Dec 05 2012
On Saying "Merry Christmas!"...or "Happy Saturday"

(Here's my response to the now-tired "Christmas wars", I wrote for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel a few years back. I post it during the - ahem - "Holiday Season", in case you want to pass it along, or start some discussions with it with those who might object to "Merry Christmas!" Or, you know, school districts who don't want to acknowledge our cultural history. And, by the way...Merry Christmas.)

Happy Wednesday!

No, wait. Check that. You likely know that “Wednesday” really means “Woden’s Day” -- a nod to the Teutonic god.

I, for one, do not worship Woden. I'm not wont to worship Woden, and, well, wouldn't worship Woden. Perhaps you pursue a personal relationship with Woden. But maybe not.

So forgive my insensitivity. Granted, in this culture, the fourth day of the week is, most obviously, “Wednesday” – why, it’s as obvious as, say, December 25th is Christmas – but we shouldn’t simply say things like that out loud because “it’s been that way” for centuries.

It’s time to recognize, and celebrate, our differences. Joining the celebration of religious expression is easy: Simply be offended by everyone else’s religious expression. Celebrate good times, come on.

What’s disturbing: Our own government continues to refer to this day as the Day of Woden, clearly embracing one religious view over others. Even our public schools embrace Woden, throughout school publications and practices. While I’m not steeped in Teutonic lore, I suspect, based on our monthly cafeteria calendars, that Woden remains the Teutonic Lord of pizza square, pear, brownie and choice of milk.

Not to mention these “Saturdays” we keep having! I try to be open-minded about this stuff, but c’mon: “Saturn” is just the Roman equivalent of the Greek god “Cronus”. What did Cronus do? Oh, boy.

“Cronus was the ruling Titan who came to power by castrating his Father Uranus. His wife was Rhea. There offspring were the first of the Olympians. To insure his safety Cronus ate each of the children as they were born..."

That's pretty much not cool. I don’t want to judge, I'd have to walk a mile in his shoes, etc., but -- I don't know, man -- this just seems out of line.

But he gets his own DAY for that. He castrates his dad, eats his kids…and then mall stores honor Cronus with “Saturday Sales Events”? I don’t even want to know what goes down at those things.

So yeah, stop saying “Saturday” around me. New rule: Even if the culture is steeped in it, and even if most even prefer it; even if it might seem to be reasonable to expect I could accommodate it, heck, even if it IS Saturday: don’t say it.

I remember my public high school (!) marching band, performing that song by Chicago: You know what day of the week, in the park, I think it was the fourth of that month named after a militaristic dead white guy. I doubt the whole crowd at the Assumption, Illinois football game was into Cronus. Krokus, yes. Cronus, pretty much no. Couldn't we have found something else to play? Times are changing.

Let’s re-name everything, and pretend our culture appeared out of thin air, thirty seconds ago. Sure, it would be a massive, and massively strange, project. We could make a court case out of it, since the Constitution itself doesn’t afford different protections for expression of mostly-dead religions and expression of religions more widely practiced.

Or, we could just chill, and recognize that, for example, Saturday is Saturday, whether I worship Saturn or not.

And we could even say that December 25th is “Christmas” whether you’re a Christian or not.

Heck, maybe then, with one of the most painfully annoying melody lines ever written, we could even wish you a merry one.

Dec 04 2012
Why the Club Awesome Tour Has Been So Awesome

Tonight is the last night on our little "Club Awesome" tour.  

The artists say this is one of the most fun things they've EVER done in their careers. There's something different about the people who are coming out.  And they're right.  There's something about Air1 listeners. Something really, really, wonderful.

This has been like the biggest, goofiest, most bizarre party ever thrown... on the Island of Misfit Toys.  There's nothing negative in that; I'm a misfit toy, myself. But if you watch "Rudolph" ever year - and you really should - you'll notice something about that island:  No one's trying to be cool.  The misnamed Charlie-in-the-Box; the unloved doll known only as "Dolly for Sue"; the little train with square wheels; the little boat that sinks; and - perfectly for Club Awesome - the cowboy who rides an ostrich.  They've all got this in common:

There's no pretense. 

When you know you're broken, you're not cool, well... you're free.

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Two nights ago, after the show, an impromptu dance-off happened. It was a diverse group, many strangers, and it was hilarious and joyful and everyone laughed and cheered for each other.  No one was trying to be cool. It's amazing the fun you can have, when you give up trying to be cool.

The artists aren't trying to be cool.  Remember: People who want to be celebrities will always keep a certain distance from the masses. They like staying away, revealing themselves just here and there, and maintaining some kind of mystique.  On this tour, the artists jump up and down and slap high-fives with every person walking through the door before the show starts, and welcome them.

I've met MANY people with Asperger's Syndrome, like me. I've met a little boy who just lost his daddy, and listens to Air1 everyday. I've met a family of special-needs children who danced the night away. I've met a mix of single moms, people in crushing physical pain, nerds (w00t!), many people with social anxiety, brand new believers, and older folks who don't understand "what all THAT was," but they sure did love seeing the joy.  

The crowds have been crushingly loud, packed-in, dance-crazy, and generous.  JOY gets taken to a new level when our party invites others to join, like poverty-stricken, disabled children, who will be able to dance, too, once they get their surgeries at CURE International.  Little Ireen, for example, will have her surgery to repair her legs, thanks to the people at Club Awesome in OKC.

God loves Ireen. He loves misfit toys, and the truth is, we ALL fit that description. Some are free enough to admit it.  God loves humble hearts, too. A lot.

Ireen, little sweetheart, fellow "misfit toy"...  welcome to the party.

We call it the Kingdom of God, and man, is it wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nov 23 2012
Here's a Money Tip: Be Reckless

When it comes to giving money, you should be reckless.  Joyfully reckless.

I know, I know:  "Brant, bless your heart, we know you mean well, but you really can't say be 'reckless' with your money, even when it comes to giving, because..."

Also:  "Brant, I see maybe what you're saying, but you know, it's really about 'balance', and..."

Yep. I know.  I hear this kind of thing a lot.  Balance!  

"It's all about balance, Brant."  

Balance. Planning. Moderation. That's how we like to give, when we do it. Makes total sense.

Too bad Jesus never mentioned any of that.

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By the way, why do you suppose no one objects to Jeremy Camp's latest song, "Reckless"?  He says he WANTS to be reckless, to "give it all", and "shout (God's) greatness" by being reckless with his everything in his life, "no matter what the cost."

Does that include money?

No one objects.  Why do you suppose THAT is?  It can't just be that he's Jeremy Camp, and his arms are huge and stuff.  I suspect - and maybe I'm crazy - that we don't mind songs like Jeremy's, because he's not being specific about anything.  Or maybe there's such a tradition of saying such things in church-culture, that we don't really think he means it.

Christian music and books are littered with references about surrendering all, and being radical, and "sold out", or whatever.  But when it comes to our treasure, which Jesus said indicates the status of our very hearts, well, then it's... slow down, there, partner.  Let's be balanced.

Funny how that works.

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Here are a few reasons to be "reckless" with your money, when it comes to doing the very things that are close to the heart of God:

1)  You should be reckless with your money because you should take more risks.

People worry WAY too much.  We know this.  Jesus told us this.  One reason:  We imagine one worst-case scenario after another emerging both in the near and distant future.  Almost all of them will NOT happen, but they still stop us from acting to alleviate someone ELSE's "worst-case scenario".

One researcher asked very old folks what they'd do if they could live their lives over:  A top answer?  Take more risks.  They realize, now, they were worried about so many things that never materialized, and it stopped them from LIVING.

The people of Jesus, above all, should know that there's nothing to fear.  Nothing.  That frees you up to give joyfully, spontaneously, and with abandon - IF you really believe it, that is.

2)  You should be reckless with your money because... you should be ANXIOUS to give it away.

Seth Godin, a marketing guru, just made this point on his blog:

We're often in a hurry to finish.

Or in a hurry to close a sale.

What happens when we adopt the posture of being in a hurry to be generous? 

Good point.  Ever notice that when you're looking to buy something, your eyes are always quick to spot a sale?  Look for needs. Pray each day that God will send needs across your path. If you are anxious to give to the poor, you'll spot opportunities. And now giving becomes part of your day-to-day, breathing adventure with God. 

3)  So a single mom needs groceries.  Or a poverty-stricken, diseased child needs healed.  Another needs a chance to go to school.  You KNOW God's heart is with those people.  Seriously:  Why would you NOT want to give?

It's an honor.  A joy.  God entrusted YOU with His money, and He wants to see what you do with it.  He wants to see you ENJOY giving it away.  

4) If you DON'T feel that way, excited to give recklessly, do it anyway.  Because it will change you.

If you're a believer, and you find yourself thinking, "You know, to be honest, I just don't have much of a heart for the poor."  Fair enough. It's good to be honest. So what does Jesus say you should you do, then? What should the believer who doesn't feel like giving to the poor do?

Answer: Give to the poor.  

Do it.  Now.  Jesus sat with Pharisees, and told them they were dirty on the inside.  To clean the inside, give to the poor.  It's a one-step process. 

It's aggravating, but true: Oftentimes, our actions don't follow our beliefs, our beliefs follow our actions.  Acting changes us.  So give anyway, and develop a heart that can break, a heart of flesh, a heart that seeks after God's own heart.  

4)  When you "recklessly give", you're giving to God.  And, honestly, how "reckless" is that?

I can't find a story, not a single one, where someone is too moved by love that they just over-gave.  Not one.

Maybe this is because God doesn't just take a special interest in "the least of these."  He IDENTIFIES with them.  He says it in Proverbs 19:17:  If you're giving to the poor, you're lending to Me, and I WILL repay you.

I didn't make that up.  That's what it says.  ("But God doesn't need a loan, and..."  Right. Good luck arguing with Proverbs.)  

Not a surprise, given that Jesus said whatever you've done for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you've done to me.  God loves us all, sure, but He identifies with the poor.  Think you can go overboard giving to Him?

5) When you give, recklessly, joyfully, you prove what, or Who, owns you.

And it ain't money.  

Giving in a measured, calculated, because-I-have-to-so-here's-how-I'll-do-it-just-so kinda way - while understandable - doesn't quite catch all the joy of this.  

You've likely noticed, life seldom works "as planned".  God surprises us, doesn't He? Things happen, people pop into our lives, needs are presented, and a willingness to respond in the moment, with joy, is proof our hearts are already aligned.

Give spontaneously to the poor, brimming with joy, and you're proving something, unwittingly:  You belong to a Jesus who taught you that.

6) Sorry, but balance is WAY overplayed.

Seriously.  Think about it:  Why isn't Camp's song called, "Balanced"?  

No one would buy it.  It doesn't resonate, deeply, at the heart level.  It's not poetic.  It's not part of the story.

Is God "balanced"?  As Tim Keller points out, God the Father, not the son of the "Prodigal Son" story, is truly "prodigal".  And prodigal means to spend - get this - recklessly.

Toward us, He is not measured and balanced. Thank God.

He is lavish.  He is over-the-top.  He is bountiful. He is excessive. He is reckless. One of the highest compliments Jesus ever gave ("She has shown me much love." Lk 7) is to a woman who gave in a way others thought was just too much, too in-the-moment, too unbalanced. 

Truth is, He loves us, and He loves giving. Want to be "Godly"?  Have a heart for the outcast, the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the lonely, and give to them.  Recklessly.  

Ask Him to show you opportunities.  Open your eyes.  Go for it. Have a ball.

In the end, you'll have many stories to tell, about how God provides, after all.  

And, in the end, people will have many stories to tell about you.

 

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