they start interspersing flashbacks in the middle of the action that reveals more and more of the story, and piece by piece you get the full picture of what had happened in the past, helping you to more fully appreciate the current situation and character.
Well, I have decided that is what I am going to do with my blog here. Because I think it is important, for my current status, thoughts, ideas, etc. to create a fuller understand and picture, that you have to know what it was that got me to where I am now. And since I have been MIA for the past two years, I thought that would be a good way to catch you up. So, interspersed as I feel led, will be some "flashbacks" over the past two years of the A-"Muse"-ing Thoughts I've had.
I, myself can hardly believe that it has been OVER two years since I last posted a blog post. So many things have happened in the last two years, and SO many changes in my life. If I were to begin to write them all in this blog post, it would become a short book, which I realize no one would actually read to the end... so rest easy, I will not (at least in one blog post) try to update you on everything that has happened and the massive changes in the last two years.
As I was thinking about this blog and blog posting, I realized that the biggest challenge for me in posting a blog post is actually finding (or making) the time to sit and write it. It does take time to write, and with the schedule of my life right now, it feels as if I don't have any "extra" time to do anything else - even write a blog post. This got me to reflecting on one of my closest friends and something he did.
My friend made a New Year's resolution about 5 years ago (which he kept for 3 full years). His desire is to be a writer, and one of the things that is important for anyone who is (or wants to be) a writer, is actually writing. A lot of times they say that the best thing to get past writers block is to sit down and write about anything. Well, this friend of mine made a resolution that before he went to bed he would write a minimum of 1,000 words EVERY day! He made the commitment to himself as a writer to not sleep until he had completed his writing "assignment."
As we all know, most New Year's Resolutions are broken within weeks, if not days, of the resolution being made. But my close friend did not break his resolution - not after days, or weeks, or even months. He kept that commitment every single day for 3 years. Absolutely amazing to me. And consider, as of this word you are reading right now, I am only at 357 words - so not even half of what he would write (at a minimum) every single day.
I have come to realize, even in his life, that this commitment was made quite a bit easier because during that time he was single. So, if he decided to stay up until 2 am to finish his writing to keep the commitment, he could without worrying about impacting anyone else. Nevertheless, as it has been two years since I even posted a single blog post, I found myself reflecting on his resolution and commitment and being very impressed at his making it - and keeping it!
What does this all mean for me and my blog here? Well, in short, it means that I am hoping to not wait another two years before I blog again. Will I be blogging daily - I'm pretty sure I won't. But I do hope to get back to blogging and writing some thoughts. Over time, I do hope to update everyone on what has been happening in my life the last couple of years - especially as God has been doing a LOT of work in my life. I hope that through my sharing of these thoughts that anyone who reads this would be encouraged, moved, convicted, challenged, or any other thing that the spirit might do in your heart. For some it will just be a chance to hear what is happening in my life and get caught up. For others, I pray God will use it in some way. And still, for others, it won't really matter... and that's ok.
Every now and then in junior high ministry conversations, the topic of conversation turns to discipleship. It’s always a fairly interesting discussion largely because it tends to get stalled out of the gate by the inability for folks to agree on what, exactly, discipleship is; specifically how it’s defined and implemented in a junior high ministry context.
I’ve heard every possible definition: “Helping students become more like Jesus”, “Helping them learn to grow on their own”, “Developing fully devoted followers of Jesus”, “Mentoring and modeling faith”, “Walking in Jesus’ footsteps while they walk in ours”, and on and on it goes.
I recently came across this formal definition of discipleship: To help one embrace and spread the teachings of another.
That MUST be an accurate definition because I found it on the internet.
I’m normally a fairly strategic thinker…I like the method of defining my end goal(s) and then working backward to create the steps and processes to get there. But what do you do when you can’t define the end goal? What do you do when the end result you think you want isn’t easily identified? How do you create steps to achieve something unclear? That’s the frustration I’ve often felt with the task discipleship: How can we accomplish that which we can’t even define? What if we do it wrong? What if we THINK we are discipling students, but the target we drew is off? Wait, what target…we don’t even know what we are aiming for! Uhhggg!
I propose a new junior high ministry rule: EVERYTHING IS DISCIPLESHIP. That’s it. Easy. The reality is that most folks would agree that discipleship has something to do with helping junior highers grow closer to Jesus and become more like him. We may not agree on a precise definition….but maybe we don’t have to! When we have an “Everything is discipleship” mindset we begin to minister out of a sense of freedom instead of prescription.
When you crack open the bible and dig deep into with an 8th grade small group (which rarely happens): DISCIPLESHIP!
When you play kill ball after church: DISCIPLESHIP
When you treat a trouble maker with grace: DISCIPLESHIP
When you visit a sick student in the hospital: DISCIPLESHIP
When you show up to a 7th grade girls basketball game: HELL ON EARTH! (ummm…I mean, DISCIPLESHIP!)
Junior high ministry….everything is discipleship.
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YOU SAID WHAT? We all have those moment or those things we say from "up front", that get us in trouble or make a few jaws drop. Here are 10 things I am going to try to never again when I have the mic...
10. The Word "Pimp"- noun, verb, as a description of fellow staff member or talking about the church bus. Nope never going to use that word again
9. "God Made Love..."- true as it might be, it is really not what I meant... 8. "Adam and Eve where naked in the garden just hanging out..." Hmmm, yes...yes they were...
7. The Word "Sucks"- ala Doug Fields trying to get me to use the word "sips" just not the same, but after a very rated R phone call from a parent describing what that word means to them not longer able to say it.
6. "Girl be dressing like a Hoochie Mama..." just going to avoid this one as best as I can, just because.
5. "I think my wife is hot, and your mom is too"..."to your dad" is the rest of the phrase, if you get it out fast enough?
4. "Holy Shi'ite Muslim"...insensitive and misheard, slightly funny for like 2 seconds, sure to get you a phone call or 2 tomorrow morning when all your guys start saying it for the next 2-3 weeks?
3. There are a lot of big "buts" in the Bible... like-"...BUT, for by grace are we save...".
2. Go home and tell your parents we talk about "tittles"... If you are an NIV church trying to teach from the KJV- IT STILL DOES NOT MATTER, still not as funny as you think it might be??
1. The Word "Gay- (seriously) for any other reason than in the context of lovingly talking about the lifestyle. This is one I have refused to say for a VERY, VERY long time. Standing rule in my ministries, no one uses it as a replacement for stupid, wimpy, or anything else negative.
What God Is Teaching Me!! -JAMES 1:9- "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.."
The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is about authenticity, and in our search for a third keynote speaker we have had a a huge dilemma! Ultimately "story" won out over "celebrity" and what a story we've found. This is where God guided us…https://bit.ly/X8tS8J
Join us March 1-4 of 2013 in Indianapolis, IN to learn more about this journey and John Stumbo.
SYMC 2013 is ALMOST SOLD-OUT! Register today to save your seat!
While I am still working on putting together all my thoughts from The Summit, I found this article which really speaks to a lot of what I have been thinking about lately... so I wanted to share it here:
Goodbye, Christian America; Hello, True Christianity
by Richard Stearns
The day I became a Christian, one of the first people I wanted to tell was my mother. I had considered myself an atheist while I studied neurobiology in college. But as I studied more, I discovered Jesus and became a Christian. It was the early 1970s, and my mother's response to my life-changing decision captured the view of most Americans at that time: "That's nice, but isn't everybody Christian?"
Times have changed. According to a recent survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of Protestants has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in American history. Catholic adherents have remained stable thanks to immigration, but many U.S.-born Catholics are leaving the church. The survey also revealed another startling fact: the number of people who are not affiliated with any faith rose four percent in just the last five years. Nearly 20 percent of the population say they are of no specific faith at all.
If my mother were alive today, I think she would agree that we are quickly moving toward a secular society.
As this cultural shift has occurred, many Christians have reacted in frustration. We have fought to place the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and Christmas crèches outside town halls. We have sued over public prayers and crosses in state parks. One court recently weighed in on whether cheerleaders at a Texas school should be allowed to post Bible verses on their banners.
While symbols can be important, we have focused perhaps too much on them instead of the underlying reality they reflect. Instead, we need to go back to the basics of living as disciples of Christ, living missionally for Christ and demonstrating the Gospel in tangible ways within our schools, workplaces and communities. While I would be happy to see the Ten Commandments back on the courthouse wall, the fight over symbolic issues is backfiring, alienating people from the truths of the gospel rather than attracting them to it. The kind of Christianity the world responds to is the authentic "love your neighbor" kind. Its appeal can't be legislated through court battles and neither can courts stop its spread.
Dean Curry, senior pastor of Life Center Church in Tacoma, Wash., is a pastor who has made this change. He told me that a decade ago people would say to him, "You're the church that has that neat Christmas pageant." Like many churches, Life Center was also best known for what it opposed.
But that began to change after he made a trip to Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa in 2005. Dean had an encounter with suffering and an encounter with God. After witnessing the ravages of AIDS and the plight of orphans he had met one day, Dean lay in a bed in a grass-roofed hut weeping. He was overwhelmed by a problem that was so much bigger than anything his church could address.
"This is too big for our church," he said. "We can't just add this to our missions budget. How can I do this?" Dean believes that God gave him an answer that night. "You need to mobilize your city to care for these orphans." The group returned to Tacoma with broken hearts and a determination to come together as a city to help this tiny country of Lesotho 10,000 miles away. The Global Neighbor project was born.
Today, now seven years later, more than 5,000 people have become involved in one way or another. The mayor, public schools, Rotary Clubs, other churches, small businesses, judges, the head of the humane society, the Jewish community and some of the local policemen: They are all transforming lives half a world away. Pastor Curry told me, "We also engaged folks from the gay community. These were people who wouldn't have returned my call as an evangelical leader but now they want to partner with the church."
They achieved in five years what they expected to take 15. HIV/AIDS orphans received help. Those who are HIV positive receive care so that their children won't become orphans.
In the seven years since the Global Neighbor Project began, Life Center Church has seen its membership double. Pastor Curry told me, "We used to be known as that church with the big Christmas pageant -- now we're known as the church that is helping AIDS orphans."
There was a time when Pastor Curry might have worried about things like posting the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, but today he's too busy changing the city of Tacoma and world. This is the work Christians are called to do. Christians can stop worrying about the symbols of the decline of Christian America and get back to the mission Jesus gave us to show the world a different way to live -- a way that demonstrates the great character of God: his love, his justice, his compassion, his forgiveness and his reconciliation.