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Ellen’s closet is packed. Mine…not so much, especially during the winter months. I have four flannel shirts that I rotate through each week. Ellen threatens me that she is going to burn them. I threaten her that I will leave her if she does. Of course I’m joking. I’m not sure she is. A man shouldn’t have to put a lock on his closet door. Anyway…

Shirts remind me of the labels we put on people. Everybody has favorite shirts, or pants, or shoes, and everybody, or so it seems to me, has their favorite labels that they like to put on others.

In the church world we have shirts we like to put on people. We’ve got Evangelicals and Liberals, Charismatics and non-Charismatics, Egalitarians and Complementarians, Gay welcoming and affirming and Gay welcoming but not affirming, Calvinists and Arminians, Traditionalists and Progressives, pro-Flannel shirts and anti-Flannel shirts. This is just a partial list of the many labels we like to put on people. As I see it there are four problems with labels.

1. With labels, as with clothing, seldom does one size fit all. For example, many Evangelicals believe some things Progressives believe (politically and theologically) and vice versa. Some Progressives consider themselves Evangelicals. I know some Southern Baptists that are more Charismatic than some Charismatics.

2. It is hard to label a person without there being contempt attached. Just listen to the next person you hear put a label on someone. They might not use these exact words but you can still hear in their voice “Those stupid…” tacked on to the beginning of their sentence, or, “…and I’m better than they are.” added to the end of their sentence.

3. Labels lead to arguing and arguing never works.

Arguing doesn’t work. It is pointless. The only thing an argument does is make someone angry or hurt. The same is true with debating. You might win the debate but in so doing you create a loser. No one wants to be a loser. You’ve won but forced someone else to become something they don’t want to be. Arguing and debating draws a line in the sand and eventually the sides retreat away from each other with the line in between them.

Some pastors seem to enjoy arguing and debating and kicking sand in the eyes of those they disagree with. I want none of that.

Some pastors can be so bold, brave and belligerent on social media. These opportunities to rant or vent or express ones opinion or “get something off ones chest” seldom change anyone’s mind. All this does is reveal who is on their side and who is not. Ultimately no one has grown from either side, no one has learned or changed. Hurt and pain grows, but not much more than that. I don’t want to be that kind of person.

This reminds me of Paul’s advice to Timothy when selecting elders in the church. “Don’t pick anyone who is addicted to wine or pugnacious (loves a good fight, quarrelsome, one who leaves a bruise), but look for one who is gentle and peaceable.” I Tim. 3:3

That’s the type of person I want to be.

4. Finally, when I label a person I fail to see the person as a person and instead see them as a label. Labels limit. Labels limit my ability to love the person as God loves them and see the person as God sees them. The person I label, the person I have contempt for, is dearly loved by the Father we both share.

Rather than Simon & Garfunkel…imagine Jesus singing this over you today.

When you’re weary, feeling small.
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all.
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough.
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street.
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you.
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes.
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend.
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.

Position Paper

I’ve written a brief position paper entitled: ‘A case for full inclusion of gay Christians in the life and ministry of the local church, written for normal people.’

If you’d like a copy email me at: scpcoaching@gmail.com

More information:

I didn’t write this for pastors or Bible scholars. If you are hoping for a lot of footnotes, quotes, and intellectual depth, you will be sorely disappointed.
I have written this for normal people. This is for parents who just had a son or daughter come out to them and they are trying to figure out a way forward. If you have been hiding your same-sex or both-sex attraction for years, fearing that your parents, Christian friends, or church will reject you, this is for you. If you grew up in a traditional, conservative church that told you the Bible clearly condemns the ‘gay lifestyle’, and aren’t sure where you stand on this important issue, this is for you. If you have been looking for someone safe to dialogue with about this subject, this is for you. If you have been told that no Bible-believing Christian can be supportive of same-sex marriage or full acceptance of gay Christians in the church, I wrote this simple paper to show you that Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians can indeed believe this, and how do I know? Because I am one, and I’m not the only one.

The Misunderstood Pastor

“That’s not what I meant!”

Have you ever said that or thought that? I know you have, I certainly have. It’s frustrating to be misunderstood especially when it causes others to be hurt or offended. 

Pastors are always talking. We talk from the podium. We talk at meetings. We talk when giving advice. We talk one on one. We talk before groups. We’re always talking, it’s what we do. And this isn’t necessarily bad (although we all could probably benefit from talking less) it’s just that the more you talk the more likely is it that you will be misunderstood. 

There are a number of reasons why misunderstanding happens.

1. Sometimes we’re misunderstood because we haven’t taken the time to think through what we’re about to say. 

2. Sometimes we’re misunderstood because people hear through their own particular filters and these filters can distort our original intent. 

3. Sometimes we’re misunderstood because words can have a different meaning to different people.                                                                                             

4. Sometimes we’re misunderstood because our facial expression, body language, or tone, interfere with what we’re trying to say.

Here are four ways to reduce misunderstanding.

1. Think before you talk and ask yourself these two questions: 1) In what ways might what I’m about to say could be misunderstood? 2) Are there any ways in which what I’m about to say could be made more clear?

2. This will only work with the one-on-one communication, but ask the person to repeat back to you what they heard you say.                                                         

3. Pay attention to any facial expression, body language, or tone that might sabotage what it is that you are trying to say.

4. Don’t forget to ask the Father to help you become a better communicator.                                                       

Questions for Reflection:

1. Of all the different ways you communicate which one is most likely to be misunderstood?                                                                                                      

2. When was the last time you were misunderstood and what could you have done differently?

3. Once you realize you have been misunderstood, what is the best way to correct it?                                                                                                               

4. Is there anyone in your life currently that is misunderstanding you and what could you do about it? 

by dave jacobs

If you wear sunglasses indoors everything is going to look darker than it really is. 

“Somebody needs to turn on the lights.” “No, idiot, take your sunglasses off.” “Oh, you’re right. Never mind.”

Even if you’re not literally wearing sunglasses you’re wearing sunglasses. There is a tint through which we view and respond to life. Everything we read, write, think, say, and theologize about is filtered through who we are, how we were raised, the context in which we lived and are living.

To give you an idea of what I mean, let me share with you my personal lenses. It’s like I have multiple sunglasses each with a different colored lens. 

Maybe you’ll recognize some of these in your own life. 

1. I view life through a male lens 2. I view my world through a white male lens. 3. So I am white, a male, and I’m part of what they call the “middle class.” 4. In addition to the above, I have a western lens, or filter, through which I see things. But even my ‘westernness’ has a subgroup. I am a westerner from North America. 5. I got my start in conservative churches, therefore I have been shaped by this lens. 6. Not only do I have an conservative filter, I have always been part of Charismatic churches, another lens. 7. I see life through my lens of being married. 8. Finally, I look at life through the lens of a Pastor. Well to be honest I was a pastor. For thirty years, in five different churches, I was a pastor until 2006 when I retired and began Small Church Pastor. Now I coach and resource pastors. My days are pretty much filled with talking to pastors, so that, coupled with those thirty years means I still see things through the lens of a pastor. 

Someone once said that if you are a hammer everything looks like a nail. If you are a pastor every person looks like a sheep, or at least a potential sheep. If you are a pastor every church member looks like a volunteer or a tithe or a discipleship-project or a potential leader or an obstacle. I know, I know, we’re suppose to see them as beloved children of God…and we do that as well, but it is easy for us to forget. 

Pastors eat, drink, and sleep, church. And because of that many eat too much, drink too much, and sleep too little. (I can’t prove the ‘drink too much’ thing but you get what I’m getting at.)

So…I am a married white male who is middle class and raised in a western country, i.e. North America. I’m a Charismatic. To top it all off, I was a pastor. All of this has shaped me into the person I am today. These eight pairs of sunglasses affect the way I interpret my Bible. These eight lenses affect my politics and values and perceptions of people. These eight explain why I think the way I do. I must never underestimate these lenses. 

What sunglasses do you wear and how do they influence you? Think about it.

Some time ago, after meeting with some friends, Ellen and I were driving home and about thirty seconds into the drive she said, 

“You’re so funny.” “What?” “The older you get the more your stories change.” “No way.” “Yes way.” “How?” “Well first of all, you’ll take two different stories and turn them into one.” “No way. What else?” “Well, the older you get…” “Would you stop saying that?” “The older you get the more you embellish your stories.” “Embellish? What do you mean?” “You exaggerate.” “No way.” “Way.”

I know that when she proofreads this chapter she’s going to tell me that this story was exaggerated. 

I have a saying, “Pastors don’t lie, they just exaggerate.”

-If a pastor says they have a church of about one hundred it might mean eighty-five. -If the turn out for the all-church prayer meeting was “pretty good” that could mean the pastor, his wife, and the church prayer-warrior, sister Agnes. -A “Men’s Ministry” can mean two guys who meet for coffee at Denny’s every Thursday morning.  -The “church staff” can fit in the front seat of a car.

Usually we exaggerate up rather than down.

But pastors aren’t the only ones that exaggerate. We all have a tendency to exaggerate. 

***

So what’s the big deal? What’s so wrong about exaggerating?

First of all, exaggeration is a form of lying. It might be a ‘little lie’ but it’s still a lie. Exaggeration has just enough truth to it for us to feel comfortable doing it. But still…it’s a lie. 

Exaggerating affects your credibility. Have you ever known someone who is always exaggerating? Doesn’t knowing this make it hard for you to take them seriously? It’s easy to dismiss someone who has a reputation for exaggeration. If you don’t want to be dismissed then be careful about exaggerating. 

Hyperbole is a figure of speech used by writers but exaggeration (the Greek word ‘hyperbole’ means ‘exaggeration’) is purposefully used to drive home a point. The writer doesn’t intend to be taken literally. 

If I say, “She’s as skinny as a toothpick.”, you know I’m using hyperbole, unless I’m describing Twiggy. If you remember Twiggy you’re as old as the hills. There, I did it twice. 

Disgruntled church-goers often use hyperbole’s close cousin ‘Exaggeration’ to drive home their point. They may or may not realize they are exaggerating but you can bet your left arm (I did it again) they want whoever is listening to them to take them seriously. When I was pastoring it used to drive me crazy when people exaggerated.

-“Pastor, a lot of people in the church feel this way.”, which usually means the person talking to you, their spouse, and maybe one other person. -“Pastor, our church is filled with cliques.” “Really? Filled? Wall to wall cliques? Packed like sardines filled? I agree, something smells and it’s not sardines.” I never said that, but I wanted to.  -“Why is everybody leaving?” “Everybody? I’m not leaving. I suspect you’re gonna leave, but everybody else? I don’t think so.”  I never said that, but I wanted to. 

If it drives me crazy when people exaggerate then it probably drives people crazy when I exaggerate, unless they never find out. 

***

I asked Ellen why she thinks people exaggerate. We concluded it can be traced back to pride, insecurity, and the need for acceptance. It’s hard to separate these three. 

My pride makes me want to appear better than I really am therefore I’ll exaggerate. If I feel insecure around someone I will exaggerate in order to bring myself up to their level. If exaggeration will win me the acceptance of others then so be it. 

Well I’ve said what I wanted to say. This is a good place to end. Besides, I’ve got about a hundred calls to make today. 

Questions for reflection: 1. Why do I exaggerate? 2. Under what circumstances do I tend to exaggerate? 3. What might I look out for that would warn me in advance that I’m about to exaggerate? 4. Who do I know that has a tendency to exaggerate and why is it helpful to know this?

The last couple of days I’ve been announcing an article coming out today entitled: “The one thing worship leaders must stop doing.” I asked my readers to guess what they thought it might be about. Some of the responses, in my opinion, seemed mean and insensitive to the hard working men and women worship leaders that serve faithfully in our churches. This was not my intention. I have very little patience for meanness. I deleted the thread.

If you are a worship leader and were hurt, in even the smallest way, by some of the things people said, I apologize for setting the whole thing in motion. I hope you will find my article a helpful suggestion rather than an unhelpful criticism.

Your friend,

Dave

w_m

Apparently a couple of years ago Kris MacQueen and Adrian Wilson spent an evening together sharing, “…food, libations and guitars. As we listened to one another’s stuff, we realized that our songs really went together well. “Wilson & MacQueen” was born.

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to Adrian and Kris’ debut CD while driving all over town. Believe me it takes a lot to tear me away from my favorite Classic Rock station but I’m glad I took the time to pop their CD into my player.

How would I describe their style? Think ‘Mumford and Sons’ and you’ll be getting close enough. With “Wilson & MacQueen” you’ve got worship music but not necessarily the kind you’d sing in church. It’s more the type of worship music you sit (or drive) and listen to and all of a sudden realize you’ve been swept up into His presence.

Nicely produced, thanks to Jon Horvath, with rich strings, lyrics with some depth to them, and the vocals…let me just say…very nice indeed.

My favorite was track 1, Everything.

You can visit their site to listen before you purchase. If you like it, and I know you will, why not pass this review on to your friends on Facebook. Let’s get these guys out there.

 

th

I keep killing my pets. Well, I’m not exactly sure I’m the one killing them, and can you really call fish pets? Maybe I should back up a bit.

Shortly after Ellen and I were married I got into aquariums, or to be more specific, the fish you put into aquariums. We had a number of aquariums throughout our house. But then we began to collect children and dogs, both of which I found difficult to fit into aquariums, so one by one we sold our fish tanks at garage sales.

A couple years ago my son-in-law, François, got an aquarium. Not just any aquarium, one of those huge ones that your kids could swim laps in if they wanted. Every time I go over to their house I must admit I’m a little jealous.

A couple weeks ago I got it in my head to get myself a small tank and a single fish that I might put in my office and stare at throughout my day. I purchased one of those small, one gallon fish tanks, and a single gold and silver goldfish that my granddaughter Sara was given the task of naming. She chose, Silverbrush. Three days later Silverbrush was dead. Don’t say anything to Sarah, I haven’t told her yet.

Well you know what you do with dead goldfish, but I thought I would hold off on flushing and wait until Ellen got home from work to see if I could make her scream. I chose to do the right thing.

Last night Ellen and I went out to dinner and afterwards visited Petco to get a new fish. We walked through the store and back into their “aquatics” department. Back in the old days they used to call it the “fish” department, but apparently public opinion decided that was insensitive, so now they call it “aquatics.”

I decided to try something different, and instead of a goldfish, bought a Betta. You’ve heard of Bettas? Bettas are those beautiful fish kept in bowls that will hold about one cup of water and always look like they’re dead.

I was assured by the Betta-expert on duty that Bettas just love to sleep and they make beautiful pets. Ellen helped me choose a blue male (You can tell they are males because they have a short little…well doesn’t matter.) and off we went to introduce my new “pet” to its new home.

Now all you fish-snobs out there can calm down, yes, I changed out the water, in fact, instead of using tap-water, I replaced it with bottled water.

The next morning my Betta (I never got around to naming him) was asleep, just like the lady told me at Petco. Only this time, it was the sleep one that never wakes from. That’s right, I killed not one, but two fish in a weeks time.

But I’m not ready to give up yet. The “expert” in the “aquatics” department told me if this happens again to bring in a water sample and they will be able to determine if something poisonous (at least poisonous to fish) is in my water. I told Ellen this morning that if she finds me belly-up, by all means… don’t drink any more of the water!

But I don’t get it, why are my fish dying? I drink this water every day, it smells right, looks right, but something’s wrong and fish are dying. Hopefully testing the water will solve this mystery. I have this image in my mind of returning to Petco only to find all of their fish, in all of their tanks, huddled together and screaming, “No, no, stay away! Don’t let him take us!”

Now I bet at this point you’re expecting some great moral to this story or an application that you can use in your life or church. Sorry, I can’t give you one. I just needed to clear my conscience. But if you had to come up with a moral or application, what would it be?

 


th
There was a monastery in France at the edge of a cliff overlooking a beautiful valley, and because its bells could be heard over such a wide area, it developed a reputation for attracting only the finest bellringers in the country.

There was always a bit of dread when a bellringer passed on or retired, and one year, when they spread the word of their need for a new master, there was a dearth of qualified candidates. They would have been good enough for any other monastery, but not this one. Better to have silent bells than anything less than the best.

As they were despairing at the quality of candidates, a man with no arms paid a visit to apply for the position. The monks were amazed and protested that this was no time for joking. But the man insisted, said he was from a family of famous bellringers, and he would show them what he could do. He drew back, lowered his head, and charged full speed at the bell. The monks were horrified, but could not stop him. And the sound — oh my, you should have been there! It was indeed a sound worthy of that monastery. It rang through the valley, and people everywhere stopped in their tracks and nodded to each other that at last a worthy bellringer had been found.

But alas, it was not to be. For the impact so stunned the poor armless man that he stumbled dizzily and fell over the cliff. The head monk ran down the steps to where a crowd had gathered, and a policeman spoke to him. “Do you know this man?” The monk sighed, “No, but his face rings a bell.”

The search continued. One day not long after, another armless man showed up and presented himself as the previous man’s brother. He was there to uphold the family honor, and would show them what a good bellringer could do. The monks protested, but too late — he also drew back and charged full speed into the bell. And once again, the most beautiful sound pealed out over the valley, such that even the birds circled around to see what was happening. And once again, he was so stunned that he too fell over the cliff in a daze.

Once again the head monk scrambled down the stairs to meet the crowd and a policeman. Again he was asked if he knew the deceased. “No, but he’s a dead ringer for his brother.”

Thanks to Jim Stephens for this one.

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