Archive for August, 2010

“In 1977, Denny’s introduced the Grand Slam Breakfast–a value priced breakfast that included eggs, sausage, bacon, and pancakes.”

–Todd Wilbur, Top Secret Restaurant Recipes, 116

  • Share/Bookmark

“Hypocrisy is the natural expression of what is meanest in us all.”

–as quoted by Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, 71

  • Share/Bookmark
YouTube Preview Image
  • Share/Bookmark

“The legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God.”

–Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, 40

  • Share/Bookmark

Tags: ,

“When good is found and we embrace it with abandon, we embrace the Giver of it…Yes, in church on Sunday at 9:00 AM, but also in the seemingly mundane. In traffic at 5:15 PM. In a parent-teacher meeting. In the colors of a sunset. On the other end of a tragic phone call. Every second is an opportunity for praise. There is a choosing to be made. A choosing at each moment. This is the habit of praise. Finding God moment by revelatory moment, in the sacred and the mundane, in the valley and on the hill, in triumph and tragedy, and living praise erupting because of it. This is what we were made for.”–David Crowder, Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi, 13-14

I’m required to wear shoes at work. I want to wear shoes at work. Even if I heard the voice of God on my way in saying, “Take off your shoes, the place where you are working is holy ground,” I would be hard pressed to be obedient. I mean people walk in an out of that store every single day with only God knows what on the bottom of their shoes. The other day a teenager walked in wearing only socks. Maybe he had heard God’s voice on the way in to the store; maybe he was a lazy teenager.

But that is where Moses found God, isn’t it? Out in the desert, at his place of ‘employment,’ there in the place where only God knows what walked by or through every day, Moses heard the voice of God say, “Take off your shoes, the place where you are standing is holy ground.” I find it strange, maybe I’m over-analyzing, that God did not say, “Come over here and before you do take off your shoes because the place where I am at is holy ground.” No that’s not what God said. According to the strictest translation of the OT (ESV), God said, “Do not come near; take off your shoes, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Maybe I’m over-analyzing. Maybe I’m terrified that the place where I work, the unholy of unholies, is actually a place where I might find God and embrace him with abandon.

I have always been taught that it was God who made the place where Moses was standing holy. Yet God seems to be saying that Moses had something to do with it also. We cannot deny what God said, “The place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Did Moses have something to do with the consecration of the ground upon which he stood? Did God want Moses, who probably spent a lot of time complaining about those damn sheep, to see the sacred space created each day by his work with sheep? Could it be that there is no such thing as unholy ground if we are standing in a place practicing God’s presence?

I’m sure there will be all sorts of arguments to the contrary: Humans are sinful, we don’t make things holy, we foul things up, Moses was a sinner, only God is Holy. Yeah. Sure. Right. OK. I’m not going to win a theological argument by proposing that it was Moses, not God, who made the earth holy by his presence, by simply standing in a place where sheep likely urinated the day before. On the other hand, who is going to prove me wrong?

Still it is striking, isn’t it, that before Moses arrived the ground was just ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And nothing more. But after he arrived the ground where he was standing was holy because God declared it so. Moses didn’t decide that it was holy. To him it was just urine soaked, sun baked soil. When he arrived, however, God declared it sacred. God declared it sacred. Does he say that about the soil upon which we walk? Could he?

Someone asked me the other day: “This post makes me wonder how you would describe the high calling of working in a video store?” I confess that I find it difficult to practice the presence of God at work. It is extremely difficult to find God in the faces of mostly unhappy and lethargic people who are convinced that we charge too much for our rentals and that it is perfectly unreasonable that their credit card should be on file with our store. I wonder to myself: How can I find God in the face of a customer who is intent on renting the latest installment of ‘American Pie’ or the most recent Zalman King exploration of the world of porn? How can I find the face of God, I’d settle for a burning bush, when a customer is challenging me to a fist fight in the parking lot because his credit card was declined?

There’s also the issue of Jesus. I’m not sure, but something tells me Jesus would not be wearing a Slayer shirt, reek of alcohol and tobacco, curse at me if he had late fees, pre-order the latest episode or Halo, or rent Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus. I could be wrong. Seeing Jesus in the face of customers who refuse to buy their children candy (’because that junk food is bad for you’) but then rent or buy them Hot Tub Time Machine because, evidently, their minds don’t matter, is impossible. I’m not opposed to seeing Jesus there or meeting God or creating holy space, but, to be sure, it requires some imagination. I do not know if I have that sort of intestinal fortitude.

Then again, maybe it’s not so much about meeting God or recognizing him or receiving a calling from him in a burning widescreen high definition television playing Blue-Rays. Maybe it is simply about the very way I treat all those people just in case it is Jesus. “But Lord, when did we give you a cup of water or visit you in prison or give you a break on late fees?” (the implication being, of course, that when these things happened, Jesus went unrecognized.) Maybe it is the attitude that accompanies the service of the least and lowliest, the bawdiest, the raunchiest, the rudest, the crudest, and credit inhibited that matters. My co-worker said to me last night, after I was challenged to a fight, “What’s sad is that those people are allowed to breed.” I chuckled, politely, but inwardly I was cringing and my heart was broke.

Can it be that the very ground where we stand is somehow or other made holy just by our being there? Is that so much of a stretch? Maybe my problem is that when I go to work I refuse to take off my shoes because I’m convinced in advance that there is no way God could make such a place holy or would even declare it holy. Maybe the problem is that I refuse to see that place as a place where God might show up at any given moment. Maybe I am so intent on God not being in that place that I have refused to invite him in, or see him already there, or practice his presence because he loves all those that ’shouldn’t breed’. Maybe I’d rather have something to complain about than something to praise him for.

I don’t know what sort of shoes Moses was wearing. Maybe he had on a nice soft pair of Nike’s or some really comfortable Wolverine’s. All I know is that something happened after he arrived on the scene that day. Or maybe it had happened a week prior when Moses walked his sheep through that place. Whatever it was that happened, God told Moses to take off his shoes because the place where he was standing was sacred ground. And I think Moses had something to do with that.

When I go to work this evening to sell Starburst and Peanut Butter Whoppers and Coca-Cola and Jennifer’s Body, I’m going to take off my shoes for a while. I’m going to go ahead and take the chance that there might be holy space at my job. Could be that I spend way too much time waiting for God to show up when, in fact, God is already there and he is waiting on me to show up, take off my shoes, and let Him speak.

  • Share/Bookmark

Brotherly loveA study was recently published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which concluded that individuals who display consistently unselfish behavior are often rejected by peer groups for exhibiting this behavior.  The basic conclusion was that the individual was seen as a “rule-breaker” (breaking from society’s norms), someone who made others in the peer group “look bad”, someone who made them feel uncomfortable (feeling like they “owed” the do-gooder something in return), or as someone with ulterior motives.

This might seem surprising or counter-intuitive, but consider:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

Being Hated for the Right Reasons

So you see, Jesus, in the same conversation in which he gives the command that we should love each other, his next observation is that the world will hate us as a result, if we are acting like him.

Doing the right thing the wrong wayWe should not be surprised that we’re disliked by the world (and by other Christians) if we act like asses by showing up and preaching hate at gay pride parades, wielding our bullhorns to assault Spring Break partiers, or protesting at funerals of soldiers. The hate and dislike of our sanctimonious, ego-edifying grandstanding is rather understandable, and credits righteousness to nobody, ourselves included.

However, if we act like Christ and unselfishly serve, we should also not be surprised that the world will distrust our motives and reject us as ‘rule-breakers’. If we act consistently, though, Christ will be lifted up so that others will see him in the works he has given us to do.

  • Share/Bookmark

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn or deserve it.”

–Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, 25

  • Share/Bookmark

Tags: , , ,

I laugh every time I watch that commercial.  In the words of Homer J. Simpson, “It’s funny, because it’s true.”  This situation speaks to our culture’s obsession with outward appearance.  A few weeks ago I had my wife shave off all my hair.  I like a short haircut anyway, my hair is thinning, it’s really hot out, and I’m sure I could find more reasons.  But mostly I just wanted to do it for the fun of it.  It’s hair.  It will grow back.  I knew people would comment, but I ended up discovering something disturbing the following few Sundays.

People care more about outward appearances than they do about other people.

People were free with jokes, criticisms, funny looks, etc., about my hair.  ”Did your head get caught in a lawnmower? Har, har.”  We do that with all sorts of outward appearances.  We’ll speak out about the most unimportant things:  Pants a little too short?  Where’s the flood?  Favorite sports team in last place?  I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that hat.  A little under the weather?  You look terrible.  Zit, bruise, or busted lip?  What happened to your face?  All said with a look of disgust and/or ridicule.

My thoughts on this subject were brought back to mind recently when one of our Jr. High students came to church with her new glasses.  As she was leaving the auditorium after the service, I complimented her on the new frames.  Her mother followed up behind her and said to me, “You actually like her glasses?  Why?  I think their ugly.”

I wish I had answered that I liked them because her daughter liked them.  That answer might have challenged her in how she looked at such things.  But instead I made a joke that she didn’t like them because she was old.  Tit-for-tat I suppose.  I was really kind of shocked that her mom had such a negative attitude toward something so innocuous.

We feel the need to speak out against hairstyles, clothing choices, etc. but when it comes to those things that really matter: spiritual health, attitudes of the heart, actions and words toward others, we keep our mouths shut.  The church is called to be a community that encourages, builds up, trains, teaches, feeds, shares with, corrects, prays for, confesses to, forgives and loves each other.  We seem to be content with complaining, gossiping, cajoling, ridiculing, laughing at, questioning, deriding, and otherwise beating each other up relationally.

I don’t care what anybody thinks about my hair, my identity is not found in my outward appearance.  And I of all people can joke around with somebody.  But I’ve also learned the inherent problems with doing that.  Such interaction, especially in a void of positive Christian fellowship and discipleship, leads to shallow people living superficial lives making inconsequential judgments.  Our Christian community is what we make of it.  Think deeper.  Speak less.  Challenge each other.  Follow Jesus.

  • Share/Bookmark
YouTube Preview Image

H/T: Jerry

  • Share/Bookmark

Over the past 20+ years, I have been blessed with a number of opportunities to lead/accompany worship in song – mostly (but not always) from behind a keyboard of some sort.  During that time, I’ve born witness to (and scars from) numerous “worship wars” dealing with style (primarily) and substance (on occasion).

Putting together a worshipful and effective musical worship service is not as simple as grabbing some songs from a hymnal/binder/web-page and running with it.  Lyrical content, style, instrumentation, flow and theme are some of the key elements that have to be considered in effectively leading corporate worship.

It is in this vein that I’m thinking about starting a new (likely infrequent) series: “Worship Music in Review”.  (If it flops, #1 might be the only edition.)

For this edition, I’d like to look at a currently popular song from Passion 2010, which is being incorporated into some churches’ worship services, Chris Tomlin’s “Our God”.  Before we go on, watch the embedded video (if you don’t know the song) and read the lyrics.

YouTube Preview Image

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Share/Bookmark