Why WE are all to blame for Miley Cyrus…

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I have a few thoughts on all this Miley Cyrus, teddy bear, twerking business.  So here goes…

I was strolling through my twitter feed Sunday night and all of a sudden the internet world blew up with “shock” about Miley Cyrus’ performance.  How could little Hannah Montana do such a thing.  I have read blogs about how this is about a girl trying to find herself and express herself and is just going about it in the wrong way.

To that I say, Not even close…

Miley and her promotor know exactly what they are doing.  It is a time tested formula.  It has worked since the beginning of Rock and Roll.  Publicity is publicity.  Shock factor sells.  And we’re all stupid enough to keep falling for it…

Elvis shook his pelvis and parents everywhere were shocked while girls everywhere swooned.  I grew up in the 80’s where Madonna made a career out of shocking fans.  We couldn’t believe what we were seeing at times, but, like a bad train wreck, we kept watching.  And buying concert tickets, and watching MTV, just curious to see what would happen next.

While Madonna became a bizillionaire from our shock…

We sat by and watched as all the Disney “princesses” went through the same types of campaigns to shed their little girl images.  We bought their records too…

Are you seeing a trend here?

Miley has us all like putty in her hands.  The twittershpere blew up with hashtags about Miley Cyrus.  She’s been all over the news.  Even in the posts that are about outrage, she gets attention, which is exactly what she wants.  (I am fully aware of the hypocrisy of me blogging about this, and bringing more attention to her with my 40 something readers…)

You may be thinking to yourself that Elvis wasn’t as bad as THIS!  Madonna didn’t do THESE kinds of things.  Trust me, Elvis was just as shocking in his day and Madonna was in hers, it just takes a lot more to shock us these days.

Let me ask you a question.  When you watch the VMA’s, what are you expecting?  You are tuning in to watch a show that has a history of pushing the envelope.  Are you tuning in to see who it will be this year?  Are you actually waiting for the train wreck?

Speaking of hypocrisy, it seems to me that we Americans are a bit hypocritical when we will continually support an industry where the types of things that Miley Cyrus did on stage are continually sung about, lauded, and even praised, and then we get mad at our little Hannah Montana for acting them out…

Just a thought,

n8

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Taking it to the Streets…

Last Friday our church had an outdoor movie night.  In preparation for this event we decided to take it old school, we decided to go door to door in the neighborhoods around our church.  

I’m not sure that any of us knew what to expect.  I wasn’t really expecting to have a huge turnout.  After all, there are only a few people in this world who have the ability to walk up to a complete stranger and feel comfortable.  Most of us would rather do about ANYTHING other than go door to door.  

But what we found was that most of the people were delightful!  In fact, Tyler said to me that he was surprised at how nice all the people were to us.  By the end of the night, my boys were telling me to go to a different door because I tended to take over the conversation.

We tend to keep other people at arms reach.  We build fences to keep people out.  We put in alarm systems to protect ourselves from others.  We keep our guard up around people we don’t know.  Our first inclination is suspicion.  

Maybe we have been well conditioned by stories that we hear on the news.  Stranger Danger is our motto.  Of course, there are situations where we need to be guarded, but if we are open to interacting with others, we might find that the people we meet along the way are actually delightful people.

We all long for a place that we can be connected to others.  We are all looking for community and friendship.  When our interactions with others are guarded, when we are suspicious of others, when we build fences to keep others out, we actually destroy community instead of create it.  Add to this the fact that many of us are substituting real live interactions with virtual ones, and it is no wonder that many of us feel alone.

We had a great outdoor movie night.  I am not sure that any of the people came that we talked to on our door to door adventure.  If nothing else, our “taking it to the streets” reminded us that there are people living in houses all around our church that may or may not know the abundant life that Christ gives.  

Our goal this year as a church is to be a place where people can find community.  In other words, we want to live into our name.  It could be that this door to door experience simply served to remind us that people are people.  The people living all around our church are searching for a place to be loved and to love.  They are just like us.  

It took getting over the lumps in our throats to realize this…

Just a thought,

N8

In HIS time…

Three and a half years ago we packed up our house in Fort Worth, TX and moved to Midwest City, OK.  After 14 years in youth ministry, I had accepted a call to be the pastor at Midwest City Community Church of the Nazarene.  Ironically, I would be returning to the church where my ministry journey started and the church my wife attended as a child.  I won’t go into all the details, but God had given me assurance that making this move was the right thing.  All we needed was for our house to sell in Fort Worth and we would be good.

Only our house didn’t sell…

My brother and sister-in-law had graciously allowed us to stay with them, but the months were dragging on and the house still didn’t sell.  We did everything we knew to do.  We repainted the house.  We put in new carpets, but the market was horrendous.  There were several foreclosures in our area that were driving the selling price way down.  In short, we would have lost thousands of dollars if we would have unloaded the house at that point.

That’s when the questions started to set in…  God, I thought if you called us here you would work out the details?  Did we mis-hear you God? (Honestly, it wouldn’t have been the first time)  Why isn’t this thing working out?

I preached a funeral in June of 2010 for a sweet saint of our church.  Through the hospital visitation I was doing I got to know her three sons.  After the funeral, I was standing around talking like we pastors do and one of the sons approached me.

He said, “My brothers and I were talking, and we figured that we have our mom’s house and you don’t have a house.  We weren’t wanting to sell it right away anyway, so why don’t you just live there until your house sells, rent free!” (He wouldn’t even let me pay the utilities)  This was a major answer to prayer because we were still paying a mortgage.

We lived there for three months and began to realize that our house WASN’T going to sell.  The market was terrible.  That’s when our realtor told us that the renting market was good because it was getting harder to qualify for home loans.

We ended up leasing our house for 3 years.  I hadn’t ever even HEARD of a three year lease.  We spoke to the brothers here in Oklahoma about renting the house we had been staying in while we leased our house in Texas.  They agreed.  Our rent included utilities and it was really cheap.  Meanwhile, our renters in Fort Worth were ideal.  They never missed a payment or were late.

When we were informed that our tenants were breaking the lease a few months early, I was a bit panicked at first.  It meant we would be picking up a mortgage again.  But then I began to hear rumblings that the market in Ft. Worth had taken off.  Also, if our tenants would have finished out the lease, we would have been trying to sell the house in October instead of in the summer.  Summer is prime time for real estate.

Yesterday, we signed closing documents on the house.  After three and a half years, the house is sold!  If we would have sold the house originally,  we would have lost thousands of dollars.  Today I will have one of the larger deposits my bank account has ever seen.

As I have thought about this whole process, I have realized that God was working out the details when we moved.  God WAS still looking out for us.  He used the kindness of family who let us move in with them, the kindness of three brothers who gave us a house to live in, the wisdom of a realtor, and even the influx of jobs into a bad housing market.  He was just doing it in HIS time.

Some people think that God is up there like a puppet master moving people and things around to do His bidding.

I like to think of God as a jazz musician improvising with what humanity is doing.  A great jazz improvisationalist can even make a child’s rendition of chopsticks sound good.

Here are a couple pics from yesterday.  The first is one is me signing the closing papers.

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The second pic is the celebration dinner we had last night at one of our favorite restaurants, Joe’s Crab Shack!  That is something else I learned from this three and a half year ordeal.  When we have to wait for something, the celebration at the end is so much sweeter!

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We used to sing a song when I was a kid that went something like this:

In His time, In His time, He makes all things beautiful in his time…

My family and I are attesting to that fact today!

Just a thought,

n8

Living YOUR Own Story…

I’ll never forget when I first saw the commercial that advertised that Direct TV could now be accessed from anywhere.  It showed a person moving from one device to the next without ever missing a bit of his TV show.  I thought to myself, “Great, now we will never get away from our media.”

We live in a culture that is obsessed with visual entertainment.  During the last economic downturn, the one industry that never seemed to miss a beat was the movie industry!  Then came Netflix and the ability to watch an entire season of our favorite show in a one weekend TV binge. (Of Course I wouldn’t know this from personal experience…)

But in my moments of clarity, I step back and wonder why we are all so enamored with watching other people live their stories instead of living our own stories??

Sometimes I think we use media as a diversion.  Our life is chaotic and so it is better to get wrapped up in a movie or TV show than to deal with our mess.

I recently purchased Donald Miller’s Storyline book.  I really have enjoyed it.  The book is a workbook and it helps you examine your life by plotting out the events of your life like a novel or a screenplay.  Once you have done that, you are supposed create up to five stories in different areas of your life.  Things like Husband, Leader, Friend, etc..

But the biggest thing that Miller encourages his readers to do is to PARTICIPATE.  When we fail to participate in life we can become depressed and fail to grow and mature.

Last weekend, Paula and I traded in the standard “Dinner and a Movie” for a night walking around downtown taking pictures with our SLR Camera.  We are planning to have a couple more “photo” dates because we only were able to cover a small portion of downtown.  We had so much fun.  Much more fun than sitting in a movie, watching somebody else live out their story on a big screen. Here is one of the pics…

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And we saved a bunch of money too…

So get out there and live YOUR story.  You might find that your story becomes one worth telling!

Do you hear the rattling???

Have you ever stepped back and examined your life and felt like your life was just one great big mess of activity?  You are constantly running from here to there and everywhere in between, but at times it all feels like one giant exercise in futility.  Sometimes those of us who work in the church for a living can get so busy doing things like camps, VBS programs, mission trips, (the list could go on and on) that it feels like this whirlwind of activity is constantly consuming us.

And then we run into a time where it feels like we are doing all this stuff and it is not bearing any fruit.  It can easily feel like an exercise in futility.

That’s where I found myself a couple weeks ago.

Then I remembered a question from Ezekiel 37.  It was a question God had asked Ezekiel, but I threw it back at God.  “Can these bones live?”  I happened to be standing under the stars at a campground with the majesty of God on full display above my head.  “Can these bones live, God?”  I was a bit irritated to be honest.

I thought about the explosion of the gospel in the early church.  I thought about the things I am hearing from the global church and the way God is moving all over the world.  And then I wondered why so many times it feels like I am plowing uphill in the mud ministering in a North American church?

I tried to do my best Moses impersonation and I reminded God of His character.  I reminded Him that He was supposed to be the God of all the great biblical narratives, He was supposed to be the God of Pentecost, that same Spirit was supposed to live and reside in His church.  I asked Him to show me some signs of life.

When I came home I decided to re-examine that passage in Ezekiel 37.  I love the fact that the breath that comes on the dry bones is the same creative Spirit found in Genesis.  But another section stuck out to me.

“And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound…. ”

I’m always wanting to hear thunder and lightning, but God has opened my eyes to hear the rattling.  Small places where the Spirit is at work.  Since I came home from camp, God has opened my eyes to the rattling.  And I am seeing signs of life everywhere.

In a conversation with a friend about the morning’s message, in a call out of the blue on my answering machine, in the potential of a new ministry, in the maturation of the saints through discipleship.  Everywhere I look, dry bones are coming to life.

Everywhere…  Bones are rattling… Can you hear them???

Learning the art of thanksgiving…

We live in a culture of ungratefulness.  Every TV commercial we watch is designed to tell us what we lack.  We NEED the latest phone, a better car, better clothes…  Social media has only magnified this.  We are constantly being told how awesome our friends lives, kids and vacations are.  It’s easy to be ungrateful.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort.  But being ungrateful is dangerous.

If you think about it, the first sin came from ungratefulness.  Adam and Eve in the garden had EVERYTHING they needed to flourish and thrive.  All the food they needed.  Everything.  There was only one thing they didn’t have.  The fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They could have chosen to be grateful and yet, they focused on the one thing they didn’t have.

Sound familiar?  Like we Americans who complain about not having enough money.  Like the beautiful girl who doesn’t like the way she looks.  Like the husband who wishes his wife was more like so and so…

It seems that a lot of evil comes from ungratefulness.

I was recently reading a book by Ann Voskamp called “One Thousand Gifts”.  The jest of the book is that the author was going through a difficult time.  A time of frustration with God, anger and doubt.  She began to write down 1000 things to be thankful for, and it changed her.

Paula and I decided to do the same thing.

After we got past the “Sunday School” answers of grace, our family members, etc… our lists started to change.  We noticed the things we were giving thanks for were much more specific.

Home-made chex mix.  Coca Cola (Classic, not that New Coke stuff). Flannel sheets.

Writing a thousand things that you are thankful for takes time.  Weeks or months even.  But the more you write, it seems the more specific you get.  The more you write, the more you realize how abundantly God has really blessed you.  The more you write, the more you begin to see God’s hand in everything around you.

Maybe that is why scripture talks about entering His gates with thanksgiving…  It might just be that learning to be thankful opens us up to enjoy all of God’s blessings.

I was going through a difficult time when I began the list.  What I have realized is that although my situation has not changed, my perspective has and that makes all the difference.

I dare you to write down 1000 things you are thankful for and see if it doesn’t change the way you look at life.

It did for me…

Just a thought,

N8