When “safe” no longer is…and possibly never was

Sunday, my family and I worshipped at an A.M.E. church in our new home city of Greenville, South Carolina. We’d been intrigued and slightly annoyed at the lack of diversity in all the congregations we’d been too. So we decided we wanted to try an A.M.E. church.

It wasn’t until I entered the sanctuary that I realized how much white privilege affects me.

Crossing the threshold to worship, I remembered that it was a white guy who shot A.M.E. members, after praying with them. In their own church. In the same state I was in.

And with all I’d thought about prior to attending a black church, I had not in the least considered that my presence may have set them on edge. I desperately wanted to reach out and let people know we weren’t like the white guy who’d traveled to Charleston. But bringing up the shooting seemed even dumber than not being aware that my presence might be scary for some.

I remembered the lessons my dad taught me about how to behave if pulled over by a policeman. So to help set people at ease, I intentionally tried to keep my empty hands visible during the service. Fortunately, that’s not hard to do an an A.M.E. church! But it was a conscious choice to keep my hands on the empty pew in front of me when I wasn’t clapping or taking notes during the sermon.

And I wondered how it must be for the pastor to see one white family in the sea of his congregation. Just three months after nine people he may well have known were shot in their own sanctuary. Nothing can be the same. There must be a new awareness. A new wariness.

And today, I pray for the teachers and professors around the nation that are approaching their classrooms. Rooms that were once unquestionably their sanctuary. Their domain. Where they taught students. But today are now potentially unsafe places full not of students but of possible threats.

Church on Sunday turned out to be a wonderful worship service with a gracious group of fellow believers. We received only hospitality, welcome, and hugs. It was great.

But I end this week realizing how random acts of violence affect all of us. And I mourn the increasing loss of “safe” spaces. That mourning almost seems silly when I realize the violence people around the world suffer on a daily basis and even those of differing races and backgrounds have suffered in my own country.

So I enter the prayers of those around the world and across millenia in saying:

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Daily Bible Reading at the Speed of Life: Announcing 14 Minutes a Day

14 Minutes a Day - Bible reading at the pace of lifeI’m thrilled to announce the launch of 14MinutesaDay.com!

Ever since becoming a Christian at the age of 14, I’ve been committed to reading the Bible. My family would read it every morning at 5 a.m., often snoozing over genealogies! When I went to college to be a pastor, I studied Greek and Hebrew to help my Bible reading. I even lived in Israel so I could better understand the Bible.

Reading the Bible–not just ABOUT the Bible

I was fine with my level of Bible reading until one Saturday when a group of guys teaching at The Stony Brook School invited me to breakfast. As we waited for food, the guys went around the table saying a number. “3.” “6.” “1.” “4.”

One of the guys explained that it was the number of days in the past week each of us had read the Bible, not just read about the Bible.

That’s when it hit me — somewhere along the way, I gave up reading the Bible in favor of reading about the Bible.

It was the same for each of us. We read devotionals, Bible studies, posts, and articles about the Bible. But we’d moved away from actually reading the Bible itself.

My conscience was pricked. But honestly, I still found it hard to hit a regular rhythm of devotionally reading the Bible. Reading the Bible as a way of listening to God. When I pastored a church, I read the Bible mostly in order to teach it. But reading the Bible for sermon preparation was different than reading it to personally grow in my relationship with Jesus.

The 7×7 Experiment

Then in 2012, my friend Jon Swanson announced a Lenten discipline called “7×7: Listening to God for Lent.”

He started an experiment of sending emails to help people spend 7 minutes every day listening to God. Each email contained a link to a passage of Scripture that would take 5 minutes of Bible to read, leaving a couple minutes for prayer.

Boom! This totally worked for me! All of a sudden, I was reading the Bible and listening to God on a daily basis. At some point, he started adding longer 14 minute passages. That was even more my style. I like reading longer passages of Scripture to get the context and see themes.

Soon I was helping him with the 14 minute passages. We didn’t go through the Bible in order of the books or in order of chronology. We chose to keep a mix of Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) and Christian Scripture (New Testament). Sometimes we’d do individual books. Sometimes we’d group books together like Deuteronomy, Malachi, Luke, Hebrews, and Romans because as Jon put it, it’s “the clearest statement of the law, the despair of ever filling it, Christ living and fulfilling the law, the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.”

14 Minutes a Day

After we’d worked through the entire Bible, we stopped the emails. And before long, I fell out of the habit of daily Bible reading. So I’ve created 14MinutesaDay.com for my own personal devotional use. But I decided to open it up for others too. I call it: “Bible reading at the speed of life.”

If a free, no-frills, daily email with just a link to a passage of Scripture that will take roughly 14 minutes to read sounds like something you’d want, sign up at: 14MinutesaDay.com

Would you help me build a 2014 “over the top” love playlist?

Frederick Beuchner on God's astounding loveThis quote from Frederick Buechner was on one of my Facebook friends streams around Christmas. (Sorry I don’t remember who’s!)

The full quote is:

“Once we have seen Him in a stable, we can never be sure where He will appear or to what lengths He will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His wild pursuit of men.” – Frederick Buechner

I love the phrase “ludicrous depths of self-humiliation.” I too often forget this about God. This Hosea-like seeking and giving second chances over and over again. This love that makes you look totally foolish.

That’s our God. And I want to remember that in 2014.

Crazy love playlist

Honestly, it’s an aspect of God that makes me a bit uncomfortable. I’m reminded of the line in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, about Aslan being good but not being tame. But I think David tapped into it when he danced his clothes off.

How would I live my life if I was firmly convinced that God is crazy in love with me? That he delights in my quirks and individuality? That, like Zepheniah says, He will rejoice over me with singing?

To help me remember this in 2014, I’d love to build a Spotify playlist. Would you help me? I’m looking for songs that celebrate this aspect of God’s love for us.

I immediately think of songs like John Mark McMillan’s “How He Loves” with lines like “He is jealous for me” and “Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” Especially: “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us.” Kim Walker and David Crowder have also done versions of this.

I also think of songs like Alanis Morissette’s “Everything.” I can’t help but think of God when she sings about how human she is and then sings, “…you’re still here.”

What other songs should be on the playlist?

If you were building a playlist about over-the-top love, what other songs would you add? Worship music, pop music, I’m not really particular where the songs come from.

Leave them as a comment here, tell me on Twitter @marcapitman, or send me an email marc@fundraisingcoach.com. I’d love to know the song, the artist you prefer, and the reason you think it fits.

After it hits 5 or 6 songs, I’ll share my list on Spotify. I plan on continuing to add to it throughout the year.

(If you’re on Spotify, check out my “Kingdom in Unexpected Places” playlist. It’s a list of songs that remind me, unexpectedly, of God.)

Just accept it!

This month, I’ve been working hard to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. That’s meant not doing work or TV until midnight. It’s meant reordering my days and even being more consistent in exercising.

One unexpected twist: I’m so peaceful it freaks me out.

I’ve long known I’ve been motivated by stress and deadlines. What I guess I didn’t realize is how “normal” that low grade stress had become.

So now I’m finding myself having to press in to this new sense of calm rather than self-sabotaging it and getting stressed.

Stressing about not being stressed? Yeah, I know I’m odd.

Self Sabotage

The Path
Got a call earlier today from a joint venture partner. My first thought was:

“He’s calling it off. The project is over.”

Why do I do this? I’m pretty much an over-the-top optimist. The glass is always full: sometimes full of liquid, sometimes full of air. It’s always full.

There really is always a silver lining. There is always a seed of equal or greater benefit in even in the worst experiences.

So why do I do automatically jump to the negative?

Deeply rooted pattern

This pattern of thinking has gotten me in trouble before. I’ve had it with just about every boss over the last couple decades. When they asked to see me, I just knew they were going to fire me.

Totally irrational. They may have been wanting to say something good for all I know!

The problem is, I come to the meeting radiating defensiveness rather than collaboration. Not the best mindset to approach any meeting (other than one that you really do need to be defensive in!).

Paths

I’ve heard that with the brain, a thought pattern is like a path. The more it’s traveled, the more worn the path gets. Eventually, the path is a paved city street.

It takes a lot less energy to travel a paved street than a dirt path. So in a way, the brain is gravitating toward the path of least resistance.

Bushwhacking

I guess the only way to solve this is to force myself to think good thoughts when I see the doom-and-gloom start to raise its ugly head.

When I start thinking dark thoughts, I will have to take out my mental machete and force myself to think of a great thing that could happen.

If I get another call that leads me down the thought path I mentioned above, I could add:

…perhaps…He could be calling to call this off. OR, he could be calling to celebrate a breakthrough.

What do you do to retrain your brain?

May Reading

May 2002
Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Another I read out loud to my family. I love L’Engle’s imagination. A wonderful form of midrash.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
Read this book outloud to my wife and our new daughter. Amazing imagery!

So That’s What They’re For!: Breastfeeding Basics by Janet Tamaro
I re-read this fun book on a very serious topic in preparation for the birth of our second child.

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle
This hardcover edition includes the “anti-muffin” chapter that wasn’t originally published. A quick, engaging story.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
I started reading this series out loud to my son, a few pages a day before he goes to sleep. Lewis is an incredible story teller.

Boys Will Be Men: Masculinity in Troubled Times by Richard A. Hawley
Hawley has some great insights about boys and about masculinity in the 20th century but I must’ve missed how he intended to tie it all together. This book seemed more like a series of essays than a cohesive whole.

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and ‘Women’s Work’ by Kathleen Norris
This slim volume is packed with wisdom.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’d never been able to get through this book until I read it out loud to my wife! It’s terrific.

The Cat Who Robbed a Bank by Lilian Jackson Braun
I’m doing this series out of sequence but it’s as delightful as ever. Recorded Books does wonderful editions of Braun’s work.

Schoolmastering by Samuel S. Drury
This 1926 book on being a boarding school headmaster is a classic. Drury was the head (“rector”) of St. Paul’s School in NH.

Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques
I did it. I’ve caught up with my wife before the baby came. Another fun Redwall story.

The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium by Robert Lacey, Danny Danziger
I enjoyed this book through a recording by Books on Tape. An interesting look at life a millenium ago.

Addiction and Grace by Gerald May
I was indirectly inspired to read this after reading so much Anne Lammott. May does incredible things with his understanding of addiction and God’s love. I highly recommend this for people of any faiths.

Salamandstron by Brian Jacques
My wife’s charged me with catching up to her in this series before our second child is born this month. I’ve liked each book in this series so far!