Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dr. Seuss and Christianity

I have found myself recently infatuated with Dr. Seuss.  Call it a casualty of the parenting trade, as I read a Seusser every night to Kali, but the guy intrigues me... to the point that I read straight through a 300 page biography of him last night.  And, upon further investigation, I believe we as Christians can learn something from Dr. Seuss (aka Ted Geisel).

Some interesting facts:
1)  His Start:  He started writing and drawing for advertising slogans.

2) The Cat in the Hat:  challenged to help kids start reading, he was given a list of 200 words from his publisher and told to write a book using only those words.  He was stuck in the writing process so he decided he would just take the first 2 words on the list that rhymed and that would be his title--cat and hat.  This was the start of the Beginner Books label, where all of them have 200 unique words or less.

3)  Green Eggs and Ham:  Seuss' publisher thought he was getting too cocky, so he made a bet he couldn't write a Beginner Book using only 50 different words from the list, total.  GE&H was the book he won the bet with.  Only one word in GE&H is not monosyllabic:  anywhere.

4) Politics:  He was a very politically engaged guy, even in his books.  He claimed later in life that his writing was, "Subversive as hell."  When challenged by a political editorialist friend on why he wasn't involved politically, Seuss sent him a copy of his book, "Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!" with the M.K.M. crossed out throughout the book and "Richard M. Nixon" penciled in.  Seuss was political all along!  Other political themed books, "Horton Hears a Who"- American occupation of Japan, "The Lorax" - pollution, "The Butter Battle Book" - cold war arms race, and more...

5)  Personal life:  He was not a warm, cuddly guy.  He was rough, crass, and arrogant.  His wife of 40 years committed suicide, and he remarried his best friend's wife within months (after encouraging her to leave her husband for him)...not exactly the Santa Claus-esque guy I pictured.

Here's the take-home:
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about Seuss, was that he was not a "kid" guy.  He didn't intially have a heart for kids or a passion for education.  He was a self-centered guy who was good at rhyming.  With his skill set, advertising, political cartooning, and children's literature were the places he could be successful.

In short, he wrote kids books because that's where he could make money, given who he was wired to be.

Substitute "making money" with "impacting lives" and that is ideally what God wants from us.  As Christians, too many times we are looking for where we can serve best, but too often that question is not about where we can be the most effective, but where we find the most fulfillment.  Even thought we are looking to serve, it easily becomes about us, not the bigger goal--assisting the coming of God's kingdom here on earth.

Seuss really only felt truly fulfilled by the end of his life when he was able to write more politically and be embraced by adults as well as children.  All along, though, he was making an impact that only HE could make.

What impact are YOU equipped to make?  Pursue that which is most beneficial for the Kingdom of God, even if you would rather be doing something else...

As Jesus says it, "Seek first the Kingdom, and everything else will be added to you."

As Seuss would say it, "Put Kingdom first, God's Kingdom first, and in your Heart be reimbursed."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Eat to Live

Before I get started, this is Robin's area of expertise. I am trying to get her to start a blog on nutrition, so if you think you would appreciate something like that, post some comments so maybe we can get some peer pressure going :)

So...it's not really been a secret that last September, Robin and I started eating differently. Since that time, I have lost 20lbs. and feel more energy than ever before. Also, I normally get sick (colds and stuff) about every 2-3 weeks throughout the winter (I know, I am sickly), but this winter, I have only gotten 1 cold so far!

People ask what "diet" we are on...up until now, I didn't really know what to tell people except that we tried to eat mostly raw, unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, beans, and nuts. It's also been formed by our friends Red and Liz and the way they have been eating as Red recovers from cancer...

But now I would say that it most closely resembles the diet in the book "Eat to Live" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.

Which got me questioning, Eat to Live...How?

My point is this: I have chosen to eat so as to live in the absence of sickness and the pursuit of longevity. However, others may choose to eat to live for different reasons.

None of my friends get sick like I used to. I was a bit of a immune system freak. Thus, most of my friends would see very little effect on their day-to-day life from eating the diet that I do. And, while I do think they would live LONGER eating like we do, perhaps they have different priorities.

Maybe some eat to live happily... (My father-in-law, "You only live once!")

Maybe some eat to live socially...

Maybe some eat to live caffeinated...

SO...I ask 2 things of you:

1) Figure out why you are eating: to sustain your body? to enjoy the moment? to connect with those around you? to wash away pain?

2) Don't have expectations contrary to your main purpose:
- If you choose to eat for health, don't have expectations of everything tasting great all the time. Trust me, it won't!
- If you choose to eat for taste in the moment, don't complain when your health goes bad some day.

Remember, no purpose is necessarily better than another, in my book, as long as we are honest with ourselves and understand we can't have our cake and eat it too. Thoughts?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

God and Death

This has come up recently in conversations with Robin...

For whatever reasons, I have found myself over the last 5 years in hospitals and funeral homes way too much.  In the 5 years I have been leading here in Keller Park, I have officiated 8 funerals, and only 2 weddings.  

And I think the thing that bothers me most is that people have been taught so many cliches about God and death that not only are not true, but keep them from properly understanding God's role in the midst of their pain.

Here are some examples:
1)  (Loved one) is an angel up in heaven now.
TRUTH:  The truth is this, the Bible tells us that we as humans are different than the angels.  In fact, we are in a more privileged position as God's treasured possession.  This is important to realize for a couple of reasons: 
1) We must realize that we are not pawns that God works for his own gain--we are His children, created in His image, and we will always be.

2) There is no redemption plan made for angels.  Once they turn away from God (like Satan and his followers), they are fallen.  God has made a plan of grace for us, and we should take joy in that!

2)  God just wanted/needed (loved one) with Him more than here with us.

TRUTH:  This type of thinking has some problems as well.  
-  First, it paints God out to be needy or selfish, which he is not.  
-  Second, it sets him up as the stealer of the one we love.  If God is Love (1 Jn 4:8), and Just (Is 26:7), than He can't pick and choose who to take from those he loves on the random basis of His desire to be with them.
-  Third, it paints God out to be too human, too FINITE.  If God is truly infintite, what is the big deal with another 7 years, or 70 years apart from those He loves?  To assume that God wants/needs someone RIGHT NOW, trivializes a God that is infinite.
-  Finally,  this assumes God removes our loved ones from us.  God does not take people from us, they leave us because that is the way the world (post-curse) works.  We live in a fallen world, where scientific patterns lead us inevitably toward the end of life.  Likewise the sinfulness and imperfection of people leads toward often untimely death.  The truth is, therefore, that God does not cause death.  

3)  Why did God allow (loved one) to die?

TRUTH:  While God technically could stop any situation from happening, the truth is that He allows the world as a whole to largely play itself out.  What is problematic is that when people ask this question, they are implying that God APPROVES of what happened, which is totally not the case.

In Matthew 11, we see the story of Jesus' friend Lazarus passing away.  Jesus shows up on the scene and, knowing that He is going to raise him from the dead in 2 minutes, begins to cry.  Why the tears?  Because he was going to miss Lazarus?  Certainly not!  He was going to see him alive again in 2 minutes!  Jesus cried because he saw the sadness that was the curse of death leveled against those he loved.  He cried because death is necessary for this time, because of the curse.

BUT THEN HE MADE ANOTHER WAY!  Let's just not assume that God allows our loved ones to die with his approval.  God doesn't like death any more than we do!

4)  I know that God took (loved one) so that He could do something really good, I just don't know what it is.

TRUTH:  Just like above, God doesn't selfishly use death to do something good.  The timing of death is granted through science and free will.  The truth is:  God does something good IN SPITE OF deaths, or THROUGH deaths, but not BECAUSE OF deaths.  God takes bad situations and can allow good to come from them, but does not create those bad situations.

It's like a firefighter.  His existence helps us feel safer, because we know that if there is a fire, he will be there to help...possibly becoming  a hero.  However, if we feel like he starts the fires so that he can help us, that's not really that comforting.

We have to get beyond the cliches surrounding death and realize that God hates it just as much as we do.  God is our friend, who can empathize with our pain.  But he IS NOT the cause of our pain.

Dos a Cero

They came through for me!

Last night the US Mens National Soccer Team defeated Mexico in Columbus once again.  And once again by a 2-0 score.

That is the 4th straight home World Cup Qualifying game (including the World Cup Finals game) we have defeated them 2-0.

Honestly, at this point I would rather beat them 2-0 than 3-0 or even 5-0.

Here's to a birth in the World Cup 2010 in South Africa!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

TOP 5: I love tonight!!!

That's right, sports fans, get your popcorn.

7pm ET on ESPN2:
World Cup Qualifying:  United States vs. Mexico

Here's the TOP 5 reasons to watch (and love the US/Mexico rivalry):

1)  Locations:  Not only are the US and Mexico neighbors, but when it comes to their soccer fans, MOST of the Mexico fans in the stadium tonight live in the US, and are rooting against their current country in favor of the country of their ancestry.  This gets my blood boiling, but makes for great intensity!

2)  Hatred:  These teams do not like each other.  In Mexico this year, to lead up to this game, Radio Shack and Blockbuster ran ad campaigns where they distributed voodoo dolls dressed like the US team!  In 2004, the Mexico fans chanted, "Osama, Osama, Osama" in the stadium during the game.  US star Landon Donovan even took a leak a couple years back on Mexico's hallowed Azteca Stadium turf.  Each time they play, there is so much unsportsmanlike conduct.  The last game I remember the Mexico goalie taking a swinging kick at one of our players after he scored a goal...just for good times.  

3)  Frequency:  We play each other on average 1 time per year.  This is often enough to keep the rivalry heated, but also means you have to make the most out of every opportunity.  WE MUST PREVAIL!

4)  Sven:  In addition to having a cool name, he has been one of the top coaches in the WORLD in soccer.  And now he is Mexico's coach.  Here's hoping we beat them soundly and encourage Sven to find a good job somewhere.

5)  2-0:  aka dos y cero.  2001:  The US beats Mexico in WC Qualifying (in Columbus) for the first time in 20 years by the score 2-0.  In 2002, the US faced Mexico in the World Cup Finals for the first time, defeating them 2-0, a staggaring blow to their notion of dominance in the region.  In 2005, the US again defeats Mexico in the finals of WC Qualifying (In Columbus) with another 2-0 win!  In 2007, we defeated them 2-0 once again.  That's right, folks!  Four 2-0 wins in 8 matches with another 2-1 win to boot!

All that leads up to an AMAZING game tonight.  Here's to another 2-0 win for the good guys!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Crawling Kids

So...last Sunday Sophie started crawling.  I am so proud of her, and yet saddened.

Robin and I have talked about possibly being done with having kids, for various reasons:  financial stewardship, ability to move forward with life and ministry together, longing to sleep just ONE time through the night peacefully...

And so the possiblity lingers that ever phase Sophie leaves is the last time we will see that phase in our family.  No more swings?  No more bouncers?  No more crazy, springy, jumpy thingamadoos?

It's crazy how when you have kids you load up on all that stuff, and then how quickly it can be obsolete for you.

Any thoughts?  Any advice from those who have been there?

One Step Behind

So...I have been wrestling with some concepts of leadership and how they apply to the Church.

Over the last year, God has been doing some pretty amazing things in the Keller Park Church and Community.  And the coolest thing, is I have had no clue what he is going to do next.  Everything that has happened has just been God piecing things together.  

Proof-in-point...about 3 years ago, I had the audacity to create a 5 year plan for the church.  Although, that seems like a great thing from a leadership standpoint, I am sure that I had God laughing outloud (does God speak text lingo 'lol'?)  It included when we would start a "Sunday School" program, and when we would hire additional staff people in this area or that.  At this point looking back, it's hilarious.  Not only did NONE of that happen, but MUCH better things have.  Needless to say, God knows what he's doing.

So here's the crux of my issue.  I recently attended the "Catalyst" conference with Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel.  After hearing their hearts, I am now big fans of what God is doing in them.  However, one thing bothered me.  Andy said something like, "If you ever look at something and say, 'I have no clue what's going on, it's a God thing,'  you are on your way to poor leadership and mismanaging the work of God."

Don't get me wrong, I understand what he's saying, but I just don't fully agree.  It bears the assumption that God always works in systematic ways that make logical sense, and that just isn't true.  If Bible characters started forming systems around the unique workings of God, where would that have taken them?  

After the Gideon story where he had to get rid of nearly all of his troops before God brought victory, what if every army went in fighting with  300 men?  The truth is that God frequently works in ways that make no sense and aren't a result of any systematic obedience on our part.  He just does things, and we are left to react appropriately.

And I like that.

I like not knowing how God has done what he has done here in Keller Park.  I like not knowing why.  I like not knowing why now.

There is just something that seems right about reacting to God a step or two behind, instead of trying to keep up or run ahead and asking God to come alongside.  I've lived there for too long..."God please help me do this...God please bring resources for me to do that..."

God works best in me when I can't keep up.  I need to be one step behind.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Leaving Room

I know, I know, a little late for an update on our Sunday gathering, but here goes:

God was doing something amazing in our midst last Sunday.  I can't explain it, I can't even really describe it, but I know that something was going on.  And I know that I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

And that feels good.  And that scares me a little.

This Sunday was our kickoff for our basement project.  For those of you unfamiliar with the KPC facility, let's just say the basement is a mess.  It is still largely unchanged from the early 1900s when it was a corner grocery store.  It is unclean, unsafe, and not capable of being used to the full extent we need for all of our community relationships at this point.  

God has provided a unique opportunity for us to have donated labor to get 'er done now, so we have just stared raising the funds to do so...and I HATE raising funds and even talking about money in churches because it has been so abused through the years.  The thought of a building project makes me sick.  We set a goal for $10,000.  Needless to say, we won't be doing stain glass windows.

So this Sunday was our kickoff, where we began to accept pledges toward the project and went downstairs and wrote prayers all over the soon-to-be-covered cement walls.  As I was planning the service, I kept stressing out over how to make it this great Mountain-top event.  And I was getting nowhere.

My friend, Redford, said, "Why are you so stressed?  This thing is bigger than you.  Just let God take it."  Not normally good at taking advice, I decided to listen, step back and just let God roll.  Nothing special planned, just a time of simple prayer and worship...


It was so cool.   Our worship team is great (in heart as much as talent), and totally led us before the Lord.  But then it went beyond even them.  At one point, the team became disjointed and the song fell apart into a capella...and I heard people worshipping God louder than I have EVER heard in KPC before...not because of the great music, but because of our Great God.

And it didn't take well-structured programming to get us there...just leaving some room for God to do HIS thing in our midst.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson for the future.