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I took my love and I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around

And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Till the landslide brought me down

As mentioned yesterday, we had an adventure, and a story yet to tell. That will come, in time, but as #1 son and I hoofed our way home yesterday, a flood of tunes library memories were conjured up as the music kept me alert and winging our way back home. Mark Shultz reminded me of the Sherpa. Fleetwood Mac, courtesy of Stevie Nicks’ songwriting, reminded me of our mountain trek team.

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too

The Sherpa told us on the mountaintop Wednesday how nothing can live up that high. Jesus went to the mountaintop to be close to God, but came back down to minister and to serve.

As I have been home today and dealing with the return to daily life, a landslide of sorts is in motion. I suspect my younger trek companions are feeling the same as they awoke in their own beds earlier today. Laundry, cleaning out the car, or maybe mowing the lawn was in order? Or, was there even more? A loved one’s illness? News of a family in trouble? Knowing that you go into an office full of week old tasks come Monday?

As a child, camp was always an emotional time: good emotional. Coming down off that high was always tough. This week’s mountain experience has been much the same. As an adult, coming down from the Rocky Mountain high is bittersweet, but not all that hard. I’ve been down this road before, and there are potential rewards around every turn, even at 1,000 feet above sea level.

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I, I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too
I’m getting older too

So, take my love, take it down
Oh climb a mountain and turn around
If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring you down, down

And If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well maybe the landslide will bring it down
Oh oh, the landslide will bring it down

Landslides can be good. Emotional landslides can bring us back to a level where the air is richer and the living is fuller. Take heart. Mountaintops are going nowhere fast. You will ascend once again. God promises just that. John 14:1-3: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

So, take my love, take it down
Oh climb a mountain and turn around….

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“God is subtle, but He is not malicious. I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.” – Albert Einstein.

I’ve long thought that to be true, but now wonder if He is not often times speaking to us more directly. Take a random walk with me, and see if you agree.

Many of us recall the “Rocky” movie franchise. He started his saga in the slums of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The movie details him out running past a group of likely unemployed young men standing on a street corner singing “Take it Back”. Four movies later, some good, some less than good, and Rocky is back in the same neighborhood, a rags to riches to rags scenario, but he is still “Rocky Balboa” at the core, albeit changed by time, experience, and the impact of money.

I have experienced in the past 24 hours what I’ll dub “the day of diatribes”, polite though they may have been. This may or may not be considered just one more of the same by the time you finish this reading.

The first diatribe was by a Facebook friend protesting the use of the American flag as a form of forced advertising by a local realtor who placed them in every yard as far as the eye can see.

The second diatribe hit a little closer to home. It was written by a youth minister in Texas about the problem of increasing costs in higher education, specifically private faith based education, and the amount of debt it takes for many to get an undergraduate degree. The university for which I work’s mission statement is “Transforming Lives for faith, scholarship, and service.” Trust me when I say we do not intend for that to be “debt service”, and are listening and seeking solutions to the broad based problem of the higher education industry making our experience affordable and relevant. Pardon my digression from the topic at hand.

The third diatribe dealt with the problem of sensationalism and desensitizing in our mass media, all to get attention and “viewership”. It is a well written piece about things that are good and true, and you can read it at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/rdc-editorial-whatever-is-good-true-beautiful/

The fourth piece, more a reflection than a diatribe, was a personal look at living a purposeful life, and not a life of “Shadow Purposes” as we are so prone to do in this rich society. It can be read at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/chasing-my-shadow-purpose/

The final referenced piece in the “24 hours of diatribes” was my own, preceding this one, mind you. I read an article this morning about the NBA lockout and some of the quotes in a war of mega millionaires fighting mega millionaires over who gets the bigger share of the billions being offered by the masses at the alter of modern day entertainment. I love the NBA, but this article made me mad, and I suspect it will do the same for many fans as what promises to be a protracted labor negotiation fight plays out.

To paraphrase author Donald Miller, I think we all have forgotten that we are just trees in a story about a forest. The forest may be on fire all around us, but we are too focused on the near surroundings and our own concerns to notice.

The global economy appears to be badly broken. We have “stored up treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19) and need to be prepared for a different day and age, even within the lifespan of some current generations. The economic storm is raging as we speak in benefit rich European society, and the tsunami is racing toward us across the Atlantic even now. Societies are in debt up to their eyeballs; we are soft; we are spoiled. And fundamental societal things are changing. We are aging. The balance of trade and who makes and who buys is evolving. Health care is a concern. The U.S. Government won’t be able to pay for it all or fix all that ailes us. All the while, I fear we are standing on the beach arguing over who gets the bigger share of sandbags while we should be moving to higher ground to stay safely out of the coming wake.

Our societies often have found themselves in these moments in history, and it seems they are often ultimately resolved by fighting a war. The U.S. War for Independence; the French Revolution; the U.S. Civil War; WWI; WWII; the Middle East conflicts. Its about a groundswell of the masses when they can’t get what they want and need, and when the establishment is out of touch. We may be entering another “let them eat cake” moment, I fear. Get the picture?

I think the establishment may be catching on. One of the more telling advertisements running on TV today is “More Saving: More Doing; That’s the power of the Home Depot”. We need to realize that David Stanley (OKC auto dealer) does not really lead the way. The Mathes Brothers may have “our style at our price”, but they will never know us by name.

As I began to pour these random reflections down and try to tie them together cohesively, I looked through the “categories and tags” section of my blog site, and a huge percentage of those previously used seemed strikingly relevent. Take a look at all those listed at the end of this and see if you agree.

After an early morning of pondering these thoughts, I got into the car to come to the office and was immediately presented with “Awakening” by Switchfoot playing on my car radio. God is subtle, indeed, and He was speaking right to me.

Face down with the L.A. curbside endings
In ones and zeros
Downtown was the perfect place to hide

The first star that I saw last night
Was a headlight of a man-made sky
But man-made never made our dreams collide, collide

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines
With my dead beat sky
But this town doesn’t look the same tonight

These dreams started singing to me out of nowhere
And all my life I don’t know
That I’ve ever felt so alive, alive

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, I’m bleeding

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna live like I know what I’m leaving
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, it’s beating, it’s beating, I’m bleeding

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
But you’ve been talk, talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening
Dream, we’re awakening

So, where do we go from here, in this digital community, and in each of our own “cities of brotherly love”? Maybe we are a little like that prizefighter who has gone one or two rounds too far, and needs to reset. What is our task? More saving, more doing? Maybe. Less spending, more doing? Likely. More sharing, more caring? Absolutely. Heightened attention spans are in order. We’re awakening. The bar is raised. A groundswell is happening all around us, and a tsunami may (or may not) be headed are way. Let’s move to higher ground and be ready.

Take me back.

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There is a story, three stories actually, about a man named Danny Ocean: charismatic leader, good friend, and crook. Danny had an entourage of compatriots, and that entourage grew as the storyline continued, first eleven, then twelve, and finally totaling out at thirteen.

Ocean is more than just a name. An ocean is a body of water: living, moving, active water. And the ocean picture that follows is the social media profile picture of a different young man, and this one’s name is James: charismatic character, good friend, but he’s no crook.

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James, a neighbor and classmate to two of my own personal entourage, recently went to church camp, and the story of this entourage, along with the group’s total headcount, continues to grow. First reported as eight, it quickly grew to ten, and totaled out this morning at sixteen. Maybe the growth is not done, yet? The spiritual growth, certainly not, even if the numerical growth has stopped for now.

Maybe we’ll call this group “God’s sixteen”. Sixteen baptisms, all a result of the time, care, and love recently encountered, together. This picture has a few of them, James included, as well as some of their friends who made a difference. And it excludes a few, like the twin sisters and the family of quadruplets, all who were added to God’s group today. One of the quads, I forget which one, even infamously stood at the top of the stairs in our house many years ago as a youngster and “relieved himself” in an arching stream to the first floor down below. But it is OK: I have forgiven him!

And God has forgiven them all, as they have all taken a dip into a body of water: living, moving, active water. It certainly was moving and active this morning and this past week.

But, I think we’ll go with “Jesus’ 16” as the unofficial name for the group. God won’t mind sharing the credit, and Jesus is the perfect charismatic friend to draw more numbers to the group.

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Last July, I listened to Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years” while on our road trip to the Grand Canyon and Colorado. Kudos and thanks go to Little Frau for buying me that membership to Audible a couple of years ago. It has been one of two or three major life habit changing events over that time frame.

I began to listen to Miller’s book for a second time as we hit the road on Saturday for another trip, this time southward to elevations much closer to sea level. Correction, make that, at sea level!

The book has prompted me to “tell a better story”, and is prompting me to work on “living better stories”. I’m bookmarking some of my favorite quotes, and home to take some beach balcony time later in the week to share them here. In the interim, here are just a couple to chew on:

“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, it’s like that with life. People love to have a lived a great story, but few people like to work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”

“And that’s the thing you realize when you organize your life into the structure of story. You get a taste for one story and then another, and then another, and the stories will build until your living a kind of epic of risk and reward, and the whole thing will be molding you into the actual character whose roles you’ve been playing. And when you live a good story, you get a taste for kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time. The more practice stories I lived, the more I wanted an epic to climb inside of and see through to its end.”

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It’s an old family joke. When one of the “A” girls would see the romantic interest of a guy they liked, the response would be “she’s no prize”.

Sometimes, oftentimes maybe, do we say the same about ourselves?

An athlete, I am not, but I am getting repetitive. And I want to be a winner. Not to win, mind you, but to run with purpose, and therein win the prize.

I Corinthians 9:22-27: When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

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and lose my Soul

A special shout out to my man TobyMac, here.    Chapter two of the Sunday morning K-Love inspirational drive now unfolds before you.    I’m no rapper, and never have been much of a singer, but these words really sank in with me earlier this week.    Take a moment to read, and see if you agree.

This is how I roll….

Man I wanna tell y’all something, Man.

Man I’m not gonna let these material thing’s, get in my way, ya’ll.

I’m trying to get somewhere.

I’m trying to get somewhere,

Thats real and pure and true and eternal.

Father God, I am clay in your hands,

Help me to stay that way through all life’s demands,

‘Cause they chip and they nag and they pull at me,

And every little thing I make up my mind to be,

Like I’m gonna be a daddy whose in the mix,

And I’m gonna be a husband who stays legit,

And I pray that I’m an artist who rises above,

The road that is wide and filled with self love,

Everything that I see draws me,

Though it’s only in You that I can truly see that its a feast for the eyes- a low blow to purpose.

And I’m a little kid at a three ring circus.

I don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul,

Don’t wanna walk away, let me hear the people say.

I don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul,

Don’t wanna walk away, let me hear the people say.

The paparazzi flashes, and that they think that it’s you,

But they don’t know that who you are is not what you do,

True, we get it twisted when we peak at the charts,

Yo before we part from the start,

Where’s your heart?

Tell me what’s your title,

America has no more stars, now we call them idols,

You sit idle, While we teach prosperity,

The first thing to prosper should be inside of me.

We’re free…

Not because of 22’s on the range,

But Christ came in range, we said yes now we changed,

Not the same, even though I made a fall,

Since I got that call, no more Saul, now I’m Paul.

I don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul,

Don’t wanna walk away, let me hear the people say.

I don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul,

Don’t wanna walk away, let me hear the people say.

How do I sense the tide that’s rising?

De-sensitizing me from living in light of eternity,

How do I sense the tide that’s rising?

It’s hypnotizing me from living in light of eternity,

How do I sense the tide that’s rising?

De-sensitizing me from living in light of eternity.

(Lord what we gon do,We’re relying on you,

all eyes are on you Lord,

all eyes are on you, all eyes are on you Jesus.)

Lord forgive us when we get consumed by the things of this world,

That fight for our love, and our passion,

As our eyes are open wide and on you.

Grant us the privilege of your world view,

And may your kingdom be, what wakes us up, and lays us down.

(Hallelujah, Don’t wanna lose our soul,

No, Don’t wanna lose my soul.)

Hey excuse me,

I’m looking for the after party,

Toby,

Haha, yeah, last door on the left, you’ll hear it.

Thanks,

No problem.

Don’t let me lose, my soul,

I’m never gonna walk away.

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Last Week was the “ladies auxiliary” garage sale in support of the university with which I work.    The night before the big event, late that night, a friend and I were delivering some priceless items (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?) for sale the next day, and doing a little shopping of my own.

I picked up the two gems pictured here for the sum total of one U.S. Dollar.    What a steal!    The book was an interest point, as I’ve been part way thru the audio book for UNCHRISTIAN already, but the porcelain nativity was a bit of a joke – something for my desk – a “conversation piece”.

As I was pondering the next morning over the subtle “spiritual dichotomy” of these two purchases, UNCHRISTIAN, the book, and a Nativity sculpture set, I ran across the following blog post forwarded via a friend’s Twitter account.

Talk about “spiritual dichotomy”….What makes us do what we do?    What makes us think some of the things we think?     Say some of the things we say?    What would Jesus do?  I love reading Donald Miller, as well, but often find him unorthodox and challenging to agree with.

 I don’t have many answers here, but was left to think by the concepts in this piece.    And think we should: Exercise discernment.

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http://shaungroves.com/2010/10/read-with-discernment-especially-donald-miller/

I bought Donald Miller‘s book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years for my wife recently…at Barnes & Noble – across the street from my local LifeWay store. I think I was too hard on them.

I planned to buy it at LifeWay but when I pulled the book from the shelf I discovered that it – and every book by Donald Miller at the store – comes with a slip of paper tucked inside, a note instructing me to get extra info on Donald from the cashier before making my purchase. So I did. The extra info turned out to be a warning which read, in part:

We want you to know that the authors of books marked Read with Discernment may have espoused thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology.

On LifeWay’s website the following further explanation is given:

We at LifeWay Christian Stores are dedicated to providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and cultures.

One way you can grow spiritually and intellectually is through reading. And whenever you read we encourage you to read with discernment, asking God to reveal His truth to you as you read…

At the time the warning bugged me enough to send me across the street with my money. It shouldn’t have. Now, I like the warning. I like it so much I wish it accompanied every purchase.

Just Say No…I Mean, Yes…I Mean, No

LifeWay warns Miller’s readers to exercise discernment because it believes his books to be inconsistent with historical evangelical theology in some way, yet instead of refusing to sell them, LifeWay chooses to profit from what it alleges to be heresy(ish). That seems a bit like Nancy Regan going into the crack business. “Just say ‘No.’ First one’s free.”

But more odd is how LifeWay is defining “historically evangelical theology.” Actually, I’m not sure how they’re defining it.

What definition both condemns Donald Miller as a heretic but approves the writings of Joyce Meyer and John Hagee?

What History?

It’s historical fact that Christianity was almost entirely led by pacifists for the first three hundred years of its existence. Should LifeWay then carry books written by soldiers, books endorsing America’s wars, books by Oliver North, for instance? I mean, I don’t have a problem with General Colonel North, who knows hundreds of ways to kill any man who has a problem with him, but Tertullian wouldn’t agree with the guy.

It’s historical fact that for most of Christian history individuals did not ask Jesus into their hearts or “accept Jesus.” Should LifeWay carry books and tracts that communicate personal salvation in such non-biblical non-historically Christian terms? Would home churches that existed before Rome’s building projects scratch their heads at books on institutional church administration as well?

Is “historical” Christianity the stuff that happened after Constantine…or after Calvin…or is it after D.L Moody?

And what historical evangelical theology is communicated by paintings of cottages printed on mousepads, and t-shirts that print scripture pulled from context across an American flag, or keychains or romance novels minus the sex?

Save Me From Myself

I was too hard on LifeWay. Or at least hypocritical. Anyone not exercising selective discernment may cast the first stone. Anyone?

Truth is we all do what LifeWay appears to be doing here. I do this.

I read certain books fearfully, prayerfully, critically while others get a pass. I breeze through them with my heart and head wide open and unguarded. This guy is dangerous. That one not so much. Because he thinks like me, I guess.

This assumes I think like God, or that God thinks like me – that I’m not a heretic, that I don’t need God to protect me from myself.

LifeWay’s right: We need a warning alright. And the one they distribute with some books is a pretty good one to start with. Maybe they should stick it in every book. Or, better yet, print that advisory on a massive banner and hang it outside every store:

We want you to know that everything in here might be wrong. Exercise discernment.

I’d like one to hang up at my concerts:

I want you to know that everything I’ll sing and say tonight might be wrong. Exercise discernment.

And one for my church:

We want you to know that everything taught and sung here today might be wrong. Exercise discernment.

And of course one for this blog:

I want you to know that everything I write might be wrong. Exercise discernment.

Everything. Not just Donald Miller. Because, well, is selective discernment inline with historical evangelical theology?

Categories: Featured Posts, None
Tags: Christian industry, church history, Donald Miller, LifeWay, marketing, non-violence, theology

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