December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas 2006

Posted in family, friends at 11:03 am by jimazing

I thank God for my friends and I pray that you all have a wonderful, safe Christmas this year.

Remember, no man is a failure who has friends–Clarence Oddbody

December 23, 2006

Christian–The Noun

Posted in I wonder, spirituality at 2:41 pm by jimazing

The word, “Christian” is a noun. You remember nouns from high school English class, right? A person, place or thing. The proper use of the word is something like, “I am a Christian.” The problem is that we have created an adjective from it. Rob Bell points out in his book, Velvet Elvis, that when we use Christian to describe, books and music, at best we blur the meaning and at worst, we say things that are untrue.
For example, what is “Christian” music? Is it music that is performed by Christians? Is it music with words about God from a Christian world view? (Whoops, I’m already in trouble. What is a Christian world view?) I am a Christian and I am a musician. When I play music, is it Christian music? What if it has words that don’t talk about God? What if it has no words at all? Is it still Christian music?

Is Christian music, music with a Christian theme? Is it worship music? Is Christian music the same thing as gospel music? What if it is performed by musicians who do not consider themselves to be Christians? I once knew a guitar player who was not a follower of Jesus and yet he loved to listen to (and perform) country-gospel music. Was it Christian music when he played it?

Do you see how quickly things get ugly when Christian is used as an adjective? Many of us Christians like to join together to find a consensus towards a goal or against something or someone else. For instance, the religious right want to make a Christian world view equivalent to republican world view. I think we do that sort of thing because it feels good to have our beliefs validated by others who believe the same thing we do. While validation and consensus sounds like a great thing, it is counterproductive to our becoming more like Jesus. “Christian” does not work as an adjective.
According to the Bible, God has given each of us unique spiritual gifts. I like to think of these gifts as talents and strengths given to us by God and blessed by Him to help us be the Body of Christ. Just like a body with many members, we all have unique functions. (Functions is not really the right word. It implies something I don’t mean. I am talking about “being” the Body, not “doing something”). I am at my best in the Body of Christ when I am being who I am in a Godly way. When I begin to change because I am concerned with what someone will think, I am moving the body towards conformity and away from being Christlike. A body was never intended to be an eye or a hand or a toe or a spleen or a liver. We need all the parts functioning the way they were created to function.
The best thing we can do as Christians is agree on the basics that make us Christians. After that, we should be able to hold our different beliefs and views. We should discuss them, learn from one another and most of all respect one another when we disagree. Agreeing to disagree is not a bad thing, but we cannot truly agree to disagree until we know that we disagree. We can only know that we disagree by listening to one another. Can we listen without agreeing? Of course we can.

By retaining our own views, beliefs, talents and strengths, the body becomes much more healthy. In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki says that groups are smarter when the individuals can think and act independently of one another. I believe that the Body of Christ is smarter and more effective when everyone is able to bring their own perspective to the table… not to convince everyone that they are right and the others are wrong… but to share their perspective.

If everyone has a different perspective, how can there be a single “Christian” world view? There cannot be. “Christian” does not work as an adjective.
When we discuss a particular topic in my small group and we start moving towards a consensus, I frequently find myself asking if our consensus view is true of the universal Church. If it is not, I push back. The reason is that when we reach consensus in our little community, we shut off our brains and our hearts. That is counterproductive to our being the Body of Christ. Consensus implies that we are all the same. It feels good, but in my experience it is usually unhealthy. It feels good in the same way that having an advantage over my opponent feels good. This is not a game that we win or lose. The Body of Christ is not about being against non-Christians, it is about being Christ to them.
Being a Christian is about following Jesus. There’s so much more to following Jesus than having a cute Christian bumper sticker or Christian key chain fob.

I suggest that we stop using Christian as an adjective. It is too confusing and when it is not confusing, it is comforting for all the wrong reasons. Will you join me in reinstating “Christian” the noun?

December 19, 2006


Posted in personal at 9:21 am by jimazing

alarmclock.JPGAbout 6 weeks ago, I read this blog about getting up early in the morning. I want to be more disciplined about my wakeup time. Reading this raised my awareness that I had slipped back into a pattern of fighting the pillow every morning (and the pillow was winning too often). I was getting up at the last possible moment and rushing out the door almost every day. I decided to do something about it. I would get up at a specific time every morning 7 days a week for one month and then evaluate whether or not it was working for me. I did it and this is my evaluation…

I quickly realized how untrustworthy my will is at 5:15 in the morning. As soon as the alarm goes off, I start whining (on the inside) about needing five more minutes. In the moment, I truly believe that five minutes will make all the difference in the world. Just a little more rest and I will be ready to get up. Of course five minutes really makes no difference at all and if I give in, I’ll be whining for five more. The key for me is that I put my feet on the floor immediately when the alarm sounds. I can sit for about a minute before my backup alarm goes off. Yes, I have a backup alarm. I am sneaky and untrustworthy at 5 AM and I love to sleep. Here’s the wakeup alarm algorithm. I have a fancy radio/CD/alarm clock that my family gave me for Father’s Day a few years ago (Thanks ladies, I still like it). It has two independent alarm settings. I set the first one to go off at 5:00 AM softly playing NPR news. It gets gradually louder until I reach up and turn it down. I am still mostly asleep. At 5:15, my phone alarm sounds. This is the “real” alarm. When this one goes off, it is time to put the feet on the floor. No excuses. I mechanically sit up and put my feet on the floor. After about another minute, I get the backup alarm. My Father’s day alarm clock changes from news to an annoying buzz (just to make sure I didn’t talk myself into sleeping in again).

Even then I am still not really awake. I could easily lay back down and snooze away. So, I go brush my teeth, shave and either shower, or get ready for my morning run with the guys (depending on the day). Only then can I trust myself to stay up. So that’s the routine. Boring, eh? Some of the toughest things for me in life are the boring, repetitive tasks that have to be done.

Each morning, the goal was to get up. that’s it. Not to have a quiet time or to read my bible or anything else. Just get up. I’m a simple man with simple needs. I know how easy it is to take on too much and fall flat on my face. At 48 years old, I know that there have been times in my life that I have been good about waking up early, but they didn’t last. I wanted to evaluate getting up alone, so I limited my focus to the getting up part.
So what did I do? Some mornings I read the web, books, read my bible, meditated, reflected on stuff, prayed. I wrote in my journal and I wrote a blog or two. There were a few mornings that I was still very tired and sleepy even after my wakeup routine… so I took a nap. If that sounds like cheating, I didn’t see it that way at all. I made the decision using my rational, awake mind. The cool thing was that I could be up for an hour, take a 30 minute nap, feel refreshed and still not have to rush out the door.

The first Friday night after completing the month, I stayed up late and decided that I wanted to sleep in on Saturday. Again, this is my rational mind doing the decision making. So, off with the alarms. I slept in until about 8:30 and it felt great! I needed the rest and I didn’t feel like I violated any promises to myself by sleeping in. Later that day, I realized how much I missed that time. The day just flew by even faster than ever.

Sleeping in helped me come to make the decision to continue to get up early. I am making a few changes though. Fifteen minutes of radio is too long. It is just long enough for me to fall back asleep. So I am cutting the “gentle wakeup time” from fifteen minutes to five. The other change is that just getting up is not enough for me now. I am ready to kick the discipline heat up a notch. Now that I am sure that I can get up out of bed even when I don’t feel like it, I believe that I can add one little thing to that routine. I have decided to begin writing every morning for 20 minutes. I can write here, on my blog. I can write in my journal, I can write a letter… anything I want to do, the promise to myself (and anyone who’s reading) is to write for 20 minutes every day. I will try this for a month and evaluate it.

December 15, 2006


Posted in writing at 3:36 pm by jimazing

My posts are boring!

Why do you keep reading my blog? You say it is good. you say you like it, but you don’t… not really. If it were a great movie, you would have told your friends, “You have got to go see this!” If it were a funny video on YouTube, you would emailed it out or hosted it on your blog… if my blog entry had really been all that, you would have told your friends about it… at least once. Tell me what you really think. That’s what I need to hear.

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December 9, 2006


Posted in reflection at 12:24 pm by jimazing

Noise everywhere! I’m sitting in the library waiting for Jeanie who is in a meeting at work. I have an hour to read and write… Kids are running around making noise and their mom is letting them. Interestingly, she fusses at the older girl for making noise when it is the younger one who is making more noise. (What’s up with that? ) I thought the library was supposed to be the “quiet zone”.

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December 8, 2006

Congratulations Melody!

Posted in family at 2:01 pm by jimazing

billikenatsign.gifMelody is on her way to medical school! Saint Louis University School of Medicine just contacted her and said, “We want you.”
You set your sites on a huge goal and you are doing it.
Congratulations! You have earned it.