Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Consider the Lilies

(originally published in Release Magazine ©1991 by Rich Mullins)

Did I forget to tell you that He loved lilies? It is well-known and much overlooked fact of His life--as known and overlooked as the lilies He loved. And it's a puzzling fact, too. Why lilies? Why especially lilies?

Maybe He loved lilies for being white, the way many people love roses for being red. Maybe it was because of the brilliant green of their long, slender stalks or the glorious, darker green of their leaves. Maybe He loved them because their blooms looked like trumpets and their leaves resembled swords. It could have been their simplicity, it might have been their commonness. It may have been because of all of that and it just as easily could have been because of none of that at all. But it seems like He loved them.

In the Sermon on the Mount--a sermon that predated the birth of Christianity, a sermon so profound and timeless that it would endure throughout the history of Christianity and would (in fact) shape and distinguish the character of everything Christian--Jesus pointed to lilies as examples of a splendor superior to that of Solomon's. He considered them to be better dressed than kings--lilies, that is (and a lily is one of the most naked flowers known to us). He did not apparently blush or stutter when He commanded His flowers to consider them. He gave that command with the same authority that He gave the command to "let your light so shine" and the command to "turn the other cheek." It is an astonishing command maybe because lilies are astonishing flowers or maybe given because Jesus was an astonishing man.

After all, He had a certain fondness for sparrows and did not consider their care and feeding beneath the dignity of God--though God's care and dignity (Jesus would assert) is beyond the comprehension of men. It was God's Spirits that led Him into the wilderness where He fasted and spent forty days (Mark tells us) "with the wild animals." It is easy, considering this attitude about lilies and sparrows, to imagine (and yes, this is imagination and certainly not revelation) that He spent that time romping with those creatures, not cowering from them and thus in His person, partially fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy about a "peaceable Kingdom of the Branch."

If this was the whole picture of Christ, we could easily write Him off as the nature lover with a heavy Hebrew orientation. But this is where the love of lilies throws us a curve--He loved men. It was to the end that they might be saved that He came. This man who looked at flowers and loved them, also looked at an arrogant young human and loved him. He who romped forty days with the wild animals, spent and worked three years with yet a more savage and brutal species--man. He who rejoiced in God's providence for sparrows miraculously fed a crowd of 5,000 people on one occasion and 3,000 on another. His attention and affection was not won by the attractive and the beautiful--His glance and His love made things and people attractive and beautiful. The touch of His hand would give sight to the blind and from the hem of His garment flowed healing.

And even if someone would (and why should they) doubt the accounts of His miracles, I can testify myself I had never seen a lily until He showed me one. I had never heard a sparrow until His voice unplugged my ears. I had never known love until met Him...and He is love.

So, all those things He did that we call "miracles" became believable to us because Christ, who performed them, operated out of love--and love (His love at least) has a height and depth and breadth and length that reach beyond the dimensions of mere reason. And while reasons my be found within His love, no reason would be able to contain His love. It is possible that He loved lilies because He is love and that He feeds sparrows for the same reason. It is possibly that the evidence of His divinity lies in that love--that in light of love, miracles seem sort of unremarkable. If God can love me, the rest will follow. And Jesus Christ is, for me, the evidence of God's unreasonable and unsolicited attentiveness, His unearned favor, His incomprehensible love.

Did I forget to mention that He loved lilies?

Monday, October 22, 2012

on the brink: the cuban missile crisis remembered

“Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right — not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world.” – President John F. Kennedy in his speech to the nation on Oct. 22, 1962
50 years ago, our nation and our world were on the brink of something catastrophic.  The Cuban Missile Crisis spanned 13 nervous days in October 1962, in which Nuclear War with Russia (and WWIII) seemed eminent.  Then President John F. Kennedy gracefully and cautiously navigated us through it, and disaster was avoided.

Back from the Brink - article

Saturday, October 06, 2012

(we are not alone)

we long to be connected...  a brilliant reminder.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

next steps

as part of my new role as director of discipleship at wadsworth united methodist church i've create a discipleship blog, titled NEXT STEPS.  it is my goal to share short, simple inspiring and empowering words, videos, images and quotes to help disciples of Christ navigate their faith journey throughout the week.  check it out:  http://disciplesteps.tumblr.com

i hope to keep blogging here at fantastic distraction - it's something i've been doing for 8 years now.  i took a bit of a hiatus this past summer - but i'll hopeful and confident i will get back at it.

i have to be honest, i'm still striving to find my rhythm here in the midst of new surroundings.  it's taken perhaps longer than expected.  i've not blogged as much, read as much, ran as much... but it's been busy (not that that is anything to brag about.)  so i aim to establish new rhythms here in the near future.  God is revealing things to me and my family, this i know... but in the midst of all things new, i'm slowing navigating my own new journey of faith, and slowly discovering new forms of expression.

a challenge, no doubt, but a welcomed one at that.  God has given us all purpose and vision.  i know a destination is in front of me - at this point, the journey is the destination.

next steps. one foot in front of the other...

Monday, October 01, 2012

my window

as i look out my window of my newly inhabited office (for about two months now) i see an empty parking lot, with pristine white lines marking spaces for cars to park. i see trees that are changing hues as i type. from green to red and orange and various shades in between. the road beyond is slightly sloped with patches of tar, a repaired reminder of the cracks now covered up. and to the left, a basketball hoop with a busted rim, angling towards the asphalt below. and a frayed net taboot.

 to the houses across the street, what do they see when they look out their bay windows? what are we? how are we perceived? are we mere bricks and mortar? a parking lot and a building? an eyesore in the midst of a residential area? a business that becomes an inconvenience on the weekend? with the cars and the traffic that appear? a church that is concerned about its own, yet can't fix the basketball hoop so that neighborhood kids can play? 

on this afternoon of inactivity i can't help but wonder what we are. where we stand. how we are seen - if even at all.

 a mail truck now appears on the street. the mail man delivers mail to each residence, proof of their existence, even though we don't know them. he knows their names. we do not.

 this is our picture. we are the church. we have good intentions. we love Jesus. but we are not capitalizing on the opportunity that may very well be right outside our windows. Lord, give us eyes to see, not mere projects, but people. people who need you and who want to encounter you, even if they've yet to realize it... perhaps even in the littlest of things.. may we go and be Jesus, not to the world, but first to our street. through fixed basketball hoops and outstretched hands of generosity and hospitality.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Not of this World

 13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth." ~John 17:13-19

What an amazing scripture.  What an amazing prayer.  Jesus is in the garden... it’s the night before his eventual death and demise... and he’s recounting to God the Father all that he has said and done and taught the faithful disciples.

“I have told them many things so they may be filled with joy."
“I have given them your word.”
“Protect them from the evil one.”
“Make them holy.” 

 I love it when Jesus says “They (the disciples) do not belong to the world any more than I do.”

 Jesus, in essence, calls the disciples, the faithful ones, aliens. Foreigners. Outsiders. Something was different about them now. But Jesus didn’t ask them to be taken away from this world - to be taken away from the challenges that come to those who follow. Jesus knew their potential. He knew what had to happen next. He’d go to the cross - sacrifice Himself - so the faithful few could be made holy. Sanctified. Set apart. By doing so, He set in motion a path for transformation and the world would never be the same.

What an amazing prayer, a prayer for any follower of Jesus - a hopeful inspiration to us all. What’s the least we could do for the One who gave his all for us to live? What if we all truly claimed that prayer and accepted being ‘made holy’ and set apart? What if we lived as aliens, foreigners and outsiders? Maybe the world would take notice. Maybe others would say ‘there’s something different about you. I want what you’ve got.’

Accept the words of the Father. They have been given to us by His son, Jesus. Accept God’s truth. Change the world, just as the disciples did. Jesus believed in their ability. He believes in your ability, also.

Monday, June 04, 2012

the 3 Muscles of Visual Life

In this Intel Visual Life short documentary, Michael Wolff, co-founder of Wolff Olins Agency and considered one of the preeminent visionaries and perhaps the father of 20th century brand expression and identity, talks about his approach to looking at the world, including the muscles of curiosity, appreciation, and imagination.

i value this mini- documentary (thank you to my wife for finding it) because of its fresh perspective on life... what we see... how others see us... how do we bring about inspiration?  how are we branded? 

While watching i thought of many parallels to faith and the church.  There are so many elements of value found in this short 6 minute film.  I'd like to focus on a few.

How Am I Known?

as Christians - we may think we know how we see ourselves - but we certainly don't know how others perceive us.  the same could be said for the church.  (but that's for another blog post)

"I don't know what I look like to other people therefore I must package myself in a way that reveals who I am."

What Do We See?
From a faith standpoint, do we, the church (or we, as Christians),  have a holistic view of our design? 
Michael Wolff talks about the 3 Muscles:
Curiosity (being willing to ask why?) + Appreciation (noticing) = Imagination.

Part of appreciation is brand identity.  What is the purpose, the vision?  what does it do?  what does it bring?  we need a brand that makes it so people can take it, receive it, value it, treasure it & choose it.
This is the whole process of branding.

This is a message for the church.  This is a message of discipleship.
We (the church/the body of Christ) need to brand our process of discipleship... we need to present to others an identity that compels others to take it, receive it, value it, treasure it & choose it.

Think of the impact we might have, for the glory of God, to brand our identity in Christ in a way that would entice others to follow Jesus.  In a real, honest and humble way.  That's Kingdom work.  That's the Gospel in action.  People are drawn to authenticity.  How might we brand that, so to speak?

This is something that each church needs to investigate and digest.

Curiosity matters.
Appreciation matters.
Imagination matters.

Utilizing our imagination is an outward expression of who we are in Christ - created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) - to do great and mighty things (John 14:12).  Our process of discipleship can naturally derive from that.  Nothing more, nothing less.  In the simplicity of curiosity and appreciation - there God can be found, because God is in vastness that our imagination

Open Your Eyes.
"If you walk around with a head full of preoccupation you're not going to notice anything."

We need open eyes.  We need to see new things.  May God gives us the vision to see the new thing in front of us (Isaiah 43:19).  May our preoccupations wane so that Christ may abound (Phil. 1:9).

Just think what God might do through us...
How will you now visualize life?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

getting off the couch (winds of change)


Last Sunday morning in worship four of our youth carried in a couch and placed in the center of the Sanctuary stage to symbolize the tendency to stay 'comfortable' and play it safe rather than taking the appropriate risks God may be calling us to take.

I can remember thirteen plus years ago, a time when I was fulfilling a life long dream of working in the television industry, when God began to plant seeds of change within my heart.  Through conversations and nudging from a close friend and pastor, I began to see and understand God's true calling in my life.  I prayed and discerned and eventually a door was opened.  I decided to take a risk as I stepped aside from a career in broadcast media so that I could answer the call to student ministry and begin my tenure as a youth pastor.

Thirteen years.  It's been an amazing journey.

416 Sunday night Youth Focus meetings (give or take)
240 Thursday Bible Studies (give or take)
190 Girl Talk Bible Studies (give or take)
117 Leadership Team gatherings
90 'Sup discipleship meals
70 Football parkings
60 Breakfast Clubs
29 Winter Jam retreats (Junior High, Senior High, Post High)
14 weekend youth retreats (to Atwood, Punderson & Wanake)
12 CYF camps.
12 Mission Trips.
8 Sunrise services.
5 Ichthus or Alive Music Festivals
5 5th Quarter Parties
3 Maundy-Thursday services
Plus countless Pizza parties, Guys Nites of Awesome Manliness, Concerts, Gatherings, Revolutions, Overnighters, Swim parties, Video shoots, Game nights etc.

Lots of great memories.  Lots of great God moments.  Lots of great students.  I sincerely cherish and love every student who has ever sat on a couch in the youth lounge, shared a meal at our table, traveled the back roads to our fall retreat location, journeyed together to serve God in mission or has been a part of the Christ UMC Youth group in any other way, great or small.  I have so many fond memories.  I've spent the better part of my life hanging with teenagers, doing my best to be an example of Jesus to them all.  We've shared in our successes and failures - and I am so thankful that I answered that calling and took that risk.

I have no regrets.

About five years ago, my father passed away unexpectedly.  As much as I was mad at God for taking him away, I knew that God was with me.  As Psalm 30:5 says "weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."  Through that I began to sense that God had something else in store for me but I didn't know what.  I went through a period of deep soul searching and self discovery.  That lead to some great years of ministry for the CUMC youth, I believe.  As a leader I felt fresh and renewed, despite my wondering of what was to come, but through it all God was again planting seeds of change within my heart.

I've never been one to want to play it safe and have always thrived on newness and change, despite the nervousness and anxiety that comes with it.  After a strong period of renewal, I began to sense that God had another plan for me.  It was tough to even allow myself to be open and willing to discover that plan.  I know that God is in control and has plans for us all, but answering a new calling can be scary for anyone.

Over the past few months, I believe I began to understand what it was that God was leading me to.  The seeds of change were beginning to spout.  It was time for me to seek out my next step.  Even though I'm fully confident that God could use me to bring about his greater good as a youth pastor at Christ UMC, I realized that He had another plan.

This brings me to one of the most bittersweet moments in my life.  It's with sadness that I tell you that I will be leaving the Christ United Methodist Church community in July of this year but am nervously excited to be transitioning to a new position at the Wadsworth United Methodist Church, in Wadsworth, Ohio as their Director of Discipleship.  This a big risk for me.  It means uprooting my family from the community of Louisville, a community that I love and have called home for all but 11 years of my life.  It means stepping away from my passion for youth ministry and from the wonderful students that I humbly serve.  It means saying goodbye to a church family that has been a monumental part of my life and faith.  But I need to be faithful to God's calling.  I need to take this risk for Him because He has called me to do it.

This new opportunity is in front of me and with it I aim to help people navigate the discipleship process so that they may know and understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus; to help them discover their spiritual gifts, abilities and calling through practices and teachings that will help develop their spiritual formation and to compel them to go and be the hands and feet of Christ, through genuine service to the poor, the needy or anyone they may encounter in life.  I will also be given a chance to use my creative gifts and media background to help strengthen this new discipleship process for the people of Wadsworth.

I hope for the best for the 'Alien Uth' of CUMC.  I will do my best to help make for a smooth transition to whomever else may lead the youth group.  I wholeheartedly believe that God has someone else in mind to take the group to the next level.

I love and appreciate all of you who have taken the time to be a part of the youth ministry of CUMC:  past, present and future; the awesome students and dedicated adult volunteers, the prayer warriors and faithful supporters.  You all mean the world to me.  God has used you to shape my soul as much as I hope he has allowed me to shape yours.  Jen and I both have been truly blessed.

I hope and pray that you will come to know and understand the calling God has placed upon your life.  I trust and pray that you might continue to follow Jesus and his teachings.  I hope you might be compelled to live out your faith and to share your stories with the world - so that God's kingdom might be made greater as you share with others the love of Jesus.

Thanks again.  Much love to all of you.

Humbled and thankful,

Tim Beck

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Everything Is Meaningless

what do you do when you long for clear answers and clear meaning to it all...  how long can hopes and dreams remain internalized?  waiting to be given flight i feel as though my wings are clipped... what we all need is a little bit of clarity.
 1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:  2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
   says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
   Everything is meaningless.”
 3 What do people gain from all their labors
   at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
   but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
   and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
   and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
   ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
   yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
   there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
   more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
   nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
   what has been done will be done again;
   there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
   “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
   it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
   and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
   by those who follow them.
Ecclesiastes chapter 1

Bowery Electric – Postscript

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Caine's Arcade

i thought this video was compelling. oh to be a child again... and to imagine... and to build... and to do what you dream of doing...

Monday, April 09, 2012

the second chance

God continues to reach... again and again. "Just one more time... Just one more time." God longs for us to unite with him. when we're united - we're tied to Him. switch around the letters though... move the 'i' in united and you get... untied. united. untied. when i move... the bond is broken... but God's hand is outstretched as if to say "Please, let's try again." ©2012 creative kerygma / tim beck videos a simple video with a simple message.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

You were born to take the greatest flight

When the night comes,
and you don't know which way to go
Through the shadowlands,
and forgotten paths,
you will find a road

Like an owl you must fly by moonlight with an open eye,
And use your instinct as your guide, to navigate the ways that lays before you,
You were born to take the greatest flight

Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love
and carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow
Every hollow in the dark of night
Waiting for the light
Take the flame tonight

Indie artist Josh Garrels has a song called "White Owl" from which the lyrics above derive. (My blogger friend Troy has posted about this before). The song and video (below) is about a journey through the night, searching for what one was born to do. I love the lyric "You were born to take the greatest flight."

You were born to take the greatest flight.

I was born to take the greatest flight.

We were born to take the greatest flight.

My heart is stirring. The kind of stirring that tells me that God is up to something. I mean, do I truly believe that lyric above? If I was born to take the greatest flight then what do I have to show for it?

Taking flight means taking risks. and I feel as though I've been playing it safe. a little too comfortable. and you know what happens when you get comfortable... numbness sets in. who wants to look back at life showing atrophied wings?

if we can't take risks with our faith then what's the point? God calls us to take flight... but we wait on the runway with all the others, talking about how great it would be to fly - but we never take off. we seldom do what we were designed to do.

there is a light that never goes out... but you have to risk it all to fully experience its warmth...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The Boombox Project

The Boombox Project: The Machines, the Music, and the Urban UndergroundThe Boombox Project: The Machines, the Music, and the Urban Underground by Lyle Owerko

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

an historic icon of my childhood, the boombox was more than a status symbol. it was more than a means to an ends. it was a statement. I didn't grow up in the inner city - the closest city to my hometown was an hour away - but even in my small, rural, farming crossroads of a town, the boom box was a symbol of power - and like every kid, i wanted one.

my first one was a cheap one, a KOSS brand, i think. dual cassette. cheap plastic. but it brought me so much joy. i can vividly remember making my first mix tapes - waiting by the radio - hoping they'd play the songs i'd want to record. later on i'd stay up late on Saturday nights to listen to and record Power 108's commercial free jam of the greatest hip hop of 1988.

As i got older, i'd blare cassette-singles from that boom box, mostly rap and hip hop - the music designed to be played loud. Public Enemy. EPMD. LL Cool J. 3rd Bass. BDP. and of course RUN DMC. played loud and proud.

The Boombox Project by Lyle Owerko brought back all of those memories, and more. It's a little more than a coffee table book, in that it evokes emotions long forgotten. the creativity of the project and the ability of Owerko to find something beautiful and intricate out of something so ordinary and forgotten, i.e. the Boombox. it makes me realize how often we 'miss' things. as someone who aspires to create, my eyes don't 'see' enough... to often i think i allow myself to gloss over the artistic sides of life.

the Boombox was an artistic side of our culture that should be remembered.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples

Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples: A Small BookBuilding a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples: A Small Book by Duffy Robbins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples Duffy Robbins clearly guides any youth leader towards a practical approach to youth discipleship. Making disciples is what Jesus called his followers to do - yet it becomes strangely left out of many youth ministries. The emphasis on programs over relationships, large over small, and fun over study is sadly the expectation of most youth leaders. Ou faulty blueprints generally lead us in the wrong direction with unpredictable expectations.

In the book, Duffy provides key elements that need not be neglected and while giving answers to help leaders get students to go from the 'Pool of Humanity' as he states it, through the come and grow states and then towards the disciple, develop and multiplier stages.

I took pages of notes on this book. I know feel excited to start the process of preparing and equipping my adult leaders and developing my students to become disciple makers. I also feel empowered to lead those who want to get something more our of life and faith.

Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples is a good book that any youth leader should read.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet 'well done' in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

when right is wrong (or when wrong is right) [a rant, no less]

let me cut to the chase. i grew up in a Republican household and I've been forever connected to an evangelical church. But I've got to be honest, by and large, I couldn't, at this very moment, feel more disconnected from either group.

Here's why:

Pat Robertson Blames Tornado Victims for Carnage

"God didn't send the tornadoes... God set up a world in which certain currents interfere and interact with other currents. If enough people were praying, He would intervene." ~ Pat Robertson

Those poor people should have just prayed harder.

But at least Robertson doesn't think that God caused these tornadoes as some form of punishment upon the American people. Unlike John Piper. Piper wrote that the recent tornadoes from March 2 & 3, 2012 were God's Fingerprints.

"Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?

If God has a quarrel with America, wouldn’t Washington, D.C., or Las Vegas, or Minneapolis, or Hollywood be a more likely place to show his displeasure?" ~ John Piper

Why not, John? Why not? How pompous to think God would be more concerned about those cities... even more pompous to assume God should strike down and punish them.

Piper, whom many look to as a leader among all leaders, pulls scriptures from anywhere and everywhere to prove his point. Matthew Paul Turner has eloquently written about this on his blog: John Piper's Twister Theology.

To assume that any natural disaster, in this day and age, is God punishing us for our sins, is an awful big assumption. But you know what they say about people who assume, eh?

But Piper is not the first one to correlate disasters to God's punishment. Heck, a few years ago Piper blamed a tornado that ripped through Minneapolis on the Lutherans where convening and discussing (gasp) homosexuality. Robertson equated the Haiti earthquake to God's punishment upon them because Haiti made deal with the devil.

No wonder Christians are so easily mocked.

Many others (including Robertson) said Hurricane Katrina was also God punishing America. Jerry Fallwell said 9/11 was God's punishment upon us. Is that all God is? the puppet master? pulling all the strings up in heaven? And why is He so overly concerned with America? What about the rest of the world? I suppose he punished Japan last year with an earthquake and tsunami because of their self-absorption with Hello Kitty and Karaoke.

But maybe these tornadoes happened because a warm front and a cold front collided. Isn't that how tornadoes happen? Maybe Hurricane Katrina happened because of whatever it is that causes hurricanes.

On a side note: Rick Warren actually had to defend himself for sharing a meal and building relationships with (gasp) non-Christians! [RICK WARREN ON MUSLIMS, EVANGELISM and MISSIONS] Really? Sounds a lot like how the Pharisees shamed Jesus for making nice with tax collectors and sinners and the like.

Next up: Kirk Cameron. Last Friday (March 2, 2012) on Piers Morgan Tonight he said:
"homosexuality is "unnatural," "detrimental," and "ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization..."
support him, his views or not, he had a right to say what he did. i'm not attacking that. his honesty has definitely brought support. But I'd say this: many things have been destructive to the foundations of civilization. Why do evangelicals bump homosexuality to the top of that list? What about society's general neglect for the poor, or greed, or pride or parents not being parents or divorce or our fascination with war and weapons and guns or selfishness? Many things have been destructive. Maybe if the anti-homosexuality crusaders put as much effort into seeing to it that the Greatest Commandments are lived out we'd really see change. It seems like evangelicals generally are quick to speak out against things... i guess i'd prefer us to be known more for what we stand for, not stand against. and perhaps these other concerns should be bumped to the top of evangelical talking points.

I'm not meaning to suggest that Cameron is a crusader against homosexuality. At least he handles himself with tact. But many are, including some of the current Presidential candidates.

It's one thing to have your morals, your faith-based standards, to live those out for the glory of God and to share why you live that way with anyone who'd listen. It's another thing to impose your set beliefs (no matter how right they might be) on others unwillingly. This is what many evangelical Republicans want to do. I don't see that as being the way of Jesus.

Lastly, Franklin Graham questioned President Obama's profession of Christian faith, calling him a (gasp) Muslim. Graham later backtracked and apologized. My struggle with how Obama is treated by Evangelicals is this: fairness. Shouldn't we, as Christians, above all else, be fair? It doesn't matter what you think of Obama or his policies. You don't have to like him - but you should be fair to him. And I don't see enough of that by evangelicals.

Frankly, that's the issue I have with all of these issues above. Evangelicals speaking for God - as if they are God and as if anyone has an opposing view point he will be labeled and defamed (apparently unworthy to be loved.)

I see this played out in the media and i see so many Christians taking the bait, hook, line and sinker. I'm sick of it. I don't know how so many Christians can support the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity... gentlemen who spew hate-speech... nothing short of hate speech. This should appall any and all evangelical Christians who give them the time of day.

What about the love?

The un-Christ-like behavior has got to stop. People need to put God before politics. Plain and simple. People need to read the Word. Plain and simple. Not just pick and choose the passages that work for them.

Lastly, if people want to see change in the world, they should do it by loving God and neighbor and by discipleship so that God might work through them and compel them to bring about change - not through the government - but through the heart.

some of the aforementioned talking points and similar stories like them have been the stick in my craw for some time now. writing this out was in many ways a complete waste of time and yet therapeutic. I think maybe i can move beyond this now. i realize that i am not exclusively correct with my perceptions... i may be way off base. you can be the judge. i am open to be wrong or to being proved wrong... but i think at this point i've always realized that it's not always about being right or wrong... it's about listening... i strive to listen more and to act more and to believe more and to imagine more and to live out the life God has given me, striving to honor Him and glorify Him.

I aim to post more God-moments, God-reflections, God-interactions... that needs to be my focus.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

notes + quotes from You Lost Me. (Book Review)


You Lost Me. Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church... and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman

valuable quotes and statistics from Kinnaman's book on why young people are leaving the church. This book gives great insight as to how the church can adapt in order to reach a generation that is currently disconnected from the church community.

[spoiler alert]

Millions of young adults (MOSAICS age 18-29) leave active involvement in church as they exit their teen years. some never return, while others live indefinitely at the margins of the faith community, attempting to define their own spirituality. (pg. 19)

Millions of young Christians describe Christianity as hypocritical, judgmental, too political, and out of touch with reality. (20)

The dropout problem is a disciple-making problem. the church is not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing culture. (21)

61% of young people with Christian background have “dropped out of attending church after going regularly.”
41% have struggled with significant doubt.
35% have rejected their parents faith. (24)
(these averages are among Protestants)

“I’ve never lost faith in Christ but i have lost faith in the church.” ~ Kelly, a young adult ‘Nomad’

FACT: young Christians perceive and interpret reality through screens. (43)

NEW REALITY: young people expect to participate as well as consume.
young people desire to stay connected at all times.
young people do not have a network of older adults to help them succeed.

Young need access, feel alienated and are not interested in the authority structures of that animate Christianity.

Mosaics are tech savvy but not necessarily truth savvy.

Young people are interested in spirituality, but on their own terms.

Young people feel it is more important to be fair and loyal to their peers than to be loyal to the institution.

The Christian community needs to consider our allegiance to these authorities; we must be honest enough with ourselves to determine where our allegiance is merely cultural rather than biblical. We need a new mind in our approach to faith formation in the changing spiritual narrative. (56)


still describe themselves as Christian.
believe that personal involvement in church is optional.
importance of faith has faded.
angry and/or hostile towards church.
spiritual experimentalists. (65)

Christian beliefs don’t make sense.
Spiritual needs not met.

want their faith to matter.
want to follow Jesus AND connect with world they live in.
skeptical of institutions but not wholly disengaged with them.
see God moving outside walls of church (and they want to be a part of that movement).
not disillusioned with tradition; they are frustrated with slick, shallow expressions of religion.
faith isn’t instructive to their calling or gifts.
struggle when Christians question their motives.

“A film isn’t Christian just because it has inserted the gospel message in there somehow. A film can point to Christ when it honestly portrays our human condition and invites us to experience something about redemption that each of us needs.” ~Justin

How modern exiles compare to the Bible: SAME SONG, DIFFERENT MILLENNIUM (87-88)
The challenge for the Christian community is how to respond to the growing number of exiles. Will we do what we can to equip them to make the choices that faced Daniel in Babylon -- choices about balancing cultural accommodation and faithful, Christ-centered living? Will we listen to and take to heart their faithful prophetic critiques of the church’s posture toward our increasingly pluralistic society? Will we change our structures, guided by unchanging truths of Scripture, to nurture their gifts and unique calling into a world deeply loved by, yet in many ways hostile to, God?

they find the church to be:
OVERPROTECTIVE - they want to reimagine, recreate, rethink and they want to be entrepreneurs, innovators, starters. To mosaics, creative expression is of inestimable value.
SHALLOW - the most common perception: church is boring. Also, the Christianity they received does not give them a sense of calling.
EXCLUSIVE - Christianity’s claims to exclusivity are a hard sell. (mosaics want to find areas of common ground...)
DOUBTLESS - don’t feel like church is the place to express doubts. do not feel safe admitting that faith doesn’t always make sense.

Young Christians - it’s your turn to listen.
Well established Christians - it’s time to trust in a deeper way of God working within the next generation.

Mosaic frustration:
Christians demonize everything outside of the church.

Christians are afraid of pop culture (especially movies + music)

Christians maintain a false separation of sacred and secular. (research shows that this generation does not see a divide between the sacred and secular, at least not in the same way their parents do.)

Christians do not want to deal with the complexity or reality of the world. (church = to rigid, unreal + not able to comprehend the world as it really is) (97-98)

Many mosaics grew up in a risk-free Christianity which led them AWAY from God/Church.

Perception of Church: fear based to get you to do something as opposed to giving you logical reasons why you should or shouldn’t do something.

help young people understand fundamental brokenness in humans and an adversary who intends to derail mankind in every possible way.
no fear of ‘secular’ culture/media, etc. let’s watch, listen and read together and do ‘cultural exegesis’ asa faithful community.
guide young people to trust God fearlessly and follow Christ in the power of the Spirit - even at the RISK of their lives, reputations, and worldly success.

Matthew 16:25
24-26Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Current Church seems shallow - with a faith that is a mile wide but an inch deep.
Don’t just convey INFORMATION about God - DISCIPLE young believers to live wholly, deeply in the reality of God. (115)

Mosaics desire humility.

Christian communities of all kinds must find ways to include teens and young adults in the spiritual life of the church, rather than relegating them to the game room. We need a new mind for facilitating meaning filled rites of passage. How might young people be involved in Scripture reading, praying, leading worship, giving testimony, or providing a short teaching to the congregation?

Responsibility outside of worship, too: serving, mentoring, discipling, etc.

Churches expect too little of its young people.

Don;t focus on the numbers - focus on discipling like Jesus discipled.
Make disciples. (Matt. 28:19)
Committed people make disciples.

MOSAIC FRUSTRATION: Christians are too confident that they know all the answers. (137)
Christians are not accepting of gay and lesbians
Christians are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths
Church ignores problems of real world
mosaics don’t feel accepted by church people.

The next generation needs workable, biblical, grace filled ways to relate with people who are not believers.


The church is a partnership of generations fulfilling God’s purpose in their time.
(more interaction between cross generations / build inter-generational relationships)

Mentors needed to help young people with wisdom. (204)

God-centered relationships create faithful, mature disciples.

Christians have no idea that their faith connects to their life’s work.

We need new ways of measuring success. If you are in church ministry, one metric of success might be to help young people make one or two relational connections, younger or older, that lead to significant mentoring bonds that will last for several years. (208)

Jesus was in close contact with his disciples that he was able to shape the rough edges of their faith + ministry.

We have done everything humanly possible to make the church as "easy" as possible. We kept the services short and entertaining, discipleship and evangelism optional, and moral standards low. Our motives were not bad. We figured we could attract more people by offering Jesus with minimal commitment. But we ended up producing nominal Christians whose unchanged lives have deterred others from being interested.

There is a new generation rising up. Young adults are studying the Bible without missing the obvious. They see how shallow methodology is incongruent with the Jesus of Scripture who asked everything of his followers. They are bored with Sunday morning productions and long to experience the Holy Spirit. They need to be challenged with the awesome responsibility of praying for, baptizing, and making disciples of their acquaintances. They need to be reminded of the Spirit who supernaturally empowers them for this task.

The days of merely bringing our friends to an event so the pastor can save and disciple them need to end. New churches must be formed where all believers are expected to do the work of evangelism and discipleship. This generation sees the potency of a church where pastors equip and shepherd disciple-makers rather than service-attenders. ~Francis Chan, as quoted in You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (pages 215-216)

The Church needs to embrace reconciliation.
Recover its imagination.
Hand-craft disciples (not cookie cutter)
Discover ones vocational calling (and how God is at work in the midst)
Radical faith is not about doing edgy things, but about embodying the self-giving love of Jesus. a love that RISKS suffering and matters more than life itself.
Don’t overreact. Reactionary thinking plagues much of evangelicalism.
Make disciples like Jesus.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Increase your Expectations

We have done everything humanly possible to make the church as "easy" as possible. We kept the services short and entertaining, discipleship and evangelism optional, and moral standards low. Our motives were not bad. We figured we could attract more people by offering Jesus with minimal commitment. But we ended up producing nominal Christians whose unchanged lives have deterred others from being interested.

There is a new generation rising up. Young adults are studying the Bible without missing the obvious. They see how shallow methodology is incongruent with the Jesus of Scripture who asked everything of his followers. They are bored with Sunday morning productions and long to experience the Holy Spirit. They need to be challenged with the awesome responsibility of praying for, baptizing, and making disciples of their acquaintances. They need to be reminded of the Spirit who supernaturally empowers them for this task.

The days of merely bringing our friends to an event so the pastor can save and disciple them need to end. New churches must be formed where all believers are expected to do the work of evangelism and discipleship. This generation sees the potency of a church where pastors equip and shepherd disciple-makers rather than service-attenders.

~Francis Chan, as quoted in You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (pages 215-216)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

everything is broken

everything is broken.
everything is the same.
everything fits into the same box.
same cookie cutter.
same mold.

and the cycle continues.

what will we do?

are our tongues stuck to the roofs of our mouths?
are our pens not pressed firmly enough on the paper?
are our fingers merely striking the same keys over an over?

right now a crayon box is spilled out in front of me and my instincts say to pick them up and put them back in the box...

but my gut tells me something different.

there is a circle on the canvas and i'm tempted to color outside the lines
but that's not enough. the canvas is still the canvas.

break. melt. rub. smash. peel. mesh. rip. rebel.

never been thought of. never been tried. make new art.

there is no canvas. only chaos.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I'm a Christian, I'm a Christian

Author Peter Rollins, continues to generate debate and acclaim from his recent release Insurrection. This modern-day parable opens up chapter one of the book. After reading this story, I was hooked and had to read more. You can read my review of Insurrection here.
Every Sunday the pastor would stand at the front of his Church and with a booming voice finish his rousing sermon with a plea:

“Each week I go to a nearby town and serve the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden; what do you do? How do you show your compassion to those in need?”

People would applaud the minister’s closing remarks and every- one would wave him off at the end of the service as he hurried away in his little car.

The truth, however, was that each week he would go to a golf course and play a leisurely eighteen holes away from his congregation, family, and friends.

This deception had been going on for years, but eventually it came to the attention of some angels. They were furious at his lies and reported the situation directly to God.

After a little consideration, God said to the angels, “I will visit with this minister on Sunday and teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.”

Sure enough, next Sunday, God showed up at the Church. Yet again, the minister informed his congregation that he was going to go serve the poor before leaving for the golf course.

This time however, God intervened. When the minister took his first shot, the ball took off, flew through the air, bounced onto the green, and dropped into the hole.

The minister was amazed. At the second hole the same thing happened. And the third. And the fourth. Right through to the last hole.

With his last stroke, the minister sliced the ball badly, but still it curved around and, like all the others, found the hole in one.

All the while the angels in heaven watched what took place in utter disbelief. By the time God returned they shouted, “I thought you were going to punish the minister for all his lies, but instead you gave him the perfect round of golf!”

“That may be true,” replied God with a smile, “but ask yourself this: Who is he going to tell?”

Peter Rollins is a writer, lecturer, storyteller and public speaker. He is also the founder of Ikon, a creativity-laden faith group that has gained an international reputation for blending live music, visual imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual and reflection to create what they call ‘transformance art.’ Insurrection is his fourth book.

Friday, January 27, 2012

old nature / new nature

how do you identify yourself?

at some point we all struggle with our identity.

who are we really?

labels stick to us like a badge of dishonor - given to us by ourselves or by others…
imperfections and feelings of self worth consume our thoughts
where do we find our true identity?
but what if we were willing to cast off the old nature and embraced something new…
renewed in the knowledge that we were made in the image of God.
we can be made new again.

[i made this video with some of my students. based on the theme of Identity and Colossians 3:1-17

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Best of 2011

Again this year, my music purchases were mostly digital. Out of the list below, only two were purchased in CD form, the rest were purchased digitally (via iTunes or Amazon) while a few were streamed on Spotify. I listen to a lot of music and this year was no different... lots of beautiful stuff out there in 2011.

(my reluctant top ten)
10: Tycho - Dive
instrumental electronic soundscapes that, in my case, seem to breed creativity. listen to Coastal Break and see if that doesn't change your mood.

9: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
to be honest, i'm a fan so it's no surprise that this album makes my list. i can't say that i liked it better than Viva La Vita - but it was a very listenable album. Don't Let It Break Your Heart is the peak, with their signature guitar sound and an amazing hook: When you're tired of aiming your arrows / Still you never hit the mark / Even in your rains and shadows / Still we're never gonna part / Come on over baby / Don't let it brake your heart

8: Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Another creative album that firmly adds itself to the Radiohead repertoire. Not as strong as In Rainbows, but solid all around. Key track: Separator

7: The Appleseed Cast - Middle States EP
just four songs shouldn't perhaps even qualify - but coming in at 27 minutes (including the 14 minute Three Rivers) makes it feel like something more than an EP. The song Middle States has a familiar Appleseed Cast (from the Low Level Owl/Mare Vitalis era. The lead track End Frigate Constellation is the best - with low-fi indecipherable lyrics that build on its mysteriousness. When that last lyric Waiting for the night to come is deciphered a sense of peace is restored before a fuzzy distortion-heavy ending brings closure to a beautifully mesmerizing song.

6: Washed Out - Within Without
simplistic synth harmonies with warm, lush vocals. the lead track is probably the best but future listens may change my mind. Nothing stands out, yet i can't stop listening to it.

5: The Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
After 25 years the Beastie Boys can still hold their own. What a brilliant come back album after such a long hiatus. Genius rhymes. Genius beats. Can't wait to see what Part One will bring. Key Track: Too Many Rappers

4: Explosions in the Sky - Take Care Take Care Take Care
I'll always greatly anticipate any new music from Explosions in the Sky. Take Care delivers in mighty ways in the sense that nothing seems old - but fresh, new, exciting. The instrumentation builds to powerful crescendos that leave the listener awestruck. There is something magical about this band. Take Care adds to the magic.

3: I Break Horses - Hearts
I Break Horses is sort of homemade shoe-gazer music by Maria Lindén and Fredrick Balck of Sweden. The catchy first track Winter Beats builds and builds, moving and pulsating like a functioning cog in a powerful machine - churning and churning; as if part of something bigger. Beats then bleeds into the title track Hearts which chillingly takes shape as more of a layered interlude, with a heavy multi synth backdrop and an eventual unrecognizable vocal mix that becomes another instrument that keeps the machine working. Wired reminds you of where I Break Horses is rooted before a sort of time warp of sound brings unresolved closure. The rest of the album is much the same: an electronic, computerized, expression of the soul.

2: Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
So melodic and dark, Helplessness Blues is a chilling follow up to Fleet Foxes deput from 2008. The title track, released months before, set the stage for a brilliant album. The Shrine / An Argument is musically, nothing short of perfection where each instrument, each lyric, each vocal harmony plays a role in telling a story of heartache and despair. "when you talk you hardly even look in my eyes". what heartache.
The rest of the album captures this same emotion with chilling detail. Helplessness Blues proves that Fleet Foxes deserve one's attention, now and always.

1: The Roots - Undun
Undun is the soulful telling of a typical from-the-streets story of a man, Redford Stevens, who sadly becomes a statistic. It's a concept album from one of the most diverse groups in all of music. Who else can match the talent of The Roots? Who else would dare make a hip hop album like this? Lyricist Black Thought paints a compelling story while raw, soulful instrumentation serving as the canvas. There is just something creative about this album and perhaps that is why i've been drawn to it. The story of the album is tragic - doused in helplessness: And no one’s in the lighthouse / You’re face down in the ocean / And no one’s in the lighthouse / And it seems like you just screamed / It’s no one there to hear the sound / And it may feel like there’s no one there / That cares if you drown / Face down in the ocean...
(the hook from The Lighthouse).
Each track is a sort of puzzle piece, part of some larger story that is tragic and desperate. None the less, Undun may not fully be understood or appreciated for some time - but it's worth digging in to, no matter where you're from and that is why i picked it as the number one album of 2011.

the best of the rest (and thanks to Spotify - i may realize that some below are even better than the ones listed above)

Foster the People - Torches
Mute Math - Odd Soul
Phantogram - Nightlife
Chad Valley - Equatorial Ultravox EP
Real Estate - Days (been listening to this simple group for the last few days and it is growing on me.)
Cut Copy - Zonoscope
Tim Hecker - Dropped Pianos
The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy (there's something special about this album. so simple and a bit different. so raw and honest.)
Loscil - Coast/Range/Arc (if you like ambient, drone-like sounds, check out Loscil.)
Tune-Yards - W H O K I L L
Katie Herzig - The Waking Sleep
Destroyer - Kaputt
The Kills - Blood Pressure
Girls - Father Son Holy Ghost

BEST REISSUE: The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
This is brilliant. One of the most creative pieces of music ever. I've always thought of Pet Sounds as one of the best albums of all time... i think SMiLE trumps that. Brian Wilson is/was a genius... and a little bit crazy, too. SMiLE is a masterpiece.


here is a recap of top albums from years past:

My Top Albums:

In 2011, i/we watched 139 films (i keep a movie watching log)
My only 5 star rated movie that i watched this year was the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Loved it. what an adventure.

I also read 29 books. [good reads] my favorite being In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - an exceptional piece of non-fiction literature.

It was another great year.