March 26, 2009

It's Time to Be Honest

Sex. Got you didn’t I. There’s something about that word. Some of you were shocked just now. Others embarrassed. Somebody out there thinks it was a sin just to write it. But don’t worry, they’re still reading.

The church has to get a handle on sex. We don’t know how to talk about it or deal with it. It can destroy those who keep their failings a secret, and we can destroy those who choose to confess. So what do we do with sex. Here’s a few ideas.

1. Talk about it. If the preacher can’t mention sex in a sermon, how in the world is the church supposed to deal with it in a healthy way? So let’s stop being scared. Mentioning sex at church is not going to make our teenagers jump in the back seats of their cars. As a matter of fact, they might listen for once because the church is willing to be honest and relevant.

2. Keep it in perspective. Perhaps it’s just me, but I have always felt that sexual sin is way worse than any other sin. The only people I have ever seen disfellowshipped were participating in sexual sin. There is a perception (that I think is rampant) that sexual sin is so much worse than any other sin. Because of this, people are afraid to share their temptations or failings. And their sin grows and grows until it consumes them. Then they either leave the church or we give them the boot.

3. Face the truth. This one is the toughest. It’s time we admit that our secrecy about sex is killing us. Tons of men in our churches are addicted to pornography. Some women in our churches use sex as a weapon to get their way with their husbands. Yes, teen pregnancy, date rape, pedophilia, sexual abuse, etc… don’t stop at our front doors. It’s time to pull the covers back, so we can all get better.

March 22, 2009

Only The Good Die Young

Saturday night my beautiful wife and I celebrated our anniversary by driving to San Antonio for a concert. Billy Joel and Elton John. Some of you who are reading this now believe you have irrefutable proof that I am ancient. "Of course he's old he went to see two old fogies in concert." Others may see this as evidence that I am some young whippersnapper who would go pay good money to listen to that new-fangled rock and roll (this is less likely because for this to happen requires the use of a computer and the Internet). Nevertheless let me say I went to the concert (proof that I am young), found it to be a little to loud (old), during the nearly four hour concert went to the restroom only once (young!) but was tired by the end (old). All this adds up to one thing: I'm middle aged.

The concert really did cause me to reflect on aging. Joel is 59, while John turns 62 this week. Yet they both performed with passion and energy. Joel was especially vibrant, resembling a rambunctious teenager as he bounced around the stage. Watching them overwhelmed me with a singular feeling: I hope when I am their age I am still as passionate and energetic about work and life.

In one of M. Scott Peck's books he talks about working with some senior citizens. They were all retired but relatively healthy. The played golf and traveled and such. But they were no longer interested in growing, maturing, learning or changing. I do not want that to happen to me. If I am lucky enough to grow old, I hope I die working on the next sermon or writing a book. I do not want my life to move from purposeful existence to plain existence. I may retire (it would be nice to vacation and travel for a few weeks) but then I hope to take up new adventures that require growing and learning.

Sometimes we are guilty of writing off the wisdom of those who are older. We no longer live in a society that seems very interested in what our elders can teach us. But we also live in a society where many "elders" are not interested in sharing wisdom. They claim to have done their time, raised their kids, and now it is their time. Which means I now am free to be selfish.

If you are older, have tried to learn and grow throughout your life, I want to hear what you have to say. But if all you can teach me is how to fix the slice in my golf game, I've got more important things to do.

March 16, 2009

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Without a doubt, Thursday is my favorite day of the year. Don't get me wrong, I love holidays as much as the next guy. Thanksgiving weekend is such a tradition in my family, that even though the same things happen almost every year, it is still fantastic. I love watching my kids at Christmas. Right now I can almost feel the cool night air and the smell of Frito pie as I think about late October high school football games. It is all fun, beautiful, and makes life worth living.

But it can't compete with Thursday.

On Thursday I will head to my annual destination about 11:00am. I will sit down where I can see four gigantic screens. I'll order a hamburger and a Coke. Then I will watch as the best annual drama in existence unfolds. I will spend the next 3 to 4 hours watching four basketball games at once.

Now don't get me wrong, some of the games will be blowouts. Huge state schools with multi-million dollar athletic budgets and future NBA players will run roughshod over smaller colleges you've never heard of. But somehwere along the will happen. A team that has no business even staying close to a basketball powerhouse will do more than stay close. They will make a miracle three at the buzzer and all heaven will break loose. For that's what it is, pure unadulterated bliss. It is "do you believe in miracles?" and David slaying Goliath all in one. And the wonderfful thing about it is that it happens every year, but it is still a suprise every time.

So Thursday at 11:00 I will be at Buffalo Wild Wings, brackets in hand. I will gather with other devotees, complete strangers that within an hour I will be high-fiving. It may not make any sense to you, but hey, that's why they call it march madness.

(By the way here is a link to a great article about watching March Madness, really gives you a feel for what goes on in the minds of true sports fans.)

March 11, 2009

The Circus of the Greedy and Moronic

The news media is saturated with coverage of the birth of octuplets in California. Rightfully so, as already these eight children have, as a complete group, survived longer than any other group of octuplets born in America. Yet most of the coverage is no longer about this amazing birth. Rather it is focused on the mother and her right to have these children.
By now some of the basic facts are well known. The mother, Nadya Suleman, already was a single mother with six kids. All of her children have been conceived through IVF (). She spent the past six years on disability. She currently does not hold a job.
All of this has created outrage across the country. Shouts of “How could she” and “She must be nuts” echo the landscape. I watched on television as person after person griped vociferously about taxpayers being forced to shoulder the financial burden for these children.
I too am outraged. I find this situation to be close to reprehensible. But I am equally outraged by the overwhelming response condemning this mother. Not because it isn’t warranted, but because it is hypocritical.
This case only stands out because of the number of children. But single women constantly conceive children in this country that they cannot possibly provide for financially. In fact, some young girls attempt to achieve pregnancy knowing it will lead them to be emancipated from their guardians and provide them with numerous government services including housing and food.
We live in a country where you can smoke for fifty years and then Medicaid and Medicare help pay for your cancer treatments. You can buy a 500,000 dollar home you can’t possibly afford, and then declare bankruptcy when the inevitable happens. Even now the government is contemplating spending nearly a trillion dollars (an amount incomprehensible) of taxpayer money to bail out industries and individuals, many of whom are in financial straits because of their own greed.
All of these are by-products of the same problem. A huge chunk of Americans, from the government, to the wealthy, to the poor seem to believe it is okay to live beyond your means. We no longer seem to be a people who can delay gratification. We must have it, and we must have it now. Do whatever you want, and someone will come bail you out. In fact we have come up with ingenious words to make it all sound palatable.
Instead we should call these things what they really are. To go into debt never planning to pay it back is not bankruptcy, it’s stealing. To expect your neighbors and fellow citizens to take care of you no matter how you treat your body is gluttonous and greedy. To reward citizens for making horrible moral and ethical choices by providing them increased government services is incestuous. And for an individual, business and especially a government to recklessly spend beyond its’ income is absolute moral failure.
I’m not saying I have the answer to these problems. I just wish we would talk about them more honestly and consistently. So if we are going to complain about taxpayers having to foot the bill for one mother and her fourteen children, we should complain anytime the government foots the bill for greedy and moronic choices. That would at least be consistent. Problem is most of us don’t have the kind of time it would take since the government tends to be the ringmaster in the circus of the greedy and moronic.

March 8, 2009

Stupid Thought of the Week

Micky Rourke recently starred in the critically acclaimed movie The Wrestler. I haven't watched wrestling in years, and have no interest in seeing the movie. But a little addendum to the story caught my eye.

Apparently, Rourke did such an amazing acting job that he caught the notice of the WWE. Now, he will be participating at Wrestlemania.

My question is: What do you call this? We use the phrase "life imitating art" but is that what this is? I mean, wrestling is fake, so it isn't life. Wrestling is fake-life. So the movie was art imitating fake-life. Therefore this stunt by Rourke of participating in Wrestlemania is something like fake-life (wrestling) imitating art(the movie) which was imitating the real lives (professional wrestlers) of those who participate in fake-life (wrestling) which imitates real life (fighting) but in such fake ways (hitting each other with metal chairs and still getting up) that it doesn't resemble real life except that now people video themselves actually doing this stuff to each other in their backyards.

March 6, 2009

Book of the Week

I recently finished reading "The Man Who Was Thursday" by G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton is an author that I have quoted numerous times, but I have never actually read one of his novels. Feeling guilty I finally picked one up.

The other night I tried to explain the book to my wife, but I couldn't make any sense. That's the thing about this book, and I think any really good novel or joke. You can't explain them, they must be experienced.

Whether "The Man Who Was Thursday" is a really good novel I have yet to determine. I still am not sure exactly what happened in the story. I mean, the plot made sense, but there was more going on than meets the eye. Days later the book is still rolling around somewhere inside me, and will be for some time. That is usually the sign for me of profound writing.

What I can say is that the book is a farce, a joke, that pulls you along. And the ending is really worth it, even though I am still sorting out what it means. I cruised through the book in just a few days, quite unusual for a book considered a "classic." Part of it is the short length, but also the way it is written makes you suspect that something really important is coming, and you want to get there.

I don't want to give it away (again it must be experienced), but I would highly reccomend the book to anyone who is interested in good literature that takes spirituality seriously. And for those who have never read much of this type of literature, this novel is short and to the point, so it is a good place to start. I would love to discuss the book with anyone who has read or is willing to read it.

March 3, 2009

First Attempt at Putting Sermons Online

If you click on the link below it should allow you to hear a sermon. When I asked it to open, it took a minute, then starting playing in itunes. See how it works for you and let me know.

This sermon was done several months ago.
Prodigal Son.m4a

March 2, 2009

Elder Ordination

This past Sunday we ordained four men to shepherd our church. We eschewed the formalities of a typical ordination service (this would just not fit our church, I mean come on we meet on Sundays at 5pm). For me the moist poignant moment came when all four stood facing the church, and listened as various members read to them from scripture. I almost lost it when I watched them stand arm in arm as my son, who is eight, read to them about Jesus asking Peter to "Feed his lambs."

It seems to me that the beauty of leadership is often lost in the formality of it. What most of us need in life is not a well-put together budget presentation or constant communication from those who lead about where we are all going. Those things are good. But they only seem truly important when real leadership is missing. Real leadership is four guys willing to take their cue from a child reading scripture. If they truly "feed the lambs", they have done their job.

First Post

I feel I should say something profound. After all, why would anyone want to read this unless I waxed eloquent or questioned life in an enlightened philosophical manner?

Except of course my mother. She will read this no matter what. Even if it is no good, pointless, self-absorbed drivel. And because it is no good she will worry that no one else will read it, or that people will say rude, mean-spirited things to her well-meaning son. But she will not mention these fears to me. No, no. She will be ravaged by worry, and she will slyly ask something like "Do you really have time to do this blogging thing?" All in an effort to save her son from perceived persecution. What a good mom.

Nevertheless, I will risk both mine and my mother's well-being by placing words before the world. Or at least that portion of the world who either loves me enough to read this, or pities me enough. Those may essentially be the same people.