50 Shades vs 50 Reasons

Typically this is the weekend when you can count on an overpriced dinner and safe, if not cheesy, romantic comedy, but what Hollywood has released this Valentine’s Day is far from safe.

Social media and the blogosphere are full of “50 reasons not to see 50 Shades of Gray” articles so I’m not going pile on with another list of reasons we should avoid it when those reasons should already be obvious to any believer or morally conscious individual.

But one thing I haven’t heard much about is the irony of this type of movie opening on this particular weekend.  We all know 50 Shades was strategically placed over the weekend we set aside to celebrate love and romance.  But what the movie is supposed to portray and what Valentines is supposed to represent aren’t in the same universe.  It’s like marketing a slasher film as a Christmas movie just because the story takes place in December.   Despite that no one seems to see this valentine’s release date as anything but normal which may be an indication of just how distorted our ideas of love and romance have become.

So how are we to respond?  Instead of wasting time with the obvious (i.e. this movie is bad and I refuse see it!) let’s find ways to give a more accurate and higher view of love and romance than what 50 Shades is presenting. So instead of “50 reasons I’m Angry”  Here are “50 Reasons I Love My Wife”  Happy Valentines Day, Lesley!

  1. She is the funniest person I know.
  2. Blue eyes that you get… lost…in…
  3. There are no cheap laughs, she makes you earn it
  4. But when she laughs it’s still the best sound ever.
  5. The girl can flat cook.
  6. Her superpower is speed reading.
  7. She doesn’t tell me every sermon was good
  8. Sweet Tea
  9. People like me because of her.
  10. She is always up to try a new restaurant.
  11. She has no tolerance for drama
  12. Classic rock turned up loud.
  13. She speaks my love language: Sarcasm
  14. I get to try two entrées at every restaurant because I get what’s left on her plate.
  15. Inside jokes from 20+ years of history
  16. She listens to NPR with me.
  17. She knows more about my relatives than I do.
  18. We still hold hands.
  19. She is willing to go wherever God leads us.
  20. She loves our church well.
  21. When she gets embarrassed he eyes tear up, which leads to more embarrassment…
  22. She gives good advice and has good ideas.
  23. One liners I can rip off and use in my sermons.
  24. Always Classy, but with a hint of redneck.
  25. Peas and Cornbread
  26. What I say to Lesley stays with Lesley
  27. She could be a professional napper.
  28. Dessert is never a question.
  29. Conversation is easy…
  30. …but silence isn’t awkward.
  31. She plays the piano.
  32. She likes to travel as much as I do.
  33. We love to wander through the same stores.
  34. Low maintenance beauty.
  35. Her chocolate chip cookies
  36. Her commitment to study God’s word…
  37. And her calling to lead others to do the same.
  38. Her willingness to make sacrifices for her family
  39. She talks to me through Pinterest
  40. Hot tea w/ plenty of sugar & a splash of milk every morning
  41. Guys/Girls Night Out are fun, but we both prefer Date Night
  42. She never brings up my past mistakes.
  43. When she looks me in the eye and says “I like you.”
  44. She has always been smart, but I am watching her become wise.
  45. She believes in me.
  46. She knows me, and she still loves me.
  47. Her inner child is very much alive and a lot of fun.
  48. She still flirts with me.
  49. When she answers the phone and is excited it me.
  50. She is more beautiful today than the day we met.
Advertisements

Seeing Through the Stained Glass

Yesterday I shared a story that appeared on the front page of the Fort Worth Star Telegram.  It was an article about Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary installing a series of custom stained glass images that “will immortalize Baptists who helped effect the culture change to more conservative attitudes in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Apparently the project was the dream of Dorothy Patterson, wife of the seminary’s president Paige Patterson.

“My dream was to portray the 20 year history of the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Church”, said Dorothy Patterson.

You can follow this link to read the complete article: Stained-Glass Windows Honor Leaders of Fort Worth Seminary

My post simply stated “There’s just something about this that rubs me the wrong way.  Am I alone?” and included a link to the article.

As it turns out, I am not alone.  So far there are 55 comments from 42 different people.  I will be the first to admit that this doesn’t fall under the category of “going viral”, but I was surprised at both the number of comments and the emotion behind many of them.

I am an infrequent blogger at best, but the response to the post made me want to better express my thoughts on the subject.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not against honoring men and women who’ve contributed to the kingdom.  I think their stories need to be told, and their examples should be held up for future generations.  In fact, looking through a few of the names and images of those in the project’s first stage, I am certain that those whom the Patterson’s are seeking to honor were (and are) men and women who genuinely love God and the church.  There isn’t one name I don’t respect.  In fact, many of them are pastors I have admired for years who have tremendous ministries, but I wonder – are they all deserving of stained glass?

Maybe plaques and portraits.  But stained glass in a chapel?

Stained glass has been used throughout history to tell the stories of the giants of the faith and to beautifully illustrate the basics of theology for a largely illiterate audience.  I admit that I may be elevating the medium of stained glass to a place it doesn’t deserve, but in my mind stained glass is a kind of sacred ground reserved for only a select few.

I’m not saying that a few of these individuals may not deserve to be immortalized in stained glass one day in the distant future, but for now it seems a bit premature to immortalize the major players in the conservative resurgence, especially when the wounds of that battle are still healing.

Taking it a little further, the whole project feels  slightly self-serving and comes off as an attempt to engineer a legacy.  In my thinking it is the role of future generations to look back and honor the contributions of their predecessors by immortalizing them in stone or glass.  However, in this case, it seems like those who’ve made a contribution to the Conservative Resurgence are trying to secure their place in history (and some would say their version of history) while they still can.  To be celebrated and immortalized is something you leave for history to do for you – not something you take upon yourself.

That being said, here is what I propose (as if anyone on The Hill cares)…

What if the seminary leveraged its tremendous research resources to unearth the stories of Southern Baptist pastors and missionaries who served and sacrificed anonymously for most of their lives?  What if we could find some accounts of a pastor who served for 30 years in a small country church meeting the needs of a rural farming community?  What if we could find an example of a missionary who went to a country to which she had never been and learned a language she did not speak, all so that she could love a people she had never met?

Over the next 50 years thousands of students will come to Southwestern to prepare for a life of ministry.  Imagine them walking through the chapel past those faces etched in glass.  In a culture that has become increasingly infatuated with the glow of celebrity, what better message can we convey to these students just starting their ministries than to tell the stories of the great men and women who faithfully served the Kingdom year after year without recognition, without applause, and without the promise of stained glass?

Am I being naive and idealistic? Probably. But if Dorothy can have a stained glass dream, so can I.

Well, It Was Nice Noing You. Bye.

Yesterday my Mom adopted a kitten and seeing the  pictures of her new cat reminded me about this post I wrote after Chloe, our first pet, made the journey to the great scratching post in the sky. Enjoy.

In Luke 9 Jesus told a prospective follower to “Let the dead bury their own dead…” That’s good advice if you choose to listen… I didn’t.

As you may (or may not) know we recently had to say good bye to Chloe the cat. When I took Chloe to the vet for the last time I had every intention of saying goodbye and leaving her there for the vet to dispose of the remains. But as I stood next to her on the examination table I began to think back over the last 15 years.

Chloe was the first pet Lesley and I had together. We bought her from a mall pet store a year after we got married. The pet store clerk told us that the kitten was a female. So we named her Chloe, took her home, and loved her from the start. It was only a few weeks later during a visit to the vet that we learned “she” was actually a “he”. But by that time we were so used to calling the cat Chloe and referring to it as “she” that we decided the best course of action was to make the whole question of gender irrelevant. Snip.

The only cat I had ever really known was a fat, black stray that my family had adopted when I was in junior high. “Fatboy” as we called him was your stereotypical cat. Haughty and distant, with a mean streak that caused you to tread carefully when you walked barefoot through the house.

But Chloe was different. (I know…that’s what they all say. But it was true.) She was actually loving and sweet. Not everyone is a big fan of cats, but I think Chloe could sense a “cat hater” and instead of avoiding them she seemed to make it her mission to change their mind about her species. And, over time, she actually won a few people over.

She was big and she was loud. I can’t tell you how many times the voice on the other end of the line would ask “Oh, is that your baby crying?” “No, it’s just my cat.” Standing there stroking her fur I thought back to all the times she had annoyed us and entertained us, and all the times we pretended to be annoyed but were really entertained.

In the end I couldn’t leave her there. I had to take her home one last time and bury her in the back yard like my dad did when we put our dog to sleep when I was a boy. So I carried Chloe home in her cardboard coffin.

That evening after dinner I surveyed the back yard, carefully trying hard to avoid the areas with cables, pipes, and dense networks of roots. After settling on a spot I drove the shovel deep and turned over load of dirt. This continued for some time until I heard the distinct “CLICK” of metal colliding with plastic. Carefully I moved the dirt aside and nestled there in dark brown dirt was the unmistakable white of pvc pipe. Heavy sigh.

With much of the hole already dug I decided to take advantage of the sweat that was falling from my nose and the blisters forming on my palms, and move the hole just a little to the left away from the pipe. The digging began again. With every shovel full of dirt the hole was getting deeper and the pile of dirt was getting higher. Not much longer now.

Then, after removing a scoop of dirt, the glint of copper caught my eye as a dozen colored wires sprang from the earth. Oh no. “Lesley! Check the phone!”

I abandoned that hole and decided to try another location.

The digging began again and progress came quickly as I sliced through the dirt. Be then, for some reason, the dirt refuse to yield as easily as it had done. The blade didn’t dive as deep has it had before and I saw why. I had struck clay. Dense, thick, impenetrable clay. The digging slowed to a crawl as I began to chip out the hole a half inch at a time. Looking over at the white box on the ground I was beginning to have second thoughts about my decision. As regret began to form I again heard the familiar “CLICK” of metal and plastic greeting each other. You have got to be kidding me.

Nope, like a star in the nighttime sky there was another white pipe laying in the dirt.

I looked over at the white box…Doesn’t the trash run tomorrow?

To take advantage of the effort I had already put in (not to mention my current state of dehydration) I, once again, shifted the hole slightly and began to dig. One side of the grave would run along the white pipes I had just unearthed. Over and over again I drove the edge of the shovel into the packed clay and broken up the bottom of the hole making slow progress just a layer at a time. By this time daylight was quickly surrendering to the dark and I was running out of time. I picked up the pace stabbing the shovel in to the clay over and over and over.

Almost done. Just a few more…”CLICK”. My stomach sank as I pulled the blade of the shovel out the plastic pipe and water began to drain into the bottom of the hole.

I looked at Buster, our elderly Beagle, who was standing there watching. “Sorry buddy, but I’m not doing this again.”

After two holes, a pipe, a cable, three blisters, and a trip to Lowes; Chloe the cat was laid to rest. We stood around the hole and said goodbye one last time. Elle asked questions, Lesley cried, I wanted to, and Jake wrote a letter.

“Dear Chloe,
You were a nice pet I loved. But now it’s time to say good bye. I liked the way you snuggled with us. I promise to keep the cowboy blanket forever cause that was your favorite. I liked the way your whiskers tickled us. I also liked that you would chase our hands. Well, it was nice noing (knowing) you, bye.

Jake

Amen.

Beautiful Limitations

On a recent installment of Weekend Edition, NPR’s weekend news show, host Scott Simon was interviewing Cristina Pato, a Spanish musician who is best known for her work as a jazz pianist.

ImageDuring the interview I learned that she is also an accomplished vocalist and flutist, but it was another instrument that she plays on her latest jazz album that really caught my attention.

The bagpipes.

I had always associated the bag pipes with half-drunk scots wearing knee highs and kilts.  What is a female, Spanish, jazz musician doing playing the bagpipes?

Apparently bagpipes can be found in many different cultures all across the world.  Who knew?

Simon then played a clip of the Miles Davis classic “Blue Green” that Ms. Pato covered on her new album, but instead of the trumpet she uses the bagpipes.  I’m not a big fan of jazz but even I was impressed by what she was able to do with the pipes.

After the clip played she was asked how she got that sound out of an instrument that is not known for  its subtlety.

She said “It has so many beautiful limitations that it really makes you work harder to get things done.”

Beautiful limitations.

I have always heard that one of the characteristics of a good leader is an unquenchable optimism. No matter the circumstances a leader always sees a brighter future for his company, country, organization or church and wants to take others there with him.  Where others may look around them and only see limitations, a leader looks and sees beautiful limitations.

It’s not that the leader is choosing to ignore the hurdles or is blind to the obstacles; just the opposite. He sees them, in vivid detail he sees them, but he isn’t daunted.  He is energized. Where some can only see an obstacle he sees an opportunity.

How can any limitation be seen as beautiful?  It’s because the limitation will make both the leader and the organization better. To the leader any limitation is just another chance to imagine and create, to dream and innovate, to work harder at something the leader is passionate about, and for that he calls them beautiful.

Tagged

What Do You Want?

Effective Decision Making

*As I write this I have assumed that time in prayer and the advice of wise counsel is already a part of your decision making process.  

The best leadership books I’ve read all seem to have an ability to take an idea or principle that has been floating around in my head, unformed and undefined, and transforming it from an intuitive hunch into an executable idea.  The books that have made the biggest impact don’t tend to pass along new information. Instead they have the knack for giving solid form to preexisting but intangible ideas. They provide “handles” that allow you to grasp the idea and really use it.

This past week I read The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker, and there were a few moments when the book did just that.

One of those moments was when Drucker was discussing decision making and he introduced and defined the term “Boundary Conditions”

If I understood it correctly boundary conditions are the objectives the decision has to reach for the results of the decision to be considered successful.  Boundary conditions ask the question, “What are the minimum goals this decision has to attain?”   They help to bring clarity to the things that really matter and keep the nonessentials in the background where they belong.

This was especially helpful to me because I am in the middle of a huge decision.  We are in the process of identifying and hiring our next worship pastor at Hulen Street Church.  Throughout the process I have been operating under assumed boundary conditions, goals and objectives that have been floating around in my head but I had never sat down and codified.  As I am in the process of making this decision I thought I would be helpful if I put the objectives for this hire down on paper.


As you read them remember these are the conditions that allow the decision maker to stay focused on the critical criteria that should direct the decision.  As I began to put these conditions down on paper I had to resist the temptation to get “granular” by defining every little desire I have and responsibility I want this new staff member to fulfill.While there are other responsibilities I would like our new worship pastor to be able and willing to do (ie. facilities management, youth worship, and general administration) they are not the critical responsibilities that will have the greatest impact on the church.  That being the case these are the criteria (from most important to least) I am using to focus my thinking in the decision making process.   These are the things we have to have, the rest (if we can get them) are just gravy.

4 Boundary Conditions for the Worship Pastor at Hulen Street Church

We are seeking to hire a Worship Pastor…

…who exhibits a greater desire to worship God and pastor people than to be on a platform.

…that has a high value of excellence and can establish, maintain, and hold others accountable to those same standards.

…who has the musical ability to continuously improve the musicianship of our band through coaching and training.

…who has the knowledge (or the willingness to gain the knowledge needed) to enhance the physical worship environment through media and technology.

Not only do boundary conditions help to define the desired result of the decision, but they are also useful in the information gathering portion of the decision making process.   For instance, if you were trying to decide who to hire or which direction to go you could use the boundary conditions to formulate 4-5 different questions or hypothetical situations that would come at each condition from a different angle.  Questions crafted from boundary conditions, and the answers they provide, are much more able to inform your decision

Are you facing a decision?  Chance are you already have a set of boundary conditions floating around in your head, but have you taken the 30 minutes needed to sit down to define them and refine them?  When you consider the months or even years that you will have to live with your decision, 30 minutes doesn’t see too much to give to help make it a good one.

New Shoes

*From the Archive: I wrote this a couple of years ago but at the time didn’t have way to share it other than through Facebook “notes” 

For the majority of my adult life I have gotten by with just two pairs of shoes. A pair of “sneakers” for fun/play and a pair of brown leather hiking boots for everything else. It has only been within the past few years that I have started to expand my footwear collection. Shoes just weren’t that important to me.

Until I started running.

When I first took up running I was wearing a pair of off the shelf Nikes which were chosen solely on the way they looked. Style always trumped other qualities, like say…comfort. After a few minutes my knees were hurting, my ankles were aching, and my arches were on the verge of an outright rebellion. At the time my goal was to run a mile without stopping or dying. But the pain threatened to kill even that modest dream.

At about the same time I was becoming aware that all shoes were not created equal (nor were they all created by Nike). Sensing that my shoes may have been my problem I decided to pay a visit to a local running store to be measured, evaluated and fitted into a shoe that was engineered for my particular foot type and stride. Within minutes my stride had been observed, my arch had been studied, and my foot and been measured in great detail.

The shoe specialist disappeared with his calculation in hand, and a few minutes later he emerged from the back room with a stack of shoe boxes six high. Turns out I need what is called a stability shoe, because apparently I am unstable (insert joke here). The first few shoes didn’t do much for me, but then he pulled out the Asics Kayano.

My foot didn’t slip into the shoe as much as the shoe seemed to reach up and wrap itself perfectly around my foot. It was like he had pulled down two fluffy white clouds, soft and weightless, and wrapped them around my feet. I felt like I was hovering just a couple of millimeters off the floor.


That was five years, two marathons, and dozens of Asics ago, but I still get that same intoxicating feeling whenever I lace up a new pair of shoes. I feel like I could run for hours without stopping, but within 7 minutes of the inaugural run disappointment sets in when I realize, once again, that no matter how expensive they are or how advanced they have become I still have to run. It’s still up to me to drive my foot into the ground and propel myself forward. The shoe can’t do it for me.This same phenomenon follows me into my faith. Over the years I have purchased Christian books, studied theological resources, and opened blank journals hoping each time that this will be the one thing that will jumps start the consistent inconsistency of my spiritual life. But I am soon met withthe same realization that a book, resource, or journal, no matter how good, doesn’t have the ability to compel me to exercise a little spiritual discipline in my life. They can teach me, they can motivate me, and they can inspire me, but they cannot make me. It still up to me to open my bible and bend my knee.Every morning my cell phone announces the beginning of another day by rattling across the nightstand. In that moment I face a decision. I can either rollout of bed or to roll back under the covers. By nature I tend to drift toward the path of least resistance until the Holy Spirit whispers for the millionth time, “…I beat my body and make it my slave.” There are days I pull the covers up and tell Paul to mind his own business, but most days I listen to him and force myself to get up and run, both physically and spiritually.At the end of the “run” I have once again learned lesson that the benefit always outweighs the effort. It is a recurring lesson because it seems that as soon as I learn it…I immediately begin to unlearn it. And by the time the cell phone begins its regular morning dance across the nightstand I have lost it completely. But thankfully the Spirit patiently whispers again, “…I beat my body and make it my slave.

Game 6 and Phil. 3:13-14

After 19 games the Texas Rangers (as of today) are 15-4! Just in case you haven’t noticed that is the best record in all of the Major Leagues.   Honestly, after what happened in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series*, I’m more than a little surprised.

Losing Game 6 and then the World Series was so utterly heartbreaking that I was expecting the team to need a year to put it behind them and move on. Even now, if I stumble across replayed highlights of the game I have to change the channel.  The memory is still to painful, and I assumed the Rangers would suffer from some sort of Game 6 hangover. Apparently I was wrong.

Clearly they have forgotten Game 6 and moved on from that devastatingly painful night.

That’s why these Rangers are an amazing illustration of Philippians 3:13-14

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Many of us know these verses and can even quote them, but for so many Philippians 3:13-14 is all about “straining toward” and “pressing on” which really becomes code for trying harder and working more.   In the end, we are so busy straining and pressing we almost completely ignore the idea of forgetting.  But we shouldn’t because that is how Paul begins the whole thought, “Forgetting what is behind…”

Somewhere in our past we all have a Game 6, a devastating mistake, a heartbreaking failure that fills us with the cold ache of regret.  Our problem isn’t that we have a past,  it’s that we don’t forget it.   We end up shackled to the guilt, and tangled in the shame of our old lives.  Too often the shadow of our past hangs over us so that our “straining toward” and “pressing on” is really just an effort to make up for when we fell short.

Paul had his own history of Game 6 meltdowns, but he knows that in Christ we aren’t defined by our past.  When he penned “Forgetting what is behind…” he was reminding us that there is nothing we can add to what he has already done, nothing we can give that would equal his sacrifice. Through the cross God dealt with our sin with such ferocious finality that the only thing left for us to do is turn our back and leave it behind as we strain toward what is ahead and press on toward the goal.

But it starts when we forget what is behind.

*In case you don’t remember in Games 6 the Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series, not once but TWICE in the same game only to lose the game and ultimately the series.

Hold Me

The moment came and went silently, no one noticing that we had turned a significant page in the story of our family. No one comprehending that everything had suddenly changed and that life between us would always be just a little bit different. I’m not sure how long it had been before it occurred to me that this monumental moment had passed unnoticed, but when it did I began to search my memory,  trying desperately to find it again so that it could be properly recorded and remembered in the way milestones like this deserve. But no matter how hard I tried I could not find it again, I could not pinpoint the exact minute it happened. Realizing that I had carelessly let this moment slip by made me both sad and angry, upset that I tossed this one event into the pile of other meaningless memories that I had collected through the normal course of the day.

What was this forgotten moment?

It was the last time I ever held Jake.

After years of picking up and holding my little boy in my arms there came a day when I picked him up and then I put him down. I put him down and I never picked him up again.

Let me assure you this wasn’t the result of a thoughtful decision, this was not a day we circled on the calendar. It just happened without thought or plan, without understanding or intention. Believing there would always be another opportunity I simply lowered him to the ground and we moved on to the next stage of our relationship without recognition or fan fare. Last month Jake turned 12, and 12 year olds aren’t much for being held. Even if he wanted me to it has almost become a physical impossibility.  With some effort I can still get him off the ground, but the days of a daddy effortlessly scooping up and holding his little boy came to an end somewhere in our past and, for the life of me, I cannot remember when it happened. Today my little girl turns six and we move even closer to repeating that same sad moment, but we are not there yet.

She still looks up and asks, “Daddy will you hold me?” and knowing how temporary it all is  I have made a commitment to pick her up and hold her for as long as she will let me.

So yes, Elle, I will hold you. I will hold you for as long as I possibly can. Because one day, without either one of us knowing it, I will pick you up, hold you close, and then casually put you down for the last time.

Advertisements