God, Words and Bill Cosby

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God has given you something to say.  We all enter this world naked and messy.  We all have a starting point.  We are all hardwired for something.  We all speak words, words have gravity and YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!!!

The other day I told my little Reagan that she looked BEAUTIFUL.  It was true.  I cannot believe how pretty this girl is and I am in awe of it, as any parent should be.  She threw her head back like Snoopy the dog and she believed that she was walking down some runway at a New York fashion show.  These words set her day in motion and they carried weight because of my relationship with her.  I am her father.  It is important to her what I SAY.

Now lets shift gears.  Each one of us has a past (you don’t have to look hard to find my skeletons) and that past is a launching board towards your future.  I have met people over the years that have had some very interesting, colorful and wild pasts.  I see many of them try like hell to distance themselves from who they USED to be.  You can no more distance yourself from your past than you can change the shape of your feet (there are some ugly feet out there, starting with mine!).  You cannot get any cosmetic surgery on your feet, that I am currently aware of, to make them look prettier.  That is why God made shoes, right?

Now lets shift up another gear.  When I was a kid I wanted Bill Cosby to be my dad.  I loved his humor (“dad is great, give me some chocolate cake!”), I loved his discipline style (he didn’t make his kids feel like crap when they screwed up) and I loved those killer sweaters.  He was one of my heroes.  But, I always looked at the experiences with my father, in which he did make me feel like crap when I screwed up, he was not funny at all and his ties seemed boring, and I felt as though I had been dealt a bad hand.  I wanted to be a dad like Bill Cosby and not the dad that I had!

What I was to young to understand then is that as much as I want to be DIFFERENT from my parents, I still have some of them in me.  You see this especially come out when you start telling your kids the same zingers that your parents told you.  Hopefully we grow a little and we have improved the parenting style a bit but we ultimately do some of the same things that we swore we would never do.  Its actually a little deflating, isn’t it?

However, with our pasts (because we all have them) we must learn from them, and embrace them but most importantly we cannot let them DEFINE us.  Our past is like your hair.  You get what you get (and some don’t get much at all) and you work with what God gave you.  I hear my children say this all the time, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”.  Throwing a fit about your past is like throwing a fit about the curly hair. I know that you wished it was straight but it aint!  You do the best you can and if you live in humid Tulsa, OK, you will have curls pop out from time to time.  There is nothing you can do but accept it.  If you are balding then you really know what I am talking about here!  You are not in control!!!

We all need to accept our pasts and understand that God wants to use it, the good- the bad and the ugly, to SPEAK words to those around us today.  I had coffee with some buddies of mine today and it was really cool to hear them speak words of affirmation over each other.  All three of us have had sketchy pasts with our fathers and two of us (me being one of them) had lived a large portion of their lives like they were the lead singer of Motley Crue.  But what I saw this morning were three men, not running from their past but using it to build each other up.

The bible says, “that iron sharpens iron” and that we are supposed to sharpen each other.  Build each other up.  Encourage one another.  This is what took place this morning.  Three guys building each other up to be better businessmen, fathers and husbands.

Now, we come full circle to where I started in the beginning.  YOU have something to say!  I know that many of us out of insecurity and fear don’t SAY what we are supposed to say.  We wonder whether people will accept us, judge us or believe us.  YOU have to fight through this and say it anyway, come hell or high water!  You don’t want to be on your deathbed one day in the future and you knew you had more to say.  You want to have said EVERYTHING.  The cursing, the loving, nothing was left unsaid.

So words have gravity…what kind of pull are you having on those around you?  Are you a black hole that sucks everything in its vortex, where even light cannot escape or are pulling people into your “orbit” with life building words?

Try this for the next week.  Every time you want to complain about your past, your present or your bleak looking future, take that energy and SPEAK LIFE into someone else.

I MEAN EVERY FREAKING TIME!!!!

Use your collective experiences and love others with them.  Intentionally build up those around you with your God given breath.  God SPOKE the world into existence.  We are made in HIS image.  Start speaking and creating worlds with your words.  I would love to hear your feedback and you might be surprised how your crap starts to look pretty small.

Until next time,

Crappy Pastor

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What do you do when life kicks you in the baby maker?!?!?!

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Much of how we experience life is all about perspective.  This week my seven-year-old son, Noah, was telling me about his day at school.  As you can imagine, the conversation becomes very one sided.  

Me, “Noah, how was your day?

Noah, “Fine”.

Me, “Did you learn anything new today”?

Noah, “No”.

Me, “Did you have fun today”?

Noah, “Not really, but I did play goalie at recess today and I got kicked in the nuts with the soccer ball.”  “I also scored two goals but I will NEVER play goalie again”!

Me, “Why not”?

Noah, “Because it hurt”. 

Now if you are a parent, then you have probably had conversations like this or similar to it.  Our conversations seem brief and to the point but I also reminded him that even though I don’t mind him saying that he got hit in the “nuts” he probably should refrain from saying such colorful words when chatting with mom, his teacher or anyone that wears a tie. 

Our perspective matters and what we believe matters.  Our belief structure or how we look at life is part of the system that guides our existence.  The Bible calls this faith.  You can have an overall pretty good day except for the one moment that the soccer ball hit you in the baby maker!  What do you remember?  What do you focus on? 

In the book of Psalms there is a passage that grabbed my attention today.  Psalms 37:8-9 says this, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath, do not fret- it leads to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”

Now let’s break this down a bit.  Anger is a strong feeling of displeasure, an emotional state induced by displeasure.  Wrath is a strong vengeful anger- punishment for an offense or a crime and fret is defined as a worn or eroded spot, an agitation of the mind.  This, my friends, is our starting point. 

There is a natural progression of how we react to instances in our lives.  How do we respond to getting kicked in the nuts?  How do we let it go?  Do we let it go or do we retaliate?  What happens to us in the all of this mess and where is God in it? 

Well, anger is a natural emotion that is caused by certain stimuli (getting kicked in the nuts) and if not dealt with properly it will show up in the form of wrath (two kids beating the crap out of each other on the football field, I can attest to this from experience).  The bible says that we should refrain from anger (this emotional state), in other words, we are in CONTROL (one of my sayings you always hear me preach to my kids are that you are in control of you). 

I think that we all know what it feels like to be angry, some of us on a daily basis.  Wrath (or vengeance) is the face beating someone gets when you are twelve years old and you are scrapping it out.

Now as adults, this looks very different 99% of the time.  We get angry and our wrath turns into passive-aggressive interactions or stonewalling.  We often do this with the people that we love the most and we really give it to those we don’t know or like very well.  

I am pretty sure that we all understand what anger and wrath are but have you ever sat around, cleaning your naval or clipping your toenails, and thought about fretting?  That is what I thought about this morning, minus the nail clipping or naval cleaning. 

Fretting is a process and if we are not careful it can do great damage to our humanity (the God given portion that we need to protect).  If you have ever been to the Grand Cannon you will see what fretting looks like first hand.  The Colorado River has moved through this cannon for centuries and it has “fretted” or eroded the landscape as it twists and turns.  Over the coarse of time, the landscape changes as the water erodes away the cannon causing a riverbed.  Get the picture? 

Ok, now with picture fixed firmly in your mind, why does the bible say not to fret?  I think that we erode our confidence in God and ourselves as we let “fretting” take over.  Some may even call it worry.  I come from a long family heritage of worrying and it has eroded our families confidence that God CAN, or WILL do anything on our behalf.  Fretting is this anxious state (not to be confused with Delaware) that creates doubt and distance between God and us. 

The fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, and the Hebrews had a term for this, Shalom.  This is the chord that connects us to our Creator.  Without this chord we are cut off.  Look at the middle part of the verse above, “…for evil men will be cut off…” Cut off from what?  Cut off from whom?  I believe that we cut ourselves off from what God has to offer us, LOVE, JOY, PEACE, etc. when we fret or erode our connection to Him through anger, wrath and fretting. 

I find it interesting that fretting is lumped in with anger and wrath, don’t you?  We can always see the pissed off person coming from a mile away, and we avoid them but open your eyes up wider and look for those that are always fretting about something or someone.  Is that you?  Fretting is dangerous.  Fretting can steal your happiness- you’re SHALOM. 

So, class is almost over and I have to ask, what are you fretting over?  Chances are, it is something that is beyond your control.  You are “renting” that space in your heart and in your mind to a tenant that the bible says will destroy you.  Evict the tenant of fretting out today and you will probably have to evict it out tomorrow and even the day after that but like I tell my children, “YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOU”!!!  Over time you will strengthen your bond with your Creator! 

Till next time, 

Crappy Pastor

 

 

Fear, Love and Truth. Test yourself and see what you think!!

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I recently wrote a post about how hard honesty is for the religious.  What I want to chat about today is the troublesome “truth”.  The antonym of truth is “lie” and many of us are pros at it.  The truth about lies are that they are there to mask insecurity, fear or judgment.  The basic root reason for this is that we are all motivated by two essential elements, fear or love.

Let’s take our premise here and run down the rabbit trail a bit.  The bible says, “Perfect love casts out all fear”.  Another way to say this is, when true love is present, fear has no place.  I have often heard this phrase from many others. “Bars are a much safer place than the church.”

Why does REAL community happens easier for many at their local bar than at the local church?

I firmly believe that the church pedals fear and shame like the devil pedals lies (the prick is actually called the father of lies).  Jesus was quoted as saying that the leaders of the church in his time were sons of the devil himself!  This is pretty strong language.  He was saying things like you would walk across a desert and sail the seas just to make one convert and in the end you make him/her twice the sons of hell as the church leaders themselves.

In the book Revelations, written by crusty old John himself, Jesus is standing at the end of time and those “preachers” were standing there defending themselves saying things like, (and I paraphrase) “but Jesus, we prophesied in your name and we did all of these healings, heck we even gave our life for the ‘ministry’ and you say you don’t even know me?”

How could this be? What is being said here?

I believe that at the heart of God is relationship.  Not the fake kind but real relationship.  The kind of relationship that yells back at God and says this is complete B.S.!  The kind of relationship that you see from a child that has been hurt, hurt badly, and she needs to crawl up in her fathers lap for a good cry.  God wants TRUTH and not what you think He wants to hear.  The religious system sucks at promoting this. Thus the bar is a much safer place to be truthful and enable you to feel true acceptance.

This sends us back to my original thesis that two things; love or fear moves humanity.  I also said that the church pedals fear, judgment and shame like the devil pedals lies.  Here goes my second premise; the Puritan movement has screwed up western Christianity more than any secular group could ever do.  Before you get pissed and you check out on me, think about this thought (for many of you this may be a new thought and for others you may find yourself thinking, “whew, somebody finally said it out loud!”), when holiness is your prime pursuit with God then you are bound to shipwreck your faith. 

Holiness is something that had to be given to us, thus Jesus dying on a Roman torture device.  If holiness is something that is given then we cannot “make it happen” by our own strong will.  The religious system tells us that we should pursue holiness above all else because this is how others will know that we are “serious” about our faith.  Now I know what you are thinking, Jesus said, “Go and sin no more”.  I believe that we are supposed to “try” to be more holy but we should call it what it is and not lie to yourself by thinking that the holiness thing rests on OUR shoulders alone. The bible said something very different; it said that the greatest of all the attributes that you can attain is LOVE…not holiness.  Now, if holiness is something that Jesus had to bring us then it is something that we could not fabricate out of thin air.  If we could produce holiness then we would not need Jesus?

Right?

The bible also says, “that pride comes before the fall”.  Because the pursuit of most Christian religious systems is holiness.

Don’t drink! Even though Jesus did.

Don’t use profanity! Even though the Apostle Paul did.

Don’t be a glutton! Even though many preachers are, just look at their waist line.

The Christian religious machine produces judgment, fear and shame.  When those that are on the “outside” of our religious system look “in” they see the TRUTH and it isn’t pretty.

So, if Jesus is our ultimate example of how we are supposed to act and live our lives you have to scratch your head and see the incongruencies.  Hopefully you are sad and mildly outraged at the least.  We offer relatively no hope to a world that desperately needs some hope!

Hopefully you are asking yourself some pretty tough question right about now.  If not then allow me to help you out.

How are you representing Jesus?  Do people see perfect love (the kind Jesus has) or do they experience shame or judgment?  Do those disenfranchised from the religious system (homosexuals, addicts, or those that simply hold different values than yourself) see acceptance and love or do they get the company line of “turn or burn baby”?

What the current religious system often conveys is either think like us or pick up your toys and go somewhere else until you get it right.  We become what we behold.  To say this another way is that bad company corrupts good character and the last time I read my bible Jesus hung with some pretty shady dudes and avoided the religious as much as possible.

Just some thoughts and I want it to be known that I love all our weird brothers and sisters trying to work out their faith but we need to keep these questions at the forefront of our minds and hearts if want you want to be a vessel of God.

Till next time,

Crappy Pastor

God, Hard Work and Rascal Flats

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How many of you love music?

How many of you love to go and see live music?

I love live music of all kinds!  For me, I can cross all boundaries in my love for the beat, meter and cadence of MUSIC!!

Saturday night my wife and I attended the Rascal Flats concert. The band to open for Rascal Flats was The Band Perry.  It was a sold out show at the BOK Center and my wife and I were ready to have some good old redneck fun, when on my second over priced beer (you would think we were drinking gold!) I could feel the pull of God on my heart.

Now God was the last thing on my mind. My wife looked hot in this pretty dress and the beer was yummy, but last thing I was looking for was a conversation with God.  Honestly, isn’t that how He works!  “Hey, let’s chat while you are enjoying your evening!”

So, Brittain, God and myself watched the Band Perry kick butt!!  I am pretty sure that God was as proud of their performance as I was.  These kids are out living their dreams and after all is that not the very BEST compliment you can give God?  To live your life like it matters.

Anyways…

They went off stage and we went and grabbed another beer as we all waited for Rascal Flats.  Now, lets move this story along.  Rascal Flats came out and it was pretty typical.  Major glitz and glam, a moving stage, and a 60 ft screen behind them with lots of smoke.  I was like most others in the room, simply enjoying the show when God tapped me on my heart and asked me, “What is most important here?”

I was not in the frame of mind for God conversations and quiet frankly, it has felt like He has avoided me over the past two weeks.  But NOW, in the middle of the concert, he wants to chat with me?

Seriously?

So, I placed myself in that posture of listening, looking and learning. I started to ask myself the questions. What is God trying to point out? What is He saying? And that still small voice, that can only be God, started pointing out something that we all need to remember.

Through all of the glitz and glam I could sense that God wanted to remind me of some very important truths.  I felt like he was asking me, “When you remove all of the glitz, glam and effects, what is the true essence of the Rascal Flats?”

The LIGHTS CAME ON IN MY HEART!

The Rascal Flats are where they are now because they are simply great songwriters.  They cared more about writing great songs than they did about anything else.  All of the stuff you saw there that night came after they honed their craft. They had to work years behind closed doors learning to play and write great music.  While everyone else was out having fun they were becoming great musicians.

Here is the kicker, The Band Perry are great songwriters too.  But they are still paying the price to be great.  They get up every night and sweat it out on stage, converting one fan at a time as they play in arenas all over the country.  Not only are they grinding it out night after night, they are working MUCH harder than the Rascal Flats are at this point in their careers.

When The Band Perry had finished, they ultimately had to work much harder with much less stage, sound and special effects because those things were reserved for the Rascal Flats. Rascal Flats HAS already proved themselves.  Rascal has grinded it out night after night and are now enjoying the benefits of their hard work.

When Perry was finished they were drenched in sweat and exhaustion.  When Rascal finished they still looked fresh and ready to go.  You see, they did not have to work as hard because they had all of the extra stuff surrounding their music to draw you in.

Now you may be asking what is the point?  Why are you blogging about God chatting with you at a country music concert?

I think that this is the point for ALL of us.  

You will not get instant success just because you are one of God’s children.  Don’t be lazy.  God has rigged this world where “the rain and sun fall on both the just and the unjust”.  God is not going to GIVE you what you want just because you are a Jesus follower. Get out and work hard and leave the rest up to Him.

I know that this may be a shocker for some but God is perfectly okay with you doing nothing with your life.  You can be the next big thing or you could be one of the millions of people that go through this world and make relatively no impression on it at all.

So, which are you?

What God is more interested in, is your heart.  How you love?  How you laugh?  How you help others?  How you love others?

If you want to be the next big thing, then you better get to work.  You will need to grind it out like the rest of us. But if you want to be successful, the way God measures success, then find ways to love those that are in your life right now, while you become the best you can be.  To put it another way, LOVE others in the moments of TODAY, while you are grinding it out for tomorrow.

I can’t wait to see what God says at the Nine Inch Nails concert!!!

Till next time,

Crappy Pastor

The Disease of Discontent Part 2

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Part of learning to be content is being able to understand that it is NOT God’s responsibility to make you happy.  I have heard preachers tell people that God is some kind of wish granting fairy that He is supposed to give us what we ask for.  Let me ask you parents a question.  

If your kids ask you for something do you give it to them?  “I want a drink!”- DONE!  “I want something to eat”- I’M ON IT!  “Daddy, I am bored”- You are on your own!!  If you are a parent you will understand what I am eluding to here. 

As a parent I have given you everything that you need to find happiness.  Let’s make a list; trampoline, slip-n-slide, child size Ford F-150, bikes, all kinds of balls and outdoor activities, scooters, every kind of video game you could ask for. The problem is not boredom, the problem is much more insidious.  Actually, the problem is multi-pronged but for simplicity I will focus on one of the primary problems…Happiness.

Now let’s take inventory of us as adults; homes with central heat and air, cable, fenced in yards, luxury cars (all of today’s cars are luxury cars compared to what our parents had), vacations, movies, social media, gyms, expendable income, education (if you not to lazy to get it), food at anytime of day or night, health care, and the list goes on and on!  What we belly ach about is actually pretty ridiculous, because usually it is brought on by the comparison trap (this idea is its own subject to blog about later). 

We are not any different than our spoiled children.  So how do we get out of this crappy place called discontent?  When researchers looked at people that have the highest degree of happiness, they notice some things that they ALL do and we can learn a few things here.

Happy people are generally risk takers.  Another way to put this is that happy people are generally more curious.  Curiosity is about exploration and often at the price of happiness.  Happy people recognize that the notion of taking risk is often uncomfortable and somewhat vulnerable, but it is the most direct path to becoming stronger and wiser.  Here is an example, the next time you go out to eat with your spouse or some friends try something completely new, like Indian food, instead of the safe cheeseburger or pizza.  You might not like it or who knows, you may love it.  Either way, you will be taking a risk that will ultimately bring happiness because you are not just eating but creating a memory. 

Next, happy people tend to be less critical or caught up in the minutiae.  Research shows that depressed people tend reflect more and process their experiences more than happy people.  Think of it this way, the more critical you are of yourself and others, the more caught up you are in things that ultimately don’t matter all that much.  Enjoy the moment.  Enjoy others.  Enjoy God instead of trying to please Him all the time.  Happy people ultimately know how to enjoy the moments without critiquing them or others (I am the worst at this!). 

Here is a no brainer…happy people know how to share their “highs and lows” with others.  Life is hard but it is better shared with others.  I don’t think any further explanation is necessary.  The unhappiest people are the most isolated and freaking social media does NOT count!  It isn’t real. 

Here is one I didn’t see coming.  Happy people don’t hide from negative emotions.  They tend to be more psychologically flexible and they take their emotions head on.  If you tend to bury your emotions or try and avoid pain you are setting yourself up a life of unhappiness and frustration.

Finally, happy people know how to balance purpose with momentary indulgences.  It is the whole balancing act between sacrificing short-term happiness with your goals and purpose.  I also suck at this.  I get so caught up in trying to attain my goals that I often miss the pleasure that TODAY can bring.  Small indulgences and implementing them into your life is HUGE.  Being honest and not lying to yourself is important here because you need to be honest and say, “I need to have a drink with best friend instead of putting in those extra hours at work or home”.

So, are you happy, truly happy?  Stop looking to God and others to make you happy and enjoy your life.  Here is an example that goes back to the beginning thoughts with my kids and myself.  I see God as being our “father” and that he has given us all we need for happiness and fulfillment. 

I don’t need to get my kids more CRAP they just need to shut up and go outside and play. 

I have purchased all of the toys, and stuff to aid them in having fun and for Pete’s sake don’t ask me, which toys you, should play with!  Just go outside and play!!  I do not care what you do as long as you are safe and enjoying the life that you have.  I am pretty sure God is telling us the same thing.

Till next time,

Crappy Pastor

The Disease of Discontent Part 1

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The Disease of Discontent Part 1

This morning I was watching the Disney Channel with my three kids.  Since this is roughly around my intelligence and maturity level, I was quiet content.  However, I was horrified by the way that they advertise to our children.  We are conditioned from a very early age that we are NOT to be content.

Now, we all need to be on the same page because I find that words mean different things to different people and so we need to dig some footing here.

Contented means, “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting anything else”.  As I write this I have to ask myself when was the last time I was truly content.  After taking quick inventory I am sad to say that I feel that I should move to a nicer house, lose 30 lbs., get my teeth whitened, not be a preacher (change vocations), be more charming so people will like me, make more money, upgrade my automobile, and go on vacation…whew!!

I am not satisfied with who I am or what I have.  These thoughts sting.  They prick my heart.  Mostly, I am a very blessed man but REALLY!  “Let’s keep up with what everyone else thinks I should have and who I should be.”  I find myself sitting at the dinner table, writing these words and I am embarrassed.

How did I get here?  Who taught me to buy into this craziness?  And, the ultimate question is, how the heck do I get out of state of discontent?  Does anyone else feel like me?  My gut tells me yes, yes to the fact that we live in a society that tells us to be discontent and spiritual leadership that teaches us that we will be “good enough” when we do __________.  Our whole culture is set up for competition and at its very core is well, discontent.

I am really going to throw a curve ball at you and quote Oprah Winfrey, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”.  Hmm.  Sounds like good advice and I cannot think of a modern day icon that has come from less and achieved more than little miss Oprah.

I was reading a blog last week and this is what someone wrote, “There is no end to what the heart can desire, and because we can never have all that we want, we will always be UNHAPPY if we can’t be satisfied with what we have.  The way to happiness is to learn how to RESTRAIN our human desires, especially the desire to have more.  Disappointment comes when we can’t obtain what we desire or expect”. 

So, there you have it.  This is my dirty laundry out in the open for everyone to see.  I am disappointed.  Are you?

Now for my action plan (everyone has to have a plan, right?).  I will be incorporating the following to see what happens to my state of discontent.  You can try it along with me and I would love to hear your feedback.

1)   Say out loud, EVERYDAY, what is good in your life.

2)   Make a conscience decision to take pleasure in what I have.

3)   Remember that what you want will NOT bring you any more contentment than what you already have.

I know what your thinking…this isn’t funny, sexy but it is liberating and empowering.  Try it out for a week and see what happens.

Till next time,

Crappie Pastor