Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Christian Attitude Toward Sports

This is the coach for the Charleston-Southern University football team. Yesterday, his team opened their season against the number one ranked Florida Gators. I thought his response was fantastic. They lost the game 62-3, but I could not have been more proud of a brother in Christ.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Technology and God

It's only 4:30 am and it's already been a strange morning. First, I had a disturbing dream, then I got a text message at 3:52 am and finally the printer in our bedroom did a self-diagnosis that caused it to hum and rattle at 4:09 am. At a minimum, I got the message that I'm supposed to be awake now.

I dreamed that all of our technical team at church was on vacation and someone else was preaching at the church. I was not preaching but was in attendance. The microphones went silent. The technology failed. Yesterday, I sent an email to our worship team about being smooth with transitions in worship and the need to remove awkward moments in worship services. In my dream, worship was anything but smooth. I tried to adjust the microphone receiver and made it worse. Not only could you not hear the speaker, but now we had radio interference coming over the house speakers as well. At one point we were even picking up television signals. Hey, it was a dream. Plausibility is not necessary. After a very awkward attempt to walk to the room behind the platform for batteries that involved the back entrance to the platform being blocked and the need to walk back in front of the pulpit and out the side door, I finally found some batteries. Apparently, this was the problem. Someone else made the same trip in front of the congregation to help find them. Meanwhile, the preacher and congregation sat in awkward silence. No one was pattering, no one suggested singing, and no one left. All in all, it was a disturbing moment for someone like me who cares deeply about people in the church encountering God in worship. They encountered technical failures and human foibles, not God.

It was my iPhone that woke me up. I get a text message when my daughters change their Facebook status. It is one way I can feel connected to them in their busy young lives. My daughter posted a status update at 3:52 am. Something about her Facebook language being changed to French and how Pirate was a language option. This morning was starting off weird.

About the time I settled back to an uneasy doze, my printer did something I've never heard or seen it do. With no computer hooked to it, with no capabilities for network printing, at 4:09 am, it randomly did a system check. The last time it was used was about 6:00 pm the evening before. In my foggy state of mind, the first thing I thought of was horror movies. Maybe the printer was going to print out a message of doom, a prediction of some traumatic event, or an apocalyptic premonition of the end of the world. I think I've read too many books and seen too many movies with those themes. Now, I was imagining it happening to me.

I am sitting here wide awake a half hour after the weirdness began wondering what to make of it all. What does my trust in God have to say about such dreams of worship technology train wrecks, being awakened by technology and a rogue printer with apocalyptic premonitions? In the best of the ancient Hebrew mind, I now wonder what all of this means.

I have been thinking a lot about the act of corporate worship, so it's no surprise I'm dreaming about it. However, I think it is something more than dreaming about doomsday scenarios in worship. I've also been thinking a lot about life and death (witness two posts ago which had to do with both as well as another dream). My friend Martha Brown passed away last week. Tomorrow we bear witness to the Resurrection of Christ and her resurrection to new life with Christ after physical death. We will celebrate her life tomorrow. Somehow these thoughts of technology meltdown have to do with issues like life and death.

I am a big fan and user of technology. I Facebook, Twitter, Skype, blog, podcast, subscribe to multiple RSS feeds, surf the Internet, use graphics, slides and videos for presentations including during worship/preaching and read books and other printed materials constantly (printing was a revolution in technology back in the day). I max out my iPhone in applications as well as usage. My phone even has automatic updates to my computer on which I now type. If I change one piece of information in either one, the other device is automatically updated. Suffice it to say I am a fan and user of technology.

I am a fan, but I did not accept technology into my heart as my Lord and Savior. I am not in a personal relationship with my iPhone or computer or Sennheiser body pack with a Countryman over-the-ear microphone. Those are all tools to help with the primary concern of mine. Maybe the dream, text message and rogue printer were all there to remind me of my priorities this morning. My primary concern is God and people. God is the greatest priority, not technology. My calling is to please God by helping others have a strong and personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Everything else is in a support role, including technology. I guess I just needed a little less sleep this morning to ponder that very thought.

Maybe you need that reminder too today.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

God is Green

Yesterday, a group of us cleaned up our local beach. It was a picture perfect day and we each had about a half mile stretch to clean.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The place was packed. It was a Saturday in Florida at beach. There was plenty of trash to gather. I filled up two garbage bags with candy wrappers, cans and discarded bottles. It felt good. In a very small way, it felt like I was able to help move the earth back toward the garden God planted at the beginning of all things. Back when God provided all that was needed. Back when God spoke with man and woman in the cool of the evening. Back when all enjoyed the original beauty of the earth.

I think God cares about the earth. That's why I love the name of the project which was totally stolen from someone else. God is green. I don't see where, in spite of all the abuse we heap upon this planet, God has withdrawn from it or us. When I see the beauty of a sunset or heavy morning dew hanging on a spider's web, I see the fingerprints of God. God still cares, but we've gotten careless.

I've never been much of an environmentalist. I've always found tree huggers admirable in their zeal, but their politics and made-for-media tactics don't inspire me to the cause. God, however, does inspire me. Taking care of what God asks me to steward inspires me. Imagine what it would be like if all of the Christians rallied the churches, civic organizations and businesses with a simple message: seriously pay attention to the impact your life or business has on the planet.

As for me, I will enjoy the afterglow of being a Saturday morning environmentalist on a warm Florida beach and I will ponder what more I can do to continue to care for this planet God loves.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Going Home

I dreamed I was dying last night. Cancer. I was at the last stages. I know it well. I have often been with others dying from cancer as a pastor. I was still able to talk, but my motions were limited and thoughts were in and out of reality.

I rarely dream about death and I'm sure I dreamed this because my wife and I are going to a funeral tomorrow in our hometown. It is the first funeral I have been to in the last 12 years that I have not had some official duties to perform. As I told my wife, "It's strange."

What made this dream memorable was the fact that I had those final conversations with my children. It was present day, so I was my age and they were their teenage selves. I talked with them about their boyfriends, interests, and school. It was a fully transparent conversation where I knew it was then or never to tell them what mattered most and what was on my mind. At one point, I slipped out of consciousness (so I was in the subconscious dream state dreaming about being subconscious...weird) and awoke in my dream to see three heads right over my bed staring down at me. "I'm ok." They smiled.

"I want you to know one thing," I said to them. "I want you to know that I still believe what you have heard me speak about all of your lives. I believe there is a God and God came into the world in the flesh in Jesus and I believe that when I die, I will go to him." My eyes were closed at that point, but I had more to say to them. "I know you have committed to live for Jesus in your lives. Never back down from that commitment. Live for him." And then, as they have heard repeatedly over the years, "Nothing matters more."

I could feel the weight of their bodies laying against mine and hugging me at that point. It was a bittersweet moment. I didn't want to leave them. They didn't want me to go. But we all knew I was a sick man and this was no way to live. So we hugged and loved each other in the moment.

It was then time to talk to my wife, but before I got to the final conversation with Cile, I woke up, grateful to be very much alive and well, but feeling exhausted. I am writing this not long after waking up and still feeling the heaviness of that dream.

This blog is about living the way of Jesus. It is about what it means to live as a Christian in this world. Part of what it means is being clear about our future. Theologians will categorize this as the doctrine of hope. We are hopeful about our future destiny. Contrary to many beliefs in our world, something happens after our death. Physical death is not the end of the journey. We continue to exist after our physical deaths.

This puts a unique spin on experiencing death in this world. The apostle Paul says we never grieve as others do who have no hope. I have friends who are funeral directors and they tell me they notice a difference all the time between those with faith and those without. The difference is hope.

I don't want to experience death for many years. However, by faith I know what will happen when that time comes. I believe Jesus meant it when he said he was going ahead to prepare a place and would come back to get his disciples and take them to their true home in heaven. He was talking to his first century disciples, but I believe he was talking to all of his people.

For that reason, I think of death as a homegoing full of hope.