Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guns...and Roses

NO drives people to YES
The more you tell a child he can't do something, the more he wants to do it. Apparently this plays just as well with their parents. Ironically in the wake of a nationwide discussion on banning, limiting and regulating firearms and ammo--(you guessed it) we're spurring on nationwide sales of guns and ammo at a fever pitch. The discussion of limiting guns is unleashing unprecedented gun and ammo sales.

Just for fun google "record gun and ammo sales" or just click here.

It's not just the loose cannons
What's interesting in my observation, is these gun control conversations aren't just driving the lunatic fringe Ted Nugent-like gun nuts out to buy more supplies. It's driving all gun owners. For instance, I have a good friend who is a great normal guy. He's considering purchasing an AR-15. Guess what? He's never been interested in an AR-15 before; he's considering it for the resale value.

I've bought more ammo last month than I've ever bought in a month. (My example here is that I'm a normal guy--which I'll admit is a HUGE stretch.) Why am I buying more ammo? It's available and still inexpensive. I'm concerned it may go up in price or be harder to get.

(For the record, I shoot handguns at targets. I keep them locked in a safe to which only I know the combination. I don't carry. I don't own for home defense. I don't golf very well and it's bad for my back. Shooting is my golfing. It's recreational.)

We don't understand all we know
In the '50s and '60s kids played with guns. They looked 100% real. No orange tips. 1911s, M-16s, Winchesters, sub-machine guns, Colt pistols etc. Kids spent hours outside divided into teams with the sole purpose of shooting and killing each other. They spoke and shouted in those terms. "I shot you!" "I killed you--fall down!"

You must watch this vintage commercial:
click here

How shocking was that? How frighteningly realistic was that? And this wasn't a tiny segment of kids playing with life-like guns. Virtually all of us boys grew up with these things in our hands, shooting at people often. And even though by today's standards we might not say those old guns were sexy--back in the day--trust me--we thought they were as cool and sexy as you can imagine any modern killing stick is.

And yet the '50s & '60s (by and large) didn't produce people who shot up movie theaters and schools. Since toys have been toys, boys in America have been playing with life-like guns in ways that shock us today.

And yet ironically this current generation that's grown up thinking that playing with toy guns is politically incorrect has opened fire on too many innocent people.

I don't pretend to have an answer here in the least. Only the observation that there are not always logical solutions when hideous things happen. Evil is not always simple. As my dad used to say, "I'm not sure we understand everything we know about this."

Unrealistic expectations
Whether one is pro-gun or anti-gun, I suggest that we can no sooner un-gun America than we could remove the Stars and Stripes as our national flag. In America we love cars, love guns and detest people telling us what to do.

Like it or not, good or bad, that is who we are. So guns will always be part of America. We can (and should) reel them in a little here and there, but we must understand the ability to kill goes far beyond assault rifles and large magazines. Sadly our great President Lincoln was killed with a single shot derringer.

I am not making any pro-NRA point here. (I'm not a member, by the way.) But I am a realist. I am a pragmatist. On occasion I'm even an optimist. It seems to me that un-gunning America is Utopian--an expectation for the other side of heaven. On this earth evil will find a way to be disgustingly sinister. Evil doesn't require assault rifles. It sadly finds a way.

Grieve with those
Perhaps what saddens me most these days is how we've instantly followed up the Sandy Hook slayings with a nationwide diatribe defending our right to own guns. And it's no secret that so many gun owners are self-professing people of Christian faith.

And on the heels of this tragedy it seems our overwhelming voice has not been that of mourning with those who mourn. It seems we were disgusted for a weekend. And then spent the last month frothing to defend our right against an "evil" government that somehow "hates" us.

And the church-not-so-much people are watching as they always do. And they've seen us muster a head of steam for our precious guns more then we've mourned with those who mourn. Our actions speak...

And as I write this...thinking of parents in Connecticut with empty beds...I am moved to tears...and convicted that I have not mourned enough--have not considered these parents enough--these precious parents who've made arrangements for small caskets. And I am sorry.

Holy Father, I pray for these families from Sandy Hook. I lift them up to You--trusting that only You can provide comfort and peace in situations where comfort and peace seem impossible. I pray that you give these family members and friends the power to muddle through the devastating emotions that are still so delicately fresh. Father, reveal yourself to these families in supernatural ways. Be their strength, Lord. Be their portion. Be their all in all. Carry them, Lord. And use us, Lord--your sons and daughters to pray for these dear families. Use those of us in close proximity in any way possible to serve these families. And us to realism and savor every good gift and blessing today--the ones that we so easily miss. Thank You for being the one true Thing we can count on in a world that disappoints. Amen.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rocks & Things

At some point Unk picked up a watermelon-sized rock and hit Tantor over the head with it. In one felling swoop Unk immediately made large rocks sexy.

A nice caveman-about-town named Ool heard about Unk's rock show. So he picked up a pumpkin-sized rock and hung out by his pre-historic friends (Chaka, Una and Phil) just in case Unk got another killer idea.

And since Tantor's demise, a lot of the pelt-wearing upright walking creatures of the rocky crags have taken to carrying rocks--just in case. And so it's gone. And so it is.

People like Unk have done and will always do hideous things.

People like Ool have always and will always pick up a rock to defend their loved ones from idiots like Unk.

And some people have always and will always carry a rock because cool cats like Ool might not be around the next time Unk throws a chunk.

We can regulate who has rocks. Everybody probably shouldn't have one. People probably don't need a sack that holds a lot of rocks; they could do a lot of harm. We can try to make some rules to keep rocks from getting out of hand.

Of course only nice guys like Ool will follow those rules. Punks like Unk will always find a way to have their way no matter what you say.

I heard of one village that rounded up all the rocks and even moved away from the rocky crags to prevent them from chipping off more rocks. They moved to the forest, away from the rocks.  Lush grass, shady trees and a bubbling stream.

But then I heard a jerk named Blick grabbed a stick and well---it did the trick--and nice ol Bodz caught it in the head. You guessed it: left him dead.

We should try to control the rocks, the sticks and the bad things; it's responsible. But people will always have sticks and things. Some good people will use them to protect other good people from the Unks and the Blicks of the world.

But no matter what we do, the Unks and the Blicks will find a way to throw rocks and swing sticks. We can try to make a difference and get obsessed about the rocks and the sticks, and that might even make us feel better--for a while. Until Unk's nephew figures out that a sling will do more than throw a rabbit for a loop.

You are fragile. I am fragile. The great God in the sky knows that. So he gave us hope and gave us love. Gave us perseverance and gave us resilience. Gave us courage and gave us tenacity. Because there are Unks and Blicks afoot.

But rest easy for there are more of us than there are of them. And our future time with the God in the sky is so much longer than our time here in the crags and forests. And so we muddle through. And someday---there will be no more Unks and Blicks. No more rocks. No more sticks.

And so we live.

Discipling Teams (the power of AND)

Like life, churches get compartmentalized.
This is our:
  • nursery/elementary age/middle school/high school team
  • cafe team
  • tech team
  • music team
  • facilities team
  • bookstore team
  • and on & on it goes.
And as our team assembles we as leaders prepare to encourage and lead them into our team's mission. And that is good. But that is not enough.

It's not enough that our focused teams excel at their areas of impact.

Our teams must be effective in their areas AND fully embrace the broader life of the church.

Let me explain: Many moons ago I walked into Oakbrook Church knowing little more than Jesus was my Savior. I came in playing drums, which I knew much about.

So weekly, I'd prep my music, show up to a mid-week rehearsal and spend all morning Sunday drumming for the service. "This is my thing," I thought. And when the pastor would talk about giving financially, for instance, I thought, "Drumming is my thing. And I spend a lot of time in a week doing it. That's my thing."

In other words, me being good at my thing in my area was my whole thing. Being good at tithing or spiritual disciplines were someone else's things.

But thanks to some good music team leadership and some off-the-stage discussions, my view of things changed. Kind but clear words came my way like,

"Guys, we have to get behind this ___________ focus of the church. We aren't just leaders musically, we need to lead in all areas of our life and get behind what the pastor is calling our church to do. Music is not the most important thing--it's part of a larger thing."

And my friend and music director gave me a devotional book by Oswald Chambers with a clear but kind expectation that I read it. And I did. And it's one of my favorite devotional books to date.

Discipleship is not just a mano-a-mano event. Teams can be discipled by leaders who pull the team into excelling at its focus AND excelling at the larger life that Jesus calls us to. That sounds huge. But...

The simple way we do that is by pulling our teams into the conversation teaching pastors are initiating from our platforms each week. By reminding our teams that embracing our task without tangibly embracing Sunday's teaching, misses the point.

So if our church has a year-end giving campaign, a missional focus in the community, an invitational focus for a big event, our little team leads in all those things.

We disciple our teams by leading them well into the task at hand AND into the greater vision that's spoken each Sunday.

We disciple our teams by focusing them on the micro AND macro.

We disciple our teams by calling them to servanthood within the team AND calling them to submission to Christ in area's our church is challenging us.

A discipling team excells at the task AND in surrendered hearts in areas outside our task.

It's possible. I've seen it. Lived it. Grown through it.
Every serving team can be a discipling team.