Christian Living Church Leadership

Are you willing to love your life?

I’ve gotten a fresh round of criticism lately and most of it flows back to a single source: There are people so grumpy that it annoys them that I am happy.

It’s as if we’ve grown so accustomed to whining about everything that we now have decided to whine about people who aren’t whining.

Maybe our entire country is depressed?

People seem pessimistic that optimism is even possible.

Beyond Content

I love my life. And I’m not afraid to state it.

Critics– Go buy some cotton candy and watch kids on the merry-go-round for an hour.

2009 sucked in many ways but galvanized one important thing: I am comfortable with who God has made me to be, come what may.

And in releasing that anxiety God rewarded my life with a flood of blessing.

Why am I happy? I’m challenged in new ways all the time. And I love that. I’m learning all the time. And I love that. I am doing things that matter. And I love that.

My bills are paid. My kids are safe. Our family is growing. I take joy in the simple things. I take joy in being charitable with my time and treasures. I stop and smell the roses. I have many things in my life I could complain about but I simply chose not to.

Find someone to high five and give them one! Glory to God!

And yet I know it bugs people to say that I’m happy. In some Christian circles happiness really isn’t allowed… only contentedness. If you are too happy that is somehow sinful. This reminds me of the Puritans, who forbade comfortable furniture because being too comfortable or sleeping too well would somehow lead you to sin.

Happiness is not bad. Jesus’ sermon on the mount contained something we call the beatitudes. This was a list of counter-culture things that should make us happy! (Read Matthew 5) Blessed is just a fancy way of saying, “Happy.” Reread the beatitudes and insert that word. It’ll rock your world.

See, happiness is an attitude I chose. It comes from within and not from circumstances. It’s why I can walk around a tent city in Port-au-Prince and meet widows who tell me, “I don’t have anything but I am happy. In Christ, I have everything I could ever need.”

Say it with me, “I love my life.”

I’ve met too many church staff members this year who have chosen dissatisfaction as their attitude. It’s as if nothing short of being the most famous person in the world. Loving God and serving his people in their town just isn’t satisfying. We sit down and they list 25 things that are going great in their ministry. But that one thing drives them to dissatisfaction and bitters their whole life.

You can smell it on them. Literally, it is a stench of dissatisfaction. It’s hard to be around.

My advice? Chose a new attitude today. Join me in choosing happiness.

Write it down. Declare it to some people. Make today the day you chose happiness.

Actually say it out loud, right now. “I love my life.

Maybe it’s the first time you’ve ever said that out loud. Practice it a few more times… “I love my life.” Say it again and again until it feels natural.

Kind of freeing, isn’t it? Go ahead, text it to your spouse right now. “Baby, I love our life.

Happiness comes from within. It is absent from circumstances. A happy person is happy because they’ve chosen to be happy. And choosing to be happy can be one of the most powerful, life-changing things you could ever do.

Go and tell

Imagine the joy it would cause if people in your life to know that you’re happy? Think about the sweet lady in your church who has told you over and over again that she prays for you daily. Or your boss. Or your mom. You know– the people who really care about you and your happiness.

Let it be known that you love your life. Write, “I love my life” as your Facebook status today. Post it on Twitter. Print off a sign and put it on the doorway to your office.

I dare you. Chose happiness and change your life. It can start today.

O, that we would live a life worthy where the Gospel has fully penetrated even to our attitudes.

haiti Social Action

Social Currency

If this were your house, what would you do?
If this were your house, what would you do?

“Why don’t they just fix it themselves?”

If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me about the people of Haiti I wouldn’t be $1700 short in my fundraising!

There are a few answers to that question. At least from my über limited perspective.

  1. Haiti is so poor that they just don’t have the infrastructure and resources to even conceive of a solution. It’s just too big and they have been too dependent on the outside world to help them to solve it themselves.
  2. Culture has put up some major barriers. There are laws and traditions to be obeyed which make seemingly easy problems to fix nearly impossible. For instance, you’d need a permit (which costs money) to haul away the rubble of a home you rent. (which you are still paying the rent for) You have to find the owner, (who might live in Haiti or the U.S., you’ve never met him but only paid his cousin) who has to provide the government (which fell down) with proof of ownership (which was destroyed when government buildings collapsed) before you can hire workers to remove the rubble. (which costs money, and the government hasn’t yet determined where to take all of the rubble)
  3. The poorest of the poor don’t have the social currency to not worry about breaking the law/culture and looking past a lack of resources for the sake of doing some good.

What is social currency?

I first thought of this often debated online phrase in the real world while in Haiti in February. Like a lot of relief workers I struggled with what I saw. It just didn’t reconcile with the world I know.

I’m not a sociologist. But this is how I think of social currency.

If my house partially collapsed, killing my family, what would I do? Obviously, I’d call 911 and 6 minutes later a miniature army of highly trained firefighters would show up. Then a news helicopter would fly overhead so that the entire metro area would know what had happened within the hour. In shock and not knowing what else to do, I’d get in an ambulance and go to the hospital. At some point soon after that my insurance agent would call me. I’d call some friends who would rally around me. Within about 48 hours I’d be planning funerals, talking to endless insurance people about life insurance and property insurance, while a group of friends would help me “get back on my feet.” In the meantime, I’d probably stay with some friends or relatives before settling into a long-term hotel that my insurance company would pay for (and going to a years counseling that my health insurance company would pay for) while they took care of hiring contractors to pull permits and level the house before rebuilding it.

That’s a lot of social currency. I’d call on all of those government and financial institutions without thinking about it because I’ve paid into those institutions! I’d call on friends to help because we have a perceived reciprocal society. Just the thought that “they’d do the same for me” would compel them to help.

How would that change if I were the poorest of the poor, living in a country with no infrastructure, and the entire city I lived in collapsed? Those with financial means would leave immediately. This would be the land-owners and business people. Those with no means (the homeless, the orphans, the widows) are just kind of frozen. They don’t know what to do because they don’t know the questions to ask nor the ramifications of what would happen if they “just fixed stuff.” Nor do they have the resources to fix stuff. Nor do they have the energy or equipment to fix stuff.

I remember Seth Barnes asking people what they were going to do and the dialogue always went like this:

What are you going to do about your home?

– I don’t know. I’m waiting for the government to help me.

Has the government ever helped you in the past?

– [laughter] Of course not.

The poorest of the poor are, unfortunately, dependent on help. The real question for them seems to be… what will accepting help cost them? Remember that Haiti is a place of both spiritual and real oppression. Accepting help may land them into a debt that costs a lifetime to repay. This is a place where children are trafficked and labor is unregulated. This is a place where, on a good day, the police are uncaring about your plight. But on a bad day, the police are just as dangerous as the oppressors. They may even be the oppressors in some neighborhoods.

What would you do? You’d laugh at those silly barriers in full knowledge that the landlord wouldn’t care that you cleared the property. At the very least you’d knock down your condemned home and pile up the rubble to be hauled away. Chances are pretty good that you’d also try to organize your neighbors into a group of workers who would go around clearing rubble for other people. Say, old women. That’s the power of social currency. You aren’t frozen. When everyone is stuck, you’d naturally rise up and take action.

This is why you should consider a relief trip to Haiti

If you are a reader of this blog I want to encourage you to find an agency of relief and pray about going to Haiti in the next 12 months. You have resources. You are ignorant of culture barriers. And you have social currency to spare.

Church Leadership

Picky, Picky

Photo by via Flickr (creative commons)

Apparently contentment is not a Christian virtue anymore.

If you hang out with Christians for any length of time, you’d think pickiness is a requirement of the faith.

  • “I really wasn’t into the message on Sunday. I mean, 95% of it was cool… but he said something about fathers I didn’t agree with. So I tuned him out.”
  • “We haven’t found the right church, we’ve been looking around, and nothing quite fits us.”
  • “I’m definitely not called to singleness, but I just haven’t found the right guy.”
  • “I used to be into the NIV, but I had to switch because I just don’t like the gender exclusive language.”
  • “I would help with the kids ministry, but [sipping a latte from Starbucks] my Sunday mornings are just too busy already.”
  • “I could never go to a church if the staff is a bunch of white males.”
  • “My church serves little snacks-n-stuff after the service. Which is cool, but I can’t believe they serve cheap pastries and coffee that isn’t fair trade. I mean, that’s gross on a lot of levels.”

Need I go on?

We live in communities that are reached by fewer than 10% of the population and yet we worry about this crap? Seriously? It’s like your house being on fire and being more worried about saving your wedding photos than your children.

Shame on us. Shame on us for caring more about the desires of the 10% who come than the 90% who don’t. Shame on us for being so bored that we care about the things that don’t matter instead of simply obeying what Scripture teaches. Shame on us for making grey areas, black and white areas. Shame on us for blaming our inability to fulfill the Great Commission on issues.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” — Jesus

hmm... thoughts

New Skills

A few times a weeks someone will introduce me by saying, “This is Adam, he’s a ____ [Joomla, WordPress, social media, start-up, online marketing, whatever else they think I’m good at, etc.] expert.” That makes me internally snort.

I’m completely self-taught. I don’t know the academically correct way to do just about anything. Poverty is the best trail to competence. All of my skills I owe to having to learn something in order to make something work. [Usually in a pinch] In all the things I’ve taught myself I have really been fortunate to find a friend willing to tutor me as I stumble to learn.

In the past month I’ve made the time to teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Fireworks, and Adobe Dreamweaver. These are “big boy toys” for dreaming, designing, and implementing things in my web world. Between reading online tutorials and begging help from Dave, I’ve been able to increase my competency in these areas. I’m not an expert in using them…. but I can confidently get some small things done.

I don’t think I have a higher aptitude for learning new skills than the average person. But I do think that I have a higher than average willingness to add new things to my repertoire. While I fully recognize God has given me talents in this world… I think that the real talent He gave me was the ability to adapt and excel in new situations.

This is true in a lot of areas of life, isn’t it? There are people who say, “I don’t know but I will figure it out.” And there are people who say, “I don’t know and I don’t want to.