Not another reboot!

Hollywood is doing all these gritty reboots these days, I thought I might as well do a not-so-gritty reboot of my blog. Check it out it’s all different looking and e’ry thing. I hope to have the contents of my old blog restored to this one shortly but for now I should be writing again soon – as in tomorrow.

The lie we were told: a letter to my generation

Millennials, we were all lied to. From the time we first set foot on the preschool campus to the moment we were handed that college or high school diploma. We were lied to. No matter who you are, if you grew up in the US over the last two decades you were told this lie and despite how innocent it may have seemed to its progenitors, it has recently come to a head in a frustrating, pointless and even violent way.

Somewhere long about the early 80s a decision was made in America. I don’t know where it came from, I’ve tried to find out, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. This decision would make us the guinea pigs of a soon to be horribly failed experiment in human behavior. Weather the decision was conscience or just an unhappy fluke, we all felt the effects of it our whole childhood. And the results of the experiment have recently come to light as we, the Mellinial generation, generation Y, the screenagers, the mosaic generation- as we have entered ‘adulthood.’

I don’t know whether those who first told this lie actually believed it or if they just thought it would be fun to see what happens to a generation when they are all told something that isn’t true. I don’t think it was malicious; I think those that lied to us thought they were helping. I think they thought that this lie would somehow drive us to do great things. As I said it was in one way the largest psychological study of our time and it’s outcome is now obvious.

What is this lie? You may still believe it to be true. You may think I’m exaggerating it’s effects, but regardless of what you feel about this phrase, you’ll recognize it. You will recognize it from teachers and coaches. You’ve heard it on TV and in film. You read it in comics, magazines and books. Some of us were even taught it by our parents.

The lie is this: You can do anything if you want it enough. Nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it. If you can dream it, you can do it. Astronaut? NFL player? President? All possible so long as you want it enough. You may still think this is true, but any Mellinial who wants to behave like an adult has to realize that this is a lie. I’m 5′ 7″ and no matter how much I want it, I’d never be able to beat Lebron at a one-on-one game of basketball. While I truly believe that positive thinking can take you very far, (studies show optimists live longer, healthier lives) there are some things that are simply out of reach.

Like the rest of you, I don’t like limits, I don’t like rules. I don’t like things to be hard and fast. I want to cling to the romantic notion that the unattainable can be attained, that I am capable of anything I want to do, so long as I really want to do it. But here is the truth they didn’t tell us: You can do almost anything, but only if you’re willing to work hard your whole life and make sacrifices in order to achieve it. It is amazing what you can accomplish by imagining something and then pouring every ounce of strength you have into the realization of it. You can do what many thought was impossible, but you have to do more than write a thesis and receive a degree (or two) to see it happen. You have to work for it. Wanting it, dreaming it, believing in it is simply not enough. You can reach for the stars all you want they’re not coming any closer you must go to them.

It takes time, which is perhaps the hardest part. Anyone can work hard for a day, but to do it for years or even decades in order to see a dream realized takes patience and strength of character. Don’t get discouraged. I often hear from my peers that they thought they’d be in a different place than they are now, they thought they’d have  a better job, or a better paycheck. Craig Groeschel addressed this at catalyst this year.

“This generation overestimates what God what’s to do with you in the short run and underestimates what God want’s to do with you in the long run.”

You will have a hard time accepting this if you are a true member of the Mellinial Generation, because the one thing we excel at is overconfidence. You may know that according to an international survey, despite scoring very low in math and science, our generation scored highest in confidence. For the past two decades we have believed that we were the best, that we are smarter, funnier, and more creative than any generation before- because the lie lead us to believe those things. The lie made us think we were special. The lie made us arrogant. In reality we are not any better than our parents- we’re just different. We have different strengths and we have different weaknesses. That may be news to you as well, but we do have weaknesses.

But, thats not what they told us. I warn you that if you continue to live like this is true that you will see the fulfillment of Malcolm Muggeridge’s prophecy written about the same time we were all being born.

Thus did western man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania; himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down.

And having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer, until at last, having educated himself into imbecility and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and became extinct.

Or will our mantra be that of George Bernard Shaw’s great quote:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

So Millennials, what will future generations say of us? What will our children tell their grandchildren- will they say we sat around in public places shouting our anger at the world for it not bending to our will? Will they say we expected the government to spoon feed us? Will they say all of our talk of social justice was nothing but show? Will they call us lazy? Entitled? Or will they say we beat a bad economy with ingenuity and an entrepreneurial spirit? That we worked hard so that they could live in a better world- That we never blamed anyone for the hardships we faced- That we were selfless?

We are writing history and we can choose now to be a generation that couldn’t face the truth or we can be the generation that showed a maturity beyond its years. And when that history is written, what will it say? It could say that we didn’t rise to the occasion, that we lacked innovation, that we chose to play the victim when things got hard, that we left this world in even worse a state than we found it, that we were selfish, that our generation spent more time playing video games or rehearsing with our band than we did actually trying to better this world, that our knowledge of popular culture dwarfed our knowledge of anything useful, that we sat writing blogs complaining about each other, that we were a total waste of space and that the only way in which we were an example for our children was that we showed them exactly how not to live.

We could be that generation or we could be a generation that used our creativity in a way that created jobs for future generations, the generation that ended extreme global poverty, the generation that saw the end of slavery and human trafficking worldwide, the generation that stopped the AIDS crisis in Africa, the generation that spent more time fixing the problems of the world than complaining about them, the generation that fed the hungry and healed the sick, the generation that watched the divorce rate dwindle into nothingness, the generation who used their creativity to house the homeless and give hope to those who have none, the generation that solved the debt crisis and the energy crisis, the generation that saw the whole world get clean water, the generation who did more for the next generation than they did for their own, the generation who left this world a much better place than the way they found it. Because if we want to be that generation, it doesn’t happen on accident. The only way this happens is by sacrifice.

Does all this sound impossible? We’re the generation who doesn’t believe in the impossible, remember? See, there is one condition under which this ideal is, in fact true.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Phil 4:13 (KJV 2k)

Through Christ. not through wanting – not even through hard work can all things be achieved, but through Christ. Our confidence doesn’t come from our knowledge or our own strength. It comes from God:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14

So mellinials, we need a generation that stops believing the impossible is possible, what we need is a generation who will do the impossible because Christ is their strength. Will you be that generation?

Trapped: A Victim Mentality

A great way to stay trapped

Perhaps the greatest lesson that my father taught me about life from a early age is that a victim mentality gets you nowhere.

Likely everyone that regularly reads my blog would agree with me, but recently I saw some posts on Facebook that reminded me that some people earnestly believe that it is perfectly acceptable for individuals to rest on the excuses generated out of whatever unfortunate circumstances their life has given them.

To those people I’d like to say: that’s perfectly fine. From a secular point of view it is totally acceptable for you to use your past as an excuse for your current behavior, if you wish to stay trapped your whole life. That’s perfectly ok, no one will force you out of captivity.

A person in a victim mentality is much like a person who has been beaten, bruised and forced into a cage. Later, whether days or years, the bruises heal and someone will come to them with the key to their escape. Most will not use the key, however. Why? Because once you’re free you no longer have the excuse, you have to take full responsibility for yourself. Most people would rather be able to lean on the excuse of what has been done to them; garnering sympathy and demanding that people be sensitive to what has happened to them.

Before I continue, I should specify that I do believe that there are many reasons for a person to be a victim that they truly cannot help. Mental Illness or chemical imbalances caused by genetics are among them. But just as those people must choose to submit to therapy and/or medication; those who have chosen to be defined by their most tragic and painful moments, they need to eventually lay it all down to be truly free.

I also should say that I do believe in being as sensitive to people as is reasonable in every situation. I can’t begin to imagine the tragedy through which some people have lived and I would never deny them grief, anger, or mourning; all three of which are holy emotions expressed by Jesus himself. However, there is a massive difference between feeling and expressing a holy emotion and allowing yourself to fall victim to your emotions. The difference is in this phrase: “Because ______ happened to me I must always react by ______” When you say that you are becoming victim whether in a small or large way. By contrast each time you say “Despite the fact that ______ happened to me, I will choose to ______” you are choosing to not be victimized.

The Bible tells me so

Please understand that I’m not so arrogant as to say that people shouldn’t be affected by the tragedies of life. I don’t pretend to understand all of the different causes of strife in the world or the pain that people have experienced, but I do know that from a scriptural worldview its impossible to say that a victim mentality is acceptable.

I think you ought to know, dear brothers, about the hard time that we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. And he did help us, and he saved us from a terrible death; yes, and we expect him to do it again and again. 2 Cor 1:8-10 Living Bible

Or, Perhaps more to the point. . .

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake Col. 1:24a

There are many many more scriptures about rejoicing in suffering. So from a scriptural standpoint, we see Paul – beaten, tortured ‘doomed to die’ and what does he say? “That was good.” Wait, what? “Powerless to help ourselves” “that was good” “overwhelmed” “that was good.” “crushed” “that was good.” seriously. It’s only been in the last several years that I’ve come to realize this. Christians are blessed with the hope in Christ and the ability to say that our suffering only brings us closer to Him and by suffering for Him, we take part in the fellowship of His suffering. We go from “that was bad” to “that was hard” to “that was good.”

Is this some kind of sickness? Perhaps masochism? By no means! Looking back and saying something was ‘good’ is far different then deriving pleasure from it. Again, there is nothing wrong with anger and mourning. The only reason why Paul is able to look back at the bad times and call them good is because he realizes they brought him closer to Christ. He realizes that Christ’s resurrection power is at work in our lives, but to access that power we have to die. Think about that for a minute. Its easy for us to think of Christ’s death on the cross as the great tragedy of history and his resurrection as the restoration of that tragedy. Christ’s resurrection wouldn’t have been possible without His death. A Christian view of suffering is simply realizing that without death there can be no resurrection.

On the practical end of things…

Even if you’re not looking at this from a scriptural perspective, say you’re an agnostic or a secular humanist, then look at it from the purely practical end of things. If we decide that there are some things in life that a person cannot be expected to recover from, some wounds that cannot be healed; that’s fine, but do you really want to work with someone who’s single greatest aim in life is to make sure everyone is sensitive to their life’s tragedies? After a while there must be a reasonable expectation of growing from your past, and becoming responsible for your present. I don’t say ‘moving on’ because I think that insinuates that you must ignore your past, not at all, instead you grow from it and become stronger than ever.

Steven Covey, the writer of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about this in the first Habit. Which is “Be Proactive.” He simply states that a part of being proactive is taking responsibility for yourself and your behavior. He suggests that the main meaning of being responsible is being able to choose your response.

Most people who have the victim mentality get angry at the insinuation that they are somehow to blame for their attitude. They act as if that’s tantamount to being told that they are to blame for the tragedy in their life or their genetic make up. That’s a huge leap in logic.  Between stimulus and response there is a narrow space where you can choose. You’re not Pavlov’s dog, forced to salivate by every bell that rings. You’re not a programmed machine, who’s brain will always produce the same reaction given the same set of circumstances.

I recently had the pleasure of hearing a lecture by Ben Carson. Dr. Carson is the preeminent pediatric neurosurgeon active today. He’s participated in several firsts in his field including the first separation of siamese twins that were conjoined at the head. This is featured in a movie called “Gifted Hands” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. In 2008 he was awarded the presidential medal of freedom, the highest civilian honor in our nation.  That’s impressive, but what’s more impressive is that Dr. Carson came from a low-income single parent household in Detroit. At a young age his parents divorced and his mother struggled to find employment as she couldn’t read – the only work she could maintain was that of a house keeper where Ben would later say “She observed that successful people spent a lot more time reading than they did watching television.” And she implemented a rule that her two sons would read two books a week from the library. You can read more about Ben Carson’s upbringing on NPR’s website.

The reason why the victim mentality is so pervasive is because there is only one alternative: work. It takes work to overcome the setbacks, the emotional stresses, the tragedies of life. No one would’ve blamed Ben Carson for being a  below average student, he had a number of things against him. But his mother chose to fight that and later he chose to fight that as well, working hard to get into med school and then working hard to become the best doctor he could be. That’s because they chose not to be victims of our circumstances.

Most people can’t even admit that they’re choosing to be victimized because If you admit that you can do something about it and choose not to do something about it, it becomes your fault. I wouldn’t be writing about this if it weren’t a struggle for me also, but one thing I’ve realized is that once you are real with yourself about where you are choosing to be victimized then you can start to allow the solution permeate throughout your life.

Personally…

I’ve struggled with having a victim mentality about many different things. There are some ways in which I continue to deal with it. One small example is the fact that I’m not an athletic person and most of my growing up years I allowed myself to be victimized by that, but as I grew up, I began to fight the impulse to feel victimized and I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried new activities. Now I have a whole list of sports and activities that I really enjoy, even if I’m not the best at them. Stepping out in this manner has opened so many opportunities to me that I would have never had if I had rested on the laurels of victimization.

I think the message paraphrase of the Bible phrases paul’s words in Philippians well:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Phil 3:12-14

I think one of the mistakes we make when trying to overcome our victim mentality is the idea that we need to have it all figured out, that we need to somehow be totally fixed before we relinquish our victim status. In reality, we just have to admit that we don’t always know exactly what the path to healing is going to look like and we need to trust that it ends at the feet of Jesus.

Whatever your excuse is for not living a full and healthy life, that’s not God’s will for you. I can tell you he wants you to take hold of you inheritance now. Yes you have eternal life in terms of length, but you also have abundant life in terms of height and depth, so stop making excuses and grab hold of the abundance that Christ has given you.

People who inspire me: Frank Wells

Michael Eisner, Ted Turner, Steven Spielberg and Frank Wells. Wait – Frank Wells, Who’s he? You’re probably wondering why he belongs among such famous execs; he was among them, one of the most successful studio executives of the past twenty years even though, you probably hadn’t heard of him until now.

Frank Wells was the Chief Operating Officer and President of the Walt Disney Company from 1984 until his untimely death in 1994. During those years he worked alongside Michael Eisner to make Disney the most profitable entertainment company in the world, but we’ve never heard of him. According to Disney.com:

“During his 10-year-tenure, Disney enjoyed unprecedented growth and revitalization with annual revenues up from $1.5 billion to $8.5 billion. Disney stocks increased a whopping 1,500 percent, while its theme parks and resorts revenues tripled. Disney Consumer Products revenues rose 13-fold, while its filmed entertainment revenues jumped 15-fold. Frank helped make Disney one of the most successful film studios in the world.”

Frank received a BA at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar in 1953. As a young man he had the fortune of meeting Roy E. Disney who would later recruit him to his position at the Walt Disney Company. By the late 60′s he was junior executive with Warner Brothers, eventually working his way up the ladder to Vice Chairmen in the early 80′s.

In 1984 Roy E. Disney started his first “Save Disney War” which ended in the ousting of Ron Miller, the CEO of the failing company. Michael Eisenberg took over as CEO of the company, but Roy knew that equally important was the position of President and COO. This person who would keep the practical end of the company running, much like his father Roy O. Disney had, just over a decade earlier. For this task, Roy asked Frank Wells to join Disney.

If you’re a mountain climbing enthusiast (and really, who isn’t?) you would’ve heard of Dick Bass, who wrote a book, The Seven Summits. Bass successfully climbed each continent’s tallest mountain including Everest. Bass was a businessman and his partner in this venture was none other than Frank Wells. Wells completed six of the seven summits, climbing all but Everest because of bad weather while he was camped at the base. He did this all in one year right before joining the Disney family, which placed him in the limelight in a way he never had been before.

In the 2009 documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, it’s made clear that the media wanted to paint Eisner as the maverick visionary and Wells as the straight-laced numbers man. In reality, Wells was both the maverick and accountant. Eisner was more concerned with the bottom line than the soul of the company; when he hired Jeffrey Katzenberg, Eisner simply pointed toward the animation building and said to him “That’s your problem.” This was a bit of an insult to Roy E. Disney who had asked Eisner for the Animation division to fall under him.

Katzenberg was the visionary that pushed animation to make great movies like the Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King. Eisner was the CEO and the face of the company as it found new success with these new animation classics. Roy was the heir to the Disney throne if there was any. Between these three talented men there was considerable amount of ego and Frank Wells was the mediator. Proof of his importance to the company came with his death in 1994 which resulted in Katzenberg leaving the company to co-found Dreamworks. It also began the chain reaction that resulted in the ousting of Eisner by Roy Disney.

Frank believed in staying in the background. He wasn’t afraid of the spotlight, he just didn’t need it. Several workers in the animation department regarded him as both an avuncular moderator and a shrewd businessman. He was known for being quick and to the point, often asking questions and only giving a few moments for the person to come up with an answer, moving on to the next person after a few short seconds if they couldn’t answer him. He was known for having a good sense of humor, taking a pie in the face for one in-house video shot with Eisner. But above all, he never allowed pride to interfere with him serving his company. He was more interested in giving to others.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

Would that we all took the same philosophy in our calling; to be adventurous yet grounded, to be hardworking, yet gracious, to be confident yet humble. What a great example of what Christian leaders are called to be.

If I’m honest, I’m probably more like Eisner, Roy or Katzenberg, wanting to do right by the company, but also wanting my way. That’s why I find Frank so inspiring: he did what was best for the company in a way that the rest of them weren’t willing to, yet he stayed backstage and was barely recognized by the public.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 1 Peter 3:8

Grace and Peace,

W

People who Inspire me: Blake Mycoskie

If you don’t know about Blake Mycoskie and his company, TOMS Shoes – you must be living under a Rock. For every pair of shoes you buy from them, TOMS will give a pair to a child in need.

I first heard of TOMS several years ago and have owned a few pairs and bought them as gifts for friends and family, but when I got to hear the founder of the company, Blake Mycoskie speak at the Willow Creek leadership Summit last year I was very impressed with him. I was most impressed with his economic ingenuity and his determination to create self sufficient ways of providing for people in impoverished countries. This came alive for me, when I took this picture in Haiti last month.

TOMS on a child in the deaf community

Blake is a Christian and was on the reality series The Amazing Race when he first encountered the simple problem that many children have in developing countries: they don’t have shoes. This is especially intriguing considering the number one cause of disease in these countries is soil-bourne parasitizes and bacteria, meaning that in many cases basic hygiene and wearing shoes can prevent these diseases.

“TOMS” is not a name of person but rather an ideal – its short for “Tomorrow” meaning these shoes are providing for the next generation in these countries. But most impressive about this charity, is that it isn’t a charity at all – its a for-profit company that is totally self-sustaining and its model has inspired many other similar companies to adopt their one-for-one strategy. In short, TOMS has made compassion cool. To borrow Tim Elmore’s language from his book Generation iY, this generation isn’t compassionate – they are ‘fassionate’ and this company fits the bill.

Posers

TOMS has become so popular that several other companies are mimicking their gimmick – Sketchers started ‘BOBS’ a blatant rip-off of TOMS. They boast that for the same price as a pair of TOMS that you can get a pair of BOBS and they will donate TWO pairs of shoes to a child in need.

I think sketcher is missing the point, however – TOMS is a people company that is more about a movement then it is about a price or numbers. For example, for the past two years TOMS has organized ‘A day without shoes’ to promote awareness about the shoeless children in developing countries. Thousands of people, including myself, went without shoes in an effort to get the word out. Can you think of any other shoe company that has done anything like this? That’s because its not about the shoes, its about the people, and to go further to the point, Blake makes a point that every pair of shoes they donate is taken into a village and put on the feet of a child. You can hear more about this in the shoe drop video below.

The Movement

Tom’s biggest mode of advertisement is word of mouth. In addition to their ‘Day without shoes.’ They have thousands of people who are walking around wearing TOMS and telling their friends about how they can get involved – it spreads like wildfire. They’ve taken great advantage of social networking, continually posting shoe drop videos. Last fall they topped on million shoes given to kids.

Last month they announced that in June they’ll be moving forward with the company: adding more than shoes as Blake said “TOMS is no longer a shoe company, its a one for one company.”

 

Buy a Pair

Everytime you buy a pair of TOMS they will donate a pair to child in need. The shoes are comfy and great for any job where you have to be on your feet all day. They come in lots of styles now and they make great gifts. You can buy a pair today visit their website at TOMS.com

Another company you might be interested in is Pangea water bottles. For every Pangea bottle you buy (BPA free btw) the company will  be able to provide clean water to someone in a developing country for four years. You can find out more at their website Pangeabottles.com

3 Things My Grandfather Taught Me


My Granddad Billy “Poppy” Key

I get my first name from my maternal granddad, Billy Key. He’s a retired Methodist pastor who is still very well known in south Georgia Methodism. At age 87 my grandfather is still a great blessing to my whole family. This morning I woke up thinking of what a great life he’s lead and all the things I’ve learned from him. There have been many, many great stories that I hope to tell and retell, and many more simple scripture lessons and poems that he’s shared over the years through his many sermons.

 

I think I can narrow it down to three things that summarize what I’ve learned from him.

1) Always be ready to share the gospel, anytime anywhere.

Long before I even knew it was scripture I would hear my granddad quote 2nd Timothy 4:2

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine”

For many of my growing up years, I actually thought that he was the first one to say that. I didn’t realize it was in the Bible – he says it like he owns it. (would that we may all take such ownership over the Word, that it comes out of such conviction)

My Grand Father has never met a stranger and is never afraid to speak the name of Jesus to anyone he meets throughout his day. In today’s world the word ‘preach’ isn’t very cool. We think it sounds dictatorial, dogmatic, long-winded or boring, but we’re told in scripture to preach – and Billy Key is never afraid to ‘preach’ even if its just a few words of truth to the clerk at the grocery store.

2) Always be grateful for what you have and what you are given.

He has always displayed an attitude of thankfulness. Still today, he’s very thankful for any small everyday blessing that friends and family offer him – the kind of things that many of us would take for granted. Many times at thanksgiving he reminds us of an story of a woman who would say before every meal ‘Much obliged for the vittles, Lord.’

When he was a young boy in Adrian, Georgia, he was walking out of Church with his family one day and it was particularly beautiful outside. He turned to his mother and he said “Isn’t this a great world we live in?” and that sense of wonder and joy at the simple blessings has never left him throughout his life.

To this day he begins prayers with “Thank ya, Thank ya, Thank ya, Lord” as a simple expression of how grateful he is for God’s hand on his life.

3) And finally, bless the socks off of everyone around you.

My granddad is a blesser. He blesses people. We throw the world ‘blessing’ around a lot in churchianity and I think it looses its meaning, but what I mean by this is literal and intentional spiritual blessing passed from one person to another.

I hope that every one of you is fortunate enough to receive a Billy Key-style blessing in your life, if not from him, then maybe from someone else. He often grabs hold of you – by the arm or the shoulder. Then he stares at you right in the face and he addresses you. “Will” he’ll say, “You have been blessed with a great many gifts and the Lord is with you. You’re a capable young man. We’re proud of you and what you’re doing and we’re excited to see where the Lord is leading you!” Then he’d give me a big slap on the back and smile. Other times he’ll just grab you and quote from Numbers Six

“The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

Again, much of my growing up years I didn’t know this was scripture – he said it so sincerely I could’ve believed they were his words.

At the very least, he’ll walk up to you and grab your arm, pat you hard on the back and shout “Bless ya, Bless ya, Bless ya!” It makes me think of Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestles with God and says “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” If it had been Billy Key, he would’ve said “I will not let you go unless I bless you!” He does it so easily, its as if he doesn’t even have to try.

Furthermore…

Over the past several years, my Granddad, who I call “Poppy” has preached fewer and fewer sermons. And when we get together as a family he doesn’t speak the same homily that he used to, but he still says one thing. After the Thanksgiving, Christmas or Independence Day celebration has ended, and all the grandchildren and great grandchildren are sitting in wake of a big family meal, Poppy stops and says this simple poem. Written by the Georgia poet, Sidney Lanier (who lived in Montgomery, AL for a few years), this little poem has become a treasure of my family’s. I think it sums up the kind of faith that Billy Key Has.

I know not how such things may be
I only know He speaks to me.
Not through the grass nor through the sod
but in my heart the voice of God
Speaking spirit unto spirit,
and if I listen I can hear it.
Voice of God that speaks to me
out of His infinity.

I called my grandad and asked him to recite it to me so I could copy it down and he was over joyed – upon finishing it he paused and said “There it is, its yours for the rest of your life now.” I couln’t’ve have ask for a richer inheritance.

These things have been a blessing to me, may they be a blessing to you.

Restaurant Review: Sa Za

I was recently invited to dine with some friends in “The Alley” at Sa Za – a pizza place that bills itself as serving “Serious Italian”

The Atmosphere & Location: This is perhaps what Sa Za has going for it. They Alley is definitely the coolest location downtown, perhaps in all of Montgomery. Like most of the recently redone area in the Alley, it has a ‘big city’ feel. The restaurant itself definitely has the cool factor associated with any older building that’s been revamped – brick walls, unfinished floors and high ceilings give it a certain aura that most guppies (that’s yuppies from Montgomery) would appreciate. You do have to park a few blocks away, but this only adds to the chic of the locale in my opinion. The only major downside is that the room has nothing to absorb sound, so it is very, very loud.

The Food: I’m not at all a culinary expert, so I’m not claiming anything other my opinion here. I wasn’t blown away by the food. The garlic bread was made with real garlic cloves – it was really good at first, but it got old pretty quick. I don’t know if it was covered in butter or olive oil, but it was a little thicker than necessary. I didn’t try the pizza, but some other folks at my table did. They don’t have options for smaller pizza sizes which is a little frustrating. I had spaghetti and meatballs; It was good, but a little heavy on the basil, I thought. All in all it was ok, not fantastic. Their website has a very long (too long) description of their chef, Joe DiMaggio Jr – no mention of whether he’s related to the baseball player. It’s clear that Mr. DiMaggio has a high opinion of himself and his restaurant, though on his site very little mention of his culinary skill is made – it seems he’s more of a food businessman than a chef.

The Service: Wasn’t great (but that’s no excuse for not tipping decently, especially after hearing a sermon on mercy/generosity this past sunday) The timing was good; the food came out quickly, but the server wasn’t great about keeping our drinks filled and oddly acted like I was asking for something really strange when I requested a decaf coffee after my meal. She did the same when someone else  asked for a to-go box. She was very friendly though and I felt like she was trying.

The Cost: The cost was the biggest downside. Basically you’re going to end up paying around $20 for a meal that is, in my opinion, only ‘ok.’ The coffee I got cost about $2 – it wasn’t bad, but it was just decaf coffee . Being primarily a pizza place, I didn’t try their signature item, so perhaps my review is incomplete. I will say that some other folks at my table did and it looked about the same quality as I’d expect at mellow mushroom for a few bucks less. But, what you’re really paying for is the location and that aura I talked about earlier.

In summary: It wasn’t a bad experience; the food was ok and the atmosphere was great while not having the ‘hipster’ stigma I felt wafting out of the Alley bar as I walked by. At the same time, it wasn’t terrific; the service was only so-so and the cost was more than I expected.

Rating: I give it a solid “Meh”

I’d go back if someone invited me, but I won’t be craving Sa Za anytime soon.

Debunking the term: “Out of the Box”

This entry has no spiritual significance, its just an opinion editorial.

Can we put an end to the phrase “out of the box?” or at least come up with a better way of expressing it?

The term out of the box is over-over-used. It’s an insult to clichés to call it cliché. Its phenomenally unoriginal, and yet millions of people still say it to announce their originality “Let’s think of something more ‘out of the box.” or “This idea is really outside of the box!” or “I think out of the box.” Really? Because you just used a phrase that was 1980s execu-speak. Its like a baby-boomer dressing in a disco suit and trying to blend in with a group of teenagers at Prom 2011 by announcing “I’m Fly.”

Russel Brand hosted SNL this past week and he made a great joke. He said “You should know that I’m much more famous in England than I am here…I take no pleasure in telling you that; it’s embarrassing! Fame really looses it’s edge if you have to tell someone that you have it.” Telling someone you’re creative in a profoundly uncreative way really takes the edge off of your creativity. So the next time you’re thinking of saying “I like to think outside of the box.” instead you should demonstrate that you’re creative; we need to see this ‘free thinking’ that you’re talking about.

Besides, at this point we’ve probably gotten out of and totally away from the box. Einstein, one of the smartest men to ever live, said this:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

We got out of the box decades ago and it created new problems – now it might be time for something more revolutionary – more difficult; you may actually have to get back in the box to solve this next part. You’ve already changed your perspective, now you might need to change you.

When people say think “out of the box” they often mean “ignore the parameters” which sounds great until you wake up the next morning and realize the parameters are still there. I believe a true divergent thinker doesn’t ignore the parameters, he bends them to create something that no one thought could be done.

Me? I like to think outside of the dodecahedron. It’s harder to say, but I think it gets the point across.

Try thinking outside of this thing.

Quote for the day: Love

On Valentine’s day (or as people like me call it “Single Awareness Day”) I thought it would be appropriate to post a quote on what I think is one of the best definitions of love I’ve heard recently. It was asserted by a former math professor at Asbury. Dr. Rietz was never one of my professors, but I consider him a friend. See what you think about this quote:

Love, real love, is the aggressive pursuit of God’s best for someone else. – Dr. Ken Rietz

Love is often viewed as an emotion – when its really an aggressive pursuit.

Debunking the term: “Real”

I’ve heard lots of people talk about a need to get ‘real’ so I thought this would be a good choice for my first edition of ‘debunking the term’

Where have I heard ‘Real’

Lots of Christians talk about getting ‘real’ – they talk about certain churches being ‘real’ and certain preachers being ‘real’ – Specifically, churches that are more contemporary in their style are usually called ‘real’ – does that mean that traditional churches are fake? Certainly they can be, but I don’t think they have to be as a rule – I’ve been to some contemporary services where people were pretty fake.

Some will also use the term ‘real’ – when they’re talking about people; saying about a preacher ‘he’s just so real!’ or of their church ‘the people there are real.’

The problem is people don’t really mean ‘real.’

What I think people mean by ‘Real’

Most often when someone says ‘real’ they actually mean ‘understandable’ or ‘accessible to me.’ That’s why to some, real is rap music whereas to others its country; it’s just that with which they most identify. Some people say ‘real’ and what they mean is that they can simply understand it. That’s why when a pastor gets up and starts using lots of theological terms and obscure scripture references – some people might not think of him as ‘real’ – when if fact he is no less ‘real’ than the preacher that only refers to the most basic scriptures and tells funny stories about the crazy things he did when he was in college. Neither person is faking it; they’re both telling the truth.

The Problem with being “Real”

By calling something ‘real.’ You’re inferring that the alternatives are less than real, but this isn’t the only unintended implication of this phrase. I’ve been in situations where I’ve heard Christians say ‘we just want to get real’ or ‘we need to be real with each other.’ In this instance it means they want ‘no holds barred’ honesty, which is way overrated. Think about it:

  • Maybe you are ok with airing out the skeletons in your closet, but that doesn’t mean that its good, necessary or healthy for everyone else to do the same. While we are told to confess our sins to one another – we’re not told to confess our every sin to the whole community. Transparency is good – sharing each others burdens is great – presenting stumbling blocks for others by sharing your innermost secrets with people not mature enough to handle them… not so much
  • Often when a larger (20+) community gets into a pattern of sharing its most intimate secrets with everyone people begin to one-up each other with tragedies and sins – each week you’ll have people who want to sound more and more pitiful.
  • Finally people use this brand of radical honesty as an excuse to be rude, negative or hurtful. I’ve seen it myself and I think its a flagrant misuse of scripture to act as if rudeness is excused by scripture simply because ‘its the truth.’ Nor do I see cynicism in the person of Jesus. If being a consistently negative person is ‘real’ then I don’t believe it’s Christ-like to be ‘real’ by that definition. Bear in mind, “kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24

Here’s what is Real:

It is possible to live a life focused on the path that God has laid out for us. I’ve known many people who live this life – I aspire to be one of them. Would Christ ask us to do something impossible when he said “Be Holy as I am Holy?” (1 Peter 1:16) Impossible for us, certainly, but aren’t we also told that we can do all things through Christ? (Philippians 4:13) What force is more powerful: our sinful nature or God’s ability to sanctify?  – To say ‘all have sinned’ is only half the reality – the other half? Jesus died to free us from sin.  The scripture states ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) it doesn’t say “All will continue to sin….” – its past tense. Freedom from sin – that’s real.