Friday, April 13, 2012

Wake up call

This week was an utter joy!  The week began with a class on Brethren Polity.  An admittedly funny juxtaposition of sentences even by my standards.  This was great because I got to spend a few hours with one of my denomination's leaders from the National Office.  It was reassuring to hear of how our tribe is, has and must change to continue to be relevant.  It didn't hurt to hear a few words of encouragement from him about how excited he, and others in the Brethren church are that "people like me," (by which he meant young leaders who have shown at least glimpses of potential to bring about radical transformation) are starting to emerge.  It must be noted that I still find it incredible that people see such potential for Christ's work to be done through me.  This is true, in part because I know where I came from.  I know about all the ludicrous things I've done, and still think of doing.  I know about my weaknesses and the things that I work so hard to hide from others, that I find myself looking over my shoulder to see who these people are talking to.  I never see anyone so I must assume they're talking to me.  More on this in upcoming blogs.
    I spent some time with my ministry team discussing the direction men's ministry is heading, and where we've been, and what obstacles are in our way, and what we can or can't do about them, and was reassured by their commitment, thoughts, frustrations and desire to see the same changes that we've been envisioning for nearly 2 years.
    I got to spend some more time with Will a few days later, chewing on some of the same things we typically talk about.  Children and raising them not to be animals, the role of community in the church, weird 5 stones specific things, our upcoming Marriage Camp, etc.
    I also got to spend some time with Jesus and my wife.  Tonight, I made these absolutely wicked portobello mushroom caps, with garlic, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, grilled veggies and STEAK, had a Lucky U IPA, and simply spent the evening on my porch with my wife.  She likes me just as much as I like her and always says the most loving things when we have little nights like this.
   All of these things are so exciting!  I continue to realize how blessed I am.  How fortunate I am that God decided to bless me with all of these resources, skills, gifts, etc.
<cue rooster crowing>
    A week like this forces my hand.  I can either sit back, receive the compliments, enjoy the peace and love, fall deeper and deeper in love with the vision the Holy Spirit is giving me for my life, hang my hat on all the things that could be, or, I can DO something.  This isn't to say that I've done nothing, because I have.  What I'm saying is that I tend to choose option A.  I like vision and I love compliments and peace and possibilities.  I like coming up with ideas and strategies, and even have success implementing them.  But I realized this week, that much of what I, and others are excited about is stuff that lies ahead.  It's making those things happen that brings excitement.  When we look at the vision for Men's Ministry as a place and time when men are integrated into the lives of other men in their finances, marriages, families, jobs etc.; where old men seek out young men to train them to live like Christ, and young men run to old men to say, "hey, you seem to have this figured out, teach me," it is that reality that excites me.  Not the idea of it.  The idea of being QB for the Browns is exciting, the reality is terrifying.  There is a difference between ideas and realities, and it isn't the idea that excites me.
Yeah!
    This example is for the tangible things in the ministry I lead, but the idea, reality translates into my marriage, my education, your ability to raise your kids, your work ethic, your relationship with Jesus etc.  My football coach used to tell us to visualize the plays as they were going to happen in a game, golfers visualize shots before they take them.  In order to bring about a new reality it starts with our vision; we need to see it.  But if it remains only that change ain't-a-coming.  Do you dream about what your perfect marriage, perfect day of parenting, fulfilling relationship with Jesus looks like?  I hope so, but what do you do to make these things real, to make them happen, to turn them from ideas about a hopeful future, into descriptors of a real present?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Today's Easter service had us write little Thank You notes to Jesus, and pin them to the cross.  Typically a little resistent to this sort of activity but found myself resonating with the activity.  As I begin to consider all the things I'm blessed with, then prioritize them so I can list those things for which I'm most grateful on a 3" square of paper, I find that the exercise forces me to look at the ways in which I'm foundationally blessed.  Let me walk you through where my mind went.  
    As one might expect, I first thought of my lovely wife, then my family, with whom we celebrated yesterday, then I thought of how blessed we are to have a church we love and who loves us, and how blessed it is that we pay our bills etc.  The typical things that a majority of us would recognize as blessings.  Then, I began to feel a little selfish.  All of this was Miles centered.  It is my security and safety that I'm most thankful.  It is that I have a super dope wife, and a pile of friends.  It is me who has health, and happiness, and an education and a winning smile.  I don't really know that I'm supposed to be thinking about myself, at least not to the exclusion of all other people and how Easter has blessed them.  Whether or not this Milescentric view of Easter is appropriate, is actually less the point.  The point is that I did feel like a weenie.  
    The weenie feeling, forced me to the foundational question of how the cross and the resurrection bless me and everyone else.  What actually happens in the resurrection?  Not from a logistical perspective, nor am I asking for an owner's manual for atonement.  What I mean is in my everyday life what is a reasonable way to view the resurrection and how it matters?  This is one of those things that is either profound or elementary, a phenomenon I see so often in Christianity.  Things that we learned long ago and have forgotten, or things that uneducated 14 year olds understand but I somehow miss, all too often rock my world.  
    For me the answer was that this is the only blessing that really matters.  All of these other things are empty without the promise of reunion with the Father.  For anyone who's not a Christian this sounds a little off, cliche or cultish, so let me try to unpack it briefly.  Of what value would, hot wife, 20" biceps, financial security, loads of friends etc. be if at the end of it all, when LeeAnn gets old, my 20"biceps become 26" flabby arms, the stocks plummet again, and my friends all die before me because I've been living on LeeAnn's crazy diet for 30 years, we simply end up as filling for a really expensive box, or worse.
   I see all the things I'm blessed with as bandaids outside the work of the cross.  If there were no resurrection, all the things we typically list as blessings are simply opiates to keep us trudging through til we finally die.  With the cross as the lens through which we see the blessings of health, friendship, love, etc. those blessings are given a greater meaning because we know the living God, who wishes to give us great gifts is just warming up.  Paying the water, electric and gas bill, though pretty sweet now, will be something completely menial when we are at the feet of the Father, chillin' with JC.  Without the cross, we don't have that to look forward to, we simply have at best a sweet retirement, at worst continued separation from He who loves us most.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

3.  The call of the church.  I have some friends and family who, if they had pity on me and decided to read "cute little miles' blog" are frustrated already with the focus on Spiritual things.  For many who could read this, Christians, the Church, even God Himself, are either laughable or offensive concepts.  In earnest, you're the ones I really want to be reading this, but are the least likely.  My one plea to retain your interest is this... Do not view Jesus based on the dysfunctional churches that make headlines.  Don't stereotype all Christians as the fundamentalist hate mongers you enjoy mocking.  Hear this.  Just as the founding fathers of America had something very different in mind for America when they wrote the Constitution, Jesus and the early church, (even God way back!) had something very different in mind when things got started.  Judge Jesus on Him, scripture and by invitation of the Spirit as your guide, not on whackjobs who even we Christians don't want to stand for.
   The Church as Christ made it is a body of absolutely average men and women of service, humility, sacrifice and love.  If you read through the Gospels and Acts, really read them, don't just remember stories from when you were a little kid, and don't find Christ to be a compelling character, if you don't find the Church to be a powerful manifestation of love I just don't get it.
    In many ways JC is super postmodern-friendly.  He doesn't care about authority, at least as we have set it up.  He dismisses social mores which prevent him from loving the unlovable and the marginalized.  He doesn't serve the elite, or the "haves", but commits his life to service of the "have nots."  He knows who he is and it is not identified by anything but himself, so all the existentialists calling for some authentic act separate from the "other" should be satisfied.  And he has great faith in 11 pretty mediocre dudes, to start a world revolution and empowers them to do that.
2.  My wife--I'll write ad naseum (to the reader) about my wife.  I really, really, really love her.  She makes me a better person everyday.  She is way to hot for me! Has marinelike discipline in some areas, some of which overflow to me and my dinner plate, which I think I secretly appreciate.  She challenges my thoughts, perspectives, and actions.  The way she selflessly loves me forces me to become a better man, really just so I can keep up with her.  She's not demanding, but so thankful when I act like a man that it is all the encouragement I need.
    Beyond the fact that she is a dish, smart, and that she loves me the way she does, my love for her grows daily because of the constant refrain in scripture of this being how Christ and the Church are supposed to relate.  The degree to which I understand Christ's sacrifice for His bride, demands that I step my game up.  In truth it demands that all of us do, which is the root of the issue behind LBMs.  So, you'll get some regular doses of that as well.
      I believe that our marriage is as solid as any I know of.  This doesn't mean it is without sandy patches. However, I never have to question her motives.  We are blessed to know how to communicate with each other very well, and I get to share some of the tid-bits I've learned from 7.5 years of marriage with others almost daily.  I don't claim to have all the answers, but because we both are consistently in prayer for our marriage and each other, I have been given some.
Now regarding likely topics, the things that I journal about on my own tend to be almost exclusively about marriage & ministry.  This stands to reason because I think everything in my life falls into these two categories, and if we are absolute reductionists, even my marriage is ministry.  I say this to say that this is likely what one would read here as well.  These are my passions, the things that occupy my heart and mind, and the reason I'm being prompted to do this in the first place.
    More specifically things you'll often read about, then I'll explain a bit about one.

  1. LBM's--old boys who can't, don't want to grow up and live a life of biblical masculinity
  2. My wife--She's BA and teaches me about, and makes me a better man, husband Christian daily.
  3. The Church--Read this like one of those standardized test analogies.  You know, Dog is to puppy: as Cat is to kitten.  Jesus and the early Church are to the American Forefathers: as the church today is to America today.  If you're upset at America or the Church, you're not likely attacking the inventors...

1.  Little-boy-men LBM's-- and how they suck!  This will include as subsets by way of critique, men who are; lazy, excuse makers/blame shifters, unreflective, compulsive, porn fans, all-day-video-gamers/TV watchers, unwilling to grow/be stretched and countless other things I'm blanking on now.  I lead the Men's ministry at my church and am blessed to be in relationships with several men who I would say get the idea of biblical masculinity.  I can't say that I have fully arrived there yet, but I am hard charging it.  My frustration with little-boy-men is that they are complacent, willing to stay in their cute little world of adolescence.  To say it's okay is too strong, but potentially forgivable, if you are single.  But a little-boy-man (LBM) who is engaged, married, a father etc. is unacceptable, and a source of great frustration for me, and their wives.  I'll certainly unpack (LBMs) in countless future blogs.