Archive for October, 2006

rainy saturday night

Steve_and_Chrissy.jpgIt poured all day in Boston. We lay around the house most of the day, watched a movie in the early evening, then found ourselves without much to do after that.

So we pulled out our wedding DVD.

It turned into one of the most enjoyable evenings in recent memory. We laughed at our wedding day quirkiness. We teared up a little bit at seeing Chrissy’s grandmother, Mose, who passed away earlier this year. We were filled with joy recalling the events of our reception ‚&emdash; the original rap song performed by Chrissy’s triplet siblings, the special dances with our parents, cutting rug to oldies, and the toasts from the best man and maid of honor, among many other things. So many amazing people ‚&emdash; many of whom were instrumental in our coming together to begin with ‚&emdash; were present. It was such a special day.

But most of all, watching the wedding DVD tonight was powerful in that it reminded both of us of our wedding vows and gave us an opportunity to recommit to those vows. We promised that day that no matter what our physical condition, we would stay together. My dad, who served us as the officiant that day, quoted these poignant words from Landon Saunders during his words to us:

Marriage means a man and a woman looking deeply into each other’s eyes and saying, ‘I will never leave you. Others may come and go in your life but I never will. If you wrinkle, I will love you. If you fail, I will stay with you. If you get sick, I’ll feed you, bathe you, sit up with you&emdash;anything&emdash; except leave you. I will never leave you.’

After our vows and ring exchange, my dad actually had those in attendance stand and say, in unison, “We pronounce you husband and wife.” It was so powerful to have our community of friends and family legitimize our marriage in that way.

So tonight, as we walked the dog arm-in-arm after the DVD ended, I quietly recommitted my life and love to Chrissy, the one I married on May 29, 2004, in Austin, TX.

Here’s my prayer for you: that those of you who are married would recommit to the words you uttered and symbols you exchanged 1, 5, 20, or 50 years ago.

what if?

What if…righ_gra.jpg

… Jesus and early Christians never could have imagined (or hoped) that being a Christian would become anything but being radically counter-cultural, persecuted (by the principalities and powers), marginalized, and yet altogether joy-filled and attractive (as a community)?

… There are those who are powerful and significant in God’s eyes ‚&emdash; and don’t even know it?

… Christianity is more about who we are when we’re not at church?

… Christianity was never about “church” at all ‚&emdash; but a collection of lives sold out for the worship and mission of their Creator?

… Our faith and any of the competing power structures (the political arena, in particular) are diametrically opposed to each other?

… We have more to learn about the person of Jesus from the poor, sick, and young than all the PhDs in the world ‚&emdash; combined?

… The message of Christianity was as much about the first 25 chapters of Matthew as it is about the last three?

all we needed was God?

… Christianity was never intended to be a religion?

What if we’ve been missing the point all this time?

ministers’ salaries

Last week, I received in my e-mail inbox the 2006 “Ministers’ Salary Survey.” According to the ACU Ministry Resources Web page:

Dr. Charles Siburt, Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University, recently administered a nation-wide survey to gather information about current levels of compensation for ministers in the Churches of Christ. This survey was completed by 525 ministers of diverse ages and ministry positions and from churches of all sizes. The survey compares minister compensation packages, including allowances and benefits, as well as comparing number of years in ministry and educational background and experience. With this detailed and diverse set of information, it is difficult to establish any basis for a salary standard. It does, however, document the current compensation range for ministers and provide powerful information for a reassessment and reevaluation of a minister’s compensation package.

You can check out the results in their entirety by clicking here.

A few observations about the salary survey:

&emdash; Pulpit ministers — not surprisingly — are the highest paid ministers in Churches of Christ (this is probably true in most any heritage. To read what I think about our overemphasis on the pulpit guy, read Dan Kimball’s post here)

&emdash; Of 273 Church of Christ pulpit ministers surveyed, 109 make more than $50,000 per year (not including benefits)

&emdash; 32 make more than $75,000 per year base salary (without benefits)

&emdash; 8 make $100,000 or more per year, with one respondent making $142,000 per year (!)
&emdash; Children’s ministers make the least of all ministry positions, with youth ministers coming in a close second-to-last (according to my crude eyeball estimates)

&emdash; I find it interesting — just interesting (meaning not “bad” or “good,” necessarily) — that ACU provides this compensation survey to ministers. Just seems like a strange “service” to offer those who have given themselves to full-time ministry.

I find these statistics interesting, to say the least. What do you think?

This Just In: People are Busy and Stressed Out

It’s official, folks. What I’ve been saying for months has recently been confirmed. And George Barna, our beloved Christian statistics and survey guru, is the bearer of the bad news.

You ready?

People are stretched-thin, tired, stressed out, busy, over-worked, over-entertained, unhealthy, under-rested … need I go on?

The report ‚&emdash; “Americans Just Want a Good Night’s Sleep” ‚&emdash; can be read in its entirety here. Here is an especially telling paragraph from Barna’s findings, however:

Among the most common complaints people have are the struggle to cope with the busyness of their lives, the pressure of family and job responsibilities, and their seemingly unquenchable thirst to be entertained,” commented George Barna. “It’s interesting that people who have young children in their home were no more likely to want a good rest than were people without children in the house. The issue is not the presence or absence of children; it’s how we choose to fill our schedule, the development and implementation of boundaries in our lives, and our willingness to forego some pleasures in favor of physical and mental health. We’re not busy because somebody makes us busy and stressed; we’re that way because we have not learned to say ‘no’ to appealing opportunities, or to accept the notion that we do not need every experience that’s accessible. We voluntarily exhaust ourselves and then wonder why life doesn’t seem satisfying. This is one reason why God instituted a day of rest, rather than a day for catching up or gorging on pleasurable activities.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (I’m not apologizing for this … God sounds like a broken record throughout Scriptures on this subject), we need to slow down. This is exactly what I believe “loving yourself” includes. Until we “love ourselves” enough to assume a more sane pace of life, how can we ever model the life of a Christ-follower whose “yoke is easy and burden light”?

What is “good news” (gospel) about a life stretched thin so much by activities at church, in school, in the community, with sports, etc., that it affects the wellness of Christians? That it affects the ability of the Christian to hear from the Holy Spirit and worship, the basic activities of our faith?

I’d love to hear from many of you on this subject, as well as your response to Barna’s findings. Blessings, and slowness, today.

photo manipulation

One of the designers at work got bored at the end of the day today.

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Neaves & Leaves

This past Sunday and Monday (Columbus Day), we went with our friends Matt & Pam to New Hampshire to camp, hike, and “leaf peep.” The foliage was at its peak. So was the fun. See for yourself:

This was the view from our campsite. No joke. Right now, we’re ruining the view.
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“Holts & Neaves” kinda has the same ring as “Lewis & Clark.” Does that mean Damon is equivalent to Pocahontas? Deep thoughts…
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We were tracking this moose on the way back down the mountain. This is how we knew it was a moose we were tracking. I know moose dung when I see it.
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This is me at the top of Lucia’s Lookout, the destination for our hike on Monday. I felt like I could see forever through Matt’s cheap, plastic binoculars that he got for free from his workplace.
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Jumping picture. Again, we are probably ruining a perfectly good vista.
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I just thought this looked cool. Very Matrix-like.
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You can see all 125 of the photos of this glorious “Neaves & Leaves” Weekend by clicking here and then here.

self love

A few days ago, I suggested that in the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself,” the “love yourself” part was as important as the “love your neighbor” part. I suggested that we often do not “love ourselves” in the pace of life that we choose, our refusal to observe God’s principles of rest and a healthy rhythm of life.

But a few days ago, a good friend had some challenging questions for me with regard to the origins of this commandment, specifically the part about “loving ourselves.” Yesterday on my run at lunchtime, I couldn’t stop thinking about these questions and their implications. They are such important (but often under-emphasized) questions, as Jesus said all the commandments are tied up in it, along with the commandment to “love God.”

So I open this up to the community, and I hope that many of you will give your two cents:

What does it mean to love ourselves? What are some ways that we have misunderstood what “self love” means? What are some scriptures that may shed light on the meaning of “loving ourselves” in the context of the Greatest Commands? How does loving ourselves tie into loving others? Are there any other implications?

For your convenience, here are the biblical references to the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (all from Today’s New International Version):

LEVITICUS 19:18
‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

MATTHEW 19:16-21
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, ” ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

MATTHEW 22:34-39
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

MARK 12:28-34
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 3To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

LUKE 10:25-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

ROMANS 13:8-10
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

GALATIANS 5:13-15
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

JAMES 2:8
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.