My Sunday sermon “How much is enough?” from @GracePointSA #MedCtr campus.

"How did I end up here?" from Grace Point Church Medical Center.

Of Podcasts, Boredom, and America Raising the White Flag

Podcasts.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are illuminating and original. Others are…well, confusing. A certain type actually:

People talking about entertainment…as entertainment. 

Podcasts that focus on movies, sports, and music (among other things) confuse me. Let’s listen to someone discuss this album for an hour. Or let’s sit with 90 minutes of dialogue about an 88-minute film. Sports are the worst. Sports podcasts are the illegitimate child of sports radio, an inane digression into the bygone minutiae of events already behind us.

What was Tony Romo thinking when he threw the interception? What does yesterday’s loss mean for LeBron’s legacy?

I don’t know why this bothers me so much as a concept. It is a repackaging of what has already happened for easy consumption. It’s lazy listening. It is a sure sign of a people so bored, and thus so easily entertained, that we’ll accept nonsensical talk based on meaningless history as worthy of our time and attention.

Like…I get escapism. I get that a couple hours in a movie theater or a sports arena can be good for the soul. I just don’t get escapism based on escapism. A mental escape based on a mental escape. Podcasts are some sort of Escher drawing for entertainment.

It is a derivative of a derivative. A diversion created by focusing on a diversion. We are so bored in America that listening to someone talk about entertainment qualifies as entertainment. I can’t figure out where one ends and the other begins. And it amounts to the raising of a white flag of sorts. We are so bereft of purpose that we don’t even care to consider the amount of time, energy, and hope we pour into the pursuit of finding one more place to be entertained.

Coming soon: my podcast highlighting the very best of podcasts.

Civilized: Uncovering the ocean below the pretense

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We don’t spend much time thinking about the realities of our civilization or what being civilized really means. I have found myself wondering if the “civilized world” isn’t simply a place of pretense, if we aren’t simply covering up the darkness with surface level politeness.

We use a fork and knife to cut our food. We use a turn signal as a courtesy to other drivers. We say “good morning”, “please”, and “thank you” without any thought as to what we’re really verbalizing. So many of our days are lived as perfunctory lives of purposeless pleasantry.

We can be civil without caring. It is the advice given to a couple who has recently broken up and is forced to be in the same room, to fighting brothers and sisters.

"Just be civil." Fake it.

As believers in Jesus, we are required to embody more than civility, to move beyond politeness. We are called to truly care.

Pray for your enemy. Like…really. Pray for blessings to be heaped upon the one who victimized you, haunts you, or hurt you.

If someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two. So maybe the guy at the corner with the cardboard sign doesn’t need your dollar. Maybe he isn’t a vet or hungry or even homeless. Who cares. He asks for change. Give him a relationship.

Our civility is a cloak we use to cover up the darkness of the world around us. Werner Herzog says, “Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.”

Beauty actually resonates in such a dreary, hopeless line. Just below our “good morning” and “god bless you” is a world that is hurting, throbbing in the pain of separation from the Creator. Our civility is a secret deal we’ve brokered with each other - you don’t point out my brokenness and I won’t ask about yours.

As followers of Jesus, my hope is not that we’ll be anything less than civil. Use those turn signals, people. My hope is that we would be more than civil. I pray that believers would be marked by their unwillingness to leave well enough alone. I pray that believers would be in the business of hacking through that thin layer of ice to get to the ocean of chaos and darkness that lies below - and I pray we would take the hope of a risen savior to all who are drowning in those waters.

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The thread of redemption does not simply spare us from wrath; it ties us into the glorious, redemptive arc of God.

2007 #GLS from Johannesburg, South Africa

(This entry was originally posted on 23 October 2007.)

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We’ve been promising photos from the Leadership Summit so you could see the young people in whom we’re trying to invest - especially for those of you who sacrificed so that they might have a chance – thank you again.

We’ve been so pleased with the results of the 2-day conference. The guys (and girls) are still talking about the concepts they learned from Collin Powell, Carly Fiorina, Marcus Buckingham, Richard Curtis, John Ortberg, and Bill Hybels. Google all of those folks. It would be worth your time.

Anyway, let me share some more good news with you. A small Canadian team of ministers has come through and one, in particular, was impressed with my leadership guys. He sat in on our Wednesday night class and offered to buy each guy in the class the book of the speaker of their choice from the conference. Praise the Lord!!

The African children sing a song: “If you believe then I believe, Africa will be saved.”

With your help, there are still days when I can believe that to be true.

the group (minus one who was looking for a toilet):

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Buying the Self You Want to Be: The Fender Custom Shop

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There are no shortcuts to authenticity and wisdom. They come with time and tears. Authenticity is developed as we become more of who we are over time. We struggle and fight and learn as we go. Eventually, we embrace who we are and become (somehow) authentically whole. In that, we have wisdom, the collection of knowledge from the journey to our true selves.

Then there is the Fender Custom Shop, at which you can purchase the guitar pictured above. You can spend extra and get a guitar that is hand-crafted and carefully constructed to look worn and well-used - even though it’s brand new. You can look like a lifetime rocker on day one. It is absurd and, yet, absurdly popular.

And this is the direction of our society. How do I buy my way into authenticity? How much does wisdom cost? Why do the hard work to grow and stretch into a better version of myself when I can buy the self I want to be right now?

Lay the credit card down and bypass all of the time and tears required to make us deep, wise souls. Just don’t be surprised when those folks who’ve been through the wars for themselves don’t trust the battle scars of those who seem to have taken a shortcut.

We all carry disabilities and we all have access to a God who has already overcome them. My Sunday @GracePointSA sermon.