Tuesday, November 30, 2004

When Right Is Wrong

A lot of people are addicted to being right. It is their goal. It is their means and their end. Being right is all there is. However, let's consider what you do not have to be while being right.

Bascially, you can be right and yet have no other virtue whatsoever. As if right is enough.

When all you are is right, right is wrong.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Now What? (Redux)

My wife and I are in this long conversation about God's will, our future, and church planting. We resume the conversation about every three to four nights. I think we don't talk even more about it because after each conversation, we must digest. It is kind of the same reason you don't always eat.

We are praying, looking, listening, and wondering. We have no plan, no time clue. All that we do know is that there is this feeling, yearning...sometimes haunting, that says that although where we are and what we are doing is good, something else is looming.

My hand is on my forehead blocking the sun as I stare out to the horizon over the ocean. I can't see anything yet, but I am just sure something is going to emerge. It's not so much I am waiting for my ship to come in, but more so that I am wondering when my ride is going to show up.

Vision. Wisdom. Courage. Faith.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Tick Talk

Thanksgiving Day, I will be a turkey tick - ready to pop. I do like the Thanksgiving meal...and football. But there is more to the holiday than getting fat and vegging out.

I'm thankful for what I got. Being thankful is healthy. Withholding thanks, appreciation and so forth is emotionally similar to being insulted and just taking it - and not in the Jesus way. When a person receives, there is an emotional reality that refuses to go unexpressed. Sadly, when we withhold appreciation, it rots inside us and degrades into selfishness (and becomes intolerable), into greed (and becomes insatiable), or into depression (and becomes inconsolable).

Withholding thanks gets you emotionally constipated real fast. Thanksgiving is the soul's laxative.

You Could Be Me

Now Jesus, you say that I am your body, or at least a part of it, since I am a Christian. I am in you and you are in me. It almost sounds like I am you and you are me. But why? Can't you get things done a little better without me? Isn't it easier for you to be you without being me? Why do you desire to work in me, live in me, partner with me - why be me when you can just be you?

I can understand you saying, "you could be me," to me. You've got something to offer. But it seems like you look at me, hoping I'll say it to you. What do I have to offer that you have without me, besides just me? Sure, I'm nice and all, and I help people from time to time, but do you really require my existence to pull off these services? I'm not all that convinced you actually need me.

In fact, I know you don't. All I can figure is that you want me. But even that begs a bunch of questions.

Your love is pure, but is it that pure? Your love is unconditional, but is it that unconditional? Could you love me for my good? Could your desire to make into you be for me?

With quaking knees I say, "You could be me. That is what I want. I release myself out of my isolation into you."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Me and the Gov

Here I am with Governor Mike Huckabee. Posted by Hello

I got to meet the governor of Arknsas, Mike Huckabee, a few weeks ago, as noted on an earlier BLOG. I have since learned how to insert pictures and links into my posts. Very cool.

Mike Huckabee is an inspiration to me and to many. He lost over 100 pounds, which pretty much took care of his diabetes. Nice Work Gov.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Mulligan Again

This used to be a perfectly flat golf course...until I hacked away at it.  Posted by Hello

You should see me golf. I do it about once every 24 months - and it shows. I could lose a golf ball in Kansas. Flat and treeless terrain is no match for my slice. I take with me about a ball per hole (and that is living on the edge), just to make sure I can finish a round.

I am gifted, as well, at teeing off with some sensational blunders. I have done quite a few "practice swings," providing some good entertainment for my golfing buddies, but my favorite blunder is the time when I somehow almost hit myself with a golf ball on my drive. It did not take a bad bounce off a tree, as you might be thinking - it literally came off the club and at my face. Go ahead and try that one at home. I bet you can't even begin to think of how this is possible.

What would I do without the mulligan? I need an extra shot for about every shot I take. Usually, I need a couple of 'em. Now, I'm talking life. I enter about every situation with a mixed bag of emotions, motives, and objectives. Sometimes I get my junk together and hit the fairway, but more often I'm off in the rough "trying to find my butt with both hands," as my father likes to say in proverbial tones.

To many people Jesus is a friend, to others he is a revolutionary, and to others still he is a king or savior. Not bad ideas...and pretty theologically sound. I take no issue with them, but to me, Jesus is a Mulligan. He's my permission to have a do over. He doesn't mark anything against me. I get to play. I get to keep playing.

On another note, I work here.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Marriage ain't fair...And that's a good thing

In my therapy practice I see couples everyday in conflict, deep and entrenched conflict, with each other...the person they are in love with. Almost to a person they are fighting for what is fair.

If there were one sure way to make a marriage fail it would be for the couple to seek fairness. Business is fair. Playground games are fair. Marriage - it's not fair.

For all of the good press fairness gets, it's bad medicine for marriage. Think about it. If my wife does me wrong, or I think she did me wrong, I must (get to) do her wrong back to make things fair. On the other hand, if she does something nice, I probably deserved it.

When does it ever get even? I mean, when is it even and both partners agree that it is even?

Sadly, I can answer that one. In divorce court...and even that is rare.

Rather than "fair" being the measuring stick for a functional, healthy marriage, how about "goodness." Goodness is something you can take responsibility for, while fairness is really, really, SUPER REALLY subjective. Fairness begs for one person to control the other, while goodness seeks to free the other. Goodness, pure goodness, requires nothing in return and requires nothing to get it started. Fairness is the road to revenge while goodness is the road to forgiveness.

Mental Floss

I lifted these questions from a magazin called Mental Floss.

1. Why can't you tickle yourself?
2. Why does a snooze give you only 9 minutes of extra sleep?
3. Which can fist, can openers or cans?
4. Why does Hawaii have an interstate highway?
5. Can a pregnant woman drive in the carpool lane?
6. What is a sea-monkey?
7. Is it possible to own property on the moon?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Praise Goes On

I am listening to a song by Chris Rice called, "The Praise Goes On." It's a beautiful. He makes a case that God is worshiped by all of creation, constantly. Stars twinkling, the moon glowing, the coming dawn, the wamth of morning, the chasing of the stars and moon by the sun, forests arms raised...and people. God is praised whether people praise Him or not. We merely join in on something that has been happening forever.

Even in death the praise goes on. The grave cannot silence the voice of those who love God.

I think praise to be a romantic expression which notices what is true. God is good, beautiful, strong, gently, compassionate, loving. It's not that God demands our praise, but rather that praise is telling the truth.

Monday, November 15, 2004

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Pharisee

Being an effective Pharisee is not as easy as it might sound. Sure, the fathers of the Pharisee movement speak with such ease that their hypocrisy is almost undetectable. But it did not come by mere gifting. They had to work long and hard to achieve their position. Here are a few pointers meant to help hone your Pharisaic presence in this world, and believe me, this world needs some more Pharisees.

1. Use God for self-promotion - You will never become anything as a Pharisee if you overtly promote yourself. No. All language must be couched in God-language. If you can speak religious words in humble tones, then you can promote yourself all you want. When a person believes that you are promoting God, then self-promotion will be easy.

2. Let Other People Do The Heavy Lifting - Once people believe that you are promoting God, then they will do just about anything you want them to do. They'll not merely do your heavy lifting, but they will lie for you, condemn others just to please you (I mean God, right?), just about anything that you want that you can make sense of for them.

3. Promote Intermitent Insecurity - If people who look to you become too confident of their salvation, you lose power. Never let them be sure they are saved. Let them be sure they are saved if... You fill in the blank. And whatever you fill in the blank with, make sure it appears to be within their reach, but is not.

4. Create Legalists - Give them every single minute fact of the law and tell them that this is how God likes it. Their success is to measured only on results of follwing the letter of the law. Never let them dwell too long on grace or mercy. Sure, let them use these words, but reframe them into laws to follow. Grace is dangerous to the Pharisee in care of souls.

5. Live By Technicalities - This is your insurance policy. There will no doubt come a time wehn someone starts questioning you. Obviously these are rebellious and ignorant people, but they must be dealt with gently in order to maintain their help for the cause. Know your law and your reason for doing what you do. If you cannot explain what you do, then be prepared to be humiliated. Always be able to quote something that explains your actions. One good way to do this is to have special knowledge that no one else has. Let them come to the conclusion that they are too stupid to understand. That works mush better than telling them.

6. Micro-obedience Masks Macro-defiance - Several little obediences that are observable by others is enough to convince people that your heart is Godly. "Tithe in pennies," as the old proverb goes. You will avoid 99% of all questions if you follow this principle. You'll get people so busy either being impressed by you or copying you that they will not question you. Image over integrity works every time.

7. Perpetuate Hypocrisy - Consistently make sure you appear to be something everyone else longs to be. Never let them see you struggle. There is no struggle in our way of living. They must believe this. If there appears to be struggle in our way of living, we will lose credibility. We cannot afford that. We must always leave them desiring to be one of us. We must appear worthy of worship. That is our best position. Then we become desirable and unattainable at the same time. There is no greater power than that.

8. Emphasize Content and Process Will Not Matter - Always focus on what, but never focus on why. Be correct in content and the things that you do. Never let the process bother you. The reason you do things is because those things are right, end of discussion. Compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and love only complicate matters. Keep things black and white and pretty much on the surface. The last thing you need is to get into a discussion of process. It'll be your doom.

9. Condemn the Past - This technique is effective. When you condemn past hypocrites or anyone in general, it is very hard for someone to call you a hypocrite or anything bad. Rant on and on about how foolish people used to be, thereby implying that you are in no way foolish like them. It is also a good way to indirectly condemn the people you speak with. You know good and well the foolishness of the past is going to be repeated. So, when you condemn poeple from the past, the people of the present won't dare disclose that they struggle with the same thing. They will feel like they should have gotten past this by now.

10. Creative Blame - Probably the best weapon in your arsenal is blame. However, people are catching on to blame these days, so you'll have to get creative with it. Clumsy blame will get you discounted. Creative blame will get you revered. The best blame is condescending encouragement. Use it with the people you mentor. It'll keep them coming for more.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Tool Man

I despise handyman work. I do it only for selfish reasons. If the reward is large enough, I'll do it. But seldom is there a reward large enough. For example, some wood under our kitchen sink is going bad. I am sewriously considering selling the house rather than try to fix it, or (Heaven forbid) replace the cabinets. I can't think a reward large enough to do that job. I've doneit once in my life, doesn't that count forever? When I say I ahte doing this type of thing I know what I'm talking about.

I moved a light fixture today from one room to another. I feel like a hero because the job is done and I did not get electricuted.

I can say that I have, with the moving of the light fixture, surpassed my father's capcity for tools. I went beyond duct tape and bungy cords. I actually used a power tool. In fact, simply owning a power tool puts me way ahead in my family of origin.

Friday, November 12, 2004

You are what you worship

There is a verse in one of the psalms that says people who worship dead idols became like them. Is that like the feeling I get after one too many Dr. Peppers or having watched news for too long or eaten at an all you can eat buffet? I feel pretty dead after those things. I tend to believe that it is that and a whole lot more. Sometimes I get really focused on myself...a dangerous thing to do. That would be some bad worship. I can get pretty busy. Another dead idol?

Jesus said that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and immediately after that said he was the God of the living, not the dead. So, that implies that people who have already died and are with God are more alive than people who who are alive, but worshipping idols.

Exactly when does eternal life begin? Do I have to wait for it, or is it right here and now? If I worship a living God, I become like Him, alive. If I worship a dead idol, I become like it, dead. So maybe eternal life is not about when it happens, but rather about what I worship. Whoa.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Covenant Marriage

Today we hosted a minister's meeting at the Better Life Counseling Center on the topic of Covenant Marriage. The governor of Arkansas is leading the charge for 5000 couples to get Covenant Marriage licenses in the state of Arkansas on Feb 14th, 2005. It will be a big to do in the Altell arena. Our counseling center is the center of operations for Northeast Arkansas. I got to meet governor Huckabee a couple days ago in a meeting about this event. It was cool getting to shake the governor's hand and say, "hey," which is about all I could get out because I couldn't think of anything intelligent to say. If I ever figure out how to properly use this BLOG, I will upload a picture to prove I met with gov...for those of you think me to be a liar :-)

It seems these days that marriages are more and more arrangements than relationships. People enter into mariage to get fulfilled, for personal satisfaction. But the problem is that happiness cannot be extracted from one person and consumed by another. When happiness is the goal and then there is no happiness, then marriage becomes irrelevant, or perhaps even worse, it is negatively relevant.

I hope that through Covenant Marriage and other forces in politics, churches, and communities, that people will begin to enter marriages for something a little more substantial than personal satisfaction. I hope that they become contributors, people of sacrifice, people of love.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Better Life Counseling Center

I Work Here


Brother Lawrence has something to say about keeping focused on God rather than self. He mentioned that when his mind strays to things other than God, he confesses it and moves on in the presence of the Lord, or something like that. "Is that it?" I thought, "can it be so simple?" It can be. Certainly God does not delight in our sin, but He does not delight in our guilt for the sin either. Resorting to self-destruction, even in little doses, no matter what the reason, is not God's desire. Freedom comes long before it is experienced as freedom. Believing freedom exists to the extent to which it truly exists makes guilt and self-condemnation tantamount to silliness and absurdity.

PS Brother Lawrence is the fame of the book entitled, "The Practice of the Presnece of God."

Monday, November 08, 2004

Now What?

The idea of planting a church has faded on and off my radar. It's on again. I get so full of anxiety just thinking about it, yet at the same time, there are forces in my life that come from various directions at unpredictable times that will not allow me to forget the idea.

I have this aversion to fear, you see, and I find church planting a fearful thing. What I want is comfort, security, safety, predictability, control and all the things that I believe (falsely) make The idea of church planting allows me none of these things. So, I avoid church planting. However, I cannot avoid internal crisis as easily as I avoid external crisis.

I am a therapist, not a pastor. How could I plant a church? I am introverted and have a hard time initiating conversation. I can respond to conversation very well. I just can't bring it up. If no one ever talked talked to me, I might never talk again. Also, I am poisoned by the experience of really lousy church plant experiences as a child. I have never witnessed a (what I would call) successful church plant. I've seen some pretty lousy and sectarian church plants that were about as seeker hostile as you can get. Their impotence in their communities...their rotten fruit is their testimony. The last thing I want to do is a crappy church plant.

Anyway, here I sit looking over the edge again, wondering what it would be like to jump.

Now what?