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I was practically a professional choir tour bus rider for most of the nineties.  Oh yes.  I know of which I speak.

I did the math.  I figure between 1987 and 1997, if you count all of the musical tours of varying lengths cross country I have endured in a bus of one kind or another, I came up with between 25 and 30 tours of duty.  Granted, it’s been a couple of decades… but some things are timeless.

Tomorrow at noon, as the Association Free Lutheran Bible School Choir steps aboard their mobile home away from home for the next two weeks, I thought that my vast experience may edify the uninitiated.  I bequeath unto you the following tasty bits of road-savvy wisdom…

TOP TEN THINGS YOU GOTTA KNOW about BIBLE SCHOOL CHOIR BUS TOURS

(10)  The FIRST (and I mean FIRST) thing that must be done is to storm the coach bus with plywood, duct tape, warning signs, and some sort of electrified deterrent, and barricade the bathroom shut.  That’s right.  Because what smells like Lysol and citrus fruit and Purell on day one will, by day three smell like… NOT Lysol and citrus fruit and Purell.  I think bus drivers have to stop every six hours or so by law anyway (ask Leon), so man up, Sally!  You can hold it for another four hours in the back of a bouncy bus.  Yes you can.  I believe in you.

(9)  BEWARE the RACHOS HUEVOS.  I’m just saying.  It seems out of my 25+ tours of duty, at least half of them rolled through Tejas or the Southwest somehow.  I never kept track of where we were…  I just got on the bus along with my fellow singing sheeple, and we seemed to get by OK.  But EVERY church in the south that served breakfast (and most of our host families) would greet us with a “G’mornin’ y’all!”and some variation on the following theme… “Since y’all are from Minnesohdah, we reckon you’d like to try one of our southern specialties from around these parts… RANCHOS HU-WAY-VOS! C’mon up now while the vittles is hot.”  OK… they probably didn’t say “vittles.”  But we DID get A LOT of Ranchos Huevos.  Let me just say that it is a cruel joke to serve 60 Norwegian teens a combination of scrambled eggs and spicy salsa and then make them ride together on one bus.

(8)  CARRY CONTRABAND SNACKS to your home stays.  You never know what’s coming.  At one church where my wife stayed with an elderly lady, the pastor actually slipped her $20 to sneak off and get pizza.  Sure enough, they were served warm milk, Saltines, and room temperature green beans in some sort of gelatinous substance… still in the shape of the can.  Protein bars, maybe an apple, some tortillas and a jar of peanut butter go a long way when facing gelatinous green beans.  Trust me on this.

(7)  If you have never before seen “The Sound of Music,” do NOT admit this on a bus full of musicians for any reason.  I’m not saying I was that guy, but if I HAD been that guy, I would have had to endure “The Sound of Music” DVD being played over the bus video system while 23 chicks watched me watch it.  AWKWARD.  I mean, if I had been that guy…

(6)  Twizzlers are the best bus snack food of all time.  I don’t even want to talk to you Red Vines people.  Have the elders at your home church anoint you with oil and pray for deliverance.  That’s all I’m saying.

(5)  Leon Ritter is the best Choir Bus Driver of all time.  His heritage with AFLBS goes back more than 30 years now.  When he is not driving the bus, a small cadre of attendants must follow him around with tasty beverages, fresh fruit snackery, and a willingness to burst into song or fresh dance moves for his entertainment.  Ooohh… better yet:  Can you guys rig up one of those cool chairs on poles so he can be carried around by the Bass section?  He’s just that awesome.

(4)  Romance.  Listen, I went on choir tour… and then I married Amy.  It went pretty much like that.  While I know the students of today are FAR more mature and mission-minded these days, don’t think I don’t know you don’t think I know you are already thinking about those long bus rides… just hours and hours of meaningful conversation over the steady hum of the diesel engine.  Oh yes.  Sharing headphones = good.  But ONE blanket PER PERSON.  Capiche?

(3)  By day 9, your resolve may lessen regarding use of the on-board bathroom.  Surely someone will be deep in giggly conversation after a gas station or lunch stop, board the bus with a small gaggle of like-wise giggling friends, only to realize with horror that they forgot to use the bathroom as the bus begins to pull away and onto the open road.  This is when your mettle will be tested.  For the sake of the greater good, do not do this thing you are considering.  Compassion is for the weak.  I’m sure that’s in 2 Thessalupians Chapter 4 somewhere.  You must find a team of heartless strong men (or altos) from within the group to block the bathroom door – willing to lock arms and take all comers.  If you are tempted to feel empathy for the weak of bladder, please refer to point #10 above.  You’ll thank me later.  And as an added bonus, it will be a real growth opportunity for the distressed and uncomfortable among you.  As I would have learned in the U.S. Marine Corp., had I ever been a Marine, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.”  It’s win-win.

(2)  Dudes… can I call you dudes?  Because this one is for you, Broseph.  While the lady folk may very well come on the bus in the morning smelling of cantaloupes or mountain breezes… whatever their perfectly acceptable lotion of choice from Bath and Body smells like… it will fade into the ether soon enough, leaving little more than a pleasant reminder of their friendship and general happy disposition lingering behind.  You, on the other hand, do no one any favors by liberally applying Drakkar Noir at 8:23 in the morning.  Do you know what the best smelling guy on the bus smells like in the morning?  Neither do I.  That’s how we want it.

(1)  When you sing – hearts will break, and people will be healed, and the Church will be reminded of how beautiful and awesome God is.  Heaven will visit people – and it will surprise them.  Never in your life will you get to experience the compound joy of making music this glorious and believing it so deeply in sync with the people alongside you.  THIS YOU HAVE TO KNOW.  These are some of the most wonderful days of your life.

God bless you guys.  I believe he is going to use you to grow His church and encourage the saints all the way from here to the Atlantic and back.  Give Leon a high-five from me.  We’ll see you when you get back home.

-Joshua Skogerboe (AFLBS Choir Alumn, 1990-92)

 

[ Article originally posted April 6, 2011 ]


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“bible school choir bus tour across america :: top ten list” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I always want to be a better dad.  When I finally achieve “best dad of all time” staus, I’ll still want to be a better dad.  Today’s post is meant to inspire us dads to be intentional in our dadliness.

My friend Carlos Whittaker (known in the Twittersphere as @loswhit, father of viral video star ‘lil los, and the uber-creative behind ragamuffinsoul.com) continues to be inspiring on so many levels.  But I gotta give him props for this one as a top five on the all-time greatest dad moves of the 21st Century.

I don’t have girls… I’ve got my own hockey team of boys, but no mascara, barrettes, no pink, no lip gloss.  However… if I were a dad of girls, I’d be all over this stuff.  Carlos’ daughter just turned 8.  As a Taylor Swift fan, she wanteded to host a Taylor Swift party.

But in the words of Carlos, “if you know the Whittakers, you know that did not mean Taylor Swift cups and plates from Walmart.”  No sir. They invited a pile of her friends over and produced a video, complete with make-up and hairstyling, lighting effects, plenty of dancing about and general frolicking in wee cowgirl boots.  Dads, whether your home is full of Barbies and ballet slippers or cluttered with baseball gear like our home is, we can all learn something from Carlos here…

Don’t wait for the moments.  Make the moments.  Amen.

If you want to drop Carlos a note about this, find his original post here and check out ragamuffinsoul.com often.  He will inspire your faith, fuel your creative energy, and encourage you.

May we dads be intentional in our parenting.  A little planning goes a LONG way, guys.  God bless you and of all our kiddos.

“We’re not going down! Hold the line!”

Tears are running down my face now.  My sides hurt. Make it stop!

“Brace yourself! It’s coooommmminnggg!”

I’m sucking air. I haven’t laughed like this forever.  It feels good.  It’s therapy.

“I couldn’t help it man. I went down. The dude in front of me weighed, like, 250.  I didn’t wanna do it.  I’m so ashamed…”

My cousin is in storytelling mode.  He’s recounting the time he and his brother-in-law went to a Benny Hinn event.  Live. For them it was more like a trip to the circus than a trip to church.  Benny was in rare form.  Waving his arms and knocking down the crowd in waves of the, um, Spirit.  They were determined to remain standing as the crowds of devotees around them were “slain in the Spirit” or “blown away by the wind of the Spirit” or “succumbed to the onslaught of hot air coming in waves from the platform” or whathaveyou.  It was all going so well, too, until the six foot four linebacker directly in front of them surrendered to the bologna and went down. On top of them. Alas, try as they might to literally stand their ground on behalf of rational believers the world over, it was to no avail.  They were slain in the Spirit.  Forcibly.

See, that there is funny.

My question du jour is this… When it comes to all things religious, does having a sense of humor diminish our reverence in some way?  In other words, if we laugh at the charlatans and jesters, instead of responding with somber judgement, are we making light of the faith we claim – or worse… are we treating the reputation of Jesus and His church with irreverence?  It’s a serious question.

When charlatans and jesters dabble in the arena of religion, and if said charlatans and jesters are truly funny…is it OK to laugh? Or is it playing with fire?

Today is one of those days when I don’t necessarily have a hard answer.  I’m curious to see what you think about all of this.  I’m trying to find that nebulous middle ground… in the place where freedom and license mingle.  I’m open to correction, or at least to refining, because you guys might have a perspective I haven’t thought of yet.

Two people have prompted this post. First of all, Benny Hinn, the TV “evangelist” from the dark side.  Second, Niko Alm, the Austrian “Pastafarian” who recently won the right to take his driver’s license photo wearing a pasta strainer on his head as a religious head covering.  We’ll get back to Niko and his dual-purpose head gear in short order.  But first…

Benny Hinn. It is appropriate to write this post today immediately after writing about my distaste for snark in the Church, because it allows me an important clarification.  I stand by my conviction that sharp, pointed, sarcastic characterization of other people is almost always ugly and unnecessary.  Nine times out of ten, I think Christians should err on the side of kindness.  And yet, I don’t feel any contradiction in calling out wolves among the sheep… if they really are wolves.  I’m not talking about character assassination – and often that happens between brothers who disagree on some point of doctrine or methodology.  But this is something else, I believe.  There is a time to call out the phonies who use the name of Jesus for personal gain.  There is a time to call a fool a fool.

Benny Hinn is no brother in the Lord.  Benny Hinn is a dangerous charlatan who has HARMED the cause of the Gospel of Jesus, using His name to bilk people of their money, providing staged “healings” and ridiculous false “Holy Spirit power” to literally knock people over… for what reason I don’t know.  So I have no problem calling him out.  I do think he may actually wield some spiritual power… just not God’s power.

With that in mind, please enjoy the following.  This makes me laugh every time…

Good times. Now, a great friend of mind posted this video clip on Facebook earlier this year and the response was… surprising.  Really surprising, to be honest.  He was raked over the coals for “mockery” and an unkind spirit toward Benny Hinn.  The comment thread was LONG and pointed.  My response… “That is funny.  It’s OK to laugh at funny.  Benny Hinn is a baffoon, and he does not speak for Jesus or His Bride.  I have no problem laughing at that.”

I’m curious.  Does that put a bad taste in your mouth? I’m not judging the laughers or the non-laughers among us.  But I’m curious.  Are there some of you who feel the same as those who criticized my friend? Is this kind of humor below the holy standard of the children of the King?

And that brings me to our Austrian atheist friend, Niko. The Pastafarian.

For those of you who are unaware of the growing Pastafarian movement, here’s the 411… Although the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (a.k.a. “Pastafarianism”) claims to have existed underground for hundreds of years, it really came to the forefront with the publication of this letter to the Kansas School Board by one Bobby Henderson in 1995.  In response to their inclusion of Intelligent Design theory into the public schools as an alternative to Darwinian theory, Bobby proposed inclusion of the Pastafarian theory of creation, involving the Noodley Appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and of course, propagation of the inverse relationship between the number of Pirates and global warming.

Brilliant.

Of course, it’s full blown mockery of the one true God.  So when Niko Alm, a devoted follower of FSM (that’s code for “Flying Spaghetti Monster”) was victorious in the Austrian court system and won the right to sport kitchenware on his cranium for his driver’s license photo, I felt a twinge of inner conflict.

But, truth be told, I laughed.  Out loud.  I lol’ed. ‘Cause that right there is funny.

So here I am, a voice to the Church for freedom and joy.  I really believe that in the eyes of the world, it doesn’t do the message of the Gospel any good when His followers refuse to acknowledge the funny amidst the irreverent.  Funny is funny.

Or am I off base here?  Part of me wonders, literally, what would Jesus do?  Forgive the cliche… but I honestly wonder.  Would Jesus laugh at Benny Hinn using the force?  Would He see the humor in the straight face of Niko the strainer-adorned Pastafarian?

There was a time Jesus wept for the lost souls of Jerusalem.  I’ve honestly wondered how, knowing with perfect clarity the eternal fate of those around Him who chose not to believe – not to follow… How could Jesus have walked among them without weeping all the time?

And yet, he didn’t.  He mourned the consequences of sin at the grave of his friend Lazarus.  He got frustrated with the stubborn hearts of the people he taught.  He grieved.  But he also sang hymns and shared jokes with his disciples and he laughed.

God is the author of humor.  He wired us to recognize it – to respond to it.  He created us to laugh. In fact, I’m walking proof of His sense of humor.  My foibles are epic-making, and He’s still trying to use my life.  So I look to Him as a Father I can trust to be good and who will respond to me in love.

And I fear Him as a Father who is not to be taken lightly.  He is a Father to be revered.  To be loved and adored, yes.  But respected and revered as the Holy One.

I walk in balance here.  Joy and freedom, yes.  And reverence.  They are not mutually exclusive. But they do live in tension sometimes.

The truth is, seeing anyone choose to align themselves with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, hoping to be “touched by his Noodley Apendage” is two things at the same time… tragic… and funny.  They are clever in their irreverence.  They do not hurl venomous insults at the Church.  Instead they subvert Christianity (and all organized religion, I suppose) with parody.  But it’s funny. I’m torn.

Benny Hinn – especially Benny Hinn with a light saber – is two things… tragic… and funny.  He is a wolf, not a brother, as far as I can tell.  And the staggering cost of his perverse “ministry” is hard to calculate.  But watching him flail around like a clown and shoot people with lightning bolts… I find it hard not to laugh.

God will be the judge of Benny.  God will be the judge of Niko.  One day every knee will bow and acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Both the sinners and the forgiven sinners.  Benny and Niko and yours truly all need Jesus.  I’ve prayed for the three of us.  Unless my life situation somehow puts me direct contact with either of these two men, I don’t see how my laughing at their antics has one iota of impact on their eternity.

But for the sake of the name of Jesus, should I be laughing at all?

Today, for the sake of transparency, I’ll own it.  I rever the Lord of Heaven, and I am passionate about His reputation.  But I’ve been redeemed for freedom, and He knows my heart.  And doggoneit… I feel free to laugh.

Tell me what you think.


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“pastafarians, benny hinn, charlatans and jesters :: it’s ok to laugh, right?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

So we were having a… discussion. Do you have those?  All married people have them, I suppose.  You know, our marriage would be just about perfect if I wasn’t in it.  🙂  I thought for sure I was right this time. Just one time…

But no.  As it turns out, I wasn’t right this time. In fact, after I had said my piece, Amy quietly reminded me of a few of my idiosyncracies – my own personality quirks – that transcend rational thought.  It was one of these quirks that had started all of this in the first place.

This was one of those times.  She had, through no fault of her own, stumbled unwittingly into my irrational headspace.  And therin lay the impetus for the aforementioned discussion.  I had to concede, when faced with actual facts instead of my own irrational emotional personality quirks, that – doggone it – she had a point.

And no… I’m not going into the details.  Let your imagination run rampant.  I’ll never tell.

Suffice it to say, she was dead on about a few of my personality quirks.  I didn’t see myself as an unusually quirky person… but oh yes.  I let my quirk flag fly more often than I realize. And the glory of it is, people who love me roll with it, and love me anyway.  And that is a gift.

Today, my message is this…  Most likely you have your own set of irrational quirks.  Guaranteed, the people you love have their own, as well.  My advice:  instead of butting heads against those quirks, and as long as they are not causing the rest of the family undue stress, I’m encouraging you to roll with it.  Go ahead and enable those quirks.  Yep, I’m talking full-on quirktastic co-dependancy.

Because real, powerful, life-affirming love means “who you are… I love.” And there’s plenty of time for “who you are becoming… I love, too.”  But an open discussion of personal quirks within a home or among roommates or close friends seems  like good juju to me.  Get ’em out there in the open.  Respect the quirks, baby!

Example: My mom, God bless her, is a top-calliber cook/home-maker/guest-entertainer.  People love to come to her home for meals, conversation, and good coffee.  It was a great home to grow up in.  But the kitchen is MOM’s domain.  You do not mess with the kitchen.  I repeat: you DO NOT MESS with the kitchen.  Every detail matters.  Case in point, when we load the dishwasher, knives go point down, but all other silverware must go eating-end-up, so that as the water rinses off the utinsels it runs DOWN the handle, away from the eating end.  That, right there, is a grade-A quirk, in my book. But here’s the deal… this is Mom’s passion.  The kitchen is HER arena, and she uses it to love and serve people.  And she’s great at it.  And we love her for it.  So, you know how we express our thanks and love back to momma?

We put the knives pointy-side down and the other utensils eaty-side up.

I don’t know that it makes a lick of difference, but my Mom wants it that way, so…  good times.

So, in the spirit of transparency and personal confession (which is good for the soul, I’m told – and makes for more interesting reading), here is a short list of some of my identified quirks.  Again, these may not seem rational to you, but that’s not the point.  The point is, they seem not only rational but downright IMPORTANT to me… at the time. Of course, it is also therapeutic to be self-aware enough that I can identify when my personal quirk is taking over rationality in my inter-personal interactions.  Therefore, here’s a short list from the inner-mind of Joshua Skogerboe:

(1) When beginning to do laundry (which isn’t often – Amy has to shoulder this one most of the time), I must scour the house for every piece of dirty clothes.  Like the random sock that ends up under the boy’s bed.  The baseball shirt that got wet in the rain and then hung up in the closet when mom and dad weren’t looking.  The PJ’s that my seven-year-old took off while in bed and which now are stuffed under his covers instead of in his drawer or the dirty clothes basket.  Before I begin, I want to get EVERYTHING together so it can be properly sorted into piles before the process begins.  I know it’s borderline OCD.  I know.  And we have five rowdy boys who, unless herded with a cattle prod, tend to shed their clothes in a moving explosion of laundry, leaving a trail behind them.  So my quirk sometimes needs to take backseat to reason to keep that laundry train a’ movin’.

(2)  We must eat hot food. This increases exponentially (a) when I cook it, or (b) if I have cooked it upon the grill, or especially (c) if the meal involves eggs or toast.  This is peculiar to me in a frighteningly irrational way when it comes to eggs and toast.  I would prefer the toast to jump hot out of the toaster into my mouth before it cools in any way.  This way I can savor the toasty crunch of the golden brown outer shell and still enjoy the soft core…  Mmmmm, toast.  But let’s say I put bread into the toaster and get sidetracked with another task, allowing the bread to pop up and sit in said toaster for more than 14 seconds.  No good.  Bad juju. The toast must be thrown out.  I know.  Starving kids in China.  Consumerism run amok.  I’m evil and wasteful and bad.  But dude… you GOTTA eat fresh toast.  And that is all.

(3) When the family is going to watch a movie, there must be no extraneous shuffling about or donning of jammies or last minute drinks of juice while the previews run.  No how. The trailers are sacred nuggets of extra enjoyment BEFORE the actual movie gets started, and I’m not about to concede this moment of extra goodness.  Now you kids SIT DOWN and CLOSE YOUR YAPPING MAWS and I mean NOW!  We’re going to have some FUN around here, or ELSE!  Keep on talkin’… that’s it.  I don’t care if you have to pee.  WE ARE HAVING FUN RIGHT NOW or, so help me,  I’m going to send you to your room for the week with nothing but gruel and  cold toast!  …wait. Did I say that out loud?  Sorry.  Quirk alert.

Ahhh.  I feel better. Not so much for my confession of irrationality but for the fact that many of you now, surely, are nodding your heads in silent approval.  Darn right you get every piece of laundry. No doubt eggs and toast must be consumed within seconds of leaving their implement of cookery.  Doggone straight the DVD trailers on family movie night are sacred and must be enjoyed silently or else.  Can I get an AMEN?!

OK, your turn… confession is good for you.  Besides, we want to laugh at you.  Or WITH you, I mean.  What are YOUR quirks?


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“let your quirk flag fly :: of trousers, toast, and trailers” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I lie to my kids.  I do it for fun.  It’s cheap entertainment.

Tonight’s episode was a personal triumph.

Amy and Seth and I helped lead worship for a Living Hope Church retreat last night and all day today.  By the time I got home, I laid down for a 10 minute snooze that turned into a two hour plunge into REM state.  I was exhausted, and I needed the rest.  Amy and I agreed that tonight was one of those rare times when we were HUNGRY for real food and lacked ANY DESIRE whatsoever to cook.

So I loaded up the boys in the van to pick them up some tasty 99 cent chicken nuggets and sandwiches from Wendy’s (don’t judge me), and proceeded to pull out my cell phone to call the a local steakhouse to order a tasty rib-eye for Amy and myself (don’t judge me… you’ve done this, too… you know you have.  Or if you hadn’t thought of it before, you’re now doing a silent fist-pump of thanksgiving, and you will commit a similar act of culinary inequity soon.  You know you will.)

“Who ya calling dad?”

In a moment of brilliance, the idea simultaneously was birthed in my brain and came out my face in a smooth flow, with that perfect blend of assurance and non-chalance that is needed to convince a van load of rowdy boys that the bologna you are selling them is trustworthy.  In a flash, a new hi-tech food delivery enterprise was born.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:  1-800-GET-BEEF.

Me:  “They’ve got this network set up across the country… They’re everywhere.  They guarantee a fresh, grilled-to-order steak, ready for pickup within three miles of your current location anywhere in the Continental United States – cooked and ready to go in 12 minutes.”

Boys:  (pause)  “Really?”

Me:  “Yup.”

Boys:  (longer pause)  “That’s AWESOME!”

Yes it is.  It is SO awesome.  Who doesn’t want a freshly grilled steak available at a moment’s notice?  Unless you’re vegan, this idea is pure grade-A awesome sauce with a side of extra tasty goodness.  Of course it is patently absurd, and logistically impossible, but let’s not let reality tamper with my sweet moment of victory…

Boys:  “Wait… Dad?  How do they know where to send it?”

Me:  “Uh… GPS.  They track your cell phone call and send your steak to the nearest drop point.  It’s pretty cool, really.”

Boys:  (pause)  “AWESOME!”

Dude.  They are buying this.  I’m a horrible father.  And yet…  I’m enjoying myself immensely.  No need to wrestle with those lingering pangs of conscience.  That would just bring me down, man.  Let me savor this sweet sweet tangled web of lies.

As I pulled into the  into the busy parking lot of a local supper club, the boys pause their ruckus in the back of the van to ask, “What are we doing here?”

Me:  “Oh… this is the local drop point for this area for 1-800-GET-BEEF.  They’re all over the place.  It should be ready by now.”

In amazement they watched me return to the van with a freshly grilled steak, Medium, baked potato, and side salad.  As the smell of the hot, savory rib-eye filled the van on the ride home, I got to enjoy my two eldest sons discussing ways to beat the system.  After all, if 1-800-GET-BEEF “guarantees” local delivery within 12 minutes, there must be some way to finagle some free steak…

“We should, like, go hiking in the mountains, and once we’re WAY up the trail, call 1-800-GET-BEEF.  Yeah.  There’s NO WAY they’ll make it to us in 12 minutes…

While I can’t argue that logic, I fail to see how this plan would actually work in the real world.  Are you going to hike cross country to pick up your steak at the nearest drop zone?  Three miles is a long trek through the brush on a mountainside, after all.  And wouldn’t it cost you more than the price of the steak itself to equip yourself at the local REI in backpacking gear?  They clearly haven’t thought this plan through.

As Amy and I sat at our table tonight, savoring a delicious meal which we did not cook, I smiled to myself with each bite.  Sure, I lie to my kids.  It’s just rare that they all fall for it in one fell swoop.  Or in this case, medium…

I’m not sure just when they’ll figure out that I’m full of beans.  In the long run, this probably won’t help my case in arguing for the reality of the Tooth Fairy,  but I refuse to back down.

In any case, tonight’s deception worked so well, I may just run with the theme.  This is America, after all.  Home of capitalism, the unfettered entrepreneurial spirit, and consumer-driven ingenuity. 

Surely there is a market for 1-800-MY-BACON?

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“i lie to children :: pride cometh before the beef” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’ve failed as a father.

Perhaps there’s hope.  He’s only seven.  So I figure I have 11 more years with him under my roof, where his very food and shelter may be leveraged in the shaping of his character.

Levi Kyle is our precocious, out-spoken, Type-A+, heart-on-his-sleeve, leader-in-training, seven-year-old tornado-on-wheels of a boy.  He says what he thinks.  All the time.  I love that kid so much.

Where little girls (from what I’m told) only ripen into ever-increasing layers of complexity and emotional nuance, we are the parents of BOYS.  There’s not so much nuanced about their snips and snails and puppy dog tails.  And Levi has been endowed with an extra measure of boy-ness from His creator.  What Levi thinks comes out his face in a rush.  We’re working on it.

One of the blessings of people with a Levi-like personality is the immediacy with which you know exactly what they are thinking.  Whether solicited or not, you will get their opinion on the matter.  Whatever is the matter in the moment.  So listening to Levi as he grows up is an open window to his character development.  It’s fascinating.  Equal parts thrilling, comedic, and on occasion… a little unnerving.

“Dad, I want a credit card.”

“No.”

“Why not?!”

“You’re seven.”

“SO?!”

“You have to be older.  They won’t give you a credit card.  It’s a big responsibility.”

“What’s the big deal?  You just give people your credit card, and they give you whatever you want. Easy.”

“Right. But then you have to pay for that stuff.”

“WHAT?!  It’s NOT FAIR.”

Not fair.  Nice.  I’m a failure.

I’ve written before about Levi before and one of the most important values we are trying to instill in our kids… GRATEFULNESS.  I firmly believe that beyond a dynamic relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the most powerful indicator of happiness through this one go-round we have on the planet is the degree to which we embrace and practice the value of gratefulness.  Or thanksgiving.  Or gratitude.  Call it what you will, but that right there is at the top of my list as Dad.  I want to raise sons who are deeply grateful – for their life and breath, for their freedom, for the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance in heaven which we don’t deserve, for their future spouses, and for every cookie and every cup of coffee and every soul with which we have the privilege of interacting.  To embrace life to the full (John 10:10) and to be joyful always, full of thanksgiving.  For EVERY good thing.  THAT is what it means to live truly deeply profoundly happy.  And I want that for my boys.

“Dad?”

“Yes Levi?”

“When you get your driver’s license , do they give you a free car?”

“No.  You have to buy it.”

“WHAT?!  Sheesh.”

I’m failing here.  See, the opposite of gratefulness isn’t indifference.  You might think that.  How many people do you know who walk around and breathe the air and take in the sunsets and drink their coffee and haul their kids to soccer practice without a shred of “thank you God for this moment”?  Honestly, how many times has that been ME?  How many times just today?

But that kind of non-acknowledgement isn’t the opposite of gratitude.  The opposite of thanksgiving is ENTITLEMENT.

He’s only seven.  I’m going to cut the kid a lot of slack.  For now.

But Levi, and the rest of us, need to constantly be reminded that every blessing is a gift.  And there is a Giver.  And the Giver pours out blessing like rain upon the redeemed, the searching, and the hostile.  Even more, he has given us energy and creativity and the freedom to EARN even more blessing – like that shiny new car Levi expects to be granted unto him with no real investment of time or sweat.

Well dude, I’ll give you some grace.  You’re only seven.  But we’ve gotta get a handle on this entitlement stuff.  From now on, you will understand the value of that PBJ you ate for lunch and the IKEA bunk bed in which you wrap up at night.  According to a June 18 US NEWS article, the cost of raising a child to age 18 is roughly $222,360.  If I’ve done the math correctly, in your seven short years you’ve already cost us $86,473.

Levi, I’ll go halvsies with you.

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“i’ve failed as a father :: why my seven year old will be paying rent from now on” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This right here is funny.  That’s really all I need to say.  Enjoy


This right here is fun.  And tech-savvy.  And musically righteous.

Here’s the thing…  iPads and iPhones (a nod to modern culture) and funny hats (entertainment) and secular music (a nod to modern culture) and a sense of humor (entertainment) are a comfortable part of the Sunday Morning experience at North Point Community Church.  By their methodology, it’s easy to see they are intentionally creating an entertaining venue…  and it’s fun

So…  the question of the day…  Is that bad?

Attractive to “seekers,” or according to Northpoint, “a church for the unchurched.”  And I really need to press the point here…  Is that bad?

What caught my attention as I viewed this funkalicious Christmas tech-fest on You Tube was the “like-dislike” count at the bottom of the viewing window.  Sure, over 3,000 have given their virtual thumbs-up.  But I was more interested in the 100+ who voiced their red-thumbed “dislike.”

Triple digits worth of “dislike.”  For musical awesome sauce via gadgetry.  How can this be??  And yet, I get it.  Because church is about reverence.  And worship.  And worship is about giving of ourselves in grateful devotion to God.  Church services are not for our entertainment – and the mixing of penitent adoration of the Almighty with “funny hats” is not only inappropriate… it’s vulgar.  Maybe even blasphemous.   Further still, we do a deeply dangerous disservice to “seekers” when we lure them into church for more of what the world has to offer, don’t we?  More production and slick camera angles and lighting and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”  We’re missing our golden opportunity to share the deeply counter-cultural message of Jesus, humiliated on our behalf, and come to earth as an infant.  A breathtaking descent from glory… and we give lost sinners “Feliz Navidad” auto-tuned for a laugh?

That is bad.  Right?

Although comments have been disabled for this video, I have friends whom I’m sure would be quick to punch that little red down-turned thumb of disapproval.  Maybe you did.  If your reverence for the Lord just can’t stomach this kind of “fun” and “church” in the same space, I totally understand.  I think there is valid reason for concern.  Northpoint’s methodology says something about their theology… 

I just ask this of my red-thumb pushing friends…  Consider that what you THINK this video says about the theology of Northpoint Community Church may not actually be what this video says about the theology of Northpoint Community Church.

Assumption #1:  Northpoint doesn’t value reverence – they treat God and the Sabbath with casual indifference rather than pious humility and devotion.

Assumption #2:  Northpoint believes they need to pander to culture, rather than creating a counter-culture, in order to connect with the unchurched.

Assumption #3:  Northpoint displays a fundamental misunderstanding of worship when they mix “entertainment” into the church service.

I’m here to challenge all of those assumptions.

On the first point, I’ll submit the following alternative…  Could it be that Northpoint DOES, in fact, know how to lead their congregation into times of deep, reverent worship?  Is it possible that they have a VERY clear understanding of worship, and that it is a sacrificial offering of ourselves to the Lord?  Is it possible that Northpoint sets aside times for communication with God that are intensely personal and reverent, while having the freedom to laugh together and have fun in community at other times?  I can answer that… yes they do.

I have seen, heard, and participated in worship with the Northpoint community.  Their reverence for God runs deep.  He is exalted as sovereign over all.  Remember that this video was only 7 minutes long.  What did they do with the other 76 minutes they were together that morning?  I bet the truth of the Word was shared.  I bet there was a time for people to think, and listen to God, and respond.  I bet reverent worship happened in that space.  Maybe a better question… considering that we are called to worship as an ongoing state of being, is there really anything wrong with taking 7 minutes out of the 110,880 minutes we have each week to have a little fun?

In response to the second point, I’ll submit the following alternative…  Could it be that Northpoint does not “pander to culture” because they don’t believe that the Gospel is “enough” to win the spiritually skeptical, but instead they “become all things to all men” (like Paul on Mars Hill in Athens) and speak the language of the culture (like Jesus did, using present day analogies to communicate timeless truth through parables) in order to START the conversation… to get the unchurched neighbor in the door… in order that they might hear the life-saving message of the Gospel?  I can answer that… yes they do.

In but not of.  IN but not of.  IN THE WORLD, but not of it.  “I do not pray that you take them out of the world…” Jesus asked His Father on our behalf (John 17), “but that you would keep them safe from the evil one.”  Again, how will our neighbors come to faith if they never hear the truth?  And if an iBand video on YouTube brings some curious visitors in the door… in the door of a church… where the Gospel is preached…  Is that bad?

In response to the third point, I’ll submit the following alternative…  Could it be that Northpoint is not sinfully engaged in irreverent license here, but instead is joyfully reflecting the freedom we have in Jesus?

Um…  I actually can’t answer that one.  Not for sure.  But I give them the benefit of the doubt.  Here’s why:

And this one is actually a really big deal.  I’m a deep believer in allowing FUN in church.  We are commanded over and over again to rejoice in the Lord, and that the JOY of the Lord is our strength.  Further, we are set free for freedom’s sake in Jesus Christ.  FREEDOM and JOY.  I’d submit that a theology that does not allow fun within the walls of the church is not somehow more pious.  It’s just less fun. 

Because I have seen the clear preaching of Law and Gospel from Northpoint, and because many many many many souls have been saved through this ministry, I trust that this yuletide iBand is simply in keeping with their clearly stated calling as a church… to be a church for the unchurched.  I trust that they know full well the difference between entertainment and worship.  I trust that they have learned that flash and production values might pique an unbeliever’s interest, but only Jesus can save a soul.  Bottom line…  I trust that God is at work there.

I’m deeply concerned that we understand our place before a Holy God.  That we know what it means to fear Him as the Sovereign King.  But I think Northpoint understands that, too.  I think they just enjoy being alive.  Maybe where you fall on the thumbs-up/thumbs-down scale with this technogeek carol fest in church has less to do with your theology and more to do with your assumptions.  Or maybe it says a whole bunch about mine.

What do you think?

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“northpoint, ipads, and christmas cheer :: can fun and reverence coexist?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

You may be one of the four and a half million people that have already viewed this jaw dropper on You Tube.  If not… you’re welcome.  If so… you’re probably due for another ride on the Sonseed Express.  Destination: fantastic.

That just happened.

Top Ten Savory Moments from “Jesus is a Friend of Mine”

(1)  0:07  —  Bearded guy’s hand dance.

(2)  0:38  —  Sal’s rock-star double head bob, Christian-style

(3)  0:57  —  “rock and roll…”      BWAAAhahahahahaha!!

(4)  1:14  —  The sudden vocal tone shift out of the curious and inexplicable quasi-ethnic pop staccato of the majority of this song into a swarthy baritone, for just a moment, bringing special emphasis to the text for “…of mine.”  Genius.

(5)  1:51  —  Jesus is a Mountie, eh?

(6)  1:56  —  You know it.  “ZAP.”  Good times.

(7)  2:11  —  Pretty sure we’re seeing a drug addled Mandy Patinkin rocking those acrylic drums.

(8)  2:22  —  “Hoo.”

(9)  2:25  —  The evil spirit of Elvis Presley’s lascivious hips seems to be possessing of our poor bespectacled guitar player.

(10)  2:35  —  “I have a friend in je-SUS.”

I’m just going to sit here another minute and savor the goodness.  Can’t wait to rock this one at Living Hope with matching outfits.  So reverent.  So real.  So good.

 

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“four and a half million shades of wrong :: ‘jesus is a friend of mine’ top ten list” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

On Tuesday, November 2, all of human history hangs in the balance.  If you don’t vote, all the world’s puppies will die.  The fate of the United States, the Third World, and the hopes and dreams of all the world’s children depends upon you voting correctly.

In this season of creative professional mean-spiritedness, I wanted to share my very favorite…  If you live in Winnipeg, for the love of all things holy, don’t vote for Sam Katz.  He kicks children in the face.

So get out there and vote, would ‘ya?  And whatever you do, vote for the good guys.