It’s been a wet cold, Spring week.

A little bit tough to swallow when everyone just wants to escape school, and we have to have indoor recess practically every day. Though, inside, I’ve been very busy, preparing to take a group of high school freshmen on a mission trip, making sure that we cram every piece of art work into the year that we can. I’ll be spending tonight curating a collection of student artwork that is being shown downtown.

This week was an interesting mix of reads and watches.  Here’s what fueled me this week.

In My Netflix QueueMV5BMTI2NzYyMzc5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU1MDAzMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_

You may have noticed it too, but Netflix streaming has become very heavy on recommendations based on what you’ve already seen, and less heavy on genre picks. I don’t know what I watched, but it triggered a flood of new documentaries in my queue. And although it’s already a decade old, The Secret Life of Mammals is pretty delightful, as is David Attenborough. Who doesn’t like cute little furry creatures? (There’s also The Secret Life of Birds.) It’s a show that shows the utterly astonishing variety and adaptability of life on Earth.

In My Blog Reader

Do we really love and desire God, or do we just want his stuff, like an old rich uncle? Sammy Adebiyi asks this always relevant question (because the answer doesn’t usually change): I Don’t Want Jesus…I Want His Stuff

I have to admit, one of the parts of parenting that my wife and I are dreading (if we ever get there), is the absurd level of competitiveness that people feel in their parenting. If there are little league dads throwing chairs at the referee, there are moms who post on social media about all the ways they are “winning” at being moms. Courtney Reissig sheds light on the question of motherhood being a job, while exposing the voracity with which parents attack other parents: Is Motherhood a Job?

Stepheanie Spencer has a great way of asking simple questions with her blog that I always appreciate. Today’s question is just about two little words, but which two little words we use makes all the difference: God is Great…And Yet.

And finally, if we Christians got off our high horses, we might admit that we are all addicted to something. It’s just that some of us are unfortunate enough to have an addiction that is more visible and less socially acceptable than others. Ben Moberg at Deeper Story writes about his addiction in Grace For the Addict.

That’s what fueled me this week. What about you?

What qualifies someone to “preach?” You know, stand up in front of everyone and tell them about Jesus?bible-at-pulpit

I suppose the debate will go on, maybe indefinitely, about who gets to speak in front of the church, whether it’s behind a pulpit, on a stool, or with an iPad.

A lot of people think that one of the primary qualifications of a preacher is gender. There are a lot of people, male and female, who are uncomfortable with the idea of women preaching at church. Opinions range from the mild preference for listening to men, to the “biblical” mandate of men in the pulpit.

I don’t know if that’s a reality that we will see changed in our lifetimes. (And plenty of people would argue that it should not change.)

But here is what I do know.

No one needs permission from anyone else to preach. Not men. Not women. No one.

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Some people are really gifted at math.

We need people like that, because I’m not one of them.

Some people are gifted when it comes to sports while others are gifted at art, music, drama. A few of us are gifted at knowing lots of people. Maybe some of us are gifted at being parents. If we are lucky, we get to do a job which we are gifted at.

But there is one job, a job we all have, which I am afraid very few of us are actually gifted at.

The job is living.

Every once in a great while, I meet someone who, for lack of any other adequate description, is gifted at living. Sometimes they write books. Sometimes they live next door. It’s not that they are daredevils or do anything extreme in order to “live life to the fullest.” They still have to go to the grocery store and take out the garbage too.  But there is something practically intangible about them, something that saturates their lives that is more than survival.

I don’t know how to be gifted at something. But I do know that I have spent plenty of days wastefully. I have wished for many days to just be over. And I suspect being gifted at living starts with not doing that. Sometimes, living well means getting in trouble…the right kind of trouble. Sometimes living well means not taking it so seriously. I think living well always starts with the decision to stop being jealous of those people who have the lives we envy. Envy is a great way to waste a lifetime while doing nothing.

life

Today, I will do many things that I did last week. So what am I going to do today to make my life worth living?

It’s been a great week, as I hope it has been for you.

The clock is ticking down on this school year. I’ve got good things I’m working on (behind closed doors for now). And there is a lot to be optimistic about. My week was full of good inspirational gems, but here are the highlights, the things that most fueled me this week.

In My Netflix Queue

Netflix surprises me every once in a while. Over the last couple of weeks, there appears to be a sudden surge of documentaries that strike mortifiedmy tastes. But by far the most unexpected and entertaining has been Mortified Nationa stage show where ordinary adults read excerpts from the diaries they wrote as teenagers. It is a hilarious look at the absurd melodrama of the teenage mind. Warning: adult language and (sort of) adult situations are discussed in horrifying detail.

In My Blog Reader

Authors and artists have long bemoaned the dehumanizing effects of modern life, whether “modern” means today, or a century ago. Paul Angone nails this one with why in our modern world, crammed with more people than ever before, we are experiencing a shortage of real life humans.

When we talk about sex and pornography, how do we keep getting it so darn wrong? Anne Jackson has had the opportunities to speak all over the place about these issues, and offers some clarification on why these things are not our enemy.

There are a lot of topics that divide Christians. But that’s not because of our piety or how clear we are on scripture. Emily Wierenga shows why we are left so divided, when we are supposed to be of one Body.

Finally, I just found this incredibly interesting. Caleb Wilde, our friendly neighborhood funeral director, posted this infographic on causes of death, which modes of travel and which occupations kill the most people. Plus, there is a neat little comparison to the leading causes of death from a century ago. If only dying today were as simple as having “senility.” Those were the good old days.

When I was in seminary, I was surrounded by guys who thought that they were embarking on the “hightest calling.”

That is, they were training to be pastors. And all of the seminary culture reinforced this belief – that being a pastor, i.e. leading a church was the absolute most important thing we could do. Of all the “good” choices of occupation, this was the best.

Now that I’m a teacher, I find myself commonly among people who consider their profession the “highest calling.”

“Strange,” I thought. Didn’t these people get the memo that pastors had the highest calling? But there they are, in all of their audacity, believing that educating the next generation is the most important thing.

And then there are some parents, perhaps who I find myself in the company of, or whose blogs and Facebook posts I read. And wouldn’t you know it, a good deal of parents think that parenting is the highest calling. How could there be anything more important than raising the next generation? And like teachers and pastors, there are plenty of other parents who reinforce that belief.

The thing that I’ve learned is that the language of “highest calling,” contrary to building everyone up, is actually, positively poisonous to everyone, no matter what vocation or life stage we find ourselves in.

This is why.

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Three little words.

Three little words, spoken by Jesus at the very end of his life. I’ve been thinking about them all Easter weekend.

I imagine hardly anyone who was there that day even heard Jesus even speak these three little words. They may have been spoken just above a whisper. And only John records these words.

And even those people who did hear Jesus say it did not understand what he meant.

And ever since then, we have heard these three little words, but I’m not sure we have really believed them.

Because we know ourselves. How could those three little words be true…for us? 

So we keep working at it, trying to do things that humans have never been able to do. We try to make our redemption out of “the cross…and.” 

The cross…and baptism.

The cross…and Calvinism.

The cross…and church.

The cross…and me.

Yes, we make idols out of everything that is really good. We make idols out of everything when we place it next to the cross and say “This is why I’m saved,” or “This is what makes me a Christian.”

What if we really, really believed those three little words that Jesus spoke, three of his last words on the cross? We’d stop trying to do “the cross…and.” And we would start doing the things we were meant to do.

finished

By the way, this isn’t just a stock photo of a cross. My wife’s relative’s built it, overlooking a tiny town in Kansas and it’s pretty sweet. When it glows at night, it looks like a cross-shaped star in the sky.