Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Can We Raise Centered-Set Kids?

For those of you who enjoyed, 'Did Jesus Die Because of the Cookies', I have tweaked that blog and it is running today as a guest post over at Not the Religious Type. It's called How Can We Raise Centered-Set Kids? Check it out when you get a chance.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Letting God Off the Hook

I recently listened to a podcast of a roundtable discussion between a pastor of a christian church and 4 members of his church who are part of the LGBT community. It was an interesting dialogue as this pastor so lovingly engaged in honest conversation with his four friends who are all seeking to follow Jesus and are lesbian, gay and/or bisexual.

During the course of the conversation, one of the women said that she went to this particular church simply because someone invited her. She described her experience that day in that particular church as 'profound.' Having very little previous exposure to church she said that day she decided to 'allow herself to encounter God', but in order to do so she felt as though she had to 'let [God] off the hook for all the stupid things people say about him.'

I wonder....

As a follower of Christ, am I more of a hindrance to people connecting with God or an aid?

Do my words and life express God as some angry, unattainable deity that is full of wrath and judgment or is he as approachable as Jesus was to the prostitutes, poor, thieves and bums?

Do people in my life need to let God off of the hook because of stupid things I say about him (or ways I portray him)?

Finally, if you are not one who follows God, I'm curious what kinds of 'stupid things that people have said' would you need to let him off of the hook for in order to investigate him further?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Navigating the Waters of Public School

As parents of 4 boys, Kristy and I spent a good deal of time praying about, talking about and figuring out which avenue we would take for educating our children. Our options were, magnet school, public neighborhood school, homeschool, private school or unschooling. (Wikipedia: Unschooling)

From the very beginning, I sensed that God was leading us to put our kids in the public neighborhood school for a couple of reasons that I'll mention shortly. That being said, public school was a scary option for me. I grew up a private school boy. Pre-K - 12th grade. All private. All the way. I had very little experience with public schools but what I did know (think I knew) was not good. I saw Dangerous Minds and Lean on Me. I knew some stuff about public schools. The only thing that public school had going for it in my mind was that my wife went to public school and she seems to be doing fine these days.

With 4 (soon to be 5) kids, we had no choice but to eliminate private school as an option simply due to the cost. Unschooling was never a real thought. Homeschool was also easy for us to eliminate for two reasons. The first was that Kristy and I didn't feel cut out for it. The second reason, which is why we also felt led from the beginning towards the neighborhood school was that we wanted our kids in an environment where they would be able to experience life and practice their faith with people who do not all believe or live like we do. (We have lots of friends who have chosen both private and homeschool for very good reasons that work very well for them. We also will not rule either of these options out for the future, however at this time we simply felt led in a different direction.) 

That left us with the magnet school or the neighborhood school. We went back and forth for a while but upon touring our public neighborhood school, we were immediately sold on it. We really liked the school facility and faculty and we loved the idea that our kids would go to school with other kids who they live in the same neighborhood as.

Some have asked how, as a Christian, I feel about what my boys will be taught in public school. I'm actually okay with my kids learning about evolution and humans coming from monkeys. I'm okay with them learning about GLBT issues and orientations. I'm totally okay with prayer not being allowed in school and think that Happy Holidays is actually a better way to go than Merry Christmas. These things don't bother me, they just remind me of how important my role is as a parent to actively pursue God and to continually lead my kids to the heart of Jesus so that they may learn how to ultimately be led, not by rules, but by his spirit. I don't mean to sound like I take these things lightly, but this is the world that my kids will grow up and live in, so I want to teach them early how to navigate these waters in everyday real life situations.

Our first year at the school was a very good one. Our oldest 2 were at the school this year in Kindergarten and Pre-K. We loved their teachers. We loved their friends. Both of our boys became best friends with kids in their classes that were of different races. This totally blessed my heart because my boys will not grow up seeing color (which is also good considering their sister will be black). On the whole it was a great year!

Last Friday our family was there on the second row for our oldest son's graduation from Kindergarten. He was so cute on the stage with about 50 other Kindergarten students, singing songs, reciting poems and stories and receiving certificates.

And then it happened....right in the middle of the program.....a fight broke out.

But this wasn't just any public school fight. This one was even better because it was between parents. Right there on the front row, 10 feet from where the children were standing and watching and learning. One man was actually hauled off to jail, another woman escorted to the back of the room and two other adults were watched closely for the rest of the ceremony.

I'm sad to say, but my initial response was that we needed to get our kids out of this school. We needed to place them somewhere where evil and stupidity couldn't touch them. After calming down though and getting back to God, I feel even more strongly that this is the very reason we need to keep our kids right where they are and as parents who follow Jesus, our role is to continue becoming more engaged in the lives of our kids friends, their parents, the teachers and so on. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where our hope that life can be different actually gets played out. This is where the kingdom of God touches the kingdom of the world in very real, very tangible ways. This is the tension we've been invited to live in. These are the waters that we feel we have been called to navigate through with grace and mercy, hope and light.

So, the journey will continue. If we continue to feel this is the direction God is leading us, we will have 3 at the school next year. Four the year after that. And five the year after that. My prayer is that Jesus in the Jeansonne's is evidenced by more of his kingdom touching that school and the lives of those involved at the school in tangible ways every year.

And for those who are curious...yes, it is still scary for me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Smell of Rain

I originally posted this blog in January of 2007. Today, I was saddened to realize that I have not progressed as much as I had hoped. This morning, my son, Micah - who is now 6 years old - graduated from Kindergarten. I saw all of the important parts and was very happy to be there. However, at the post graduation celebration, Micah asked me if I saw one of his friends during the graduation. When I replied 'no', he looked at me and said, "That's because you were playing with your phone. You should really throw that phone away." Emails, text messages, tweets, FB messages. All a whole bunch of things distracting me from the moments that I so desire to live in. The following blog spoke life to me again today. I hope it does the same for you. Grace and peace.

A couple of weeks ago, I started a new tradition with my 2 year old son Micah. We have started waking up on Monday mornings and heading off to Dunkin’ Donuts – just the two of us. We’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now. We turn into the parking lot and Micah begins yelling ‘donuts, donuts!’ As soon as we walk in the door he turns to his left, opens up the cooler and takes out a chocolate milk. I then sit him on the counter and ask him what kind of donuts he wants. The answer is always the same – ‘chocolate.’ After we get our six donut holes and our chocolate milk, I give the bag to Micah and he leads me to our table where we sit and talk about donuts. Sometimes Superman goes with us, sometimes it’s Woody and other times it’s Buzz, but the most important part of the morning for Micah is that we’re together and we’re eating donuts. It’s all about the moment.

Kids are funny people. I’ve always liked kids, but I didn’t really appreciate kids until I started having my own. When you have your own kids, it’s really cool because you finally have someone in your life that has to do what you say and you get to practice counting to three a lot. The most amazing thing about kids though, is just how much you can actually learn from them. If my boys have taught me one thing then they have taught me a thousand things. But one of the things that I love most is that they have taught me (or are teaching me) how to slow down and live in the moment.

This morning I left my home around 6:30 am. It was cold and rainy – a typical January morning in New Orleans. This morning for whatever reason, I was not in a hurry. As I stepped out of my front door, the cool morning air brushed across my face and I felt alive. As I stood on my front porch looking out at my car through the falling rain drops, I was filled with a sense of awe. It was cold as I stood there in that place, but I experienced an overwhelming sense of God’s presence as I realized that today was another day of life, full of opportunities, full of possibilities. I pondered running as quickly as possible to my car or just waiting it out for the rain to stop. I chose to wait. And in that moment, I could smell the rain. I don’t know how to describe that smell to you. All I know is that it was the aroma of life. It was fresh. It was refreshing. It was the moment that I was in. It was the only moment that I was being guaranteed.

On Monday mornings, Micah is so content to eat his donuts. He has no idea that there is more to do that day. As far as he is concerned, it’s just him and his daddy enjoying chocolate milk and chocolate donuts. His finite mind cannot fathom that there would be anything more, anything better than where he is at that precise moment. I hope that one day; I can be just like my boy.

Thank you, Micah. I love you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hoping Jesus Doesn't Return....Yet

Harold Camping has predicted that Jesus is coming back and the world is going to end on Saturday, May 21, 2011. Yes, for those of you reading this post on it's published date, that is in 2 days.

I, for one, certainly hope this guy is wrong. (Actually, in no way do I believe this to be true, since Jesus says that he doesn't even know when he's returning but only God the father does. It seems odd that God would tell Harold before he told himself.)

The idea of Jesus coming back has always been a bit difficult for me. I've often heard people say they 'can't wait for Jesus to come back' or they 'so look forward to the glorious day when Jesus returns'. I get it - kind of. But honestly, I've never felt that same level of excitement about it. For the longest time, I figured it made me a bad Christian. Over the past couple of years however, I have become quite comfortable with my feelings and actually believe that it's okay to hope Jesus doesn't come back quite yet.

The problem for me is that there are a number of things that I still want to see, do and experience on this beautiful planet before God comes and restores it. Now, I certainly understand that a new heavens and reclaimed earth are going to be much better than the current one(s) however, I can't help but think that there are still a few things here and now that I would like to see how they play out:

  1. I want to know what kind of men my boys will grow up to be.
  2. I want to know what it's like to walk through a lifetime and grow old with the woman that I love.
  3. I want a number of people in my life to have a real, tangible experience with Jesus that brings healing to them and leads them to an even richer, more beautiful life journey.
  4. I want to know if the Saints will win another Superbowl (It's still so surreal to be able to use the word 'another' in that sentence.)
  5. I want to experience more of the church actually being god's people and reflecting his beauty and glory and representing him well to all of creation and humanity - drawing people to the resurrected Jesus, this side of the restoration of all things.
  6. I want to continue learning how to live more the way of Jesus, having my heart and character transformed in the middle of crap.
  7. I want to meet and raise my Zoe.

I'm no dummy. I understand that even if Jesus doesn't return for hundreds of years and I actually do get to see these things play out, there is no guarantee that they will play out well or the way I hope for. I also believe that if Jesus does come back on Saturday, none of the above items will matter to me anymore. I know in my heart that the restored, reclaimed, reconciled, redeemed, new heavens and earth will be quite nice, but in the highly likely event that he doesn't come back....

Well, these are just a few of the things I'm working towards, dreaming about and looking forward to.

How about you? Have you ever felt a bit ashamed by not sharing others exuberance about the sudden return of Jesus?

What dreams in your own life has God placed in your heart that you would still like to see play out?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ordinary Moments

I was 16 years old; hauling my dirty clothes to the laundry room, grumbling about it the whole way. That's when my mom stopped me and said,

"Brian, routine is good. Ordinary is good. Life is made up of ordinary and it's in these ordinary moments that we can experience life at its fullest if we just pay attention."

We live in a society where ordinary is not really seen as a good thing; extraordinary is the goal. If we are not intentional, I believe that it would be very easy to spend all of our days striving for the extraordinary at the expense of missing the ordinary

I spend lots of time focusing on the next thing, often times hoping that it is anything but ordinary. The next meeting. The next meal. The next date night. The next paycheck. The next kid. The next whatever. I still, at times - 18 years later - get annoyed when I have to spend my time cutting the grass, cleaning the garage, repairing a broken chair or prepping a meeting, driving to an appointment or exercising. All very ordinary, mundane, routine events.  Yet, all opportunities to engage in the moment. All opportunities to experience the fullness and richness and beauty of life if I would simply engage and be present in those everyday, ordinary moments. 

Maybe today would be a good day to practice living and loving in the very ordinary moments. Perhaps, we would experience life differently and more fully if we stopped looking ahead to the next thing and simply enjoyed and experienced the current thing. Maybe today we could experience the beauty and richness of life right where we are.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Did Jesus Die Because of the Cookies?

For about a year now, I have been wrestling with how to teach my boys - ages 6, 5, 4 & 2 - about Jesus, salvation, eternity, sin, resurrection and what it means to actually follow Jesus.

Since I was a kid I have struggled with the idea that Jesus had to die because I did bad things. I started learning about Jesus and religion at a fairly young age and I remember walking down to the front of the church because I wanted Jesus to forgive me for my sins and come and live in my heart. The idea alone that some grown man was going to come to live in my heart was difficult enough to figure out, but on top of that I was always curious why Jesus had to die. I just figured that I must be pretty evil for a 7 year old so someone had to die.

Fast forward 27 years. I was recently having a conversation with a friend, who asked me, "So, why exactly did Jesus have to die?"

To which I replied, "So that he could come back from the dead."

And just like that I had my answer.

Jesus' mission to this planet was not to come to simply die for humanity's sin (although this was part of it), but his mission was to come and crush and ultimately destroy evil. And the way to obliterate evil was to beat evil at its own game....take evil's best shot - death - and conquer it. And once death was conquered, this released an overarching plan of redemption, restoration, renewal and reconciliation.

This understanding makes Jesus much more powerful and actually makes the good news good. As I'm working through how to teach my boys about Jesus, I desire to teach them about the place that Jesus takes in my life and his desire to be the center of their own lives. I want them to understand that life with God is not about sin management, but it is about walking with God in a reconciled relationship. The problem for me lies in this traditional teaching that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us for the bad things we might do. This reasoning seems quite anemic. Really? Is that the best Jesus can do? Simply forgive us for bad things? Seriously, how do you explain to a 6 year old that God killed his son Jesus because my son stole a cookie from his brother? So, now Jesus forgives you, but you need to quit doing bad things - like stealing cookies or peeing on the side of the house. See what I mean? It's weak. And honestly, who wants to follow a God who would kill his son because some 6 year old kid is stealing cookies from his brother.

So, now I am working a new way to explain Jesus and salvation; life and beauty; forgiveness and restoration; renovation and renewal to my boys. 

It’s something like this....

Death sucks. Life is beautiful. When we do things that don't line up with God's goodness and love, it leads us away from beauty and life and God. Hurting ourselves and others is not cool. Doing good and loving others is really good. Not forgiving people is harmful. Forgiving people is freeing and loving. Jesus did die. But he died so that he could actually come back to life. And it's the coming back to life part that gives all of humanity the chance to live differently. When he came back to life he invited us to actually live really powerful and different lives, just like him (and superman and batman). He invites us to live lives in which we look to love Him, as well as love and forgive others; help others and work to make this earth more like heaven through blessing, making peace, living selflessly, extending mercy, creating beauty and on and on.

So, I know you stole that cookie from your brother. Now I'm not thinking that Jesus is really pissed, but perhaps there is a better way to approach this whole cookie situation. Do you think your brother feels loved when you take his stash? No? Then perhaps the Jesus way is to learn how to love your brother and practice the life giving solution. The solution that encourages love and unity; that is full of beauty and preferring your brother. The solution that gives life. And this solution is doable when we allow Jesus to shape our hearts, minds and lives.

And here's the deal…if this doesn't work....I can always revert back to the old school method:

"Jesus died to forgive you for your sins. So, if you don't ask for forgiveness and stop stealing your brother’s cookies, you're probably going to go to hell. "

Saturday, May 7, 2011


There have been lots of comments rolling in from the Religion is a Crutch for the Weak post. As with all posts, some people agree; others disagree. Conversation and wrestling with difficult issues seem healthy to me, so I invite you to join the conversation if you have not already. 
In light of the thoughts that have been expressed and a number of questions that I have been asked, I thought I might lay a few more of my cards on the table.
In the post blog thought section of Religion is a Crutch for the Weak I mentioned that as followers of Jesus, we must ask ourselves:

       Do we allow Jesus to determine what it looks like for us to         
       follow him or do we inform Jesus what it looks like for us to 
       follow him?
When it comes to following Jesus, I think it’s important to remember that Jesus does not and will not force us into any type of life. However, he does invite us into a certain type of life. A kingdom life. He invites us to become people who are ruled by a different king, who live under a different rule, who experience life under a  different system than the one that runs this world.
In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter says, “I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lust.”
In Ephesians 2:19, Paul says, “So then you are no longer strangers or aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the Saints and are of God’s household.”
In Philippians 3:20, Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly await for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
If what Peter and Paul are saying is true, this means that those who follow Jesus are citizens first and foremost of the Kingdom of God. Our citizenship lies here. Our lives, our views, our actions are all, above anything else, to be of the kingdom. For this is where true life is experienced at the richest, deepest level. If it is true that our citizenship is in God’s kingdom, then this also means that our earthly citizenship is no longer our primary citizenship nor is it where our allegiance lies. 

Many take these passages to mean that we are no longer ‘residents’ of this planet and we are just passing through trying to get to some kind of ‘heaven’. This, however, is a poor interpretation of Peter and Paul. For we have been created to dwell on this planet and this planet will be our home - even in the future age when God creates the new heavens and new earth - here - on this planet! So then, when Peter/Paul talk about being aliens/strangers in this world, they are talking about being aliens/strangers to the system by which this world operates and instead we are invited to live life according to the system by which God’s kingdom operates. In order to understand this more fully, the following chart might help. The following kingdoms are characterized by the following:
                   Kingdom of the World Kingdom of God
                             Hate  Love
                             Envy  Contentment
                             Violence  Peace
                             Oppression  Submission
                             Evil                                      Good
                             Selfishness                            Selflessness

As we begin to more deeply understand that these kingdoms stand in complete contrast to one another, we will begin to more fully grasp that we are invited to live lives that do not operate according to this worldly system. 
So, how might this understanding translate towards our thoughts on the killing of Osama bin Laden? According to Romans 13, it seems that God has placed governments in place to maintain peace. To execute justice. To protect citizens. We must remember that earthly governments might be put in place by God, but this does not make them Godly. Earthly governments, no matter how good they might be, are still worldly systems that do not operate according to Kingdom of God principles. That being said, every single government on earth is a kingdom of the world system and since this is true, there is no kingdom of the world system that I would rather live under than that of the United States of America. The U.S. government did exactly what any good worldly government system would and should do. They found the evildoer and executed justice. I am grateful that the U.S. government was relentless in their pursuit of this terrorist and did what it felt it needed to do to protect others in the world from evil.
But just as Romans 13 speaks of worldly governments, so Romans 12 speaks to the people of God - those who live under the rule of a different system, a different kingdom. Those whose citizenship resides in God’s kingdom. In Romans 12, Paul explains that those who are no longer citizens of the world’s system are now free to live according to God’s ways. And the way of God is that we would abhor evil and pursue goodness. Be devoted to love. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Never take revenge. Feed our enemies and bless them.
Even though we understand that the government which we live under is working within what seems to be their God ordained right and we may be grateful that our government has worked to protect us, the question for us as followers of Jesus is still:
How do we respond in our hearts, words and actions to this news? 
Do you take comfort in knowing that there is one less mind out there today, plotting evil and destruction and death towards thousands of people? Most of us would probably answer, ‘yes.’ Do you feel peace because you live (if you live in the U.S.) in a country that will protect you? Perhaps, yes. Do you feel grateful that there are men and women who are willing to risk their lives to protect you? Perhaps, yes. It is my opinion and understanding that these feelings are probably okay and are in line with Romans 13.
The authority in place acted as good worldly authorities should. That is how systems of this world are set up to work until Jesus comes back. I believe that we can all be grateful to God that he does not leave us on this planet that is full of evil without placing systems in place to bring correction and to combat that evil.
That being said, for those who follow Jesus, we must remember and be formed by the fact that there is also another system that is already in effect. It is the system which followers of Jesus live by and within. This system is characterized by love, beauty, forgiveness, hope, awe, mercy, grace, kindness, graciousness, peace, hope and more.
So, as a citizen of this kingdom, the kingdom that we are actually invited into to experience life:
       How do you feel that a human life was snuffed out? Do you    
       feel God’s pain? 
       Do you feel the heart and grief of Jesus that a man who He 
       created in his image chose to walk a path that did not glorify or 
       reflect God’s beauty and glory on earth?
       Do you grieve over the fact that violence only perpetuates 
       violence and the cycle goes on and on and on?
       Do you grieve that this man whom God loves with all of his 
       life, might now never know the amazing gift it is to walk with 
       God and to share life with him?
       Is there a part of you that hopes this evil, violent murderer 
       found his way to the Creator of Love before it was too late?
If we cannot answer these questions with a ‘yes’, (and I believe that very few of us, myself included, can) then perhaps we could agree that religion is a crutch for those who are too weak to experience this kingdom life on their own. Perhaps we could make our way to Jesus and ask him to empower us to experience life more fully, as he intended, lives that are identified by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, beauty, awe, generosity, graciousness, grace, mercy, hope and more. Lives that understand that no one, not even our super awesome selves, is worthy of redemption, yet Jesus crushed death in order that all might experience this beautiful hope.
Finally, I did not personally lose a loved one in 9/11. If there ever comes a day when I am faced with this type of horror and terror on a more personal level, I pray for the grace of Jesus to empower me to actually desire to follow him through it. If you are one who has personally been affected by this type of horror or terror in your life and you are desperately trying to figure out this kingdom life, I do not know nor do I pretend to know what it is like to be in your shoes. I am deeply sorry. And I promise to pray that as you wrestle through what must be the darkest of days, that you would have glimpses of hope and light in your heart and that Jesus would somehow be real for you in this time.
Grace and peace.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and join in the conversation. Agree. Disagree. Just be respectful of one another.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dash for the Stache

Last week I ran in my second half marathon - the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, TN. This one was a bit different from my first half marathon, as I was running:
a) by myself 
b) the course was very hilly
c) I was running for my friends mustache
In preparation for the Nashville race, I spent some of my time training on the treadmill at the gym to simulate some of those Nashville hills by putting it on an incline. Yes, for those of you who have not experienced New Orleans before, the only place to find hills is at the gym....on the treadmill. 
My training went very well and I remained cautiously optimistic that I might be able to run the race in the same time that I ran the ultra-flat NOLA race, which was 1 hour 49 minutes. If nothing else, I just wanted to finish before the 1:55 mark.
One week before the race, I was drinking coffee with a buddy of mine and I asked him if he cared to make a little wager. If I run the half in less than 1:40 then he shaves his mustache that he’s been sporting for the last 20 years. I’ve been trying to get this friend to lose the stache for years in a number of ways including countless poker hands together where I try to win it off of him, but he NEVER takes the bet. On this particular day, he did. The reason: he knew there was no way I’d be able to do it.
The week before the race, was my last 12 mile training run, which I ran it in 1:42. I immediately texted him letting him know that his stache was safe.
The morning of the race was incredibly exciting. I positioned myself in corral #2 at 6:55 a.m. and surveyed the landscape. Corral #2 was positioned on top of a hill so I could see down forever. As I stood in a sea of people, over 31,000 runners, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins and I had a crazy thought that I just might be able to run this race very well. 
As the gun was about to sound, I placed my earbuds in, took a couple of deep breaths and we were off. The first mile was downhill and my confidence was sky high. At mile marker #1 I felt great and knew this race was going to be a fun run. There were certain marks along the course that when I passed them, my friends would receive a text message letting them know what my times were. I was looking forward to these marks because it made me feel like my friends were actually a part of the race with me even though they weren’t doing anything (except enjoying coffee on their sofas). I actually felt great at each marker.
5K Marker: I hit it at under 24 minutes
10 Marker: I hit it at 47 minutes
10 Mile Marker: I hit it at 1 hour 16 minutes
I was moving right along, feeling great! I knew if I just kept my pace I would actually finish under 1:40 and that stache would be history.
And then the wheels fell off....kind of.
At mile marker 11 I began to realize that the hills were taking their toll on my body. My calves were aching. My butt was sore. My quads were burning. I finally determined in my mind that these weren’t actually hills but they were mountains....and I was starting to hate them.
The end was so near, though. So, I pushed. I knew I’d be just fine if the course didn’t throw any more of these ridiculous mountains my way. So many people were counting on me. I had to win the stache.
And then I saw it. Mile marker 12. I could see it from a distance and I realized that my shot at beating 1:40 was within reach, but it would take everything I had. I hit the marker at 1 hour 33 minutes. This was it! I had to run the final 1.1 miles in less than 7 minutes and knowing that I am capable of that (on a good day) I said, “Legs! Let’s go!” To which my legs replied, “Hell, no! We’re staying right here.” 
It was at this moment that I realized that mile 13 was upmountain. And I don’t mean just the first part of mile 13. I’m talking about the whole mile. If you have ever wondered what your natural vocabulary really is, I would suggest either: 
a) accidentally miss the nail and hit your thumb with a hammer when no else is around
b) run a half marathon only to realize that mile 13 is upmountain
When I finally finished dialoguing with my legs, we decided to compromise - I would not make them go faster if they promised not to actually walk.
All this to say, that I ran that 13th mile in a little over 8 minutes and finished the race with a personal best of 1:41:47. Crossing that finish line was absolutely exhilarating and made all the better when I saw my bride and my 4 boys standing at the finish line with hugs and kisses. Honestly, I was upset that I missed my goal by 1 minute 47 seconds, but the truth is, I never thought I’d even get close to finishing under 1 hour 50 minutes. 
Later that day, my buddy text messaged me and informed me that in celebration, of my new personal record he was going to shave off the stache even though he won the bet. The ‘Dash for the Stache’ was a great experience and was made all the more fun because of the great community of friends that participated in it with me in heart and mind. You guys know who you are and you were awesome. Thanks.
*Special Note: Someone asked me if this is a good time. For me, yes! But to put it in perspective, the guy who won the Boston Marathon (26.2 miles) this year, finished in 2 hours 3 minutes.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Religion is a Crutch for the Weak

It's been said by those who do not 'believe' in God that religion is a crutch for the weak

Upon waking today, I think that those who utter such words might be right. 

For, my religion (so to speak) is one of following a God who is not dead, who hates death and who does not rejoice over the death of any. It is one of following a God who asks me to love people who hate me, to forgive people who hurt me, to bless people who curse me, to befriend people who annoy me, to serve people who oppress me, to care for people who detest me, to....

So, today, I admit that I am weak. At this moment, I feel powerless to do the very things that I want to do in my heart. I feel anemic when it comes to thinking and speaking and loving rightly. I feel weak and so yes, I admit that I am not strong enough to move about or live without my eyes set in the direction of the one who is not dead.

Today, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Greg Boyd, (and I paraphrase) "The kingdom of God always looks like Jesus dying on the cross for the ones who were nailing him to it." 

So, as news of Osama Bin Laden's death spreads and as views of the President of the U.S. are expressed over these next few days and weeks, if you are a follower of this particular Jesus - the one who dies on the cross for the very one's who were murdering him - perhaps we should proclaim our weakness and ask him for the same strength to practice love as he did and does. 

Depending on your views of the President of America, (and remember, not everyone shares your views) perhaps proclaiming your weakness, you may pray for this leader instead of spewing venomous words as he tries to lead a nation through very tumultuous times.

Maybe, just maybe this type of 'religion' - the type that is sold out to learning to love - is indeed for the weak and for this reason, those who want to live this type of life need to look to the one and rely on the one who has shown us how to actually do it.

Post Blog Thought: Someone asked me if this means that I think America should not have pursued Bin Laden and brought him to 'justice'. I think this is the wrong question. The right question might be more along the lines of - In how I respond to this news, am I allowing Jesus to determine what it looks like for me to follow him instead of me determining what it looks like?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Community without Unity?

This week bloggers around the blogosphere are taking part in a Rally to Restore Unity by sharing their thoughts about and desire for seeing more unity in the body of Christ and less division. For more about the Rally to Restore Unity, check out Rachel Held Evans blog here. This blog is my contribution and one of many that will be written this week about Unity.

There have been numerous books written and messages preached over the last number of years about the importance of community within the 'community' of believers. Within the church. For centuries, community has been a central element to what it means to be a part of the church, but as of late, there is certainly no shortage of material available on the 'how' and 'why'.

I like the idea of community. The idea of sharing life with others. The idea of knowing and being known. I like the idea. The problem is, I have always been a bit of a loner. Case in point - after being single and living alone for 7 years, I remember climbing the stairs to my 3rd floor apartment just 3 months into my new marriage thinking, "When I walk through that door, she is going to be there. She is never going away. She will always be here when I get home....forever." (For the record, I love my wife and think she is amazing. Eight years and 4 kids later, we are enjoying the ride of our lives. You can learn more about our lives together here and here.) However, over the last 2 years I have made huge strides in understanding the need for community in my own life and allowing my life to become more engaged with and in the lives of others. Community really is beautiful and is a lifestyle that followers of Jesus are invited into. I read in one of N.T. Wright's books (hey, this is more reference than Rob Bell gives) that when Jesus calls people to follow him, he calls them into the family, into the community. According to Jesus via Wright, it seems impossible to follow him and not be in community. (You might disagree with this and I'm okay with that, I guess, since this blog is actually about unity and the idea that we don't all have to agree and we can still love and respect one another.)

Which is a great segue to my question: We love to preach community, but is community even possible without unity? If my own journey is any indication, then I would propose that true community is not possible without unity. And this has been the missing point for me, for quite some time.

For years, I have been opposed to those who don't believe as I do. So painful to admit and something that I am not at all proud of, but I have always struggled with this. The reason is both simple and hard and probably worthy of it's own blog post, but suffice it to say, that I don't like living in this place.

The church (the people of God) seems to be in a scary and awesome place these days. We have all kinds of characters from Joel Osteen to Rob Bell to Mark Driscoll to a whole bunch of men and women who no one knows except for the communities they lead and pastor faithfully. The beliefs and hopeful practices that come from those beliefs are as wide apart as the earths poles. We focus a lot of attention these days on these big names. Lots of people are writing lots of things about these big names, their followings, their thoughts, their influence and so on. For those of us who enjoy reading and writing and studying, we have a tendency to be quick to form opinions. And herein, lies the problem. Because opinions inevitably lead to judgments. Opinions and judgements: both very popular among people and both incredibly destructive to unity and community.

The problem is much bigger than most of us understand it to be though, because it doesn't actually start or end with these big names. The truth is, it starts and ends for most of us in our own cities, our own coffee shops, our own Home Depot's, our own communities of faith. We focus on figuring out who's 'in' and who's 'out' based on our own ideas and opinions about how belief plays out and we allow it to cause judgmental divisions between us, which in turn, leads to a lack of unity. And without unity can we really have community? True, honest, authentic community? Can we really experience the love and life of Jesus if this is the game we choose to play?

As I journey towards both unity and community, one of the greatest things that has helped me are the wise words of an odd source - a Pharisee named Gamaliel. In the book of Acts, Gamaliel stood before the council who desired to kill the apostles and he said to them, 'Leave these men alone. If their words and plans are man made, they will fail. However, if they are from God, then not only will you be unable to overthrow them but you will also be picking a fight with God.'

So, today, may we learn to stop fighting one another and stop picking fights with God. I point no fingers today, instead, let it start with me. May we all experience the beauty and awe of what it is to be full of love and respect and wonder for one another and for the whole body of Jesus. May we begin to experience unity and in turn, may we begin to more fully embrace life in the community.

Who are those who you disagree with?
How might your disagreements be turning into opinions and judgments?
How might those opinions and judgments be separating you from the very people that God might want you sharing life with?
How might we continue to learn to love and respect one another (even if we disagree) as we all journey towards Jesus?