The Art of “Shut Up”

My wife told me once that the worst time to catch me is after a cup of coffee because I don’t shut up.  On our honeymoon she asked herself what she was getting into when we stopped to get a cup of coffee on the way to Denver and I talked her ear off the whole drive.  In order to hear my wife I would have had to stop talking, but when I am on a caffeine buzz I can solve the worlds problems.  

I was talking to a woman the other day about her daughter and the struggles that she was having.  Strangely I was given this opportunity because she happen to be working the register at a local grocery store.  In a short amount of time I was able to find out the most pressing struggle in her life by simply listening and asking one or two questions.  By the time I left I knew someone a little better and I would like to think that I was able to help her carry her burden if only for a couple minutes.  I did not solve her problems, or the other people that I have tried to listen to this week.  

I say try because I still stink at it, I still try to give advice at the most inappropriate times.  I would like to think that the advice that I offered were of help, but ultimately probably not as much as I think.  Advice can sometimes add a burden, whereas listening can share it.  Many times people need to be understood before they can accept help.  

I’ve Created a Monster!

Four Inch teeth and a devious smile, greasy black and brown fur, ten feet tall and ready to eat me.  Looking for a vulnerable place to attack and destroy me, waiting patiently.  I am outmatched and need to find a place to hide, or develop a game plan to put this monster back in its place. 

Such is my life, I create monsters then I try to find ways to hide from them.  You may ask why I would create something that I am required to hide from?  I don’t know!  You would think that anything that I create would be beautiful and I would look for moments to look at it and appreciate it.  And yet I cannot deny that I have created many of these monsters in my life, and I have wanted to hide from them all.

I hate conflict; when I have a conflict with someone, whether they realize that we are having a conflict or not the monster starts to take shape.  The monster is the person that I create on the other side of the conflict.  I start to speculate on their motives, I start to question their priorities, and I start to create a scenario in which this person is my enemy.  Instead, as I have learned recently, I need to set up a time to meet with them AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to bring the issue back and find out what is actually going on.  I have found more often than not that the person that I turned into a monster is actually a pretty reasonable person that had no idea the tension that was caused by our last interaction.    I am learning, slowly.  

I can’t find my I.D.

When I was in grade school I wanted to be known as a soccer player.  When I was in middle school I wanted to be known as the guy who was not known so I would stop getting beat up.  In high school I wanted to be known as an athlete, but it turned out I was known as the amputee.  I didn’t want to be known as the amputee, but it seemed to be a way to get accepted, so I embraced it.  In college I was not sure what I wanted to be known as, I just wanted to be known.  Today, as an adult, I find my identity in what I believe, not it what I do, or in what I want people to believe about me.

Identity is everything, no matter what you believe.  In fact a case could be made that it is a search for our identity that guides us toward what we believe.  I have known people that believe what I would consider to be absolute insanity, yet it gives them a sense of identity and purpose that you cannot argue with.

The reason that you can’t argue with it is because it is no longer an intellectual ascent it has become part of them.  If you couple identity with a sense of belonging you will drive yourself crazy trying to explain to someone why you believe they are wrong and they will not even hear it.

Identity has to be found in something that does not change, otherwise we will at some point in our lives be called upon to change our identity to fit our circumstances.

My Little Retirement Plans

I never thought about having four children when I conceived (pun intended) of a family.  I never thought about having three boys and a girl.  I never thought about having one child from Vietnam.  I know that this post wil pertain more to parents than to youth but this is the stage of life that I am in.  I have almost 38 years on this planet and it feels like 42 because each first year with each of my children felt like at least two.

I joke with my friends that they are my little retirement plans because by the time each of them are independent adults, Suzie and I will not be able to be independent adults.  I see great things in all of my children and I know that they will continue to be a blessing to me as adults, even if I don’t agree with everything that they do.

I do however question that last paragraph when I see my youngest try to eat dog food, or play in dog vomit.  I question also when one of my children decides that the curtains are for swinging on.  I even question their ability to live a viable adulthood when one of my children can’t seem to talk anymore without mentioning his private parts.  Note to self, when you dare a 5 year old to moon someone be prepared for them to actually do it.  Here’s to hoping that they will live to question their kids behavior.

By the way, I know that mentioning dog vomit may not get you to do this; but on the bottom right hand side of the screen you can click follow.  That way whenever I post you will be notified.

Sports, TV, Coffee, or Carbs

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I asked my brother once what sort of new years resolution that he was making.  He said “I’m giving up smoking”.  To which I responded “you don’t smoke”.  To which he responded “I know, its going really well”.

The season of Lent is upon us, and for most evangelicals that means nothing.  I have always contended that Lent can be a great time of spiritual growth for any Christian no matter what denomination.  Fasting can be a great way to focus on our wants versus our needs, Christ versus ourselves.  Yet many churches threw the baby out with the bath water when they had theological disagreements.

So for this Season of Lent I will be giving up something in order to focus on seeking God to fulfill my needs.  I initially wanted to give up something that had no ulterior motive like physical health. However food is something that I use to both entertain, indulge, and sustain me, so food makes sense.  TV and sports are something that distracts me, so that would make sense.  Coffee is something that I depend on to energize me so that makes sense as well.

So without further ado, I want to throw it out to you.  First because I could see giving up any of these things in order to help me focus on Christ.  Secondly because you all have not been giving me any feedback and I am trying to coerce you out of hiding.  Please respond to this post with which vice you think I should give up:  Sports, Sugar, Coffee, or TV.  And while you are at it, consider if this season can be a good time for you to focus more on Christ and our needs rather than yourself and your wants.

Laughing at Ourselves

Christian culture is the funniest of all cultures.  I can find a Christian wife online (I didn’t), I can buy Christian jewelry, I can listen to Christian radio that tells me who the Christian businesses are that I can trust.  I can wear Christian T-shirts and listen to Christian music.  There are Christian clubs, Christian Coffee shops, and Christian fast food.  There was even an attempt at a Christian version of Facebook at one point.

I remember back when I was told that I should wear In and Out Burger T-shirts because the were a Christian burger joint.  I also remember a time not too long ago when I was told that I could now listen to U2 because Bono was a Christian.  As a pastor I think I spend more time dispelling myths about what it means to be Christian based on people’s Christian culture baggage.   

Honestly I love to hear the story about a group of guys that get together at a local coffee shop or pub in order to hold each other accountable to pursuing God.  I love to hear the stories about the churches that show God’s mercy in their community without wearing the Christian T-shirt or telling everyone what church they go to.  Christian culture closes those doors because it tells people that we are more concerned about upholding out culture than reaching out into theirs.

 

On the Lighter Side

tagI am constantly amazed at the connections that children make.  I know that my children are not perfect and there may have been other children that have come before them that are more brilliant (Maybe).  I would love to take an entire blog to tell you about the funny things that my children have said but I have been told that blogs need to be relatively short in order to keep interest alive.

Now I have to make sure that anyone that reads this understands that you cannot tell my youngest son I told you this.  When he told me what I am about to tell you I laughed so hard that I embarrassed him.  I find it highly ironic that my child that consistently says the funniest things gets embarrassed when you laugh to hard at his jokes.

So when my son told me on Sunday morning that he had invented a new game I asked him what it was.  Usually the games don’t make sense, or the rules are unclear.  However I don’t even think I need to tell you the rules after I tell you what the game is, that is how good it is. So without further ado my sons new game that I have not had the courage to play with him yet is “wedgy tag”.