Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dump a Toilet on His Head or Pray

OK. Just bear with me for a few minutes. I need to say something unpopular and clearly outside the culturally acceptable norm. Yesterday on MySpace one of those stupid baiting ads wanted me to play a game to win a ringtone. The object of the game was to dump 3 port-a-potties on the head of President George Bush. That did it for me. Did what, you ask? Pushed me to write this blog.

It is now the easy, culturally acceptable, popular, "hey look at me I'm smart like everybody else" thing to do to bash and insult the president. If you don't, people look at you like you are wearing clothes from the '90s. "Eeek! You aren't cool!" If you say anything positive, anything even remotely complimentary you surely must be stupid or naive or just blind as a bat Republican. Don't believe me? Go ahead....experiment with the notion of saying anything, and I mean anything decent or kind about President Bush in a group of more than 5 people. Or, if that's too daunting for you, read this blog to someone or follow the potential comments that will be added....

I am absolutely frustrated out of my mind by the war in Iraq. I hate the growing death toll of both war fronts. But the only thing we accomplish by our immature carping and whining and publicly humiliating the president is a diminished capacity for honor, esteem (if you want self-esteem, you must first learn to give esteem outside yourself) and the courage to stand alone against "approval ratings".

Those who know me best will tell you that I started this rant during the Clinton administration. I said then that the greatest danger of the disrespect for that president (that became like a sport for some evangelical Christians) was that we truly devalued our own sensibilities. II Peter 2:9-16 is a striking indictment that warns against being dishonorable even against the most dishonored. Why? Because we marginalize the potential beauties of our own soul by coarse behavior toward any in authority. The greater damage is far greater than any one president.
"Honor the king" (I Peter 2:17) was written in day when kings were pagan monsters. Honor given is holy humility received. Pilate and Herod make all of our politians look like God....yet, Jesus kept His own dignity intact in their presence. It deeply troubled me 10 years ago when high profile preachers dishonored President Clinton. It is even more troubling to me now when we are told that 70% of our nation is doing the same thing. I believe that the "toilet dumping" is on our own head.

There you have it. I am now officially unpopular. While I'm at it, I'll go home and dig out my old clothes from the '90s and start growing a mullit. "Eeewwwwww, gross!"

Monday, June 25, 2007

Only the Mediocre are Always at Their Best

Back in the middle '80's the Dean family lived in Austin, Texas. One of the coolest towns on earth. Art and entertainment venues, natural eye-popping sights and a variety of people and cultural types that live in one of the best kept city secrets in America. I'm proud to say I lived there for a short time. One of the best and free entertainment spots was the State of Texas Capital.

I went there at least once a week to pray and people watch. When the legislature was in session, the variety show was better than anything on TV. One time sitting in the balcony and watching the dog and pony show going on the main floor, I was laughing hard and trying not to be a disruption. Suddenly from behind me someone tapped me on the shoulder and I thought I was going to be kicked out. Instead, I turned around and here was Ann Richards (then State Treasurer, soon to be Governor and nationally a Democratic Party power player) laughing with me. Through her own laughter she said, "Pretty good show, ain't it?"

Not long after that incident I was in that same spot when a local Southern Baptist preacher was asked to open the session with prayer. His words were short and riveting. He took the podium, simply said, "Let us pray", and proceeded to hit a grand slam with one of the shortest prayers I've ever heard. "Lord, remind us today that only the mediocre are always at their best. Amen." The legislative floor was stunned into unusual silence. I wanted to laugh and shout, "Amen" at the top of my lungs!

Allow me to take a leap of truth from that statement and offer my own; I would rather fail at attempting the miraculous than to succeed at mediocrity. Lately, my insides are on fire with spiritual desire. The youth camp I spoke of in my last blog is history and the young people from it are about to make history. They were challenged to find their own voice by the power of the Holy Spirit and attempt the miraculous with every step they take.

One story I heard from camp was that a group of teenage boys were praying into the morning hours after an evening service and the suggestion came up that if Jesus could walk through walls, we should too. So, one boy got up, prayed and walked full force into a door. The door did not yield. He picked himself up, declared it must be his lack of faith and took off for the door again. The door won again, but this little band of brothers was not discouraged. They declared that someday, they were going to win this challenge! I can already hear the growlings of the religiously mediocre; "Someone should instruct these children to temper their expectations". Why? So that Pharoah's magicians can continue to eat our shepherd's staff? NO! Keep experimenting with your faith, boys. One day, you'll get it right and Pharoah's serpents will be consumed by a shepherd's staff.

My point here is that for too long Christianity has allowed for a mediocrity at almost every level of its expression. We screwed up the motto, "Failure is not an option" by reversing it into a call to be safe and never daring. I would rather fail at attempting the miraculous than to succeed at mediocrity. Good has always been the greatest enemy of the best and the best was never intended to be leveled off at mediocrity.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Finding Our Voice

Next week I'll be speaking and ministering at a youth camp with the theme, "Finding Our Voice". I actually suggested the theme a few months ago and it immediately resonated with everyone at that planning session. For me this has been a life long passion because it has to do with far more than the words I speak. It has to do with the prevailing influence, weight and power of who I am.

We all know people whose mouth moves and sounds are emitted from that cavern but no one is interested in spending any energy to actually hear and decipher what was just said. That's because the words are not vitally connected or rooted in any living dynamic. If I say, "war is hell" and you ask me how I know that and my only response is tell you where I found that quote and who originally said it, we might end up having an enlightening conversation but little else is likely to come from it. But if I'm a marine being treated in a military hospital for multiple fresh wounds from an ambush I just survived, and I look up into your eyes and fight to reach for enough air to say those same 3 words, we are going to have an altogether different exchange of thoughts. In fact, those 3 words might be all that is necessary.

In grammar, the concept of voice has to do with the form of a verb showing the connection between the subject and the verb, either as performing (active voice) or receiving (passive voice) the action. "The dog bit the boy" is the active voice because the subject is the dog and the dog is active. "The boy was bitten by the dog" is the passive voice because the subject is the boy and he is on the receiving end of the action. I'm going to strain the analogy for a moment because I hate the word, passive. To find our voice we must learn that all of life is waiting to be lived. We are the subject and we must act or we will be acted upon. I hope the grammar works here because I don't want you to miss the point.

Jesus said that we, His people, are the light of the world. When you enter a room that is pitch black, you don't ask, "Where did all this darkness come from?" do you? You enter the dark room reaching around the corner with the demand, "Where's the light?". If we fall for the notion that our voice is for the purpose of informing the darkness of its varying shades of dark, we are wasting our breath. Our voice IS the light!

The Voice of Jesus calmed storms, forgave unrepentant people, healed sickness, awakened the dead, rebuked religious bigots, raised hopes, loved losers, spoke when silent, silenced ignorance, blessed those who cursed Him, prayed heaven into hell, changed names, called the unqualified, drove demons into pig prisons, opened prisons, lit fires of the heart, whispers peace and trumpets triumph.

Psalm 29 says, "The Voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the glory of God thunders...the Voice of the Lord is powerful, majestic. The Voice of the Lord breaks the cedars...the Voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire. The Voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness...strips the forests bare and in His Temple everything says, 'Glory'." This is the Active Voice. This is the Voice that calls us to be a Voice of equal harmonic beauty, power and true influence.

This boy bites dogs.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

King's Quote

In my previous blog I referenced Martin Luther King Jr. For a full reading of the context of this quote you can use the internet to look up, "Paul's Letter to American Christians, November 4, 1956 by Martin Luther King Jr." I distinctly remember reading this entire letter in the library of my middle school in 1965. I felt like the room had suddenly entered a heavenly realm and that I was all alone with this man of God. It was many years later before I understood the words or the spirit of what happened to me that day. King's words are distinctly and profoundly Christian. I fear that too few today appreciate the depth of his faith and the width of his covenant to Christ.

Anyway, here is the portion of that letter and the quote for my blog:

"I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Passionate Desire

Passion is rooted in knowing the will of God and doing it, no matter what the cost. This is a definition I extracted from a quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr.; " The purpose of life is not found in avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. The purpose of life is doing the will of God come what may." I live in and love this kind of passion.

Then, there is this quote, which I believe comes from the movie, "Braveheart"; "Everyone dies, but not everyone lives". Add to this another word I have recently heard by Kris Vallotton from Redding, California; "The greater tragedy is not that 3000 brave people have died in Iraq, but that many millions back home will live for nothing." Shortly after I heard him say this, I picked up a newspaper and read an article about vets of the Iraq War who have lost a limb. They've been sent home for recovery and are being fitted for prosthesis and yet they desparetely long to get back into the battle. The reporter was perplexed but I understood their passion. Once placed in a circumstance where life and death is determined by your focus and by the focus of a passionate team around you, you'll never be happy with life on any other level. Channel surfing or sitting in a bar listening to people laughing at inanity is unacceptable.

Don't get me wrong, I like having fun as much as anyone. But isn't "having fun" the reward at the end of some term of sacrifice and not a prolonged end in itself? I thought that the word, "recreation" was based on a need to re-create when we've been spent on a worthy cause.

C.S. Lewis once said, "You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive,' or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity.' In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate (the beast) and bid the geldings be fruitful." I am caught once again in a season of my life where I am carefully inspecting the boiler of my soul. I'll do my best to blog while I carry out this inspection so that anyone interested can join me for a re-firing. I need to warn you, however.....I will not go gently through my own inspection, much less, leave you in a "ghastly simplicity."