Remember jukeboxes? When I was young I remember the Pizza Hut jukebox. It was always cool when dad or mom would give me some spare change and I could punch up up any song I wanted (as long as it was on the box, of course.) I think my favorite jukebox selection was always "Jump"--nothing like a little VH when you're out with the parents for pizza. Well who needs a stinkin' jukebox now--we''ve got itunes. Now I can keep the song that I pay a $1 for. Or better yet, I can get my songs on eMusic for about $.30 a piece. Yeah! that's my kind of jukebox. (And it takes up way less space in my living room.)
So let's play a little game called, "Here's What's on My Jukebox (lately)". Here's how it works: I tell you what I'm listening to these days and you comment and tell me what you are listening to these days. In the process, we both get some music recommendations. Isn't that fun!? I thought you'd think so.
I'm listening to:
Johnny Cash (everything)
Patty Griffin, "Impossible Dream"
Gugenheim Grotto, "Happy the Man", "Waltzing Alone"
Jon Foreman, all the season EP's
Ray LaMontagne, "Trouble", "Gossip in the Grain", "Till the Sun Turns Black"
Crooked Still, "Shaken by a Low Sound", "Still Crooked"
Phil Wickham, "Singalong"
Uncle Earl, "Raise a Ruckus"
The Frames (and Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova), all of their stuff--especially "Fitzcarraldo" and "Dance the Devil"
Jason Gray, "Accoustic Storytime"
Doc & Merle Watson
Rich Mullins, everything but especially "the Jesus Record"
Bon Iver, "For Emma, Forever"
Arcade Fire, "Neon Bible"
Andrew Peterson, "Behold the Lamb"
the Apprentice (a personal friend of a friend of mine--aren't you happy for me?)
Fire away--I love music recommendations and I've got a $25 itunes card that's burning a hole in my hard drive!
Rick has been warning me for a couple weeks that he "had something for me" on December 21st. Rick is a faithful brother at the church who's been a serving part of our community for years. So after our worship gathering yesterday he comes up to me with a priority mail box labeled with my name (Rick works at the post office).
"Should I open it now or later?"
"Well I guess I'd like to have you open it in front of me so I can see your face when you open it." I wrapped up some conversations with people and a little while later I grab the box and move over by Rick calling my wife over as well.
I tear into the box and pull it open and inside I see a huge 3-ring binder. The front is labeled Football Collectors Album and it is heavy. I open to the first page and there he is--pound for pound the greatest player of all time, one of very few bright spots in the history of the NFL franchise I cheer for, the most elusive and entertaining running back to ever play the game: Barry Sanders! And Barry is not just on the first page. His cards fill every page, page after page, 40 or more pages of just about every football card ever made for Barry Sanders.
"I collected them at card shows and shops over the years." Over the years. Rick has been collecting this amazing Barrylection "over the years". "I thought to myself one day, 'Pastor Kevin would appreciate this more than me'". So he gave it to me for Christmas. (By the way, there is a bonus section of my favorite receiver in Lion history, Herman Moore, in the back of the album.)
I think this is the essence of a true Christmas gift:
It has great personal worth both for the giver and the receiver
Its high actual value can't be easily calculated
It bears a lot of personal effort and cost
It can't be reciprocated--I can't give Rick a gift that could match what he has given me
I think this is the most valuable Christmas gift I've ever received. A gift that in some way is a shadow of the gift of Jesus. This gift proves God's Christmas Value: it is better to receive.
Joe asks me, "so what kind of church do you go to that they would let you come here?" We laugh together. “Our church wants to get to know the people in our community. That means getting to know people in their own environment. I’m here to learn a part of my community that I don’t know.”
Satisfied with my answer he asks, “so what do you think of Reverend Phelps?” I draw an immediate blank. Enjoying my struggle for a minute he finally offers, “you know, the God-hates-fags guy.” Ohhhh. That Rev Phelps.
I deduce all at once that if I play word association with your average gay man and I say “Evangelical Christian” he says, “Rev Phelps”. (This is why writers like Annie Lamott are so reluctant to admit they are “born-again”.)
And so my question to myself one year later is simple: What have I done since then to convince men like Joe the (Gay) Bricklayer that Evangelical Christian means something totally different than “Rev Phelps”? Honestly? Not much.
I know I’m not going to hang out full-time in gay bars. But I don’t know what I am going to do. And that bothers me. Its not enough to think the sign-holders fools and to say in my cozy confines, “that’s not who I am”. I have to find something tangible that communicates a different Jesus and a different Christianity to men like Joe the bricklayer who party in Boystown in my city.
Lena (7) asked me yesterday, "daddy, can I start highlighting in my Bible now? You know when I see a verse that I really like and I want to remember it?"
"Ummm. Yes. Go nuts--here's a great Bible highlighter to use! Mark it up!"
Later she asks me, "daddy, do you want to highlight our Bibles together?" Dude. That girl can melt me. Do I want to highlight together? Like a pig wants to roll in mud!
In fact, I think I'm going to require bible-highlighting as the first date for all my girls (when they are ready to marry, of course.) "If your date doesn't want to highlight with you, they cannot go out with you."
Exhibit A--Tyce and me had a no holds barred, bare-chested wrasslin' match in the living room again last night (a regular occurrence). Pins, punches, take downs, flying arm bars, couch tosses, shoves, kicks--its a wild ride. (I don't the girls would have enjoyed the wrasslin' with the same passion Tyce did--in fact I'm sure of it.)
My excuse is that "he needs it" but the fact is, so do I. I find that my son's primary love language is touch--which includes huggin' and wrasslin'. I love his fully flexed zeal to take me down and then (for now) crushing him only to have him jump up for another round.
Its funny though. Gil doesn't quite get it--at least on an emotional level she can't help but try to protect him. "Kevin, be gentle...", "Kevin, his arm doesn't bend that way...", "Kevin, we'd like our son to have his neck intact through high school..." Meanwhile he's gritting his teeth and fighting to jump up and take another shot at me. I spose that's why boys need their daddies and their mommies, but for different things.
Gotta love wrasslin'. (I especially love writing it--wrasslin', wrasslin', wrasslin'.
The Diocese answer? A demo permit. C'mon. Knock it down rather than give it to a willing and well-financed church group? I think the Archdiocese can do much better. Its time for the Catholic leadership of our city to love the history of their parishes enough to allow there history to be adopted and carried forward by other Christian groups.
They've done this in some places. One example is Chicago Hope Academy. Once a Catholic parish, the school and church building have been rennovated and now function as a Christian high school and the site of New Life's Tri-Taylor location.
I think Chicago is a better city with its historic sacred spaces being vibrantly and happily used by Christian groups of different ethnicities and theological viewpoints. I'm praying for a city full of churches with that mentallity.
This morning I woke up laughing with the family. I was making jokes with my wife, teasing my kids and being a troublemaker. It was a good way to wake up--better (way better) than Folgers in your cup. And it was really as simple as finding some things to laugh about and then giving it to the family. Laughter is a thermostat in our house. When we're laughing, we're healthier.
Colossians 3:22-24 from the passage that we worked through yesterday is a great section contributing to a theology of work. Theology of work is the idea that God has a big worship purpose in the everyday working life of everyday people. The point is--your work is not separate from your spiritual life; your work is your spiritual life.
There are two ways I see that a follower of Jesus can approach their work:
Work as "Eye-service": you offer your work to your boss to convince him of your worth. Result: better paycheck.
Work as "God-service": you offer your work to God to convince God of His worth to you. Result: better, fuller, deeper worship of Jesus.
Work as "God-service" is a powerful expression of worship. And the powerful point of it is, if you offer your work to God, you send it ahead into kingdom as worship. "...Work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward."
That's kingdom speak. It means your work becomes a tool for filling the eternal kingdom with blessing. It means your work takes on eternal value. Think about it--your approach to data entry, teaching, hammering nails, filing, consulting, programming, litigating... all of it has the potential to be a chorus of worship that reverberates eternally.
I am a fan of NFL football and a fan of good design. So I looked with interest at a 6 page photo spread of the New York Jets incredible brand new training facility in Florham Park, New Jersey. The designs on this facility would seem to set a new mark for "thinking of everything".
The question was, "can architecture lead to better football?" It would seem the preliminary answer is "yes". The facility was one of the reasons Brett Favre chose the Jets. And the team is a strong playoff contender.
The way the architects designed every element of the facility to keep the experience of winning football in everyone's face is remarkable.
Examples? Executive offices have a glass wall (like a luxury box) that overlooks the indoor practice field "to remind the suits of their shared mission". The entrances to the building simulate the tunnel that players walk through to go onto the playing field--i.e. every employee enters their playing field as they go into the practice/office facility. The weight room is glass-walled to overlook the outdoor practice field--"I'm lifting these weights now so I can go out there and more effectively smash people."
Now this is a leap, but stay with me. Galilee Baptist Church, when it was designed and built in 1951, was constructed very purposefully to keep the experience of quality children's Sunday school in everyone's face. And they did a great job--Galilee was one of the largest in Chicago in the 50's and 60's.
However, its not the most effectively designed building if Sunday school is not the definition of the win for the church.
Now, Galilee's design is something we work around at New Life Lakeview. Sunday morning children's ministry is important, but it is not the mission. We've retrofitted the space to make it work for our purposes which are expressed better in small groups and worship gatherings with most of our real "work" as a church accomplished outside the church building. And its that last part--most of our work being outside the building--that compells me to wonder how I would redesign a church building to best express the church's real mission.
One thing I'd do--I'd somehow put the offices of the staff in proximity to people, where the mission lies. And maybe that's why I'm sitting in a cafe while I write this.
Thursday mornings are good. 6:15am comes and I'm in the Lincoln Park building reception area sipping coffee with 14 or 15 other men who are eager to become better men. We receive a crock-potted message from an experienced pastor (Robert Lewis) pointing us toward the path of authentic authentic manhood and then we break up in smaller groups to discuss and implement. Winning combo.
This morning we were taking a look at the heart wound men are born with that often leads us to:
avoid or retreat from domestic/family responsibility
rule harshly over women and children
get lost in our careers and personal pursuits (detached) and ignore God's greater purpose for our lives
These tendencies were by agreement in our group, easy to fall into for each of us. We also talked about the fact that married men with this problem are given a gift from God: a wife. Wives tend to see these tendencies clearly and to open our eyes to them as we manifest them in our home.
But there's a problem--we men are a fragile group. We often find silly reasons for dismissing the truth our wives are speaking which could be there to coach us out of our detachment, harshness or neglect and put us back on track.
The determining factor between being coached or being angered is simply a question of our operational mode. If we are working from Operational Humility, we hear and respond. If we are functioning with Operational Defensiveness we will argue, snipe, yell, retreat, leave, quit, whine or brood.
Humility is only a virtue when it is presently in operation. Operational humility. Defensiveness may be a tendency but it is only a problem when it is in operation. Operational defensiveness.
There is no such thing as "I don't have time." Really, there is only: I will choose to make time for that <or> I won't choose to make time for that.
Why don't we say it like that? I think the reason is pretty simple. Saying "I don't have time" allows me to function as a victim of some unseen Time Vacuum Bandit that robbed me when I wasn't looking. I'm not responsible. My time was eaten up without my permission. Its the Time Bandit Vacuum's fault.
But saying something like, "I won't choose to make time for that" (aka, that is not a priority to me) feels harsh and mean (or so I'm told.) So instead we blame the evil TBV.
But isn't being honest--that its a decision we're making not to make something fit on our schedule--isn't it just a bit more...um what's the word I'm looking for here... um, honest?
See, there's a problem with being "nice" as an operational ethic. It makes you lie a lot. If you tell the truth, even in love, you will have to say things that may not be nice sometimes. Like, "I won't be doing that--won't make time for it."
Can I be honest? I prefer being nice to being honest more often than I would like to admit. But I think its time for new vocabulary. Something a bit more honest.
Misha Beverly was recently baptized at our Lincoln Park location. She is a newcomer to Chicago and to New Life. A Columbia Chronicle reporter recently caught her in the act--in the act of working hard and excelling in fashion design while following Jesus. What a well-dressed combination. You can read about it for yourself...