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February 23, 2015, 10:47 AM

Ok with not getting an award?


I watched the Academy Awards, nearly every minute.  Why?  Because I love movies?  Sure, thats one explanation.  The other explanation is that I love to imagine myself being up there, getting an award, giving a rousing acceptance speech, and ultimately getting showered with accolades from my peers.  Yep, thats why I watch.  

Anyone else willing to admit that? 

And when the awards are handed out, if our names never show up in a gold-laced envelope, are we okay with that?  One of the reasons I am so hopeful for an eternity with Jesus is the silliness his disciples engaged in repeatedly over awards and recognition.  They didnt ask for a gold statue or a trophy, these guys were asking for POWER, thrones, and honor (Mark 10: 35 - 37; Matt 10: 20 - 28 among others).  Every time, Jesus responds by letting them know that the award goes to the "least of these," the "servant," the last in line.  And further, the award is nothing tangible here on earth, its eternal.  

Are we okay with that?  If I were to ask anyone this at church, 100% would answer: "Yes, I'm okay with that."  Because thats the right answer.  If thats our answer, are we actually living like we're okay with that?  We want our eternal reward, whether you're all about a mansion, robe, and a crown or not, we're in it for Heaven.  That should translate into our decision making, our hobbies, relationships, pursuits, and goals.  We have to teach our children how to handle bullying and how to deal with self esteem because the world chooses to promote self and gain power as reward.  We pine for promotions and raises so we can be assured we're worth something to our companies and employers.  We come JUST short of asking Jesus for that throne and gold crown, all the while watching him hug a leper, take a child on his knee, and cross cultural and economic barriers in an attempt to exalt the weak and powerless.  

Dont get me wrong, I'm preaching to myself here.  My ego is as big if not bigger than anyone else (I've made public speaking my career, that has to say something).  Ambition and the drive to succeed is different than seeking the world's favor, but we have blurred that line so much that it incorporates itself into nearly every decision churches are making (leadership, buildings, advertising campaigns, capital gains, savings accounts, etc...).  

I wish to be found in the trenches when Jesus comes looking for me.  But first I have to quit practicing my acceptance speech. 

 




February 16, 2015, 9:55 AM

Waiting for a New Umbrella


"What does God want me to do?"  

That's a common question asked within the Christian community.  We close our eyes, fold our hands, and wait for an answer.  Allow me to interject into this scene:  We need to open our eyes, limber up our hands, and get moving.......because He's already given us the answer.  

Using the verbiage from yesterday's sermon (2/15/15) it seems as though we spend so much of our time waiting for God to provide us a new umbrella that we forget about the one we've already got.  That umbrella is sitting in the corner and gathering dust from lack of use.  We want, and most often expect, a new revelation from God every time we get to a crossroads or decision making moment.  That's like expecting a new umbrella to appear every time it starts to rain.  

If every time you get to a point where you're unsure what God wants you to do, understand that he has already given us every bit of knowledge, direction, coaching, and revelation we will need to make the choice that God would approve of.  If you're having to ask where that knowledge, direction, coaching, and revelation is...well, we've got bigger problems.  When you peek inside God's story of us (the Bible) you will find that God has been pretty clear what he expects from his people.  Love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness.  Yes, that 70 x 7 was for us, too (Matt 18:22).  

When I worked exclusively with teenagers, I often was the sounding board for this question:  "Does God want me to go to ___________ University, or __________ Christian University?"  Every time my answer was "Yes."  Their response was often:  "But that's a multiple choice question, not a Yes or No question."   The truth is: God wants you to serve him, be merciful, forgiving and compassionate no matter where you are.  What type of school you go to will not change that, nor does he need to provide additional behavioral instructions for your school choice.  

The same principle applies to us, right here and now.  Does God want me to work hard even though my boss doesn't acknowledge my contribution to the company?  Yes, yes he does.  Colossians 3:17.  The list of questions we ask goes on and on, yet God's instructions remain consistent:  Love God and Love People.  Always.  Every time.  Period.   

We need to quit waiting for further prompting from God to serve, to help, to love and start serving, helping, and loving.  He's not going to give you a new umbrella every time it rains.  The one we've got will do just fine.  




February 9, 2015, 9:00 AM

My shoulder hurts


So I held a suitcase for the entirety of the sermon yesterday (2/8/15) and my left shoulder is a bit sore this morning.  And before you give me grief over being a sissy I want to justify my pain for a second.  This was no modern, ergonomic, lightweight, professional traveler's suitcase.  The suitcase I was holding was made more for decoration and looking fabulous than for practical use.  In the modern days of carefully weighed and measured bags, this one tips the scale at nearly 15 lbs.  (I know, I know, you still think I'm a sissy).  I could use this suitcase as a stepladder, or a tv stand.  Its a sturdy beast.  

Now, hopefully I've tipped the scale into the realm of pity instead of scorn.  But its not enough pain to alter my routine or push me towards the medicine cabinet for relief, but its there nonetheless.  If you're wondering why I would throw myself so recklessly into such a lesson, let me explain.  We all carry baggage with us, everywhere, all the time.  We have the baggage of expectation, of routine and habit, and of our desires.  That baggage typically prompts us to work hard and chase our careers.  Other baggage can include the weight of peer pressure, family pressures, or guilt from unmet societal expectations.  All these are carried with us on a daily basis, rarely being shrugged off.  In fact, most of these bags are permanent marks on our souls, memories, and personalities.  

There are other bags though that are not meant to be permanent.  These bags are the ones we (knowingly or not) pick up and attach to our lives in the form of sin.  Unlike the other bags we mentioned already, which SHOULD grow lighter with time as expectations are met and success looms nearer, these bags grow heavier with every breathing moment we carry them.  A lie never remains little and innocent.  It feeds and grows until the weight isn't only noticeable, its a nuisance.  

So the question needs asked:  what bags are you carrying right now that need dropped?  Sure there are the obvious burdens like sin; but what about guilt or a grudge?  Are there pieces of our personality that indicate we have more bags on our shoulders than we know?  If you complain constantly and your attention runs immediately to the negative of any situation, you're carrying a burden that has started to eat your soul.  If you've got that chip on your shoulder that drives a feeling of disrespect, its baggage.  You get the point. 

Drop em now before they drag us into our graves.  Drop them now before relationships we cherish are dragged into nonexistence. 

Lets drop our bags and pick up the burden of hope that God has been offering since the very beginning.  Its a burden that is light, easy, and contagious. 

 

 




February 2, 2015, 11:00 AM

After These Messages, We'll Be Right Back...


Good Day Reader,   I'm sorely tempted to write a drawn-out, play-by-play recap of the spectacular Super Bowl played last night (2/1/15).  Unfortunately that would be a waste of your time as there are countless other articles chronicling the crowing of the far superior Patriots as champs.  My thoughts, as I tear them away from football and sport, wander next to the commercials which will be the meat to our potatoes in this weekly musing.  Every year there is as much build up to the advertising as there is to the game, with revenue going through the roof for a 30 second spot.  This year was a perfect storm for the marketing gurus as the game itself, the stories surrounding the game, and the final score being so close that we did not know who would win until there were 20 seconds remaining, had people glued to the television set.  

There were the usual suspects making appearances:  beer, cars, food, movies, and insurance.  However, with only three or four exceptions that I can count, the theme for the commercials took an unexpected turn.   Gone were the old-standard themes of debauchery and exploitation, replaced this year by sentimentality and even guilt.  Its not often that I'm thrust into a commercial induced funk over household accidents and the potential loss of a child (better get more insurance). In fact, I cant remember being so confused by the messages of the commercials.  On one hand we were empowered to overcome all obstacles (while buying a car) and to cherish the time spent with family (while also buying a car); and on the other we were being sold burgers, more cars, and lingerie with sex and sexual innuendo.  

The messages ranged from love to consumerism without the mere blinking of an eye or flinch at the conflicting signals.  Where is the mean in all this (the center, the middle)? In an even bigger question:  where are we in all this?  The needs, the blatant manipulation, and push for us to consume has not and will not change.  And while the commercials either need to shock us into paying attention, or tell us a story we wont forget (lost puppies), we need to find the solid ground on which to place our feet.  Why?  Cant we ignore them and operate in our own little world?  Sure, if you want to slip into obscurity and irrelevance faster than the Sham-Wow.  

As followers of Christ we cannot ignore our culture, nor the messages being sent by our culture.  We MUST respond, and it is HOW we respond that will define us.  We must be consistent.  Steady.  Reliable.  (sounds like a truck commercial). 

If we are tossed about by whatever threatens us, our message is inconsistent and is therefore diminished.  If we swell up in indignation and let the whole world know just how trashy they are (and we aren't), our message will be dismissed amongst the acceptance messages.  We must be steady. Consistent.  Reliable.   All of that means one thing:  We Must Love. 

Christ's love transcends commercials, products, fads, skirt lengths, sexual orientations, political parties, pacifism, war.  It is consistent when dealing with those that should know better (Peter) and those who don't (the woman caught in adultery in John 8).  Jesus loves Zacchaeus even though he's been cheating God's chosen nation.  Jesus loves Judas even though he will betray him.  Imagine the commercials for those guys and those situations!!  

Looking ahead, we will face a culture that dismisses us, diminishes our message, even mocks our Creator.  How will we respond?  I hope the same way we were taught:  with love.  

Every time. 

 




January 26, 2015, 10:43 AM

How to live the de-cluttered, minimalistic, simple life we've always wanted.


This morning I took my van into the shop for the second time in as many weeks.  After dropping the van off, I took my eldest dog to the Vet for surgery.  (An abscessed tooth, don't cry for her, Argentina... she'll be back up and at em this afternoon).  We fought the flu this past week.  Sunday was Sunday, with a frenetic morning of activity.  And as I sit and write this, I'm hoping the week ahead is a lot less full.  I'm doubtful, because life doesn't work like that.  

This is your time now to chime in about your week/weekend/schedule.  Fill in the blank here with all the stuff that has you running in circles: __________________________________________________________________.  (Grab a  blank piece of paper to really write everything out).  

Busyness is inevitable.  Its just the nature of things, and no matter how hard we try, we will most likely find ourselves caught up in it long before we become aware enough to escape it.  So no, this is not a blog about de-cluttering your life, or minimalizing your schedule.  Its a warning about the big picture, no, the BIGGEST picture when it comes to being self-aware.  

Can we still hear the voice of God?  

Lets take ownership of something:  we've allowed God's voice to be diminished amongst the others.  I'm not accusing us of eliminating his voice, or even making it less of a priority.  We HAVE allowed it to mix with the others, which in turn has started the process of doing exactly what I wasn't accusing us of in the prior sentence.  So what are we missing, or at least starting to diminish?  God's voice is steadily calling out the same message:  Love God, Love People.  That is Jesus' best summary of the Bible's message, and it is intended to be the resonating theme and filter through which every aspect of the Christ-following life must be passed.   

However, his message has been filtered through too many other things and is losing its luster and poignancy.  When left to filter through the American Dream, we Love God and Love People only if it does not interfere with our pursuit of good grades, respectable income, and healthy retirement benefits.  We Love God and Love people in Church if they survive the filter of adequate dress, cleanliness, and foreknowledge of our schedule/practices.  At work we apply God's call for our lives in a manner that either improves our earning potential, or keeps us anonymous enough to protect that delicate balance of job security versus swimming against the ethical and moral stream.  We preach integrity and devotion, but we filter it through the daily planner and hope there is time for it.  

I long to be in Isaiah's shoes, standing in the Temple and hearing God's voice clearly.  I hope to be able to say with a steadiness in my voice that belies my apprehension:  "Here am I, send me."  Or rather:  "Here am I, send me to love someone today..."  

 


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