Monday, December 17, 2007

Tired of waiting...

It’s been rainy and miserable, as far as weather is concerned around here. You may have seen on the news the devastation the floods in Western Washington and Oregon have caused. I am a bit south of where most of the big damage took place in Washington. So I am lucky that I am just complaining about gray, rainy weather and not complaining about my home being underwater or worse yet that my house is in the street because a mudslide left it there, as others are. I am counting my blessings.

I am reminded that this season of the year is full of paradoxes. As we are preparing to celebrate the incarnation of God on Christmas there are families living in shelters flooded out of their homes. While people stand in line for 3 hours at the local Target store for a Wii, other people stand in line to claim beds at the homeless shelter. While I proclaim that Christ is born and reconciles and redeems all of creation, families are feuding in my congregation. I was listening to a radio program on the way into church on Sunday morning and an author of a book about the way Christmases are celebrated during war times was being interviewed. He had a quote form Gen. Patton, made on Christmas day during the Battle of the Bulge in which the, not particularly spiritual or religious, man said “The sun is shining, the sky is blue, it’s a beautiful day for killing Germans, which is ironic considering whose birthday it is.”

As I have written many times before, I love the seasons of the Christian calendar. I love how they remind us of the patterns and story of Scripture, and in a way allow us to relive them every year. I love the season of Advent especially. I love the excitement that grows and the sense of expectation that we are moving towards something. I love watching my kids fill in the characters every morning on their advent calendar. What troubles me about Advent is that the sense of expectation and excitement, is often replaced with a sense that we are waiting for something. We are waiting for Christmas... Waiting for God to do something miraculous... Waiting for the Prince of Peace to do something... Waiting , waiting, waiting. To be quite frank with ya’ll (as if i’m not at other times) I’m pretty tired of waiting for something that has happened already. Something that has the potential to transform the world if we would really allow it to change us. I’m pretty tired of being an Advent Christian, and of Advent Church’s that are waiting for someone to do, for something to happen.

Is it any wonder that when January rolls around, and the decorations go back in storage, the world seems pretty much the same way it did back in October or November... because we are still waiting. How about instead of waiting, we began to love God and love our neighbors, even in January and May... and August...

I wanted to share a quick little anecdote that I read on a bulletin board I frequent quite often. It seems a father and his son were walking out of the mall a couple days before Christmas. The son said to his dad as they exited the doors “Dad, do you have any money?” The dad gave a big sigh and replied “Are you kidding me? We have been shopping all day, We ate lunch at that special place you wanted to. We got cocoa 20 minutes ago. I even bought you the toy you have been asking for.... No I don’t have anymore money!” to which the son responded “Ok dad I just wanted some money to put in the Salvation Army Bucket...” The father posting this experience said “Wow, I am a Jerk! I gave the kid a $20 to put in the bucket...” I have been there too, I think we all have. I want Advent, to be different. I want to quit waiting. I want it to remind me that God’s grace is here, and that the world is different because God’s spirit resides in me.

In the spirit of Advent, do something good because Jesus lives today.

Have a great week friends!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Comfort Vs. Tazers

I was driving into a parking lot yesterday and on the bumper of the car in front of me was a sticker that read “Don’t taze me bro!”

It was obviously poking fun of the John Kerry speech in Florida, where a university student was tazed after asking a question of the former presidential candidate. The event was captured by various amateur videographers on phones and other media and quickly appeared on You Tube causing quite the stir.

I know I am several months behind the times in even commenting about this event. Most notably because while others saw it as humorous, I was horrified by it. The pleas of this student saying “don’t taze me bro!” - then hearing the zap and the screams, gives me nightmares. I have a dry, somewhat odd, sense of humor, but for me the train to humor doesn’t go through this station. It was kinda one of those events that I hope is unique and wont happen again, so i just kinda’ let my stunned horrified silence sit. Until yesterday when i saw the bumper sticker. For the record I am not a bumper sticker fan. Sticking a piece of vinyl on your car with a saying that will most likely piss someone off, or that you think is funny (I stress “you”) just makes me question someone's decision making skills.

ANYWAY, back to my thought about this event. I like millions of people watched the video. I know nothing of the student’s background or reputation, but it seemed to me that the student was asking a question of Senator Kerry that made the Senator very uneasy, and also made the audience uneasy... and wouldn’t stop asking the questions. I have been to events like this, where people hijack meetings or gatherings with questions. I’ve seen crowds boo and drown out the questioner. I must admit I have boo’d a few myself in my day, all of which is part of the free speech thing we value so much as citizens of the United States. In my mind, you have the right to ask a loaded question, I have the right to boo when you do. It seems when someone asking a question, albeit not tactfully, and confrontationally, becomes reason to be tazed, I think something is wrong, and I point you to the before mentioned train schedule to humor... it doesn’t stop at this station.

That is the first layer of grief I feel about this event. Even more troubling by this scene for me, is that we are so addicted to comfort even in public discourse. I agree that words have weight and meaning and can injure, but as i see this video that's not the case here. It was merely a matter of Senator Kerry and the audience being uncomfortable with the questions and the way they were asked. And because the student made them uncomfortable they he was arrested and tazed. Wow, I’m glad tazers weren’t around when Jon the Baptist called the Pharisees “a brood of vipers”. Imagine Jesus telling the religious and political leaders “you are not son’s of Abraham, because you don’t do what he did”... for that matter any conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees .

It seems comfort is our ultimate value today. Maybe that is why we have watered Jesus down to a pastey, white robed, whimp crying on a rock gazing at heaven in the garden. If you make me uncomfortable it’s ok to taze you, or at least pull you out of the room by force. Maybe the “don’t taze me bro!” event is a microcosm for the comfort of our churches. Maybe at the root of the soft music , soft sermons phenomena, is this love of comfort.

In my years of ministry I have heard parishioners say the words “If those welfare moms can’t find a ride this afternoon to get here, then they don’t deserve a Thanksgiving basket...” and “If you remove the pews on the front row and put chairs up there I am leaving the church,” Imagine Jesus walking into that conversation... I don’t know what to do about comfortable church or the general addiction to comfort for our whole culture, to be honest. Maybe that's why it took me several months to even address this topic. For those of you that cruise through this blog I’d love to hear your thoughts on this addiction to comfort... really i’m asking...

Finally the last most deep layer of distress over the “don’t taze me” event is that no one stood up and said “Stop”. Instead people watched with jaws dropping. It seems that the situation could have been diffused pretty easily and it would have never escalated to the scale it did, with some wise words, and actions, Again I know nothing of the background etc. of the situation. What breaks my heart is that when the words “don’t taze me” rang out through the hall no one stood up and said “ya don’t!” In fact now you can laugh about it as you glue “Don’t taze me bro!” on your car’s bumper or wear it on your t-shirt. (Wanna be disappointed with the state of our culture?? Google “don’t taze me bro!” and see what you find)

Your mileage may vary,

Looking forward to a better world, a better church, and a the kingdom of God.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Best Day Ever #4

Hi friends,

I don’t have much creative, or thought provoking to write about today, but i did want to mention that I had one of those “best days ever” yesterday. I have maybe three days that I would call my best ever. One is the day back in college when I won the conference championship in the 200m with a time that was in the top 8 in the nation at the time. Another was that day on my honeymoon with my (then new) wife Jennifer as we walked around Victoria BC being in love. Another was about 5 years ago when we took my two kids to Disney on Ice. The looks on their faces and the smiles and cheers they let out will always be etched on my heart. Last night I have another day to add. Jennifer and I took my 10 year old son to his first concert - Switchfoot and Reliant K. Seeing my son jump and sing and cheer and bump his fist complete with white man’s overbite was in a word AWESOME!

Jackson is more of a Reliant K fan than a Switchfoot fan, and I am the opposite, but both shows were great and the opening band Ruth from Battle Ground, Wa (just a few miles up the road from where I live) was surprisingly good as well.

If you are not familiar with any of these bands, they are the bands that I call Christian friendly. They have quite a bit of airplay on commercial radio stations, but definitely have a christian/spiritual message to their music. As a result there were lots of Church buses parked in the parking lot when we arrived at the venue (Which was horrible- I’ll say more in a minute) and lots of church youth groups in attendance, which was not horrible. I’m 39 years old and my wife is 37 but we don’t normally hang out with people our age, typically our friends are about 10 years younger than us. But I am too old to be spending much time on the floor of a rock concert pogo-ing for three hours, so Jennifer and I and my 10 year old son stayed up in our seats. Anyway, the friends who we went with all headed down to the floor and we stayed in the stands to hold our spot with the chaperones and “adults” from the youth groups that had traveled to the show. The reliant K and Ruth concerts were fun and pretty non-threatening to the people sitting around us, but I have enough of a prophet in me, to absolutely love the facial expression change when Switchfoot took the stage. Their sound is much harder, their message is much more counter cultural and I relished in the fact that my son was pumping his fist in the air as they sang. The older folks around us were not quite “hip” with the lyrics to “My American Dream” or statements by Jon Foreman (lead singer) like “thrift stores redeem American commerce” or songs like “Dirty Second Hand”. I had dreams of my son pumping his fist being the revolutionary calling the church to account for its greed and support of things that grieve the heart of God. I know I am reading way too much into a ten year old’s first concert... but let me dream! Like I said it was a good night!

The only harsh on my awesome night was the venue of the concert! Wow the Pavilion at the Oregon State Fairgrounds sucks, at least for concerts. It's a big ol’ metal rodeo barn so the acoustics are terrible (although the bands did great with what they had to work with). The Concessions workers were terrible and acted like charging $3.50 for as cup of ice with 5 oz of soda in it was an inconvenience to them. Parking is horrific with one gate allowing all the cars in or out. We ended up parking outside on residential streets after spending 30 minutes waiting to move about 1/2 block in the car to get into the one gate. And security was the worst I have seen at a concert. The floor of the stadium was PACKED and all night long we saw young kids getting passed up to the front and escorted out by paramedics because they were being smashed in the crowd. I understand that those things happen and have been to several concerts where crowds get like, that but as soon as it happens security typically gets a hold of the crowd and starts working to get the situation under control. Not last night. For three hours there was a steady stream of kids being passed up and escorted/carried out by paramedics. Even my 10 year old said there is no way he wanted to go down there. If you are considering attending a concert at the Pavilion I would suggest you wait till the concert is at a better/safer venue.

So anyway I’m adding day # 4 to my best days ever list. Rock on friends, and fight the power.... :::pumping fist while i do the white man’s overbite::