Not Good Enough?

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Our home away from home for one week in January ’17.

I’m continuing a series of blogs on things I saw and learned during our vacation in January on a cruise ship.

One of the things we hope to enjoy when we go cruising is the on-board entertainment. The entertainment on the ship was very good, notably the dynamic and extremely talented young people who put on the Vegas style shows. But one thing stood out. The floor was packed but the balconies were vacant.

I was shocked.

One of the shows featured some magic tricks, very good ones in fact. In the midst of their fast-paced music and exquisite choreography, they did these slight-of-hand tricks there were quite impressive.

No one applauded.

They were the kind that you’ve seen on television several times. Apparently it was a “been there, done that” crowd. What a shame. They did it so well.

I hate to even think this way, but how could someone think they were not good enough?

This kinda makes me think about current trends in church. Church for baby boomers has been all about excellence and new stuff. Of course this leads to problems when everyone has seen it all before.

It is interesting the things we go through to present a 2,000 year old message. Perhaps this present generation of millennials, who no doubt have a liking for doing things well, but will reject all of it if it is not genuine.

Hummmmm.

Pastors across this country are struggling with getting younger people into the church without alienating the older folks. One of the things I did to move the churches I served forward was to introduce a band that played more progressive music. I used to say to those who didn’t like the new music, “Twenty years from now I’m going to hate the music but love what it does for our grandchildren.”

I think I’m getting closer to that twenty year mark…and that pains me. Am I not good enough?

My current job has forced me to take a “one beggar to another” approach in sharing the 2,000 year old message of the gospel of Jesus. I have no fog machines or special lighting, no band or coffee bar with a hipster pulling shots. It’s just me, the other person and the Holy Spirit.

The funny thing is, slowly but surely it’s working.

Pastor, be creative! YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH! Do whatever it takes to reach people in your community. Church attender; help your pastor try new “stuff,” even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. But may all of us remember that eternity is written on our hearts and those who would listen, and that’s more than good enough.

What kind of church would you attend? One that focuses on music, the hipster, the special lighting or story-telling preaching style? Is it one where there is excellence or authenticity? What about one where the focus is old school with a choir and all of the “normal” programs and style of a traditional church? Remember that being “traditional” has more to do with being within our culture and not one seen in the Bible. What attracts you? Friends? Life stories? Mission? Why?

Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

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How Karaoke Caught Me By Surprise

microphoneMy wife Tami and I were recently out of town on vacation. As part of our vacation entertainment we gathered into a dimly lit room for a karaoke event. For those that are unaware, karaoke is an opportunity for the average person to get on a stage and sing a song from the past or present with a sound track, microphone and audience.

It’s a reminder of the passage of Scripture that talks about “making a joyful noise.” I will readily admit that some of the “noises” we heard that night were not joyful, and there wouldn’t have been any improvement if it had been me on the stage!

Yes, most of the singing was, well, unbearable.

I’ve only seen karaoke take place on television or in a movie. In those formats it’s either very good or very bad, in order to make some sort of plot move forward. This being our first time at a live performance only demonstrated that karaoke is mostly done on the very bad side. Good performances are clearly an anomaly played out in the media.

That’s when it hit me. While I was wincing at the sound of the performances, the audience of a hundred for the most part were applauding and shouting words of encouragement. I noticed that there were others like me who were wincing, but they were keeping that to themselves. It was like the old song, “Home on the Range” that declares, “Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word…” You get the point. The people on stage had the guts to get up there, something in which I am clearly devoid of. They were doing the hard thing. And a crowd of people who didn’t know them, having traveled to this resort setting from all parts of North America, were there cheering them on.

Still wincing in the midst of this realization of what was going on in the room, I smiled and applauded more loudly when the singer was finished. Not because the song was over, but because the person tried to do what I wouldn’t consider doing.

I’m reminded of work, of family life, of being with friends. And even more notably of being the church. We personally and corporately need to be a safe place for people to try and do the hard thing and cheer them on even when their effort and abilities are not presently up to par. We need to be a people who will provide a place where failure can take place so that success may follow. And what I’ve just written is counter to a culture of doing things with excellence, or not at all.

Hum. Where do you stand on this one?

It is one thing to find out what we’re not good or gifted at. It is another to never try and find out.

What “hard thing” have you tried to do recently, in order to see if it is a “fit” for you? When was the last time you were the audience of encouragement for someone else – even someone you don’t know – to lift them up as they tried to do something hard for the first time?

 

 

 

The Green Monster and the “Less” vs “More”

 

05_30_3_webOne of the aspects of the human condition is that as a general rule everyone is a socialist until it’s about their own money. Those with “less” love to direct and tell those with “more” where their “more” should go. But when the same directive is thrust back in the face of the “less,” the coughing, running and excuse making begins in earnest.

By the way, I would identify as one of the “less.” Welcome to the club!

The struggle is simple and multifaceted at the same time. Everyone wants to enjoy the fruit of their labors without others hindering them by making their monetary decisions for them. That last sentence opens several proverbial cans of worms. Dump in talk of national economies, job creation and satisfaction, the discussion never ends well in a world divided by the activities of The Green Monster in the heart of mankind.

This is what makes the following even more remarkable. That American Christians would give fully 10% of their gross income plus offerings for a wide range of needs with a cheerful heart is nothing short of shocking. It is to visualize The Green Monster trapped in a cage, unable to find mastery over an individual. What is even more remarkable is when these tithes and offering are given by a group of people who have the very same needs as those whom the funds are directed toward, outside of a local church. This is a miracle that repeats itself over and over again. And yet even at this point, some of those with “less” outside the Church would like to dictate where those tithes and offerings go…

That’s the human condition for you.

Christian giving is counter-intuitive within socialistic and capitalistic cultures. The reason why is pretty simple. It is given within another economy – a supernatural one. Giving works in God’s economy. From Scripture, a Christ-follower does not give to get, but instead gives out of obedience. And yet time and again the faithful find their needs being met, often seeing the miraculous in the process.

The subject most spoken of in the New Testament is money, that Green Monster that lurks in the shadows, tempting us for control of our life situations. Jesus said,

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 NLT

This life encouragement is a discussion starter to gain control over The Green Monster by elevating above the “less” and “more” battle into a new economy. And yes, personally my wife and I have found the Scripture to be true. While we give out of obedience, time and again we find our needs being met. And yes, we’ve become acquainted with the miraculous…

How big is The Green Monster in your life? Do you know others in your life that can help you transition from an earthly economy into a supernatural one? Who has control of our wallets? What greatness would be unleashed in your life should you step into a new economy? What are your financial goals for 2017, and what are you willing to do to reach those goals?

 

 

We’re Being Duped…by Ourselves

WARNING: The subject matter of this post is political in nature. However, the intent is to identify and acknowledge a possible problem that has exacerbated the present political and social divide in our country, post election.

I’m writing over the weekend after the American Presidential Election. What a crazy week!

For those following this blog, you already know that neither candidate impressed me. Instead of voting for a candidate, my wife Tami and I voted for a party platform that best supported our values and morays. Also, it would be an understatement to say that we were flabbergasted by the immediate returns on Tuesday night, much like the rest of the country.

What has followed has been completely and utterly ugly. There have been:

  • Protests
  • Riots
  • Incessant crying and whining by Millennials
  • Leveraging by employees on their companies to have excused absences from work because the President-elect won and that hurt them emotionally
  • A border watch (Canada) for celebrities who vowed to leave the country should the President-Elect win
  • Biased media choking on air, in disbelief over election results
  • Wailing and gnashing of teeth on both sides
  • The name calling on both sides of two entire voting bases of Americans
  • True stories of people treating one another poorly
  • Fabricated stories of people treating one another poorly
  • More humorous political attacks on voters via social media
  • More vicious political attacks on voters via social media
  • Just as many conspiracy theories as before the election via social media

Ah yes, social media. Facebook is an interesting example. I have a number of friends on this media platform that would be on the opposite side of my political spectrum. I like that because they are nice people and if I’m wise I can learn from their perspective.

And I have.

One of these friends very recently posted about a good number of instances where Trump followers were doing horrific things to followers of Clinton – whom my friend voted for. I didn’t see any of those things on my feed, but EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE…which reminded me of how social media can work.

For those of us on Facebook, we have friends who establish part of our “feed” content. But we also have an “independent” feed, separate from our friends that is based an an algorithm of our perceived likes and dislikes. Every time we click on a link, there is a digital note kept on the subject matter. What follows is our reception of special information to keep us interested in staying on this social platform, so that the owners can make more money off of advertising. This is a problem because we only see one perspective on things. It is also a problem because a good portion of this information is a collection of half-truth and outright nonsense to keep us engaged. Yes, that’s right – you heard it here first. Facebook is NOT a good source of news.

Okay, maybe not first…

Here’s the point. We get the “news” that we want, whether it is true or not. Further, a Trump supporter and a Clinton supporter likely receive radically opposite feeds. After 30 minutes on Facebook both sides of the political fence are thoroughly disgusted with the other and their “criminal acts,” further exacerbating the political divide in our country. Add to this an unbalanced mainstream media, we come to the realization that the fault is really that of American people like you and I. I submit that to a considerable respect we’ve faked ourselves out, duping ourselves into believing a flawed hyperbole of what is actually true about one another. And that is not only ugly, but uncommonly sad. Instead of dialogue too many of us have resorted to being controlled by our emotions as we check into another round of indoctrination by our media sources.

The Bible tells us to love one another and to make every effort to live in peace with everyone. That’s good advice for anybody. But it’s a difficult pill to swallow, even for the Christ follower who is caught up in this media web we’ve weaved, allowing our emotions to control us. However, regardless of who we are can we agree that we’ve all been called to something greater than this, something that leads us to peace instead of destroying one another?

Think of a time in your life when your emotions betrayed you, leading you to make a bad decision. How did you regain control of your emotions to right your life? In regard to social media, what is your purpose in using it? Can you handle what it does to you/us? How hard is it to not respond to subjects you know will lead you to a dark place? How shall we then live?

 

 

 

 

A Road Less Traveled

This has been a crazy last week to highlight crazy months of campaigning for President of the United States. We may be looking forward to this chaos continuing through the coming inauguration.

One thing that is for certain, the American public has been learning about themselves during this season of culture shift and struggle. Among these lessons is the importance of having a good name.

The best way to protect your name is to carry yourself in the manner in which you want to be known. If you walk with honesty and integrity, no one will believe it if you are accused of lying. Further, if we are given to hyperbole and personal attack of others, we may end up with others fearing us, but not respecting us.

Huge difference…

It’s hard to get our “good name” back, but not impossible. Perhaps the most difficult aspect is the need to ask forgiveness of others for what we’ve done. We begrudge this action because we are admitting we are wrong. It rankles our pride. It challenges our small vestige of humility. But it does wonders to others around us whose respect and love are necessary for our personal serenity and worth. Secondly, backing up that apology with action changes everything.

Easy to post, hard to do. Unfortunately it’s the road less traveled.

When your name is mentioned among a group of people whom you often relate to, what comes to their mind? Is it good or bad? Is the answer to that question important to you? Whom in your life do you need to have the respect and love of? What is our “road less traveled?”

Proverbs 22:1

 

 

 

New Normal?

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The New “Normal”

This election season has created tumult and turmoil within our nation as well as politics beyond our borders. It is likely that we can agree that things have changed in our public discourse and whomever is elected will set a new tone that will create its own peril in sectors of our society.

This is the new “normal” right now.

Cultures shift, methods change and impermissible becomes permissible. These are constants in a society. Even the picture (above) demonstrates a new normal. The home on the right representative of hundreds that dot the North Dakota landscape; empty shells that once represented pioneer families and farms.

It is interesting that many of these homesteads still stand, as if tearing them down destroys a distant value, memory or “normal.”

I would like to offer the concept that our personal response to these changes as individuals is found in where we base our own truth.

Having done work in Central Africa, one thing stood out like a sore thumb. Some of the beliefs/doctrines/truths we have in America, don’t work in Africa. More on this in a later post.

If our truth doesn’t work everywhere, is is possible that perhaps it’s not really…true?

Okay, that was a little painful.

In business there are seasons of change. I’ve found working in the Bakken Oilfield that I can leave for a week of vacation, only to return and find that nuances in sales have changed – sometimes dramatically. Suddenly an oil company has made decisions about whom and how they will be serviced by oilfield vendors (one of which I work for). Word gets out quickly (funny how that works), and then you have a significant shift. Survival among vendors is dependent on shifting a culture, methods, or changing what was once something that they wouldn’t do, to something that will now become of the new “normal.”

Perhaps the easiest example of impermissible becoming permissible is in what is allowed in television related to content. Boundaries have been pushed and changed to what has become the new normal.

This is culture shift. How one adjusts to these shifts is up to you.

What will your truth allow to be your new “normal?”

Depending on your personal belief/doctrines/truths, does a shift make it right for you? If yes, we go with the flow. If no, how will you then live? What is the basis of your truth? Does your foundation of truth work everywhere, any place or anytime? What shifts in society are non-negotiables as per your foundation of truth?