Yesterday evening, I sat in my living room with my 9-year-old son, Evan. My wife had the news turned on and, naturally, they were running a story on the Boston Marathon bombing. As Evan tuned in and watched the video footage in silence, Erica looked and him and asked, “Do you know what is happening here? Did you hear about this at school?”
Evan replied that he had heard about the bombing, and proceeded to recount his understanding of the tragedy. He pretty much knew all he needed to. Some sicko planted a couple bombs in a crowd and blew some people to bits.
As we moved to the kitchen table to enjoy microwaved hotdogs and leftover corn-on-the-cob, I asked Evan if he had any questions about what he saw on the news.
“Do they still make bombs that are black and a sphere and have a string sticking out the top that you light, and that can also float?”
“No, buddy. I don’t think they really look like that anymore.”
“Oh.” Pause. Then, “Dad?”
“Why would someone want to bomb a race?”
And there was the question I knew would come. It was the question that our country was asking on Monday. It was the question that seemed to awake and roll around in our collective consciousness first thing Tuesday morning, even before we managed to hit the snooze alarm to delay the start of a new day. Continue Reading…
What if our lives really were reflections of someone or something beyond us? What if the best – and worst – parts of us echoed through the lives of those around us; our love and our fear leaving their mark on our children, our friends, our spouses the way a shadow attaches itself to sunlight? What if our stories didn’t end, but instead continued, like ripples in a pond, to tell themselves through those we leave behind every day?
I think this is what it means to be a Christian. The very person of Jesus Christ reveals himself through his followers, the church. The more closely we move to the source, the more clear the reflection becomes and the more visible it becomes to others. If my life is a reflection of Christ, if my story is really His story played out in a new beautiful mess that is my life, then I’m ok with that.
So Justin Timberlake may be right. His new song “Mirrors” is exploding all over the airwaves and interwebs right now. For lack of a better word, it is my jam. I saw JT sing it on SNL a couple weeks ago and loved it. He released the official music video just this week, and quite honestly it is heartbreakingly beautiful. The video pays homage to Timberlake’s grandparents, William and Sadie Bomar. William passed away late last year after a long battle with dementia and heart problems. Sadie is now left alone with the shadows and memories and impressions from a lifetime of love, commitment, struggle, frustration, passion, and intimacy.
The video captures this relationship through the best of times and worst of times; the excitement of young love, the heartbreak and disappointment that we are all capable of and prone to, the lifetime of intimacy, and the shadowy reflections that remain now as Sadie is left alone. Fittingly, the coda at the end of the song shows Sadie dropping a wedding ring that was worn for more than 60 years…and Timberlake himself catching the ring, symbolically accepting the challenge to face the next 60 years in the same kind of beautiful marriage with his new wife, Jessica Biel.
Last October, my grandfather passed away after struggling with Alzheimer’s. He was married for 71 years, and now my grandmother is left alone to walk in the same kind of memories and reflections that Timberlake portrays. As I write this, she is fighting for her life with some heart complications, as if her entire body seems to recognize that a whole part of her is missing. It is sad and tragic and so stunningly beautiful. If my marriage can be some kind of mirror of that legacy; if I can hit 60 or 70 years of marriage to my wife, through the ups and downs, then it is a good life. Definitely a story worth telling and a song worth singing.
And if I could dance in a creepy funhouse with those pointy shoes and look as fly as JT, then I would gladly make that a part of my legacy as well.
This past weekend my family had the chance to enjoy a night of snow tubing* at Perfect North with some good friends and family. The thing about snow tubing is that there is no skill involved. At all. There is no comparison to skiing or snowboarding, which both require a person to log many practice hours before being able to get down a slope without falling. It more closely resembles sledding, although in a sled there still significant room for user control in “ruddering” the sled with your hands.
Snow tubing eliminates all of that. You just go down. Really fast.
As our families hit the slopes, an interesting dynamic revealed itself right away. At first, everyone hit a solo run, or in some cases paired up tubes with a young child or a Tubey Newbie™.** There was the usual trash-talking about who would get to the bottom first, who would push whom down which hill, etc. When all was said and done, however, there was something largely unsatisfying about riding solo. All the factors that make for an exciting run (speed, distance, getting airborne off of the bumps, etc.) are limited by your own weight. When you ride alone, you max those out pretty quickly.
Over on the Super Slope, however, you can pony up with a whole group – up to 8 tubes linked together. I’m sure there is some sort of physics equation that can tell you exactly how the increased mass + inertia + surface area = faster, but since I got a 0% on my physics final exam (true story) in college I don’t know what that is. But it sure was fun!***
With a group all linked together, the thrill increased exponentially. We went faster, slid farther, bumped higher, laughed louder, and crashed harder. Instead of competing against each other to be the first one to the bottom, the collective goal was to crash into the barriers at the far end of the slow-down. And despite the fact that tubing together took no more skill than it did alone, it seemed much more fun when we met our goal and actually did come to a crashing halt together. Continue Reading…
When I was younger, I was always the one throwing stones. I think because I didn’t want to be the one getting hit. I called it humor. But nothing is funny about breaking bones and souls. I wish I could go back to those days in school and hug instead of laugh; build up instead of break down. But I can’t go back. None of can. But there is always a way forward, and it begins with grace and love.
And by the way…the mirror is Jesus. (You’ll see, just watch)…
This is incredible. Imogen Heap shows of her new “magical musical gloves,” and debuts a new song written and performed entirely in 3D space. I strongly suggest taking 20 minutes to watch the full video, but even if you don’t feel like listening to her whole explanation of the tech, at least do yourself the favor of skipping to about the 13:20 mark to see the song she wrote. Yes…you can “see” the song.
By now, in the year 2013, social media is ubiquitous. A pastor or church leader who does not have at least a Facebook or Twitter profile – let alone an Instagram feed, LinkedIn profile, or Tumblr account – is in the minority. But the more avenues of online connectivity we have, the more digital noise threatens to muddy our lives. How should Christians – church leaders especially – approach the use of social media?
Leonard Sweet’s latest book, Viral, addresses this issue and, quite frankly, hits a home run. In Viral, Sweet analyzes the generation gap that exists between the “Gutenbergers” and the “Googlers.” He examines the changes that have taken place culturally, and makes the case for why the church absolutely cannot be left behind in the world of cyber-communication. Social media, Sweet contends, provides an incredible outlet for connectivity and storytelling. Tweeting and status-updating are a matter of discipline and focus that stem from a mission of reaching into the lives of other people. “[It] is a discipline of transparency. The knowledge that my tweets will be read by thousands of people keeps me more focused on my mission, makes me less whiny and complaining, and keeps me more sensitive to what others may need to hear. It’s a discipline to serve others and to simply express what I’m feeling.”
Sweet makes the case that even the simple things are important, just as every relationship is made up of both surfaces and depths. The important thing is to tell your story; we are to leverage the tools at our disposal to both draw others into our story and to engage in theirs. After all, Sweet reminds us, echoing the words of Plato, “If you want to change the world, don’t bring in the politicians who make the laws; bring in the poets who tell the stories.”
Viral is an invitation and exhortation for the Church to share the greatest Story ever told with a world who is already listening.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review
The Superbowl always promises to be full of some uncomfortable moments. The hyper-sexualized Go-Daddy commercials are usually the frontrunners in that pack (and this year was no exception). Beyonce’s halftime performance was solid, though I regret allowing my 9-year-old son to sit and watch all that gyrating and putting on of rings. But despite the usual lustful appeals present during the big game, nothing disturbed me more than the comments coming from the Ravens star linebacker.
Did Ray Lewis mean what I think he meant?
The larger than life LB for the Superbowl Champion Baltimore Ravens has hardly been silent in recent years about his professed faith in God. In fact, since his life and career were almost completely derailed back in 2000 when he was accused of a double homicide, Lewis has been increasingly vocal about his faith. The man claims to love God, and that is not for me to judge.
But I do believe that Christians are called to “correctly handle the word of truth” (see 2 Timothy 2:15) because the danger of mishandling Scripture and spreading false teaching is en ever-present reality whenever religion is concerned.
Which is why I cringed at everything Ray Lewis had to say surrounding the Superbowl last night. Continue Reading…
Most of us commonly view saying goodbye as a difficult, often hyper-emotional moment. And there certainly are times where this is true.* When a parting is permanent, or when the next “hello” is far off somewhere beyond the horizon, saying goodbye can be heart-wrenching.
But there are so many other smaller, everyday goodbyes.
We drop our kids off at school.
We close our eyes for the night.
We walk out of a co-worker’s office.
We watch a customer leave the store.
…and the list goes on.
What if we treated each casual parting of ways as an opportunity to make someone’s day beautiful? Continue Reading…
Mr. President, I owe you an apology. Let me explain:
I have been fairly critical of you ever since your first presidential campaign. I don’t agree with many of your stances on important issues, some of your policies seem like they are moving our country in the wrong direction, and I always get the sense that your administration is one that will over-promise, but under-deliver.
But do you know what? All of that is neither here nor there. My response to your presidency should come down to one thing: you are The Man. The bottom line, Mr. President, is that my attitude towards you has not been appropriate. Instead of respect and support, mine has been more of condemnation and sarcasm. Now don’t get me wrong: I fully believe that Americans should be able to stand up for what they believe in without fear of punishment or retribution by the government. That is America. But speaking up for my beliefs does not have to go hand in hand with open criticism of our leaders.
You are the President of the United States of America. This did not happen by accident. You were voted in by a majority. And the more important thing for me to keep in mind is that your election did not happen outside of the sovereign will of God. My God is not surprised – nor is he upset, frustrated, disappointed, etc. – by this. He is, after all, God. But I had lost sight of that – at least to the degree where it truly impacted me with an appropriate Christian response. Continue Reading…
I have been noticeably absent from this blog since August of last year. Over the past five months, I have only dropped a couple of new posts. Now that 2013 is in full swing, I plan on reengaging and reviving this forum. In doing so, I figured it apropos to clarify a few things to get us all up to date with one another.
Why I Stopped Writing
Life Got Busy - In September, we finally opened up The Cairn. This was the culmination of almost two years of my focus. Opening the coffee house was far more chaotic than I ever imagined it would be, and it took every once of my energy to make it work. There were countless people who poured themselves into this ministry, and we all shared a great burden and excitement. But it drained me. There was no time for the creative process and “down time” for writing.
I Speak Too Quickly - Make no mistake, blogging is not journalism. Some do not even consider blogging to be “actual” writing. That’s ok. But in the world of online information, so much of what makes a good blog depends heavily on being informed of current events, and then responding to those events in the public forum. Over the past few months, my attention was so focused on my work that I had little time for “staying informed,” much less writing about it. But of equal concern for me was the fact that I recognized a tendency in myself to speak too quickly in an attempt to stay current. The truth is that I am often more foolish than I am wise, and by wanting to react quickly on the blog to events around the world, I have on more than one occasion put my foot in my mouth. Twitter has revealed this to me in a very real way: when things (like Sandy Hook) happen, it becomes very easy to tweet and retweet initial, carnal, emotional responses. This is both ok, and also not. I want to learn to balance that better and maintain discernment with my online presence. One of my reasons for not rushing back to this blog is because I wanted to force myself to listen more and speak a little more slowly.
False Identity – I have no problem admitting that I can be quite prideful and vain. I don’t like it, but it’s a fact. As my job in ministry has put me in greater positions of public visibility, this has become more and more apparent. Social media and online “platforms” like blogging can often fuel that fire of self-importance. I found that in different seasons over the past few years, I had become too focused on my “network worth” and less content in my true identity as a sinner saved by the grace of God. Things like blog comments, Facebook followers, site stats, Twitter RTs, etc. all have a way of creating a false sense of identity and worth. Time away from the blog has been a great reminder for me that my identity is found in Christ alone, and I can honestly say that, while I value my online networks and relationships, they do not consume or define me.