Homeless to Famous: Thoughts on the greatest week of Ted William’s life, Part 2

Now, this isn’t a Jesus juke, but it seems to me the subtle, unspoken message from this whole event is “How did a guy with such talent end up on the streets?”.

My son, when he was just a toddler, used to love to push the recycling bin around the house.  And every so often, as I was taking the garbage to the curb, I’d look in the bin and notice my cell phone or some other random non-trash item.  It used to perplex me.

How did THIS end up in the garbage?  This has value.  This is useful.  It shouldn’t be tossed out like that.

And when you listen to Ted Williams speak, you can almost ask the same question.

How did HE end up in the garbage?  He has value.  He is useful.  He shouldn’t have been forgotten like that.

But that reveals a deep internal thought that we don’t really want to admit to.

We think everyone else deserves to be on the curb.

If Ted is the exception, than all of the other people with no home and nowhere to go simply become the rule.

I wonder how many other treasures we’d discover if we simply took to the time to not assume they belonged there.




Food Network, the Cooking Channel, and the progressive development of the Church

In 1993, with a straight forward title, the Food Network was launched.  An entire network dedicated to cooking shows and entertainment.  Makes sense.

And people enjoyed it.  And the chefs and cooks with their “BAM” and their butter and Southern drawl transformed into celebrity personalities.

And then came the competition shows featuring massive cakes, and Iron Chefs, and the whatnot.

But somewhere along the way, the Food Network became more about the personalities and the lifestyles of food than the food itself. It became decreasingly “how to” and increasingly spectator driven.

The Food Network even developed shows like “The Next Food Network Star” and “The Next Iron Chef” that were all about who would be appearing on their other shows on the network.

Somewhere along the path to critical mass and insulation, the network became about so much more than what it was when it started.  As it grew and expanded, the fringe programming became more and more central demanding more time and pushing the tried and true cooking format shows to the edges.

Last year, the network created a second network.  An entire network dedicated to cooking shows and entertainment.  The programming that the Food Network was originally created to provide no longer had a place in the line up.  But the Cooking Channel was created in its place to provide a home for all of those shows.

We’ve seen this happen before.  In 1981, it would’ve been hard to believe that you would ever need more than one cable channel dedicated to music.  I mean, the radio plays the same songs for free.  But inevitably, the popularity of the additional programming kept requiring more space from the music.  The answer – MTV2!

And we’ve seen the same happen within the walls of the church.

I’ve never met a pastor who wasn’t committed to sharing the truth of the Gospel and the love of God with people who need it most.   But, it happens.  In the course of the church growing, so many things become a regular part of the life of that church and they must be attended to.  The fellowships, and support groups, and events, and classes, and outreaches, and services.  The kids, the newly marrieds, the singles, the divorced, the seniors, the youth.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with any of those things.  Just the opposite.  There is great benefit in being able to minister specifically to a wide range of people.

We’re taught to want that very thing.  But we have to make sure we aren’t sacrificing our original design and purpose.

And we can’t be surprised when God suddenly decides that He wants a Cooking Channel to your Food Network.

Living with the Asterisk

The asterisk is the little guy in the corner who gives you your first warning that the statement you’ve just read may not be as simple as the statement you’ve just read. He is your gateway, your Looking Glass, into an entire world of fine print and legal jargon. All for the purpose of allowing two competing mindsets (marketing vs. legal) to occupy the same space.

Marketing wants to tell you all of the AMAZING things that will happen once you buy-consume-read-attend-clickon-watch-etcetera their item. Legal wants to tell you that it’s not their fault if it doesn’t really happen.

And, the reality is, whether we see it or not, we’ve all become accustomed to adding asterisks to what we see in our lives. We’ve been trained as consumers since we were small children to see between the lines of marketing and legal.

Remember, opening a Cracker Jacks box for the first time? There was a PRIZE inside!! OMG! Never once did I stop to think about what kind of prize could actually fit inside a Cracker Jacks box. All I knew was there was a PRIZE inside!! A prize that you couldn’t just go buy at the store. No, my friends, this was a prize that you could only find if you were fortunate enough to have the very same box of Cracker Jacks that I had. But you weren’t.

And opening it to discover the teeny baseball card, or tattoo, or whatever prize from the Island of Misfit Toys had found it’s way into my box left me a little deflated. But I knew from then on, I knew that Mr. Cracker Jack’s definition of prize and mine were not the same.

It becomes so easy to apply the same asterisk thinking to faith. Sure, we know that Jesus said to love your neighbor, to turn the other cheek. We know He said to take up crosses and follow Him. But, I mean, that’s not really what He meant, right? Where’s the legal fine print to tell us exactly what the terms and conditions of our love, sacrifice, and discipleship are?

We’ve read John 10:10 about Jesus offering us life and life more abundantly. To the full until it overflows. Or that God promises to heal, to save, and to redeem. But, surely, that’s just marketing talk to get me to become one more church consumer, right?

Maybe they didn’t have the asterisk in 6 AD.

Investment time

Shared with the Vivid Church peeps this AM that God seems to be calling an increasing number of people to a time of pursuit and consecration.  

I truly believe that the month of May will be a critical time of investment and sowing.  May will be a pivot point in this year.  

The Bible instructs us in Isaiah 55:6 to “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.”  There are times when God is in motion and we must get in on what He is doing.  

There is a set time to plant and make investment.   Together, we are committing ourselves to seek God throughout May in unprecendented ways expecting unprecedented harvest, unprecedented breakthrough, and unprecedented impact.

Just a taste…

Ever felt like there was something missing, but you just couldn’t put your finger on it? 

You’re not crazy. You’re hungry.

In our current study series “Hunger”, we are discovering the symptoms of hunger, its function in our lives, how to properly respond to it, and how God uses it to draw and lead us.

I hate the “Facebook Maybe”…

Chances are you’ve probably received one. More than likely you’ve given one. I’m talking about the “Facebook Maybe”.

It all starts out so simply. You receive an event request. You look at it and realize that you would like to support the person or cause hosting the event. But you also know that you are not going to attend.

You have 3 choices. Select “Yes” and not show and hope they never bring it up. Select “No” and hope they don’t take it personally. Or a third option. The ultimate choice for commitment-phobes – “Maybe”.

I only realized how much I’ve relied on the “Maybe” when responding. “Maybe” I’ll be at your midweek Bible Study in Pennsylvania. Maybe. Except for the fact that I live in Jacksonville, FL and will not be purposefully planning on attending. BUT if I were to find myself suddenly transported there, I might choose to attend your gathering.

“Maybe” I’ll show up for the event for the group that I’m not even really a part of. Maybe. But I don’t really expect to suddenly change my plans at the last minute to intentionally surround myself with a bunch of people that I don’t really know. But I might.

Starting to see the value of my “yes” being a “yes” and my “no” being a “no”.

Don’t fall into the easy trap of answering “Maybe”. If you are truly unsure, wait until you have an answer then respond. If you must decline, then acknowledge it, but also leave an encouraging note to indicate your support.

P.S. This is directed at no one in particular other than myself. Trying to improve on some bad social networking habits…

Pulling Our Boats: When Culture and Technology Hinder

arctic-overview1I was watching PBS recently (as always) and saw a great episode of Nova titled “Arctic Passage“. It detailed the failed Franklin Polar Expedition from the 1850’s.

Outfitted with the best 19th century technology, Sir John Franklin set out on a journey to navigate a northwest passage through the Arctic waters north of Canada. It was a journey with a thousand horrible decisions and even worse outcome.

As the ships were crushed under the immense pressure of the surrounding ice, Franklin and his men decided to abandon them and set out on foot to safety. They were able to convert the dingys into sleds which they used to haul their gear and belongings. One of these sleds was actually recovered by archeologists.

What might you expect to find in a sled of polar explorers making their way overland to safety? How about brass buttons, button polisher, books, and silver plated silverware? Rather than focus on the things needed to survive in their new environment, they continued to hold on to the trappings of Victorian England. So much so, that archeologists estimate that each of the sleds weighed more than 1400 pounds.

But there fate was almost officially sealed before they even left port. Their choices of provisions reflect the popular tastes of the time, but were grossly unable to sustain the men in their time of need. Among the provisions were 9450 pounds of chocolate, 3684 gallons of concentrated spirits, 7088 pounds of tobacco. All things to be enjoyed and make life better, but not able to fuel a crew of men pulling 3/4 ton sleds across arctic wilderness.

If this was not bad enough, the literal killer was found in the technology that they thought would actually be their life saver. Included in the provisions were 33, 289 pounds of tinned meat. The revolutionary canning method would allow meats to be transported without spoiling and guarantee the men sustenance in the gravest of conditions. With one major drawback.

Forensic testing found that the men did not only die of exposure to the Arctic weather, but that most of the men were struck with severe lead poisoning. Studies proved that the food they had consumed had been tainted with lead. The lead came from the tinned meats.

The cans would be soldered closed and the soft metal used to seal the cans would taint the meat with lead. The men were already poisoned and sentenced to death before the ships were ever encased in ice.

I watched in amazement at the thought of trying to tackle foreign environments and situations from a traditional, cultural mindset. Sitting in London, the answers to their needs would be easy to solve. Faced with frostbite, scurvy, and lead poisoning, they quickly found that the culture of London did not translate to the Arctic.

It’s easy to scoff at the idea of dragging 1400 pound sleds full of novelties and trinkets across the frozen ground, but I wonder if we don’t often do the same thing? Why do we burden ourselves with so many needless weights when we are trying to survive in a new culture/environment?

How much of our own cultural irrelevance is found simply in the fact that we refuse to stop pulling our boats?