Sunday, March 28, 2010

Faith Doesn't Have a Floor Plan

I want to continue creating conversation around this theme of progression versus prevention again this week.

This past Tuesday I had the chance to watch a movie, Simon Birch, with some Jr. High students. I've seen this flick before, but as with all good stories I found myself captivated by it once again. There was one line in particular that caught my fascination: "Faith doesn't have a floor plan." As I pondered this statement in conjunction with what has been on my heart lately with the progression versus prevention themes, I have reached a couple of conclusions that I wanted to share some thoughts on.

1. While it's true that faith doesn't have a floor plan, there is a greater schematic at work. What I mean by saying this is that the root of true, authentic faith is Jesus Christ. Without Jesus in the equation, there is no faith. In regards to the progression theme from last week, Jesus is the focal point to which we should be progressing to or moving towards. Anything else is simply wasted effort.

2. I want to be clear about what I mean by saying we need to progress towards Jesus. I am not advocating or lobbying for a religious system or list of acceptable behaviors and desired outcomes. What I am suggesting is that we need to learn to grapple with the mystery of Christ while engaging in a relational pursuit built upon authentic faith. This pursuit is one that must inform how we live; the choices, the pace and the direction. We must learn to excel in each of these 3 areas in a balanced format or else otherwise be misguided in our pursuit of progression.

3. There isn't a clear over-arching guideline or road-map that encompasses all. Remember, faith doesn't have a floor plan. Each of our own life experiences will help shape our own personal journeys. What I am suggesting is that at the root of a truly inspiring, meaningful, purposed life is a relational connection with Jesus Christ. It is this connection that grants us an ever-growing and unshakable true identity that is full of depth, life, hope, trust and so much more.

Consider this question this week. What are you trying to prevent from happening in your life and what are you moving towards as a result?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Prevention or Progression?

Yesterday I happened to catch an interview with Tiger Woods leading up to his return to golf at the Masters tournament in April. In the interview Tiger was asked questions about his past transgressions. As I listened to him respond to the barrage of questioning, one of his answers stood out to me. When asked to give the reason for his embrace of infidelity, Tiger responded by saying he lost sight of his core values and stopped practicing Buddhism, and that is why he embraced this dark path.

I immediately thought to myself, "really?" The only thing preventing Tiger from pursuing infidelity was Buddhism? I found this interesting on a number of different levels. First of all, I think this conversation describes for us the symptomatic approach to a full life that we find ourselves wrestling with. Think of it along these terms. If we desire outcome A as a reality for our lives, what then would prevent us from pursuing outcomes B, C, D or E? What we do is look for a set of behaviors and practices that will help prevent us from pursuing additional outcomes. We want to be good, so we adopt the practice of not going to the bar, not buying alcohol and not associating with people who drink. Meanwhile, our attempt at preventing certain behaviors in our lives had led us to develop a lifestyle methodology that is steeped in legalism instead of relationship. Our focus becomes driven by what we do not do instead of on what our behavior actually is. If our desire is to be good, why would we not define good by perhaps taking time to help out someone in need instead of defining it by what behaviors we prevent ourselves from engaging in.

I'm a guy who loves systems, but there is no systematic approach to life that will prevent us from embracing undesired destinations. There is, however, a relational approach that will do just that. I wear a wedding ring as a symbol of my relational connection with my wife. If I define marriage by a list of do's and dont's, what is preventing me from reaching undesired destinations such as infidelity? If we measure success in terms of restraint, how then do we measure growth? If the symbol is meant to prevent certain behavior, I'm in trouble. This ring cannot prevent me from doing anything; the system is broken. If, however, I view the ring as not a symbol of restraint, but as a symbol of relational growth, then the system does work. My focus becomes rooted in my desire to grow in my understanding of what it means to be a good husband, friend, confidant, lover and provider. The relational filter informs my behavior and pushes me towards my ultimate desirable destination.

The bottom line is this: If you're look for a system to help you prevent hurt, pain, brokenness and awkward situations, you can try all you want to find it, but the perfect system doesn't exist. Instead, I encourage you to look beyond the system and embrace the deep relational need the exists within us all. Using this relational platform as our interpretive lens, our measure for growth and our definition of success will begin to shift, becoming more progressive and less preventative in nature.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Level of Understanding

I had a unique conversation with a co-worker yesterday. We shared stories about our differing experiences regarding having grown up in church and been exposed to Christianity at an early age. We spoke about some of the challenges our parents must have faced in raising us as their kids into faith in Christ.

After our conversation there were several conclusions that came to me. The first is that our parents did the best they could with what they were given. What I mean is that my parents, even though they may have taught me something that was not entirely accurate, did so out of love for me and not the desire to oppress me in any way shape or form. For example, there is a mis-truth sometimes taught in Christian circles that suggests if someone commits suicide as a believer he or she forfeits their salvation. While suicide is a horrible tragedy, there is no biblical evidence to suggest that this is the case. In fact, there is much more evidence that counteracts this above assumption (Romans 8:38-39 for example). Parents, leaders and churches that have shared the premise that suicide forfeits one's right to eternal life have done so in a way that was not intended to be malicious. Sometimes what we do as parents and leaders is teach things or demonstrate things that may not be entirely accurate in order to inform the desired behavior we wish to see in the lives of others. In this case, we may have taught suicide forfeits one's salvation in order to create the behavior of choosing life instead of death among our intended audience.

The bottom line is that as we grow and become mature in our faith and in our level of understanding, we are held accountable to this new growth. This does not give us the license to reject growth. We cannot choose to be blind once our eyes have been opened to the truth. Instead, we must react with this new perspective we have and allow it to begin to shape how we live and how we respond to circumstances and challenges of faith.

As Bonny and I teach Saydie to use the toilet instead of doing her business in a diaper, Saydie grows in her understanding and knowledge of being potty trained. We can now hold her accountable to her new level of understanding as to where pee and poop should go, unlike our son Cannon who remains at a different level of understanding because we still use diapers with him.

Maturity in our faith leads to a greater level of understanding of truth. From this new platform of understanding, we must be willing to demonstrate our growth in tangible ways, allowing our fresh perspective to inform and shape who we are and how we live in an ever increasing capacity.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


A conversation I had with a peer co-worker earlier this week continues to impact me today.  We spoke about what it meant to be captivated by our relational connection with Christ and the difference between stealing moments and creating space for relationship to grow.

Being a father of two children, I have noticed how things have shifted in my home.  In order to spend time connecting with my wife, we need to create a consistent space to do so; we need to be intentional about making sure we have time to communicate, connect and celebrate our relationship. This same sort of priority needs to be applied with greater urgency in terms of our relational connection with God our Father. If we rely upon stealing moments to carry us through, we will soon find ourselves lost in the myriad of distance created by our inconsistent approach to our heavenly connection.

The challenge has been and will always be scheduling. How and when do we fit in time to connect with Jesus on a consistent basis. I think we can start with stealing moments, but we must grow from that point, we cannot remain stagnant. Moments can become trends; trends can become habits; habits create consistency.

Monday, March 8, 2010

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

Every month I'm required to serve as the pastor on call at the main campus of our church's facility. During this day lots can happen. Sometimes people want someone to talk to or speak for God, and other times it is a quiet day full of lots of email and busy agenda items getting done.

Today was a day full of tragedy. I watched, sat with and prayed for a family who was waiting to get word regarding their father's condition only to have them receive the news that he was no longer with us. I found myself asking many questions and not knowing how to process everything that was happening around me.  I then got a phone call from my wife telling me that my cousin's little girl is doing far worse in her battle with cancer than we were aware of...and the waves of chaos began mounting.

So what do you do when life doesn't make sense? Each of us has something or someone we turn to. Sometimes this may be a group of friends; sometimes it's a particular substance we use to help us cope through the pain; other times we may put our head down and plow through the rest of our lives un-phased by the reality around us.  It seems easy to talk about what we might do when we're not in a situation that is overwhelming and chaotic. The bottom line is that each of us will face these situations from time to time, and each of us will have a choice to make. What I'm learning is that God is big enough to take my frustration, pain, hurt, fear, doubt, tragedy, anger, humor and everything else all at once.  Even in the moments I feel numb, like right now, God is there.

It's ok to question God's motives and intentions, or even His relevance in our world. In the end each of us will recognize we are not in control of our lives, or the world around us, but there must be someone that is. And even though this being has control, he also exhibits much restraint in allowing us the freedom to choose life or death, peace or chaos, kindness or calamity.

And when life just doesn't make sense, I think it's ok that we desire to feel something that does.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Filled with hope

I woke up this morning battling depression I think.  No matter what I did or what I looked at I couldn't seem to find the "silver-lining" that people always talk about.  I've been in spaces like this before, so I know it won't last forever, but it's never fun when you are in the midst of some of these battles.  This song sums up my desire for clarity in these foggy moments.

Lifehouse - Storm

I stumbled upon a prayer from scripture that I have been drawn to the last few weeks.  I've prayed this, and will continue to pray this, for myself, my family, my co-workers and the ministry that I have a privilege to serve in.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." - Romans 15:13

May you find renewed hope this day.  Find rest, hope and life in the giver of grace and mercy!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

For the Better??

I'm left thinking about the impact that my choices may or may not have in the world around me this afternoon.  I can't help but wonder what life would be like if we all, including myself, became more focused on celebrating our similarities rather than focusing on our differences.  Here's to dreaming of a world steeped in change and working towards it one decision at a time!

To Be Now

A picture paints a thousand words of this dichotomy:
We breathe tradition until it hurts nobody but me.
Why won't you listen to the voice calling;
To tear down walls that keep us all sheltered?

One day we'll be a reflection of truth
so I pray for the strength to be now

A foolish heart seeks only praise and I want not part of this.
I would take your place if I could be somewhere outside of this.
Without a reason you stand here stalling;
Afraid to lose what you hold dear, it's saddening.