Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. What if God created the Universe in such a way that if you spend your time and energy in fellowship with him instead of sleeping longer or working more, you will find time and energy like fish and loaves?

2. Wisdom is realizing you are free to do a lot of things that would be good for you, as a follower of Jesus, to say “no” to.

3. I read an article this week about how many moms are on antidepressants. It was enlightening and sobering. I’ve seen it in my office and it can be heartbreaking. But the article was also frustrating because it neglected one critical factor. The article did not discuss about the need for those moms to make some changes in their life outside of medications. This is complicated because we immediately think, “If he is saying they need to change, then it is all their fault.” Not only is that not true but it is also always more complex. Everyone who comes to me comes knows I am a follower of Jesus and will counsel accordingly. Therefore, I assume there are things wrong in the way my client thinks, just as I assume there are things wrong in the way I think. Why? Because that is the case for everyone. I also assume everyone who sits in front of me would like to change and be different. This does not only require changing the way a person thinks but also what they do day in and day out. And this was missing in the article and it’s missing in much of the way we talk about these things.

4. At every step Jesus seemed to confuse his listeners. I’ve been reading the gospels a lot over the past year. A few chapters at a time. And Jesus is constantly confounding the expectations of everyone. Except those who are desperate for his healing. They expect him to heal them. But those who want him to overthrow Rome seem consistently disappointed and thrown off kilter. Of course, it was never his mission to overthrow Rome. At least not with armies and swords. The American church has never learned this lesson.

5. Resentment and bitterness ought to be fought against not just because they are “wrong” but because they steal joy.

6. I don’t really do parenting advice because I am in the middle of it and sometimes I feel like I am just barely hanging on myself. But goodness, I have a lot of adult clients with parents, who are discouraging, judgmental, and controlling. They manipulate, smother, and dominate. They are without joy, contentment, and mercy. It’s heartbreaking and fills me with fear.

Dear God, please begin even now making me an encouraging, joyful parent of my kids as they grow into adults.

7. The prevailing idea since I attended Seminary 20 years ago was that whatever the culture is watching and listening to, that is what we should be watching and listening to also. The goal was to be on “the front lines” so we can “speak into” and “redeem pop culture.”

Over the past few years I have become convinced that this is a wrong way of thinking. I am now convinced that when the culture zigs, we should zag. What they call important, maybe we should more than often, ignore. Not because we dislike them, but maybe our attention should be elsewhere. let’s be honest, we know that there is something compelling about a person who is not always in the know.

Also I have a suspicion that much of that talk was an excuse to be entertained by what would otherwise be deemed as objectionable.

8. Because I’ve been listening to so much music made by followers of Jesus, I’ve discovered some new music. Two of the artists have at least one song that addresses the Devil directly. Speaking to him. That’s different, at least in my musical universe. But I gotta tell you, I’ve learned something…that maybe some of the thinking and acting required to be an emotionally healthy and mentally healthy follower of Jesus is recognizing the power of the Father of Lies and the Accuser.

9. I want you to imagine that Jesus is with you right now. Think about it. Imagine what that would feel like. Would you now think, feel, and talk about “the news” of the day the same way if he was sitting with you now.

Here’s the thing…He is.

10. We do a lot of shopping at Aldi and Walmart and we also enjoy some of their brand’s items. Because of this, we go to that store to get those items. When we find them, we are glad. Not always joyous per se, but satisfied. But if we went to Target and looked for those items, we would be disappointed. Not finding it there, we might then try Publix, where the rich and beautiful shop. Even there we would be frustrated. Maybe angry. Possibly sad.

So many of us, who identify as Christians are looking for life in the wrong place. We are looking for life in politics, work, money, sex, substances, power, body image, reputation, (kid’s) sports, and even doctrine. And it is making us sad and angry and full of anxiety. But life is only found in one place, the person of Jesus.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. I love the Psalms…David is like, “You have totally forgotten me and neglected me God, life is awful, my enemies have surrounded me and want to kill me, but are a faithful God, I know that, and now I will sing a song to you.” So when life is hard, maybe we should think, “I will sing along to those worship songs based on Coldplay song structures because it is good for me.”

2. To be honest, I’d be more excited if Chick-fil-A took over Twitter.

3. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to watch the news. Ever. You’re welcome.

4. Just spit-balling here but it may not be a good idea to treat our kids as celebrities with photo sessions for every occasion.

5. It’s true that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. But when I was a kid, nothing could separate me from my parent’s love. And yet I would often go through seasons when I looked for every opportunity to be nowhere near them and to use them for their gifts. I wanted the car keys to get away. I did not seek out their presence just to be with them. And I suffered as a result.

6. My wife is on a women’s retreat right now and I don’t know what to do.

7. I have never regretted sitting down and reading my Bible.

8. As a counselor I give more homework now than I did as a teacher.

9. I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians a lot. And I noticed recently he is not too worried about the motives of preachers as long as Jesus is preached (1:12-20). So then it dawned on me that I shouldn’t be too worried about the motives of Hillsong, Bethel, et al. So I stand corrected on that.

10. Against all odds, Anne Wilson’s new album, My Jesus, is my favorite right now. Bethany says some of the songs sound like sitting in the back of the truck drinking beer music and I am kinda okay with that as long as we talk about the complex characters of Jane Austen Austen novels too. Videos below.

re: Awards Day

To the parents with a kid (or kids) who never get any awards on awards day,

I’d like to encourage you with two things.

One encouragement is monumental and the other is quite small.

First, let me encourage you with the monumental reality of God’s love. According to Paul in Romans 8, nothing can separate you or your child from that love. There may not be anything wrong with awards day, but it functions the way the world works. And the world works according to résumés. But God does not. So be encouraged by his lovingkindness and see to it your child is too.

Now for a small encouragement…

I never won an award.

Not even one.

I never had perfect attendance.

(Btw, perfect attendance is saddest award ever.)

I never made any honor roll.

I once made a 70 in math and my dad took me to McDonald’s he was so relieved.

I rarely did my homework. And if I did it was at the last minute and I might have copied it from Mario Roosley.

I barely graduated from High School.

I was not even sure I would till they gave me that diploma. I only passed because my Algebra 2 teacher got tired of me. It was my 2nd time to take the class. I failed the first time. 64 was failing. The 65 I got was all grace.

I hated every day of school ever.

I was skipping school by my Senior year.

What’s worse is I was kinda nerdy but didn’t make good grades. Not a winning combination.
Why might this be encouraging?

All but the truly desperate parents may want to stop reading here. Because this is going to sound like bragging but I’m going to risk it.

You were warned…

Before all was said and done, I had a Master’s degree which has the hour equivalent of a doctorate. I have studied five languages. I’m a voracious reader who can intelligently discuss a number of disciplines and how they relate to one another: theology, history, philosophy, literature, etc.
I read at least one hundred substantial books a year. I never made the best grades on book reports or when you had to analyze a poem. But I still read those books and I know some of those poems by heart. I collect poetry books for crying out loud.

I know more about Jane Austen, Bach, and Dante than anyone I know.

I am now a published author. People pay to read what I have said and to listen to me. My book has now been used as part of a college course.

More than all that, I married far above me to a girl who after 23 years still makes me swoon and laugh.
I have three children.

My oldest daughter, who has ASD, is about graduate from HS.

My middle son and I now have regular conversations about how to follow Jesus as a teenage boy.
My youngest son is the nicest person I’ve ever met.

They’ll probably never win awards at school.

I have best friends who are worth more than the treasures of this world.

I’m a member of a great church and they’ve entrusted me to help disciple their young children on Sunday nights.

**Awards day is not indicative of future success.**

My advice?

If your kid gets no award or just one of those lame ones like a participation trophy, take them out to their favorite restaurant and make sure they know you love them just the same.

That’s a killer award. Take it from me.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. What you give your attention to forms you.

2. Last night we sat outside at a restaurant with friends and ate and talked and laughed and hurt together for the pain in the world and in us and it was a reminder that some of the most simple things are the best things.

3. My wife and I have a joke about the books she reads and when the gay character will show up. Usually it’s within the first fifty pages but it’s inevitable. It’s as ridiculous as the Christian romance novels in which someone has to get saved before the book has ended. For each, that is what legitimizes the book.

4. Surround yourself with reminders that the unseen realities are the highest realities.

5. I am pretty adept at finding reasons to not do things that are good for me.

6. You cannot coast into wisdom.

7. Listening to the birds sing in my front yard at 6 am is free.

8. For nearly a month I have only listened to music by those who follow Jesus. It was an experiment and has proved to be very good for me and I assume good for those around me. I assumed it would have some benefits, but I also assumed I would crave the music I loved and sat on the beach and listened to for hours the day before I started. Nope.

9. Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude.

10. Sometimes I give my clients a social scenario I know, that if real, will cause them a good deal of anxiety. And then I add to the scenario – they have just come into a great deal of money. I then ask them if they walk into that same situation with the knowledge they are now very wealthy, would it be easier? Without fail, they say “yes.” I then tell them I am about to get real spiritual on them…and ask them if they would rather have that money or Jesus. This is why Jesus talked about money so much. He did not talk about it so that your pastor could get you to give your money to the church. He talked about money because we are far more likely to feel safe in the world with money than with the King.

re: Happiness

Listen, I have never been unhappy in a Mexican restaurant.

But what if there is a happiness you can have had even when you cannot afford to go to the Mexican restaurant?

A happiness that is higher than queso and margaritas.

Within evangelicalism (and maybe beyond) there is a tradition of saying there is a difference between “joy” and “happiness.”

Usually it goes like this…”Happiness is temporary and joy is eternal.”

Happiness is shallow and joy is depth.

Sounds good.

But the Scriptures never really make this distinction. Actually, there is not really any distinction between joy and happiness to be found in the Scriptures.

The Scriptures seem to be more concerned with what we are happy and joyful about.

About three years ago I began memorizing passages of Scripture in earnest. The goal was to fill my mind with a voice of truth and peace amidst a world of lies and chaos.

This was not long before I lost a job I loved, by the way.

So I memorized Psalm 1.

The first line? “Happy is the man…”

And yes, even though you might have memorized it as “blessed,” that word’s primary meaning is “happy.”

I wanted to be happy then and I want to be happy now.

What is interesting is that pretty much everyone wants to be happy. There are exceptions…those who want to exert no effort in that direction, come to mind.

And happiness does require effort according to the Psalmist. You have to say “no” to some things and “yes” to others.

He lays it out like this:

A happy person does not:
– walk in the advice of the wicked
– stand in the pathway of sinners
– sit in the seat of mockers

And a happy person does:
– delight in the LORD’s instructions
– and mediates on them day and night

Pretty straight forward.

So, what are you meditating on day and night?

Facebook? Instagram? The rage machine of Twitter? Disney Vacations? The hurt caused by another? Your 401K? Sex? Your body shape? Your frustrating job? Your kid’s travel ball team?

Where does your mind go? Does it help you avoid a life characterized by the list of what happy person does *not* do in Psalm 1?

What are you filling your mind with day in and day out? What is animating your imagination?

Is it giving you a happiness that cannot be taken from you regardless of the grief and sorrow you are feeling?

Is it giving you a happiness far above an emotional reaction to pleasant circumstances?

If you feel a longing for this…a longing for something you know but are rarely experiencing why not put forth that effort?

Set a goal of reading the scriptures throughout your day so that it is more than just a box you tick off.

Set a goal of memorizing passages of Scripture so that those words of truth are filling your mind day and night.

Listen to music that helps you keep your mind on Jesus, the resurrected King.

It’s going to require some effort…you will have to say “no” to some things and “yes” to a vision of the Psalm 1 person.

Random Thoughts For the Weekend

1. The reason we think asking, “What would Jesus do?” is legalism is only because it will not help with our kid’s sport of choice. No one would discourage their kid from trying to be like the best player possible in that sport.

2. Don’t underestimate the significance of a client feeling safe and being safe during counseling sessions.

3. A kind word has incalculable power.

4. I had a realization about myself recently. When something distressing or hurtful happens to me, I want others to know about it. And there are two ways I can do this. I can tell them I am frustrated or I can sulk and mope and stew in bitterness and resentment. And that is what I am prone to do. This does no one any good whatsoever. No one. Or I can absorb that pain and resolve as a disciple of Jesus to walk in patience and kindness, not making those around “pay” for my hurt. And I think this may be what joy looks like.

5. MIllstones, I tell you. Millstones.

6. What if the church became known as a culture where everything was done without complaining?

7. Last night Bethany and I watched a show about a couple building an Irish cottage tree house in their backyard. Then I read in Greg Allman’s memoir he had a neighbor with a tree house and his mother said it looked like “the damn shanty Irish.” Then I read that his brother Duane – the Duane Allman – was reading The Lord of the Rings for fifth time when died. Fifteen minutes later I was in bed reading The Two Towers.

8. Marriage has the potential for the most beauty and therefore potential for the most ugliness.

9. I can’t imagine/What it is like to fear bombs/On a lovely spring day.

10. Tedeschi Trucks Band bootlegs are better than other artist’s actual releases. So enjoy this unofficial bootleg video of them playing their song, Midnight in Harlem, with an intro of Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way. It brought me to tears the first 10 times I watched it.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

  1. One of the things I love about the Bible is I can read something like 1 Peter, which I have read so many times before, and because of some change in my life, what I am reading is something new and fresh.

2. I have more than once been counseling a client and in the moment thought, “I really need to take my own advice on this.” Not sure it should or could be any other way and feel like I’m doing anything helpful.

3. Last weekend, Bethany and I watched the documentary, Jesus Music. I enjoyed it but much of it made me sad. But maybe not for the reason you think. I do not like “worship music.” At all. Now some of you probably just gasped. And that is the problem. The worship music industry is a billion dollar industry in which churches must pay for the rights to use music to, wait for it, worship the King. But that is not even what I dislike the most about worship music. It has taken over Christian music. When I was in high school and college there were incredible bands like the 77s, The Choir, Daniel Amos, The Altar Boys, The Prayer Chain, Poor Old Lu and dozens of others that sang about reality from a Christian perspective. There is no room for those bands anymore (and no stores to buy them in also). And if worship music is the default, then what if you don’t like the style? What does that say to a kid who does not like that style of music? I am so thankful I had those bands to listen to back when I was young (and now) because if all I had were derivative Coldplay meets Carrie Underwood sounding songs from 10 years ago, I am not sure what the effect would have been. Some of those bands were a huge part of my continuing to follow Jesus.

4. In Philippians 2:14, Paul says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” The Greek word for “everything” is hard because it means “everything.” And we have Facebook.

5. As a counselor, it is painful to hear of what has been done to my clients when they were children. I usually joke and say the hardest part of counseling is clients keeping their appointments. But it’s not true. This is the hardest –– hearing about what those in authority have done to children.

6. I have not gotten a record in the mail in at least a week. I should get a prize

7. Tim Keller could post, “Jesus is God,” and someone would find a reason to argue with him.

8. Even though we don’t watch football, I do plan on having Super Bowl food on Sunday night while watching something on Discovery Plus.

9. The bigger the church, the less transparency when things go wrong. And the greater the harm done.

10. A lot could be understood about our culture if we realize how much undue importance we place on sports.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

  1. All meaningful relationships require effort, even our relationship with Jesus.

2. As a follower of Jesus, I love listening to songs about Jesus. And not just vague songs about Jesus. I like the songs that toe the line between brilliant poetry and corny and almost cheesy, because that’s a risk worth taking. I do prefer those songs to have a punk rock edge, though. Or sound like they have the hills underneath them.

3. Complaining can kinda make me feel good. But what really does me good and makes me feel good is when I think about complaining and then decide to not do it.

4. All Creatures Great and Small is the best thing on TV.

5. The hardest part of marriage counseling is the speck is larger than the log.

6. Stop using résumés for hiring pastors.

7. I’d like to stay at Tom Bombadil’s house and listen to Goldberry sing.

8. I have not missed Twitter at all, which has surprised me.

9. I love that Jesus is never in a hurry.

10. Christian schools/churches seem to not understand that the way they treat their employees and staff is an education about the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. They are teaching the children in their charge what they really believe about the gospel.

Random Thoughts for the Week Ahead

1. Hope in politicians is more harmful for the church than anything a politician can do.

2. Have you ever stopped to think about how passionately you cheer for your college sports team, even though that college has most likely, in all academic disciplines, ignored the vital reality of God in considering its ideas and conclusions about how to live in this world? It’s worth thinking about.

3. The best thing you can do for your kids is to give loving attention to your spouse.

4. According to the Scriptures, you can walk daily in fellowship with God.

5. If I counsel anyone with a view other than them following Jesus better, even if they overcome whatever issue they were struggling with, I have not counseled them well.

6. There is a lot to be learned about how to follow Jesus from those who followed Jesus before the Reformation.

7. The current hot button issues of the day are not affecting the church near as much as kids’ sports is.

8. If we neglect prayer and the reading of the Scriptures in our daily lives, we are neglecting those primary things which we have been created to do.

9. Listening to beautiful music is good for you.

10. The Covid-19 vaccine is a gift from God that has saved many lives and the fact that me saying this is controversial among my fellow believers is an indictment of the state of the church in America.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. Whenever I think of suffering Christians in other parts of the world, I think of the time I spent a summer in Buffalo, NY doing mission work. They thought I must have been very mature as a Christian (though just a college student) because I was down in the “Bible Belt” and went to a big church. All the churches I worked in were very small. But the truth is even those younger than me had more faith than I did because they lived in a place where being a Christian was far less acceptable. I thought I had the advantage. I was wrong.

2. The reason the world seems out of control and in crisis is because we think what we read or watch from the news is of greater significance than the reality of King Jesus and his kingdom.

3. It is always good to ask yourself, “Would I worry this much if Jesus was physically with me right now?”

4. I am learning to be thankful for discouragement since it also reminds me of the presence and provision of Jesus.

5. I have never been able to talk a college student into not joining a fraternity or sorority and instead putting all their energy into a local church and campus ministry. Not once.

6. You were not created to bear the weight of the 24/7 news cycle.

7. Assuming the best of people not only makes it easier to love those you disagree with but it also is a more joyous way to live.

8. Prayer is most likely more powerful than your fight on Facebook.

9. Afghanistan is a reminder that all a church needs is Jesus. It doesn’t need a budget, a building, or a vibrant children’s ministry. The goal is not those things. The goal is the faithfulness in the face of suffering we are all witnessing.

10. My wife’s laugh is worth more than gold. And when it joins with my children’s laugh, it is a sound beyond anything Bach could have written.