Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A Four Year Old Faces Rejection

I love Tuesdays. Tuesday are my day off. When you are a pastor, you work Sundays and so most pastors select a day during the week to take off. The best part of my day off is that I get to pick my 4 year old son James up from his pre-Kindergarten class.
Today, his teacher said James was a bit quiet and not his usual exuberant self. And then she quietly confided that his best friend had ignored him and had been playing with other kids. James' tender 4 year old heart was broken. Felicia asked me if that made me sad. Of course it did. No emotionally healthy parent is immune to the pain that their children endure from time to time.

But later on, I pondered it a bit more. I am still sad that James was sad. But, the rejection and pain he went through today help form him into a whole human being. If James went through life facing no pain or rejection, he wouldn't be real. He would be a detached person without the ability to empathize with others in pain.

The pain James went through today can be used by him for future disappointments. It teaches him that even our closest friends will disappoint and hurt us. And it will help him realize that he also has the capacity to injure others through his own indifference. I don't expect him to actually learn all this stuff today - he is only 4 and is currently playing with his Lego Hero Factory action figure, (not nursing his emotional bruise). But under the guidance of parents who love him, we can help guide his heart out of hurt into healing, and he will mature through the journey.

The deepest hurt a human being endures is the pain of rejection. When someone we love experiences rejection we need to double our expressions of love, affirmation and acceptance of them. Which I plan to do tonight with extra snuggles and extra halloween candy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Canadian media vs. American Media


Peter Mansbridge: Calm, Cool, Collected and Canadian

Its interesting how a sub-story of the Ottawa shooting has been the startling difference between Canadian and American broadcasting. I am unable to get any Canadian channels so I got all my news through CNN last night.

It seems like the American media thinks it is serving us well by bringing is a dozen "experts" who analyze every single aspect of a story down to whether the types of socks the shooter was wearing can tell us something about his religious identity. (i made that up - but wouldn't be surprised if CNN found some sartorial theologian who could make the connection).

This won't change how America reports the news - this is just an observation by american media on Canadian media. American news is far more obsessed with celebrity and dramatic "breaking" events than reasonable thoughtful observation.

Exceptions might be Meet the Press or 60 minutes that take a bit longer to tease out a story. But, the sound bite quick cut medium of reporting simply reinforces the superficial cosmetic culture we have all grown used to here.

Canada - keep up the good work. (and someone hook up cbc, ctv or global for me down here).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gilead, Darkness and Miracles

"In all that deep darkness, a miracle was preparing".

That is a line from Gilead, a novel by Marilynne Robinson. The context is that the narrator is discussing a long time when he was single. As a pastor in a small town, he was seen as quite a catch, so many daughters and nieces were presented to him. But, no one caught his eye. This caused him to feel sad and lonely.

In every life we go through periods of deep darkness. Its almost like our time in the womb prepares us for similar times of murky shadow times. It might be helpful to consider that when we find ourselves in those times that a miracle is in fact being prepared.

For the character in Gilead, the miracle was the woman who would become his wife. The woman tells him "You ought to marry me." The effect was so tremendous that his response was:

"That was the first time in my life I ever knew what it was to love another human being."

Darkness is ok. Shadow seasons need not frighten us. Because darkness, sadness and deprivation are often fused into a powerful alloy out of which the miracle is birthed.

God created light out of darkness.
YOU first existed in darkness (the womb) before emerging out into the blinding hospital lights.
And you were a miracle to those first people who heard you cry.
But the miracle came out of darkness.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

After your Pastor Preaches a Sermon


The scientist (Cornell professor Dr. Jonathan Butcher) and
the pastor (me) answer some questions from students.

So, I'm a pastor. Part of my job is preaching. I share the preaching load at our church with our interim lead pastor. Since he's the lead guy, he preaches slightly more than I do.

I want to share with you a little bit about what it's like to prepare and deliver a sermon. And one thing to please not do to your pastor immediately after he or she preaches their sermon.

I normally start my preparation for my sermon Monday morning. I print out the text in the version I will preach from and in Greek, so I can access both the Greek and English while reading and making notes. I read the Greek first to get a good handle about how it sounded when it was first written.

Then I read through the passage several times, making notes and waiting for an outline to emerge - After about an hour I have a pretty good idea of how the passage is laid out. Now, it's time for deeper study. I crack open the commentaries and start to study. If possible I will listen to the passage preached by some of my favorite preachers. Usually:
John Stott, Martyn Loyd Jones, Tim Keller and Darrell Johnson.

This usually takes about 8 hours. And then I write the sermon. The actual writing of the sermon can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. It depends on how easily the outline emerged. Writing a sermon is more like wrestling with a biblical text - moving it around, trying to figure out what God's truth is lying in there - what specific thing he wants to communicate with my church.

Most of my reading, studying and praying is done over Monday, Thursday and Friday. I will still meet with people on Monday and Friday but usually try to block Thursday completely out to do serious uninterrupted study and writing.

If I think it is finished, I put it away for awhile. And then later come back to it for final edits - usually Friday afternoon or sometimes Saturday morning. When I am convinced I have done all I can I pray a final prayer dedicating it to God.

And then I preach it (I'll write another post about preaching later).

Now - here's the thing I want to tell you to NOT do immediately after your pastor preaches a sermon. Please please please do not correct him on something he or she might have said wrong. Do not point out an area you feel he or she was in error.

I am not saying never communicate it - I'm just saying, give it a couple of days. When you preach you are giving everything of yourself. You are often spent, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It is a time of great vulnerability and fragility.

I am fortunate enough to have a very gracious and loving congregation who often compliment me on my sermons. But, there are also sometimes some people who for some reason feel led to tell me all the errors I made. Last month someone felt they needed to tell me I had mis-pronounced a name. Now, remember I'm not saying never do it - just give your pastor a day to 2 to recover (or even a few hours!)

I can't tell you how deflating and discouraging it is to put so much energy into a sermon, deliver it as well as you can and then IMMEDIATELY following to be told all the mistakes you made.

So, be kind to your pastor. He or she is doing the best that he or she can. They might not always get it right. But, believe me, they know when they have fallen short in a sermon. They really don't need your correction all the time.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mars Hill: The Only Way Out is Down

I am actually completely stunned at the continued fallout of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The latest wrinkle is that 9 CURRENT pastors have now publicly stated their opinion that Mark Driscoll should step down for an entire year instead of his current 6 week staycation.

Now, one of those 9 pastors has been fired.
Swell.

The most damning observations of the church comes from respected pastor, speaker and author Paul David Tripp. Tripp served on the accountability board of Mars Hill for awhile until he realized the board could not do very much, least of all provide actual accountability.
Here are some snippets from Tripp:

"I don't think even now that there is the recognition of the depth of what Mars Hill Church and Mark is actually dealing with. This is without a doubt the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I've ever been involved with."
"What is happening is they are managing a crisis, instead of dealing with the deep personal sin at the bottom of the crisis."

This is bad.
This is dark.
This is shameful.

We are witnessing what happens when ego, success and power become secret idols in the heart of a leader. While publicly we can say and write all the right things - our inner lives can be dark, corrupt and damaged. The worst thing is the fallout in the local church and the scorn that comes our way form those outside the faith.

The hurt for those still IN Mars Hill must be deep to see their leader fall and their church crack and totter. And the watching world has a good snicker as their stereotypes of Christians gets reinforced.

The only path forward out of this mess is continued repentance, genuine sorrow and humility.
My only fear is that these tools of the Spirit have been so long neglected in this church that they will be difficult to recognize. Which means there might simply be more cover up, deception and prolonged pain for more and more people.

God have mercy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

None are Precious in His Sight - Richard Dawkins


I hate kids.

I believe the most famous atheist in the world is losing his mind.
Last month Richard Dawkins wrote that we shouldn't condemn what he called "mild pedophilia". The term itself is a stunning.
Pedophilia might be a lot of things but the one thing it can never be is "mild".

And now Dawkins has stumbled again in the twtterverse.
Some misguided seeker mentioned that they would be in a real dilemma if they found out the child in their womb had Down's syndrome.
And here the ever compassionate anti-God professor let's loose with this missive:

Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

It is more moral to terminate a Down's Syndrome child, than to give it a loving family.
I wonder why stop at the womb? In Dawkin's world, perhaps it is moral to terminate any kid that doesn't measure up to whatever standards Dawkins deems worthy of life.

Children with Down's Syndrome are not a mistake.
Children with autism are not a mistake.
Nor are blind children or deaf children.

I contrast Dawkin's callousness with something I saw last week.
I had the privilege along with 15 other people from my church to be able to participate in the Leadership Summit out of Willow Creek Church in Chicago.
As part of the Summit, a special ministry was profiled. Willow Creek has a large and significant ministry among children with special needs - providing all kinds of ministries and programs to support these precious children and their families.

A video was played of the kids practicing a dance routine to Katy Perry's song "Roar". As the video died down, all of a sudden all these beautiful kids burst onto the stage and did their energetic dancing.
It was beautiful.
I was glad none of their parents had had the chance to listen to Dawkin's stupid advice. If they had, 90 000 leaders watching across America wouldn't have had their hearts touched by the purity of those kids.

The speaker who followed the kids said, "That is not the best thing I have ever seen at the Summit - that is simply the best thing I have ever seen".

Dawkins' comment betray the ethics emerge out of a naturalistic worldview. Care for the poor, marginalized and disabled cannot emerge from the ethics of pragmatic naturalism.

So, you want "mild" pedophilia and the morality of aborting disabled kids, become an atheist like Dawkins.
But, if you want a worldview where "all are precious in his sight", then follow the only religious leader, Jesus Christ, who encouraged the little children to come to him .... because he loves them .... ALL of them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Are You Robin Williams?



When we lived in Vancouver for awhile I had the interesting fortune of meeting celebrities - I never sought them out - they would just sort of be where I was : grocery stores, video stores, etc.

In 2005 Felicia and I were out for a movie. After locating our seats I got in line for popcorn and soda.
As I was standing in the line, I glanced over at the man next to me. He was short but very muscular - I thought he might be a body builder.
I looked at his face and thought he looked familiar - he returned my gaze and I thought he looks a lot like Robin Williams - his chin is much more pointy than in films and tv.

A few more seconds and I was confident it was him - I asked him "Are you Robin Williams?"
He said yes.
Then I fumbled into verbal idiocy as I wasn't sure what I should say now.
So I said "I'm a big fan of your stand-up". which is true.
He said thank you.

At this point, I should have shut up and focused on the line. Instead, I kept going.
"Is Vancouver treating you well"
Oh my gosh - what was wrong with me?

He said Vancouver WAS in fact treating him and his family well.

And then I shut up.

He then left his line to get 2 bottles of coke out of a fridge to our left.
When he turned around to come back, 3 people entered the line ahead of him.
He sighed and took his spot at the back.
He got his popcorn (2 large bags) and headed to his film.

And that was it - I interacted with him for a total of maybe 40 seconds.

The question I am left with tonight is how could a man with so much resources available still be incapable of dealing with depression and mental illness?

It's a question without an answer because the answer went with him this week.
For some reason, there was a pain and pathos behind the comedy that finally took him down for good.

For me, it is a painful reminder and plea that if you struggle with depression - TELL SOMEONE - your isolation compounds your pain.