call me an idealist or naive or an eternal optimist.

maybe i am.

but i still say we can dream can't we?
I believe God has dreams for this world... and I think our dreams should line up with His dreams.

i'll be 100% transparent. i have no idea what to think about war. i'm utterly confused about that topic. so i guess it's a good thing i don't have anything to do with making those kind of decisions.

but i have thought about it a lot over the past few years.

here (i think) are some great words i read a couple years ago from Brian McLaren in his amazing book about the Kingdom of God - The Secret Message of Jesus.

“If people believe that wars are necessary and justified, then wars will continue to happen. If people believe in redemptive violence..." 

[timeout: that phrase, "redemptive violence" has got to be an oxymoron, right? i'm just sayin.]

"...then violence will proliferate. But if they believe the secret message of Jesus, they will believe that there are creative alternatives to war and violence, and by the grace of God, fewer and fewer wars and less and less violence may happen as a result.
And someday, by the grace of God, PERHAPS war will go the way of slavery and colonialism—so that we can say that the kingdom of God has more fully come.”

perhaps one day soon.

but one day for sure war will be done. we'll beat our swords and guns into gardening tools. that will be awesome. that's the definite future when The Revolution of God fully comes.

don't forget that peacemakers are the blessed ones.
so, i guess for those who are pacifists... you could say they are wrong and naive if you want to, but at least one day they will be right. (if not already.)

God has dreams for the world. what if we could align our dreams with His and work toward making them reality.

perhaps we can.

my newest experiment

i have lots of little experiments i try from time to time. i've probably written about a few before.

my newest experiment is more than an experiment. it's more than just a temporary project. my goal is for it to become a way of life for me.

it started with a simple question:
what if i could make someone's day every day? what if i could leverage my life and my interactions with other people to make their day with a tiny, simple act of kindness. what if my kindness, my smile, my words... could (even momentarily) lift another person out of their sadness, stress, boredom, or seemingly crappy life? what if i could give a glimmer of hope?

the experiment for me has been with strangers. people i bump into every day. people i rub shoulders with, mainly when they're at work.
People who work places where their job doesn't require them to win me over. Places like McDonald's. they don't need to be nice to me (and they're usually not) because they've already won me over.

(but when i go with my wife to Destination Maternity they are all being overly [probably in a fake way] NICE... because their commission depends on it. my experiment doesn't work quite as well there.)

but what if i could walk into a McDonald's and leave it better than when i walked in. what if i could make 1 person's day who is working there. They're in the middle of an 8 hour shift and dreading the next 4 hours. what if i could somehow put a smile on their face and make the next 4 hours more enjoyable for them? or at least the next 5 minutes while i'm there.

it's more than possible. i'm having fun doing it.

and when it happens. in that little space, in that little portion of time... it's like there is such love and kindness that the Kingdom of God has broken through. it's a holy moment in the Chipotle.
The Revolution has come to the UPS store or the bank.

it's pretty fun.
in order to do this i have learned that i must set aside my stresses and my worries to focus on doling out love and kindness to them. i have to set aside my agenda... or really, this project becomes my agenda.

so, it's just one little addition to The Revolution. but it's the Kingdom nonetheless. turning a little unkindness to kindness. a time and space usually reserved for short, curt, rudeness is transformed into joy & love.

i know it doesn't seem "spiritual", but it is. i know it doesn't seem like this could really be part of the Kingdom of God, but it very much is.

it's just a little spark when 1 person does this. but WHAT IF thousands of people were experimenting this way? what if 1 million people were doing this every day all across the world?

well, that's simple. the world would be a very different place.

new volunteer

there's this church on the corner of our neighborhood. It's a big, stately looking brick church. it's called Oak Grove United Methodist Church.

i dropped in once on a Sunday morning (back when Ridge was meeting Sunday nights). it's the opposite of our style. opposite of my preferences. i didn't even stick it out the whole way through their service.
(but that's OK, if they came to Ridge they might not dig it either.)

i don't even know that much about the Methodists. i know John Wesley and think he's pretty cool. one of my seminary profs was a big shot with the United Methodists. that's about all i know AND that our styles are very far apart.

i guess that's why it's kind of funny that Crystal and i are the newest volunteers at the Oak Grove United Methodist Church!

yep. we're hanging out with the methodists. and they're actually pretty cool.

i didn't quit my job at Ridge or anything... we're volunteering on Wednesdays when a team from the church simply comes together to make about 500 sandwiches for the homeless people who live in downtown Charlotte.

They have a pretty sweet system for making the sandwiches and then they have a couple huge coolers we pack them in and then deliver them to an urban ministry shelter in the heart of uptown Charlotte.

i love that the church is literally in our neighborhood. Crystal and i walk to it. there's something kind of cool about that.

one thing i did know about the Methodists is that they're all about social justice. that's like their "thing". and i'm all about that.

it's a beautiful thing hanging with these people who worship in a radically different way on sundays... but we're worshiping together and in the exact same way on Wednesdays making these sandwiches.

so here we are. the newest volunteers at the Methodist church on the corner. we look a lot different than the rest of the volunteers, but it's all good.

far from reality

check out this story and see how it lines up with reality:

A 12 year old girl moves from a rural town in Missouri to metropolitan Chicago; her father has landed a job in the city and is relocating the family just before the new school year.

On the first day of class, the girl boards the school bus; there the driver welcomes her by extending his hand to help her enter, and a little by scoots over in his seat to make room for her.

When the girl arrives at school, another helpful student shows her to her homeroom class, where she checks in with her teacher, who opens the class by introducing the young girl to everyone else. Even though the girl's clothes aren't sophisticated, you wouldn't know it by the other students' reactions. They smile at her openly and greet her pleasantly, and the girl feels very welcome.

A half-dozen kids clamor for the opportunity to show her to her next class. As she walks down the hallway, a smiling vice-principal gently pats her on the shoulder and asks how she's feeling.

At the school cafeteria, several classmates join her for lunch. They talk with her about music, boys, and movies. She finds out that although these kids' interests and hobbies differ from those of her old friends, everyone is open to listening to her opinions.

At the end of the day, she leaves school and sees her mother waiting for her patiently in the parking lot. "How was your day?" she asks. The girl smiles and tells her it was just great.

(Fictional story via Tim Sanders)

i believe a world like that is possible.

but what would it take? what would it take for there to be a generation of students to live this out.
i think it would take a revolution.

it would almost be as if the Kingdom of God were here. in that city of Chicago... or wherever.

in this place

speaking of living "lives worth telling stories about" you have GOT to get a copy of In This Place and read it ASAP!

it's written by an awesome friend of ours, Kim Abernethy. She and her husband, Jeff spent about 15 years in Liberia and the Ivory Coast serving the people there and they have some ridiculous stories to share.

they truly lived and are living lives worth telling stories about.

and many of those stories are detailed in Kim's new book that came out this year, In This Place. you can pick up a copy from Amazon HERE or HERE for the Kindle version.

Today, Jeff and Kim were awesome enough to come hang out with the students at Ridge Church and share some of their stories.

we were all inspired to live lives worth telling stories about. the only kind of life that satisfies.

Their stories will inspire you too, which is why you need to read the book! you'll laugh one minute and cry the next.

Crystal and i are so so thankful to be able to call Jeff & Kim friends!

lives worth telling stories about

that's the kind of life i want to live. one worth telling stories about.

we've been talking about this idea with the students at Ridge since the beginning of 2011. This phrase isn't original with me but i heard it at a conference in 07 from Mark Batterson. i think the phrase also shows up in his book In a Pit with a Lion On a Snowy Day. (+ a big thanks to the talented Natalie Osborne for the above logo.)

so, we challenge this rising generation to live lives worth telling stories about.
the sad part is that the vast majority of people on this earth do the OPPOSITE. they just lay low and live easy, "secure" lives.

most people live lives that no one could ever make a movie about. nobody will ever write a book about them. because their lives are boring. safe. predictable. free from all risk. most peoples' lives don't make good stories.

but that's not the kind of lives that God calls us to. that's not the kind of life i want to live. maybe we can pave the way and blaze a path away from the normal and safe into a new way of living our lives.

when i'm 80 years old i wanna have some crazy awesome stories to tell.

long time no blog

i think this officially the longest i have ever gone without blogging.

This year i've been posting something almost every day, but my last post was June 13... 10 days between posts is a new record for renown.

i guess i was too busy to write and other things took priority over blogging in the last 11 days.

i'm thankful that Ridge was able to team up with a couple other churches and we pulled off our own camp this week at Myrtle Beach for Middle and High Schoolers. it was an awesome week.

just to clarify, i haven't given up on writing. just the opposite. i guess i took a little accidental sabbath from blogging.
now i'm coming back refreshed and hopefully better. because i have a lot of things i want to write about. a lot of things i'm passionate about saying.

i'm excited to start saying them tomorrow

thoughts on what i should do with my time

(This is a repost from November 9th, 2009.)

I can vividly remember reading Rick Warren when I was in college and him saying a phrase that stuck with me. He said something like "God gives you enough time to get everything done He wants you to do." Therefore, if there are things you know God wants you to do that you don't have time to do... you must be doing something else that's not necessary.

That impacted me so much that it has stuck in my head all the time ever since I read it.

I struggle with it too. Like this week for example I have so much on my plate that there is no way I can get it all done. I am consistently (for the past few months) empowering others and getting tons of stuff off my plate. BUT I still can't get it all done.

I feel like I am a pretty good time manager. I don't waste very much of it... if any.
So, I am trying to figure out what I'm doing that is not something God wants me to do? because (if Rick's statement is true) I should have enough time to do everything God wants me to do... and I don't think that's the case right now.

anyone else have this problem?
any thoughts on Rick's quote?

are you cursed? (financial advice)

(I originally posted this to renown on November 4, 2009.)
"Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses."
 - Proverbs 28:27

dang! just read that this morning for probably the millionth time. Can't get away from it so I figured I would write about it in my journal... and now here on my online journal = the renown blog.

that is pretty intense. Pretty hard core. "give... lack nothing... many curses."

I really want to give a lot to the poor. I want to give all I have in fact. There's no sense in me having a lot when some people have nothing.

I can always give more though... and I want to keep trying to give more & more. But I will agree with God's promise in this verse = "give to the poor & lack nothing." I honestly "lack nothing."

On the other hand... "those who close their eyes to them receive many curses." whoa.
So, basically God's financial advice is this: "Give to the poor and have everything you need. Don't give to the poor and you're screwed."

*But I kept reading that sentence over and over and it's even deeper than that! this phrase grabbed me = "those who close their eyes to them"

It's not just those who don't give... it's those who actually close their eyes to the poor. And I'm like "how in the world could anybody close their eyes to the poor?" Then it hit me that this is for us today. It's an indictment of OUR culture! WE close our eyes to the poor! US. American Christians close our eyes to them all the time.

We walk past the homeless guy and look the other way. We see and hear about children dying in Africa because they don't have clean water and we just go about making our car payments! we're closing our eyes to them!

I don't really know what "many curses" looks like for us? but I'm pretty sure it's not good.

I think our ultimate motives for giving to the poor should be an unquenchable love for God and His fame and bringing His Kingdom on earth. And also loving our poor neighbors like we love ourselves. (something like the 2 greatest commands...)

BUT, even though these should be our ultimate motives, I don't think this is a half bad financial plan either!
GIVE to the poor = lack nothing
Follow the rest of our culture and close your eyes to the poor = many curses.

seems like a no brainer to me.

what would it be like?

so, what if love really does win?

and what if we lived like LOVE WINS and we all truly believed LOVE WINS.
the world would be a different place.

*i believe that another world is possible.

& i believe that because love wins.

dream with me for a minute what the world would look like if love wins. imagine with me for a second what would NOT exist if love wins for real:
There would be no hate, no greed, no pride, no division, and no people being exploited or excluded.
No people would die because they don't have medicine that we can afford.
No people would die because they don't have clean water.

There would be no more mean people, no more revenge.
Racism would only be something we read about in history books as we scratched our heads with a puzzling look.
We would no longer hear stories about that horrible evil called child slavery.

War would end forever. There wouldn't be any child abuse or crime or violence.

We wouldn't see anymore homes falling apart after tornadoes... or maybe just for a day.
No more homeless people. What's that? a homeless person? a person who doesn't have anywhere to live? i don't understand?

There would be no more orphans living on the streets.

because if love wins it defeats every single one of those evils!

This all sounds kind of like a Kingdom someone named Jesus talked about.

what if each of us constantly asked ourselves the question - "How can love win" in this situation? what if we asked that every single day in every single situation? How can love win?

another world is possible.

a revolution is coming.

love always wins

i just happen to firmly believe that love wins.

no matter what. every single time. love wins.

i believe it even though it goes against my nature. sometimes i don't want to let love win. some days i wish revenge or hate or laziness or apathy could win.

but it never does... because love always wins.

i believe that if you extend your hand enough times... if you extend love enough times EVENTUALLY love will win.

but today this belief will be challenged. something will happen to you and to me TODAY that will challenge this belief. something will begin to make us think that some reaction other than love will win.

or maybe we know it cognitively, but we don't want to let love win. revenge would be more fun. doing nothing would be easier.

i know what they did to me. but love wins.
i know the injustice that is happening. love wins.

because we all live life with a ton of different people. our family, spouses, co-workers, friends, teammates, roommates, bosses, coaches, teachers, employees, neighbors, and fellow drivers on the road... and all these people challenge this idea that love wins.
because they will mock us, cuss at us, say mean things about us behind our back, hurt us, etc...

but ultimately, with every single one of these people love wins.

if we live this way people will definitely think we're weird. they'll probably laugh at us and say we're "weak". that we're just letting people walk all over us and not sticking up for ourselves.

but i still say love wins.

it's even harder to live this way because no one lives this way. this is so not normal. in fact it's opposite of how normal people live. it's revolutionary.
love wins.


(This is a repost from September 9, 2009.)

2nd week ever student ministry gathering @ Ridge Church this past Sunday - Student Impact. We're still in our Rhythm series & the whole morning was about what I am possibly most passionate about... I just use different words sometimes.

We talked about WONDER. We all give our wonder to something. Every single person on earth chases after something that captures their wonder. And whatever captures our wonder, that's what we give our lives to.

In my humble opinion, the Church has done a sucky job of helping students see that God is the only One who is worthy of capturing our sense of wonder and that every other thing that WOWs us will never really satisfy us fully or make us ultimately happy. That's just the way we were created. We're missing something until God fully captures our wonder and all the other good things in life are just secondary.

I think only God can cause a student to "get" that, but I am passionate about trying everything we can to help them get there! So, we talked about it this past Sunday. They spent A LOT of quality time in their small groups talking about it more.

During my talk I read a quote from a book I read early on in my journey of "getting" the wonder of God. It's from C.S. Lewis' The Weight of Glory (and as I told the students, "yes, he did write other stuff besides The Chronicles of Narnia!"). The part at the very beginning of that book that left me breathless was this:

“if we consider the unblushing promises… in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. WE ARE FAR TOO EASILY PLEASED.”

Wow. I can still remember the 1st time I read that. I remember where I was sitting. It was a big moment. My whole life I thought that the strong desires I had for something to WOW me, to capture my wonder, to chase after something... were too strong & bad! But it was never that they were bad or that I was going after all that stuff... It was that = I was missing something even better! And if I would go after that infinite pleasure I would finally be satisfied!

I knew that quote wouldn't connect with the students like it did for me as a 21 year old, so I prayed and worked hard to contextualize it. Here's they story I came up with:

Think of your favorite band/musical artist. Your favorite one in the whole world... you have all their CDs and know all their songs. Imagine that later today someone gives you 2 free tickets to their concert! You start freaking out immediately and call your best friend to go with you to the concert because of course it's their favorite band too.
The concert gets closer and closer and the anticipation builds and builds. You are SO excited.
The day finally arrives and you and your friend walk into this HUGE stadium concert with 70,000 people! You are mesmerized by this scene. Your band comes out and starts playing the opener and you start singing along. You are so excited that you and your friend slip into 2 seats there in the back row where you walked in at.
It is an amazing night. They played all your favorite songs and you sing along with them all. You are hoarse. You took a ton of pics for Facebook. It was the night of your life. You were WOWed.
Your friend stays over at your house that night and you 2 stay up all night talking about the amazing experience at that concert. You relive every second of it together.

And then you pull the ticket stubs out of your pocket. You look at them really for the 1st time because when you got them you were so excited that you didn't bother to look closely. So, for the 1st time you notice that these tickets were for FRONT ROW SEATS! You can't believe that you didn't notice this! You could have been sitting 10 feet away from your favorite band instead of seemingly 10 miles away in the back row. You could have almost reached out and touched them. Maybe the guitar player would have tossed you a pick, or the drummer might have tossed you one of his sticks?
Then you flip the tickets over and see for the 1st time on the back that these were also BACK STAGE PASSES! They were good for an hour after the concert to hang out with your favorite band - meet them, take pictures with them, eat food with them, etc...
As awesome as the concert was in the back row, you cannot believe that you missed out on what would have been so much better!

God has given us so many good things to enjoy here on earth! They are awesome things. But when we are so WOWed by them that we miss the ultimate wonder - God - then we're like that kid making mud pies in the slum & skipping the vacation at the beach. Or we're like someone sitting in the back row when they could have been on the front row & backstage with their fav band.

So, of course students (& everyone) are going to keep chasing after "little wonders" = sex, sports, acceptance, money, clothes, popularity, drugs, etc... until we can help them see that the Ultimate Wonder is what they are missing out on and the only thing that can truly satisfy them.

it's hard to live that way

this week i've been writing about the idea that love wins.

no matter what is happening in the world, in your life, and no matter what is done to you... love wins.

but it's hard to live that way. and i believe that Jesus knows better than anyone how hard this is.
because Jesus was ridiculed, hated, mocked... and He had a choice of how He would respond to all this. He chose love every time.

He could have picked up a rock and fought back. He could have spit back in their face. but He never once became the evil that was thrown at Him. You never read about Jesus saying "just give me a little time and I'll get even." He never once responds back with what's been done to Him.

and Jesus changed the world.
people who live like this... like love wins... change the world!
because love defeated evil.

& love still beats evil. evil can never beat evil. only love wins.

every time. because love never fails. it can't fail. it is incapable of failing.

somebody has to LOVE to stop the madness. there's an evil cycle and we all contribute to it when we get revenge, fight back, etc... but when we love - love wins & the evil stops. the world changes.

so yes, it's hard. but isn't it worth it to change the world. the only other alternative is the same way everyone else lives. you see where that gets us.

is the world any different because of you?

you lose

love wins.

it's that simple.

but without love... you lose.

yesterday i was diving into what this guy, Paul, said love IS. you might be surprised at how BIG love is and all that it encompasses. you can read that HERE.

but 1st, Paul lets us know that pretty much anything else doesn't matter without love.

he could speak in other human or angelic tongues... but that's just annoying noise without love.
if he could tell the future and understand pretty much everything... that's nothing without love.

he could have enough faith to literally MOVE a mountain. that would be CRAZY. maybe a little freaky, but also crazy awesome... but as cool as that would be, without love he's still nothing.

he could literally give everything he owns to help the poor... even that, without love, is worthless.

wow. so love is a pretty big deal.

if we don't love we lose. but LOVE WINS.