Voice Veto Vote


I shared these thoughts at my day job, GigSalad, last Friday.

I thought I’d put them here.

People’s opinions affect us in different ways.

We need to decide how to filter people’s opinions and when to decide to respond.

Who gets a:

  • Voice? The broadest group of people, these are the influences that we trust, believe, and respect. They may be friends, family, co-workers, authors, activists, or other leaders. We respect these opinions and take them into account.
  • Vote? Narrow than the Voices, this group helps frame and shape our decisions. They help us decide life. Not every voice gets a vote.
  • Veto? Who in your life gets to say “No” to you? This handful of people has the right and permission to challenge your decisions and choices and discover the best possible life path. This group typically includes family, spouses and partners, your closest friends or mentors, and spiritual or ethical teachings. Gather people around you who are willing to disagree. Challenge and dissent should never be confused with betrayal or disloyalty.

How do I decide who makes it into each group?

Are they:

  • Informed? Do they know you? People who influence you should know you well, beyond shallow social interaction. They should understand and get you at s fundamental level, and their values and concerns are aligned or compatible with your own.
  • Invested? Do they care? Empathetic personalities care deeply about the outcomes of their influence. People whose opinion we consider ought to be willing to walk with through the consequences and ought to have demonstrated their concern and commitment to our best.
  • Invited? To put it simply, did you ask for their opinion? If someone is freely offering their estimations of your finances, parenting, or work from the outside of your life, don’t spend too much time worrying about it. Ask yourself if it is true or not, then move on to the people you let in.

Opinions are humanity’s greatest renewable resource. We’ll never run out of them. Taking the time to consider who gets to influence us is a valuable exercise for personal health and peace.


What’s Next?


Those who know me, know that I am a rabid fan of the TV series “The West Wing.” The characters speak with intellect, eruditely addressing issues with wit and conviction. They also walk when they meet, and I like that.

If you have to pick one phrase to sum up the show, it would be President Jed Bartlett’s “What’s next?” It drove the show, keeping the plot moving, and displaying the energy and focus needed to manage the expanse of the federal government.

I love that phrase, “What’s Next?” It speaks of us anticipation, vitality, and expectation.

It’s a new year tomorrow. 2014. And the question for all of us is, “What’s next?”

It can be a question of dread, painfully expecting another disaster in a series. Like Sisyphus, we roll life uphill only to have t crash back down on us. We pay off one credit card and the water heater breaks. We finally get a new job and then break an ankle. For the dreadful, what’s next is simply another tragedy in a line of victimizations.

It can be a question of apathy. As life grinds forward, we anticipate no change, every day hazing into the next. We live life in muted tones, with what little color we see washed out and faded.

What it can be, however, is a question of great hope. “What’s next!?” What’s the next adventure, the next challenge? What’s the new job, the new flavor, the new song? What new friend am I about to meet, what new prospect am I about to connect with?

Looking to the new year, I want to be in the third category. I want to face each new day with vigor and vitality, with anticipation and adventure. I want to see challenges as opportunities and defeats as lessons. I want to seize life and not simply live it. I want to be the hero of my story, not the victim.

Enjoy your new year, have fun and be safe. And when 12:01 gets here, take a deep breath, gaze into the future with steely resolve, and ask the universe, “What’s next?”

Anticipating Christmas

We’re not meeting this evening, so I’m processing some thoughts this morning. wallcoo-com_christmas_66-550x412

Christmas is coming, and for The Community Church that means our first Christmas Eve service. We’re doing this to give all of us, on our atypical, individualistic, Jesus-Take-The-Wheel-God-Bless-The-Broken-Road, post-modern, progressive selves a small dose of holiday ritual and ceremony. It will be fun, sentimental, reflective, irreverent, contemplative, and goofy just like all our other services. Please come.

For many, Christmas Eve is the longest night of the year. If you come from one of those families that only opens presents on Christmas Day, it’s the worst. Looking forward to the next day, thinking about the things that make Christmas special, only prolongs the agony. Kids can’t sleep and parents can’t stay up. We are exhausted and restless waiting for the relationships, gifts, food, and all the other joys the day can bring. (If the day is a good thing for you)

In Christianity, the Birth of Jesus symbolizes the same exhausted restlessness. Our weary world, torn by evil, hate, and fear, gropes in the long dark winter of defiance, ignoring our Creator and His hope for us. Instead of leaving us to our own devices, destined to be destroyed by the crushing entropy of self-driven living, He gave us a way out. He became us, leading us to the light by entering the darkness. Rather than standing on the edge, shouting out directions from afar, through Jesus He walked among us, igniting the divine light placed in each of us, and illuminating the way out. Like presents under the tree, whose only clues are size, shape, weight, and imagination, the goodness that we strive for, that we demand from others, is fully revealed in Jesus. As we open the present of His image in us, we open the limitless possibilities of creation forged in the imagination of the Divine.

And so we waited, each of us. Knowing there was more, we sought a better, just world, where compassion defeats apathy, generosity cancels greed, hope subdues fear, acceptance quells bigotry, and love conquers all. This is the world Jesus spoke of when talked about the “life abundant” He offers us. This is the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is not a world where righteousness wins, but serves; it is a world where we are given freedom in order to set others free.

In the next few days, what gift in you is ready to be given to the world? What darkness needs the light you carry?

Trivial Pursuits

Yesterday at The Community Church, I spoke about the useless religious details that distract us from Jesus. From dinosaurs to politics, all too often we use minutiae to avoid the hard questions of faith and belief, of morality and responsibility. Is my faith the sum total of my opinions on Horned Beasts or Ecstatic Utterances? Is it the songs I sing or whether or not my hands are in the air or at my side when I sing them? Is it what I drink or eat, or how I vote, or how my taxes are spent?

Someone asked Jesus this question. “What’s faith about? What’s the most important thing I need to believe?” Jesus avoided the religious trap, avoided the trivial opinions on ceremonial washings or the resurrection of the dead and summarized the essence of faith, the core of vital belief. “Love God with everything you’re capable of; Love others with same priority you place on yourself.” After this the details become expressions of those truths. They are extensions of love for God and love for others in balanced perspective with love for self.

It’s not that the other stuff doesn’t matter or that it is irrelevant. They are the things with which we decorate our spiritual home, the flair that makes our faith ours. They are not the foundations. I don’t need to worry about dinosaurs or Democrats, because Jesus didn’t. I don’t need to agree with you about Antichrist or amillennialism. That’s your house, not mine.

The questions we need to push each other with, to challenge each other, are, “Do you love God? Are you loving people?”

Beyond that…

God is real.

He made me.

He loves me.

Jesus makes it all possible.

In My Shoes

Yesterday, as I was getting ready for work, I went to put on my shoes. As I was sliding them on, I noticed that the tongues were jammed down into the toe of each shoe. I thought for a second, then I realized that this was the result of one of Jenktank 3’s favorite pastimes, putting on Daddy’s shoes. She puts them on and then walks around like some kind of hobbit Ronald McDonald, laughing at the simple absurdity of the whole thing.

They follow us, you know. They see us, and they want to be like us. And then one day they don’t. I wonder what parts of my life my kids will pick up. What do they see in me that they hope to see in themselves? What about me will they say they never want to be when they grow up? “Train up a child,” the Bible says, “and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Is that a promise or a warning?

Look around, what do we leave out for our kids to pick up and use for themselves?

New CD and other thoughts

Kelly’s worship band, The Wired Band, released their first album a few weeks ago. It’s pretty amazing. I think the sound is really distinctive and progressive. Check it out at their website, thewiredband.org.

As I watch Kelly’s journey with this album, I am truly astounded by her fearlessness. She attacks life with a ferocity comparable to a lion. She is one of those people that makes life happen.

Fear is a funny thing. It is universal, yet not everyone shares the same fear. We all fear something, even if it is fear itself.

God doesn’t want us to be afraid. He wants us to have power, love and self-control, but not fear. Fear paralyzes, fear hinders, fear prevents.

Power emboldens and strengthens.

Love motivates and encourages.

Self-control stabilizes and secures.

Don’t let fear trick you into missing out.

Ever been too afraid to do something?

4 Steps to Building a Preaching Library

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” Probably the best line from any Batman movie, though I’m not sure anyone is keeping track of notable quotes from Batman movies (run-on sentence). Batman, as we all well know, is not a super-powered hero like Superman or Aquaman. He’s just an angry, rich white guy with no regard for the traditions of civilized law enforcement. No super-strength, can’t talk to animals, can’t fly. The utility belt, the Bat-a-rangs, and the Batmobile make him great.

Following up on my last post’s tips for communicating, I thought I would share the wonderful toys that I use when putting my sermons or lessons together.

  • An Old Testament and New Testament Introduction. I preach almost exclusively using chunks of passage from the Bible (expository). As a result, the historical and literary context of a passage are the first things I go for. A good introduction can answer these questions fast without getting bogged down with overly academic concerns.
  • A Good Thesaurus. Ever notice there is no synonym for thesaurus? Anyway, words matter. The right word can make or break a point. Learn multiple ways to say the same thing, and you’ll never be out of a job. (Insert political speechwriter joke here)
  • Intervarsity Press’ Dictionary Series. These things are paper gold! They can give you more insight into biblical research quickly than just about anything on the market. Need to know about Cyrus the Great for your “Out Of The Lion’s Den: Lessons from the Life of Daniel” sermon series? You can find it all here! What about the history of baptism in the ancient Near East for the “Live Like Jesus: Moments from the Greatest Teacher” post-Easter sermons? Whoop, there it is!!!! Seriously, these things are handy.
  • Jewish Cultural Background Material. Without getting all Zola Levitt on you, Jesus was Jewish. Use resources like this to bring deeper insight into Rabbinical and Jewish traditions. You know, without tradition, we’re just like a fiddler on the roof. I don’t know if you heard.
  • Biblical Languages Resources. Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with biblical languages. Few things give me brain spasms, more than, “The Greek word for power is dunamis. That means a power that’s DYN-O-MITE!” (Jimmie Walker reference) But the words do carry nuance and do carry weight. A good Hebrew-Greek study Bible and a word dictionary should be enough to give you the insight you are looking for.

While none of these tools guarantees sermonic success or erudite elocution (see what I did there? Thesaurus!), they can be the foundation to a great library that will benefit you and your audience.

(BTW, I created an Essentials List at BarnesandNoble.com In case you wanted to buy these online.)

What are some things you use?