Words Someone Needs To Hear

Michael JacksonCNN continues to report new details surrounding Michael Jackson’s death. They say he asked a nurse practitioner for Diprivan (an anesthetic used in surgery) so he could get some sleep.  And Dr. Deepak Chopra said in an interview he had asked for narcotics to dull his pain.  In the mid-’90s, Jackson apparently even toured with an anesthesiologist who would “take him down” at night so he could get some rest.

My heart breaks when I hear of someone with pain so deep that he needed anesthesia just to get away from this world for a while.  Nurse Practitioner Cherilyn Lee told CNN that she refused his recent requests for Diprivan, saying if he took it, he might never wake up.

The world is filled with people who are hurting so badly that they want to sleep and never wake up. There are people surfing the Web right now, looking for ways to die.  There might even be someone reading this blog right now who’s in the darkest moment of their life.  Like Jackson, you’re looking for someone or something to “take you down” so you can get some rest, even if it means never waking up again.

Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  You’re worth the fight. Be courageous and seek help.  And as you do, never forget that rest is found ultimately in God.  The Bible says God offers “shalom,” which is completeness, wholeness, well-being, peace and rest for the weary soul.

Hear this “benediction,” literally “good words” spoken over your life — my prayer for you in this moment:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;  the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Solving People Problems with Problem People

How do people related to each other at your church?  If it’s like the average church, there’s probably a heaping helping of gossip, slander and general malevolence between people who just can’t get along.  What should the church leadership do about this type of strife?

Very wisely, John Piper’s church has set some expectations for how church members should relate to one another.

For example, check out this section on conflict resolution:

  • Whenever we are faced with conflict, our primary goal will be to glorify God with our
    thoughts, words and actions (1 Cor. 10:31).
  • We will try to get the “logs” out of our own eyes before focusing on what others may
    have done wrong (Matt. 7:3-5).
  • We will seek to overlook minor offenses (Prov. 19:11).
  • We will refrain from all gossip, backbiting and slander (Eph. 4:29-32). If we have a
    problem with others, we will talk to them, not about them.
  • We will make “charitable judgments” toward one another by believing the best about
    each other until we have facts that prove otherwise (1 Cor. 13:7).
  • If an offense is too serious to overlook, or if we think someone may have something
    against us, we will seek reconciliation without delay (Matt. 5:23-24; 18:15).
  • When we offer a word of correction to others, we will do so graciously and gently, with
    the goal of serving and restoring them, rather than beating them down (Prov. 12:18; Eph.
    4:29; Gal. 6:1).
  • When someone tries to correct us, we will ask God to help us resist prideful
    defensiveness and to welcome correction with humility (Ps. 141:5; Prov. 15:32).
    When others repent, we will ask God to give us grace to forgive them as he has forgiven
    us (Eph. 4:32).
  • When we discuss or negotiate substantive issues, we will look out for others’ interests as
    well as our own (Phil. 2:3-4).

Does your church have something like this?  Should it?

I’ve Always Wanted One of These

Bible

I collect Bibles.  There, I said it.  I know, it’s a weird hobby.  But I have some pretty cool ones:

  • A TNIV Bible featuring daily devotions by modern-day authors like Louie Giglio beside historical theologians like C.S. Lewis.
  • A Bible made from olive wood from Jerusalem.
  • A limited edition facsimile of the Geneva Bible, worth more than all the others put together.
  • Two Reformation Study Bibles (NIV & NKJV).
  • The Soul Care Bible (for counselors)
  • Several Spanish Bibles
  • A variety of translations (The Message, The Voice, NLT, ESV, etc.)
  • Many sizes, many bindings, many colors… in short: many, many Bibles!

But I’ve always wanted one of these:

It’s a Rainbow Study Bible, and it’s the first Bible I can remember wanting to buy as a child.  It was at Tolley’s Bible Book store, and it cost almost $50.  I didn’t know exactly why I wanted it, but I knew I did.  I would look so cool (or at least colorful) in Sunday School!

You see, the editors had categorized the verses of the Bible into neat little categories like discipleship, love, faith, sin, salvation, and God.  (I guess “God” was the catch-all they used when they were feeling lazy…  Isn’t all of the Bible about God?)

Recently, someone left a Rainbow Study Bible behind in church.  It had sat beside the sound booth for two months before I decided they had given up and that I would adopt it.  Taking it into my office, I couldn’t believe my eyes… the Bible I had always longed for to complete my collection.  Except for one thing.  Now that it was in front of me — and now that I was a bit older and wiser — I didn’t think I liked the concept so much anymore.

Those who produced this Bible may have meant well, but I sometimes but wonder if the Bible really be divided up this easily.  Why should someone be able to just scan the Bible for the green “love” sections?  Does that method of  highlighting facilitate people taking verses out of context?  The more I read the Bible, the more I see it as a narrative.  For example, the letters Paul wrote don’t make sense unless you read them as letters.  Reading one sentence of the letter apart from the rest doesn’t make much sense.  (I would hope you wouldn’t do that if I sent you a letter.)

And on top of that, this Bible added a second level of questionable “highlight.”  It gave the red-letter treatment to the words of Jesus.  Or to be more precise, it underlined them since red was already used in its other categorizing system.  I’ve never liked “Red Letter Bibles.”  Doesn’t that tempt people to view the red letters as more important, interesting or beneficial than the rest?  I believe that all of the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and so if I produced a Red Letter Bible, they’d all be red.  Besides that, you’re once again facilitating people reading Jesus’ teachings out of context when you isolate them in that way.

I’ve sought after this beautiful Bible for at least 20 years, but now that I’ve got it, I think I’m putting it back in lost-and-found.  (Maybe I’ll add a sticky that reminds whoever takes it next to read the non-green passages and the non-red letters with just as much passion and energy as the rest.)

God Is Great, God Is Good…

As I child, I remember being taught this timeless classic:

God is great.  God is good.
Let us thank Him for our food.

(As if food rhymed with good… but anyway.)

It’s an interesting conundrum.  When should we pray before meals?  The Stuff Christians Like blog has a funny take on it:

If you go to Chick-fil-A or In-n-Out you probably don’t have to pray because those are Christian restaurants and the holiness is applied like barbecue sauce to the food items. You’re covered. Taco Bell, Burger King and other restaurants are questionable. At the bare minimum, turn your back in the car while they use that bean and guacamole gun at Taco Bell and say a prayer. Chances are you’ll need it. (By the way, if you’re partaking in Taco Bell’s “Fourth Meal” or the food they feed you between dinner and breakfast, you better pray. Lots. You’ve just introduced a grilled, toasted, roasted, 17 layer, bean bandalero to your stomach at 2 in the morning.)

This is just actually one of seven guidelines in their humorous “Guide to Food Prayers.”  But is it a laughing matter?  Some Christians religiously pray before every meal.  Others don’t at all. Check out this thought from David Crowder in his book, Praise Habit:

We think that if we pray before a meal, it will set this moment apart and other unbelieving peoples might observe our devoutness, and we will make a statement that will surely cause them to stop in their tracks.  Then, leaving this brief holy event well behind, feeling our obligation to “otherness” consummated, we engross ourselves in the devouring of burgers and French fries.

But it is in the moments that follow our prayers that we are able to follow the trail of our true affections, our hidden motivations.  It is in the gluttonous idolatry or tearful gratefulness that we consume the burger.  It is in our conversations over the meal — the valuing or devaluing of the ones with whom we find ourselves exchanging conversation.  It is found in the gratuity at the end of the meal.

What a revolutionary thought!  How we tip says more about the state of our heart than whether we mouth a prayer before the meal or not.  How we treat people around the dinner table says more of our Christlikeness… or not.  The gratitude we feel in our hearts as we eat… or not.

Maybe we should focus as much attention on really being grateful for God’s blessing as we do on an often-times empty ritual.  “But Billy,” you say, “shouldn’t we pray in public as a testament to our faith?”  Good question.  Simple answer:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full” (Matt. 6:5).

If you’re praying before meals just to be seen in public doing it, you’re missing the point of prayer.  And, by the way, that form of evangelism doesn’t work anyway.  As my pastor jokingly asks, when was the last time you went out to eat and saw a Muslim praying, and you thought to yourself, “Man, I think I want to convert now!”

I’m not dissing prayer before meals.  I just think sometimes we focus too much on the external, and it gets in the way of true spirituality.  Thoughts?

Putting the “Fun” Back in “Funeral”

Recently, I was hired to tape a funeral.  I know, I know.  It’s weird.  But I’m getting that type of request more and more often, as people want to sent the DVD to relatives would could not make it to the memorial service in person.  I’ve also made some remembrance videos that are shown at funerals or given to family members.

This last one was especially interesting.  The person asked specifically that when she died that everyone wear red (her favorite color) and that there be a big dinner in the church’s fellowship hall.  It was wonderful!  There were pictures of her all over the place.  People in red blazers and red bow ties were mingling around, sharing their favorite memories of her… and enjoying the great food the church had prepared.

This was truly a celebration of her life.  And one day, when I go, that’s what I want too.  A party.  A party celebrating a far-from-perfect life — every inch of it covered by God’s grace while on earth — and an eternity of it to be lived in the presence of the King.  Oh, and don’t forget the maple glazed donuts!

Success

Michael Jordan once said: “I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot . . . and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why . . . I succeed.”

Here’s to everyone who just won’t give up!

Creativity at Wade’s Christmas Service

Check out my hammered dulcimer playing last week at Wade!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv6b37ghSTI&fmt=18

In all fairness, I did overdub the dulcimer part in post-production due to the number of missed notes in the live rendition.  (See previous post.)  In the original recording, you could even hear me saying, “This is bad, this is bad,” through the dulcimer mic when I realized I had lost my in-ear monitor receiver seconds before my part was to begin!

Also, it’s interesting to note that some of the more interesting camera angles were taped during soundcheck by my good friend and creative genius Justin Mahood.  You’ll notice in these cutaways that I’m having considerably more fun than during the live shots when I was forced to wear someone else’s headphones and hope for the best!

Where’s the Magic?

This weekend, I put on the “concert promoter” hat and welcomed American Idol’s Chris Sligh to the Wade Center.  As the coordinator of the event, I was the one making sure all his requirements were filled — from herbal tea with homey and lemon in the green room to a specific lighting scheme and audio setup.  I was the one making it happen… and so some of the magic was lost.

While posting this weekend’s pictures to my concert photo album on Facebook, I looked back over all the other concerts I had been to.  Some huge, some small.  But one thing was the same.  I was the devoted guy who always landed front row seats, marvelled at the light show, drooled over the high-priced instruments and audio equipment, and of course waited in long lines afterward for the autographs.

But for the last five years, I’ve been the guy arranging for ticket sales, programming lights, selecting audio gear, and working with the artists before and after the show.  I didn’t even think to ask Chris Sligh for an autograph.  It totally escaped my mind because I was in working mode.  He was the artist.  I was the promoter.  There’s no magic there.  Just two guys working together to make a successful show so that everyone’s happy.

Once just a fan, I now find myself a professional member of the Gospel Music Association who makes his income in the “biz” (although church music should never be called a “biz”).  Now, artists are real people I joke with backstage instead of super-humans to be put on some pedestal.  I miss the days of idolizing (no pun intended) Christian artists.  I miss the magic… although I do enjoy creating it for others these days.

I’ll be going to a Bebo Norman / MercyMe concert this weekend.  It’ll be interesting to see how I feel going to a concert I’m not in charge of for once!