What Others Are Saying:

Steve Case, through his emersion into the story, reminds us that the presence of the divine surrounds us continually and he teaches us how to tap into that presence.

 - Mary Beth Howe, Author:A Baptist Among Jews

Friday
Oct042013

Image

I looked up an old friend this week.  His name is Eric and we actually have been Facebook ‘friends’ for a little while. We knew each other in college. We were both DJs on the campus radio station. WKSR! (Where Kent State Rocks!!).  Eric was a year behind me.  We also were both student interns for WKSU-National Public Radio.  I looked Eric up this week because I knew he had continued his career in Public Radio. He also wrote an incredible and deeply personal novel called: Giving Up The Ghost and for those of you who are into Rock and Roll,  Eric also wrote a quite brilliant book on censorship and music called Parental Advisory. (A nice resource for term papers if you need it.)

 Anyway I looked up Eric and found he is now a VICE PRESIDENT for Programming for National Public Radio. There was a picture.  I thought “God, he’s old.”  (Sorry Eric.) Then I remembered he was a year BEHIND me in college. This morning I looked at my face in the mirror and thought “Who is that?”.  

 I was holding onto the image of Eric the college student. The one who used to chill out in the “lobby” of the campus radio station. That was my image...worse yet...I still thought of myself that way. 

 Growing up is hard...on youth AND your parents. Your parents held you in their hands and sang you to sleep. There was a time when you were completely dependent on your parents. That’s like a drug in some cases.  Its easy for a parent to get hooked on that dependence. They need you to depend on them while at the same time pushing you toward being grown-up. I have a friend named Kenny.  Kenny is three.  Kenny at the crawled up in my arms the other day and hugged me tight. I’d forgotten how much I missed that.  At the same time I could not be prouder of my own offspring who are in their twenties. Cut your parents some slack. They may not see you as a grown up for a very long time. 

 I have this image of God in my head. It’s been there since my Kindergarten Sunday school teacher showed me his picture.  I’ve revised it over the years but to me my image of God is the old white guy grandfather. I see him dancing at the creation or wearing an apron and bending over a potter’s wheel.  I see him mooning Moses. I see him with a paint brush or a chef’s hat. No matter how many books I read  about God or how many theological articles, or how many sermons I hear.  God, to me, is a kind old man who has eyes older than creation itself.  I can’t accept the “cosmic blob’ or the great amoeba of love. I relate to my world physically...fatherly...perhaps it is only natural that my God is too.

 Who is God to you?  How does it relate to the world around you?  I have a friend who is a musician. God, to him, is a song. Nothing physical but like a song that you keep in your heart. God is the background music in the movie. Superman soaring or Darth Vader marching. If I think of God as a song it’s usually God driving down a beach road in an old convertible with the music turned up.

 How do you relate the world?  Who is your God?  Or maybe its the other way around. Who is your God and how does that affect they way you relate the to the world around you? 

Thursday
Sep262013

Authentic Play

Okay, check out the picture... 

 These are Imaginext figures from Fisher Price. Cool toys. Some of the coolest toys out there these days. I’ve been collecting these guys for a few years now. (Yes, I’m nearly 50. Deal with it.)  To me, these are the true toys. They run on imagination. No batteries. No videos. No plug ins. No blood. (Unless the dinosaur bites the Queen’s guard guy. He might bleed.)

 When I worked as a sales associate at KB Toys I would steer people toward cool toys like this.  Lots of grandparents would come in concerned they did not know what to buy their grandchildren for Christmas.  I’d show them toys like these.  When my own kids were little. We had a lot of toys like these. They had adventures as far as you could dream.  It was kind of a bummer when my offspring grew up because I thought I could not play with toys any more. (Solution: Get my own toys.)

 An Ipad is not a toy.  Toys should not interact with the television. Toys should interact with your imagination.  I don’t want the computer telling me what the story is. I can do that just fine thanks.  What happened to holding the bat-plane in the air and going 

 “WHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHH”  or

 “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYOOOOOOWWWW.......BOOOM!!!’ 

 (the plane crashed in that last segment but not to worry. Batman and the race car driver bailed out and the two Supermans caught them.)

 There is a four year old who goes to my church.  He’s my friend. He carries a dozen or more little plastic animals with him to church every Sunday and has names for all of them. 

 Nothing against video games. I have a few. If we want kids to make it today we have to introduce them to computers early and if you have to come up with a game or a toy to do that....cool. But I think there is such a thing as authentic play. I’ve watched little kids play and what they can come up with is so much better and, to them, so much more real than what the computer tells them.

 Authentic Play (Got that? okay. Let’s push on.)

 So, I’m thinking about this as I’m adding my most recent characters to the collection...and I’m wondering... 

 What is...“authentic” faith?  What does that look like?

 What does belief look like in its purest form without trimmings and trappings and rules?

 What does faith look like when it operates on imagination?  On hope?

 What Jesus said was pretty simple.  “Love God.  Love each other.”

 Love God. Love each other.

Think about that. Pretty much everything else that shapes our religion our church our actions....is our own additions.  We added volumes to “Love God. Love each other.”

 I work at an incredibly left-leaning-gay-marriage-performing church. Just down the street from us is highly conservative put-crosses-in-the-front-yard-for-aborted-babies Catholic church.  I have written articles for some conservative companies. Yes, I’m a liberal who can speak evangelical. 

 All of them started with “Love God. Love each other.” and look where we all have gone.

 Love God. Love each other.

 What if we started with that today. Skip everything else...just for today and begin with Love God. Love each other.

 Where will that take you?

 

Monday
Sep232013

TWERK

Miley Cyrus’s video debuted at number one last week, just ten days after her stunt at the VMAs.  Do you know what we WEREN’T doing for the ten days before the VMA’s?  Talking about Miley Cyrus.  (I remember when Madonna pulled a similar stunt at the VMAs in the 80’s.  As did Ms Spears...as did Ms Aguleria...as did...well you get the idea.)

 Now, take that and put it aside for a moment.  Hang it on that hook over there and we will get back to it.

 Imagine a book.  It was written thousands of years ago. Imagine it was written by some really holy people and it was then put on a shelf and everyone is told...YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO READ FROM THAT.   No one can read from it.  The people who wrote it are long dead and no one has even taken it off the shelf. No one is holy enough to read it. We all know it’s there. We all see it. No one reads from it.  Only God himself if he came down from heaven and stood right here in this spot....HE could read from it. Nobody else. Nope. Not ever. It’s that holy. It’s that special.

 In walks this guy.  A carpenter’s kid. We all know him. We’ve all watched him grow up and play with the kids in the street and pick his nose and squirm in church and go through puberty and now he’s a man.  He goes off to seminary. He comes home to take care of his mama and they invite him to preach.  His big debut. Mom has been telling the whole neighborhood. “Remember my boy?  He’s going to preach on Sunday. You should come.”

 He shows up. The place is packed. Most of them because they were cajoled into it by his mother.  He stands in front of the church and he grabs THAT BOOK.  He opens it!!! My God he touched book!!! My God, he opened it!!!  He’s not really going to....is he???? He wouldn’t dare!!!  He is!!!! Oh my God!!!!!

 He preaches. He sits and the room suddenly is awakened from his stunned silence and they chase him across a field and try to throw him off a cliff.  At the last minute he turns. He looks at them and walks through the crowd.

 

Am I making a comparison between Jesus and Miley Cyrus?  No. Well, kind of.  To hear some of the reactions of well-meaning-grown-ups and certain television “news” journalists you would think she broke the most sacred law ever. She didn’t. She pranced around and stuck out her tongue and basically did what other singers have done. She got people talking and she made a lot of money.

 My question for the moment is...where do we go from here. 

From the moment where Jesus set the entire world (or at least the world most people were familiar with) ablaze...then what?  People talked. People listened. People reasoned with each other.

 Some got really angry. Others decided to feed the poor.  Some shook their fists and said “How dare you?”  (or in today’s culture “How dare you!  I’m offended. I’m offended.”)  Some  people said, “Maybe he’s right. Maybe we should try being nice to each other for a change.”

 I am encouraged by this new Pope. Do I agree with the practices and theology of the Catholic church? That would be a “nope”.   But when he says “Who am I to judge?”  when he says “Roll up your sleeves and serve.”  I am encouraged.  I’d love to have coffee with this guy.

 Miley Cyrus got a bunch of people talking for a few weeks. Where she goes from here is up to her. Madonna survived and thrived. Brittany...I worry about. Pink and Christina have become strong women fully in charge of their own lives.  Will anyone be talking about them in 2000 years?  Again, Im guessing that would be a “Nope.”

 What do we do after the moment when the world changes?  You can set it right and try and make things the way they were or you can roll with it. You can change with it. You can keep changing it.  What are you doing to change the world? 

 

Let it be something big.

Let it be something important.

And for God’s sake keep your pants on.

Monday
Sep092013

Better

My friend Cameron walks into my office the other night and I said, “Hey, how are you?”

 This is a typical pleasant greeting one would give to anyone.  Cameron answered “Better.”

 Sometimes people will answer “Fine.”  When you ask that question. 

They will say “Fine” even if they are not fine.  Fine or Okay or doin’ good  are all answers we give even if we are not any of those things.  Comedian George Carlin would answer “Relatively okay” or “moderately neato.”  Sometimes he would answer with “I’m not unwell.”  Which would tick people off because they would have to stop and figure that out for themselves.

 Cameron was “Better.”  

 I think this should be the answer every time someone asks.  “I’m better.”  

 Being a perpetual 13 year old it did put me in mind of the old bit from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.  (I’m not going to go into here.  It’s on Netflix.  Rated R. It’s gross.)

 Okay, back on task....Cameron was “Better” and I think that should always be the answer.

 How’s school?  Better.

How’s that project coming along?  Better.

 We should always strive to be better.  It doesn’t have to be a LOT better.  Better by leaps and bounds is not required.  Bonus for you if you can be better by leaps and bounds but just a little better than you were is perfectly acceptable.

 It’s getting better all the time. (Insert Beatles music.)

 I was reading a psalm this morning. I think it was Psalm 30.  David is saying I was on the floor and grieving...now I am dancing.  He gives credit to God for this.

 I can’t imagine it happened all at once.  Better doesn’t work that way.  If it did it would be called GREAT not Better.   Better comes in increments.  A little better all the time.

 When you lose someone you love it’s horrible.  You feel like horrible is going to last forever. Then it doesn’t.  It gets a little better.  Eventually you will remember that person you lost and you will smile not cry.  It’s get’s better.

 Being a teenager is tough.  Part of this is due solely to biology.  Your very genetic make-up is changing rapidly and it’s hard to comprehend everything that is happening to you....it gets better.

 High school is hard....SO much harder than it was when I was in high school. It’s a culture often based on shallowness and trying to be something they are not just to fit in.  Don’t do that.  Be yourself. If people don’t like you for who you are THAT IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM.  It gets better.

 When I see you next time and I ask “How are you?”  I want you to say “Better.”  When a store clerk or someone in the hallway says “How you doing today?”  Say, “Better.”  Let’s make this a social experiment.   How long do you have to say “Better” before you start to believe it?  How long do you have to act like “Life gets better” before it does?

 

 

Thursday
Aug292013

Actual Size

When my daughter got married I bought a new suit.  I also bought a new white shirt.  The shirt came from a shop called Casual Male XL.  I’m already getting a catalog called King Size.  It makes you wonder how many nice ways they can come up with to say “tall and fat”.  

 After buying the shirt I started getting emails from the company. These always seem to come with the FROM address reading “LIVINGXL”

 I don’t think about living “extra large”.  I wear a 3XL shirt but thats not the same thing as living.  You can be alive and not be living.  

 I want to live life ACTUAL SIZE.

 Life is big. There is so much of it out there to experience.  I don’t want to hide and see if it comes to me. I want to find it.  I want to set traps and capture it. I want to let it go then follow it. 

 Living life actual size is being open to everything...the pain and the joy...the fear and the courage...the triumph and the tragedy....the soaring and the falling.  

 Not living life actual size is like putting the same song on your ipod a thousand times and then hitting the shuffle button.

 Not living life actual size is like thinking you are going out on a limb and ordering FRENCH vanilla.  (It’s still vanilla, notice the name.)

 We keep ourselves from living actual size when we say things like...

 

Oh I could never...

I’m not smart enough...

I’m a wuss...

I’m scared...

People would judge me...

I’d look stupid...

 So what do these matter?  Why do we give the people who would judge or laugh or criticize the authority over our lives?  These people are “medium” people who are wearing 9XL t-shirts and can’t understand why they feel like life doesn’t fit them.

 Live your life.  Live it actual size.

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