Sunday, February 26, 2006

What is Your Role in Participating in the Missional Nature of the Church?

My friend Wayne Purdom recently asked me four questions relating to my life of faith. In previous articles I’ve answered the first three:

What is the church?
What is your role in receiving from the church?
What is your role in giving to the church?

These were all great questions. But his last question really got me thinking and really challenged me. He asked: What is your role in participating in the missional nature of the church?


To answer this I need to pause briefly and define a couple terms – not because I think you don’t know what they mean, but just for clarity so you can know what I take them to mean as you read on.

In my (albeit limited) experience, there has been a lot of role separation in church. People say “I can’t do (fill in the blank)” and look to someone else: The mindset that only pastors can talk about Jesus to someone who is asking questions, or only a Sunday school teacher can help little Johnny learn about Jesus, etc. From this, we have the idea that it is only “missionaries” who “go into all the world”

If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit the reason I have thought this way is because it is easier to be lazy and assume someone else will do “it” over “there” somewhere. Bob Bennett sings a song called “The Doing of the Thing” and part of the lyrics say:
Half way ‘cross the world,
Somebody does our bidding
Because we like to pray
With our fingernails clean
It is easier to write a check and “support” a “missionary” than it is to wake up and realize going into “…all the world” starts at my front doorstep. It is tough because this realization brings with it a responsibility.

A lot is being said and written these days about the idea of “being the church” as opposed to “doing church” – as if the two concepts are somehow mutually exclusive. I’m sad to admit I have been a voice in that camp. But just this morning The Holy Spirit made a connection for me between this idea and James 1:22-26. I now see both concepts are far from being mutually exclusive! They are actually complementary! According to the economy of God’s Kingdom, apparently one cannot “be” church without “doing” church!

I think much of this well-intentioned reactionism of “being” vs “doing” is simply in response to the over-busyness and driven-ness of today’s Western North American culture, and has little or nothing to do with actual Kingdom living.

Now, I’m no scholar, but it seems to me the word “missional” implies anyone can do it, and every Jesus follower should be doing it, since it is what Jesus does and what Jesus tells us to do! His body is to be, by design, “missional” in nature.


So then, from the perspective of someone who wants desperately to move away from the cultural influences on me to stay overly busy and driven; who wants simply to “be” church, but also wants “doing” church to flow naturally out of that, what does it look like for me to be missional?

Simply put it means I want to give away facial tissue wherever I am.

Here’s what I mean: When was the last time you asked someone for a "Safeway Brand, Aloe-Based-Moisturizer Infused, Facial Tissue"? You probably never have. You asked for "Kleenex". This is a brand name, but it has become synonymous with almost any and all versions of the product itself.

There are many examples of this throughout our lives (did you know “Xerox” is not a verb?).

Here’s another example:

Waiter: "What would you like to drink?"
Customer: "Coke"
Waiter: "What kind?"
Customer: "Orange"
Waiter: “What kind?”
Customer: “Orange Crush”

In some parts of the South, (especially near Atlanta!) the word "Coke" has become synonymous with any and all soft drinks -- and has therefore become less meaningful and specific. After using the word “Coke”, more words are needed to clarify what is meant by that one word, since it could mean so many things to so many people.


Likewise, "let's go to church" has come to mean something to the population at large (both in and outside the subculture of Western American Evangelicalism). This culturally adopted meaning is more generic and subjective than is healthy, I think. In that subjectivity there lies a whole host of negative meanings for many, many people (churched and unchurched alike).

With that in mind, allow me to take the Kleenex analogy one step further:

It is one thing for me, as a person who recognizes my own nose is runny, to take the initiative and go to someone who has some Kleenex, and then take the initiative to ask the person for some Kleenex by brand name.

It is quite another thing for that person to come to me and develop relationship with me. Then, once I know they care about me they might say “Here, I noticed your nose is running” as they hand me some facial tissue.

Do you see the difference?

There are people. Surrounding me all the time. People who have a preconceived notion of what church is like because of what the "brand name" of "church" has come to mean to them in this culture. Because of this notion, they would never go to “that kind of place" and ask for the help they need, or engage in relationship in any way with “that kind of person” who regularly hangs out in “church”.

Before I move on I need to make something explicitly clear: I love the church I currently attend. It is a standard Vineyard church, with a few folks who work as paid staff: A Senior Pastor, an Office Admin person, and a few part time folks. I’m an Associate Pastor, but I’m not paid by the church. We are in the process of purchasing the building in which we meet. We meet on Sunday mornings and once a month we have a Sunday evening service. It is a place of life and health for me and for many others who come to Sunday services and weekly Home Groups and in other ways participate in the life of the body of Christ. I’ll say it again: I love my church and I don’t see anything wrong with this church continuing in the path it is on –- Jesus has great plans for this local expression of the Kindgom, and I am stoked about that! I feel the same way about most churches I’ve visited. Most of them are vibrant places where Jesus is at work in the world, and that is a good and pleasant thing in the eyes of God!

But my heart has become burdened for a different set of people than the ones with whom I currently relate in that church setting. My heart has started to ache for the people who would never consider going to “that kind of place”, who are often very resistant to my attempts at explaining how “my church isn’t like that!” It has become my experience that people who would never consider going to “that kind of place” are firmly entrenched in their set of beliefs about “church”. So, I’ve stopped trying to convince them they’re wrong. Perhaps some of them will still darken the door of a church some day. But I think most of them will respond like a coworker once did when I invited him to Easter Services. He politely declined, but later told another coworker “Yeah, Keith invited me too, but I already have a church I don’t go to.”

To go back to the Kleenex analogy of “church” branding, for me “being missional” means this: Rather than opening up a local franchise of The Kleenex Store, and advertising in the Yellow Pages and on a slick website, and also sending out cool postcards and then hoping people come to my local franchise of The Kleenex Store…

…I just wanna give away facial tissue wherever I am.

Rather than pay overhead on a building and have the rest of my precious other resources go to paying for staff salaries and benefits packages, I just want all my energy and resources to go into making sure I always have plenty of facial tissue to give away wherever I am.

Rather than spending my personal energies trying to motivate my coworkers and business founders at The Kleenex Store, telling them they need to go find people and bring them to The Kleenex Store so they can get some of our own really cool edgy Kleenex, and then not only can the people who come get their runny noses fixed, we can also become a bigger better local franchise of The Kleenex Store…

…instead I just want to go to people I would normally meet in day to day life, and befriend them and offer them facial tissue.

So many people lump the word "church" in with so many other ideas and concepts. I want to be free from those societally-imposed restrictions. To so many people following Jesus, "church" is a building and organization with a staff and a mortgage and ministry leader needs. And so many people who aren't following Jesus see "church" as an organization that wants to parent them and tell them where they are wrong and bad -- and then ask them for money.

I want to be free from both these stigma. And I want to reach people who are staying away from Jesus because of those misconceptions. In order to do that, I feel a need to move away from the hint of those notions, and just concentrate, as Bob Bennett puts it, on "The doing of the thing".

Instead of waiting for “them” to come to “us” to ask for a Kleenex (since they would never do that) I want to go to them and offer something for the snot in their nose.


In fact, instead of using language that separates "us" from "them", I really want to find a common set of terms which can be understood by all. But I also recognize the inevitability of using terms which find their fullest meaning only within the context of the Kingdom of God. Jesus told people to eat His flesh -- Jesus Himself was not "visitor friendly" at times, so I'm not talking about dumbing anything down! I'm talking about using approachable language and introducing concepts in terms which can be wrestled with -- the way I naturally do that is with word pictures and parable sorts of stories.


Here's another story to help explain where I am at, especially in light of what I am reading these days.

When I first showed up at Calvary Chapel in San Francisco in 1987, the style of gathering was radically different from what I was used to. But it wasn't the difference in order of service which impacted me, at least not consciously. It was the people. During the time of music, they were giving themselves wholeheartedly and passionately to Jesus. I had never really seen that. And then afterward, when they talked and studied and we went to lunch -- they lived like that.

I knew four things all at once:

1) This was not the only way to do it (I had certainly seen and experienced other ways)

2) This was not the only place to do it (I had certainly been other places)

3) I questioned myself and God and said "Are these people just fanatics and weirdos?" But the Holy Spirit resonated and called to my heart and said "this is the way it is supposed to be.”

4) At the same time I knew this was true for me for the season, but did not necessarily imply all other forms and styles and representations of The Kingdom were bad or wrong or "less than" this one.

It is the same with the books and blogs (and lives!) I have been reading over the past few years. Though it is only one person's or one group's interpretation and understanding of what *is*, and I understand that -- it is radically different from what I have grown accustomed to understanding in terms of the workings of the church. In other words, it has helped me move beyond my own misconceptions and preconceived notions of what “church” means.

As I read these books and blogs and lives, the Holy Spirit resonates in me and says "this is what it is supposed to be like for you in this new and coming season -- and I am doing it not just with you but with many -- to reach many."


When I was in the Navy a friend told me about a ministry called "The Navigators". They had a radical idea of "witnessing" and "evangelizing". The idea was this: If I tell 1000 people a year for 10 years, I could (personally!) tell 10,000 people about Jesus! But if I told just 2 people a year for 10 years, and during the 6 months or so I spent living life with each of them, we really went deep with God together...and if each of the 2 people I told then go on to tell and go deep with 2 people a year, and if each of *them* go on...then at the end of the 10 years, there will be far more than 10,000 disciples, and each year the disciples made will be far more equipped to make more disciples who will then go make disciples.


Along these lines, I’ve been asking God and myself and others what life would look like if I moved away from the formal structured "church" meeting similar to what I’ve experienced in the past. What if I and some really close friends moved to a new place and:

1) Hung out with people -- neighbors, coworkers, people in my bowling league, etc -- in our day-to-day lives. What if we were real with them and went and fed the poor and helped the needy with them, and just in general shared our sorrows and problems and triumphs and joys with them, etc -- whether they were following Jesus or not. And all of us (those following and those not following Jesus) just loved each other and got through life together. But these close friends & I also made sure that we intentionally...

2) Hung out with a small number of people who *are* following Jesus (but not on Sunday mornings or maybe not on weekends at all -- they are just too awesome to not share with people who don't know Jesus!) so we could pray for one another and share at a deeper level as the Holy Sprit led us, to walk out life in The Kingdom. Then as we all became closer and more like Jesus, including praying for others and healing people and the other stuff that would go along with helping the poor, etc and then...

3) Along the way, some of the folks from groups #1 & #2 would naturally mingle and get to know each other. The folks in group #1 would be drawn in by His presence among us, and flowing through us, so they would start hanging out in group #2 also – so that naturally and relationally, some of the folks in group #1 would start following Jesus too. And then over time, there would be more and more people in group #2, so that the group would (again, naturally) become two separate groups in terms of when/how/where/how they met -- etc etc etc.


So if I hung out with people in a pub, or in a park, or in my home, etc, that would be one thing -- but I don't want to go "plant a House Church" or a "Park Church" or even a "Pub Church" or anything like that. Do you see the difference in emphasis? In general, I don't want to "aim" at any sort of formalized structured "thing" and call it "[Thing] Church" -- does that make sense?

On the other hand I absolutely want to stay connected to other people (in other circles and settings) who are walking with Jesus in a way that shapes and forms me. I want to be connected to people who are "going to church" and stuff. I want to stay connected to an association of people who are all walking with Jesus together.

I think, if anything, occasionally attending the rituals in High Church liturgy (Episcopal, Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, etc) might be the least distracting for me. As long as they did not become rote, they could help provide an occasional "framework", like a friend of mine has said -- a "place to hang things once in awhile".


So in my own round about and verbose way, that’s how I see myself participating in the missional nature of the church.

I don’t know about you but my runny nose hasn’t been fixed yet. So I’m in touch with how much I still need the facial tissue myself. In fact, that might be the main reason I try to have so much with me all the time: because I need it! Sadly, I often leave the house without it though. I forget I need it sometimes.

That’s why, along with that desire to always be giving away facial tissue wherever I am, I still want to be part of a group of runny-nosed-people-who-recognize-their-need-for-facial-tissue who gather together regularly and make the best use of the facial tissue we have and can offer one another!

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go wipe my nose.

~ Keith

For an interesting side-note on trademarks becoming part of common language, google your way over to this story on the google blog by the wonderful folks at Google Inc.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Parable About a Story About an Analogy

At the bottom of the right-hand column of this blog you will see the phrase "ye be forewarned" in reference to my penchant for word pictures and analogies.

Recently, I wrote a long post about my verbosity. I think if one were to categorize my long-windedness, there would be "short words" and "fact statements" and such -- but by far the category that would make up the vast majority of my loquacity would be "parables" and "stories" and "analogies".

Continuing the thought from the abovementioned post, I sometimes get the impression if I could just get to the point without telling a lot of stories or using a lot of word pictures which seem (to the listener, never to me) to be off topic or "out of left field" then said listener would be happier.

In my own defense I have often pointed to the example set by Jesus. (I know, I know, not a very fair comparison, but hey -- as long as we're jumping to comparisons, why not go to a gold standard?). Jesus often spoke in parables. He told stories. He used word pictures. Therefore, it is OK if I use them!

But I'm not Jesus. So maybe I shouldn't. I'm still conflicted, at times, between being:
  • the natural "me" that flows.
  • the "becoming me" that is growing and (perhaps) using less words than I used to.
  • the "unnatural me" that speaks and writes the way others want me to just so they will like me.
But recently, I was struck by two things I read, months and months apart.

The first was a short but wonderfully entertaining book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It is the fictional story of an autistic adolescent boy who solves the mystery surrounding the death of his neighbor's dog.

Reading how the boy organized his thoughts; how he viewed and interacted with the world around him; how he saw and remembered certain details -- all these fascinated me, because I do similar things. I came to this (only somewhat tongue-in-cheek) conclusion: Perhaps I am not a regular guy who happens to remember certain types of things well, and who sees details. Perhaps, instead, I am a very high-functioning autistic person.

I mean no disrespect to the autistic community or their families. I actually made this conclusion with a sigh of relief -- a feeling that, perhaps, I was not so "weird" after all. Perhaps there was a good reason my mind works the way it does, and I should stop perseverating on trying to be different.

Before I tell you about the second thing I read, I must digress (albeit briefly) to mention my joy, in Psych 101 class in college, in discovering the idea of "schemas". When I first heard this word and began to understand it's meaning, I was overjoyed and flooded with the same types of feelings I mentioned above. As far back as I can remember, I have had (what I refer to as) "boxes in my head" -- categories and labels on things. Learning about "schemas" helped me feel "normal" in that respect.

Just today I glanced at a headline on the Stanford Report which says "Noted cognitive scientist asserts that analogy is (almost) the whole enchilada". This made the bells and whistles and flashing lights start going in the "I'm wordy" and the "But that is OK" boxes in my head!

The lecturer was Dr. Douglas Hofstadter. I read the article and linked from there to a chapter Dr. Hofstadter authored entitled "Analogy as the Core of Cognition" previously published in The Analogical Mind: Perspectives from Cognitive Science (2001).

I've read only about the first 1/3 of the chapter, but it is absolutely FASCINATING! And not only that -- it is also very VALIDATING to me. I will spare you the details and make this already long post no longer than it already is:

He says using analogies is not only the primary way in which we speak but, in fact, at the very core of the way we think and perceive the world. So not only did Jesus do it, a noted scientist says we all do it -- so I'm going to stop trying to stop.

So there!

~ Keith

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Does it get any better than this?

I'm at my desk, listening to Jack Johnson, and I get an eMail from my beautiful wife Cathy with this card in it:

Does life (sitting at my desk at work) get any better than this?

I'm pretty sure it doesn't!

~ Keith

Sunday, February 19, 2006

On Being Ordinary

If you've never been to Folk Alley you really should go. Listen for a little while and you are bound to hear some great music. But for me, the lyrics are what make a song great in the long run. The lyrics are what kill me and stay with me and make me cry just thinking about them! That's what folk music is all about for me -- the stories of real life, played in simple arrangements so the lyrics can be appreciated and savoured and absorbed.

Yesterday I was minding my own business balancing the checkbook, and this song came on. I just had to stop and listen. The artist's name is Bill Miller and this song is called Ordinary Man. It is not available on iTunes (although much of his music is), so I may just have to go buy a CD today.

I like to replace the words "Clyde" and "Edna" with "Keith" and "Cathy" -- I like to do that because it brings home to me not just the importance of being an "ordinary" man -- but the incredible privilege and honour I have of being married to the sweetest woman in the world. Cathy is my best beloved. My Queen. My bestest friend in the whole wide world -- and you know what? I can't wait for us to grow old together! I can't wait -- I ache! -- to see her again! (She's in Seattle with Globe Girl).

Anyway -- here's the song:

Ordinary Man

Clyde woke up real early while Edna was still asleep
Got dressed and had some coffee, then found his set of keys
He pulled on his Levi jacket, he headed for the door
The kitchen smelled like dinner from the night before

A rumbling exhaust pipe woke Edna from her sleep
She stumbled like a drunkard yelling "Clyde you wait for me!"
But Clyde was going nowhere, just sitting in his truck
Staring with a poker face, like he'd run out of luck

Cause any fool would've turned and run
Any fool would've walked away
Any fool would've given up
But an ordinary man, he chose to stay

Now Edna, she couldn't say too much, she'd seen that look before
She kept tapping on Clyde's window, till he opened up the door
Then she put her arms around him, she never said a word
And Clyde turned on the radio and neither of them heard

He said "Edna why don't you hop in, I think I'll call in sick
There's three one ways to a dead end street, now you just take your pick"
And she pointed to the ball field and the park where they first kissed
And Clyde grinned like he found something that he had almost missed

Cause any fool would've turned and run
Any fool would've walked away
Any fool would've given up
But an ordinary man, he chose to stay

They spent that day in freedom, they hung on for many more
Raised up quite a family, they found what love was for
And the aging never slowed them down, they leaned on faith, not luck
Still out taking Sunday drives in Clyde's old beat up truck

You know Edna, she ain't no movie star and Clyde's a little slow
The shopping mall's replaced the park where they both used to go
But that's why they've both got each other, so they can keep their dreams alive
The simple dreams, the common man, still stand the test of time

Cause any fool would've turned and run
Any fool would've walked away
Any fool would've given up
But an ordinary man, he chose to stay

Here's to being ordinary.

~ Keith

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Hi, I am a blogger virus: paste me into your blog and help me spread.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Waxing Preferentially Loquacious in my own Blog

I don't remember how old I was when I learned to read, but I think it was at a fairly normal age. What was unusual, I guess, is how quickly and how well I learned to read aloud. I could pronounce large and difficult words on-the-fly and also learned quickly to develop a certain cadence; a natural flow of words.

To this day, if I am reading aloud, my eyes are always a few words ahead of my mouth, so that, when I get to them with my mouth, my brain has already processed them. I don't try to make this happen. It just does. Maybe I'm some sort of reading savant.

When I was 7 or 8 I remember being at the home of our neighbor Diane Zaske...

(why do I remember her name? -- you'll have to wait on that answer, since my status as something of a memory savant will probably be the subject of a future blog)

I was at their house playing with her two kids, around my age, but younger. She had a couple friends over and was playing cards or something. I was absent-mindedly reading the front page of her newspaper as it sat on the kitchen table. She asked me what I was doing, so I told her. She was incredulous that I, as a 7 year old, could read the front page of a newspaper. She tested me on a couple word meanings. Then, she asked me to do something that would become a defining moment of sorts: she asked me to read out loud.

I don't have any memory of doing this earlier in life, although I suppose I must have in kindergarten or 1st grade.

I don't remember what the stories were in the news that day. I don't remember how long I read -- a few minutes probably. What I do remember is her awe at my ability. She had me read some more from the front page; the back page; the sports. I was a showpiece for her to coo over and praise. She pointed my skills out to her friends. She called my mom and dad and told them how amazing it was. She went nuts over my ability to not just read, but read with pronunciation, articulation, and comprehension beyond my years.

I have always enjoyed reading. I like being told stories, whether it is someone reading to me, or me reading to myself with various voices inside my head for the different characters.

But since that day at the Zaske's, in school or in other settings, I have always enjoyed reading aloud. Especially when it has resulted in praise. It has made me feel valuable and "better than" others who couldn't read as well. I probably looked down my nose a few times at kids who weren't as good at reading, but there were plenty of things I was not good at for which I endured playground ridicule, so I don't think I lorded it over anyone for too long, or too ruthlessly.

This praise-loving led to appreciating the praise I received when I was not reading aloud, but simply speaking my mind. I'm not as well read as others I know, but I've always been fairly good at articulating, in some detail, what is going on in my head or heart.

I used to be a regular listener to Dr. Laura. As caustic as she can be, one of the things I appreciated about her rapport with callers was her refusal of "I don't know" as an answer. She would often tell callers who gave that as an answer to stop, think, and then respond -- instead of just blurting out "I don't know" as some sort of cop-out or excuse.

Likewise, I almost never say "I don't know" when asked something. If it is a feeling or thought question, I think and then respond with my feelings or thoughts. If it is a factual question and I truly don't know the answer, then I will often give an "educated guess" (read: pull an answer out of thin air (or elsewhere) and speak with a confident tone of voice). If it is a work-related matter and a patient is asking me a medical question and I don't know the answer, then I will say "I don't know, but I will find the answer and get back to you".

Along the way in life, I somehow learned words are the best way to communicate. Researchers now tell us only about 7% communication comes from the actual words/content. (55% comes from body language and 38% comes from tone of voice).

What this means, is that if someone does not understand me, I have often considered it my fault -- if I could just articulate more clearly or in more detail the nuances of the situation/feelings/etc then the other person would truly understand.

I learned being misunderstood means feeling hurt and rejected, or someone else feels that way. Since neither of those is nice, I have learned to overuse words up-front; to over-communicate so as to avoid any possibility of miscommunication.

If you haven't picked this up by now then God bless your naivete: I'm wordy. Verbose. Loquacious.

Strunk and White say "Omit needless words" but I have always found it easier to say in 500 words what others can say in 50 (or 5!).

Where once I found praise for my ability to articulate, I now found friends and family members getting glassy-eyed, slack-jawed, or worse: angry. I began to receive comments like:
Get to the point!
Stop rambling!
Do you even have a point?
What the hell does that have to do with anything?
or just
From these and other (more loving) comments I've learned that not everyone shares my fascination with words, word pictures, stories, analogies, parables, and the like. I've learned that, at times, brevity helps. Being concise can be good.

When people tried to "help me" by telling me I should learn to get to the point more quickly, and avoid using stories and analogies, it hurt. When these same people tried to tell me they loved me, it never clicked. I would think "How can you love me if you want me to be different?" I felt betrayed and used and manipulated.

But then one day I read something that helped me get a more clear perspective. It was printed, of all places, on a bumper sticker. It said this:
Jesus loves me exactly the way I am.
He just loves me too much to let me stay this way!
That helped me see the love others were trying to express in helping me become a better communicator.

I think I have come a long way in my ability to avoid overcommunicating. Now I am more able to let the words fall where they may, and deal with any misunderstandings which arise. This has not always been fun or easy, but it has actually helped me become even more articulate, more loving, and more mature.

But you know what?

I still love words. I love to write them and craft them into stories. I think I am more articulate as a writer than a speaker. With speaking, at least extemporaneously, there is little or no editing on-the-fly. With writing I can save draft copies and change syntax, structure, and content -- waiting until it is truly what I want it to be before giving it to anyone.

That's why I love blogging. I can say as much as I want, on whatever topic I want, using as many stories as I want (the stories I think are relevant).

And if someone says "wow -- your blog is too wordy" then I can either delete their comment, or tell them not to read the blog then.

See, while I've grown up some and reduced my normal word-count in day-to-day communications, I still sometimes feel the condescension of less wordy people. Not the people really close to me (just in case you were wondering if it is you, it probably isn't -- but just in case, please think twice the next time you feel yourself getting glassy-eyed. Maybe I'm just getting to the really good part!).

I get the impression these less-wordy people are "putting up with" me -- "enduring" me. That doesn't feel good at all. It feels pretty crappy, to tell you the truth. It feels the exact opposite of what I felt in Diane Zaske's kitchen 33 years ago. Instead of feeling valued and appreciated I feel belittled and pushed away.

So in my blog, it helps me and I like it -- getting to say as much as I want on whatever topic. Using whatever words I want, being as redundant as I want. Being as repetitive as I want. Just because I can. I can talk and tell stories and no one gets to say "hurry it up and get to the point" because it is my own space and if they don't like it they can leave.

I guess the bottom line is this: I want to be liked not "in spite of" how I communicate, but because of how I communicate. Or at the very least "aside from" how I communicate -- like it is a non-issue.

In my blog I get that. It is mainly for me. If others read it, that is fine, but it is mainly for me. And I like me. I like me because of how I communicate.

~ Keith

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Holy Childhood Memories!!!!!!!




A friend told me about this website and when I went there I had a flood of memories:
  • Eating toast with peanut butter and butter.

  • After-school T.V. watching
    (gasp) before my homework was done.

  • Wishing I had superpowers.

  • Wishing I could fight people and make bad guys give in.

I don't have any specific deep or philiosophical things to say about Adam West, or his career or anything at all. Just thought you'd enjoy the link to the cool website.

~ Keith

PS -- all photos shown here are available for purchase, autographed by Mr. West! $20 for black & white, $25 for color.

All photos here are taken from the above-mentioned website without the expressed permission of Mr. West or his agent, but with only kind regards for Mr. West and his career.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Road to HeartChange; The Road to Life:
Being Loved. Being Real.

My friend Marie recently blogged about her experiences at HeartChange. I began to comment on her post, but soon realized I had more to say, so here I am beginning to say it.

It may take a couple posts to get it all in, because there is some backstory I think is important.

Here's how it started for me.

You know the things on railroad tracks where you pull a lever, and the train changes directions?

In October of 2003 I flew to Vancouver, WA for a weekend quasi-business trip. Somewhere along the way, God pulled that lever, and my track changed. I just didn't know it yet. It was August of 2004 before I actually reached the place where I switched tracks.

In late 2003 I began to realize I needed to take a break from what I was doing at church. At the time I was leading the music department and had been in the band for a number of years before that. While in Vancouver, I felt God begin to nudge my heart that it would be good for me to take a sabbatical; a break to rest and pull away and spend time with and listen to Him.

This nudging was redoubled in me about a month later at a weekend conference being hosted by my church in California.

So in early April 2004, I stepped away from the role(s) I had held for a number of years and just hung out with God. I still went to my "day job" as an RN, but my Sundays were filled with very different things than they had been for years. The plan was to be "off" for a total of four months and then resume my role(s). But during my time off, God changed my tracks, so I have never been back -- and at this writing, I don't think I will.

As of July of 2004 nearing the end of my sabbatical, I'd been in the band for 15 years and led the band for almost 8 years. It had been a good thing, but I was feeling pulled from that into a more pastoral care type of role. I shared that with my pastor and his wife, and they blessed the changes God was doing in me.

Later that month I was back in Vancouver, WA. This time it was for a week-long Vineyard Pastor's conference.

I mentioned the changes in me to a good friend Eric Sandras. He pastors the Olympic Vineyard in Port Angeles, WA (and he wrote Buck Naked Faith. If you like honesty and humor, mixed with vulnerability and God's love, you'll like Buck Naked Faith).

Eric told me "Keith, you gotta go to workshop called HeartChange! We're hosting it next month in Port Angeles!"

I had never heard of it before. But Eric was so enthusiastic, He said if I paid for the flight to Seattle, he would drive 2.5 hours south to pick me up, drive me home to his place, give me a room for the week, let me borrow his car, then drive me back to the airport. It was that valuable to him that he was willing to sacrifice like that to help me go.

So I did. I looked at the HeartChange website and felt a pull, so I went. I thought "Great. Eric supports this pretty strongly, and I'll get some skills and insight into how to help broken people"

The Switch:
I journaled a bit on the plane to Seattle, and then pulled out my iPod to veg and get away inside myself. That's when God's October 2003 lever pull finally kicked in and my tracks actually changed.

I've never heard God's audible voice, and I struggle sometimes wondering whether I ever really hear Him in my heart at all, you know? But sometimes, in the most natural of choices, God breathes a freshness and suddenly, wonderfully, everything is new and different, and I know in my heart it is the life-giving breath of my Father.

I like stories. I like telling stories, but mostly I like being told stories. I decided (with what I now realize as God's guidance) to listen to Meryl Streep reading "The Velveteen Rabbit" with George Winston on piano in the background -- very soothing. You can get it on Amazon here.

About 2/3 of the way through the story I started getting a little freaked out. I knew the story line and the last 1/3 of the story killed me this time. I was looking for some veg time inside myself, but I had forgotten God was in there with me! =O) I've always thought of myself as a heart-on-the-sleeve type of guy. being "vulnerable" and "open" and "authentic" with others has never been too problemmatic for me. In fact, I've learned the more "real" I am with others, the more they love and accept me for who I am, and the better I feel about my life.

Or so I thought. God showed me some faulty thinking I had been doing, just like the rabbit: The part about "I have to be real to be loved."

God revelead to me His truth: "The opposite is true Keith. The way to become really and truly real is to let yourself be loved. Your ideas of vulnerability and authenticity have, up to this point, been motivated by a desire to be liked; by fear of rejection. But there is deeper stuff in you that even you don't acknowledge yet. The only way you can really be the you I created you to be is by allowing Me to love you in deeper ways than you've allowed in the past, and by allowing Me to express that love to you through others -- letting others in deeper than you've done in the past."


So now I headed into the workshop with a totally new attitude of just "OK God. I want to be real. I want to be the me You created me to be, so I will let You love me, and will also let You love me through other people."

The workshop was really good. But letting God and people in to really love me was enormous. Seriously. I'm not overstating things when I say to you my life has not been the same since.

I'll talk more about my actual experiences at the workshop in a later post. But for now, the best plug I can give for it is this:

It is the 3rd best thing I have ever done in my life. Ever.

#1: Fully surrendering to God and becoming a Jesus follower
#2: Marry Cathy
#3: go to a HeartChange workshop.

~ Keith

Friday, February 10, 2006

Perfection, Performing or Playing

A friend of mine recently talked about coaching and teaching kids in sports. He said he teaches them first and foremost that it is about having fun -- but he also teaches them skills. And so he tells them:
"Doing something well is fun"
I want to say, on record, that I know this is true.

But I am blogging about this because it was used by God to strike a chord in me; to wake me up to something festering in my heart. See, somehow, to me, that quote above implies that doing something poorly can't be fun. And for me, that means I can't learn anything because while I am learning (and therefore no good at it) it won't be any fun so I won't want to do it. (This, by the way, is why I do not play basketball).

The only sport I've ever had any affinity for is bowling. I started at the ripe old age of 8 or 9, in a Saturday morning instructional league. My parents were bowlers for years and years, and I think I learned from them that it is fun, and social, and challenging. Now, I really like to bowl. I'm no professional, but my average is 179 -- pretty respectable, I think.

When I bowl it is not so much whether my team wins or loses -- it is whether I bowl my average or better -- whether I am steadily improving. And it is about having fun. But when I don't bowl well, it is not fun for me.

In my head, I know God doesn't love me any less when I bowl like crap than He does when I bowl well.

So in my own heart why do I love myself less when I bowl (or do anything else) poorly?

Where does this perfectionistic tendency come from?

I don't know, but I do know it has robbed me of too much joy, and made too many things which should have been fun into work, or worse yet, obligation and drudgery.

I just wanna play.

~ Keith

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

F (atigue) or E (uphoria) ?

Maybe I'm a little slow on the uptake, but let me fill you in on a recent revelation I've had:

If my gas gauge is on "F" and I try to fill my car's tank, it does me no good. It could, in fact, cause harm in certain conditions.

If I let the gauge go below "E" it does me no good, and also causes a number of problems for my car.

If, however, when it is on or near "E", and I put just enough gas in the car to make the gauge read "F" then my car has just the right amount of fuel it needs to get me where I want to go. And if I do this habitually, (along with regularly scheduled maintenance and car washes) using just enough fuel is one way of taking care of my car so it lasts a long time.

OK. That wasn't really a revelation for me. You probably guessed that. It is an analogy for the revelation I've had. You probably guessed that too.

Recently I wrote about the morning exercise class I attend at the local YMCA. I'm still in class, and looking forward to going tomorrow morning.

If I liken this exercise I'm doing to the regular maintenance my car needs (and if I liken taking a shower afterward to the regular washing my car needs!) then it naturally follows that my food intake is analagous to the fuel my car needs.

I've been overweight since 8th grade. My weight has fluctuated a lot over the years, and I'm currently in better shape than I have been in for a long time. I still have some weight to lose, but the number on the scale is less important to me right now than how I feel.

Here's the very simple fact I've noticed:

If I wait to eat until I am actually hungry...
(not when I feel like eating, or when food is available, or when I'm feeling bored or feeling sad or feeling...)

...and if I stop eating when I'm no longer hungry...
(not when the plate is empty, or the serving platter is empty, or the refrigerator is empty, or I am so full I feel gross)

...then I actually feel as if I have a lot more energy. It's not just that I do have more energy, which I do -- my point is I can feel that energy; without caffeine or sugar.

But it goes beyond that -- I'm more than just "not hungry" -- it is actually a feeling of general overall well-being. I actually feel really really...good.

It is pretty close to euphoria! Colors are sharper. Words and emotions of coworkers and friends seem more relevant and clear to me. Some moments I literally feel as if I am on the verge of tears, it feels so good. Maybe that sounds sappy, but that is what it feels like!

If, on the other hand, I pay attention to myriad signals other than my "fuel gauge" and eat whenever I want, whatever I want, and however much I want, then I feel fatigued. Worse; I feel depressed. I feel like laying down and napping, but not in an "I'm sleepy" way -- it is more of an "Emotionally and physically I feel like crap so I really wanna just go away and hide from life right now until this icky feeling passes" kind of feeling.

Now that I have begun to know and experience the differrence, it is like waking up from a weird dream. Eating less seems such a natural thing, but it is something I was never trained to do. I grew up in the "clean your plate" era and never learned to control my portion size to begin with.

I know I can't blame my current situation entirely on my past though; I know I bear responsibility for this.

I'm just saying: It is much easier to eat whatever I want whenever I want, and however much I want. It is much harder to "do the right thing" because it feels like I'm swimming upstream.

Despite seeming so natural to some people (this probably seems very natural to most thin people!) I'm just saying: It is hard for me to "do the right thing" in this because it is new, and because it makes me face difficult things about myself.

But now I've had enough euphoric "just the right amount of fuel in my body" experiences that I know the difference, so I am in a real quandry.

For me, now, overeating is a bit like like hitting my head against the wall so that, when I stop, I feel better.

I'd rather simply stop hitting my head against the wall.

But what I want to do and what I end up doing are still not matching up very well.

~ Keith

Sunday, February 05, 2006

In Memorium

Recently, I posted an article asking what music you'd like to die by. While only a couple comments were posted, I did receive some feedback via eMail and in person that not only was this a weird question to ask, it was just plain weird to think about. Welcome to the world of Can Opener Boy questions. =O)

Here's another one. When you are dead and gone, how would you like people to remember you? And I'm not just talking about what you want on your tombstone, or what you hope people say about you in a eulogy. Those are important things to think about, but I'm going deeper and further than that.

More specifically: in what practical way would you like to be remembered? A hundred years from now, a thousand years from now; two thousand: if you could pick one thing for people to experience and remember you by, what would it be?

The other day a patient I had the honour of assisting sent me two long-stemmed yellow roses as a way of saying thank you. In the floral biz, a yellow rose means "friendship". It was nice of her to send me those, but you know what I took away from that in addition to the "thank you" she was expressing? I thought of my mom. When my mom died in May of 2002, I honored and commemorated her by getting a large yellow rose tattooed on my right calf. She was from Texas, you see. I did this on my own though. She didn't ask it of me. But I sometimes wonder as I look at my leg and remember my mom. What imagery would she have picked for herself?

The tattoo pictured above is not on my body. It is just a photo I found on the internet. But whoever that person is, they're unlikely to forget Leonardo DaVinci's painting of "The Last Supper".

This morning at the weekly gathering of Jesus followers I typically attend, we're going to share what we call "communion". It is also known as "The Last Supper", "The Lord's Supper", "The Lord's Table", "The Eucharist", among other names.

I've been asked to introduce this aspect of our time together this morning. As I prepared, and in reading the bible accounts of that meal, it struck me that Jesus told His followers "As often as you do this, remember me."

What's the "this" He was referring to? When Jesus was nearing the culmination of His life here on earth, what was He choosing to be remembered by?

He could have picked the imagery of the empty tomb. He could've picked imagery of the cross. He could have picked any number of miraculous signs He performed.

But He picked a meal. And not just any meal. He picked a "Passover" meal. Rich in symbolism itself, the meal was also filled with items rich in symbolism. For His memoriam, Jesus could have picked the hyssop, or the horseradish, but He didn't. He could have picked the lamb itself; the sacrificial lamb. But He didn't.

He picked bread and wine. But He just kinda left it at that. I mean, if it were me, I would've talked about how bread starts as a kernel of wheat and it has to be crushed. Then it has to have salt and oil and water added to that powder. Then it has to be "proofed" and also baked. And the wine! I would've explained how the grapes have to be crushed and then the precious juices collected and fermented. I would have reminded the disciples of the first miracle; how Jesus turned water into wine: the mundane into the extraordinary.

But Jesus didn't do any of that. He didn't unpack any of that rich symbolism. None! He let their minds settle on whatever they would, and He Himself focused on something deeper.

He didn't get all esoteric and overly, abstractly symbolic. He used symbolism, to be sure, but He used simple terms.

"This is My body, broken for you. Each of you: eat some"

"This is My blood, poured out for you. You know the old promises from being part of God's chosen people -- but with this pouring out, I'm giving you a new promise. A new contract, signed in my own blood"

What's the contract? What's the promise?

Matthew's version of Jesus' last words go something like this: "I am always with you."

His presence. That's the promise. Always with us.

And the thing He chose as His memoriam? The one practical thing He pointed to and said "as often as you do this, remember Me"?

A meal together. Simple bread and wine. Sitting down together with other Jesus followers (laying on each other's chests, actually, if we define "reclining at table" in the true historic context) and eating a meal.

As often as you do this, remember Him. That was His request; the way He wanted to be remembered: being with us, eating a meal. Together.

Simple, yet profound.

Jesus, You are the most amazing person ever! Thank you for giving us such a concrete and practical yet richly symbolic image to use in memoriam. You are unforgettable.

~ Keith