Posted in Different Scriptures, Spoken Word

Exodus 16:9-21

There is, in our human condition
An aversion to being content
No matter what the current situation
Or resources that have been spent

When given all of the things
We’ve stated to be our desire
We know there’s more that we could’ve had
If only we’d set the bar higher

In our race to collect some assurance
We run over those who slow down
We look far beyond our own shelves and hearts
To “out there” where blessings abound.

Along the road to collection
We also feel we must protect
The things that we have collected
And so walls and borders erect

Looking back to Eve and to Adam
When given the garden to eat
The fixated on the one thing not given
And desired to grasp for that treat

A humble confession of nature
For Lent is a time for such sorrow
When given all that we need today
We too quickly ask, “but tomorrow!?”

Posted in Different Scriptures

Intent vs. Content

My 5 year old daughter Ruby is picking up on a lot of things.  Recently we were driving home from a friends’ house, when from the back seat we heard her proclaim, “Dad!  I know when God’s going to make New Creation!”  I smiled, simply for the fact that my 5 year old knows there’s something to look forward to besides Heaven.  But then I was curious, after all – God seems to favor using children to proclaim important/new things.  So I asked her, “When?”

“At the end of this age!”

Wow.  In a few moments, my daughter was speaking of things I hadn’t really grasped until reading NT Wright talk about the concept of ” αἰώνιος Eyes wide, I turned to my wife who was almost as surprised as I was.  Her face quickly changed, however, and she simply said, “What did you expect?  She hears you talking about it all the time.” with a loving smile on her face.

Whaddya’ know?  Parenting works.

There followed a short conversation, where I excitedly tried to explain to our daughters how Ruby was right, although New Creation had already started too!  To which Ruby responded with something between anxiety and confusion, “But daddy, I thought the dead people would come alive?”  Calmly I tried to explain as best as I could that scripture tells us that anyone who has accepted Jesus as their source of life, is already a part of the New Creation yet to come.  It’s hard for me to grasp, so I can only imagine how many more conversations we’ll have as she grows.

Nevertheless, it was a great reminder that we easily learn all the right words to say.  Whether it’s a 5 year old talking about New Creation, or a 40 year old praying at the altar on Sunday morning, we learn the vocabulary and use it.  Influenced and flavored by prayers we’ve grown up with, worship songs we’ve sung, and the theology we prefer, we bring our prayers to God – often already knowing what the exchange will look like.  Already aware of the CONTENT we will present to God, and the CONTENT He will give in return.

BDataNeverSleeps_2.0_v2ecause whether we’ve developed self-control over how we interact with it or not, we all exist in a world where CONTENT floods our lives.  In the form of Tweets, Instagrams, Headlines, Blogposts, Facebook Posts, and more, we have become a never-ending culture of creating/consuming CONTENT.  It hits us head-on when we wake up, and the waves continue lapping the shores of our devices well into the hours we should be sleeping.  That influences our children and their development, but also impacts our lives, how we relate to each other, our family friends, and even God.

But we’re reminded by the story in Matthew 22:15-22 that Jesus sees beyond our words and actions.  We may fool other people.  We may even fool ourselves.  But Jesus knows our hearts.  The Pharisees came trying to trap Him with their fancy words, and question aimed at accomplishing what they wanted.  Jesus calmly responds with a question, and directs them to yield themselves to God fully.  Just as the coin stamped with the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar, so a man/woman who has been created in the image of God belongs to God.

We are both challenged by this, and encouraged.  We are challenged as we realize God is not impressed or distracted by the “#self” we present to the world.  We cannot show Him our polished areas, and hold back the things we’d rather not yield.  God calls us to give ourselves completely, proclaiming by such submission – Jesus is Lord even now!!  (and we are His New Creation!)  And therein lies the encouragement.  Submission to God opens up an existence as His New Creation, and serving a Lord who knows us intimately.  Todays’ “Insta-Tweet-Booked” existence can be lonely and consuming.  Smashing through such an existence is a God who knows us well beyond the images and 140 characters we share with others – and proclaims His overwhelming Love for us…

..and sends us out to do the same for a world that so deeply needs to be known…and Loved. 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized

Katy and the Content Creators

Recently I heard an interview on NPR with an artist whose words drew me in.  I’d missed them announcing who it was, so I tried to figure it out as I listened.  She joked innocently about how over-protective her childhood was, saying they even had to call the deviled eggs “Angel Eggs”.  She appreciated much of that upbringing though, even as the interviewer asked if she now created the kind of music she wasn’t allowed to listen to growing up.  I assumed that simply meant “pop-music”.  She sounded very creative, and even scorned the over-sexualization of most pop-artists these days.  She said she also had the “sex card”, but didn’t feel like it needed to be played.  As the interview closed, they said her name….Katy Perry.  Hmm, I thought to myself.  I’d heard her name before, but never really paid attention to what music she’s made.  Maybe I’ll check her out.

So the next day as I’m checking out youth ministry trends/updates, I get a link to a review of Katy Perry’s most recent album, “Prism”.  The review was not very kind, pointing out how over-sexed and under-faithful this album was.  prismHighlighting the carnal aspects, and the vague notions of Eastern spirituality she flaunts…there didn’t seem to be much redeemable content on the album.

I found myself wanting to pray that the artist I heard on NPR might someday come full circle, seeing the emptiness of a pleasure-seeking lifestyle, and create great art that had depth and wisdom.  As I check out the lyrics myself, I do have a bit more hope than the above review.  The song “ROAR” expresses frustrations with experiences of being “bound/held back/controlled” by someone else.  The song “Unconditionally” reveals a tender heart that wants to love and be loved in ways God has expressed His love for us.  Unfortunately through most of her songs, she tries to dull the pain through sex and party-life….but it’s obviously not fixing things.  The realities of a divorce come through loud in “Love Me“, and “By the Grace of God“.  She’s been hurt and broken by life, and is processing her pain loud, publicly, and through music.  In time, hopefully she’ll stop using pleasure as a band-aid and shed the songs that make her album hazardous.  Just Googling her name leads to plenty more interviews/appearances in pop culture that prove she’s not someone our young women can look up to just yet.

Now imagine that same “pop-star” problem, multiplied by the amount of people we have today creating content for the internet.

This problem used to be reserved for the influences of pop-culture.  A young star comes out, and creates music/content that praises sexuality and indulging “self” in pleasure.  We try to filter it, waiting to see if that artist ever “grows up”.

But today, the content creators are not just pop-stars.  They’re everyone.  Sharing on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Facebook, Tumblr, Blogs, and more as new programs come out regularly.  Content is being created and shared at a rate no one can keep up with.  There is no filter big enough to keep out all the garbage flooding our feeds, except perhaps a power outage.  In the midst of it all, our youngest “content creators” are attaching huge personal value to the general public’s response to what they’re creating and sharing.  Expressing what they feel to be their deepest identities, frustrations, and being impacted to the point of suicide….it’s almost like every young person now faces the same issues that used to be reserved for child-stars in Hollywood.

We can pray, someday, that many of them come “full circle” to create content that is God-honoring, and contains wisdom and depth that contributes something beautiful.

Or we can do more.  We can help our children/young people to have their identity solidly grounded in Christ.  We can call our children to think critically about the “content” they’re creating/sharing, and pull the plug when necessary.  We can model for our young people what it looks like when someone uses their technology for a purpose larger than “self”.  We can have conversations about popular content, and help our young people to ask questions about why something might be “trending”, and if it’s worth it.

Because it’s not just artists like Katy Perry that are influencing and shaping the world of content any longer.  It’s everyone with an internet connection.  We cannot simply educate/guide our children to be good & faithful consumers….we must raise them to be faith-centered content-creators as well…