Aug 25 2011
Dear Everybody: You're Off the Hook

Dear Everybody,

How are you?  I am fine.

 

Anyway, Everybody, I’m writing you, to let you know I’ve reached a verdict.  Everybody, I've been watching you, and I’ve seen what you’ve done, including, but not limited to:  Voting for the wrong people, believing things I don’t, doing things I don’t approve of, and just generally being stupid.  And acting like selfish jerks.  And that time one of you cheated in Scholastic Bowl and totally cost me the game.

I totally saw you do that, Everybody. 

I came to a verdict, it's this:  I'm not actually allowed to reach a verdict.  That's right.  You’re off the hook.  Off mine, anyway. So congrats.

Turns out, upon review – and I didn’t want to admit this, but: I don’t REALLY know what motivated you to do that stuff.  I hate that, because I wanted to be angry about it.  It made me feel better about me when I thought I DID know everyone’s deepest motivations.  But then I read in the Bible where Paul writes that no one knows someone else’s heart, and, he says, he doesn’t even know his OWN heart, so he has to let God sort it out in the end, he says.

Rats.  I liked knowing exactly where you bad people stood with God.

I liked pretending I knew who the “good Christians” are, too, like this athlete or that musician or this celebrity.  Turns out, I don’t even know that.  Makes sense to admit it, now that I remember all the people who seemed so good, so wonderful…who managed to fool even their spouses for decades.

Bummer. I liked pretending I knew.  Maybe it helped me to think, “That guy has his moral act together, so it’s possible we can do this religion thing, too!”  But I think that's because I was really a moralist, and wanted to believe I could be "clean", too, somehow, based on what I do.

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So, Everybody, you’re off the hook.  I don’t know your heart, and don’t expect you to be more than you are, which is a broken person, in need of Jesus. From now on, when I meet you, Everybody, I’ll just assume that’s the case.  I do know this:  You need more Jesus.  And so do I.

Everybody, I think I had you on trial, but it’s over. This particular judge has been ruled incompetent for trial.

The good news, for me:  This is going to save me some serious time and energy.  I can do other stuff, like just take a walk, or maybe laugh more about dumb stuff with my kids. 

Or maybe even with you, sometime.

God bless you, Everybody,
Brant

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Aug 23 2011
Here's to "Religious Leaders", Jesus-Style

 

So Americans are losing faith in "religious leaders". 

I'm not.

I mean, sure, if "religious leaders" means office-holders at religious organizations who love being experts or "sought-after speakers" or CEO/visionaries or who build churches around their own personal awesomeness, well then, okay, you've got me.  Just being honest:  I have lost some faith in that kind of leadership.

But not leadership, Jesus-style.  No, for those people, those servant-hearted men and women whose names you may never see on a book at a Christian Bookstore (TM), I thank God.  I've not lost faith in them.  They've shown me how God is at work, and the way He works is shocking:  He raises the humble, the weak, the unlikely.  He says "THIS is how you lead", and then He washes the feet of a motley bunch of liars, betrayers, and sinners with no earthly status whatsoever. 

That's what Jesus called "authority".  It's upside-down style. 

So -- and I know I'll sound like the beer commercial, but:  Here's to you, Jesus-style leaders.  I may not know who you are, by name.  Not here.  Not yet.  Good thing God knows who you are, though, and He doesn't need you to be on a stage, or under lights, and He doesn't need to read your book, to know you. 

In my little list below, "Leaderman" will likely accomplish some impressive things, and earn some applause.  But -- speaking for myself, at this point of my life?   I can't get enough of the other kind.  So here's to you, servant leaders.

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Servant Leader:  Has something to say
LeaderMan:  Wants a platform on which to say something


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LeaderMan:  You almost feel you know his family, because he's your Leader
Servant Leader:  You allow him to influence you, because you know his family

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LeaderMan: Wants you to know he's a Leader
Servant Leader:  You're not sure *he* knows he's a leader


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LeaderMan:  Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church
Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path


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LeaderMan:  A great speaker, but self-described as, "Not really a people person."
Servant Leader:  Makes himself a people person


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LeaderMan:  Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization
Servant Leader:  Helps you find where God is leading you


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LeaderMan:  Gets together with you to talk about his vision
Servant Leader:  Just gets together with you


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LeaderMan:  Resents "sheep stealing"
Servant Leader:  Doesn't get the "stealing" part, since he doesn't own anyone to begin with


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LeaderMan:  Wants the right people on the bus
Servant Leader:  Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it


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Servant Leader:  Shows you his whole heart
LeaderMan:  Shows you a flow chart


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LeaderMan:  A visionary who knows what the future looks like
Servant Leader:  Knows what your kitchen looks like


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LeaderMan:  Everybody must be excellent!
Servant Leader:  Excellent at welcoming everybody, even the inept


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LeaderMan:  Talks about confronting one another in love
Servant Leader:  Actually confronts you in love


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LeaderMan:  Impressed by success and successful people
Servant Leader:  Impressed by faithfulness


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LeaderMan:  Invests time in you, if you are "key people"
Servant Leader:  Wastes time with you


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LeaderMan:  Reveals sins of his past
Servant Leader:  Reveals sins of his present


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LeaderMan:  Gives you things to do
Servant Leader:  Gives you freedom


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LeaderMan:  Leads because of official position
Servant Leader:  Leads in spite of position


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LeaderMan:  Deep down, threatened by other Leaders
Servant Leader:  Has nothing to lose

 

Aug 22 2011
For "Back to School": 5 Off-the-Top-of-My-Head Myths about High School that People Believe

 

1.  Bad grades in high school will ruin my life.
 
No, they won't. 
 
I know I'm not supposed to say this.  But you'll live, and maybe even a fully functional life.  Take it from me, a guy with ze perfect French accent... who failed French class. 

God did not abandon me. Remarkably, I still make a living. Check THIS OUT: I have a garage door that I can open WITH A REMOTE CONTROL. That, my friends, is pretty awesome.
 
And you know what? If you don't get into the college of your dreams, your life will not be ruined.  If you don't even get into college, your life will not be ruined.  Your life, in fact, cannot be ruined by grades.  It's NO excuse for not being disciplined, but it's true.  The weird thing is that, even in "good, Christian families", this sounds like a subversive thing to say, so brace yourself:  "Success" really isn't the highest good.  

"But what if I don't get into an elite college, and I don't get an amazing job making millions, and then I don't get to retire rich, and then I don't get to be old and wealthy, and then I can't die without a lot of money, and..."
 
Well, you got me there.  
 
 
2.  These people are my friends for LIFE!
 
No, they're not.   
 
They may not even be your best friends next year.  Yes, they are wonderful, and yes, it's great to have BFF's.  But the second "F" -- the "forever" part...?  It's not a lock.  Most people stay in touch with one or two people from high school, tops.  All the people around you are important, but they will not be constants in your life.  Chances are, you haven't met your true BFF's yet.  And that's not a horrible thing.
 
Knowing this can be a wonderful thing, when you feel like you're not at the top of whatever social heap everyone else is worried about.  It simply doesn't last.


3.  Everyone's looking at me all the time.
 
No, they're not.  Everyone's too busy thinking this about themselves to spend time studying you.  Seriously.  They've done research on  this.
 
It's called the "imaginary audience".  High school students, in particular, tend to way over-estimate the attention they're getting.  Fact is, even the "together" people are super self-conscious, and that means someone who *isn't* -- someone who's freed up to care about others -- can have an impact like an earthquake.


4.  Whatever social group I'm in now -- that's just who I am.
 
Nope.  It just doesn't work out that way.  This is why high school reunions and old yearbooks are so fascinating...and hilarious.
 
People can change.  And they do.  A lot.  Who you identify yourself as, now, does not lock you into a certain identity forever.  And it's a good thing, or a lot of people my age would still be wearing flannel-on-flannel and refusing to shower while listening strictly to Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
 
Everyone.  Will.  Change.  


5.   My teachers/parents just don't understand.
 
Don't flatter yourself.  Seriously.  For all the marketing of "teenager"-hood, the concept of "teenager" has been around less than a hundred years.  You're not in a mysterious, magical soap opera that adults just can't possibly understand.  It's not a sudden period of life that's simply distinct from all others.    
 
This is why, in fact, your parents are bothersome: It's not that they don't understand the importance of your life, your decisions...it's that they DO.  They can still relate to the issues, the temptations, the desire to run away from problems, etc.  So they won't just leave you alone. 
 
It's high-stakes, and they know it.  When you were three years old, your foolishness might mean a thrown toy.  Now, like an adult, your foolishness can mean years of sad regret.  Acting on your own, as a free agent, now or when you're an adult -- is a recipe for serious hurt.  The wise listen to counsel.
 
Mom, or Dad, or caring whoever -- they know this.  That's why they don't just shut up and "live their own lives".  And why you shouldn't, either.