Friday, March 30, 2007

a married cold

"The Five Stages of a Married Cold"

See if you relate...

First year: Baby, darling. I'm worried about that little sniffle you have. I think you might have a cold. So I've called the paramedics…the ambulance is coming! They’re going to take you to hospital. I just hope you’re going to be OK. I know you don’t like hospital food, so I’m going to have them deliver your meals from P.F. Chang’s every day. I just want you to get better. (that’s the first year).

Second year: Sweetheart, wow…that’s a really bad cough. I’ve called the Doctor. I’m paying him extra to come make a house call. I don’t want you to lift a finger. You just stay tucked in bed and I’m going to take care of you.

Third year: Hey…do you think you might have a fever? Why don’t you drive on over the Doctor’s office and get yourself some medicine.

Fourth year: What’s that green stuff coming out of your nose? Maybe you should go to bed early tonight… that is…AFTER you’ve cooked dinner, fed the kids and done the laundry.

Fifth year: What is there… a seal barking in the house? Could you go sneeze in the other room? I can't hear the TV.

A man told me "In the first year, my wife used to bring my slippers and the dog came barking. NOW the dog brings my slippers, and..." Oops. Not good.

(James 3:17) says “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate.” It says, a result of being wise is being considerate. When I'm being considerate, I'm being wise.

Careful though, because that also means when I'm being INconsiderate, I'm being stupid. In any relationship, wisdom shows itself in consideration, caring about the needs of others.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


This weekend is Palm Sunday. This is the time of year when we sing all the “Hosanna” songs. But so often, it’s just another one of those Christian words that we say, and we don’t know what it means.

Well, it comes originally from the ancient Hebrew and is a combination of 2 words: “HOSHEA' NA” (this is just a phonetic spelling). It means, “God save us, we pray.

The only time it is used in the Old Testament is in Psalm 118:25. The passage is Messianic in it's hope of a deliverer who would come from God. Even in Jewish worship services today like the “Feast of Tabernacles” (aslo known as "Sukkot") synagogues still proclaim, “HOSHEA' NA”… “God please send your salvation”.

But the good news for the entire world is this. God has already sent his salvation. And so when WE sing “Hosanna”, instead of it being a word of desperation, of sorrow, of agony...for us, “Hosanna” is a word of praise. Of thanksgiving.

God has already answered the Jewish prayer of “HOSHEA' NA”. The Messiah has come! Our Salvation is here!

Monday, March 26, 2007

wedding chapel

Wow. Faith Church feels kind of liking a wedding chapel today.

I had 3 pre-marital counseling sessions today with couples, one of the other pastor's met with 2 couples today, and others dropped into the office to clarify details for the preparations.

It is awesome that we get to be part of their sacred covenant before God. Faith Church has touched so many lives and made many connections with family and friends who don't know Christ. It is a great ministry connection with the community.

And the pastors at Faith don't just stand up and say a few words, sign on the dotted line and consider it done. Each couple has gone through intensive counseling. They have committed to study the biblical foundation for marriage. They've been challenged to explore the deeper issues of life and spirituality.

The downside? It consumes a huge amount of our time. I pray that our investment in their marriage will reap eternal dividends. If each family would seek to honor Christ, and live with a passion for love and grace...that home can become a catalyst for changing the world!

Friday, March 23, 2007

the plaque whisperer

Everybody has a different sense of humor. But this one just CRACKS me UP!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

BE the church

Last night, Tracy had a great conversation with a young mom. This winter they moved into the Lansing area from out of state. Their family has been coming to Faith Church for about 2 months. They immediately made the decision to try a HomeGroup.

But then came tough times. She had to have surgery. Things were stressful for their family. That's when their brand new HomeGroup kicked into action as the Community of Christ. Meals were provided. Assitance was offered. Love was communicated. And they were overwhelmed with a sense of belonging.

They got a taste of why the people of Faith Church are so special. It is not enough to just "come to church". It's about learning to "be the church".

I am so thankful for our HomeGroups and their leaders...y'all rock!

Monday, March 19, 2007

canada eh

I've lived in the states for most of my life. But my blood is from the land of the Maple Leaf and my citizenship is still from Canada. I guess it doesn't come into play much...other than when the Olympics roll around. That's the only time I make much of a deal about being from another country.

I guess the reason that my Canadian citizenry doesn't affect my outlook very much, is because I have lived in the States for most of my life. My outlook and culture was shaped by growing up in America (with schools, church and influences all being American). Therefore, while I'm not an American citizen, I might as well be. There's really not much difference.

The Bible says that our citizenship is in heaven. We are a colony of believers living in a world that is different from us. But just like my Canadian citizenship, as Christians our values, priorities, family life, influences and outlook are often basically the same as those around us. Because we go to school with, work with, live with, and are mostly influenced by the same things as everybody else...there tends to be little difference evidenced in our lives. citizens of heaven (a colony of believers in Jesus Christ), how should we be different? How do we live IN the world, while not being OF the world? What characteristics should distinguish us?

Food for thought.

Friday, March 16, 2007

sitting in church

W. Oscar Thompson Jr. (in 'Concentric Circles of Concern') says, "Satan is not concerned with how many people gather in a service if all they do is sit and listen and leave. Satan does not care how much seed is sown as long as he can steal it away."

It is awesome to come to church. But in what ways have you allowed God to capture your heart? How are you being changed? In what way are you becoming more like Christ today than you were yesterday?

Personally, I've always disliked the word "pews" in church. It's such a churchy word for something that everyone else in the world would just call a bench or row of seats. But I guess there's one way in which the word is appropriate. If you sit in a church pew too long, without engaging and changing...before long you end up turning stinky.

Monday, March 12, 2007

McLaren on being criticized

Hmmm...apparantly I've been thinking about friendship lately. That was a big part of the teaching on Sunday. It seems to be a subject that comes up time and again in much of my reading. And the challenge of having "real friends" is something with which many pastors struggle.

So here are some more thoughts on the issue from an interview with Brian McLaren. He is an author and leader within emergent Christianity, and I don't always agree with him on every point (which I guess is true with everyone, when you think about it). But he said some things that hit close to home:

Brian, how do you handle criticism? Did your years as a pastor prepare you for what you're now experiencing (as a speaker and author)?

As you know, I have people writing books and saying very critical things about me, but in some ways it’s no harder then being a pastor was. In fact, it might even be easier. Many pastors know what it’s like to have people they’ve cared for—people they’ve married, and baptized, and counseled—come up and say, “You’re not meeting our needs anymore, and we’re leaving.” It’s wounding. It’s very, very hard.

When we hear criticism, it can echo in our minds for days. On one hand, we can’t stop beating ourselves up and second-guessing. On the other, we're tempted to get revenge. We torture ourselves. What I found I need to do is retrain my instinct to defend myself. Of course that is what Jesus was talking about when he says to turn the other cheek.

The second thing I’ve learned is to process the criticism with God. The prayer by the Serbian bishop (he's referring to Nikolai Velimirovic) has helped me do this. The bishop was taken to a concentration camp for speaking out against the Nazis. His own people betrayed him. But in his prayer he asks the Lord to bless his enemies, and he recognized how they actually help him. That has been incredibly helpful for me.

How do you think your critics have helped you?

We all want people to think we’re better than we actually are. I want people to think I’m more holy than I actually am, more knowledgeable than I actually am. Well, a critic comes along, and they don’t give me a chance to inflate my image. And in that way, if I can learn to live with a lower image through criticism, then maybe I won’t be so prone to inflate my image in other circumstances. Critics teach us humility.

If we should thank God for our enemies, what about our friends? How do they help us grow?

I think we all need non-utilitarian friendships. In ministry it’s easy for us to use people—to see them as a way of advancing our ministry or our agenda. And there are many ways people want to use us. A non-utilitarian friendship is where we build a relationship because I like the person and I’m not trying to use them for my success, and they’re not trying to use me.

Friday, March 09, 2007

you too?

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one!"
- C.S. Lewis

There are many people who are impressive and seem perfect. There are those who I desire to learn from and who challenge me to grow. But I think Lewis is right when he talks about what bonds us to another person in friendship. It is that sense of commonality. You just seem to "get" each other.

I think that's why Jesus made such an impact in people's lives. He was able to look into people's lives and empathize with what they were going through.

Dale Carnegie always talked about this. It is a bedrock truth that you can make more friends in a day by being interested in other people, than you can make in a year by trying to get other people interested in you.

I think back on countless conversations I've had where, I must confess, my subtle (or not so subtle) goal was to be impressive. Isn't it ironic that the more you try to impress, the less impressive you actually appear?

And yet, if I stop and think about those whom I truly consider to be a friend. When I think about the people I like to be around and have in my life. They're not people who are trying to impress me. They're people who have given me reason to suspect that they might actually LIKE me.

Do you wish you had some close friends?

Here's a suggestion. Make the choice to begin to enjoy other people, and they will begin to enjoy being around you. When you give people reason to suspect that you actually like them (not for anything that they can do for, but just to like them for who they are)...I believe that you will find yourself having more friends than you can handle.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

cookie crisp

This morning at the breakfast table, my children informed me of their latest and greatest discovery.

Our 6 year old boy, Seth, was jumping up and down with a look of glee radiating from his eyes. He joyfully cried out, "Cookies for breakfast. Did you hear me, Dad? That's what I'm saying. You can eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast!!! And it's a cereal. Have you ever heard of this before? It's the greatest invention ever. Little cookies, in a bowl, as a cereal, that you can eat with a spoon."

Yes, my children discovered the joy of high-sugar cereals. I didn't have the heart to tell him, that it was something that I too ate as a child. And that it might be a mildly decent cereal, but as far as "cookies" go..."Cookie Crisp" is far from being as good as a real gooey chocolate-chip cookie.

But I wasn't going to burst his bubble. The joy of watching children grow and discover is the greatest part about being a parent.

And you've got to is pretty cool eating "cookies" for breakfast. But I'll bypass the cereal and go straight for the real thing!

Monday, March 05, 2007

generational narcissism

As I read this article, lights started flashing in my head (or maybe it was lights just being reflected off of my shiney freshly-shaven head)! We are blessed at Faith Church to attract people from all walks of life. So something in this article resonated with the positive experiences (and difficult challenges) of being a "non-homogenized" church.

All in the Family Is Now Grey's Anatomy
Today's segregation is by age.
by Chad Hall

How things change. As a kid, I remember well Archie and Edith keeping things at a low boil, and how the entrée of the hippie son-in-law would put things over the top. Political opinions would fly, social perspectives would clash, and tension would build, culminating in Archie's caustic comment, "Meathead!" The live studio audience would laugh and so would my family because it was All in the Family.

Now one of the biggest hits is Grey's Anatomy. The show tracks a group of medical interns figuring out who they are by befriending, arguing, and sleeping with one other. Plenty of conflict and some high drama, but almost none of it is intergenerational. The same is true for plenty of other recent TV hits. Entourage, Friends, and Seinfeld come to mind.

While older adults and young children may occasionally enter an episode, the series move forward via conflict created and cured among the young adult main characters.

These shows display a trend also found in some churches: the move away from intergenerational interaction. The attitude seems to be: Who needs another generation? After all, we have our friends!

While many established churches struggle to attract and retain young adult members, newer churches are attracting nothing but. A 50-year-old friend in Portland recently visited a popular church plant there, and she took her 11-year-old daughter with her. She said later, "I loved the energy and mission of the church, but I was too old and my daughter too young. There just wasn't a place for people our age."

As a church planter and ministry coach, I've worked with churches who are primarily young and others who are obviously older. What these churches have in common is a voiced desire for community. Yet that "community" is often a veiled form of group narcissism. Young or old, they want to do church with people who are like us and who, in turn, are easy to like.

We want relationships in service to Christ's mission to be smooth and tension-free. We don't want to get bogged down in the messy problems raised by how differently older and younger people see the world.

As tempting as it may be to do church with friends only, there are at least three good reasons to resist age gentrification of church.

1. Christ and Scripture point to an inherent value in diversity. Jesus' ministry included disciples of various backgrounds, women of all ages, and even the most marginalized. Jesus' theme is that the kingdom of God is for everyone. We give testimony to the kingdom's radical expansiveness by the breadth of ages in our congregations.

2. Both young and old have resources to share. Generational homogenization results in an overabundance of one type of resources in certain congregations. Many older generation churches have plenty of money and facilities, but lack the energy and fresh vision younger congregations have aplenty. Churches that bring together the generations also bring together their respective resources in order to carry out kingdom work.

3. Perhaps most important, multi-generational congregations must deal with a particular type of conflict that has a spiritual purpose. While many organizations (churches included) seek to minimize conflict in order to streamline effectiveness and carry out the mission, intergenerational conflict in a church actually breeds godliness. Churches who value their young and their old will have to deal with clashing perspectives, which may slow things down, make decisions harder to come by, force compromise on difficult matters, and automatically elevate the value of relationship over that of task.

But when generations collide, the ensuing conflict reminds everyone, Church is not just about me. Who knew that church could be the cure to narcissism?