Jon Acuff's Blog
July 22, 2014
This is a verse I started carrying in my pocket last week.
Here are a few things I think about it.
1. “Taste,” seems like an invitation or a dare. I dare you to try. I dare you to believe for just a second. To not get wrapped up in every bad experience you’ve had with fake Christians or mean churches or any of the clutter that can accompany Christianity. Just taste.
2. “see that the Lord is good,” is one of the hardest things for me to believe sometimes. In my head I know it. I believe he is good, but there are days when I struggle to accept that. To rest in that, to let my guard down and be still in that. I think I’m often afraid that to believe he is good is to be too vulnerable. Cynicism is a shield. Hope is a hammer because it means knocking down the walls you built up to protect yourself from life’s disappointments.
3. “blessed in the one who takes refuge in him,” I like what this doesn’t say. It doesn’t read, “blessed is the one who fixes himself.” It doesn’t say, “blessed is the one with a life so perfect they don’t need refuge.” It says “blessed is the one who takes refuge in him,” as in, “You’re going to need refuge. Life is going to have situations that require you to take refuge, the need for refuge is not failure, it is reality. But be blessed, for there is a place to go.”
That’s what I read in this verse.
What do you read?
July 15, 2014
A few weeks ago, I made fun of my friend Sojourner because he wore a tiger shirt on stage. I teased him because I was jealous that he could pull off a shirt with a full tiger face with no degree of irony. He is simply that cool. He didn’t even reference the shirt during the announcements he was reading from stage.
I am not nearly that cool. Even saying the phrase “Snapback” in reference to a hat seems like something I am not cool enough to do.
In retaliation, he bought me a shirt, the majesty of which is probably going to explode your computer. I have named it “Freedom,” here it is:
There are three things I find curious about this shirt:
1. How closely they cropped in on the face.
I wish I could have been in that design meeting when the client kept yelling at the artist, “Closer, closer, closer! Crop it tighter on the eagle’s face!”
2. The colors do run.
3. It says, “Do not iron.”
I would love to meet the person who thinks, “If I have a night out on the town with Freedom, I want it to look crisp! Better get out the iron!”
I’ve been wearing it all summer at BigStuf camps and taking some epic photos with people. Like this one:
How ‘Merica is that?
Bacon and Freedom!
Upon seeing the shirt, my friend Ben Snider confessed one of his favorite games to play as a worship leader. He didn’t have an official name for it, so I’ll just call it “How to Hillbilly Up a Worship song.”
The game is easy to play.
Step one: Take your favorite worship song.
Step two: Change the words, “Our” and “Your” in the lyrics to the word “Y’all’s.”
Step three: Sing the song.
It might not seem like fun, but I promise, it’s delightful. Watch:
“Our God Reigns” becomes “Y’all’s God Reigns.”
“How Great is Our God” becomes “How Great is Y’all’s God.”
“Blessed Be Your Name” becomes “Blessed Be Y’all’s Name.”
I could do this all day, but you get the point. It’s delightful! It helps if you sing it with a little twang, (As if you are gargling with sweet tea) and don’t turn it into a theological discussion about the trinity. (Is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, technically a “y’all?”)
What’s one worship song or lyric you’d like to hillbilly up? Share it in the comments!
July 7, 2014
It’s hard to believe that the World Cup is almost over. Soon we’ll have to say goodbye to loads of games, exciting international play, and … the friend who tells you to call it “football” not “soccer.” I love this friend, but only if they call the NFL, “American football.” And they better call the field “the pitch” and be able to name a player other than Ronaldo. If you’re going to chastise me for saying the word “soccer” which is Greek for “seriously, why are we arguing about this over a veggie plate at a World Cup party,” you need to fully commit. (Yes I know that FIFA has the word Football in it and if it was soccer it would be called “FISA” which kind of sounds like VISA’s crazy cousin who makes questionable tattoo decisions and lives by the beach.)
I have friends who do the same exact thing when it comes to the Sabbath. They couldn’t tell you a single thing about the Bible or Jesus or God or anything remotely spiritual. But if you ever say, “This Sunday, I’m going to really focus on living according to the Sabbath” they will instantly blurt out, “Well actually, the Sabbath is a Saturday.”
It’s one of those Christian technicalities we love to be right about. Like arguing about tithing gross or net or the most accurate version of the Bible or whether the wine Jesus made from water was actually wine or just special, completely different, New Testament style, grape juice not Cab.
And if you’re one of the readers that posted a comment or emailed me about which day the Sabbath is, we’re still friends. I love that you’re even reading and taking the time to connect. I hope someday we get to watch some futbol together.
July 5, 2014
(I can’t believe we’ve been kicking around this site for 6 years. It’s become a tradition that 4th of July weekend I repost the piece that started the Skittles running joke and let the cat out of the bag about how church is going to be. Consider this your guide to what’s going to happen at your church tomorrow if you live in the United States.)
It is a poorly kept secret that the weekend before or after a big holiday, your church is going to do things a little differently than on most Sundays. That is, with a large portion of the congregation out on vacation, they’re going to mix it up a little.
For instance, at a lot of churches, the younger ministers are always asked to preach the day before Memorial Day. Senior pastors know that it’s a lot safer to have some rough-around-the-edges minister saying something crazy to 400 people than 800 people. Same goes with music. Go tomorrow (in the United States) and you’re bound to see some guy who’s always been in the background step forward for a totally unexpected guitar solo. Or a woman that’s always wanted to lead worship will suddenly be behind the mic for the first time.
I call it “Vacation Weekend Syndrome” or VWS. (Not to be confused with DVS)
And because I am a huge dork, I thought I would offer 8 ways your church can spice up tomorrow and avoid VWS:
Since a lot of folks won’t be in church because they are out on vacation, use this opportunity to address all of the most controversial issues. Talk about politics, popular books, and anything else that otherwise would get the crowd riled up and upset. That way, whenever someone says, “I wish this church was not so seeker-focused and dealt with some of the tough issues,” you can reply, “You must have not been here for obamadrugssex Sunday.”
Ever thought about incorporating some pit vipers into your service? Why not on the Sunday when everyone is out of town? I don’t know where you can buy a “bag o’ rattlers” but surely someone near you sells poisonous snakes. By the way, I don’t mean to be selfish, but it would really help me out if someone could invite me to a church service where they handled snakes. I’m dying to write about that but won’t unless I’ve actually gone to a service.
3. Church Sumo Wrestling
At every church there are little church politics that no one wants to talk about. The worship minister wants to do more modern songs than the pastor will allow. The elders think the pastor needs to do more Old Testament and less Seinfeld references. The janitor is still mad at everyone over the “glue incident” of 1978. Get those big blow-up sumo costumes you can rent, a huge tube of bootleg jello (this a church after all), and then have everyone settle their differences. How cool would it be to see the super happy pastor’s wife leg drop the super grumpy elder that is always a jerk to her husband?
Why not throw Skittles out during the service? Instead of saying, “watch this” or “listen to this” or “are you tracking with me” or another phrase that is designed to get people’s attention, why not throw handfuls of skittles at them? Wouldn’t you love to be hit in the side of the head with a bunch of fruit candy delightfulness? I would.
5. Weird instruments
Ever wondered what an accordion and triangle version of the song, “I Can Only Imagine” would sound like? Got a kid in youth group that is really good at beat box? Do you need more cowbell but are afraid most people would hate it? Well, they’re all on vacation. Get the accordion out. It’s go time.
6. Practice Christmas
Next to Easter, the Christmas service might be the most important one you do. So why not do a dry run in July and make sure everything goes well? Just consider it a practice. Do the candles with kids, hang some holly, sing carols, do the whole thing up. Then, that way, when the real Christmas rolls around, you’ll be ready. Don’t tell anyone it’s a practice. Just do it as if it’s a normal thing to do. The look on the face of your visitors and members who show up and find themselves singing “Oh Holy Night” in the middle of the summer will be worth it.
Do the entire sermon in haiku. It’s not as hard as you think. Here’s an example: Jesus was so cool (5 syllables) He gave His life for our sins (7 syllables) Let’s be close to him (5 syllables)
8. Have an “SCL Sunday”
Why not throw a “Stuff Christians Like” service? We’ll play Sandi Patty and Michael W. Smith songs. We’ll take a love offering and interlink our fingers when we hold hands. We’ll get a puppet group, named “Strings of Mercy,” to come do the Noah’s Ark story and then I’ll speak. It will be fantastic.
I would do some pop and lock breakdancing tomorrow in the hallway if Cross Point did any one of these ideas. If they don’t, I’m going to do that mime move where you pretend to be stuck in an invisible box. Mime is the opposite of breakdancing.
p.s. There are two things that go without saying: 1. I can’t promise that your church will use any of these tips. 2. I can promise that the church I start, GracePointeLifeTruthHouseNorthRiverElevate, will use all of them.
The post The “everyone is on vacation, anything goes church service,” AKA tomorrow. appeared first on Stuff Christians Like.
July 2, 2014
Back in the 90s, comedian Jeff Foxworthy did a bit called “You Might Be a Redneck if . . .” What followed the “if” was something like “ . . .your wife’s hairdo has ever been destroyed by a ceiling fan” or “ . . .you refer to the 5th grade as ‘my senior year’.”
I have developed my own set of criteria to help pick out pastors’ kids (PKs). Without further ado, and in the inimitable Jeff Foxworthy spirit:
YOU MIGHT BE A Pastor’s Kid If . . .
. . . you can explain the difference between a narthex, lobby, fellowship hall, and the commons.
. . . Psalty, the Donut Man, and McGee haunt your dreams at night.
. . . you won at least 12 prizes in your life for scripture memory feats.
. . . you snacked on communion bread.
. . . you knew where the janitor kept the church keys and took full advantage.
. . . December 31 isn’t New Year’s Eve, it’s “I hope people give a lot from their Christmas bonuses” day.
. . . you’re pretty sure “don’t run in church” is the 11th commandment.
. . . you were told to kiss dating goodbye. And didn’t listen.
. . . you knew which Sunday school classes had the best pastries.
. . . you were Picasso with the church pew golf pencil.
. . . you were the Zorro of sword drills.
. . . you were the Willie Mays of Bible trivia baseball.
. . . the scariest thing you ever dressed up as for Halloween was Goliath.
. . . you recommitted your life to Christ at least 12 times.
. . . you thought your name was So-and-so’s-son (or daughter).
. . . you were always the first person called out for shenanigans.
. . . you involuntarily volunteered for all church functions.
. . . You could blackmail half the church
. . . Half the church could blackmail you.
. . . You sat in dread each Sunday waiting for your name to be uttered from the pulpit.
. . . Every major holiday was interrupted by a church service.
. . . You yearned for the anonymity of independence then felt totally out of place when you finally received it.
. . . you heard the words “damn” and “hell” used more often in their literal meaning than as cuss words.
. . . You know what it means to “raise my Ebenezer.”
. . . You can list, off the top of your head, the 10 commandments, the 12 tribes of Israel, and all 10 plagues in less than 2 minutes.
. . . You speak like a normal person, but when you pray you become either a 17th century English poet or a timid teenage girl.
. . . You ever re-wrote worship choruses as something . . . less wholesome.
. . . You gravitate towards the numbers 3, 7, and 12.
. . . Your first ever concert was a Christian band. Bonus points if it was held at a church.
. . . God is both incredibly familiar and remarkably distant.
. . . You got asked weekly “So, are your going to be a pastor when you grow up?”
Those are the signs you might be a Pastor’s Kid, so … are you?
(For more on the uniqueness of growing up as a PK and working through its challenges, check out Barnabas’ book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity visit his blog and follow him on Twitter.)
June 30, 2014
Well done church.
Photo via 9gag.
Of the many problems our feet will face, lego is the worst. (Is it lego or legos? What’s the plural of lego? Legi? Legon? Kenny Loggins? I feel like this is turning into a Brian Regan routine. Can we get a ruling on that one?)
I personally don’t need that prayer. I never step barefoot on legos. I step on them, all the time, but now that we live in Nashville I wear cowboy boots. Non stop. I don’t take them off. In the shower, in the pool, in our house, you can take my cowboy boots when you pry them from my cold, sweaty feet. (Even in death I will probably find a way to be too sweaty.)
I’m like a foot version of Tobias, in Arrested Development. I’m not a never nude, I’m a “never de-shoed.” We have rights you know. And lefts, both are covered in boots.
My prayer would be different than what the church asked for. My prayer would be “Lord, please heal the selective blindness that befalls my children whenever they use the stairs in our house.” I swear, the rest of the day their eyesight is amazing. They see everything! Baby birds, quarters on the side walk, there is nothing that misses their attention. Until they take the stairs up to their bedroom.
At that point, they are suddenly struck blind, incapable of seeing all of the things my wife and I have stacked on the stairs for them to carry up to their room. Clothes they need to put away, toys that should be back upstairs, pony tail holders? They can’t see anything. The size and brightness isn’t a factor either, as I have witnessed them deliberately take wide steps over some very bright My Little Pony obstacles.
The hardest part of this dilemma is that my wife Jenny swears it’s hereditary. She says they got it from me. She has talked to me about this problem many times during our 13 years of marriage. She has ample evidence. Pretty sure she once wrote me a note about it. Unfortunately she left it on the stairs and I never saw it.
Does anyone you know have stair blindness too?
June 23, 2014
Every four years, when the World Cup rolls around I think about 3 things:
1. I wish our country had a sport that united the whole country like the intensity you see when France played Italy in the finals.
2. Didn’t I once write a post about the World Cup?
3. I want to, want to be crazy about the World Cup.
I don’t know if that first idea is fixable. I think because of the size of our country we divide into small mini countries or as some people might call them, “states.” I think Alabama vs. Auburn or Duke vs. UNC might be as close as we get to two nations fighting each other in sports. (Please post your school’s rivalry in the comments below as I am positive I missed at least 47 other good examples.)
To the second idea, the answer is “yes.” I did write about vuvuzelas, which is why I’m updating that classic post as we speak.
And the third idea? Well for the first time in my life, I have to admit, the World Cup is fantastic!
For years, I just couldn’t get into the world cup. I grew up playing soccer. I thought it was a beautiful game. I wished our country shut down like other countries on the day our team played. There’s no doubt that I wanted to be caught up in the feverish pitch of the World Cup.
For most of my life, the World Cup kind of felt like all the shows your friends want you to watch but you haven’t yet. I was exhausted at how often I had to tell people I hadn’t watched Mad Men. I wanted to like the World Cup games, I felt like I should, but I just didn’t yet. Until now.
I think it was the Spain versus the Netherlands that sealed the deal for me. That diving header broke through all my pent up soccer cynicism. I’m in. The World Cup is awesome.
What I do kind of miss about this World Cup is the vuvuzela, the tiny plastic horn that appears to have been minted in the very mines of Mordor. It was all the rage in South Africa during the last World Cup but appears to have gone on hiatus in Brazil. Capable of creating a thick blanket of drunken wasp sound in the entire stadium, the vuvuzela is unstoppable. Rather than fight it and complain as many others tend to do, I think we should embrace it and bring it to church.
Here are three ways we could employ the vuvuzela at church:
1. Give one to every youth minister.
Forget acoustic guitars and even cowbells, has there ever been an instrument better suited to youth ministry? A kid asks for a precise definition of “virginity” cause they want to redefine the boundaries? Blast them with the vuvuzela. The elders get unruly about how youth group is being run? Here comes some brand new flavor in your ear, vuvuzela. College kids come back and try to awkwardly date the high school sophomores? Vuvuzela! It works on so many levels it makes my teeth hurt. (And they’re cheap! I got the image of this one on Amazon. They cost less than $20. Perfect for the youth ministry total annual budget which is usually $25.)
2. Play it during baptisms.
I love when a Sunday School class or small group claps and cheers for a friend getting baptized, but what if instead they got to play the vuvuzela? How fantastic would that be? Imagine a wave of vuvuzela rising up from the sanctuary as someone rose up out of the water. That would be a game changer as far as I am concerned.
3. Drive home sermon points.
I don’t necessarily love the guy who screams “Jesssssusssss” in your cochlea at concerts during random intervals. But I do like the guy who says, “Amen” when the pastor cranks it out of the park on a particular sermon illustration or point. What if instead of just words, you could show your approval of a sermon with a steady screech of sweet, sweet vuvuzela?
I have to believe there are other ways we could weave this delightful instrument, dare I say “Angel’s Horn,” into church. It’s possible this is what the angels played when they awoke the shepherds at Christ’s birth. I think I read that in the message version of the Bible.
But what about you? How would you bring a bit of the World Cup to your church? Horn? Body paint? Penalty kicks?
How would you World Cup your church?
June 16, 2014
This is a weird bumper sticker to me.
Maybe you’ve seen one like it before. You’re stuck in traffic, look up for a split second from you iPhone and this question dances across your field of vision.
You forget that the origin of this is decades old. We have dairy cows to blame for all the variations of “Got ____,” for it was they who first asked if we “Got milk?” Some of us did. Real milk, not that pale white water skim either. The kind of milk an Oreo could float on. A real Oreo too, not a fruit punch or watermelon version. I feel we are flying too close to the sun on cream wings right now with all the iterations of Oreo we’re cranking out.
But milk started the “Got revolution” and years later it rages on in highways and byways across the nation.
It’s not the only confusing bumper sticker though, if you were from another country, “Salt Life” might seem perplexing at first.
Are people that excited about salt in the US?
Is there a shortage?
Are we returning to the days of old where entire countries went to war over salt supplies?
Are the pepper people not properly represented in sticker fashion? Why is there no “Pepper Life” merchandise?
Are the salt people and the pepper people the Biggie and Tupac of condiments?
You’d have a bevy of questions having first been exposed to “Salt Life” and probably prone to steal that white flaky gold from the table of the first restaurant you ate at in America, amazed at the brazenness of the establishment to leave it unguarded. (Free tip, do not use the salt shakers in any Mexican restaurant in a 5 mile radius of Alpharetta, GA. Pretty sure when we lived there, my 2 year old licked the tops of every one.)
If Salt Life is puzzling, then “Got KJV” is downright maddening. I mean, on some level I get it. It’s important. People are fans of different things and want to show their allegiance to the things they care about. This sticker might even be meant playfully, but it draws a sharp line between us. It divides us at a time we need to be united. It makes two distinct camps:
1. People who got Kevin James Videos
2. People who don’t got Kevin James Videos
To be honest with you, I’m not even sure there’s Biblical evidence that one side is right or wrong. Show me a verse that says we must “Got Kevin James Videos?” And don’t get me started on the traditionalists who only got Kevin James Videos from his run on the hit show “The King of Queens.” Those purists refuse to even acknowledge his film career. Dare they say “Got NKJV?” Of course not. New Kevin James Videos “don’t count.” Do they enjoy “The Zookeeper” or “Here Comes the Boom?” They do not.
That’s my only problem with the KJV, when it’s used to cause a rift, not a conversation.
I think there’s room for both groups of people, those who got Kevin James Videos and those who do not got.
I see a world where Adam Sandler fans and Kevin James fans and Kevin Hart fans and Rob Schneider fans can get coffee together.
Is my dream crazy? Perhaps, but safe dreams never changed the world. And crazy dreams is all I got.
June 9, 2014
Lean in close, I don’t have much time to tell you this idea and if they catch us, we’re both in trouble. Even as I speak, zig zag scissors are cutting construction paper, glue sticks are being rolled up, angry badgers are being jammed into bags and colorful thumbtacks are being counted. We’re on the cusp of Vacation Bible School season, which is why I’m reposting this idea. In the next few weeks, the Swiss Army Knife Volunteers that run VBS are going to be recruiting new helpers.
If you want to do that, great. Have at it. Noah’s Ark the summer away my friend. But if you don’t want to volunteer, if you’ve got flannel graph phobia, keep a sharp eye out for these important signs:
1. If someone with glitter on their clothes approaches, do not make eye contact.
This is the easiest way to escape VBS volunteering. Just avoid anyone that shimmers in an unnatural way. If you get even the slightest hint of a glimmer radiating from someone, they’ve been exposed to VBS glitter and are about to infect you too. Beware.
2. If someone asks you what your summer is going to be like, answer “busy.”
“That’s weird,” you’ll think to yourself, “Miss Brenda sure seems interested in how my family is spending our summer all of the sudden.” That’s not a pleasant conversation you’re having, that’s a fact finding mission the VBSeratti has sent Miss Brenda on. They’re just prepping for the “ask.” If they know you’re going to be available this summer, when they ask you to volunteer, you won’t be able to make your schedule the fall guy, “Oh, I would love to, but I’ve got some date conflicts.” Don’t over share where and what you’ll be up to this summer, just say, “I’ll be busy.”
3. Don’t fall for the “I guess my wife signed us up” technique.
Guys, sometimes we get voluntold. That happens. Our wives will tell someone that we’d love to help out and then later will let us know we’ve been voluntold to lead Sunday School for 4 year olds. But don’t assume that’s what has happened when a VBS recruiter talks to you. If they say, “What classroom should I put you down for this summer in VBS,” don’t assume that means your wife already signed you up. Maybe she hasn’t and if you automatically respond, “I guess third grade?” The recruiter’s trap will have been sprung and they’ll say, “Oh that’s great! You’re volunteering this year? Thank you so much.”
I could go on and on, but I think I smell bootleg cookies and orange drink. That can only mean one thing, they’ve found me. The next time we meet, I’ll probably be covered with glitter and will be trying to pry out details about what you’re doing this summer. Ignore my questions and flee.
It’s too late for me.
Don’t look back.
Just go, just go.
Are you volunteering for VBS this year?
The post 3 ways to avoid getting tricked into volunteering for VBS. appeared first on Stuff Christians Like.
June 3, 2014
I often see the bumper sticker that reads “Are you following Jesus this close?”
Photo via Kulfoto.
My first thought is that somewhere my wife Jenny is dying because it’s supposed to read, “Are you following Jesus this closely?” Jenny is full of grace and love, but has a difficult time extending that to grammar mistakes. (Pray for her please.)
I am willing to overlook the missing ly, but my second thought upon seeing this sticker is usually this:
Actually, I am following Jesus this close. In fact he lives in my heart, so I’m completely baffled by the proposition of your bumper sticker. Is this like that scene in Austin Powers when the Scottish character says ‘Get in my belly!’ (Keeping it relevant.) Are you asking me to get in your heart? I have to imagine you mean lyrically, much in the same way Bobby Brown’s song “Tender Roni,” gets in your heart and refuses to leave. (Two for two on topical!)
If it’s not that, which I suppose it must not be, what are you saying to me?
Is this some sort of weird invitation to live in the backseat of your Toyota Camry? I went to college. I’ve slept in cars before. That is no treat my friend. I have to refuse kindly.
What option does that really leave us? Trunks are pretty uncomfortable as well and dangerous. If that’s what you’re suggesting, that I climb in your car trunk, I fear we’re once again at odds. I don’t want to get in your car trunk and you would prefer that I do. Let’s agree to disagree.
Or perhaps it’s just the opposite, you actually want me to back away from you in traffic and tail gait Jesus instead. Is he commuting today? Are you intimating that should I but crane my neck I might notice him in the right hand lane, driving, what I can only imagine is a burro, and I should follow him instead? But that’s unlikely, because once you’ve ascended there’s no way you’re driving on the Interstate again. You think Elijah or sah, whichever one got the fire chariot ride, is ever getting in a Kia after that? You can’t Sorento after you’ve fire chariotted.
It’s all rather perplexing.
Perhaps if I follow closely for a few more miles, this riddle will solve itself. Feel free to do what I do when someone is tail gaiting me, drive slower. I’m almost positive that tail gaiting is a silent cry from the people behind you to slow down. But don’t quote me on that. I might be misinterpreting that. I’m not following Jesus that closely.
Have you ever seen this bumper sticker?
The post A response to the “Are you following Jesus this close” bumper sticker. appeared first on Stuff Christians Like.