Church of Starbucks

This will take a minute to set up. Please bear with me.

My wife and I are part of the music/worship team for our local church. We rehearse a couple of days per week. On Sunday morning, we rehearse an hour before most people arrive for “Sunday School”. For a long while, we were not part of any particular “Sunday School” group, so often we would sit and talk with other musicians during the hour break between rehearsal and the corporate worship time. Sometimes we would take a short drive to Starbucks during that time for conversation and a cup of coffee. We began referring to these trips, somewhat in jest, as our “Starbucks Sunday School Class” or “Church of Starbucks”. I mean…there was no teacher, but it was a gathering of church members, and we often talked of spiritual matters. So, it sorta fits.

In recent days, there’s been quite the stir about how Starbucks employees have demonstrated less than equitable treatment toward people of ethnic minority status. I, personally know someone of ethnic minority status who had the police called on him because he stopped to take a phone call OUTSIDE a Starbucks store before entering (rather than being what he felt would be rude by taking the call inside the store). Other stories exist of black customers being told they could not use the restroom without making a purchase first, while white customers (me included) have been allowed access to the restroom without any purchase being made. So the bias, at least from some Starbucks employees and toward certain people of minority status, is real. Is shocking. Is concerning.

And then Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson posted a video of what I believe to be very humble,  sincere apology. This was followed soon thereafter by an announcement that Starbucks will CLOSE all of its stores on May 29 for racial bias training.

And then I got to thinking…

Starbucks is acting, in this present age, very much like the early Christian church. In the book of Acts, two incidents are recorded when the leaders of the church made the decision to STOP EVERYTHING until the church could come together and take care of matters that were on the verge of crippling the church. In both instances, this took place because of less than equitable treatment of certain people groups within the church. Because the good news of Jesus Christ – the gospel – is available to all – not just those who do things the way “we” think is right. Check it out for yourself. In Acts 6, one might say it was because “Greek/Widow Lives Matter”. In Acts 15, it was because “Gentile Lives Matter”.

Now, some might say that this decision by Kevin Johnson is a financial decision out of fear of losing customers. Based on their corporate history of being a company who obviously desires to be known as inclusive and non-discriminatory, I see those factors being much great than any potential financial gain. I just can’t help but make a correlation to how church-like Starbucks is, when juxtaposed against the actions of the early Christian church. I wonder how many churches have ever closed down, stopped a service in progress? I wonder how many pastors have stepped down from the pulpit, how many worship leaders have stopped singing, in lament of how we, the church, often treat those around us – and sadly/especially some of our own brothers and sisters in Christ. From that respect, I think we could learn a lot from Starbucks about how to be truly Church-like.

And because I’m musically-minded, I’m now thinking of a song by Jimmy Needham titled Clear the Stage. It’s not new, but it seems plenty relevant.
**Credit to Pastor John Onwuchekwa who recently pointed out the two passages in Acts to me and helped me see their relevance to today’s social justice struggles.**

Advertisements

Never Enough

I don’t usually pick a musical as my first choice when headed to the movies. Being honest: more like last resort. But our family went to see The Greatest Showman recently, and WOW! The movie itself was stunning, captivating! The singing fantastic! And the values it presents are powerful, transformational – and true! Fidelity, the intrinsic worth of all people, imagination, and family all take center ring in this fun flick. I will say, however, that the movie, when compared to the actual history of P.T. Barnum, is mostly just fantasy. I guess that should come as no surprise, though. It’s just another (instant) classic Hollywood hoodwink.

But back to the music, written by the highly acclaimed Justin Paul & Benj Pasek. I liked every song, and added the soundtrack to my Spotify immediately.  I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for days now. One song in particular has captivated my attention. It’s the song Never Enough as beautifully sung by alto Loren Allred – who is not the same person as actress Rebecca Ferguson who portrayed singer Jenny Lind, aka Johanna Maria Lind the “Swedish Nightingale”. Again, historically speaking, the movie really does a huge disservice to the person of Jenny Lind. My research indicates she was a remarkable individual with humble beginnings, incredibly selfless and charitable, and a wonderful operatic soprano. I would love to have heard her sing! No doubt it was nothing short of amazing. Never Enough, as sung by Allred, is nothing close to operatic, but it is a moving, thought-provoking song. I’m not going to quote all the lyrics, but as I’ve listened repeatedly to this song, one line leapt above the rest.

“You set off a dream with me…”

It can happen. In an instant. Our words have power to ignite. As the head of my household and father of two great kids (now young adults), I know how a little vision casting can impact the trajectory of a life. As someone who’s made his fair share of mistakes, I also know that a few poorly/hastily chosen words can set off a “dream” that becomes a nightmare. Our words can be the spark to fires raging out of control.

In the movie (spoiler alert), P.T. Barnum sparks unrequited love in the heart of (this fictional version of) Jenny Lind. There’s no stopping it, no quenching it.

“Can you hear it echoing?
Take my hand
Will you share this with me?
‘Cause darling without you
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough…”

Never enough. Are there two more potentially dangerous words? Maybe. What if were two words that almost brought my life and family to ruin. They resulted in that never enough feeling taking me to the brink of death itself. In the movie, the result is scandal and financial ruin (almost).

Words can be so incredibly life-giving or life-taking. Don’t be mistaken. Sticks & stones are far less dangerous. This song, while beautiful, is so…hollow. Empty. Tragic. Poignant. Be careful who you set off, whose dreams you ignite. It might cost you everything.

Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
    but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”
Proverbs 13:3

I’m glad to know the actual Swedish Nightingale didn’t really experience what was portrayed by this movie. I tend to believe the songs she sang and the life she lived were more on the life-giving side. Considering how benevolent she was, that certainly seems to be the case. I hope the dreams she set off resulted in some incredible lives and legacies.

 

good ≠ good

Tell me about a good TV series you like to watch.

Read any good books lately?

That was an awesome movie!

Have you heard that new song? It’s SO good!

Hey, I’ve got this really great game we should play…

These are all phrases I’ve seen, heard or spoken lately. But that word “good” doesn’t seem to mean what it once did.

Reading through the list, what first came to mind? What makes that song, that book, that show good? Does that match up with the traditional definition? Or even any of the definitions for good as listed on dictionary.com?

It seems to me that the word good, and many of its synonyms, has taken on a wholly different meaning in today’s society. We don’t really mean morally excellent, virtuous, or righteous. We might mean entertaining, riveting or thrilling.  But that movie with 67 expletives, 13 murders, numerous sex scenes and non-stop sexual innuendo? Surely you don’t mean to tell me it’s wholesome or redeeming. Please tell me how that card game designed to be “despicable and awkward” is pleasant, healthful, or beneficial. I don’t think you mean to tell me that music with the edgy sound and upbeat rhythms yet speaking of others in condescending, even hateful ways is beneficent or untainted.

Personally, I’m tired of people telling me everything under the sun is good, when I know full well that’s just not true. From a scriptural standpoint, those of us who believe in Christ are taught to flee immorality, to fix our thoughts on that which is true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, etc. We are admonished to fix our eyes on JESUS, the author and perfecter of our faith. I can’t claim to consistently live that out, without error. I’m a work in progress. But I hope I can at least stick to the real meaning of words, and in so doing communicate with others in a helpful, transparent manner. Is it too much to ask others to do the same?

Perfect

“You are Perfect in all of Your ways”

Another line from one of those often-sung worship songs. But can I sing it with any real certainty, any real belief?

A friend of mine has a daughter who was born with a rare, deadly heart defect. And she is one of the most caring, genuine, transparent people I know. Watching her trust God through incredible hardship has been mind-blowing and faith-stretching for me. This recent post really had me!! Check it out for yourself:

https://heartforannie.wordpress.com/

My response to Christians who are boycotting ‘The Shack’ film. 

As a person who endeavors to walk in a manner worthy of my calling, I have been perplexed by all the “controversy” over The Shack – the title of the book, and now the movie, by William P. Young.

When I read the book several years ago, I found it cathartic. In fact, in reading it I was able to work through some hurts and hang-ups that I’d been carrying around with me for WAY too long.

I appreciate the perspective of blogger Crystal Olmos, as shared below.

Crystal Olmos

I was recently contacted by a precious woman from a marketing firm that works for Lionsgate films. She liked my mommy/lifestyle blog and also saw I was a Christ follower. She gave me VIP seats to attend the advance screening of The Shack and also allowed any of my followers to come for free as well!

I was really excited about this opportunity as I read the book years ago and really loved it. Unfortunately, my excitement was put at bay a little once I started seeing articles circulating around about how “anti-Christian” and “blasphemous” the book, and now film, was, in some Christian’s opinions.
Friends, can I just tell you… can I please just tell you… how wrong these people are.

I am a person who takes blaspheme against God and reverence towards Him VERY seriously. I will walk out of a theater with actors who are cursing His…

View original post 988 more words

What Was I Expecting?

“You are Perfect in all of Your ways”

Another line from one of those often-sung worship songs. But can I sing it with any real certainty, any real belief?

A friend of mine has a daughter who was born with a rare, deadly heart defect. And she is one of the most caring, genuine, transparent people I know. Watching her trust God through incredible hardship has been mind-blowing and faith-stretching for me. This recent post really had me struggling for composure.

heart for annie

“It hurts, Momma. My line hurts!” she whined, dragging her finger up and down, up and down the stretch of her 6-inch scar.

annies-line

“On the inside, Momma!”  She grabbed at her chest; I panicked and prayed. 

View original post 655 more words