Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Fantastic Mr. Stott

Since I love Jesus, I love grabbing truth that explores the fullness of what it means to live with him, for him, and through him. This is Mr. Stott, our protestant Pope, and it's only one tiny nugget from that rich vein.

"Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us. What a truncated gospel we preach if we proclaim the one without the other! And what a glorious gospel we have to share when we are true to Scripture!" –Stott, Baptism and Fullness, pg 26

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Well-Scrubbed Version of ME, part 1

In today’s world, technology offers us a unique view of one another. I’ve recently been wrestling with this. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I seek to live my life consistent with the beliefs that I hold from Scripture. There are times when I live incredibly empowered by God’s Spirit. There are times that I stumble and fail. I try to keep short accounts with my wife, short accounts with my brothers, and short accounts with Jesus.

None of this is really where the rub is, hopefully none of this should land as a surprise. Here’s where I’ve been wrestling lately. On my Blog, on my Facebook pages, in my messages, I’ve been offering the “well scrubbed version of me.” So, while I believe that today’s technology offers a clearer view of KNOWING one another from a distance than has ever been possible before, I also recognize the potential for hypocrisy that exists. That’s why I’m calling it out. And because confession is good for the soul.

Here are a few ways that I scrub myself: PHOTOS.
The photos I post are typically selected from whole rolls of less exciting photos, and rolls and rolls of photos that picture me in an combination of unflattering, confused, and rather typical expressions. I try to scrub the boring out, so that a viewer might think, “It must be an amazing adventure to be a part of that clan!” It is and adventure, but not nearly as exciting as pics might suggest. I also choose to post pics of myself that make me look confident, strong, or handsome (Theses pics are more of a challenge to find).

I share a ton of family STORIES.
Those are typically the stories that make my kids sound like theologians, my wife sound like a patient genius, and that make me sound like a great dad, a great husband, and an all around great guy. They are all true. But what is also true are the stories where my kids fight like kids, where my wife is tired and short, and where I live closer to dolt-ness than to great-ness. I scrub the counter-balance, and so opinion is naturally prone to tip towards a too-favorable view.

Even my FAILURES are scrubbed. For example, I might share a time when Jodie was looking for help cleaning the house in preparation for the arrival of guests, while I was upstairs playing Galaga (yes, we have the old arcade version of Galaga, and yes, I am the MAN at it)…and I pretended that I couldn’t hear her calling. And that “confession” might actually make me sound more holy…like, oh look, even Mike gets a bit selfish sometimes. But I’ve scrubbed out the other times during the same weekend that I was already acting selfishly, and how frustrated that must make my wife, and how selfishness is something that I consistently battle to my great chagrin. (This paragraph is intentionally hypothetical, but I’m hoping you get the point. A small, safe confession scrubs me too clean.)

Here’s the last truth: I’m not changing the tactic of scrubbing. I truly don’t think Blogs or Status Updates are the best place to do deep soul-work, nor the best places for gut-level confession. I don’t suggest that to you, nor will I walk that road. But I do want you to be aware of the scrub.

Just knowing brings us closer to Jesus. And I guess the challenge is, for me and you both, to live more and more like the scrubbed versions of ourselves…

The truth shall set you free.
I’d love to hear how YOU scrub…

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

U2 is on God’s Ipod

I’m pretty sure.
I’m listening to the new U2, No Line on the Horizon, and I love it. The weakest part of the album is the title. I’m not going to review the album, (leaving the reviewing to persons of Musical Proficiency, like Rolling Stone Magazine, who gave it perfect marks). Instead I’m going to list a few reasons why I love U2, and why U2 fans are becoming more rabid, and why new crops of U2 fans are continually being harvested.

1. Instant Nostalgia.
I don’t know a single band that can make me longingly remember the past like U2. And it doesn’t have to be the distant past, either. “Mike, remember when you first heard the song, Moment of Surrender?” and I’d answer absolutely, and my eyes would glaze over a bit with romance. I remember exactly what I was doing. I was sitting on my bed, writing on my laptop, and waxing nostalgic. That was a good memory. It was like 4 minutes ago, but already in my golden past. Only U2 can do that.

2. Legitimate Nostalgia.
I can timeline my life by U2 albums. I was in Junior High when Unforgettable Fire came out, and there were two videos on MTV (Surrender was one, and I watched it with my mom). I talked to my buddy Gary Johnson about how they were Christians, and he said horrified, “WHAT! But they’re COOL!” In High School my buddy Robby Adams invited me to go to the Joshua Tree Concert and I blew it off. To this day, I’m pretty sure that’s my biggest bonehead regret. I kissed Jenny Hill at a Sophomore Dance to With or Without You. In college, I listened to Actung, Baby literally everyday for two semesters. In my travels, U2 was a constant soundtrack to inter-continental road trips. So today, listening to my U2 collection on shuffle, takes me through the epochs of my life.

3. Continual Innovation.
Some might even claim, “self-betterment.” Each subsequent album is a refreshing nod to the music that is already loved, and a stretch to new heights. When I first heard, “All that You Can’t Leave Behind,” I was amazed at the synthesis they were able to pull off…combining great sounds from their past but clearly pulling us into the future. When my son was three, he learned to make a ‘Rock and Roll’ face while drumming to Vertigo in his carseat.

4. Incredible Concerts.
If you’ve never been to a U2 show, I just need to encourage you to make the investment. 20,000 people with their hands raised singing “Yahweh, Yahweh” or the words to Psalm 40, or “Hallelujah” well…there really isn’t anything in our culture at large that is as unifying, nor as uplifting while being flat out fun.

5. Bono’s Work on Behalf of the Poor.
Celebrities have often picked causes to champion, but no one has logged more hours or miles, no one has met with more politicians, no one has accomplished more on behalf of the voiceless, and no one has invested that kind of effort without a paycheck of any kind. The One Campaign is just the tip of this guy’s berg. Bono and his wife have logged months in refugee camps. He’s the real deal.

6. Faith Matters.
My big love. Whether Bono is wailing about hope, or growling about loss of faith, God is in the Wings. The yearning for redemption is pervasive. Only these guys can pull of a whole song as a prayer to Jesus. Bono isn’t as big on theology as he is on poetry, which is perfect for his medium. But as a hawker of God’s grace, I don’t know of anyone who has touched more people with that good news. God is, God is love, and there will be a day when we all will be running where the streets have no name.

And Bono, if you’re reading this, I’d love to hang out sometime.
Call me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Haunted by Hemingway

I love Earnest Hemingway, I see his hunger for God and meaning (ultimately unfulfilled) all over his stuff, and I truly love the way he writes, straightforward and tough. I pick up his work from time to time, especially when I’m in the mood for tragedy.

So here is Chapter VII, from his short stories:
While the bombardment was knocking the trench to pieces at Fossalta, he lay very flat and sweated and prayed oh Jesus Christ get me out of here. Dear Jesus please get me out. Christ please please please Christ. If you’ll only keep me from getting killed I’ll do anything you say. I believe in you and I’ll tell every one in the world that you are the only one that matters. Please please dear Jesus. The shelling moved further up the line. We went to work on the trench and in the morning the sun came up and the day was hot and muggy and cheerful and quiet. The next night back at Mestre he did not tell the girl he went upstairs with at the Villa Rossa about Jesus. And he never told anybody. –Earnest Hemingway, The Short Stories, Chapter VII, pp 143

Would you help me compile a nuanced list of how this lands as tragedy? I started a list, and then thought I’d ask instead…how do you see this as tragic?