Thursday, September 23, 2010

Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable

My friend Scott likes to say that while Jesus comforted the disturbed He also disturbed the comfortable.  I needed to make sure I attributed hearing that phrase to him since his wife is one of the six people who read this blog.  Though it seems the line was first used by Cesar Cruz (onward children of the sun)  and in 2006 was the title of a UK movie about a team of international telephone fraudsters - I'm waiting for International Telephone Fraudsters 3-D.

Last Sunday in worship we disturbed some people’s comfort as we shared a very honest testimony.  Stephanie and Mickey Peters have faced a marriage crisis that far too many couples share – infidelity.  Thankfully, that was only the beginning of their story.  They discovered that Jesus really did come to save sinners, forgiveness is possible and grace always abounds.  In amazing ways Jesus brought healing, new life and comfort to the places sin disturbed and even threatened to destroy in their marriage.  Today they are open and honest about their story.  Even more with bold courage they want share it with the hope that God might use their experience to bring redemption and restoration to someone else. 

We put together a video testimony (which you can watch below or at GracePresMedia) and shared it in worship.  It’s a very real testimony that acknowledges one of the consequences of Mickey’s sexual addiction and infidelity was a pregnancy with another woman.

We received lots of positive feedback and encouragement.  Throughout the week I’ve heard of how God is already using the Peters’ story to bring healing to other marriages.  People have stopped me to thank us for having the courage to share this story of God’s grace.

We have also received some criticism.  For some the testimony was too real, too graphic and inappropriate for worship.  It made some people uncomfortable and they shared with me that it was disturbing.

I’ve tried to listen carefully to the criticism.  I’m a dad of three daughters.  Sometimes we will be watching television or a movie together and a particularly suggestive scene makes all of us a little uncomfortable.  Even commercials can leave us awkwardly wondering what to say to one another.  I understand that some topics are uncomfortable to hear about sitting next to your kids.  I also appreciate that parents need to make the decisions about what, how and when their children are exposed to sensitive topics.  The criticism we've received has been constructive and helping us to better think about how we share sensitive stories.

But I’m also convinced that being uncomfortable is okay. 

Even more I’m convinced that church is a place where it’s okay to be real, confess our failures and most of all to experience grace.   Grace can make us uncomfortable because to really experience it we have to be willing to admit that we need it.

Stephanie says that they are not afraid to be the face of this terrible thing that happens in marriage.  My hope is that the church (not just Grace but the church around the world) will have the same sort of courage.   We need to be sensitive to our audience (we really do think carefully about that).  We never want to be offensive simply for the sake of offending.  We also want to acknowledge the reality and consequences of sin.  Sin is messy and disturbing.  The good news is that God has a plan for comforting us when we are disturbed and more importantly dealing with our sin - Jesus.

And there will be times when He just might disturb the comfortable.  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Family Feud

With two of our daughters attending “rival” universities football season presents us with opportunities for some friendly family competition.  This weekend is round one as our Clemson Tigers play Kelli’s Auburn Tigers.  Later in the season we will have to face Jennifer’s Gamecocks (at least we get them at home).  Thankfully we have our common dislike of the University of Georgia to hold our family together (and Jamie’s Samford Bulldogs play in the FCS division).

So here’s the simple question for a Thursday afternoon – which Tiger is better: the fierce and intelligent one or Aubie who looks like he has mumps and a flattened head?

Monday, September 6, 2010


Yesterday at the airport (as we were returning to Houston) I picked up the latest book by one of my favorite authors, A. J. Jacobs.  Jacobs' first two books, The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically are fantastic and so I couldn’t resist when I saw in the terminal bookstore My Life as an Experiment.

Jacobs is am immersion writer, which simply means he immerses himself in various situations and then writes about his experience.  My Life as an Experiment is a collection of essays on 10 different immersions such as living as George Washington for a month.  The first essay is based on a experiment in unitasking.

We all understand multitasking.  Some of us were introduced to the idea as kids as smiling housewives in commercials told us that they were cleaning their ovens as they played bridge or polo or cliff dived - my memory of the commercials is fuzzy but I remember the punchline:  "I'm cleaning my oven!"  Easy Off brilliantly marketed the value of multitasking and we were sold.  In his book Dancing the Soul Salsa, Leonard Sweet nearly makes multitasking (killing two birds with one stone) a spiritual gift.  But its more than a couple of birds that are getting killed.  Multitasking is killing us.  Here’s some of what Jacob learned:

  • Driving Under the Influence of Text Messages causes 630,000 accidents a year.
  • In her book Distracted:  The Eroision of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Maggie Johnson warns that distractions are changing the way we think, rewiring our brains and making it harder to solve complex problems.
  • Multitasking increases the levels of stress-related hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, prematurely aging us.  Distracted brains make us more depressed, less able to connect with people or form a conscience.
  • And mulittasking makes us dumber (just imagine how much better a sentence that might have been if I haven’t spent so many years multitasking).  Researchers at UCLA found that multitasking shortchanges the higher regions of the brain, the ones devoted to learning and memory.   And the sad truth is we really aren’t multitasking, the brain can’t handle more than one higher cognitive function at a time.  We are switch-tasking – bouncing between one task to another.
And as Jacobs simply puts it:  Multitasking is rotting our skulls.

I read this first chapter uncomfortably.  Do I check my email and facebook status while on the phone?  Ouch!  Do I fall to the distraction of web surfing when I am trying to finish a writing assignment?   It starts by trying to look up quote from Plato which leads to a You Tube animation of The Cave and the next thing you know I’m watching videos of the Annoying Orange.  Ouch!  Do I watch TV with my laptop open while listening to Kim tell me about something going on with someone somewhere?  Ouch!  I am addicted to multitasking.  The idea of trying to stay focused on one task at a time actually frightens me.

But Jacob’s article has convinced me to try.  So for the rest of September I am going to attempt to be a Unitasker (which sounds somehow like a Unibomber and maybe just as dangerous).  When I am writing I won’t bounce from document to document, go online or constantly check my email (it’s been killing me not to do either as I write this post – I especially want to check to see if there’s any new Annoying Orange uploads).  When I am driving, I will drive and the iPhone (which is a must-have tool for multitaskers) will stay in my messenger bag.  When I talk on the phone I will shut my eyes (one of Jacob’s suggestions) so that I won’t be tempted to accomplish another task while on the phone.  I won’t text or surf the web during meetings.  I won’t play Words with Friends (words for nerds) while walking from place to place.  I won’t even text or facebook (is facebook a verb?) while watching tv and I won’t look up interesting trivia about the actors we are watching on IMDb (I love doing that).  For the rest of the month I will focus on one task at a time.

Starting right now – I am a unitasker!   Let’s see what happens.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Devote yourself to prayer… and to football

Devote yourself to prayer…
Colossians 4: 1

Yesterday afternoon Kim and I sat down and put together a prayer list for the fall. We had a great setting, overlooking the beauty of the Colorado mountains. We talked about the specific things we wanted to pray about for our family, friends and church. Where we could, we added specific scripture to pray for individuals. Then we knelt and prayed together. It was the highlight of this week in the mountains.

In recent months I’ve often quoted Jim Cymbala, “prayer is the engine that will drive the church.” That’s true, and this fall we are taking steps toward making Grace an even more prayer saturated church. But prayer is also the engine that drives our lives and so we are called to devote ourselves to prayer.

I’m heading back from vacation with a renewed passion to pray for my family, friends and church. I’d love to pray for you and welcome your prayers for me (Kim is praying 2 Corinthians 3: 4 – 6 for me).

And my passion for football is also renewed and although it is another beautiful day here in Colorado I am tuned into the opening weekend of college football. Here’s a great video to get ready for game time - Go Tigers!

Friday, September 3, 2010


Over the years Kim and I have been blessed by wonderful gifts of generosity. That’s been especially true over the past week.

A week ago today we moved our youngest daughter to college (quite an experience) but “we moved” doesn’t tell the full story.  One of the traditions at Samford University is for upperclassmen to move the freshmen into their dorms.  We pulled up to the front of the dorm and our cars were immediately surrounded by students – most notably members of the Samford football team – and before we knew what happened the entire contents were in her dorm room.  That was a generous gift!

Years ago, maybe twenty, Kim and I heard a speaker suggest that after you take your last child to college don’t return immediately to the “empty nest.”  So for twenty years we’ve been planning to be away this week.  Of course, two kids in college and one just out means that the budget for a week away was somewhat limited.  But thanks to the generosity of friends we’ve been able to spend a week in the Colorado Rockies (in fact I’m writing this blog sitting on a deck overlooking the mountains). This week is an amazing gift of generosity!

Yesterday we drove over to the Rocky Mountain National Park and had a fantastic day.  Along the way a Colorado Highway Patrolman stopped me to let me know that I was slightly (just ever so slightly) exceeding the posted speed limit (I was spending too much time looking at the scenery and not enough paying attention to the speed limit signs).  Then he informed me that it was my lucky day and he was letting me go with just a warning.  THAT was a greatly appreciated gift of generosity!

The Apostle Paul reminded the elders in Ephesus that Jesus taught:

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I trust that Samford football payers and friends and one very nice Colorado Highway Patrolman are experiencing those blessings today – each has blessed us with generosity this week.

Where have you recently received a gift of generosity?
Who might you be generous toward today?