Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. Thinking about applying for the position of CEO of the company I work for. It’s not an open position but I want them to know I’m interested.

2. We hand out too much fine print in the Church.

3. Last week I asked y’all to pray for my fantasy baseball and it was obvious you did not. Thanks for that.

4. I was supposed to go to a “security meeting” yesterday but when I found out they were not giving us throwing stars, I decided to postpone it.

5. Where is the Bacon Genie when you need him?

6. I saw a couple of people got annoyed about my post on 10 ways to annoy a legalist.

7. Epic Security/Marketing Idea for Banks: “Every Branch has a Ninja.”

8. You do realize that pretty much everything we were told at the beginning of the Martin/Zimmerman coverage has been now shown to be wrong, don’t you?

9. Spirit > Written Code

10. Maybe I should apply for Head of Security.

Tuesday’s 10: Ways to Annoy a Legalist

1. Quote from The Message. “Well, The Message says…”

2. Laugh. Especially at yourself and your own weaknesses. They will not understand, assume you are carnal and therefore be very annoyed.

3. When describing what you were doing, offhandedly throw in, “I was listening to The Beastie Boys with my kids and…”

4. Compare the price of gas to the price of wine by volume. The point is not the price of either so much as to get them thinking about the cardinal sin of you knowing anything about wine except its evilness. (If they ask how you know about the price of wine, tell them you were asked to provide wine for a wedding party and you didn’t want to run out. You can do this with a smirk or straight face – either way, it’s awesome.)

5. Refer to The Message as a “translation.” This works every. single. time.

6. Act like you have never heard of Fireproof/Courageous/etc.

7. Casually use words from eastern religions. A good example would be, “That was a very Zen moment.” If you want to double down, use the previous phrase to describe a worship song. (But be careful, you might have to explain what you mean. If you can’t, just move straight into #2.)

8. Just own a copy of The Message.

9. Tell them U2 is your favorite Christian band.

10. Preach/teach/ooze grace. Love sinners and be gracious. Drives ’em nuts.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. I am now confident enough in my job to pretend like I know what I’m talking about it.

2. Every ministry leans toward legalism, not just youth ministry.

3. If you have not prayed for my fantasy baseball team, would you please do so now? Feel free to share this need in your small group.

4. “The Bible doesn’t mention dating but we are going to tell you how to do it or not to do it at all.”

5. Pure repentance is the spiritual equivalence of a unicorn.

6.  My favorite Dirty Dancing prequel is Red Dawn (Wolverines!).

7. I run, therefore I eat bacon.

8. The first vocation was gardening not preaching.

9. My first-baseman couldn’t hit and in fact struck out constantly. So I benched him. Now he’s hitting doubles like DiMaggio.

10. “Behold, I make all things new” is good news.

A Former Pastor’s Regret

There’s nothing to applaud here. Applause should be reserved for the pastors who have seen this and pastored accordingly. I’m sure some do it by instinct. I was not among them and that’s why there’s regret.

I never really understood the difficulty of living the Christian life in the real world, outside of vocational ministry. My experience of working outside vocational ministry was in part time jobs and one full-time on the way to Seminary. So that may be part of it. But I’m not sure I can lay the cause at the feet of ignorance alone.

Loving the people I ministered to seemed secondary. I would have never admitted it but that’s most likely part of what was the problem. I wanted to see them do things that justified my ministry more than I wanted to love them.

I did love them. It’s not that I didn’t. But I’m not sure it bothered me when I didn’t show it or feel it.

And so I was not very compassionate about the difficulties of living out the Christian life when you’re not a pastor. 

It would not be fair to say I would do this or not do that. But generally speaking, I’d like to think I’d be more gracious about what they did with their time and money. I’d like to think I would be more tender in my speech. And I’d like to think I’d be slower to speak and quicker to listen.

But again, I can’t say I would do those things.

Now that I’m working in a bank, these regrets are easy. It’s easy for me see the struggle because I’m in the middle of it. I can understand wanting to stay home on a weeknight with my family. I can understand the need for a word of peace instead of having my toes stood upon. I loved stepping on toes more than comforting the heart. I should have been more patient with the bruised reeds.

It’s easy to say that now because I am one. I’m in a job I’m terrible at and my days seem long and repetitive. My comforts are lunch, instant messages, and conversations with the security guard. How many people did I speak to, counsel with, and preach at who struggled as I do now?

I just wanted to hit home runs as a teacher/preacher.

A pastor’s job is hard too. And I always wanted people to see that. I just wasn’t all that in tune with the difficulties of those I was pastoring. I saw the dangers they needed to be aware of. I saw the temptations. And I could see their faults in technicolor.

But what should have made me lean into my calling -their faults and needs and fears and struggles and pains – far too often all that was just fuel thrown on an already burning desire to control and change them.

So I regret it. I wish I’d known then what I know now.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. Paterno, Peyton and Petrino.

2. The idea of a post-race culture is a chimera if only because we must make anything and everything about race, every time and all the time. We are rescuing the drowning with anvils.

3. I was eating sausage the other day and I thought, “Something is missing.” It took me a moment but I realized that something was bacon.

4. CJ Mahaney is speaking at T4G on the subject, “When Pastors Lose Heart.” I no longer have the least desire to be a part of the YRR movement. At all.

5. Working with an editor on your book is all at once exhilarating and humbling.

6. A pastor who is happy in obscurity is a good pastor.

7. If you don’t mind, could you take just a moment and pray for my fantasy team today? I only have one pitcher in the mix today and I need him to dominate.

8. Justice for non-skinny jean wearers!

9. The resurrection of The King may be the most neglected fact in our everyday lives.

10. I never knew as a pastor the relentless difficulty of working as a believer out in the real world. If I had, I would have shown much more grace and tenderness. At least I would like to think I would have.

What I’m Listening To – The Decemberists

When one of my best friends, David, told me I needed to listen to a band called The Decemberists last summer, I was in a sufficiently good mood to heed his advice. From my first listen of The King is Dead, I was hooked. And I’m still hooked.

What do you call this music? Nerd Folk Pop? Literate Rock? Regardless, it’s all interesting. Whether lead singer and songwriter, Colin Meloy, is writing and singing about Japanese Folk Tales, Shakespearean dramas or composing whole folk-rock operas, it’s all riveting. And rarely is it not ringed with beauty.

Recently, my wife and I have been listening to the new live album chronicling their last year’s tour. We were too late to the party to see them live, but this is certainly one of those cases where we’re just glad to have arrived.

I would say this is music for all of us who have been spoiled by Masterpiece Theater and Downton Abbey and can no longer enjoy network television programming.

Now, the music…

This first video is just the lead singer, Colin Meloy, singing all three parts of “The Crane Wife.” Based on a Japanese folk tale, it’s 16 minutes of getting lost in wonder.

This second video is them running straight through their latest studio album, The King is Dead. The only album I listened to more last year was Adele’s 21. This is worth an hour of your time.

And this last video is a rough one of “Grace Cathedral Hill.” Rough but awesome. It’s the kind of song you want to enter into, experience all he’s singing about first hand. You don’t know where Grace Cathedral Hill is but you wanna be there.

Tuesday’s 10: Reasons Why Baseball Is A Great Game

Baseball season is here. The green of the grass can be smelt upon the air. The sound of radio announcers giving us the play by play is welcome. And the Cardinals are on their way to their 12th championship.

For those of you, who love this game, this is for you. Reasons to love the game you may have instinctively “known” but not really got your head around are spelled out.

And if you don’t like baseball, maybe this will bring understanding.

1. Baseball is slow and incremental. We live in a fast-food, instant-win, lottery-makes-me-instantly-wealthy culture. So many people think the baseball season should be shorter. they want the beginning of the season and the end of the season closer together so they don’t have to suffer through the slog of the middle. But baseball is like life – all the wins and losses, from beginning to end matter but none are immediately devastating.

2. Anyone can win on any given day. In football and to some degree basketball, there is always an expectation of who will win a game. There are exceptions, of course, But normally there is no surprise if the favored team wins and the one expected to lose, does in fact lose. And people may talk about a favored team’s loss to the underdog for a whole season. But no one does this in baseball. I mean, the Mariners and the Astros could win any day.
3. Baseball and Great Writing. Some of the best writers have written on the game. There are volumes dedicated to this phenomenon. Serious poets wax eloquent on double-plays and strikeouts. I’m not entirely sure why but perhaps it’s the rhythm of play, inherent in the game. There is a lot of space and time to think. It’s relaxed. The action is often unseen between the exclamation points.
4. The Rules of the Game. They are clear unlike other sports. In every football game, there is a holding call or pass interference call that could go either way. Even in slow motion, the commentators may disagree. The same is true for basketball…the whole traveling thing is a joke. And was it a charge or a defensive foul? Only slow-mo can tell us. Are there close situation like this baseball? Yes. But they are the exception and not the rule.
5. The Skills of the Tools Required. In every sport you need a number of skills. But in baseball you must know how to swing a bat (unless you’re a pitcher in the wussy American League), catch with a glove, field with a glove, and throw the ball well. None are easy but all are required. Bat, glove, and ball – all tools requiring incredible skill.
6. The Stats. Every part of the game can be measured. And those measurements not only are enjoyed before the game and during the game, they are still used and enjoyed years later. Indeed, the stats are central. No other sport cares about stats more than baseball. The stats are the proof of what a player and team has done and is the basis of what they may be capable of. You could fill a library of books on the stats. Some are all-important and some are simple curiosities of the game giving them color.

7. The Purity of the Stats. Stats are not just central to the game, they set it apart in their purity. But they are part of the problem in other sports. For example, in football a QB can throw a perfect pass and the receiver can drop it and it counts against the QB’s stats. That’s just stupid. I can think of nothing so ridiculous in baseball. In baseball, if you should have caught it or fielded it or thrown is better and didn’t, it’s an error. Simple as that. There may be arguments over the “should have” but the stats tell the story all things being equal. Unlike a dropped pass in football.

8. The Culture. Hot dogs, seventh inning stretch, the star-spangled banner, the first pitch, young boys with gloves in the stands hoping for foul balls. All of these and more are inextricably linked to the game though none are required for it’s being played. If you rid the sport of these, something is lost. They are as much monuments of the game as Ruth, Mays, Aaron and Mantle.

9. The Stories. Some are myth and some are true and they are all part of the game. Maybe it’s the story of just one play, a moment in time suspended in history for all of us to enjoy or despair of. In what other sport can you find a book about one hit? And the stories stretch from the central characters like Ruth, Mays and Boggs to the peripheral minor leaguers, their stadiums and the sandlots where the game grew faster than the weeds surrounding them. Maybe the stories are seem so much a part of the game because we time for announcers to tell them between pitches, maybe because they mirror the history of our country. Maybe it’s that baseball draws in all types of personalities giving us so many stories to tell. Regardless, you cannot read long before you get the feeling there is a desire for any story to be untold.

10. The Cards. Not the Cardinals per se. But the cards…baseball cards. I used to pore over mins for hours and hours, reorganizing them by team, then position, then by stats, and sometimes by value. Baseball cards…is there anything sadder than a football card? Besides a basketball card? Maybe hockey cards.

Occupiers and Borders

Just a few thoughts, not a thesis…

I just read an article about the actress, Emma Thompson – whom I love – and her desire for a ban on Israeli theater over “Illegal Colonization of Occupied Land.” And my first thought was, “I wonder how she feels about the Occupy Movement here in the States.” I mean, why would a liberal be upset over the illegal occupation of Israel but not an Illegal occupation of a park over here?

Some defiant occupying is good and some is bad.

I know what you are thinking. Countries are different than parks. They are more important, right? I agree. So then I thought, “Liberals do not really think this is the case, though. Everyone is bothered when someone breaks into your house. We call the police and expect someone to be punished. Shouldn’t the same kind of thinking be applied to our country and its borders.  Why is our personal space off limits but our borders are porous?

When such thinking is so selective, we can only hope we are the ones selected.

Just a few thoughts.