Epic FAIL of 2013! So far.

FAIL:  Less than one month after buying a house, our hot water pipes burst a leak in the slab.

24 hours later, we’re staring into the abyss of totally re-plumbing our house.  Words you never want to hear came rolling off the tongue of our plumber:  “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.  I hate to tell you this, but I recommend you completely re-plumb the house.”

Slab Leak

It would be easy to blame this on the devil, Satan, or the forces of evil.  There is a popular thought that suggests the deeper your faith grows the more you can count on bad things happening to you.  If I am to take this route, then I will be focusing on the supposed negative forces that are trying to knock me down and steal my faith.

I’m not ready to turn my focus in that direction.

Instead, I want to focus my attention on a couple other things I’m learning from this experience:

  • Our decisions can bring on disaster.  Brooklyn and I decided to buy a house.  We decided to buy an older house, built in 1959.  We did what we are supposed to do to inspect the home for possible problems.  We didn’t make a bad decision to buy the house.  But it is still a decision.  A decision to buy an “old” house.  Had we bought a new house, chances are we wouldn’t be facing the same issue.  Point is, sometimes we’re quick to blame God or the devil.  I wonder, though, how many times our blame is misplaced?  Before we blame the spiritual powers, maybe we need to take a closer look at ourselves.
  • Love is a miracle.  Brooklyn and I realize the results of buying an old house can be making repairs.  It’s tough, but true.  But, we’re ready to claim responsibility. Then friends step in to offer help.  They come over to find the leak on a Friday evening, after work.  They drop-off a tool that I don’t have, but need.  They climb ladders.  They fix other problems on the house.  They recommend professionals we can trust.  In many ways, our friends have absorbed some of the pain of a major house FAIL.  And they do it because they love us.  I don’t know why they love us like they do.  I can’t explain why they sacrifice what they do for us.  We don’t deserve it.  They don’t owe us.  They’ve decided to love us.  Through their love, miracles happen.  

Have you had any major FAILS in 2013?  In your life?  What have you learned about yourself?  How have others “loved” you through this experience?

 

Connect to Something Bigger: Ephesians according to the Hunger Games

I started writing with the intent of making this one post.

My direction has changed.  I realize there’s more to be said than one post can handle.  So, I’ll start here and see where it goes.

HungerGames

You are already connected to something bigger, well, probably many things.

By “connected,” I mean attached, plugged-in, a representative of.  The “something bigger” may be a group, an idea, an institution, or an organization.  Whatever this something bigger is, your identity is tied to it.  It needs you and you need it.  What you do affects it, and what it does affects you.  You are connected like a string on a guitar.  It relies on you, and the other strings, in order to make a beautiful sound.  When you’re broken or missing, the sound is not the same.

Some of your connections are by default. With these, there’s little choice in the matter.  This would include your family, school, town/city, and country to name a few.  Other connections happen on your own free will.  These might include college, Facebook, friends, church, and your job.

Most of the bigger things we’re connected to are not bad.  The majority are good, even necessary.  But, most of the time, we only think of our connections to them in terms of how it will benefit me.

Occasionally, one of us will have the courage to ask how our connection to something bigger can change the world.

One of last year’s best-selling books, Hunger Games, has a character who makes this shift.  Her little sister is selected to represent their colony in the hunger games.  If you don’t know what that means, the hunger games is a fight to the death between 24 youth chosen in a lottery system.  They are thrown into controlled game environment, with a limited supply of weapons and food.  Last kid alive, wins.  To protect her sister, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the games.

She joins the games to save her sister’s life.  Quickly, her motivation turns to self-preservation.  Katniss devotes every waking moment to strategy and training for survival.  It is all about her.

Then, in the first book of the trilogy, something switches.  Eureka happens for her.  Her motivation shifts from self-preservation to ending the Hunger Games completely.  With courage, she decides living for herself isn’t enough.  She wants to end the games for everyone.  She realizes she can be a part of something bigger.

God is doing something bigger.  God wants you to be a part of it.  For most of us, though, it will require a mind-shift.

Are you ready for something more?  Something bigger?

In my next post, I will discuss how Ephesians explains God’s plan for something bigger.

Created equal? Yes. Creative equal? Maybe.

Most of us believe we are created equal.  But, are we creative equal?

If you ask me, I’m wavering.

Creativity is a buzz word in the church world, at least among most church staff.  Churches have creative teams, creative directors, creative meetings, and creative worship elements.  One would be hard-pressed to find a large church without a commitment to creativity.

The question is always lingering, “Who are the most creative people on staff?”

creativity-kirra drawing

It’s a question that begs me to ask of myself, “Am I creative?”  As a followup question, I also wonder “Is everyone creative?”  If you know me, I can’t leave a question unanswered.  So, I did what I know to do.  I started reading about it.

Almost every book or article I read essentially espoused the same view on creativity.  In some form or another, most writers would agree:

Creativity is the process of combining unrelated subjects to come up with new ideas, concepts, or combinations.

My thesis:  I am not good at it.  My other thesis:  I can get better at it, and so can you.  The key:  discard any fear of failure.

Creativity isn’t about getting it right every time.  Creativity isn’t measured by wins and losses.  It’s about experimenting.  It’s about tinkering.  It’s about trial and error.

Somewhere along the way, I realize that I lost my childhood curiosity.  I’ve learned to play by the rules.  For me, a box is a box.  It’s meant to carry or store objects.  That’s it.  I no longer feel free to look at a box and see a spaceship, or a fort, or a garage for my matchbox cars.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering, “Why does this matter to me?  I’m not a pastor on staff at church.  I’ll tell you why.  Because the most creative people I’m noticing work somewhere else.   I see it in Kevin, he inspects leaks.  I see it in Larry, he works maintenance.  I see it in Dave, he owns a furniture store.  I see it Delbert, he drives a school bus.

So, back to the question at the beginning, “Are we creative equal?”  I’m leaning toward, “Yes.”  But, we don’t all use it equally.

My prayer for this year is to break free from convention.  Not to gain adulation from others, but to reflect God’s creative image back into the world.  God’s image of creativity is stamped into all of us waiting to introduce new visions of restoration and redemption.

What do you think?  Is creativity a gift only some receive?  Who are the best examples of creativity in your life?

Ironic or Prophetic? What I learned from a joke I wish I didn’t hear

I didn’t see it coming.

It starts on a Sunday Night before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  A room full of  350 teenagers are dancing to the sound of a Christian rap artist.  The rapper has their full attention, teaching them to waive their arms here and shout an anthem there.  Even the adults in the room, well most of them, joined in on this new way of singing and dancing for God.  Most of them looked out of place, but no one seemed to care.

QuestionMark

Next up, a comedian takes the stage.  Like the rapper, he quickly engages the attention of the audience.  He runs through his normal set with ease.  A joke here and magic trick there.  The teenagers laugh and applaud with approval.  And then it happens.

The comedian says, “Man, didn’t you guys love the rapper?  Isn’t he awesome?  The last time I saw a black man make this many white people stand with their arms in the air, he had a gun.”

[PAUSE]  “Whoa.  Did he really just say that,” I think to myself.

Fast forward to the next morning, it is now Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I’m sitting in the same room with the same audience listening to the same comedian.  Again, he has the teenagers laughing and clapping for more.  But this time, at the end of his set, he takes a different tone.

The jokes are over.  The funny act is done.  The room is quiet and he says:  “I need to make an apology.  Last night, I made a joke about the rapper.  I was wrong.  As soon as I got back to my room, a heaviness sat on my chest.  I knew I was wrong.  I’m sorry for what I said.  I shouldn’t have said it.  I’ve already asked for forgiveness from him.  But I need to know, will you forgive me?”

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I realize, all at once, how far we’ve come yet how far we still have to go.  I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:15-16 that God is creating “in God’s self one new humanity in place of the two, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”  I realize Paul’s vision of reconciliation is between Jews and Gentiles.  But I have to believe, God has the same vision for us today.  Whatever the tint of one’s skin, the language one speaks, or the land one calls home, God’s vision is for one new humanity.

I have to admit.  My first inclination is to point my finger at the comedian and say, “Look how wrong he is.”  When it’s me, things seem different.  Whenever I think something, say something, or do something with prejudice or judgment, I’m not ready to claim it.  I’m not as quick to be critical.  Somehow, my tendency is to justify it by saying things like, “I have a friend who is…”, or “I didn’t mean it that way”, or “What I meant to say was…”

But, I can’t.  I can’t because I’m guilty as well.  Embedded in me is a list of judgments and prejudices that rise to the surface from time to time.  And all I can say is, God, forgive me and change my ways.

As disappointed as I am to hear such a bad joke, I’m not writing this to deride or discredit the comedian.  I’m writing these words to face my own demons.

As I type my last words and reflect on the experience, I wonder, “Is this MLK Day ironic or prophetic?

You and I are built like bricks: Thoughts on Ephesians 2:19-22

Ok, maybe we’re built more like blocks.  At least, we should be.

God desires to bring us together to build the place God chooses to live.  You and I can be blocks that hold up the dwelling place of God.  There’s only one catch:  you don’t get to hand select the other blocks.In other words, you may end up part of a building with blocks you wouldn’t consider worthy.  No, let me rephrase that, you will be.

block

In Ephesians, Paul introduces to the people of God a new era.  It’s not an easy one to swallow for the people of God.  It breaks ties with cultural boundaries, not to mention historical.  It’s a new era where those outside the covenant of God are now being welcomed in.  A pivotal moment in God’s story of redemption, where those “who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:13)”

From Paul, we learn that God is bringing together two formerly disparate groups.  The outsiders become insiders.  Two become one.  The dividing wall is down, and the hostility is dismantled.  Strangers join membership with the saints as the new people of God.

As the blocks of strangers and saints are laid side by side, they join together to grow into a “holy temple in the Lord. (Eph. 2:21)”  Not an empty building, but a “dwelling place for God. (Eph. 2:22)”  God’s choice home.

The old Temple is replaced with the new.  God’s presence isn’t about a physical place.  God is found in the relationships of people who are joined by Christ’s love.

So I wonder, has the people of God resorted to its old ways?  Are we trying to enclose the presence of God with our buildings and programs?  Or, are we experiencing the presence of God through reconciliation with our enemies, strangers, and all who stand on the other side of a dividing wall?

What do you think?

99 Ways to Serve: Lesson #1

Our family (I really mean Brooklyn and I) made a New Year’s Resolution to teach our daughters 99 ways to serve.  We discovered the challenge in a book written by Kristen Summers, teach me to serve:  99 Ways Preschoolers Can Learn to Serve and Bless Others.    By the end of 2013, our goal is to complete all 99 ways.

In a post last week, Lindsey Family New Year’s Resolution: Serve 99 different ways, I divulged our plan.  Teach our girls 3-4 ways to serve, then blog about it.  So far, in the first week, we’ve accomplished one.  Here it is:

Serve dinner buffet style.  Let your preschooler sit on a stool at your counter and serve a particular item such as bread rolls or one of your side dishes.  She can use tongs to grab green beans or a large spoon to scoop rice.  Don’t focus on any mess that is created rather on how great she is doing serving her family.      –Kristen Summers, teach me to serve

 

serving #1

From this experience, Brooklyn and I are learning a few things.

Don’t start this process 2 weeks after you move.  We moved into a new house on Dec. 23, flew to Ohio on Christmas day, and came back to a house full of boxes on Jan.  1.  It’s exactly 2 weeks later, and we still have boxes everywhere.  Workload and stress-level on a scale of 1 to 10 is 10.5.

We weren’t prepared to serve.  I don’t mean mentally.  I mean organizationally and domestically.  We aren’t a family that cooks huge meals with several entrees to serve.  With half the kitchen still in boxes, we’ve eaten pizza or cereal most of the last 14 days.  We had to mentally plan a meal the girls could serve buffet style.

Kids are excited to serve.  I explained to them in the afternoon about our plan to serve dinner buffet style.  Kirra’s face lit up as she said, “Just like at McDonald’s.”  Not sure where that came from, but she definitely was excited.  As we were preparing dinner, both girls were standing at the buffet line with serving spoons in their hands asking, “ready now, ready now, ready now.

Serving is messy.  We didn’t tell them how to serve or how much to put on our plates.  They were free to serve without apprehension.  Both of them became very decorous, using words and phrases like “please”, “may I”, and “thank you.”  As they scooped each item with precision, food would fall to the counter or floor.  Each serving added messiness here and there.  With the mess behind us, both girls sat down with a huge sense of accomplishment.  They served.

Next up: #2 Put an apron on your child and let them be a waitress.  #3  Choose a dessert that will allow your child to help out in the kitchen.  Invite guests and let child deliver each plate to the guests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing the Stage with a Woman Preacher

For some churches, these two words don’t go together:  preacher and woman.

I’m proud to say Highland Park Church isn’t one of them.  I serve a church that embraces the call of women to preach.  We don’t skirt around it.  We don’t call it something else.  On our stage and in our worship services, women preach.

stage

I’ve had the privilege to share the stage with a woman preacher more than once.  Her name is Brooklyn Lindsey.  To be  honest, I’m not sharing the stage with her.  She’s sharing the stage with me.

Literally, we’ve shared the stage.  We’ve preached the same sermon together.  She’s preaches part of it.  I preach part of it.  It’s a form of tag team preaching.

I have to admit, though, the first time was tough.  The struggle had little to do with sharing a sermon with a woman.  It had mostly to do with trying to organize a single thought from two unique minds.  Our thoughts may be similar, but how we organize our thoughts varies greatly.

Two days ago, we had the opportunity to share the stage again.  One remark given to us was, “You get better every time you preach together.”  I’m not exactly sure where this puts us on the spectrum of bad to good.  I’m sure there’s still much room to improve.  But, it does affirm one thing for sure.  We’re making progress.

So, I thought I’d share what’s been working for us:

  •  One person writes the sermon outline.  The first time, we tried to write the sermon together from the beginning.  We started at the same place but arrived somewhere different.  One person writing the sermon and outline eliminates this problem.
  • One person for each point.  It doesn’t work when both of us try to preach the same point.  It’s too confusing for us and the audience.
  • Preach in sections.  It’s tempting to break the sermon into every other thought.  One thought for her to preach,  and one thought for me.  We’ve found freedom in breaking the sermon into sections.  This allows both of us time to get into the groove.
  • Only one person center-stage at a time.  It’s awkward to stand next to someone while they are driving home a point or telling a story with passion.  Rather than stand center stage worrying about my facial reaction to what she’s saying, I’ve found it’s much better to move to a different part of the stage.  Preferably, I move out of sight to the left or right and take a seat.  This gives her freedom to move, and it gives me a chance to recoup for the next thing I have to say.
  • Make transitions simple and smooth.  We realized the importance of clear transitions when preaching a sermon using movie clips.  We used several movie clips as springboards for the sermon’s main points.  The clips acted as natural transitions from one preacher to the other.  It worked well.  From this, we learned to be very intentional about making our transitions simple and smooth.

Well, there’s a glimpse behind the scenes for us.  If I asked, I’m sure Brooklyn would have more to add.  Maybe, I will ask her to write a guest post on the same subject.

What do you think?  Would you like to hear from Brooklyn?

 

 

Part 3 Why You Should Read the Bible Like a Text Message

It’s official.  Doctors are diagnosing conditions like iPhone syndrome and iPhone addiction disorder. 

We are attached to our phones.  Smart phones, in particular, have become extensions of our hands.  Every morning, I see the same drivers at the same time and same location on their phones.

Bible

It’s comical the panic we experience when our phones are lost or broken.  We’re like the little girl in The Goonies who cried, “I want my bike, I want my bike, I want bike.”  Without our cell phones, we meltdown to a state of Grinch-likeness.

I’m saying these things, not because my goal is to convince you to terminate your contract with AT&T or Sprint and seek professional counseling.  I’m not espousing cell phones are evil.  Though, in some ways they may be.  I am simply highlighting the commitment we have to this way of communicating.

Teenagers spend hours texting.  Teens have learned to walk, hold a conversation, and text at the same time.  Adults are catching on quickly.  On dates with our spouses or at Disney World with our families, we find ourselves texting.

Texting is a normal part of our everyday.

Text Message Skill #3:  Practice until it becomes a natural part of your day.

Imagine if we did the same with reading the Bible.  What would happen if we practiced reading until it became a natural part of our day?

I want to be careful, here.  I remember the old Sunday School adage, “Pray, read your bible, and go to church.”  This old way of putting it feels so forced.  So legalistic.  So sterile.

I’m suggesting a new way.  Reading the Bible is meant to be beautiful and transformational.  It’s meant to be natural.  And, if interacting with words on texts can be become a part of your normal life, I’m confident you can interact with God’s Word even more naturally.

If there’s anything worthy of addiction, it’s the Bible.

 

 

Drugs & Goliath: You Don’t Need to Be Afraid

I walk into the office of a collision repair business with my family-in-law.  We are picking-up my mother-in-law’s Volkswagen Bug.  It’s cold, snowy, wet, and muddy outside.  We decide to hang out and talk with the business owner before braving the elements again.

Four-letter words were flying everywhere.  Not from Dave’s or my mouth, but an arsenal of expletives were unloaded.  I’m hearing multiple %@&#’s in one sentence.  I had no idea such words go together.KeepHopeAlive

The words aren’t meant to hurt or degrade.  They are a normal part of his speech, I guess.  Then, I see the look in Dave’s eyes.  He is going to say something.

Somehow the conversation gets to the point where the business owner says, “I guess I got into the wrong profession.”  To which Dave replies, “Well, you work with cars, I work with furniture, and my son-in-law here works in the ministry.”

Aaaahhhhhhh.  I can’t believe he just said that.  Let’s just say, for the remainder of the conversation, no expletives were used.

In an attempt to recover, the business owner turns to a more serious discussion.  Drugs.  Particularly illegal drugs being trafficked, made, and used in the house directly in front of his business.  The shop sits in a small industrial park just off the busiest highway from Columbus to all of Southeast Ohio.  A perfect highway for drug-runners.

One small, secluded house sits just off the highway less than 50 yards from the office door.  A perfect stopping point for the drug traffic.

The collision repair business owner tells of his disdain for these young “druggies.”  He recounts an experience of seeing two young people in the back of a car with needles stuck in their arms.  He tells of a time he walked into a wide-open front door to a seemingly vacant house.  He walks into the bedroom to find two young people passed out on a bed with needles in their arms.

He wants them gone.  He’s called law enforcement.  Their only answer, “it’s not worth our time.  We can’t do anything unless we catch them in the act of selling or making.  It would be easier if you found your own way to take care of it.”

Then it hit me.  Why am I not doing something about it?  Why are we, as Christians, relying on the law?

My conclusion:  Drugs look like a modern day Goliath to us.  It’s too big.  It’s too scary.  We feel helpless.

1 Samuel 17:11  “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”  1 Samuel 17:24  “All the Isrealites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid.”

The people of Israel stand paralyzed and helpless before the giant, Goliath.  Then a young boy offers a different perspective.  David says:

1 Sam 17:26  “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?

1 Sam 17:37  “David said, “The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of the Philistine.”

Drug abuse stands as a giant challenge before us.  It is destroying our children, our parents, our families, and huge chunks of society.  We can tremble and run away from it.

Or, we can join the ancestors of our faith who stood against the odds with a God who never fails.

I’ve had enough.  For me, it’s time to stand.  It’s time to reclaim our brothers & sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, cousins, co-workers, employees, and neighbors.

For what is this thing called drugs that it should defy the power of our living God?

 

Lindsey Family New Year’s Resolution: Serve 99 different ways

Brooklyn recently discovered a book, Teach Me to Serve:  99 Ways Preschoolers Can Learn to Serve and Bless Others by Kristen Summers.

It’s time to make New Year’s resolutions, isn’t it?

So, we did.  I mean, we have.  As a family, we’ve decided to try all 99 ways preschoolers can learn to serve.

I have to admit, it won’t be easy.  I’ve only read the first 24 ways and I’m already overwhelmed.  Of the 24, I may need to learn 23 of them.

Here’s the plan.  I will keep a journal of our experience and share it with you.  For every 3 or 4 ways to serve, I will write a post summarizing how it went down for us.  At least once a week, you can check back here to see how we’re doing.

We believe our family has much to learn about serving.  We believe God wants to teach us.  So, here we go.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?