The More You Read, The Less You Know

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A bit under a year ago I made the big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG’s as they are called) to read 100 books over the 2016 calendar year.  It was a hard goal to commit to and has been a harder goal to pursue.  Right now on August 22nd, I freely admit that I will never do this again.  On January 1st I will gladly drop back to my usual pattern of reading one book a week.

The books I have conquered have not all been easy 100 page self helpers with one point chapters.  Over the last month I completed Martin Luther’s 350 page “Bondage of the Will” and read three systematic theologies all running over 300 pages.  In addition, I have kept to my usual pattern of reading 2 or 3 news articles a day, every issue of TIME magazine and a few religious periodicals as they become available.

Since it is August 22nd, I should also freely admit I am not sure why I am doing this.  Initially it had something to do with the fact that I did second grade twice.  Since then I have always felt like I was a year behind my fellow colleagues.  This is the year I catch up!

The reasons for the BHAG go deeper than that.  Every older pastor I respect has impressed upon me that pastors must read and that they must read a variety of books from a variety of fields and perspectives.  On the same note, I know several pastors who don’t read, or only read very selectively, and almost to a person their ministries, especially their sermons, are theological disasters.  Some of them pastor large churches but they are peddling cheap forms of consumer religiosity, not the deep truths of God’s Word.  I don’t want to be them, even if it means being a small church pastor for the rest of my life.

With that said, the more I read the more I distrust reading.  In fact, over the last several months I have come across several quotes by historical figures who themselves read very widely and deeply.  Yet at the end of their lives they recommend Christians just read the Bible.

A.W. Tozer, who wrote 40 books himself and was known for reading several more, is one of the more blunt ones.  In sermons he preached towards the end of his career that are now published as “Life in the Spirit” and “How to be Filled With the Spirit”, he recommended his congregation not read too many books other than the Bible.  He argued that we could trust his judgment in this because he had read so many books himself.

I am quickly agreeing with Tozer.  It is quite possible that in the very near future I will tell my congregation, “my job is to read books so that you don’t have to.  And trust me, that is a great act of love and sacrifice on my part!”

What Tozer may have known is that the more you read, the less you know.  It has all ready been commonly said that the goal of an education is not intelligence or rote memorization of data or even acquisition of a skill, but humility.  One of the jokes told to us in college was that if we graduated thinking we knew something, my alma mater would have failed me and I would deserve a $100,000 refund.  Sadly, I know some of my classmates who deserve the refund.  But the more you study, read, memorize and practice, the more you realize you don’t know anything.

There is a vast universe of information out there of which the smartest of us have only grasped an iota.  The more I read the more I discover things I was flat out wrong about, or had not even the slightest idea existed.  The more I read, the more I know that I know not.  Everything I thought was true proved wrong by another turn of a page.

Also the more I read, the more I realize the authors don’t know what they are talking about either.  They are almost as limited as I in their grasp of reality.  Take Martin Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” where he quotes Romans at length.  Over the last century new archaeological findings from the 1st century Roman empire, including several written documents, have proved most of Luther’s exegesis of Paul misleading.  On top of that, the holocaust awakened scholars to the long neglected awareness of 1st century Jewish thought and literature.  Post holocaust we understand Paul was much more Jewish than Gentile and our Gentile readings of his letters are incredibly inaccurate.  Poor Martin Luther didn’t know that.  He was a victim of his time and place and of the information he had available to him at the time.  Because of that he also advocated for the Holocaust centuries before his followers would actually carry it out.  One Lutheran historian noted that you can’t blame him for his antisemitism.  He was merely acting out of the common sentiment of his time.

Aren’t we all?  I too am a victim of my own time and place and so are all of the many authors whose books I have been devouring these last months and years.  Don’t even get me started about present day “journalists” who seem to be more victim to their context, which in this case is internet clicks, than anybody has ever been!

Realizing this to be true, what could I possibly say from the pulpit on Sunday?  We might be wrong about everything?  There is a futility to existence that I know not how to answer?  Don’t ever read anything by anybody because they are probably wrong?  Martin Luther was a heretic?  John Wesley probably was too?  But don’t worry, you and I are definitely worse than either which is why we keep their stuff around and insist that at least our pastors study them!

All of that may be good, especially for our time and place where people are growing increasingly arrogant about what they assume to be true.  However the second half of Tozer’s advice rings truer.  The Scriptures are far more profound than anything I have yet discovered.  The Scriptures ring truer, reveal more and inspire us to virtue more than any other document yet produced.  I have spent my 32 years on this planet studying them, memorizing them, learning their languages and I have yet to discover their depth. And I am sure that I will spend the next 40 to 50 years of my life continuing to pore over them only to continue to discover new territories of God’s wisdom and grace.

For this reason, the more I read the more I find myself quoting books from the pulpit, but not to say, “See here, this author has something to teach us.”  But to say, “See here, this author maybe should have read Scripture more closely.  See here, this author might have been wrong because Scripture teaches something else.”  Or on a more positive note, “See here, I didn’t read Scripture well enough and this author pointed out to me something I had missed in the text.”  “See here, our God is greater and more loving than even Luther or Wesley or Tozer or Lewis or Chrysostom or even our modern day authors have yet discovered!”  They help us dig a bit deeper but Scripture reveals to us that there are much greater and deeper ravines of God’s great love yet to explore!

After all, Scripture teaches us over and over that it is not about what you know, but it is about who you know, that all loving but all encompassing, great three in one, one in three personality we label God and the Hebrews called YHWH!

See here, I read many books so that I can continue to encourage you to spend your life reading the one Book and getting to know the one God!

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A Sermon Somewhere: Doing Drugs

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This post is the latest in an ongoing series where I try to find the hidden sermons lurking beneath everyday experiences.  .  .and fail miserably.

I am an Evangelical Christian pastor.  This means I don’t like drugs.  Actually I despise them.  True, I like coffee but I always feel guilty for liking coffee, like I am betraying some sort of hidden Bible verse, probably in Proverbs, about caffeine being associated with short life and rebellious children.  When it comes to the other drugs, though, I avoid them all like the plagues they pretend to cure.

I am also a marathon runner and athlete.  This means I respect the character forming nature of proper pain.  Pain is gain and that which dulls pain dulls character.  Anybody who takes anything other than water and sleep is a wimp and probably a Pharisee.

I really don’t like drugs whether they be the big bads (cocaine, heroin, meth) or the regular over the counter meds (ibuprofen, Advil, etc).  I will suffer with a headache or muscle pain for days before it even occurs to me that Tylenol exists.

My wife is always the one that reminds me.

She is a bit more of a wimp.  If she feels the very slightest form of nausea, she is hitting up our medicine cabinet like it holds the gifts of eternal life.  She has the pharmacy section of the grocery store memorized and is familiar with drugs that I have never heard of.  When I get near that section, I pray protection over the demons lurking within and then rush in, find what I need, and rush out before any of them get on me.

In the 8 years of our marriage one of our ongoing “debates” has been over the use of drugs.  I will say something like, “I have a slight headache today.”  She will reply, “Take Advil.”  I will reply, “That’s what the heathens do, dear.”  She will say, “If you feel that strongly about it, then stop complaining.”  I let her win there but in my head I note, “I am not complaining.  I was just making conversation about how the changing weather pattern is affecting the pressure in my head and causing unpleasantness.”  So in the end I win.

That is until this last month.

We moved to Utah a year ago and, as I have noted before, everything is different in Utah.  That apparently applies to the allergens in the air.  Those who have moved to Utah in the last few years quickly remind us that it takes three Aprils for your sinuses to adjust to the unique climate.  They may as well be suggesting you just save up all your sick leave for April.

Sure enough around the second week of April my whole family started to feel miserable.  Stuffy noses, coughs and fevers swept over all four of us, causing an incredible amount of misery.  As always I vowed to muscle through it.  Surely the pollen would eventually settle and I could go back to normal.  In my defense, my wife binged on all of her medicines and still felt miserable.

Three weeks later I was not better but much, much worse.  One Monday morning, my will and strength finally gave out and I reluctantly drove to a clinic.  I was in and out in fifteen minutes.  After listing off my symptoms they told me I had bronchitis because the pollen in my chest had sat for so long that it had become infected.  If I would have just taken over the counter meds it would not have happened.  The doctor prescribed something called “Mucinex” twice a day.  My wife had heard of it but up to that point I thought “Mucinex” was the name of a 1990s rapper.

I followed my orders like a good little obedient heathen and took the Mucinex and felt better within 48 hours.

Then this week my son developed a fever and went lethargic on us.  We chose to let him sleep it off.  Truth be told, I actually enjoyed the peace and quiet from his 4 hour long naps that he took twice daily.  Even better, when he was awake he wasn’t that energetic either, just sat in our arms staring blankly into the abyss.  He drank little and ate less.  We gave him a small dose of Tylenol once a day but it didn’t seem to help and Tuesday, after watching him moan on the couch for an hour, my dad hormones won out and I dragged him to the clinic.

They spent four hours poking and prodding and running tests only to send me home on the fool’s errand of trying to get a urine sample from a not quite potty trained two year old.

We waited all day Wednesday and I reluctantly dragged him back Thursday morning without the urine sample, knowing that now they had to extract the UA in very ungodly ways.  Luckily he had developed a skin rash and an ear ache at that point which were the final two symptoms needed for a diagnosis.

The doctor who saw him was gruff and opinionated.  I could tell he fought himself greatly to not just rage about what his coworkers had done Tuesday as he said through baited breath, “They did what!?”

Not long after, he brought out doses of both Ibuprofen and Advil and fed them to my son, who perked up within the hour.  An hour later he came back and said, “You are free to go but I am just going to have to be mean right now.”  He took a deep breath and sighed before saying through the same baited breath, “You guys have to be totally on top of this, more than you are being.  Medicine every four hours!  Force feed him liquids!  If he won’t drink hold him down and force a syringe down his throat with water or juice.  Is that clear?”

I was just happy to be talking to someone who knew what he was doing though I find the insinuation that I am a bad parent for not giving my kids drugs a bit insulting.

Maybe in the end it turns out drugs might have their purpose, not just for blunting pain but for not dying.  Or they might not.  I am not sure I am willing to let my wife truly win this round quite yet.  After all, who knows about how much integrity my son picked up from suffering so miserably?  I basically just secured him a high school award for “Best Character and Conduct.”  That is an award I never won, by the way.  Probably because my lousy parents gave me too much medicine.

It is also possible that we would have gotten better without the meds.  But now we will never know.

Invincible ignorance truly is bliss.

Either way, there has got to be a sermon in there somewhere.

A Pastor’s Running Baggage

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This morning I awoke at my in law’s house in Western Washington.  I only find myself here once or twice a year and usually feel somewhat claustrophobic.  I was born and raised between the big skies and wide open spaces of southern Idaho.  Here the low hanging clouds and giant, lumbering trees create an unsettling eeriness.  At least it unsettles me.  My wife, who grew up here, calls it “comforting.”

Be that as it may, I generally look forward to running a few miles whenever I am here.  To the west of my in law’s house lies acres and acres of narrow roads that wind through dense forests.  When I was here in November I ran out on a narrow road without a shoulder.  The forest to each side is beautiful.  However, this road has a disturbing amount of traffic and no room for pedestrians.  The gorgeous forests were ideal.  The 40 mile per hour cars trying not to hit me were less than.

Apparently I remembered the beauty and forgot the traffic because this morning I ran out that way again.

As I carefully dodged the cars, most of which were ambivalent to my well being, I found myself imagining what might happen if one of these cars did kill me.

What would happen to my church?  How would my wife handle it?  Would my kids be okay without a dad?  What friends would come to the funeral?  These are eery thoughts, perfect for such an eery place as the Pacific Northwest.

But more than family and friends, I also wondered about secret emotions and feeling I might take with me to my grave.  After all, within these 150 pounds of loosely jointed muscles and bones I have a startling amount of baggage.

Which is unfortunate, given that us runners are a minimalist bunch.  Now I know there is an entire industry of runner related gadgets that you can carry on your miles.  However their cell phone arm straps, runner friendly head phones, heart rate monitors, calorie trackers, absorbent head bands, mp3 players and the billions of marketing that sells them are all superfluous.  The best way to tell a runner from a jogger is to look for these needless accessories.

I am purist and have been since college.  When I leave home I wear running shoes, socks, a watch and the shortest pair of shorts this pastor can get away with wearing.  More than that, I wait until my stomach is empty, not being one who can run comfortably with anything sloshing around in there.

Yet when I head out to the roads and trails I find a surprising amount of baggage weighing me down.  Yesterday I met with two of my dearest friends in Portland.  As has been the case with every good friend I have made since junior high I am desperate to retain their friendship.  I spent a few minutes this morning going over everything I said and did wrong yesterday while with them and worried that they might not like me as much after.

More than that, I am a pastor of a church that seems fairly stable and yet I worry about how precarious the situation is.  Whenever I run I try to assess each congregants discipleship status.  Are they making gains?  Are they giving the enemy ground?  Are they willing to hear me ask them the tough questions and read the tough scriptures to them or do they need something the Apostle Paul would compare to “milk?”  Is my relationship with my associate strong enough, good enough?  What congregants can I build trusting friendships with and what ones are waiting in the weeds to destroy me?

In fact, the problem with evangelical pews is that the more you sit in them the more arrogant you become, thinking you are right about everything.  How do I fight that trend and teach and model a humility through which the other virtues will grow?  And how do I do that knowing that the problem with evangelical pulpits are that the more you stand behind them the more sure of yourself you become?  How do I fight that tendency within myself and model the needed humility?

Then there is the macro vision.  How do I work and live into my calling to make disciples who make disciples and plant churches who plant churches?  What conversations do I need to have?  What partnerships do I need to foster?  What steps do I need to take this next week to work towards the mission?

Then there is that church I left.  We met yesterday with a member of that church.  They do not yet have a pastor and are struggling to find and afford one.  There have been several blows to their congregational life since I left.  A divorce, a death, a few severe illnesses, financial instability and of course, leadership changes.  When I left that church in February, I foretold that I was going to break a lot of hearts, starting with my own.  And my heart is still aching and breaking for them and for me.

I also think of friends.  I spent last weekend with a friend who has pastored what we call a “buzzsaw” church.  He went into it whole.  He came out in pieces.  It was my deep honor to share his pain last weekend and yet it was a taxing time.  We cried together, raged together and even laughed at the absurd world.  I still mourn from him.

Then there is another friend, I have known and respected since high school.  He won all the awards in high school and is now becoming somewhat of a national celebrity for a shoe he invented.  I admire and respect him and yet feel like in the race to save the world, I am far behind him and losing ground daily.  How do I possibly catch up?  Should I even try?  Can my small daily sacrifices even compare to his amazing ability to make roses out of dog poop?

Needless to say in this 150 pound body striding effortlessly through the forests of Washington, is a surprising amount of stress, grief, frustration and fear.  No wonder I didn’t even bother with a shirt.  The extra weight would be the straw that broke this camel’s back.

I would take all this to my grave if one of these haphazard drivers ends my life.  In fact, if that had happened, all you would have is a half written sermon for next Sunday and last week’s blog post about Monday Morning’s Repentance.  Hardly a legacy, but a legacy I am not sure I want to leave anyway.

As I dodge three or four more cars, an asphalt sidewalk suddenly appears in front of me.  It starts at the road and then weaves away through some trees, curving in and out.  When I see it I seem to hear a different voice in the back of my head, a comforting and familiar presence that says, “Follow the path and I will keep you safe.”

A minute or two later I stop to catch my breath.  As sweat forms and pours off me I offer up prayers for my church, my denomination, my last church, my friends and for myself.

For the one who called me is faithful.  .  .

The Sanctity of Kindred Conversationsed

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Over the last month I have been transitioning to a new ministry assignment (as is obvious by anybody who read the last, like, 8 posts).  As is often the case, the time of transition has given rise to much reflection.  A lot of that reflection has happened as I have spoken with kindred spirits, people who more or less share my occupation, calling and worldview.

Now, I am a proud member of the Wesleyan/Holiness tribe.  More than many things, I take great pride in the push of our movement to insist our members befriend those who are fundamentally different from us.

After all the Wesleyan/Methodist movement really got going when John Wesley began befriending and journeying with those much poorer than him in 18th century England.

One hundred years later, Phineas Bresee, the founder of the Church of the Nazarene, moved to Los Angeles and grew acquainted with several homeless and poverty stricken families.  The Church of the Nazarene was so named because Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a Biblical city known for poverty.

That same Jesus taught us that the call to love does not stop at family but travels through our neighbors on its way down through the least and lonely until it finds it telos in its enemy.

With that said, a couple times in my life I have become dear friends with those who are fundamentally different than me.  They grew up in different parts of the country, have different skin colors, a different socio-economic status and vastly different testimonies than my own.  I cherish those friendships.

But this post is not about that.  It is about the other side of the spectrum, the friendships I have with those who are very similar to me in rank and culture and worldview.  I feel that sometimes our tradition has gotten so caught up in advocating for love towards those different, we have forgotten to acknowledge that a very profound grace is at work when we sit down to coffee or dinner with similar souls.

For the last 3 years I have been surrounded by those who are just very different than me.  Kindred spirits have been hard to find.  Admittedly, I have matured a lot as I have journeyed through an entirely different world.  However, that journey came with a great amount of loneliness.

As I emerged out of that lonely life, the conversations I have had in transition have been means of grace.

A few weeks ago I sat down with one of my mentors and discussed things as trivial as the length of worship services.  We shared our similar discovery that short sermons have a profound rhetorical effect.  Just last week I put that to the test by limiting one of my sermons to 700 words (the length of Lincoln’s inaugural).  I will write about that later.

Around the same time I met with a peer on the district and we gossiped (healthily) about the successes and failures of common friends, our shared desire to see churches planted and the frustrations of pastoring broken people who attempt to break us.

Right before that I met with a pastor who spent many years working among military members.  As I have just moved into a military community, the advice was valuable.

A week later I was again sitting down to coffee and soup with two dear friends who share my concern for missional churches that serve neighborhoods.

Then I met with a much older mentor and we shared our strikingly similar visions with each other.

I write all this in order to acknowledge what I think we sometimes forget:  There is a very real power at work when we have conversations with kindred souls.  I do not think that power is evil or anti-Christ.  Instead, these conversations remind us that even though we are lonely, we are not alone.  After all, the God who calls us also calls people like us to join us.

But do not despair, my Wesleyan friends.  I still very much believe our kindred conversations must be offset by the call to enter into loving relationship with our enemies and with those who have nothing in common with us.  After all, God’s love does not prop up love for one over/against love for the other.

But I also write all this as a form of giving thanks to the God who continues to empower us to love each other, those kindred and those different, in ever increasing ways.

I pray that this new season with be full of grace filled conversations that breathe life into your death and friendship to outlast your loneliness.

A Sermon Somewhere: Towns Named Bliss That Are Less Than

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*This post is the latest in an ongoing series where I try to find sermons hiding behind life’s monotony.  .  .and fail miserably.

Yesterday I drove a 26 foot long moving truck packed with the vast majority of my life’s belongings across southern Idaho to northern Utah.

There is much theological reflection that happens during life’s transitions.  The irony of moving on Ash Wednesday was not lost on me.  The words “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” seemed a fitting summary of the junk packed U-Haul.  Also, the underlying reality of why I left one ministry assignment for another seemed particularly poignant.  I heard from God and after hearing from God there was no way to not obey though I pleaded for a different message.  Still, as I pulled out of that wonderful town in Eastern Oregon, I could not help but pray, “God please give me the love for the new congregation that you gave me for the old.”  But sustained and prayerful theological reflection soon gave way to more frivolous meanderings as the miles racked up on the odometer.

Now I grew up in Idaho and absolutely love the state.  It is a wonderful state full of mountains and lakes and rivers and hot springs and trees and all kinds of good creation.  But southern Idaho, the part along I-84, is the exception that proves the rule.  You can see the mountains in the distance, little molehills popping up on the horizon with some white still on them.  But you have to squint and focus really hard to see that.  And when you are driving a massive 26 foot long truck with your life’s possessions in it, turning your head left and squinting is not a good idea.

So you stare at the road ahead and try not to think about how brown and flat the terrain is and how straight the road ahead lies.  If John the Baptist was sent to make the paths straight, he did a fine good job in southern Idaho.

There are a few towns out there to break up the monotony, though not many.  By some historical joke people named these towns things like, “Bliss” and “Paradise” and “Eden.”

Like most devout Christians, I have a picture in my head of what Eden looks like and that picture does not include a gas station in the middle of sagebrush.  Yet there Eden, ID is, a truckstop and some sagebrush with a few singlewide trailers around it.  Bliss and Paradise are not much better off.

To be fair, I have read Well`s “The Jungle” and I know how bad city life was at the time people were immigrating out west.  I also know my fair deal about the Oregon Trail (mostly from the awesome video game) and about how bad the journey was.  So I can totally understand that after Grandma starved to death in a Chicago slum and Timmy died of cholera in southern Wyoming how a wonderful family arrived in the sagebrush of southern Idaho and were fooled into thinking, “we just found Paradise.”  Still, you think future generations would have changed the name.

Yet I suppose there is a larger statement here about the human capactity for love.  After all somewhere in the not to distant past there was a person or a family who saw that sagebrush in that desert and fell in love with it.  Nobody anywhere else would love that sagebrush so much to call it bliss, but to that family, it was.

It kind of reminds me of a wonderful verse in Job.  It is towards the end, when God is having God`s say and it is not a pleasant conversation.  God is asking Job a series of questions meant to humiliate Job and in the middle of the questioning God suddenly blurts out, “I make it rain in the desert!”  Nothing grows in the desert.  It is an absolute waste to water it.  Yet our God loves deserts and waters them anyway.

Perhaps there is a God given capacity in us humans to love deserts as well and maybe Bliss and Eden are a testimony to that.

Or maybe I just drove way too many miles yesterday and am not caffeinated enough today.  Either way, there is probably a sermon in there somewhere.

A Sermon Somewhere: Shopping on Black Friday

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There is an old preacher’s joke that goes, “I don’t know where but there is a sermon in there somewhere.”  This series builds off of that by trying to find the sermons hiding beneath our everyday experiences.  .  .and failing miserably.

I have never gone shopping on Black Friday.  In fact, I don’t recall ever leaving the house on Black Friday, except maybe to go for a run in the wilderness and not the wilderness of shopping carts, frantic grandmas, speeding suburbans, and angry house moms that is known as “the Costco parking lot.”  Instead for me, the “black” in Black Friday has always described the other side of my eyelids, which is what I spend most Black Fridays staring at.

But then it happened yesterday.  While watching one of three football games at my in-law’s place, Fred Meyer played an ad about 1,248 times that advertised a 40 inch television for $150.

The first 652 times I completely ignored the ad, but on that magical 653rd time, my father in law repeated, “$150 for a TV is not bad.”

Now my wife and I own one television.  It is 26 inches wide and has deplorable speakers.  We bought it for $450 right after we got married and it has served us nicely, except once or twice a year the remote randomly stops working.  The first time we went for months without using the remote before we randomly discovered that if you unplug the television, wait a few seconds and plug it back in, the remote works again.

Still, my wife and I have been dreaming about a new television, one where maybe the remote works ALL of the time and with better volume.

So, I looked up from my book and said, “What brand was it?”

They replied all at once:  “Surely you are not going try to get one tomorrow?  You would have to camp out in front of Fred Meyer now and even then you probably won’t get one.”

“Well it might be fun,” I mused, while I found the ad online, an ad that boasted, “Only 10 per store!  Sale starts at 5am!”

“Looks like a good deal and even if I didn’t get one the experience would give me great sermon material.”

After all, most congregants can’t relate to stories about sleeping all day on Black Friday and then waking up to do a 10 mile long run in the wilderness.  But standing in line waiting for a TV, throwing elbows, tackling toddlers and yelling, “Haha!  I got one!” when you laid fingers on the prize is a sermon worth preaching.

I mused over it for a few hours.  5AM is early but I have done it before for far less noble reasons than buying a television.  We did need a new one and did not have more than $200 to pay for it.  A new television for our family room would mean we could move the old one to our bedroom.  Having a television in your bedroom is one of those defining staples that you have finally arrived at the swanky middle class life.

But 5am was early.  And who would want to wake up at that time for a television?  But it wasn’t for the television.  It was for the story.  I could regale my wonderful friends with the epic tale.  They would all laugh and shake their heads at me.  I would tell it at weddings and funerals and special occasions like Easter.

“This sunrise service reminds me of another time I woke up before sunrise but to get a television.  .  .”

“Then as my hand landed on the prize of the television I realized all that work to get out of bed was worth it.  .  .just like our dear, deceased Mary is now laying hold of her prize in heaven.”

“Just like I woke up at 5am to get my wife a television, you should keep your marital vows pure by going the extra mile for each other.”

There is no limit to what this story could do.

But 5AM is so early, especially after a day full of eating high calorie foods and watching football littered with Fred Meyer commercials.

So I finally asked my wife, “Is it worth it?”

“We do need a new TV, but we just don’t have $150 to buy one right now,” she replied.

Good.  That was it.  It was settled.  I was not waking up at 5am, even if the story would be epic.

But then my mother-in-law said, “If you get one, I will pay for it.”

Well, now it wasn’t settled.

I mulled it over for a few more hours and well into the night, even after going to bed.  In the end, for no discernible reason, I did not set my alarm.  I woke up around 7:30 when my infant son woke up screaming and my toddler daughter pounced on the bed.  It was a good moment, a wonderful family gathering full of smiles and giggles and my angry wife muttering curses at the three of us as she tried to fall back to sleep.

So can I tell a story about that time I didn’t wake up at 5am to brave the cruel crowds and cold rain to buy a television?

I don’t know where, but there has to be a sermon in there somewhere.

The Burden of Having Too Many Opinions

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I am opinionated.  I have way too many opinions about way too many things.  That is not a confession per say.  I kind of like my opinions and I worked really hard to get them.  I have read well over 1,000 books in my life and many more articles online and in print.  I spent many years and much money to get a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree.  During these years my opinions were tested with the fires of academia.  So I don’t necessarily regret having opinions, though sometimes they cause more problems than they are worth.

Awhile back I did try to subject myself to a process called, “de-opinionating.”  I researched all my opinions by reading books, perusing news articles, watching TV shows and having conversations with people.  I did it all in the hopes of deleting some of my opinions.  It didn’t work.  All that reading and watching and conversing just got me more opinions.  Now I have so many that I don’t know what to do with them.

This week I read a few blogs and news commentators and even the dreaded comment sections.  I found that I am not alone in having no idea what to do with all my opinions.  Everybody has all these opinions about Palestine vs. Israel and ISIS Vs. Iraq and Russia vs. Ukraine and Mark Driscoll vs. pretty much everybody.  But not one person knows what do with these opinions except to write them in less than gracious but very colorful prose on the internet and then viciously attack those who disagree.

So if you clicked over here today looking for a new opinion, I apologize because I am choosing not to write down my opinions with the exception of the opinion that I have too many opinions.  Instead, I want to offer that if your opinion just makes you angry, bitter, hostile and frustrated, it might not be worth having, especially if you have no power over the details of the situation.  (Dang it, that is another opinion!)

I think maybe Mark Driscoll should do more than offer a shallow apology but I have no control over getting him to do more and I don’t know what else he should do.  I long for there to be peace in the middle east but it is way above my pay-grade to solve it and if I tried I would probably only make everything worse.  I think Putin is.  .  .well, the ex KGB communist he is, but I can’t even afford a plane ticket to Russia right now so what do I know?

Well, I know that today I had lunch with a new friend who makes much less money than I do but insisted on paying for my meal anyway.  After that I met with a retired high school chemistry teacher and showed him around our new town because he plans on moving here.  He was a wonderful guy who had a fair share of opinions himself.  Then I spoke to the mayor about local problems and frustrations and assured him I was there for him.  Tonight I will meet with our group of 20 or so teenagers.  That will be fun and I hope to get to know and like them a bit better.  They live such troubling lives.  Before youth group I am going to prepare dinner for them and read a little bit.

If someone did give me authority over peace in the middle east and violence in Iraq and who gets to be President in Russia I would probably make all the wrong decisions.  But luckily God didn’t call me to be opinionated.  God just called me to seek peace in the city where I find myself.  That might be a great deal harder than forming opinions about global events but it also might have a bigger impact on the world in the end.

Or maybe I just have too many opinions.