Ten Things I've Learned From Teenagers

Teenagers are a piece of work, didn’t you know? They are shallow, self-absorbed little beasts who eat their parents’ food, snicker at old ladies, and drop out of school every nine seconds. They break into grandpa’s liquor cabinet and sell drugs out of their ninth grade backpacks in the bathroom behind the baseball field. Teens destroy things. They sometimes torture cats. 

If this is what you think of young adults, come hang out with me for a few days. I see things differently.

It might help to know why I care so much. I started living in Teen Land at age thirteen, and never really left. I went from high school, then to college, and right back to high school having earned a secondary teaching credential at the tender age of 21. Since then, I’ve taught public high school in the rural Ozark Mountains of Missouri, the material world of Orange County, and a middle class suburb of California’s Central Valley. Twenty-five years later, I’ve earned the right to love them. 

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A New Word for an Old Idea

Words change.

They become archaic. They change meaning. They lose the power to describe what they originally were used for.

Words evolve.

At one time the highest form of love was called “charity” (Check out a 1611 version of 1 Corinthians 13)

In genuine acts, people showing this kind of love, often gave money, time and energy to those who could not pay them back. So much so that eventually the meaning of charity morphed into a synonym for aid assistance and compassionate giving and not the sweeping all-inclusive God-type love which it was originally used to mean.

Words can be high jacked.

Saying a person is “young and gay” does not carry the same meaning it did a hundred years ago. Nobody I know of uses that word to describe being carefree or joyous. The word is dead to its original use.

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Refusing to Know the Other

Bryan Crawford Loritts is the Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a multicultural church ministering to the evolving community of urban Memphis. This Guest Voices post originally appeared on Bryan's blog as a response to Douglas Wilson's controversial book on race, Black and Tan. The blog ignited a firestorm of response from both sides of this important and ongoing debate on the history of slavery and the ongoing conversations about race in America. Bryan is the author of A Cross Shaped Gospel (Moody Press).

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Education’s Revolution? You Might Want to Ask the Church First

This week the NYTimes posted an article about the impending demise of the traditional university. According to columnist Thomas L. Friedman, “massive open online courses” (MOOC) are the future,. The article cites how millions of students are now taking coursework once reserved for a handful of privileged elites. Students stifled by autism, remote locations, lack of funds, social awkwardness, or snob-deficit can now jump on the college degree train. The brick-and-mortar campus, speculates Friedman, should be already preparing its fossil record in advance of its extinction.

The now-legendary Kahn Academy looks downright rustic compared to the MOOC movement. Advocates say that the skeptics will eventually join the ranks of past naysayers who were also suspicious of the printing press, commercial flight, or the Roomba. All people deserve an education, one that can lift them from poverty and bring them into the modern world, say all the innovators, so step aside and let the revolutionaries do their magic.  

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Interruptions: How Rude! Maybe Not...

From the moment we begin walking and talking we are taught not to interrupt adults. It’s just rude.

And so, as we grow up into adults, we learn to not tolerate interruptions from anyone or anything.

Just last week I was working out at home on my elliptical. I had my headphones on and a book in my hand. I was in the middle of my 30 min ‘me time’ workout. My brother-in-law came into the room where I was engrossed in my workout, my music and my book and he began to talk to me. “I’m clearly busy now. Can’t you just wait to talk to me until I’m done?” Immediately I thought of Stephanie Tanner’s famous saying, “How rude!”

And then, almost immediately, two stories in the Gospels about interruptions came to mind. Thanks a lot God!

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Of Guns and Men

In the U.S. there was a terrible tragedy in Connecticut that ended the lives of many children and adults. The gunman was a disturbed individual who first shot his own mother.

Then he turned his weapon on the children at Sandy Hook School.

The purpose of this post is not to answer “why”. That much has already been answered:

  • Because of sin.
  • Because of sickness.
  • Because of the world in which we live.

And from the perspective of a minister and theologian, this incident is (in many ways) easier to answer than what many consider to be “acts of God” like tsunamis, hurricanes, etc. I’ve addressed those types of disasters previously.

In the wake of this horrible act of violence, the U.

What's New? The Lausanne Global Analysis Publication

“To deliver strategic and credible information and insight from an international network of evangelical analysts so that Christian leaders will be equipped for the task of world evangelization.”

A new publication was released today from the Lausanne Movement with the underlying purpose of the statement above. Some of the titles found in the first issue include Where Next for the Arab Spring?, People and Their Religions on the Move and Choosing to be Salt & Light: Can the Church in India be a Model in the Fight for Anti-Corruption?

The Lausanne Global Analysis will be released every other month. Publisher of the LGA and Chairman of the Lausanne Movement Doug Birdsall writes that the LGA is the result of a “gap between the massive amount of information that surrounds us 24/7, and the ability to process that information and access credible analysis from an evangelical perspective.” You can read more about Dr. Birdsall’s publisher’s note here.

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"In like" with Christ but not "in love"

This is a post to gently remind believers of the importance of romanticism.

Not romance. Romanticism.

If you're a follower of Jesus,  then there's a good chance you're a romantic. You ACTUALLY believe that lives can be transformed from the inside-out; that people aren't destined to blissful ignorance; that transformed lives changes culture, which changes communities which changes cities which changes countries which changes the planet.

You believe in the romantic notion that one day there will be a reckoning that will be swift, terrifying and beautiful all at once.

And if you're a follower, you've probably been a critic of christianized culture (note: not "christian culture") or of the church in general. You've probably lifted a single eyebrow in question at the hypocrisy, ignorance, or lunacy in the christianized version of churches or of society. And you've done so for the simple reason that you care. Deeply. Passionately. Because it matters. Because you're a romantic. Because God is real.

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Religious Artifacts and and the Twinkie: Why Some Bad Ideas Aren’t Worth Saving

After an acrimonious standoff between Hostess executives and the bakery labor union, our worst apocalyptic fears might be realized: Twinkies might disappear forever. Eighty-three years of children’s lunchboxes and Texas Fair fryers might not be enough to rescue the golden little fella from spongecake oblivion. 

But just because Twinkies have always been around isn’t reason enough to keep them there. Nostalgia shouldn’t hijack common sense. 

The church has had its own share of bad products which, like the the Twinkie, have been unhealthy, strangely enjoyable, and made on the cheap. I say it’s time to retire all those evangelical products that made us so happy at the time. Here’s a start:

  • Children’s flannel boards with all those Caucasian Bible characters
  • Pyramid-shaped photo arrangements of church staff (pastor on top, with his wing men in dark suits in descending order according to seminary degrees and paychecks)
  • Padded, mauve sky-box chairs
  • The badly-proofed collection of typed praise songs with the plastic curlicue binding
  • Round, plasticized communion wafers
  • The dual-handled pouch-bag-offering-thingie (passed down the aisle with choreographed wonder)
  • My Texas pastor’s clear plexiglass pulpit with the laser-cut cross cutout
  • The 3-D silver dove for my bumper
  • Big screens that disappear into the big slit in the ceiling
  • Hand-made banners with silk tassels
  • Powerpoint slideshows (golden wheat stalks blowing? Multi-racial families smiling? Clouds billowing?)
  • Black electric keyboards from Wal-Mart with pre-set beats “for the young people”
  • Four Words: Bob. Tomato. Larry. Cucumber
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Give Thanks; Not Spanks

A few years ago, during a Thanksgiving church service, my hilarious younger brother leans over and whispers in a silly tone of voice to both me and our older brother, "give thanks; not spanks." As is typical when I'm with my brothers, I got a bad case of the giggles and wiggles in church at his funny little rhyme.

Every day we have choices. Grumble and complain about life's spanks or give thanks.

Trust me when I say I can grumble with the best of them when things just aren't going my way.

I was doing a lot of grumbling over life's spanks upon me back in 2007. I had finished seminary, moved back home with mom and dad, struggled to find a "real" job and ended up cleaning toilets at Disneyland. One stereotypically beautiful Southern Californian day, I met up with a friend who had attended seminary with me. My sweet friend listened as I went on and on complaining about my life during that season of toilets, plungers, and a whole lot of blah, blah, blah. When I had finished spewing out complaints about life's spanks, my friend graced me with her wisdom and love and asked me one simple question that caused a radical shift to take place in my life.

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