What do you call a sequel done long after the original which barely anyone remembers? Tron Legacy? Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps? ET 2: The Apocalypse? A bad idea? Probably the latter. When not even Shia Labeouf can make it successful, you know you shouldn’t do it. I was going to put his picture in here in the hopes that it would generate some traffic. Maybe if I just put his name in here it will end up on the Google search for his name on page 1274.
But it is not the gap between the original post and this post that makes me think this isn’t a good idea. It’s the content. You see, I do not strive to be controversial. Controversy has found me several times, but I don’t seek it. This post seems, at least in part, like seeking controversy. I may just write this blog post for my own interest and then never publish it. If you read that sentence, clearly I didn’t. We’ll see. (”Dude, if you aren’t publishing this, then to whom are you talking?” As always, the voices in my head)
You would think that stating an issue shouldn’t be controversial (i.e. stop fighting about it) wouldn’t be controversial. But if the passions are very high, people often don’t want to be told that they shouldn’t be.
Disclaimer #17 (I know get on with it already) Just because I say you shouldn’t fight about it, doesn’t me that we can’t disagree or discuss. I just wish we could simmer down a little. That’s not true–I mean simmer down a lot.
In this corner: People who believe that certain pastoral/leadership positions in churches are limited to men.
In the other corner: People who believe that that there are no such restrictions and all pastoral/leadership position are open to both men and women.
You see? You are already mad, because what I should have said was this:
In this corner: Misogynist (read He-man, Woman-Haters Club. Boom! Dated reference!), neanderthal, Bible-thumping sexist idiots that think men are better than women and want to see women barefoot and pregnant.
In the other corner: Bible-hating, culture-compromising liberals who don’t care what God says about anything who dream of a utopian androgynous society.
Isn’t that how the debate is framed? That’s how much of the conversation goes far too often. We believe the worst about people, assume the worst motives in people, if (gasp) they disagree with us.
This is not the final, most important battle over the inspiration or inerrancy of the Bible. If that’s what you’re concerned about the authority of the Scripture, talk about that. This is a simple disagreement about which passages should inform the others and interpreting and applying Scripture in different cultural contexts. In the same vein, this is not a civil rights issue. This is a “What does the Bible say? What should Christians believe?” issue.
But Cloften, there are some woman-hating jerks out there that believe this. Agreed.
But Cloften, there are some people who teach this that teach the Bible is outdated should be ignored when we as a society have evolved. Agreed.
I give you permission (arrogant, no?) to fight (verbally) with any woman-hating jerks or Christian teachers that undermine the authority of the Scripture. I would just ask that when 2 people that love both women and the Bible talk about this issue that we could show at least some measure of civility and respect that elevates at least a little bit over the highly intellectual discourse of say, Fox News and MSNBC. (FYI, you should feel insulted by being compared to them.)
But it’s a slippery slope! Slippery slope! (That’s both of you talking, BTW.) Fine. Calmly, rationally discuss what you fear the slippery slope will lead to. When you are done, pray for each other, and go focus, you know, on, like, well, important stuff–people who desperately need Christ and those that have no food or place to sleep. Certainly, can we stop publicly insulting each other? (I’m looking at you internet)
I know some amazing pastors (of both genders) that are a part of both kinds of churches that love women and the Bible. (Did I just blow your mind?) They are doing great things for God. We also know bad examples on both sides. However, for those of us who agree on 100% of essential stuff and 90% of everything else, can we please settle down on the 10%?
BTW, somebody is wrong on this issue. It’s probably you.
In the last 6 months I have had literally 100’s, no, dozens, no, pairs of people ask me if I’ve ever thought about writing a book. Let’s all close our eyes and imagine what that would be like, shall we? Well, first of all, an even mediocre author knows better than to tell readers to close their eyes and then describe something in writing. Secondish, speling and the use of real words are very important (note, that sentence was ironical) 3rdly, have you ever noticed the sheer volume of pointless rambly parenthetical and/or voice in my head conversations on this blog? “No of course I haven’t. Whom in there rite mind would read this blog twice?” Agreed. (My top nominations for people who will get totally annoyed by the intentional misspellings and bad grammar–my wife and my mom. The wildcard is Lisa Fischer from the Morning Rush in Central Arkansas on B98 She and the other host Jeff Matthews are the most famous people I know in real life. Hmm, let me think about that. I may need to make a list and see how that plays out)
See what I mean. What would a book made up of that look like? Rambling inanity, insanity and vanity. However, I would honestly like to do that some day. I have two in my head–one on dad’s raising daughters and the other on having a theology that moves beyond overly simplistic catch phrases. I think I would enjoy the challenge of doing that. Maybe some day (sentence fragment, consider revising).
Anywho, so I’ve got a small group that I meet with on Monday. We are reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. If you haven’t read that book, you should. It is incredible. He takes controversial topics that Christians debate and in about 5 sentences obliterates opposing arguments. He does it with a writing style that is both incredibly intelligent and humorous. He is an unbelievably talented author. Every time I read a section of that book, I think, “There is no way I should write a book, not when there are authors like this out there. My drivel would just stink up the place.”
When I think that, I am [mostly] kidding. What is true is that I am overwhelmed by his talent and gifting and wish that I could write that. I feel vastly inferior to him. Truth be known, my writing ability is vastly inferior. However, all of this kind of thinking is at best pointless and at worst destructive and dishonoring to God.
You see, God has uniquely gifted me and impassioned me. He has made me what I am. He chose to give me certain gifts and certain desires and passions. My responsibility is to use those to be the man that God has called me to be, not to look around at other people that I wish that I could have been and try to be the best “them” that God has called “them” to be.
We waste a lot of emotional energy wishing that we had been made differently or wish we were as good at something else as someone else. God has entrusted each of us with incredible gifts and talents. He certainly is not wishing that I was as great a writer as C.S. Lewis or leader like Andy Stanley or visionary like Rick Warren (please don’t derail this by saying you don’t like either or both of those guys. They have tremendous giftings as leaders and visionaries. You can rant on someone else’s blog about whether or not you think they are using those gifts in the right way.).
If he had wanted me to be any of those things, you know what he would have done? Lean in. (Overly dramatic whisper voice) He would have made me that way. God chose to give me certain gifts and not others. God has done the same for you. There are no upper tier gifts and lower tier gifts. You don’t ever get to say to me, “I’m just a ________.” You are not “just” anything. You are exactly what God made you.
Make the most of what God has given you. Be the person God has called you to be. Whether you be write gooder or not.
What a great day yesterday! Our first Easter together at the Grove Church and our first go at 3 services. We came home pretty tired, but it was a good kind of tired.
First some stats:
We had almost 500 people at the Grove Church and I would estimate about 1/4 to 1/3 of those were visitors
There were at least 3 people that indicated that they became followers of Jesus
Many more came up and talked to me or others about decisions and recommitments that they made
Now some thanks.
Thanks to everyone who was there all 3 services. I know that on a day when a lot of people want to make it a day for family, you made it a day for your church family and serving others. The worship/tech guys were there from around 7 to 1. I also know that there were several people that rather than doing the normal serve one service/worship one service did the serve 2/worship 1. You made a huge difference in the lives of people yesterday.
Thanks to the umbrella men. All of the people and visitors that came were during a downpour. One thing I noticed was that almost no one was wet. Well, when I say no one, I am of course excluding the men that were holding the umbrellas. You guys helped the church make a great first impression. Even before one song was sung or word spoken, people were thinking that we were a church that loves and serves people.
Thanks to everyone who served anywhere, anytime yesterday. There were over 50 people that took time yesterday to serve and everyone one of you made a huge difference in the lives of people. Everyone working together from the parking lot to the Greenhouse to the worship to the info cafe to the greeters did their small part and all together you guys did a big thing.
Thanks to everyone who went to the 8:30 and 11:30 services. We knew that the 10:00 service would be packed, and it was. However it was not near as packed as I thought it might be. This is because many of you chose to go to a service that was less convenient. It may seem like a small thing, but all 3 services felt full, but everyone always had a seat.
Thanks to everyone who brought a friend, especially those that don’t know Jesus. You are investing in people and you will see God do amazing things in your lives and theirs. You probably already have.
Finally thanks to the staff and their families. I know that this was a challenging couple of weeks and it got highly stressful at times. It is great being on a team with you and there is no way we could have done yesterday without any of you and your hard work. Thanks also to your families who often work just as hard or at a minimum forget what their spouses/parents look like.
It was an incredible day and I look forward to many, many more with all of you.
From Luke 7
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
There are some people out there that think that we offend people by talking about sin. “We need to talk about the Good News of the gospel. When you talk about sin, it’s bad news.” I confess I have fallen into this trap before. However, consider this. Good news is often made significantly better when we understand how bad the news was.
A friend has a cold and is healed is good news. A friend has cancer and is healed is GOOD news.
A billionaire winning $1000 is good news. Someone about to have their house foreclosed winning the same is GOOD news.
Jesus dying for the sins of someone who thinks, “Yeah, I’m a pretty good person. I need to be more religious,” I suppose is good news. Jesus dying for someone whose heart is often very dark and does bad things to hurt people on purpose, who feels isolated and lonely and dying, whose conscious is overwhelmed, who is desperate and hopeless is GOOD news.
When we take time to truly reflect on the fact that we didn’t simply need a boost, but because of our sin we were hopeless, desperate enemies of God, the good news of the gospel and the message of Good Friday become GOOD news on GOOD Friday. Take some today and reflect on the bad news, not for its own sake, but so that then we can celebrate all the more, the GOOD news of GOOD Friday.
About 3 years ago, our then 7 year old daughter in very Laurenish fashion, ripped off the toenail of one of her big toes. The fact that that kid has never 1) been in a full body cast or 2) Ever been to the emergency with a stomach pump is amazing. I could fill a blog called www.ohmygoodnessyouwillnotbelievewhatlaurendid.biz (I like .biz, it’s classy. cloften.biz is still available if you want to start a rival site).
So one night, mom is getting her ready for bed and doing the various trimming of the toenail shards, cleaning, etc., and it’s time for the big piece to come off. While this is going on, Lauren begins to muse, “I wonder if I put this under my pillow, if the tooth fairy would take it?” A discussion amongst all of us begins along the lines of whether or not the tooth fairy would do that, if there is a different toenail fairy, etc. It was agreed that she should at least give it a go and see what happens.
What happened next, none of us could’ve anticipated. It turns out that there is not a toenail fairy, but a toenail ogre. He left Lauren a note written in crayon with dirt all over it, with terrible handwriting and worse grammar. He also didn’t leave any money. He left a rock. Lauren, if you know her you will not be surprised, was ecstatic. She has both the rock and the note in her keepsake box.
Welpst, she broke her toenail again a couple of weeks ago at a soccer tourney. The big chunk came off a couple of nights ago. Anticipation was building in the house again as this giant toenail chunk was placed in a baggie under her pillow. Sure enough, the toenail ogre was back. This time the note, still with bad penmanship and grammar, was written with what appeared to be a red sharpie (Maybe said ogre didn’t know where the crayons were. Maybe it has moved recently). There was, of course, another rock, which is now along with the note, in the keepsake box.
Is there a point to this? I don’t know. Maybe. As much as there ever is, I guess. Maybe multiple points:
1) It is as weird behind the scenes at our house as you anticipate it would be. Probably more.
2) Make fun memories with your kids. Be creative.
3) They won’t be young forever, but they will remember stuff like this forever.
P.S. The toenail ogre does not come with just ordinary toenail clippings. Don’t be ridiculous.
P.P.S. Secret goal is to be #1 in Google search for toenail ogre
There’s a leadership principle out there that says that once you think you have said something too much, people really begin to hear it. It is with that made up principle that I give you another post about parking on Sunday.
In my defense, this is only the 7th time, I’ve mentioned parking (the same as I’ve mentioned Braveheart) in a blog post. Wait a sec, I don’t think that is in fact in my defense.
Anywho, don’t forget that we have 3 services this Sunday–8:30, 10:00 and 11:30.
1) I encourage you to go to the early service. There will most definitely be seats available in that service. As far as the next 2 go, who knows? My guess is that the 10 will be the most packed. We’ll know Monday.
2) If you are staying for multiple services, park at Braums. They allow us to park in the spots that face College and the ones that face the Grove. Please, park there. Let’s fill those spots up first. (Shout out, we had one of the biggest crowds 2nd service that we’ve ever had and many of the parking spots in front of the Grove were empty. Great job)
3) College students–go clown car. I’m not suggesting that you have more people than seat belts, but how about the same amount of people and seat belts?
4) Bring a friend. People want to come to church on Easter. They are just waiting for you to ask.
5) Pray. It is going to be a great morning of worship and celebration. Pray that people who need to hear the good news of Easter will be there and that their hearts will be open.
BONUS (added after publication) Be a host. Look around for people that you don’t know and are visiting. Introduce yourself, make sure they feel welcome. How can I spot a visitor? You may ask. They are the ones sitting in their seat before the service starts.
I am looking forward to this weekend and to see what God will do. See you Sunday.
As we are entering what is often referred to as “Holy Week” my thoughts have been on communion. Specifically the words of Jesus telling us to “do this in remembrance of Him.” Why do we remember His death? Why do we constantly speak of the cross of Jesus?
We remember the death of Jesus because Jesus Himself told us that by His death we can have eternal life. (John 3:14-15) We remember the death of Jesus because He removes the guilt of our sins by His sacrifice upon the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14) We speak of the cross so often because it is the central moment of all time and history. It is the moment when Jesus was separated from His Father that we might never be separated from Him. It is the moment that Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God and bore its penalty that we might instead be given life! Not wrath, but life!!! What an amazing God we serve.
This Good Friday let’s remember His death and what He accomplished for us by His sacrifice. We’d love to see you at The Grove any time between 6 and 8 pm for an intimate time remembering the most important event that has ever occurred. After that we’ll come together on Easter Sunday and celebrate His resurrection from the dead, the proof that Jesus is everything He has declared Himself to be and has done everything He has claimed to have done. Namely, He has taken away our sins by His sacrifice and has defeated death and Satan by His power and has exchanged with us our sins for His righteousness if we place our faith and belief in Him. What a beautiful exchange!
There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains,
lose all their guilty stains;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.
Wash all my sins away,
wash all my sins away;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.
Whoa! A sequel. I know. Doesn’t it remind you of the old days? “Old days? This blog hasn’t even been around a year and a half.” I know, but in that short history was an 11 part series entitled Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying. That’s right, 11. That was followed by a series that I got disinterested after 1, entitled Stupid Things Christians Fight About #1. Since there was only one, the #1 seems pointless. I guess I could go back, Tron style, and make a sequel after a long gap.
Anywho, this is not really going to be a series. It’s really more like what is happening with the Hobbit or back in the day with Back to the Future 2 & 3. There was one idea that ended up needing to be stretched over 2 installments. “Enough with the movie references, get on with it.” If you read any of the links above, you’ll get why I did it. It’s a throwback.
(Read Part 1 here)
We moved to O’Fallon, MO in January 2002. That seems like a very long time ago, almost like 10 years or something. Lauren Loften was 15 months old and big sister Maylee had just turned 4.
Some of you know Lauren from Colorado (0-15 mths)–Bizarre growling baby
Some of you know Lauren from Cabot (5 yrs – 9 yrs)–Soccer player, best friend of boys, burgeoning dork
Some of you only know Lauren from NWA (almost 10 – present)–Wisecracking humorist, ninja goalie, (gulp) girl
But then there was Lauren in STL from (15mths – 5 yrs). Maniacal toddler and preschooler. She never learned to walk. She went straight from crawling at 6 months to running about 9 months and never slowed down. She would put her arms in the air and run full speed until she crashed something. She would fall down, shake it off, turn a new direction and repeat the process–indefinitely until it was time to eat (She shared the same meal schedule as Hobbits).
So when we moved to St. Louis, we bought a house that had a nice backyard, but no fence. Would you like to guess what our first priority was? That’s right; building a fence. We never let her out in the yard until we built that fence, unless one of us was holding on to her. Her in a yard with no fence was an unbelievably scary prospect.
Why did we build that fence? To protect her. We lived one house away from an incredibly busy street and just a few houses down from a pond. We needed to protect her from danger and mostly from herself. We built that fence out of love.
You see, there are two kinds of fences–prison fences and backyard fences for toddlers. In a prison fence, you put all the bad things in the fence to keep the bad contained. All the good stuff is outside the fence. That’s why prisoners want to escape, to get from punishment to freedom.
A backyard fence is different. We put the swing-set inside the fence. We put all the toys inside the fence. All the good stuff was inside. We built it to protect what we valued and loved from danger and herself.
Into what category do the “fences” (discipline, structure, rules) we build for our kids fall? (I actually re-wrote that sentence so it wouldn’t end in a preposition. Scholarly, I know) Ideally, they are backyard fences with a big yard and lots of fun things to do. They are not punishments but protections from danger and themselves. We want them to enjoy life, but inside the protection of the fence.
However, our kids often feel they are prison fences. They stand at the edge and scream and fuss, like a prisoner. They are begging for freedom and escape. How do you respond? As we talked about in part 1, the fence needs to hold. They need it to hold. They need stability and security. Do you know what happens when we give in? When we come to them and say dejectedly, “fine, do what you want,” we are agreeing with them that the fence is a prison fence. You are giving them parole from your punishing fence. Now, in their mind, the whole fence, every rule and restriction is that way. That brings chaos for you and them.
Don’t here me say more than I am. Fences change and move as kids get older and mature. (I’ll let you know when I would trust Lauren to live next to a pond. Arms in the air running full speed is still how we roll, only now we ride a bike. I suppose literally rolling) But you decide when to move them, when you agree that it is time, not when you become tired of fighting or you deem it “no longer worth it.”
Parenting is hard. Discipline is hard. Raising and training great kids is hard. Hang in there. Hold strong. It pays off in the long run for everyone.
(On a side note. If you have a maniacal toddler, you can survive. Just barely, but you can.)
Every now and then I drop in a blog post that possibly is only interesting to me. I feel bad about that sometimes, then I remember “Oh yeah, it’s my name on the website. Wait, I guess that’s not my name, it’s a nickname. Wait, it’s not my nickname, it’s a fairly common user-id associated with work e-mails (1st letter of first name + last name) that humorously (to me) becomes a made up word that could function as a nickname if anyone were to ever call me that.” (This is what I mean by “only interesting to me”)
Anywho, I’m working on a theory. There is a theory out there that a church takes on the personality of its Senior Pastor/Leader/Direction Leader/Team Leader/Lead Teaching Pastor/Guru of Teaching and Inchargish One. I would like to modify that. I agree with it to a point. I think that, left unchecked, a church will take on the weaknesses of its leader.
On the other hand, I believe that the personality of a church comes from the relationships between the leaders/staff/elders of your church.
Do your leaders love each other and get along? You probably go to a fun, relational church.
Do your leaders fight? You probably go to a church with a lot of tension.
Do your leaders seem to not even know each other? You probably go to a corporate, cold church.
(BTW, this is one of those things that I think I said first. Then you will quote the book you read it from, and then I will get mad)
Way too often we try to change our church culture, by changing programs, curriculum, ministries, etc. We try to move staff around, fire one person, replace with another. However, what many churches that struggle need are leaders that love each other, and enjoy being around each other. From that flows love, community, and connection that seeps down to everyone else in the church. The leaders and their relationships set the tone for the relationships that people in the church have with each other.
Are you leader in your church? Do you love (AND LIKE) the other leaders? No? Start. Love is a choice (I know I didn’t say that first) and so is like. Definitely spend time with and get to know are choices.
Are you not a leader in your church? You can still help by setting the example from wherever you are, by modelling that you believe that loving one another is, you know, like important and stuff (Not the first to say that)
There are far too many of us out there in churches that have great ideas, solid theology, but unhealthy churches. We think we can plan and strategize our way out of the unhealth. We can’t, but that’s all we know. We don’t know any other way. However, the answer is often far more simple than we realize.
All we need is love (Pretty sure I didn’t say that first)
“Cloften, with a title like that, this had better be a good post…no great post…hmm, how about just better than mediocre ramblings with an obscure pop culture reference.” Sorry Reader (intentionally singular), that’s exactly what this is.
You ever have one of those days where one of your kids is just relentlessly pounding you? Or they keep doing the same bad thing over and over again or they are consistently nagging/hounding you? (”Can I ______?” “No” “Please” “No” (repeat indefinitely or until all of hair has fallen out)) No, of course not. Only other people’s kids do that. Well, you can still read this, so you can help other parents.
I have dubbed this Velociraptor mode. This comes from a great scene in Jurassic Park. (Now listen, I consider myself pretty interweb-savvy, and Utoob savvy. I looked for this clip and couldn’t find it. If you find it, I will insert the link and I will dub you Dork of the Week) In this scene, Robert Muldoon (the creepy/super-cool park ranger guy) is explaining to the scientists how the velociraptors conduct themselves in their electric pen. They systematically go around from one section of the fence to another ramming it full force. They get knocked out, and then another one will do the same to another section. The scientists ask why and he says they are testing it for weaknesses.
If you have a child that is over 2, then the analogy is pretty clear and we should just close in prayer. “Dear God, Please help me not put down my velociraptor. Amen.” If it is not apparent, let me help. Your kid is constantly testing the borders and weaknesses of the boundaries and rules that you have. They act like there is no fence there, they don’t care if they are about to get electrocuted (metaphorically of course). They want to know if there is any weakness in the fence.
So here is the (semi) rhetorical question, will your fence hold? Here’s another one, should your fence hold? Or is the Velociraptor phase, an indication that you have built your fence in the wrong place? Is surrender a good idea? The idea of surrender is clearly tested most at Wal-Mart. (Here’s a theory. Actually 2. The put something in the air at the mall to make men exhausted. They put something similar in the air at Wal-Mart to make kids throw tantrums)
The fence has to hold. If you have put good, healthy boundaries on your kid and they start fighting, you have to hold firm. Kids will do fight, test and rebel. I can tell you that at ages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 that they will. I’ll let you know about 14 next year, though I’m pretty sure I have solid idea already. You need to hold strong, and here is why. Kids want and need the fence to hold. They are safe and secure there. The most anxious, angry, fearful kids I know are the one with little or no or variable boundaries. They are never safe and never at peace. There is no structure or boundaries to protect them.
I know it’s hard. I know you are tired. I know that it is just easier to let them have cake for dinner, go to sleep in your bed and throw rocks at the house. Trust me, in their heart they need to know that you are protecting them. That’s why the boundaries are there. That’s why they don’t get to play around the stove or run with scissors. Similarly that’s why they need a nap and need to eat some fruit (shout out to my mom there).
I promise you that if your fence hold even in the hard times, both you and your kids will be happier and safer in the long-term.
But watch out, Newman might be deactivating the security system during a huge rainstorm and be trying to steal some dinosaur DNA. If that happens, you are in trouble no matter what.
(If you haven’t seen the movie you are 100% confused. Only 40% confused if you have)