The San Francisco Bay Area is trendy, techie, and cool.
New York is the impressive intersection of the world - business, media, arts, culture . . .
Nashville and Austin are hot and happening cities with booming populations.
I live in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis was hot at the turn of the century - the 20th century. We hosted the World's Fair in 1904 and were the fourth largest American city, the Gateway to the West. Today, we're a worn and tired city. We've lost our NFL team and a few Fortune 500 companies. We suffer from a history of racism, white flight, and social disparity.
We're anxious right now because of tension over the acquittal of a white police officer who shot and killed a black man. Over the weekend, we witnessed clashes between protesters and police that returned us to 2014 and the unrest that followed the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Twelve years ago, I resisted St. Louis residency. I did not choose to live here. It was chosen for me. Today, I claim this territory as my hometown.
What happens when God calls you to a place you don't want to be?
"How are you?" they ask. "Busy," I reply.
You say it too. "My schedule is crazy!" "I'm super busy." "I've got too much to do."
In his book, The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson gives two reasons why pastors become busy. I believe they apply to all people. I reread Peterson's book annually, and these two statements continue to convict me. They are my yearly "check-up," and help me to refocus my time and energy.
I got at app called Moment that tracks how much time you’re on the phone and how many times you check it in a day. Let’s just say, “Convicting.”
I was at my daughter’s gymnastics class. There’s an upper balcony with bleachers for parents to watch their kids. Forty parents and all of them glued to screens.
Ten years ago, before the iPad and iPhone were mainstream, the average person had an attention span of about 12 seconds. Now it’s 8 seconds. Shorter than the 9 second attention span of a goldfish. See Adam Alter’s book Irresistible and his recent interview on NPR.
So I’m going on a tech diet. I’m not quitting, just putting my electronic devices in their proper place. Why?
Did you give something up for Lent? Why? Why not?
I find it amusing when people give up things that are entirely trivial. Chocolate. Soda. Snacks. Coffee . . . Now, wait. Caffeine might be more than trivial.
You don't have to give up anything for Lent. There's no biblical command to fast. But if you do, make sure it's significant, and make sure it's for good reason. Below are four reasons to fast.
I don't love Valentine's Day. Sorry. We don't go out to eat on February 14th. We don't do roses, chocolate, or gifts.
I bought my wife flowers last week. A spring bouquet with tulips, daffodils, and a sunflower. Why? Because she likes spring and sunflowers.
And because I said something stupid.
Love is the long, perilous work of giving your life to someone else. It's more than flowers on one day. It's the act of selflessness every day. It is not proven in the diamonds and gifts. It's proven in the times we utter regrettable words. The times we mess up, struggle to be happy, and want to scream.
I've learned something from mentors married for decades:
It's easy to buy chocolate and flowers. Try loving someone for 60 years.
The following is what I believe about love. It's an excerpt from my book, Loved & Sent. Happy Valentine's Day :)
Have I been playing it safe?
Am I too comfortable?
Have I taken appropriate risk?
At the beginning of a new year, I wonder if I'm too risk averse. Faith has NEVER been a safe proposition. By its very nature, faith involves uncertainty. And uncertainty requires risk.
If there's nothing to risk, it's not faith.
The room was packed for the preschool Christmas program. I was sitting near the aisle with my camera in hand. My son Joshua was Joseph that year and his friend Claire was Mary. I was prepared to document the entire event.
The procession commenced. As the kids walked in, I spotted Joseph and Mary, holding hands. Totally precious.
I fumbled with my camera, trying to capture the moment. Unable to get the cap off the lens, I reached for my phone to get some video. I was looking down . . . pushing buttons. By the time I was ready, the kids were already up front. I missed the entire entrance.
But there was Joshua, in his Joseph garb. He picked me out of the sea of faces and waved. “Hi, Dad!” He didn't care about the pictures. He just wanted my attention.
At that moment, I made a vow. "I’m going to stop documenting this event and instead simply be at this event." This applies to much of our life, especially in December.
We are obsessed with doing at the expense of being.
These are the pictures we post and see on our social media feeds.
These are the pictures you won't post:
One outcome of tragedy is that it further polarizes existing opposites. Everyone retreats to their respective corner. We use the tragedy to reinforce our stereotypes and justify our worldview. By this, we are driven further apart.
In the last 30 days we've had multiple national tragedies. Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas are a few. We have retreated to poles such as:
Christian vs. Muslim
Pride vs. Anti-gay
Trump vs. #nevertrump
Black vs. White
A stillbirth. A miscarriage. There is a peculiar pain when you lose a child that you held, but never met.
What do you say? How do you go on?
If you know someone struggling after losing a child, first give them a hug. Sit, be, and cry with them. And after a "ministry of presence," here are some things to say at stillbirth or miscarriage.