Song #1 – Making it right – not getting it right

So, right now I’m working on a new CD… and I’m very grateful because I’ve had a real writers block for the longest time. I’ve had music for these songs for a long time, roughly 1-2 years. The music expressed deeply what was brewing in my heart with God, life, love. But I just couldn’t find the courage to express it with words.

But things have been changing. My wife and I have been overwhelmed by the safety and shelter of the love of Christ and his people. Something cracked inside and now it’s all spilling out.

So, one by one I’m going to go through these songs, and what is on my heart with them. (You’ll have to just wait to hear them, however)

This first song is all about the fact that when Christ claims us, we’re his. He knows us. He’s not shocked by us. He’s not expecting us to perform like a perfect dancing toy for him to assess.

In fact, he knows far more deeply than we do what a mess we really are, and if we’re willing to follow along, he knows the path to take us on that will lead us to life.

This is a message that I cannot emphasize enough to myself.

We have an incredibly messed up idea of perfection. We look at performance, not progress… we look at looks, not the heart. We have the idea that things going smoothly, being just so, is perfection. But God seems to have a different idea.

The scriptures are a huge, massive tale of God showing us just what his perfection actually looks like. And it seemed to be a big deal to Christ as well, as he said that we should be perfect as he is perfect. Then, he proceeded to treat sinners, wretches, prostitutes, traitors… he treated them in ways that were so outside the box.

Our God is the restorer. He is creator, and recreator. He puts things right. Christ set people right. He restored them to being the children of God, made in the image of God.

If perfection was this messed up, performance based idea of getting it right and things going smoothly, then would God the father not be a horrid failure? He created this world, and allowed room for it to make the choice to hate him.

No, his perfection is inviting us into the dance of making restoration along with him. We get to join in as he makes all things new.

___________________

My Refuge

you don’t have to get it right to be mine

you don’t have to perform for me

you don’t have to get it right to be mine

set your eyes on me and you will see

 

Your perfection is nothing like mine

I am resurrection

your perfection is nothing like mine

I renew perception

 

Rise and face the dawn

 

Rise and face the dawn

be a harmony in the eternal song

rise and face the dawn

all creation will sing along

Movies and the Heart Behind Them

So, my kids and I love comic book movies. We love superheroes. We love the genre and imaginative fascination of it all. It’s simply great fun.

But, there’s more to it than this.

I’ve written before on how desperately our children need meaning in EVERYTHING THAT THEY DO. And I stand by that. Mere entertainment, on a daily basis, is like having pizza for every meal. It’s fun and just fine now and then, but as a steady diet, they won’t ever want the deeper, higher nutrient things.

No matter the budget of a movie, indie film or blockbuster, movies have immense cultural implications. The form is self perpetuating. We buy the neat new movie, they make new ones because we bought the last one, and in the midst of it, some of those writers grab hold of the pulse of our culture and they sell far more tickets because it touched our hearts, and, for that two hours, we had some amazing and tangible metaphor to grab hold of and take solace within or vent frustrations throughout.

Superhero stories are wrought with backbone and metaphor. The reality is, they’re filled with metaphor whether their creators like it or not.

Just as vampire movies, as they become increasingly shallow and sexual are a caricature of themselves: the immortal, insatiable quest  for satisfaction in the flesh… leaching blood (life) from the veins of victims. It’s a metaphor for life without God. You can’t dress it up and make it different… it just is. The art reflects the truth.

But on the positive side, right now we’re in a golden age of superhero stories that are both being cranked out and driven by creativity and greed. It’s funny… on one hand, you’ve got the movie companies wanting to make a buck. There’s nothing wrong with business, providing jobs and living wages for countless individuals. (did you know that the upcoming batman/superman movies are offering thousands and thousands of steady jobs to out of work folk in Michigan? Yeah, it’s worth noting) Some actors get paid wayyyy too much. I have no comment… they’ll have to account for themselves.

But the other side of this, that truly makes it a golden age of superhero cinema is that the bar is now set very, very high. Marvel Studios alone has truly set a standard for the craft that grabs the heart, is entertaining, and remains clean enough for the family to enjoy it together. (whether it will stay that way remains to be seen) But Marvel, as well as others are beginning to bring in more and more “little-guy” indie film-makers to make massive budget flicks.

Yes, they’re grabbing the small time artist and giving him a lot of cash and saying, “Make something seriously fun with a lot of heart!” I love it. We’re seeing more and more attention being given to the heart and soul of stories like this than ever before.

So, is this a big deal? Is it imperative to teach our kids?

I think it’s a big deal to teach our kids to dig in and connect their emotions, heart and conscience. Entertainment is great, but constant entertainment teaches our children to compartmentalize their lives. “We have thinking time and we have dumb time where we check out our brains”

This is a bad habit. Don’t teach your kids this habit. Have you taught them this? Then lets un-school them and get them thinking differently. (maybe you’ll unlearn it too!)

So, we’re going to grab a select amount of  superhero stories and dissect the art and heart behind them. Many of these are the creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Very seldom have these two just made up a character without emotional or social intent. They create with purpose.

So… here’s the rules for our venture: Before we watch a flick we look up and learn why and how that character was created, what incarnations has it taken over the years, and how did it end up on our screen now. We watch, stop, discuss, think about what we’re seeing.

Then we ask the questions. Was this a faithful telling? Did the authors/directors expound and expand the heart of the story, or did they rob it of its meaning and just try and make a buck? What did we walk away with from this story.

Honestly, we’ve never, ever had these conversations in our house without it transitioning into time with God and the scriptures. It always goes there.

It’d be fun if others were joining along with us. And this won’t stop with just the superhero stories, we’ll be interjecting in other works of animation and beauty as well.

We’ll hope to be sharing it with you along the way!

phone addiction and indie rock for kids!

So, I’m at lunch with my 11-year-old today… and I keep having that urge to check facebook and such. I hate it. It’s really nagging at me lately. I don’t want my life run by that bossy little device. 

So, I came up with a tune, my wife even joined in and wrote a verse. It’s called “Daddy’s Bossy Friend” … and though, when you just read the lyrics it may seem tragic, wait until you hear the music and see the video we’re undoubtedly going to make for this. It’ll be great. 

But here’s the lyrics 

My mama’s got this bossy bossy friend

Their time together just never seems to end

Night or day he never seems to go away

Taking pictures and recording all the cute things that I say

 

When we’re talking he always interrupts

When out to dinner he always interrupts

When reading stories he always interrupts

I really hope his battery dies

 

Daddy’s got his own bossy friend too

When his friend is by his side then he will hardly look at you

But now and then she will hide and go away

And then we all have join in and hunt for her all day

 

When we’re walking she always interrupts

When we’re driving she always interrupts

In the movies she always interrupts

I really hope his battery dies

 

whether we’re sitting in front of the TV

In Church or in the store it’s always quite sight to see

It’s hard to get my daddy to turn and look at me

When his phone is in his hand

 

When his phone is in his hand, It’s always making such unreasonable demands

When her phone is in her face, it’s like she goes to outer space

 

I’m looking at this shiny little thing

It rings and flashes, beeps and sings

In my hands, maybe now I’ll understand

If I’ll push ALL of the buttons and do everything I can

 

When you’re talking I really want my turn

When we’re out to dinner I really want my turn

Read me stories later, I just really want my turn

Don’t let the battey die

 

Now you can watch whatever you want on TV

In church or in the store I’ll be quiet as can be

I doubt I’ll even notice if you turn and look at me

When your phone is in my hand

 

Turn off the phone and play with me

It’s time to turn off the phone and read to me

It’s time to turn off the phone and snuggle while I’m home

Blink an eye and I might be grown

 

Failure as a companion…

So, a friend of mine posted this comic/blog on Facebook the other day.

Be Friends With Failure

It’s very, very well written. I was very encouraged by it. So much so that I showed it to my kids.

But I’ve been thinking on it this morning, and there’s a lot of this that I just don’t live out. If left unchecked, I will tend to desire to be treated with mercy, but to demand perfection from others.

I don’t think that it’s just me. I believe that many of us feel this.

I can’t presume to understand everyone else’s hearts. But I have to look at my own. Both in the way that I parent, and the way that I manage the office I work at.

Am I friends with Failure?

Can I be cool with the reality of the learning curve?

Real and lasting success, in anything, doesn’t come by force and violence, but by dedication and hard work. Maybe you can argue that, but I can’t.

Even in my parenting, I’m finding more and more that it’s much easier to lead my kids with fear than building a deep bond and relationship with them that will guard their hearts from wanting to do what is wrong.

The violence of spanking will deter them for a bit. But the bond of relationship will guard and guide them even when I’m not around. They want to protect that. But the easy way, introducing violence into the relationship on a regular basis is just as “the world” does things.

I was reading an NT Wright commentary on the book of James this morning, he mentioned being *friends* with the world, the violent ways that they go about everything. Not mere physical violence, but violence of the mind, soul, heart, oppression… you name it. The world governs by violence, and it will always amp up the violence to have its way.

But Christ’s way is not so. He governs by atonement… drawing us close and bridging gaps.

Do I do this in others?

Do I consider them precious?

Do I delight in them, letting them know that I truly value them and do not want my life to be without them?

If I can’t say yes, then I have no business correcting them, and I have no humility.

Let me restate that… If I don’t need the people around me, if they’re just functions that are disposable, I am an arrogant, blind man.

So, lots of questions here for the purpose of soul searching. It’s good stuff…

Here’s a parting quote:

“ You can employ men and hire hands to work for you, but you will have to win their hearts to have them work with you. ”

— William J.H. Boetcker

I wrote a song for my kids along these lines. It’s called Smile. (it’s a loud one) But it’s my prayer for how I’d like to build and build my relationship with not only my girls, but everyone.

 

Well… how many loaves have you got? – or – Why don’t you give them something?

Mark 6:34-42 (from the Kingdom New Testament… emphasis mine to show you what stuck out to me today)

When Jesus got out of the boat he saw the huge crowd, and was deeply sorry for them, because they were like a flock without a shepherd. So he started to teach them many things.

It was already getting late when his disciples came to him and said, “Look: there’s nothing here. It’s getting late. Send them away. They need to go off into the countryside and the villages and buy themselves some food.”

“Why don’t you give them something?” Jesus replied.

“Are you suggesting,” they asked, “that we should go and spend two hundred dinars and get food for this lot?”

“Well,” said Jesus, “how many loaves have got?” Go and see.”

They found out, and said, “Five, and a couple of fish.”

Jesus told them to sit everyone down … Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples to give to the crowd… Everyone ate, and had plenty.

Maybe I’m just emotional, (a few people have hinted that I have those tendencies) but what I see here is an amazing example of the Father’s heart for us. Set aside the spectacle of the miracle and you see a relationship. You see mercy, and you see grace (power from heaven) coming through to make up for where we fall short.

_______________

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting a missions organization who does disaster relief. They train young people in the scriptures, in hearing the word of God, and to discipline their bodies relentlessly. A few loved ones are participating in their year-long program, and they had graduated from the “boot camp” portion of the internship, so we went for this event.

We toured their  dorms, which are on a cargo ship. The ship is no cruise liner. Paint is peeling. Things are not pristine. But… things are clean, well loved, and maintained. They’re using what they’ve got to the fullest extent that they can.

In fact, every single piece of machinery that this relief organization owned had been given by the same faith that Christ had when he asked the Father to bless those loaves and fishes.

These folk impressed me with the lack of excess in what they utilized. They didn’t squander their finances trying to transform a crusty ole ship into a fancy, cozy ship. No, they said, “What have we got? oh… it’s a crusty old ship. Let’s lift it up to the Father and ask him to bless it to feed the many.”

And you know what, the Father has done the same thing with them, no… he’s done more with them than he has with the feeding of the 5,000 we read about in Mark. Yep, we’re meant to do greater things than Jesus, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the proof. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe the stories.

_____________

I want that too…I’m jealous.

_____________

I look at my home. I live in a trailer, in a village of trailers. Not all of them are in the greatest shape. They’re kind of like those ships I was talking about… run down and such.

We can spend our finances on life together, on people who we can have fellowship, on necessities, or … we can try to transform our trailers into something their not, attempting to make them into condos and fancy places that people are in awe of.

Sure, I want people to feel welcome, safe, loved in my home. I want it to be a place where people come to be creative and find life.

But will I do that by getting fancy stuff and redoing everything? I’m more and more convinced that, no, this isn’t the way. Sure, if God wants that, he’ll provide it. But no, I feel him asking me to take my finances, my stuff, my everything, and lift it up and ask him to use it to feed the people. And a lot of time that money goes to food, feasts, and fun, meeting needs… (kinda like the lady pouring out the expensive perfume on Christ’s feet)

This is my beautiful wife utilizing what we've got to make our house pretty

This is my beautiful wife utilizing what we’ve got to make our house pretty

The people need spiritual food. The Father wants us to utilize what we’ve got and let the Kingdom infect everyone. He wants to take our lack and make those around us wide eyed with the glory of God… but it’s bigger than that, this is a principal at the very foundation of life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom  is upside down.

We build earthly kingdoms with might, money, aggression and strength.

But the Kingdom of heaven is built on grace, that amazing power from heave. It is built on mercy, utilizing even the weakest aspects of our lives for great, great things. On the creative and incredible heart of a Father who loves to make something out of nothing… those moments when we cry out, “But Father! There’s nothing here!”

I have often felt like I’m nothing to work with. Even more, that I’m in the way. But no, I’m me… he made me, me. And he made you, you. Offer it up, just like those pitiful few loaves and fishes, and he will bless it to feed the multitudes.

The kid test

I’m spending some time thinking about logic… I’m going to be a little blunt here, but I think that it’s fun.Story marches on

I was raised learning tons of theology and such. After my parents passed away, I became obsessed with apologetics and doctrine. I had to get it all right. God worked in it. He met me there. He’s a good dad like that. He meets us where we’re at, and, like the good shepherd that he is, steadily and gently leads us to where he wants us more and more.

After a year of giving up on finding the real Kingdom of God, (people actually gathered together to let him rule over them) all of the doctrine i had so clung to stopped making sense.

Have you ever stopped watching network television for a long period of time, and then went back to it and all of the sudden you find that all of the commercials make you feel like a total moron? Yeah, that’s how I felt when I would hear theology.

“You believe that? Huh?”

The mental gymnastics that so many of us evangelicals have to do in order to even adopt the bogus *faith alone* doctrine is wacky. But we’re often so immersed in it that we can’t see the forest for the trees.

It’s as though we believe that if we think about God wrong, He will fall apart. But he won’t. He’s good like that. If you believe the wrong stuff about your dad, he still exists, and he’s a mere mortal. You can pretty much bet that God who is so much greater will hold up under the weight of our confusion. God the father, who isn’t just good with a little g, but is himself GOOD, Truth, Logic, Wisdom… (not as attributes, but it’s who he is) Those things can describe things that people possess, but he is those things. They are what they are because of who he is.

He remains unchanged no matter how goofy we are.

So what do we have?

We get to be his kids!

Do kids want to know stuff about their dad, or do they want to actually know their dad?

When our relationships with God are based on logic and desperately trying to define him, we will all wind up arguing about what we see, think, interpret. We keep trying to nail down the Spirit that moves this way and that, shooting those nails through the wind and hitting each other in the eye. That wind should be our guide, not our slave.

You can no more nail down God than you can the wind. And if you are arrogant enough to try, you will wind up nailing him to a cross in the process. 

The Kingdom of God is so amazingly upside down. I love it. It’s so gorgeous. If you’re wise, haughty, proud, you won’t get it. It won’t make sense to you. Truth himself designed it that way… you have to be a little one to get in. You have to be willing to get small.

In our everyday relationships it would be pretty unhealthy for us to spend all of our time attempting to define and have solid and unshakable beliefs about those we claim to love. No. Instead of defining friends, we get to know them, we walk with them. We cannot control them.

Why on God’s great earth do we try and make this very mistake with the king of all creation?

I think we need to judge theology based on a kid test. Imagine the logic of a child, and apply it to what you’re trying to teach.

Gets a lot simpler, doesn’t it?

Someone was trying to tell me that even the things Jesus taught before he died were part of the old covenant, and that you had to *divide* the word/scriptures at the point when Christ dies and rises again. But what’s funny, is that Jesus himself told his disciples to go and teach everything that he taught. He didn’t say, “…go teach that everything I taught is now cancelled out by my resurrection…” no, “go teach it, and tell people to obey it.”

So, if I’m a child, and Jesus said that, I’m gonna go. “Okay, sure.” I’m not going to go, “Okay, he’s meaning that he actually wants us to teach that he covered it all with his death and resurrection and we really don’t have to worry or bother with that pesky sermon on the mount that he preached that really makes my stomach hurt when I take the time to ponder each and every verse… nah, God’s gonna look at me and pretend I’m Jesus and not actually dirty ole me.” 

Whew… no. I’m going to believe what he said.

I challenge you, all of you, me too, to step back from our concrete ideas of who we think God is, and look more simply at the scriptures.

Over the last few years I’ve taken great joy in reading from people like NT Wright and have had the privilege to learn from my dear friend Paul Pavao. When I read and listen to them talk about God, the cogs start turning. Things start to make sense. I don’t have to lie to myself about one passage to make it fit with the next.

Does that make sense?

It’s amazing how much good translation of the Apostle’s teachings often comes down to simply reading the text, and believing what it says. I know, it sounds funny… but we American Christians are no good at this. We read one thing, and we’ve been told sooooooooooo many times that it means another that we immediately run it through a filter and water it down… or worse, blow it up to overtake other passages.

This is not the mind of a child. This is the mind of a worldly, carnal, experienced adult. Kids look at a teaching, and take it for what it is. You tell them about the tooth fairy; they believe in the tooth fairy. You tell them about anything, they believe you.

Go read through the Gospels, those amazing tales of the Good News. Read them straight through. Sit down and enjoy them. Try and find a translation that you’ve not memorized from before to jostle your logic a bit. Most importantly, ask the Father for a clean slate to work from. To take in his heart.

And one final note, when the Gospels were written, these were what was taught to the people about what Christ had done. Not the Romans road, not the atonement. No… Christ’s life. The whole tale, teachings and all, of Christ initiating the kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

They weren’t divided up into old and new covenant teachings. They were taught. That’s kind of important, don’t you think?

I’m disturbed… but I want to hear more

TheDeliberateDetective5Have you ever felt that way, disturbed by something… but yet, you want more.

I love reading the Kingdom New Testament. It’s a great translation by NT Wright, and he loves to word things in a way that really hits you as new and fresh. He purposely went out of his way to have texts almost seem like you’re reading them for the first time… because we need to.

This morning, I was reading through Mark. The story in chapter 6 about Herod and John the baptist really caught me in a totally different way.

We all know the story: Herod snatched up his brother, Philip’s wife. John apparently spoke out against this, directly to Herod and out in the open, on a very regular basis. The King of Israel is, after all, supposed to be aspiring to greater things. But I’ll quote the passage here at vs 20. (emphasis mine)

Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a just and holy man. So he protected him, and used to listen to him regularly. What he heard disturbed him greatly, and yet he enjoyed listening to him.

This caught my attention. Herod enjoyed listening to John. I enjoy listening to good teaching too. Herod listened to the teaching regularly. Herod protected John.

Wow… I had never really noticed that.

The rest of the story is scandalous. Herod has some fancy party on his birthday. Everyone has their eyes on him. Herodias, this wife of his has her daughter come out and do a sexy dance. Herod was so taken by this, that he blurts out, “Tell me what you’d like, and I’ll give it to you! Whatever you ask me, I’ll give it to you-right up to half my kingdom!

(oh… the words of so many a man only thinking with the flesh)

She asks for John’s head on a platter, and because he had all eyes on him, his status, ego, lust driving him… he gives in and has his guards serve up the head of the greatest prophet of all time.

It’s harsh, and I believe that this happens to me all the time. Well, doesn’t happen, in specific, but the scenario is certainly set up.

I have never found myself relating to Herod in this story until today. Maybe that’s good, maybe it’s bad. But either way, I learned something.

Herod knew the Word of God, and knew well enough to protect it. He was disturbed by it. It bugged him. He revered it, however, enough to keep John alive despite him publicly and loudly slandering and correcting him. It was no small thing to be a ratty prophet wandering around the wilderness shouting that the king of the Jews was living a sinful life… no small thing at all. And when you put it in that perspective, the fact that John had survived this long says something about what had to have been going on in Herod’s conscience.

This fateful party was a turning point for Herod.

Personally, I believe that all of us have been given this ability. I also believe that one way or another, at one time or another, we wind up in this metaphoric party as well. There’s a decision we know we’re supposed to make. The call of the living Word of God is crying out to us from the dry and lonely places, trying to call us out from our comfort zone that keeps us from hearing the voice of the Father.

And then it happens. The stage is set for us to choose. Comfort, desire, pleasure, ease is dancing before us… that moment is so imperative.

I don’t know, maybe this is a bit extreme, but I know that in my life there have been times when I’ve been lured in by the siren’s dance, and, enamored with her beauty, realized that I couldn’t have both the living word and her comforts. I’ve cut off the head of the messenger of God to silence him and stay in my ease.

****

I’m sitting here staring at the screen. I hate ending on this note. I always want to wrap things up all happy and inspirational, but maybe God is just putting a warning on my heart. It’s tugging at me, and it’s real. I better pay attention… so I suppose that I will end with that… I’m being warned, and I’m sharing it with you so that you can be warned too.

Beware the metaphoric Herodias in your life. Beware the choice to cut off the Body of the Living Christ in order to stay in your ease. If his voice beckons us, and disturbs our slumber, may we drop to our knees and rejoice that his everlasting love and mercy has been given to us once again, and that power from heaven has fallen to give us ears to hear and eyes to see.