Wednesday’s Wisdom

“A good day deserves a grateful heart towards heaven. But wisdom rests in thanking the Lord for a bad day because it is in those times we learn the most.” Mike Johnson, Devotions 1.17.17

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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

 

Son-Tan Anyone?

p1010530With my wife Tami on beach in Costa Maya, Mexico

Okay, I’ll admit it. My wife and I are cruise people. We enjoy cruising as our most desired form of vacationing. We enjoy relaxing, having new port experiences and meeting new people. When our kids were younger, we were pleased to be able to use these trips to give them experiences they would never forget. For example, on one cruise during their Middle and High School years, they were in five different countries in a week.

While we are cruise people, I’m not really a sun person. That’s right. We cruise during the winter months to be in a warmer place…which is easy to do when you live in North Dakota.

As a point of order here, I will have you know that we have more sunny days in North Dakota than much of the rest of the country. However, some of the sunniest days here on the plain also come with a minus 25 price tag.

Brrrrr…

So, while I enjoy the warmer weather, I’m not a lay-on-the-deck-sun-tan-guy. But our trip in January of this year I decided to spend more time with my wife by being out tanning with her. I donned the sun screen – EVERYWHERE. I even hit the growing bald spot on the back of my head (the visor is a “no fly zone” in sunny weather for me these days). I sat through two significant tanning sessions on deck of our cruise ship. The only parts that I enjoyed of those experiences were being in proximity of my amazing wife, and to return home looking “browner.”

After the second session I woke up the next morning with a rash in all the places I used sun screen. No joke. Apparently soaking up the vitamin D isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be…

I’ve been working on my walk with Jesus. I’ve been journaling a great deal, reading the Scripture, talking to Him a bunch AND working at listening to Him more than talking to Him. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been a pastor for decades and been raised in the church all of my life and have advanced ministry degrees. Those facts don’t make me immune for my need to build relationship. And yet it’s the same reason why I wanted to be near my wife – because she is awesome and means the world to me…

Jesus means the world to me. You know as I think about these facts, investing in the nearness of Sonshine in my life contributes more than vitamins. It is life itself.

Son-tan anyone?

What are the activities you participate in to build better relationships? If you are a Christ-follower, what do you do to build your relationship with Jesus? If you are not a Christ-follower, what intrigues you about reasons why I would want to pursue a better relationship with Jesus?

John 8:36

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?