Break a Cup

Here’s one other memorable story from David Platt’s book Something Needs To Change. While visiting a home housing girls who had been rescued from trafficking, he learned one example of how they were led to see themselves.

On a table in the room, I see cracked glass tea cups. The woman who leads the home, Liv, tells us how these cups were an art project. In a recent class, the group talked about seeing beauty in the middle of brokenness. Each girl was given a glass tea cup and asked to break it by throwing it on the floor. The girls were hesitant at first, but one by one they threw their cups and watched them shatter into pieces. Then each girl was asked to glue her cup back together, piece by piece.

Next they placed a small candle inside each cup and lit it. The cracks in those broken cups actually allowed the light of the candles to shine brighter. That led to a discussion of how in our lives we might feel broken because of what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. But if we let him, God puts us back together and the light of his love shines brightly for others to see, even through our hurts.

There are many “ifs” in this scene.

  • If they talked
  • If they threw them down
  • If they put them back together
  • If they lit the candle
  • If they let God

Beauty is hidden when we stay stuck in the ifs. The enemy loves our being stuck; our Redeemer longs to fully free us in order to shine through us. Are you stuck? Maybe it’s time to break a cup.

Are We Doing Church Right?

A friend (thanks, Pat) recently loaned me a copy of David Platt’s latest book, Something Needs To Change. If you’ve read anything by him, I’ll go ahead and suggest you haven’t read anything like this one. Platt chronicles his week-long journey through the Himalayas where he came face to face with some of the most difficult questions and challenging needs in the world. Because he’s reacting, you react. Because he’s questioning, you question. And nothing is outside the realm of analysis. Even the church.


In chapter six, Platt shares the lives of church leaders in the Himalayas. Their work is not easy. And it’s quite different than the majority of church leaders in other countries-vastly different from American churches. At the end of the day, he was asked to do some teaching and training. Here’s an excerpt of his thoughts about that time:

Over the coming hours, we walk through all kinds of pictures and passages in the Bible describing the church as God designed it. As I’m teaching and we are all discussing what we see in God’s Word, I am struck with a fresh realization.

Looking at the Bible to see how God has designed the church is exactly what needs to be done. As I had reflected a couple of days ago, these villages needed the church in them, but they don’t need an American version of church; they need a biblical version of church.

As I walk through the Word with these leaders, it hits me that so many of my conversations about the church in America are often focused on cultural traditions that are extrabiblical at best and unbiblical at worst.

For example, as I read the Bible with these brothers and sisters, we don’t see anything about constructing church buildings or organizing church programs or managing church staffs, topics that so many church conversations in America revolve around. It makes me wonder, Why are Bible-believing, Bible-preaching churches in America so focused on what is not in the Bible? As I ask myself this question, I can’t help but think that one of the greatest needs not just in the church in the Himalayas but in the place where I live is for us to open our Bibles with fresh, unfiltered eyes and ask, “Are we really doing church the way this book describes it?”

American Christian, it’s a fair question. If you aren’t convinced, get a copy of this book. After you’ve read it, come back to the question. We must be open to the possibility that we are not doing it right. And if that’s true, what are we going to do about it.

Heard

(Introduction to a 5-part series collaboration)

Recently I had a brief conversation based on this statement: “I don’t know how to hear from God. People around me say they hear from God, but I don’t. I pray, and nothing. I feel like I’m doing something wrong.”

Due to the social context, that conversation was one-sided. That person’s tone and spirit has stuck with me. So much so that I’ve recruited some friends/thinkers to add many sides to the conversation. A team of five is writing blogs answering this question: How Do I Hear From God? You can read each post as they upload each Friday in November.

Besides me, here is a little bio introduction to the other four bloggers:

Dawn Stark: Mother of 5, Beach Lover, Manager of Philanthropy for Operation Blessing

Aaron Pilant: Father of 2, Lover of K.C. sports, Bradenton Police Officer

aaron

Erin Pilant: Mother of 2, Lover of Disney, Marketing Director for Chick-Fil-A

erin

Bob Morrissey: Father of 3, Lover of Detroit sports, Pastor of The Church at Clawson

bob

We don’t have to wait until November. Want to answer the question and start the conversation? Go ahead and leave a comment. Be Heard!

Offering Generosity

For my second favorite takeaway from Dare to Lead, I’m going to part three entitled “Braving Trust.” This part focuses on the process of trust. Brown’s team identified seven behaviors that make up trust’s anatomy, which she came up with the acronym BRAVING to define. Those seven behaviors are:

  1. Boundaries
  2. Reliability
  3. Accountability
  4. Vault
  5. Integrity
  6. Nonjudgment
  7. Generosity

After reading the definitions and unpacking of these seven, the one that most challenged me was #7. Read this definition, and you might see why:

Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

There are so many opportunities for us to make up what we think other’s intentions are, why they said what they said, or did what they did. And many of them aren’t based on generosity. Many are based on our shallow trust levels.

So here are scenarios where I’ve put this to the test since reading this:

  • When someone doesn’t return my call/voicemail/text/email in the time I think they should
  • When someone appears to have over promised…again
  • When someone clearly didn’t read all the details of my email
  • When someone gives the wrong impression, in my opinion

See what I mean? All these scenarios have potentially opposite outcomes when I practice generosity. Generosity deepens trust and diminishes suspicion or accusation.

Generosity is a gift that can come in various packages. Here’s to offering it more every day.

Self-Compassion

Finished my first Brene Brown book this weekend. 

Walking away with so much. I’ll share my two favorite things in a few posts. Here’s the first one:

Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.

This quote came from a section entitled How To Practice Self-Compassion. She shares this definition of self-compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin: “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” Brown translated that definition to her simple mandate.

I’m guilty. Chances are the vast majority of us are. Sharing high criticism like, “John, that was stupid,” or, “You are such an idiot.” I’ve even said recently, before I read this section, that that is how God talks to me because he speaks my language. So, I’m going to go ahead and call myself out. “John, that’s a lie. When you come to him with honest repentance, God doesn’t respond like that. Stop putting God in your shoes. Try stepping into his shoes filled with love for you.”

If you share my tendency, I issue you this 7-day challenge: 

For the next week, listen to your self-talk. When you catch yourself saying something that doesn’t sound like God would say to you, hit the pause button. Restate the sentence how you believe he’d say it. And, just in case you can’t figure it out, ask him. This could be a classic “you have not because you ask not.” Go ahead. Call yourself out for some self-compassion.

We Can All Be Multilingual

In today’s global economy, multilingual skills are in demand. To prepare school-age children for their careers, they are learning multiple languages, not just their primary language. That wasn’t a thing for my generation in the 70s. And in my 51 years of living, it hasn’t been a necessity; so I do not possess those skills. 

There is a reading plan on @youversion entitled Speak Over Me. Each of the seven days considers how God speaks over us; for example, he speaks affirmation, restoration, and healing over us. My reading this morning included this statement regarding his speaking grace over us:

On the cross, Jesus restored all things. He taught us grace and it was a language that, until that moment, we did not understand.

Interesting. Not only does God speak over us, he also teaches us how to speak a language we did not understand previously. How about that? And I’m guessing it’s a language I need, and so does everyone else around the globe.

So what languages can we learn from God, languages that we maybe didn’t understand until he started teaching us? Languages that his Son spoke while here with us in statements like…

  • Neither do I condemn you” – the language of hope
  • I lay down my life for you” – the language of sacrifice
  • They know not what they do” – the language of forgiveness
  • I have come so you may have life” – the language of purpose
  • I know my sheep” – the language of connection
  • As my Father loved me, I have loved you” – the language of love
  • Love your neighbor as yourself” – the language of peace
  • Do not despise one of these little ones” – the language of protection
  • No one can snatch you out of my Father’s hand” – the language of security
  • Be not afraid, only believe” – the language of faith 

When Jesus spoke these words, some understood the language immediately. And their lives were not the same. And they began speaking new languages. They became multilingual in spiritual languages. 

It was needed then. It is needed now. These languages can be taught. They can be learned. We can possess these skills. We can all be multilingual.

Look at Me

“You, O Lord, are the lifter of my head.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I witnessed this the other day. Actually, we all do every day. People walking around literally and figuratively needing a head lift. Sometimes it’s the person in the mirror.

When I read this verse recently, a familiar image came to mind. Picture a discouraged child, head down, not wanting anyone to see their eyes, possibly hiding their tears. They’ve been asked several times, “Look at me!” After several refusals, the inquirer gently puts their first few fingers under the child’s chin lifting their head in order to force eye contact. With that gesture, change becomes possible. The child looks into another pair of eyes offering forgiveness, understanding, empathy, strength, hope, protection, peace, or love.

In my relationship with God, I can often forget to allow him to lift my head. I’m satisfied to look down. To see what I want to see. To accept less. To tolerate guilt. To self-protect. To wallow. To be a stubborn child.

This Psalm was written by David in an extremely sad time. His own son was after him. Can you imagine how downcast David was? David helps us see how important it is to allow God to lift our heads. To be Fathered. To see what we need to see. To receive more. To embrace mercy. To drop our guard. To stand tall. To be a changed child. To obey the first time God whispers, “Look at me.”

An Appointment to Remember

I have a memory problem. Not the kind where I find my lost glasses on my face or miss an appointment that’s been on my calendar for months…at least not today.

My memory problem is more about what I’m not doing than what I’m forgetting. In his book Awe, Paul David Tripp talks about the importance of remembering. Specifically, he stresses the value of intentionally pausing to remember well. What does well mean? Remembering well means looking back to notice, honor, commemorate, or celebrate the important moments, the growth experienced, or the grace received. I agree with Tripp, but apparently not enough.

I noticed this yesterday. While working through a strategic plan, I got amped about doing something that I, at first, didn’t think I had done very much. After taking time to look back and notice, I remembered I had actually done it multiple times. And had liked doing it. Without taking the time to remember well, that plan would have not developed into a better one.

Remembering well takes work. That sounds dreadful, but it doesn’t have to be. And it certainly doesn’t have to be a problem. With focus and desire for progress, a good look back may be exactly what’s needed. 

What’s the answer to my problem? Instead of worrying about remembering an appointment, maybe I should be making an appointment to remember.

Blind Believers

I’ve believed a lie all my life. Or maybe it’s a self-made myth. Or maybe an unexplained misunderstanding. Whichever, enough already.

It’s embedded in the lyrics of one of the Church’s most famous hymns. I’ve heard it, sang it, and played it a gazillion times in 51 years, but only recently realized I’ve missed something. Maybe we all have.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.

Christian friend, before you lose your mind, take your hand off your heart. I’m not saying this hymn is a lie. What I’m saying is we’ve believed an implied principle that isn’t truth.

The lie/myth/misunderstanding is found in the word once. Of course there is a before and after at the moment where grace and faith embrace, what we call salvation. Before lost, after found. Before blind, after see. The lie we tend to believe is this: “I’m 100% healed from my spiritual blindness. It’s one and done. I shouldn’t feel susceptible to sinful blindspots ever again.”

Newsflash: That’s a Lie. Acknowledging a general blindness to sin resulting in repentance rarely goes deeper than the surface. New vision is received. But only through growth and maturity are we able to see our deepest need of grace.

I’m 51. I’m still “seeing” for the first time, finding blindspots I didn’t know I had. Envy, prejudice, anger, judgment…on and on. Why? Tons of reasons. Does it matter? Of course, but what I have to admit is pride can keep me from acknowledging they exist. I am still in need of grace to release me from being a blind believer. I will never not need it. Is it available more than once, every time I need it? According to Paul, yes. And that’s why we can call it amazing. It’s there every time we see for the first time.

“When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.” Romans 5:20 MSG

“Where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more.” Romans 5:20 CSB

Review & Question

Last Tuesday afternoon I had time to spare. Nap was taken. Running a race the next morning. Wildcard Baseball not on yet. What to do in small town PA? I decided to visit about the only place I hadn’t yet checked out that seemed interesting. I went to the library.

It was 4pm; they closed in three hours. My only plan was to look for something that caught my attention and see how long it lasted. Here’s what I found:

I’m telling you this for two reasons: 1) Book review and 2) Personal question

Book Review

I had no idea when I registered for this half marathon that I would end up driving through Amish country. Having spent part of the morning in that area roughly 20 minutes away, it made complete sense that a portion of the religious section of the library revolved around the Amish lifestyle and beliefs. Remembering this national headline and reading the subtitle of this book, caught was my attention.

In about the right length of a movie-two hours-I knew the story of this family and this event in much more detail. I had learned. I had cried. I had grown. If that’s not a ringing endorsement for a book, then what is?

Question

I’m keeping track of the books I’ve read this year. Yes, I added this title to the list. But I had to answer a question that might sound silly, but it was a real question in my mind. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve wrestled with it. Could I truthfully say I’d read that book? Yes, I read it for two hours. Yes, I knew the story. Yes, I knew the ending. I even looked up whether the author is still alive due to what she shared about her health condition. I knew a lot about this book and its author. But, I didn’t read every word of the book. I read as much as I could in two hours.

So here’s my question to you. If you’re a reader (definition: you read a couple of books a year), how much of a book must you read in order for it to count? 51%? 75%? 100%?

All my life, I’ve been the 100%er. Not no more.

For fun, let’s see your answer. You can comment on this post. Or return to the social media link you followed and post your answer. No shame. Be honest.