Sunday, September 26, 2010

140 Character Overload

With Netflix DVDs, cheap and addictive iPhone apps, a library of audiobooks, texting and social networking always at my fingertips, I'm finding it harder and harder to slow down. I've been at the point for a few months now where I feel like I always have to be doing something.

Catching up on the TV show everyone is talking about.

Reading that classic book I've always wanted to read.

I even found Mega Man II for the iPhone (only $0.99). My inner child went crazy as I beat Dr. Wiley.

But I'm to the point of information overload.

Even written media is all too accessible. With book printing cheaper and self publishing possible, most people can (and will) write their own book. Some established authors have decided to give away their eBooks and audiobooks. They don't want the money. They want to spread their ideas.

All of this is great. Except that excess runs counter to the spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual disciplines: environments we create for God to speak to us.
(Prayer, fasting, silence, study, solitude, worship, simplicity, giving)

We practice these, not legalistically, but to slow ourselves down, orient ourselves unto God, and to be quiet long enough to hear Him speak.

In the South, when we talk about Church Tradition, we think the typical. Hard pews. Choir robes. Hymnals. Pot lucks. But these traditions are a mere hundred years old. Last week, I brought up the fact that Catholic church traditions run thousands of years old. The sacrament. Confession. Creeds.

These traditions have always been with the Church.

The same is true with the spiritual disciplines. The old saints spent their lives pursuing God through disciplines. Practicing and honing it like a craft or a skill. Caring deeply for the disciplines as if taking care of a child.

And to think, I get caught up in Twitter instead.

So this is me, slowing down.

This is me saying that I need God more than whatever shiny distractions present themselves.

So next week? Prayer.

Have you had similar or different experiences with media and distractions? 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why I Enjoy Attending Catholic Mass

I know that sounds weird, but I do.

There is an element of reverence during Mass.

As many protestant denomination services that I have attended, there is something sacred and ancient that happens in Mass.

I spend a lot of my thoughts on where the Church is going and why have we shifted in thought. But in Mass, they are practicing traditions that date back over a thousand years.

There is remembrance.

There is reverence.

To me, the most important sacrament is Communion. With Churches getting bigger and doing things faster, someone invented the pre-filled disposable cup with communion wafer on top.

I'm not 'against' this novelty, but it does frustrate me. It seems so processed. Hurried. Individualized.

To me, there is something sacred in slowing down. Remembering. Community in Communion. Stepping to the front. Drinking slowly. Tasting the wine. Listening to the bread break. Broken. Spilled.

As a Protestant, I know not to take part of Catholic Communion. But I always appreciate observing. Every week, the priest eloquently explains the meaning of the broken bread and the poured wine.

When I read the New Testament and read the accounts of the disciples, I all too often read them as inadequate, undertrained, and foolhardy. But when I listen to the Priest talk about them, especially reffering to them as Saints, I remember that God chose them to be the forerunners of the Church! To be the first to carry the gospel to the world. They are saints!

As someone who spends most of their thoughts on where the Church is going, I hardly take time to remember where the Church has been. Keep in mind that denominations are less than 500 years old. But the Catholic Church is close to 2000 years old. So are the traditions. So are the candles. So are the rituals. The prayers. The Creeds.

To be clear, I've never felt awkward or unwanted during mass. I'm sure I stick out. I'm sure it's obvious to regular attenders that I don't actually belong. But I see smiles, not stares.

One Sunday that I attended, the priest taught on birth control. To anyone who doesn't know, birth control is a major dividing issue between Catholics and Protestants. Obviously, I have my stance. I think birth control is OK. But it was a really neat sight to watch him passionately defend the Catholic position. He stated that procreation should not be divorced from intercourse (in matrimony). His controversial stance was not compromised. Not watered down. It was raw. True to the Catholic Church.

Whether or not you decide to go to Mass, remember to slow down. It's easy to get caught up in iPhones, playlists and Netflix que. Take time to remember reverence. Appreciate tradition and history.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When a Church Gets It Right

Truth be told, sometimes churches get it right. Sometimes they get it wrong. When they get it right, it's an environment of genuine healing. When they get it wrong, it can be equally harmful.

In the opening of one of his books, Tony Compolo tells of a trip to Hawaii. When you travel from the east coast to Honolulu, your biological clock runs wild for a day or so, and the first night there, Tony was both hungry and awake at 3:00 a.m. He went off to find an open restaurant, but the only thing open was a greasy spoon diner run by a guy named Harry. So he sat down and ordered a donut.

As he was beginning to eat, a group of prostitutes entered the diner and sat at the counter, trapping Tony among them. One of the prostitutes mentioned to her friend that the next day was her birthday. Her friend said cynically, “Why are you telling me? Do you want a party and cake; is that what you want?” The first prostitute, named Agnes, said, “Why do you have to be so nasty? I was just telling you. No, I don't expect a cake and a party; I've never have had a birthday cake in my life!”

There was something about this woman that touched Tony. After they left, he asked Harry if these girls came in every night. When he found out that they did, Tony and Harry decided to give Agnes a party. Harry did the cake, Tony did the decorations and Harry's wife got the word out.

The next morning at 3:15 there were crepe-paper decorations, a huge birthday cake and about thirty prostitutes and street people in the diner. When Agnes walked in, everybody yelled “Surprise” and they sang happy birthday. Agnes almost collapsed, and she began to cry uncontrollably. She was at her very first birthday party, and the party was for her! She didn't even want to cut the cake; she took it back to her apartment so she could look at it for a couple of days.

After Agnes left to take her cake home, something just prompted Tony to say, “What do you say; let's have a prayer for Agnes.” It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. After the prayer, Harry said, “Hey, you didn't tell us you were a preacher. Why kind of church do you belong to anyway?” In one of those flashes of inspiration where you to say exactly the right thing at the right time, Tony answered, “I belong to a church that throws parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning!”

But it was Harry who told the punch line to this story; he said, “No you don't. There are no churches like that. If there was, I'd join. I’d want to be a part of a church like that!”

I think it's easy to focus on what the church gets wrong. To tell awkward stories. Carry around baggage and hurts. Bring up the book burnings.

But there are also moments of healing. Moments of giving. Moments of hope.

What are your moments? Do you have a story?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

52 Weeks and Running

At the beginning of last year, I took a job that had a thousand possibilities for me. One of which was a platform for a blog.

I've always been an early adopter of social networks. Before Facebook, a lot of you had a Myspace. You know what I had before Myspace? I had a account. Before FTJ? I'll admit it, I had a account.

Like I said, I have always been an early adopter for social networking.

When I was told that I'd have a platform for a blog, a place to write, I jumped on board. A few weeks after I joined the organization, long before our site's launch date, I started writing.

And writing.

And writing.

Looking forward to the day of our launch, ready for my ideas to hit the world wide web.

But that day never came. The site was never launched.

One day, I was sitting in a Starbucks.

Writing. Thinking. Dreaming.

And five words came to my mind.

"A boy and his God."

Then an idea: I don't have to wait until someone gives me a platform. I can just start writing. A quick google check to see if my title was original, or already taken.


So I claimed it.

And started posting.

And that was exactly 1 year ago.

I started writing because I have a lot of thoughts about the Christian life. I started writing because I wanted to encourage. I write because I want to help offer answers to tough questions.

I also write to work out what I believe.

Michael Hyatt has been blogging for about 10 years now. He stated one time, "People ask me what I think about an issue. And sometimes I respond, 'I don't know, I haven't blogged about it yet.' Blogging is how I work through issues and ideas."

I do the same thing. I blog to work through my own opinions.

What I love is that every day I'm seeing more blogs. Everyday normal people writing their extraordinary thoughts.

Starting a Movement. A blog on church planting for emerging leaders.

French Pressed Fridays. On Fridays he brews his own french pressed coffee while brewing thoughts about God.

Huge God Ministries. Keeping the main thing the main thing.

I Revolt. Biblical social justice as a redemptive action.

More blogs. More thoughts. More people thinking for themselves, creating platforms, inspiring discussion.

More tribes being led. More creativity. More niches.

If you want to, just do it. Don't worry about traffic, hits,  or typos. Just write.

You'd be surprised as to what you learn about yourself. I know I was.