Monday, October 29, 2007

Be Excellent To Each Other!

Hi friends,

I’m up to #9 on my list of things I have learned/am learning in the last 15 plus years in “ministry” you can check out my list BY CLICKING HERE.

Back in 1989 I met a beautiful woman who later became my wife. Our first date was to a movie called Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. (it was really our second date I later found out, She invited me to a concert with some other friends of her’s and I failed to realize it was a date... Its a miracle I have two children...) Anyway, in the course of the movie George Carlin who plays “Rufus” a sage from the future gives our heroes some words of wisdom to live by, “Be excellent to each other” Later in the movie Abraham Lincoln adds to the idea by stating,“seven minutes ago... we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill... and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to proposition which was true in my time, just as it's true today. Be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES! (Its amazing what sticks in my brain... let me again refer to the miracle and children statement above...)

Now I’m not sure Bill and Ted’s movie was Cinema masterpiece, But it is one of my favorites. And i’m not sure that Bill & Ted would stack up against the theological heavyweights of any of our traditions great mystics or thinkers, But there is a simple truth that in the line “Be excellent to each other”

It seems Jesus gets at the idea when he tells us the story of a Samaritan man who takes care of an injured Jew on the side of the road. Again the concept surfaces for me in Jesus image of the sheep and goats when he says “when you have done this for the least of these you have done it for me...”. I hear it in Zacheus words when he commits to repay all he has stolen and give what he has to the poor. I think the idea is something we as disciples need to embrace more fully.

Literally not a week goes by that i don’t hear from someone who confesses to be a christian, that someone has wronged them in some way. Whether it be family members, “friends” fellow parishioners, or just the generic “them” or “they”. And more often then not I’m sad to say the response is to answer wrong with wrong, or to retaliate with words or actions. I so often want to say “Dude! be excellent to each other” (My Keanu Reeves impression sucks). I’m so thankful God doesn’t treat us the way we treat each other!

I also have to admit i get a little sick enjoyment from being excellent to people and just giving them the benefit of the doubt. There have been a few times in my career where someone intentionally said something mean to hurt my feelings or impugn my motives. But I responded by being excellent to them. My personality is such that generally i figure people don’t mean to be asses. so i give people the benefit of the doubt. BUT when someone is being an ass, and they are responded to with grace and a smile... it PISSES THEM OFF! I kinda like that. There is nothing more satisfying that to see someone's ill motives kick back and cover themselves. At the same time there are few things as heartbreaking to see as someone who has lost their direction and is covered in their own venom.

So remember Bill and Ted's words:
Missy: Hi, Bill. Want a ride?
Bill: Sure, Missy.
[She draws a blank stare at Bill]
Bill: I mean, mom.
[She smiles and puts on her Ray-Bans]
Ted: [Whispering to Bill] Your step mom is cute.
Bill: Shut up, Ted.
Ted: Remember when she was a senior and we were freshmen?
Bill: Shut up, Ted!

oops wrong quote:

Ted: Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.

Sorry there are just so many good ones!

“Be excellent to each other!”

Have a great week friends.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Asbestos Home

Hi friends,

It's Friday morning and I am exhausted. I have had one of those stretches where I am on the road a lot doing conference work and other things. I've been writing sermons in hotel rooms and behind the wheel of my car as I travel up and down I-5. (I’m a much better preacher in my car than behind a pulpit... Plus my sermons are often interrupted with music intermissions, this week it was Mat Kearney and the Police.. the band not the highway patrol...mostly)

Anyway, I have been working through my list of ten things I have learned or am learning in this life and call to ministry. You can see my list here. #8 on my list was “if you're involved in “ministry” don’t let it destroy your family”. I am friends with several adult children of pastors, I have many friends who are spouses of pastors. I have a few friends who are ex-spouses of pastors. There are few careers that are like being in "professional" ministry. Unless you are in a very unique situation, or have sold your soul to the prince of darkness to be on TBN, you typically work long hours with little pay. But we pastors are a noble bunch, we justify the hard work because we are doing “God’s work” so we pour our energy and life into projects and other people, we proclaim life and joy when secretly many of us are having a hard time talking ourselves into that same life and joy.

There are some people who love us in the midst of this joyful/depressing journey... our families. If you are as lucky as I am, you have a spouse who is as called to be a minister of God’s Gospel of life through Jesus Christ as mine is. Our bishop may have put his hands on my head at a service of ordination and said “Take though the authority...” but my wife is every bit as ordained of God to deliver this message as I am. She has been my partner in this journey and I am a better pastor, a better disciple, a better dad, quite frankly a better man because of her. (Plus she is beautiful, not “pastor’s wife beautiful” but “songs of solomon hot”!)Yet she is also the one who gets the short end of my frustrations with the church in all its facets. She is the one who sees me at my worst and in times when I am on looking for jobs at radio stations and newspapers again. If you are lucky enough to have a spouse an awesome as mine, you would be pressing the envelope to have two kids as smart and above average as mine. I have missed significant days in their lives because of trustees meetings, or Ad Council meetings or other “church stuff” (Which by the way, is not the same as “God stuff” in case you were wondering). That mostly came to an end when one evening I came home from a meeting about a half hour after my kid’s bed time. I went in to daughter's room and she was out like a light, so I let her sleep. I went into my son’s room and he was still awake. I went in and sat on the side of his bed and checked in with him about his day and told him I loved him. I got up to head out and he says these words that are still smoking on my heart, “Dad, when you were a little boy, I wish you hadn’t decided to be a pastor”. Needless to say, some things in my life changed the next day. Now I help coach my son’s sports teams, and make sure I’m at events and just plain home more often. My daughter is in ballet and I am cutting a meeting short... or I should say I am leaving early, they can keep meeting if they like... to head home from Seattle back to Portland/Vancouver to watch my daughters practice (parents only get to come and watch a couple of them)

As I think about the 3 people who I would call mentors for me as a pastor, two of them had ministry destroy their marriages (one of which amid rumors of sexual misconduct). I had the experience I hope none of you have, of helping to officiate the funeral of a friend and colleague in ministry, who jumped from a bridge. I have sat across pizza shop tables and barstools with friends as they said “I need out” when talking about the ministries and churches they serve. I have always admired the theology and practical nature of John Wesley’s ministry and example, but I have to say that for those of us who call ourselves Methodist, he gives us a dangerous, unhealthy and backass example of what it means to be a minister. (Geesh! did that guy ever have a remotely healthy relationship with a woman?)

As important as this call to ministry is. As important as transforming the world through God’s Holy Spirit working in us is, if it isolates us from our spouses and our children rather than reconcile us to them and heal relationships, I think we are are doing something wrong. John Wesley once said "I set myself on FIRE, they come to watch me burn" There is something wonderful about a passion that burns like a flame, but it can also consume and destroy things of great value if we are not careful. Make your home out of asbestos and protect your family.

Have a great week friends

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wresteling at the Concert

Hi friends,

I had one of those paradoxical experiences last weekend, that you only get when you are involved in the Christian Church.

We went to the Casting Crowns concert here in Portland, with some friends from our congregation. Now just to start off, Casting Crowns is not really my style of music. I don’t mean that in a snobbery kind of way, so please don’t interpret it that way. I actually love the lyrics of many of their songs, and in fact we use quite a few of their songs in our worship services at Orchards. But they kinda have that “Big Church - Worship service “ feel that doesn’t really connect with me.

The concert, for the most, part was really geared towards a typical church worship service, so it definitely had that Big Church worship feel.

I don’t want this to sound like a “ream on Casting Crowns” rant. I know that they connect with lots of people, and their music has very missional themes that I think churches (especially big churches) need to hear. They, like a lot of Christian bands, were partnering with World Vision to help sponsor kids and give money to clean water projects. At one point Mark Hall said, “Don’t buy a t-shirt, sponsor a kid” WAY COOL in my opinion. I wasn’t too into having the band pray for all of us that we would be “Men who reclaim our faith” and for the “Mommies” to raise good christian men at one point in the concert. During the “prayer time” my wife leaned over and said “I’m starting to feel like chopped liver here...” I think Jennifer and I have a different idea of a christian home and Christian parenting and gender roles than Casting Crowns but , hey get in line... We have different views than a lot of our evangelical friends.

I guess what I need to process in the whole experience, is not the concert in and of itself, but the culture or sub culture we get sucked into as people of faith. It’s not much different than a ghetto, but with bigger houses and nicer cars.

The band I think (or I hope) wrestles with it as well. Mark Hall addressed it from the stage. I’ll sum up his comments. I guess their new album (I almost typed “record” there - remember those?) is called “The Altar and the Door”. The reasonbehind the name lies in the phenomena, that we can have these miraculous “altar moments” (like at a concert) and feel like all the world is right, and feel God’s presence so profoundly - yet somewhere between the altar and the door we loose the meaning of it all. On the other side of the door we live no differently.

I was struck by the sight (that included me) of a couple thousand people, most of whom confess to being christians, leaving memorial coliseum with t-shirts and CD’s and newly acquired World vision sponsorship info, stepping over homeless people on the way back to their lexus (or Ford Taurus in my case) or to the 35K youth van with “Big Church Youth” painted on the side. I want you to know that I am in the middle of that group stepping over people on my way back home from the downtown venue.

I’m not against concerts or gatherings of people of faith or Casting Crowns. It was at one of those type gatherings that i first started to hear a call to ministry. It’s not Casting Crowns fault (or in my case as a young man it was Mylon LeFever and Broken Heart). It’s just the conflict between wanting to be a disciple that follows Jesus, and the comfort and convenience of a culture our church’s perpetuate, that makes me feel disappointed in my self. Events like the concert last Friday just put it in my face more than usual.

I’m still wrestling with it.

Have a great week friends!