Books

I was doing some work in a public library the other day. Does anyone remember when people were asked to be quiet in libraries? Didn’t that used to be the cardinal rule? “No talking in the library. Be quiet in the library.” Isn’t that why kids hated to go to the library?

When I was in elementary school, my dad took my brother and me to the library twice a week in the summer. It was a 30 minute drive from our house in Gautier, MS to Pascagoula. In high school, as I learned to love reading, I was so proud of my father for taking us to the library and being concerned about our literacy. I was dismayed to find out in adulthood that he took us there and left us in the children’s section, with the very cute college girls that worked there, because he was downstairs working on research for his master’s and doctorate. I haven’t been able to go into a library without feeling abandoned since.

At any rate, I was at the library with my daughter and the entire experience warmed me. She loves books, she loves to read. I’m not just glad about that because her mother and I love to read, but because I know that kids who read, and love reading are more likely to embrace Christian faith. That makes sense, since God really is a God of words. In fact, Jesus is the Word, as John’s gospel calls Him.

So, I thought this morning that I would let you know which books have been most critical to my faith.

1. The Bible. I don’t mention this to be cheesy or attempting to be ‘holier than thou”, but rather because if I didn’t I would surely hear about it from someone.

2. C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters. I reread it last week. Every Christian should have to read it. Really, any C.S. Lewis is good.

3. John Eldredge, Wild at Heart. I liked the book so much that I went to the retreat with him in Colorado. The book changed my orientation about myself, God, and the purpose of life.

4. Phillip Yancey, Disappointment With God. Not only was it the right book at the right time, but it addresses some of the most difficult questions about God skillfully, thoughtfully, and sensitively.

5. Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ. It’s a classic. Enough said.

Well, that’s good start. E-mail me some of your favs.

Stuff

You know that the State of the Union was boring when TV pundits start talking about what they did for lunch that day, as did the two guys my wife and I watched last night. Can’t belive that scrubbed “Scrubs” so we could be reminded that Democrats don’t like Rupublicans and vice-versa.
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Does anybody care about this Super Bowl? It’s the “I Don’t Care Bowl” in the “I Don’t Want To Go To City”. Pittsburg vs. Seattle in Detroit–looks like I’ll be glued to the commercials.
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I heard a lot about the national deficit lately. What’s up with that? Is there someone we owe that money to? Who gave us the loan? If we can go this long without paying it, maybe we should get some more.

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Corette Scott King died yesterday. That’s a shame. Gone now are the national black leaders who actually have something worthwhile to say. Please, Lord, bring us someone besides Al Sharpton.

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I heard someone say last week that the next Presidential election will be Hilary vs.Condelezza. That’s gotta be more entertaining that Pittsburg vs. Seattle. Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if the two of them would just duke it out for the Presidency. I’m putting my money on Condi–she’s from the streets.

Catch You later…

Feeling Guilty

Have you ever felt like everyone in the room was talking about you, but were being too polite to just come on out a say it. Don’t you wish they would? Wouldn’t it be great if someone just came out and said it?

Today I was sitting in a board meeting for a not-for-profit agency. I’ve served on the board for four years now, so I feel pretty committed. However, a fellow board member–the chair of the development committee–began talking about how “some” on the board did not make their “expected” contribution last year. That “expected” contribution is about $1,000.

Okay, you guessed it, I didn’t right a check last year…things have been slim at my house. You know, gas prices and all.

Anyway, apparently some on the board were instructed when they joined that the contribution was required, others that it was expected and others–apparently those of us who joined four years or so ago–were given no information about the contribution and give as we deem fit. In addition, last year, each board member was asked to help raise $10,000.

Okay, okay, you guessed it. I didn’t do that either.

Did I mention things have been slim? Darn gas prices!

Well, by now I’m sweating (like a _____ in _____), if you know what I mean. As I look around the room, I think, “Everybody here must have given and this is a polite, but direct conversation to me.” Every have that feeling? Then it got worse. The conversation turned to whether or not the board should be required to make a contribution. At this point I’m loosening my tie and looking for the closest door. Crap, it’s across the room! Plus, if I get up these people are going to cart me into the town square gathering stones along the way. To add injury to insult, one member explained how nearly all the managers in the agency made the same contribution. Oh, great, so equally poor people made the contribution I couldn’t. So now I was out of excuses…I really wasn’t living up to my end.

For the first time in my life I could understand what people meant when they said they feel guilty when they come to church. I always thought, “What are people talking about? No one is making you feel guilty? Everybody sins, a sermon isn’t aimed at you?”

But, you know what, that’s exactly how I felt at my meeting today. Everyone was talking about me, at me, looking down at me, because I didn’t do, or didn’t have, or couldn’t produce what the group thought was important for me to do, have, or produce. I felt dirty. I left thinking, “I want to quit. Why should I subject myself to this? These people don’t understand that not everyone is in the same place they are. Isn’t there someplace else I’d be a better fit?”

Trust me, I know–after they mentioned that less than half of the board contributed or raised the right amount–that they weren’t talking directly to me, but it sure felt like they were. It sure felt like they were saying, “We’re doing all this the right way and some of you loafers need to get on board or get in check so we won’t have to have this conversation again.”

Feeling guilty sucks.

I don’t want people to feel that way at my church, or when I’m away speaking somewhere. And don’t bother me with the, “Well, Sean, you knew what was expected or intimated” line, because I really didn’t. Most of my fellow-board member live and work in a corporate world and realize that board members are often required to make donations. But I don’t live in that world, and I’m not on the board because of my deep pockets.

I realized again how important it is to frame a message well. The import only grows when we talk about the gospel message, which has such deeper, fuller implications. I left the meeting wondering how beneficial it is to talk about what people did last year.

Have you noticed how often Jesus talks about people’s past? Not very often. Sure he does it. But Jesus has a marvelous way of saying, “You used to fish for fish, but from now on you’ll be a fisher of men” or “Who is here to condemn you? Go and sin no more.” The past is important. Necessary even. We need the past to know what we’re repenting of and for. But it pails in comparison to a vision of a future. Jesus’ ministry is about connecting people to a future, not rehearsing what funds dried up last year.

Perhaps we need a message about walking in the future, what can be done to be better today and tomorrow. Maybe there is a way we can talk about improvement without making each other feel guilty. After all, I have a lot of regrets about yesterday. I have none for tomorrow.

Get Well Soon

When your wife is sick you realize again just how lucky you are–not to mention how lazy you are. Rochelle came home from work yesterday (the only day she works) and felt awful. Earlier this week, she (as I might expect her to do) spent the day keeping her friend’s children, while their parents were at the hospital visiting a relative. Well, the couple’s young son got sick and Rochelle got sick, too. It’s not bad (which is easy for me to say), it’s only a cold. But it’s bad enough that I have had to realize again just how good I have it.

For instance, I can’t cook. When Ro is sick, we eat out or eat badly. I hate cleaning. Rochelle hates it too, but she’ll still do it. Malia likes to play more than any one parent can handle. I was with Malia all day yesterday and I was exhausted. How does Rochelle do it? How does she take care of an toddler and someone else who doesn’t act much older?

Suffice it to say that I’m already thinking about ways to bless my wife for Valentine’s Day. She deserves a better life than I am able to give her. I’m grateful that she puts up with all my little quirks and oddness.

A few years ago I bought a book entitled, “1,000 Ways To Say ‘I Love You'”. Well, I hated that book, so I’ll do the best I can: Rochelle I love you. Get well soon…like before dinner.

Blog, Blogging, Blogged

A friend of mine scolded me for not blogging more often. He’s right. I don’t do this enough. I wish I could be like Mike Cope (http://mikecope.blogspot.com) and have something clever and thoughtful to say everyday. My problem is that sometimes I forget I have this little corner of the web and when I’m very busy–which is most of the time–I feel guilty about blogging when I should be reading or writing something else.

Anyway, I won’t promise to do better, but at least I’ll try.

Well, I have some very fun things coming up this spring. First of all, I’m teaching for two days at the Abilene Christian University Lectureship (www.acu.edu). My classes will be about the missional/emergent church conversation. Surely, there are people who know more about the subject…I hope they’re there. It will help the conversation. In addition, I’ll be speaking about race relations in the church at the Pepperdine Lectures this May, as well as speaking at the YouthWorkers lunch. It should be fun. Any excuse to go to Malibu is a good one.

By the way, if any of you have something you would like to offer to either of those discussions, I would be glad to hear them.

I’m also the focus-leader for Kadesh #1, a camp for senior high students at ACU the first week in June. I’m really looking forward to that. I think a lot of Bob Strader and Jan Meyer who run the Summer Leadership Camps at ACU. It will be great to have some time with them.

By the way, I also have an on-going ministry to youth, young adults, and preaching at my day job. Now that I think about it, it’s no wonder why I don’t blog more often. Thank you all for your patience. Keep checking back…I’ll try and do better.