Snitches

Photo May 28, 9 02 17 PMStudent: “Snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches Mr Corn….and I ain’t no snitch.” 

The phrase just hung in the air and the class was silent. What should I say? If no one in the class comes clean, then someone got away with it. This is the culture of my school, and I suspect it’s everywhere.

What I wanted to say is, “You say you’re not a snitch, but maybe you should be. What you’re saying to me is that you’re not brave enough to stand up and do is what is right. What you’re saying is that you are happy to let your friend go down a dangerous path. What you’re saying is that you think he’ll cover for you later if you cover for him now. This is not love for your friend. It’s selfishness on your part. Love would want what is ultimately the best for your friend and that includes consequences which will allow him to grow and learn from his poor choices. What you’re saying is that you don’t care enough about society and the world around you to do something about a wrong. You’re saying that you’re OK with a steady decline in the morals of our community. ‘Cause if you let him get away with it, and he lets you get away with it, eventually someone else is gonna get away with more and maybe even against you. If it continues, your children will grow up in a world where no one ever tells and everyone gets away with everything. Somehow I think, if you were the victim, you might not be saying “Snitches wind up in ditches.” You might find yourself saying, “Someone man up and do the right thing. We need justice here.” This no-snitch culture is ultimately hurting us. It’s a fast-food/I-want-it-now attitude that will plague our future. Yes, now we can get away with it, but as we do we are unconsciously telling others they can too. This creates a downward spiral of the moral fabric that guides everyone around us and will lead to our demise.

We need heroes. Heroes are courageous and self-sacrificing. They do the right thing even if it’s scary – even if it costs them something. Snitches can be heroes, and yes, maybe some of them wind up in ditches, but that doesn’t change their hero status. It only makes them bigger heroes who were willing to pay the price for what is right.

What? Pay the price? Be the hero in the ditch? It seems that our culture believes the bullies’ fear tactics have won the battle and convinced everyone that not saying anything is okay. Is there another way? I have had students who anonymously let me know what’s going on or speak without saying a word. Sometimes a look is all it takes. As a teacher, this helps me know what happened, but it doesn’t help me with addressing the situation ’cause there is no proof – sort of like inadmissible evidence. (Unless of course, the anonymous student is willing to give an official statement to an administrator while still remaining anonymous to the perpetrator.) Ultimately, I guess I’m back to heroes. We need heroes who are willing to do the right thing no matter what. 

OK – So now you know how I feel…….but what about “Tattling?” Is that the same thing? As a parent I teach my kids not to tattle every little detail ’cause I want them to learn how to “handle” some situations on their own. Part of learning how to navigate this world includes “figuring it out,” working with others, compromising, sacrificing, and sometimes it means learning how to just “deal with it.” Do I want them trying to punish the other one by hitting them? No! Of course not. But these are difficult things to navigate for a child’s mind. “How much does daddy want me to handle on my own? Where is the line?” If my child is being abused or has been with a friend who likes to play with daddy’s gun, I want him to tattle. I need him to be a snitch.

I saw a video this afternoon where someone explained to children that we never “tattle,” but it’s good to “report” something. They went on to describe reporting as an issue where someone is endangered or unsafe. This might be a helpful distinction but I haven’t had time to think through it too much. There are lots of big questions here. And what about the “lying snitches” that wrongfully accuse or implicate an innocent? So what do you guys think? I looked at over 700 images on google and couldn’t find anything speaking in a positive way about snitching. Am I way off in my thinking here? As a parent, am I creating a “no-snitch culture” by telling my kids not to tattle? Is this leading to the demoralization of our culture?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

 

Lowering the Bar

I was inspired by a friend (Denice Lambert) who posted this on facebook:

J: What do you want these boys to wear?
Me: They already dressed themselves. They sort of match and their clothes don’t have any holes or stains.
J: So those are the standards now?
Me: Yep.

Lowering the bar might be the most Godly thing you can do. (as long as it’s the right bar/standard) Lowering one bar is sometimes essential in order to raise another.

One simple example: Our house doesn’t always have to be spotless. When visitors drop in, it’s highly unlikely that they will find an OCD dream. Most of the time, we have shoes piled in one corner of the room and there might be clothes folded on the couch or backpacks opened with school supplies falling out onto the floor. It’s “lived in.” When I come home from work, I could focus my attention on cleaning up the place, or I could go outside and play with my kids. Some of you may disagree, but my calculations say that time with my children is more important. By lowering the “clean house” bar, I can raise the bar for my relationships. (Let me also say, that this one with my personality is easy for me to lower. My beautiful bride, who is usually correct, would like for me to pick this bar up off the floor a bit more.)

By choosing a specific bar to lower, we can focus on those things which are more important. By lowering one bar we might also grant permission to others to do the same. Using my previous example….maybe my wife only feels like the house has to be clean because her other friends have raised this bar…because our culture has said this is the “norm.”

By continuing to follow our cultural standards to always raise the bar, we perpetuate the myth that we can have it ALL together. It’s simply not true. We can play this game and mask the fact that we are not perfect, but that doesn’t make us perfect. In reality this game, forces us to neglect some other area in our life – quite possibly an area which is ultimately more important. Also, by continuing to raise all the bars, we overload ourselves with unreal expectations. When we fail and these expectations aren’t met, we feel an unnecessary sense of guilt.

When I attended CBS (College of Biblical Studies) they used a system called “Contract Grading.” They set a standard of a specific grouping of assignments and explained that if the student did each assignment successfully, he would receive an “A.” A smaller subset of those assignments would receive a “B” and an even smaller set would receive a “C.” They did not put pressure on students to work for the “A” all the time, and even explained that they understood that each of us had a life outside of school. They said that it might even be “sinful” to get an “A” in the class if it took us away from something that might be more important. I LOVED this approach and was set free emotionally to put as much or as little into each class as I felt like God would want me to do. These teachers communicated a trust in our own judgement and yet still held us to a standard that would stretch each of us. They gave us the option to “lower the bar.”

What bars/standards consume your time and drain your energy? Are they getting in the way of more important bars? Is someone else’s high bar making you feel inadequate? If so, evaluate the bar, is it important or will you choose to keep it low and focus elsewhere?

Prayer:   LORD, Help me to see which bars I need to lower and which ones I should raise. Give me discernment. Lead me to a schedule that will allow me to focus on the standards which you think are important and whittle away those which are not. AMEN.

Facebook as a Monument

It’s HUGE! Almost everyone I know is on it! (Except my mom.)


I once wrote a post about how organizations go through a series of changes. These are not my original ideas. They come from a guy named Floyd McClung. Anyway, Here are the steps:

1. It begins with a Man on a Mission.

2. It gains a following and excitement creates a Movement with momentum.

3. As the kinks are worked out, rules begin to govern the infrastructure and it becomes an efficient Machine.

4. In time, it becomes a Monument. People have particular expectations and the organization can’t deviate from it very far before they begin to lose patrons. The Monument becomes trapped between patron expectations and innovation. They usually begin protecting themselves from extinction by leaning in the direction of their patrons and will ultimately die. Their patrons will either move to another organization or die themselves.

Facebook seems to be making more Monument-type decisions. It’s my very uninformed opinion, (I certainly could be wrong.) but they seem to be out of the “innovation business” and instead are stealing Google+ innovations. (Circles, Hangouts, etc.) I also recently got a message saying they would no longer allow my blog to be converted into a Facebook note. These kinds of decisions look a lot like “Monument” decisions. It’s all about protecting their market share and hindering collaborative work because they want all the market. Like I said, I could be wrong, but it just looks and feels that way to me.

Interestingly, if enough others “feel” this way (whether it’s true or not), it could cause them to lose their market. I’m not planning on leaving facebook, but it’ not ’cause I like what they do – it’s cause they already have my network of people. It’s also interesting to note that once an organization is a Monument, it’s really only a matter of time before they die as well. I wonder what will capture the new market? Will Google+ step in or will there something even better around the corner?

Quote: Success includes Play

“If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.” – Albert Einstein

I love that Einstein includes “play” in his formula for success.

Play = work + play + keeping your mouth shut

I think our culture doesn’t value “play” enough. Although I’ve always believed play was important, as a father, I’m beginning to recognize it even more. My children are becoming who they are as they play. They learn how to interact with each other as well as how to interact with the world around them. When they play they develop their creative sides and grow their imaginations. They become inventors who search out solutions to problems and discover how things work.

If adults valued play more, I wonder how many would become innovators? If we “played” at our jobs instead of “working” at them, I believe our attitudes would be different and we’d even be more productive. We’d also have more friends at our workplaces.

If you’re interested, here’s another article I wrote on this subject: http://stevecorn.com/2008/03/play/ 

A Cannibal Meal

Passover Haggadah

I had a cannibal meal last night. Let me explain. A few years ago, I studied up on the Jewish Passover, which is the meal that Jesus celebrated with the disciples in the upper room. We have come to know it as the “Last Supper.” You know. . .the one where Jesus asks us to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood – the cannibal meal. (Sorry the whole cannibal thing was just a hook I was trying to use to lure you into reading this stuff. If you’ve gotten this far, maybe it worked?)

Anyway, I was amazed at the connections between Moses and Jesus and between the Passover lamb and the “Lamb of God.” The Lord’s Supper (or Communion) took on brand new meaning for me. I especially loved the wedding imagery that Jesus used that night and how He spoke of cultural things that the Jewish disciples would have understood perfectly which fly right over our heads.

Out of my excitement, I was telling some other people about what I was learning and ended up leading our whole church through a Passover/Seder experience which was a combination of the meal with some teaching about it. I also led my small group through it last night. We ate/celebrated last night. I guess that means I’m a cannibal. (By the way, Romans accused the first Christians of cannibalism for these very same misunderstandings.) Anyway, I love teaching this stuff!! Tomorrow night (Maundy Thursday) is the traditional night that Jesus would have celebrated it with his disciples in the upper room (John 13, Luke 22:7, Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12) and so I wanted to post this material so my on-line friends could remember/understand the “Last Supper” in deeper ways too. I’d love to talk to you guys about all this stuff, so please make comments or better yet – give me a call!!

Anyway, if you’re interested in the guide (also called a Haggadah) I wrote and used, you can just click the links or the picture to the right. It should take you right to it. (There is a regular guide and also a leaders guide with notes marked in blue.) If you prefer a version which can be printed and then folded together to make a booklet, you can get it here: Christ in the Passover (There are actually 2 versions of this one too – one for copiers that will print front to back without rotations and the other for those that rotate. If you’re not sure, do a test run on the first 10 pages and then try again with the last 10 pages.)

I’d also highly recommend watching the Zola Levitt videos: Miracle of the Passover pt1 and Miracle of the Passover pt2

Man, Movement, Machine, & Monuments

Leigh Anne, Trey, Steve, & Miranda
Leigh Anne, Trey, Steve, & Miranda

Miranda and I got to hang out with some friends who are missionaries a few weeks ago. Trey and Leigh Anne are some of the coolest people I know. Anyway, during our time together, Trey and I had a great conversation and he said something I wanted to share with you. I’ve caught myself sharing it in a few conversations since then already. (That means it’s something I really latched on to.) I can’t remember where he got the info, but I know it’s not original to him either. Anyway, here it is:

The changes that take place in most organizations over time can be defined by these stages:

1. A Man on a Mission – is how things get started.

2. A Movement – is formed as this man and his mission attract/involve other people who are passionate about the same things.

3. A Machine – is built as the movement grows. The loose organization of people decides to be strategic in planning and sets standards for how they will operate.

4. A Monument – is ultimately formed as people begin to expect certain behaviors/services from the machine. Unfortunately, machines break. Many times (if leadership is not careful and intentional) the maintenance of the machine begins to take precedence over the original mission. Financial resources which originally were intended for the mission are spent to support the machine. (85% of the average church budget is spent inwardly.)

In Trey’s description, he also said that the man who shared these ideas with him made it his goal to never become a machine. A movement of many men on mission can become a revolution, but a machine. . . .

These are ideas worth passing along.What do you guys think?

Remez

“May the force be with you.” It’s a classic quote. With those 5 little words I have referred you to a concept found in the Star Wars films. Almost anyone in our culture would recognize the reference, without mentioning the film itself. Jesus often did the same thing.

hiddenA practice called a “remez” (meaning “hint”) was practiced by most rabbis (including Jesus) during Biblical times. The Jewish educational system required that every young boy memorize the Law. Many went on to memorize the entire Old Testament. Their culture was so steeped in the Scriptures, that they could quote a part of a verse knowing that others would recognize the end. According to FishingtheAbyss.com, there are “30 – 50 (potentially more) remezim of Jesus recorded in the gospels.”

Here’s an example: Ever wonder why the Pharisees hated Jesus so much? Although He did say some things to them that were not very flattering, sometimes it’s what He didn’t say that bothered them the most.

Check out Mathew 21:16

But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
” ‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’?”

Why would that make them so angry? It doesn’t sound so bad. But check out what the rest of that verse says. He was quoting Psalm 8:2

From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

The Pharisees knew the end of the verse He was quoting – and Jesus knew it too. He called them “enemies!” No wonder they got so mad.

Anyway, the “remez” is an interesting practice. We’ve got to know the whole of Scripture in order to understand the intricacies of the things Jesus said (and didn’t day).

Here are a few other places Jesus used the “remez.” Look ’em up. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Matthew 21:13 hints at Isaiah 56:7 (Jesus isn’t as mad about them selling stuff in the temple area as much as He is concerned that this was the only place the Gentiles could worship and they were not being allowed to do so.)

Matthew 27:46 hints at Psalm 22:1 (Check out Psalm 22:13-18 – Jesus was telling them He was the Messiah.)

Luke 11:20 hints at Exodus 8:18-19

Luke 19:10 hints at Ezekiel 34 (Revealing Himself as the Messiah)

Mark 15:34 would have been an obvious “remez” to the Jews present at the time. Hinting at Psalm 22-24 (Messianic Psalms)

OK – so that should be enough to get you started. The bottom line for me is this. If we could approach the Scriptures with the context of Jewish culture, we’d have a much greater understanding and these sorts of nuances wouldn’t fly over our heads. I may be strange (and some of you know it’s true) but I’d sure like to be able to talk about the Scriptures as easily and with as much nuance as I do about Star Wars.

ERs, Fearful Prayer, and Kesleigh

100_0600I’ve been learning a few things over the past couple of days. We had to bring Kesleigh, our 4 week old baby girl, into Houston to the Texas Children’s Hospital last night. She’s was already on antibiotics and was running a fever of 101.5. By the time we got to the hospital, it was 103.1. Scary. . .they rushed her in to a doctor and began the process. I hate emergency rooms, ’cause I hate waiting in them – this time we didn’t wait, but it was still worse than any other time I’ve been in one. (I’d rather have had to wait ’cause that means it would have been a more minor thing.) Anyway, I had a moment last night, and a few times throughout the day today where God seemed to be speaking to me. He has been showing me over and over, that there’s nothing I can do. I’m her father. I’m supposed to cherish her, and protect her, and lead her, and keep her safe. But I’m no good – the bottom line is that I can’t do anything. Prayer is all I’ve got. God is all I’ve got. Ultimately, it’s completely in God’s hands. I trust Him and have tried to do so throughout my Christian life, but it never gets easier. Trusting Him with my baby girl?!?! That’s too precious. I don’t think I can do it. I can’t let go of her. I’m responsible. I’m her father. I’m supposed to protect her. I confess. I’ve probably held on too tightly to both she and my son Kasen. Maybe this whole experience is something God is gonna use to remind me that they’re really better off in His hands than mine anyway. He’s the one with all the power to actually do something. What can I offer? Ultimately, very little. . . . Unless I’m praying. Then I’m offering Him. Then I’m offering power. . . ultimate power. . . healing power. . .redemptive power!!

OK so now, we’re waiting. Kesleigh has had blood, urine, and even spinal fluid drawn. They are keeping her temperature down with tylenol and we’re waiting . . . 48 hrs for the tests to come back. We’re 24 hrs in and the cultures are all negative so far. (Thank you God!) Another 24 with clear cultures, and a few hours with no temp without tylenol and we might be on our way home tomorrow. That’s our hope. That’s our prayer. . . . I’m scared to even type this. . . .but I have to. . . . can I do it? . . . .

I trust You God and I know that You know my heart in this, but I’m also smart enough to know that I don’t know everything. My prayers might not be what’s best for Kesleigh. Or maybe You just want to use her situation to glorify Yourself in some other way. . . so God. . . . with fear and trembling. . . and faith . . . I’m praying for You to do whatever You want to do with her. I’m gonna do my best to trust and to stand by You no matter what the outcome. I’m placing her in Your hands. She is truly Yours anyway and I know she’s better off with You. Help me to understand my role and to be the father that You’re calling me to be. Help me to truly represent You to her. AMEN.

PS – I wish I could communicate the number of tears shed in praying that prayer – in letting go of my baby – and the truth is, even with my tears and all my sincerity, I know there’s more “letting go” to do. I’m still holding on. Maybe this is a good first step though?

Gran Torino

grantorino1Clint Eastwood is truly a legend, but I must admit that I was never a really big fan. . . well, that is. . . until now. “Gran Torino” is a great film depicting many aspects of society today. As our world becomes more and more global, cultures collide – and Gran Torino illustrates this well. Earning it’s “R” rating for language and violence, this film is ultimately still about community, love, loss, and relationships between the most unlikely candidates. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but the end is a masterful expression of Jesus’ teaching in John 15:13. (Spoiler alert!!! Don’t look it up or click the link if you haven’t seen it. If you’re spiritual enough to have that verse memorized, well, I figure you’re also spiritual enough to forgive me for spoiling the ending for you.)

Anyway, I would highly recommend “Gran Torino” to any adult who can endure the language and enter into the cultures represented. The ultimate message is not only powerful, but one which is desperately needed in our world today.

Memory and Community

A colourful mind
Creative Commons License photo credit: Scuola di Atene

I’ve been reading “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell lately. So far, it’s a great book. I just thought I’d share one of the many ideas that I’ve been thinking about lately.

Gladwell says that much of what we remember is actually not stored in our brain, but outside our brains. He gives the example of phone numbers – most people don’t remember the actual number, but instead they remember that they can find the number in a phonebook/address book or actually in their phone memory. In the same way, a busy mom doesn’t remember how to fix the computer, but she remembers that she can go to her teenage son to fix it. He calls this kind of memory “joint memory” and argues that this is another reason divorce is so difficult. When one loses a spouse, one loses part of his/her joint memory and this feels like losing a part of yourself.

This “joint memory” idea was proven by a study which asked couples to remember 64 statements 5 minutes after looking at them. The couples who knew each other remembered many more of the statements than those who didn’t know each other. Those who knew each other well were able to mentally assign specific statements to each other based upon their interests/expertise’s. They only had to actually remember half as many statements because they knew their partner would remember the other part.

OK – what does this have to do with anything? Well, first of all I just thought it was interesting. This means that a larger family has a larger “joint memory.” How has the trend toward smaller families impacted this memory over time? How has it impacted the church? I mean, the church is supposed to be a family right? Do we have a collective joint memory?

The first 5 books ofthe Bible are evidence of this idea. These stories were passed down from generation to generation. They created an identity for the Jewish people. Everything they thought or did was impacted on some level by this identity – this “joint memory.” They learned the Scriptures together and understood their whole world as a community. As a community, they interpreted the Scriptures – and for that matter, they interpreted life as a community. Over the centuries, as the church has become more and more individualistic, what have we lost? What “joint memories” are we losing? Can we regain them? How can we build and grow true community like this again? How can we live together again and build our “joint memories” in such a way that our whole community identity is found in Christ?

Anyway, these are just some thoughts.