Different drummers and keeping step

As I increasingly find myself marching to the beat of a different drummer than those around me, I’m trying to learn how to keep step with the church. I don’t worry too much about society in general; I don’t mind not fitting in there. But I need to know how to love and serve in a church (broad sense, not local church) where many see things differently than I.

It’s funny. When you’re younger, it almost seems appropriate to feel out of step. You’re a rebellious youth, with new vision and a spirit of restoration. You’re calling the church back to what it should be.

As it gets older, if you’re not in step, then you’re holding the church back. You’re not following the Spirit. You’re clinging to tradition.

For my money, the two situations are virtually identical. The question is how to find the grace to deal with the situation.


Links To Go (April 9, 2018)

Department Of Homeland Security Compiling Database Of Journalists And ‘Media Influencers’

The details of the attached Statement of Work, however, outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and influencers and are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide.

Churches Rarely Reprimand Members, New Survey Shows

According to the phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors, 16 percent of pastors say their church has disciplined a member in the last year. That includes 3 percent in the last month, 5 percent in the last six months and 8 percent in the last year.
More than half (55 percent) say no member has been disciplined during their time as pastor or before their tenure. Twenty-one percent say a member was disciplined three or more years ago. Five percent say there was a case of discipline in the last two years.

Three Steps to Better Doctrinal Disagreements

  1. Care about the person; critique the idea.
  2. Ask yourself: If understood charitably, does the person have a valid point?
  3. Use a tactical approach.

Words on slides

  • Don’t read the words.
  • But even better, remember that slides are free.
  • Better still, don’t use words.
  • Many organizations use decks as a fancy sort of memo, a leave-behind that provides proof that you actually said what you said.
  • Reconsider the memo.

The Divorce & Remarriage of Evangelism and Discipleship

Some churches and ministries have a laser focus on evangelism at the expense of discipleship, and the church ends up a mile wide and an inch deep. Other ministries have decided that they don’t want shallow Christians, so they spend all their time and energy emphasizing discipleship.
This, however, easily results in ‘coffee club’ or ‘Sunday school’ Christians (which one of these often depends on the generation!) who get together, drink coffee, study the Bible, and pray. While those are certainly important components of discipleship, this is only a partial picture.

Christian women in the U.S. are more religious than their male counterparts

More than seven-in-ten U.S. Christian women (72%) say religion is “very important” in their lives, compared with 62% of the country’s Christian men, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study. Roughly eight-in-ten Christian women also say they are absolutely certain God exists and that the Bible is the word of God, compared with about seven-in-ten men who say this.

A dog lover’s lament

Having a dog will bless you with the happiest days of your life, and one of the worst days.

She came into our lives through a gap in the fence. We began noticing that our golden lab was receiving a visitor, a little dog that would come and lie with her in the back yard. Our Jasmine was a hospitable sort, sharing her food and water with this newcomer.

I decided that if I was going to feed this little dog, she was going to be ours. So one day when she came to visit, I patched that gap in the fence, preventing her escape. Princess, as we came to call her, didn’t mind a bit. In fact, she was quite grateful to have been received into the family.

Little did we know that she had brought a family with her. As skinny as this stray was, we didn’t recognize that she was “great with puppies.” Soon there were five little ones running around the back yard, making Jasmine’s life miserable. (She was hospitable toward Princess, but apparently didn’t like kids.)

Princess was easily the most grateful dog I’ve ever seen. She had been rescued from a hard life, having known hunger and abuse. She would run from me if I had a tool in my hand and was fearful of being kicked. She didn’t play; if you threw a ball, she took it as an attack; if you tried to play chase, she hid in terror. She spent most of the day watching the windows and doors, hoping that someone from the family could come out so that she could demonstrate her gratitude and affection.

About a year after rescuing Princess and her pups, we moved from Stockdale to Abilene. Where our back yard in Stockdale was a bit bare, the new one had trees, shade, and … squirrels! Everything that a dog needs to entertain herself.

Or so we thought. Princess proved once again that she believed fences to be obstacles to a better life; the grass was always greener through that hole in the fence. I patched, blocked, repaired, mended, and everything else I could think of… Princess would still find a way to get out and roam the neighborhood.

When we moved to our current house, I took measures to make sure that Princess wouldn’t wander this neighborhood, especially since we lived close to two busy streets. But the escape artist wasn’t to be thwarted, and Princess found ways to get to know the area. Metal edging, chicken wire, concrete, and bricks… we finally got her slowed down. The last weak point to be fixed received a cinder block, and Princess was in to stay.

Though what really slowed her down was cancer. Once when she got out, Princess was rescued by a college student who took her to the vet to be checked out. (We did vaccinations… we didn’t do physicals) The vet found some tumors in Princess’ mammaries. She lasted a couple of years after that (living to be about 14), but eventually gave in to the disease.

Jasmine, our golden lab, died as she had lived, oblivious to what was coming, passing suddenly and unexpectedly. Hershey, one of Princess’ pups that we kept, died as she had lived, cuddled and petted as she was put to sleep in the vets office (killed by cancer, like her mom).

Princess also went in a fitting way. I was going to take her to the vet on Monday. Life had gotten too hard, and she was no longer eating well. On Saturday, with the cold (she hated the cold), we brought Princess inside. But in the afternoon, she insisted on going out. When I got up today (Sunday), she wasn’t to be seen. I went out to the shed where she slept and could hear her, but not see her. I finally realized that she had worked her way under the shed.

It was her last escape, her last move to freedom. She wouldn’t die inside, nor pass on the cold table of a vet’s office. She went through one last gap, somehow struggling deep under that utility building. She was alive when we got home from church, then passed sometime during the afternoon.

I pulled that cinder block out of the hole in the fence and dug a small grave next to it. I placed her head near the hole, leaving her poised for one last romp through the neighborhood.

Goodbye Princess. Good girl!

Practicing community

One of the real needs among young Christians and older Christians alike is a sense of community. We need to find ourselves connected to Christ’s body just as we are connected to Christ himself.

I don’t think liturgy alone is enough to accomplish that. What I mean is, if all we do is worship in the same place at the same time, I don’t think we will build community.

Community can be built on Sunday morning, but it happens through greetings, conversations, hugs, smiles, tears, testimonies, confessions, shared prayers… things that may or may not happen during our structured worship hour. If our members arrive right on time, worship in isolation, then leave right after the closing prayer, they won’t experience community.

We need to talk with one another. Not just small talk. Actual conservations.

We need to eat together. That’s something that’s in danger of being lost in today’s church. Meals are not a distraction nor frivolous entertainment. They are a crucial part of our life together.

We need to pray together. I’d love to see us reach the point where the clusters of conversation in our meeting places regularly evolved into clusters of prayer. If someone tells you good news, why not offer a prayer of thanks? If someone mentions an illness, why not pray for relief? What if each conversation regularly led us to a time of prayer?

One danger of teaching these things to new Christians is that they won’t necessarily see them in older Christians. (Won’t necessarily see them in me!) But if we begin teaching new generations a better way, maybe we’ll motivate ourselves to practice community in a more open way.

Links To Go (April 5, 2018)

The Absurdity of The Passion

So we sit in the darkness of these disturbing events, recognizing that the same cruelty that crucified Jesus continues to pollute our world. And as we do so, we look to Christ, who embodies the divine madness of love.

In the midst of a teacher strike, Oklahoma teens deliver lunches to inner-city families

“We know that this walkout has affected a lot of people, including people who are less privileged,” said George Hartman, one of the teens. “so giving them lunches, which they usually would get at school, is a great way to help.”
The teens worship with the Memorial Road Church of Christ on the north side of town, just outside the affluent Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond.

4 Ways Christians Should Share Their Faith That Are Actually Effective

As we strive to be the people of God living out the mission of God in our cynical, polarizing world, showing hospitality where we love the outsider, engage and welcome everyone we meet, and invite them to dinner, we will have opportunities to not only show the Gospel but to actually share the Gospel. Because at the end of the day, we can preach the Gospel with our lives, but words are ultimately necessary. There comes a point where, out of love, we must be bold and courageous to sit down with our neighbor and tell them about the good news of the Gospel.

7 Small Changes Which Produce Huge Results

  1. Read one chapter of a book each day.
  2. Two glasses of water each morning.
  3. Exercise as a part of your daily routine.
  4. Spend 5 to 10 minutes in prayer and reflection each morning.
  5. Take 5 minutes to plan the day.
  6. Routine your week.
  7. Make a list.

On Tribes and Community: Part 6, Our Kids Are Liberals

But we are starting to lament how our kids are being sent out into the world without a tribe, without the deep sense of belonging we experienced as children. Our kids are beautiful people, but we worry they are sacrificing life-giving, face-to-face community in the tribe for likes on Instragram and Snapchat. Millenials are tolerant, but they are also anxious and adrift. And there’s more to Christianity than tolerance.

In 1996, a dying boy found a little turtle. Their story is now a children’s book

The book, which doesn’t directly mention Jonathan’s cancer, tells of a boy who grows weaker and can no longer take care of his turtle. Children can process the part of the narrative about saying goodbye to a beloved pet. Adults understand that it is not about a turtle. All proceeds will go to pediatric cancer research.

Coach Wright gives honor of cutting down championship net to team chaplain

Typically, the head coach of the national championship team is the last one to go up the ladder and cut down the net to commemorate a college basketball national championship. But this year’s Villanova Wildcats team did things a little differently. Coach Jay Wright passed that honor to the team chaplain, Father Rob Hagan OSA.

Millennials destroyed the rules of written English – and created something better

That’s because millennials have created a new rulebook for a variant of written English unique to social media. A rulebook which states that deliberately misspelled words and misused grammar can convey tone, nuance, humour, and even annoyance.
Dr Lauren Fonteyn, English Linguistics lecturer at University of Manchester, told Mashable “something exciting” is happening with the way that millennials write, and it goes far, far beyond our proclivity to use acronyms and “like.”
Fonteyn says millennials are “breaking the constraints” of written English to “be as expressive as you can be in spoken language.” This new variant of written English strives to convey what body language, and tone and volume of voice can achieve in spoken English.

Want to Remember Your Vacation? Take Fewer Photos

In another test, 238 participants took the same church tour, but did so in pairs instead of alone. Most didn’t know their partners before the study. The pairs weren’t allowed to talk to each other, and in each pair, the participants were part of different groups—in some, one participant was supposed to take photos for personal use while the other wasn’t supposed to take photos at all; in others, one participant was supposed to share photos to Facebook and one was in the no-photo condition; and in still others, both partners were in the no-photo group. Again, the researchers found that taking photos negatively affected people’s memories of the experience in a follow-up survey several days later.

Florida woman thought her 37-week pregnancy was bad Chinese food: ‘I was in shock’

At 4 a.m. on March 25, 29-year-old Crystal Gail Amerson awoke with a searing pain in her abdomen. With her fiancé, Brian Westerfield, sleeping beside her, she thought about the Chinese food they’d eaten the night before. Perhaps she was having a reaction to the General Tso’s chicken?
But as minutes turned to hours and the pain got worse, it finally hit her: This wasn’t food poisoning, these were labor contractions. It’s a startling revelation for anyone, but especially a woman who has been unaware — until this moment — that she’s pregnant.