This Is Not Normal pt. 2

One of the things you discover about your “normal” is that it’s not everyone’s normal. From the way you celebrate Thanksgiving to the way you unwrap gifts on Christmas to your idea of a ‘date night’, normal is relative. Even if most relatives aren’t normal.

My goal isn’t to be like everyone else. Besides being boring, uniformity can be as crazy as nonconformity. My struggle is that I’m bombarded with definitions and descriptions from media, blogs, news, entertainment and books on ministry and the church that feel almost like a foreign language to me when they say, “this is church” or “this is Christianity”. The complication of this is that when I get into a conversation with someone and they talk about pastors, churches, Christianity or even Jesus, I’m conscious of the fact that they’re probably working from an entirely different experience and/or definition than I am.

It’s like talking to a friend who has grown up with an abusive father. You talk about your own dad and the way he was there for you, helped you grow up soft but strong, showed you how mercy and justice can live together, lived imperfectly but honestly and you almost feel guilty for having your experience. But certainly it’s like talking apples and oranges with the other person. Their caricature of “father” is harsh, ugly, hurtful, void of nurture and love. Or at least mostly so. Where do you begin a common discussion on family? Continue reading

Posted in Christianity, Church, discipleship, faith, God, ministry, perception, religion, theology, truth | 2 Comments

This Isn’t Normal

You know how “normal” is based on your personal experience? We grow up or live life and develop this sense of what is supposed to be mostly based on what is. Then one day we’re living side by side with someone else’s normal and suddenly realize one of us is way off the “normal” meter. I’m feeling lately like my church is experience is off the “normal” meter.

I read these blog posts and articles by other pastors and find out that “normally” pastors don’t have friends and if they do they’re definitely NOT in their church. Apparently mine is a lonely profession. And here’s where my normal bumps into their normal. My best friends in the world are all here. We go to church together. Obviously I’m closer to some than I am others but these are people I know I could call in feast or famine and find help, hope and love. I have a really large group of leaders on our elders team and we don’t have an adversarial relationship. There’s no sense or feeling of “me vs. them”. We don’t all agree with everything each other says, we don’t always come to the same conclusions about things but we still like each other without winners or losers in our decision making or processing.

And apparently that just can’t exist. An oxymoron. A logical fallacy. A freak of nature. Continue reading

Posted in Christianity, Church, faith, frank viola, Friends, God, Life, ministry, pastor, perception, questions, religion, theology | 5 Comments

Revelation

I was reading the other day a new survey of pastors. The results suggested that the overwhelming majority of pastors who answered the survey did not hold the same beliefs or interpretation of the book of Revelation as their churches do. They also did not preach or teach their understanding to the local church of which they were a part.

Revelation is the last book in the New Testament and it’s been the source of scary movies, church splits, best-selling fiction and non-fiction books as well as the stuff of nightmares. Maybe “source” isn’t the right word, more like the subject matter. It’s a graphic book full of violent images, fantastic descriptions and words of warning as well as comfort. The prevalent take on the book within many evangelical churches is the one that’s only been around for the last few decades and made popular most recently by the Jenkins/LaHaye novels, “Left Behind”. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Church, faith, God, hermenuetics, Life, Meaning, ministry, pastor, preaching, questions, Reflective, religion, theology | 25 Comments

Listening In

Here’s a video that sums up the heart and head of a generation. In some ways I think I must be a University student after watching this video. I think it’s insightful on many levels and those of another generation must connect with where this generation is at for us to all move forward together. Uni = University.

What do you think? Anything in this video resonate with you?

Posted in Christianity, Church, discipleship, emerging church, faith, God, Life, ministry, missional church, postmodern, Reflective, religion, theology, video | 9 Comments

Conspiracy

I dig ‘Spooky’ Mulder as much as the next person. Well, maybe a lot more if the next person is my wife. But I’m astonished at our cultures tendency to jump to “conspiracy” when people step up and do something. I’m especially surprised (yes, still) when it happens in the context of the family or followers of Jesus. I’m even more surprised when it happens in the context of me.

I’m just not smart enough to pull off a conspiracy of any kind.

Once, back in my youth ministry days, I sent out a note with all of the students in the ministry to give to their parents. It detailed all of the activities we had planned for December and through the Christmas season. In one sentence I spelled Jesus with a lower case j. Later it came back to me that some parents were chatting with each other about this lower case “j” and what it meant. Some, I was told, had concluded I was subtly rolling out my new agenda to demote Jesus from incarnate deity to, well, not incarnate deity. My sneaky use of the lower case “j” was the signal to all so inclined that the time to promote Jesus as just a man had finally come.

Sometimes it’s just more simple than that. Someone didn’t get a Facebook “happy birthday” from me on their special day. Clearly, the story unfolds, I was hatching a plot of disconnection from them and hoping others would similarly notice, as they had, that my “happy birthday” was conspicuously absent.

There are, no doubt, conspiracies a foot but I think that 95% of suspected conspiracies are just really dumb people doing dumb things or forgetful people not doing something or stressed people getting something done without working it through. In other words, I think we need to lighten up and dial down our “conspiracy meters”. How about if we just try talking to people and asking them what they meant or why they did or didn’t do what they did or didn’t do?

I know a Dan Brown novel is a more exciting world to live in but truthfully Ockham got it right.

But then, maybe this is exactly what we want you to believe…

Sorry this isn’t a more Chritmasy post. Hmmmm, I wonder why not…

Posted in Church, faith, Family, Friends, Life, Meaning, ministry, perception, reality, truth | 11 Comments

Caroling

Thanks to Darrell for putting me on to this. You have to be recovering like me to really get the most out of this one…

Seen these guys in your neighbourhood this season?

Posted in Christianity, Church, faith, God, perception, recovery, Relationship, religion, truth, video | 2 Comments

The Intolerant Parable

Imagine we’re all at a party together. Good food, good drink, good music. We’re all just milling about and engaging in random conversations around the room. Eventually we’re all sitting or standing or leaning somewhere comfortable and the whole group engages in one conversation. It’s not politics, economics or philosophy; someone starts the conversation by talking about my dad.

Pretty soon the conversation has gotten pretty lively as everyone has jumped in with their thoughts and impressions about my dad. Imagine one guy who says, “I’ve never met him and I’m not really sure he even exists.” If you know me, you know I’d chuckle over that one. Then imagine another guy who says, “I know him quite well and I can tell you he’s real and here’s what he’s like….” And then imagine my reaction as this guy starts telling the room how exacting my dad is, how angry he is at the things people in the room have done and how they better straighten up and get their act together if they want better than a snow ball’s chance in hell to ever meet him or get to hang out at his place.

Still imagining? Now picture another guy piping up. “No, no, no, I know his dad and that’s not what he’s like at all! He’s super loving, generous, and gracious almost to a fault.” He keeps going, “Listen to this,” he says, “I stole a bunch of stuff out of his garage and when I got caught I just said I was sorry, told him how much my parent’s screwed me up and all was well! He took it so well I still rip stuff off from his garage now and then. He’s awesome!”

One more guy jumps in to the fray before I can say a word. “You guys are both crazy, that’s not what his dad is like. His dad is bigger and more other than you can possibly imagine. Everything he does is based on his faithfulness to his word. He is truly a man of his word.” Everybody shifts in the comfortable spots to hear when this guy is adding to the conversation. “You’ve heard he’s generous. Well, he once said that he wouldn’t be “out given”. If you give him a gift you’re guaranteed to get the same back and multiplied by 10! In fact, he’s so faithful to do what he says that if you’ll give him a gift every week, you’ll not only get it back and multiplied but he’ll keep your car from breaking down, your kids from getting sick and your business will always be successful! Of course, if you fail to drop off a good sized gift every week, well, let’s just say he forgets your name pretty quickly.”

The room is filled with ooooos and aaaaaaas.

If this was your dad they were talking about, at what point would you jump in to this conversation? How long would you keep hanging out with this group of people and still call them ‘family’ even if they all claimed to be your brothers and sisters? At what point do you object to descriptions of your dad that aren’t your dad at all? When is it time to stop tolerating the storytellers and pretenders who are misrepresenting who your dad really is?

The question isn’t whether my dad likes blue curtains or red curtains or no curtains. It’s not about whether he prefers blue grass or country western or Elvis. The question is, when someone is defining the character of my dad to others, even if he claims to be my kin, when is intolerance the appropriate response?

Posted in Christianity, Church, denial, faith, Family, God, perception, questions, Reflective, Relationship, religion, theology, tradition, truth | 22 Comments

Mumford & Sons Gets Me In The Mood

Oddly enough, I’m not a big fan of Christmas. I’m big on Christ but not so much the holiday as we observe it today.

Nevertheless, today I listened to Mumford & Sons sing this one, an advent carol/hymn and I find myself “strangely moved”. Advent is all about anticipation. It’s what we call that time before the time that’s coming. Kids still get it at this time of year, around birthdays and summer holidays.

I’m eager today for the time that’s coming and I’m even getting in the mood for the Christmas season. May we all walk through the brier patch of materialism, the lie of the lack and the memory of loss this season unscathed and embrace the birthday boy we celebrate.

Here’s Mumford & Sons, I hope they do for you what they did for me…

What gets you in the mood for Christmas?

Peace!

Posted in christmas, Confession, faith, God, Life, Reflective, theology, video | Tagged | 6 Comments

The Glass

Our mismatch drinking glass cupboard is the one just to the right of the sink. To the left is the cupboard with our dishes and our glasses that match. If you open the mismatch cupboard, you’ll find a few Nestle’ Quick rabbit glasses, a Mulan cup, a couple Tupperware glasses (tumblers?), a Winnie-the-Pooh cup and other anomalous drinking containers. You’ll also find a solitary glass with no mates that has been with our family for a while. The last survivor of the original set it came in that once dominated our dinner table drink-ware.

Whenever I get this glass out now I fill it with a measure of dread. Part of me is thinking, “be careful, it’s the last of its kind!” But another part of me, a very anxious part of me, is thinking, “smash it! get it over with!”

I’m a packrat by nature. I attach sentimental feelings to inanimate objects and struggle with letting things go. I’ll keep an empty envelope because ithasmynameinmymom’shandwritingontheoutsideofit andmymomwon’tbearoundtowritethatontheirsomeday you know! I have drawers and boxes full of stuff that I attach emotions to and from time to time go through them – not to toss them but to just sort them into other boxes. And to feel the feelings I’ve tagged to each thing. Occasionally I’ll pull something out that I can find absolutely no emotional memory for and I can toss it. That, I keep telling myself, is what separates me from the Hoarders.

But this glass is different. No emotional attachment really, nothing sentimental anyway, other than it being the last of its kind. It’s nearly extinct and that pushes a button in me.

And yet.

I’m desperate to just smash the glass and be done with it! I want to end the suspense and get the inevitable over with. Its very existence leaves me unsettled. There will come a day that glass is gone, cracked or shattered and tossed in the bin. Why risk holding on to something that will not and cannot, stay with me?

Do you know what I’m saying?

Posted in Confession, Fable, Life, Meaning, perception, Reflective, truth | 15 Comments

Does God Care If We Get Bulls Tickets – Revisited

Today is my son Josh’s birthday and in honour of him and this special day I’m rerunning a post that’s almost 3 years old. He’s off to University now and living in another city and busy getting launched! This is the story of one of our adventures – the one that spawned our other ‘travel dates’ that have happened and those still to come.

Happy Birthday, Josh!

So there we were. I flew to Chicago over the Christmas break with my son Josh. We used up all our airmiles. The plan was to meet up with an old friend in Chicago who would secure some tickets for us to the Bulls game against Miami. At the last minute we found out that my friend hadn’t been able to get tickets and that he wouldn’t even be able to meet us because of a family emergency. No, really. Continue reading

Posted in children, Family, God, parenting, Reflective, travel | 4 Comments