Saturday, March 29, 2008
I don't read very cool books. I'm not exactly sure what cool books are, but I'm positive the ones I read in my free time aren't. For one, they usually have horses with flowing manes on the cover. If I'm in public I usually open it from the back to the front so that people near me can't see what I'm reading. And they're all about knights and princes and quests and journeys. And I'm a dork.
But recently, I read a line in one that kind of shaped how I think of one of the most important ideas in the Bible. I'm talking about the concept that we are called to be the temple. It's not the easiest idea to understand. That the God who used to kill people if they touched the ark is now eager to set up his residence inside me, is kind of mind blowing. But for most of my life, I've looked at that idea as just a poetic description and not really seen the power in it. Until I read a line in a new book.
In the book, a group of rangers is preparing to strike out past their realm to explore the mountains in search of a missing group of friends. Before they leave, all of the men except one are visiting their temple before they venture out into the wild places. A character named Jon watches them leave and then decides not to go to their temple because, "his own gods kept their temples in the wild places."
What struck me about that silly line is that I am the wild places. I am the wilderness. The place where the dark and stormy past collides with the brilliance of God's grace. I am broken and beaten, but slowly coming back to life. My walls are torn down, my attic infested with the rats of regrets. And yet I am the temple God chooses to keep. The place he desires to be more than any other place in the universe.
My rooms inside are dim, there are spider webs and years of dust covering this temple of mine and yet, God calls this home. My sanctuary is cluttered with overturned pews, the wall hangings torn and dirty. Snakes and wild animals still roaming the hall. But there is a new master home. Perhaps the temple is not what it should be, but there is someone new on the throne. The wind that rips through the holes in my ceiling is different. There is a freshness starting to sweep away the stagnant air that has long held reign.
Until I was able to imagine myself as God's temple, the idea didn't make sense to me. But now that I see my life as his home, my heart as his residence, well that changes everything.
I am the wild places. You are the wild places. We are the wild places.
Waiting on God is one of the biggest challenges we face I think. When there is something we believe we're supposed to do, but are not certain, we often push pause. We slow down and stop. We pray and seek counsel and allow the days on the calendar to stack up on top of each other.
I think this can be good. I am too impulsive. I jump into things too quickly sometimes and try to force God's hand. But at the same time, sometimes I miss God's call out of fear. I resist his adventure for concern I will mess it up. I don't get to take part in the story because I refuse to jump onto the page.
Paul's approach to this in Galatians is pretty interesting. Here is how he describes his ministry in Chapter 1: 15-17
But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
I really like that Paul says specifically, "I did not consult any man." He didn't seek counsel or seek out answers slowly. With the word of God at his back, he pressed on quickly and "went immediately."
Granted, Paul's experience on the road to Damascus was extraordinary and maybe your word from God feels small and quiet. And maybe you need counsel right now more than you need anything else. But it could be that instead of waiting or consulting or being still, God has put something burning on your heart. And like Paul and thousands before him, you're not supposed to push the snooze button, you're just supposed to go.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
A few years ago someone approached me with an opportunity to make thousands of dollars. It was easy. It was simple. It was highly illegal.
The reason they approached me was that they, like anyone else in my world, knew that I didn't have high morals. They would not have labeled me Christian or even "honest" at the time. So they knew that they were not running a risk by trying to engage me in a scheme. They were simply sharing a shady idea between two shady people.
Fast forward to present day. A new woman at work recently scheduled a meeting with me. I sat down inside the conference room and asked her what was going on. Her response?
"Rumors say that you're a christian. I'm a christian too and since I'm new I wanted to meet you."
That might happen to you all the time. Your good name might be a neon beacon to all those around you, but sadly enough, that was the first time I have ever experienced something like that. Sure, I've had people say, "rumors say you're a cocky jerk" or "rumors say you're difficult to work with." But not until I was 32 did the rumors take on a positive feel.
I thought about this reality while reading Galations last night. In Chapter 1 Paul gives us his tagline, his version of Nike's "Just Do It" or GE's "We bring good things to life." This is the summation of his ministry. This in some ways is the very core of his life concentrated in a single sentence. This is who the rumors said Paul was:
"The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."
I love the simplicity and power and beauty of that. I love that the sin of his former life amplifies the truth of his new life. Do you see that? That sentence is like a sin sandwich. It starts with him persecuting and ends with him trying to destroy. What he used to do is critical in creating a powerful context for what he is currently doing. Can you begin to feel what that means for the sin in your past? I love the hope that offers you and me.
You see, we all have sentences like that. Regardless of whether we are deliberate and do our best to write what people will say about us through our actions or simply float through life without giving it a second thought, we are all tagged with sentences like that.
My question to you is, what does your sentence say right now? If I asked you to write your "Just do it," the idea that summarized your entire life, what would you write? What are the people that know you saying about you?
I thought for a minute and I know what I would like people to say about me:
"Having returned from the dead, Jon cannot help but shout the joy of life."
I don't live everyday that way. It's a work in progress, but that's where I am headed. That is how I balance my time and make my decisions. I intentionally choose things that will bring me closer to that reality and deny things that will take me further from it. I succeed at this sometimes, I fail as this sometimes. But I am working on it.
What are you working on?
What do the rumors about you say?
Saturday, March 22, 2008
A few years ago I was asked to create a press release for a CEO of a company. My client wanted me to write something extolling how dedicated to being honest about sales results this particular CEO was. The only problem was that she wasn't.
She was known for being a bit blurry when it came to the reality of the sales the company was generating. The press, the stockholders, the employees, everyone that knew this lady was going to see right through my press release and instantly think, "No way am I listening to this lady. I know her past."
What I wanted to do, which was eventually rejected, was come out with the truth. I wanted to disarm the readers by opening up with a statement that said, "In the past, numbers have not been my greatest strength." If I said that, all the readers would have to pause before throwing a rock at us. In essence I would have removed the biggest objective they had to reading the rest of the press release.
The same thing happens with Christianity.
We do some things really well and we do some things less than really well. But when we pretend we're perfect, people see right through it and won't believe anything else we say. And that's the point of this project. I want to be honest and upfront and hopefully a little funny about the issues the church and Christians struggle with sometimes. I want to say, "Whoa, whoa, please don't judge me or God by Christian radio." I want to admit the times we've dropped the ball on issues or ideas that people called to love their neighbor should have knocked out of the park. I want to engage all my friends that aren't Christians that don't go to church in an honest, open conversation. I want to blow up misconceptions and preconceptions about what it means to be a Christian.
That's why I created, www.stuffchristianslike.net
The good thing is that doing something simple and small like this won't take away from my other two sites. The entries on the new one are about 100 words each and more importantly I hopefully won't be writing them all. For the first time in my blogging experiment, I want to open up the posts to other people. Got an idea about "Stuff Christians Like?" Email me or post a comment. If it fits the theme of the site I'll put it up and give you all the credit. And make no mistake, I took this concept directly from a wildly popular secular site that uses the same approach. Read "#1. Putting a God Spin on Popular Secular Ideas" to see what I'm talking about.
Or, read one of these things that I think are Stuff Christians Like:
#8. Singing "Friends are Friends" forever at the end of church events.
#5. Bootleg cookies.
#3. Reading "love is patient" at your wedding.
p.s. lots of folks are doing similar sites right now in response to the site that spawned this idea. Some might be worth checking out too.
Friday, March 21, 2008
1. I hate when commercials for television shows tell me, "this is the episode you can't afford to miss ." Is that ever true? I've never been at work and heard someone talking about a show and thought to myself, "Dang, that was the episode I couldn't afford to miss." Unless they make a show called "How and when Jon Acuff will die," I can afford to miss any program.
2. The squirrels in the attic, who I just chased 5 minutes ago, are not getting fooled by the trap I put up there. So I'd like to put it in our yard every night and just see what kind of "varmints" we can catch. I told my wife that's what they call "country television." If you live so far out in the country you can't get cable then trapping animals is your entertainment. She, much like the squirrels, did not fall for it.
3. Speaking of television, have you ever seen the show, "International House Hunters?" It's one of those "hate your life" programs. While you sit at home with animals scurrying over your bedroom, a couple of rich people decide which vacation villa on the coast of Portugal to buy. If life feels too good right now, turn on that show and you'll be bummed out anew.
4. Is it me, or did pomegranates kind of come out nowhere? I feel like everywhere I look there's some product being infused with pomegranate. In addition to juice, there are lip balms, jelly beans, frozen yogurt and countless other products. Is it possible there is a secret fruit council thrusting odd fruits on us in some weird plot? Is it possible I should have better things to think about? (Want to know what the next "pomegranate" is going to be? Dragonfruit. Trust me on this one.)
5. Tonight while driving home listening to the radio show "Delilah" I heard some woman saying she had the best man in the world. (The only reason I had that horribly cheesy show on while driving alone is that I'm not cool.) Part of the caller's proof that her man is really great is that he cuts up old scarves and gives them to squirrels so that they can use the pieces for their nests to stay warm in the winter. Ladies, if doing that is one of the criteria for being "the best man in the world," then please know I will never own that title.
6. I think one of the reasons we get love so wrong is that we overuse the word. The other day I saw a billboard that said, "Finally, natural gas prices you can love!" Have you ever thought to yourself, "I like my water prices, but I LOVE my natural gas prices?" No, and you never will. So let's stop saying "love" so much and instead say "like." Let's bring like back.
7. When you're really bored, very little will change that. Case in point, the other day we took our 4 year old and 2 year old to the circus. They have about a 45 minute attention span. By minute 50, my oldest daughter was like, "11 rare white tigers dancing and jumping through hoops? Ugh, daddy can we go home?"
8. I really don't want to raise spoiled kids, but the very first thing my two year old said to me when the Veggies Tale movie started in the theater was, "Not this veggies dad." She was pretty sure she had the right to dictate what the other 100 people in the theater saw and that her dad had the power to make it happen.
9. The other night on American Idol, which I was watching because Delilah wasn't on, Ryan Seacrest announced all the special guests they'll have this season. In addition to Dolly Parton and Neil Diamond they're inviting Mariah Carey on the show. He read their names out loud and then said, all of these people are not just great performers, they are great songwriters. I googled some of her lyrics tonight and I promise you this is a direct cut and paste. I can't wait to hear her explain the emotion that helped create this musical tapestry:
Come on, come on
Nah nah nah nah nah nah
Nah nah nah nah nah nah
Nah nah nah nah nah [Repeat twice]
10. How come Scientology gets Will Smith and we get Stephen Baldwin? No offense to Stephen Baldwin and although Will Smith's people are trying to keep it quiet about Smith's alleged love of Tom Cruise's religion, I just don't think it's fair. (Note, no official word on Smith, that's just what people in the streets are saying. Not my street cause it's a cul-de-sac but other streets) What famous person do you wish was a Christian? I'd like to see Kid Rock. Not that I love him, but I'd like to see him bring some of the grit and grime the disciples had back to our faith. But seriously, post what celebrity you think we should recruit.
11.When a girl tells me, "we're pregnant," in my head I think, "that's great, kids are awesome." When a guy tells me "we're pregnant," in my head I think, "You're wife's pregnant, not you. I'm sorry but we can no longer be friends."
So my new site was flagged by the robots that patrol google as being a fake site. I assured them that it was real, actually that it was the real deal, but it might take a full week to get back up.
In the meantime, tonight I'm writing something on prodigal jon called "I am the wild places."
Thursday, March 20, 2008
New stuff on 97secondswithgod.com.
Check it out if you get a chance.
So, I've got a new site I'm going to launch that's different from either of my other sites and bound to increase the number of people that hate me, which at current count is two.
Before I tell the 66 countries reading this site what the name of the new one is I want to share it with a few people. (by the way, cool to see Ireland checking in and Argentina)
If you're interested, shoot me an email at email@example.com and I will give you the link for a sneak preview.
Thanks for reading.
Couples that are dating often have what they call a "define the relationship" conversation. If you've never experienced this, a DTR as it were, is when you discuss where the relationship is going. Are we casually dating? Is this a serious relationship? Are we boyfriend and girlfriend? Would you use the word "exclusive" to describe us? It's a fairly exhausting exercise that hopefully results in you having a clear definition of your relationship.
A friend of mine had one of those a few years ago and I can still remember his response to his girlfriend when she pressed him for a more detailed definition of where they were headed:
"Boyfriend, girlfriend, exclusive, those are just words, what do they even really mean?"
That's an admittedly discouraging response, but it does reveal a truth. On some level, we all live our lives safe in the comfort of flexible definitions. We spurn the concept of having a concrete definition for something and instead twist and pull the definitions that guide us until they are malleable and easily manipulated.
Case in point, a friend recently asked me if what he had looked at would be considered pornography. What he was asking was, "did I do something wrong?" And he wanted the definition of the word pornography to determine that for him.
That was an honest question, but I don't think you can define a word without really knowing it's context. That's why in spelling competitions the contestants always ask for origin and to hear the word they are trying to spell in a sentence. They need context.
For this friend, the context of pornography drastically altered the definition he needed to use in his own life. See for him, that word had dominated most of his life. It had consumed decades in its wide, broken-toothed mouth. So while the world might think that word only means materials that are rated XXX, for him, that word is a lot bigger. It means not watching some reality television shows. It means not looking at gossip magazines or doing a whole host of things that on the surface have very little to do with pornography. And he's not alone. I have friends that can't get money out of an ATM because any time they have cash that their support network of friends doesn't know about, they buy alcohol.
For them, just the act of getting money secretly out of an ATM is part of "acting out." They've studied themselves to know that part of their ritual when it comes to getting black out drunk is getting cash. So their definition of being safe had to stretch and grow to include things that most people would think are pretty normal and ordinary.
My question to you today is simply this: What definitions are you actively shaping and what definitions are letting shape your life?
Have you stretched the definition of love so that you can say, "I know the bible is against that, but we're in love so it's OK."
Is your definition of sin the only thing that helps you sleep at night because, "It's not so bad what I did, I mean I didn't _____, that's really what it means to sin."
Are you waiting to do something important, because you've said, "I'll follow my dreams in the future" and you've defined the future as a long way away?
I ask this, not because I know the answer to the problem of definitions. I ask because ultimately, on some level, I think the things you define end up defining you.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
When I publish a book and become a Christian Thousandaire I will have a tech guy named Smithfield who will handle all my computer silliness. Until then, it's on me. So if you have any issues getting today's audio over there on the right, which is the conclusion of last week's clip, I have a link for you. Click here if the link on the right doesn't work.
Quick Disclaimer: In the beginning of the clip, an older man in the audience says something really loudly to a friend, which forces me to make fun of the elderly.
And don't miss the conclusion of SWORD, let's dance, which is right below this.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
A few weeks ago I ran a half marathon. Well, I ran 10.5 miles and then walked 1 and then ran the last 1.6. All in all it was 13.1 miles of borderline torture.
As I was crossing the finish line, the second place marathon runner was finishing. He looked like he had just woken up from a nap. He was relaxed, calm and really not that sweaty. And he had just run 26.2 miles in the time it took me to run 13.1.
I didn't train before the race. I realized after it was over that I had only run about 6 times in 2008 by the time the race came around. I was supposed to train for maybe 8 weeks but felt like I could probably gut it out.
I mention this story because when I write about how the D in my SWORD* concept is Dance, I realize that it's going to be easy to say, "Ugh, exercise, I hate running." Or maybe, "The gym is just full of people that are trying to hook up." Or "I don't have the money or time to workout."
And those are all pretty good excuses. It used to kill me when I'd see girls putting on makeup for the gym or guys texting on the treadmill. And gyms can be expensive and running, sucks. Hard.
But the biggest excuse to justify not working out, the one that most of us secretly believe, is that God doesn't have much to do with our bodies.
Sure, he doesn't want us doing drugs or cutting ourselves or things like that, but he can't be interested in my diet or how often I push myself physically. He's not like that, right?
I don't know. I'm not so sure anymore. What if we took the bible the wrong way? What if, all along we believed it was meant for our soul, but it's really meant for our life? That is, the soul was part of it, but it's bigger and broader than that. Maybe it's full of wisdom for our mental life, our emotional life and even, our physical life? What if the bible was about every inch of your life?
It's an interesting thing to think about and as I did, it was easy to find examples of God's physical focus within the pages of the bible:
1. David trains for Goliath.
When Saul doubts that David can defeat Goliath, here's how David responds:
I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine."
It was like he told Saul, "Come on, I can run this half marathon. I used to run 20 miles all the time when I was a kid."
And note, even though ultimately this scene is about trusting in the God almighty, the example David gives is definitely more in the physical realm than the spiritual realm. He doesn't say, "It's cool, when I was younger I prayed a ton and should be able to do this." No, instead he says, "I beat up bears, I can take this dude."
2. Daniel will kick Jared's butt.
I'm kind of done with that Jared guy from Subway. I've just had enough Jared for the rest of my life. But long before he was the face of healthy living, Daniel was the man on the billboards. Here's what he says to one of his master's servants when he's living in captivity and doesn't want to eat the food served him:
"Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
On the surface that's a cool story and if I was a vegetarian I would probably use those verses to be kind of a jerk about why God loves people that eat vegetables. But it only gets cooler, because here is the next verse, God's response:
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.Was God OK with Daniel putting some focus on what he put into his body? Did he tell Daniel, "Whoa there broccoli guy, I care only about the soul." No, he gifts them knowledge and understanding.
3. Harder, better, faster, stronger.
Look through some of the key sections of the bible and show me someone that does something amazing for God that didn't involve them using their bodies in some fashion. Jonathan had to do some mountain climbing against the Philistines before God rocked his world. David used a sling to strike his enemy down. Joshua and his crew walked for days before God knocked the walls down. Several of the disciples were fisherman with callused hands and the kind of forearms people that don't work in cubicles have. Paul compared faith to a race. The Exodus, you can go on and on.
I guess my point, is that there was never a "bed disciple." Someone that stayed home and didn't do anything physical. You never hear about "Bill, the lazy disciple." And one of the gifts Christ kept giving people was the use of their bodies. When he healed people he might have been aiming for their heart, but they also got the gift of their legs back and their arms back and their bodies back.
Maybe he wants to give you yours back today. Maybe in addition to your soul, he cares about your body. Maybe a few minutes a day is going to change the way you live and unlock some things that are hidden. Maybe it's easier than you think and even more important, holier than you think.
This post goes well with:
1. The day I took back the day.
2. The day of the sword. Part 1
3. A tale of convicts and candy. SWORD - Part 2
4. Ugh. Christian Radio. SWORD - Part 3
5. I got fired from the carnival. SWORD - Part 4
6. Karoshi will not have me. SWORD - Part 5
*SWORD is my way to focus on a few things that I want to do every day: Serve, Worship, Order, Rest and Dance. I try to do each one at least 12 minutes a day, for a solid hour of focused living.
Monday, March 17, 2008
A few months ago I went online to find a coupon for my oil change. While on the Texaco site I saw that they offered a delightful coloring book for children. The title was "Lubie and the Lovable Looney Lubettes." I am not making this up.
In the online coloring book, a friendly gang of oil goes camping with a family. The whole thing was ridiculous, but my favorite scene was when the oil went for a canoe ride. I love the oil that is snorkeling. He looks so smug and cocky. And the family can't get in the water because, well there's oil in the lake. But perhaps the funniest part is how mad the eagle looks in the upper left corner. It's hard to see in this image, but I promise you he's really angry at that oil.
This, is such a perfect example of trying to make the best out of a bad situation. It's been a rough year for oil. Gas prices are through the roof, the war has raised lots of tough questions and going green is super popular. So some wily copywriter or graphic designer convinced Texaco that it would be good to tell kids how cuddly and fun oil is. They are sugarcoating a bad situation with the hope that if they pretend everything is alright, then it will magically become alright.
Sometimes I think it's easy to fall into a similar trap with our faith. When faced with difficult situations we feel like admitting distress is going to be seen as failure by other people. So instead of being honest and admitting something hurts, we pretend everything is OK. We become plastic fantastics.
We smile and shine and use the Christian F word when people ask us questions:
"How's my marriage? Fine."
"How's my job? Fine."
"How's my family? Fine."
I'm not sure why this happens. It might be that secretly, on some levels, even really tiny ones we feel that God loves good people. Or maybe he just loves them more. So when good things happen we think that tells people that we're being good and God is just responding to that goodness. And when bad things happen it must mean we're doing something bad and God is just paying that back.
So we hide behind words like "fine" and "OK," but that's not what the Bible says. There are a million verses about this, but my favorite is probably Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
That's enough for me. If you want comfort, you have to admit you've been hurt. If you want comfort, you have to mourn. If you want comfort you have to retire the word fine and fake.
So let's not make oil go camping or sugarcoat our problems.
Let's make the worst of it.
This post goes well with:
1. Be sick.
Monday Night - Let's make the worst of it.
Tuesday - The rumors about me.
Wednesday - Audio message, part 2.
Thursday - Dance, last part of SWORD
Friday - 11 Random Things
Saturday - We are blind & a Record Review
Sunday - Giving props to memories.
Thanks for reading.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
squirrels in my attic, a hole in my bedroom and God.
I must warn you, this story contains just about all the key components of a good story:
a weapon from Kenya
and a discount haircut
But that might not be enough for you, so here is where I am headed:
"You can't fix you with you."
That is the going to be the conclusion of this piece, the moral of the story so to speak. So if you've got a busy Saturday planned and can't read the whole thing, there it is.
But if you want to hear what happened last night at about midnight at my house, sit back, relax and be glad you're not married to me.
We have squirrels in our attic. This is worse than having birds in your attic but better than having say cobras in your attic. I saw one the other night when I went up there and of all his character traits, it was his arrogance that bothered me most. When I shined the flashlight on him he just kind of looked at me like, "what are you doing in my attic?" There was no fear, no trembling little tail or cute animal anxiety. It was like I was interrupting a teenager trying to text message his friends. After a few seconds he crawled into the insulation and disappeared.
Our friend Todd came and nailed the hole in our roof shut at a point in the day we believed the squirrels were out running some errands. Here, by the way, are two sentences you never want to hear from a handyman that is standing on your roof:
1. "Jon, I don't know why I'm able to stick my foot all the way through this hole."
2. "Your roof is just like wet cardboard up here."
We're getting that fixed soon. That's what happens when you become an adult, you have to spend your money on adult things. For instance, last Christmas our in-laws gave us a dryer. It's a nice dryer I'm sure, but those are the kind of no fun, all seriousness kind of things you spend your money on as an adult. I digress.
Apparently we have lazy squirrels because instead of being outside gathering nuts when we nailed the hole shut, they were inside our attic. Which means that for the last five days, they've been locked up in there without any water. I'm sure they stored some food but I have to believe that at this point they're getting a little desperate. Which is why last night we could hear them frantically trying to chew and claw their way through the wood in our roof.
That's why, on what would otherwise have been a sleepy Friday night, I decided to invite my two friends, Roscoe and Hucklebuck over to help me catch the squirrels. Those are not their real names but given the events to follow I felt it was wise to subtly disguise their true identities.
Things started out well. Roscoe is a missionary kid and was thrilled that I had a Masai warrior club from Kenya. He believed it would help us knock out the squirrels so that we could give them to a nice family out in the country with a farm so that they had plenty of land to run around on. You know the place, it's where your parents sent your dog to live after it bit the paperboy.
At around 11 at night we went into the thickly-insulated attic searching for the squirrels. They must have gone ninja quiet because for 20 minutes we didn't see or hear them. Suddenly though I saw a furry tail and an arrogant tail poking up over a clump of yellow insulation.
Roscoe dove in between the boards supporting the roof and began to swing the club. The squirrel got away prompting Roscoe to declare, "We have to sweep this entire area, cell by cell." I asked, "what's a cell?" He responded, "These little blocks of insulation between the boards. Lets call them 'cells,' it sounds better."
Meanwhile, Hucklebuck was anxiously texting a girl he wishes was in love with him. She's a cool girl with cool tattoos and one of those haircuts that looks bad on 99.99% of people but looks cool on her. She loves God, but not Hucklebuck. Suddenly I heard a loud ripping sound and Hucklebuck exclaimed, "Oh no." I looked down and could see into my bedroom.
As I did not previously remember being able to see directly into the attic from my bedroom I realized something was amiss. Hucklebuck's leg had slipped through. In a moment of distraction, brought on in part by an unrequited love, he had stepped right through my bedroom ceiling.
My wife did not see the humor in the moment.
We left the attic quickly, quietly announcing the squirrel as the champion of the evening. Well played squirrel, well played indeed. And downstairs in the kitchen, my frustrated wife stood against the sink with her arms crossed. I apologized and told her I would get my haircut.
At last once a year I think I should grow my hair long. I guess I believe it will make me look cool or smart or interesting or something. So for the last few months I have not gotten a haircut and my wife has started to barter with me. "Hey, don't you want some new Puma shoes? Why don't you get a haircut and buy those?" But I've held strong. Only last night, I knew I had to concede something. It's not like I could say, "Fine, I'll pay for it." Her money is my money is our money. So I did what I could and agreed to get a haircut. At Sports Clips, which costs about a nickel and feels good enough for my simple head. Meanwhile, my mom was in a tornado.
She was at a dental convention in downtown Atlanta, insert your own dentist joke here, and got caught up in a tornado. She was in the Omni Hotel and had to wait for hours inside while 130mph winds tore up the streets. I mention this because having her involved in the tornado helped take some of the heat off the "foot ceiling" incident which gave me enough time to realize where the whole night had gone wrong. Where, I had bought into one of the biggest lives of all time.
The lie is that, "I can fix me with me."
This is essentially the lie that tells you, you got into this mess, you get yourself out of it. You made your bed now sleep in it. It's the idea that when we cause a problem we are in charge of coming up with a solution.
And I don't think it's by nature a bad idea. I mean it's easy to see how the idea of being accountable and responsible for your actions and facing the consequences could get twisted into this idea. I believe all those things are good, but I believe we corrupt those ideas with our desire to be in control. To steer our own cars so to be. We really like that. That's part of the reason if you search "self help" on Amazon you'll get 151, 679 books. We dig the idea of fixing ourselves, of having a Rocky training in the snow with logs on our backs as we run alone and get in shape. We like to reinvent ourselves.
The challenge though, is that when we go it alone, when we try to fix ourselves with ourselves, we fail. Always. The problem is that we're standing too close to the painting of our lives to really see what it is. We need someone objective and honest that can really help us identify the things that need our attention and our effort. That's why when you get out of a bad relationship you'll say, "I didn't realize how bad things were" and your friends might say, "we did." They could see what was wrong. They weren't wrapped up tight in the middle of the drama and the emotion, they were off to the side, able to realistically look at what was going on.
And, we never do this in other areas of our life. You never get in a serious car accident and tell the ambulance driver, "Just take me home, not to the hospital. I got myself into this mess, I need to get myself out." No, you go to the doctor, you go to the emergency room. You ask for help from people that can help you.
That's what I did wrong with the squirrels. Our friend Todd is coming to do some work on our house and has animal traps. In about a week he could have caught the squirrels. But I couldn't wait. They had gotten in the attic because I let a small hole turn into a large hole. So I wanted to fix it. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to fix me with me.
But the biggest issue of all, is that ultimately, without God, I don't think long term change is possible. I don't mean you can't lose weight for the rest of your life or quit smoking or anything like that. Those are "this life" changes. I'm talking about eternal changes. Changes that extend further than just the 70 plus years the average American gets on the planet. I'm not talking about bandaging wounds, I'm talking about healing. I'm not talking about reinventing yourself, I'm talking about dying to self and living again as someone new and fresh and so clean.
I have a duct tape covered hole in the corner of my bedroom to remind me that I can't fix me with me. I hope it won't take a friend's foot and a gang of cocky squirrels to help you remember this simple truth.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Abs, Ashton and 9 other things
Every idea I have doesn't need to be stretched and pulled into a blog entry. Sometimes it can just be a handful of sentences, like these:
1. The other day my four-year old L.E. picked up a Donald Duck picture her two-year old sister McRae had colored. She said, “Dad, I’m not impressed with McRae’s work.” I asked her why and she replied, “It’s just scribbles.” I don’t think we have to learn to judge each other, I think it comes pretty naturally.
2. When someone tells you “FYI” it’s never a good thing. Honestly, have you ever heard someone say, “FYI, I’ve always loved you.” Or “FYI, you’re a great person.” No, it’s usually, “FYI, I’m not coming to your birthday party.”
3. If you don’t get sad when you’re at a burrito restaurant and you see the person making your burrito put a big tear in the shell ensuring that it will fall apart in your lap upon first bite, I’m not sure you’re an honest person.
4. The worst thing is when a celebrity gets Punk’d by Ashton Kutcher and they’re not important enough for him to show up to reveal the joke. He only goes to the big stars, but every celebrity looks around for him and when they figure out he’s just not coming, they realize they are C-list.
5. Why aren’t we still making fun of when Garth Brooks briefly tried to be a pop singer named “Chris Gaines?” Remember, he grew a little soul patch and combed his hair forward and we were supposed to forget he was Garth. That might be my favorite example that no matter how much money you make, if you’re not happy, you’ll still try to be someone else.
6. If you can watch this John Piper video and not want to immediately punch your copy of “Your Best Life Now” in the face, you must not like punching books.
7. When you forward someone a cool link or a youtube clip and they say, “I love that, I saw it about a week ago” what they are really saying is, “I don’t send you cool things even though you send them to me.”
8. Unless Jesus performs some kind of live show with white tigers in Las Vegas, I am fairly certain my wife will never set foot in that city.
9. When someone says, “Let me tell you about the dream I had last night,” what I hear is “this would be a good time to stop listening to me.”
10. “Fine is the Christian F word” is a sentence I wish I came up with.
11. At what point during the year that you have a Men’s Health magazine subscription are your abs good enough? Honestly, how many issues can I learn to blast, chisel, mold, shape, cut etc. my abs?
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I spoke recently at a church in Atlanta about what is perhaps the most important verse to me. You can listen to it by clicking over on the upper right. Follow that helpful arrow.
Please know that I say the following sentences:
1. You know, the Hebrew version of a pickup truck.
2. Alright dad, you slut!
3. I really feel like if I could just tap into Hezekiah I would have what I need to talk with that guy whose wife just left him.
Some of the ideas will sound familiar to a few posts I have written.
The Japanese have a term, Karoshi, to describe what happens when you work yourself to death. Translated literally, Karoshi means "death from overwork." The common causes are actually heart attack and stroke but the Japanese know that it's bigger than just a physical issue.
That's why in 1987 the Japanese Ministry of Labor started to publish statistics on the syndrome. Ten thousand deaths are attributed to Karoshi every year which is scary. The only thing scarier is that according to the book, The Power of Full Engagement, "America is the only country in the world in which employees work more hours per week than the Japanese."
We are killing ourselves with work. We don't use Blackberrys like PDAs, we use them like GUNs. We have broken the walls of the office down and the flood of work and emails and projects and jobs and meetings has drowned our families and friends and homes.
We are afraid to rest because we are terrified to be silent. For in the quiet moments, anything we are running from, anything that we have not dealt with has a chance to catch up. I used to call the shower my "compression chamber" because inside there was nothing to distract me. I had already read all the shampoo bottles. I knew which soap companies did animal testing. Who promised 20% more aloe. So it was quiet in the shower and unresolved things see quiet as a chance to yell.
But maybe more than that, being busy is now the ultimate status symbol. As Wayne Muller wrote in his book Sabbath,
"The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life."
I think he's right. If being important at work is how you gain your value, then not working is conversely how you lose your value. If being in motion is how you define yourself then when you are still, your life unravels.
So what do we do? Embrace Karoshi and the inevitability of a thin, busy, surface life?
We rest. We recover. We renew. We recharge. We rejuvenate. We retreat.
The reasons are simple. When you rest, your life has a chance to breathe. To grow and to gain. As The Power of Full Engagement details,
"Periods of recovery are likewise intrinsic to creativity and to intimate connection. Sounds become music in the spaces between notes, just as words are created by the spaces between letters. It is in the spaces between work that love, friendship, depth and dimension are nurtured. Without time for recovery, our lives become a blur of doing unbalanced by much opportunity for being."
But this is not a new idea. The authors of that book did not invent the need for rest, God did. Here is my favorite verse about the idea, one that I have written about often:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,"
That is a beautiful passage from Isaiah 30 and I believe God paired rest with repentance for a reason. He knew how difficult repentance is. He knew how it would drain us and stretch us and test us. So he paired it with the gentlest word of all, rest.
But God saw Karoshi coming. He knew what would happen, so Isaiah 30:15 does not have a happy ending. Here is the complete verse:
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it."
He knew. He knew. He knew.
And I am guilty of ignoring rest just like you, but I refuse to dance with Karoshi.
I am building small pockets of rest into my day. I am creating silent moments in the middle of a loud life. I am shutting off my computer and my phone and my iPod and my head for just a few minutes.
I am learning to rest.
p.s. I dare you to do two things today: Sit still and quiet for ten minutes and email this article to the busiest person you know.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
An angry, sweaty man with a surprisingly full mouth of teeth fired me from the carnival. My time as a "Carny" was admittedly short. It was a matter of hours. I never got the travel to another small town, never got to befriend the people that had trailers with showers which I was told was really the key to carny life. I never got to take tickets from happy kids about to throw up on the Spintacular Whiplash ride. I never got to eat cotton candy for three meals a day. The reason I got fired?
I incorrectly put together a ride.
As far as I can tell with the way I was yelled at, there is a certain pattern to proper ride construction. There is a rhythm to sliding the bolts together and the bars together and all the other parts that keep riders in the rides and carnival owners out of court.
The thing I learned that day as I walked away from the other people correctly putting the ride together is that there is a pattern to most things in life. It's the reason that they can "casually" throw rides up in a matter of minutes. The speed is not accidental. The moves are not wasted. The workers know what they are doing.
They know that somethings in life are about order.
That's the O in my SWORD concept. S was Serve and W was worship. Tonight though, let's look at Order.
The business world has long known about the power and importance of putting things in order. There are books and books and books written on the idea but one idea sticks out to me. Here it is:
What gets measured gets done.
Put another way, the things you keep track of are the things you will focus on and accomplish. The things you ignore will be well, ignored. And when you don't keep track of things, when you don't monitor them or measure them in some way, you're ignoring them.
One of the greatest lies in Christianity is the idea you should wait to do something until you "feel called by God." Wait. Wait. Wait. I'm not telling you to put your hands back on the steering wheel and take control of your life. What I am telling you is that all too often we wait until we are "inspired" to connect with God.
We say things like, "I just don't feel like having a quiet time." Or, "I just wish I wanted to spend time with God." Or "I'm not on fire anymore and I don't want to fake it. I don't want to just do it to do it you know? I want it to be real."
I want your relationship with God to be real too, but why would you give that much power to feelings? Feelings lie. The heart is deceitful above all things. Your emotions cannot be your compass.
I choose to love my wife each day. I don't wait until I feel moved to write, if I did I would never have anything other than a blank page. I rarely feel like skipping to work in the parking lot. But I make decisions that drive my actions, instead of hoping that my feelings will act the way I want them to.
But enough about carnivals and business ideas, what does the Bible have to say about ordering your life?
But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. 1 Corinthians 14:40
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
I love that one in Ephesians because it tells you how, what and why.
How: live carefully, not as unwise but as wise
What: make the most of every opportunity
Why: because the days are evil.
Tomorrow, the first thing I am going to do is focus on what my day is going to be like. Then I'm going to think my way through any possible challenges. Then I'm going to decide how I'll react to those situations so I won't be emotionally hijacked when they actually occur. (Someone else's phrase to describe what happens when the chemicals associated with emotion flood your brain and take over.)
I'm going to order my day. And then I'm going to do it all over again the next day and the day after that.
audio is a go
Last night I got a copy of the two speeches (talks? readings? word jamborees?) I recently gave.
I am hoping that my ninja fast, tall friend Ben will help me post them on my blog. But if you want a copy on a CD shoot me an email. A bunch of folks did last time I asked this but no one sent me their address.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And this photo is one of the top results I get when I do a google image search for "Jon Acuff." Narcissistic thing to do sure, but it's like looking into my future.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The lie that got the Governor of New York
The Governor of New York apologized today to his family and the public for actions he refused to discuss. Apparently, he's been accused of being involved in a high end prostitution ring.
At first glance, a politician doing something shady barely warrants a second glance. But Governor Spitzer was supposed to be different. He made his name fighting crime and corruption. He was usually the one accusing people of things like this. In fact, Time Magazine once named him "Crusader of the Year."
What happened to him? How did he fall?
He believed the boxing ring lie.
You see, sin is like a foe waiting for you in a boxing ring. Standing in the corner, it is large and intimidating, dark and disturbed, quietly pacing back and forth waiting for you to climb between the ropes. And when you do, it crushes you in about 3.7 seconds. But we're smart, we don't like getting crushed, so we don't go in the ring much anymore.
That's why when I usually hear the testimony of a man that has crashed and burned it contains the following sentence:
"I thought everything would change when I got married."
For some reason, we men believe that our lust problems will be defeated by marriage. We believe that our struggles will be knocked out by our wives. So what do we do? We ask them to crawl inside the ring and fight our sin for us. Instead of dealing with issues, we ask our marriage or our wife to fight our battles. Even worse, sometimes we ask our kids.
It kills me when I hear someone tell me they're going to change, "now that they're a dad." That is the equivalent of asking a newborn to crawl inside a boxing ring and fight a tiger. It never goes well.
And Spitzer? What happened to him? Who knows for certain, but it's easy to imagine that he thought the power and the prestige of his office would help him with his sin. That if he could just be governor or just get to a certain office he wouldn't be tempted any longer. And so instead of dealing with his own junk he climbed the ladder as fast as he could. He theoretically asked his job to get in the ring and fight his sin.
The only thing that will ever win that match is God. Not your wife. Not your job. Not your kid. Not your best intentions. Whether you're the Governor of New York of an average guy like me in an average cubicle. If you get in the ring alone, you're going to lose.
P.S. Read "Why I write and why you should sing." It's fresh and new today.
I am not sure where in the bible it says that Christian radio must be cheesy, perhaps it is a verse snuggled deep in the shadows of the Old Testament. I’m pretty sure Jesus never mentioned morning radio programs in any of his parables, but somewhere in the bible it must directly address Christian radio. This is the only excuse that justifies its awfulness.
It’s not the music I think is bad. In fact, this morning I wrote down two new songs I want to buy on iTunes. I think the music is great and I know that there are some really good Christian DJs around the country, but in Atlanta the banter between the hosts drives me a little crazy. They’re just so syrupy sweet and fake and surface. Their jokes are horrible, their guests are boring and as they recant tales of their weekend (“don’t kittens do the silliest things”) I find myself happy I don’t have to pull over in the breakdown lane and pry off my little Christian fish with my bare fingers in fear I will be associated with them because my car is currently fish free.
Both those paragraphs kind of sound negative, but I think they are honest. I think the tsunami of mediocrity that is Christian radio has given worship a bad name. I think for the average person, Christian radio or perhaps just all Christian media symbolizes what it means to worship. And I think that gives worship a bad name.
In thinking about what it means to worship, I realized there are three things I believe:
1. Worship can be a funeral
Maybe when you think about worship you think of that lady with the kind of big hair at your church that raises her hands really high and sings songs with her eyes closed. I sit near her sometimes. And I think she’s definitely enjoying worship. But I think sometimes worship can be sad. I think sometimes worship can be mournful. I think you can worship at a funeral of a friend that has gone home but is still deeply missed. I think worship is about being honest with your emotions and sharing them with God, not just singing happy songs. So if you ever feel like you’re “not happy enough” to worship, read Psalms. There are several verses in their where David is crying out in agony but is worshiping nonetheless.
2. Worship can be a party
At the same time, worship can be a party. I love that in the prodigal son story, the only moment of worship we get to witness is a party. A loud, wake up the neighbors, shake the foundation celebration of a son returned home. They didn’t sing hymns or play hand bells or march solemnly about the yard in stone faced devotion. They threw a bash. They celebrated and had fun. I would challenge you to find the fun in worship.
3. You know how to worship
I watched the Duke and North Carolina basketball game this weekend. It reminded me of how we are all intrinsically wired to worship. It’s not something that some people are “blessed” with as a spiritual gift. We all know how to worship and we all have things or people we are currently worshipping. Maybe you’re not painting yourself blue for a college basketball game, but you feel your heart rush after you get praise from a superior at work. You get a little kick of happiness and devotion when your finely manicured lawn is well, finely manicured. And other people know that about you. That’s why Nike recently did a Lebron James campaign simply titled, “We are all witnesses.” They know people are wired for worship, they understand that we all want to be part of something big and all consuming. I just think it should be God we get on board with, not Lebron James who promptly lost every game of the NBA finals after that ad came out.
Worship might not feel easy sometimes, but I think it’s like making a direct call to God. Some things we do can feel like we’re emailing him or posting a message on his facebook wall, but I believe worship opens us up to some personal interaction with him.
So for the next month, I am going to make worship a daily part of my life. I hope you’ll try to as well.
This post goes well with:
1. Lebron reminds us we were created for worship.
p.s. Check out my other new post, "It's the little things that kill."
Friday, March 7, 2008
Yesterday, I wrote about the concept of SWORD. It’s a simple idea that stands for Serve, Worship, Order, Rest and Dance. In the next few days I will detail what they mean and how I intend to add them to my day in the hope that I can slowly reclaim both my time and energy.
My goal is to rescue two weeks of my life from the world. By taking small steps that add up (1 hour a day x 365 = 15 days) when completed over a year, I plan to become who I was always meant to be. But along the way, I have to learn to Serve.
To be honest, Serve is my least favorite of the five actions I intend to complete each day. It’s not a sexy word and on the surface not an idea that feels that exciting. But, I’ve recently learned three things that have dramatically changed the way I look at what it means to Serve:
1. Small is big
I think that we’ve complicated the concept of service. I think that when we imagine service we believe it means taking a mission trip to Africa or feeding the homeless or doing something else that is big and bold. Those things are good, they have their place in the idea of what it means to Serve, but I think we’ve lost sight of the small things. I was given a reminder when I watched a program about jail. In the show, a gang deep, tattooed, dangerous looking convict stood hard against the wall. When they put the camera on him, he began to unravel a tale about why he liked this particular jail. Here is a paraphrase of what he said:
“This place is special. I mean, the first week I was here someone gave me a piece of candy. People don’t do that. People don’t just give you candy and that meant a lot to me.”
A piece of candy from a stranger in jail was all it took for that convict to be impacted. That’s service. Big things, small things and all the things in between. Don’t confine your acts of service to the two weeks you go to Bolivia for a mission trip. Do small things in your own world in your own way. Find ways to share candy.
2. Stay close to the father
My favorite story of what it means to Serve is found in the prodigal son story. In the passages in Luke 15 we see such a beautiful reflection of service from the servants. Although they are not main characters, they do teach us something. One thing they reveal is that to serve, you must be close to God. You see this when the father runs to the son. It says that “while he was still a long way off” he ran to him. After a quick conversation with his son, he told the servants to prepare the feast. Did you ever stop to think about where the servants were when the father saw the son on the road? I think they were right next to him, watching the road too, engaged in what was important to the father. How else would they have been by his side to receive his instructions? I think that’s a big part of serving. You have to know what the father is doing, be where he is.
3. Throw a party
The other thing that the servants reveal about what it means to serve is how they do it. They don’t canvas the neighborhood raising money for a cause or write letters to change legislation. They throw a party. A big, wild party for the son. That was their act of service. That moment of laughter and love and happiness was how they served. 100% of the service moments in that story involve the party. So maybe service doesn’t have to be boring. Maybe it can be fun and exciting and big and happy.
There are a million great examples of what it means to serve in the Bible. I’ve barely scrapped the surface and I hope that this post felt really thin, because it was. I hope you come up with your own list of ways you can serve. Things you can do to show the people in your orbit that they’re important. That’s really what service boils down to I think. Showing people that what they think is important, is important to you. You see this when Christ would help the disciples fish. Sure, he was performing a miracle most of the time but he was also letting them know that if fishing was a big part of their lives, he would make it a big part of his too.
So tomorrow when you come in contact with someone, ask them what matters most to them and then help them take one step closer to it. Chances are you’ll find that the single step you help them with tends to help you along your way too.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Good is not easy.
Good is not natural.
Good is not obvious.
If you would argue any of those statements you have never had a child. The moment you do, you realize that you have to teach good and unteach bad.
Case in point, my 2-year old McRae found her older sister's bag of halloween candy. Unaware that my wife could see her from the other room, she began quickly and deliberately stuffing the 40 pieces of candy under a piece of furniture.
No one told her that hoarding was a good thing to do. No one taught her that taking something that is not yours can be a particularly delicious endeavor. She did not need to learn how to hide. She knew that going in. What she doesn't know is how to share.
This is what we have to teach her. This is what I as a parent must instruct her on. Sharing, caring, loving, honoring, respecting, these things are no more natural to her than they are to you. She must learn to be good and unlearn how to be bad. But here's the thing:
I don't want to be good.
I don't want to do the right thing or make good decisions or follow all the rules. I don't want to fit in or be known as being a "good person."
I want to be holy.
I want to glow. I want to mourn louder and celebrate louder than people expect. I want to be extraordinary and deliberate and stripped raw of surface distractions that hold me back or down. I want to put to death boring and average and ordinary every morning when I roll out of bed.
And I think it's all possible.
But it is not easy. I think there is a reason all sins are equal. I think that God has designed each of us for a very unique purpose. I believe that you alone are created to do something that none of the other 6 billion people on the planet could ever hope to accomplish. And I think God looks at how we accomplish that with a simple eye.
God sees two states. As shown in the prodigal son story he doesn't look at the type of the sin or the specifics of your actions. When the older brother tries to qualify the younger brother's sin the father tells him he doesn't see things that way. He sees dead and alive, lost and found, on target and off target. So when we give into distraction, when we make mistakes and fail, God doesn't see the specifics of the failure. He sees that we have taken a step either away from our final purpose or a step toward our final purpose.
What I am going to do this year, what I am going to offer you the chance to do, is to walk toward that purpose. To get closer to who you are. To strip away those things you've gathered over the months or years or decades that are covering up how much you can really shine.
I would love if you did it like me. I would love if my plan or system worked for you, and we could walk this together. But ultimately, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you figure out a plan that works for you, that you customize the rough ideas in this post according to your own unique needs and desires. So what, am I really asking you to do today?
I want you to take back your year.
Right now you are donating the most precious gifts you have, time and energy, to things that are woefully undeserving. Your hours and focus are burning up like fog in the sun and the world doesn't really have a problem with that. But I think God does. Here is what Ephesians 5:15-16 says:
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
That's what I want to get you to do. And the way I am going to suggest you do that is very simple. All I need is an hour.
And you have an hour. I promise, inside your day is an hour waiting to change your life. You will say there is not. You are too busy. You are stressed. You have a blackberry that is already angry and bursting at the digital seams. I believe that, but I believe you can find 12 minutes 5 times a day to do something a little different. To try something new that might just be worth more than 12 minutes.
You see, when you dedicate yourself to saving one hour a day for an entire year, do you know what you get back? You reclaim 15 days a year. That small daily commitment gives you two weeks that you can hold on to and point to and know deep down that you took back for yourself, for your future and for your Lord. And the crazy thing is that if you spent two hours a day being deliberate, you would rescue 30 days of your life every year.
How cool would it be to know that for an entire month, you were actively pursuing your purpose. Instead of wishing and hoping, you were literally growing the future in small little increments?
Here is what I am going to do:
Every day, for 12 minutes I am going to do five different things. Now because I work in corporate America and can only keep goals if they are expressed simply (I need the BRD EOD if not ASAP, OK?) I have made this really straight forward.
I am going to focus on living the day of the SWORD with God.
S - I will serve someone in my circle of influence for 12 minutes.
W - I will worship in some way for 12 minutes.
O - I will order my day and plan my actions for 12 minutes.
R - I will rest my heart and mind and soul for 12 minutes.
D - I will dance and exercise and learn to honor God with my body for 12 minutes.
That is all I am going to do. Nothing fancy. Nothing crazy. I am going to focus on the things that don't come naturally but I believe I am called to do.
In the next few posts I will detail each of the letters and what it means to live by the day of the SWORD.
That was longer than I intended and it might not make sense. This is not some silver bullet that will cure me of sin or failure. Not at all, this is just me actively and willingly letting God know that I am all in. This is me inviting him into all four quadrants of my life: the physical, the emotional, the mental and the spiritual.
This is me starting a new journey for the next month. And it's one I hope you'll go on with me.
This post goes well with:
1. My no plan always fails.
Some ideas are like housecats. They walk slowly into your head and feel comfortable and soft and familiar. They don’t cause trouble, but instead just seem to fade into the background, curling up in the corner of your mind for a long winter’s nap.
Other ideas are like porcupines. They tend to change an environment. They are not easy to ignore and refuse to fade into the background. When you bump against them they are sharp. When they brush against other ideas they tend to change them, poking holes in things you use to think were true or drawing blood from concepts you’ve secretly always known were false.
A few nights ago I had a porcupine idea.
I was preparing for a speaking engagement at a church in Atlanta. While going over my notes, something popped up that I just couldn’t shake:
Hurt is naturally pervasive, but healing rarely is.
That is, sin has the ability to easily and quickly poison the four quadrants of our lives – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental. When I’m in a bad place spiritually, I gain weight. I medicate with food and make bad physical decisions. I read less and my mental capacity is impacted. And I’m an emotional mess, constantly succumbing to worry. Sin, is like a snowball rolling down a hill that gathers everything it comes in contact with, getting bigger and bigger.
But healing or holiness rarely works that same way. When I come to God with an issue, I tend to make it primarily a spiritual issue. I think it’s only one quadrant of my life, the spiritual one, so that’s usually the only one I focus on. And I don’t think I’m the only one that does this. How often do you hear someone say, “Well I gave my life to Christ so I had to lose some weight because my body’s a temple.” Or, “I started going to church more so I subscribed to National Geographic because I know God wants me to really grow and challenge the mental part of my life with new information.” It doesn’t happen because we compartmentalize holiness. We assume God issues are spiritual issues and rarely invite him to come shake up our emotional, physical and mental ideas.
But I don’t want to live that way. I fear that if I do, I will end up like the man Gordon MacDonald describes in the following passage from "Ordering Your Private World":
For the past two to three years I had been aware of my fast start, in the ministry. I had also been aware that most—not all—all of the men (in those days it was all men) who had graduated with me had gone on to assignments that were not as attractive as mine. In some sense many of them had not enjoyed the advantages that had come to me: a teaching father, natural giftedness, good connections. The result: They had to work harder, discipline themselves more carefully, and develop an inner depth that I had not found necessary to worry about.
But—and here was the kicker—it became alarmingly clear to me that day that it might not always be this way. Rather, I began to intuit that there would be a change in the years to come.
Those who brought their lives into discipline or (and this is a favorite word of mine) intentionality would, more than likely, go on to long-term lives of fruitfulness, and their best years would be in the last half of their lives when discipline paid off. And those like me, who relied heavily upon our natural giftedness, would reach some high point early in our lives and, more than likely, trail off into averageness for the last half of our days on earth. Of the former it would be said, “He is a person of rich spiritual quality.” Of me, given where I was, it would be more than likely be said, “Well he certainly was a flash in the pan.”
What an innocuous way to live out one’s days—a displeasure to God and certainly a regrettable muddle for oneself. The thought that this might become my life scenario was intolerable.
So what can I do? If sin is like a snowball rolling down hill naturally picking up the other parts of my life and holiness is like deliberately pushing a snowball uphill, what are my next steps? How, like Paul in 1 Corinthians, can I beat my body and make it my slave?
That was the question I addressed the other night when I spoke at that church. And it’s the question I am going to unfold in the days ahead on my blog.
I have an idea, a 10-story tall porcupine that just won’t let me loose. And expressing it, acting on it, will not be easy, sometimes it will not be fun, but I believe what scientist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says about situations like this:
“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effect to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
The key word in that sentence is “voluntary.” That’s what I am asking you to do with me, to go on a voluntary journey. To stretch what you know about yourself and your life.
Are you ready?
Next post: The day of the sword.
Monday, March 3, 2008
This weekend, I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said, "My child eats bugs." There was a picture of a kitten on the sticker.
I think that sticker was supposed to tell me, the reader, "I love my cat so much she's like one of my children." Or maybe, "cats do the darnedest things, like eat bugs." But when I read it, I felt like it just told me, "Hey there, I'm a crazy cat lady."
Then I saw another one on a different car that said, "Garbage kills bears." I had no idea this was a problem in bear communities. I mean if I had seen the sticker, "Bears kill campers," I would not have been surprised. But I learned something new and for that I was grateful.
It got me thinking though, why do we put on bumper stickers? What makes us stick them to the back of our cars? I think we do that because we want to share some message with the people behind us. To say, "Hey stranger, I have placed the single most interesting thing I have to say about myself and my beliefs on the back of my vehicle for your reading pleasure. Enjoy." Or maybe we think they're funny or silly or vital. As we enter the election we'll certainly see a lot of stickers that are strongly in support of a certain political party. But even so, political stickers are still just another way to share a belief.
The question becomes then, as a Christian, what kind of sticker would I put on my car or more importantly my life? If I had one sentence to communicate with someone about the Lord, what would it be?
I'm not sure what I would put on my car, but one thing I wouldn't is any form of the "Got _____" sticker. It comes in a lot of varieties. Here are a few I've seen:
If you have one of those stickers on your car or a t-shirt that says the same thing, please don't take offense at the following sentences. My biggest challenge with this message is that I think it grossly fails to accurately and creatively represent the creator of the universe.
Imagine if the person that created this campaign tried to present it to God. Here's what I believe would follow:
Guy selling idea: "I've got that new idea that you wanted God. I think you'll love it."
God: "Great, lay it on me."
Guy selling idea: "We're going to make bumper stickers that millions of people that don't know who you are will see. They'll say 'Got God?' Brilliant right?"
God: "Wait a second, isn't that really similar to the 'Got Milk?' campaign?"
Guy selling idea: "It is, actually we just rewrote that campaign and made it about you."
Guy selling idea: "Really! What do you think?"
God: I gotta tell ya, that is weak. I mean honestly, I created the heavens and the earth. I breathed light into existence and made the Cayman Islands and the platypus. I invented creativity. Is rehashing a campaign about cow milk the best way to capture and reflect the glory of my name?"
Maybe that's not how it would happen. Maybe God is cool with having reheated second servings when it comes to our creativity. But I wouldn't do that for one of my earthly clients. For instance, I write for Home Depot. I wouldn't just steal a Lowe's campaign and tell them to run that. But we do it all the time with God.
None of this might matter. It's only a bumper sticker at the end of the day, but I think it's important. I think that God deserves our best. I think that if there is ever a time to be truly creative it's when we are creating art for God.
My confession is that sometimes I've fallen short in the posts I write. I've rewarmed old messages or rushed through ideas focusing on getting people to comment or just getting something online instead of trying to simply shine the brightest light possible on God.
For that I apologize. There's a lot of 2008 left and I hope that in the weeks and months and years ahead, I will never write the equivalent of "Got Jesus?" because you and God both deserve more.
This post goes well with:
1. When nougat is more meaningful than God.
2. The dating site and God.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
This is a picture of me and Jack Johnson.
For all my international readers he's a massive musician on the cover of Rolling Stones magazine right now. (Very cool that someone in Brunei is reading the site by the way.)
I interviewed him once for a magazine and in case you are wondering, his head is massive. It's like a boogie board. Anyway, after the show I asked him a few questions. I then asked him if he would sign something for my friend Nicole. He said, "Sure what do you want me to write?" I said, "Say, Nicole, please marry me." Without a pause, he responded, "Dude I can't do that, I'm married."
The entire backstage crowd went quiet and everyone kind of looked at me like I was an idiot. And they were right, I was. I should have looked that up. I should have known that going in, but I got rambling with him and just couldn't stop myself so I stuck my foot in my mouth.
I do that a lot. It's kind of come to my attention that I talk too much. I ramble and tend to turn on a firehose of words when someone just asks for a cup of water. It's a problem.
There are really three ways I am trying to work on this issue, this non-stop running of my massive mouth:
1. Ask more and expect more questions.
I think a good measure of whether you talk to much is if people ever ask you questions. They never ask me questions because I don't give them the chance. I tell them the answer before they even get a chance to ask. "I like Frisbie. My favorite state is North Carolina. My watch is big." I also realize that I don't tend to ask people many questions because I want to just talk about me. So my new plan is to see how many questions I can ask someone, in a real honest curious way, and how many they'll ask me. They might ask me zero, but at least by being quieter, they'll have the space to ask one if they want to.
2. Few and true.
The bible is full of verses about how it's better to have control over your tongue. So it's not just me being rude when I ramble, it's actually me sometimes going against scripture. My new prayer is that God would help make my words, "few and true." It doesn't always work, but at least I've engaged the creator of the universe in this mission.
3. Picture it the right way.
A married friend of mine once said that he felt bad for ignoring a woman he was attracted to at work because she thought he was rude for not talking a lot to her. She had never said this, this was just what he assumed. What he was really thinking was, "This poor lady is being deprived of my wisdom when I don't talk to her." Sometimes, like in my case, talking a lot is just a verbal form of narcissism. The world doesn't always need to know your opinion. It will spin just fine without it. Now, when I start to feel bad about being quiet, because people need my awesome words, I think of it like God placing his big, strong hand over my mouth. I'm a hostage and I'm about to scream out and alert my kidnappers, or at the bare minimum ask Jack Johnson to damage his marriage, and his hand is not preventing me from talking, it's rescuing me from danger.
Maybe you don't talk a lot. Maybe you're issue is that you need to talk more. But for me, there's a sweetness to the silence, there's a small delight to the discipline of listening and at the end of the day ... well, I think I've said enough already.
This blog goes well with:
1. I need to shut up more often.