Saturday, March 24, 2007

Confessions of a grumpy old man

So here are some thoughts on #4 of my ten life lessons I’ve learned/am learning. Click here to see my list

#4 Never underestimate the power of the negative voice - There is an old preachers saying that goes “ any old jackass can kick down a barn it took 15 good carpenters to build” I think my favorite quote regarding negative voices is Lyndon Johnson who said in his own unique way, “id rather have someone inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in”

I took a stab at something a couple years ago when I listened to some sermons I had recorded. I felt they were coming from a negative perspective. I had got into a mind set of proclaiming the effects of missing out on God’s love or if we refused to live out this miraculous gift of God, rather than proclaim the hope and joy and transformation when we experience God’s love through Jesus. It may sound subtle but the focus is very different. Proclaiming transformation through God’s spirit is about hope and a longing for something better, proclaiming the consequences of living away from that spirit brings a longing to escape the consequences of living in that place, which may or may not involve God. Anyway, I’m gonna start preaching so I better get back on track... So after hearing myself I made a conscious effort not to say anything negative for a month. And to add another negative statement... I suck at being positive all the time. I had the same experience when I tried to take Jesus words seriously in Matthew’s Gospel when he said love your neighbor as yourself... I picked the wrong week to drive in heavy traffic to Seattle for conference meetings.. there is a reason I don’t have a fish on my car!

My sense of humor is a bit dry and very sarcastic and I use that as a cover to mask my negativity. I can always say “I was just joking”. I notice when I am in a negative place and the comments and actions i make are negative the people around me become more negative. It’s kinda’ like the blob that consumes as it goes. It’s hard to experience joy in that climate and around some people (including me at times)

I have been in more than one situation where a body of disciples had a decision to make or had taken a step in faith to follow what they truly believed to be God’s leading, only to have one or two negative voices destroy it, and drag the group back to a placid existence together.

As I am writing this i realize that it is beginning to sound like any dissenting voice is negative. I don’t believe that at all. In fact I am a firm believer that the loyal opposition is sometimes the most profound voice of God in a community. And I am on occasion fulfilling the role of that loyal opposition, as a response to my faith.

The negativity that is driven by fear and inconvenience can be a passion killer and can be a genuine obstacle to what the Spirit is doing in the midst of the world and our lives together.

Secondly, negativity towards the world around us is killing the church. Sooner or later we have to realize that we are ambassadors of love rather than the moral police. Our scriptures begin at Gen ch 1 with the creation as an expression and image of God, not Gen Ch 3 with the fall. And believe it or not there is a whole lot of stuff that goes on between Gen ch 3 and Romans ch 3 where Paul explains the remedy for the fall.

Friends be good to each other, proclaim love and the Gospel of Jesus not the Gospel about Jesus. Love your neighbor, rather than tell them how bad they are. Change the course of the grumpy old man!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Don't look back Brad!

The fist song I ever learned on my guitar was "More Than A Feeling" by Boston. I have played it so many times that my fingers just do it by muscle memory. I don't think i could slow the finger picking down to see the pattern anymore. I can't tell you how many hours I spent in my bedroom as a kid pretending to be Brad Delp the singer of Boston. Later when I got my first guitar I pretended to be Tom Schultz the lead guitarist. I think I wore out the grooves on my Boston LP (Remember LP's???) and then the Don't Look Back LP.

A couple of days ago while listening to the "entertainment news" on the morning news show I watch while getting ready for the day here in the Portland area, they said Brad had died. I never met Brad, I have never even seen him in concert, but I had pretended to be him hundreds of times in my mind. I was surprised to feel a twinge in my heart at hearing the news, and a real sense of sorrow.

Today when I turned on the computer to start the work day, my ISP home page had as one of their headlines "family says singers death was a suicide". I quickly hit the link, and sure enough it seems that Brad had indeed committed suicide leaving notes for his family and fiancé'

As one blog I read today on this topic put it; "It sucks when your heroes die!" Any suicide is especially tragic. It always makes my heart hurt to hear of someone who somehow found themselves in a place where they felt the best option was to die. I must admit I'm in a bit of a funk this afternoon about the whole thing... I'm sad cause one of my heroes has died, .... I'm sad because I wonder if he knew there were people like me who loved his art, and even pretended to be him in front of mirrors singing into hair brushes and screwdrivers...

I picked up my guitar today and played "More Than A Feeling" again, and there was no way I could hit the "She slipped awayyyyyyy....yyyyyaaaaa.....yyaaaaaaa!" line like Brad did.

Even though I never met you I hope you found some peace friend.

Rock on!

Monday, March 05, 2007

My kids can do anything!

HI friends,

I thought I’d add to my thoughts on my ten life lessons I’ve learned/am learning. Click here to see my list The picture is of my two kids and me, (i'm the one with the guitar) on our yearly camping trip to the Rogue River, who are the most above average, wonderful kids I have ever met. (no bias of course)

A few years back while I was volunteering with a local church in Medford Or. The church had a guest speaker come and talk about parenting skills at a Sunday evening program. I don’t remember hardly anything about the program, Mostly cause at the time my wife and I weren't parents. I was only there because I was volunteering with the Church’s youth group and thought it might be a good Idea to support the kids parents. The speaker, in her opening statements, asked us to think about our own parents and their parenting skills. She then followed up the phrase with “ don’t do it like they did” At that point I was kinda done with what she had to say.

I’ll be the first to say there are millions of children who have experienced how not to be a parent... I’ve sat in CPS hearings with some of them, and am continually amazed at how families can treat each other. But I’m not one of them. My parents did a wonderful job of raising my brother sister and I. I don’t want to speak for my siblings, but our home was always a place where I knew I was loved and encouraged. I, of course, thought my parents were idiots when I was 15, I had the car packed two days before I left for college when I was 18, but secretly cried when It hit me that I was really going to live somewhere else.

Of the things my parents gave me, a feeling that I was smart, and that I could work out any problem I faced, or set my sights on something and have if become reality, was by far their best gift. My dad taught me how to throw a football and encouraged me when I felt too small. He drove me to track practices every afternoon until Jr. High and rarely missed a chance to see me run, and talk about the race with me after. (he is a large part of the reason I went to college on a track scholarship and was ranked 8th in the nation at one point) My mom and her best friend used to lead an after school program for several of us in third grade. (she was the one who taught me and my friends to sing “The B-I-B-L-E yes that the book for me”

I vividly remember in kindergarten, my parents bought something that came in a big box (at least the size of a kindergarten aged kid) I took a pair of scissors and several rolls of scotch tape and turned the box into a 747 complete with 7 40 7 written on the tail in red crayon. Instead of getting in trouble for using up three rolls of Scotch tape, I heard how creative I was and how wonderful my creation was.

When I think of my own kids, I hope I give them that same feeling. My son is seriously the smartest 4th grader I know. That doesn’t mean he always picks up his dirty clothes, or that there isn’t the moments of frustration (I’m sure my parents never had those moments with me)

We were following behind a car on the freeway and my son asked what does Hemi mean? I told him it was a type of engine in some cars... “especially in MOPAR cars” I said. He replied “oh Chryslers are MOPAR cars?” I said “ya’” and he added “I bet MOPAR means Motor Parts.” (When my son wins the Daytona 500 remember this Blog!) “So why is it called Hemi?” he asked “Well, remember how we talked about how engines work, and that they burn gas to make pistons go up and down?” “ya’” came from the back seat. “We’ll some cars, at the top of the piston are flat , and some are curved to make the piston move with more power, That curve is called a Hemisphere.” “Oh, like the Northern Hemisphere on the earth! - oh I get it, so Hemi is short for Hemisphere in the engine?” My son can do anything!

My daughter creates (notice she is using the pop corn bowl as a drum in the picture). She saves, what the rest of us call garbage but uses them for projects she makes. She dances, and dances.... and did I mention she dances? Whether its during worship, or in her car seat to the radio, or in the front room listening to a flock of seagulls with dad, or at a wedding reception. Two years ago at a family retreat our church hosts every year at the beach, she made up her own ballet dance at the age of five to dance while dad played the guitar, during the talent/no talent show. She got a standing ovation, and they made her do it again as an encore. When she was asked “did you learn that in dance class?” She would just smile and say” nope, just made it up.” My daughter can do anything!

I hope my kids never loose those feelings, I know the world can beat us down and make us feel stupid, and even the people we love can do it to us sometimes. I hope my kids hear from me how much I love them, and that they can do anything, because the world will be better if my kids hear it, and if yours hear it too!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Who's in the box?

I've a friend who is a former seminary professor of mine, whose blog I have linked to in the past. He is one of those people I call "stupid smart"... even when he is stupid he is still way smarter than me. Anyway, there is a lot of fuss going on about the soon to air "documentary" on the discovery channel regarding the possible discovery of Jesus bones.

Ben actually knows the people who dig up such artifacts and catalogue them. (the rest of us just read about them) Anyway he has some helpful and interesting posts on his blog about the whole affair ... I warn you it is a bit long and you need to turn off the TV and radio and concentrate as you read through them.

Ben Witherington's Blog