Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Authenticity & Image Management

“There is nothing more winsome or attractive,” writes John Ortberg in Everybody's Normal Til You Get to Know Them, “than a person who is secure enough in being loved by God that he or she lives with a spirit of openness and transparency and without guile.” He continues:

"One of the defining moments in any dating relationship is the first time the man sees the woman without makeup. Makeup is the art of “facial management.” You don’t want to let a guy look at your actual, unadorned face. So makeup is designed to make eyes look bigger, to make lips look fuller, nose look smaller, and hide the facial blemishes and flaws.

But it is not just our physical blemishes that we try to hide. Most of us work pretty hard to conceal the flaws that mar our character."

We learn this art of image management from an early age. Image management is simply trying to appear better to those around us than they really are. Sometimes these means are extreme, and at other times they are simple and very subtle in nature.

Our culture is full of examples. To mask, veil, or alter one’s self and appearance is more common than uncommon. We watch it on television and the movies. We read about it in the magazines and newspapers. We see it on the billboards. Ever since the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, deep within humans is a propensity to cover ourselves up – to wear make up.

John Eldredge sums it up well in Wild at Heart, comparing the way we veil our true selves to how Adam and Eve concealed themselves behind the foliage in the Garden of Eden: “We are hiding, every last one of us. Well aware that we, too, are not what were meant to be, desperately afraid of exposure, terrified of being seen for what we are and are not, we have run off into the bushes. We hide in our office, at the gym, behind the newspaper and mostly behind our personality. Most of what you encounter when you meet a man is a facade, and elaborate fig leaf, a brilliant disguise.”

Authenticity draws us out from behind the trees and causes us to drop the "fig leaves." It poises us before the One who created us and loves just for who we are. It is out of that acceptance with God that we interact with humanity. It is out of that posture that we no longer have to try to "appear" better than we think we are perceived, we can simply be who we are and becoming....

The following is a recent message given at SouthGate Church regarding God's intended design for us to interact with Him and one another authentically.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas...

Every once and a while I come across a movie where upon watching the preview, something inside of me says, "I have to see that movie."

The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas is one of those such movies. It was just released in the theaters this past weekend. Though with lament, it is not (yet) in the michiana area...

Below is the trailer for the film.

A Brief description and backdrop to the film.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a fictional story that offers a unique perspective on how prejudice, hatred and violence affect innocent people, particularly children, during wartime. Through the lens of an eight-year-old boy largely shielded from the reality of World War II, we witness a forbidden friendship that forms between Bruno, the son of Nazi commandant, and Schmuel, a Jewish boy held captive in a concentration camp. Though the two are separated physically by a barbed wire fence, their lives become inescapably intertwined. The imagined story of Bruno and Shmuel sheds light on the brutality, senselessness and devastating consequences of war from an unusual point of view. Together, their tragic journey helps recall the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust.

There is also a free Discussion Guide that is loaded with heart penetrating conversation pieces around social justice, race and the essence of humanity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Being Solved...

Those of us who live in the western world are often fixated on our incessant impulse towards resolution. At the movies we shake our head with clenched teeth if the story ends to illusive and without concise conclusion. We have to know whether or not "she" went back to the "other guy" or whatever other loose end is left for our imagination to rumble upon. We are infatuated with the Answer...

We forget that life often finds its next fresh breath in the asking of the question rather than the recounting of the answer. In our shortsightedness, we try to rush in to fix and SOLVE the problem, all the while unaware that the problem wasn't what needed to be fixed or solved - we were. Wisdom begins in the understanding that (most) problems are meant to solve us.

In times of crisis and testing, we are prone to look for a way out before we get crushed underneath the circumstances, when all the while the actual trial is looking for a way in - a way into the depths of our being through the cracks in our souls in order to make us complete and whole, lacking nothing (See James 1).

The heart of the Story of Scripture is birthed out of a reality that God is a loving, pursuing passionate God, who is intimately interested and present in our midst moving, drawing and compelling us closer to Himself. He is longing for us to see, as Richard Foster brilliantly penned, for us to see that God isn't merely a part of our story, by we are part of His life. (Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home).

As such, trails (circumstances, suffering, etc) are not merely another hurdle to remove, crisis to control or problem to solve, rather it is a journey to endure embedded with faith from God's past activity and hope in the fulfillment of His future promise(s).

Therefore, perhaps the most productive thing a SD can is crawl in the casket of that which is dying and wait in expectation for the creative healing and transformative power of Christ to emerge...

While there the prayers we pray, the essence we release and movement we propel is one that echos the words of Frank Lake, who writing of human suffering and the malady of the human condition being said there is nothing that we experience that cant be "battered into a meaningful shape" by the Hand of Grace & Love. We simply lie (or kneel) there in the casket. It is in this place that we become "crucified with Christ." It is also in this place that we will experience the "power of His resurrection."

Perhaps, the next time we find ourselves prone to fix, solve or simply remedy our present situation, we'd be better off by first pausing long enough to ask, "God is there something inside of me you are trying to 'solve'?".

Monday, November 10, 2008


"Half of learning is learning," writes Mark Batterson, in his book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. "The other half of learning is unlearning. Unfortunately, unlearning is twice as hard as learning. It’s like missing your exit on the freeway. You have to drive to the next exit and then double back. Every mile you go in the wrong direction is really a two-mile error. Unlearning is twice as hard, and it often takes twice as long. It is harder to get old thoughts out of your mind than it is to get new thoughts into your mind.

If you study the teachings of Christ, you’ll realize that learning wasn’t his primary goal. His primary goal was unlearning. He was reverse engineering religious minds. And those can be the toughest minds to change. That is why two phrases are repeated over and over again in the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said…”, “But I tell you…”

This seems to be especially true in the most significant arenas of life: family, relationships, our spirituality and most certainly church.

What are the things God is currently trying to help you "unlearn"...?

Friday, November 07, 2008

What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? A Parable.

"Have you ever tried really hard to make a point and when people say they get it, you are just not sure they do?" This is a question posed by some folks at Beyond Relevance. They are talking about the disconnection that often exists between what we do and the people we're trying to reach.

They continue, "sometimes it takes us seeing our world through new eyes--something that it is hard to do as believers. Sometimes a little bit of juxtaposition does the trick... Sometimes it takes seeing something in a different light to really get it. With this thought, my team and I made a little video called “What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? A Parable.”

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Faith in the Midst of Fear...

Two of my heroes are Jim and Susan Nelson.

When I think of consistency, generosity and a demonstration of what it means to live life missionally, on purpose and with intentionality, I think of Jim and Susan. Recently, someone was murdered in an apartment building they own. This is only one of quite a few murders that have taken place in our city recently. In a time when many would shutter in fear and look for ways to "board of the windows," Jim and Susan simply seized the opportunity to release peace and hope into the lives of those living in and around this apartment building.

The following video clip is a segment that ran on a local news station last night.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Presidential Election Made Easy...

Tomorrow is the day...

The day all the preliminary mudslinging will end. Though there will no doubt be a good bit of backwash and blame-shifting, soon the rubber will hit the road and the person with the most votes will begin to emerge with an actual manifestation of what's been inside all along. The challenge with debates is just that, they are debates. The primary objection seems to gain status in the polls, while downplaying the alternative candidate, rather than transparently communicating what they actually stand for and will do once in office. If only we could read between the lines and see beyond the smiles...

Wouldn't be nice if this whole campaigning deal was less of a debate and more of a dance? Perhaps, during this visible manifestation, what resides inside would be brought out into the light of the dance floor. What if it were as easy as watching "Dancing with the Star"? And our votes won were not merely the result of pre-scribed teleprompter rhetoric, rather the authenticity of character stepped out on the dance floor of life...?

May the prayer of Job become the prayer of the current Presidential candidates:

"If I have walked with falsehood
or my foot has hurried after deceit—
let God weigh me in honest scales
and he will know that I am blameless—
if my steps have turned from the path,
if my heart has been led by my eyes,
or if my hands have been defiled,
then may others eat what I have sown,
and may my crops be uprooted."
(Job 31:5-8)

And may God be active with the tomorrow's winner as the writer of Proverbs declared,

"In their hearts human beings plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps."
(Proverbs 16:9)