Steve and John

“Hi there.” Steve said.

“Hey, how you doing?”  John replied.

“Pretty good.  Man, it’s beautiful out today, isn’t it?

“Yeah, feels nice to get some sun. Just wish it weren’t wreaking havoc on my allergies.”

“Dude, I totally get that.  I love spring visually. Not so much in the respiratory department.”

“Ha, yeah, me too. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name, I’m John.”

“Hi John, I’m Steve, nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

John and Steve spoke for another 10 minutes, while waiting for tables to open up for lunch meetings.  Steve could tell John was probably gay, and although he’d always been uncomfortable with the topic, he felt instantly comfortable with John.

John thought Steve was probably an evangelical, he seemed to have some quirks in his language which belied an underlying church background.  John had always been wary of Christians, and particularly their stance on homosexuality, but Steve seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

They both liked the other immediately.  When their other parties arrived, they introduced one another and went their separate ways.  The never saw one another again, but were occasionally reminded of one another when conversations came up about “those other people.”  Which caused them to personally question what that meant.  After all, that guy I met at Chili’s seemed pretty cool…

What if we were kind to one another?  Would it help, over time, repetition and depth to diminish the various cultural divides we experience?

 

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What’s Your New York Times Attribute?

 

I was glancing through my Twitter feed this morning.  Every now and then I’ll get curious beyond the tweet, or I’ll take a gander at the “who to follow” menu and become eager to know more.  This morning was one of those times.  I looked at @NYTimes.  

The @NYTimes bio blurb starts with a fascinating line. “Where the conversation begins.”  Then it goes on to the more obvious; news, reporters, etc.  But that one line is genius.  You may or may not be a fan of the New York Times, but the point stands…conversation begins with what they report.  They have the highest reputation for journalism in America, and one of the best in the world. Again, whether you agree or disagree with their editorial bent is irrelevant, they are still the New York Times.

nytimes logo

This got me wondering, what is it that I do, or that our church does, or your business or organization performs that is “where the conversation begins?”

Jim Collins , in his much read book Good to Great, talks about the Hedgehog Principle.  Basically it’s the same concept – what is it that you do better than anyone else?  If you can discover and develop that one gift, skill, process or talent that you or your organization does better than anyone, and focus your attention on getting that right, you’re highly likely to be very successful in that endeavor.

So what is it?  Do you know?  If not, why?  What’s holding you back from discovering, or perhaps rediscovering your New York Times attribute?  What would your life look like a year from now if you spent the next 12 months discovering, developing and implementing that attribute?

Thoughts on Community

community

We hear a lot about the idea of community.    Whether you’re talking about the fantastic sitcom of the same name, social networking, neighborhoods, churches or social interaction, we hear the term bandied about with great frequency.

But what is community?  How do we define it, measure it, adjust it and make it better or worse?  Should we do those things?

In the church, especially in big churches, we talk a lot about how to create community or how to help people experience community.  But again, what does that mean?  How should we go about that?  Or does it happen more naturally than we understand?

Sociologists (or as I like to call them, “Fancy-Named-Facebook-Addicts,” just kidding) have long discussed the idea of the third house, or third place.  The thinking is that our first house is our home, our second house is our place of work and our third house is our          “Cheers.”  It’s “where everybody knows your name.”  So the third house could be a pub, a coffee shop, the gym, a church, etc.  Traditionally in America the third house was the church.  It was a neighborhood center, potentially a place for public discourse, a place where most people knew one another and could be known.

This has changed over the last 30-40 years.  And the advent of the mega church, where it’s virtually impossible to know the majority of members has complicated it as well.  We find ourselves spending a great deal of time assessing the need for authentic community.

But what is that?  I’m reading “The Search to Belong; Rethinking Intimacy, Community, And Small Groups” by Joseph R Myers right now.  In it, Myers describes four the basic modes of belonging that make up a person’s sense of community and connectedness. Below are some very basic definitions of each:

Public:  The sense of belonging does not have to be mutual.  You can belong to a large church or group and no one there even know that you belong, but this does not change your personal sense of belonging.

Social:  This space allows for “snapshots” of reality.  We choose which snapshots to portray about ourselves and in turn take that information from others as signs.  We then choose to keep relationships in the Social space, or to assign them to another category

Personal: In this space, others know private, but not naked, information about us and us them.  Very close friends might occupy this space, but likely not spouses.

Intimate:  In this space we are “naked and unashamed.”  Myers notes aptly that shame and embarrassment are not the same.  “Shame,” he says, “is the experience of the intimate self exposed in an inappropriate space.”

As a sidebar, I can’t help but think of social media when I see these definitions.  For instance, the average American Facebook user has over 200 “friends.”  How many of us can imagine really knowing all of them?  Sharing personal or intimate information or experiences with 200+ people sounds exhausting if not impossible.

It is interesting/disheartening to see how many people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al are willing to share highly intimate and sensitive relational information in what is, by these definitions, a public space.  What does this say about us?

Many have assumed, incorrectly, that the goal of community is to have as many “intimate” relationships as possible.  To them, “intimate” represents the paramount human relational experience and we ought to then seek as many intimate experiences as possible  and give that to as many people as possible.  Myers debunks that thinking this way, “Insisting that real, authentic, true community happens only when people get ‘close’ is a synthetic view of reality and may actually be harmful.”

Myers says that our lives are in harmony and balance when we allocate the spaces appropriately.  That is, when we have the most interactions in the Public space, next largest in the Social space, a smaller group in the Personal space and only a select few in the Intimate space.

With this in mind, how should we then look at building community?  Should we seek to get every person in our churches into a small group?  Or should we seek to intentionally  validate the sense of belonging that people experience in each of the four spaces?

And if so, how?

(e)Merging

As many of you know, I’ve recently been rehired at New Life Church.  How that happened, why, and the process thus far, you may or may not know.

For the last several months I’ve been the Worship Arts Pastor at Celebration Church.  During that time, the Senior Pastor was walking through some self discovery and trying to determine the right course of action for the church.  He decided that the best course of action was to merge Celebration Church with New Life.  As part of that, I’ve been rehired at New Life.

While walking through the process, I’ve been thinking about what it means to merge.  Dictionary.com defines it this way:

merge (verb)

1.to cause to combine or coalesce; unite.
2.to combine, blend, or unite gradually so as to blur the individuality or individual identity of 
3.to become combined, united, swallowed up, or absorbed; lose identity by uniting or blending (often followed by in or into )
4.to combine or unite into a single enterprise, organization, body, etc.

So which are we?  Are we combining and coalescing?  Blending and gradually uniting?  Being swallowed up and absorbed?  Or combining into a single entity?

Or is there another option?  Are we flowing like a stream or river in which one tributary flows into another and it’s impossible to determine which water came from which source?  I think I like that idea…At least in the sense that, to begin with, we are one family.

Just as believers meeting in Africa, Australia, Asia or South America and Europe are all part of the same family, we too are part of that family.  Sometimes we forget it with those closest to us.  Sometimes it’s easier to look at churches across a city or region as competitors.  (I didn’t say that was right, btw, I just said we do it sometimes)

The truth is we are part of the same family, and as such we are to love and honor one another.  We are to continue becoming the people and family of God together.  We are part of a faith that is communal in nature.  The scripture is rife with familial metaphors and examples.  So in some sense no merge is even necessary.

But that brings me to the example of traffic.  We’re all headed the same direction on the highway, but we have to know how to merge safely – to allow space for one another so we don’t run each other off the road.  We have to be aware and sensitive to those around us and even if it seems inconvenient when we’re in a hurry, we’ve got to let people in.

I for one am grateful for being let back into the flow.  It’s good to be headed in the right direction. And I feel as we merge with one another, there is something we couldn’t see on our own that will emerge from the process.

Running To God

Grant Pics

My oldest son Grant is eight. One of my favorite memories of him is when he was about 5. At that time, he’d get to church early when my wife showed up. Invariably, we’d be in the middle of sound check and the first thing he’d do is run up onto the stage and give me a big hug.

I loved that. I loved my son coming to just get ahold of me regardless of the setting. So I’d oblige, the band would keep playing and I’d pause what I was doing to give him a hug and kiss on the forehead and then he’d go off with mom and we’d finish sound check.

Well about the same time, my first EP released and I was doing some guest worship leading to promote the record. I was leading worship at a large church in Denver and my wife and some friends drove up for service.

We had just started the second service, about halfway though the opening song when I look out and see a 5 year old boy streaking up the aisle toward the stage…Grant had arrived.

He saw his dad on stage and he was gonna get his hug. You could see my wife and her slow-footed-friends unsuccessfully trying to catch him before he got to the stage but it was too late. Grant jumped up on stage (in front of 1500 people) and latched onto my leg. I quickly patted his head, loved on him and kept going with the song.

It. Was. Amazing.

Here I was, trying “lead worship” and my son gave the congregation the best example of what worship should be.

What better picture of worship do we need than a son RUNNING to his father to love and be loved?Regardless of the crowd. Regardless of the circumstances. Regardless of the consequences.

This week, when you worship. Do it like Grant. Run to God. Run to the Father who is just as excited to see you as you are Him. Stop caring about the crowd, or your circumstances. Just run to God.

Why I Believe in the 2nd Amendment

My wife and I just bought a new home.  Actually we bought a 110-year-old Victorian  that was recently remodeled just west of downtown.  We’ve been in the process of moving some ancillary items, storage, closets, kitchen non-essentials, etc.  We had planned to take it easy and have a big moving day this coming Saturday.  Everything was going swimmingly until Saturday night, or rather Sunday afternoon.

I had a gig Sunday morning in Denver, so I got up early drove up, and did my thing.  I finished about 2:30pm and was driving home when I got a hysterical call from my wife.  Apparently, sometime Saturday night, some homeless people, broke into our new home through the basement window, and made a general mess of things.  They didn’t take much, thankfully, but they ate pretty much all the food we had there, stole some medicine and alcohol and made a huge mess.

Jenn called the police, they came out and did a report, and we hoped that would be the end of it.  We were wrong.

We decided it would be a good idea for me, our two 80 lb labs, my friend Ryan, and our two handguns to stay the night last night, just in case they came back.  I printed off some makeshift signs and taped them into all the windows.  They read,

“WARNING!!!  If my two 80 pound dogs don’t get you, my gun and I will if you come into my home again.”

Well, Ryan and I were settling in, and about 11pm last night, we heard some noise outside.  Ryan said, “Brandon, I think they’re back.” He grabbed his .40 caliber and ran downstairs.  I grabbed my Walther PPK 9 millimeter and followed.  Ryan ran out the front door, I glanced out, saw a couple girls across the way and that Ryan had made his way around the side of the house  (where the basement windows are) and towards the back.  I ran to the back of the house and came out to find Ryan had cornered two guys next to our back deck.

We confronted them, warned them we had loaded guns and that we were calling the police.  Apparently Ryan had found one of them in the window well trying to get in.  I called the police, they arrived moments later, and a couple hours later, the situation was over.

It turns out our homeless friends (each supplied heavily with pot, the police found) had some warrants, and some other issues.  They said “their friend Trey told them about the house and that he stayed there last night and it would be a safe warm place for them to squat.”  They swore they weren’t they to cause any trouble take or damage anything, and that they were simply looking for a warm place to sleep.  (I told them they were in luck, they jail they’d be staying in tonight was nice and warm.)

Here’s the thing, I really honestly thought no one would be stupid enough to return to the scene of the crime the night before.  Again, I was wrong.

I am thankful we live in country where it is a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  And I believe that this is one of those instances where that right proves the idea that legal and responsible gun ownership prevents crime, whereas unlawful gun use increases crime.  Because Ryan and I have been around guns, have been through training on how to handle a weapon safely and responsibly (we both had father’s in law enforcement and both considered a career in the field), we were able to use the threat of force without having to use any force and in the end no one was hurt and a further crime was prevented.

Thank God, that’s all that happened.

King of Glory-EP available on iTunes now

BRANDON2-1

Hey everyone.  Just thought I’d let you know that my EP, King of Glory, is now available on iTunes, Amazon.com, Napster, Rhapsody and basically anywhere you usually get your digital music fix.  I’d love to have your feedback on it.

Along those lines, there have been multiple requests for lyrics, so I’ve uploaded the chord charts (w/lyrics) for each of the tunes here for your viewing, reading, playing pleasure.

Can’t wait to hear impressions from each of you on the project.  Thanks.

Brandon

YOU ALONE

Strength Not My Own

King of Glory – D