Monday, August 26, 2013

Broken but redeemed

We left off discussing my mission statement last week after a stimulating post on the word "stimulating." Well, at least the 3.2 faithful readers thought it was. Or maybe they didn't either. Okay, so I like the word, and maybe it's just me.

As a refresher, my whole statement of personal mission is "stimulating redemptive living and kingdom investment." Let me share a few thoughts about my choice of the word "redemptive."

The world is broken. My kids are broken. POTUS and the Speaker of the House, they're broken. Miley Cyrus is broken (obvious after last night). So is Billy Graham (much less obvious but still true).

I am broken. Very broken. At the heart of my very being, I am not who I was created to be. I'm chipped, cracked and falling apart in places. And so are you.

And when a bunch of us broken people get together, the brokenness that can show up is like the running of the bulls.

The Bible uses (often maligned) words like "sin" and "transgression" and "flesh" to describe this brokenness in both people and communities. We tend to think that this is just a bunch of rules a vindictive God enacted to keep us in line, like the IRS or something. Are there some rules? Of course there are. But the real goal of all that religious talk about sin and holiness, is packed into the word "living." But I'm getting ahead of myself, that's the next conversation.

But today, it's the brokenness. Because the brokenness can--and hopefully will in you and me and my kids and Miley Cyrus--lead to redemption. Redemption is the buying back of something, the regaining of something lost.

During our semi-annual gathering at my cousin's ranch, we often drive into town and hit up a pawn shop. You ever wandered around one of those, wondering what the story is behind each piece? What prompted a person to need the cash over that record, that piece of furniture, that power tool? What would make a man sell a family heirloom watch for a few bucks? What motivates a man to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew?

How could someone sell out his rabbi for 30 pieces of silver?

I have sold out my own birthright, my own soul, for the sake of a few somethings. And it broke me, shattered my soul. Every time. And even though I walked past that pawn shop window day after day after day, leaning on the glass so close I could see my breath clouding my reflection, I had nothing to buy it back.

Nothing. I had no redeeming value. Until...

Until the One who loved me most redeemed me. Bought me back. Restored my soul.

I'm broken, but I'm redeemed.

And one day I'll be restored, but that's a future conversation.

The value of courtship

Don't you hate it when you know something, but you still struggle to act on it?

Knowledge, as great as it is, cannot change us alone. Growth requires knowledge plus the will to act plus actually putting it into practice. And none of this can be done in a vacuum, it has to be done in relation to another.

Courtship is like that for me. If you've been to any marriage seminar in the past 20 years (maybe more than that, but I've only been married for 22) you've heard that courtship has to continue after marriage so that the relationship continues to mature. Very true, but challenging to practice consistently.

Oddly enough, it was a marketing email this morning that prompted this post. Roy Williams over at the Wizard of Ads said this:

The perfect customer is like a beautiful woman, distant and desirable and pursued by countless competitors. An appropriate metaphor, don’t you think?
Most advertisers want ads that equate to a magical pickup line. “Tell me what to say to this beautiful woman so that she’ll rip off her clothes and jump into bed with me.”
 (find the whole blog here)

Leaving the sexual innuendo behind for a moment, the reality is we all want people to like us. We want to be desirable, as people, as employees, as spouses, whatever. And a good chunk of our own self-value comes from our success at "selling" ourselves. We could fight this if we want--many people do--but I'm convinced that's the totally wrong approach. We were made for relationship. We were made to love and be loved. And while it's hard work, life is meaningless without it.

Relationship--with God, with your spouse, with your friends, with your boss, with your team--will define  you and shape you. So it's worth cultivating deep and lasting relationships with those around you.

It's worth courting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


My brother commented yesterday that my mission statement could fit any believer...asking if it's not something all believers should be doing. Hopefully as we explore each of the 5 words and 2 phrases, the uniquiclier pieces of what this means to me (and in turn what your mission could mean to you) will become clear.

Today I want to unpack what is, for some, the most unliked part of my mission, and that's the word stimulating. When I first chose this word, I actually went through a bunch of synonyms before settling on it, using words like promoting, building, leading, etc. But it was reading about oysters that landed me on stimulating. As it says somewhere on my blog, like a tiny grain of dust or some other particle annoys the crap out of an oyster until a pearl is formed, I've become convinced that God's call for me involves using humor, irony and maybe even a little sarcasm as methods to get people to think outside their normal boxes and consider what God might be doing. Social scientists refer to all the things we need to unlearn before we can learn something--that's what I'm trying to stimulate. Particularly for those like me who have grown up in the modern American church, it's so hard to get out of the bubble of our uni-cultural existence and see how incredibly broad and diverse the kingdom of heaven can be.

I usually refer to it as the spiritual gift of button-pushing (listed in 2 Hezikiah).

Now, have I done this poorly at times? Absolutely. Just like a preacher/teacher tempted to use the pulpit to "shout down" people in the church who oppose their leadership, I've certainly twisted my own calling from God for my own purposes. I'd be willing to be that some of you reading this have been offended by something I've said in sarcasm, or something I've pushed too hard. If that's the case, I'd love to hear from you and let you know how sorry I am, for that is not my intent. My intent is to stimulate redemptive living and kingdom investment, but my clay feet sometimes get in the way.

Many of you know I've struggled in the past with "organized" Christianity. I'm not a fan of much of what USAmerican Evangelicalism has become. (I'm tempted to insert several of my pet peeves here, but I'm resisting.) And, quite frankly, I've tried once or twice to leave. Or twenty times.

My mission keeps bringing me back. God's call to stimulation will not allow me to go start something new (like that would work anyway, I'm pretty sure I'd screw that up) but to first listen to him and then be his voice in my circles of influence. I do it well some days, poorly some other days, and probably miss opportunities altogether way too often.

But I do believe its part of my calling. More to come...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mission as calling

We started talking yesterday a little about calling. It's interesting, a couple of the faith-based organizations I've interviewed with have asked some form of this question:

"Do you feel called to work at ABC Ministry?"

I've struggled with what calling means for years now. I remember the Sunday night at Mt. Franklin Baptist Church in El Paso when I walked down and told my pastor, Buster Reeves, that I thought God was calling me to ministry. In a conversation with him later that week I said something like "I don't think God has called me to be a pastor, because I don't think I could come up with a new sermon every week. I think he's calling me to be a youth evangelist, so I can travel around summer camps and preach the same 5 sermons over and over." Those of you who know me are probably chuckling right now at the idea that I would run out of things to say.

When I first finished at UTEP, I just knew I was called to work for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). FCA had been so influential on me as a college football player, and the FCA staff I had met back then seemed like really cool people, and I wanted to be like them. A brief phone conversation in 1989 with Dennis Conner changed all that, when he told me that I needed to raise my own support. At that time the last thing I wanted to do was raise money, so I quickly backed out of that conversation.

Later I was working at Loma Terrace Baptist Church as the Associate Pastor, and our Senior Pastor got a Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling and opened a private practice. The church called me as the new Senior Pastor.

But what was God calling me to? Was God's calling to a place, an organization, a church? Or was it deeper?

It was during my years at Loma Terrace that I first started using what has become the first half of my mission: stimulating redemptive living. Then, a few years later, as I ended up back at FCA raising my own support (God's great sense of irony), I added the second phrase, kingdom investment, as I learned more about biblical stewardship. So for almost 20 years now, my personal mission has been this:

Stimulating redemptive living and kingdom investment.

This is what God has called me to. And it's more about who I am and how that flows into what actions I take, than it will ever be about what job I have to pay my bills. Each of the 5 main words in my mission mean something to me, and over the next few days I want to unpack them.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Refleparation. That's been my word for the recent past, and for next couple of weeks, and I'm sticking to it. I was trying to decide if this recent path has been more about reflection or about preparation, and the answer was yes, so I made up a word for it.

It's my first Monday without a full-time job. I've known for several months now that today would arrive. I've been preparing for it...primping my resume, applying for positions, interviewing, starting my own company.

But today I'm not a whole lot closer to knowing the details of what will be providing income for my family in 3 months than I was 3 months ago. And I have to admit that's a little frustrating. And exciting.

For those of you looking for just the job update, you can scroll to the bottom and read the last paragraph. But let me throw out a couple of thoughts on knowing God's will. I've always lived somewhere between disbelief and jealousy when my friends talk about how God shared something with them about a decision that they needed to make. It's never been like that for me, not when it comes to the future. Sure, I can look back at decisions made, roads chosen, paths walked, and say "yep, that was God's plan all along." But before I made that decision, drove down that road, or walked down that path, I was like "I have no idea what God is saying. Help!"And I think I have a pretty conversational relationship with God, it's just that I have not ever had a sense of him saying "doing that and not this" when I've got one of those biggie decisions. Or even the little ones.

It's led me to these two thoughts: first, the opposite of faith is not usually doubt. It's usually certainty. If I know what God wants me to do today, tomorrow and beyond, if I know what to have for dinner, what job to pursue, and so on, then my relationship with him becomes less about a faith-journey and more about my ability to will obedience. And as a guy redeemed from the punishment of sin but still waiting for the redemption from it's presence in the world (including in me), the last thing I want to do is trust in my ability to will anything into existence, especially my own holy obedience.

So it's a faith journey.

Second then, is this thought: just like college football games aren't won on Saturday, but on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays, wise decisions aren't usually made when the choices are presented in front of you. They are made because you have collaborated with the Holy Spirit over the course of time to produce good character in yourself. You have offered yourself as that living sacrifice day after day after day (see Romans 12.1-2). Then (I love that "then") as you've been transformed by the renewal of your mind, you can test and "discern what is the will of God."

God's calling is so much more about who he calls me to be than what he calls me to do for a living.

What a journey I'm on. Yes, right now I'm excited about it. I'm still considering a couple of options, either a traditional fundraising role, or jumping full time into the consulting world. I'm testing those options, looking to discern his will, and your prayers are welcome. So are your thoughts, so feel free to email, call, text, or grab me for coffee. In the meantime, I'm refleparating. More to come tomorrow...