Cheap Imitations

This morning, I was reading an article about pilsner beers in the latest issue of All About Beer magazine. It’s actually a fascinating read on the incredible history of this beverage.

It appears that when the pilsner first hit the scene, it truly captivated the world. It was something new, something refreshing, something different, something wonderful.

Then, as one would almost expect, the pilsner had its name dragged through the mud as numerous sub-standard, cheap imitations began to hit the scene.

These cheap imitations had an almost disastrous impact on the few true and noteworthy pilsners in existence.

Brewing experts talked about how people were slapping the pilsner name on just about anything that remotely fit the specifications of the genre. This resulted in thousands of variations…most of them an insult to the original.

However, the future looks bright for the return of the true pilsner. There are some powerhouse pilsner brewers who have stayed true to form for a long time. Today, there are new breeds of brewers rising on the scene who take their brewing seriously and are doing their best to craft pilsners that rival the real thing. And, there are conscious consumers who understand that not all brews that claim to be “pilsners” are truly pilsners.

As I read the article, I found myself thinking about the Christian faith.

We have this beautifully rich faith that calls believers to a certain way of living and interacting in this world. When Christians attempt to get it right, it can be an amazing, transforming, awesome thing.

However, when Christians get it wrong, it simply becomes a cheap imitation.

There are many cheap imitations of the Christian faith out there. These cheap imitations drag the name of Christianity through the mud. These cheap imitations take something beautiful and turn it into something hideous.

And, it’s not just Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s not just the Christians who think the most effective way to promote their agenda is to blow up abortion clinics and murder doctors who perform abortions. It’s not just the extremists who are dragging the name of Christianity through the mud. It’s also yours truly.

You see, every time I settle for less than what God would intend, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I fail to help out a neighbor in need, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I make a snap judgment based on one’s outer appearance, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I fail to speak on behalf of those who cannot, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I fail to work for justice in the face of injustice, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I make the choice to “fit in”, I’m just another cheap imitation.

The truly disgusting part is that sometimes I’m okay with being a cheap imitation. I mean, on paper, I’d deny it. But, my actions (or lack of actions) seem to say that I’m okay with it…And, I do my best to justify my role as a cheap imitation. I’m like the brewer who puts a “pilsner” label on my beer in order to help move more product, knowing I’m settling for less than the real thing…less than the best. I’m like the Pharisee who prays, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Luke 18:11-12).

However, like the new breed of brew masters who are emerging on the scene attempting to do their best to brew a worthy variety of pilsners, I long to become more than a cheap imitation. I long to become a high quality imitation, a clear reflection of the One I claim to follow. I desire to get it right!

What kind of imitation are you? High quality or a cheap knock-off?

3 John 1:11- “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”

Romans 12:2 (MSG)- Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Challenge Accepted…What’s To Come

The journey of the “hair challenge” continues!

I’m getting to the point where the help of a professional will come in handy. It won’t be long until things are all fro’d out. So, I need a little shaping and texturizing in order to get the hair to go more in the direction of Hubert Keller and less in the direction of Freddie “Boom Boom” Percy Washington of Welcome Back Kotter fame!

I have had a few people ask if I have any clue what my hair will look like as it grows out. The answer is, unfortunately, “yes”.

Below, you will find a couple of pictures that give an example of what my hair has looked like in the past when I’ve let it grow out. I do expect to receive several comments about the hair, the glasses, and especially the facial hair. The pictures were taken in the mid-90’s, in the house of Brett Conaway, Chip Baker, and Matt Hemeyer on College Avenue in Muncie during my freshman year at Ball State University. I’m pretty sure if you could zoom out a bit, there would be some Rhinelander nearby. And, we were probably watching skate videos with the volume turned down while listening to obscure indie rock…or speed metal. That gives you a decent frame of reference for my state of mind at the time…explaining the “look” I was going for. But, you must admit that is a sweet They Might Be Giants shirt…and an awesome cardigan!

If I’m willing to publicly share these photos…then I’m definitely willing to let my hair grow out like Hubert Keller. Hear this, Emily Morris, I will not…I repeat…I will NOT lose this challenge!

The Practice of Radical Hospitality

As I’ve been at the Indiana United Methodist Church Annual Conference at Ball State University this week, I have noticed some displays of radical hospitality. At the same time, I have noticed some displays of radical rudeness.

When I arrived at the registration tables, I was warmly welcomed and given clear instructions on where to go and what to do. The friendly nature of those working the various tables helped me relax and feel a bit more comfortable being at this conference.

When I came into Emens Auditorium, I was greeted by name by one of the Ball State employed ushers. He took time to ask how I was doing, to ask about my family, and to show genuine care and concern. Of course, he also had to do his job and gently remind me that I had to finish my coffee in the lobby! Come on, Ball State, the carpet and chairs in Emens are so out-dated…they are older than me…let us bring in some freaking coffee!

This morning, I was greeted like a long-lost friend at a coffee shop when the barista said, “Hey, how are you doing? We haven’t seen you around here for a while.” So, it made it a bit easier to forgive the fact that they prepared my blueberry bagel in a manner that made it taste like an onion bagel.

At the same time, I have experienced some acts of radical rudeness.

I recall the way observing a pastor talking down to a BSU dining services employee at a dinner.

I recall the way a colleague (within ministry, not at my specific church) continually treats me as a second class citizen.

I recall the way a layperson spoke to me before she found out that I was here as a part of the annual conference and not as a Ball State student (however, I was flattered that she actually thought I could have been a student). It was odd, she was rude…sort of spoke in a demeaning manner, and I’m not sure why. Then, when she asked if I was student and I explained that I was here for the Annual Conference, she pulled one of those, “Oh, I’m so glad to have met you.”

Then, I recall all the ways I have failed to show hospitality to those around me. I recall all the ways in which I have ignored those who just need a simple act of kindness…a smile…a door held…a kind word. I recall the ways I have overlooked people in order to get to those who “really matter.”

I recall the fact that I need to not simply point the finger at others…I need to do more than grow indignant when I see others treated poorly…I need to make sure I grow and practice hospitality.

May we all grow in and practice hospitality. May we become known for the way we love, care, and treat others…in a positive way!

Romans 12:13- “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Hebrews 13:2“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

1 Peter 4:9- Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

3 John 1:8“We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”