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?

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

Do you really want what you want?

snowroofAfter a few fleeting moments of playing in the snow this morning, the kids were inside, warm, and dry. And ready to watch something.

Hello, Netflix!

Eliza wanted to watch Annie.

Liam wanted to watch Mater’s Tale Tales. Then Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

It turns out it was Liam’s turn to choose, so two things happened:

1) we started Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and
2) Eliza the a small fit.

It was a very small fit: actually fairly worthy of the moment, and quickly left behind.
Within minutes – no more than 10 – both of them were enjoying the movie.

This is how it often goes with our kids.  Loudly (and proudly?) claim your preference.  Get louder if someone else claims an alternative preference.

Stand your ground

Raise the stakes

Refuse to listen, negotiate, or compromise.

Throw a fit if you don’t get your way.

I realized yesterday that we don’t necessarily unlearn this pattern as we grow up.

We don’t always want what we want. Sometimes we just don’t want to let someone else have a say.

It’s hard to listen when you are shouting, “My way or the highway!”

While this is worth considering for anyone, I particularly hope my church, the United Methodist Church #UMC, will give it thought.

We’ve not been listening so well to each other lately.  On some things, we have dug in for decades and refused to actually listen.

We want what we want. Or do we?

Do you really want what you want?

Welcome!

Every so often, I am “surprised” by my children greeting me as I come through the door from the garage into the house.  As I open the door, they are both crouched a few feet back, and together they jump up and yell “surprise!”

Honestly, I’m not really surprised.  I hear it coming.

More honestly, nothing could make me happier.

A good friend of mine once imagined out loud that heaven must be Mrs. Johnson’s doughnuts and touch football. He said this, of course, as a way of saying that he understood those two things – eating doughnuts and playing football as pure joyful relaxation.

I might define heaven as being greeted at the door by my children, full of energy and joy.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they might rather be upstairs playing or watching a show.  It doesn’t make any difference to me if they went to the back door begrudgingly at mom’s request.

All that matters in that moment is the beaming faces of my children glad to see me.

Comparing oneself to God can be really risky, but when I think about being greeted that way, I cannot help but wonder what joy it might bring God when you and I take the time to stop whatever else we are doing and welcome God into our presence.

You can shout “Surprise!” if you want.  God won’t likely be surprised; but I can almost guarantee God will smile. Even if you do it because someone else suggested it, give it a try.

I can imagine a little of what God must feel like.  And it is very, very good!

Welcome!

What not to wear: in Church

Would you wear a hat to Church? What about jeans?

Should the preacher wear a robe?

We had some really good discussion about this yesterday.  Right after we walked-through this Sunday’s message about excessive use of media.

Here was our challenge: all of us in the discussion were raised in Church, and fairly traditional church at that.

My mom regularly wore a hat to Church when I was younger

I never -NEVER – wore jeans to Sunday morning Church until I was almost 50.

Almost 20 years ago, I visited Windsor Village United Methodist Church. It was, at the time, one of the largest United Methodist congregations and one of the fastest growing.  The couple sitting next to me were active members and had been for years.  They were dressed better than I’ll ever hope to dress.

When Kirbyjon Caldwell, the Senior Pastor appeared, though, he was in khakis and a polo shirt.

Having been a pastor for several years already, I had never dared to show up on a Sunday morning without a tie.  So, I asked my neighbor, “does he always dress like that for worship?”

“Not always, but often,” she responded. “We have always said Windsor Village is a ‘come as you are’ church; you don’t have to dress up to be a part.”  She continued, “but visitors didn’t believe us until Pastor got out of the suits and clerical robes.”

We could spend a lot of time here arguing that how one comes before God in worship shouldn’t matter to anyone else, but it does.  We are social creatures.  I am pretty sure God made us this way, and, indeed, that God is this way.

So how do we find the place between “it makes absolutely no difference what you wear to church” and requiring veritable uniforms for folks to be part of your congregation?

We won’t get there by setting requirements or clearly defined lists of “do’s and don’ts”

Neither will we get there by saying nothing matter.

I believe we get there by having honest-as-possible conversations with others and internally about our expectations. But this is beyond your expectations and mine.  We need to talk openly about how we understand or articulate what we think God expects. And about the difference between the two.

What not to wear: in Church

Fear of Neither Future nor Past

Someone shared this with me in an email titled: Church Services of the Future. (It can also be found at places other than FreeRepublic.com.  Slide1I believe the idea behind the email (I was among a  good number of recipients) was to engender discussion of the ways technology is, or seems to be, or threatens to be, infringing on worship.

My first thought was that this was posted by a traditionalist, strongly opposed to any technology in worship.

Of, by that I mean (or the traditionalist means) opposition to any recent technology in worship.  I assume, anyway, that there is not widespread opposition to the use of electricity – whether it be in the lights or sound system.

(I don’t know if distribution of cassette tapes of sermons is more acceptable than downloading digital copies.  Find a traditionalist and ask.)

FYI, I am not, at least in the technological sense, a traditionalist.

Neither am I one who insists that proper, relevant worship of God must be on the cutting edge of technology.

So here is my response to the email discussion of this alleged “Church Service of the Future”: I do not believe worship (at least Christian worship) should be about technology.  By this I mean Christian worship is about Christ and not, specifically and clear NOT about either

  • the use of the latest technology

or

  • the avoidance of technology.

God has no more (and no less) issue with your being distracted from worship by your smart phone than by worrying what that other person is looking at on her smartphone.

When I was a youth, we sometimes passed notes to one another during the sermon. Offering envelopes served well for this.  When caught, we were admonished that we should be paying attention.

I don’t remember whether or not the notes were ever related to what the preacher was saying or not.

I know people who taking notes on their phones or tablet computers during sermons.

Is writing notes on by hand more worshipful than writing them electronically?  Not a chance.

Worship is about worship – worship of God. It is not about technology – whether that means for technology, or against it.

Fear of Neither Future nor Past

There go we all?

He: I was stupid.4444216550_6f4c1399aa_b

She: we’ve all been there.

The discussion was this simple, this straightforward, this honest. He was looking for someplace to get some community service hours for a pending legal issue.  She represented one of those potential “someplaces;” in this case, a church.

I have been serving in churches for nearly a quarter century now.  I have lost several colleagues to sexual impropriety.  Some of these colleagues have also been good friends.

(About none of them do I know the whole story.  In general, it is none of my business. In reality, a “community” that covers up and sanitizes its challenges is no community at all.)

I do not like losing good friends, ministry colleagues! I do not feel at all good about people going from being in ministry one day to persona non grata the next. As often as not, such persons are perceived to be doing effective ministry, right up to the fall.

Here’s where I take us back to the little dialogue that opened this post.

We have all been there.

Ok; maybe you have not been across the line that divides legal from illegal, moral from immoral.  At least not to the extent that you are required to do community service, or prison time, or even, overnight becoming unwelcome in a place you once lead.

But you have been close enough to see that line, haven’t you?

I know I have.  Sometimes that I have gotten close to that line I was “scared straight.’  The times that most concern me, though, are the times that I felt so good, cocky, and full of myself that I just knew I could toe the line, perhaps even cross it, and it would make no difference.

I have been there, and you have too.  If you tell me, or yourself that you haven’t, that you couldn’t, you might just be closer to that line right now than you ought to be.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray,one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

-Luke 18:9-14 (Common English Bible)

There go we all?