R.I.P. Beer!

rip-beer

Yeah, you read that right… Rest In Peace Beer! At least for few weeks anyway. As some of you may know, Lent begins tomorrow. Lent is a season in the church calendar that is observed through sacrifice with the intention of preparing ourselves for the celebration of the resurrection day, Easter.

I used to observe Lent every year and even have been responsible for guiding groups of people through the season with writings, studies, activities and devotionals. But I haven’t actively participated in the tradition for the past couple years. Just recently we have started attending an Episcopal church and observance of the church calendar is a central factor in that tradition. So this year Lent has been on my mind a lot. I have been trying to think of something that I could sacrifice that would be meaningful enough for me to feel its absence over the next six weeks or so. I thought about coffee, but for my sanity and the safety of everyone around me I decided against that! 😉 That’s when the thought occurred to me… beer! I really do enjoy beer, but it is also a burden in some ways. If you have ever purchased a beer at a place like Disney California Adventure you will know that the burden lands right smack in the middle of your bank account! And I know beer is at least partly responsible for some of the extra fluffiness I have re-acquired the past few months. So while I will miss beer, a lot… I mean A WHOLE LOT! It will also be chance to re-establish some positive habits and behaviors as well.  And that’s not even considering the fewer arguments between my wife and I, that usually happen after she checks our bank account post-Disney visits!

This Lenten season will be tough, but that’s what it’s supposed to be. The intention is to take the focus off of us and what we can accomplish and put the focus on what God can do if we get out of the way. That’s the whole point of the Easter story, isn’t it? Seeing and experiencing God’s power in a new and fresh way! So those times that I am missing my beloved suds, I will instead focus on what God is doing around me and how I might join in that activity.

Now, that being siad, today is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. It has traditionally been a day of celebration before we begin the solemn season of Lent. So, tonight when I get done at jiu jitsu practice, I’m going to sit down to a good dinner and enjoy the last Barley Forge Coconut Rye Stout I have in  my fridge and have my own little Mardi Gras celebration in preparation for the season ahead! I might even throw some cheap plastic beads at myself, too! 🙂

My Opinion Doesn’t Matter!

No, really. On most issues, to most people, my opinion means jack squat. And I’ll let you in on a little secret… your opinion probably doesn’t matter either. The reality is most of us have a very small circle of influence in this world. So what we think about the topic of the day has very little impact on the rest of the world. I’ll tell you what does matter though, the way we treat the people around us day in and day out. You see, most of us have little to no platform to explain our thoughts and opinions to the countless number of people we come in contact with in our everyday lives. Beyond the pleasantries about the weather or the sports headline du jour, I hardly exchange words with the barista that hands me my coffee, the cashier that tallies my grocery bill or the guy that cleans our office every week. But what I can do is treat these people with the dignity and respect that all people deserve, whether they have “earned” it or not. And my opinion on certain topics will absolutely be communicated in the way I treat the people that I will never have the chance to explain my opinions to with words.

 

I can hear the gears turning in some people’s heads right now, “But what about social media?” you ask. “Facebook gives us all a platform to express ourselves”, you might defend. Well, yes and no. Yes, a lot of people have access to a tool that significantly increases how far their “voice”  carries. But no, I don’t think it is a very effective platform to get the full story behind most people’s beliefs. Here’s the thing about Facebook and similar technologies, it may give distance to our words, but it most likely does not have the depth to support their reach. The vast majority of people use these tools to share little snippets and “soundbites” of what they are thinking. Which is fine, I do that myself all the time. But the risk of doing that is that other people assume that whatever you share is the full story of what you believe. And that usually, hopefully, is not the case for most people. Even many blogs, which offer more room for expounding on a topic, are not always seen by the author as a place to fully explain or define their thoughts and ideas, but as a place to spark discussion and dialog.

 

I will give an example of what I’m talking about. Recently I have been doing a lot of reading and studying on the topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I have shared some of the more interesting articles and blog posts I have come across, because I know many of my friends are doing the same thing I am. To be clear, I know that my opinion on this matter means nothing to most people. And with the exception of a few friends, the vast majority of homosexual people could give two shits about my opinion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. (To be honest, those friends probably don’t really care about my opinion all that much either!) 😉 But I do know that what I believe affects the way I treat people, so I believe this is a topic worth my time and effort. I also think it’s a worthwhile topic for other people to engage in. So because of that, I share the articles and resources that are helping me form my opinions, which at this point are still in formation. And while these tidbits of what I’m reading do disclose some aspects of how my opinions are developing, they are by no means the full story of where I’m landing or how I got there. The danger then, is that people will form their opinions about me and my opinions, based on an assumption that somehow they know the full story, which most of the time they don’t.

 

And that is the downside of sharing my opinions, that don’t really matter to most people, on places like Facebook or blogs. Some people that respond are not interested in discussion or dialog. It’s easy to confront and condemn as a “keyboard warrior”. It’s tougher to consider that there may actually be more to a story than what you read in one article or blog post. I have a good friend, Scott, that disagrees with me on many things I share. But one of the things I love about Scott is that he’s willing to discuss and dialog about the topics we disagree on. And while there are some topics that we will most likely never see eye to eye on, Scott takes the time to find out why I believe what I do, and how I got to where I am. I try to do the same with his opinions. And I think we both benefit from the process. So while I am VERY aware that my opinions mean practically nothing to most people and that some people will either misunderstand or not even take the time to try and understand my opinions, that’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because for every critic that would rather “preach” to me about why I’m wrong, without any dialog, there are a precious few that would rather discuss why and how I got to where I am with my opinions. And in that exchange we both grow and learn how to treat people better and be better humans.

I need a cause! ‘Cause livin’ without a cause just ain’t livin’!

So here’s the deal, I really like my life. But lately I have been feeling kind of “blah” about, well, pretty much everything! I was scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds on my lunch break today and this thought dawned on me as to why that is, “I don’t have a cause to live for right now!” I saw all these posts and stories about these amazing things that my friends and the people I follow were doing to express their faith and love and I realized that I don’t have that in my life right now. For once in my (adult) life I do not have a “cause” that is driving me right now. For many years I have always been involved different things that I have been passionate and excited about. Youth ministry, teaching, ministry teams, school… just to name a few. But right now, in this season of my life, I don’t have a cause that is driving and fueling me. It has been really nice for a while, but now it’s starting to get annoying! Now before you go and get all bent out of shape and start picking on me for not seeing my family as a “good enough” cause to be driven by, let me say this. I love my family, immensely! More than any of you will ever know! And I draw an enormous amount of inspiration and passion for life from them. I have the most caring, compassionate and patient wife in the world. I could give you a list longer than my arm to prove it to you, but the fact that she has been married to me for more than 20 years should be enough for you get my point! I also have THE two smartest, brightest and funniest kids EVER! But I am pretty certain that even they will tell you that I am a much happier and an easier person to live with when I have another place to channel some my energy and zeal! This restlessness has led to many evenings of me wondering around our small apartment looking for something productive to do. Which I’m sure weirds my family out when I do that! That restlessness is also what has been driving my recent exploration for a way to serve in Kingdom work again. So I am on a mission to find a cause to live for! I’m not quite sure what that cause is yet (and I’m open to suggestions and ideas) but… I am on a mission to find “my” cause!

p.s.

Contrary to the opinions of some of my friends, Disneyland is NOT that cause! 😉

If it feels good do it, right?

That seems to be the golden rule for our world. But where did that come from? At what point did we decide that the fickle, fleeting, self-contradictory and completely individualistic sense of human feelings should be the rule of thumb for our society? Where did we get derailed into thinking this was a good idea? For those of us that believe the bible has something to say about the human condition, that is a rhetorical question. We can point to a reason for us being sold this ridiculous bill of goods. What baffles me though, is how wholeheartedly we still buy into this lie. The doctrine of self-gratification is shouted from the roof tops.

I’m reading a book right now that talks about how we can re-form or transforms or hearts (the core of who we are). One of the things the author points to as the main cause for the condition of our world is that we, humanity as a whole, have decided to be controlled by our feelings instead of understanding that we are to control them. This is something I have ALWAYS struggled with. When I feel angry, I act angry. When I feel hurt I get defensive, and even offensive (The best defense is a good offense, right?). But one thing I have come to realize more and more is that being guided by my feelings is not healthy for my relationships. The truth is that many times when we feel a certain way after an interaction with another person those feelings do not match the intentions of what ever it was that person said or did. The difficult task for us (read: me) is to take those feelings captive, examine them and see if they are justified. And then, even if they are justified feelings, figure out what the most Christ-like response would be in light of those feelings. I fail miserably at this process. So often I react based on my feelings and what I think the appropriate response should be. And in case you were wondering, more often than I’d like admit, that response is dead wrong!

So in this season, I am asking God help me take every thought captive, hold it up to the light of the Kingdom, that was shown to us by Jesus, and then transform my heart with the power of the Holy Spirit so that my responses will begin to look more and more like the way Jesus would respond.

“Stuff” addiction!

So I was reading through the first part of Acts today in my bible and one thing kept standing out to me. It was this idea that none of the first disciples considered their possessions as their own. It says over and over again that they had all of their things “in common”. In one passage it even equates the powerful outpouring of God’s grace as being in direct correlation with their sharing of their stuff, to the point that no one in their community was left in need! But that’s just down-right un-Merican ain’t it? I mean sure people can give if they want to, but we shouldn’t expect it, should we? Or should we? I mean I know this seems all socialist or communist or something like that right? But what if we could count on inviting people to be part of a community that we knew would do EVERYTHING within their power to provide for each others basics needs? Wouldn’t that make a difference to people? What if the American dream is NOT the same as the Kingdom dream? What if all the rights I assumed I had as an American citizen really didn’t mean a whole lot in God’s Kingdom. What if I tried to live out a philosophy of pursuing life, liberation and the pursuit of justice, instead of that other philosophy we tend to put so much stock in? But when I start to think like this I also begin to realize how addicted to “my” stuff I really am! What would I give up? What can’t I part with? I have gone through season of purging where I have a strong urge to simplify my life. But I always end up getting more stuff. Usually the same or similar stuff I purged not too long before. So how do I break my stuff addiction? I think the first community of Christ followers may have been on to something. It says that they didn’t even consider their stuff as “their stuff”. They saw the resources they had as belonging to God to be used to support the needs of the people they did life with everyday. In their mind everything they had belonged to the community. Maybe if I started to see “my stuff” that way, seriously, then it might change the way I used my resources. But that would just be too crazy… wouldn’t it?

FREE SLURPEES….

… is what my headline would be today if I were 7/11. (Which is true by the way, get it… 7/11 giving away free Slurpees on 7/11?) Anyway, now that I got your attention…

My time as a personal trainer/group fitness instructor at a small fitness studio in HB is quickly coming to an end. It’s kinda funny though, because I have gotten more questions and requests about training related topics this week than have any other week in the last 3 months or so. It has been so surreal for me to be able tell people that I am personal trainer, in HB no less! If you have known me for any length of time, you would probably have never thought that the title “personal trainer” would be associated with me, in any way… ever! And then to be a trainer in HB, one of the most body and image conscious places I know. It’s just weird. But again if you know me at all, then you know I dig “weird” and I thrive on paradox. And trust me, paradox doesn’t get much greater than ME being a trainer in HB! 🙂 It got me thinking though, about how much power is in a title. I really like being able to tell people I’m a trainer. I enjoyed the confused look on people’s faces when I used to be able tell hem I was a pastor too! When I was younger I put a lot of pride in my title as a pastor. And I guess I still do the same, to some degree, with titles these days. But I hope that I have learned over the years that being faithful to act on my calling is much more important than the label that gets hung on it.

I saw a quote one time that said something like, “If you want to know if you are leader, turn around and see if anyone is following you!” The point is, whether you get the title of a leader or not is of little consequence if no one is following. And conversely, if you have a people looking to you for direction, but no one hands you a name badge with the word leader on it, does it really matter? I have met plenty of people with the title of pastor over the years that wouldn’t know how to shepherd other people if their life depended on it. I have also worked for a bunch people with the title “manager” that could barely manage to keep their own jobs, let alone help anyone else do theirs.

So as I go through this season of exploration I am looking for ways to live out the calling God has placed on my life and ways to use the gifts I have been entrusted with. If people want to call me a “teacher”, that’s cool. If someone wants to offer me a position with the title of “pastor”, that would be rad! And when my kids call me “dad” that is awesome! But whatever people call me, I’m still going to teach, care and parent, because that’s what I have been called and gifted to do. And hopefully I can do all of those things, and more, faithfully and with integrity, for God’s glory to be on display to every one that sees me doing them!

Too many outlets… not enough time!

So once again I revisit my old blog, only to realize how depressingly long it has been since I have given it any love or attention! :-/ If blogs had feelings, I would apologize profusely! (probably not…) That being said, I have been feeling the need to reduce, recycle and refocus… or something like that! I have too many social media outlets and I am going to try to focus on using just a couple (ok, maybe three, this, Facebook and Linked In) to chronicle this new chapter of the epic journey I call life!

This last year or so has been a time of exploration for me. I finished school, I started a fitness quest that has gotten me to the point of losing 138 pounds in one year (and still going strong!), started and then stopped serving as a part time pastor at our church, started and will soon be stopping working part time as a personal trainer, started and now wondering what to do with a new boot camp/personal training business… and so it goes. But one thing that has become crystal clear for me through all of this, my calling to full time ministry still stands firm. Which is kind of odd for me, because I really thought (or at least hoped with all my fingers crossed) that things would work out at RHHB. But as I shared in my last post from a few months ago, the timing was just not right. My life situation and the campuses resources just weren’t at the same place at the same time. So now here I am wondering what that means for my calling. I have no desire to leave our community, but I can’t ignore what God is doing in my heart either. I am now left trying to figure out what the next steps are. Is it a para-church opportunity that will allow me to remain part of our church community, or is God calling me out to serve at different church? Or, heaven forbid, is God calling me to be part of something new altogether???? (My wife would hate that option, so God would never do that, right?) (p.s. My wife would not really HATE that, she’s just really into that whole stable pay check and health insurance thing we got going on right now! She’s actually quite adventurous when it boils down to it.) Any way, so for now I feel like what I need to do is be diligent and bold, and explore what the possibilities are. So I’m brushing up my resume, dusting off my blog, tweaking my Linked In account and putting the feelers out into the world (well, at least out into Orange County anyway… please only Orange County right now, God…ok?) If you have any ideas or know any people that might be able to give some insight, direction, advice, cool stories, funny jokes, surf videos or anything else that will add to this journey, please feel free to send them my way! Aloha!!!

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