I Was Having a Bad Day…You Bought Me a Milkshake

Yesterday I met a woman at AT&T who was having a really bad day.  It wasn’t bad in the sense “I lost my keys, they didn’t have Creme Brûlée ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s at the supermarket kind of day.”  She was having a legitimate, top 5 worst days of all time kind of bad day.  

She came to me, obviously frazzled, saying that her iPhone was not working.  I came to find out, the reason that she was frazzled wasn’t necessarily the iPhone…that was merely the catalyst.  So as she hands me her sick iPhone, I begin to take a look.  While looking at her phone, her twin 8 year old daughters are proceeding to act like 8 year old girls.  Not necessarily bad (believe me, I have seen out of control kids at the store), but definitely wanting attention from mom.  Unless you are a parent, you can’t relate to this; there are times where you’re kids are necessarily misbehaving, but rather they are just simply annoying.  Don’t get me wrong, as a parent you still love your kids, but at times you simply want them to back off a bit.  This is where these kids were.  

At AT&T, we are limited to what we can do to one’s iPhone.  Our contract with Apple has them handling all their warranty or repair work.  At the store, I am known as the resident Apple guy.  I can usually look at a problem fairly quickly and determine whether or not it was something I could fix, or if it is something that needs to be taken to Apple.  

So as I was looking at the phone, it looked like there was something wrong with her SIM card, but it wasn’t necessarily all that simple.  I took the SIM card tray out, but it didn’t register “No SIM” like it should have.  This immediately lead me to believe that this phone should be seen by the wonderful folks at the Apple Store.  As I begin to explain it to her, she crossed the border between holding back tears and not.  Her kids continue to annoy her, and you can see the whole world start to come apart around her.  As she begins to calm down, it becomes clear that her emotions have nothing to do with the phone or her kids.  I came to find out that yesterday was the anniversary of her father’s death, and that two months ago her mom also passed away.  With emotional scabs torn away, she was definitely entitled to have a bad day…and her iPhone not working was not helping.  

As she shared this with me, the girls were coming back up to talk to mom.  I take a second to talk with the girls.  In my family, we are big on making deals.  We think that deals are important.  We line out clearly what each side of the deal bring to the table.  So this was a perfect time for me to talk with these girls about deals.  I first asked them if they knew what a deal was…they didn’t.  I briefly laid out the general concept of a deal, then proposed my own.  I told them that if they were to calm down and behave for the remainder of our time at AT&T, then I would walk with them over to Jack in the Box and buy them a milkshake.  They agreed, and went a sat down quietly and we finished working on the phone.  

I changed out the SIM card, and initially it didn’t work.  After a second though, as though miraculous, the phone recognized the new SIM, and she was back in business.  I gave her back her phone, which was now working and finished up what I had to do on her account.  I informed her that it would be worth her while to go over to the Apple store to have them check it out.  I then proceeded to live up to my part of the deal.  Initially the mom said that it was not necessary, but I believe that deals are important, and deals are not to be broken.  After my insistence to do this for her and her family, she conceded.  We made our Jack in the Box run.  Afterwards, mom came up to me, gave me a big hug while holding back tears for a different reason now.  

Afterwards, I couldn’t help but think about the passage in Matthew 25.  The passage that says “I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me.  I was in prison and you visited me.”  I am not saying that what I did was profound or all that life changing…but I do hope that one day, while standing before Jesus He tells me, “you know, I was having a really bad day…and you bought my kids a milkshake.” 

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It may be halftime in America, but what quarter is it for the Church?  Like many of you, I watched the Super Bowl.  Like many of you, I watched the Clint Eastwood “Halftime in America” commercial.  I didn’t see it live…I must have gone in the kitchen for my second helping of Rotel dip.  When I did see it, I also thought it was an inspirational commercial spot.  It’s inspiration can be measured by the clamoring on Facebook for people to announce his candidacy for president at the end.  Of course that could be more of an indictment of our current choices rather than an endorsement of Eastwood, but I digress.    

It may be halftime in America, but what quarter is it for the Church?  There is no doubt that the country has had a rough 4 years.  I imagine that when I am talking with my kids when they are in high school, I will talk about the Great Recession.  I am sure that I will talk with them on how tough it was for many of our countrymen and friends, and how we were relatively lucky over that period of time.  What is for certain is that despite whatever luck or perseverance, the past four years have not been without struggle. 

It may be halftime in America, but what quarter is it for the Church?  I think there is a stirring for people who are closer to my age bracket.  I think there is a stirring for authenticity.  I think the past four years has given rise to an opportunity to refocus our priorities on what is important, thanks in large part to the economic downturn.  Because of that stirring and desire for revival, I think this is still the perfect time for the Church to refocus it’s energies to what is important, and serve the people around and in our churches and shift away from buildings, programs, and entertainment value.  

It may be halftime in America, but what quarter is it for the Church?  We have taken “in the world, but not of the world” to an extreme where our churches have turned into some combination of country club and fallout shelter.  I think the parallel for halftime in America and halftime in the church is a fitting comparison, because it seems like the leaders in the church are in the locker room discussing what is going wrong and who is to blame.  The locker room is divided, and a locker room divided cannot stand.  We each have a role to play.  We each can see only a portion of the picture that God is painting, and like Paul, we are peering through the mist and won’t see everything until we see God face to face (Reference: 1 Corinthians 13:12-13)

It may be halftime in America, but what quarter is it for the Church?  Halftime is important for a team as it is for the church.  Halftime is where adjustments are made, where treatment is done, and where the coaches take a critical look at the game plan.  I think it is time for us to take a critical look at our game-plan, and ask “is it working?”  As evidenced by the stagnation in growth in most churches in any measure and by the fact that roughly 2 out of 3 high school students who were active within the church as a youth do not carry that activity into adulthood, it may be time to reevaluate the game-plan.  

It may be halftime in America, but what quarter is it for the Church?  “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch, we get right back up again and when we do the world’s going to hear the roar of our engines.”  Likewise, the Church cannot be taken out with one punch, because the fight has already been fought and won.  It may be halftime, but the second half is starting, and when it does, it’s time for the world to hear about a grace  without prerequisite, forgiveness without end, and love that surpasses understanding.  That roar from the church has proven time and again that it can change the world.  

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I have a confession.  I may have a man crush on Tim Tebow.  I love that he kneels to pray on the sideline and prayer for protection for him and his teammates before a game.  I love that he sings worship songs (off key) during his warmups.  I love that he is a talented football player, seems to be a good teammate, a good sport, and has a drive to succeed.  I have been a fan of Tebow since his playing days at Florida, when I learned that during the offseason, he joined his missionary parents to help the impoverished.  I love that he uses his talents not for his own glory, but for that of Christ.  Simply put, I am drinking deep from the Tim Tebow Kool-aid, and I don’t care who knows it.  I do so knowing full well that it brings my allegiance to OU into question.  Rest assured though, the diploma on my wall will bring me back home.  

What concerns me though is the pedestal that Tebow has been put on.  Because of the things I just mentioned, Tebow now has the weight of all of Christendom on his shoulders, and that is simply not fair to him.  Even with his faith, he is a sinner in need of forgiveness just like anyone else.  Having never met him, I am sure there are things that he struggles with just like every other believer.  Tebow is not perfect, and not the only person that has the ability to make a difference in regards to spreading the Good News of Jesus.  That job belongs to everyone, not just the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.  

There can be no argument that Tebow is a great example to follow.  There are several things that I find interesting though about Tebow.  The first is that his Christianity was not that big of a deal last year when he was on the bench.  It wasn’t until Tebow was on the field, and subsequently winning, did we begin to hear all of the chatter about his faith and his character, both of which were still present even when he was on the bench.  I imagine that Tebow’s faith would not nearly get so much press, both postively and negatively, if Tebow was say 2-8.  If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this: why isn’t Jon Kitna getting as much press about his faith as Tebow?  Kitna’s testimony is just as powerful as Tebows.  Being a superstar athlete is not a precondition of being a superstar follower of Christ.  

What I love about Tebow is that his prayer are offered independently.  The Broncos don’t force Tebow to kneel and pray before the game, he does that all by himself.  I love that Tebow does it on the sidelines, and not at midfield.  His prayers seem genuine, and not simply for show.  There is a lesson here for the followers of Christ to learn.  Humility and authenticity are, in my opinion, will spark a revival within the church.  

Recently, there was a group of students in New York who were suspended for “Tebowing” in the middle of a hallway at school.  Their suspension was not because they were praying in school, but that they were blocking the hallway, and presented a safety risk.  There were people who got upset that the students were disciplined, because of the perception that the school was stopping them from praying.  Even Tebow himself even addressed it by saying that even though he respects their courage, but that it is important to follow the rules.  This ignited the debate about prayer in school, which is always fun.  I find it curious that those who are for small government conservatism do not share the same view when it comes to school prayer.  For people who think that government is incompetent in every area, it is interesting that they are calling for a mandate that students, who are compelled to be there, must engage in prayer.  

Let’s play out a hypothetical.  Let’s say that there is someone in a school who is charged with leading a class into prayer that isn’t a Christian.  Let’s say that they are a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or an Atheist.  Are we really comfortable forcing someone to lead a group of young people in a Christian prayer that they don’t necessarily agree with?  Isn’t that a potentially dangerous proposition?  

Even if we remove that particular variable from the equation, which flavor of Christianity would we like?  Should we have a Pentecostal prayer?  Should we pray in Latin?  Should it simply be the Lord’s prayer?  Even the Lord’s prayer is problematic, because I think if we add “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever”, it would be awkward for our Catholic friends.  

It’s not like Baptists are without disagreements.  I imagine even if we had three Baptist ministers writing out a verbatim prayer, there would be no less than eight opinions about what should be in it.  With most every denomination thinking that their understanding of Christ is the absolute right one, and everyone else is completely wrong, does this not open up a Pandora’s box of problems? 

I once read a bumper sticker that said “as long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school.”  The truth of the matter is this, there is prayer in school..even without the tests.  I graduated high school in 2001, and the debate about prayer in school was just as contentious then as it is now.  There will always be prayer in school as long as there are parents and pastors who teach their children to follow Christ independently and with abandon.  As a high school student, I prayed frequently throughout my high school career, and at no point was I stopped.  Each September, I joined my fellow believers at the school’s flag pole  for “See You At The Pole” and prayed, and at no point were there school officials stopping me from doing so.  The concept of freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion is something that I wholeheartedly agree with.  Freedom of religion though means that you, me, we, are free to practice our religion in any way we see fit, without intrusion from the state, which includes compulsory prayer from the disingenuous.  

If prayer in school is the answer to the problems we are facing, then perhaps we should teach our children to pray for our schools, teachers, leaders, and peers outside of one Wednesday in September.  If a teacher or school official stops THAT prayer, then the church be outraged about the lack of prayer in school.  Until then, saying that Christians are persecuted in the United States, where churches are free to meet wherever and however they please, even in an elementary school, is an insult to those who are going through actual, I could be killed for following Christ, persecution.  

As far as Tebowing goes.  Perhaps we should take a page out of Tebow’s playbook and instead of praying in the middle of crowded hallway, go to the sidelines, in secret, and pray.  I think I read that somewhere (Matthew 6:6).  

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So…To Explain Where I’ve Been

I know that my blogging frequency has not been as much as it was earlier in the year. And for the 6 of you that are avid readers of my blog, and are yearning for my special brand of incite, I would say, I am sorry. There is a perfectly good explanation, and if you permit me to offer it. It is because that I have spent the time I would normally use blogging, and I am actually writing a book, and that is where the majority of my spare writing time has been diverted. This is an intense process that I am endeavoring, but I have had too much encouragement from people I trust not to at least give it a try. I have told a select few what my first book is going to be about, and I will release more information as it is prudent. What I will ask for is your prayers and support. Prayer that what I write will impact lives and point them to the cross, and prayer for diligence and perseverance. I find that scraping together spare time to throw at this project is grown difficult in the face of full-time job, school, parenting, and husbanding.

Keep me in your prayer, and keep checking for updates as I am able to provide them!

Thank you guys for your support and for the click.

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9/11 A Remembrance…9/11 A Reflection

I was 18 years old, and it was a surreal moment.  For me, I compare it to what (I’m assuming) my dad’s generation went through when Kennedy was shot.  I hear it said that this was the day that the age of innocence died.  For my generation, this was the day that the age of invincibility died.  We joined the dark fraternity of countries that have been victims of a heinous crime and tragedy perpetrated by madmen.  This would be the event that would define my generation.

This week marks the 10th anniversary after that event, and for many it is a solemn time as they reflect on how their lives changed which will be marked by a ceremony at ground zero (more on that in a moment).  For me, 9/11 reflects what is great about America, because for a second we abandoned our preconceptions of partisanship, division, or cynicism and simply were Americans.  No other picture of that kind of unity is better than the picture of the a Hasidic Jewish man saving a Pakastani Muslim on 9/11.  Two men who had nothing in common at all, and conventional wisdom would suggest that they should be enemies, but rather they dismissed that narrative in favor of a better one.  One where we help our fellow man.  The part I love about this story is as the Jewish man was picking up the Muslim, he says, “Brother, if you don’t mind, there is a cloud of glass coming at us, grab my hand, lets get the hell out of here!”

Like many of you, I learned of the decision by the mayor of New York to not have any sort of religious significance during the 9/11 ceremonies.  I understand why that decision was made, but it doesn’t mean I agree with it. I think it is unwise to have a purely secular event where we remember those that were lost without petitioning God for comfort, peace, and wisdom.  Of course, that is something that we have the freedom to do right now and don’t need a government official to tell us to do so, and that is what I think we should do is believers.

Like many of you, my natural inclination to the news that there would not be any sort of religious aspect in the 9/11 ceremony was to write Mayor Bloomberg, write congress, write President Obama, write whoever I could think of to voice my concern and displeasure.  Although that would be cathartic to an extent, the letter/email that I would have sent would have gone to a rather large pile of correspondence from people politely (or otherwise) exercising their freedom of speech and their freedom to redress grievances.  Therefore, I would suggest that we take this opportunity to somberly remember that tragic day, mourn those who we have lost on that day and in the subsequent wars, and pray for the next year, 5 years, 10 years, etc…

I applaud Rick Warren for holding such an event at Lower Manhattan Community Church.  I applaud leaders in Oklahoma City for planning a night of worship on 9/11.  For God to move in a mighty way in our nation, it starts in our communities, and we should stop looking for trickle down salvation.  Our responsibility is to minister to those around us and to take Christ in our world locally, and not let our disappointment cloud the issue that we still can freely worship and freely plead with God to move in a mighty way.  For proof, look at history.  Pentecost was not an organized or planned event, but rather one that started in a small gathering.  Martin Luther was not a head of state, but a rather unknown before his hammer met the nail that started the Protestant Reformation.

We should never forget that a small, thoughtful, and committed group can change the world.  We should never forget this because a small, thoughtful, and committed group of people is the only thing that ever has changed the world.

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The Leadership Void

I consider myself a student of human interaction and psychology. This is not to be confused with a psychologist of sociologist, for I am neither of those. I also consider myself a student of modern media. I find it interesting how people both react and interact when there is a camera around. I also find it interesting that we as a society have since developed the ability to actually create a media empire unto ourselves. For example, the development and implementation of mobile devices with cameras, and the ability to instantly upload content to various media outlets has given rise to a society that has embraced voyeurism. We like to live our life vicariously through others, especially if they have some sort of celebrity attached to them, and if they are on TMZ and headed for a crash and/or burn, then we are even more interested (more on this in a moment). For some time now, the phrase celebrity has morphed into a character trait. Before you had to have a special skill to become a celebrity (premier athlete, actor, businessman, etc…). Celebrity actually meant you brought something of value to the table. Now, celebrity itself is on its own merit special, and no special skill is required.

Recently on “Meet the Press” the governor of Ohio lamented the fact that there was not leadership in the political discourse (specifically talking about the debt ceiling debacle debate). Which got me to thinking, could we even recognize leadership if it was presented given the current climate of media saturation?

What we are presented as leaders in the news, paper, and sometimes even the pulpit are on par with carnival barkers. Leadership in the mold of Jesus, as far as servant leadership is hard to come by, because of the fact that servant leadership isn’t controversial, sexy, nor does it make a good lead story. And if servant leadership does get any press, then it is one of the last stories on a Friday local news station sandwiched in between the weather and high school football scores. But if someone stands up during the State of the Union and says “You Lie”, or says that a certain caucus in a political party is a terrorist group, or is in anyway instigates any sort of controversy, then the 24 hour perpetual emotion machine that is cable news will dispatch Chopper 4 to circle their house. In other words, leadership doesn’t get press anymore, controversy does. Thus the “leaders” that are trotted out for us to follow are nothing more than the people that can throw the most fastballs at the supposed other side while still having the ability to sleep at night. In essence, we are forced to choose between two mercenaries who are nothing more than hired talking point gun slingers.

Here is the thing, I don’t have the answers on the leadership void in Washington, but I do know one thing, the leadership void in our communities starts with the local church. It starts with backing up our proclamation that “Jesus is Lord” with the actions of servant leadership that were taken by Jesus himself to those who were deemed unworthy or too calloused to be brought into the fold of the religious establishment. I think sometimes we focus on the proclamation through Sunday morning sermons and forget that Jesus spent just as much time serving as he did teaching and preaching, and by combining the two, His ministry saw success. By taking a hard look at the people we come into contact everyday (waiters, grocery store employees, cell phone company representatives, waiters, garbage truck workers, did I mention waiters?), and take a critical look on how we treat them, and decide whether or not our actions are indicative on how Christ would treat them. Furthermore, by taking a hard look at our community and seeing some of those needs, I think we will find that there are needs that need to be addressed that cover a myriad of different issues. Personally, I am of the mindset that if the church building is only being used for Sundays, Wednesdays, for weddings, and for funerals that this is a drastic misappropriation of resources, but that may be just me. It may be time that we start taking a look at the community around us to see if we can’t fill the leadership void and bring the church back from the brink of irrelevance. I guess, what I am blabbering about is that it may be time for leaders to begin leading in a way that Jesus did.

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Fare Thee Well @zacworkun

Fare thee well Zac Workun!

I have moved around a little bit more than the average bear in my almost 29 years of existence.  At last count, I have had 6 area codes attributed to a phone where you could get a hold of me, and too many addresses to keep track of.  Drastic changes such as moving can be both exciting and incredibly scary.  I have found that the easiest transitions have come when the group of friends and loved ones that I left behind send me off with kind words and a foundation of love and encouragement.  So this post is intended to be just that to my friend who, with his lovely bride, is starting a new chapter in his life by moving to North Carolina to start his Seminary education at Duke.  (Editor’s note, the fact that he is going to Duke for his Master’s, with a decent amount of scholarship, shows that he has “game” in the intelligence department!)

Zac has been a dear friend, confidant, encourage, consoler, and co-conspirator (welcome to the family) over the past several years of our friendship.  We have known each other since both of us were in high school, but our friendship did not pick up in earnest until he moved back to Oklahoma City to take a position at FBC Bethany as their youth minister.

What I like about Zac is that he is incredibly intelligent, motivated, and committed.  On top of serving at FBC Bethany, he has served in a number of capacities in the fraternity that is the conglomerate of Oklahoma youth ministers.  Furthermore, he recently created an innovative creative consulting company with two other dear friends of mine called Workabull (follow them on twitter @workabull) that reaches out to ministries to take their abstract ideas about ministry and outreach and actually develop them to the point that they are able to be used ranging from writing, curriculum development, media development, and small group discussion questions just to name a few.  Workabull’s first client was Super Summer Oklahoma, as they were responsible for the new curriculum. I expect that Workabull will begin to flourish when Zac is able to devote more energy to this endeavor, and I hope that they will be in the market for writers as it begins to expand (wink wink).

There are several things that I will miss about Zac, most of which revolves around our discussions, because even though it pains me to admit it, Zac is much smarter than me, but I like to talk with people who are much smarter than me.  I will miss that Zac and I have similar ideas regarding God, church, politics, and social issues, and I have always walked away from our discussions having felt that both encouraged and sometimes enlightened.  Most of all, I will simply miss my friend.

So Fare thee well Zac.  Good luck and God bless you as you begin this new adventure in your life.  Know that there is a great deal of people that are rooting for you and that are in your corner.  Know that you are loved and that God is going to do an incredible work in you.  Know that I will miss my friend.

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