Paper or Plastic?

Back in the day, every time you would check out at the grocery store, some pimple-faced teenager would ask, in their best Forbes 500 voice, “Paper of plastic sir?”. Some people cared, I never did. I couldn’t care less whether you put my Moon Pies in paper or plastic – just give me my Moon Pies! But when it comes to church, I care.

Have you ever been to a plastic church? Maybe you attend one or pastor one right now. Personally, I hate plastic churches. I don’t think anyone ever sets out to create a plastic church, but we definitely have enough of them in this country. It’s the same thing every Sunday and everybody seems to have the same plastic smile plastered on their faces like cheap Botox. The greeters are at the door and you can feel their rigid plastic veneer. You shake their hand, but not too hard because you’re scared you might break their shell. Of course, the worst part of plastic church is what happens on the stage. Everything has to be perfect. Everything has to be in place and look amazing, and, for goodness sake, everyone smile! Real smiles are not necessary, just paint one on, and to help it look even more ‘perfect’ why don’t we get everyone to wear the same color on stage. Clap the same, smile the same, sway to the music the same, and worship the same. Plastic.

We don’t start out to do it, yet too many churches end up becoming the plastic trinket shop where you can buy, or play with, the miniature examples of the real thing. I understand that structure, forms, and excellence are paramount to a well-done church experience, but there has to be another choice. What about paper?

Paper might seem the same as plastic, I mean after all, they’ll both get your Moon Pies from the store to the car and into the kitchen. They are the same in form and function, but there is a fundamental difference that makes these two apparatuses distinct. Paper is organic. It’s not a manufactured, synthetic material that will outlast cockroaches through the next nuclear holocaust. Paper is fragile, it’s “earthy.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m for sure no tree-hugger, but I have this desire to see church practiced in a new way. A way that is fragile, a little dirty and gritty, but more than anything – real. When most churches are first launched, there seems to be this inherently raw beauty that exists. It’s not perfect, in fact to call it excellent might even be a stretch, but one thing that glares above it all is the raw beauty that seems to emanate from everything and everybody. The serve team that is making it happen is not having to fake it, they are smiling because they genuinely desire to be there. In fact, they genuinely desire to be there doing their best to connect the people coming to the creator. Sometimes the video doesn’t play, the song is late, the annouKncement is lame, and the baby dedication is a fiasco; plain and simple, it’s raw, yet miraculously beautiful at the same time.

In our American mindset where everything has to sparkle and shine, I think we have too often lost sight of the raw beauty of God. We have bought into the cookie cutter anointing, thinking we can duplicate anything and it will perform the same, but God is not a performer, God is a creator. He is a God that is not hindered or frightened by variety, creativity, or customization.

You can find a plastic church on any corner of any American city. Unfortunately, you have to look extremely hard to find a church that capitalizes on the raw beauty that is found in life-giving churches, where Christ in all His creativity is highly exalted. Just moving church people from one church to the next (sheep-shifting) is only increasing the output of plastic; but in order to find and work in the midst of His raw beauty, we have to actually see people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This requires us having the ability to relate, and connect to a very raw world. Connecting the rawness of our culture to the beauty of Jehovah Elohim (the creative one). That connection will never happen through a plastic Christianity, but will only happen when we stop trying to manufacture perfection and except the raw beauty of a risen savior.

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Vacating Quickie

It’s summer time and vacation seems to be on everybody’s mind. In fact, i myself am on vacation. I’m trying to recoup energy, passion, and hear from God. Along with partying hard with the family! So far I’m successful at these difficult tasks. I am fortunate that I am able to take time off and re-calibrate things running around in my head. Vacations, time off, and general down time is a huge necessity. It is something everybody needs, but how do you get down time if your family and work is not accommodating to time off? What about the single mom or single dad that is the sole provider for their family as well as the sole caregiver, sole cooker, mechanic, prayer warrior, mentor, and the list goes on and on. To say it’s stressful would be the understatement of the millennium!

So if you can’t take time off and escape to the Bahamas for a week, but how can you unplug from life and get a refreshing? I want to give you some vacating quickies. These ideas are not as good as a genuine vacation or down time, but they will help in a stressful environment when time seems to be the biggest limited commodity.

Schedule the Time
You would never miss a dentist appointment or a doctors appointment. You always make it to soccer practice on time because it’s an appointment. You make it happen. Likewise, you need to make time off a priority. Schedule it. If you have a day planner, or a calendar, or a phone, put it in there. Schedule it and then let absolutely NOTHING interfere with it. Treat that one or two hours off as a sacred oasis of life that nothing will interfere with.

It’s not selfish it’s Godly
We have been conditioned to think that we must keep pushing, that we must please others, that we must take care of everyone and everything, that it is a God-given directive, so then we drive ourselves into the ground and think that if we do anything for ourselves then it is being selfish. The only problem with that philosophy is that it is straight from the fiery pit of Hell! The Bible tells us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means that if you don’t love and care for yourself, then how in the world can you love and care for your neighbor? YOU CANT! Taking care of yourself and spending time on yourself is not selfish, it’s Godly.

Know What Energizes You
Everybody is different. What your husband, wife, or friend might like, might just drive you bonkers, so you must know what you like. If you have been one of those people that has been so focused on others for so long you might not even know the answer to that question. It could very possibly take a little research and development on your part. There are millions of 40 year olds that still don’t really know what they enjoy and what energizes them. Take time to sit down and make a reasonable list of at least five things that you enjoy doing, things that energize you. Maybe it’s, reading, drawing, listening to music, playing on the computer, watching movies, playing XBox, going for a walk, sitting on the couch and watching paint dry. Whatever it is, know what it is, and embrace it.

Make It A Regular Part of Your Life
Vacations only come once a year, maybe twice a year and those are fabulous! But “Vacating Quickies” are not as powerful or energizing as a full week away so you have to do it more regularly. For the health of your soul you need a vacating quickie at least but not limid to twice a week. Twice, maybe three times a week you need to step back from the pressures of life and breath.

Make it Different
You might not even realize it, but you might be in a rut. You might think you are taking time off and engaging in vacating quickies, but you are doing the same thing you’ve always done. If you will take a second and think about something unique and different to do, and then do that, it will blow your mind how refreshing it will be. Be creative, take a little time to think about it and invest in your well being.

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