Crowds

I’m not a fan of crowds.

Give me a beach by myself and I’ll be happy.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I can attend things like church or concerts.  Put me in the midst of a crowded event where things aren’t moving and I’ll start to get uncomfortable. Crowds, besides being oppressive, can hurt us in other ways.

Our older son has had some issues in school the past two days.  As I read over the email from his teacher, I found myself getting frustrated. He hangs out with two kids in his class and, for some reason, they seem to be the center of trouble. And I know Carter is a follower.  He’s not the type to create issues.

So, he’s in the wrong crowd and we’ve found ourselves at one of those parenting crossroads.

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I’ve written before how I’m a fan of Pastor Erwin McManus out at Mosaic Church in LA. I remember, in one of his books, reading about how we are a society based on collective worship.  Youtube a popular artist playing live and you’ll find evidence in a second.  There’s an old clip of U2 playing Where the Streets Have No Name at a castle in Ireland and the sea of people is mesmerizing. It is, in condensed form, worship.

We are also wired to find community. As an introvert, this had made me uncomfortable more than once. I do believe that God places people in our lives to help us through the dark times and celebrate in the light.

I sat down with Carter yesterday and asked him about his friends.  I told him he needs to look at the choices he makes, that his friends will show him where he’s going.

We often stress about our own stories but, when your child is involved, their narrative sticks in your mind. More than once today I’ve thought about what he was doing in school and prayed he would have a good day.

I’ve had friends from when I was Carter’s age who’ve gone and had great success personally and professionally.  I’ve had others who’ve ended up in prison. At the time, these people were just my classmates, kids I’d see a few days a week for a few months of the year.

One guy I knew passed away from cancer the summer we graduated high school.

It can’t be easy being a kid today. Their processing demand is much more than anything we had to deal with. There are moments I sit across from him and wonder about the universe inside his mind.

This week has not been once of peace but I hope, as we go, we can find some. Carter will continue to find his own crowds.  We can only hope his internal radar gets tuned towards those that enhance who he is as a person, those he can laugh and grow with, the ones whose friendship will extended into decades.

The ones who will make him happy and challenge him to be a better person. The journey will not be easy, but worth it in the end.

A Faith of Mondays

“You hit my car.”

I listened to the conversation from across the room.  Two women, one arriving and one leaving.  The one attempting to leave waited for the driver of the van, confronting her as she sat down.

“You hit my car.  There’s white paint on the door and you hit it.  You parked so close I can’t even get in.”

After a pair of hushed sentences, both stepped back outside.  Ten minutes later, the cops arrived.

It was a Monday.

I, like Garfield, hate Mondays. He spent many a comic strip lamenting the start of the week. Sunrise on a Monday meant five more days of school or work. In the professional world, Mondays carried an extra bit of edge. People sat at their desks and talked about the weekend, wishing it could be Friday once more.

Mondays are obligation, picking up the path that we can’t avoid.  Carter will tell me, on Sunday nights, how much he doesn’t want to go to school the next day.  I tell him that he doesn’t have a choice, that it is the law (met with a loud and dramatic “Awe daddddddddddddd”).

Has our faith turned into a case of the Mondays?

In the Bible, we read about Daniel. Daniel was a man of elevated status, following God in a land not accepting to his beliefs. He was an outsider, a “sheep among the wolves.” Twice he faces death, once in a den of lions and once in a fiery furnace.  Both times he comes out alive with help from God.

One of my favorite television shows is Supernatural.  Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki play brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they hunt all variety of evil things and attempt to save the world.  They contact angels, demons, deities, and other sources well used for dramatic effect.  Death, played by Julian Richings, is a main force and character on multiple seasons of the show. In an episode, he bets Dean Winchester (Ackles) that he cannot take being Death for one day. Dean takes him up on the bet and finds himself lacking the ability to succeed.

Imagine, being Death for one day. Knowing you will impact the eternal destination of anyone you touch. Knowing your words and action will change the world forever.

It may not be standing in a den of lions or walking laps in a furnace.  It may not be facing a gunman on the campus of a college in Oregon. You may never find yourself in one of these places but your significance is still the same.

How do we break a Faith of Mondays?

Make the most of it. Every action is intentional. Every conversation has meaning, from work to school and home.  Every family dinner is a treasure. Every dream is worth following if you do it to change the world and serve those around you.

Time is not on your side. Time is a transaction. Oh, you can work out and eat right all you want but we all have expiration dates. We get an allotment of space on this spinning globe. As followers of Jesus, we can find a comfort zone too quickly. We think that there’s always tomorrow. We can pray tomorrow, read more tomorrow, contact that friend in need tomorrow. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Look at those students in Oregon. Their families will be changed forever.

Embrace the heat. Shift back to a dangerous faith. Take a stand in radical love that breaks societal boundaries. Be the person of faith that doesn’t fall in line with stereotypes. We follow a teacher that changed the world, one standing against every accepted construct of the day. He existed outside expectations from friends, family and authorities. He was life and love incarnate. He forgave. He healed. He opened eyes and hearts. The blind would see, the lame walk, the dead live again.

He did all this as a marked man.

We are all marked, for faith cannot exist without suffering and struggle. We are refined by fire.  Daniel didn’t get a free pass.  He still felt the heat and heard the roars of the lions. We are told to keep walking, that we will never be alone or forsaken.

Does that make you feel courageous or content? Power or peace?

Personally, I’ve spent too much time chasing contentment. I’m ready for courage, for power in faith to not settle.  I’m ready to move.

Are you?

~Matt