Month: May 2013

Firsthand

Firsthand
by Ryan & Josh Shook

“It doesn’t matter how real your parents’ faith is, or anyone else’s for that matter, if you don’t develop a faith of your own.”

That’s the crux of this book. It’s all about the people who grow up in the church because that’s what they’re supposed to do. They have the religion of their fathers, their mothers, their pastors, their peers – but they never had a faith of their own. They have a “secondhand faith.” Can we get rid of that secondhand religion and find a faith of our own?

I’ve served Waterbrook Multnomah as a reviewer for a few years now, which means I get to grab a few books before publication. When I first read about the concept of this book, I was greatly interested. Many youth come through my church and disappear as soon as they don’t have mom or dad pressing them to come. They are faithful and express an intent to remain faithful… until it depends on them to show up. Suddenly it’s not so important anymore.

And then I was given an opportunity to take an in-depth survey for the book. And then a second, more in-depth survey. And they ended up quoting me! Twice! So I was even more excited to read the book and find out where they quoted my pearls of wisdom.

(Note: If you pick up the book, you won’t find any Jon Mast within its pages. I used my actual name on the survey.) (more…)

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So, Bipolar Weeks are the New Normal, Huh?

Another week of up and down. I have a feeling this will be the standard. Truth to tell, it’s been normal for a while; I’ve just usually focused on one thing or another. But then again, when you live in the extremes of God’s grace, that seems to be simply part of the landscape.

Think about the men who lived in the Bible. Elijah never seemed to have a blah day. It was either huge celebration or “kill me now.” Peter was a fisherman, but once he followed Christ, he didn’t seem to have much emotional downtime. And Paul? Man, if you look at his letters, you see a man who knows passion for each and every subject.

And why should that surprise me? Let’s see here: God has extreme love. It’s not a love that’s ever mediocre. Michael Card called it the “Raging love of the Lamb.” It’s a love that was so extreme that he set aside everything he was, taking on human flesh, to become one of us. That’s not something you do because you’re bored one day. It’s not something you do because you felt like it with a “meh.” This is something you do at the extreme. (more…)

My Bipolar Week

This week was such crap.

He sat around the corner of the table, facing me. I asked him, “Do you admit that this is a sin?”

He paused only a moment to convey he understood the gravity of the situation. “Yes.”

“Do you have any desire to leave it?”

He paused. He considered. “No.”

He walked away, knowing he was living in sin, knowing he had no forgiveness, but that was ok because he loved his sin more than God anyway.

Let me tell you, that is a crap feeling. Knowing that someone was knowingly walking away form Jesus. Thinking they had something better. That this flash of pretend-goodness was better than everything that is good in heaven. That five minutes of two-dimensional game play was better than the endless full-immersion adventure of heaven.  (more…)

Spring Cleaning

Time to clean the office.

Now, it’s past time. Over the winter I didn’t get a lot of visits in my office. That doesn’t bother me; I like visiting people where they’re comfy, and the thought of “having to visit the pastor’s office,” unfortunately, is a prospect often laced with fear.

My office happens to be in my home. I’ve enjoyed that thus far; I’m not wasting time with lots of driving. Then again, it also means my children interrupt or my wife, being helpful, will ask what I want for supper right when I’m in the middle of a complex thought analyzing Greek clauses.

It also means that everything that might make a home office messy will take up residence in my office. Various children’s socks? Plates from the dessert my wife shared with me? Various books I’m reading purely for enjoyment? They get strewn about with abandon.

Of course, it also means that everything that usually assaults a pastor’s office is in great display. “Great books” that touched the lives of my parishioners? I got a great big stack of them. Heartfelt cards? I have several sentiments of them. (Cards travel in sentiments in the same way fish travel in schools.)

What that means, taken together, my office looks like the Pit. I want a welcoming space. This ain’t it.

So, time to clean. That’s what I did today. Lots and lots of cleaning. (more…)

Confirmation Momzilla

“Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?”

I expect that from my kids, or perhaps some grade-school students. I do not expect it from a person a few years older than me. I certainly don’t expect it on a Sunday morning with tears in her eyes because this is the way it must be.

My parents were so laid back. They loved me dearly, and I know it. However, I rarely saw them get worked up about a whole lot. They were very even keel.

This blessing left me unprepared for Momzilla: Mother of the Confirmand.

Seriously, I fear for this girl’s wedding and what her mom may do to it.

It started about a month ago, when mom-in-question found out I was not planning on pursuing robes. I was looking for something to cut costs. We had borrowed robes last year from another church in town, because both confirmands attended that church’s school. This year, only one out of three confirmands attended that school, so it seemed not as “nice” to ask to borrow. Looking at the history of the church, I see that before me robes were used almost as often as they weren’t, so it’s not a long-standing tradition one way or another.

Except for this mom. We must use robes, because it is her daughter’s wedding day to Christ and her son wore a robe and her dress is not appropriate unless it’s under a robe and it symbolizes the righteousness Christ gives her and and and…

With tears.

And saying confirmation wasn’t worth it unless the robe was there (daughter has option of being confirmed at her school, which is within our fellowship).

And being dramatic with other congregation members.

I should note: This particular person does not handle stress well. (more…)