Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shaped Differently

Incoming first year students at colleges and universities have had their minds shaped by events quite different from what shaped mine.  Thanks to Beloit College for this interesting look-see into the lives of today’s 18 year olds.  So, here goes.

1. There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.
2. Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents.
3. States and Velcro parents have always required that they wear their bike helmets.
4. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major-league sports.
5. There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded some U.S. Navy ships.
6. They “swipe” cards, not merchandise.
7. As the students have grown up on Web sites and cellphones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
8. Their schools’ “blackboards” have always been getting smarter.
9. “Don’t touch that dial!” … What dial?
10. American tax forms have always been available in Spanish.
11. More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
12. Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
13. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you’re talking about LeBron James.
14. All their lives, Whitney Houston has always been declaring, “I Will Always Love You.”
15. O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
16. Women have never been too old to have children.
17. Japan has always been importing rice.
18. Jim Carrey has always been bigger than a pet detective.
19. We have never asked, and they have never had to tell.
20. Life has always been like a box of chocolates.
21. They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.
22. John Wayne Bobbitt has always slept with one eye open.
23. There has never been an official Communist Party in Russia.
24. “Yadda, yadda, yadda” has always come in handy to make long stories short.
25. Video games have always had ratings.
26. Chicken soup has always been soul food.
27. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.
28. Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief.
29. Arnold Palmer has always been a drink.
30. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!
31. Women have always been kissing women on television.
32. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers.
33. Faux Christmas trees have always outsold real ones.
34. They’ve always been able to dismiss boring old ideas with “Been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt.”
35. The bloody conflict between the government and a religious cult has always made Waco sound a little wacko.
36. Unlike their older siblings, they spent bedtime on their backs until they learned to roll over.
37. Music has always been available via free downloads.
38. Grown-ups have always been arguing about health-care policy.
39. Moderate amounts of red wine and baby aspirin have always been thought good for the heart.
40. Sears has never sold anything out of a “Big Book” that could also serve as a doorstop.
41. The United States has always been shedding fur.
42. Electric cars have always been humming in relative silence on the road.
43. No longer known for just gambling and quickie divorces, Nevada has always been one of the fastest-growing states in the Union.
44. They’re the first generation to grow up hearing about the dangerous overuse of antibiotics.
45. They pressured their parents to take them to Taco Bell or Burger King to get free pogs.
46. Russian courts have always had juries.
47. No state has ever failed to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
48. While they’ve been playing outside, their parents have always worried about nasty new bugs borne by birds and mosquitoes.
49. Public schools have always made space available for advertising.
50. Some of them have been inspired to actually cook by watching the Food Channel.
51. Fidel Castro’s daughter and granddaughter have always lived in the United States.
52. Their parents have always been able to create a will and other legal documents online.
53. Charter schools have always been an alternative.
54. They’ve grown up with George Stephanopoulos as the Dick Clark of political analysts.
55. New kids have always been known as NKOTB.
56. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe; Michael Who?
57. They’ve broken up with significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
58. Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.
59. Kim Jong-il has always been bluffing, but the West has always had to take him seriously.
60. Frasier, Sam, Woody, and Rebecca have never cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during prime time.
61. Major League Baseball has never had fewer than three divisions and never lacked a wild-card entry in the playoffs.
62. Nurses have always been in short supply.
63. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a Web site.
64. Altar girls have never been a big deal.
65. When they were 3, their parents may have battled other parents in toy stores to buy them a Tickle Me Elmo while they lasted.
66. It seems the United States has always been looking for an acceptable means of capital execution.
67. Folks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have always been able to energize with Pepsi-Cola.
68. Andy Warhol is a museum in Pittsburgh.
69. They’ve grown up hearing about suspiciously vanishing frogs.
70. They’ve always had the privilege of talking with a chatterbot.
71. Refugees and prisoners have always been housed by the U.S. government at Guantánamo.
72. Women have always been Venusians; men, Martians.
73. McDonald’s coffee has always been just a little too hot to handle.
74. “PC” has come to mean personal computer, not political correctness.
75. The New York Times and The Boston Globe have never been rival newspapers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


A few years ago I was on a missions trip to Armenia. Our team debriefed in Paris. I know, I know …a tough gig. I really looked forward to seeing Paris. The reality is that it’s a gorgeous place. It's a postcard picture every time you turn around.  I was really looking forward to some things …the Eiffel Tower, the Arch de Triumph, a boat ride down the Seine River and I was really looking forward to the Louvre, that magnificent museum filled with art treasures.  I was especially interested in seeing the Mona Lisa.

So I walked into a room. I saw a small mob of people in front of what looked like a pretty small painting hidden behind thick glass, guards on either side, security cameras at the ready …and there it was the Mona Lisa …DaVinci’s masterpiece.

I mean it had to be a masterpiece. Everyone said it was. The art world raved about it and the security around it said ‘this is important". That it’s worth treasuring, worth protecting, worth preserving.

The Louvre owns the Mona Lisa. Try to destroy it and the full wrath of the museum and their security will descend upon you. Try to steal it and you’ll be caught and you’ll go to jail. It’s under their jurisdiction and their authority.I doubt any amount of money could remove it from their grasp. DaVinci’s genius created it. The Louvre now maintains it and protects.

The apostle Paul once wrote to the small church in Ephesus, located in what we now know as Turkey. He writes:

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

God's masterpiece. His creation. Created by God for His purposes. A long time ago he planned for you to do good. That’s his plan for you. You belong to Him. He has things for you to do. Nothing can separate you from His love. Nothing can deter him in his drive to fulfill His purpose in you. As the Louvre will go to any lengths to protect the Mona Lisa …God will go even further to get your attention, to get you focused on Him. Any attempt to remove yourself from His ownership will be met with resistance. It’s a fact of life. To God you are worth treasuring, worth protecting, worth preserving, worth pursuing. You are far more valuable than the Mona Lisa in his eyes.

You are God’s masterpiece.

I know that I struggle with this concept. I have an amazing ability to see myself as quite a bit less than a masterpiece. I know my faults. There are times when I don’t see myself as a masterpiece. Sometimes I see myself as a paint my number project or some kind of Elvis on black velvet painting. And when I don’t see myself well it impacts my ability to live into all those good things God has created me to be.  Even worse, when I don't see myself as the masterpiece I am I can lose sight of the masterpiece you are. And that causes trouble.

We are God's masterpiece.  Nice.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Adults Needed

Let's admit it. We're all wondering if the ties that bind our society together aren't being unloosed. I think we're in a tough spot these days. We don't know up from down perhaps because we're majoring in left and right. We Iive in a society that's confused ...spiritually, politically, ethically and financially. We're adept at pointing fingers but not very keen on introspection.

A few years ago I spent some time studying and teaching a course called "Developing Capable People'. It was developed by Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelson. The premise is that those who make it in this world see themselves differently than those who are struggling with life. Additionally, those who struggle are lacking in some important skill areas. It's not brain surgery.

Those who make it in life see themselves as capable, influential and responsible. These are key perceptions. But along with the perceptions they seem to have developed some important skills. They are self-aware and self disciplined, understanding the need to process feelings and information through some sort of well formed moral grid. Additionally, they know how to deal with both people and systems. That requires some adaptability and flexibility. Listening skills help as well and actually being able to say what one means and meaning what one says is a real asset. Finally, they make decisions based on some well honed judgment skills, tapping into something bigger than their own experience or desires. Have all this and there is a good chance you'll see a functioning adult prepared to make a difference. If these aren't present true adulthood will remain elusive.

So, as I've been watching the cultural landscape recently I'm realizing that many of those making decisions haven't ever become an adult. Too many don't know how to access and/or process feelings. Lots of folks (look at Congress) haven't learned to play well together and the interpersonal skill set of many adult looking people is quite appalling. And it seems like the guiding mantra for a whole lot of folks is to "eat, drink, acquire, blame, and be trendy". Hardly the stuff that inspires anyone to greatness. And if decisions are being made based on what's going to get us more stuff, accolades and trendiness then God help us all.

I wonder if many of our problems aren't parenting issues. Maybe, just maybe, we need to start over ...with just about everyone. I'm not kidding. Maybe everyone needs to be reparented. Few would agree that the Jersey Shores crowd was parented well. And impulse control is a lost art. If you don't believe me just hang around social media awhile or tune into your favorite talk show. Wall Street flunks a whole lot of judgment and ethical tests. Ever try to get someone to submit to authority? Without submission we're all sizzled.

Maybe we're in the mess we're in because what we needed to be taught when we were young just didn't take root in our lives. And it's hard to pass on what we don't have to the next generation. Maybe we can all start to reparent each other. To help each other mature into the people God desires us to be. I have a hunch we need to learn how to be 'more' to each other. That's not easy. It means that I have to admit that maybe I'm not all I think I am. I might need to humble myself so God can do his thing in my life, even now at 61. What about you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Campaign '12

I've been paying a bit of attention to the beginnings of Presidential Campaign '12.  Here's some thoughts that have been rambling around in my head.

Republicans aren't completely sure how far to the right they want to step and how much  they want to be indebted to the Tea Party. Democrats seem to be a bit unsure about how tied they want to be to President Obama.  Decisions. Decisions.

The Tea Party, in some quite remarkable ways in a short period of time, got everyone talking about some fundamental fiscal issues.  But there's more to the political landscape than talking about money.  Not sure this movement has the 'chops' to dive into the murky waters of non budgetary concerns but will need to in order to gain wider credibility.  Being a bur in the saddle of the establishment works for awhile but long term more is required.

The President looks like he'll avoid primary opposition although I can't help but think that his Secretary of State might hatch some sort of plan to try and snatch the nomination.  If that's going to happen it better be sooner than later. 

Sarah Palin.  Will she? Won't she?  Will it matter?

I'm sure the Democrats would love to see an ideologue win the Republican nomination.
The Republicans think they've got one in the White House already.

I'm thinking that too many underestimate the emotional reaction the President elicits among the marginalized and those feeling disenfranchised. If that emotion and idealism can be mobilized again and turned into votes Obama will be tough to beat. It's a big if though. What a whole lot of folks don't understand is that the  President represents the mountaintop MLK and others promised.  That can't be minimized.  Education reform, health care, a coherent, justice laden immigration policy and other social policy issues continue to be hot button issues for the Presidents base of support.

The American people have to realize that only partial answers come from Washington.  Pointing fingers and throwing the rascals out only goes so far.  Who's willing to take constructive action on the local level?

Budgetary sanity is a big issue.  Character is a bigger one. From my vantage point the lack of character has gotten us into the mess we're in. I'm not sure we're convinced character counts anymore.  Whoever takes the moral and ethical high road during the campaign will stand out from the crowd.

How ugly will this campaign get?  And if it gets ugly fast how close are we to seeing here what the British are experiencing in their streets?  I'm secretly thinking that we're only one catalytic event away from some rather major social unrest.  There's a huge cloud of anger hovering over us.  It's being fueled by a jet stream of social media that deals in sound bytes and not substantive discussion.. And the coping mechanisms necessary for dealing with that anger aren't part of the everyday habits of way too many in our society.

This has the look and feel of being a perilous time for our nation.  I'm reminded of a scripture that's been used almost to the brink of irrelevancy but let me suggest it anyway as a truth we can't ignore.

 "Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land." 2 Chron. 4 (NLT).

Operative words are humble themselves, seek my face, turn from wicked ways.  Those are soul searching and gut wrenching words don't you think?  We always want the promises of God but often reject the means to those promises.  We want the blessings, healing and forgiveness of God without doing the grunt work of posturing ourselves in the right ways before Him.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Insulting God

This week I attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Yep. I was one of 165,000 people at a whole lot of sites all around the world. I was at the mother ship in South Barrington, IL.

First of all, this is one inspiring conference. Great speakers and great worship. A virtual who's who of movers and shakers were in the crowd and then folks like me who are along for the ride. All were there to learn how to be more effective within their sphere of influence for the sake of the kingdom of God. That, in itself is encouraging.

I want to share just one takeaway. Believe me, there were more than one. The last session on the first day is usually reserved for some who's emerging as a leader. This year it was Steven Furtick, a pastor from Charlotte. And he said something that got me thinking about my own journey of faith and the ministries God has entrusted to me. Furtick is all about having an audacious faith ...rooted in prayer and unbound by circumstances. During his talk he said "If your vision of what you're being called to do doesn't intimidate you then it's probably insulting to God."

Did you catch that? He's saying that what I'm envisioning just might be way too small. And the reason I go small is because I can be in control of small things. And I really don't have to trust God. And he said that kind of vision and thinking is insulting to God. I think he's right.

So I wonder how much of my life has been lived 'insulting God'? Or your life? To what degree am I willing to live on my knees imploring and trusting God to come through? Or am I content to dream a wee little dream that requires God to do nothing other than give His passive endorsement. And could that wee little dream actually be insulting to God?

Most people don't dream dreams big enough to need God. Nor do most churches. Our dreams are modest by faith standards. Manageable. Minimizing risk and discomfort.

Years ago when I was on Young Life staff we used to pray that God would help us reach whole high schools. Big prayers requiring big faith. And then that vision would get enlarged and we'd begin to pray for a whole region of high schools. Crazy prayers. God sized ones. Beyond our capacity kind of prayers. They weren't insulting to God.

Insulting God. Crazy concept. Jarring in it's implications. Think about it.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Rock in My Shoe

Last week I went to my spiritual director and he asked me to consider what rock is in my shoe that's causing me to limp. That came after the end of a long conversation where he challenged me to live by faith, not by sight. Grrrr.

So, I started to journal and these questions came to mind. I think they are important for me to answer for I truly desire to live into the fulness of who God created me to be. I offer them to help anyone else out there walking with a limp.

What disciplines do I need in my life?

What lies of the enemy am I beginning to buy into?

What habits do I need to coax down the attic stairs?

Who are the people I need around me?

What fears do I need to face?

What sins need to be confessed?

What dreams need to be embraced?

What personal hurts need healing?

What good habits need to be nurtured?

What am I holding on to that needs to be released?

What have I let go of that needs to be reclaimed?

What skills am I lacking?

What am I trusting God for that if He doesn't show up it's going to feel like my whole life is going down the tubes?

Where do I find the laughter and joy?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Random Blurts About Stuff

Interesting week. The Congress makes a move. Then the markets. Polls are showing there is almost zero approval for the President or the Congress. And no one seems to have high expectations for economic recovery. We've even had our national credit rating lowered. There's still lots of finger pointing but I think people are getting tired of all the fussing and blaming. Here's some of the things That are going through my head.

The Tea Party has some muscle but I'm still unclear if it has a heart.

Is there anyone out there who has the ability to heal the wounds inflicted by politicians on each other?

Why are the American people backing off into little communities of like mindedness?

What if there really is a global economic collapse? Who will step up to lead and serve through all of that?

Will the American people ever get over their insatiable thirst for more?

Greed survives. No matter what it manages to find a way.

I'm mad at myself for not saying and doing more in the midst of these important national debates.

Instant analysis is part of the problem. Having a considered opinion is a dying art.

America needs POTUS to stir our passions towards unity and the common good. But do people really want that anymore?

We know who causes trouble but we're not clear who we can trust to be a peacemaker and reconciler.

The anger is going go kill us.

When will Democrats and Republicans realize that Americans struggle with a big government that acts stupidly too much of the time?

The church has got to step up. More. More yet.

Will the Republicans be able to mount a serious presidential challenge in 2012? I don't see anyone emerging from the pack. Would love to see POTUS go up against a strong challenger in a campaign filled with substance not negativity. My gut says that this is could be the ugliest election ever and some of us will choose to fuel it with our own thoughtless behavior.

Heard that the committee of 12 is going to be populated by folks who believe it's my way or the highway. Say it ain't so.

Anyone else asking God what He's thinking needs to be done?

More and more I'm asking the question "When the times get tough who's going to be my community?"

I think those in leadership these days truly do have a thankless job.

Who are the voices of reason people are listening to? Do they even want to?

Why did it feel like we were being held hostage over the past few weeks?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Money Talks

So, I heard that Campus Crusade for Christ is changing their name to Cru.  I’m also hearing that there’s a whole lot of folks who are hopping mad about Christ being taken out the name.  Cru is being accused, in certain circles, of selling out, becoming secularized, holding hands with the devil and I believe replacing the Bible with the Book of Mormon.  OK, I’m exaggerating a wee little bit.  But they are taking hits.  And I know the hits hurt.

Rumors are afloat that a whole lot of wealthy donors, in the tradition of hard headed and hard hearted Christianity, are going to make the ministry pay for the name change by withdrawing funding.  That’s the spirit of God at work, huh?

My guess is that Cru made a prayerful change of name... knowing full well that it positioned them better to do ministry in today’s world. My guess is that they knew that they’d butt heads with long time supporters and even lose a few.  But it was worth the gamble.  It always is when you feel you’re responding to what God wants you to do.

 Knowing the ministry a bit I’m pretty convinced that they haven’t lost their spiritual moorings, still believe the same things, and are only adapting to the times.  After all, on college campuses they’ve been using the new name for a long time anyway.  It’s unfortunate they have to take shots from their friends in the midst of a change.  Unfortunately, taking shots is what some people of faith (thankfully, not the majority) seem to do best all too often.  If anything the shot takers are the ones who are probably being disobedient to God in the midst of all this.  I can't believe that God wants us to use our money as a blunt instrument to hurt a good ministry. Pretty sad when that happens. And it's even sadder when people hide behind a wall of proof texts and what they think is righteous indignation.

I’ve had my issues with Cru over the years. Some theological. Most methodological. But I’ve never doubted nor do I doubt now their commitment to their mission.  And I applaud their willingness to adjust to changing times and take the heat for doing so.

I remember hearing a story about Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade, a few years ago. It seems he was watching a new ministry band rehearse.  The music had an edge and bite to it.  Bright said to some other staff “I really don’t like this at all’.  One of the staffers said that the impact of the band was tremendous and many young people were hearing the Good News through them. Bright smiled and said, “Then I like this music a lot.”  Gotta love a guy who is not ruled by his preferences.  May that be true of us.

A fair amount of ministries are rethinking how they conduct business and mission these days.  We need to pray that they respond to God’s leading and resist the temptation to be held captive by their funders.  That’s not easy.  Money talks.  And sometimes what it says isn’t very pretty.