Archive for March, 2012

Always amazed at the genius of bands who can play a song with he simplest of instrumentation:

One of the few times I wish I was a police officer.

I bet this dude couldn’t remember his address if asked, but he got every word of Bohemian Rhapsody right!!!!  🙂

Listen up all you Living Stoners – we have some ambitious plans for some crazy good Spring clean-up this coming Saturday 9:00 am – noon.  We are going to transform our front yard to look like this:

Front yard view of Living Stones Church

Pretty sweet huh?  Yea.  It will be the coolest yard on Donmoyer Avenue!!!

And if we have enough people to help, we are making the entrance into our parking lot look like this:

Living Stones Church sweet-looking driveway into parking lot!

You’re thinking – “Man I go to the coolest church on Donmoyer Avenue!!!”  It’s true.  You do.  But, as you can see we need a lot of help to pull this off so I’ll see YOU at the Living Stones Church this Saturday at 9:00 am.  We should have everything done by noon.

And to my fellow Living Stoners of the male gender – if more women show up to this event than men (as the sign ups thus far indicate) – I’m taking away your “man-card” at communion!!!!  And dude…if you are single…THERE are more women signed-up than men!!!!!  You get what I’m sayin‘!?  Yea…I’m just trying to help a brother out.

Bring your rakes, working gloves, hedge clippers, weed-whackers, etc.  If it rains, the alternate date is Thursday evening, April 8th 5:00-8:00 pm.

While not  necessarily news to Living Stones Church (unless you missed the week we made the announcement) – I haven’t announced it on the blog – so…

I’m very excited to announce that we are hiring two outstanding gentlemen (loosely defined) to serve on staff here at the Living Stones Church.  

Jeff Gritton

First, we hired Jeff Gritton to lead our Communitas Groups (small groups) and serve as Pastor of Ministries.  Jeff officially begins this Sunday, April 1st (at least that is when we start paying him – he actually started work a month ago…and April Fools Day as a start date seems foreshadowing).  Jeff will begin part-time (continuing to work part-time at Liberty Mutual) and transition to full-time hopefully later this year.  Jeff brings with him a wealth of experience and expertise and is excellent at relationally connecting with our leaders and helping them by way of encouragement, resources, and guidance in vision and mission.

Tim Boucher...who got the job in spite of the fact that he is an Ohio State fan.

Second, we hired Tim Boucher to lead our Student Ministries and Creative Arts.  Presently, Tim is working as a teacher at Jackson Middle School (where…by the way…he was “Teacher of the Year”).  When the school year is up, Tim will begin his employment with Living Stones the second week of June [and by that I mean he will actually start getting paid for the work he is already doing].  Tim brings with him a great passion and energy (as well as years of experience in ministry in several areas) that is contagious and exciting.

I’m personally looking forward to both Tim & Jeff being on staff and bringing a 50/50 balance between men and women on staff.  This will definitely improve my record in our LSC staff men vs. women dodge ball and “red rover” tournaments!!!!  I’ve heard Tim has a wicked throwing arm (but a bum knee) and no one is getting past Jeff in a Red Rover competition.

graphic from theresurgence.com

I think everyone who knows me well if you asked them to describe me in one word, would probably say “patient” (“pugnacious” would come in a close second).  Sam Barrington = patience (this is my blog and I can live in whatever fantasy world I so choose!!).

This past week our Communitas Group (our small groups at Living Stones Church) assignment was to at the end of the day log and note when we struggled with patience.  What were the triggers?  What is our typical response when impatient (e.g., yell, sigh, blow up, passive aggressive, silent treatment, vent, count to 10, etc.)?  Who or what do we find we have the least amount of patience for?  How do we cultivate the discipline of patience into our lives.

What I noticed is that there is a huge difference between external and internal patience.  Probably because I was sensitive to the assignment (and my in-laws were in the house for the week) and I didn’t want to come to our small group and confess I hurled a chair at the church staff (I did that once…well…not actually at the staff…but it was close) or that I yelled at my kids so loud that paint chips from the exterior of the house fell off.  So (and my kids would probably dispute this) I felt like it was a good week in regards to external manifestations of patience.

But how a guy looks on the outside, doesn’t mean anything to what he is experiencing on the inside (note what is said about the neighbor who was involved in some shooting – everyone says, “he seemed like such a nice quiet guy“).  Because as I thought about how I had done pretty good externally, I’m not sure I felt it internally.  And I think I can say that as a general life condition I have.

My hair is falling out (I name each departing hair after the person I think caused it), I’m on blood pressure medication, and my body feels perpetually tense.  I went to the dentist a few weeks ago (first time in over 5 years) and they asked me if I clinch or grind my teeth.  I said, “nope” (in spite of clear visual evidence from the pictures and x-rays).  “Don’t think that I do.”  And since then, do you know what I’ve noticed?  I CLINCH MY TEETH ALL THE TIME!!!

So, how do I move external to internal.  This seems to be at the heart of real spiritual discipline.  And this is the exercise we’re trying to work out in Communitas.  This isn’t easy.

…now we step into the highly explosive terrain of politics, religion, and sexual identity…

Yesterday, after two previous failed attempts, the South Bend Common Council voted 6-3 in favor of a Bill that would add sexual identity to a Human Rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination.

I have watched this issue with great interest and I’m trying to read everything I can, both for and against, that will help me see the different sides to this issues and what makes this bill “problematic.”  And I have to be honest, I’m not coming up with much in regards to the opposition to this bill.

(If I’m correct, and really…if I’m wrong…someone please correct me) This bill simply affords those who have been discriminated against based on their sexual identity the ability to file a complaint with the board of Human Rights.  What that means is, a good employee cannot be terminated based on the fact that they are GLBT.  It means that a good renter cannot be thrown out of their apartment simply because they are GLBT.  It means that an owner of a restaurant can’t throw out an otherwise good patron simply on the grounds that they are gay.  Right?  Am I missing something here?

Dear Christians who are freaking out that this bill has passed and are opposing this bill – are we for the above mentioned scenarios?  Really?  We’re for discrimination?!  When did we become for that?  And where in the Bible are we going to support that conviction?

Again, I could be wrong – but I’m pretty sure on this – but the bill is NOT trying to redefine marriage; it isn’t trying to legalize same-sex marriage; and it isn’t a vote on whether or not homosexuality and following Jesus is compatible.  And if that is what the bill is about, then let the debate take place!

This bill simply says we are not for discrimination against our fellow human beings.  Are we Christians not for that?!

Historically, I guess that shouldn’t be shocking if it is the case given that we have pretty much initially been on the wrong side of every major social movement:  slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc.  But that doesn’t mean we have to stay that way.  Decades from now we don’t want to be known as the group of people who wanted to perpetuate discrimination.  Trust me on this.  There will be no “win” in that position.

So, I’ve listened to the opposition.  And this is, the best I can tell, what I hear:

1.  A few arguments based on legalities and enforcement.  

Granted…there may be issues of how this bill is upheld legally in the court of law and its enforcement isn’t exactly clear…but we can let the courts figure that out and the executive branch figure out the details of enforcement.  Right?  That shouldn’t change the principle behind the bill which is that we don’t want people to be discriminated against.

2.  A lot of arguments based on “the slippery slope.”  Meaning if you allow this “militant homosexual agenda” (as they say) succeed the next will be gay marriage!

I find all arguments from slippery slopes to be stupid arguments based more on emotive replies than reason.  I don’t know where this bill might or might not lead…what I know is that the issue at hand is this…discrimination.

3.  Arguments that these are not “civil” or “human” rights but “special” rights.

I’m not sure what that means since I don’t quite understand what “special” right has now been extended.  But the main issue seems to be one of identity – chosen or intrinsic (more on this in just a moment).

4.  Arguments that businesses should not be forced in regards to who they hire and keep on as employees.  

This argument is the most compelling to me but that is because I tend to have libertarian leanings.  However, we, as a society, now see appropriate that sometimes the government needs to enforce a law that keeps people who are of different races from being discriminated against.  And for me, theologically, it is because sin exists.  And with sin, comes hate.  And with hate comes exclusion and discrimination.

Yea, but what about churches and religious organizations?  This bill HAS exclusions for religious entities like private schools and churches meaning they don’t have to hire on staff individuals that they believe are living outside of their moral requirements.

5.  Arguments that people who are GLTB are so by choice.

To this I would say, you’ve never honestly spoken to anyone who is GLTB.  Every person I’ve talked to who was gay did not decide on some date to become gay.  It isn’t like on “such-and-such” a date to switch from Nutra-Sweet to Splenda.  In fact, every gay person I’ve talked to (and remember what I do for a living) has shared that if they could, they would choose to be straight to save them the pain and heartache of strained relationships and problems with families, churches, friends, etc.

I’ve read quite a bit on the causation of “being gay.”  And the most unbiased scientists I know concede the intricacies and complexities of sexual identity are so large and so great that no one causation can flippantly be thrown out (e.g., “there is a gay gene” or it is purely “environmental”).  Truth is, we aren’t exactly sure what causes someone to be gay.  And it may be different for each person.

So it is argued that we should not extend discriminatory protection because being gay is a behavior identity and not an intrinsic one (like the color of your skin).  Again, issue of causation are hugely contested here.  But, even if we just conceded that it is behavior identity, isn’t Christianity the same thing?  And we would want recourse if we lost our job simply because of our religion.

So, fire away on the comment section (keep it respectful or I will delete it).  But in my mind, I don’t understand why this is so controversial, or why Christians would be leading the charge against it!!!  The way of Jesus and the promotion of discrimination towards others should not be considered synonymous.  I think if we are serious about wanting to change the world for Jesus, appearing to support discrimination based on an individual’s sexual identity isn’t going to be the route that accomplishes it.

Years ago I was with a group of pastors when one of them started to share a story about something they did with the kids at a church camp to make a point.  He went on to share that at the evening campfire, all the kids were gathered around, they had just spent time worshiping, and then he got up and announced that one of their favorite and greatly loved camp counselors had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and wasn’t expected to live much longer.  Well…as you might expect – especially at a church camp, with tired and exhausted campers, at night, during a campfire, after worship – they were emotionally affected by this announcement.  They cried and were upset, etc.  BUTnone of it was true.  Their beloved counselor didn’t have cancer!!  They were just trying to make a point about emotionalism!!!  They thought, through this experience, they could show the kids how easy it is to fall into emotionalism!!!

I thought – you didn’t prove anything other than a bunch of kids really love their counselor and that adults can be mean manipulative jerks!!!!

The last thing we want as adults is to be manipulated.  But when it comes to teens…for some reason there are churches that think they are fair game.

Take for example this story in the news from the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Pennsylvania.  To make a point about what foreign missionaries may have to undergo by way of persecution, they staged an “armed raid” complete with the kidnapping of a teenager.  Yea.  This is a great idea!!! *sarcasm*  In our day and age where a shooting in a church isn’t unheard of, let’s get all of our kids in a room and without telling them what is going on, stage a seemingly real raid complete with pillowcases over their heads and hands being bound behind their back!  That’s brilliant!!  Pfft.

Sometimes God just decides a church is going to have a particular ministry whether it asks for it or not.  And since He is God, he gets to do that and doesn’t really need to ask anyone for permission!  And for whatever reason, God has decided that the Living Stones Church is going to have a ministry for families and children with special needs.  We didn’t ask for it.  We didn’t pray for it.  We didn’t set it as a part of some great “vision statement” / outreach plan.  God just sent us a ton of families with children who have special needs.  Like, percentage-wise, more than any church I know!!! (humility qualifier:  I don’t know every church. 🙂 ).

What is strange about God’s plan is that I feel like we are an ill-equipped church for such a ministry.  We don’t have many resources in regards to money, space, etc.  But, I guess that doesn’t concern God at all.

What we do have is people like Amy Osterhout (she leads our children’s ministry) who before coming on staff at LSC served in the South Bend Community School Corporation as a special education teacher for 17 years.  AND we have Melissa Holstein who has seven children (along with a husband who could at times qualify as one of her children 🙂 ) who has several children with autism and a PASSION to see families who need support get it!  She started “precious stones” here several years ago for this very need.  (sidenote:  I don’t know anyone who lives with as much grace, humor, and endurance in the midst of their life circumstances than the Holsteins.  Don’t tell them – but they are heroes to me).  AND we have an entire children’s ministry team that in heart, life experience, or passion is second to none in regards to children with special needs.

SO…Here we go!!  I guess we are beginning a venture to figure out how to be a church that is capable of ministering faithfully to families and children with special challenges that God has sent us.  We don’t have everything figured out.  But we’re going to try.

I got an e-mail this morning from Karen Roberts who works with Joni & Friends International Disability Center.  It looks like we are going to learn as much from them as we can on how we are supposed to serve and minister well.

Speaking of heroes, Mike Cope who is one of my preaching heroes…like seriously…the man can preach in such a way that Scripture just comes to life…at his blog PreacherMike.com began today a series on “Church and Families With Specially Challenged Kids” and I know it is going to be great.  You should check it out here.  The above video is from his first post.

There used to be a time, not long ago, when Indiana stood as a bulwark of sanity and conviction.  A time where the great Hoosier state, in spite of what the rest of the nation was doing, stood constant when it came to time.  “Spring forward” / “Fall backwards” were phrases that might as well have been spoken in a foreign language.  Who, in the land of corn (oooh…by the way…there is more than corn in Indiana), even knew what that meant?  Along with our allies in Arizona, we refused to participate in the ridiculous notion that we should change our clocks twice a year – as if we were God who could control time or make the sun stand still (or at least make it shine a little longer).  But all of that changed a few years ago when our Governor, Mitch Daniels, pushed to sell our soul to the devil and placed Indiana on Day Light Saving Time.  And to compound his sin – he made us go with Eastern, instead of Central time.  *insert tearing of garments, ashes, and sack cloth.*  Obviously, when Jesus returns, it will be based on the Central time zone!!!

So…this is the first year that the Living Stones Church has had three morning worship services – 9:00, 10:30, and 11:55 am.  It is also the first time that we have had to experience Day Light Saving Time with these three services.  How would we be affected?  Would it be normal?  Would we have our normal attendance?  Would people remember to change their clocks?  Would the numbers be down at our 9:00 am service?

And then…it happened.  9:00 am arrived.  And this is what you could see at 9:00 am at the Living Stones Church:

People who love Jesus more than those who came at 10:30 & 11:55 am

 

Yea!!!  Thanks a lot Governor Daniels!!  Look what YOU did to our 9:00 am service!!!  Now, 9:00 am is usually the smallest of our three services – but this!!!?  This is just wrong.  So…consider this a formal message of disapproval to your willingness to cave into Satanic pressure to move the great state of Indiana (home of John Cougar Mellancamp…and probably ex-home of Peyton Manning) into the myriad of states in our union who have to turn their clocks twice a year.