How could anyone…?!

How could you…?

How could anyone…?

One of my earliest recollections of this was early in my first year of college hearing someone say, “How could anyone grow up sane if they have to move a bunch of times as a child?”

This friend had grown up (all her life) in the same small town.  12 of the 16 in her high school graduating class, if I remember correctly, she had also started kindergarten with.

My response, a military brat who had moved at least ever 4 years, had wondered the opposite.

I have wondered the same thing: “how could anyone _____?”

I bet you have, too.

But this is another of those times that, if we are honest, we must recognize we don’t know the full story of the other person.

Just like no one else knows your full story.

At our best, we remember that we don’t know the other person’s story.  Then, still at our best, we acknowledge there may be good reason for whatever it is about them or their behavior we cannot imagine.

And if not a good reason, at least a reason we had not thought of.

Please don’t feel the need to hone your skills to learn every possible reason someone might do something differently or be something different from you.

Just let them be who they are.  Learn more (than you already know) about who they are.  Listen to their story.

You might still not understand them or what they do, but by the time you’ve listened to their story, you’ll likely be too tired to judge them.

How could anyone…?!

Too much excess?

I like to think I am a “make your point and move on” kind of guy.  I tire of repetition. Especially when I feel like it is repetition for repetition’s sake.

But this one thing bears repeating.

During this season of Lent, we are looking at excess and what to do about it.  We believe that we live in a culture of excess – voices around us, and in us, tell us we should want more, we should have more, we need more.
Jesus, on the other hand, calls us in the opposite direction.  Jesus recognized that stuff – money, food, clothing, power, media, friends, etc., cannot satisfy.  Only God and a relationship with God can satisfy the deep longing of our souls.
Yet, as much as we talk about excess and our mutiny against it, we are not being judgmental.  Let me repeat that: we are NOT judging you or your excess or other people in their excess.
We are not even judging ourselves in our own excess.
Our intent, during this season of Lent, is to open ourselves to God’s presence and God’s leading. Judging can be off-putting and conversation-ending.  We want to start the conversation or continue it.  We want to admit to ourselves and one another that excess challenges us and that following Jesus means getting all excess out of the way.
If all of it is too much for you right now, feel free to start with a little.
Too much excess?

A Little Stress, Anyone?

For Lent, I’ve been preaching a series based on Jan Hatmaker’s book 7. We’ll finish this Sunday.

Stress is the final topic.

Got stress?

I’ve had some this week. Maybe I’ll tell you about next week.

I think it will make for a good sermon this Sunday. If you don’t have a church home and live in the DFW area, visit Euless First United Methodist Church this Sunday and we will make it worth your while.

If you live elsewhere, or just can’t make it this Sunday, check out our webpage Monday or after where you can find and download the sermon.

But you would rather be there Sunday. Our choir is worth the trip.

A Little Stress, Anyone?

Which Jesus are we talking about?

jesusThe other day I was involved in a thread discussion in a United Methodist Clergy group. The subject of that discussion is irrelevant for my present purposes. If you really feel the need to know, ask me.

In this discussion, a friend – no, an acquaintance – no, a colleague – maybe – a fellow UM clergyperson wrote this: “If you do not follow the rules, then you have lost all integrity.”

Whoa, I thought. I am, apparently, and have always been, low on integrity.

This won’t surprise those of you who know me, but I push at rules.  Over the years I have come to respect the need for rules, and the benefits.

I still have within me, though, a desire, an urge, to push against the rules, the norms, the status quo.

Which is one of the reasons I read as someone who, according to my colleague, has lost an integrity.

In my reading of the Gospels, Jesus is almost constantly breaking rules. When I was younger and more of a mind to break rules just because they were rules, I read Jesus this way, too.

And it is possible to read the gospels this way.

I have grown up. I know longer believe that all rules were made to be broken.  I understand the benefit, even the need, of rules and standards.

As a matter of fact, I now tend to read Jesus as having this same kind of attitude toward rules.

I will probably always tend to read Jesus favorably to the way I understand and work in the world.

If Jesus matters to you, I expect you do this, too.

You may suggest that we ought to interpret our own lives in terms of Jesus rather than the other way around.  I would agree that this is an admirable goal. In fact, it may be a good way of identifying true disciples.

But I am pretty sure that before we proclaim too loudly that we are more like Jesus than someone else is, we do well to investigate which Jesus we are comparing ourselves to. More often than not, I fear, we will find that we will find ourselves looking down on others by comparing them to the Jesus that we have made look an awful lot like the ideal version of ourselves.

Which Jesus are we talking about?

I Need You Need We Need

needYou need to read this post.  All of it.

Ok; you may not need to read it.  But I think you’ll get my point in having said that.

I have recently become aware of a conversational habit. It seems to me to be growing in our culture.

This habit involves the word “need.”  My concern is over who is doing the needing.

I have noticed more than a few times that need seems to be very easily attributed to others.

In simple terms, if I need you to do something, I say, “You need to….”

For example, you need to read this post. This actually means I need you to read this post.

This is problematic.  At least it is problematic for me, and for people like me.  You see, I, and people like me, do not easily or comfortably absorb the needs of others.  Especially when these needs are foisted upon us from a pretence of power.

Don’t assign me your needs.  Own them. Share them if you like, but don’t assign them to me.

I find this especially dangerous in ministry. Even more in youth ministry.  Folks in leadership: your leadership and integrity are seriously compromised when you assign your needs to others.

For example, if you are trying to quiet a room full of people because you need to make an announcement or begin a worship service or for whatever reason, telling them “You need to be quiet” may be neither true nor as effective as “I need you to be quiet.”

Own your needs.  Feel free to share them, but inviting others to share them will be more likely effective than assigning it to them.

I need you to know this.

I Need You Need We Need

The point of limits

Most of my daily commute is a single road that varies between 45 and 50 miles per hour.speedlimit1

The other day, both going to work and coming home, traffic was thick but not heavy. It was also moving more slowly than usual.

Apparently it was “Drive 5 MPH under the limit day” and no one had told me.

As I am, during this season of Lent, always on the lookout for a blog topic, I considered being left out of such a national event as “Drive 5 MPH under the limit Day.”

Now: I admit I have issues with driving and traffic.  During Lent a few years ago, my main focus was to improve my attitude while driving.  I’ve come a long way.

I’ve come so far that this year, on National “Drive 5 MPH under the limit Day”  I didn’t get mad.

I didn’t get even.

I realized that the posted speed limit is not a requirement.  One is not required to drive 50, for example, just because the speed limit is 50.

In that case, 50 is the upper limit.  Hence the word, “limit.”

It just so happens that I am almost always in enough hurry to get to wherever I am going next that I push the limit.

Yes, I admit right here on the internet that I regularly drive a little above the speed limit.

Some people think limits are made to be pushed.  I tend to be one of those people.

How about you?

The point of limits