As we wake this morning to the news of yet another tragic shooting, our hearts break. In Orlando, we know what that feels like and we grieve with Las Vegas. "The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit." - Psalm 34:18
- In 2004, doctors in Michigan created The Checklist Strategy, a simple method to reduce infections by requiring all medical personnel to follow five basic steps, checking them off as they did them. Why? Administrators found that 33% of the time, at least one of the steps was being skipped. For example, step one: wash your hands with soap and water. Once all five were followed and checked, infections dropped 66% in just six months. Over eighteen months, 1500 lives had been saved. It is now a standard in most hospitals. As we move into October and the coming celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we need to get back to basics. Our culture has been skipping those essential steps - those core truths - that lead to life, health and wholeness. We are an infected culture, and we need to reclaim those basic steps that bring healing. They are grounded in the Word of God, and through the Reformers, became the five Solas: Scripture alone, Grace alone, Faith alone, Christ alone - to the glory of God alone. As Paul said in 2 Tim 3:14-17, the Scriptures are "useful" for "teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." When we skip steps - when we miss that first box which is the Word - we miss the basic teaching and training we need - as well as the corrections for our human errors. Get back to the basics. Stop skipping steps, and ground your life in the Word!
- MY TAKE ON THE NFL PROTESTS: I have watched with great interest the growing protests the past three weeks in the NFL. It is fascinating to watch our nation's favorite sport get convulsed by a convergence of social issues: racism and incidents of police brutality, patriotism, employer rights, politics and the President. I am not going to comment on any of that because I believe the NFL is missing a GIFT WRAPPED OPPORTUNITY. If you are the leader of an organization, and a large percentage of your employees seem to have a common issue, and that issue is so important they are willing to make a collective statement, wouldn't it be common sense to LISTEN? That's Leadership 101 to me. All you have to do is ask, "Tell me what you're feeling? What is it that has brought you to this place?" Someone is asleep at the switch in the NFL. You NEVER waste a good crisis. They are being given the opportunity to listen to their employees and then LEAD the national conversation on race in America! What if the NFL listened and then organized a nationwide conversation – town hall meetings in every NFL city – after which the NFL pledged their considerable financial weight to help enact the newly developed strategies? The NFL would move from being a target to a socially aware corporate leader. No one is more uniquely positioned for that role.
- IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA: I mentioned recently the way in which social media has negatively impacted relationships in our culture. People are increasingly lonely because they think a relationship via a screen is the same as a relationship in person. It's not. Case in point: A study by Susan Greenfield titled Mind Change. In it, she found that teens who spoke to their parents in person or over the phone released similar amounts of oxytocin (an indication of bonding and well-being) and showed similar low levels of cortisol (a marker of stress) indicative of a reduction in stress. In comparison, when they instant-messaged or texted, they released NO oxytocin and had salivary cortisol levels as high as those who had no interaction with their parents. Thus, "messaging" appears as effective at providing emotional support as not speaking with anyone at all.
- CHANGING THE NARRATIVE ON FAITH AND MENTAL HEALTH: I hear far too many pastors and read far too many blogs or posts from Christian leaders that suggest emotional/mental illness can simply be prayed away. There is a false narrative that suggests those with depression or anxiety either lack faith or lack the strength to overcome it. A great example was the way in which bloggers jumped all over Robin Williams suicide as if the cause was his trust in fame and fortune, not God. Then they found out his brain had 90% less dopamine than the average person. He was SEVERELY mentally ill. I know nothing as to his faith, but he took his life because of his mental illness, period. Yes, prayer is vital and helpful just as it is for cancer patients or diabetics. However, we need to change this narrative to care for the ever-growing numbers of people who struggle.
- BOOK REVIEW: I just finished Kate Fagan's book What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggle and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen. Disclaimer: if you have a pulse, you will cry when you finish the book, but it's a poignant, honest look at what is commonly happening in the lives of so many college students and young millennials as she tells the story of UPenn student Maddy Holleran. Fagan calls it a "split screen" – on one side is the Facebook/Instagram image showing the perfect life – on the other is the real life – the one with fears and pain and loneliness and human insecurity. There is the image they project to the world – and then there is what is actually happening. It's an honest portrayal of a very serious problem.
- HOMECOMING INVITATIONS HAVE GONE NUTS: When did it become necessary to go to all manner of crazy shenanigans or tender public demonstrations to invite a girl to homecoming? It seems that year after year, the invites get more and more over the top. Good grief - the invitation costs more than the date! What happened to just picking up the phone? Oh, wait… teens don't do that anymore.
- THIS IS US: Do I need to say anything else? It's just SO good… and now we know (spoiler alert) there was a fire which claimed Jack's life. However, who else was in that house – and why was Jack there?
- FPCOers AND FRIENDS: I need your help! We are doing a comprehensive, anonymous survey of our congregation during the month of October. After five years working through our current ministry model, we want to hear from YOU! Please take a few minutes and go to our website (fpco.org/survey) where you will find the link to the survey. What has been your experience in our church? How are your needs being met? What could we do better? Even if you are not a member, but participate in some way, we would love to hear from you!
- WEEKEND FOOTBALL OBSERVATIONS: McElwain and UF may not win pretty, but he is a genius at winning close games; UCF and UGA are the real deal; the Patriots and Cowboys are mediocre teams that overachieved last year and will not meet expectations this year; U of TN has had loads of recent success with Butch Jones (wins over UGA and UF), but suddenly it looks like that ship is sinking – fans have totally abandoned ship, and SMU is 4-1 but it feels very unstable and shadowy.