Category Archives: Serving

What if Jesus meant all that stuff

Great letter from Shane Claiborne in Esquire magazine. You can read it here.

Advertisements

An excerpt of the book is up

For those of you who’ve been wondering what Signorelli and I have been toiling away at lo these many months down in the cellars of our respective homes, wait no longer. My good friend Scott Bane, who’s blog you can reach on the sidebar of this page, and who is the online editor for a webzine called Next Wave, was kind enough to include a excerpt of the book in the October issue.

CLICK

The book itself is mere days away from going to final print. Once it does, we’ll be sure to let all of you who’ve been patiently waiting know. In the meantime, feast yourself on this, and please leave us your thoughts, here or on the page itself.

Again, BIG thanks go to Scott for his help on this. Enjoy!

real on nine

The book is done. It’s been 9 full months in the making, with many revisions, additions, deletions, and more revisions, but the end result is something that Mike Signorelli and I are more than happy about, and VERY excited about.

We just ordered our first test pressing of it, which will serve as a final edit. Once the final edit is done, the book will be available, both through us directly, as well as online. We hope that it challenges, provokes thought, and stimulates dialogue.

Stay tuned.

Humility and Submission

When you think you are humble, chances are you’re not. In fact, I’d say just the thought of having humility is a two-edged sword. The second you garner the thought of humility, you’re automatically assuming a position of arrogance, even if it’s only in your own mind.

I think humility and submission are two of the hardest traits for a believer to master. Submission is tough, because it lends itself to….well, submitting, to a higher authority. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the President, a school teacher, a pastor, or your parents (whether you’re 4 or 40), no one likes to be told what to do. It’s part of our sin nature. If given the choice, we’ll go our way 9 times out of 10, because at the heart of a lack of submission is the superior attitude that we know it all. Ask any teenager, they’ll prove this out every time.

A lack of humility takes that air of superiority and ramps it up a notch. Humility does not allow itself to be center, neither does humility look for the glory. But very few are those, especially in 2009, who are not looking for the glory. It doesn’t matter if you’re Kayne grabbing the mic at the MTV Video Music Awards, a sports star cashing in on the multi-million dollar contract, or the average Joe bragging about that big promotion, glory seekers are all around us.

The other side of humility is the desire to be right. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from the outright to the passive-aggressive, but either way, when someone is struggling with humility issues, they almost always will voice their opinion on a given topic they think they have the “upper hand” on. This antithesis to humility (pride) plays out everyday, in businesses and churches, social clubs and gatherings, from the halls of our schools to the highrises of capitalism.

Pride is a killer. It is born from within every one of us, and goes back as far as the Fall. Genesis 3:6 tells us that Eve took of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because it “was to be desired to make one wise.” At the heart of the issue of the Fall is the fact that, through the serpent’s deception, the first couple desired to be as wise as God Himself. Pride. And thus, through their action, humanity was cursed, bringing about the need for God to reconcile Himself to His creation through Jesus Christ.

Jesus, then, serves as our perfect example of submission and humility. His life on earth, His mission amongst the people He created, was to serve as the template for life, while also taking upon Himself the iniquity of all humanity; past, present, and future. He did so with perfect servitude, and with a right spirit. Surely He wanted to stray from that mission, otherwise He wouldn’t have prayed in the Garden, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Perfect submission drove Him to forgoe His desires for the greater purpose. It caused Him to ask, yes, but ultimately to bow His will, His humanness, to the will of the Father. Humility carried Him to Calvary, bypassing all His divine abilities, and instead taking on the guilt, not only of the man who was freed in His place, but also that of all of mankind.

Humility and submission, then, beg the question to be asked- “Who’s will are we bowing to?” Because submission to authority will always puts us in the right place positionally. God raises up, and God brings low as He wills. Ultimately, nothing we do can elevate us without His hand taking part, but most certainly our lack of submission can serve as the catalyst for bringing us low.

Likewise, humility, when we act and conduct ourselves with the proper attitude, will always bring us into alignment with God’s will. No one who acts with a prideful spirit will be in tune with God’s will, because God “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) When we are bringing ourselves into alignment with Gods’ will, a humble spirit says, “I don’t care if I’m right, I will ACT right, and allow God to do the rest.”

A humble spirit doesn’t need the spotlight, the recognition, or the pat on the back. A humble spirit has a continuity of conduct, whether acted out in front of 10,000 or 10 or 1. Whether everyone sees, or no one at all. True humility, as Christ showed us, helps one to lay down their wants and desires for the good of the whole. The program of God, God’s will and plan, is always perfectly in sync with those who have a humble spirit.

Holidays suck.

Ok, so they don’t suck, but approaching Christmas time, I’m again reminded of how consumer-driven we’ve become. Midnight sales, 5am sales, 2 day sales, 4 day sales, ad nauseum. It all gets a little tired. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those “Buy Nothing Friday” types, or totally anti-consumer, but I think this time of year reminds us more of our drive to get “stuff”, and less about things that should be important to us, like loving others, giving, and the gentle reminder of who Jesus is in our lives. There’s a balance in all of it, though. Honestly, we shouldn’t have to use a holiday to remind us of the One who came to earth to redeem mankind. We shouldn’t have to use a holiday as a reason to give unto others. But instead of this being engrafted as part of who we are, we wait for a man-ordained holiday to help spur us to have “goodwill towards man”. And it always makes me wonder, why do we have to do that? Because we are self-absorbed, self-centered, and only concerned with the here and now, rather than the future.

I’m becoming more self-aware of how I’m enabling my kids by ravaging them with “things”, rather than teaching them the importance of giving, or of even doing without some of those things that aren’t necessary. It’s sad that before every holiday, and before every birthday, we have to do a purge of the kids closets and toy chests, in an attempt to make room for the next surge of things. But it is becoming an all-too-familiar event. It’s a hard lesson learned, a hard change to make, and a hard truth to swallow.

A moment away (A glimpse of the divine, Part II)

Originally posted on 6/22/2006

Wow, what a last couple of weeks it has been. Up and down, and up again.

As many of you probably already know, it started a few weeks ago with an incident that, while time has lessened the initial strain, will be indelibly etched in our memories for years to come. You can read about it over at my myspace page, but for those of you who do not know, or are not on my friends list there, my family and I (including the boys) saw a man get shot. We were, instantaneously, thrust into a situation above and beyond our control. The way the situation unfolded from there is a direct result of God’s protection over us, and His guidance in our lives. Who knows how it COULD have turned out. In addition (and again, because of God), not only did my boys have the presence of mind to do about the best and only thing they could do at the time, but they show very few long-standing effects of witnessing something so brutal. I pray they never experience it again in their lives.

Last week, our 3rd son was welcomed into the world. It was a rocky road, but not nearly as rocky as it could have been. I cannot say that my faith wasn’t shaken, that there weren’t times when I wanted to ‘give up’, or that I really didn’t know what I would do had the situation turned for the worst. It did not, however. At that crucial moment, in a time when it was the LAST thing I wanted to do, I prayed. I gave Alex over to God. And God moved. He is home with us, and he is well. I am learning all over again what an immense joy it is to be a father to a newborn. I love every minute of it, and I can’t wait to watch him grow.

Yesterday, I got to put “A glimpse of the divine” into action. As I made a run to the store for Theresa (apparently even women who’ve just had a child still get cravings…), I saw a woman at the intersection. We’ve all seen her before. Pacing the corner, sign in hand. “PLEASE HELP-I HAVE KIDS. THANK YOU, GOD BLESS YOU”. My first reaction was the same as it is most times, and probably is for most of us-“Yeah, I bet. What do you need it for? Booze, drugs, or just because you’re freeloading?”. Then the Lord spoke to my spirit.

“Whatever you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done unto Me.”

Ouch. Ok God, you’ve got my attention. Then my mind thought back to one day, long ago, when I was spending time with a pastor. We ran into a person in a similar situation, and the pastor offered to get the man groceries. So we went on a grocery run for the man. This time, I thought, I will do something different. What would it take for me to get her a few things, need them or not? Very little. A few bucks? I can do that. So while I shopped for my wife’s very specific requests (remember, she “just got sawed open a week ago”), I shopped for that woman and her family. I thought maybe, just maybe, if I could give her and her family a meal, even if just for tonight, who knows what that might accomplish. So I got her some bread, deli-style turkey, a 2 liter of Coke, and some Oreo cookies. Maybe not the most nutritious meal, but hey, if she does have kids, the Oreo’s alone would bring a smile. I proceeded to check out, bagged my own groceries separate from hers, and headed out. I pulled up to the intersection, and opened my window. “Here ya go” I said. She walked up, grabbed the bag, mumbled something indecipherable, and kept pacing. “God bless you” I told her. Then I headed home.

As I drove, I still wondered about her. Was she drunk? Was she strung out? Or was something else going on? Again, the Lord spoke to me. “It doesn’t matter. You did what I told you to do. Whether or not she is out there for dishonest reasons is of no consequence. That is not your concern.”

I continued to think about what all had transpired over that ‘run to the store’. Then I remembered something I read by John Fischer a year or so ago. A moment in time, ONE moment, could be the difference between success and failure; between happiness and despair; between salvation and damnation. We have so much more of an impact on that than we realize. See, it didn’t matter WHY she was out there. What mattered was that she was out there. We are not the judge of why. But if she was out there out of need, true need, then maybe that one simple act could make a difference. Maybe one act of kindness could reaffirm to her that the world is not all self-serving and selfish. That there are people in the world, full of Christ’s love, who fall, fail miserably, but still try to do what is right, regardless of the price, and without reciprocation. I wish that I thought like this more often. I am working on it. Unfortunately though, it is a ‘sometimes’ thought, and not a way of life. I want it to be a way of life. And something like this is not commendable. Upon telling my wife about the situation that unfolded, she said, “That was wonderful of you to do”. It shouldn’t be anything wonderful. It should be something incredibly ordinary. It should be common. I pray that it will be someday.

A glimpse of the divine, Part I

Originally posted on 5/11/2006 

“Ignorant fibbers in the congregation
Gather around spewing sympathy
Spare me
None of them can even hold a candle up to you
Blinded by choices hypocrites won’t seek “

So goes part of the song “10,000 Days”, from the new Tool album of the same name. For those of you who do not know, here’s a little background.

Maynard’s (Tool’s vocalist) mom suffered a stroke that paralyzed her for the final 27 years of her life. She passed in 2003, so the stroke occurred in 1976….When Maynard was 11. The number of days Maynard’s mother was paralyzed was most likely within 100 days of totaling exactly 10,000 (27 years and change). “10,000 days and the fire is long enough / You’re going home”. As far as I can tell, Maynard’s mother was a believer. Even in her paralyzed state, she kept her faith in God (the previous track “Wings For Marie, Part One”, and Perfect Circle’s “Judith” also back this notion).

The song “10,000 Days” references, in large part, if not totally, the final days of Judith Marie’s (Maynard’s mother) life. Among many lines in the song, the verse above stood out to me. Here’s why.

In the last two weeks, this is the 2nd time I’ve heard this notion of Christians, and Christianity in general. And it’s intriguing to me. It may require hearing or reading the lyrics to the entire song to fully see my interpretation, but you can easily do so with a Google search, if you choose. But here’s what stands out. It is obvious, that in her final days, as well as probably early on after her stroke (when Maynard was 11), she was visited by other believers. They probably said to her what we all say, when we hear of another person experiencing difficulty. They probably, albeit well-intentioned, offered prayers, and told her they would keep her close to their heart. Now obviously, this is assumption on my part, but I’m getting at something deeper here, so bare with me. What is he saying here? “Ignorant fibbers in the congregation/Gathering around spewing sympathies/Spare me”. What did he see that set in his mind that these people were doing something self-serving, and not something to serve in a tangible way? It seems to me, he saw something that is all too familiar in Christendom: insincerity. Now, you have to understand that I do not condone his position, but this is the branch of a much deeper-rooted problem in the Church today.

I have an acquaintance, who recently was let go from his pastoral position at his church. He was let go just days prior to Christmas. The congregates who stopped by to see him, his wife, and their kids, offered condolences and prayers, but little else. No one said, “Hey, on our way over, we brought you some groceries.”, or “Listen, we know you are going through a rough spot, so we paid your gas/electric bill”, or “we took up an offering at church, your mortgage is paid this month”. They stopped by, said, ‘we’ll keep you in our prayers’, and moved on. It has left that acquaintance jaded to say the least.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about tangible things, and it’s not about money. It’s about doing what we are called to do. Serve. When was the last time you offered something to someone unprompted? When was the last time you took the $5 in your pocket, and instead of going into Starbucks, gave it to someone in need of a meal? And better yet, when was the last time you actually took the time to LOOK at the people you see everyday, you see in the pews of your church, or in the cubicle next to you at work, and looked at them long enough to see the need in their eyes. People who are desperate, and people who are in need, do not hide it well. I can attest to that from personal experience. But the problem is that we get so busy in OUR schedules, OUR agendas, and OUR plans, that we totally ignore those around us, or even worse, we acknowledge them with the token “I’ll pray for you”. Let’s face it-75% of the time, we say that for one of two reasons: 1) we say a quick prayer, then forget about it, or 2) we offer a blanket acknowledgement, in the hopes of not having to commit more time to that issue that doesn’t concern us than is absolutely necessary. Ouch. But is it true? From what I’ve seen, by and large, yes. And that is unfortunate.

So what is our solution? Jesus talked about it in Matthew 25:31-46. Verse 40 says, “‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

It’s not rocket science. It just takes effort. The solution is this:

Eyes focused outward.

I was turned onto this by a good friend, Scott, who’s blog you can find on the sidebar here under “Special Forces Group”. He has a link on his site for http://www.eyesturnedoutward.com/. I’d strongly advise checking it out. Scott and I were talking about this recently, and it is a passion of his. It should be a passion of all of us. Eyes turned outward. Focusing on the needs of others, and not focused on the covenience of our own daily grind. The problem with inaction is that it fuels the accusations all around us. I want to disarm the accusations with action, rather than give fuel to the fire. If we could do that, we could make a bigger impact in these last days than we ever thought possible.