Monday, December 28, 2009

"State of Christianity" Urbana 09 Video

State of Christianity from Urbana 09 on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More of God

The goal of the Christian life is not the absence or management of sin, but a deeper intimacy and relationship with God. We don't experience more of God by sinning less, we experience less of sin by giving ourselves more to God. -Pastor Wayne

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Monday, August 17, 2009


Jim Collins' latest book How The Mighty Fall is built around the conviction:

"We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes, or even staggering defeats along the way. We are freed by our choices." (pg. 120)

I am interested in a conversation around this. What decisions imprison? What decisions set free?

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

All That Jazz

Life is meant to be jazz.

Jazz is more than music. In his thoughtful book Finding the Groove (see Books Worth Checking below), Robert Gelinas says jazz is a way of living life. It is an invitation to freedom through syncopation, improvisation and response. I couldn’t agree more.

Take a piece of Classical (or other genre of) music. Simply put, the musician’s goal is to make music by doing their best to play what’s on the page. Every note has been carefully selected and arranged (predetermined) by the composer. It is the code. The pursuit is the same whether performed alone or before a packed concert hall. It can be beautiful. We know a musician is good by how well they play the music. This is especially important when performing with others. Symphonies get ugly when one person veers from the notes, key, timing or melody on the page. I proved this many times playing trombone in school bands as a kid.

Jazz is different. It calls for new assumptions and an alternate worldview. With jazz, the written music provides shape to the song. It is a boundary that gives definition but allows freedom and endless options to create within. The melody is there, but the musician has the freedom to improvise with the timing, syncopation and notes. They have the freedom to respond to the prompting of their own imagination, other musicians and the audience. It is a shared dynamic experience of relationships and community. In the end, you know what song you just heard, but will never hear it exactly the same again. It’s the difference between the predetermined outcome of painting a picture by the numbers and the endless options of coloring in and around the lines. In jazz, a good musician isn’t only the one who plays the music, but the one who allows the music to play them.

All of this is fine for music, but what about life? Jazz is far more than music. Robert Gelinas says “Jazz is a way of thinking and way of viewing the world. It is about freedom within community. It is a culture, a set of values and norms by which we can experience life … Jazz knowing is a knowledge born out of experience” (Finding the Groove, 202). Jazz is all about freedom because it was birthed out of slavery and rooted in the Gospel.

Jesus jazzed the world by calling lives to dynamic freedom. Anyone who thinks Jesus was about religious score-keeping is in the wrong concert hall (see Romans 8:2). It would be like mistaking Beethoven for Louis Armstrong or Bach for Miles Davis. Jesus came for freedom (Luke 4:18). His greatest resistance came from the static note-keeping religious types of His day. Jesus perfected the code so we are no longer constrained by it. Instead he kept syncopating (paying attention to the off-beats) and inviting others to do the same. He kept improvising in response to those around Him and invited others to give it a shot. People finally heard the song and saw the life they always dreamed of. Their toes tapped; their bodies moved.

Rather than striving for pre-determined outcomes and conformity, what if life was more about the freedom of syncopation, improvisation and response? What if that jazz-enthusiast pirate Captain Barbossa was on to something when he said “the code is more what you'd call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules” (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl). The invitation of jazz isn't about static rule-keeping; it is about authentic life-living.

The code is important. Without a score, all we have is aimless chaotic noise (a growing genre attempted in our day). The code engages a melody and beat that inspire imagination. It is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). The Composer gives life to the music and lives His life among it (John 1:1, 4, 14). It moves us with purpose and meaning. We recognize lives lived in this kind of freedom, but will never see it lived exactly the same in each person. Somewhere down deep we know we were made for this.

Jesus said “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36). Legendary jazz trumpeter and singer Louie Armstrong once said “Jazz is played from the heart. You can even live by it” (quoted in Finding the Groove, 201).

What if the triune God was the original jazz trio? What if living in this kind of freedom is part of what it means to be made in the image of God? The Master Composer invites us to jam with Him in syncopating improvising freedom within His code of life. It is a shared, dynamic, soulful experience of relationships and community following His redemptive lead. It is Jesus jazz.

Life is meant to be all that jazz.
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Monday, June 1, 2009

Connecting with Young Adults

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Did You Know? (The World We Are Called To)

Click 4(above) to see video

more about "Did You Know? (The World We Are Call...", posted with vodpod.What do you think? Please click "Comments" 6 to leave yours.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Positively Columbine

Words define and so do moments. Columbine is an example of both.

Robi and I just came from the tenth anniversary community-wide remembrance event. It was itself a powerful moment filled with powerful words. Words have enormous power to create.

It made me think about how the meaning of a very familiar word can change. “Apple,” for example, brings to mind images of computers these days as much as it does fruit. “Tight” now means cool, and cool used to mean chilly. Sometimes a word’s new meaning can be the opposite of what it used to be, like the words “bad” and “sick.” There are plenty of others.

Ten years ago, the word columbine conjured images of flowers that decorate the Rocky Mountains and this region. It is the State flower of Colorado. They are beautiful and colorful. They are hearty enough to make it through hard cold winters to bloom again with all their vibrancy each Spring.

Ten years ago the meaning of columbine changed with a moment. For most of us, the beautiful noun became a shocking adjective and verb, used in ways no one could have imagined. It became synonymous with the worst of school violence and the tragedy of evil. In a day, the new meaning of columbine took hold across the country and around the world. “Columbine-like” no longer meant flowers. It was part of the tragedy.

Ten years ago we lived in Ohio. Like most in our country, I watched in disbelief and from a distance as media carried stories from Columbine High School nestled in the Columbine community within the city of Littleton. In the days that followed, the meaning of columbine was redefined. It was easy, from a distance, to accept the new meaning.

Two and a half years ago we moved to Littleton, around the corner from Columbine High School and the community it’s nestled in. What I have discovered is a High School and community not defined by the tragedy ten years ago, but the triumphs they have experienced since. It is a rare tight-knit active community with a shared resolve unlike any community I have seen. Like the flower, it is a beautiful and colorful community. Together, they have discovered they are hearty enough to make it through a hard cold winter and bloom all the more with familiar vibrancy. I don’t mean this in some trite esoteric way. It is true in the daily reality of how they choose to live and relate.

For me, Columbine used to stand for school violence and evil. That was when I lived at a distance. That was when I allowed its meaning to be changed by people (media) who didn’t live there and didn’t know better. No longer. It’s just not true. On the contrary. The truth is this community represents vibrancy, kindness, blessing and resolve. For me, “Columbine-like” does not mean evil, but good. It is not devastation; it is restoration. It is not despair; it is hope. It is not victims, but victors. It is not powerless, but a community of determined resolve. It is not defined by one act of senseless violence, but countless acts of intentional kindness. It is not death, but resurrection.

I challenge all who read this to no longer define Columbine by a tragic event, nor to describe a tragic event by the name of Columbine. It’s just not true.

It’s time to change the meaning of a familiar word to reflect its true essence. What if Columbine, like the flower and the community, meant beauty, kindness, regeneration and resolve? What if we call it “columbine” when neighbors gather around a family to see them through a difficult time? (I have seen that happen in Columbine neighborhoods.) What if a marriage is renewed or “columbined” through the encouragement of family and friends? What if it is called “so columbine” when volunteer teams gather in New Orleans to rebuild homes of people they have never met after Hurricane Katrina? What if a painting is described as “columbine” when a variety of colors or materials are brought together to create something beautiful? The possibilities are endless, but the essence is the same. It is positively Columbine.

Words have enormous power to create. Words define and so do moments. Columbine is an example of both.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Begin with the End in Mind

If you were to fast forward to this time next year, what would you hope is different? What do you hope to have more of?

In our current economy, the first answer that may rise to the surface is more money or financial security. I relate to that. It is more difficult to make ends meet, and things certainly feel more uncertain.

However, when I reflect past the immediacy of the urgent to the depths of what is important, my prayer for this time next year is more faith. I don’t say that as a pastor or a “religious” type. I say it as a man. I say it as a husband and father, as a neighbor and citizen, as a regular guy. My prayer is for more faith. It is a dangerous thing to pray for.

It is too easy in our culture to replace faith with religion. Faith in God (or anything) is meant to inspire. It is living with such a deep inner-trust in the object of our faith that we are willing to risk, step out into the unknown and bank our lives upon it. Faith inspires and opens us up to new possibilities. I have found that nothing inspires like faith in the living God.

Ironically, religion (spiritual, corporate, or cultural) too often imposes the opposite mandate. Religion, in its variety of forms, most often reinforces the status quo and encourages people to fit in. Faith calls out values of vital trust and risk; religion often requires unimaginative conformity.
Religion at its worst reinforces the status quo, often at the expense of faith. They had a religion at Woolworth’s department store, and sticking, without variation, to the principles that made the store great prevented them from turning into a new, better kind of experience. The store is long gone, of course.
Tribes, Seth Godin, pg. 81.
I long for a growing “go-for-broke” faith. Isn’t that what Jesus kept pushing for in his interactions with people? He kept asking why people were settling for stagnant religious rule-keeping when they could experience the adventure of faith. Religious rule-keeping is all about control and conformity that doesn’t allow anything to surprise us. It prevented and prevents people from seeing Jesus when he shows up and stands right in front of us. More than anything else, religious types in Jesus’ day challenged him on his living outside the box of religious rule-keeping and conformity. Instead, he kept opting for the redemptive, healing, miraculous work of the Living God taking place all around Him. I want to do the same.

Godin’s book isn’t about spirituality or religion or faith – nor is it from a Christian point of view. Interestingly, it is a book on leadership. However, he adds, “if religion comprises rules you follow, faith is demonstrated by the actions you take” (pg. 83). His challenge is for more leaders to function outside the conformity of (corporate, spiritual or cultural) religious systems and to lead with vital faith from outside the box.

At the end of the day, or at the end of this next year, I want to look back and say “I trusted God more.” I want to say of the leaders of our church and the congregation as a whole, “we trusted God more.” We know we did, we will say, because of the actions we took. We know we did, we will say, because of the ways we experienced the activity of God in and all around us in ways we never would have imagined. I recognize it won't happen by accident. It begins by living with the end in mind.

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