Why the Western Education system has failed me

I will qualify this post with a statement: I really love school, education, and learning. However, Western education has failed me. Big time.

From the time I entered pre-school I was taught that in order to be successful in life I had to do well in school, get a degree (or two or three), get a good job, and everything else (such as friendships, marriage, and family) would fall in to place in its own time. And for a goal-oriented, type A, perfectionist person like myself, I knew that I wanted to be successful and would do what I needed to in order to achieve that. Everyone kept telling me that I should DO what I love instead of BEING with people I love. And I did. With a vengeance.

Today, as I sat in my graduate school philosophy class, my professor made an awesome comment. He is actually the inspiration for this post. He basically said that rather than teaching us solely how to be “successful” (according to the individualistic Western mindset), our education system should have been teaching us social skills – how to treat people with kindness, how to value them for their uniqueness, how to have successful interpersonal relationships. I happen to agree.

Even the [American] Church has failed me. For the past 10 years or so, almost every time I walked into a church the conversation was quickly turned to what skills I could bring to the table and how I could serve. Or, I was forgotten as soon as I walked away. I felt like I only mattered because of what I can do and not simply because I exist. Sure, it helps that many of my skill sets are perfectly tailored to a church setting, but still… Jesus taught us to firstly love God and to secondly love other people. All of the Law summed up in two very simple statements. And we can’t even get that right! All I’m saying is that I’ve spent most of my life being a do-er rather than a be-ing because that’s how I was taught to be in order to have success. I’ve definitely started rethinking that.

Community is a word that I have shied away from most of my adult life. For me, it has come off as a bit disingenuous and something that would force me to be there to set up before and tear down after with (maybe) a cursory “Thank You” tossed in my direction at the end of it. It’s never seemed worth it to me. However, the more I engage with the Gospel and the more I engage in the academic realm, I find that community is essential to making life worth living. But not community in the way that I see it done in Western culture.

As a Western thinker, I don’t actually know how to serve or give without expecting something in return. I don’t truly understand how my actions and words can influence other people, for better or worse. I am careless, reckless, and argumentative. It’s in my DNA. I am human. However, I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I actually put others needs above my own, for their sake and not because I would feel guilty about it later. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I would take the time to stop and think about the words that were coming out of my mouth rather than saying idle things that I would need to apologize for later. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I could change the way that I look at the people around me and appreciate them for who they are and not wonder what benefit they might be to me down the road. They would be the benefit, simply because they are apart of my life.

The irony of this post is that without western education, without seminary, without the philosophy class that I was sitting in this morning… I would have never gotten to this point. I have been really careful not to make sweeping generalizations, because there are a lot of people that have made it through life very successful and are amazing, altruistic, loving people. I hope to get there. But I find that my focus needs to shift and what I value needs to change.

Is it just me?

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Thoughts on Sabbath

The discipline of having a Sabbath is something that I have never done well. My personality drives me to always be doing something… even if I’m home, I’m probably doing some type of work. It was only a few days ago that I realized that I had driven myself to a place where I was teetering on the edge of my sanity (…that might be a little dramatic, but that’s how I was feeling) because I not was actively practicing a Sabbath rest.

I was ready to blame my frantic pace on the people around me… but that wouldn’t be fair. As a friend pointed out to me on Thursday, I helped create the world that I am currently living in. So, for me, the past few days have been about recovery and setting boundaries; boundaries that I intend to keep. As a single person in ministry, I have found that it is really easy to take on activities and projects without a second thought… it’s the idea that I’m helping out the people with spouses and kids so that they aren’t overburdened. But I realized that I was beginning to miss out on my life… my family, my friends, my hobbies, etc., etc. And that began to frustrate me. I was angry at God for putting me in the position where I was overworked for His sake.

Then I received some really good words of wisdom from two different people that I absolutely trust. They helped me see that a lot of what I have been feeling has come out of what I have helped create. I don’t need to say yes to everything. I don’t have to carry everyone else’s burdens. I just need to do what God has called me to do. Nothing more, nothing less.

Which brings me to the weekend. I’ve spent the majority of the past 60 or so hours just resting. Reading, chatting with friends, watching TV, scrapbooking… resting. It has also been a good time of self-reflection. I’ve been thinking about where I am and where I want to end up and how to get there. I’ve spent a lot of time praying about my future and contemplating what the next few years might look like for me. I guess the thing I’ve learned most from my Sabbath weekend is (in its very beginning stages) how to submit my life to God. It’s something that I’ve been attempting for the past year – to fully submit – but that, I’m finding, starts with stopping… with not trying to DO everything, but just allowing myself to BE.

I am currently reading Mark Labberton’s “The Dangerous Act of Worship” (which, by the way, I highly recommend for all worship leaders, but also for any person who breathes) and I think he did a great job in summarizing why Sabbath is important:

“Practicing biblical rest in some pattern of sabbath-keeping is not a sign of abdication, nor arrogance, nor bourgeois indulgence. Instead it means we stop at least once a week to remember that we are not God.”

I am not God. What a concept.

Sabbath isn’t about giving up control of my life, it’s about acknowledging that my life shouldn’t be mine to control in the first place when submitted to God’s will. Sabbath is as much apart of what I do and who I am as a worship leader as anything I might say or do when I stand on a platform on any given Sunday.

Sabbath is important. It stinks that I had to go through the week I did in order to realize it.

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In Honor of Father’s Day!

I really love Father’s Day. It’s the day that we get to celebrate some of the coolest people I have ever known. So, to all the Dads out there, you’re awesome. Period.

That being said, I would like to honor my own Daddy by listing the 3 greatest lessons he’s taught me (thus far).

1. How to put God first (always).

Firstly, this has nothing to do with the fact that I am a pastor’s kid. Long before my parents were licensed pastors, putting God first was something that was very clearly modeled before myself and my siblings. When we were kids (up until I left for college), we would congregate as a family in one of our bedrooms and read the Bible and pray together. It sounds cheesy, but it seriously some of the most memorable parts of my childhood. Anyway, the thing I loved the best was that every night before we went to bed, my dad would bless us individually with the priestly blessing found in the book of Numbers.

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” – Numbers 6: 24-26

Throughout my life, I have watched my dad model a consistent walk before God… in our family, in his job, and in his ministry. I could not ask for a better example of what it truly means to put God first in your life.

 

2. How to take care of my own stuff

In other words, responsibility. My dad is a very responsible person and passed that trait on to me (and my siblings too). He was the person that would make me call when I was having trouble with my bank or encourage me to deal with conflict instead of running from it or would make me save money for something that I really wanted (or needed). And, to be honest, I hated it. But it was something that I learned at a young age, and the principle of responsibility has helped define who I have become into my adulthood. Along the same vein, he also taught me about commitment. I learned that when I commit to something, I have the responsibility to see that commitment through to the end.

 

3. How to be serious, but not to take yourself too seriously.

My dad, by his very nature, is pretty serious. He works with numbers and money and that isn’t a very ha-ha type of job. But there is a time and a place for that. I watch my dad crack up numerous times in a week (usually at the hands of my sister and brother), I’ve watched him be complete ridiculous in children’s ministry throughout the years,  and, well…

Camp Cedar Crest

…I think the picture says it all really.

 

There are so many things that I could say that I’ve learned from my dad and I’m sure that there is plenty more to learn from him. But today, I will say HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!

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The Journey

Over the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve attended a couple of weddings, a graduation and

Ceci's 21st Birthday @ the Beach

numerous birthday celebrations (including my own). I love the celebration of accomplishments, of milestones. Those are the days in which we remember the journey and admire how far we’ve come since day one.

My Birthday

My 24th Birthday!

As I’ve gained this crazy appreciation of the milestone, I also have found a greater appreciation for the “other” days. Those days that make up the journey. To the average onlooker, I have not accomplished anything really BIG in the last year. No graduation, no wedding, no new job, etc., etc. BUT, I am not the same person I was a year ago. And that is a HUGE accomplishment.

I’ve learned to appreciate the milestones when they come but to love the journey

Rheanna & I at graduation

Rheanna's College Graduation

that gets me there (wherever “there” might be) even more! Each of those “non-significant” days play a significant part in getting me to that next BIG DAY. And it’s in those “other” days that I make new friends, go on new adventures, and experience life! Every day may not be a BIG DAY, but it is a day to live and to experience and to enjoy.

Prepare for tomorrow, be excited for your next BIG DAY… but don’t worry about it. It will come. Enjoy today!

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!” -Dr. Suess

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On Dreams

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was all vanity: but dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” – T.E. Lawrence

[I find there is a bit of irony in the title of this blog and the fact that it is almost 1 am on Tuesday and I can’t sleep…  just sayin’.]

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being the next Whitney Houston (the pre-Bobby Brown, non-cracked out version – circa 1990). I dreamed of being rich and famous and having a killer vocal range that could only be envied but never replicated. I used to dream SO BIG!

Somewhere, along this journey of my youth, I stopped dreaming. Or, at very least, I would only acknowledge the dreams that I knew I could accomplish. I became very content with where I was because I knew I could succeed. There was no risk involved, therefore there was no risk of failure. I began to settle. Change was the enemy and comfort was the goal.

Until recently, that is.

I began to dream again. And not just the manageable dreams… the impossible dreams (cue the music from the Man of La Mancha here). And at that moment that I began to look at the dreams that I could make happen, I started to believe that I can change the world. And that opened up a world of creativity, joy, hope, life, passion, and wonder.

I don’t plan on being the next Whitney Houston anymore (really, who would want to be at this point?!?!), but I do believe that there are things within me that can change the world. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And that’s my new plan.

I didn’t make any resolutions for the new year, because, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t keep them. However, my goal for this year is to change my world. If not the entire world at once, I can at least do something to bring change to those in my sphere of influence. I can begin to make plans to live out the dreams that are in my head and my heart instead of just dreaming about them. And I can begin to find ways to help others live out their dreams. Because, I believe, that when we all begin to live out our dreams, we truly can change the world.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

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Sunday Morning Thoughts

I don’t know if other worship leaders are like me in this, but I get really REALLY excited on Sunday mornings when I see God moving through the set… even before a single note is played. Our worship practice doesn’t start for another half hour, but I’m excited for the journey that we are about to embark on as a worship team and as a congregation! (Nerdy, maybe… but I feel no shame!)

I love the Psalms. And the reason I love them is because they are so… for lack of a better term, moody. From “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name…” (Psalm 103:1) all the way to “Arise, LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies…” (Psalm 7:6), the psalms reflect the gamut of emotions that I could be feeling at any moment. And I like that. The psalmists were real people, real worshipers, with real emotions that weren’t always happy-go-lucky.

All that to say, my worship set is a little moody today… but in a good way. It explores all of those feelings that people might walk into a church with: joy, sorrow, love, despair and everything in between! We all have our “stuff” that we walk into church with and I believe that the church will be more effective if we start acknowledging our “stuff” instead of trying to ignore it. Sometimes, a song of lament has its place, because life is not all rainbows and sunshine. And that’s ok! But more importantly, God cares about our “stuff” and he wants us to lay our “stuff” at His feet and leave it there.

My favorite part of this morning’s worship set, comes from one of my favorite hymns and has been running through my mind all week long:

My sin O the bliss of this glorious tho’t/ My sin not in part but the whole/ Was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more/ Praise the Lord praise the Lord O my soul

If that doesn’t give you a reason to worship, then I don’t know what will!

…My church has been through one crazy year. But looking back, I can’t help but praise. I can’t. Good or bad, happy or sad, healthy or sick, whatever the situation, praise is what I do. Because God is always there. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. Take the words written on the wall of a Nazi concentration camp to heart:

I believe in the sun

Even when it is not shining

I believe in love

Even when I feel it not.

I believe in God

Even when He is silent.

So… go to church today, bring your “stuff”, and leave it there. See where God decides to take you in this new year. And praise him in the midst of it all.

 

 

 

And in case you were wondering… my worship set for the morning is:

Let Everything That Has Breath

Blessed Be Your Name

It Is Well With My Soul

Desert Song

At the Cross

Revelation Song

🙂

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A Charlie Brown Christmas

I love A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s really not Christmas until I have watched it at least three times. So this morning was my first pass at it for the 2010 Christmas season…

This week officially kicks off the busiest time of the year for me. Just looking over my schedule from now until Christmas would probably intimidate the average person, but this is normal for me. If I’m being honest, I don’t love Christmastime the way I used to. I’m sure this has much to do with then insane pace of the season… the parties, the rehearsals, the services, the shopping, and so on, and so on.

And that is why I love A Charlie Brown Christmas… I relate. The commercialism, the consumerism, the parties, the rehearsals, the decorations; it all gets old really quickly. But the simplicity of the Christmas story…

… it’s refreshing. It serves as a reminder for why I do all that I do during the season. It puts back into focus what so easily gets lost in all of the lights and tinsel. It begins to brush away the jaded feelings that come with a season that has lost so much of its meaning.

It’s truth. It’s peace. It’s hope.

Be blessed this holiday season.

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