Monday, September 28, 2009

We aren't who we were...

This weekend at The Vineyard we talked about the reality that your story is unfinished. You don't have to settle for who you are now if you don't want to. 80-90 people publicly decided for the first time to trust Jesus to change their story. It was a good weekend.

I read a few responses in my message this weekend from a question I asked on twitter/facebook this past Friday. I've compiled the entire list to share with you here. It's amazing to see what we once were compared to what we are now. Feel free to add to the list in the comment section below:

Steve – I was once broken but now I am whole.

Stephanie – I was once bound, but now I am free.

Harmony – I was once forgotten, but now I am cherished.

Cindy – I was once in darknes, but now I am in the light.

Trevor – I was once bound by the delusion of worldly grandeur, but now I am working for crowns that do not decay.

Barbara – I was once hell bound, but now I am heaven bound.

Sarah – I was once self-centered, but now I am a servant leader.

Adam – I was once lost, having no hope, but now I am a pastor, living my life to serve and obey his will for me.

Chris – I was once lost, but now I am lost with a light to follow.

Cris – I was once sick, but now I’m healed.

Mary – I was once lost, but now I’m found.

Allison – I was once a mess, but now I am less of a mess.

Martin – I was once on autopilot, but now I am on manuel guide.

Karla – I was once religious, but now I am in a relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Vellanee – I was once hopeless about my future, but now I know the promises God made for my prosperity shall be kept.

Christine – I once found my identity through what others thought of me, but now my identity comes from what God thinks of me.

Laura – I was once wondering if God was listening, but now I am seeing his hand at work all along.

Rich - I once was skinny, insecure, introvert, lustful, given to much beer, angry, resentful, envious, teary, sorry for myself, short sighted (metaphorically), materialistic, possessive, easily offended, and vain, but now I am buff, confident, extrovert, sexually mature, two beer an evening for the health of it, peaceful, respectful, contented, full of laughter, compassionate, eternally focused, relational, generous, teflon, and...still vain (wardrobe and aussie assome volume styling mousse).

Tracey – I was once hopeless, but now I am excited to see what God has next for me.

Carla – I was once indifferent to God and his word, but now I am learning the truth.

MaryKay – I was once “religious” but now I am cultivating a relationship with God.

Leslye – I was once empty and full of hurt on the inside, nothing filled the hole in my heart, God’s spirit and love has filled that once empty hurting heart with peace and contentment and care for others.

Kris – I was one a mound of dirt and now I am a flower.

Laurel – I was once unaware but now I am conscious.

Dan – I was once alone in my inner world, but now I have opened that world to trusted friends.

Tina – I once drifted, but now I am directed.

Amy – I was once dead, but now I am alive.

Cindy – I was once enslaved, but now I am empowered.

Janett - :/ but now :D

Heather – I was once miserable and unhappy with lots of things in my life, but now I am at peace and thankful for everything I have been given.

Kristina – I was once prone to sadness, but now I am prone to joy.

Sawajayne (twitter)– I was once navigating by an old worn out map, but now I’m rolling with GPS.

Vegas710 (twitter) – I was once suspicious, but now I am trusting.

Karlalovesjody (twitter) – I once believed in making my own way, but now I know God will guide me – I only have to listen.

Pomorev (twitter) – I once was aspirationless, but now I am full of purpose.

Kande – I once was restless, but now I’m at peace.

Cindy – I once was hopeless, but now I have hope and someone in my corner.

Annie – I was once defined by my past, but now I am defined by my King.

Stew – I was once cynical, but now I am hopeful.

Jeff – I was once lost, but now I’m found.

Daniel – I was once religious, but now I am His.

Dave – I was once a screwed up mess, but now I am a screwed up mess with hope.

Barbara – I was once disoriented, listening to mu doubts and fears, but now I am focused, listening to God’s directions.

Laurel – I was once doing, but now I am being.

Kathi – I was once so far gone I didn’t believe I needed to exist, but now I am serving a faithful and mighty God.

Angie – I was once driven by fear, anger and control, but now I am set free.

Rita – I was once darkness, but now I am light.

Andrea – I was once all about hearing myself talk, but now I am a reflective listener.

Anna – I was once looking for love from men but now I am fully complete in God’s love and married to a man who loves God as much as I do.

Jon – I was once a talk-the-talker, but now I am a walk-the-walker.

Erina – I was once lost, but now I am faithful in heart.

Peggy - I was once in total denial; thinking that all the bad things that happened was because I was just not good enough - not worthy enough, but now I'm living in the light of God's presence. Knowing that whatever this world sends my way that the awesome Creator of the universe can and will use it for good.

Lisa – I was once alone and in need of no one but now I am never alone and forever in need of a Savior.

Dave – I was once blind but now I see.

Pamela – I was once beat up physically, mentally, spiritually but now I am restored, healed and full of joy.

Emily - I once was trying to live my life by my I try to let my life be according to his plans. I once was in the darkest of despair but now I am with his help becoming more & more ok with the crazy way he takes hurt to make me a better person.

Tiffany – I was lost but now I am saved.

Robb – I was once broken, but now I am healed.

Jim – I was once trying to be in control of my life, but now I am letting God take control a little more each day…it’s a work in progress.

Cheryl – I was once full of myself, but now I’m full of the Spirt.

Steve - I was once an idiot who thought that women were a means to an end, or a peripheral distraction to some ethereal or lofty pursuit. But now I am married to a lady (in every sense of the term), and I'm growing in Grace...the Grace of God...and of my wife...and I'm grateful for both, knowing that He's the Author (and Finisher) of such...

Angie – I was once angry and bitter, but now I am happy and blessed.

Mo – I was once scratching to stop from slipping into a bottomless pit but now I am dancing in the field of freedom.

Lauren – I was once lost, but now I am home.

Laura – I was once filled with fear and control, but now I am at peace and free.

Monique – I was once an adulteress, but now God has given me a second chance at a second marriage where I am faithful.

Dawn – I was once hiding and filled with hurt. Now I’m happy and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Monique – I was once in the dark held captive in bondage, but now I’m free – the chains are gone.

Michelle – I was once afraid to die, but now I am afraid not to.

Lee – I was once trashed but now I am treasured.

Timothy - I once was the isolated kid sitting in the corner to myself, watching and wishing that the others would like me. Trying hard to fit in to the same story that everyone else was in, but now I thanks to God I challenge people to be different, because one man died on the cross to show me it is okay to be different.

Ryan – I was once a douche, but now I am the obvious created image of God.

Christine – I was once full of discontent, but now I am satisfied

Mark – I was once a pothead, but now I am drug free.

Kimberly – I was once insecure, but now I am known.

Dan – I was once arrogant and prideful, but now I am super humble. Oops.

Sharon – I was once motivated by fear, but now I am motivated by love.

Matthew – I was once a child of divorce, but now I am a dad who gets to model commitment to my girls.

Jeff – I was once unloved, but now I am loved.

Leslie – I was once merely existing, but now I am truly living.

Maggie – I was once made fun of for my dyslexia, but now I am perfect in God’s eyes.

Mike – I was once perfect (or so I thought) but now I am aware of my brokenness and hopeful that God will use that.

Roger – I was once untrustworthy, but now I am hopelessly in love with one woman.

Tahnee – I was once full of rage, but now I am forgiving.

Debbie – I once wanted to die, but now I surrendered to God and he saved me.

Kathy – I was once afraid of God, but now I know he loves me.

Tom – I was once scared of the future, but now I know he loves me.

Andrew – I was once bored, but now I have something that excites me and fascinates me.

Cris – I was once a nagging bitch, but now I am a loving wife.

Vanessa – I was once a whore, but now I am a pure spotless bride.

Jonathan – I was once a fake – a real hypocrite, but now I know God has loved me in spite of me.

Jerry – I was once a pretty good guy, never really feeling a need for anyone to save me. But now I am aware of how holy God is and how unworthy I am to be in his Presence. I’m thankful that I’m riding on Jesus’ coattails to heaven.

Sybil -I was once hopeless, plagued with depression, social phobia and anxiety, surrounded by broken and dysfunctional relationships, dying; wanting to die daily, seeking help and insight from every corner of the world, looking for validation; only to find emptiness, discomfort and judgment because my mind, my body and my spirit were unhealthy and kept me in a cesspool of despair without much vision for anything else. BUT NOW I AM now a child of God and in love with life, free from death, at peace and full of hope; with so many dreams and goals that my days aren't long enough! I'm able to see bits of Heaven on Earth and God's love in others who come when I need them most. I wouldn't want to mislead anyone- renewal wasn't a quick overnight success for me. However, it has been the most amazing journey!

Anonymous – I was once suicidal, but now I am excited to have eternal life.

1 Peter 2:9-10 (The Message Version)

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Prom is next friday!

Last year it was amazing. This year it will be too. You don't want to miss it. More info here: Vineyard Prom

Or this video pretty much says it all:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gen. 28: A re-imagining.

For a moment he thought he was in his bed. Then he remembered. The morning sun, already scorching his eye lids, reminded him where he was. When he opened them, all he could see was blue.

The sky in the desert can tease a man. It seems so beautiful and harmless. But Jake had friends who never returned from a journey like this one. He knew the dangers that waited for a lonely traveler this far from home. But for him, the dangers in the wilderness were tame compared to what...or more accurately...who he was running from.

He rose to his feet and scratched his neck. He wasn't used to not shaving in the morning. He hated the stubble. It reminded him of his brother.

He slung his leather satchel over his shoulder. In doing so he noticed the stone on the ground. He stared it down as if it were a coiled viper.

Wait a second? No, it couldn't be. was...

His hands trembled. He slowly lowered his satchel to the desert floor, eyes still glued to the simple stone that had doubled as his pillow throughout the night.

Jake wasn't the type to believe in the supernatural. His mother had taught him that what is real is real. No need for soothsaying or fairy tales or magic tricks. His father was into all that. So was his grandfather. But he was the grounded one. He was his mother's son - the rational one. He was fleeing the ancient myths of his father. But now the myths were stalking him in his sleep.

He gulped as he eyed that stone.

"OK," he said to the empty morning sky. "If that was real. If last night really happened, then...prove it. Give me food for my journey...and clothes to wear. Give me success and money and a family. Give me everything I deserve...then I'll come back here and find this stone. And then...and only then...I'll believe in you. Hell, I'll even come back here one day and build you house if that will make you happy." Disgusted, he looked toward the sunrise. "Then you won't have to live out in the desert and torment people when they come through..."

Throwing his bag over his shoulder, he turned eastward toward his uncle's estate. If it were possible, it was even hotter than the day before. He shot one last glance over his shoulder at the stationary rock. Then he mumbled as he walked away, "stupid dreams..."

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Performers Beware

At some level we are all performers. We play for the audience in front of us - our boss or family or friends. We all tend to think about other people's perception a little more than we should. Life is a tricky balance of performing (doing) and not performing (being).

Some of us, whether through DNA or early childhood development, are hardwired to be performers. We gravitate to the stage or screen. We instinctively know that getting a "B" isn't really an option when an "A" is on the table. We obsess on finding those things that we do well...and when we find them, we do them over and over, striving to do them better each time. Without performers the world would be a rather boring place. In America we tend to elevate the stories of high performers, especially those who seem to come out of nowhere. We love telling that story. Perhaps too much.

It creates a tension in the heart and soul of a performer personality. No doubt I am one. Most everything I do has a performance element to it. I teach lots of people on the weekends at my church. Some of those people tend to comment on my "performance" one way or another after my teaching. In a split second, any teacher can lose sight that his job is first and foremost to introduce ideas to his students that have the power to adjust the trajectory of their lives. The teacher's job is not necessarily to perform for their students. It's easy to forget that. In my spare time I write books, make movies, act and do improv. Those are all high performance activities. They all actually require an audience to "work." To me, this is proof that I am one of those hardwired performers. When a person rests from a performance centered vocation by performing in other ways that's kind of dead giveaway.

It's easy to judge a performer personality as self-absorbed. I suppose most of us are at some level. But, who isn't really? The reality is, most of my high performing friends actually drift more toward self-hatred than self-love. We seem to be trying to out perform or innate ugliness and perceived worthlessness. It's generally not very pretty when you get too close to a hardcore performer. Most of us perform from our deepest pain. Some of the greatest actors, comedians and improvisers I have worked with are incredibly self-conscious and needy. Most are completely unaware of their own greatness at their craft. Some even pretend to be great as a way to cope, but in a vulnerable moment they will admit a desperate loneliness.

All of this is coming from my return to VCC this weekend. I desperately wanted to return "to the stage" and perform well. Honestly, not for me or my ego, but for my church. I wanted to do my part - to use my gift - to help people experience the only one who looks past our performances to see our true being. For those of you who don't know, when I teach I do it four times over a weekend: one on Saturday and three on Sunday. I wasn't particularly pleased with my message Saturday night. Sometimes it just doesn't feel right. I put several more hours into it and showed up Sunday morning with what I felt was a better version. As I was walking into the building Sunday morning, a friend of mine told me that what I had said Saturday night "changed his life" and "was by far my best teaching ever." I wanted to argue with him, but he seemed genuine. (To my credit, a few others whom I trust admitted it needed a little work, so I don't think it was just me being too hard on myself.) All to say, maybe in God's economy it is a lot more about showing up and doing your best in the moment. He has a way of working through an "average performance." Odds are He sometimes prefers it.

But I wanted to redeem myself with my three more chances to perform on Sunday. Then at the 9:00 a.m. Celebration my microphone didn't work for the first five minutes of my talk. With our new time structure, a five minute delay meant cutting 20% of my message on the fly. So again, at 9:00 I was scrambling to deliver the reworked message with even less time. At the 10:15 Celebration I nearly fainted during my introduction for some unknown reason and had to sit down on a stool to regain my balance. I think I played it rather cool, but it got into my head for a few minutes. At the last Celebration (11:45) I was ready to finally "do it right" Unfortunately, there was an up and coming performer in the crowd - a toddler determined to prove that you don't need a microphone after all to get the attention of a few thousand people. I never know what to do in those circumstances. I tried to speak over him, then I tried to wait him out, but he had a good fifteen minutes of intense vocality in him. That kid is gonna be a star. I think he won the battle Sunday morning. I should have asked the family to step out...but trust me, theologically speaking, that totally sucks to do.

I left the whole weekend experience feeling a lot like my beagle after he pees on the carpet. Rather embarrassed in a confused kind of way. I think I did my best...but a true performer will never admit to that. We are the first to see what we could have done better: a few more hours of prep, testing a microphone before turning it on, using the kid-screaming-teaching-moment to say how great our children's classes are, etc. Maybe even a little more protein in my breakfast would have fought off an unexpected bout with vertigo. I could have done better. We can always say that. That's the worst part of being a performer. We think our performance matters a lot when sometimes it only matters a little.

Then the e-mails started flooding in this week. Countless people saying that this was their first weekend at church in years. All of them saying they will be back. Most of them saying they cried their way through the Celebration because they felt so close to God. I wanted to tell them that I wanted to cry too...but it was for different reasons.

And so, the mantra that my mentor Dave taught me rings loudly in my ears today: "Get over yourself." Maybe that truth is even more central for us performers. God made us this way. He gets it. He's a good dad. He loves me just as much when I am sitting on my couch doing nothing as he does when I'm receiving the accolades of some crowd somewhere. I love my kids just as much, maybe more, when we are having dinner or driving in a car than when they hit a home run or bring home a nice piece of artwork from school. I love them, not what they do. I love them because they are mine. You'd think I'd understand by now that God (and in theory God's people) love me that same way.

It is a tricky balance for us all. What you do is not who you are. But what you do also matters. So do it well...but performing never trumps belonging. Ever. So, get over yourself performers and let yourself be loved this week. It's the only antidote for your unspoken pain.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Amazing (unfinished) Stories!

When I was a kid, I was into comic books. To be completely honest, I was more into the idea of striking it rich by getting in on the ground floor of some comic that would be worth millions one day. I had an Alex P. Keaton stage circa 5th grade when I was fascinated by capitalism. It still rears its ugly head now and again.

But beyond any 10-year-old investment strategies, I grew to like the stories in the comics themselves. I was a product of my generation. I loved G.I. Joe and Transformers. (No comment here about the current movies...must press forward...) Reading comics made one slightly superior to the kids who only watched the TV shows. "The comics are real," we would tell our TV-watching friends. If Destro dies in the comics, he's dead no matter how many times he parachutes out of his helicopter in the cartoons. The comics had ongoing story lines that seemed to stretch forward from week to week. I can clearly remember buying GI Joe #27 as a two-parter dealing with the previously untold origin and relationship between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. Stop me if I get too geeky. Too late...

The point is that I had to wait one month to see how the story would end. But eventually, the story finished. All stories do. Even yours. Your story is a comic book with only so many pages. Maybe 20 or 30 or 100. But someday my and your story will end. At least the part of our story on this side of death will end. Your story isn't finished yet.

This weekend at VCC we launch into a new series called Amazing (unfinished) Stories. We are gonna tap into our inner comic book geek for four weeks while also exploring what I believe is the deepest desire buried in the human soul - the desire to live a life that live within a story will ends well.

Jesus knows a thing or two about ending a story with a bang. He more or less invented the surprise ending. So join us this weekend...and bring a friend. It's never too late to change your story.