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Moving On

This is the 777th post on BeDeviant.com. It’s also the last post on this site. There are also 777 words in this post. After seven years of actively posting, sharing, thinking, challenging and changing, I’ve decided to bring this journey to a close.

There are lots of reasons behind this decision, but I’ll briefly share three main ones.

Reason #1: Different Interests

It’s no secret that I’ve left my job working at a local church and joined the team at Monk Development. I’m also able to work with wonderful human beings like Charles Lee, Brad Abare and Tim Schraeder on a regular basis.

After graduating seminary, I realized very quickly that I did not want to be a local parish pastor. That might seem like the epitome of irony, or even that my experience at sem was negative. Quite the contrary, in fact. Bethel helped me to see, in fuller detail, the cost of being a pastor in the 21st century church. After graduating I quickly came to the conclusion: I am not a pastor.

Many of you reading this are, in fact, in pastoral roles. I cannot tell you how much respect and admiration I have for you. I’ve been in your shoes at one of the largest churches in the U.S. and can say, unequivocally, you have one of the hardest jobs on the face of the planet. The pressures, the demands, the struggles—you are most certainly gifted with a strength straight from God’s hand!

That said, BeDeviant.com was an online dialogue of the struggles I was facing as a pastor. The frustrations, fears and anxieties that I faced working for a church. Since I’m no longer on church staff, those struggles, thankfully, have disappeared. With that, most of my writing material has gone with it!

My focus is much more specific now, dealing primarily with web and online ministry. Rather than trying to continually morph BeDeviant into something it was never created to be, I decided it was best to simply stop the train.

Reason #2: Too Divisive

I was afraid this day would come because of the subject matter on this blog. My main intent through the years has been to challenge, but sometimes that’s difficult to do faithfully.

BeDeviant, by its very nature, causes eyebrows to raise. That can be a good thing until it isn’t. In the past 12 months, I’ve been asking the question if being divisive is what I want to be about. The answer, thankfully, is no. My intent, obviously, has never been to create conflict, simply reflection. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always translated well.

Some of  you have been hurt, angered and frustrated by the things I’ve written. I’m sorry for that. BeDeviant.com was started with the idea of challenging people to think differently about their relationship with God. I think BeDeviant has served its purpose in doing that, but at a price. Shutting this site down is me saying, “Holy Spirit, I trust you to challenge people where they need to be challenged. When appropriate, use me.”

Being a unified Body in this day and age, is more important than ever. I want to work towards doing that. I’ve tried to do that in the past few months, but moving in a direction is what’s need to make that happen more fully. Please join me!

Reason #3: Falling Flat

The traffic on this blog has plateaued for the past 12 months. I don’t think it’s reactionary to look at that and say, “This may be as high as the ceiling gets here.” If you know anything about blogging, you know that there are certain “niche” markets to get in to. I’m afraid the “Lutheran-postmodern-ex-pastor-theologically-generous” niche is all dried up :).

That’s not to say the only reason that I write is for traffic, but the amount of time and energy that goes into writing a blog like this is, in a word, substantial. There are so many of you wonderful people who have read this blog since its inception and I cannot thank you enough for it. Your emails, notes, tweets and encouragement blesses me more than I can say. But sometimes, “You gotta know when to fold ’em.”

So, What’s Next?

I’ll still be blogging. Quitting that would be next to impossible. I’ll be at JustinWise.net talking about blogging, social media, productivity, and my life (on occasion). I want to share what I’m learning in the space with all of you. I’d love it if you joined me or grabbed the RSS feed.

You can always reach me on Twitter as well. @JustinWise for those who don’t know!

Words cannot express what our conversations through the years have meant. I’ll simply wrap things up by saying “Thank you!”

May God bless you and yours.

Peace,
Justin

I Refuse to Believe

I refuse to believe in a God that would cause the Japan earthquake. Or the Haitian earthquake. Or the Indian Ocean tsunami. God weeps with Japan, Haiti and Southeastern Asia.

I refuse to believe in a God that enjoys sending people to a place of torment and punishment. God is the restorer, the renewer, of all things. To be uninvolved in that renewal is the choice to not be.

I refuse to believe that we, as humanity, have any ability whatsoever to discern someone’s eternal future. We do not know what transpires behind the veil between this world and the next.

I refuse to believe that any amount of self-initiated “purity” is enough to cleanse me from sin. It’s not. And never will be. No matter what they tell you (it’s what nearly drove Martin Luther insane).

I refuse to believe, after having a son, that God is ever mad at us (as New Covenant believers). Disappointed? Sure. Mad? Never. I repeat: Never.

I refuse to believe that the Bible is always prescriptive. The Bible chronicles the story of God interacting with his people. Sometimes those people do and say dumb things that need to be avoided, not followed.

I refuse to believe that God does not intend for women to be preachers and teachers. I have met too many gifted, Spirit-filled women who possess the unmistakable preaching/teaching gift to believe that it was not placed there by God himself.

I refuse to believe that God doesn’t want us to think.

What do you refuse to believe?

A World Where Anything is Possible

I posted this on my Tumblr earlier (which you can check out at www.StuffJustinLikes.com), but I wanted to bring it over here to remind you:

I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you. —The Matrix

Remind you that you have a purpose. There’s a plan for you. A reminder that you live in a world where your only fetter is your own imagination.

That desire way down, deep inside to be the best at something? That’s good. It’s holy.

I also posted this as a reminder that when you make a commitment to live out that purpose, you’ll encounter struggle, strife and flat-out evil. Nothing makes bullies feel better more quickly than chopping your legs right out from under you. They don’t hate you, they hate what your life means to them: Change.

Do whatever it takes to live out your purpose:

Read Seth Godin.
Enroll in Dream Year.
Go back to school.
Live in a tent.

Just do it. I need you to. I need to be surrounded by people who live intentionally—who don’t succumb to the doubts, fears, indecisions, bullies and cowards of the world. I need people who believe we live in a world where anything—anything—is possible.

Kick Ash: A Primer to Ash Wednesday

Today marks the start of Lent, the 40-day liturgical season that culminates on Easter morning. Thousands of faithful worshipers will wander back to work, school and home after the noon hour with ashes smeared on their foreheads. Still others will silently think to themselves when seeing these ash-people, “Is it just me or does she have dirt on her forehead?”

Whether you’re the one with ash on your head or the person who thinks they’re seeing things, today marks a big day for the Church of Jesus Christ: We celebrate his death. More specifically, we celebrate our death with him so that we can more fully celebrate being raised to new life with Christ, much like his resurrection after his death on the Cross.

As a lifelong Lutheran, I’ve celebrated Ash Wednesday for as long as I can remember. I’m familiar with the theology, thought and purpose behind Ash Wednesday. Scripture doesn’t command us to celebrate it, it’s simply one of the oldest traditions in the Christian Church that has literally been celebrated since the beginnings of the faith.

Ash Wednesday Fun Facts

That being said, not every Christian is familiar (or comfortable) with the idea of talking about death and letting someone smear what looks like cookout-remnants on one’s forehead.  So we can all get on the same page about this ancient tradition, here are some Lent “fun facts”:

  • Lent means “spring time” in Latin.
  • Ashes are commonly used in mourning rituals throughout Scripture. They signify mourning for one’s sin and repentance from that sin.
  • In the ancient church, Lent was used as a time of preparation for catechumens, or, those waiting to be baptized. Catechumens (i.e. “candidates” for the faith) studied church history, prayed and fasted and celebrated their faith with baptism on Easter Sunday.
  • Ash Wednesday wasn’t officially Ash Wednesday until the 11th century when Pope Urban II rubber stamped the event and made it official. As we all know, if the Pope ain’t happy, no one’s happy!

How to Celebrate the Day

If you’re in the Des Moines area, I’d encourage you to celebrate Ash Wednesday in one of three ways:

  1. Head to Lutheran Church of Hope’s West Des Moines’ campus at noon or 7pm.
  2. Head to Lutheran Church of Hope’s Ankeny campus at 5 and 7 pm.
  3. Join me and Gateway Church in downtown Des Moines at noon to celebrate Ash Wednesday at the Temple for Performing Arts.

Either way, take a steo pout of your comfort zone or continue in the tradition of your youth. Tradition, when connected to the life-giving power of the Spirit, is a powerful agent for change and a historical tie to our ancient roots.

Did you celebrate Ash Wednesday growing up? If so, what do you remember most from it? If you didn’t celebrate Ash Wednesday, what are your thoughts surrounding the tradition?

Adult Bullies (and How to Defeat Them)

Sarah Palin recently called Kathy Griffin a 50-year-old bully. Seems Griffin has made a career out of harassing Palin and her kids, pushing the family around in the press and mocking their troubles. Griffin has even vowed publicly that it was “Willow’s [Palin’s 16-year-old daughter] year to go down.” Classy.

Building one’s self up.
Tearing another down.

That sounds like the work of a bully to me.

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Why You Should Like People of All Faiths

The awe that we sense or ought to sense when standing in the presence of a human being is a moment of intuition for the likeness of God which is concealed in his essence … The secret of every being is the divine care and concern that are invested in it. Abraham Joshua Heschel

Atheist.
Muslim.
Hindu.
Buddhist.
Christian.

These are people made in the image and likeness of God. Are you okay with that?

The image of God in each and every person transcends the faith they practice. Are you okay with that?

God loves people of all faiths. He cares for them deeply and tenderly. Are you okay with that?

Stealing From Jesus His Beautiful Bride

We live in a country supposedly pharoahless
But all over town and in churches abide
Powerful weaklings who practice their politics
Stealing from Jesus his beautiful bride

Jason Upton, Freedom.

Lessons Learned From Not Wearing My Seatbelt

I got pulled over yesterday. By the cops.

It was the first time in nearly six years that I’d be lassoed by the po-po. Those blue lights started flashing and I panicked. “What in the world could he possibly be pulling me over for?” I thought.

Under the speed limit? Check.
Used turn signals at all appropriate intersections? Check.
Dead body stuffed under the spare tire? Check. (Kidding).

I pulled over and the policeman walked deliberately up to my window. “Sir, I’m pulling you over today for failure to wear your seatbelt.”

SEATBELT! Gah! How could I have made such a rookie mistake? I was about to get nailed for not strapping myself into the 2,000 lb. bullet also known as “my car.”

Rats.

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Social Media Statistics (and What To Do With Them!)

The good folks at eMarketer put together a killer webinar on social media ROI (return on investment). ROI with social media is a tricky thing because it both fits and doesn’t fit into the conventional method of measuring ROI.

Fits: Measuring how many people come to your website and go on to buy something.
Doesn’t Fit: What’s the value of a tweet? A tweet from a famous person? (Oddly enough, it’s not as high as you’d think).

There were lots of facts and figures shared, but I wanted to share the ones that stuck out to me the most.

Ready? Here we go:

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Fishing

Peter tried to fish.

Didn’t catch.

Grew tired.

You spoke.

They listened.

They fished.

They caught many fish.

What does this mean for our churches?

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