Don’t be boring

Remember when it was suggested teachers shouldn’t use red ink to grade students’ work?  According to the idea, red creates nervousness and may even contribute to poor grades.  Even though everyone knows a teacher means business like nobody’s business when the red comes out, I’m not quite sure what I think about that.  I mean how powerful would Jesus’ words have been if he spoke in purple letters?

Here’s my red ink story.

It was group time during a typical 2nd grade day.  We had just finished an assignment to show off our skills at writing complete sentences.  Now, it was time to see what Mrs. Anderson thought of our work.  Our words stretched from the bottom red line, through the dotted green line and up to the top blue line, and even beyond.  Thankfully, we weren’t being graded on penmanship–that dreadful day would come later.  No, this day we were just asked to write sentences.

It takes all of 5 seconds to read a second grader’s work.  So, everyone knew their grade pretty quickly.  A few of us heard “good job” or “excellent.”  No one seemed terrified by red check marks.  One student, however, was about to receive the red ink special.

He wrote:

  • I went to the store.
  • I saw a dragon.
  • I am 8.
  • I like Cocoa Pebbles.
  • I live in a house.
  • I want a Nintendo.
  • I am Mad Max.
  • I play football.
  • I watch Moonlighting. 

Complete sentences.  Nothing wrong here.

Truthfully, I don’t remember at all what he wrote.  I only recall that each sentence began with the word “I.”  That’s when the Bic hit the fan.  Our teacher readily underlined every I -filled sentence with an angry sigh and a lead-heavy stroke of her pen.  She finished off her red masterpiece by making a billboard across the page, in all caps writing the word: B-O-R-I-N-G.

If the red-ink theory is true, we should pray for that boy. He may or may not be emotional stable today.  All I know is that Mrs. Anderson didn’t like boring sentences, even if they had a main clause and good verb construction.  What our teacher found boring was that the young boy had not learned to incorporate others into his writing.  Every sentence was about himself.  Granted, I can’t recall that the assignment indicated we couldn’t write all about ourselves, but with so much I, his assignment was boring to listen to and boring to read.

And I guess that’s true for life, too.  Too much I makes life boring.

I need to admit that often I’m stuck in 2nd grade.  Sure, my sentence-writing skills have improved, but I’m in the habit of keeping I in front way too much.  Something tells me you might know someone like that, too.  We have that tendency to look out for Numero Uno.  We like us and we like thinking about us.  Don’t agree?  Some have estimated that 1 million self-I-es are taken everyday.  That may or may not speak for itself.  Still, it’s easy to see that what’s important to us seems to often take center stage and our concern for including others gets dragged in only as long as it is good for us.


Don’t get me wrong.  You are important; I am important.  Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  That implies a little love our direction.  But life is better spent with a great concern for others.

Jesus said:

 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…

How ya feeling about that red stuff?

When God is our first priority, a concern for others is an expected result.  We think less of I and begin to pray more for someone else.  We begin to find ways to express Christian love to others, even if it means I might be uncomfortable or inconvenienced.  So, think about the way you write your sentences, or really how you think about each day.  What places can you move the I around to make sure there’s room for others to fill your life.

Well, that’s my red ink story.  It didn’t scar me.  Then again, it wasn’t my paper, or my feelings.

Stay blessed…john


++While there is no I in team, “there’s also no ‘selfish hypocrisy’ in team either.”++


 +picture credits: morgue file & flickr


Listen more than 10 seconds

Truthfully? I caught the final 10 seconds of the song Motown Philly back in 1991, and wasn’t won over by this new group, Boyz II Men.  Their debut was soon after we first heard of another group, Jodeci.  Long live 90’s R&B!

Jodeci had the look most people I knew wanted.  Their music surely had a great sound and feel.  They sang love songs, but the kind you didn’t have to be embarrassed to listen to in public.  Then I heard another song by this newer group, the one I wasn’t so impressed with.  The song was already playing when I turned on the radio.  This is what I heard that day:

++If you’re reading by email or news reader, click here to listen.++

Once the DJ came on after the song, my first thought was, “That song did not last long enough!”

Before that day, I hadn’t yet watched Cooley High (The song is from the movie; the group’s debut album’s namesake is that movie, too). After that day, I was a Boyz II Men fan. I still am.  No group can sing like they do.  To me, that was their song, and since that day it has always been one of my favorites because of the amazing harmony.

Of course, the years have given me other reasons to appreciate that song because music and life often collide.

Thank God there are gifted people able to seal our experiences in words and music.  Whether it’s music from church, childhood or even the club, many of us have songs and music that become anthems for our lives or help us communicate life better than we could hope to do with our own words.  I’ve come to appreciate more and find great comfort in knowing that others share similar experiences as me.  Yes, it was a shock to learn that my life isn’t all that unique.  Life happens to everyone.

All that is to say that I’ve learned to listen to music differently.  I’m not just listening for my jam any more.


I know how to listen to the emotion of music now: pain, joy, anger, frustration, hope, awe, confusion.  And I’ve learned to let what I hear from music guide how I pray.  If I’m listening to music that speaks to hurt, I pray for people I know who are hurting.  If I can’t get that Happy Song out of my head, I thank God for the things in my life that make me happy–that’s also about the best thing you can do to deal with as many times as that song has been played.  Even Motown Philly is a song about how a group of young men got together and starting making music for the world to hear.  And I can thank God for people making music.

Back in 1991 I never could have imagined how this song would touch my heart today.

I’ve been listening to that song a lot lately.  So, I’m thinking of people who have lost loved ones.  Indeed, it is truly hard to say goodbye to yesterday.  Stay blessed…john

Angry Eastwood: That Song

I know there are a few songs/hymns that you don’t like to sing in church.  Trust me; there are some that get under my skin, too.  They can’t all be gems.


This Angry Eastwood meme was posted on the United Methodist Memes Facebook page, and a few of you might faint when you see some of the titles that made it to this list as songs/hymns you love to hate:

  • Many Gifts, One Spirit
  • Here I Am, Lord
  • O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  • Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  • He Walks With Me
  • Little Brown Church in the Wildwood
  • We are the Church
  • Majesty, Worship His Majesty
  • How He Loves Us
  • Hymn of Promise
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Lord of the Dance
  • Help Us Accept Each Other
  • Victory in Jesus
  • I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry
  • O God Our Help in Ages Past
  • The Advent Candle Song
  • There is a Fountain Filled With Blood
  • God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale
  • Wonderful Words of Life
  • Jesus is Coming Soon
  • Oh Happy Day
  • Waterfall
  • Come, Thou Almighty King
  • The Old Rugged Cross
  • Our God is an Awesome God
  • Were You There?
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Amazing Grace
  • Rock of Ages
  • When the Roll is Called Up Yonder
  • Standing in the Need of Prayer
  • Freely, Freely

So, what have we learned today?  Judging from this list, there will be some United Methodists in hell.  My favorite response someone gave has to be: Any hymn after the third verse.  I usually advocate for singing every verse of a hymn, and often wish I’d changed my mind.

Which song/hymn would you add?

Stay blessed…john



Dare to Get Out of the Truck

Our church began a new sermon series this weekend. It is entitled Dare to Dream. I based it off of Michael Slaughter’s book by the same name. The book is about creating a God-sized mission statement for your life.

Chapter One is based upon Jacob’s dream in Genesis. I preached from that text not too long ago. So, I used another text to begin the series–Amos. Of course, I intend to have fun when I preach. Whether everyone else does the same is up to them. And I think most of them were able to a little bit.

This week’s sermon is entitled “Dare to Get Out of the Church.” Have a listen and let me know what you think.

++If you’re reading by email or news reader, click here to listen to the sermon.++

Stay blessed…john

How excited would you be?

A few weeks ago something great happened to one of the Fletcher Five. Brittani got her first job. We were all excited for her and proud that she has since taken her responsibility seriously.

The best part for her came about two weeks later. Yes, that first paycheck brought all kinds of smiles.

Then another first happened. This one was even more impressive, at least to this dad. Sometimes I don’t get to see everything that happens in church on Sunday mornings. That’s most true with our church’s tech crew; most of them are youth. They control everything from a balcony. It’s become common practice during the offering for them to let it rain cash from the skies during offering. They pick an unsuspecting usher, usually the younger one, and drop their offering into the plate from their place in the balcony.

Well, two weeks ago, Brittani dropped her offering into the plate. This time, however, it wasn’t a few dollars her parents gave her. It wasn’t some change she found around the house. What she dropped from the balcony was her first tithe.

During lunch that Sunday she told me how excited she was to be able to do that. You better believe I asked her to take up this week’s offering and share that little story. She worried it might come across as bragging, but I encouraged to tell it anyways. People are going to think whatever they think. What I hoped they would hear was her excitement.

My initial thought was, “A child shall lead them…” And my hope was that maybe we could learn to give with excitement.

Stay blessed…john

P.S. What was your first job?