Snow and Ice (Wait, Rain… Just Rain) Why Are You So Afraid?

SnowThe kids are out of school again because maybe, possibly, we are not even sure, there was the threat of a winter storm. We did have some very nice, big snowflakes that fell which gave us hope that our responses to the threat (we cancelled church stuff on Wednesday evening) would be justified. Well, what we are left with across this part of Atlanta is another gray, wet, dreary winter day. Unless you live in Gwinnett County, which ALWAYS has school. Sorry, needed to vent from my HS days when we never got days off. Continue reading “Snow and Ice (Wait, Rain… Just Rain) Why Are You So Afraid?”

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs (or my e-note to SSCC for This Week

SignsI hope this finds you doing well and having a good week. As I write this, a fairly significant snow/ice event may be on its way to us. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that it either will or will not happen. In all seriousness, I hope you are able to stay safe and warm. If you have elderly neighbors, check on them and make sure they are okay and have everything they need. We also lift up in prayer those experiencing homelessness Continue reading “Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs (or my e-note to SSCC for This Week”

Are You in Love with Your Model or Your Mission?

Kodal FilmI am probably on more church leadership email lists that I really need or want to be on, but most every article I receive has some nugget of wisdom I can file away and use some time. This morning I read one such article, which was around predictions about church attendance patterns. We know the general narrative: people attend less often today, even those considered regular church attenders. This theme has been pointed out in great detail by many, with nary a solution in sight.

Continue reading “Are You in Love with Your Model or Your Mission?”

Random Oscar Thoughts

I am a great fan of movies and they often influence my preaching and other communication.Jesus used the tools and medium available to him in order to communicate with his followers.  Mary Michael has come to expect that she has to watch the Oscars with me so with can have running commentary. She also likes the people watching, so its a win-win.

Since having children, I feel better equipped to comment on the animated category than I do Best Picture. Our family has seen Big Hero 6 and it’s a wonderful film that deals with identity, moving forward through grief, and the possibilities life holds when we think outside of the box. I was glad to see it win Best Animated Movie.

A couple of weeks ago my friends Cory, Ryan, and I saw Birdman while on retreat outside of Asheville. There were 4 or 5 moments in the film when we looked at one another and said “that will preach.” In fact, several of those moments will probably make it into sermons over the next six months or so. I thought Birdman was a story of redemption, grace, and transformation with a little bit of the anti-wisdom tradition of Ecclesiastes thrown in for good measure. It’s a story of a hail mary attempt at redemption and contentment. The acting in the film is fantastic (what do you expect, its great actors playing actors). I know some don’t like it, but I would recommend seeing it.

My last thought centers on social media and the Oscars. Inevitably people, including friends, will complain about the liberal Hollywood agenda, etc. It makes me wonder when concepts such as equal pay for women, civil rights for all people, etc. became “liberal” items. As a person of faith, these seem to me to be biblical concepts. We in the church need to consider what we are willing to proclaim when the Oscars proclaim Gospel concepts in a bolder way than the church. You can’t tell me that the performance of Glory wasn’t as powerful or more powerful than any worship service held this past weekend. I think a prophetic voice, no matter what the stage or medium, is a good thing as we work to create the world that God desires.

Have a great week friends!

Turn (A Nicer Way of Saying Repent)

I have been thinking a lot about turning this week, since that is Sunday’s sermon topic. I believe the typical person who attends a mainline Protestant church could probably use a little more repentance in their lives. That is the power of the ashes on our foreheads from Ash Wednesday, a reminder that we need to turn towards God. The word repent has two meanings in the language of the Bible to turn towards God and to go beyond one’s mind. We are always turning one way or another either away from God or towards God. We are also either always settling for conventional wisdom or willing to see a bit further, to see what God might have in mind for us.

I may be a bit naive, but I suspect most of what ails the church today could be renewed if we are willing to go beyond our current ways of thinking and think outside of the box. We seem to have lost the idea that Jesus was an innovator and that Jesus was willing to use whatever medium or method he had at this disposal to get the message heard. Jesus was Steve Jobs before there was a Steve Jobs! There are things that we hold to that we believe to be important that simply aren’t as important to God. As followers of Jesus, should something be important to us that isn’t important to God? This is an important question to consider. What do you need to turn away from so that you may turn towards true life? If we are only willing to look at what we can see, then God’s vision for us will never be fulfilled. But, if we are willing to look just a bit further, to see with courageous vision, I think we will like the view.

May you consider where you are turning today

May you have the courage to expand your mind, heart, and spirit so that you may see as God sees

First Thursday

I have a pretty good internal sense of direction. I typically only go to GPS or Google maps when I absolutely have to do so and I always go kicking and screaming. Several years ago, while leading a mission group in Nashville, we decided to go to this well known ice cream shop in town for an evening treat. I was almost positive that I knew where it was and that we could walk there from where we were staying. An hour and 4 miles later, it turned out that I was wrong on both accounts. The shop was not where I thought it was located nor could we walk there. You can imagine how well this went over with a tired group of missionaries who had spent the entire day in 95 degree heat working on a house.

It’s a good reminder that if we don’t know where we are going we will never get there. It seems at time to almost be an epidemic in that we seem to wander around aimlessly with no sense of purpose or destination. We try to live out God’s calling with little or no attention paid to where God is actually calling us. We need periods such as Lent that call us to actually try and figure out where we are supposed to be going. No matter how many good intentions there are on our path, we have to have a strong sense of where we are going. To walk a path with no destination leaves one weary and unfulfilled. It’s when we walk a path with purpose towards God’s calling upon us that we find life, abundant life.

Ash Wednesday

This is the one day a year where you will hear the random question “What are you giving up?” Except, today it’s not random. Today is the day when we come face to face with what keeps us from being the person God created us to be. We so long to live an authentic life that we will do anything, anything to find some sense of authenticity. So much so, we will quit drinking coffee, give up chocolate, get off the soda, whatever it may be. This is serious business of the soul. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ most well know sermon, he told those gathered to not role play in front of God. Don’t spend your time playing the person you think others want you to be. It will drain your soul, suck the very life God gave you right out of you. I love this thought from Joseph Campbell, a spiritual writer, when he says “the spiritual imperative to be ourselves is so strong that the soul rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else’s.”

Perhaps the best thing we can do for ourselves and for God over the next 40 days is to discern from a spiritual place what it means to be us. Jesus warned us about the consequences of trying to be someone other than who God created us to be. May you find the fullness and richness of life that comes with living an authentic life. May the Ashes of today serve as a reminder that we have but one life to live and that every day matters.