Away at ACU

Right now I’m sitting in the campus center of my alma mater, Abilene Christian Univerisity. I’m teaching two classes on the Emergent Church Conversation at their annual Bible Lectureship.

I am always amazed by the people interested in the Emergent and Missional church. They are young, old, midddle aged; everything. They are from big churches and small churches, cities and small towns. They come in just about every stripe you can imagine. The one thing they share in common is a great love for God and a deep desire to see others experience the grace, love, and goodness of God. Every person I’ve meet since I began to engage this conversation are missional, vibrant people of faith. They want to take their faith into the streets and be used by God.

Boy, I wish we had more of them. Man, do I wish I were more like many of them. I’m a good talker, these folks are great doers. I’m constantly inspired by people who are giving everything to advance the kingdom of God. And these folks aren’t just doing it for show or to be preachy to others. They are living out the full implications of the gospel. Their lives are a powerful testimony to me.

I think that if there were more Christians like these folks, there would simply be more Christians. My prayer is that more folks would get out of there pew and seek to be Jesus to their world. After all, that’s what following Jesus is all about.

What’s Up?

What’s up with the Grammy’s? I watched part of the Grammy’s last night, and I didn’t recognize anybody. Am I that old? That disconnected? Who is…well, dang, I still don’t know who half those people are. That may not mean much, though. I barely recognized Sly Stone. Isn’t there a rule somewhere that 50-year-old men can’t sport Mohawks? My goodness, the man was returning to show business after a 19 year absence and all he could muster up was Mr. T’s hairdo and 2 minutes of singing into the wrong microphone. Maybe he was in show biz all those years, but no one could hear him because his mic was off. Then, after about 15 seconds of singing into the right microphone, he turned and walked off stage. I guess he needed a Metamucil break.

What’s up with waiters and waitresses that don’t write down orders?
Hey, it’s okay. Jot a note. My wife spends half-a-day figuring out what she wants to order, so please pay us the respect of getting it right. Writing something down doesn’t make you less of a person. You’re not less cool. Believe me, I don’t think that people who write things down are incompetent. When my doctor comes in, inquires about my symptoms, and charts a course of action, you know what, he writes it down. He’s a pretty smart guy. Writing doesn’t diminish you. Mark Twain, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, they all wrote stuff down. It’s cool. I’ve got a pen if you need it.

What’s up with Super Bowl half-time shows?
Do you mean to tell me that the Super Bowl, hosted in Detroit, the home of Motown (you know The Jackson 5, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, etc…) had The Rolling Stones perform at half-time? Are you kidding me? In the seat of American music, the NFL trotted out Britain’s Strolling Bones? Nothing against The Stones, but their idea of football involves shin pads, goalies, orange slices, and stadium riots.

What’s up with the local weatherman?
Goodness, all I want to know is what to wear tomorrow. I don’t need to know about some high-pressure or low-pressure system moving in from wherever. Sorry, but I’m not concerned about the hurricane in the middle of the Atlantic that no one thinks will ever reach land. Maybe we don’t need weather reports? Maybe we just need clothing reports. “Tomorrow, you’ll need to wear long-sleeves,” or “Break out the jacket in the morning, but you’ll be running the AC be 4:00 pm.” Mr. Weatherman, what I need to wear tomorrow is all I need to know. If there are weather-geeks who want to know more, they can flip on the Weather Channel. Alexandra Steele and Jim Cantore are waiting for them.

What’s up with TV preachers?
Why do I need to send you my money, oh, excuse me, why do I need to send you a “seed,” in order for God to bless me? It looks like you’re doing pretty good. That suit looks tailor made, and your bling-bling necklace, bracelet, and ring look pretty sharp too. It looks like you could bless me. I take checks. Here’s an idea, why don’t you send me a “seed.” Heck, I pray too. I will lay hands on your “seed” and blessing will come back to you shaken together, pressed down, and over-flowing. Wait, here’s a better idea: Why don’t you stop preying on people while you’re claiming to pray for them? If you had actually ever read your Bible, instead of grabbing a scripture here and there and twisting it out of context, you would know that God is not a mob boss. You can’t pay him off for favors. TV preacher (let’s all recognize that I’m not talking about all preachers on TV) you are part of the problem people have with the Christian faith. Find some other get-rich-quick scheme.

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.
————————–

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.
______________________________

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.

_____________________________

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.

____________________________

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.