Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"If it bleeds it leads"

"If it bleeds it leads" is a phrase often heard inside today's 24/7 news cycle culture.  The phrase is used to illustrate the type of stories that grab attention and influence "viewers" to stay tuned, after the commercial break, for more information.  Before you get all defensive about your ability to deny media influence, let me ask a question, "Do you slow down, not for safety but strange interest reasons, when passing a wreck on the road?"

"See?!"  We all feel the leading of the bleeding influence. 

It is easy to understand why TV and cable providers would want to use stories that keep attention on their product--money.  Even so, such headline stories have the ability to create false or exaggerated perceptions of people, places and things. 

And...such my opinion...culture's false and exaggerated perception of teenagers. 

If you listen to several of the bleeding and leading headlines concerning today's teen culture, you may avoid and/or not talk to a teenager for fear they will pull out a weapon, steal your money and/or offer you an illegal substance. I am talking about adult reactions to strange teenagers in our churches.

Let me assure you!  There are weapon carrying, money stealing, illegal substance offering teenagers out there.  There are also weapon carrying, money stealing, illegal substance offering adults out there (which is most likely the reason we have the teen problems)! about a great, inspirational, the community got it right story of a teenager?  A story that I propose is more common than reported.

BTW:  This video was shared by a public school administrator. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Keep Your Breasts to Yourself!"--Beth Moore

Female dress code discussions are dicey topics for student ministry leaders. 
No one wants to be prudish, but no one wants to turn a blind eye and accept cultural norms that, at times, leave little to the imagination. That is why I want to share the following resource with you.

My wife shares my frustration of how to address "dress" in a culture where parents (especially dads) allow their daughters to leave their homes in "little imagination" wear.  She recently came across a Beth Moore audio in which Beth was speaking to women about dress and modesty (she actually woke me up to share the message with me). 
Beth hit a home run! 
Caution:  She is pretty fired up about this topic.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Vote for Another Flower

Over the last few days, my sweet wife Lisa has received some beautiful and thoughtful flower arrangements.

The newest flower in the collection is this beautiful Easter Lilly.

It is really beautiful!

As you know, it is the official flower of Easter (I don't know if it is actually official but it is around a lot, so I let's call it official) and a symbol of the hope found in Jesus and validated by the Empty Tomb.  It is a hope that gives confidence to face our eternal future but also gives purpose, power and focus to the present reality we find ourselves.  The life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the key event that shapes past, current and future history.  So...Easter is a big deal!

Wanting to share the beauty of the flower with the neighborhood, I had my son read the planting instructions for the beautiful symbol of Easter.  Wow!  This is one fragile flower.  The parameters it demands for planting was a little too delicate for my flowerbeds and most certainly Texas Spring weather conditions.  I guess it will remain safe and protected in the comfort of our controlled, inside-home environment. Can I call for a vote for another flower for the Easter symbol?

Okay, maybe the Easter Lilly should NOT be the symbol of our hope in Jesus.

Our hope in Jesus is in no way delicate and/or fragile!
Our hope in Jesus is able to grow in the most difficult of soil (heart) properties!
Our hope in Jesus is not effected by changing weather (cultural) conditions!
Our hope in Jesus does not disappoint!

I am sorry you will not see the beautiful Easter Lilly in the Fraze yard, but I pray you can see the beauty of the hope we have in Jesus by the way we live our lives.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Tale of Two Stories

I am a news, talk and stories of interest watching junky (yes, ESPN falls into the category).

While tempted to join the hundreds offering commentary and opinion on the widely covered and painful school tragedy in Pennsylvania, I simply offer a heart broken prayer and wait to visit this topic when further information is made available.   It has been my experience that many will offer simplistic, passionate (right or left wing) explanations to a complex and pain filled issue.  Again, I would call all of us to pray for everyone involved in this terrible situation.

There are two news stories that really caught my attention this week.  I share these with you with little dialogue and corresponding questions for a reason.  One, the videos are easy to contrast and draw meaning.  And two, I really think it would be great if you share the stories and questions with your family, friends, coworkers or students for discussions.  Now, before I share the videos, a setting of the stage (just because) with the classic work of Charles Dickens.

The two stories I will share, in prophetic fashion, bring the words of Dickens, Tale of Two Cities to life:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...

Let's start with the worst of times story from a Today Show segment (Be patient with the link. It starts with a commercial and has a rather long pause before the actual story appears).

  • Why would I qualify this as a worst of times story?
  • How does this story relate to these words from JesusYou have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘Don’t break your promises, but keep the promises you make to the Lord.’ But I tell you, never swear an oath. Don’t swear an oath using the name of heaven, because heaven is God’s throne. Don’t swear an oath using the name of the earth, because the earth belongs to God. Don’t swear an oath using the name of Jerusalem, because that is the city of the great King. Don’t even swear by your own head, because you cannot make one hair on your head become white or black. Say only yes if you mean yes, and no if you mean no. If you say more than yes or no, it is from the Evil One." --Matthew 5:33ff
  • How can a Christian fulfill the words of Jesus and successfully navigate today's competitive world?  (if you say only do business with "Christian businesses" listed in a "Christian Business Publication" you are disqualified from answering because you are avoiding the question--not really-- really) 
  • If this is the way  "adults" are living and teaching ethics (blurred lines), how do we hope to teach and hold accountable our children to moral standards? 
And now a best of times story from ESPN (Kleenex may be needed).

  • Why would I qualify this as a best of times story?
  • How does this story illustrate the reality of these words from Jesus? Some people brought even their babies to Jesus so he could touch them. When the followers saw this, they told them to stop. But Jesus called for the children, saying, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these children. I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a child, or you will never enter it.”--Luke 18:15ff
  • What does the relationship between Lacey and Adreian say about the importance, power and impact of intergenerational relationships?
  • (Extra credit question for church leaders) What does this story have to say about the need and importance of intergenerational worship opportunities? 

Choose to live a best of times story.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why a Zippo Lighter Made Me Cry

Before I reached the office this morning, I received a phone call that Cary Branscum had already visited my office and was looking for me.  Let me tell you about Cary.

Cary is one of my ministry mentors and heroes.  He is currently serving as The Small Groups and Singles Minister at the Hills Church.  He is a veteran of various ministries and a wealth of wisdom and encouragement for all who are blessed to know him.   Besides being one of the most creative people I have ever worked with, he is also one of the most selfless and loyal workers in the Kingdom (this endorsement covers over 25 years of ministry-Cary is the real deal).  There is much more I could say about Cary. He has been and continues to be someone who goes out of their way to believe in and encourage my life and ministry.  So, at least once a month, I head over to his office, sit down in his "comfy chair"(it really is a marvel of furniture engineering) and spend a few encouraging minutes with the great Cary Branscum.

Back to this morning.

When I arrived at my office, I immediately began walking towards Cary's office to see what he needed.  As I was fast approaching his office, Cary rounded the corner and said, "I know this will sound odd, but I need you to follow me to the Men's Restroom." Odd and AWKWARD for sure! However, since Cary was asking, I agreed to follow him without objection (no, I have never taken candy from a stranger).

As we entered the bathroom, he walked to the sink counter and began opening a Zippo lighter package.  He explained all of the reliable features of the lighter as he demonstrated how to fill the lighter with fluid.  After, with one hand and much swagger, he brought forth a flame from the Zippo and snapped it shut, he handed it to me. I was humbled, stunned, a little speechless, incredibly blessed and teary-eyed.

Why did the gift of a Zippo bring such emotion?

To answer that, let's go back to yesterday (insert your favorite time travel noise).

I was waiting to visit a minister that offices next door to Cary.  As I waited, the "comfy chair" called my name, I plopped down and we started one of our life, ministry and "such" discussions.  During the talk, I noticed that Cary had a Zippo on his desk.  Since he has never been a smoker, I had to ask why he had a lighter. Cary explained how the lighter was something he had carried for a while as a reliable ministry tool (such as when a candle goes out in a wedding) but also had a deeper meaning.  The smell of the Zippo reminded him of people, some long gone, who had made a deep impact on his life.

I agreed.

That statement started another conversation about people, many of them smokers at one time, like my dad, who not only blessed our lives but served our country as well (that is where many of them picked up the smoking habit).  So, for Cary, the smell of a Zippo is a reminder of dependability loyalty, dedication and faithfulness.

Let's go forward to today (insert that favorite time travel noise again).

Cary's gift of a Zippo was not only an incredible act of thoughtfulness, it was a reminder to live a life in which dependable, loyalty, dedication and faithfulness are words spoken of me when my day's are past.