city love

Aristotle once wrote, “Man is by nature a political animal.”  People love this quote, especially the press around election season.  Although, this phrase doesn’t have much to do with politics as we know it.  The Greek word for “political” is, “polis,” polis means city.  The phrase actually means that man is a polis inhabiting creature.  The idea is that man is rational because he makes the decision to live in community.  It would be irrational to live in isolation, away from people who can walk through life with you.

I was flying into Chicago on my way home today and I couldn’t take my eyes off the city.  I have never been there before and I was disappointed that my layover was only ten minutes.  Even though I was anxious to see my wife and daughters, I wanted to experience the beauty of that polis. As I was flying in I was reminded of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, he stopped and wept for the city. He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” As I was thinking about it the only other time that the gospels record Jesus weeping was at the death of his friend Lazarus.  In the entire bible God mourns at the death of the “wicked” and it even says that he would rather they be saved. (Ezekiel 33:10-11)  I think it is pretty huge to recognize that God mourns.  In this case he mourns his own rejection and the spiritual death of the rational polis people.

So flying over Chicago I though of that moment when Jesus looked over his people with the desire to spread his wings and gather all of the people to himself.   It is rational that a creator would want to live in community with his people. It is rational for a God who lives in community with himself (trinity) to want people to live in community with each other.  In our cities we have many communities, some of business, sports, education and faith.

Sometimes the community of faith is really good about sticking together and that is really good, but sometimes that is all they do!  What if the community of faith experienced that same sorrow for the city?  What if the community of faith experienced the sorrow of Jesus and went on his mission in their own city, the mission of reconciling everything to Jesus.

What if that was your story?  What would it look like for you to have such a burden for people that you gave up everything to see relationships be redeemed?  What would it look like for you to walk co-workers through steps to forgiving others and themselves?  Really what I am asking is what does it look like for you to love your city?  What are you tangibly doing to love the place where you live in community with others?

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stories of belonging

My wife and I had dinner with some new neighbors the other day.  They are missionaries of a different faith.  They are super nice people; we just don’t believe the same things.  After dinner the conversation turned to religion.  They asked me if I had any questions for them.  I did have questions but they weren’t technical, they were narrative.  I asked them to tell me the story of their religion.  How did it come about?  What was their god like?  Why do they believe what they believed?

The sad thing was that for people who are so passionate about their religion that they would give up a few years of their life to spread their religion, they didn’t know where to start.  I was kind of shocked that they couldn’t answer the question.  It wasn’t my intent to trick these people or to be duplicitous in any way.  I simply wanted to hear more about them.  I believe that embedded within our story are the keys to our being.  Our story speaks of our love, our suffering, the good and the bad.  Our stories are who we are.

I was really hoping that these missionaries would tell me a good story because I really wanted to understand them.  Sometimes it is difficult to understand others.  Sometimes when others speak we give them a strange look because it is difficult to understand why they said what they just said.  I think stories are powerful.

What if simply by telling stories in your family you could all of the sudden have a more connected family?  You could tell stories of life, death, baptisms, weddings, vacations, funny moments, hard times, and God’s provision.  I think families are beginning to lose their narrative, and when that is lost their sense of belonging is lost with it.  As humans we have a basic need to belong to something.  Your family story helps you belong to your family, just like your faith story helps you belong to a religion.

I think it would be sweet if a dad of a 17 year old girl walked into her room and told her the story of the day she was born and how excited he was.  How loved would she feel? Even though it might be cheesy she would feel even more deeply connected with who she is as a part of her family.

If you’re a parent I hope you will spend time with your kids telling them their family story.  If you follow Jesus, I hope you’ll tell God’s story to your kids.  If you love someone I’d challenge you to help them belong by telling them a story today.

 

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optimistic delusions

I was in a local coffee shop the other day and I overheard this guy with a British accent talking to his girlfriend.  He was talking about his experience in California and with Americans in general.  If I didn’t have to leave at the moment I probably would have nosed my way into their fascinating conversation.  He was saying that he noticed people in America were generally very optimistic and happy, the word he used was, “jolly”.  I thought it was a great observation.  Then I started thinking about the context and history of optimism.  I began wondering, if we are overly optimistic do we run the risk of becoming delusional?

There is a story about an ancient royal worker who is distressed over bad news of his homeland. There is a big deal made about this worker, Nehemiah never appearing sad in the presence of the king, but one day he did. The miracle was the king allowed his sad servant to share his heart, and then he gave Nehemiah safe passage back to his homeland to rebuild a wall.  Most kings were not so nice.  Most kings wanted to hear a good report, because the status of their kingdom reflects the king’s leadership. Most kings practiced a willful ignorance of the bad parts of their kingdom.

Have you ever been asked to give a report on how your area of responsibility is going? I think most everyone wants to paint a great picture during this report even if it’s bad news.  However, if we make the bad sound good, and we use words like,  “this could be a blessing, the opportunity we’ve been waiting for, chance for success, huge potential,”  then you run the risk of falling into the same pattern that kings advisors have been falling into for centuries.  When we give knowingly over-optimistic reports of a bad situation, isn’t that delusional?  I think of the child’s story of the emperor’s new clothes.  No one had the courage to show any negativity, much less realism toward the king.

I tend to be the guy who is realistic in these types of situations.  It makes me look like pessimistic person.  I do not desire to be pessimistic or divisive, just realistic.  In the same sense, I don’t want to blow smoke at people when there is really a tough situation happening.

I think the tough question is whom do we put around us?  Do we surround ourselves with optimists?   Do we disregard the people with bad news as pessimistic?  If that is you I’d suggest you might have a slightly skewed view of reality, it may even boarder on delusion!  Sometimes we surround ourselves with pessimist and our fate is the same, delusion!  I’d suggest the powerful middle ground of reality.  Sometimes to get a firm dose of reality we need to surround ourselves with both pessimists and optimists who can see reality for what it is.

What do you think?  At what point does optimism or even pessimism boarder on delusion?  Are you afraid of giving a realistic report to your superiors?  Do you live in the firm grasp of reality?  We might even ask the question, what is reality?

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technology culture creativity

There has always been a fear of technology.  It is mainly that we don’t really understand it.  Technology is progressing so fast that people cannot keep up with the innovations.  In fact it is hard work keeping up with technology.  You need to read the blogs daily, you need to follow technological leaders on twitter and you need to have a general interest in it.  The fear stems from the ideas that if you don’t understand technological innovation then you will face your own obsolesce. I follow technology methodically because of my own fear of obsolesce.

These fears of new technology are not even close to being new. John Philip Sousa was an American composer and he is known largely for composing patriotic marches.  In 1906 he testified in front of congress and said this about the recording industry:

“These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy…in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape.”

If you think about it, he is not that far off, his fear is that our ability to create will be limited because of the noise of technology.  Larry Lessig gave a TED talk on this very issue.  He talked about the top-down approach of creativity, where few create and many consume.  We have seen this model play out over and over again.  For years all film, TV radio and written media have been controlled by a small group of people.

However about 20 years ago we started seeing a culture that took this top-down approach to creativity and started leveling the playing field.  They started making mixed tapes and recording music off the radio.  Then there was a true social network of handing that music around in a physical sense.  The consumer started to move from consumer to creative editor. The industry even realized this and tried to get in on the action by selling mixed-cd’s.  About 10 years later we started seeing people making their own music videos, and even more widely put their own video content to a soundtrack.  Why listen to what big business is putting out when you can generate your own content?  This got huge really quick.

In the last ten years there have been more self-published e-books, original videos, self-made albums and blogs written than have ever been made before.  We have seen society shift from media consumer to media editor to media creator.  In fact Sousa’s fears about the vocal cord’s becoming obsolete due to lack of use were true for a while.  But now technology is allowing us to shout louder, be more creative and think more progressively than ever before.

As I observe culture there are a few things that stand out to me.  First, the media editing pioneers didn’t accept the formula of creativity being a top-down structure.  Some people decided to break the copy write laws and get a little crazy.  This has lead to an unleashing of creativity that hasn’t been seen in years.  Now the market has caught on and are selling us the latest products that will make us better creators.  In one sense they are keeping an old system alive but in another there are some tools that assist us in creating content.

I am wondering.  If you consider yourself creative what limitations do you have in expressing your creations?  What drives you to create?  Are you a consumer, editor or a legitimate creator of something new?

If you just love the idea of being a creator, check out Don Miller’s blog http://donmilleris.com/.  A few weeks back he wrote a little series on being a creator, fabulous stuff.

 

 

 

 

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awkward

Do you ever have moments in your life that are awkward?  This morning I just forced myself to sit in silence and drink coffee.  Every now and then I need some time to sit in quietness and think about life.  For some reason I kept thinking about moments in my live that have been awkward, and lucky you, I am about to disclose some of those moments, but purposefully.

The morning after my wedding my new wife and I got picked up from our hotel and taken to LAX for our honeymoon to Maui.  We were way excited to relax for a week.  It was an uncommon morning at LAX because as we said our goodbyes to my sister & brother-in law we walked into an empty ticket counter area.  We were shocked there was only one family in the distance.  As we approached the ticket counter, I noticed that it was my ex-girlfriend of two years and her family that were also on their way to Maui.

There was an awkward time where she came to say hi, and I introduced my wife and the response was, “oh,” then she walked away.  It wasn’t just that though, we went through security together and then her family walked to their gate, which was painfully close to ours.  We had to walk down a walkway that seemed like it was a mile long.  We never saw them on the island but it was an awkward way to start out a honeymoon.

Being in ministry I’ve had to ask for raises, ask donors for money for church events and send awkward emails.  You know it’s going to be awkward but you have to do it or else it won’t get done.  Sometimes you have to confront others about a behavior that is destructive and, to be honest it is a difficult thing to do.  Even as a manager of others, I’ve had to reprimand others or bring to light a mistake they have made, this isn’t fun but it’s healing.

The reason why some moments are so awkward is because it is the time when you are most honest. Have you ever been talking about someone in the exact moment that they turn the corner?  Probably the problem is that our society tends to want to minimize these awkward moments by avoiding them but really we need a greater level of honesty and disclosure in our relationships.

My wife and I needed to run into the ex-girlfriend and maybe it was good for her too.  I have had to write those awkward e-mails.  I have had to confront some people about things, because it is healthy.  What makes something awkward is that it is exposed from the darkness of which it lives.

So think about whom you might need to have an awkward discussion with today.  How do you take your own self-rightness and inner-Pharisee out of it?  What needs to be brought into the light of honest conversation that if it remained hidden will only grow in scale and stature?  May you honor someone in the awkwardness today.

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